Independence (Part 2)

I jumped the rooftop and wondered if I'd break my legs when I hit the ground.

I didn't, and I kept running.

She lied to me. Liz lied to me.

What did you expect, Guerin?

I could feel her trying to reach out to me, to communicate with me. I shut my eyes when I delivered the mental slam that shoved her out of my mind, and when I opened them I wondered if I'd hurt her when I'd done it.

I was crying. I don't remember the last time I cried.

Yes, you do.

When the car stopped for Max and Is. And I hid because I was scared. Because I was sure we had to wait for someone else. Something else.

Someone who never came.

My legs were getting weak. I'd almost exhausted myself putting as much distance between Liz and myself as I could. My feet hit the ground hard as I stumbled to a halt. I braced my hands against my knees and tried to gasp for air.

I'd left all my papers there. All my drawings of her.

Fine. She could have them. I didn't care.

She lied to me -

I heard a howling sound. My hands clenched into fists and I whipped my arm around, slamming my fist into the brick building next to me. The brick crumbled like dust, bits of it falling to the ground. The howling stopped.

I started breathing evenly again and stared at the hole in the wall.

I'd been the one making that noise. That scream.

"Damnit, Liz," I whispered. The bricks blurred into a haze of red.

How could she do it?

How could she lie to me?


I walked in circles. I didn't know what I was doing, and to be honest, I didn't care. It started to rain and I just stood there in the middle of this hellacious downpour. I had nowhere to go.

Then I looked up, and she was there.

Maria. She looked shocked to see me on the other side of her window. She opened a bottle and swallowed something. Then she started yelling at the window.

She really was nuts.

I had no idea what she was saying, but it was clear she didn't want me here either.

I was walking away when I heard her.

"Michael," she called out. "Are you okay?"

She was leaning out her window, trying not to get wet.

Dry with Maria, or wet alone.

Maria would probably tell Liz in the morning.

In the end, that's what made it such an easy choice.


She tried to get most of the water off of me. "God," she whispered. "You could get pneumonia..."

She was a pretty girl. Nice eyes. I'd overheard Kyle telling someone you couldn't beat a blonde. He didn't mean it, of course, but...

I wanted to laugh. Kyle Valenti and I had something in common.

She was pressing a towel to my skin, drying me off.

Maybe I didn't try hard enough. At the convention, when I kissed her.

Maybe you should try again.

I thought about it. Me with Maria.

Go ahead, Guerin. You can do it.

My hands started to shake.

Go ahead -

The room blurred.

Damnit, Guerin -

She wasn't Liz.

There was no way it would work.

I bit down on my lip. I couldn't stop shaking.

She looked up at me, her eyes surprised. And sad. Her hand brushed something off of my cheek.

"Here," she whispered, "Take your shirt off."

I felt cold and numb. I fumbled with the wet fabric. It clung to my skin when she peeled it off.

"Come here," she said, leading me over to her bed. "Shh, it's okay," she whispered. "You don't have to tell me."

I almost laughed. Where would I start?

"It's okay," she repeated, lying down next to me and wrapping her arms around me. I felt her stroke the back of my head and kiss my shoulder softly.

I could roll over and kiss her. Slide my fingers through her hair. She wouldn't stop me.

Maybe that would help me stop thinking about Liz.

She's not Liz.

I started crying harder.


I was in Valenti's office.

This day was killing me.

"You were the last person to see him."

"What do you mean, 'the last person to see him'?"

"I called the plant. He never showed up for work."

"Maybe he's passed out somewhere," I said, waving my hands. "I don't keep track of him."

"Neighbors also said," he said loudly, filtering through some pages. "That they heard an argument. And then, later, more sounds. Screaming. Crying. Tortured sounds, like an animal. Almost inhuman, they said."

"What are you talking about?" I said, panicking.

"Where were you, son?"

With Liz. With Maria.

Keep your mouth shut, Guerin.

"Out," I said.


