My whole life people have told me to stay in my lane, calm down, wait. And for my whole life, Iʼve followed the rules. Iʼve waited. Iʼve thrived. Iʼve hidden and Iʼve lied. But now things have changed. Now the dead walk among us, and there are gods living with us. I have my sister back, as angry and disappointed in all of us as she is, but I have lost so much as well. We all have to relearn our ways, somehow. So now I decide how to live my life, and itʼs not the time to wait. Nowʼs the time for action, and I will die myself before letting fear paralyze me once again.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
When she slams closed the door of her car and drives away from Marysville, a plan is already forming in her mind. She heads to the tiny hotel where sheʼd booked a room and gets herself checked in, ever-present scowl on her features preventing the clerk from chit-chatting with her. She locks herself up in the room, small and perfunctory, dropping her travel bag on the bed and searching for her laptop in the bottom of the second duffel bag she carries. Having been on the road for days to get up to Ohio, Jenna wanted to disguise her most expensive items, hence putting the laptop bag inside a completely frayed duffel. She plugs the device to the only outlet in the room and boosts it up.
A picture of Charlie smiling unabashedly at her from her screen, seventeen and unaware of the future that awaits her, takes Jenna down memory lane while the system gets started.
“You should have come to me, Charlie,” she laments at the other side of the bulletproof window at the military holding facility. Her sister looks wary and thin, much thinner than the last time they saw each other. “I could have helped you. Now I canʼt do anything.”
Her sister smirks but it lacks the edge Jennaʼs used to seeing in her green eyes. “Then it would have been the two of us on this side of the glass,” Charlie says. “You wouldnʼt have been able to help, Jen. No one can help me.”
“You just donʼt know,” Jenna insists, pressing on the matter. She hasnʼt been told the reasons why her sister has been arrested while on base. Jenna doesnʼt understand half of whatʼs going on, she only knows that Charlie is now held at a military prison awaiting to be court-martialed. “Lemme help you now,” she pleads, hand reaching to be placed on the glass, the tattoo on her wrist in full display. “I canʼt lose you too.”
“Youʼre not losing me,” Charlie assures her, mimicking her movement and lifting a hand to covers Jennaʼs at her side of the glass. “Weʼll get through this. But you have to go on without me.”
“Never,” Jenna vows. “I promised, remember? I will fight, Charlie. Whatever it is, we will get through it together.”
“Whatever it is?” Charlie frowns. ”You donʼt know what happened, right? They havenʼt told you.” Jenna stares at her, silently asking for an explanation, for a word to help her comprehend, but it never comes. Charlie remains silent for the longest time, her hand on the glass hovering above Jennaʼs, until itʼs time for her to leave as visitʼs time is over.
Jenna stares at her wrist tattoo, half of what it should be, the other half lost in the midst of Jesse Manesʼ wrongdoing. Sheʼs sure that the Master Sergeant is behind Charlie never reaching Marysville, but sheʼll need proof if she wants to go after him. She needs a hint as to where Charlie might be, and she needs back up if sheʼs going to face Manes about this.
Belatedly, she remembers the call she received when she was driving up to Ohio, the distress in Kyleʼs voice, the static that couldnʼt erase the words, the feeling deep down in her gut that something was utterly wrong.
The screen lights up with some webpage. Jenna peruses the Internet paying half a mind to what sheʼs doing, jumping from one document to another as she tries to write down Charlieʼs whereabouts chronologically. She knows her sister has been kept in a special military prison, sheʼs been up to visit her once a month no matter the distance whenever sheʼs been stateside. High security facilities are old friends of hers, because Charlie has been jumping from one to another for the past five years.
Sheʼs staring at her work, a timeline of dates and places that makes no sense whatsoever. She tries to find a pattern, if only to attempt to figure out where Manes has taken her sister, when she realizes sheʼs approaching this particular subject at a bad angle.
Jenna opens a different document and starts typing everything sheʼs learned about Jesse Manes in the past months, after helping Alex and Kyle with their research. She has an eidetic memory, and a good one at that; there are few details that escape her as she dutifully lists everything she knows, every place theyʼve talked about, and she does a little research about the facts that she didn’t know before that would be important – Jesse Manes is such a hero to the American military that his feats are well praised in every public forum. When sheʼs done, she leans back on the uncomfortable chair, a frown dissipating as she notices the pattern.
Every time Charlie has been moved between prisons, itʼs been to a place where Jesse Manes has been stationed. When Jenna pulls up information from way before her sister was sent to prison for committing a crime Jenna has yet to discover, she sees that the base where her sister was arrested was the one where Manes had been an instructor for months prior.
The realization hits her like a freight train.
When she chose to move to Roswell to try and qualify for a job as Deputy, sheʼd done so because Charlie had been in a prison near the base. She hadnʼt paid attention to anything else; she hadnʼt had any reason to.
A quick search tells her that Manes is no longer in Niger, but his whereabouts are not publicly disclosed. She doesnʼt need more.
Sheʼs resilient, always has been. Sheʼs a fighter. Sheʼs a sister. And right now, sheʼs a woman with a mission.
On the morning of the third day since she left, Jenna Cameron drives fast past the Welcome to Roswell sign.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Max wakes up surrounded by darkness where before he had been inside the brightest light heʼs ever seen. It takes him a moment to realize where heʼs being kept, the secluded space making him feel trapped. Images of what should have been still flash behind his eyelids when he closes them again to center himself – a throne, lightning and love, so much love it was almost unbearable to witness. They had been happy kids growing up in a world torn between war and hope. They had been heirs of a power that was larger than anything heʼs ever been aware of. They had been chosen to represent the ideals of a universe expanding further than Antar and the Earth.
