Something For The Pain
Roswell, Michael/Liz (implied Max/Liz and Michael/Maria), spoilers through "Chant Down Babylon". Not mine. Never were, never will be. Which is a shame, since every woman could use her very own Michael.
When strength meets strength and will battles will, he may find what he needs to forgive himself.
He breathed. Shallow. In, out, with no motivation but habit.
Sometimes I read my old LJ entries back, and this part of the first line meme always cracks me up. “He breathed.” Well I should hope so. Otherwise, this is going to be over pretty quickly.
The air had settled around him, thick and heavy, displaced by swift pulls through flared nostrils and short streams past parted lips. Time had ceased to be, though the sun had set an eon ago. A shade-less lamp sat in the corner, two of its bulbs long burned out, the third dimming steadily under the pressure of being the sole source of light. Soft white had given way to watts of muted yellow, and its twisted wire core would flash and fade, spark and falter, its weak glow fighting a losing battle with the shadows. It roared as it waged war with the dark, a steady hum with its own current, the only sound within the walls.
Have I ever mentioned how grateful I am that my melodrama meter is no longer set on “out of orbit”? Bit of backstory – this fic wasn’t like my other bunnies. It didn’t start as an idea, or even a snippet, like most of my others do. It was this scene. A dark room, Michael mourning in the only way he knows how. It was powerful in my head, a little haunting, and I wanted that to translate on paper.
That said, I think there was a long while in there when I got a little obsessed with stringing words together because I could. Apparently my momma never taught me that you can indeed have too much of a good thing, prose included.
The footfalls were silent, the door betrayed nothing. But one only had to know her to know she would come. And he didn’t need to hear her to know she was there.
He breathed, and he waited.
Loneliness has found a home in me…
Dude, I wrote songfic to Bon Jovi. I did slice, dice, and generally mutilate the lyrics to suit my own nefarious purposes, but still… Bon Jovi songfic, for Roswell. There are so many fanbrat levels of wrong in that it’s not even funny.
A swift intake of breath punctuated the moment she rounded the corner, sounding in sharp contrast to the rote supply of air that barely filled his lungs. He felt her pause in the doorway, taking in the still sight of him, and then she moved again, pressing forward slowly but steadily.
The light eclipsed, and her black pumps halted before him, bleeding into the darkness of the floor, barely visible in his downcast vision and partially obscured by limp hands that hung over bent knees. He didn’t look up, his eyes trained on rounded leather toes. Slim ankles seemed to quiver, briefly, fleetingly, but she masked their moment of weakness by inching closer, feet shuffling over the floorboards.
This was the other part of it, the notion that Liz would absolutely be the person to challenge this self-imposed solitude. Maria, in my head, would do what was best for her by doing what she thinks is best for Michael: leaving him alone. It’s yet another piece of Polar fanon that I’ve latched onto, perhaps the biggest piece. That they not only know each other a hell of a lot better than they realize, or will ever readily admit, but understand each other. Hence the Michael waiting. (And breathing. We must not forget the breathing.)
His name left her lips as a question, shaky and unsure, as if the figure before her – dark suit rumpled, striped tie half-knotted like a noose come undone – was unrecognizable. But he’d looked the same the last time he’d seen his reflection, stony mask betrayed only by the unchecked guilt in his eyes, right before the self-disgust had morphed into blinding rage.
Slivers of the cloudy mirror still littered one corner of the bedroom floor.
Wordy as it may be, I still love this bit.
I lost my faith when I hit reality…
“There’s food in the kitchen. It’s from the Crash, but I just figured you hadn’t eaten anything. You know, if you’ve been… here all day.”
Chin still hovering above his chest, he clenched his jaw and prepared for the inevitable. For the anger and the accusations. She had blamed them for the loss of someone she loved before, and rightly so. Their lives, their origins, their destiny, had stolen Alex from her.
This time, he was the only one left to blame.
Long before “Oh, Dean”, there was “Oh, Michael.” (Of course, “Oh, Pacey” started it all, but that’s beside the point.) There’s something really seductive in seeing a character at their worst, their lowest, their darkest, and that’s what this piece was ultimately all about. Not only Michael hiding from failure, which he’s always feared, but coming to the realization that he’d never truly failed until this point.
“I…” She swallowed, but the censure didn’t come. “Everyone looked for you. They kind of… expected you to be there.” Her feet shifted at his answering silence. “I guess they just want to know if you’re okay.”
What’s that? A Lizspeak mid-sentence ellipsis, you say? Score!
Smirking mirthlessly, he snorted, as if her naiveté was amusing.
