posted on 28-May-2002 10:15:39 AM
Title: Coming ‘Round Again
Rating: PG-13
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I have simply borrowed them for the duration.
Summary: Maria is attacked. She reacts severely and the results of the attack are unexpected.
Author's Notes: This fanfic was months in development. It changed courses several times and is mercifully finally finished – at least for now!


Part 1

Maria slowly felt herself returning to consciousness. Her head felt tight, like a band was squeezed around her forehead. She tried to force her eyes open, cringing as the bright sunlight entered her right eye and a sharp pain ripped through her left. Her one open eye focused on the sand in front of her face and she wondered for a split second why there was sand in her bed. The cobwebs quickly cleared from her head and she shuddered from the cool morning air as another wave of pain washed over her. The events of last night came rushing back to her and she closed her eyes again. She had to get up, get out of here.

Maria rolled over and pushed against the ground with both hands to try to reach a sitting position. A sharp pain started in her left shoulder and traveled all the way down her arm. She pulled her arm away from the ground and collapsed back on her right elbow.

“God,” Maria sobbed. “I have got to get out of here!”

She glanced around and saw her purse lying just out of reach on her right side. She lay back down on the sand and reached out to grab it. Fumbling inside she found her phone and turned it on. Without thinking she dialed Michael’s number.

Ring.

Ring.

Ring.

There was no answer. Michael… where are you?

Maria pressed END and dialed Liz. She should have called her first anyway. She needed someone with a car.

Ring.

Ring.

Ring.

Maria let out a sob and pressed the phone to her forehead. Where is everyone?

She thought for a moment before dialing the next number. She knew she could call her Mom but a freaked out mother was the last thing she needed right now. She grimaced against another wave of pain and dialed the only other number she could think of.

The Evans.

“Please let it be Max, please let it be Max.” Maria repeated the phrase as the phone rang.

“Hello?”

Shit…

“Hi Isabel, it’s Maria.”

“Oh, hi.”

“Um listen, I was wondering if Max was home?”

“No actually, he’s out with Dad.”

“Oh, um do you happen to know where Michael is?”

“Well, it’s 9:00 in the morning so I would imagine he’s sleeping. Like I was.”

“Oh, I didn’t realize what time it was. You’re probably right.”

Pause.

“Well anyway, I guess I’d better be going.” Isabel was not impressed with the wake up call.

“No Isabel, wait. Um, do you think you could do me a favor?”

“Now?”

“Yeah…”

“What is it?”

“I need a ride.”

“What? Where?

“Uh, home I guess.”

“Home? Where are you?”

“I think I’m in the desert.”

“You think you’re where?’

Maria bit down on her lip to stop the tears that were welling up. “In the desert. Near the caves.”

“What are you doing out there?”

Maria bit down even harder but it was too late. A sob escaped from her lips.

“Maria, are you okay?”

“Um, no.”

“What’s going on?”

Maria let the tears flow freely now. “Do you think you could just come and get me?” she sobbed.

Isabel felt her skin grow cold. Something was seriously wrong. No way Maria would call HER for no reason, especially not at 9:00 in the morning.

Isabel spoke hurriedly. “Look, I’ll be right there okay? You’re near the caves?”

Maria swallowed hard. She managed to gasp, “Yes”, into the phone.

“Hold on, I’ll be right there.”

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 12-Jun-2002 10:47:33 AM ]
posted on 28-May-2002 10:16:09 AM
Part 2

When Isabel got to the caves she couldn’t see Maria anywhere.

“Where is she?” she muttered under her breath as she climbed out of the jeep.

As Isabel turned to look towards the caves a flash of red off to the left caught her eye. She turned to look in that direction and saw what looked to be a person lying on the ground.

“Maria!” Isabel shouted as she began to run towards the figure. She ran up and knelt down beside the half-unconscious girl. The first thing she noticed was the bruising on her face resulting in her left eye being swollen shut. As her eyes traveled over Maria’s body she made note of her torn, dirty shirt. Her fingernails were broken and covered with dried blood. Her skirt was hiked up around her hips. Isabel pressed her hand to her mouth to suppress a gasp as she saw the vicious bruising on her inner thighs. Rape. Oh my god, Maria had been raped.

“Maria,” Isabel gently shook her by her shoulder. “Maria, wake up.”

“Hmm,” Maria moaned as her right eye slowly opened. Her lips cracked with dried blood as she opened them to speak.

“Shhh, don’t speak. C’mon let’s get you home.” Isabel moved to put her arm around Maria’s back. “Can you sit up?”

“I… I think so.”

With Isabel’s help Maria made it into a sitting position and then stood up. With Maria leaning heavily on her, Isabel made it to the car and helped her get inside.