He’s been witness to several milestones of his own people, small and big steps in evolving their society into something that could be grand. Max canʼt believe how blind heʼs been about their past, their history, their legacy. Michael was right – they should have dug deeper into their origins, they should have researched and tried and tested their powers while they were growing up. But Max was so scared, so terrified of what might happen to them if they were found, that he put a damper on Michaelʼs attempts at exploring their alien nature.
He now knows how much heʼs made them miss to try to feign humanity. Heʼs now seen the wonder of their race, the sheer brilliance that shines through Michaelʼs chaotic entropy and makes Isobel dizzy whenever she dives into his psyche. He now understands the beck and call of the beacon on his back, a map to the stars he could have followed so many years ago. He now believes that Isobel holds the energy of a whole galaxy in her brain.
But he only does so because heʼs seen. So much for everything he told Liz outside the caves, while Isobel was dying inside a pod.
He now has proof. He can now believe.
There are three of them in the same way he was taught when he was a child: a trinity powerful enough to heal, to walk on water, to survive and resuscitate. Now he understands why humans have always reveled in people like him, in their kind; now he knows why it looks like theyʼre gods sent to the Earth to help people.
Max Evans is a god, healing hands and power bound. Isobel Evans is a goddess, wrung out from the strength of sneaking into minds. Hell, even Michael Guerin can be considered a god, what with his power over matter and his force and determination to survive in angry surroundings.
He has to get to them.
It takes all his strength to push past the membrane surrounding the pod, keeping him sound and safe and alive, but he manages to get three of his fingers out. The cold air of the cave greets his digits; he wriggles his fingertips tentatively and gets the rest of his hand out of the pod. His wrist nestled comfortably halfway out, Max weighs his options. He could remain inside the pod, cocooned in the warmth of blissful unawareness, but on the other hand he could step out and find his way to Isobel and Michael. He could try to explain everything heʼs learned during his time in his own mind – because he doesnʼt even know how to begin describing where heʼs been – and together they could find a way back to where they belong.
A way back home, even if home is right now torn between a civil war and complete obliteration.
Max manages to push through the membrane, first his arm and then his shoulder, until his face is out and he can breathe. He hasnʼt been aware of how much he needed air until heʼs able to inhale and exhale on his own. He gets out of the pod, the memories fading into a dull thrum in the back of his mind, ready to jump forefront if needed. He finds himself in their cave, standing stark naked in the middle of the dimly lit space where he fought Noah. Thereʼs a shirt carefully folded next to a lawn chair, and a pair of trousers waiting on the floor. He recognizes Isobelʼs touch on the clothes and Michaelʼs presence on the chair, and he can even sense Liz in the way an edition of Anna Karenina is tossed aside next to the chair. Max feels deep inside that they all have been visiting, trying to keep a connection running, very much like they all did when Isobel stayed in a pod for six weeks. It makes him wonder how long heʼs been out, how they’ve covered his absence, what he’s going to face when he reaches them.
Max spends a whole minute getting dressed, trying to get a grip on his new reality. He canʼt be sure whether or not his stunt on Rosa has been successful, he canʼt know how much things have changed or if they have at all, given that there are no clocks in the cave and he canʼt even check what day it is.
Max walks out of the cave on wobbly legs, squinting his eyes against the raging sun. Thereʼs no trace of the storm that brought their old lives to an end. Max blinks slowly, one hand before his eyes acting as a visor, and he decides that walking back to his home is the best option right now – his house isnʼt that far away and the stroll might help him focus on his next step.
He needs to find Isobel and Michael, he has to tell them how wrong heʼs been, how loved and cherished they were; he has to explain who they are to their own world, he needs to tell Michael how sorry he is for not having given him enough credit whenever Michael talked about star hunting.
Max begins walking slowly, gaining security in his step as he advances, the warmth of the sun bathing him under a new halo.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
“Morning,” he greets the few deputies lurking around the space. It feels weird to be there before his mother, but sheʼs been running around trying to minimize the impact of finding out Hankʼs glowing body and Noahʼs fried corpse within thirteen hours. Roswell isnʼt cut for the drama that could ensue if word spread about how nobody really knows what happened to Hank, not even the Sheriff Department.
It feels weirder not to be greeted by Guerin in the drunk tank. Kyle flops down to a chair while he waits for his mother, who enters the precinct barrelling. “Kyle,” she breathes when she reaches him; he stands up to hug her briefly, his nostrils reveling in the sweet scent that heʼs always associated with home. “Iʼm sorry Iʼm late.”
“Itʼs okay, mom,” he reassures her with a small smile. “Youʼre on time, and the coffee has cooled down a bit.” He knows how much she hates scorching hot coffee, but she hates even more when it goes cold.
“Thanks,” she says as she opens the lid of the donut box and picks one up. “These are the best of the whole town.” Michelle eyes him suspiciously. “You usually bring some avocado toast and coffee from the Crashdown, what are you up to?”
He laughs heartily. “Guilty as charged!” he confesses. “I wanted to spoil my mom for a change.”
“I sense bad news coming my way,” she presses on. “Whatʼs it this time, Kyle?”
He rubs his neck while he sips once again from his paper cup. He doesnʼt know where to begin, because he canʼt tell her the whole truth. Itʼs been a couple of days since they found Hank, and Kyle has been trying to interfere in the autopsy but although it surely took place at the hospital morgue, there are no records of the procedure. So he settles for the easier lie. “I have to work on Thanksgiving.”
“Again?” Michelle doesnʼt conceal her disappointment. Kyle doesnʼt really blame her; heʼs been skipping Thanksgiving and any other holiday and instead working hard at the hospital several years in a row. “You promised.”
