sadness finds its way onto me
Maria turned in surprise at Isabel's sudden outburst. Lunch was over, the others had left the table, leaving Maria slowly packing her bag. She had thought Isabel had been doing the same, but Isabel hadn't moved from her seat. She was staring at Max's retreating back.
After waiting for Iz to explain, Maria finally asked, "What?"
"They're killing themselves over something. I don't know what it is between them, but they are utterly miserable and it's painful to see."
"I take it by 'them' you are refering to Max and Liz? Two of the six utterly miserable people I know? I mean, there are levels of misery and ways of wearing it - and they do beat out the rest with their brave fronts and painfilled eyes, but they aren't the only ones by far. Anyway, I take it from the cold stare you are giving me that you had some point you were going to get to about Max and Liz?"
Iz ignored Maria's snide comments. "We have to do something. As long as they are apart they are going to continue to do stupid things. Max would never have gone to New York the way he had if there hadn't been something. And when Liz connected with me to reach him, I could feel how much she loved him and how sad she was. It was deep. Not that I would expect anything less from either of them, but this is ... is ..." Isabel couldn't think of any way to describe the pain she had felt from Liz, or how she could sense the sadness emanating off of Max .
"Soul searing?" Maria offered, knowing just what Isabel meant. Both Max and Liz could break her heart simply by looking away from each other. Hell, if she was honest, they could break her heart simply by being in the same room together - looks or no.
Isabel shied away from the words. She was close to accepting how much a part of Max Liz was, but she wasn't sure she could acknowledge how their relationship affected her. Sighing she admitted defeat. There were no other words. "Soul searing."
They sat quietly thinking about what those two words implied.
Isabel evaluated her decision to push Max and Liz together. She still wasn't positive that it was a wise decision, but she couldn't let things continue as they had been. She had woken up that morning knowing that sometimes the wisest course wasn't always the right course; some things had to be, right or wrong.
As Isabel reaffirmed her decision, she continued, "Not only that, but Liz looks terrible. She is slowly fading away in front of us. Did you see what she ate at Lunch?"
Maria sighed, knowing that Isabel was right. "Nothing."
"Yes. Nothing. She doesn't eat, and if the bags under her eyes are any indication, she doesn't sleep. We all know she has been working nonstop at the Crashdown, but in European Politics, she didn't speak unless Ms. Carlisle called on her, and then she got more questions wrong than right. That's not like her at all. Liz looks like she would fall over if you walked past her. And sometimes I get the feeling she's going to spontaneously begin to bleed - her skin is that thin. It's not natural. She has been avoiding Max like the plague since we got back from Vegas, and that is destroying him. He was so sure that he was reaching her. I thought he was going to fly off the planet, but all he's done is fall right off the cloud he was on. And the worse Liz gets - the less she eats, the more she works, the more she ... fades, the less Max cares about anything."
As Isabel continued, Maria grappled with her own dilema. If Isabel was going to be able to help Max and Liz, Iz had to know what had happened between the two. Maria had made a promise to Liz - she wasn't sure if she dared risk their friendship on this. But then, Maria remembered back in middle school a school counselor had talked to each class about depression and drugs and alcohol. He had said that sometimes you had to break a promise to a friend for their own good - to save them from themselves. Maybe losing your soulmate to prevent the end of the world and slowly willing yourself out of existense as a result wasn't quite the same as a drinking problem, but Maria felt the concept still applied.
Interupting Iz, Maria cleared her throat, "There's something you need to know first before you try anything. I don't think I could have kept this to myself for much longer anyway. Somebody else needs the full picture. Can you skip next period? We should have this discussion somewhere private."
Isabel was taken aback by Maria's tone. Looking at Maria, Iz knew this was important. "I don't have a test anytime soon, so, okay." Standing up, Isabel realized that the quad was empty. "We're already late for class anyway. Let's go."
Isabel was speechless. What Maria had told her was mindblowing and unbelievable. "How ...how ...I don't know what to say."
"I know. I babbled stupidly after I found out. I was so stunned that the only thing I registered was the fact that Liz hadn't slept with Kyle. I mean, that was all that my brain could get a grip on. The rest of it didn't hit me until I tried to go back to sleep that night. Then I cried my eyes out for Liz. It's just as well, Liz didn't need me crying all over her after telling me all that."