Outrage at his absence, he suspected, had less to do with concern than it did with the pressing need for an explanation. But it wasn’t the idea of facing the firing squad, of fielding questions to which he had no answers, that had kept him away. It was the visual. The thought of watching the long wooden boxes lowered side by side, one appallingly full and the other chillingly empty…
I’ve tried to need someone, like they needed me…
“Maria thought, um, maybe you needed some time,” she offered softly, voice thin as the excuse.
A chuckle wound its way free of his throat, the harsh scratch foreign as it emerged. He hadn’t heard his own voice in hours, days… He also hadn’t heard from his ex since he’d confirmed her best friend’s prophetic moment, hadn’t seen her since before she’d left for New York. Not that he could blame her. First Alex, now this… It was too much for any human being to take and maintain their sanity.
He wasn’t even human, and he was barely holding on to his own.
It was important for neither of them to blame Maria for staying away. Not only because Liz wouldn’t, but because it would be something so trivial and minute to Michael at this moment that he honestly wouldn’t care, not about her absence or the motivation behind it. As for that last line, I truly believe this is the moment when he’d feel the most alien. We caught a glimpse of it after Pierce, but this is something altogether different.
“Yeah?” He spoke hoarsely to the floor, absently running a fingertip over one thumbnail. “Then why are you here?”
She didn’t take any time to consider the question, but then, he already knew the answer. “She thought. I didn’t.”
Still no blame in it, just Liz stating the facts. Friendship aside, she and Maria are very different people. If she’d actually told Maria she was going, I wouldn’t be surprised in the least.
“Obviously.” His eyes clamped shut. “Go home, Liz.”
“I can’t,” she replied. “Not until you know…“ The strength in her voice startled him, and he resisted the urge to raise his head. She’d bypassed the pleasantries, the small talk that made him dread conversation with women, and cut right to the chase. Under any other circumstances, he might have been mildly impressed.
I opened up my heart, and all I did was bleed…
“It was an accident, Michael. None of this was your fault. And nobody holds you responsible.”
Blame he’d been prepared for, but pity and condescension caught him off guard. The tendons in his neck screamed in protest as his eyes jerked to hers, and resentment pooled in his gut at all the deep brown sympathy he found in her steady gaze.
It’s still interesting that he interpreted her words that way, as it’s not what I originally intended. But everything works out for the best, I suppose.
“Until I know?” He ground out words between gritted teeth. “You have no idea what happened in there.”
“You fought for Isabel. Even Jesse recognizes that. You tried – ”
Fists clenched in his lap, nails digging into his palms. “I hold me responsible.” He fought the anger welling in the pit of his stomach, rose on leaden legs to stay above the rage, determined not to feel. “So I don’t need you creeping in here with your savior cap on, telling me it’s not my fault. Because you don’t know shit.”
I flat-out love this. I do. That he, buried below rock bottom, actually steps up and says “it’s my fault” without it being about comfort or forgiveness, just ugly truth as he knows it, is unequivocally Michael.
She nodded, the motion echoing with resolve, but her eyes held his, blazed in the dim light, radiating every emotion he was denying himself.
“You’re right, Michael.” Her voice shook, not with weakness but with determination, with bitterness, with a stone-cold fury that erased his height advantage and made her seem ten feet tall. “I mean, how could I know what it’s like to feel responsible? To blame myself because someone I love is dead? I wouldn’t have a clue.”
His mouth flattened into a tight line as pins and needles crawled up his calves. Alex’s death had been brutal, on all of them… But it didn’t compare, not to what he’d done. What he’d failed to do.
Again, owning the blame. Sure, it’s ill-placed and undeserved, but… Strength in weakness. Mark of a great man.
I’ve been dangling from a hangman’s noose…
“It’s not the same,” he growled. “I was supposed to protect them.”
“Says who?” she snapped back. Her tone was worn around the edges, beginning to show the faint signs of exasperation. “Keeping you safe, all of you… That was Nasedo’s duty. It was Kal’s.”
Grim features twisted at the mention of their wayward guardian, hardened, and briefly he wondered if the remaining shapeshifter had known, as Liz had. If he’d rejoiced the moment his king had burst into flames.
I’m still convinced that, in this state of mind, Michael would kill Kal with his bare hands. Which would be even more of a waste of Joey Pants than his appearance on the show was.
Her head tilted almost pleadingly. “It wasn’t your job to protect them, Michael. Just because you took it into your own hands doesn’t make it true.”
In his mind, he could still see his outstretched palm, see Isabel’s long fingers stretching into his peripheral vision. He could still hear her scream as she fell away, echoing over the residual pop of gunfire. And he could still feel her skin, sallow with the blood loss, growing cold in the cocoon of his hands.
