New Beginnings

I stared out the windows at the empty street. The last car had gone by over an hour ago.

He's not coming back.

I blinked and concentrated, trying to hear the roar of the jeep, the low rumble of his bike, anything…

I wanted to help, and he wouldn't let me. I wanted to talk to him, and he wouldn't listen. I wanted to hold him and he pushed me away…

I took a deep, shuddering breath and closed my eyes, letting my hands drop to the counter, pushing my body away and sliding off the stool, turning and walking to the café doors. I reached for the lightswitches and turned them off, one by one.

The red light from the exit sign flooded the room in the darkness. I tried to control my breathing, my back to the cafe doors, my fingertips trembling against the lightswitches, refusing to let go...

He's not there. He's not coming back. Don't turn around…

I twisted suddenly, my eyes searching the wide windowpanes and then the corners.

Moonlight glimmered in the drains. Newspaper flapped helplessly over the edge of a trash can. A streetlight flickered for a moment and then brightened again.

I turned sharply and my foot caught against the doorway, making me stumble. I caught myself and straightened, walking to the stairs. I sat down on the second step and fumbled with my shoes, my fingertips trembling and pale, jerking the laces tight.

"You're alright," I whispered, blinking hard. "He's fine. He's okay. You're alright..."

I buried my face in my hands.



I stopped in the hallway, my shoes in my hands. So much for trying to be quiet. I brushed my hands over my face and turned toward my parents' bedroom. "Yeah," I said quietly, hoping he'd hear me -

"C'mere a second," I heard him say. I frowned. It didn't sound like he was in the bedroom. His voice was hushed, difficult to pinpoint…

"Where are you?" I whispered.


I exhaled and straightened, walking to my bedroom door and lowering my shoes to the floor before walking into the kitchen, feeling the linoleum under my feet, slick and cool. My dad sat at the breakfast table, a sharp, distinct circle of light pooling over little bits of cardboard.

"Can you hand me my glasses?" He asked absently, one hand rubbing at his eyes, the other pulling at the blue bathrobe I'd given him for his birthday a few years back. "They're on the counter."

"Sure," I murmured distantly, walking to the counter and picking them up, placing them on the table next to him. "Here."

"Thanks," He said, smiling up at me briefly before putting them on. I stood next to him and he glanced up again. "You guys have a good time tonight?"

"Oh. Uhm… yeah," I mumbled, pulling my lips up in a smile. It felt like more of a grimace. I moved for the hallway. "Goodnight."

"Wanna join your old man?"

I took a breath and turned around. "I, uhm - I don't think so," I said slowly. "Thanks, though."

"Oh, come on," He murmured, his hands moving over the pieces. "Remember the old days? You and me working on puzzles when neither of us could sleep?"

"Dad," I said gently. "That was, like, years ago."

"Yeah, well…" He shrugged. "To you, it's years." He peered at me through the bottom half of his glasses, the part that was a stronger perscription, and smiled. "To me, it's yesterday."

I looked back at him, not sure what to say. He looked back down at the pieces covering the table.

"Have you…" I blinked and started over, moving closer, letting my palms rest against the smooth wood of the chair across from him. "Have you found the corners?"

He looked up at me for a moment. The smile spread warmly across his face. "Have a seat," He said, nodding at the chair under my hands.

I pulled the chair out and sat down, my arms resting lightly against the cold, metal edge of the table. I stared down at the heap of pieces and let my fingertips brush through them, feeling the chaotic jumble of edges and ridges and hollows, all thrown together...

"This always helped me to relax," He muttered, flipping a puzzle piece over and holding it up to the light before discarding it. "Helped me forget about bills, and soda distributors, and the price of beef…"

I smiled and picked up a puzzle piece, tossing it aside when I didn't find the tell-tale ninety-degree angle.

"It always helped me to figure things out," He murmured, trying to fit two pieces together. He shrugged and tossed them back to the pile. "You know. The literal symbolism of putting all the little snippets together. Getting to see the big picture."

I shook my head and smiled weakly. "You still thinking of going back to grad school?" I asked.

He sighed and took his glasses off, polishing them with the edge of his robe. "I think that ship has sailed," He said quietly, putting them back on.

"Doesn't sound like it," I said.