Isabel wanted to cry like a baby. Her brother had suffered so much in the last year. "Poor Max. God, poor Liz! No wonder they both seem so shattered. And no wonder they aren't together now. Liz won't let it happen, no matter what. She will hold onto her lie forever to protect evryone. There has to be something ..."
"I don't know if we can convince Liz of anything. She's terrified of risking the end of the world, and who wouldn't be? She told me that she thought Max was becoming less conscious of her betrayal. Something about a vision in Vegas - that's where they were married - and him not seeming to care anymore. She's been getting worse since then. I think that she is worried that Max has decided to pursue her anyway. So now she is doing everything she can to avoid him, and the guilt and stress is wearing her down."
Isabel sighed, "And that's why suddenly Liz is a ghost of the girl I used to know."
"She doesn't seem capable of focusing on anything outside of how terrible she is. I tried to talk to her about it all, but somehow in her head, Liz has made the entire situation her fault for not being strong enough to stay in Florida."
Isabel was shocked. "Was that ever even an option?"
Maria nodded, "Liz's aunt offered, and with how upset Liz had been at the beginning of the summer, the Parkers were willing. But Liz decided that that was the cowards way out, so she came back."
"And now she thinks that she is weak. God. And now that Max is pressing her for a relationship again ..."
Maria shook her head somberly, "Until we can guarantee that Tess will stay and none of what he told her is true, we can't try to change anything. Liz won't let us."
That strengthened Iz's resolve. All that Liz was willing to give up was for the sake of Michael, Max, and herself. How could Isabel ignore that? "For us ... Liz was willing to give up everything for us. I never thought anybody here would care for us that way, except my mother. And here she is." Isabel mumbled to herself.
Maria heard Isabel's thoughts and was once again amazed by the way the aliens were forced to live. They were so unsure of everything. Maria wanted to hug Isabel right then, comfort her, she just wasn't sure how Isabel would receive her attempt. Slowly she reached out to touch Iz's arm. "We do care about all of you. You're not impressing me by how long it took you to figure it out, you know." She smiled at Iz and gave in to the urge.
Isabel was surprised by the hug. She had always felt as if Maria was still completely unsure of her and their relationship, and here Maria was, draped all over her.. After a slight hesitation, Isabel leaned in to return the embrace. "Thank you."
Slowly, Iz pulled back and looked out at the water. "The key to all of this is Tess. There has to be something we can say to Tess, some way to guarantee that none of that happens. Max and Liz shouldn't be caught up in this lie. They deserve better. Now how are we going to manage it all?"
Isabel took a deep breath. "So I was thinking that it was time for a girl's night. All in all, we haven't had the chance to be teenagers in quite some time. Vegas was a flop. I'm thinking my place, ice cream, popcorn, and chick flicks."
"Definitely. And makeup and hair and raiding Isabel's closet. I like the idea," Maria added.
Isabel had joined Maria and Liz on their way to the Crashdown, claiming to have a desperate need for an Alien Blast and Sigourney Weaver.
Liz shifted uncomfortably in her seat. The thought of a night in the same house with Max combined with Isabel's previous mention of food made Liz feel decidely nauseous. She knew that she wouldn't be able to sleep at all with only a wall between herself and Max. "I don't know, Iz. I've got a lot of work this semester, and since we spend so much of our time on czech issues, I really have to spend every spare moment I have on my books."
"Come on Lizzie, please?" Maria batted her eyes at Liz and pouted, "It wouldn't be a girl's night without you. You need to do something. Please?"
Isabel jumped in, "We don't get chances like this very often. My parents are out of town; they're staying over in Albuqurque for a case. And Max won't be there either. He and Michael have decided that they need to go camping." Isabel shuddered artfully. "I don't know why, but they have. So the house is going to be all mine anyway. It would be a shame to waste the opportunity."
They had arrived at the Crashdown. As she unbuckled her seatbelt, Liz sighed, looking at Iz and Maria, "I'll think about it. If I can get off working Thursday, I'm game."
Isabel and Maria shared a look of triumph. Step one accomplished.
