The Return Home
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He sat back at he couch and turned down the volume of the television. Mutely, one of the best plays of the season unfolded on the screen, but he did not mind missing the screaming of the fans in the stadium, or the howling from the other side, where fans of the visiting team agonized. Other sounds were more important at this particular hour of the day.
He heard the key slide into the lock and the door squeal softly as it opened. Faint footsteps accompanied the quiet song she sang as she carried the groceries inside. "You hungry, Spaceboy?"
Michael grinned at the question. It was almost harsh, but that was just Maria. If she asked it sweetly he would have been worried. Maria hardly allowed herself to go all "soulmatey," unlike Max and Liz with the soulful looks and hearts bleeding in full view. In so many ways love for the two of them seemed so much more. After all, they had a private sort of communication beyond the way they appeared. What they felt seemed that much more intimate because they held back.
"Kinda. You're late." He stood up and went around her so he could hold her while she removed the groceries from the bag. "What happened?"
"Just a slight snag with two guys on the road." The arms around her waist tightened, and she put down the cans she had been holding, turned around and looked him in the eyes. "It was nothing to worry about."
"You sure?" he asked gruffly.
"Yeah. Don't you go off being a superhero again and running off in some demented logic of defending me. We had a fender bender. Nothing more. Besides, dinner will get cold and you'll get your shirt stained."
He let out a snorted breath. "Anything I can help you with?"
"Can I get a welcome home kiss? Work was pissy today."
"Mine was too."
Maria shrugged. "So you can kiss me to make me feel better, and I'll do the same for you."
"Balance each other's freakish days out," he continued for her. At her nod, his head dipped to take her lips, and she felt her pressing back on his.
He lifted his mouth and stared down at hers, moist and red from the kiss. He closed his eyes and rested his forehead against hers. "Thank you," he whispered.
"You're welcome. Now start peeling the tomatoes. We're running late."
Michael walked to the living room and turned off the television. A moment later he returned, picking up the bag and washing the bulbs before taking a seat on the table, paring and cubing. Every so often he would glance up to see Maria stacking the groceries inside the cupboards and putting some in the refrigerator. After that, she folded the bags and put them inside the sink drawer. Later, while she was boiling the meat, she met his eyes and gave him a lopsided grin.
They were seated in the living room couch. His arm was thrown over her shoulders as they watched the game. Dinner was on her lap, and she stabbed at the red meat and brought it to her lips. Michael took the fork from her and stuffed his mouth with beef and potatoes.
"So where did the mean pitcher go?"
Michael was chewing and mumbled something incoherently. Maria was about to ask him to repeat his answer when the phone rang. She immediately stood up and gave the plate to Michael. "Hand me the glass." He did, and she drank before walking across the room to answer.
"Hello." The television went mute again, and Maria smiled her thanks. "Oh well hello. Yep. Right here. We're having dinner. How's New Mexico? Really? Yeah, no problem. Okay. I will. Bye."
"What did he want?" Michael asked. He, Max and Isabel were three aliens who lost the chance to go home a few years ago. Michael had chosen to stay; Max and Isabel were forced when they discovered that Tess, Max's supposed mate, betrayed them.
"He was saying hello. He wanted to talk to you, but he said he'd call back after dinner." She settled back quietly beside him and rested her head on his chest. "It sounded important," she muttered after a while.
"Hey," Michael said. He moved her so that she would meet his eyes. "You sound worried."
"Shouldn't I be?"
Michael turned the television completely off now, and placed the plate on the table in front of them. "It's been five years, Maria. Have I ever given you a reason to believe that I'm just going to leave you?" She shook her head. "Besides, there is no way for me to disappear remember? Tess took the only ticket back." Maria smiled just to drop the subject. "Okay now?" She nodded. When Michael returned to watching the game, her mind drifted back to Roswell.
"Are you going to tell him?"
"He deserves to know, Iz."
Isabel took a deep breath. "Max, he made his choice a long time ago. He wanted to stay on Earth with her. Why should you throw his life upside down again? I say we decide for ourselves if we're going to use it. And then leave or stay upon our individual choices."
"Isabel, how are we going to do what we need to do if we're not complete? We're all linked. We need each other. That's why we were sent here, remember?"
"I just don't think it's fair for you to do this to him. You know he's not like us."
"He is like us, Isabel! That's why we need to be together."
"You don't understand!" Isabel threw her hands up. "He's temperamental. He's volatile. He's got a lot going on inside. Even if he's made up his mind, you're going to throw him into all this confusion if you broach the subject."
