posted on 15-Aug-2002 4:52:34 PM by ZooBoo
Title: Unicorn Tears
Author: Gis
Rating: PG-13
Category: Michael/Maria
Summary: I refuse to write a summary for this because it would just make the story sound corny - but it's not. *wink* The most AU fic I've ever written, and it's M&M...do you need any more of a reason to read it?
Disclaimer: If I owned Roswell I'd be writing episodes, not fanfiction.
Author's Note: The is my first Roswell fic, so a little feedback would be nice. *happy*


unicorntearsbanner01


~Part One~

There was a soft, strange glow about the forest, one never to be seen by the humans. It was a shame they couldn't witness something so beautiful. The essence spoke of tales yet to be lived, of lies to part lips with, and betrayal to be met with love's liquid torment. Just as they would never see her, not for what she truly was - a unicorn.

She'd lived life occasionally among them in human form. Never for periods long enough that she couldn't return to her former life. It was vital that she returned. There could be no other way.

She was living among them now, watching them and learning from them. Learning of them. After all, they were humans.

Human. It was such a contradicting word to her. Never before had she encountered a creature that could both love and hate at the same time. One that knew both pain and joy, that could weave webs of such lies and secrecy, and at times be nobler than those creatures of legend they often spoke of at night around the bonfires.

How could they feel so much, and yet so little?

Perhaps that was why she often found herself among them. She needed to find out, to understand, before it was too late.

This had been what brought her to Albythia five days ago - to learn.

It was among the flames of the nightly campfires that she was able to observe them easily without reservation. They rarely ever saw her, and she kept within a safe distance, close enough to hear their words and watch them interact, without upsetting the patterns of discussion that were always absent at her presence.

One man intrigued her more than the others, sitting apart from the rest of the group, listening but never speaking. His eyes were always focused on the fire, never wavering, as if he could look into the depths of the flames and understand everything about how they worked.

The night before, she had met his eyes through the golden pillars as she circled the men, among the trees and shrubbery. It had taken her by surprise; no man had ever dared to hold her gaze before. Not until him.

She supposed that was what drew her attention from the others to him this night as well. He was intriguing.

The night had just begun less than an hour ago, and he sat there as he did the previous nights, staring into the flames, listening to the familiar banter. It was as she crouched low to watch, after finding a suitable spot for listening, that his eyes flickered from the fire to where she was kneeling. She remained steady and unwavering, not willing to give herself away to the other men. Then he moved.

Standing up and crouching low, he spoke to a lean, dark haired man sitting a few feet from where he had been. "The fire needs more wood. I'll be back." He glanced once more at her before turning away and walking into the forest behind him.

She kept her gaze locked with the path he'd taken, watching the leaves sway slowly back and forth from being pushed aside by his large hands. A few moments later she sensed his presence behind her and she remained still, waiting for him to approach.

When he was only a few feet away she spoke quietly, so only he could hear. "You make too much noise. I could hear you long before you reached me." A moment later she felt him crouch down beside her, the heat from his body warming her skin.

"I didn't want to startle you."

Turning her head to look at him, she drew her eyes over his features. He was a tall man, strong and built, with hair that reminded her of the dark honey that lined the walls of the beehives hidden deep within the forest, falling down his face in long strands that stopped just below his jaw line. His eyes were the color of the summer pinecones, dark and alive. It was a wonder that he seemed so alone - he was beautiful.

"You wouldn't have. I knew you were coming."

It was his turn to gaze at her. She had kept her distance from the rest of the village since she'd come, and now that he was closer to her he could see that her hair actually had golden strands weaved in with the blonde. The white dress she was wearing never changed, and the clean, silky material looked as though it could be smoothed into her creamy skin by simply touching it.

It was her eyes, however, that confused him. They seemed to never remain the same color. One minute they looked as though they were created by the leaves of the trees, and the next as though the moss from the lake had fallen into them, constantly swirling like pools of the purest green.

A small smirk tugged at the corners of his lips, "The children of the village are convinced that you're a witch."

She smiled, amused as she looked back towards the men when their voices peeled into loud laughter as a lanky man stumbled over a log and fell into the lap of the man with the dark hair. "You can tell them that I'm not, if you wish."

His eyes never left her face as his hand reached up to trail a finger lightly over a small diamond shaped mark on her forehead, just above her nose. "That's an odd scar," he said quietly, as her eyes closed and a sound much like that of a cat's purr escaped between her lips. He could feel a surge of electricity running underneath his finger as it trailed from her face and she opened her eyes to meet his.

"It's not a scar."

He looked back at the group, staring once again into the distant fire. "Why have you been watching us from the edge of the forest every night?" he asked, his tone taking on an edge of protection.

She looked at the men around the fire again, sensing his concern for his people. "I like to observe, just as you do."

"I don't observe from twenty feet away," he countered, standing back up.

Following him with her gaze, she watched as his attention changed to that of when he looked into the fire pit at night, penetrating and deep. "You observed me from twenty feet away," she pointed out, standing up in front of him.

His arms folded in front of his chest, while one of his eyebrows raised. "But that was your choice, not mine."

"You knew I was here from the second night I came. You had a chance to approach me before now."

She did nothing more than frustrate him, having answers for every one of his arguments. What was even more frustrating was the fact that she seemed unaffected by every accusation he had made towards her, as if they were intriguing her, teaching her.

"You could've joined us at the fire if you like observing people so much," he told her, not willing to loose the argument.

Her eyes twinkled with mirth as she crossed her arms as well, "They wouldn't act the same way they are now if I were there."

"How would you know unless you came and sat down?"

She stopped for the first time, thinking about his question with her eyebrows pulling towards one another and her mouth turning down into a contemplative line. Ha! He'd gotten her.

"You say the children believe me to be a witch?"

It was his turn to look confused now. "Yes..."

"What do the men and women believe me to be?"

What? "Why?"

Her arrogant smile was back as she answered, "If they see me as an outsider, they would also be guarded around me, just as the children are."

His eyes narrowed as he dropped his arms to his side. "I have to get back, they'll be expecting me," he told her, huffing angrily and turning around to head back to the camp after finding a good amount of wood.

Perhaps he was right. Tomorrow she would study them closer than she ever had before. Tomorrow she would learn.

~TBC~

[ edited 17time(s), last at 3-Dec-2002 2:15:17 AM ]
posted on 15-Aug-2002 6:52:50 PM by ZooBoo
Of course you can call me Gis, silly goose.

hehe, loved the first post from you. ;)

Thanks for the feedback Angelalien!

Yep, Michael and Maria. I think if I tried to write any other coupling I wouldn't do them much justice, lol.

Any feedback from you always makes me happy!(especially since your feedback is always so flattering *wink* )

Glad you liked my Michael description. I had to figure out how in the world a unicorn might actually look at him, lol.

Thank you for the feedback!!! I'm guessing this story might get finished a little sooner than my regular ones, seeing as how I've already written the last paragraph, lol.

Anywho, toodles!
posted on 16-Aug-2002 10:52:09 AM by ZooBoo
Quick reply while my computer finishes loading before I have to actually work. *wink*

Uh, I think I should have the next part up by tomorrow. I didn't get home from work until 9pm last night, so I only got like 2 paragraphs written. Which answers the question of whether or not I have the thing finished, lol. Nope, but I know where it's going because I've written the last paragraph already. It's like an insentive for me to get it done quicker, hehe.

Umm, in the story her eyes do change colors, but it's like a subtle thing.

The horn - second one, and you're very observant. *wink*

See though, she doesn't turn into a unicorn, she turns into a human. That's the difference, which disqualifies her as being a witch. Her original/normal form is that of a unicorn, which is why humans are such a mystery to her. She may be able to take their form, but she's not one of them.

For the rest, it shall all come in due time. *big*

Okay, comp booted...gotta run, lol.

Thanks for the feedback PhoenixFlamez!

Later all!

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 16-Aug-2002 10:55:37 AM ]
posted on 16-Aug-2002 6:14:56 PM by ZooBoo
Wow! New readers, I feel loved. *big*

Becca - Thanks for the fb! Nope, not based on the book(haven't read it, lol) or the movie(haven't seen it since I was a little kid, and I don't remember it anyways).

Belit - Glad you like it so far!


Alrighty, I didn't plan on having another part out today...but I kinda worked on it in between things here at work and got another part written, lol. So you get one... *wink*



~Part Two~

He'd woken just after daybreak. Sleeping for more than four hours every night was practically impossible. Besides, he preferred rising before everyone. It gave him a chance to be by himself with his thoughts, a chance to be.

When he arrived at the fields he was surprised to find the girl from the previous night sleeping soundly in a small stack of hay, near the corn crops. She looked so peaceful lying there under the shade of a tall tree nearby, innocent and...pure.

He smiled a little, happy that no one was awake so that he could actually enjoy this moment. It wasn't until she began stretching her arms up over her head that he realized she was awake, and watching him as well. His lips fell into a scowl as he began stalking towards the barn.

Stopping mid-stretch, the girl quickly got up, falling in step with him. "Is something wrong?" she asked, holding her arms behind her back as the man she'd spoken to last night opened the barn doors and headed towards the horse stalls.

"Why are you here?" he asked, ignoring her question as he pulled a bridle from the wall and placed it on one of the horses to lead out of the stable.

"Why am I here this morning, you mean," she corrected him as she followed him out behind the skittish creature. "You said last night that I should observe from a closer perspective, so I am."

They reached the edge of a large field that had been partially worked and he bent down, retrieving a harness that was attached to a large plow lying on its side. Standing back up he faced her, "I didn't mean that you should observe me, so go...pick some flowers or something," he told her, waving a hand flippantly in no particular direction.

She was confused now; didn't he want her to observe people? "So you want me to watch you from the meadow?" she asked, tilting her head and pursing her lips into a thoughtful expression.

His face was turning slightly pink and he closed his eyes, taking in a deep breath. "Look...what is your name again?" he asked, opening his eyes and staring at her with an annoyed expression as he tried recalling if he'd ever been told it.

She looked at him like it was the most absurd question in the world. "Name?"

"Yes, name," he growled, folding his arms like he had the night before. "You do have a name, don't you?"

"Well," she began, twirling a finger absently around one of her blond locks, as she though about it, "there was a girl from a village I'd visited years ago that took to calling me Maria."

He raised an eyebrow at her, shaking his head as he reminded himself of his purpose. "Well, Maria-"

"What about you?" she asked curiously, cutting him off.

He could feel the anger in him rising to the surface again. "What about me, what?" he barked.

Smirking at his lack of patience, she lifted her head a little, defiantly, "What about your name?"

He rolled his eyes as he began attaching the harness he'd been holding to the horse from the stable. "Michael, and now that you-"

"Michael," she said, nodding her head once in confirmation. "It's a good name. Did you choose it yourself?"

"Of course not," he said absently, while trying to steady the wiry mare in front of him. "STAY STILL!"

"But I'm not-"

"Not you, the horse," he snapped, walking to the other side of the creature. "She won't let me put her harness on."

"Oh." After a moment of watching him struggle, Maria reached out to run a hand through the horses mane, speaking soothingly to it. It didn't take long before she began swatting his hands away from the leather straps he was trying to hook together.

"She has a bowed tendon," she stated at his look of exasperation towards her actions. "She won't be able to pull that plow, even if you managed to get it on her."

"How would you know? It's not exactly like she could tell you," he replied sarcastically, picking the harness up from the ground where it had fallen.

Placing one of her hands on her hips, she lightly pushed him towards the back of the horse.

"Hey!"

"If you don't believe me, check for yourself," she demanded, letting her right arm join the other in her agitation.

He huffed slightly, shaking his head and turning to look at the horse's leg. "Fine, if it will get you to..." Stopping short, Michael reached down, running his hand lightly over a nearly invisible swelling in the middle of one of the horse's hind legs. "How did you know she was hurt?" he questioned, turning his head to look at her from his bent position.

A mischievous smile fell onto her lips as she turned around, heading for a small patch of grass near the plowing fields. "It looks like you're not as observant as you thought."

. . .

Maria anxiously spent the rest of the morning watching Michael in the fields. Well, that wasn't quite true. Half of the morning he had spent plowing, while the other half was spent cursing the machinery, kicking at the dirt, and growling at the other horse that he'd brought from the barn to replace the injured one. It wasn't until nearly midday that the other men showed up to help him with the chores.

Michael groaned as he saw smiles, induced by the oblivious female sitting on the grass, light up the faces of two of his approaching friends.

"Michael!" The tall, lanky one was the first to speak. "Who's your friend?"

His hair was matted down in short, brown waves and his skin seemed astonishingly white, considering he was out in the sun for a good amount of time each day. There was a strange kindness and understanding in his eyes, while she'd found his tongue quick and his comments often amusing as she had watched him over the last few evenings.

Ignoring the implication in his tone, Michael answered him. "Alex, Maria. Maria...this is Alex and Maxwell," he told her, pointing to them each respectively.

She smiled at them both, looking up in confusing as the first one held his hand out towards her.

"It's nice to meet you," Alex began, looking down at his hand, as she didn't take it. Pulling it slowly back to his body he crumpled his nose a little when she merely nodded at him.

"Uh...yes, it is," the one Michael had called Maxwell added in, looking oddly towards his friend who wasn't paying any attention as he flopped down onto his back next to the girl, wiping the sweat off of his forehead with the back of his hand.

The second man was quite beautiful himself, with short hair that could nearly be considered black, and a boyish charm that lit up his face as he smiled. He held himself with a silent strength, and his eyes were filled with a strange wisdom.

"Umm...we're just going to go work now," Alex supplied, pointing towards the crops where the other men were working.

Michael grunted in response, propping a leg up and draping an arm over his eyes, as the two men walked away, talking quietly to one another.

After a few minutes he finally spoke. "Are they gone?"

Maria laughed at the absurdity of his question. Of course they were gone, didn't the just say they were leaving? "Yes."

Opening one eye and looking around, Michael stood up quickly, pulling her to her feet. "Good, because I'm starving and I'm guessing Max's little mouse of a fiancé probably still has some leftovers from breakfast," he said, starting along a hidden path around the fields.

"Max is getting married to a mouse?"

~TBC~


Okay, don't kill me for the mouse comment. I happen to think they're very adorable creatures and I use to have some as pets. *happy*

So there ya go, a part sooner than expected. Aren't you proud? *wink*

And back to work for me...

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 18-Aug-2002 2:58:16 AM ]
posted on 16-Aug-2002 11:55:51 PM by ZooBoo
Eek, ack, alrighty...got it fixed, lol. I think I'm good now...
posted on 18-Aug-2002 3:13:44 AM by ZooBoo
Thanks Sabu! *big*

Aww, that's okay MoonLily. *happy* You know...I just realized I don't know your name, lol.
hehe, you're so cute.

One A.M. ...must go sleep...tired.....blech...

Later!

Oh, and editted to say that I didn't get home until like 10:30 tonight(had to work and traffic jam and ick...), so hopefully I'll get part three written tomorrow. *tongue*

Now then, I'll leave you all be...

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 18-Aug-2002 3:17:32 AM ]
posted on 18-Aug-2002 8:29:58 PM by ZooBoo
Thanks so much for the feedback everyone! I'm very happy everyone's enjoying it. *big*

Alrighty, part three nice and fresh from the pen!

Oh, and I also made a banner I'll stick up if anybody wants to see it. (banner in first post)

Thanks lovelies!!! *MUWA*


~Part Three~

Michael groaned for the fifth time since they'd reached the Parker's home. Ever since they entered the kitchen, the little blonde pixie that had followed him there couldn't keep her hands off of anything! He kept having to pull things out of her fingers just to make sure she didn't break them. She'd already managed to pour practically half of the container of sugar into his coffee when he told her it was on the table for that sort of thing.

She was a menace!

Now he sat eating his food, with both of her tiny wrists clasped together in his left hand, while his right hand was shoveling whatever was on his plate into his mouth as quickly as possible. It didn't help matters that Max's fiancé, Liz had been staring at them the entire time, trying not to laugh. He didn't know what she found so amusing about the whole situation.

"Can't I just-"

"No!"

"But what if-"

Michael glared at Maria, "If I let go of your hands, will you leave everything alone?" he challenged, placing his right arm on the table and leaning over to stare at her.