Tess was slightly surprised by the invitation, "I would love to come over Friday night, Iz. I'll check with the Sherrif, I'm sure that two weeks is a fair amount of time to be house bound." Tess still had not managed to say out loud that Jim Valenti had grounded her after the whole Vegas fiasco, "It should be no problem. When do you want me? And should I bring anything?"
Isabel shook her head, "Oh, how does seven-thirty sound? And don't worry about a thing. I'll get the ice cream. How about you pick up a couple movies on your way over."
"Sounds like a plan," Tess agreed happily.
"Now how about getting an Alien Blast with me? I've been craving one all day."
And as Tess tossed her bag off her shoulder and picked up a menu, Iz signaled her success to Maria.
so I claim freedom
"I'm still not completely sure about this."
It was about five o'clock that Friday. Maria was pacing in Isabel's room, picking nicknacks up and then placing them exactly in their original place without looking at them. She turned to Iz, "Are you positive this is the only way? Liz is so fragile right now. I'm not sure that I can watch you do this ..."
Isabel looked at Maria for a moment, analyzing how close to breaking down Maria was. Not too close. Good. "Fine, then go in the kitchen. I can send you out to get pizza. Anything. You don't have to be there. In fact, it might be better if you aren't. We can't let her turn to you when I do this to her."
"I know that. Maybe I should go somewhere else ... No," Maria turned back to Isabel, her shoulders set. "I'm a part of this. When she starts getting angry at you or collapses, I might as well be there to share it with you. I just don't know if I can bear to see her in this kind of pain." Maria finally sat down next to Iz.
Isabel tossed Maria's hair out of the way and began massaging Maria's neck and shoulders. Maria always surprised Iz when she buckled down to something this difficult. She might get hysterical first, but she always did what was needed. "You can as long as you remember why I'm doing this to her. Just remember that you can't stop me, no matter how hard it is. If it gets to be too much for you, leave. I have to be the bad guy, you have to refuse to help, which will leave Tess. And I know Tess; she won't be able to stand seeing Liz in that much pain. Tess doesn't have it in her, regardless of what we all might think at times."
"Oh, I hope you're right. This has to work, or I'll have lost my best friend and Liz and Max will still be alone and miserable."
"It will work." They sat in companionable silence for a few minutes. Then, looking at the clock, Isabel sat up. "Aren't you supposed to be picking up Liz now, as in you should have left ten minutes ago?"
Maria gasped. "Damn. I gotta go." She looked around frantically, "Did you see where I put my bag?"
Isabel held Maria's light brown suede bag by it's embroidered straps. "Here."
"Thank you, you are a life saver. See you."
"Bye, Maria. It will work out, I promise."
"I know, it has to."
So far nothing had gone wrong. Tess had arrived first and had gotten comfortable, stretching her legs out on the couch. She was surprised when there was a knock on the door.
"Iz, did you order pizza?" she shouted back to the kitchen where Isabel was puttering.
"Could you get that for me, I forgot to tell you they were coming." Isabel was happily mixing some punch. She had already pulled out chips, vegetables and dip.
As Tess opened the door, she shouted pack, "Who?" and then turned to see exactly who she was letting in.
Seeing Maria, she opened the door further and stepped back. Maria tightened her grip on Liz and pulled her in. Liz was gazing vaguely at the floor, and Tess was focused entirely on Maria in her surprise. They hadn't really registered each other yet, but Maria wasn't going to give Liz the chance to get away.
"So, Tess, how are you doing?" Maria asked just a little too loudly.
"I'm doing great. Iz didn't tell me that she had invited you ..." Tess finally registered Liz's presence. "Uh ... um, hi, Liz."
Liz's head flew up, "Hi ... Tess. I didn't ..." her voice cracked, raw sounding from lack of sleep, "know you would be here." Striving to be polite, Liz grasped for something to talk to Tess about. "Have - have you done that english assignment yet?"
Tess looked curiously at Liz, wondering if Liz would have come had she known Tess would be there. And then realizing that the English assignment that Liz mentioned didn't exist. They had one in Spanish. She narrowed her eyes on Liz, noting the violet bruises pressed into the soft skin under Liz's eyes. "No, not yet. Um ..."
Liz paused, searching for something more to say but only managing to think about the need to communicate over and over. "So ..."