I was babbling. I knew it. I didn't care.

As long as I kept talking, I didn't think about Michael. About him leaving me in my room. All those drawings on the floor of my room.

I'd tried communicating with him. He wasn't answering.

Can you blame him?

Isabel walked up. "Have you guys seen Michael?"

"Maybe," Maria said.


"Come on, Maria, you have to tell me," Isabel said. She looked stressed. "It's really important."

"Well, if it's that important, then you tell me," Maria shot back. "I'm worried about him, too."

"I can't."


What the hell -

"All right. Michael's in trouble."

I found my voice. "What - what kind of trouble?"

"It's Hank. He's, um -" she faltered.

Say it. Say it.

"- he's been hurting him," she finished. "And Max and I are trying to help."

Maria said something. I didn't hear it.

Hank was hurting him?

I'd never seen that when I kissed Michael. Ever. I'd seen some stuff he'd done when Michael was little, but -

Oh, my God, Michael -

"He made us promise not to say anything."

I opened my mouth to tell her. Tell her that he was with me, I could help, I'd do anything to -

"He was with me last night," someone said. "All night."

My jaw dropped. Maria.

He went to Maria.

"What? He -" Don't say anything. Don't - "He spent the night, Maria? What happened to 'no'?"

"He never told me what was wrong," she said quickly. "We just slept."

He went to Maria.

Did you think you were special, Liz?

"And the morning, my mom came in, and he took off, and I haven't seen him since."

Max walked up. "Valenti's got Michael."


"Hank's gone, and they think he had something to do with it."

Oh my God.

Michael, why didn't you tell me?


Maria got me out. Went to her mom for me and everything. Max and Isabel picked me up and we drove out to the canyon.

"So, what did Valenti say?"

I snorted back a laugh. "A new foster situation. Not a home," I stressed. "A situation."

"I'm sure he meant -"

"No matter what home I get, it's a substitute for the real one," I said, looking up at the sky.

"Michael -" Max started. "You can't just run away."

I thought about Liz. The way she looked when I yelled at her.

When I asked her about the flash with Max.

All the rage flooded back.

"Watch me," I said. "You two stay in your nice little world with your pot roast and your monopoly games. It's pretty clear to me you're not interested in finding our real home. But I'm going to. I'm gonna find Nasedo," I said, getting of the car. "He's my family."

More yelling. More arguing. I felt like my head was gonna explode.

There was no point.

"Go on and run, Michael," Isabel called out when I left. "It's what you do best."


I was looking through my telescope when I heard something.


No. Max.

"Liz, I'm sorry. I -"

"No, it's okay," I lied, backing away from the telescope.

Maybe he knew something about Michael.

"I know we've been needing to talk -"

"There's some more important things to talk about," I said quickly. Keep it light, Liz. Keep it light-

"- I heard about Michael," I said, pausing.

He didn't say anything. He looked exhausted.

"Max, are you okay?"

"Not really," he sighed. "I've just never seen him so upset."

My chest constricted. I bit my lip.

"I have this weird feeling that he's just gonna leave without even saying goodbye," he finished.

{Michael, can you hear me?}

I hoped he could.

I hoped he would listen.

"You know, maybe," I said, my voice faltering a little. "Because if he did - he wouldn't be able to go through with it."

"I can't lose him," Max said.

I can't either.


"You have me," Max said, standing in the doorway of my bedroom. What used to be my bedroom. "You have Isabel."

And you have Liz.

"Say goodbye, Max."

"I can't," he said. He looked like he was gonna break.

"We'll keep in touch," I lied. "All right?"

"It's not good enough."

"Well," I picked up the bag. "It's gonna have to be, all right? So say goodbye."

"I can't," he repeated.

"Max -"

"I know what you're scared of, Michael," he said. He was near tears.

I stopped. "No, you don't, Maxwell," I said slowly.