His hands. Hands that hadn’t been able save her.
In my mind, losing Max is one thing, and losing Isabel is another. There’s a bond there that never existed between Michael and Max – Isabel as confidant, as defender, as the first person who made him feel viable and wanted in a world where he was essentially on his own. Maybe that’s the past life talking, though I’m certainly not a Cliffie, but there was always something extra between them. Understanding, maybe. Acceptance.
Liz spoke again, and her voice came to him as if she were underwater. Floating. Drowning.
Maybe they both were.
“Michael – ”
“I killed them.”
The grit and gravel of his voice seemed to bounce of the walls. She stepped back as the last syllable slipped free, enough for him to feel the air shift, and for a moment she looked stricken, as if hearing the words had deflated her argument, withered her resolve. Her face paled, and she blinked wide eyes, once, twice, her mouth moving inaudibly, almost of its own volition.
They don’t make a bandage that’s going to cover my bruise…
“No,” she countered thinly. Her head shook, fanning her dark hair around her shoulders and sending strands flying into the feeble light. “I did.”
Shock flew through his system, fire and ice at once. “What?”
Her head bobbed slightly, and he squinted at the shellshock in her unfocused eyes, the expression eerily, sickeningly familiar… “They had my uniform. Jim said th… they studied it for years.”
Mid-word ellipsis. Twenty points.
Warning sounded in his head. “Liz – ”
Flying fanon alert: She’s always “Parker” when Michael’s in complete control. But in shock, or anger, or outrage, she’s always “Liz.” Still don’t know where that came from.
“And that picture of you in Phoenix… God, I’m the one who told him about Brody’s daughter. I’m the reason both of you were even in that hospital. They’ve been looking for Max for years, because of me. Because he healed me.” Her gaze seemed to find him again. “I did this, Michael.”
The cords of his neck strained as his jaw tightened. She couldn’t do this…
“Stop it,” he managed.
“No. It was me. None of this would have happened if…” She blinked over the sudden sheen that welled at her lower lashes. “They’re dead because I’m alive.”
A nerve ticked angrily along his jaw. “Don’t.”
“Don’t what, Michael?” she echoed incredulously. “Don’t tell the truth?”
The truth. Like he gave a damn.
I honestly don’t think he does. Give a damn, I mean. He has his truth, and in his mind that’s absolute, damn what anybody else says.
It was one thing for her to waltz into his apartment, his self-made cell, and try to talk him down from the proverbial ledge. To coax him out of the abyss he’d flung himself into, beyond heaven and hell, beyond fact and awareness and any semblance of feeling. But attempting to rob him of guilt that was rightfully his, the only emotion that still blanketed him in the aftermath…
Give me something for the pain…
“I’m warning you, Liz.”
“Yeah, I get that.” She laughed and sniffed in unison, the ludicrous grin that flashed across her face a quick slash of straight white teeth, there and gone again. “It’s funny – you used to warn Max about me all the time. God, what a pair you made. The fearless leader and the selfless warrior. His self-appointed protector, even then. Who knew I actually would get him killed?” Sucking in a sharp breath, she pushed the heel of one hand into her hairline, and he swayed as his blood ran cold. “But I couldn’t stop there, could I? No, I had to bring Isabel down with him. And what was your friend Monk, extra credit?”
Oh Monk, we hardly knew you. I’m still nursing some residual anger on that front – that Michael couldn’t have that little slice of normal, just a few human friendships that were solid and healthy and good for him, without it ending bloody and alien. Ugh. I’m disgusted all over again.
Stepping back as if she’d struck him, he barely felt his shin slap the cold metal bed frame. The dam walling his anger cracked and crumbled, and it flooded every cell, every vein, every pore, a white-hot tidal wave that burned behind his eyes and scorched his fingertips.
“Get the hell out of here.” He spoke over the deafening roar between his ears, and the words emerged an empty snarl.
Her laughter came again, morphing into a sob as she gasped out words. “Who do you think you’re fooling? I already got a warning, Michael. Do what you have to.”
I kind of love caution-to-the-wind Liz. This isn’t alley facedown Liz, who’s not budging even though she may piss her pants at any moment. This is focused, furious, post-funeral Liz who just doesn’t give a damn.
What he had to do was make her stop. “I said get out.”
“I heard you the first time.” She shifted, moving into the space he’d vacated. “This all started with me. It’s what you always said, right? That I would expose you? That I was dangerous? Now that I’ve finally proven you right, shouldn’t I pay for that?” Her eyes flashed, fire shining through the glistening film of tears that had settled over the brown, but the color had lost its warmth. “I’m responsible, Michael. Part of you never thought Max should’ve saved me, not if it meant risking the three of you. And in the end, the risk wasn’t worth it. So why do I still deserve your protection?”