"Tell me what's not fair, Iz. Letting him decide for himself or keeping the knowledge to ourselves when he has as much right to know?"
Isabel grabbed the cordless phone from the hook and dialed a number. She tossed the receiver to Max. "There. If you insist on ruining Michael's life from miles away, then I insist you ruin yours first," she demanded coldly.
Max raised the phone to his ear and listened. "Hello. Liz Parker here."
"Liz," he said. He looked up at Isabel and saw her facing him with her chin raised proudly. She was every bit the arrogant and beautiful princess that she was. Max could not believe how far she had gotten from her past, yet how little of her changed. He, on the other hand, had become more and more determined to return ever since Tess left carrying his son. They have all undergone serious overhaul during the last years. Where Michael had once been on a blind, desperate mission to leave, he was now the one most firmly planted here. And he, Max Evans, who had always loved his family here on Earth, his soulmate from school, had become the sole hunter for another way. Isabel was daring him, he could see, from the burning light in her eyes. He was king. He would not back away. "Liz, we've finally found another way to go back."
Max did not know why. Isabel had dared him, challenging his strength of will and determination. Why then did she suddenly look so disappointed when he was able to tell Liz?
Michael put down the phone and numbly walked to the bedroom. Maria was already sleeping. He crawled in beside her and she did not even stir. She really must have been exhausted from work. Warmth suffused his heart, the first feeling he actually had since hearing Max Evans words on the phone.
He drew Maria close to him and kissed the top of her head. He did not expect to sleep, because that one call from his best friend would change his life. But he was tired, physically and emotionally. Soon he was sleeping a restless, fitful, dream-filled slumber.
She was astounding in her loveliness. He had been through their entire world and he had never seen anyone so beautiful. At first, he had thought that there was no creature lovelier than his commander's betrothed. He had been there when the two were introduced in that ball. At once he understood how a man as great as him, a man who would be king, was entranced with her.
But that was before he met her again, after all those years. Before he went to war as the commander's second in command, Vilandra was young, much like a sister to him. And so when he saw her again, he was caught in her tender, silky web.
They had kissed under the moonlight. He had always been envied his position in life by all the other males in the empire. But he was never prouder than he was at that moment. Vilandra came to his arms willingly, and assented to the betrothal. This creature, the loveliest in the land, the Princess, was promised to her.
Vilandra was not a shy miss. She gloried in her beauty much as she gloried in her station. She played with men much like she was fantastic in the board game so popular to their people. The last night that he and the prince spent in the palace, before they left for another war, he could sense Vilandra watching his every move. Females were drawn to him, because they appreciated all that he was touted to be. They were even more amazed to see him in person.
That night Vilandra had gone to his chambers and gave herself to him in all her golden glory. As he thought to himself that he had made the conquest, Vilandra had made him promise that he was hers, and only hers. She left on his arm a love bite that did not come off for several moons after, branding him as her property, the way she branded her precious stones and carved at the side of her favorite furniture.
Michael saw himself standing at the cliff where Tess had told Max he first saw her. A green moon hung overhead, and half the sky to the left, hung another moon. His arms and weapons were placed down at the side, and he sat down on a boulder to rest. And then Vilandra approached him again. He wondered how she had gone from the palace to here, half a planet away. Only this time it did not appear as though it was Vilandra standing before him. Gone was the gleaming malice in her eyes. Her eyes were full of affection, and she smiled at him. "Iz," he said.
He thought he heard her say something, but he caught only the words, "Destinies, Michael."
And her arms extended to him, out of nowhere, a wriggling bundle that gurgled and kicked. Left with no choice, he accepted it and looked down at the infant, whose eyes were so much like his own. His throat tightened at the feel of life held within his arms. Finally, he found what he was looking for, where he belonged. Home.
Michael reared from the bed, and found Maria sitting up already, looking at him worriedly. She turned for a moment and handed him a glass of water. "What's wrong, Michael?"
"Nothing. Nothing's wrong." He placed the glass on the side table after he swallowed most of the contents. He then wrapped her in his arms tightly, and closed his eyes when he felt her wrap him in her embrace. "God, Maria, I love you," he said.
They stayed there, embracing for the longest while. And then it was Maria who pulled away, and faced him with her green eyes swimming in tears. "You can go, Michael," she said softly.
"I know there's only one reason for Max to speak like that, and for you to be feeling like this. Don't make yourself suffer on my account. Leave. Look for what you've always wanted."
"I can't do this to you," he said, unsure.
Maria shook her head. "Don't think about me," she told him firmly. "Just promise me one thing."
"If what you're looking for isn't there, then come back to me."