The Guardians

She fell asleep on the couch, her hair spilling off the tattered material. She'd curled up a little, as much as she could on the narrow bed, clutching the blanket close under her chin.

My hands flew over the sketchpad, trying to capture how peaceful she looked, how happy she was. I'd finished the outline and the basic lines I'd memorized - the angle of her cheekbone, the curve of her lips. I was concentrating on the sketch when I saw her flinch.

It was a small movement. It was nothing.

She flinched again and tried to turn over. Her forehead crinkled and her lips parted.

I tossed the sketchpad and knelt down next to her.

"Liz," I murmured. "You alright?"

She didn't answer. Of course not, you idiot, she's dreaming -

I nudged her over a little and settled my body next to her. The warmth of her skin on mine was a shock. A good shock, but still.

She struggled a little bit when I laid down next to her. I wrapped my arms around her and felt her body relax against mine. She settled against my chest and I heard a little sigh escape her lips.

I closed my eyes and tried to dreamwalk.


She was standing in the bar. The Babe Magnet, talking to - Whiteotter, I think her name was. There were only two other women in the room. Liz turned around and ran over to me when I called her name.

"Thank you," She said, giving me a hug. "Did you hear me?"

"Finally," Someone muttered.

"You looked like you were having a nightmare," I said, pulling back to look at her. "But I didn't hear you calling me -"

"As long as you're here, that's all that matters," Whiteotter said. "We need to get started. We don't have much time."

"Time for what?" I demanded. "Were you scaring her?"

"No, Michael. We were trying to get you to join her."

I looked down at her. She nodded. "It's true," She said. "They said I could communicate with you in my sleep, and that you needed to be I tried it. Everything's fine."

"No, it's not," Whiteotter stressed.

She was starting to get on my nerves.

"Alright, so I'm here," I snapped. "What do you want?"

She took a breath. "I want to warn you," She said quickly. "About everything that's going to happen."


"What's going to happen?" He demanded. "What are you talking about?"

"Michael, we don't have a lot of time -"

"So give me the short version," He snapped. He really was in a mood.

He's just worried about you, Liz.

{Michael. I'm fine, really.}

I saw his body relax a little.

"You haven't answered my question," He said, staring at Whiteotter.

"Let's sit down," She said, gesturing at a table near the bar.

He opened his mouth to say something. {Michael - relax. Please.}

He took a deep breath. {Alright. We're not staying long, though.}

The four of us moved to a large booth near the dance floor.

"Alright," Whiteotter said when everyone was seated. "Michael, I know you're going to have doubts about what I'm going to tell you. Will you hear me out?"

I couldn't read his eyes.

He waved his hands. "Talk on," He said.

"Fair enough," She said. "Alright. The first thing you need to know is that we - the people you met in this bar, the last time you were here - aren't just your supporters."

"You're not," I said slowly.

"No," She said calmly. "Some of us are more than that.

"We're your guardians." "Our what?" Michael said. I knew he was choking back a laugh.

"It may sound funny, Michael, but it's true. We spend most of our days working for the two of you. And you've got difficult times ahead."

The woman in the black sequin dress nodded. "C'est vrai," She said sadly, nodding. "It is true."

Maria. No - *Maria*, I thought, trilling the 'r' in my head.

She's French, Whiteotter had said. Sounds totally different.

"She's not kidding," Whiteotter continued. "She, Minnie and I are all doing our best, but - things are about to get -"

"Crazy," The woman next to Whiteotter said glumly.

Ivy. That was her name. She was still wearing the leather jacket.

Whiteotter nodded. "Exactly. So I need to explain some things."

"Like what?" Michael asked, a smirk on his face. "What do you really know about me? About Liz?"

"We know you stole her journal," *Maria* said. "We know she came to you and told you about Topolsky when Max thought it was no big deal."

"We know more than that," Ivy said. She looked more nervous than the last time I was here.

When was that, I wondered. It couldn't have been more than a few nights.

Why did it feel like things were simpler then?

"It would be a good idea to listen to her," Ivy said, glancing at Whiteotter sympathetically.

"Why?" Michael asked.