“They didn’t deserve to die!” he roared, futilely attempting a diversion.
Give me something I can use…
There had to be a way to escape the flame that blazed in her eyes. It scorched down his spine, burned beneath his skin, searching for the dark place he’d hidden his humanity, too knowing…
“Do I deserve to live?”
At this point, queenie_b started to panic. She hemmed and hawed over AIM, worried about the direction and not wanting to ask me outright if I’d lost my mind. I’m still a little giddy that she didn’t see where it was going, as it was tres obvious to me.
“Jesus…” He expelled his shock on a breath, and suddenly his body seemed to forget how to replenish its supply. The quiet question was a vice that closed around his chest, cinched his airway, sucked the life from his lungs. But his mind reeled, trying desperately to remember how to breathe through the words that still hung heavy in the space between them.
“I’m not stupid, Michael,” she pressed on, unfazed by his stricken state. “You’re slowly killing yourself, I can see it. You locked yourself away in here, with all this guilt… God.” His hands started to shake as she ticked off names, each one a shot that echoed and richoted in the dark. “Max. Isabel. Alex. Monk and Grant and Topolsky… Now that we know who’s really at fault, for all of it… shouldn’t the right person pay the price?”
She ignored the feeble, dazed shake of his head, inching closer still. “It should’ve been me.”
“No,” he wheezed, squeezing his eyes shut as he grimaced. Faces flew behind his eyelids, the smiling features of all he couldn’t save… But even in the wake of the raw pain that coursed through him, the pressing need for justice, for vengeance, for a chance to do it all again, he couldn’t bring himself to paint the blood on her hands. Or to add her to the tally of those he’d lost.
Oh, Michael. This would be how he finally admits to himself that he has ties besides blood, and that they’re every bit as important. We got hints of it with Laurie, and again when Alex died, but they’ve never been all he has left. I toyed with the idea of following up with this – the idea of Michael as the lone alien, with just his girls to protect and Kyle as ally, is mighty tempting.
To get me through the night…
“Nobody made him heal you, Liz. He wanted you to live. He chose…” His voice was a rumble in the dark, echoing words that had been empty to him mere minutes earlier. “It’s not your fault.”
She exhaled, a great gust of relief that slipped into his nostrils and settled at the base of his throat, as if he’d granted her immunity.
“It’s not yours, either.”
Q’s moment of epiphany, after which she proceeded to berate herself. Poor thing. At least she got it before Michael did.
His eyes flew open at the sudden clarity in her tone, the certainty. “You’re not some intergalactic bodyguard, Michael,” she pressed. “You’re a man who’s lost his family. But Max, he made a choice. You didn’t make him go into that building. And you didn’t pull that trigger.”
Anger flared again, dimmed by a brittle edge of betrayal that he couldn’t quite place. “It’s not… you can’t make it that simple.”
“I didn’t. You did. It’s your reasoning.” Her gaze narrowed in a plea for understanding. “If I’m not to blame, than why are you?”
She’s completely switched gears, zero to sixty and back to zero in a heartbeat, but it worked for me. There’s something very calculating about Liz – maybe her scientific brain, maybe three years of churning in the alien abyss. Who knows? Got the job done.
Fighting a sudden wave of nausea, he sank back to the mattress, trying to escape the corner she’d backed him into. She’d plotted the trail, planted the bait, and reeled him in. But the cacophony of emotions churning through his system didn’t hold surprise. This was Liz Parker. Queen of logic, ruler of reason. The sudden urge to laugh at his own cluelessness was overwhelming.
See? Michael gets it.
When the tears pricked the corners of his eyes, it was hopelessness that won out.
“Everything I said… I’ve felt all of that. I’ve been here, right here. When Max was taken. When Alex died.” She pulled in a ragged breath. “They’re not easy demons to live with. But… don’t you think they would want you to live?”
From the corner, the lamp taunted him, its lone bulb highlighting the lack of luminance from the other two, shining a spotlight on their absence. The only one left.
Okay… in hindsight, this may have been over the top.
Something like you…
The well overflowed, and tears traced jagged tracks down his cheeks, cutting into his skin like razorblades. She stepped into the space between his knees as he hung his head, and the silent streaks fell from the edge of his clenched jaw to splatter across the front of his half-buttoned shirt and seep into a suit reserved for cemeteries.
Is it possible to sit through “Independence Day” and not develop a crying!Michael kink? I think not. There is no one perfect tear with Michael. He just cries, looking like a little boy lost. It’s all so very affecting.