Isabel sped away from the caves towards her house.

~~~~~

She pulled up in front of her house and jumped out of the car. She ran over to where Max was waiting on the front steps.

“What’s going on? Why the cryptic phone call?”

“I don’t have time to explain. Are Mom and Dad home?”

“No, they left a few minutes ago.”

Isabel turned back towards the car. “Quick, help me get Maria inside.”

“Maria?”

Isabel turned back to glance at her brother. “She’s hurt. It’s bad.”

Max had figured something big must have happened. Isabel had called him from her cell phone and said to wait for her in front of their house. She said it was important but she hadn’t mentioned any specifics. He never thought someone was going to be hurt. And Maria? How did Isabel fit into Maria being hurt?

Max rounded the fender of the car and saw the now fully unconscious girl slumped in the passenger seat. As he took in her battered body he felt his stomach tighten.

“What…” he managed to mumble.

“I’m not sure. She called and asked to me to come get her but when I got there she was almost unconscious. She passed out somewhere between here and the caves.”

Max picked the limp girl up in his arms and hurried towards their house.

“The caves?” he questioned.

“I don’t know Max. She didn’t get a chance to tell me anything.”

Isabel opened the door and made way for Max to lay Maria on the couch. As Max stood back to take in the full damage to Maria’s body, Isabel stepped to his side and pointed towards Maria’s thighs.

“Look, I think she was raped.”

Max nodded slowly. “Let’s bring her back and see if she can tell us anything.”

Max knelt beside Maria and placed his hands over her face. A glow started beneath his hands and spread out to encompass her head. Slowly he moved his hands down her body, watching the cuts and bruises disappear beneath the glow.

When he finished he turned to Isabel. “Now we just have to wait for her to wake up.”

“We should call Michael. And Liz.”

“They’re going to need a ride. You call and tell them I’ll pick them up.”

“Okay, I’ll tell them you’re on your way. Hurry.”

Max grabbed his car keys from the table and ran out of the house. Isabel went into the kitchen to get the phone and then returned to the living room so she could keep an eye on Maria.

She called Liz first, then Michael. The first phone call was decidedly easier then the second.
posted on 30-May-2002 9:40:24 AM
Part 3

Isabel was sitting next to Maria on the couch pressing a cold cloth to her head when she started to awaken.

"Mmm," Maria moaned as she opened her eyes.

"Hi there. You're awake."

Maria's eyes fluttered a few times before finally focusing on Isabel's.

"Where am I?"

"At my house."

Maria struggled to a sitting position. "God my head hurts."

"Try to relax," Isabel said as she pushed Maria back against the cushions. "Do you remember what happened?"

"What?" Maria looked puzzled. "I'm not sure how I got here, that's for sure."

"You called me this morning. From the desert."

"The desert?" Maria still had a puzzled look on her face. Slowly the realization of the events of last night came back to her and her facial expression changed to one of shock.

"Oh my god, those men." Maria's voice dropped to a whisper. "They grabbed me. I… I couldn't get away." Maria moved forward, trying to get off the couch.

Isabel reached out and held Maria by the shoulders. "Shhh, it's okay. Max fixed everything. You're going to be alright."

Tears sprang to Maria's eyes and she continued to struggle against Isabel. Isabel moved to sit beside her on the couch and wrapped her arms around Maria's shoulders. "Just relax. You're going to be okay now."

She rubbed her hand up and down Maria's back as the smaller girl's body convulsed with sobs and tears ran down her face. She felt tears spring to her own eyes as she thought about the horrific experience Maria must have been through.

"It's okay now. It's over. You're safe now." Isabel spoke whatever comforting words she could think of into Maria's ear.

Her sobs were finally quieting when Isabel heard the car pull into the driveway.

"They're here."

"Michael?" Maria said.

Isabel smiled at Maria. "Yeah, Max went to get him and Liz."

Michael was the first person through the front door and didn't stop moving until he held Maria in his arms.

"Are you okay? What's wrong? Are you alright?"

Maria laughed through her tears at his earnestness. Isabel picked herself up from the floor where she had fallen when Michael grabbed Maria from her arms.

"I'm okay. Max healed me."

"Healed you? What was wrong?"

Maria looked at Isabel. "You didn't tell them?"

"No, they almost came through the phone at me, but I thought you should tell them."

Maria reached her hand out to caress Michael's face. "It's alright. I was hurt but I'm all better now."

Liz crossed the room behind Michael and reached for Maria's free hand. "What happened?"

"I was attacked. Last night when I left the Crashdown."

"Attacked?" Michael and Liz spoke in unison.
posted on 30-May-2002 9:40:45 AM
Part 4

Michael and Liz sat on the couch with Maria, one on either side. Isabel and Max took seats across from them. They all listened intently as she recounted the events of the previous evening.

She had closed up the Crashdown with Jose the night before. He had left through the front door while she went into the back alley where her car was parked. As soon as the door closed behind her, a man had grabbed her from behind and pressed a cloth to her face. She had been aware that he had put her into the back of a van but after that her memory got fuzzy. She remembered waking up in the desert at one point, although at the time she did not know where she was. She was lying on her back and she could hear two men talking nearby. She had tried to make out what they were saying but could only catch snippets.

"One of them…"

"Create a link…"

Maria had just begun to fully awake when one of the men noticed her. Then she could her him clearly.

"Finally, she's awake. Now we can have some fun."