Isabel popped her head out of the kitchen, "Oh, great you guys are here. I've got some food and drinks, and Tess brought some movies. Why don't you guys come in to the kitchen and we can talk while I clean up my punch mess."
And the evening continued much the same way, with Liz and Tess attempting desperately to hold a normal conversation, and Maria and Iz filling in the tenser moments.
so I claim my freedom
Isabel had been building herself up to this all evening. The movie had just ended and the ice cream Maria had brought along was half empty. Maria and Liz had taken over the couch, while she and Tess had settled into the recliner and the loveseat. As she turned off the TV, Isabel looked at Maria who nodded her head. Taking a deep breath, she began the game.
"So .. I was thinking that we should play truth or dare," Isabel said with a wicked smile on her face.
Maria jumped in before either Tess or Liz could object to the juvenile game, "Definitely, I get to go first! Liz, when was your first kiss?" she raised her eyebrows suggestively.
"Oh no, I did not say I was playing. Maria - you can't bring this up again. Oooo, the humilitation ..."
"Then is it a dare?"
"No way. I know you Maria Leah Deluca. Okay, so it was Billy Johnson, kindergarten. It was a Deluca dare, if you must know."
Isabel gagged, "Billy? And I thought he would die never having been kissed. Uggh. Shame on you Liz - and in kindergarten!"
"Okay, you are next. Truth or dare?"
"Definitely truth. I'm not sure I trust you any better than you trust Maria here."
Liz creased her forehead tiredly, trying desperately to focus, "When are you going to decide who you want to spend your life with? Alex? Michael? Some imaginary guy?"
Isabel gasped, she hadn't been expecting anything like this. She wasn't prepared for this question. She groped for something to say. Looking desperately to Maria for help,but finding nothing but surprise in Maria's green eyes.
"Well, umm, I don't really know what to say ... erm ... Maybe, um, when I know what I feel ..."
Liz shook her head. She hadn't really wanted to throw Isabel into this turmoil. She ad simply asked the first question that came to mind. "Nevermind," Liz dismissed the question, exhaustion evident in her uncharacteristic tone. "Let me know when you know. Your turn."
When Isabel simply sat there distracted, Maria spoke up, "Iz, it's time. Are you ready?" she asked significantly.
Isabel looked at Maria and noted how heavy with emotion Maria's eyes were. It was time. "Okay, Liz. Truth or Dare?"
Liz rolled her eyes, "We definitely should have set the rules on this one. No turn arounds. Fine, truth."
Isabel blinked her eyes to prevent tears. This was going to be harder than she had thought. Looking at Maria, her face cleared. Somethings just have to be, right or wrong.
"Liz." Isabel cleared her throat. "Liz. When are you going to tell my brother the truth?"
Liz looked blankly at Isabel's intent face.
"When are you going to tell my brother that everything he saw that night was a lie? When are you going to tell everyone why you lied to him? When are you planning on explaining to all of us what you did to save us?"
Liz was shaking her head and moaning, feeling her life crumbling around her, "No. No. Please, no ... don't." Her eyes were filling with tears - this couldn't be happening to her, "What are you doing? Do you know what you are doing?" Liz stood, intent on stopping the flood of Isabel's words. Isabel was destroying months worth of suffering - rendering it all pointless. "No. No ... no."
Pulling her determination around her as armor against Liz's pain, Isabel was relentless, her voice getting louder and louder. She asked, "When are you going to tell Kyle why he pretended to sleep with you? When are you going to tell Michael and I about our deaths?" Isabel was shouting now, "When are you planning on telling Tess that she was part of the end of the world?"
Liz froze, paralyzed by the magnitude of what Isabel had just done. Death. Destruction. All because Elizabeth Parker wasn't strong enough to stay away from Max Evans. All because she wasn't strong enough to keep her secret to herself. All because she valued her friendship with Maria above the lives of Isabel and Michael. All because she was weak. All because Max had saved her that day in September.
Maria watched, pain racking through her, as Liz's face crumpled, her skin pale and streaked with sweat. Liz had grabbed the hair by her ears, as if to anchor her clenched fists there more firmly all the while thrashing her head searchingly around the room as if to prove to herself somehow that this wasn't real. Finally Maria gave out to a sob, turned a fled the room, crashing into the end table on her way, uncaring for the lamp she knocked over.