"Well…" He shrugged. "I don't know. I thought that was what I wanted. But, if I did go back to school, then I wouldn't be able to spend as much time here," He said, looking at over at me. "With you, and your mother."

I nodded, frowning a little and staring down at the puzzle pieces.

"Plus that commute would kill me," He groaned. "And then there's the café to take care of, and -"

"Dad," I interrupted. "I can help. I can - you know, make sure the payroll's set up right, and collect the time cards, and -"

"I appreciate that," He said, smiling wryly, staring down at the pieces. "But it's okay. I'm happy with this. Besides, you already have a job, and you should be concentrating on your grades. Still want to go to Harvard?"

I stared at him, surprised. My mouth opened and closed. "I, uhm… I don't know," I said quietly. "I haven't thought about it in a while."

His gaze flickered over to me above the top of his glasses. "Really," He said, staring at me quietly.

I stared back, fumbling for an answer.

"Well it - it was. I mean, it is. I mean…" I stopped, shaking my head and sitting back in my chair. I stared down at my hands in my lap, watching my fingertips tracing the edges of a puzzle piece.

"I don't know," I said finally. "I wanted it. And now, I guess…"

"Now you're not sure," He said quietly. I looked up at him.

"Can't imagine what that feels like," He murmured, looking back down at the puzzle pieces for a moment before glancing back up at me pointedly. His gaze dropped back to the puzzle pieces.

"I, uh - I think I'm gonna go to bed," I said slowly, standing up.

"Goodnight," He said.

"'Night," I said absently, turning for the door.


"What?" I said, turning around.

He nodded down, pointing at my hands.

"Oh," I murmured, returning the puzzle piece to the pile, smiling weakly. "Thanks."

He squinted at me. "Sweet dreams," He said quietly.


I punched the button next to the flashing light and shrugged my jacket off, checking the pocket before laying it across the counter.

"Michael. Meet me and Isabel tomorrow morning. At her locker."

I stared down at the message machine, listening to the click of Max hanging up the phone, and then the long, ringing beep of the machine.

I stared up at the ceiling for a second, biting the inside of my cheek.

"Next. Message," the machine intoned. "Received. At -"

I grabbed it and threw it across the room, watching it hit the far wall and shattering into a heap of uneven shards of plastic, ricocheting away from each other, bouncing off my couch, my floor…

I glared at the mess before moving to the bathroom and turning the faucet on full blast, staring down at the sink. I cupped my hands under the stream and splashed the cool water over my face, shivering as it soaked through my hair to my scalp, feeling the rivulets running over my face -

...everything I did was based on your words, Michael...

I squeezed my eyes shut and cupped my hands again, focusing on the water rushing over my fingertips, flowing over my skin -

…I taught you what you taught me…

Is that what we are now? Murderers?

No, Guerin. Just you -

The water was searing my hands, screaming in a rolling boil, the light blinding me. I tried to open my hands and let it fall into the sink, jumping back as it splashed over the rim of the sink, hitting my clothes and arms, the drops sizzling where they landed. My blistered hands fell to my sides and I watched the water spiraling down the drain, blinking past the steam that was slipping up into the air, making the room humid and damp.

I looked in the mirror. Tendrils of steam were creeping toward the center of my reflection, blurring me quickly, turning me into someone unrecognizable....

I was a shadow of myself. I was the outline of a body.

And then it covered me completely, and nothing was left.


I winced, staring down at my hands. My left palm was hovering over my right, moving slowly as I concentrated on controlling the light, to thread the DNA structure back together, to not make it worse…

I finished the sweep and held my hand up, turning it back and forth. It looked normal.
I took a breath and focused on my other hand, trying to keep my focus...

I frowned when I was done. I think I wanted it to take longer. Blistered skin was easier to deal with than Nasedo, with what he'd told me...

I frowned, staring at the lines on my right palm, tracing my life line with a fingertip. I'd picked up a book on palmistry at the library a long time ago, when I was a kid, hoping there might be a clue in all that occult stuff.

The life line ran from the outer edge of your hand down to your wrist. Depending on where it started - closer to your thumb, or to your index finger - your life was supposed to be rooted in some quality. Leadership. Ambition. Whatever.