Both men had been huge, Maria estimated that they were over 6 feet tall and more than 250 lbs each. They had taken turns kissing and fondling her body before finally penetrating her. She had passed out after both men had raped her. They had hit her repeatedly in the face and upper body until mercifully she slipped into unconsciousness. That was all she could remember until waking up the next morning.

Her four friends were naturally shocked and disturbed at her story. Michael's reaction as she told them varied from initially consoling her to finally jumping up and muttering "I'll kill them."

Max, as always, remained cool. "Let's relax for a minute. We've got to figure out who did this. Let's start with the Crashdown, that's were they grabbed you, maybe we'll find something."

"Maxwell, I swear… just find out who did this and I'll… " Michael was quickly losing control of his emotions.

Max stood up to meet his friend's gaze. "Michael," he spoke softly. "I think your efforts would be better spent comforting your girlfriend right now."

Michael glanced over his shoulder to see Maria huddled in Liz's arms on the couch.

"Stupid," he muttered under his breath.

Michael stepped across the room and reached out to Maria. As soon as he touched her arm she flinched and moved away from him.

"Maria?"

Maria looked up at him. "I'm sorry. I'm just a little on edge."

Liz met Michael's gaze with equal concern. She turned to speak to Maria. "Why don't you let Michael take you home now?"

"What?" Maria was in another world, far away from the Evans living room.

"Home," Michael spoke up. "Come on, I'll take you."

Michael reached for her arm again and she jerked away from him. "Sorry," she muttered as she stood up.

Michael stood up with her. He placed his arm firmly on her elbow and led her towards the door.

"You don't have to do this. Just bring me to the Crashdown so I can get my car."

"I'm not letting you go home by yourself."

"Michael, I'm fine. I just need to go home. Take a bath. Get some sleep."

Max stepped up to the bickering couple. "I'll bring you both to the Crashdown."

Max, Liz, Michael, and Maria left while Isabel tried to tidy the living room before her parents returned. She shook her head as she straightened the pillows on the sofa. What was up with Maria? First she was all upset, naturally, then as soon as she told us what happened she clammed up, especially with Michael.

Isabel sighed and rolled her eyes. Hopefully Michael would get her home and have a chance to talk with her. She was definitely going to need someone to talk to.
posted on 30-May-2002 9:41:08 AM
Part 5

Maria sat in the front with Max and didn't speak a word on the way to the Crashdown. When they got there she got out of the car and headed straight for the Jetta. Michael had to scramble out of the back seat where he was sitting with Liz to catch up with her.

"Maria, wait!" he called out as ran towards her car.

She continued towards the car and opened the door.

"Wait. Let me bring you home." Michael turned Maria around by grasping her elbow.

She stared at him for a few seconds. "Let go of me."

Michael dropped her arm but didn't move away. "What's going on? Let me take you home."

Maria turned away from him and got in her car.

"Let me help you."

Maria started to pull the door shut. Michael reached out to grab it with his hand. She looked up at him, "I don't need any help. Now let go."

Michael's face dropped with the realization that she had no intention of letting him help her.

He pushed the door shut and stepped away from the car. As he watched her drive away he shook his head sadly. The pain she must be going through, he thought. He could only imagine what it must have been like for her last night, but to shut him out! He knew he had to find a way to get through to her.

He was startled when Max touched his arm.

"I guess you heard that, hey?"

Max nodded, "Yeah."

Liz looked at Michael and he saw that her face was streaked with tears. "She just shut you out?" she said in amazement.

Michael nodded.

"She's upset, naturally," Max was ever the voice of reason. "Why don't you give her some time to collect herself and then give her a call? Both of you."

"You don't know her like I do. This is not like her at all," Liz said, shaking her head. "She's always the one to pour her feelings out."

Michael nodded in agreement.

"I'm worried about her," Liz continued.

"Look, I understand what you're saying but think about it from Maria's perspective for a minute. She was completely violated last night. It's going to take some time for her to open up about it." Max paused, "Even to you two."

"Well, if she thinks I'm going to just wait around while she's a wreck she's got another thing coming." Michael started off away from the Crashdown.

"Where are you going?" Liz called after him.

Michael kept walking without responding.

"Let him go. It's probably better if he's alone."

Max shook his head sadly as he watched his friend walk away. He knew this had to be hard for Maria. He just hoped that she realized the effect it was having on her friends too.
posted on 30-May-2002 9:41:34 AM
Part 6

Maria didn't return any phone calls that day or the next. Her Mom was out of town so she was completely shut off from the rest of the world. Michael had taken up permanent residence outside her bedroom window at night. The first night he had approached the glass but when she saw him she coolly told him to leave. After that he had kept his distance but remained in sight of her window. Liz's luck was no better. She left a barrage of messages on Maria's answering machine and nearly drove Max crazy with her concerns. She was shocked when Maria showed up for work on Monday evening.

"Maria!" Liz exclaimed when she walked into the back room to find her friend putting her apron on.

"Hey," Maria replied.

"What are you doing here?"

"Getting ready for work," she smiled at Liz. "I'm on the schedule right?"

"Well, I… uh… yeah, you are. I mean you were," Liz stammered. "I asked Agnes to cover for you when you didn't return my calls."