Sticking her chin out and narrowing her eyes, Maria huffed before looking away and ignoring him. It wasn't her fault that there were so many interesting things to look at in this house. Besides, if they weren't suppose to be touched, why were they sitting out in plain sight?

Satisfied, Michael picked up his fork and began eating again. The sooner he could clear his plate, the sooner he could get her away from doing bodily harm to herself...or him.

Maria let her eyes wander over to where Liz was cleaning up the dishes that had been placed on the counter from earlier that morning. She was a pretty girl with straight, silky hair falling nearly to her waist. Her eyes were a deep syrupy-brown color that matched her hair quite nicely and she possessed an innocence Maria hadn't seen in an adult human in a very long time.

"Michael?"

"Hmm?" he asked, taking another sip of his highly sweetened coffee.

Biting her lip thoughtfully, Maria spoke after a moment, "I don't think Liz remotely resembles a rodent."

A small stream of brown liquid came tumbling from Michael's mouth as he began coughing. He could tell out of the corner of his eyes that the look on Liz's face wasn't all too pleasant.

"She misunderstood me," he told Liz, setting his fork down and gesturing to Maria with his free hand.

Looking over at Michael, Maria sat confused. "But you clearly said that-"

Before she could finish her sentence a hand clamped over her mouth and Michael stood up, pulling her along with him.

"Uh, the food was great, Liz. You should really consider having your dad put that on the menu over at the hotel café," he stated, making his way quickly towards the back door with Maria in tow. "I'll tell Max you said hi." With that, the back door swung closed, leaving the two of them hurrying down a small dirt path leading back towards the fields.

After a moment he could feel her mouth underneath his hand opening as one of his fingers slipped inside. Before he knew what was happening, sharp teeth came crashing down on his skin, tearing it, and he let out a loud cry of pain.

"What did you do that for?" he shouted, cradling his bleeding finger in his other hand.

Taking a few steps back from him, Maria brought her hands up to her hips in a defiant gesture. "In case you didn't notice, I couldn't breath," she shot back angrily, beginning to pace in front of him. Why was he making her so...agitated?

Standing up to his full height, Michael calmed down a little. "Well, did you have to bite me so hard?" he asked, sticking his finger into his mouth.

Maria stopped her pacing and dropped her hands down to her side. Odd, that was the first time she'd ever bit a human. She thought his skin would be a lot tougher. Who knew?

Walking over to where he stood, Maria took his hand in hers, staring at it from eye level.

"What are you doing?" Michael asked guardedly, ready to take his hand back from her if need be.

Without speaking, she looked up into his eyes, holding his hand steady and bringing his injured finger up to her mouth. Closing her lips gently around it, she slowly pulled it out of her mouth, trailing her tongue along the cut skin. A shiver ran down his spine as he watched his finger slide from her mouth.

"Better?" she asked quietly, running her thumb over it to wipe away the moisture left by her tongue.

The pain that had been there just moments before was slowly disappearing, and the bleeding had completely stopped. "Much," Michael replied before clearing his dry throat.

She nodded her head and looked down at their hands, licking her lips. "Good."

As if pulled from a trance, Michael took a step back, running a hand through his hair. "Umm, Max will be expecting me," he stated, pointing awkwardly down the path. "I'd better get back."

Lifting her head back up to meet his gaze, she smiled a little. "Okay."

Taking a deep breath Michael started up the path, shoving his hands inside of his pants pockets. A small smirk lit up the corner of his mouth and he turned around to look at her, walking backwards. "See ya around, Blondie."

Maria watched as he turned back around and walked away, happy to have some time alone with her thoughts. She made her way back to the edge of the woods, absently chewing on one of her human fingernails.

It had been strange when she'd partially healed his finger. She had felt an odd surge of electricity run through her lips and spread throughout the rest of her body. Whenever she'd healed an animal in the forest she had been able to feel a slight tingling under her fingertips, but it had never been this strong before.

She couldn't even understand why she had done it. He hadn't been dying, and the pain had only been a minor problem really. Perhaps it was because it had been her fault in the first place. Well, not entirely her fault. He was the one who'd covered her mouth, after all.

She couldn't help the fact that her first instinct was to bite him.


~TBC~


Alrighty, there it is. *happy* Hopefully I'll have part four up within a day or two.

Laterz! *bounce*

[ edited 4 time(s), last at 19-Aug-2002 11:06:10 AM ]
posted on 19-Aug-2002 2:34:40 PM by ZooBoo
Thank you Belit! *muwa*

I'm thinking I probably won't have part four up until tomorrow, since I spent last night working on the ending, lol. (yes...strange me writing the ending before I write the middle *tongue* )

Anywho, gotta run.

Later!
posted on 20-Aug-2002 7:02:59 PM by ZooBoo
I feel priviledged knowing your name if you haven't given it out before. *happy*

You're right about the aliases being fun, hehe. Mine are usually ZooBoo(knickname my little sis calls me...I use to answer to it better than my own name oddly enough), YACrusader(started back when Young Americans was still on TV), Chickenman(let's just not go there with an explanation...), or Zel(Giselle...Zel...uh, yeah, lol).

*sigh* The third season of Roswell could have been so much better. Although I did think it was really cool that the first ep. of s3 was filmed in Utah(yes...I'm from Utah... *tongue* ) Man they made it look like some kind of hick place though, lol.

Glad you liked the banner. *big* I wish I had a better program though so that I could have done more with it. Beggars can't be choosers I guess.


You know, I love writing Maria's part for this. It's so much fun! Michael's part, I admit is really fun to write too. It's a good way of getting out my aggression from the day, haha! j/k

Glad you liked my description of Max. *happy* Although I may be a Candy Girl, I honestly thought the other characters on the show were important and (usually) well written. (I just found I liked M&M the best)

hehe, I knew you'd be upset about the mouse comment, lol. That's Michael for you, although he did mean it more along the lines of the fact that Liz is usually pretty quiet, and not the physical sense.

You are evil, but that's what's so fun about you. *wink*

You know, I figured someone would probably mention the food thing. I saw it as: she was too busy looking at everything else to seem interested in eating, and that's what Michael figured. As to what she eats, there will probably be a little bit about it later on.

At least he was nice enough to drink the coffee in an attempt to make her not feel so bad for dumping all of that sugar into his cup...

You know, sometimes I'll be reading these things on my break in the office and people will start staring at me...I keep wondering what they must be thinking. *tongue*


Okay, the time period for this fic is called the 'Giselle Era', lol. History was my worse subject and since this is already AU I'm making up my own little space in time, heh. Hope it doesn't bug anyone...

Part four...I'm hoping I can finish writing it tonight. I've got it almost halfway done, and that's what I plan on doing when I get home, so I guess we'll see. *happy*

Alrighty, gotta head. (wow, that took a while, lol)

Later! (yaay!!! I'm going home!)
posted on 20-Aug-2002 11:09:08 PM by ZooBoo
*MUWA!* Wow, I love all you guys!

Thank you so much for the feedback NolaDarling!
Uhh...naw, it just shows how very informed you are. *big*
I thought about the whole healing thing...which is why she only partially healed him. Like the whole 'mother kissing your ouchy better' kinda thing, lol. Subtle enough that you don't really wonder why it feels better, you're just glad that it does. ;)

Aww, thanks for telling people about my fic Belit!!! You guys are absolutely the best!


quote:
Would you believe it if I said that I'm actually very shy and rarely talk much to people that aren't close friends or family members? Seriously!

No way! lol

Actually, I doubt people would believe it, but I'm extremely quiet and non-talkative too. My coworkers are always telling me I have to speak up and what not, lol. And if I don't know you...don't expect much of a conversation, hehe.

There's just something about writing...

*grinning like a dork* Thank you all so much! You're all wonderful!!!

On to part four...


~Part Four~

Two days. She'd been gone for two days.

Michael lay there in bed, staring up at his ceiling, as the clock on the mantel of the fireplace chimed, informing him that it was five o'clock in the morning. He couldn't understand why he hadn't been able to fall asleep. Even with the small amount of hours he normally slept, he still had no trouble falling to sleep before now.

Flopping over onto his stomach and shoving his face into his flattened pillow, he sighed. This was hopeless.

It was all her fault. First she spent five nights studying his every movement, and then she spent an entire day making him feel like a normal person for once. Now she was gone. There was no other explanation for it - Maria was a troublemaker.

Closing his eyes for a moment and taking a deep breath, Michael dragged himself out of bed. He might as well make good use of his time. Maybe he'd be able to get his mind off of things...it was possible.

It didn't take him long to get dressed, moving in silence under the candlelight. The sun wouldn't be up for another hour and a half, so there was really only one thing he could do to pass the time.

When he finally reached the pier, the crescent moon was barely poking its head beneath the horizon, preparing to go to sleep. The lake looked as though it had just been painted, with a deep blue haze running around the edges where the water quietly lapped against the rocks of the cliffs. He hadn't felt this calm in a long time.

"The water's cold."

Michael jumped, not expecting anyone to be at the lake this early in the morning. Turning around he watched as the person sitting on a flat rock a few feet away stood up and walked over, standing next to him.

"What are you doing here, Maxwell?" Michael asked, crossing his arms and staring back at the lake. "I thought you turned into a pillar of dust if you were up before the sun rose."

Max chuckled a little; it really had been a long time since he'd been out of bed before nine. "Couldn't sleep."

They both stood in silence for a few minutes before Max spoke again.

"Do you think I'm ready?" he asked, absently kicking at the sand with one of his feet.

Michael watched him out of the corner of his eye, a semi-annoyed smirk on his face. "Your wedding is in four days Max. This isn't exactly the best time to be having doubts."

"It's not that," Max replied, shaking his head. "It's just...am I going to be able to make the best life possible for Liz? I don't want to screw this up."

Michael took a deep breath. He couldn't believe he, of all people, was about to say this. "Max, the only way you're going to be screwing this up is if you aren't there when Liz walks down that aisle. She loves you, and that's what's going to get you through your marriage. Not whether you can by her the biggest house, or the most expensive clothes," he told him, walking out towards the water.

"So stop second guessing yourself and get back to bed before I have to rip my friggin' ears off just to get some peace and quiet around here," he growled, pulling off his shirt and throwing it onto the sand before diving into the clear water.

What was he, the town shrink?

. . .

Swimming in the lake that morning had done nothing to dispel Michael's bad mood. He'd still managed to bite off Alex's head when the guy was joking around near him in the fields, get himself kicked out of the Parker's house until the wedding, and make a six year old cry when he accidentally threw the kid's toy onto a nearby roof.

Was it his fault the stupid thing hit him in the first place?

Now he was sitting twenty feet from the fire pit, listening to the annoying gibbering, and all he wanted to do was go home and lock himself up for the rest of the night. That was, until he saw it.

A strand of silver moonlight had filtered down through the trees and settled in a sliver of golden hair near the bushes to his left. Michael held his breath as he leaned over and squinted into the darkness, barely making out a pair of swollen red lips and jade colored eyes. She was back.

Looking around him to make sure no one was watching, Michael crept over to the trees behind him, emerging himself into the foliage. He nearly fell backwards when her face appeared right in front of him, barely made visible by the flames of the bonfire.

Holding in a snide remark, he grabbed her arm, pulling her further into the forest where they could talk without worrying about someone hearing them.

Maria guessed that meeting the human, Michael, at the path hadn't been the best of ideas. It was worth it, strangely enough, to see the startled look on his face as he realized she was right in front of him. She couldn't help it though, she was excited to be back here again for reasons she couldn't really understand.

"Where have you been for the last two days?"

Strange, most humans used the words 'hey' or 'hello' when greeting someone. At least from what she had noticed.

"I needed some time to dictate my thoughts and findings down from when I first came here," she told him, looking up thoughtfully. "I think it's often called...writing in a journal." She smiled at up him, proud of herself for remembering such an odd fact about humans' names for things.

Michael clenched his fists. He had been worried about her for the last day and a half because she wanted to play dear diary?!

Wait...he had been worried about her. Why had he been worried about her?

Maria watched as Michael's face turned the color of a very ripe tomato, before a look of utter shock suddenly fell over his face. She waited another minute but he still hadn't spoken. "You're very peculiar," she told him, turning around and walking a little further into the forest, "for a...person."

Did she just call him peculiar? He scoffed at her, "Like you should be talking, Blondie."

Maria stared at him long and hard. Yes...he was definitely peculiar. "Are you coming?"

Michael shook his head to clear it, not realizing that he had fallen into thought again. Looking over to where she'd already walked nearly twenty feet ahead of him, he jogged to catch up.

"Where are we going?" he asked gruffly. "It's the middle of the night, shouldn't you be sleeping?"

Looking back for a moment, Maria glared at him. "I could say the same thing about you. After all, you only get a few hours of sleep every night."

Michael stopped, staring at her retreating back, "How do you know how long I sleep?"

Cringing as she stopped walking, Maria turned around to face him. He almost looked like he had that first night he'd approached her, guarded and somewhat closed off. Shrugging her shoulders and folding her arms in what she thought fairly resembled a normal human response, she answered him, "Simple. You look like crap."

Well, he did look quite a bit tired, didn't he? She had a feeling he wouldn't be too happy with her if she told him that she'd been looking in on him through his kitchen window for the last few days.

Narrowing his eyes at her, he reluctantly began following her again. "So where are we going?"

"Just for a walk," she replied. "The forest is always so alive during the night. It's my favorite time to see it." Smiling back at him, she led him down a path off to the right.

"There was this place I use to always visit when I was younger; it had a perfect view of the stars. I remember rolling through the flowers in the field and...running...from one end to the other to see how long it would take me," she stopped as they reached the edge of the trees, the forest opening into a small meadow filled with fireflies that were flittering around excitedly, and daisies that were swaying slowly with the slight breeze Michael could now feel on the back of his neck.

She was right, the forest was beautiful at night.

"Do you still go there?" he asked quietly, watching her lips fall into a slight frown.

"No...I haven't been back there in a very long time."

Michael was confused. If she loved the place so much, why hadn't she been back? "Do you want to go back?"

Maria stared out at the meadow, wishing she could tell him. She looked down, sadly. It wasn't meant for him to know. She shouldn't have brought him here.

"We should get back now, it's late."

Watching her for another moment, Michael nodded his head. As much as he wanted to know why, it wasn't his place to ask.

Maybe she would trust him later. He hoped she would.

~TBC~


Yeah, this part was a little different than the other ones, but I hope you all still liked it. *happy*

Editted to say that yes, your feedback definitely made up for your absense ML! *wink* (uhh...ML I'm guessing will be your new knickname from me - I tend to do that a lot, lol)
Editted again to say that I'm going to go read your fics now, lol.

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 20-Aug-2002 11:22:12 PM ]
posted on 21-Aug-2002 12:51:39 PM by ZooBoo
You know, I'm ALWAYS wondering about the whole 'P.P.S./P.S.S.' thing! I mean, is it 'Post P.S.' or 'P.S. Sequacious'? Really, I think someone just started it for entertainment purposes. For the shmucks like us that would spend time actually debating the whole thing...

Uhh...yeah, pointless feedback is still very entertaining. *wink*

Glad you like ML, because there's a good chance I'll keep calling you that, heh. I didn't even think about the whole Max/Liz implications of it. Pretty cool... *says the dork in the strange colored shirt*

Oooo...REAL feedback! How does that go again?

lol, okay...gotta run. Later!
posted on 21-Aug-2002 3:33:42 PM by ZooBoo
Thanks Nikki! Hopefully I'll have another part up here by like tomorrow.

Of course your feedback isn't 'real' feedback. Your feedback is ML feedback! Real feedback pales in comparison. *wink*

Yes, Michael is a little...uninformed when it comes to women. But dang it, if a confused Michael isn't the sexiest thing I've ever seen!

Hmm, I didn't really plan on throwing Tess into this fic, but then again I'm not really clear on what is going to happen in the middle of this thing...just the end, lol. (I doubt it though, if that makes you feel any better *wink* )

And might I just add...