Gentle fingers grazed his skull, raked through his hair to settle at the back of his neck.
“I want you to live,” she said softly. “You’re not alone, Michael.”
His hands came up to her sides, slid to the small of her back, clutched her dress in fistfuls of smooth black crepe as he raised his chin to bury his tear-stained face in her chest. She kneaded his nape in her hands, dipping beneath the collar of his jacket, and bent to place a kiss to the crown of his head, cradling the sides of his face in her palms, her lips lingering in his hair. Her mouth traveled, soft on his skin, brushing his hairline and fluttering over his eyelids, and her thumbs swept feather-light arcs over his cheekbones, but she didn’t wipe his tears away.
She wanted him to feel.
Writing this, I could see it so clearly that I finally got angry it hadn’t happened. I wanted caps to icon, dammit. The mental picture was that strong – this vision of a tiny girl engulfed, but radiating so much energy, and clearly in complete control. It’s still powerful now.
Pull me under…
Her fingers tipped his head back, and he could see it clearly, plainly as their eyes met over the small distance. It was the one thing he’d been suppressing, rebelling against, avoiding at all costs. But locked in Liz Parker’s eyes, with swirls of rich coffee-colored compassion filling his vision, bottomless chasms of strength and sympathy and naked fear, fear for him… Indifference was impossible.
His eyes slipped closed as her mouth pressed to his forehead, slid over the tip of his nose, following a downward path to damnation, to salvation…
I just couldn’t make it through a fic without the coffee thing, could I? On a less redundant note, this is almost as clear in my head, and every bit as powerful. It’s acceptance, pure and simple – Michael letting go and waiting for redemption.
Run through my veins…
Then it found his, and he was flooded with the feeling she’d fought for.
He gasped at the onslaught, mouth parting against the searching softness of hers. The whirlwind of emotions blew to the surface, a crippling tornado that she slowly laved away as she sipped the guilt from his lips.
To a place where I feel no pain…
This is also where I started flat-out loving the songfic aspect, weaving in and out through this section. It’s tight and concentrated and completely fitting.
His hands tightened at her back, pulling her closer, and he barely processed the rustle of fabric rushing over her knees as he hauled her into his lap. The inside of her thighs gripped his hips, burning her warmth into his skin through the lined fabric of his pants and chasing away the chill that had settled in his bones. Her fingers dove into his hair, rubbing soothing circles along his scalp and absorbing the rage, the loathing, the overwhelming agony that seeped through his skull.
True story: I toyed with the idea of smut here, and Stacie pulled hard for it. But once I started writing the kiss, the thought of taking it any further seemed not only overwhelming (for me and the characters), but ultimately like a slap in the face to someone they’re both mourning.
Plus, there’s the healing!sex connotations, which, do not want. *shudder*
Take me higher than I’ve ever been…
Strong hands shook along her spine as her crushed her to his chest, letting the erratic beat of her heart twist the loss and loneliness into something almost bearable. Warm velvet slid over his teeth and traced the ridges along the roof of his mouth, beating back the solitude, and he could taste the salt of his tears on her tongue, taken into herself and returned through their joined mouths to begin again.
There’s something so satisfying in this, for me. That we see an epic liplock sans flashes and alien memories, but still wielding so much power, seems so very fitting.
Take me down and back again…
Moments ago, what seemed like lifetimes, he’d resented the air.
Now, he craved it.
Come to me…
They broke apart almost violently, heads bent together, and he savored the heated pants that rushed over the contours of his face, dissolving the damp trails that smeared his cheeks into nothingness. She wrapped her arms around his shoulders, gripping his back with trembling fingers, and he wrenched his eyes open to reality.
“Liz – ”
She shook her head, cutting his impending questioning short. “After Alex…” Trailing off, her eyelids parted, unleashing her own quiet torrent of tears. “It was my turn to help you find the truth.”
Not a stretch for Liz, considering her history of feeling indebted. What’s interesting is how she repays the favor in this case – that she knows exactly what he needs and pushes until he breaks, and that she does so at her own expense, in a lot of ways. She does have those feelings, and she’s lost Max and Isabel, too. But duty trumps grief, as she can’t lose Michael, too. Sound like anyone we know?
He swallowed over the lump in his throat, smoothing a hand down her back as her cheek dropped to his collarbone. Glass shattered into shards and dust, and the last of the light multiplied, intensified, spilling over to cradle them both…
Give me something for the pain…
Deeply, he breathed.
It’s not Polar, not really. But it’s something rooted so deeply in the foundation of Michael and Liz that I had to tell it. Even with the CC overtones, it’s still one of my sentimental favorites.
I need food.