parts 1, 2, 3, 4, and 5 are at the links. part 6 can be read after the jump.
Michael smiled. He would be glad to spend time with someone he felt safe with. Lately things with Maria had been difficult. It was one thing to open yourself up to someone you never expected to see again, quite another to see them everyday. Maria had always been somewhat clingy and needy, and now believing that she knew his heart and soul, had somehow become even more clingy and needy. He had opened up to her, but he also knew that he'd held something back. And what frightened him was that even knowing that he would be sticking around for the long haul, he wanted to share more of himself with Liz. Not Maria. And everything about that was wrong. So he covered his feelings with some sarcasm. “Parker, I’m taking you on a ride you’ll never forget!”
“Really, Michael?” Liz looked at him doubtfully. And then laughed when he smirked at her.
“Yep. Now let’s finish up here…and you’ll see what I’m talking about.”
Liz finished wiping up the counter while Michael finished mopping out front. As soon as she was done she slipped into the lounge and quickly changed into the pair of jeans and tank top she always kept in her locker. Heading to the back door she arrived at the same moment as Michael, who was ready and waiting for her on the motorcycle.
As soon as Liz settled herself on the seat behind him, Michael gunned the engine and they sped off. The wind blew through Liz’s hair as she laughed up at the stars. Michael’s idea had been just what she needed to forget everything that was bothering her.
Michael had no set course in mind, other than heading away from town. He followed the twisting road, with Liz’s hands at his waist, her breath in his ear, he felt more relaxed than he had since, well ever. They had been riding for over an hour when Michael decided to come to a stop.
“Where are we?” asked Liz running her hands through her tangled chocolate mane as she took in the scenery. It was if they had happened upon an oasis, a small lake flanked by an intense shock of green, while the desert provided an amazing backdrop.
“It’s…well…I used to come here a lot when I lived with Hank. The stars look amazing and the moon on the lake…it made me forget my problems, you know how big the universe is…etcetera, etcetera.” Michael explained rather sheepishly. Embarrassed at his revelations, worried about Liz’s reaction to the place he had always considered safe.
“It’s beautiful. Do you mind sitting here a while? I kind of want to forget everything but the stars tonight.”
“Not at all. It can be arranged.” Michael sat down, on the grass near the lake’s shore. Liz sat down right next to him. In a companionable silence they watched the ripples of light play a dance with the shadows over the water.
Little more than an hour had passed when Liz finally broke the silence. “Do you think the water’s too cold?”
“Hmm?” Michael had felt so peaceful that he'd nearly drifted off.
“The water? Is it cold?” Liz asked.
“No there’s an underground spring that runs right under the lake and actually heats it. You can come here in the middle of winter and have a swim.”
“Had a swim? Yeah. Where are you going with this Parker?” Michael had a sneaking suspicion as to what Liz’s suggestion was going to be. But he was still surprised to hear it.
“Let’s do it. Let’s go for a swim.” Liz looked up at Michael with a gleam in her eyes, a glint of mischievousness that hadn’t been there in a long, long time. “Come on, you know you want to. Please!” Liz cajoled as Michael groaned. Sticking her bottom lip out a little, she made a sad face at him and laughed at his response.
Michael shrugged his shoulders. Looking at her he asked archly, “So Parker, how exactly is this going to work? Or did you secretly smuggle a bathing suit?
“Michael there is such a thing as underwear! I assume you’re wearing some.”
Grumbling Michael divested himself of his cotton t-shirt and jeans, stripping down to his boxers, before diving in. Liz quickly followed suit, luckily she had worn her sturdy cotton undies, rather than flimsy lingerie, although nothing embarrassing like the polka-dot bra. Taking advantage of Michael’s inattention, Liz dove into the water.
And as she came up at the surface, she felt like for once in her life everything was perfect.
Michael and Liz splashed around and laughed. All their cares and worries forgotten. There was nothing but the moment. Between friends.
Then the skies opened and out of nowhere a torrential rain bore down on them. Leaving the warm comfort of the lake, Michael and Liz scurried around gathering their clothes. Michael then led the way to a small cave on the other side of the hill.
Still laughing Liz looked up at Michael as he smiled down at her. “I take it this isn’t the first storm you’ve waited out here?” she asked as Michael made a pile of wood and waving his hand over it, lit a small fire.
“Come on.” Michael pulled Liz into his embrace and began rubbing her arms as her teeth began to chatter. The fire’s heat seeped in slowly through their chilled skin. After a while they sat completely relaxed on the floor of the small cave. Michael leaned against a stone wall much like the one he was always accused of being, and Liz lay against him, between his legs, her head resting on his shoulder.
“What’s going on with you and Maria? I mean I know that you guys…um…made love. And Maria seems to be on cloud nine, knowing that you stayed for her and all, but you…you look like you’re about to crawl out of your skin and disappear. Tonight’s been the first time in the past week that I’ve seen that amazing smile of yours reach your eyes.”
“Liz…I don’t—“ he was silenced by Liz’s finger on his lips.
“Michael, you know you can trust me. Whatever you tell me I swear I won’t breathe a word of it to Maria. It’s just that I hate to see you so closed off.”
Michael sighed. Liz didn’t make things easy by being so understanding.
“I guess that I’m feeling trapped. I know gave the impression that I was staying for Maria, and don’t get me wrong, she played a huge part in why I stayed. But there was more to it than that. I was finally in a point in my life where people accepted me for who I was. Liz, I’ve always been the outsider. The one no one else wanted. Going to Antar wasn’t going to change that. It wasn’t going to be a home. I still think life in Roswell pretty much sucks. But I realized that I love this place almost as much as I hate it.”
Liz nodded slowly. “Michael. I wish you knew how awesome you are. I wish you could see yourself the way others see you.”
“Why? To see my faults? No, thank you.”
“No. To see your virtues.” Michael snorted. Liz could talk up his virtues all she wanted, she was clearly delusional. Michael knew that he was a screw up. It didn't matter what it was, the longer he was around something the more likely it would turn to shit. But he wasn't going to argue with her either.
Liz turned to look at Michael closely and she knew he didn't believe her. But she also knew that he wouldn't argue the point. And as long as she had the last word she was satisfied. So she wrapped herself around his warmth and just settled into the silence with him.
In the shelter of the cave the soft sound of rain pattering at the entrance lulled them to sleep.