I've hit page two! Woo!!! lol

Okay, gotta run. Later tatorz! (z's...it's a YA thing)
posted on 22-Aug-2002 5:08:46 PM by ZooBoo
Well, since tomorrow is now...I guess you don't have to wait any longer. *wink*

Okay, I've been dilly-dallying all day long so I have to post this quick and get some actual work done, lol. So here you guys go:


~Part Five~

Maria's eyebrows crinkled as she watched the large pendulum swing back and forth inside of the object Liz had labeled a 'Grandfather clock'. Every time it reached one of the sides, a ticking noise came from somewhere deep inside and it switched directions, as if being commanded to do so. It was marvelous!

"So the small dials move around to the numbers and it tells you what time it is?"

Liz laughed lightheartedly at the strange girl. "Yep. The short 'dial' tells you what the hour is, and the long 'dial' tells you the minute," she explained, pointing to each of them in turn.

Maria sat tapping her teeth with a long fingernail for a moment, thinking. "What makes it move?" she inquired, resisting the urge to open the small door and probe around inside of it.

"Well," Liz began, pointing to another large object attached to a long chain, "the weight here pulls down the chain, which is wrapped around a series of pulleys that make the clock move. When the weight reaches the bottom of the clock we reset it and that keeps the clock in motion."

Maria smiled, looking up at Liz from the chair she was sitting in. "I never realized humans could be so creative."

Laughing at the girl's strange choice of words, Liz led them both into the kitchen, picking up a large mixing bowl and setting it in front of Maria on the table. "So where are you from?" she asked, handing her four eggs off of the counter.

Maria stared down at the bowl and the eggs, not quite sure what Liz wanted her to do with them. "I came from a place quite a long way from here. It was a small mountain side near the city of Kaiteck."

Picking up one of the eggs and tapping it gently on the side of the bowl, Liz silently showed her how to crack one, smiling when she was finished. Maria picked one of them up, mimicking Liz's demonstration as a few small pieces of the shell fell into the bowl.

"Don't worry, I use to do that all of the time when I first started learning how to cook," Liz told her, carefully picking out the shells and throwing them away. "You get better at it."

Maria continued cracking the eggs as Liz pulled a few things from the cupboards and out of the icebox.

"Was it a small place?" Liz asked her, wondering what kinds of food they must have eaten if the girl didn't know how to cook.

Maria finished plucking out a few shells from the bowl and answered her, "It was very largely inhabited long ago, but it was abandoned just a few years after I came into existence." She threw the now empty shells away and looked up at Liz, wondering what she should do next.

Reaching over and putting a few more things into the bowl, Liz handed her a long wooden spoon. "Just use this to stir it all together." Maria took it and awkwardly began mixing the batter. "Where did you and your parents live after that?" she asked, wiping a small amount of flour off of her palm.

Stopping for a moment, Maria looked out of the window. "My 'parents' were killed when the city was deserted, and I was left to fend for myself."

Liz froze.

So that was why she seemed so innocent and curious - she'd been living on her own in the wilderness since she was a child! "No one took you in? That's awful!"

Maria bit her lip. She'd forgotten that human infants couldn't fend for themselves at such a young age. At least she was pretty sure they couldn't...

"I was alright. I'd learned most of everything I needed to survive from before the village was destroyed," she told her, concentrating on not spilling the ingredients she was stirring together.

Liz smiled at her, placing a few pans out onto the table, coating them with a bit of butter. "Well, I'm glad you've come to Albythia," she said, taking the bowl from Maria after she'd finished.

Wiping her hands off on a towel, Maria smiled. "So am I."

. . .

Alex stared at Michael long and hard from across the haystack they were currently bailing out of the loft for the animals. Was it his imagination, or was Michael...un-moody today? He was sure anyone who recently met him would think he was just being his normally rude, obnoxious, and generally pompous self. But today, he could have sworn Michael's usual smirks were replaced by unknowing half-smiles.

That was it; he was recommending Michael see a psychiatrist as soon as possible.

"Okay, what's the deal?" he asked, leaning over onto the stack with his gloved hands. "For the last few days you've been nearly unbearable to be around, and today you come in here grinning like you've got a new victim on the rack," he stated, scratching his left ear. "What gives?"

Michael glowered menacingly at him. "What do you mean what gives? I've been acting the same way I always act," he stated, shoving a pitchfork harder into the hay and hurling the yellow straw out of the opening, nearly knocking Alex off balance.

Glaring back at him, Alex picked up his pitchfork and began bailing hay again. "Yeah, well you can convince just about anyone else Guerin, but you can't convince me. I've known you since you were six and I think I can tell when you're in a good mood or not."

Michael sighed, exasperatedly. "Whatever, Whitman." Why in the world was the guy asking him such stupid questions? He wasn't any different today then he had been yesterday, or days before for that matter.

"Fine, you go on denying it," Alex replied, nonchalantly. "I'll just find out some other way."

That was it; friend or no friend Michael was going to snap his neck.

"Michael?"

Stopping mid-hurl of his pitchfork, Michael looked down out of the loft. Standing just below with a happy smile on her face was Maria, carrying a small basket in her hands that had been covered by a dishcloth.

A tiny smile pulled at the corner of his mouth and he set his pitchfork down, turning around to head down the ladder.

Making his way to the edge of the loft, Alex peeked out over it. The new girl? Michael was in a semi-decent mood because of the weird new girl? Well, this was certainly an interesting development.

He watched from above as Michael exited the barn, sticking his hands in his pockets and smiling at her. Michael Guerin was smiling?!

That was it, Alex was seeing his own stinking psychiatrist!

. . .

"Hey," Michael said, as he walked up to the mischievous girl standing in front of him.

Grabbing hold of his sleeve, Maria led him over to shady tree, pulling him down next to her. Biting her lip, she held the basket up in front of her. "Here."

Michael took it by the handle, looking at her curiously. "What's in it?"

"Let's see, Liz said they were called sugar cookies," she replied, lifting up the towel to reveal a small pile of the confections.

Michael glanced at her, picking one up and sniffing it. "Did Liz make them?"

After she nodded, he placed one in his mouth, taking a large bite. "With my help."

His jaw suddenly stilled as he talked through a mouth full of potentially hazardous organics. "She let you help?"

She smiled back at him, pleased that she'd had a hand in making them.

Well, they didn't taste too bad. If Liz was in charge of it, they should be safe.

Smiling back at her, Michael took another bite, crunching down on something hard. He carefully spit it out, watching as a piece of eggshell landed into his palm.

"Sorry," she said, wrinkling up her nose. "I must have missed some."

Swallowing the rest of the cookie he smirked back. So she wasn't the best cook in the world, it wasn't such a horrible thing.

"That's okay, if I tried to make them they probably would have come out burnt."

Tucking her knees up under her chin, Maria watched him as his tongue came out to lick the stray sugar off of his lips. He was such a handsome creature when he was most unaware of it.

She startled from her thoughts when she noticed that he was studying her, as he rested back on his elbows.

"I have to go. Liz made me promise that I'd come back and help her with a few things for her wedding if she let me bring you food from her house," she told him, smirking.

Liz had informed her of the very reason he was banned from being there in the first place, and she couldn't entirely disagree with her. Michael Guerin really had a way of sticking his foot in his mouth sometimes.

Michael's smile fell slightly, turning into a crooked smirk. "Okay, I'll see you later then?"

She nodded and stood up, brushing off her dress as he watched her.

"Bye," he said, quietly.

Nodding a little, she headed back.

~TBC~

Okeday, hope you like it. *happy* I liked it a little bit more than the last part so... *tongue*

Later tatorz!

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 22-Aug-2002 8:24:27 PM ]
posted on 22-Aug-2002 8:18:26 PM by ZooBoo
Aww, I understand. *happy*

My sister just started school up again yesterday, and she had one heck of a crappy day, lol.

Hope it gets better tomorrow!!!

Oh, and I left you some non-real feedback for CtHoT finally. *wink*

Alrighty, runnin'.

Ciao!
posted on 27-Aug-2002 12:40:29 AM by ZooBoo
Hey ML, dancepixie, Rapunzel, Belit, and all you wonderful peeps who've been reading!

Umm, my mind is pretty blasted right now, so I'm just gonna post this and go to bed, lol.

Thank you all so much for the feedback!!! It makes me want to write more even sooner. *happy*

Hopefully I'll have another part done here in a couple of days(training people at work, busy weekend, all that ick). If I were in my right mind I would probably have lots more to say...but I'm not, lol.

Anywho, thank you all so much! You all make a wonderful difference in my writing!!!

*MUWA*


~Part Six~

A small bead of sweat trickled down Michael's face, dripping into the soil below. It was an extremely warm day for the time of year and he looked up, noticing very few clouds dotting the sky. Today was perfect.

It would have been a lot more perfect, however, if he'd known where Maria had been last night. He'd spent all night watching for her among the trees, but she never turned up.

"Probably out terrorizing some unsuspecting creature," he told himself, pushing his shovel farther into the dirt. The notion made him smile as he imagined her quizzing a squirrel about what kind of acorns it preferred, sombering again when he saw the other men approaching the fields for the day.

"Maxwell," he grumbled, when his two friends made their way over to him.

Hiding a smile, Max took the shovel that Michael had been holding, putting as normal an expression on his face as he possibly could. "Hey, I was just talking to that Maria girl," he told him, raising an eyebrow when Michael appeared to be releasing a deep breath. "I guess Liz found out that she didn't have a proper place to sleep, so she invited her to stay at her parents' home until she finds a place of her own."

Noticing Max's odd glances towards him, Michael crossed his arms and let out a short, frustrated huff. "Your point, Max?"

Max shrugged, forcing the shovel deep into the ground as he took over Michael's previous task. "She asked me to tell you to meet her in front of Liz's house." Watching Michael out of the corner of his eye, he saw his mouth nearly begin to turn up, but instead form a straight line.

Well, at least he knew Alex was right about one thing; there was actually a person in this world Michael could stand being around.

Crossing his arms, Michael shook his head, exasperated. "I have responsibilities here Max, and I can't just up and leave. Why didn't you ask her to come here with you?"

Shrugging slightly, he avoided looking up at his somber friend. "I just figured it wouldn't take you too long, and Alex and I could cover for you until you got back." Alex nodded casually, agreeing with him.

Glaring at them, their gruff friend narrowed his eyes. "Fine, I'll be back soon."

They both watched as Michael turned around and stocked off in the direction of the Parker's home.

When he was finally out of sight, Alex broke down in a fit of laughter. "I told you! You didn't believe me, but now you've seen it with your own eyes, my friend."

Max just smiled, pulling a rock out of the soil and throwing it onto a pile of stones. "Well, I just hope he doesn't kill us tomorrow after he finds out what we've done."

"And what have we done?" Alex asked innocently, picking up another rock and chucking it.

Shaking his head and smiling, Max threw the shovel at him. "Get to work. We've got a lot more to do today now."

. . .

The air smelled of honeysuckle and lilac, Maria noticed as she tilted her head back and closed her eyes after resting her elbows back on the ground from her cross-legged position. She reveled in the warm sunlight that was dripping down from the clear blue sky, seeping into her porcelain skin. It felt like heaven.

She smiled as she heard Michael's footsteps in the grass and felt him drawing near. He was such a mystery to her, yet she felt more comfort being around him than nearly any other creature she'd known. That, in and of itself, was a mystery she wasn't certain she would ever solve.

"Max told me you'd be here," he stated, shoving his hands in his pockets as he looked down at her.

Opening one eye, she glanced up at him, not willing to move quite yet. "Of course I'm here. Alex said you wanted to see me," she replied, reaching a hand up to pull him down onto the grass next to her.

Michael sat down for a moment, staring at her before he realized what she'd just said. "What?"

Sitting back up, she looked over at him, "He said that you wanted to show me around town today."

Closing his eyes for a moment, he held in the curse that had been forming on his lips. He should have realized that Max and Alex had been up to something earlier. It was just like them.

Letting his eyes drift open again, he noticed the confused expression on her face. "Didn't you want to show me around town?" she asked, biting her lip.

This couldn't be good. "Uh, no. I did. I just forgot it was today," he supplied, throwing a smirk onto his face. "You ready then?"

Nodding her head, Maria watched as he stood up and then reached down, pulling her to her feet.

Tucking his hands back inside of his pockets, Michael tilted his head towards town. "Shall we?"

. . .

A tiny bell above their heads rang softly as they entered a small store Michael had pointed out to Maria from across the dirt road running through the middle of town. She had been asking questions about its history practically non-stop since they'd arrived, and he couldn't help but smile at how happy she seemed to be learning everything she possibly could. It was like she was in love with knowledge and all of the possibilities it brought.

"Mr. Guerin, 'aven't seen you 'round 'ere in a while," a short, nearly balled man standing behind a long counter said, smiling with a toothy grin.

Michael looked over at the man, trying not to roll his eyes. The reason people acted so friendly around him just to try and sell him more merchandise was beyond his level of comprehension. They probably didn't realize just how annoyed it really made him.

Walking around the back of the counter, the small man approached Maria. "An' oo migh' this young filly be?" he asked, watching as Maria made her way passed a few large displays, too entranced with the objects in the store to notice him.

"Earl," Michael growled, already getting annoyed with the man. "Do you have any...fragrances?" he said, asking for the first thing that came to mind.

The store owner gave him a cheeky smile, chuckling at the look of horror that crossed the younger man's face. "I think I 'ave some bath oils in the back. Le' me go 'n check," he told him, disappearing into a small storage room.

A few moments later, a small display of pots came crashing down onto the floor behind him, scattering themselves around the tiny store. Michael turned around to look at the troublesome pixie standing there, twisting a piece of one of her sleeves in her hands while she glanced at the mess on the ground.

"What 'appened in 'ere?" Earl asked, running in from the back room with a few bottles in his hands as he surveyed the damage.

Plucking the bottles from the man's grasp, Michael pulled Maria out of the mess, quickly pushing her through the door. "Just put this on my tab...all of it."

Walking away as quickly as they could, he turned towards the girl that was guiltily taking glances back towards the shop. He couldn't help it - a deep laughter erupted from him, causing Maria to glare back at him.

"It's not funny," she huffed, slugging him in the side.

This just caused another bout of laughter to over claim him as he clutched his side, more from the irony of the situation than from her weak attempt at a punch.

He forced himself to calm down a bit when she started walking off without him.

"Maria," he said, catching up with her and trying to get her to slow down. "Maria, look I'm sorry." She stopped walking at that, still refusing to face him. Sighing for a moment, he stepped in front of her pulling her chin up to meet his gaze. "I'm sorry. I won't laugh at you again," he promised, watching as she glared at him before rolling her eyes.

"You'd better not."

He fell instep with her once more as they began walking again.

"I don't have much time before I have to get back to the Parker's," she stated, scouting out their next destination, "and there's a whole lot more that I haven't seen yet."

Michael felt his face drop. She didn't plan on seeing the whole town, did she? With the trouble she'd already managed to get them into, he didn't know if he'd last!

After all, they'd only been to one shop...

~TBC~

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Aug-2002 12:41:23 AM ]
posted on 28-Aug-2002 9:48:54 PM by ZooBoo
Heya! *big* *muwa*

Thanks for the feedback! (here, and at the other board *wink* )

Umm, I hope I have a part written here in a day or two...overtime has been killing me. (okay, not literally, but it sure feels like it, lol)

Anywho, gotta run. After all, no time like the present to write. *happy*

Laterz!
posted on 30-Aug-2002 10:43:18 PM by ZooBoo
Thanks Cheskat! Happy you're enjoying it. *happy*

Hey ML!!! Thought I'd lost you, lol.

You know, there are actually two types of acorns. Red oak acorns, and white oak acorns. They're bitter in taste(boil them to remove the the acid that causes it) and a great source of energy, protein and calcium. Leached, roasted acorns can be used as a coffee substitute(yeah, more than you really wanted to know...I'll stop now).

Anyway... *tongue*

So glad you like my Maria character. *big* Could you imagine meeting another intelligent species for the first time? Awfully weird, hehe. (hey, maybe that's why we're all so intrigued with aliens *wink* )

Albythia, definitely a Gis world thing, lol. First name off of the top of my head actually, hehe.

You know, I loved Alex's character on the show. Always so far out of the loop, but by far the most accepting.

Oh yes, hehe. The possibilities...which I'm working on right now and I'm affraid will probably fall short. *tongue* Guess we'll see.