"Oh," Maria reached for her apron straps. "So you don't need me?"

"Well actually I do," Liz smiled back at Maria. "Agnes didn't show."

Maria allowed herself a small laugh. "Figures," she said as she moved to enter the restaurant.

Liz reached out and grasped her arm, "Are you sure you up to this?"

"Yeah, I'm fine," Maria shrugged away from Liz's hold on her.

"You don't have to work if you don't feel like it."

Maria looked straight at her best friend and stated firmly, "I said I'm fine."

Liz shrugged, "Okay."

Maria entered the restaurant and got right to work taking an order. Liz stood back for a minute shaking her head in bewilderment. She was always able to read Maria like an open book. She usually wore her emotions right on her sleeve, but now… this was having a huge effect on her and Liz didn't like how she was responding to it; not at all.

More than three hours passed before Maria had a chance to take a break. She was just sitting down with a Diet Coke when Michael, Max, and Isabel entered the Crashdown. They didn't see her at first but she noticed them and quickly hid the small bottle she held in her hand. Liz was serving a table near the booth they chose to sit in so she walked over to talk with them.

"Hey."

"Hey, Liz."

"So, you don't seem as surprised as I was."

"What?" Max looked at her with a confused look.

"Maria, you don't seem surprised to see her."

Michael jerked his head in Liz's direction. "She's here. Where?"

"At the counter. I thought you saw her."

He stood up immediately and walked over to her. She saw him coming and stood up to face him.

"Hi," Michael said.

"Hi."

"How are you?"

Maria sighed, "Fine."

"I called."

"I didn't feel like talking to anyone."

"We were worried about you. I was worried."

"You don't need to worry about me. I'm a big girl Michael."

Maria turned away from him and walked into the back room. Michael followed right behind her.

"Maria, wait," he called after her.

She turned around to face Michael again.

"What's going on with you? Why are you avoiding me?"

"I'm not avoiding you. I'm talking to you," she insisted.

"You know what I mean. You've been avoiding me since Saturday."

Maria folded her arms across her chest, "Look, I just needed some space okay?"

"Space? I want to help you. I know this must be difficult."

"Difficult? You think this is difficult for me? I'll tell you what's difficult Michael. Difficult is having to listen to 30 messages from your friends wondering why you aren't returning their phone calls after you've just been raped! Difficult is having to lay awake at night being afraid to close your eyes because you can't erase the memory of two men violating you! Difficult is not knowing what the hell is happening to your body." Maria's voice broke and she started to cry, "Difficult is…"

Michael stepped towards Maria and embraced her. She tried to wiggle out of his hold but he held her tightly.

"Don't. It's okay. You can cry. It doesn't matter," Michael smoothed the back of Maria's hair. "Shh, it's okay baby. It's okay."

Maria allowed herself to collapse into Michael's embrace. "It's not… not okay," she sobbed.

"I know it's not. I know," Michael continued to rub Maria's back with gentle, firm strokes.

"No, no, no…" Maria repeated into Michael's chest.

"No!" she said loudly as she wrenched herself away from his arms.

He reached after her but his hands grabbed at empty air. Maria was across the room and opening the door to the alley.

"I can't do this. Tell Liz I had to go."

"Wait!" Michael yelled after her.

Maria turned back to look at her boyfriend for a moment, "I'm sorry. I can't do this. I don't want to see you anymore. Please, if you want to help me just leave me alone. Please!"

Maria turned and ran down the alley. Michael couldn't move. He just stood there staring at the rain entering the Crashdown through the open back door.

"Maria," he whispered. Tears began to fall down his cheeks as he repeated her name softly to himself.
posted on 30-May-2002 9:42:11 AM
Part 7

By the time Maria reached her house her eyes were almost swollen shut from crying. As she pulled in her driveway she noticed the darkened windows and realized with a sob that her mother had left town again for another convention. She lowered her forehead to rest on the steering wheel and began to cry softly.

Meanwhile back at the Crashdown, Liz had heard Maria screaming at Michael from the back room and, after things grew silent, went to check things out. When she saw Michael standing there alone she entered and stood near him.

"Is she okay?" Liz asked, knowing the answer already.

Michael shook his head and wiped clumsily at his eyes. He turned to look down at the brunette by his side.

Liz's eyes filled with tears at the sight of his face. A sob escaped her lips, "What are we going to do?"

Michael bit his lip and looked away from her again, "We're going to leave her alone."

"What?"

Michael shook his head again, "Liz…"

"Michael, that is the last thing she needs. We have to…"

"No," Michael stopped her with a firm voice. "She said that she wants to be alone, that she needs it, and we have to respect that."

"But she's upset, she doesn't know what she wants. We can't just abandon her."

Michael turned to grab Liz's shoulders, "Listen to me. I have no intention of abandoning her. We'll keep an eye on her, make sure she's doing okay, but until she's ready to talk… we have to give her some space."

Liz knew in her heart that Michael spoke with reason but still she protested, "But she's so lost."

Michael straightened his body, letting his hands drop from Liz's shoulders, "Since when have you known Maria not to confide in you?"

Liz raised her eyes to meet his, "Since… never."

Michael nodded, "Exactly. And this will be no different. Give her time and eventually she'll come around."

Liz nodded, tears still escaping from her eyes. She leaned in to hug Michael, his body stiffening at the unfamiliar touch but then relaxing enough to rub her back quickly with his hand.

"Come on," he said, leading her back into the restaurant.