"Because in this case," She said, leaning forward, "She's the best friend you've got."


"My guardian," Michael deadpanned. "Her. A bartender."

"People aren't always what they seem, Michael," Whiteotter said quietly. "You should know that."

There was a silence. Michael was close to glaring at her.

She sighed and put her hands down. "I'm sorry," She said. "If there were a better way to do this, I would. And I know I'm acting like this because I know what's going to happen -"

She stopped, taking a breath. "Alright. Let's start over. All of us,"- she said, gesturing at the other two women - "are from a different timeline. An alternate reality."

Michael laughed out loud.

"What, that's funny, Michael?" She asked. "Sorry. It's true."

Ivy and *Maria* nodded their agreement. "Michael, if you'd just listen -"

He was waving his hands and standing up. "You know, whatever. You," He said, pointing at Whiteotter, "Make a good drink, and I'm sure you have a song for us," He said, gesturing at *Maria*. "And you must have really important things to tell us, but -"

"I can explain the Pulse," Whiteotter said.

Both of us froze.

"You can what," He said in a low voice.

"I. Can explain. The Pulse." She said. "Please. Sit down."

His eyes narrowed.

{Michael - please. I trust her.}

{Why? Why do you trust her, Liz? We don't know anything about her. Nothing.}

I tried to formulate a response. {I - I don't know why I do, Michael.}

I looked over at her. {I just do.}

He didn't respond. Just pursed his lips. Everyone at the table held their breath.

Then he sat back down. The tension in the room plummeted.

{Thank you, Michael -}

{I didn't say I believed her. I'm just not leaving yet.}

"Alright," He said, leaning on the table. "Explain it."

"As far as we know," She said, "Your powers are the manifestation of focused energy. You're using your mind to do things that humans can't do."

"Yeah," He said. "So? You thought we didn't already know that?"

She tilted her head and blinked at him. "You have a problem with authority," She stated simply. "Are you aware of that?"

"Every day," He grinned.

"Yes," She said. "Well. We know it has an electric base. Essentially, you're conducting a soft electric current. It charges the air. Ionic particles, I think, although we can't confirm that yet."

"Why not?" He asked. "Why can't you confirm it?"

"We don't have enough data yet," Ivy said. "It would be premature to state it as fact. We do know that it's your interaction with Liz that makes it more powerful."

Me? "No," I interrupted. "You must be wrong -"

"She's not," Whiteotter said. "You help him to focus, Liz. You increase his power. He knows it."

I shook my head. "No, I'm sorry. Michael," I said, turning to him. "Tell them -"

He was sitting back in his chair, looking at Ivy. He looked stunned.

"Michael," I said. "What is it?"

"They're right," He said. "I was going to tell you last night, but -"

The silence hung in the air.

"But you got distracted," Whiteotter said smoothly.

"Ah - yeah," He said. "That."

"So it's true?" I asked. "I increase your powers?"

"Yeah," He said, smiling a little. "You do."

There was a silence.

"Alright," Whiteotter said. "That's not what creates the pulse, though."

"Then what?" I asked.

She shrugged. "That's all you, Liz. The two of you."

I shook my head slightly. "What do you mean by -"

"Your attraction," She stressed. "The way you feel about each other. It's - magnetic. And when you combine those forces, and they - culminate, well..."

"You can't be serious -"

"I'm totally serious," She said. "It's true."

"How do you know all this?" Michael asked slowly.

"She just does," Ivy said. "You can trust us, Michael."

"I don't trust anyone but Liz," He said.

Another silence.

Whiteotter was shaking her head. "You're right," She said. "You don't have any reason to trust us."

Michael's eyes narrowed slightly.

"How about this," She said. "I tell you what I think you need to know, and the two of you decide whether you believe me or not as you go."

Michael just stared at her. She looked at me and I nodded. "Please," I said. "Go ahead."

"The two of you have - bonded, I guess is the best word," She said quietly. "I don't know why, I think it must be something from Michael's culture."

"My culture?"

"Where you came from, Michael," She said. "Your planet. I think your people bond with each other when they choose a -"

When they choose a mate.