“I know. Iʼm sorry, mom. I tried to get out of it.”
“Now thatʼs a blatant lie, Kyle,” she calls out on him. He bushes slightly. “Well, I guess Iʼll take the shift here as well. Weʼre having so much work over these sudden deaths.”
Kyle recognizes an opening when he sees one, and his mother is giving him one while treating herself to her second donut. He shifts in his seat, the t-shirt heʼs wearing stretching when he leans forward. His hard workout routine is paying off; heʼd like to say that heʼs doing it for himself, but the truth is that heʼd like to get a bit more of the ladiesʼ attention, now that Liz is out of the question and the rest of interesting women in Roswell are either learning to be a widower or out of town.
“Wasnʼt Noah Bracken hit by lightning?” he asks casually.
“He was, but Hank wasnʼt, and now the Army has snatched that case from us.” Michelle doesnʼt usually complain, but when she does itʼs a sight. Kyle watches as his mother leans in as well, hair slipping out of her tight bun, and whispers, “I shouldnʼt be telling you this.”
“I wonʼt tell anyone,” he promises but it falls on deaf ears. His mom leans back into her chair and drinks from her coffee.
“Still. Weird things are happening, you know. And weʼre understaffed,” she continues.
“Jenna Cameron leaving Roswell is solely your fault,” Kyle says softly, not really intending his words to be heard. His mom does, anyway, and shoots him a sideways look.
“What was I supposed to do?” she huffs. “Let her keep her badge? Donʼt tell me how to do my job, son. I donʼt go around telling you the best way to stitch someone up.”
Kyle shuts up; he doesnʼt want to start a fight with his mother in the middle of the precinct, with so many officers around. When Max and Cam were working there, the air had been less charged. It had felt like coming home, despite Kyleʼs efforts to challenge Max every single moment.
“But youʼre right, Kyle,” she continues, drinking from her now lukewarm coffee. “Cameron would be here, if she hadnʼt been so reckless. But Evans. Evans is the biggest loss.”
Kyle nods curtly. He couldnʼt tell his mother the truth about Max Evans even if he wanted to. There are secrets better kept within the small circle of souls who know about aliens as of now. They donʼt want the group to grow, even if they have been talking about bringing Maria in – after all sheʼs now dating Guerin, or so it seems – but their parents are out of the question. Not even Isobelʼs know; Kyleʼs not about to break their trust with his own mother.
“However, Kyle, I think you can help me with this, if you donʼt mind,” his mother is saying as she stands up. “Lemme show you something.”
He waits as she grabs a folder and opens it in front of him. Heʼs staring at Hank, dead with a glowing handprint on his chest. Kyle wets his lips and waits, already not liking where this all is going. “Isnʼt this classified?”
“Have you ever seen something like this?” Michelle demands instead of acknowledging his words. “The glowing print.”
“Mom,” he begins. Kyle knows he canʼt lie to her, has never been able to. Sheʼs always been the one to see right through him.
“Tell me, Kyle,” she insists. “Have you?”
“Yes,” he admits, defeated. It seems this isnʼt his week, or probably not even his year. First heʼs overpowered by a comatose man who vanishes into thin air in the bunker. And now his mother asking questions she already knows the answers for.
When he and Alex had finally made it back to the Project Shepherd bunker – Alex free of putting a dead Max in a pod according to his own words, Kyle finally able to leave his motherʼs office after discovering hankʼs body – it was to an empty space raided by what could have been coyotes, but they knew better.
The copies of the research they had been doing were gone, as well as Jesse Manes.
Theyʼve spent the past three days trying to locate both the monster and the information, tracking them through a device Alex had put on the hard drives as a preventive measure. So far, they havenʼt had any success – it seems as though Jesse Manes and the data have been swallowed by a black hole.
Kyle comes back to the present, trying to make sense of what his mother is saying.
“Did you go to Manes?”
This catches him by surprise, the alarm in his motherʼs voice at the mere thought of him going to Jesse Manes for help. Which is exactly what had happened in the beginning – right before he owned up to an ounce of decency and roughed the Master Sergeant up a bit
“Mom?” he tilts his head to the side, scrutiny in place. “What do you know about the handprint?”
“More than you think,” she tells him. Thereʼs a small part of him who wants to scream, but he mostly remains silent, astonished. “Iʼve known about them for years. Your father wanted to protect them. We didnʼt want you involved but I guess itʼs too late now, if Jesse has already got to you.”
Kyle shakes the haze off his head and stares at her openly. “I am in no way working with him,” he promises, the thought of what could have been enough to send him shivers up his spine. “But how do you–what–?”
Michelle sits back down on her chair and leans into the wooden desk. “Max Evans. Isobel Evans. Michael Guerin. Your father wanted to help them.”
Kyle feels his throat dry. He swallows around a lump, frowning, scared and thrown off. He doesnʼt know what his mother thinks she knows, but itʼs starting to become really dangerous, the way she keeps looking at him. “What about them?” he finally replies. His voice breaks just a little.
“Theyʼre aliens, Kyle,” his mother tells him, as though talking to a small child. “But you already knew that.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Alex takes a moment to drink in the scene in front of him as he saunters toward the counter for balance. Heʼs come to the bar to talk to Maria, because itʼs been three days since the call for help he got from her. Alex didnʼt need much more to connect the dots – Michael had gone to Maria instead of coming back to the Airstream to talk to Alex. It had hurt like a bitch, more so when he had faced Michael in that cave where they had put Max to rest. Alex shakes his head to clear it and comes back to the present, where Michael is painting a new collage of blood and sweat on Mariaʼs floor.