Anywho, yeah. Working on it at the moment, and I'm very sorry it's been taking me so long to write. I'd planned on doing the majority of it last night, but my sisters got into a huge fight and I had to spend the rest of my night keeping them away from each other so that their eyes stayed in tact, yeash. BUT it's a long weekend, so I should be able to work on it more. *wink*

So yeah, that's what I'm gonna go do now...
posted on 2-Sep-2002 10:35:00 PM by ZooBoo
*snort* Yeah, right. Luck's the reason you're here in the first place. *wink*

So guess who's here with a new part!!! Okay, so I'm the only one who would be here with a new part, but still...

Thanks for all of the feedback guys! Luv ya!


~Part Seven~

Two broken vases, five toppled displays, one stubbed toe, and four pairs of strappy sandals latter, Michael and Maria had finally picked their way through the main stores of Albythia. So what if one of the display things had been knocked over by him? It had still been her fault. He wouldn't be running into things in the first place if he didn't have to keep such a close eye on her.

"Michael?"

"Hmm?" he asked, sitting on a bench close by and resting his head back. Who knew window shopping with a woman could be so utterly exhausting? Why any man would want to intentionally put himself through this torture, he would never know.

"Liz told me that her father has a business here in town." Michael opened his eyes and looked back up at her. He had been avoiding the Parkers like the plague since the...incident. He hoped she wasn't going in the direction she sounded with this. "Can we go see it?"

He should have known he wasn't that lucky.

Staring at her for a moment, Michael stood up, letting out a long huff. He couldn't believe he was actually going to allow her to drag him to that place. There must be something seriously wrong with him.

"Sure, but just for a little while. I want to have every part of my body fully in tact when I go to sleep tonight," he muttered, starting to head in the direction of the hotel.

When he noticed that she wasn't following him, he turned around to look at her. Maria's eyes had glazed over and her knuckles had turned a ghostly shade of white as her tiny hands clutched tightly into fists, her fingernails digging deep into her skin.

"Maria?" Hurrying back to her, Michael brought both of his hands up to cup her cheeks as he searched her face. "Maria, what's wrong?"

The energy that she felt shooting out through his fingertips made her jump, causing her to realize where she was - in the middle of town, with Michael standing right in front of her. She closed her eyes for a moment, forcing the abrupt warnings she had felt back into her subconscious where they wouldn't get her into trouble. There wasn't any possible way she could explain them to him, and even if she could there was nothing he could do to help her.

Soon. She would have to leave soon.

"I'm fine," she whispered, clearing her throat to speak louder. "I haven't eaten in a while. I need something to eat."

Nodding his head, he wrapped an arm around her waist, making sure she was steady. "There's a café inside of the hotel that the Parkers run. It's not far; we can get you something to eat there."

She smiled weakly at him, allowing his arm to guide her there. For some strange reason she felt comforted by it, as his body heat seeped into her skin, warming her.

It didn't take them long to reach the inviting structure where they entered through the small door in front and made their way over to a table covered with a bright, cheerful cloth.

Liz had just come out of the kitchen in back after speaking with her father when she spotted two of the most unlikely customers she could ever imagine sitting down at one of the small tables inside of the café. She pinched her eyes shut before opening them once more, as Michael graciously pulled out a chair for Maria and helped her to sit down.

She'd stepped out of the kitchens and into another dimension. No...she'd fallen asleep at home out of exhaustion and her trip here had all been a complete dream. Yes, that must have been it! Michael Guerin couldn't possibly be there right now, talking to someone without a scowl on his face.

As Gracie was making her way passed the stunned girl, Liz put a hand on her arm to stop her. "I'll get their order, Gracie. You can take a short break now, if you like."

The young girl smiled at Liz and said, "Thank you miss." Then made her way into the backroom.

Michael watched Maria from across the table near the large window. She had insisted that she was fine, but her cheeks were still slightly drained of color and she had absently been rubbing her palms where her nails had bitten into the flesh as she had stood at the side of the road looking terrified.

Something was wrong.

"Maria, are you sure-"

"Maria, hi! I didn't expect to see you here," Liz said, as she approached the table where the man she was furious at and the girl she'd become recently close to were sitting. "Did you just come to visit, or did you want something to eat?" she asked, noticing her friend's slightly pale cheeks. She would probably look worse if she'd had to spend a large amount of time with that arrogant jerk.

"Hey Liz," Michael mumbled in greeting, clenching his jaw and keeping his gaze locked on the wall opposite him.

Turning towards him with a mock smile, Liz stared at him. "Michael. Would you like to hear the special for the day, or would that also be considered an 'unwanted, uninformed Parker opinion'?" she asked, folding her arms angrily in front of her.

With a closed off expression, he glanced at her, "Nothing for me thanks, just Maria." If he ordered something from here, it was more than likely to come out of the kitchen covered in spit. He'd rather cook himself something at home.

"Is it possible to have some carrots or oats? Berries even, if you have some?" she asked quietly, smiling up at Liz.

"I can have the cook make you up some oatmeal with fruit," Liz offered, knowing that the girl must have some rather strange eating habits from living alone in the forest for so long.

Maria nodded, looking back down at her hands, trying desperately to clear her head. "That sounds nice, thank you."

Liz smiled at her before heading back into the kitchen to place her order.

"I was going to meet Liz after this, so you can go now if you need to." As much as part of her wished he would stay, she wasn't sure that she could deal with him continuously staring at her. She knew that telling her secrets to this human was forbidden, but it felt so much like she was lying to him, and for some unexplainable reason she didn't want to lie to him.

Michael watched her for another moment, finally looking down and licking his lips. "Okay." Standing up from the table, he glanced once more towards the kitchen area where Liz had disappeared to. "Will you be there tonight?" he asked, hoping for another night away from the campfire.

Maria nodded her head as she bit her lip, absently playing with the napkin on the table.

Running a hand through his unruly hair, Michael sighed. "All right."

Waiting for another moment, he finally walked out of the café, leaving her in Liz's care.

. . .

There was a slight haze covering the moon tonight, transparent and nearly a grayish color. Michael smiled; there would be rain soon, which was good for their dry plants. He just hoped it would be here and pass before Max and Liz's wedding, although it would be quite a site to see a rain-soaked Liz finally loose her cool and curse everything alive within a one hundred foot radius. He knew the beast was in there, somewhere, just waiting to be let out.

After waiting for nearly an hour near the edge of the forest, Michael finally heard Maria's footsteps behind him. He smiled up at her as she stood watching the men, the lazy moon lighting up a small portion of her face.

"You brought a blanket," she said quietly, looking down at him.

Michael shrugged slightly, resting his arms on his bent knees as he leaned against a tree. "I thought it would be nicer than sitting on the hard ground."

Smiling slightly, Maria sat down next to him, bringing her legs up to rest her chin on. "It's nice."

They sat in silence for a long while, both of them listening to the loud banter going on around them. It was something Maria knew she would miss when she left.

"Liz wants me to help her tomorrow with some of her wedding plans," Maria told him, looking over to where he was sitting.

Michael nodded his head, keeping his gaze held in the fire. "I have to work in the fields. Make up for the work we'll all be missing for Max's wedding," he told her, shrugging his shoulders.

She looked forward again, listening as a song broke through the cluster of men. It was odd how no one ever seemed to notice when the human sitting next to her was absent at the fire pit.

Picking up a small package that had been lying next to him, Michael played with the string holding the brown paper together for a moment, not quite sure how he should give it to her. Taking a deep breath he finally thrust it out towards her, mumbling a soft, "Here."

Maria looked over at him, eyeing the object he was waving in front of her. Looking up at him, slightly confused, she gently took it from him, running her hand over it. "Thank you, it's very nice." She wasn't exactly sure what she was suppose to use it for, but she would enjoy looking at it anyway.

Creasing his eyebrows together, Michael frowned. She hadn't even opened it yet, how could she... Oh.

"You're suppose to unwrap it," he said, an amuzed smile dancing in his eyes.

Glancing over at him, she pursed her lips together. "Unwrap it?"

"Yes, pull the string and the paper off."

"Oh." She looked down at the square object, slowly pulling at the wrapping. As the paper fell away, she ran her hand over the leather-bound cover, enjoying the smoothness of the surface before opening it to find page after page inside crisp and blank.

"It a journal," Michael supplied, scratching the back of his neck. "I got it in town just after I left the café. This way you don't have to leave to be able to write things down."

Maria smiled over at him. It was the most beautiful gift anyone had ever given her. "Thank you."

He grinned back, happy that she liked it. "You're welcome."

They both fell into a comfortable silence, watching the men for the rest of the night.


~TBC~

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Sep-2002 11:57:27 AM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2002 3:25:03 AM by ZooBoo
lol, you sound like me ML.

Must make this quick since it's 1:15 in the morning, and I have to get up at 6 to get ready for work. *tongue*

Thank you for all of the feedback ML, Cheskat, and Kari!!! You guys are all wonderful! *muwa*

Can't tell you what's going on yet with Maria, but you'll find out. I will tell you though that there have been tiny, little hints though...but that's all I'm sayin' because I am evil. *big*

Glad everyone is taking so well to Michael, hehe. *wink*

Okay, heading off to bed before I fall asleep on the comp, lol.


~Part Eight~

Pain. She could always feel the pain.

The visions had now begun. They were never absent of fear, and as her time grew shorter the pain became increasingly sharp and piercing. They would come often during the night soon enough. Each one more vivid than the last, and the only way to escape them...was to leave.

A few days. She was almost certain she still had a few more days.

Maria woke with a start on the small cot she had been sleeping on since Liz had insisted she stay there in her home. It was something she was sure she could never get use to; the cot was hard and small, whereas the meadows were always cushioned with tall, rolling grass and she could stretch out as much as she wanted there. Why humans would willingly give up such luxuries she would never understand.

Stretching her limbs almost cat-like, Maria stood up, shaking the stiffness from her body. As early as it was, she could faintly hear the sounds of Liz tinkering around in a room just down the hall from where she stood. With the wedding being only a day away, Liz was frantically trying to finish all of the preparations, even if it meant staying up all night in the process.

Wiping the tiny beads of sweat from her forehead, Maria slowly made her way down the hall towards the softly glowing light that was seeping out through a small crack in the door of the room Liz was occupying. It wasn't a surprise to see her occasionally rubbing the sleep from her eyes as she worked tirelessly on the dress in front of her.

After a few moments watching, Maria stepped into the room, waiting for Liz to realize that she was there. It seemed she had been standing there for hours before Liz finally looked up, jumping slightly at the sight of the girl standing in front of her.

"Oh, Maria. I didn't know you were awake," she said, putting a hand over her racing heart. "How long have you been there?"

Shrugging slightly because she wasn't quite sure, Maria walked over to a chair just opposite of Liz and sat down.

The woman was in shambles! Her eyes were red from lack of sleep, and her head looked as though it wanted nothing more than to fall onto a pillow and never rise until it was good and ready.

"Have you slept at all?" Maria asked, pushing a few strands of hair away from Liz's eyes, concerned. "Don't people need a good deal of sleep each night?" If weddings caused humans to act this way, why were they still having them? Couldn't they see it was bad for their health?

Liz smiled up at her. "I'll be fine. I even promise to take a nap today, if it will make you feel better," she said, looking back down at her work.

Maria watched as Liz picked up a tiny, thin object that had a bit of string attached to one end, and began threading it back and forth through the material. So that was how they kept clothing held together. Clever concept.

"I can't believe that my wedding is tomorrow," Liz said, keeping her eyes trained on her work. "I've known Max since I was four years old and he was five. When we were kids he was so quiet and he would always wander around with Michael, off by themselves. That was probably why I never really noticed him back then."

"It wasn't until I was about sixteen that I realized he was always hanging around the hotel café when I was there helping my father," she stated, looking up as she concentrated on a point far beyond the opposite wall. "He and Michael would be there, occasionally with Max's sister Isabel, and the would just sit and talk. Without even realizing it, I was falling for him. I know it sounds stupid," she said, looking back down as an embarrassed blush crept up her cheeks, "but him being there every day was...comforting."

Maria tilted her head, as her eyebrows knitted together. "Why should it sound stupid?"

Glancing back up, Liz smiled. "No reason, I suppose. Anyway, I think Michael finally got fed up with it all and one day he just up and left. He told us that if we didn't both meet each other that Friday night for dinner together, so that he could have a night away from the 'Parker and Evans staring contest', he wasn't going to set another foot inside the café ever again. As tempting as that prospect was, I decided to go, and here I am now."

"I guess in some ways, I owe Michael a lot. Maybe that's why I put up with him," she said, laughing.

Sighing softly, Maria watched Liz for another moment before speaking. "Why is Michael always so closed off?"

Liz looked at her questioningly, wondering just how much the girl had been told about Michael's life. It wasn't really a secret, so why hadn't Michael talked about it with her? "I suppose it's because he grew up alone in the orphanage on the outskirts of the city," she told her, grabbing a pair of scissors and cutting the thread she had been using. "His parents were killed when he was very young, and he didn't have any other family that could take him in. Orphans aren't often adopted, so he lived there until he was seventeen, and could make it on his own."

"So he's been alone, just like me," Maria said quietly, staring down at her hands.

Placing the dress in her lap onto a small chest close by, Liz stood up, pulling Maria with her. "Come on, I know something you can help me with. Since we're both up, we might as well get started on it."

Maria nodded her head, following Liz out of the room.

. . .

Michael looked up from the rock pile he was currently moving. The sun wasn't even on the horizon yet. What were Max and Alex doing there?

"Hey," Alex said grinning, as Max just gave a quick hello and started on the pile, avoiding Michael's searing glares that he could feel penetrating the skin on his back.

Turning towards the tall lanky man, Michael smirked. If Alex thought he was going to get anything out of him...

"So how was the tour?" he asked, figuring that if he was going to get pummeled, he might as well get some of the details for his trouble.

Putting on the most intimidating look he could muster, Michael growled at him. "Expensive." Sure, he could have told them that he actually enjoyed himself, but this was just too much fun to pass up.

Alex's smile widened slightly. "Oh? Why was it expensive?" Getting Michael to spend any amount of money on someone, especially a girl, was like trying to pull teeth.

Leaning over so that they were practically nose-to-nose, Michael's eyes went into tiny slits. "Do you know what happens when you pull a cup made out of china from the bottom of display?" he asked, as Alex leaned back slightly, still holding his ground.

Resisting the urge to pull at his collar, Alex put on as casual an expression as possible. "Large amount of broken china?"

"Yeah," Michael replied, folding his arms in front of him. Okay, so what if they hadn't even been inside a shop that carried expensive china? He didn't exactly tell them that Maria had toppled one...he just asked him if he knew what would happen if someone had. "One massive amount of broken china, and one expensive tab."

"It wasn't all Alex's fault," Max piped in, walking over to try and defuse the situation before it turned ugly. "I helped him."

Smiling menacingly at him, Michael raised his eyebrows. "Oh believe me, I know." Picking up a shovel, Michael turned around heading off towards the fields. "By the way," he added in, glancing back at them, "I'll be sending you the bill."

There now, they could sweat it out for a while. That would teach them to meddle in his personal life. Turning back around, Michael smiled to himself, heading out towards the corn crops.

Alex turned towards Max, wiping his forehead on his sleeve. "Do you really think he'll make us pay for it?"

"So long as he comes to the wedding with a date, I'll consider it a worth while investment," Max told him, turning back to the rock pile.

"Hey," Alex said suddenly, a grimace forming on his face, "do you think you should have mentioned that to him?"

Cursing under his breath, Max looked over to where Michael was in the fields. He knew he'd forgotten something...

~TBC~

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 9-Sep-2002 1:46:44 PM ]
posted on 13-Sep-2002 11:06:11 AM by ZooBoo
Thank you Kari! Eek, I've been forced to do much(okay...not entirely forced) overtime at work, and I haven't been able to write ANYTHING! Ahhh!!!

So, hopefully I'll be able to get to it this weekend, if not sooner. *happy*

Anywho, seeing as I have to go do more work...I'll slink out of here undetected. *wink*

Later Taterz!
posted on 27-Sep-2002 12:16:38 PM by ZooBoo
Heya Belit!

Uhh...I should have probably posted this sooner, but I lost my disk with this story on it so I've been trying to find my printed copy...just recently found that, so I'll get back to work on the story, lol.

