A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Roswell" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
I lost a World - the other day!
Has Anybody found?
You’ll know it by the Row of Stars
Around its forehead bound…
~Emily Dickinson (c. 1860)
“Hey, sleepyhead! Wake up!”
Maria snatched the pillow from Liz’s hands before she could continue to pummel her with it and shoved it beneath her head. Her eyes remained firmly closed against the bright morning sunlight that flooded Liz’s bedroom. Rethinking her initial placement of the pillow, Maria retrieved it from beneath her head and used it instead to block out the bright light, pressing it against her cheek with her arm.
“Come on, Maria. Get up,” Liz insisted, softly chuckling at her friend’s futile attempt to reclaim the night and nudging her gently in the ribs. It was rare that they had a weekend off together, rarer still that one or the other of them would sleep over, and Liz was unwavering in her insistence to enjoy the day to its fullest. Besides, she hadn’t been the one who made plans for so early on a Saturday.
“I remember now why I don’t spend the night with you anymore,” Maria mumbled through the downy pillow that covered her face.
“I’m up, I’m up,” she insisted, rolling over but managing to keep her head firmly ensconced between the pillows.
“Sure you are.” Liz wandered toward the bathroom. She threw one last look over her shoulder at her best friend who was obviously drifting off to sleep again and shook her head in silent amusement.
Maria sat on a flat, sun-warmed slab of sandstone, staring out across the rough landscape that surrounded the town in which she had grown up. She wasn't sure where she was but she had been there before, she was certain of that.
The sun was deliciously warm on her skin and she stretched out her bare legs against the scratchy surface of the rock, dropping her head back so that all she could see was the flawless blue sky that was stretched out above the desert. She closed her eyes momentarily, breathing deeply the dry, clean air and relishing the familiar scents that surrounded her.
Her muscles felt as if they were melting into the sandstone beneath her and she gave into the sensation, allowing all the pent up tension to leave her body and seep into the sun-baked rock.
Someone was watching her. The telltale prickle at the back of her mind caused her to lazily open her eyes to the bright glare of the summer sun. The feeling wasn’t ominous, just protective, curious, and she wasn’t in a hurry to find her onlooker and possibly ruin her welcome reverie.
Focusing on the blue expanse overhead, she watched, fascinated, as the color deepened and stars began to pierce the velvety darkness of the heavens. As the desert fell rapidly into night, the stars brightened, the familiar band that marked the arm of the Milky Way, standing out as it belted the ever-deepening night sky. She silently watched the stars overhead, wondering how many of them were still in existence and how many of them had long ago burned out.
She turned toward the soft masculine voice that drifted to her on the teasing caress of the evening breeze. He stood just behind her left shoulder, the heat radiating off his body and warming her arm as it supported her. She could sense his presence almost as clearly as she heard his gentle beckoning voice.
She raised clear green eyes to capture the sight of the boy who stood behind her on the rocky outcropping. She waited for him to say more, although she knew he wouldn’t, he never did. Patiently she waited anyway as the stars above began to swirl and dance in the soft blackness of the desert night. The tiny specks of light dipped and twirled across the sky and she watched them lazily, their sudden dance of no more consequence than the sly lizard who had crawled across her foot to lie contentedly along one smooth shin.
She understood. It was time. She looked back up at him, a smile playing at her lips as he reached down to take her hand in a firm but tender grip. He grinned in return, taking both her hands in his when she was once again standing, sending the lizard sliding haphazardly to the rocky ground. It skittered off across the rock, as he pulled her to him, wrapping his arms around her waist as he leaned into her, claiming her mouth in a burning, soul-churning kiss. Everything would be fine, they would make sure of it, it was the way of things.
“Maria! You know, it was your idea to get an early start. We’re going to be late meeting up with the others if you don’t wake up soon,” Liz’s voice called from the steamy depths of the bathroom.
Maria started awake, her breath ragged and too loud in her ears. She glanced quickly at her surroundings. Good… no desert, no dancing stars, and definitely no Max Evans.
Shutting her eyes tightly, she rubbed her hands over them, scrubbing at them with balled fists in an attempt to scour the images and feelings of the dream from her mind. It didn’t work half as well as she had hoped it would and she could still feel the lingering touch of Max’s hands on her waist, the taste of his lips on hers.