~~~~~

Maria sat in her car, staring at the dark house. Ever since the attack she had been afraid to be alone, but hadn't wanted to tell her Mom what happened so she had left today on her trip as planned. She chided herself on her foolishness, what reason did those men have to come back here? They had got what they wanted, right?

A second voice sounded in her head, well then why had they even taken her in the first place? She tried to suppress it, filling her head with glorious thoughts of the comforting bath awaiting her inside. She gathered herself and quickly ran through the rain to the front door. Stepping inside she took a deep breath and ran through the house turning on the lights in every room. When the entire house was blazing like a roaring fire she stripped off her wet clothes and started the water in the bathtub. Adding a few drops of lavender oil she went into the kitchen to make a cup of tea. She took a mug out of the cupboard and retrieved a tea bag from the canister. Placing it in the mug she reached for the kettle and poured boiling water over it. She stirred the tea and sipped it absentmindedly. She reached for a small bottle near the stove and added a few drops to her drink. Content that it tasted better she took it into the bathroom with her. It wasn't until hours later that she realized she had never even turned the kettle on.
posted on 4-Jun-2002 4:23:39 PM
Part 8

Maria successfully avoided any lengthy conversations with her friends over the next few weeks. Liz smiled and said hi each time they passed, even venturing to ask her how she was doing a few times. Each time Maria was polite but curt, wishing that Liz would just steer out of her way as Michael did. Every time she approached him he turned and walked the other way. It felt weird to see him backing off from her but in a strange way it made her feel better. She felt dirty and ashamed about the attack. Like it was somehow her fault that it had happened. Seeing Michael give her the cold shoulder made it possible to imagine that he was punishing her for getting raped. In her mind she knew that he was only obeying her wishes, but sometimes she was able to fool herself into thinking that she deserved the treatment.

Liz had kept them on opposite shifts at the Crashdown, at Maria's request. She still passed Michael in the back room during shift change but neither of them spoke to the other until one Friday, almost a month after the attack.

She was just tying her apron strings, getting ready for her shift, while he threw his apron in his locker, finishing his.

"So, you working tomorrow?" he asked.

Maria glanced up, surprised to hear his voice, "Um, no. Got to love a Saturday off."

Michael smiled, "For sure."

Silence settled between them as Michael wondered if he should push his luck. "Got any plans?"

Maria turned to face him again, "For tomorrow?"

He nodded. She shook her head, "No."

He continued to nod, "Do you wanna like… get a movie or something?"

"A movie?"

"Yeah, if you want, I mean Max and Liz are always off somewhere and Isabel is busy with school so I just figured…" Michael's face started to feel hot and he wanted to stop before he progressed to full on blushing, "Forget it." He shut his locker and turned to leave.

"Wait," Maria called after him. Her head told her to be strong, don't let the walls that she had constructed fall, but her heart screamed out for contact with Michael.

He stopped halfway to the door but didn't turn around.

"A movie sounds… nice," she continued, her heart racing.

Now he turned to face her, a smile lighting up his face, "Great, around eight?"

"Sure."

"Okay, I'll get the movies, food, just show up."

Maria nodded and then called after him as he turned to leave again, "Michael?"

"Yeah?"

"On second thought, why don't I get the movies?" She smiled at him as she turned to enter the Crashdown.