My starting point represented courage, falling just short of leadership. I swallowed a bitter laugh. No surprise.

I'd tossed the book because it didn't say anything about having two life lines.

I stared down, my fingernail tracing the two creases. They were immeasureably close, so close that the librarian had insisted she didn't see two at all, smiling at me condescendingly over her glasses…

I scrubbed my hands roughly over my face and let them slide around to my neck, letting my head drop down, my elbows resting on my knees…

Max lost, Michael.

I squeezed my eyes shut and tried to breathe.

…I had to make sure you would be ready. We needed you angry. We needed you desperate to get out…

I flinched and let my hands drop, opening my eyes and staring down at the carpet, stained and worn.

…Max and Isabel don't want the responsibility. They don't want to believe any of it is real. But you kept pushing them…

"That's not -" I whispered, and stopped.

My words sounded weak, resounding through the empty room. I licked my lips and looked around. Not just weak, but…


Everything he'd said... it made sense.

You always wanted answers, I thought. You got them.

Now what?

I took a deep breath and stared down at the palms of my hands.

I could ignore it. Go back to doing what I wanted...

Call it what it is, the voice in my head sneered. You mean go back to Liz.

I reached up and touched the pendant under my shirt. I could. Nasedo was dead. And he was the only one who knew about us...

Except he'd said there were others. Aliens who wouldn't stop until we told them whatever they wanted…

…they'll make sure you're watching her screaming, knowing you're the cause, until she's dead...

I closed my eyes. He could be lying about the others. But he wasn't lying about the connection. I knew that when he put his hand into my chest, when I felt how much it hurt her...

I opened my eyes and let my hands drop, looking around my room as I stood up.

Everything felt different. Surreal. Like a dream…

I knew what I was going to do.

I reached for my jacket and moved to the door.


I closed my eyes for a moment and let my head drop, feeling my hair tumble down over my shoulders in waves. I rolled my head to the right, looking down the street again.

Still nothing.

I took a deep breath and looked down at my watch. Three a.m. I shrugged the blanket off my shoulders, letting it fall into a pool of color on the lawnchair behind me.

I sat down on the lawnchair and gathered the blanket around me. It was getting cold. I wanted to be here in case Michael showed up…

I frowned at myself. When he showed up, I thought. Not if. When…

Except it was going to be dawn in a couple hours…

I shook the blanket off again, my movements jerky and harsh, walking to my open window and crawling through. I turned my speakers toward the window and turned the volume down before touching some buttons on the CD player.

Select. Play. Repeat.

I heard the click and rustle of the CD changer and moved for the window, crawling back through to the rooftop, pulling the blanket tight around me as Ani's voice floated out to me.

…I'm sorry I didn't sound more excited on the phone
I'm sorry that after all these years
I've left you feeling unrequited and alone, brought you to tears
I guess I never loved you quite as well as the way you loved me
I guess I'll never really be able to tell you how sorry
I am...

I fell back against the lawnchair and stared up at the stars, pulling the blanket higher, just under my chin.

"Come on, Michael," I whispered. "Please."


I stared up at her rooftop, my right hand resting against my jacket pocket. I'd left my bike a couple blocks back.

I'd already checked everyone else.

Max and Is were both asleep, although Max was tossing when I left. I hadn't found any footprints around their house. Maria'd been sleeping, too, the bottle of grief relief half-empty on her end table.

I'd gone by Tess' place first. Her house was dark and it'd taken me a while to find her room.

I almost broke in when I heard muffled sobs. When I looked in the window, she was alone, sitting on a bed, her head buried in her hands. Her shoulders were shaking.

She was crying about Nasedo.

I'd stepped away from the window like it was on fire and left.

And now I was here. Right back where I always was.

I blinked hard, running my hands over my face before fumbling with my jacket pocket, making sure it was closed tight...

I climbed the fire escape two steps at a time.


I climbed over the edge, looking to her room first. Her window was open and music was playing…

I glanced over the rooftop, staring at the lawnchair under the soft christmas lights. She was curled up, snuggled underneath a blanket.

She wasn't moving.