The thoughts crashed in Liz's mind as Isabel continued her litany. The pain became too immense. Liz covered her ears, but it just made her thoughts louder without Isabel's words there to drown them out. Something broke and Liz screamed, "No! Shut up! You don't know what you are doing," she sobbed, "You don't know what you are doing. Too much lost for me. Be quiet! Just stop ... please ... please ..." she fell into a heap at the bottom of the sofa.
Tess sat shocked, staring at the sobbing girl at their feet. She hadn't even had the chance to register Isabel's accusations, only the terrifying affect they had on Liz. Tess had always thought Liz was so strong ... "My God, Isabel. What did you do? How could you do that ... to anyone?" As she stared at Liz, broken and sobbing on the floor there, her fingers digging maniacally into the carpet, what Isabel said began to sink in. Tess tore her eyes away from Liz. "What did you mean? What did you mean, about me and ..." she gulped terrified of the answer, "and the end of the world?"
Isabel gathered her strength once more and looked coldly at Tess, capturing her blues eyes with her own brown. "You left," she bit out. "You left and we all lost ... everything. That's what happened. And so Liz had to fix it. She gave you what you wanted so that you would do what you were supposed to ... and stay. That's what I meant. You caused the end of the world, and she prevented it."
Sitting there, looking at the fragile girl laying dsestroyed at her feet, Tess felt each word stab into her until she couldn't see. Her knuckles whitened as each of Liz sobs hit her with the force of gale winds. She was being torn to pieces as she sat there, unable to protect herself or even flinch. Slowly, desperately, her eyes focused back on Liz and she felt something inside her crumbling. She had done this.
Looking at them, praying desperately that they would find their way to each other, Isabel resolutely left the room and climbed the stairs.
In the bathroom upstairs, Isabel collapsed into the already sobbing Maria, incapable of anything but the tears, their bodies giving way to the horror of the last few minutes. Both prayed desperately that this would come out alright.
and i'd like to call you a liar
Tess couldn't move. She was sprayed onto the seat, sinking into the cushions of the couch and melting into the arms. She wasn't sure where she ended and the couch began. She couldn't think of anything but the couch and the echoing thought that she had done this. Somehow, the this had faded from her mind as the couch absorbed her. And Tess willingly began to let go of everything but the loveseat. She didn't even register that the wetness on her cheeks was her own tears streaming down her face.
Her thoughts were torn away from the couch once more and back to her pain with Liz's tortured sob. They had become fewer, but they were more terrifying when they came, one after the other. She couldn't take her eyes off of where Liz lay on the floor, wailing in a way Tess had never seen before, as if she wished to cry herself out of existence.
Tess felt the ache in her armsas she was seperated from the couch and knew that they wanted to reach out to Liz, to comfort her in some way. But Tess was still too much of the couch, and too terrified of Laz. She knew that she had no right.
"You caused the end of the world."
She finally let go of the couch with a shudder as the words repeated themselves in her brain. She ha done this. She had planned on leaving so many times. Had been on the verge of packing when she had seen Max in the park that night. If she hadn't seen him there and been allowed to make contact with him, she would have gone to the Valenti's, packed a bag and left, ignoring every instinct that told her she had to stay. She had been on the verge of abandoning destiny, everything and everyone for which she had fought, because she was lonely. She had done this.
The crash of waves in Liz's mind was slowing. She could still feel the rise and fall of them - the tearing of her inside ear as they pounded against each other. She had done this. Liz hadn't been who Max thought she was. She failed him the one time he needed her. She sobbed with the rise of a new set of slashing thoughts, her mind raw and overpowered. She had quieted, as the waves took longer to build, and she sucked in the wails, allowing them to tear apart her chest. She would be strong. She had done this. This was her punishment.
As they both stayed there, unmoving. Liz slowly lifted her head and focused on Tess's face. Tess was staring at Liz as one would an alien. Liz choked back the hysterical sob. She had done this. She hadn't been strong ewnough to stay. She hadn't been strong enough to leave. She hadn't been strong enough to accept. She hadn't been strong enough to fight. She had given up on love. She had fought too hard for love. Liz was no longer sure who she was anymore. She had lied - so many lies - and they had all unraveled. Destiny and the End of the World and Death and Destruction. All her fault. She had done this. Liz, Tess, Maria, Isabel, the alien mother in the hologram all coalesced into the singal she.