Michael thought his heart was going to burst.
posted on 4-Jun-2002 4:24:05 PM
Part 9

Maria showed up at Michael's the next night promptly at 8:00. She had brought two movies, Serendipity and Joyride, both great date movies. Serendipity would bring out the romantic in almost anyone but Joyride? There was nothing quite like a scary movie to drive two people into each other's arms.

She looked impressively around the sparkling apartment. "Wow, you must have been cleaning all day."

Michael shrugged his shoulders, "No big deal."

"Used your powers?" she asked.

He laughed, "Got me."

Maria laughed in response, handing him the movies. He placed Serendipity in the VCR, better to get the chick flick out of the way first and get on to the real movie he thought, and turned to see her already sitting on one end of the couch. He sat on the other side, as far away from her as possible. His heart racing at being this close to her; he didn't think he would be able to control himself if he sat any closer.

They settled into a comfortable silence, broken only by Michael's getting up to supply drinks and chips from the kitchen. By the end of the movie, tears were streaming down Maria's cheeks and Michael was nearly asleep from boredom.

She looked over at him as the credits rolled, laughing as she wiped away her tears. She got up to compose herself in the bathroom while he shook his head at her emotional outburst. To himself, he smiled while he changed the tape. The significance of the movie wasn't lost on him. When two people were meant to be together, they would be together; they just had to get over the obstacles first. Him and Maria had already been around this circle a few times, each time coming back to each other. He wasn't sure how this time would play out but somewhere deep in his heart he knew that they'd come around to each other again.

She exited the bathroom, only a faint puffiness around her eyes revealing that she had been crying. Michael took his seat on the couch again, pressed up against the side while Maria sat closer to the middle. He squeezed his body to the right, feeling the arm rest press into his hip. How could she be so casual? His heart was racing and he thought he would die a sweet death when the scent of lavender crossed his nose. He breathed deeply in her scent, willing his heart to slow.

They settled in as the movie started, slowly at first, not scary at all. About 20 minutes in, the tell tale ominous notes began to play, and Michael found himself engrossed in the television; transfixed by the terror-inducing 18-wheeler.

"Boom!"

The music crashed and Maria screamed. Michael started to laugh but was cut off as she threw herself at him. She landed in his arms, burying her face in his chest. He awkwardly placed his hands on her back.

"Is it gone?" her muffled voice pleaded.

Michael swallowed hard and glanced at the TV. He wouldn't have been able to recount the last 10 seconds of the movie for any amount of money, but they had moved on to a sunny daylight scene so he rubbed her back gently, "All over."

She laughed again as she turned over, still in his arms, and leaned against his chest. "God, what a fright!"

Michael opened his mouth to speak but no sound came out. He placed his arm cautiously on her stomach, resting the other on his leg.

His body had just started to relax again when the next scary scene played and she jumped again, this time clutching his left arm to his face. He tried to keep his heart rate down as the process repeated itself throughout the 2-hour movie. When it was finally over neither of them made a motion to move.

Maria was lying down by this time, her head in his lap, and she turned to look up at him. "This feels nice," she said, smiling.

Michael nodded, "It does."

They looked at each other for another moment. "I missed you," both of them spoke at the same time.

Michael leaned down as she raised herself up to meet his lips. He felt emotions surging through him and was surprised at the realization that he had missed her physically, as well as emotionally, over the past month.

The kiss deepened as he leaned in closer. Suddenly there was a flash behind his eyelids and he saw Maria lying in the desert wearing tattered clothes. Another flash and she was lying in a hospital bed. FLASH and she was in the Crashdown alley, struggling in the clutches of a strange man.

Maria yelped and pushed Michael away from her. She jumped up to stand near the couch yelling, "What did you do that for?"

"Do what?" he yelled back.

"Kiss me!"

"Kiss you?" Michael looked at her incredulously, "You kissed me! And where'd those flashes come from?"

"Oh, oh, oh," Maria shook her hands in front of her chest, walking back and forth from the couch to the TV. "You saw it, you saw it, oh, oh, …"

Her arms started waving faster and as she flung them to her sides to stop them, the TV exploded into flames.

"Maria?" Michael yelled standing up. "What are you doing?"

He looked at her in anger and saw fear written all over her face.

"Michael…" she said fearfully.

The realization at what had just happened hit him and he turned to look from Maria to the TV and back again. "You did that?" he questioned.

Maria started to cry, "I think so."

"Holy shit."
posted on 12-Jun-2002 10:46:41 AM
Part 10

Michael paced around his living room, running his hands through his hair. Maria had run into the bathroom and shut the door. He forced himself to stop and think for a moment. Okay, I was kissing her and saw flashes – my flashes? No, there's no way I could have known those things, so did I draw them out of her? Man, what the hell is going on?

He resumed his pacing, trying to sort through his muddled thoughts. Okay, so if I didn't make a connection with her then… did she make one with me? No, how could she… and then the TV? Oh my God. Michael stopped in the middle of the room and turned to stare at the bathroom door. Suddenly he realized what this must be like for her and ran to the bathroom.

