Title: Always Will Be
Summary: Maria returns to Roswell on her national tour, but will she have a reason to stay?
Disclaimer: They're not mine.
Chapter Nine - Left
Maria was practically jumping up and down in excitement as she finally pulled her hair into a simple ponytail that Saturday morning. She looked over into the mirror on the opposite wall and inspected her appearance. Dressed casually in shorts and a strappy top, her hair pulled back from her face, she looked and felt like a carefree teenager again, if she’d even really been one before. Glancing down at her watch as she opened her closet to find her sandals, she was pleased to see that it was already 8.53am. Less than 10 minutes and she would be off on her way to her first group trip in five years. And it promised to be better than any of the ones that had gone before. This time their only objectives were to have a fun-filled day. There was no alien-related crisis to investigate, and no-one was chasing them down. For the first time ever, they were just a group of friends spending some quality time together in the beautiful outdoors.
And, of course, Michael would be there. She actually surprised herself with just how much she was looking forward to spending ‘fun’ time with Michael, something that had never really figured greatly in their former relationship. They had enjoyed being together, of course, but the only real excursions they had gone on had always been fact finding, and they had spent most of their time hiding from the FBI or fighting the skins – not a particularly fun-inducing time. She cast another quick look at her watch. 8.57am. They would be here soon to pick her up. She opened her bag to check she had everything she would need. Swimsuit – check. Towel – check. Sun lotion – check. Picnic blanket – check. Frisbee – hmm…she quickly went over to a small bag sitting by the wall and fished out the Frisbee she had purchased earlier in the week – check.
Maria grabbed the bag and her shades as she ran to the door. Swinging it open, she could feel her heart jumping in her chest when she saw Michael standing on the other side. Behind him, she could make out Kyle and Tess sitting in the car at the kerb.
“Yup, and raring to go!” Maria couldn’t help but laugh, she felt more light-hearted than she had in years.
Michael waited patiently while she locked her door, and they walked companionably together to the car, where he opened the door for her with an exaggerated gesture.
“Your carriage awaits, milady.”
Maria looked at Michael in semi-shock. Michael? Joking around? Surely not. Her surprise must have been evident on her face because Michael shot her a strange look.
“Who are you, and when did you send the real Michael Guerin back to his home planet?”
“What did I do?”
“The Michael I know would not have just done that.”
Kyle and Tess were both sending him odd looks as well. He wasn’t quite as much the stone-wall he had been before, but he was rarely outwardly cheerful.
“Maybe I just felt like a change for a day.” He said defensively. “I thought that’s what we were supposed to be doing today, having ‘fun’. ‘Being the carefree teenagers that we never were’ or something like that.”
“Well, yeah, but…” Kyle trailed off, unsure how to continue. If Michael wanted to try being happy-go-lucky, then he wasn’t going to stop him…he wanted to see it.
“So,” Maria started, as Kyle turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared to life. “Do you definitely know where you’re going?”
“Of course I do!” her step-brother exclaimed in mock outrage. “I’m following Max, there’s no way I can get lost!”
“And hopefully Max really does know where we’re going.” Tess added with a chuckle.
Maria, knowing the kind of person both Max and Liz were, didn’t doubt it for a second. They had probably researched all the different possible routes, and analysed possible places where they could get lost, or places where they might be delayed. That was part of the reason the majority of the planning that had gone into this ‘Fun Day Out’ and Bottomless Lakes State Park had been down to them. With Isabel off enjoying her honeymoon with Alex, they were the most organised and pernickety of the group. They had planned out their picnic, most of which they were taking in the jeep, with other things being carefully delegated to each person. They had most definitely been taking lessons from Izzy.
The 90 minute long journey to the Park was noisy to say the least. For the first several miles, they had listened to a popular radio station as it belted out local favourites to the Saturday morning audiences, but when one of Maria’s own songs had started to play, she insisted they turn it off. Despite their protestations, they complied with her reques…decree.
They filled the rest of the journey with chatter. With Michael in his ‘I’m determined to be a fun outgoing person today’ mode, there was a lot of laughter. Maria found herself getting to know a whole different side of Michael that she was astounded that he had in him. She found herself not only getting to know it, but liking it. Amazingly, she just about managed to connect it with the side he usually showed to the world, and she realised that all the times they had been alone together in the past, he was actually somewhere between this crazy side and the stony one he showed to the world. It was a sign of how much he’d matured in the last five years that he felt comfortable to let this other side out in front of even their friends, although he seemed to be overstating it just a little.