And crouching there, eyes raw and blind with tears, throat gone to screams, she knew that she hated her more than anything in the world. She was right there in that room. She had done this. She was furious. For the first time in her life, Liz felt rage.
Without thinking, Liz was on her feet and diving at Tess. "How could you? How could you do this to everyone? You destroyed everything! You lied!" Ripping at Tess's curls, "You took!" Liz jabbed her knee into Tess stomache, "You were weak!" and forced Tess back on the couch, "Selfish!". She continued the pull hair as she yanked Tess around, shouting out her hate.
It wasn't until Liz had pulled Tess off the couch, "Damn you!" and onto the floor, "Pathetic!" and was about to throw a punch into Tess's face, "Heartless!" that Liz realized, "I hate you!" who she was hurting. Tess was doing nothing to defend herself; she wasn't even holding her hands up to protect her face. She lay there, crying and waiting with eyes open and focused on Liz, for the punch she had decided she deserved.
Liz's eyes cleared as she became herself, Tess, the alien Mother, Isabel, and Maria. Horrified, she slowly dropped her fist, crying, "Oh, God, what have I done. Oh lord ... I didn't ... I don't ... I don't know ..." and even slower she sank down beside Tess. "I'm sorry, oh ... I'm sorry ..." She reached out to Tess's cheek, gently touching the bruise forming there, knowing there were more, unable to comprehend just what she had done to the girl laying beside her.
Tess was shocked at the sudden end to the violence. Somehow she felt that she had been cheated. She deserved to be punished, she had earned the bruises and blood. And here was Liz begging her forgiveness for each spreading purple mark and drop of blood. She grabbed Liz's hand to stop the remorseful caress and turned her head to Liz, wet eyes meeting wet eyes. With a cough, Tess stretched her neck and reached out to Liz with her body, "I didn't mean for ... I'm sorry ..." She sobbed in turn, "I'm so ..."
Liz wrapped her fingers slowly with Tess's. Tess blue eyes echoed her pain, and for the first time in months Liz breathed. Slowly their breaths slowed to match each others, and they lay there, eyes locked, trying to comprehend what had happened. As their breaths matched, they connected.
The pain of the last year, from the day Tess arrived, poured through their fingers. Unlike with Max, Liz saw nothing, only felt the pool of pain seeping both ways through their link. And the love. Liz's love for Max, Michael and Isabel, for Maria, Alex and Kyle. Tess's love for Nasedo and her dreams of love from the other aliens, and a tentative budding of love for Kyle. And newest in it all, a love for one another, pooling like a wellspring. And slowly, they evened out, the love overwhelming the pain, numbing it and until they were at peace. The strangest peace Liz had ever felt.
Blinking against the eveswelling tears, Liz drew in another breath, ragged from her sore throat. "We're going to be okay. Just tell me we are all going to be okay ..."
Tess shakily nodded as the tears continued to stream down her face. "We're going to be okay. I won't let anything happen. It will all be okay, I promise." And she pulled Liz toward her, cupping Liz's head against her breast, molding their bodies together perfectly.
Liz curled into Tess's body. "You promise?"
Hugging Liz tighter to her aching chest, Tess sighed, "I promise. I'm not going anywhere."
Liz sighed quietly, "Maybe I can sleep tonight. Can I sleep tonight?"
Tess couldn't think of any way to answer that. She simply stroked Liz's hair comfortingly. As she felt Liz fall asleep, she whispered, "I'm so sorry ... I love you," and closed her eyes.
Maria had heard Liz's unintelligible screams. In a panic she pushed herself off the floor but collapsed, finding that her legs had gone numb from sitting on the bathroom tiles for so long with Isabel's dead weight pushing her back against the cabinet at an awkward angle. Maria shook Isabel who groggily lifted her head and scrubbed at her swollen eyes.
"I can't believe I just did that ..." Isabel's aching head made her slow to move. She groaned as the light reflecting off the mirror hit her pupils and she quickly covered her eyes with her hand. Sighing, she used her powers to slowly repair the splotches left behind by her crying and turned to Maria.