“Mari- Oh, you’re up.” Startled to see her in a somewhat vertical position, Liz twisted a towel around her dripping hair and sat down next to her on the bed. She looked quizzically at her friend; something was strange. She looked the same as she had when they were children and she had swallowed a live earthworm because of a dare. “Are you okay?”
Maria shook her head, trying again to dislodge the dream from her thoughts to no avail. “Yeah, 'm fine," she muttered. "I think I’ll go take a shower.”
Quickly slipping out from beneath the sheets, she planted her feet firmly on the floor and rose on unsteady legs. Why couldn’t she forget the dream images? Why did she still feel the warmth of Max’s hands against her skin? And where in the hell had the dream, and all the others like it, come from in the first place?
She turned the water on in the shower and, quickly shedding her nightclothes, she stepped beneath its comforting spray. The dream was a recurring one, but never before had she seen the face of the person behind her. She had always assumed it was Michael, but the dream had kept his face shrouded in shadow, refusing to reveal his identity. But she had always known, somewhere in the back of her mind, that it wasn’t Michael. The touch was different, less desperate and demanding. And the kiss was unlike any she had experienced with Michael. It wasn’t better or worse, it just wasn’t the same.
Knowing she would have to put the dream behind her if she was going to be able to face either Max or Michael later that day, she willed her mind to wander in other, less distressing, directions. She thought about the plans they had made for the day, calculated how long they’d be stuck driving and who would probably opt to use their cars. She even tried to concentrate on the homework she'd be putting off until Sunday night. Anything but the dreams.
Maria sat edgily at the booth, still haunted by her dream. Why was she dreaming about Max of all people? What was it with her subconscious that her best-friend's boyfriend could just pop into her sleeping mind and make himself perfectly at home, that was strictly Michael's territory. She decided to blame the whole thing of the blasted Czechoslovakians, it had to be their fault somehow or other. She just hoped Isabel was laying off the dreamwalking thing for once. The last thing she needed was Miss Perfect finding out about her distressing dreams; she had enough to deal with already.
"So we should just all pile into two cars to make it easier," Kyle offered around a mouthful of Crashdown pancakes. "We'll be less likely to loose anyone with only two cars to keep track of."
Tess stirred yet another packet of sugar into her cola. "Then we're definitely not taking your truck. We could get, what, maybe one other person in there and I'm not going to resort to sitting on anyone's lap."
"There's always the back," he offered, grinning at her shocked expression.
"If you think I'm going to ride in the back of your truck... you're just... you're..."
He chuckled over her stuttered outrage. "Relax, Tessie, it was a joke."
"We could always throw Maria back there, it's not like her brain actually made it here this morning. What could it hurt?" Isabel commented, staring pointedly at the girl in question.
Maria finally jerked out of her musings to find all eyes focused on her. "What?! It's still early, and a Saturday, I might add. I'm allowed to space out."
"You're the one who set the time to meet, Maria. The least you could do is pretend to be here."
Maria glared at Isabel, irked at the haughty tone the impeccably dressed blonde had assumed, apparently she wasn't the only one of them who wasn't a morning person.
"The festival in Carlsbad opens at ten. If we leave now, we'll be there in time for the opening parade." Liz didn't want to start the day off with another argument between Isabel and Maria, there would be plenty of time for that as the weekend wore on.
"Great, we'll divide everyone up and leave then. Two cars," Max said, grinning at Liz. "Since we can't very well pile anyone in the back of Kyle's truck and since Maria is without the use of the Jetta this weekend, it looks like we're stuck taking the Jeep and Alex's car. Isabel, why don't you ride with Alex?" he suggested. As much fun as his sister's arguments with Maria could be to watch from afar, he didn't want to see one erupt within the close confines of the Jeep, the upholstery was in bad enough condition as it was. "Michael and Maria can ride with me and Liz in the Jeep, and Kyle and Tess with Alex and Isabel."
Maria froze. It was difficult enough to concentrate with a whole room full of people, what was she going to do with just two other people and Max in one car? Briefly, she considered asking Isabel to trade seating arrangements with her but decided against it. Her 'on again/off again' relationship with Michael was in its 'on again' phase and she didn't want to consider what her request would do to it.