He can recognize Wyatt Long in the face beaten to a pulp that smiles bloody up to Michael, tall and broad clad in all black. Michael has his hands in fists held up in front of his chest, and his stance wobbles a little. Alex has the inkling that, were he to approach them right now, he would smell whiskey and acetone off Michaelʼs breathe.
“Alex,” Maria sighs when he grips the counter with unsteady fingers. “I wish you didnʼt have to watch this.” She gets from behind the bar and attempts to make her way over the fighting couple. “I will take care of this, and then we can talk, alright?”
Alex shakes his head again. “Lemme try,” he suggests. “Heʼs drunk, right?”
“Both of them are,” Maria says through gritted teeth, cloth in the hand thatʼs not boring a hole in her own counter. “Itʼs been a constant these days,” and it comes out more as a whine than a complaint, as though she is exhausted of this situation already.
Alex wants to tell her that this has only just begun – that Michael is spiraling and thereʼs not a thing they can do to stop him because the only ones capable of reigning him in are either dead or grieving. But he canʼt tell Maria that because his friend – and he still thinks of Maria as a friend after all – doesnʼt really know what has been going on in Roswell.
Thatʼs yet another secret that Alex has to keep, along with every other painful silence heʼs got to sit through when all he wanted to do was scream the truth from the rooftops.
“I will manage to get Guerin back into your office,” he promises. “Iʼll even lock the door.”
“As if thatʼs going to keep him,” Maria sighs again. She lets go of the counter and wraps her arms around herself. “Last time he managed to get out.”
Alex remembers the shock of seeing Michael at the cave, disheveled and crazy and lost, so lost that not even a beacon would have brought him home. He sighs as well. “He has this talent for picking up at locks,” he offers as only explanation before getting near to both Guerin and Long. Maria yelps when he comes close enough to have to dodge a punch from Long. “Stop it right now,” he asks politely, trying to convey as much authority as he can in only four words.
Guerin doesnʼt seem to recognize him through the haze of blood and alcohol, and surges forward. Alex catches him mid-movement, shaky frame collapsing on top of him. Thereʼs a loaded weight in those shoulders that tremble under the barest touch. “Letʼs go, Guerin,” he says gently, ignoring Wyatt Long when he should have been paying attention.
Heʼs so engrossed in keeping Michael upright that he doesnʼt see the hit coming. A fist collides with his jaw out of the blue, Long exclaiming victoriously, “Now you know, you bastard!” loud enough for everyone to hear. Alex doesnʼt really want to drop Michael like a dead weight on the floor, filthy already with dripping blood, but Long keeps pushing and since the first punch hit home heʼs trying for the neck and the chest. Alex doesnʼt think, his instincts take over as he lets go of Michael and turns around to face Long in a swift, graceful movement. He simply stretches his hands forward, catches some bones and flesh, twists around the edge, and in less than five seconds Wyatt Long is a sobbing mess mopping the floor with his stained shirt. “Leave, now,” he commands before turning to Michael. “Letʼs go, Guerin,” he repeats as he dusts off his jacket. “You need to sober up for the funeral.”
"“lex,” Michael spits. Alex realizes that maybe heʼs missing a couple of teeth. “Hurts.”
“I know it hurts,” Alex whispers softly. There are so many things he would love to say to Michael right now, so many jabs that would only leave him in pain again. He just sighs, aware thatʼs the only thing he ever does anymore near Michael. “Letʼs just get you to the office, and I will give you something for the pain. Cʼmon, Guerin,” he urges as he helps Michael off the floor. “Let me help you.”
The bar has become eerily silent as he forces his way off the middle of the pool tables, but once he lifts his gaze from Michael and allows it to wander around, everyone seems too busy minding their own business. He waves to Maria, whoʼs staring at them with an indecipherable look in her eyes. “Be right back,” he mouths as he drags Michael to the back of the bar and into Mariaʼs office, closing the door behind him.
The cowboy simply flops on the couch and smashes his face into a pillow. He falls asleep almost instantly, allowing Alex a moment to admire his curls, beautiful even matted by sweat and blood, and his healed hand underneath a poorly tied bandana. “Who are you trying to fool?” he mutters as he bites back the need to reach out and untangle the frayed material to see the flesh. “This isnʼt healthy.” His therapist would have a field day if he ever told her about this; not for the first moment heʼs thankful for them being aliens so he doesnʼt have to talk about everything happening in his life.
He retreats back to the main hall, where Maria has managed to appease the patrons long enough for them to be drinking and buzzing away quietly. “Hey,” he says as he sits on a stool, pretty much mimicking the same stance he had when he came to talk to her about what happened in Texas.
“Hey yourself,” she replies, small smile on her lips. Alex can tell she is nervous. He would be, were he in her shoes, because everythingʼs so fucked up right now that even though he knows what he wants to say he isnʼt sure whether this conversation wonʼt end with them parting ways forever. “What do you want?”
“Water for now,” he tells her. Itʼs barely noon, and although all he wants is to get drunk to forget Michaelʼs stunts and his own heartbreak, he needs to be sober for Noahʼs funeral. “Are you going to the funeral later?”
Maria shrugs. “I wouldnʼt, under normal circumstances,” she explains. “Regina George isnʼt my favorite person in this world. But Guer seems to like her enough.”
“He considers her his sister,” Alex says before he can stop himself, fingers around the cool glass Maria has placed before him. “Theyʼre family.”
“Are they, for real?”
Alex nods as he sips from the water. “Not sure about genetics,” and he hates to talk in riddles and half truths around his best friend, but itʼs necessary since it isnʼt his secret to tell. “I just know they were together in the group home when they were found in the desert. Whatever happened to them, it brought them closer.”