Knocking on the door he called out, "Maria?"

"Go away," she cried.

"No, let me in," Michael insisted, continuing to knock.

"Leave me alone, Michael," Maria yelled back.

He stepped back from the door and stretched his arm out. "I can get in anyway, you know," he called out.

He waited for a few seconds and was just summoning his powers when the door opened slowly to reveal her standing there. Michael shook his head at the shame written on her face. He was incredibly confused over what had just happened but he took her in his arms and whispered whatever comfort he could think of in her hair.

She leaned into his chest, fresh sobs wracking her body.

"It's okay, it's okay," Michael whispered, rubbing her back. After a few minutes he pushed her away from her and stared into her eyes, "You wanna talk?"

Maria nodded her head as if to say 'Yes', while out loud she said, "No."

Michael laughed at her indecisiveness. "It's okay. I'm not mad."

Maria looked up at him; her eyes squinting, "Mad?"

He instantly regretted his words; of course he shouldn't be mad. "Wait," he said to silence her before she yelled at him again. "What I mean is that I know this isn't your fault and I want to help."

Maria continued to stare into his eyes.

"Okay?" he asked.

She nodded quickly and moved past him to sit on one of the stools at his kitchen counter. He moved to take the other and tried to wait patiently for her to begin. When she didn't say anything he stood up and went back into the living room.

"Where are you going?" she asked.

"To call Max."

Maria jumped up and ran to his side, grabbing his arm as she said, "No, don't."

Michael looked down at her. She was clutching his arm tightly, her nails digging into his flesh. He removed her hand from his arm, rubbing it, "Why not? We need to figure this out."

"No, I don't want anyone else to know."

Michael looked at her with wide eyes, "Maria, we have to tell them. We can't just ignore it."

Maria set her mouth firmly, "I don't want to ignore it. I just want to figure it out on my own first."

He looked at her for a few seconds, realization dawning on him, "Is this why you've been avoiding me?"

Maria turned away from him but he grabbed her by the arm and jerked her back around to face him, "How long has this been going on?"

Maria winced at the strength of Michael's grip. "Since the … since I… since I was raped, okay," she admitted.

He removed his hand from her arm, trying to comprehend her words, "You should've told me."

She turned again and walked into the kitchen, "I couldn't. There's all these strange things happening and I just wanted to sort through them before I told anyone. I didn't want you to find out."

"Well why did you agree to come over? Something was bound to happen."

Maria's lower lip started to tremble, "I was scared."

Michael chided himself for giving her such a hard time and went to her again. "I'm sorry," he said taking her into his arms. "Tell me what's been happening."

She sat down on the stool again and related the events of the past month to Michael. It had started with a craving for Tabasco that quickly grew to an uncontrollable need to have it. She was up to four bottles a day and still felt like she couldn't make her food spicy enough. Or sweet. She was combining the hot sauce with liquid honey at almost every meal.

Then had come the unexplainable things. Like the kettle incident where she poured boiling water into her mug without ever actually boiling it. And the bathtub; she could soak for hours now without the water getting cold. There were other things too, like the TV switching stations if she even thought about the current show being boring.

Michael sat quietly and listened to everything she said. "It's mostly uncontrollable. I never know when something's going to happen but sometimes, if I concentrate, I can force something."

"Like?"

Maria shrugged her shoulders, "Like…" She turned to look around the room. "Like this," she said closing her eyes. The stereo came on blasting Metallica music. She squeezed her eyes tighter and the volume decreased as the channel changed and a pop song floated out of the speakers.

Michael stood up and walked towards the stereo, transfixed. "Holy…"

Maria got up to stand behind him, "I know."

He shook his head, "We have got to tell the others."

"No."

"Maria, we can't…"

She shook her head again, "No, we can't, not yet." She turned away from him but not before he caught a glimpse of something in her eyes.

He moved to block her path, "There's something else."

She shook her head and tried to sidestep him. "Maria," he said firmly.

She winced at his voice, "I don't know."

"What else?"

"I can't remember; there are these… images."

"What?"

She sat down on the couch, Michael by her side. She turned to face him, drawing her legs up in under her. "I've been having these dreams, only they're not really dreams, more like lapses, where I see these images of something that I can't remember."

"What do you see? Michael asked.

"Mainly me in a hospital bed."

Michael's eyes widened.

"What?" she asked.

"Are you lying on top of the bed, like not covered by sheets or anything?" he asked.

She nodded, "Yeah."

"I saw it too."

"You what?"

"When we kissed, I saw these flashes and one of them was you on a hospital bed."

"Did you see anything else?"

"Yeah, first you were lying in the desert, I guess this was after…" Michael cleared his through, unwilling to bring up the rape. "Then there was a hospital bed, a needle, and then the alley."