Sorry it's taken me so long! I kinda had some writer's cramp there for a bit, and then I had to go and loose my disk... *tongue*

Anywho, I'll do my best to get the next part out within a couple of days. *happy* After that, they should all be coming a little bit faster, lol.

Back to work for me. ;)

Later!
posted on 27-Sep-2002 12:18:05 PM by ZooBoo
*darn comp double posting everything*

*big*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 27-Sep-2002 12:20:12 PM ]
posted on 3-Oct-2002 2:11:55 AM by ZooBoo
Woo! I got the next part written!!!

Must say thanks to all of you bumpers and readers! You're all wonderful!

Okay, it's very, very late and I haven't been in bed before midnight all week...so I must go before I say something really stupid, lol.

Without further pause, I give you part nine. *wink*


~Part Nine~

The kitchen inside of the hotel café was much larger than Maria could have possibly anticipated. Compared to the one in the Parker's home, it was massive! The size alone had to match that of the café dining area, and the working space was nothing, if not impressive.

"It's such a strange thought that anyone would need this many surfaces just for cooking," Maria remarked, as Liz led her over to a counter with three round objects of various sizes sitting on top of it.

Liz laughed, shaking her head lightly. "You would think we needed more if you saw what this place looked like during the lunch rush." They did have a good-sized kitchen for the fact that it was inside of a hotel, but Liz had seen bigger...much bigger. Oh, how she envied some of those establishments; their stoves were so new, with hinges that didn't make a sound when you opened the doors, and counter tops that didn't look like the entire surface had been stripped of a layer from use. She hoped one day they would be able to expand. The possibilities were there, and she knew she'd be able to find them.

"Now then," Liz said, setting the bowl of icing she'd brought from her home down onto the counter. "This is a spatula," she told Maria, sticking a long, flat object into the girl's hand. "And these," she stated, waving towards the countertop where the circular objects sat, "are cakes."

Maria stared at the strange bits of food, fighting the urge she'd suddenly had to poke at them with the thing she now held in her hand. She'd heard of 'cake' before, even tasted a bit a very long time ago, but from what she could remember she thought it had been extremely unhealthy and disgustingly sweet. What was she suppose to do with these things? Toss them out for the birds? Surely Liz would never be so cruel...

"It's a tradition to have a cake at your wedding," Liz told Maria, pulling the covering off of the frosting, and scooping some up with another spatula she'd taken off of a nearby wall. Putting a good-sized dollop on top of the cake in front of the fidgeting girl, she also scooped some up for the cake that was sitting directly in front of her. "After they're married, the bride and groom each cut off a piece and feed it to one another. It's something that's been passed down through the ages."

Maria nodded mutely, as the thin girl next to her began spreading the white concoction smoothly over the top surface of the cake on the countertop in front of her. Slowly, as though it would suddenly jump up and bite her, Maria pushed the frosting on the cake in front of her across the delicate surface, as Liz had done.

"Good, now make sure you get it all evenly distributed on the top and sides," Liz instructed her, starting in the sides of her own cake. If something happened to the cake Maria was working on, it wouldn't really matter. Liz had made sure that two cakes of each size would be baked, just incase anything happened to one of them.

"Why exactly do people get married?" Maria asked, suddenly turning her questioning gaze towards the girl. "If two humans decide to stay together for the span of their short existence, why do they need to announce it in front of a town on a specified day? Unless they don't trust each other. In which case, I couldn't really understand them bonding this way in the first place," Maria said, deep in thought as she analyzed this strange behavior. After all, it wasn't exactly a normal thing to do...unless of course you were a human.

Not really taking much time to think about it, Liz answered her, "Because that's what people do when they love each other."

"So...if you love someone, you're obligated to marry them?" Maria asked, finally getting a bit more insight into the whole 'love' concept, although she was still a bit confused. "I thought that a 'love' happened between more than two people," she stated, tilting her head in thought.

"Oh! It does," Liz corrected her, watching Maria's face scrunch into a frown.

"So Max isn't going to be your only husband?"

Realizing the implication of what Maria had thought she was saying, Liz turned a slight shade of red. "No! I mean...yes! Max will be my only husband. I don't have another one...won't have another one...." she said, tucking a piece of molasses colored hair behind her ear, embarrassed.

Maria nodded her head in what she thought would be portrayed as understanding, though she was perhaps more confused now than she'd been before about the ideas of 'marriage' and 'love'.

Looking around distractedly, the small pixie of a girl noticed a few oddly shaped objects sitting on the counter behind the cakes. Pointing to them, her face lit up a bit. "What are those for?"

Liz looked in the direction Maria's arm followed, thankful for the sudden change of topic. "Oh those, they're cake decorating tubes. See," Liz began in full demonstration mode again, loading frosting into one of the bags and closing the end tightly before squeezing the end of the tube slightly to push a bit of frosting out of the tip and onto a small board she'd pulled over from the other side of the counter. "You squeeze the bag gently, like this, and you can form shapes out of the frosting to decorate the cake with," she told her, demonstrating how to make a small white flower with the icing.

Glancing up at the girl across from her, Liz caught sight of something behind Maria that nearly made her throw the tube of frosting onto one of the delicate cakes next to her. Carlos, one of the chefs that worked in the café, was chopping up vegetables with an extremely deadly-looking knife, all while scowling at the new hire as the younger boy rushed back and forth in the kitchen, doing his best to help out inside. While very talented with cutlery, Carlos remained as such only when he was actually paying attention to what his hands were doing. They hadn't had an incident yet with him, but Liz was positive that if he didn't make peace with Nicholas soon enough over the issue with the stew and the crab, he'd be missing more fingers than they could really afford him to loose at the moment.

"I'll be right back," she told Maria, looking back towards their projects. "Go ahead and finish up with the cake you were working on. This shouldn't take me too long...I hope." Taking in a deep breath, Liz strode quickly towards the cook, a determined look on her face.

Maria looked back at the cake she had been frosting just moments ago, picking up the spatula in her hand. Slowly, as if by their own accord, her eyes drifted down to the tube holding the white mixture Liz had set down. The shapes Liz had created didn't look too difficult, and it had almost looked...fun.

Watching Liz talking animatedly to Carlos, Maria reached over and grabbed the decorating contraption.

It couldn't hurt to try making just one...

. . .

Michael growled in frustration as he turned away from Max, trying as hard as he could to get the guy off of his back. He wasn't in the mood for a conversation about the infamous Parker and Evans wedding at the moment, and Max seemed to be filled with never ending questions for him about trivial things like...whether or not he remembered what time he was suppose to be at the church. It may have seemed pointless to be there an hour early, but it wasn't like he'd be doing anything else that day. As he understood it, he really didn't have much of a choice in the matter.

"Did you pick up the suit?" Max asked carefully, knowing how much Michael hated being fitted for clothing. The guy just didn't like being touched, and he couldn't really blame him.

Dumping a bucket of oats into a horse trough, Michael grunted an affirmative. Max's line of questioning was going to find him a black eye for his wedding night if he wasn't careful...

"What about the dress shoes?" Watching as Michael once again nodded his head and quickly stocked away, Max followed him. "As well as a tie?"

Max couldn't really help the fact that he was jittery about the wedding. After all, he had Michael for a best man, didn't he? Grant that the said friend had been there for him during this entire event, but still...this was Michael he was talking about. He'd grown up with the tall brooding man, and if there was anything he'd learned, it was that with Michael it was good to be consistent. So, if he happened to ask his friend about these things constantly it was only because he knew the outcome would be much better than if he simply left him alone.

"How about the dress socks?"

Michael turned around, his face looking a slight bit more red than Max felt comfortable with. "Yes Maxwell! I've got the suit, I've got the shoes, and I've got the freakin' dress socks! Now would you just back off and let me get back to work?!" he asked incredulously, waving his arms wildly in circles.

Max sighed. Well, he guessed he should just get it over with...

"Did you...get a date?"

. . .

This was a dream, an absolute dream. There was no possible way she could be awake right now. This could not be true...

Liz stared down at the counter where Maria had been experimenting with the tube of frosting that was now sitting on the counter, far away from the two of them. An innocent expression was sitting hidden on the blonde's face, and she seemed completely enthralled with the cake in front of her as she smoothed the frosting across its surface.

Stuttering for a moment, Liz finally closed her mouth and looked at the girl. "You did this?" she asked, pointing at the odd shapes.

Without looking at her, Maria nodded her head as her teeth pulled gently at her bottom lip. "Are you upset?"

"Upset?" Liz asked, disbelieving. "Are you kidding me? These are amazing!"

Picking up one of the delicate iced flowers from the counter, Liz looked closer at it, noticing how perfectly Maria had captured the essence of a white rose. It almost looked as though it had been picked from a field, shining and alive.

Carefully scrutinizing the talented girl, Liz put the flower gently down. "Do you think you could do that on top of a cake?" Liz asked her, smiling as she raised her eyebrows.

Of course Maria could create more flowers on top of a cake. It hadn't really been that hard. She'd lived years beyond what everyone suspected, not a day going by that she hadn't enjoyed studying all of the flowers in the meadows. It just seemed natural.

"Yes."

Liz clapped her hands together in excitement. If Maria could do these in the short amount of time that Liz had been dealing with Carlos and Nicholas, she didn't doubt that Maria could make a living out of it. Perhaps she'd have to mention it to her later...

"Great! Let's get started then."

~TBC~

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 3-Oct-2002 9:07:47 AM ]
posted on 7-Oct-2002 3:06:03 AM by ZooBoo
*muwa* Thank you Belit and Rapunzel!!!

New part for you! Woo!!! And since it's very late, and I'm very tired, I'll post it and let you be. *wink*

I think it's the longest one I've written so far too...so enjoy. *happy*


~Part Ten~

The flickering embers of the fire held Michael's gaze as he sat hunched over on a thick log, just a few feet away from the fire pit. The haze over the dimly lit moon was thick, and he watched as Max nervously bit his fingernails, praying that the cursed weather would hold off long enough for his wedding tomorrow. Michael was positive that it would, but he still enjoyed watching Max squirm in his seat; he was still mad at the guy for trying to set him up with someone.

She wasn't just any someone either, she was a Maria someone, which just made it that much worse. Any other girl and he wouldn't be having this problem. He would have simply blown them both off, but the problem was...he couldn't blow off the small pixie that he'd know for only a short amount of time, and that did nothing more than confuse him. Why was she able to have such an affect over him? He was beginning to reconsider the witch theory...

It took Michael a few moments to realize that the normally loud chatter around the bonfire had died down and everyone but he and Max, who was still staring at the moon as though he was afraid lycanthropes would suddenly emerge from the forest to tear them all apart, were staring at something behind both of their backs.

Turning around quickly, he watched as a nervous Maria twisted a small piece of her dress in her nimble finders as she looked back and forth between him and the other men sitting around the flames. The loud "Ow!" that suddenly irrupted from Maxwell startled him as he realized he'd just hit his friend in the arm to get his attention.

When Max finally noticed just who it was everyone was intently staring at, he quickly stood up to go and talk to her. He'd known that Michael had been wandering off into the forest nearly every night to meet her, despite his best friend's lack of knowledge that practically everyone in town had known for the last couple of days. But why she was suddenly emerging from the protection of the trees, he had no clue, as did anyone else including Michael, apparently.

"Maria?"

Smiling at Max, Maria did her best to shake off the sudden nervousness she was feeling for being out in the open, surrounded by so many humans all at once. Watching them from a distance was easy, but spending time among a large group of them felt like being swarmed by a pack of gorillas, waiting to be pounced on.

"I thought I might join you around the fire tonight," she said, forcing herself not to let her anxiety get the better of her. "That is, if Michael's invitation to do so still stands."

Invitation? Michael looked at her, confused. When had he..? Wait, she must have been talking about the first night he'd spoken to her, when he told her that she could have sat with the men from town near the fire, instead of lurking around suspiciously in the trees. He didn't think there was any other time that he'd mentioned the idea to her. He sort of enjoyed spending time talking with her away from everyone else, not worrying about whether or not what he said came out wrong.

It looked like tonight wasn't going to be one of those nights. Maybe this would get him off of the hook for having to ask her to be his date to the wedding.

Glancing up at Max, who was staring at him with raised eyebrows, Michael nodded. He watched Max turn back to the nervous girl and smile, before leading her over toward the spot where he had just been sitting. To his surprise, rather than taking the seat Max offered her, Maria sat down unconsciously next to Michael on the side of the log closest to her. He tried to hide the smirk that was pulling at the corner of his mouth as she was forced to scoot closer to him so that she wouldn't fall off of the side of the log.

"What are you doing here?" Michael asked her quietly, turning his head to watch as the other men either started looking around them as if the sky and trees suddenly interested them to no end, or stroke up boring conversations about the weather and the health of their families. Hmph. Amateurs.

Maria tilted her head to look up at him. "I wanted to come here before it was too late," she told him, chewing lightly on her lip. When she left, she knew that she would never have this chance again. She wouldn't able to come back.

Too late? Oh, that must have been what she meant by, 'If Michael's invitation still stands.' She should have known that she could always come join them if she liked.

Nodding his head lightly, Michael searched his mind for something to talk about, asking the first thing that came to him, "Know any good legends?" He could hear a few snickers coming from around the large circle. Great, he'd be the biggest laughing stock in town come tomorrow morning.

"Actually," Maria said, breaking into his thoughts, "there is one I...have heard that hasn't been told around the fire. One that is very rare and not well known."

The men noticeably perked up, listening to the new arrival rather interestedly. The had been telling the same old legends over and over again for years. The only time they were enticed with new ones was when someone from town went away for a time, or someone new moved into Albythia. None of them would admit it, but this was better news than having a perfect harvest, or a sudden rush of customers in their stores.

Michael smiled, leaning back slightly. No laughing would be done at his expense now. The men were more likely to pat him on the back and call him a town hero.

"Tell us," Alex piped in nearby, just as eager to hear the story she had to tell as the others.

A large smile broke out on Maria's lips. This was how the men always were when they told legends at night. Perhaps she wouldn't have to go through an evening feeling as though she shouldn't have come, after all.

"Well," she began, thinking deeply as to where she should start. She knew that humans had always known the basics about her kind, but the story of what actually happened to them had never been revealed. "I suppose I should start at the beginning."

Staring deeply into the flickering flames, she watched as they lapped hungrily at the cool night air, giving her strength. "Before humans had come into existence, when legends were still truths and magic was as common as a hot summer day, unicorns lived in the valley of Antar. Most believed that they'd been brought into existence by a magical charm conjured from the sea of Naupake by the Tarreuke priests. But the truth was that they have...had existed since before time had a form, before it was even a tangible thing."

"For thousands of years they lived in peace among other mythical creatures, most who have long since been extinct. Then, when humans began to claim the Earth," she said, looking up at the midnight sky, watching the stars flicker back and forth as though they were speaking animatedly to one another, "they embraced them, helped them adjust to the new world."

"Thousands of years later, when humans could live on their own, were spread out throughout the lands, a tragedy happened. A man, who had fallen in love with a merchant's daughter had taken her into the mountains for a small picnic away from both of their chaotic worlds. They were near a great wall of rock, when suddenly the walls of the rock face began to fall." Looking down at her hands, Maria clasped them together, swallowing her sorrow. "The man was able to get away, while the girl...was trapped under the fallen boulders."

"When the man realized what had happened, he looked up from the hill he'd tumbled down and spotted a young unicorn atop the cliff from which the rocks had come. The unicorn had made no move to help the girl, but stood staring down at him without emotion because unicorns held no emotion for such things. It could not help the girl...she was already dead." Taking in a shuddering breath, Maria folded her arms across her, rubbing the coldness from her limbs. "The man believed that the unicorn had caused the rock slide, that unicorns held no emotion for humans or other living beings and therefore deserved to perish as his love had. He vowed from that moment on to find their valley, their world and kill them all."

"It didn't take him long. He was able to track the unicorn he'd seen and follow it back to its village. After creating a large stir in his town among his people, he was able to gather a large mob and take them there, take them to the hidden walls of Antar where he killed them."

"A few were able to escape, but from that day unicorns became merely legend. They only ones that survived were forced to live alone, away from their kind, away from everything they'd once known." Licking her dry lips, Maria looked back up to meet the intense gaze of the man sitting next to her.

"That is why unicorns are no more."