I bet she'd be easy to find. In an alley, or maybe when you're sleeping -

I was running to her body, my heartbeat pounding hard, footsteps clumsy and stumbling until I crouched next to her, reaching out to touch her -

She sighed suddenly and rolled toward me, clutching the blanket and tugging it around her as she moved. I froze.

"Michael," She mumbled, her voice thick with sleep. Loose strands of her hair slid slowly across her face.

My heart lurched. She was just asleep. She was okay...

I reached out carefully, carefully, touching her hair, memorizing the feel of it, dark silk under my fingertips, brushing it back from her face...

"Hey," I breathed, and swallowed, listening to the crack in my voice. She didn't respond.

Probably better this way, I thought, staring down at her. I wanted to kiss her, wake her up, tell her everything that happened...

I wanted her to tell me it was all a dream. That he'd lied about me, about who I was, what I was supposed to do...

The light fell soft on her face. Her breath was coming steadier and softer as she drifted further into sleep, and the edges of her mouth were curving up in a smile…

Maybe I could watch her dreams. Just a little. Just to see what she was thinking about...

That's not why you're here, the voice in my head argued.

I scowled and ignored it. I knew what I was here to do. I was just curious...

I closed my eyes and tried to concentrate.


I opened my eyes. It was daylight, really blindlingly bright, no shade anywhere.

I was in the park, next to the ash tree -standing on grass, clover, I think. About ten feet away, it turned into hot, glimmering sand, a desert that reached to a quavering horizon. Giant white clouds rolled impossibly fast over an endles expanse of blue-gray sky, even though there was no wind...

"Is he alright?" She asked behind me.

I turned around. She was wearing a long, pale, sleeveless dress that moved gently in rhythm to the wind that wasn't there, her hair loose and flowing over her shoulders.

She had flowers in her hair. Daisies, I thought, except they were dark blue with a pale yellow center...

"No," I said, my voice sounding strange, tight and distant. I swallowed and licked my lips, breathing in the warm spring air. "He's dead."

She bit her lip and nodded. Behind her, the clouds darkened and rolled higher in the sky, and she stared down at the flowers at her feet...

"I thought he might be," She said slowly, bending down to touch them. Pollen sparkled like tiny diamonds on her fingertips. She brushed her hands absently on her dress before standing up, leaving glittering trails that moved on their own, sliding across the fabric of her dress onto her skin, dancing across her arms... "I don't know why I thought that, but I did."

I couldn't stop staring at her. She tilted her head and looked me up and down, sizing me up.

"What?" I asked.

She shook her head slightly. "When are you going tell me, Michael?"

I felt the world tremble a little, like a shudder beneath my feet, resonating through my blood. Tell me? "Tell you what?" I demanded.

She shrugged. "Well, the truth," She murmured, taking a few steps toward me. "What's going on. What's happening."

I stared at her, stunned.

She closed the distance between us and I stared down at her, the voice in my head screaming at me to get out, she knows, she's sensing something, get out -

Her gaze dropped down to my chest and she smiled slightly as she raised her hand, touching my shirt and the pendant underneath. The first tremors of an earthquake shook beneath my feet, stronger than before, and the clouds turned pale against the sky -

I brushed her hand away roughly and backed up. "Don't do that," I whispered, glaring at her.

The smile slipped from her face and she stared at me for a moment before nodding quietly. I exhaled suddenly. I hadn't even realized I was holding my breath…

She was raising her hands, holding something out to me. I tried to focus...

A puzzle piece. Just a piece of cardboard. I frowned, looking up at her eyes, the question forming on my lips. Her look stopped me before I got the words out.

Her eyes weren't just strong. They were absolute. Defiant and determined.

"Then I'll have to figure it out myself," She said.

I breathed in sharply. I believed her. And if she did...

I opened my eyes again and the rooftop surfaced into place, her body inches away from me, her eyes closed, her breathing steady. I pushed myself away, back toward her window, almost stumbling against other lawnchairs, breathing in mouthfuls of the cool night air. Stupid. God, Guerin, you're so damn stupid...

At least I'd gotten out fast enough, I thought, my hands running roughly over my face. Before she found out about Nasedo, and about Max not knowing, and...

My hands stopped where they were moving and my breath caught. I stood still for a second and then looked over at her sleeping body, letting my hands fall to my sides.

Before she knew about me.