"Wait, a needle?"

"Yeah," Michael paused, trying to remember the details. He continued slowly, "You were lying on a hospital bed and someone was putting a needle in your arm. Did that happen?"

"No, and I've never dreamt about it before either."

"Okay, now I'm confused."

Maria sighed impatiently, "Don't you see? The alley and desert images really happened, I can remember them from that night, but the hospital thing is just a dream, it never happened, but you saw it. And you saw more than I even thought of so… how is that possible?"

"Well, are you sure it's a dream?"

"What do you mean?

"Well, you don't remember much of that night, right?" Michael asked.

"Right," Maria nodded.

"So, maybe this is what really happened and you are just starting to remember. Like you repressed it or something."

"Maybe," she said slowly.

Both of them sat back on the couch, deep in thought. Maria broke the silence first, "So do you think that you saw the needle image because it's really in my mind but I just can't remember it?"

Michael shook his head, "I don't know."

"But it's possible, right?"

He turned to look at her, "I guess so."

Her voice was increasing in volume as the idea solidified in her mind, "So, if we connect again, maybe you'll see more."

"I don't know," he sounded hesitant.

"You want to help, right?"

"Of course."

She shrugged her shoulders, "Well?"

He thought about the possibilities, it was very likely he would see things that he didn't want to, that she didn't want him to, but if it would help her remember… he nodded his head, "Okay."

Maria scooted closer to him on the couch. "Okay, so how do we do this?" she asked as she placed her hands on either side of his face.

"Um…" Michael's voice was cut off as a powerful jolt passed through their bodies. Images were flashing before his eyes at lightening speed. He couldn't make out everything but what he could see moved in reverse order again, starting with her lying in the desert and then in the hospital bed. This time he could see that the person with the needle was the same man he had seen from the alley. A few more images flitted through his mind but nothing that he could grab onto. He gasped as the connection broke, standing up to gulp air into his body.

"God, that's so…" Michael bent over and rested his hands on his knees. "You're so strong. Way stronger than me. You could even give Max and Isabel a run for their money."

Maria was sitting on the couch, hardly fazed by the experience. "It doesn't tire me, it just feels all warm for a few minutes and then it's over."

Michael shook his head to clear it, "Geez, I'm telling you something is not right."

Maria smiled at him, "When is it ever right with us?"

He looked at her knowingly and sat down again. She reached out to take his hand, "So, tell me what you saw."
posted on 12-Jun-2002 10:47:18 AM
Part 11

Michael recounted the visions he had seen to Maria and they sat and discussed why he was receiving them when they still had no meaning or memory to her. She struggled with sorting the images into some logical order. It was as if two events had happened to her that night, at the exact same time. She didn't feel like there was enough time between her being grabbed and waking up in the desert before the attack for the entire hospital experience to have happened. It just didn't fit.

When Michael looked at the clock he was startled to see that it was after 2 am.

"Oh shit, your Mom's gonna kill you!" he exclaimed.

Maria was curled up in the corner of the couch, lost in her thoughts. "What?" she mumbled.

"Your Mom. She's gonna have a fit, it's late."

Maria looked at the clock Michael pointed to and waved her hand, "Don't worry about it. She's out of town… again." With the motion of her hand the clock dropped to the floor, the batteries spilling out onto the carpet.

Michael shook his head but laughed at Maria's embarrassed expression as he got up to put it back together. He hung the clock back on the wall and turned to her, "Well do you want me to take you home?"

Maria looked at him innocently, "Can I stay here?"

Michael gulped, "Uh, yeah, sure." He got up and went into his bedroom, which looked like a tornado had recently passed through.

Maria had followed him and when she peered over his shoulder she commented, "Didn't have time to work your magic in here?"

"Well, I didn't think we'd be in here."

Maria giggled as she brushed past him, "So, you got a shirt I can wear?"

"Yeah," Michael turned to grab a clean shirt from the basket of unfolded laundry. He tossed it to her and motioned to the bed, using his powers to sweep the pile of dirty clothes onto the floor.

"The sheets are clean," he said, grabbing one of the pillows and a spare blanket before turning to go back into the living room. "If you need anything…" he let his voice trail off. While he was tidying, she had slipped out of her top and jeans. She stood in front of him now, her tiny frame dwarfed by his oversized T-shirt.

"I do," she said.

"You do what?"

"Need something."

"Oh, what?"

"You."

Michael stared at her. She moved towards him taking the pillow and blanket from his hands. She pulled him to the bed and lay down, still tugging on his arm.

"Are you sure?" he asked tentatively.

She nodded silently.

"But, don't you have… memories?"

"Exactly, and they're terrible, but I don't want that to be my last sexual experience." She looked at him with assurance, "I want to remember what it feels like to be with you… with someone who loves me."

There was no way he could say no to her request. He slipped out of his clothes and climbed in beside her.