Close to hysterics as she continued to hear noise coming from the living room, Maria cried out as she tried once again to stand. "Can't you hear them?" she asked Isabel.
Isabel, already helping to ease the constricted blood flow in Maria's legs, froze momentarily and then, hearing another shriek from Liz, dashed to the door. Maria, finally able to stand, with her panic increasing by the moment chased after.
Isabel stopped abruptly at the sight that greeted her downstairs and Maria nearly ran her over in the process. Peering over Iz's shoulder, Maria saw the two girls, fingers gripped, tears streaming down their cheeks and their eyes artificially bright with the moisture, frozen as their eyes locked. Slowly Tess and Liz's muscles began to relzx, and, oblivious to the audience they quietly pulled toward each other. The sudden peace between the two lay heavily over the house, and Maria and Isabel stayed unmoving until both girls were asleep. Then Isabel pushed Maria silently toward the stairs. They mounted them, leaning wearily against each other.
Once in Isabel's bedroom, Maria pulled the blinds closed to ease the sunlight on their tearweakened eyes, and Isabel, laying on the bed whispered, "I didn't realize how terrified I was until I finally saw that they were at peace. I didn't know much I love Liz and Tess until just now. I can't believe ..."
"You did the right thing," Maria reassured tiredly scrubbing at her eyes and stretching out on the bed beside Isabel. Isabel leaned over lazily and used her powers to ease the sandiness in Maria's eyes. Maria turned her head, "You shouldn't waste your energy that way." She looked Isabel in the eyes cupped her hand. "Thank you."
Isabel shook her head at Maria's gratitude. "Thank you for staying as long as you did. I couldn't have ..."
Mria held a finger to Iz's lips, "Shhh ... you did the only thing you could to help them, and that meant hurting them. A lot." She slid her hand from Isabel's lips to her cheek and into her hair,
Iz nodded resignedly, "I know," and leaned into Maria's hand, enjoy the soft, comforting touch on her hair.
And they both closed their eyes, giving into the bone deep weariness of the forlorn and the relieved.
so I claim freedom
It was an odd sensation, waking up wrapped around somebody. The urge to stretch was almost overwhelming and Tess moved to pull her arms above her head and straighten her legs when she founf that one hand was tangled in glossy brown hair, and the other gripped desperately by a delicate hand. Curiously, Tess blinked as the morning light fell on her face noting that the curtains had been left open last night, and, though Tess had never thought about it, she now vaguely realized that the Evans' house faced east. The Evans' house. Tess finally realized where she was. And who she was holding. But Tess was surprised to find that there was nos awkwardness or discomfort in knowing that she was holding a peaceful Liz Parker in her arms. Tess felt at ease there on the floor of the Evans' living room. She felt content. Happy. Luxuriating in the beauty of the sun glowing blindingly on her face, Tess decided to simply wait for Liz to wake up before moving. And while waiting, she would just watch Liz sleep. Tess smiled.
Liz could still feel Tess. Liz slid her eyes apart slowly, rather glad that she could still feel the leveling of pain and joy between herself and the other girl. They had never let go last night, Liz realized, smiling as she noted that Tess had an incredible expression of peace on her face.
"Good Morning," Liz whispered, the smile in her voice, reaching her free hand out to carress Tess's sunbrightened chin and cheek.
Tess was startled at Liz's voice. She had been thinking about last night and everything that had changed, noting within herself the restfulness that had remained from the night before. "Morning," she said, but noting that her voice sounded too loud for this early in the morning, she lowered it. "I hope I didn't wake you," she added, sitting up as Liz did the same.
Tess unwillingly moved to pull her hand out of Liz's and Liz resisted. In explanation, Liz grinned, "It feels good. I'm afraid we'll lose ... whatever this connection is if we let go."
Tess nodded in understanding. She had the same fear. "I know what you mean. But I don't think we'll lose it. A connection like this - it doesn't just disappear. I think we would be able to make it happen again."
Liz, ever the scientist thought for a moment. "You're right, it doesn't feel impermanent. Maybe we should test it: you know, let go and then try to connect again."
Tess thought about it. And smiled sweetly, "Makes sense. Lets give it a try."
They both waited, staring at their hands and willing the other to let go. Finally, blushing, they looked up at each other. "We're going to have to let go. Count of three. One - two - three." And they released hands.