The breath rushed out of my lungs.

It was almost a relief.

I stood there for a few minutes, watching her breathe.

I reached up and touched my collar, pushing past the fabric, fingertips brushing across my skin to find the thin silk rope that hung around my neck...

My fingers closed around it and I tugged gently, pulling my shirt to the side with one hand, feeling the pendant rise up against my skin.

I don't know what it is about you
I just know it's not what it was
I don't know why red fades before blue
It just does…

The pendant tugged against the inside fabric of my shirt until it escaped, swinging back and forth. I formed a fist around the thin rope and jerked hard, feeling it pull taut against the nape of my neck before releasing, the sudden snap of something breaking...

She never moved.

I keep thinking someday I will make this all up to you
And maybe someday I will
I guess I never loved you quite as well
As the way you loved me…

I swallowed hard and turned around, putting it on her windowsill, staring down at it. I could almost still feel it, under my shirt, against my skin. I'd worn it so long it was almost a part of me…

I guess I'll never really be able to tell you how sorry I am
Sorry I am
Sorry I am…

I stared at the eternity symbol circling upon itself.

That wasn't who I was. Not anymore.

You can't fight it, Michael. It's who you are…

I moved for the fire escape quickly, trying to mute my footsteps, climbing over the ledge and down the fire escape until my feet hit the ground and then I was running, turning the corner to where I'd left my bike, feeling the engine crank up…

I was ten blocks away before I remembered what was in my jacket pocket. What I'd brought for her.

"Damnit," I muttered, staring up at the night sky.

I couldn't go back.

I had to think of something else.


I blinked and opened my eyes, pushing myself up on the elbows, bringing my hands up to rub my eyes. Great. Fell asleep, I thought, shaking my head. I sat up, pushing my hair out of my face, and looked at my watch. It was almost four a.m.

I took a deep breath and looked up at the sky. Fine, Michael, I thought, swinging my legs over the edge of the chair. I could just talk to Max today at school and make sure everything was okay.

I gathered the blanket around my shoulders and stood up, moving in shuffling steps to my window -

I froze in mid-step.

I was dreaming. That was the only explanation.

Here. Take it. Just take it -

I won't. I can't. I gave it to you. You can't give it back…

I walked to my window and reached down, my hands trembling. For something that wasn't there. Couldn't be there...

My fingers closed around the silk rope, cold against my fingertips as I picked it up, watching the pendant sway gently back and forth…

I looked around the rooftop wildly. My hearbeat was hammering in my chest, which was strange, because I felt like I was numb, as if the only thing I could feel was the necklace hanging in my hands...

I ran to the fire escape, looking over the edge, down the street.

He was gone. I knew he was gone before I looked. The necklace was cold…

He didn't even wake me up, I thought, staring down at the pendant, afraid to touch it, afraid that would make it all real. He didn't wake me up to say goodbye…

I whispered his name, and the carvings on the wood blurred together into a mass of black.

The sob slipped out of my throat, sharp and harsh against the stillness of the night, and I fell to my knees.


"Alex. Alex."

"Mpff," He grumbled, rolling away from me. I let my head drop backwards and stared up at the ceiling, trying not to explode.

When I looked back down at him, he'd turned back. His head was tilted in this weird angle, and his mouth was open. I leaned down next to him and got my lips right next to his ear. I could feel my breath rippling off his skin in waves…

"Whitman," I snapped.

He shot up suddenly, his mouth trying to form words to scream. I clamped a hand over his mouth and forced him to look at me.

"Alex," I hissed. "It's me. It's Michael -"

He was flailing at me, shoving me back, forcing me to let go. I stumbled back and my hand tore loose from him -

"What the -" He closed his mouth, blinking, trying to force his eyes to adjust. When he spoke again his voice was an accusing whisper. "Michael?"

"Relax," I muttered, looking around the room. "Get your breath."

"Well, thanks," He snapped. "For telling me what I can do in my own room."

"Whatever," I muttered, looking around his room. "Get up."

"Why should I?" He snapped. "What makes you think you can just tell people what to-"

"Just do it."

He glared at me for a second before shoving the covers back, stumbling out of bed, arms and legs flailing. "Ow," He hissed, falling back against the bed, clutching his left leg. "Ow ow ow."