Maria looks at him with guarded eyes. She leans in, hovering above him but not touching. “You really know him, donʼt you?”
Alex closes his eyes, hurt bubbling up inside of him. But he promised himself that he wouldnʼt walk away – he would respect Michaelʼs decisions, even if they killed him, because thatʼs what real family does. Not that he should know, with his own family fuck ups, but itʼs some sort of wishful thinking. “I do,” he admits. “But thatʼs not the point here.”
Maria finally touches his hand where it’s gripping the glass, and squeezes tight. “I didnʼt know, Alex,” she begins. The pain is evident in her voice. “If I had known–”
“I didnʼt tell you,” Alex cuts her off. He doesnʼt want her pity, but he needs her as a friend. He has to be adult enough about this whole situation. “How would you know?”
“But then I knew, you told me,” she keeps on. “I knew and still I followed up with this and I canʼt believe I took Lizʼs word for–”
Itʼs like sheʼs physically punched him, the way she speaks. “Liz?”
“I might have told her Michael was your Museum Guy,” Maria confesses. “I never should have, and I shouldnʼt have followed her advice.”
“She told you to go for it,” Alex understands now. Even though itʼs painful, he kind of sees where they both are coming from – he never told his best friends that Michael was much more than a fling or a hookup. He never even told them back while they were still young and naive that he was the guy Alex would have given up everything for. It takes him a minute to reconcile with the fact that this is his fault as much as theirs. “Iʼm sorry, Maria.”
“Why would you be sorry?” Maria sounds baffled. Alex looks up at her to see tears in her eyes. “I will break up with him, Alex. I like him, but he isn’t worth risking a lifetime friendship.”
“You like him,” Alex smiles softly. “The thing is, Maria, that he likes you too. He must,” he continues when she tries to talk over him. “Because he left me waiting and came to you. Heʼs been through so much lately,” Alex whispers mostly to himself, but he knows Maria catches up in his words. “He needs someone stable, someone who wonʼt be ashamed.”
“Are you ashamed of Michael?” Thereʼs a horrified pitch in her voice. Alex lowers his head again. Itʼs painful to be the bigger man and deny himself what heʼs been too scared to seek for so long. Itʼs painful to watch Michael try to be whole with someone else.
“I am not,” he clarifies. “I was ashamed of myself, I guess.”
“Alex.” Thereʼs a strain in her voice that he doesnʼt like, that he canʼt bear hearing. “I donʼt want this to be–”
“I know what itʼs like to fall in love with Michael Guerin,” he says, trying to help her understand that heʼs not mad, at least not at her. Itʼs been three days since Michael left him back at the Airstream, three days since the cave and Max. Heʼs seething, but he canʼt blame Maria. If anything, he should blame himself and his always ill-timed decisions.
“You are in love with him,” she quips. Her eye scan his face as though she can read his soul.
“I was,” he lies, because thereʼs not past tense in his feelings; there hasnʼt been a stop to them. “For a long time. Chose to tell him way too late. He came to you instead. That means something, Maria.”
“He said weʼd talk, but we havenʼt,” she laments. The shift in the conversation is noticeable. Alex decides not to dwell too much on how his heart is breaking.
“Everythingʼs been intense for him lately,” he settles for saying. “Isobelʼs husband, and now Max Evans–”
“I wouldnʼt have pegged you for a gossip, Alex Manes,” she hits him playfully with the cloth. The rumor mill says that Max Evans has gone missing while searching for Noah Bracken, and that the lack of traces about his whereabouts now that his brother-in-law has been found dead means that heʼs going to show up in similar circumstances. Alex knows better, but nowʼs not the time to correct Maria. Itʼs still not his secret to tell. “But youʼre right. It seems heʼs been under so much stress.”
“And yet he came to you.”
“Do you know what happened to his hand?” she asks out of the blue, killing the uncomfortable silence between them. He shakes his head.
“Maybe you should ask him,” he offers. Lies and secrets are heavy in his soul, regret in Michaelʼs hazel eyes whenever they lock gazes — Alex can’t stand to even look at his left fingers out of shame and blame, but he can’t stop himself from stealing glances whenever he’s around the cowboy. It isn’t his place to say anything, even if he wants to. He could tell her about the shed and the hammer and the hatred and the fear, but he doesnʼt think it will help her understand that heʼs not mad at her. It’s still not just his secret to tell.
“Maybe I should.”
“Be patient,” he tells her, pushing himself off the stool. “He needs a friend right now, and I can be that, but he needs to be loved more than that. Thatʼs why he came to you.”
Maria sighs. “Alex,” she repeats.
“Weʼll be okay,” he promises, even if his heart is breaking at the memory of Michael passed out on someone elseʼs couch. “I promise.”
Maria doesnʼt look convinced, head turning from the door of her office to Alex, but finally she relents. “I guess Iʼll see you at the funeral?”
Alex nods. “Just, donʼt be a stranger.” He smiles crookedly. “We all could use a friend, after all.” And with that he leaves the bar, limp ever present in his strides, his heart turned to shreds at his own feet.
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
The hatch opens, and she can see a pair of shoes followed by her sister in the Crashdown uniform. Rosa sighs. “Came to see the prisoner?”
“Rosa,” Liz admonishes. Sheʼs even wearing the antennae, Rosa can see them when Liz lands on the floor with a small jump, at ease with her surroundings. Sheʼs been told that Michael Guerin and Liz worked together in the bunker under the Airstream for six weeks straight after some incident with Isobel Evans, but Rosa hasnʼt retained all the information.