Michael could feel the pain that was falling in shards from Maria's eyes. It was pain felt for the murdered creatures of the past, pain for the man who had lost the only woman he would ever love, and pain for those forgotten in the silent whispers of myth and legend. Pain for the lost understanding of ever creature who had ever existed.

The sudden silence around the fire was slowly becoming deafening to Maria's ears. She could feel her legs pushing her to stand, and her feet carrying her away from everyone and into the forest. There she could hear sound, there she would feel the essence of life flowing through her, instead of the death and destruction that had been brought upon her kind. It was there that she felt alive.

It didn't take her long to distance herself far away from the camp. She knew she wouldn't be able to look upon the faces of the men who felt only pity, who couldn't understand just how terrible the ambush of the Valley of Antar had been.

Fifty-three men all armed with bows and arrows, slaughtering tens of hundreds of innocent creatures all because of her. All because she could not show compassion to the man who had lost the love of his life, all because she couldn't save her.

She spun around startled as a hand grabbed her around her waist, stopping her from running further into the forest, and far away from the village. Looking up into Michael's worried eyes, she swallowed the thickness that was forming in her throat. He shouldn't be here.

"What's wrong?" It had been nearly impossible to catch up to her through the darkness of the forest after Maria had taken off in a sprint. He wasn't even sure of how many times he'd been hit in the face from branches that she'd pushed out of the way and then sent flying back at him as he'd chased the sound of her footsteps.

"They're dead, Michael," she whispered softly, as he wrapped his arms around her, hugging her tightly to him. "They're all dead because one unicorn couldn't understand human emotions."

Running a hand gently through her hair, Michael rested his chin on the top of her head. "Shh, it's alright," he said soothingly, kissing her forehead. "It's just a story."

Maria could do nothing more than nod her head. To him it would always be a story, it would never be real. For her though, it would be a memory she was forced to live with every time she dreamed until the day she died. It was the nightmare she was to live with.

"Take me somewhere?" she asked in a quiet voice, thankful that no one else was there to see her this way, to see her guilt.

Michael rubbed his hand gently up and down her back. "Back to Liz's place?"

"No," she said quietly, letting his warm touch calm her. "To the meadow. I told Liz I would be gone for the night. I want to spend it there."

Looking down at her, Michael smiled warmly. "Okay. But only if you promise to be my date to the wedding tomorrow."

Maria looked up at him, suddenly nervous. "Date?" He wanted her to go with him to the wedding? As in a human date? Wasn't that what led to Liz and Max's wedding in the first place?

"Max says I have to bring someone, and I really don't have anyone else to go with," he told her, noticing her sudden stiffness. "So we could just go as friends," he added quickly, making it seem as casual as possible.

Maria took in a deep breath. "Just as friends?" Were they friends? She'd never really thought about it. The only human she had ever been close to was the little girl that had given her the name Maria, but the small child had always thought she was a horse...

"Yep, just friends...and friends go to stuff all of the time together. It would be fun."

Holding his breath, Michael watched as Maria slowly nodded, accepting his offer. Slowly letting the oxygen out of his lungs, a small smile pulled at one of the corners of his mouth, turning into a smug little grin.

"I guess we should head to the meadow then."

Letting her anxiety fade away, Maria smiled as she let him lead her farther into the woods. It had been too long since she'd spent the night sleeping under the stars. Tonight she finally felt like she was going home.

~TBC~

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Oct-2002 10:57:14 AM ]
posted on 13-Nov-2002 6:22:58 PM by ZooBoo
Thanks so much for your feedback you two! Sorry it took me so long to get this next part written, I've been a busy woman. *tongue*

Anywho, here it is!


~Part Eleven~

There was no feeling that compared with waking up to the fresh morning dew slipping down the long stems of grass in the fields, or the warm sun rays tickling the tips of your lashes as they opened. Having the scent of hundreds of daisies wafting through your senses, while bees hummed softly as they worked. Even the crisp morning air tasted fresh on the tip of the tongue in the meadows. It was like waking in heaven.

Maria's eyes pinched shut tightly as a silent cry of pain tore itself from her gaped mouth, making no sound. The visions were becoming more intense now, increasingly vivid and stark. It was coming closer, and she could do nothing more to stop it than she could to stop air from being expelled from her lungs every day her body produced life. Taking in deep, even breaths she forced her body to a quiet calm.

When she heard a rustling by the trees near her, she startled. Rolling her body backwards, Maria flipped herself into a defensive hovering position as she stayed poised on the tips of her toes, her fingers spread in front of her to hold her upper body mere inches above the ground, glaring darkly at the intruder.

"Maria?"

Alex was unaccustomed to taking impromptu rides through the forest in the mornings. When Michael had told him, rather gruffly he thought, to go and fetch Maria so that she would have time to get 'fancied up and all that crap', he heartily agreed.

From the very moment he saw her, he could tell that something was different about the girl, something he knew he couldn't explain. He wasn't even sure he wanted to try really, but he was certain of one fact - she was the best thing that ever happened to this little town. The best thing that had ever happened to Michael 'I have no soul' Guerin.

As soon as he'd entered the meadow, he wasn't quite sure of her sanity, though. There she crouched, ready to strike as if he was some murderous villain come to claim her. How it was even possible to hold that position so closely to the ground, he hadn't a clue!

It took Maria a few seconds for her eyes to fully focus before she realized who it was that had walked into the meadow. Letting out a shuddered breath, she let herself drop to her knees as she pushed her body up to sit back on her heels.

"Why are you here?"

Crossing his arms over his chest, Alex watching her push the hair that had fallen into her face back, mechanically. "What, no hello? I think you've been spending too much time around Michael lately."

Maria frowned slightly. She had learned a few days ago that the tall, brooding man didn't seem to have the word 'hello' in his vocabulary. It didn't really bother her, though. It was easier to be able to just start a conversation instead of having to ask politely how someone was. She didn't quite see the point in that particular human formality; the person would be standing right in front of you, shouldn't you already know?

"Isn't it normal to spend the amount of time with someone, as I have been spending with him?" she asked, standing up from the ground.

Alex coughed to try and hide the laughter in his voice. This small wisp of a girl certainly was different. "It's normal enough," he said, watching the worry lines fall from her face, only to be replaced with ones of confusion. Leaning back against a tree he tried to explain, "What I said was just a phrase that we use." When he saw her nod slightly, he continued, "See, when someone starts spending time around someone else, they tend to take on a few traits that the other person has. It's not really a bad thing. But a phrase that we use when we notice it is, 'I think you've been spending too much time with so-and-so.' It's just something you say when you're joking around."

"And a joke is something people use to make each other laugh," she stated, more for her own benefit than his.

Alex smiled, raising an eyebrow at her. What was this girl, some other kind of life form? He supposed that Liz's explanation about Maria growing up in the forest, away from civilization was very plausible. But, still...

Nodding her head once in finality, the quirky blonde smiled. "I think I understand now." Walking closer she added, "You didn't answer my question though."

Thrown out of his thoughts, Alex gave her a quizzical look. "Which question?"

"The one I asked when I first saw you."

"Oh!" Alex grinned at her like a child who held a special secret. "The grump you seem to enjoy hanging around with thought that you'd like some time to get ready for the wedding. He wanted to come and get you himself, but Mrs. Evans told him that she wasn't going to let him out of her sight. I think he was just using it as an excuse to get away from everyone," Alex told her, leading her back to where he'd tied up his horse. "It didn't work."

Get ready for the wedding? Was there something extra she needed to do to prepare? She'd have to ask Liz when they got back...

A moment later, Alex's horse was in view, quietly waiting for him to return. Maria stopped walking, staring at it as though she weren't quite sure what to do.

"You okay?"

Maria nodded at him as she shifted back and forth from one foot to the other.

Staring first at his horse and then back at the girl, Alex asked, "Maria, are you okay riding back with me on Thunder?"

"Thunder...?" Alex had the power to conjure the skies?!

"My horse," he informed her, pointing back towards the brown mare.

"Oh." That was certainly a strange name for a creature. Why would anyone name his horse after a sound that came from storm clouds? "Right. Thunder."

"Maria...?" Was it just his imagination, or did Maria seem to be afraid of riding? Maybe it was just because she'd never done it before.

"I'm fine," Maria answered him quickly, walking towards the horse and waiting until he mounted it so she could get up behind him. She would just have to deal with the awkwardness of riding a creature that was nearly cousin to her own. "Let's go."

. . .

"Michael, stop fidgeting," Mrs. Evans commanded, as she went about her task of straightening his tie...and jacket...and...

Ducking out of her reach, he went to go stand behind Max, hoping that she might get distracted if she had another victim within her grasp.

"Traitor," Max mumbled under his breath.

Michael snorted as he watched Diane Evans begin to brush invisible flecks of dust off of her son's jacket, "All's fair in wedding preparations and avoiding your Mom, my friend."

Ever since he became friends with Max, Diane Evans had become almost like a surrogate mother to him; sending food over to make sure he didn't starve, checking up on him when Max told her that he hadn't been feeling well, always insisting on being a part of his life.

It seemed to make him miss his parents that much more.

"So Michael, Max told me you were taking Maria, the new girl that came to town, to the wedding."

Michael glared over at his smug friend, resisting the urge to punch him. "Umm, yeah. Max said I had to have a date."

"So, you've been spending a lot of time with her then?"

Maxwell was a dead man.

Shrugging, Michael tried to play it off. "She talks to me when she's around."

Looking up at him skeptically, Diane was just about to reply when her husband poked his head into the room.

"Max? Alex is here so we're all heading over to the church now."

Michael gave a small prayer of thanks before following them out the door. Who would ever believe that Michael Guerin was happy to be going to a wedding?

. . .

The moment Maria set foot into the Parker's home she wished she could do the same thing Michael had tried to do earlier - make an excuse and get as far away from that house as possible. Every inch of space inside seemed to be taken up by wedding paraphernalia or people. She never knew occasions like these could be so chaotic!

It didn't help that Alex had left just as soon as he'd dropped her off either, informing her that all of the men were currently at the Evan's home and expecting him to return. Setting her mind on finding Liz was the only thing keeping her from bolting from the doorway.

After a few minutes of searching, and carefully avoiding most of the glances that were turned in her direction, Maria found her in the small room down the hall, where she had been sewing a couple of nights earlier.

"Maria! I was wondering how long it would take for you to get here," Liz smiled, greeting her as she stood straight and stiff on top of a stool as her mother was making preparations on her wedding dress. "I was starting to wonder if something had happened to you overnight. Which, I guess is silly seeing as how you've lived practically your entire life out there," she admitted, stepping down from her perch after slinking out of her gown.

"No, everything was fine last night. Alex came for me this morning so I could get...ready," she told Liz, absently playing with a lock of her golden curls. "Then he brought me here."

Liz looked over at her friend, noticing the confusion drawn on her face. Why was she...? "That's right! You've never been to a wedding before, have you?" It was more a statement than anything else really, but Maria shook her head anyway. "Well, I don't suppose you have another dress hiding in there somewhere, do you?" Liz teased, heading towards a closet in the room.

Maria's eyes widened as Liz began searching through it, looking for something that might fit the girl well enough. "I have to change?"

It took a moment for Liz to notice the fear that had been crawling into Maria's voice. Turning back around and looking the girl once over, Liz sighed, "Actually, the dress your wearing probably looks better than anything I have in my closet."

Maria let a short breath out of her lungs, relieved. How would she have explained to Liz that her clothing was like a skin, molding to her body when she changed forms? It was possible to wear something else, but her dress was a part of her and she couldn't simply leave it behind.

"I guess wearing your dress will be just fine." Walking over to her new friend, a devious smile lit her lips.

"We can certainly do something with your hair though...

~TBC~
posted on 22-Nov-2002 2:27:53 PM by ZooBoo
Thanks for the feedback!

Alrighty, here's the next part(I have a feeling this should be in another section, lol).


~Part Twelve~

"Done, Whitman!" Michael growled across the room, watching as his skinny friend scrutinized his work before nodding his head in approval.

Two years of being married to Max's sister, Isabel, had truly warped the man. It was bad enough that his wife had to have a hand in every planned event around town. Now she was pulling Alex into her delusional reality of what 'perfect' really was by sending him and Michael to the reception garden in order to fix what she deemed as 'a slanted, poor excuse for a decorating job'. The fact that Alex was now marking off the last item of her 'to do' list just made it ten times worse.

"Okay, that's it. We can head back now," he informed Michael, folding up the piece of paper in his hand and tucking it safely into his jacket pocket. "It's getting close to time for the wedding to start anyway. If we don't get back soon, I'm sure Max will go into some kind of nervous breakdown."

The only thing that made this worthwhile for Michael was the fact that he didn't have to greet the guests. He was horrible with people, and he was sure they appreciated it just as much as he did.

"Max is probably already having a melt down," Michael muttered underneath his breath, following Alex out of the garden.

It didn't take them long to reach the small church, with its white ribbons and crisp red roses lining the walkway. Anyone who knew the Parker and Evans families could tell from a glance that Isabel had been the coordinator of this particular wedding.

Her work was flawless.

As they joined the gathering multitude that was milling into the chapel, Michael did his best to keep the agitation off of his face.

People. What was so freakin' special about having a wedding surrounded by people? If it were him he probably would have take off to the preacher's house in the middle of the night, little woman in tow, and settle it quickly and peacefully. Drawing out the whole thing was just torture. For everyone. Thinking back on Iz, he corrected himself - everyone sane.

After making his way up to the front and through the door to the room Max was waiting in, Michael let out a sigh of relief. He'd made it without being stopped by anyone.

"Good, you're back!" Max's father said as he stepped inside and shut the door. "The ceremony is just about to start."

Sticking one of his hands deep inside of his pocket, Max pulled out a small box and handed it to his best friend. "Here's the ring for me to give to Liz," he stated, running his hand over the back of his neck and forcing himself not to pace. "You're suppose to keep it in your pocket until the priest asks for it."

Michael rolled his eyes for what felt like the fiftieth time that morning. "I know when to give you the ring, Max. It's not like I'm just going to up and loose it or something." He added the last bit for his own enjoyment and had to battle with himself not to laugh when Max's head shot up with a new fear in his eyes.

"Don't even joke about that," Max told his best man, absently adjusting his cuffs.

A moment later, the door slowly opened as the priest's head popped inside, alerting them that it was finally time to begin.

Walking out and taking their places to the right, in front of the masses of people, Max and Michael both looked in back of them to the doorway Liz would be walking through very soon.

As Michael let his eyes wander the crowd, he caught site of something, or rather someone, that made his mouth go dry. Maria.

She was sitting in the very back of the room, seemingly avoiding the crowd of friends and family as her eyes took in the decorations and decor of the room, with a glint in her eyes he remembered seeing the first night he'd spoken with her. The gentle curls that usually fell down her face were piled on top of her head in a mess of tight ringlets, and held together underneath with what he could only assume was an invisible clip of some sort. Swirling tendrils swept down each of her porcelain cheeks, falling just above her shoulders as they drew attention to her swollen crimson lips.

Michael forced himself to swallow the lump in his throat as his eyes pinched shut and he started mumbling to himself incoherently. After a few seconds he opened his eyes only to be met with her own, as she gazed at him and smiled.

Heaven help him, she was a Siren!

Sending back a lopsided grin, he turned his head sideways to watch as Liz stepped out of the doorway and slowly began making her way toward her very reason to be happy - Max.

When had the rest of them come out?!

Time loss. Sirens were known for making men loose track of time...

He watched Max smile out of the corner of his eye as Liz made her way towards her future husband. Her wedding dress was simple and elegant, with just a bit of lace on the bodice and white daisies littering her hair. All in all, Michael didn't think she resembled much of the mouse she normally did, dressed in her gown. Amazing.

With one last glance back at the small nymph sitting in the back of the room, Michael turned around to face the priest, a knot forming in his stomach. He wasn't certain of when he was asked for the ring, or the couple had actually said their "I do's", all he knew was that the wedding ceremony was over much too quickly and now he was standing there, expected to head to the reception with her - that...seductress!

Strangely enough, he couldn't help but smile. Seductress or not, he couldn't imagine going to the family and friends get-together without her there for him to talk to. If she hadn't come, he probably would have just stayed in a corner all by himself until he could skip out on the rest of it. He'd most likely still be in a corner during the entire reception, only now...he wouldn't be alone.