"Foot asleep?" I muttered.

"Is there something you want?" He asked, scowling at me.

"Sandwich bags," I muttered.

He stared up at me. "I'm dreaming," He muttered suddenly, letting his head drop, shaking it back and forth slowly. "I'm dreaming. Of course."

"Whitman. I need one of those plastic, sealable bags. Do you have it or-"

"Okay, as long as I'm dreaming, lemme tell you exactly what I think about you, Guerin," He said, standing up before falling back against the bed. "Ow."

"I don't have time for -"

"Shut up," He said, waving his hands. "Just shut up. You think you can just waltz into Maria's life, break her heart and not have to deal with it, well, you're wrong, Mr. Alien Death Powers, alright? You gotta deal with her. And with me. Now I know-"

I reached down and snatched him up off the bed by his shirt, bringing his face close to mine. "Look. You're not dreaming. Are you gonna help me or not?"

He blinked. "I'm not dreaming," He said.

"No," I snapped.

He glanced to his window, where I'd climbed in. It was still open. "Uhm," He said. "Alright. I said alright," He grumbled, shoving at my hands. "Put me down."

I let him go, turning away from him. I heard him wince, and the sound of shuffling feet.

"Well then," He said, his voice thick with sarcasm. "I guess I'll just go fetch your ziploc bag, then."

I didn't turn around. "Good."

I felt his stare burning against my shoulders for a moment. Then walked past me to the door, shuffling his feet, muttering something about aliens and kitchenware.

I listened to the sound of his door closing and looked around. Primus posters covered the walls, and he had books. Lots of books. Dune. Video for Dummies. Web Sites Made Easy. How to Succeed in the Music Business. Nothing like the books Liz had...

I shut my eyes. Don't think about Liz.

I heard the door open behind me. "Here," He muttered, waving a clear, plastic bag at me. I took it from him with one hand and reached into my jacket pocket with the other.

"So," He said, yawning briefly and crawling back under the covers. "Did you heal Nasedo?"

My fingers ran along the outside of the bag, sealing the top. "Not exactly," I muttered, tossing the heavy pouch over to him. He caught it in the air and looked down at it, confused.

"What's this?" He asked.

I pursed my lips and scowled, staring down at the floor, kicking at nothing with my shoes.

"It's him," I muttered. "Nasedo.

"Or what's left of him."


I stared down at the pendant lying in my lap, surrounded by coils of thin black silk. I felt my lips start to tremble and closed my eyes for a moment, taking a breath.

I looked up at the sky. The stars were fading. Soon it would fade entirely from black to grey, and then it would be morning, and then I'd get ready for school, and all of them would be at school, and if I didn't see him then, I'd see him later at the crashdown, and…

God, I was sick of crying.

I was tired of being sad. And feeling this alone, after being so close with Michael just a few months back, it was...

I didn't know it was possible to hurt this much.

I looked back down at the pendant and picked it up by the strand of silk, holding it up in front of me, reaching out with my other hand and tracing the eternity symbol -

He was wearing a blue shirt and standing in the sunlight, in front of the ash tree I'd planted...

I blinked hard and breathed in quickly.

It was like a flash, but - different, I thought. More surreal. Like a dream...

I grasped it tightly in my hand and closed my eyes…

The desert stretched out behind the ash tree, the only oasis against a barren, endless backdrop. He was staring at me. He looked tired - no, exhausted, and worried, and -

He looked afraid.

I wanted to ask him why, ask him what was wrong, when I realized he was staring at my hand.

I brought my hand up, staring at the puzzle piece I held between my fingertips.

I opened my eyes and blinked, breathing in as the stars swam back into focus. I stared down at the pendant, breathing the cool night air into my lungs...

It always helped me to figure things out. Putting all the little snippets together and getting to see the big picture...

I pushed the blanket aside and ran for my bedroom window.


He sucked his breath sharply in and threw the bag away, recoiling from it. It hit the blanket with a dull thunk.

I glanced at him. He was staring at it like he thought it was going to move.

I couldn't blame him.

"What - I mean, why," He whispered, looking up at me suddenly, anger coloring his voice. "Why'd you bring that -"

"You were working with Liz," I interrupted, drowning him out. He stopped talking and stared at me blankly.