It was strange not having Liz there anymore. Tess had gotten so used to the presence in their sleep, that she had hardly recognized the connection upn waking. But it's absence was keen, suddenly her own emotions seemed so much louder in her head. She felt suddenly orphaned in her own mind. In Liz's eyes, she saw the same loss. With remorse, Liz felt the absence of Tess in her mind. The emotions in Tess had felt so similar to her own, that she had felt a closeness with the girl that she couldn't begin to explain. Quickly she reached back out to Tess, and, their fingers once again twining, felt the connection reform and spread, like warmth, through her body. It was full of love. Liz smiled at the warmth - the love and felt herself warming with matching emotions. Tess was amazed by the depths of the emotion she fell falling off of Liz for her. For her, Tess marveled. Liz felt all of this for her.
They both smiled and reluctantly let go again. It was there.
"Well, that's good to know," Tess said, resisting the urge to crow with relief.
Liz grinned back at Tess's bright face. What do you say we see what they have in the kitchen here? I am starving."
Laughing, Tess agreed.
Isabel and Maria paused at the entry to the kitchen, surprised by the sight that greeted them. The floor between the sink and the island was covered in flour. Every inch of the counter space overflowed with clean and dirty dishes, while the flour canister sat open beside what looked like a hundred eggs shells and the box of baking soda and the bottle of sunflower oil. The piece de resistance though was undoubtedly the griddle, sitting prominently in the center of the island, covered in globs of pancakes, both burned and raw. Isabel followed a trail of flour from the island to kitchen table and couldn't decide whether to laugh or scream.
There, happily gobbling down pancakes, sat Liz and Tess, covered from head to toe in white flour, their shoes having carried the stuff from the griddle to the table.
Beside Iz, Maria coughed, obviously holding back a laugh. Maria couldn't decide which was funnier, Tess and Liz and their obvious flour fight, or the obviously stunned almost shellshocked look on Isabel's face. Finally, deciding that it didn't matter which was funnier, Maria grabbed onto Isabel for support and broke into uncontolled howls of laughter, slowly sliding down Iz to sit on the floor.
Tess and Liz, oblivious to the other girls' presence up to that point turned from their conversation and grinned unrepentantly at Isabel as Maria collapsed to the floor with laughter.
Tess turned to Liz, "Is she alright?" she asked.
Liz nodded her head, "I think Isabel will recover from the shock in a moment and be grateful that we thought to make extra pancakes for them."
Absently grabbing the tabasco bottle the Evans kept at the table, Tess shook her head. "No, not Isabel. I know she'll survive. She needs to see and do things like this more often. I meant Maria. Is it possible to hurt yourself from laughing like that?"
Calmly cutting another bite of her pancake, Liz met Tess's eyes, "I think I would like to try yours. I've always been curious about the Tabasco." She opened her mouth as Tess cut a bite and offered it to Liz. Liz was shocked when she didn't feel the urge to spit it back out, "Not bad. Not bad at all. Oh, don't worry about Maria. She'll be fine in no time." Turning to look at Maria, Liz called out, "If you don't hurry, Maria, your pancake's will get cold."
Liz grinned at Tess's admiring gaze as Maria automatically stood and began getting control of herself. "Where are they?" she asked almost desperately.
"She is unbelievably hungry in the morning," Liz explained and Tess nodded her head.
As Maria began to explore the kitchen, opening cupboard drawers, Tess said, "In the microwave, Maria. Are you all right Isabel?"
Isabel shook herself. "You do know my Mom is going to have a heart attack when she sees what you've done to her kitchen don't you?"
Liz looked at Tess conspiratorily, "Don't worry about it, Iz. We've got it covered."
With a wink, Tess stood and casually swept the flour off the floor using her powers and looked at Isabel, "I'll get the rest after breakfast," she explained as she sat back down,
"It's only fair that Tess clean up the mess. She started the fight in the first place."
Isabel shook her head as she looked at the two girls, a smile slowly forming on her now relaxed face. "Just don't forget to get yourselves as well." And with that, Isabel finally gave into the urge and laughed, turning to Maria who was already busily spread peanut butter on her pancakes. "Hey, leave a couple of those for me, Maria!" She shouted and lunged to protect the two uncovered pancakes left.