Running a hand through his hair nervously, he started walking back down the aisle. It was time to go meet his date.

. . .

After the ceremony had ended, Maria smiled brightly at the newly weds. Everything had been so beautiful. She couldn't have imagined humans creating such a touching ceremony if she hadn't seen it for herself. Liz and Max were perfect together.

Doing her best to remain unnoticed in the crowd, Maria looked back toward the front, where Michael was standing.

Michael. He was such a confusing being. One moment she felt as though she was beginning to understand his actions and words, and the next...he was as strange and unreadable to her as when she first began studying him. An enigma.

Everyday she seemed to grow more and more attached to him, and she knew it would be hard to leave when the time came. If she had been smart she would have left long ago, but the temptation he had offered her to learn about humans was simply too great to withstand. Truth be told, she wouldn't trade her time among them for anything.

After nearly all of the guests had cleared the chapel, Maria watched as Michael made his way toward her. The crisp black suit he wore hugged him snuggly and seemed to bring out a sense of confidence in him. He was truly beautiful.

"Hey," Michael coughed out, tucking his hands deep into his pockets as he stopped in front of the small pixie. "Ready to go?"

Maria nodded quickly at him, eager to find out what this 'reception' Liz had told her about was like. The wedding itself was simply spectacular, but the reception seemed to hold a special appeal for her with its promise of music and dancing. Now, if she'd only brought her journal with her to keep notes, she might have been able to entertain herself for the rest of the evening and long into the morning hours completely contented.

Looking back and forth from one arm to the other, Michael tried to figure out which one he was suppose to offer her. Wait, was her hand suppose to go on top, or underneath? And was that her right, or...?

"Oh, for the love of...!" Grabbing hold of Maria's hand in his, Michael led her out of the church, towards the garden that the reception was being held in. It was bad enough that he'd had to wear a suit for the entire day, now she was trying to turn him into a friggin' gentleman!

The moment they entered the garden Maria stopped as her mouth fell open in astonishment. Letting out a small breath, she whispered quietly, "This is beautiful!"

Wine colored roses and daisies of the purest white lined the walls of bushes surrounding them. Tables had been set out for guests to sit at with a single, white rose as the centerpiece of each. The dance floor was littered with smiling couples, and directly in the center of them were Max and Liz, gazing at each other as though no one existed in the world they'd created but themselves.

As quickly as Maria's newfound joy had begun, it was brought to an abrupt halt. A searing pain deeper than she'd ever experienced pulsated through the tips of her fingers as they clutched Michael's hand tightly in her own.

Biting his tongue to muffle his shout, Michael looked down at her. Maria's face had paled perceptibly, and her knuckles were a deadly shade of white as he felt her fingernails tearing at his skin.

"Maria?"

Her eyes widened quickly as her hold loosened slightly on his palm. Watching as she darted her head around, Michael stepped in front of her, placing one of his hands on her cheek to force her to look at him.

"Maria? Are you okay?"

Shaking her head slightly, she tried to hide the fear in her eyes as she looked up at him.

"Too many people?"

Michael watched as she paused, and then nodded her head slightly at him. He smiled down at her reassuringly before looking around him to find Alex, who was standing near the punchbowl with his wife.

"Listen, I'm going to go tell Alex that we're leaving for an hour or so. That'll give us just enough time to get back before they cut the cake and leave for their honeymoon. Is that alright?"

Staring up into his soothing eyes for the last time, Maria nodded and smiled, biting her lip.

"Okay, stay here and I'll be right back."

Watching as Michael walked away, the smile fell from her lips. Turning around she quickly headed out of the garden as a quiet whisper fell from her lips.

"Good-bye, Michael."


~TBC~
posted on 27-Nov-2002 1:26:02 AM by ZooBoo
Thanks for the feedback! *happy* Here's the next part:


~Part Thirteen~

Gone. He'd only left her alone for two short minutes and now she was gone. It was almost as if something had swooped down from the sky and carried her away without a trace...and he was worried.

Quickly making his way out of the garden, Michael looked around him. Something hadn't felt right about the way she looked at him, the way she seemed to clutch his hand as though it was her only safety guard. She had been scared and he had a feeling it didn't have anything to do with the crowd at the reception.

There was something wrong and he needed to find her, fast.

Taking off in a quick sprint, Michael made his way toward one of the places he knew she might go. Hoped she would go.

Somehow, he knew he didn't have much time to find her.

. . .

It hadn't taken Maria long to reach the meadow. She had already been making her way out of Albythia when she backtracked to retrieve the journal that she had been given by Michael. Her journal.

It was something that she knew she should have left behind, but for some unknown reason she couldn't imagine parting with it. As small and insignificant as it might have been, it was a part of her. Something she refused to leave behind, if only to hold the memories of the last two weeks closer to her soul.

Kneeling down in the grass near a hollowed tree stump, she reached inside, pulling out the small diary. It was still there, tucked away safely. Standing up slowly, she wiped off a bit of soil that had fallen onto it.

As she was about to turn around she paused, taking in the sounds of the forest. Everything around her seemed frozen in space, silent as though a great danger lurked just around the corner. The tiny hairs on the back of her neck stood up as cold fear crept into her throat.

She wasn't alone.

. . .

With every step he took Michael could feel his worry increase ten fold. He'd already been to the crop fields, the Parker's house, and the fire pit without a single sign of her. His lungs were threatening to explode on him and all he could manage to do was scold himself for not taking a horse from the stables when he'd had the chance.

He had taken off at a dead run and hadn't stopped to rest for the last fifteen minutes since he'd abandoned hope of finding her at the forest edge near the pit. His mind didn't seem to be working properly, and if he didn't find her soon he was afraid he was going to loose it.

Feeling every shuddering step as his feet pounded against the uneven floor of the woods, Michael did his best to avoid the branches that were reaching out for him, trying to knock him off balance. He'd already managed to acquire a gash directly above his left eye. He certainly didn't need another one any time soon.

Turning to scan the surrounding areas of the forest, he felt his suit jacket catch itself on a branch, pulling him back quickly and stopping him in his tracks. Reaching up behind him, Michael struggled desperately with the tree to free himself. Letting out a cry of anger, he ripped the jacket off, leaving it to hang limply on the imposing limb.

Where could she have possibly gone so quickly? Why hadn't she waited for him to get back? How could she do this to him?

Michael could feel his anger rising. This was just like her, causing him to worry and most likely getting herself into more trouble than she could handle. He shouldn't have left her by herself, plain and simple.

Just as he'd managed to set a steady pace again, Michael felt his foot catch on an invisible root sticking up near a tree, hurling him head-first to the ground. He could feel his knee smashing against a large rock as his chin hit a fallen tree branch, splitting it and causing it to bleed.

This just wasn't his day.

Forcing himself up into a sitting position and reaching up to lightly touch the cut on his chin, Michael cursed. He'd been to nearly every possible place he could look for the trouble-causing pixie, and he felt like he was farther away from finding her than he had been when he began. If he didn't find her soon, he wasn't sure what he would do.

He couldn't believe he was admitting it, but somehow she had managed to carve a small place in his life. The only other people that were ever able to do that had been Max and Isabel. Okay, and maybe Alex...a little.

Resting his head back and closing his eyes, Michael breathed in deeply, trying to regain some of the energy he'd lost from running around all over town. He reveled in the cool oxygen as it entered his lungs, slowly refreshing him.

After a few minutes had passed his head shot up. A noise - it was coming from somewhere close to him. Someone had to be close by, close enough for him to hear anyway.

Maybe he wasn't too late.

Looking around him, Michael slowly realized where he was. Only a few yards away stood the meadow, with it's tall rolling grass and comforting daisies. It was the last place he knew of to check, the last place he could hope to find her. Maria.

Struggling with his footing, he pushed himself onto his feet. The steady throbbing of his knee was already starting to go numb, and his jaw still dripped slowly with blood. Looking down, he noticed a light trail that had already made a path down his shirt front. His good shirt.

"Stupid, son of a...freakin'..."

Well, at least he didn't plan on ever having to use it again. When would he possibly find himself at another formal event? Isabel was already married, as well as Max and Alex.

Wiping his face painfully on his sleeve, he made his way toward the clearing. He just prayed that she would be there.

As he rounded a group of small trees he spotted her, staring out at the vast landscape just east of them both. If it weren't for the immense amount of relief he had been feeling at that very moment, he would have stormed right over to her and given her the hardest shake he could muster. Years off of his life, because of one small woman!

Making his way toward the clearing, Michael called to her. "Maria!"

He could see the noticeable flinching as he neared her, but her focus never faltered. Her hands were gripping the journal he had given her tightly to her chest, and if he didn't know any better he would swear she was shaking.

Stopping in front of her, he finally made eye contact.

"Where have you been?! After you took off I went searching everywhere for you!" He couldn't help the words as they came flying out of his mouth. "The fire pit, the fields..." Michael's voice trailed off as he realized that she was still shaking uncontrollably, and her face looked as though she had just seen a ghost. Her knuckled were deathly white, and the lip she had been chewing on was starting to bleed from the pressure created by her clenched teeth. She looked petrified.

"Maria? What's wrong?!"

He could nearly hear the quickened beating of her heart as he watched her mouth open and close a few times before she found her voice. When it escaped, it was barely at a whisper.

"He's here."

Michael stared at her, confused. He's here? "Who's here, Maria?"

Somewhere in the quiet shadows behind him, Michael could hear a deep, hollow laughter erupting from a voice that barely sounded human. A voice that couldn't be more threatening and dark.

Fear gripped at his very soul as he heard a contented, wicked sneer come from the creature behind him before it hissed out the answer to his question.

"Khivar."

Swallowing the thickness in his throat, Michael turned around slowly to stare at the man that was hidden in the shadows of the forest, silhouetted against the green foliage. Sticking out his chin as he felt an unknown source of anger rise to the surface, he addressed the frightened girl behind him, "Who is he Maria?"

Letting go of a shuddering breath, she answered him in a quiet, shaken voice.

"The hunter of the unicorns."


~TBC~
posted on 1-Dec-2002 9:47:30 AM by ZooBoo
Thanks for the feedback! Getting closer to the end. *wink*

Here's the next part:


~Part Fourteen~

Michael couldn't remember a time when he felt more confused or guarded. It was as if the logical side of his brain was battling the side that told him this was no ordinary man, this was a dangerous man.

Watching the figure in the shadows creep forward menacingly, he held his breath as the looming sunlight fell on something in the intruder's hands, something that made his blood run cold. A thick wooden crossbow, armed with a single arrow, was aimed directly at them. Directly at her.

"Michael..." Maria's voice came out frightened but firm. If he stayed, he placed himself in danger. He didn't deserve to be stuck in the middle of this.

He didn't give her a chance to finish, however. "This guy thinks he actually hunts unicorns?" They were standing in front of a nut-case. That was just great. "Well, sorry pal but we haven't seen any around, so..." Michael grabbed Maria's arm and started pulling her back to the protective cover of the forest.

Laughter erupted from the man in the shadows, sounding anything but cheerful. He took one more step forward where Michael could finally get a good look at him. His dusty blonde hair was short, and slicked back. The nose protruding from the middle of the man's face reminded him almost of a bird's beak, long a sharp. His eyes though, they were the eyes of a killer. The eyes of someone who held no remorse for what they've done and would willingly do again.

"So, you've made friends with it, have you?" Khivar seethed out, obviously amused at the pair in front of him. "Two hundred years later, and it's consorting with a human. Don't tell me you're starting to warm up to our kind," he said, looking pointedly at Maria. Circling the two of them, he stopped in front of the path clearing, cutting off their intended exit.

Glancing over at Maria and her frightened state, Michael didn't falter. "Look, I don't know who you are or what kind of death wish you've got, but if you don't get out of our way you'll be needing a lot more than that crossbow to save you."

Khivar just smiled wickedly at Michael's words. "I do believe you are the ones who seem to need the saving right now."

"Michael, leave."

Michael looked over at Maria, tightening his hold on her arm. "No."

Of all the pigheaded humans she'd watched over the years, this one had to be the first to speak to her. "This isn't your fight, Michael. Get out of here. Now."

Michael stood his ground, daring her to try and make him leave. Whether or not she wanted to admit it, she was a part of the lives of everyone in Albythia. A part in his life, and he wasn't going to let her get herself killed. Not if he had a say in it.

"What do you want from us?" Michael asked the man in a cold voice.

Laughing quietly at the foolish boy, Khivar rubbed a finger down the length of the arrow poised and ready to be released. "Simple. I want to kill the creature you seem to be intent on saving. You fool yourself if you think it could spare an emotion for you."

"She is not a creature and if you try to harm one hair on her head I'll..."

Another booming round of laughter tore from the man's throat, cutting Michael off. "Fine, if you insist on being specific. I'm here to kill the unicorn."

Michael couldn't believe it, Maria was standing right in front of them and the man still insisted that she wasn't human. "I don't know what you're on pal, but..."

"I'll make a deal with you," Khivar stated, letting a crooked smile creep up his face. "If she can promise you right now that she's not a unicorn, that she is human," he paused, moving his gaze to meet Maria's. "I'll leave."

Maria stared at Khivar, hating him in that one moment, for the first time in her life. Even if she could lie to Michael, she wouldn't and Khivar seemed to understand that. He seemed to understand so much about her, and at the same time so little. It was only logical though; most times even she couldn't comprehend everything about her kind, about who she truly was.

The day her village was slaughtered was the day she lost herself.

Shaking her head and turning away, Maria let her gaze fall slowly to the grass. "I can't."

Turning his eyes to stare at her, Michael's mouth fell open. "What do you mean, you can't? Maria..."

"I'm a unicorn." Her voice came out so softly, he wasn't even sure he'd heard her. "It's what I am."

Michael couldn't believe what he was hearing. Was this her way of trying to get him to go? Well, it wasn't going to work!

Forcing himself to look at Khivar, Michael held his ground. "I don't care if she's the devil incarnate, you're still not going to lay a hand on her." The words poured from his mouth, followed by a searing glare. Nothing was going to happen to Maria.

"Oh, I promise not to lay a hand on her," Khivar replied, lifting his crossbow. "But I can't make any promises for this arrow."

Stall. Michael had to stall him until he could figure out what to do. "Wait!"

Khivar looked at him in interest, wondering how far his conviction for this hideous creature would make him go. Perhaps he should just pull the trigger now...

"Why are you after her?" Michael asked, grasping at the only thing in his mind he possibly could.

Bringing the crossbow down for a moment, Khivar sneered. Did the man in front of him truly want to ruin the imagine this unicorn had created of herself? Did he really want to see her in the light that Khivar himself saw her? The thought only seemed to increase his smile. Even if the man didn't, he did.

"For two hundred years I've been hunting that thing," he told Michael, pointing a ridged finger at Maria. "It was because of her that I lost everything precious to me; my friends, my life...my beloved. Because of that unicorn I've become a walking ghost."

Okay, this guy was one wall short of a barn. "Two hundred years? You sure don't look like a ghost to me."

"Well now, that would be because I haven't killed her yet."

Michael ignored the insistent tugging of Maria's arm trying to be pulled from his grasp. She really needed to stop doing that. "Why would killing her make you a ghost?"

Smiling almost humorously, Khivar said, "Because...I sold my soul."

"You sold..?"

"After the creature killed my fiancé, I took a band of men with me to her village so I could kill her. When I got to the village, however, every unicorn I killed, along with every unicorn the others killed, didn't look like her. They weren't her. If I couldn't kill the one that killed my love, I vowed to hunt it down until the day I died, and I would kill it."

"There was a hermit in my village, a man that was rumored to be able to perform enchantments and curses. A powerful man," he told them, running a finger back down the wood of the crossbow. "So, I went to him and asked him to help me. After offering him enough money, he agreed."

"Two spells he cast, two spells that would help me on my quest to find the evil I wished to seek out," Khivar said, pointedly at Maria.

"What were they?" Michael asked, trying to draw the man's attention away from the trembling girl.

Looking back at Michael, Khivar frowned. "The first was that I would be able to track her. A sort of sixth sense as it were. The old fool didn't mention that it would work both ways though. She would periodically be able to sense me coming, just as I would be able to sense myself getting closer to her. For two hundred years I couldn't seem to catch her."