Sheʼs not really interested in anything that has to do with the person who drove her nuts during her last days on Earth, and who, apparently, was possessed to kill her in that cave. Rosa doesnʼt want to forgive, she doesnʼt want to forget. The only memories she has are from her very last moments – the way Katie and Jasmine were sprawled on the ground, broken beyond repair, the way Isobelʼs eyes had gleamed with a fiery red light, the heat against her mouth as Isobel pressed her glowing hand on Rosaʼs lips, and the void afterwards.
It had felt like falling endlessly, and although for Rosa it had only been some hours, itʼs evident that time has passed for everyone else. Ten years, she often thinks to herself. Iʼm now the baby sister.
“Rosa,” Liz is calling her name again, and she knows sheʼs spaced out. “Iʼve brought you some lunch,” she continues, waving a take-away bag from the Crashdown. Rosa shrugs.
“Iʼm not hungry,” she replies.
“Well, you have to eat, hermanita,” Liz retorts.
“I want to go out,” Rosa begs, turning around in the bunker thatʼs not hers, facing a cot thatʼs not at all hers, surrounded by alien technology that she didnʼt even ask to acknowledge. “Quiero ver a papá, please take me to him.”
“You know I canʼt,” Liz says apologetically, leaving the bag with the food on top of the backlit table in the middle of the room. “Not until we figure out how to bring you officially back. Alex is working on that, but heʼs got so much going on right now.”
Rosa huffs. She wants to kick something, but she knows Guerin will give her a lecture if she breaks anything down here – heʼs been kind enough to allow her to stay underneath his trailer when it became obvious that she had nowhere else to go. Right after getting Max Evans into a pod – and that image is going to haunt her for eternity – Alex had discovered that his safe place had been compromised. Rosa hadnʼt understood half of what was said, something about a military bunker and some breach in security, but she got two things: Jesse Manes was on the loose, and she had no place to stay the night. Alex hadnʼt wanted her back with him at the cabin outside the woods, the same place where Jim Valenti had taken her for a detox tour before she fled, because Alex was afraid that his father would show up.
She hadnʼt comprehended why Jesse Manes was so dangerous now that they were all grown-ups, but she hadnʼt questioned Alexʼs reasons – not when he was using his authority voice, one she hadnʼt heard him use ever. Rosa had been so worried about her little brother in arms when sheʼd been alive, and now that sheʼs back she still worries about Alex. Although heʼs a military man, and heʼs been to hell and back, heʼll always be her compi.
“Iʼm not hungry,” she repeats to the void in front of her. “I want to get out of here, Liz.”
“Iʼm sorry,” Liz replies at her back. Thereʼs rustling, so when Rosa turns around to face her sister again she sees how Liz has taken two burritos and one giant Coke out of the bag. “I canʼt let you out, not now. Soon enough, Rosa, prometido.”
Rosa knows she canʼt believe her. Thereʼs so much to do, so many things to take into account. Sheʼs been dead for a decade, and she hasnʼt aged a bit thanks to the pod Noah Bracken had put her in. She doesnʼt have any conscious memories of the man, because all their interactions have been through Isobel; she didnʼt recognize him when Liz showed her some pictures. But thereʼs a voice haunting her dreams, turning them into nightmares. She shakes her head and picks up one burrito. The smile that splits Lizʼs face in two is worth it.
“So, whatʼs the deal with Guerin and Alex?” she questions instead of the million doubts that plague her mind, while Liz leans in to sip from their shared Coke. “Iʼdʼve thought theyʼd sorted their shit by now.”
“Wait, what?” Liz whips her head up from the straw, Coke dribbling down her chin. “You knew?”
“Who didnʼt?” Rosa chirps. When sheʼs met with silence, she frowns. “You didnʼt,” she says, more a statement than a question. “Dios mío, you didnʼt!”
“I donʼt think anyone did, to be honest.” Liz chews down on her burrito and swallows before continuing. Thereʼs sauce on her lip. “I guess Max sensed something, at some point, given the connection they all share, but thatʼs all. Mikey and Alex were never–you know, it was just–”
“You can say the words, Elizabeth,” Rosa jabs at her. “Donʼt be a prude.”
“Iʼm not!” she defends herself, much to Rosaʼs delight. “I just–Youʼre only nineteen!”
“Iʼm still your big sister, Liz, tell me all the juicy details!” Her jokes are met with silence and a pensive stance from Liz.
“I donʼt know,” Liz finally sighs, after what feels like a lifetime. “I thought that they had a fling during high school, and that it didnʼt last, but now that I know some things–it seems Michaelʼs Alexʼs Museum Guy.” She pauses for effect. “It seems Alex has been pining after him for a decade, and they had something right before this whole nightmare. But Mikeyʼs with Maria now, so I donʼt know.”
Rosa holds back a witty remark. She has the feeling that it wonʼt be welcomed, not now that Liz is lost deep in her thoughts. “I think it seems easy to know.”
“Oh, it doesnʼt. Apparently Max healed Michaelʼs hand before getting to you. Without Michaelʼs consent.”
“Oh, yeah, the hand healing that has had you all riled up for three days. How did Michael break it in the first place? Everyone keeps saying it looked horrible.” And by everyone, Rosa means Kyle Valenti, whoʼs been down that ladder far more times than she would have expected. Heʼs on a quest to reconcile with his past and get to know her now that heʼs aware that they are related.
“I actually donʼt know,” Liz confesses. “He never wanted to talk about it. All I know is that it happened sometime between when I last saw you and the moment Isobel went after you in the caves.”
Rosa nods her head. She doesnʼt have any more questions, not now, and even if she had, she knows that Liz wonʼt answer any. Sheʼs already dusting off her uniform and straightening her antennae. Half her burrito is forgotten over the table. “I have to leave,” she excuses herself. “I still have a shift at the café, and then itʼs Noahʼs funeral. I need to go.”