"You keep telling me how lucky I am to have a great home, great parents," he said, all his words coming out in a rush. "But in one way, it's harder for me, because when I screw up, I have no excuses. But you, you can do and say anything you want because you have Hank, and you can blame it on that. But what happens without him? It'll all be on you, that's what."

"Well, leave it up to me to still screw it up, huh?"

"It's ok, Michael, because if you do, we'll all still be there for you. Maybe you have to start thinking about someone other than yourself, Michael.

The three of us belong together."

I didn't know what to say to that.

It wasn't my first choice.

"There's a reason that we're together," he said quickly. "We're family. So go if you want to, but no matter where or how far, we will always be connected.

Isabel and I wanted you to have this. It means nothing without you."

A pouch of something. I took it from him.

Be good to her, Maxwell.

"See ya," I said.


"What a joke," the driver said. "Roswell. Sell a lot of soda in these tourist towns."

"Yeah," I mumbled. "Right."

"I don't know why in the hell they come here. Aliens, I guess."

I looked at the pouch Max gave me. Might as well look -

The healing stones fell into my open hand. The ones they used when I was sick.

I picked one up and rolled it in my hand. Then another one.

I thought about Max, in the circle. Isabel.


She didn't have a stone in her hand when she appeared there. She didn't take part in the ceremony with them.

She just wanted to be there, and she was.

"Let me ask you something," the driver said. "If you were an alien, you can go anywhere in the world, would you pick Roswell?"

I looked at him.

"Trust me, there ain't nothing in that town." he said.

What are you doing to me, Michael?

Nothing. Everything. I don't know.

I turned to the driver. "Listen," I said. "I think I just changed my mind."


It was raining. Of course it was. My life was starting to play like a bad sci-fi movie.

I was on the other side of the road now. Thumb out. Back to Roswell.

I probably looked like a drowned rat. My chances of getting picked up were close to nil. I turned around and started walking, throwing my bag over my shoulder.

A car slowed and pulled to a stop right in front of me.

I blinked twice. No way. Maybe they need help or something.

I walked up to the car and the passenger window rolled down. I looked in.

"Hey," she said. "Need a ride?"

"Uh - yeah, yeah," I said, reaching for the door handle and climbing in. "Thanks."

"You look cold," she laughed, turning up the heat. "There. Where you going?"

"Uh- Roswell," I said quickly. The heat felt good. "Not far up the road."

She nodded and pulled back onto the road. "So, what's your name?"

"Uh - David," I said. Couldn't be too careful with people who picked up hitchhikers. Even if she was acting nice.

She smiled. "David," she said. "Nice name. I'm Decadance."

I nodded, then looked over at her. "What?"

"Well," she said, laughing a little. "You can't be too careful with hitchhikers. You have a pseudonym," she said, winking at me, "And I've got mine."

Weird. "Okay," I said, not sure what else to say.

"So what's in Roswell?" She asked. "A girl?"

"Um - yeah," I said. "Yeah, there's a girl."

There was a silence.

"Now you ask me what I'm doing in Roswell," she prompted.

"Oh, uh - what're you doing in Roswell," I asked.

"There's this bar I've heard about," she said. "I'm meeting a bunch of my friends at it."

"What, like a convention?"

She started laughing. "Oh no," she said, "Oh no no no. They'll think that's funny, though, I'll have to tell them."

I nodded and watched the road.

"So this girl," she prompted.


"Is she pretty?"

For some reason, I was warming up to her.

Maybe it was the heat.

"Yeah," I mumbled, looking down at the pouch. "Yeah, she is."

"How long have you been going out?"

I shrugged. "I don't know," I said. "I don't really keep track."

"Just like the men I know," she sighed. "Never remember. Can't commit."

"I never said that," I started.

"Oh no," she said, laughing again. "No offense, but it's written all over you."

"Really," I said, getting annoyed.

"Let me ask you this," she said, gesturing with her hand. "Do you think about her all the time?"

"I - yeah," I admitted.

"Do you like being around her?"