"At her house," I prompted. "The night I called."

He blinked. "Yeah," He said slowly. "And?"

"She told me what you guys found," I muttered, still scowling, my hands on my hips. "That some of the Web searches said cadmium x was, you know…"

"Toxic," He finished, his voice sounding strange. I glanced at him. He was looking at the bag of ashes.

"Yeah," I muttered, taking a breath and looking over at him. "So I thought that maybe if the two of you found a way to analyze it, then…" I shrugged. "Then you'd know."

His gaze flickered over to me. "So… why not take this to Liz?" He asked slowly.

I stared at him for a moment, feeling my stare turn from surprised to piercing. What kind of question was that?

He licked his lips after a moment and looked away from me, shifting his weight, his hands moving the blanket.

I shrugged and turned away from him, pretending to look around his room. "No reason," I said deliberately, keeping my voice light. "You were closer."

"Right," He said quickly. His voice sounded confused and I looked at him sharply. He was looking at the bag again. "Well, I'll, uh -" He cleared his throat. "I'll give it to her. Tomorrow."

"Good," I said, moving for the window. "Bye."

"Wait," He said quickly. I heard him getting up from the bed. "Is there - is there more stuff going on? Because I can - you know, help. If you want."

"Stay here," I muttered, stepping through his window and turning back around to face him. "I'm gonna make some more rounds before the sun comes up."


"Checking houses," I said, trying to keep the frustration out of my voice. "Making sure there's no one missing, or hurt, or…" My voice trailed off. "Forget it. Just go to sleep."

"Wait," He said. "I, uhm - I just wanted to say I'm sorry," He said, looking uncomfortable. "About Nasedo, I mean."

"Why?" I snapped. "I'm not."

Amazement rippled across his face.

I licked my lips and let go of the window, then reached for it again. "Look. Just go back to bed," I muttered. "Alright?"

His features contorted. "Fine," He muttered, waving his hand at me, turning away from the window. I watched him walk back to his bed. He picked the bag up and tossed it on his desk.

Damnit. I didn't want to hurt his feelings. "Hey. Alex -"

"What?" He snapped, turning around, his hands on his hips.

I pursed my lips and looked out to the street before looking back at him. "Look. About - about Maria," I muttered. "What you said earlier. I, uhm…" I looked down and back up at him, nodding a little. "I get it."

He snorted something I couldn't hear and shook his head, climbing into bed, pulling the covers over his body.

"Whatever," He muttered. "Lock the window on your way out."

I stared at him for a second before pushing myself away from the window. I stretched out my hand and the window slammed shut, the glass shuddering in the panes. I felt the snik of the lock falling into place and dropped my hand to my side, jumping off the roof and running down the alley to where I'd left my bike.


Sunlight crept over my bed, reflecting off the white, 3 by 5 cards scattered across my bed. I squinted, staring down at them. Some were covered in writing, all of them with a single word spelled out in capital letters at the top. Max. Cadmium X. Michael. Nasedo…

I took the pencil out of my mouth when I realized I was chewing on it again. I moved the cards around, trying to find the connection between them, moving them apart when I thought I was wrong, scribbling everything down that I could remember...

I still felt like I was missing something.

"C'mon," I mumbled. "Think…"

I stared down at the cards, my fingertips rubbing my forehead. Nothing. I sighed and let the pencil drop, rolling my head back, feeling the tension in my neck with my hands…

I glanced over at my computer. It had been down since Michael and I released the pulse…

I blinked and looked down, pushing other cards to the side until I picked up the card that spelled Alex's name in capital letters.

…I know you're offline, so I'll just pack up my laptop and be right over…

How did he know that?

I tapped the card against my fingertips. I'd been just about to ask him, when *Maria* came in, and…

My eyes widened and the card fell to my blanket. My hands flew over the pile of paper, flickering and tossing each one aside until I found Max's card. I scribbled the words as fast as I could, like that would bring the answer any quicker. I stared at the words, waiting for everything to fall into place…

Max is the key. But not in the way you think.


Chapter Index

Main Authors Offsite Recs
DC Slash Harry Potter Ros. Hetero Ros. Slash Ros. Other