“To mourn the murderer?” Rosa canʼt help but say.
“No,” Liz talks back, already at the end of the ladder and ready to climb up. “To pay homage to the hero.” And with that, she begins her ascent. Before she gets completely out of the bunker, Liz cracks her head backwards awkwardly and stares straight into Rosaʼs eyes. “I will be back after the funeral. The test results on your blood samples should be done by then, and Alex wanted to check on you.”
She disappears into the wide open outside world, leaving Rosa completely alone with her thoughts.
Sheʼs just a bystander now, witnessing as a life she was never supposed to have slips through her fingers in a place full of secrets and whispered half-truths. Nobody talks about the mysterious disappearance of Max Evans, since they all seemed to have settled for a rumor that Isobel had helped spread – or so Liz has told Rosa. No one cares about aliens. Nobody wants answers, so nobody asks.
No one knows about the girl who shouldnʼt be alive, rotting away in a bunker underneath the surface with only her memories and the suffocating pain emanating from the handprint she still has on her skin, proof that sheʼs alive and that he died. Proof that religion had one thing down right.
The wraith walks among the living.
“This town is haunted,” she speaks to the silence surrounding her when her sister leaves, closing the hatch in her wake and pulling the trailer back on top of it with the force of a truckʼs engine. “And I am the ghost.”
~ * ~ * ~ * ~
Not for the first time, Isobel muses about how it must be to have an overbearing mother who fusses around her and worries too much. Sheʼs the one to blame for Annʼs behavior ever since Isobel hit puberty – with their powers on the fritz while their teenage selves learned to accommodate to their new bearings, Max hadnʼt wanted to risk anything. She was forced to distance herself from her own parents, from the people who helped her and took her in when she had nothing. Still, she resents her parents for not reaching out to Michael, for leaving him behind. Itʼs tough to constantly feel torn.
Max and Michael. Theyʼre the crux of everything for her.
Max isnʼt around to be blamed for her pain. Sheʼs been told that Michael put him in one of the pods, since she hadnʼt been able to be there. Noah had spoiled it for her as well, just another way for her late husband to fuck her over. Max is gone, although she can still feel a hum in the back of her mind, a hum that Liz has told her Max didnʼt feel when Isobel was in the pod. It gives her hope while she lies to everyone, her mother and father included, and tells them that sheʼs destroyed over the fact that Max is missing.
Lies and more lies, the main pain in her soul rippling through her whenever she thinks that Noah has taken everything from her – her agency, her life, her brothers. Max is in a pod and Michael –
Michaelʼs entering the church in his big black cowboy hat, Maria DeLuca pushing him through the doors. Isobel sighs again as she steps off the altar and walks toward the entrance to greet them. When she reaches them, she stops at an armʼs length, taken aback by how bad Michael looks.
Heʼs swaying a bit, and the odor tells her heʼs already been drinking. If it werenʼt for the smell, she could have guessed his inebriation from his dark, bloodshot eyes. Isobel lives in a permanent state of worry about him, ever since he came back to Roswell at eleven and got pushed back into the system that had separated them for those first four years. Although sheʼs glad that he has Maria now, despite Isobelʼs own feelings about her, Michael doesnʼt seem a bit happy when Maria is around. Isobel lies to herself, trying to convince her worries that itʼs just because of Max and that when Max comes back to life – when they bring him back – Michael will come back to his usual self.
Underneath the lies, Isobel knows the truth, though. Michael has never been happy, not really, until Alex Manes entered the picture. He had been sulky and angry, and suddenly Isobel had felt hope and future in his mind when she dared to risk it and walk through it. After the summer when she killed Rosa, that changed.
Michael, she muses to herself as she finally takes the last step and hugs him, is his usual self when heʼs drunk and lost. The bubbling hope had been a glitch in the system that supports his permanent anger.
“Iʼm glad youʼre here,” she whispers into Michaelʼs curls when he hugs her back. “Thanks for coming.”
“Anything for you, Iz,” he replies. Thereʼs no slur in his voice, but the hint of acetone in his breath in enough for Isobel to understand how much heʼs hurting without entering the chaotic realm of his mind.
For the last three days, Isobel has wondered how Michael was coping. Sheʼs barely been out of her house at all – except when she had to go to the morgue at the hospital to recognize Noahʼs electrified body, as if she hadnʼt seen it the first time. Afterwards, her mother had come pick her up and sheʼs been trapped between her own walls, sorting through Noahʼs belongings and explaining why their pictures were busted while Ann organized the funeral.
Itʼs the first event she hasnʼt planned herself in a long time, and Isobel couldnʼt be more at a loss.
Michael had hidden from her the whole time. After their shared experience with Max in the void of black, Isobel hasnʼt heard from him. Sheʼs tried calling the human way, reaching out to him by phone, but Michael always lets her go to voicemail, so she wasnʼt sure if he would actually show up –if only to check that Noah is effectively dead. It isnʼt a surprise to see him with Maria – the rumor mill has reached Isobel too – but she wants the only brother she has left to be happy, and thereʼs an aura of despair around him. They had talked about family and Caulfield briefly in between Noah and Rosa, so Isobel knows heʼs partly grieving the loss of his mom, but it doesnʼt take a genius to understand that the tether Michael had to this planet, before, is almost severed from his darkened soul.
He doesnʼt say anything else, and Maria helps him sit on a bench by the back of the church. Isobel goes back to the altar, and itʼs there her mother finds her ten minutes later, with the aisle full of people searching for a seat and ready to give her their condolences. She just wants everything to end, because she doesnʼt like the idea of having to keep on lying about who sheʼs crying for.