"This last time though, I waited. I circled the area for days just to get a knowledge of her location so that she wouldn't have enough time to escape me. Seemed pretty useful, didn't it?"

Doing his best not to show any emotion, Michael clenched his jaw. If only he could find some way to divert the man's attention away from them. "And the second spell?"

"Ah, yes. The second spell." Khivar actually grinned at that, showing off a set of straight, snarling teeth. "This one would seem to have no loop holes. You see, the deal was that I would live my life until the moment I could witness her suffer. The moment I could see her in pain, just as she witnessed my pain so many years ago."

Michael couldn't believe this man was so intent on killing Maria, so intent on killing someone who he couldn't imagine ever doing harm to anyone, even the man standing in from of them.

Khivar was a monster.

Lifting the crossbow back up and aiming it directly at Maria, a darkness flooded Khivar's eyes as a cold and calculating chuckle tore itself from his throat. "That day has finally come."

Without another thought, he pulled the trigger.


~TBC~
posted on 3-Dec-2002 2:13:35 AM by ZooBoo
So...I'm here with part fifteen! Woo!

Well, this will be marking the end of my little fic here. I'm almost sad it's over!

Thank you so much for your feedback Rapunzel! I'm happy you stuck it out with me. *wink*

I actually wrote two different endings for this fic. An original that I planned to use all along, and an alternate that I couldn't keep myself from writing, heh.

So, hope you like at least one of them. *big*



~Part Fifteen~

Alex looked at the sun that was beginning its decent in the midday sky. Michael and Maria had been gone for nearly two hours now, and the anxious couple that had been married just a few short hours ago were doing their best to delay their departure until the two got back. Isabel was in a frenzy trying to keep the guests entertained, and Alex was staying as far away from her as possible to avoid getting pulled into the chaos. He wasn't that crazy.

Making his way over to where Max and Liz were talking and laughing with a few of there friends, Alex waited until Max saw him and excused himself. It didn't take long before they were both huddled in a corner of the garden, deep in conversation.

"Are you sure Michael told you they'd only be gone for an hour?" Max asked, running a worried hand along the back of his neck.

Nodding at his friend, Alex told him precisely what Michael had said before leaving the reception. "He just said Maria needed to get away for a little bit, but that he promised they'd be back in an hour in time for the ending stuff. He didn't think they'd go very far, just get a break from the crowd and stuff."

Max rubbed both of his hands over his face. If Michael hadn't promised they'd be back he might not worry so much, but he did...and his best friend never broke his promises.

Letting out a deep breath, Max tried to keep himself from worrying. "Do you think you could grab a few other people, as discreetly as possible, and go see if you could find them?"

Looking around him to get a head count, Alex agreed. "Yeah, I'll make sure we check the places they might go to. If they're not there, then you'll have to just cut the cake and leave for your honeymoon."

"No," Max said, shaking his head back and forth almost unnoticeably. "I need my best man Alex. Get him here." It wasn't a request. Michael was going to be found.

"Okay."

Sighing to himself and walking away, Alex left to gather a search team.

. . .

After rounding up as many close friends as possible, Alex had given them each a destination of where the two might have wandered off to. The forest by the fire pit, the Parker's house, Michael's own place that he somehow managed to keep fairly decent, the crop field, and his own assignment. The meadow he'd picked up Maria from that very morning.

He couldn't seem to shake the feeling that something had happened, that somehow things went wrong, and both Michael and Maria needed to be found, fast. All of the years he'd known Michael, he had always kept his word, despite what he felt like doing. Max's wedding would certainly be no exception.

Grabbing two horses from the stable after making his way there, Alex made quick work of saddling them. If he did happen to find the two of them, he knew they'd be farther away than they'd probably want to have to walk, so an extra horse would be pretty much necessary.

Everything set to go, he mounted Thunder and set off at a gallop, straight towards the meadow.

. . .

"No!"

Alex felt bile rising up from his stomach as he dropped to his knees where Michael's body lay, crumpled next to a fallen tree that looked as though a sudden impact had ripped it from the ground. There were hundreds of small, clear jewels lining his body in the tall grass where it rested, lifeless in the meadow clearing. Many had been scattered across his torso, mixing with the crimson blood that had slowly pooled onto his chest from where an arrow was lodged deep in his breast, directly through his heart. The edges of the blood were already drying, and crisply peeling back.

Michael was gone.

Alex promised he would bring him back. He promised Max, and he had failed.

Carefully picking up one of the jewels as he silently wept, Alex stared hard at it, almost as though that one small object was responsible for his friend's death. It was a diamond that looked as though it had fallen out of a tap, tiny and shaped like a clear droplet of water. He couldn't recall a time where he had seen anything like it before in his entire existence. But then again, it did remind him of something...a legend he'd heard long ago.

Shaking his head bitterly, Alex swallowed the sobs that had been threatening to escape, and dropped the jewel onto the ground, letting it disappear into the grass. Even if the legends about the creatures were true, it was still impossible...

Unicorns never cried.


~The End~


Okay, before you kill me...read the alternate ending... ;)


Alternate ending:


Alex looked at the sun that was beginning its decent in the midday sky. Michael and Maria had been gone for nearly two hours now, and the anxious couple that had been married just a few short hours ago were doing their best to delay their departure until the two got back. Isabel was in a frenzy trying to keep the guests entertained, and Alex was staying as far away from her as possible to avoid getting pulled into the chaos. He wasn't that crazy.

Making his way over to where Max and Liz were talking and laughing with a few of there friends, Alex waited until Max saw him and excused himself. It didn't take long before they were both huddled in a corner of the garden, deep in conversation.

"Are you sure Michael told you they'd only be gone for an hour?" Max asked, running a worried hand along the back of his neck.

Nodding at his friend, Alex told him precisely what Michael had said before leaving the reception. "He just said Maria needed to get away for a little bit, but that he promised they'd be back in an hour in time for the ending stuff. He didn't think they'd go very far, just get a break from the crowd and stuff."

Max rubbed both of his hands over his face. If Michael hadn't promised they'd be back he might not worry so much, but he did...and his best friend never broke his promises.

Letting out a deep breath, Max tried to keep himself from worrying. "Do you think you could grab a few other people, as discreetly as possible, and go see if you could find them?"

Looking around him to get a head count, Alex agreed. "Yeah, I'll make sure we check the places they might go to. If they're not there, then you'll have to just cut the cake and leave for your honeymoon."

"No," Max said, shaking his head back and forth almost unnoticeably. "I need my best man Alex. Get him here." It wasn't a request. Michael was going to be found.

"Okay."

Sighing to himself and walking away, Alex left to gather a search team.

. . .

After rounding up as many close friends as possible, Alex had given them each a destination of where the two might have wandered off to. The forest by the fire pit, the Parker's house, Michael's own place that he somehow managed to keep fairly decent, the crop field, and his own assignment. The meadow he'd picked up Maria from that very morning.

He couldn't seem to shake the feeling that something had happened, that somehow things went wrong and both Michael and Maria needed to be found, fast. All of the years he'd known Michael, he had always kept his word, despite what he felt like doing. Max's wedding would certainly be no exception.

Grabbing two horses from the stable after making his way there, Alex made quick work of saddling them. If he did happen to find the two of them, he knew they'd be farther away than they'd probably want to have to walk, so an extra horse would be pretty much necessary.

Everything set to go, he mounted Thunder and set off at a gallop, straight towards the meadow.

. . .

Alex felt panic rising into his throat as he dropped to his knees next to the spot where Michael lay, propped up against a tree covered in moss that looked as if it had fallen years ago. There were hundreds of small, clear jewels lining his legs in the grass where they rested, as he sat unable to move them. Many had been scattered across his torso, mixing with crimson blood that was slowly pooling down his chest from where an arrow was presently lodged deep in his breast.

Picking up one of the jewels, Alex stared hard at it. The diamond looked as though it had fallen out of a tap, small and shaped like a clear droplet of water. He had never seen anything like it before in his entire life.

"What happened?!" Alex asked, failing miserably to keep the fear from creeping into his voice. Gently grabbing hold of the material of Michael's shirt, next to the wound, Alex pulled, tearing the fabric open. There was blood covering nearly every inch of his chest and a heavy sweat had broken out over his entire body, causing him to look as though he'd taken a sudden fever.

"It was meant for me..."

Alex twisted around at the sound of a soft, broken voice barely speaking above a whisper behind him. Maria.

"I couldn't...couldn't get it out..." she told him, furiously wiping a tear from her cheek with the back of a blood-soaked hand, hating the foreign feeling of being completely out of control. Her entire body was trembling, and he could see the crimson stains on her arms where she must have been clutching them tightly earlier to try and stop the uncontrollable shaking in them. "It only works if it's out."

Looking back towards Michael and cussing under his breath, Alex studied the deep wound. The arrow appeared to have gone in crooked, as though Michael had tripped and fallen or had been jumping in its path when he had been shot. "I don't think it hit his heart," he said to them both, gently tilting Michael forward so he could see if it had passed all of the way through. His back was unmarred; it hadn't broken the skin.

Alex could feel the rage coursing through him. He hoped the man who did this would burn for the rest of eternity.

Standing up quickly as he began pacing, Alex wiped a nervous hand over his face. "We have to get him back to the village..." he began to say, before being cut off by Michael's sweaty hand on his. He was forced to look down at his fallen friend, look down to see the torment in his heart.

"I won't...make it back," Michael managed to hiss out, through gritted teeth. The paleness of his face told of the short time he had left. "Take...take Maria and get her out of here!" It was only a matter of time before that wretched monster was back, looking for them both with more than just one arrow to satisfy his taste for blood. Michael couldn't let that animal find her...she had to stay safe. He needed her to stay safe.

"No!" Maria fell to her knees beside him, forcefully grabbing Alex's arm to make him stop his pacing he'd begun again and look at her. To make him see and understand her. "I can help him...just get it out!" Her face held the very essence of anguish and Alex could feel a rush of emotions coursing through her fingers, seeping into his skin from her hand.

He looked back and forth between the two of them, unsure of what he should do. If he took the arrow out, Michael would bleed to death right then and there, before they even had any hope of getting him to the town hospital. There would be no chance and no turning back. He wasn't sure if they could take that kind of a risk with Michael's life!

"We have to try-"

Alex was cut off as Maria grabbed his shirt in a forceful grasp, pulling him back down to Michael's side where he had no choice but to listen. "I can help him! Take the arrow out. Now!"

"You have to get away!" Michael had begun to cough violently, grasping a numb hand to his chest as he felt the arrow ripping further into his body with every movement. He was going to die. Maria had to get away, had to stay safe. He needed to know she was safe before he was gone.

"Alex, now!" Maria begged, grabbing both of his hands in her trembling ones and bringing them to Michael's chest, wrapping them around the arrow and holding them there until he did what she needed him to do.

Alex nodded his head slowly. Michael was right, there was nothing they could do for him in the village. Nothing they could do before it was too late. The doctors could try, but he had lost too much blood already; he wouldn't make it back.

But Maria...she said that she could do something for him here, right this moment. He didn't know why, but he trusted her. In the last week he'd known her, he'd learned to trust her implicitly.

Without another thought Alex grasped the arrow tightly in both hands and closed his eyes, thrusting the pointed shaft violently the rest of the way through Michael's body. He could feel it ripping its way through the weak tendons and skin as a loud scream ruptured out of Michael's throat. Reaching behind Michael and carefully breaking the head off of the long arrow, Alex yanked it quickly back, freeing it from the wound.

Michael couldn't recall a time he'd ever been in more pain. It was as if every part of his body had suddenly burst into flame, scorching him from the inside out. It was too much, too consuming. Michael's head lolled back, rolling slowly against his shoulders and leaving him unconscious.

Leaning over his body frantically, Maria checked for any indication that he was still alive, still breathing. "Michael? Michael, I need you to wake up and open your eyes!" she commanded, shaking him lightly. "Michael, please!" She could feel the desperation crawling through her, clenching at her heart. He couldn't be dead. She needed him!

"Don't die on me!"

The tears came out in a rush, as her head fell onto his sagging shoulder and her voice whispered softly, "I think I love you..."

Death. At that moment all she wanted to do was curl up and die. How could he jump in front of her like he did? How could he sacrifice himself for her? He didn't deserve to die!

A feather light touched made its way slowly down Maria's cheek and she looked up, her breath catching as her heart began to beat wildly. Michael's eyes were opened to a slit and looking straight into hers. He was awake! Thank the heavens above, he was awake!

"I think I love you too," he whispered softly, bringing her mouth gently down to meet his as his lips lightly swept over hers.

Pulling away from him after a brief moment, Maria rested her forehead against his as relief swept over her. He was alive!

Caressing a hand slowly over his wound, she focused her mind on making him whole again. A soft glow emanated from her palm, concentrating on the laceration as it began to mend. Light began to fill the area, illuminating the shadows of their faces as it stretched out to touch the trees. Energy pierced the air as a gentle hum erupted from within her being, and the healing song of her heart made itself known.

A deep fear ran off of Michael, threatening to choke her as she worked, spiraling her forward through feelings she had no sense of, no experience of. He was afraid of her being caught again by Khivar, furious that she would put herself in danger for him. But more importantly, she could sense his faith in her.

An eternity of waiting. An eternity of emotions and fears, of pain and regret, of love and hate flooded them before she'd finished, everything rushing at her in those few eternal moments.

Michael could feel Maria's worn body fall limply against his with the strength it took away from her to heal him. Reaching up, he wrapped his arms around her tightly, vowing to himself to never let her go.

It was true. Khivar, Antar, Maria...the story she'd told about the unicorns and the murder of her kind, it had been her. She was a unicorn.

Minutes passed before Michael noticed her moving her head slightly to nuzzle his chin with her nose. She trailed a soft tongue along his chin and he smiled as her head lifted slightly, showing him the most genuine smile he'd ever seen. A smile he knew was just for him.

Moving forward to lightly lick his lips, Maria laughed, unable to contain the pure happiness she felt inside her.

She finally understood what it meant to be human.

As quickly as the moment came, Michael felt fear sinking back into his mind. "Khivar! Maria, we have to go!"

"Shh," she whispered against his chin, calming him with a light touch running up and down his arm. "He won't be coming back."

Pulling gently away from her, he looked into her eyes. "Why? What do you mean he won't be back?"

Laughing lightly at the adorable expression of confusion on his face, she sat up, letting him stand, however wobbly, and pull her to her feet. "He made his pact. Until the moment he witnessed me suffer as he had, he would live," she answered, resting her forehead against his chest. "When the arrow hit you, and I couldn't heal you, I suffered as he did. I thought you were going to die."

"So, he's gone for good?" Michael asked, needing to hear it, to confirm the truth of it. "He'll never be back?"

Maria shook her head, pulling him down to her as he caught her lips with his. As he lifted his head back up, she smiled. Kissing might be a human ritual she could find herself falling in love with. "He won't be back. You saved my life."

Smiling slightly back at her, Michael knew would do it again in a heartbeat.

"What about this unicorn thing?" he asked, running a hand through his scattered hair. "Does it mean..? I mean, can you..?" A short huff escaped his mouth as fought with himself to find the right words.

Biting her lip as she picked up his hand and began playing with his fingers she replied, "I can turn back into unicorn form when and where I wish." Lifting her eyes to watching him, she added, "But I can stay human for as long as I wish as well."

"What about, you know, the age thing?"

"Oh!" Turning his hand over she began to trace circles on his palms. "When I'm in human form I age just as you do, live just as you do."

If she had the ability to remain human, the ability to live her life as a person, he needed to know...

"So...you can stay?"

Maria smiled up at him, sensing the importance of her answer. The importance she played in his life. "I can stay."

A single tear she couldn't keep from falling slipped from her eye, slowly trailing down her cheek.

Michael reached up and placed his hand under her chin, wiping it from her bottom lip as it crystallized and fell from his thumb to join the other jewels in the clearing. "Strange..."

Maria frowned, not quite sure if he was referring to the fact that she could remain human, or something else she'd said. "What?"

Slowly leaning down with a teasing smirk on his face, Michael closed his eyes and placed a feather light kiss on her forehead. Pausing for a moment, he lowered his forehead to her own.

"I thought unicorns never cried."


~The End~