"It's not that simple," I said.

She smiled at me. "Things never are," she said. "So what?"

I looked at her. There was another silence. She kept her eyes on the road. She was humming softly to herself.

"Lemme ask you something," I finally said. "What if you're with this person, this guy, and you -"

She was rolling her eyes. "Look," she interrupted. "I don't know you, and I don't know her, but in my experience, there's only one thing that keeps people apart."


"Fear," she said simply. "Fear of getting hurt, of being unimportant.

"Of getting left."

"When you're living your life in fear," she said, "You can't trust. And when you can't trust -" she shrugged. "What's the point?"

I looked at her again.

We trust no one, Maxwell.

I took a deep breath and looked at the road.

"Hit a nerve, didn't I?"

I didn't answer.

"So," she prompted. "Do you trust her?"

I thought about Liz in the circle.

Reading Ulysses in her room, telling me she still didn't get it.

Kissing me on her rooftop.

The light trailing across her skin, across her pulse.

{- he finally believes me -}

"Yes," I said simply, surprising myself.

I tried to say it again. Wrap my brain around the concept.

"Yeah," I said. "I do." I looked over at her.

She was beaming. "Well, tell me where she lives," she grinned, "And I'll drop you off."


She stopped in front of the Crashdown. "Hey - thanks," I said as I got out of the car. I felt better than I had in two days.

"No problem," she said, leaning against the steering wheel. "I specialize in happy endings."

"I hope you're not too far out of your way -"

"No, no," she said, waving her hand. "It's real close to here. Stop by sometime," she said, starting the engine again.

"What's it called?"

"The Babe Magnet," she said, waving and driving off.

The what?

I shook my head. It couldn't be. That was just a dream.

Wasn't it?


I sat on my bed and tried to concentrate. {Michael, I know you can hear me -}

He had to hear me.

{- please come back. Michael -}


I gave up. I put my face in my hands. I'd been trying to reach him all day and he wouldn't talk to me.

Where are you, Michael?

{Outside your window.}

My head snapped up and my eyes flew to the window.

Michael was outside.

"Hey," he said.

I jumped off the bed and ran to the window, trying to open it. He was smiling at me.

"Michael," I said breathlessly, opening the window and reaching for him. I was crying. "Michael - "

"Shh," he said, pulling me into a hug. "It's okay, Liz. It's okay."

"I'm sorry," I said, trying to wipe the tears off my face and hug him at the same time. "I should have told you, I just didn't -"

"You didn't trust me," he finished.

"Wh - no," I protested. "No, that's not it, it's -"


I stared up at him. "Okay, that's totally it. I don't know what -"

"Liz," he said deliberately. "I said, it's okay. I get it."

"What do you -"

"I get that you should have told me, and I get that you thought I would freak out and tell you you were supposed to be with Max, and -" he shrugged. "I don't know, I just - get it."

My mouth opened. "Who are you?" I said. "What have you done with Michael?"

"Very funny," he said, rolling his eyes. "Ha ha, very funny. I'm trying to be -"

I grabbed him and kissed him.

"Whoa," he said when we stopped. "That was -"

"You didn't tell me about Hank, Michael."

He stopped and bit his lip, staring at me. Then he shook his head and looked down. "Nope," he said. "I didn't."

"Why not?"

"Well, it seemed like something I had to deal with, and -"

"Michael," I interrupted. "I don't want any more secrets. Especially nothing like that. Understand? If we're going to do this, then let's do it right. Absolute trust. You tell me everything. I tell you everything. Period."

He shook his head. "Liz, I can't promise I'm always gonna say what you want to hear -"

"That's not what I said," I said. "That's not what I want. You can tell me what you think, I don't care if it's different from what I think. But I need you to tell me the truth, Michael."

He looked at me for a second, then nodded. "Okay," he said. "Same from you."

"Okay," I said. "Same from me."

"Can we stop talking and make up now?" he asked.

I grinned. "Absolutely."


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