“How are you feeling, dear?” Ann asks, her long blonde hair falling in waves at her back. Isobel wants to tell her that sheʼs feeling self-conscious in her black dress, right above the knees, and her own hair in a neat ponytail that sways from left to right when she walks – she never thought she’d be the lamenting widow, and it’s the first time in her adult life that she doesn’t feel like she fits in. She’s just lost in her grief, although it isn’t grief for her husband – she’s mourning something else she can’t share with her mother.
“Iʼve been better,” she admits. “This is hard.”
Her mother gives her a pitying look and an awkward pat on the shoulder. She proceeds to scan the crowd from their spot on the altar, where Isobel is getting ready to give her speech – something halfway between heartfelt and sickening, since sheʼs thrown up twice while thinking about it, and twice more while actually writing it down. “Ew,” Ann says, bringing Isobelʼs focus to the present. “One would have thought he would have had a bit more class and not come at all.”
Isobel follows her motherʼs gaze to land her eyes on Michael, fidgeting in his seat and trying not to flinch whenever Maria touches him. Somehow, the way her mother talks about Michael – has been talking about him ever since high school and their blatant refusal to take him in because heʼs got a foster home and if heʼs living in his truck itʼs probably because heʼs trouble – sets fire inside of her, and she turns to her mother so fast that her head is spinning quicker than her ponytail.
“Stop it right now,” she says, voice filled with authority and derision. “Stop talking about Michael like that. Enough.”
“Honey, I donʼt think youʼre in the right mind–”
“I said enough,” her voice is vicious. She revels in the fact that her mother looks like sheʼs slapped her across the face. “I know you donʼt recognize him, but Michael is my brother. He was there at the group home when you adopted us,” she keeps on, not allowing her mother to interrupt. “Heʼs the troubled child you left behind. So no, donʼt go talking about him like that. Iʼve already lost a husband, we donʼt know where Max is,” yet another lie burning in her tongue, “and I will not allow anyone to talk about my other brother like that.”
Isobel watches as realization dawns on Ann Evans, the perfect housewife whoʼs spent the past twenty years of her life fiercely denying that her actions had any impact on a childʼs life. “I didnʼt know,” she says apologetically, but Isobel is having none of that.
“That doesnʼt make up for the fact that youʼve been treating him like shit and Iʼve allowed it.” Isobel grips the coffin with her manicured hands until her knuckles are white. “But thatʼs going to change, now.”
Her mother nods mutely, and goes to sit front row with her father, whoʼs looking at them with a frown. Isobel ignores them both, instead walking to stand in front of the crowd when the priest signals for the choir to begin singing so the ceremony can start.
She catches Lizʼs eyes as she sits with Arturo, both dressed in black and wearing matching grieving looks. Isobel knows that Liz is the only one apart from Michael that can get what sheʼs feeling right now. She sees Kyle entering a bit late with Sheriff Valenti in tow, seemingly distressed with hands shaking nervously. By the end of the church, she spots Alex, sitting on his own looking down as though heʼs praying.
She wants to address them, not sure if she wants to reassure them that everything will turn out right in the end or if she needs them to tell her that this time they win. They get to have their happy ending.
The ceremony begins, and she feels the pull of dissociation where she gets to leave her body and forget anything thatʼs happening – one of the side effects of having Noah in her mind for so long.
Isobel doesnʼt remember half of it, only bits and pieces of the priestʼs words and her own speed, and suddenly sheʼs sitting sandwiched between her parents, cheeks tear-stricken as the choir sings about everlasting love even from the afterlife. If only they knew.
Her pain becomes anger when she thinks about everything Noah has taken from her – sheʼs now the widow of Roswell, a beacon and an example, but she only feels hatred. Because of Noah sheʼs spent the last ten years thinking Michael was a murderer, and thatʼs something she has to learn to forgive herself for before she can ask for atonement. But also because of Noah she doesnʼt know who she really is, and sheʼs lost half of her soul thatʼs now sitting in a pod she still has to visit.
Noah gave her wings, but they were loaded with wax as he sent her flying toward the sun.
The haze of the funeral drifts into the haste of the reception in the house she shared with Noah, people offering wishes and advice that she doesnʼt need. She needs a punching bag. She needs a glass of wine. She needs a gun and a target.
She needs Noah to be alive so she can kill him with her bare hands and the melting force of her brain.
Isobel doesnʼt notice something is wrong until sheʼs faced with Michael clutching his head with his right hand, the left one in an ugly bandana. She realizes then that sheʼs swaying in place and the people in front of her are swimming under her sight.
“Whatʼs going on?” Michael asks at the same time as she feels a scream growing from the deepest of her mind, the place where sheʼs pushed Max and their shared connection.
Isobel grabs Michael by the hem of his shirt and pushes him into the nearest room, which happens to be Noah’s in-home office. She barely manages to close the door at her back before the pain hits her in waves once again. Bile threatens to rise in her throat, and sheʼs shuddering. Thereʼs a pull in her mind, a slow but firm prodding that tugs at her heartstrings and plucks at the edges of her mind. She can tell Michael feels it too, because heʼs pale and shivering as well, and in her mind she can feel him yelling into the chaos as the pain consumes him.
In the midst of their convulsions, Isobel doesnʼt realize her hands have begun to glow – red, angry – until she hears two confused yelps by the door that didnʼt actually close properly, matching the fear sheʼs got conquering her insides.
When both of them turn around, they meet Ann and Maria, who are staring at them bewildered. “What does this all mean?” Maria manages to ask before Ann Evans collapses by her side, fainting under the stress of watching the sheer unhuman nature of her own daughter.