After only 3 incidents of Kyle managing to lose Max ahead of him, they finally piled out of the car at the other end. Grabbing their bags and a small box with picnic items supplied by Kyle and Michael, they joined Max and Liz as they unloaded the rest of the food from the back of the jeep. Maria made sure her bag was firmly on her back and held out her arms to accept the box of sandwiches Liz was holding out.
Making sure the cars were securely locked behind them, they headed off in the direction of the lakeside. It wasn’t a long walk, but they were glad they were making it in mid-morning and not in the heat of the midday sun. About halfway there, Maria caught the toe of her sandal on a rock sitting in the middle of the path. She would have toppled to the ground had Michael, who had been walking alongside her, not immediately dropped the bottles of chilled water he had been carrying to catch and steady her. And if his hand remained on her arm longer than was strictly necessary, Maria wasn’t about to start complaining.
When they eventually reached the lake at around 11, they promptly unfolded the large picnic blanket Maria had brought and stretched out in the morning sun. Noticing the increasing warmth as they relaxed, Tess suggested they swim before lunch, work up an appetite. Agreeing, the group started to disperse to nearby bushes with their towels and swimwear in hand to get changed.
“Hey Kyle, I’m sure Tess could get changed without your help!” Michael called teasingly as Kyle and Tess headed off together. Maria snorted. “What?”
“Like you’re one to talk mister. I seem to remember a certain moody alien insisting on helping me change into swimwear, despite the fact he couldn’t actually figure out how *fasten* the top.”
Maria and Michael shared a look as they remembered the incident. A few months after they had finally defeated the skins, Michael and Maria had gone on a camp out. Late that evening they had gone for a dip in a nearby river. As Maria recalled, her whole body heating at the memory, Michael had no problems working out how to *unfasten* the top. That night he had… Shaking herself as she became conscious of where she was, she grabbed her bag and found a secluded spot to change.
Just as she was emerging, her clothes stuffed in her bag, she heard Kyle yelling
“Last one in is a rotten egg!”
Knowing it was childish, but not really caring, she dropped her bag and ran full tilt to throw herself into the water, only barely beating Max to it. When she came back to the surface, she noticed everyone else had decided that as ‘rotten egg’, Max obviously needed a good splashing. Giggling she joined in with what soon became a fully-fledged water fight.
She screamed light-heartedly when she felt a large hand wrap around her ankle from below her and pull her under. Surfacing a few moments later, she turned to find that, as she had suspected, her assailant was none other that a smirking Michael. Squealing with phoney fury, she jumped on him, initiating an all out war.
By the time they finally dragged themselves out of the water much later, all six were exhausted. Unwilling to bother getting changed before their picnic, they simply wrapped their towels around them and sank down onto the blanket.
There was something about a picnic that made the food taste different, better, Maria decided. Or maybe it was just that having a picnic usually meant you were free to enjoy yourself with whomever you were sharing the food. Whichever it was, their lunch was delicious, and she had a lot of fun sitting cross-legged next to Michael as the food was passed around, and he attempted to make sure he got some of absolutely everything.
Packing the remnants of the food, and several empty containers and Tabasco bottles, the group lazed around sunbathing, too full to feel like moving. Disinclined to burden the day by talking about anything too serious, they chatted idly as they lay in the bright sunshine.
Some while later, Maria remembered the Frisbee she had brought with her. Poking a sleeping Michael in the side to wake him up, she persuaded the others to join her in a game. Having never played Frisbee before, Tess was at a definite disadvantage, but she made sure to tackle Kyle often enough that he rarely caught the flying disc either. Michael turned out to be an expert player, with Maria not far behind. In the heat, though, it wasn’t long before they tired, and returned to their relaxing positions on the blanket, where all the guys promptly fell asleep, leaving the three girls to chitchat to their heart’s content.
Finally, late that afternoon, they piled everything into the cars and headed back towards Roswell. After only around 10 minutes of the journey, Michael felt a soft weight on his shoulder and looked down to see Maria’s sleeping head resting there. He settled back into his seat, his heart full of an emotion he knew only too well.