"Your heartbeats are in sync," She said. "You can communicate within each other's minds. And now -" She waved her hands in the air. "If I'm right, and I have it on pretty good authority that I am, then the two of you are linked. Permanently."

"Well, that's -" I looked over at Michael. "That's great," I whispered.

"You don't understand," She whispered, shaking her head.

"So explain it, then," Michael snapped.

She sighed. "I think you're connected for life," She said quietly. "That means that if you're with someone else, the other one of you will know. If I'm right, whenever you're intimate with anyone else -"

"Then what?" Michael demanded.

She sighed. "Then you'll also be able to feel the other person's touch."


"That's impossible," I whispered.

"Liz," Ivy said. "Nothing is impossible anymore."

"Well, I don't see what all the gloom is about," Michael said, leaning back and putting his hands behind his head. Whiteotter and Ivy stared at him.

"What? So I'm linked with Liz," He shrugged. "That's fine with me."

Whiteotter groaned and put her head in her hands.

"Look," Michael said. "I don't see what -"

"The problem, Michael, is that things are about to get pretty dark, and I don't think you're taking them seriously," Whiteotter said.

"What?" He demanded. "You still haven't told me anything about what's gonna happen."

"Topolsky," She snapped. "Topolsky's gonna happen."

My mouth went dry.

"No," I whispered. "She's gone -"

"She's coming back, Liz," Whiteotter said, shaking her head and turning to me. "I'm sorry. It's true. I wish there were something I could do to stop it -"

"You don't know that," Michael sneered.

Whiteotter's eyes flashed. "Liz is going to know first," She said quickly. "Topolsky's going to find Liz first. And then Liz is going to tell you, and you're going to go to meet her."

"I'm going to meet with Topolsky," Michael said, nodding his head and pursing his lips. "Now, that's just fascinating."

"Michael, it's true -"

"I would never meet with her," Michael snapped, lowering his arms and leaning forward. "Ever. She's FBI. End of discussion."

"Michael -"

"I don't know who you think you are," He said, standing up, "But we're done. You're wasting my time. Come on, Liz," He said, turning for the door.

He'd made up his mind. I got up to go with him.

"Liz," Whiteotter said. "Please. I have to tell you -"

"I'm sorry," I said slowly. "If what you said turns out to be true, then maybe we'll come back. He's made up his mind."

"You don't have to go back with him," She said quickly.

I smiled. "Maybe he's right," I said gently. "If you think that, you don't really know us."

She put her head in her hands.

"It's okay," I whispered. "Really. We love each other."

"I know," She whispered back. "That's why I'm so worried."

Everything started to blur.

"What did you mean by that?" I asked.

Everything was fading. She didn't answer.

"Whiteotter?" I yelled. "Ivy? Maria -"

Everything went black.


Michael was pacing around the room, his hands on his hips, when I opened my eyes.

"You alright?" He asked, turning to me.

"Y - yeah," I said. "I think so."

"What the hell was that, Liz? I mean-"

"I don't know," I said, propping myself up on my arms. "Maybe she was telling the truth."

"Maybe," He snorted. "Maybe it was just talk. I meant what I said, Liz. I don't trust anyone but you."

I smiled. "Thanks," I said.

He snorted. "Alternative timeline," He said. "Right."

"We should at least consider the possibility that she's telling the truth," I said.

"What, that we're bonded with each other?" He waved his arms around. "Liz. That's just -"


"I don't think so," I said slowly. "Michael, she knew about the EMPs, she could explain it-"

"So what do you want to do?" He asked. "How are we going to go about proving that she's right?"

"Max will probably be looking for me tomorrow," I said.

He stared at me.

Neither of us had brought up Max since he'd thrown paint all over the room.

"Fine," He said shortly. "We'll do a test tomorrow. Okay?"

I nodded.


I reached out for him. "Come here," I whispered.

He climbed onto the couch, wrapping his arms me. "Hey," He whispered. "You're shaking. What's the matter?"

"Nothing," I whispered, clutching him close.

We love each other -

I know.

That's why I'm so worried.

"Nothing," I repeated. "Everything's fine."


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