'The things I suffer through for love...' she mused, shaking her head again and rising to follow everyone else out the front door.
Liz turned around in her seat to face Maria. "Hey, remember that game we made up the last time we had to drive out to Carrizozo for your mom?"
"Which? Oh, the one with the license plates? Yeah, what did we call it? License plate truths?"
"That's the one. You wanna?" At Maria's nod of agreement, Liz smiled and began to explain the rules to the two males in their company. "It's easy, sort of. All you have to do is read off the letters of the license plates of the cars we pass and make up a phrase that's truthful about yourself. Say I saw one that had ILM, I could say 'I loathe mushrooms' or 'I love Max'. If the phrase is too obscure though, you have to give a little explanation."
"Come on, Spaceboy," Maria said nudging Michael in the ribs when he snorted in disbelief. "It's fun, lighten up for a few minutes. You know, try to act on that human part of your DNA for once."
"Who goes first?" Max asked, already watching the car they were approaching.
"The driver always goes first, and then it's just clockwise around the car," Maria answered.
"Here's one. NFH. Hmm. Not from here!" Max said triumphantly after a few moments' thought.
"Cute," Maria commented drily, "very cute. That's the way, Max. Just jump right in with both feet. Okay, Liz, you're up."
The game lasted for the majority of the trip. When they stopped at a gas station half way to their destination, they shared their means of entertainment with the other car and both groups were engaged in playing it for the second half of the road trip. Maria was amused when her cell phone rang at one point and Tess was on the other end of the connection.
"Hey, Maria. I stole Isabel's phone. You'll never guess what Kyle just came up with for BBB."
Maria laughed, this was getting to be too much. She could hear the laughter that still filled the other car, at least everyone was in a good mood at last. "Okay, since I really don't want to try to delve into the inner workings of Kyle's mind, why don't you tell me instead."
"Maria, here's yours," Liz said, craning her neck to make out the letters on the plate that sped past them as Maria terminated the connection, chuckling over Tess' enthusiasm. "MDS"
'Max, dancing stars' was the first thing that popped into her mind. 'Can't say that,' she thought, pushing the thought aside quickly. Apparently she hadn't been quick enough because Michael looked at her questioningly.
"What is it?" he asked, genuinely curious.
"Maria?" Liz glanced back at her, drawn in by Michael's tone.
"I can't... fine." Thinking quickly, she blurted out the next thought that came into her mind, "Michael, dream seduction. Are you happy now?"
"Yep," Liz giggled.
"I don't think we require any clarification on that one," Max said, a sly smile tugging at his lips as he rested his hand on Liz's leg.
"Good," Maria muttered, "'cause you're not getting one."
Carlsbad was bustling by the time they pulled into the hotel where they'd made reservations.
'Two rooms for eight people, that prove to be interesting,' Maria thought.
Checking in and getting their room keys from the front desk clerk, they trudged through the parking lot to unload the overnight bags and backpacks they'd brought from Roswell.
Tess and Isabel followed Maria and Liz into their room, piling their things in a heap at the foot of one of the double beds. Tess was more excited about the sleeping arrangements than anyone had a right to be but was quickly excused when she explained to the others that she'd missed out on sleep-overs when she was a child. Apparently Nasedo didn't see any need for her to experience such base human activities.
"Well, we'll just have to go all-out then and make up for your lack of experience," Maria said, picking up the television guide. "Oh look, there's a really bad horror movie on pay-per-view tonight, 'Revenge of the Prom Queen'. Now that's a tailor made slumber party movie if I ever heard of one."
They all turned toward the door when Max stuck his head in. "Are you settled? The desk clerk said the parade starts in half an hour if you want to get there in time to see it."
"Yeah, we're ready."
They sat through the parade on the dusty street curb, cheering for the pint-sized T-ball teams and slightly off-key school marching bands, and collecting hands-full of candy from the overzealous float riders. Joining in with the rest of the crowd, they followed the parade down the street to the fairgrounds where the festival was set up. The banner that stretched across the entrance welcomed them to the eighteenth annual Carlsbad Alien Festival.
"Well, you should feel right at home, Guerin," Kyle said, eyeing the sign.
"Shut up, Kyle."
Kyle merely laughed at the casual retort, following Tess to one of the gaming booths.
Breaking off into smaller groups, they agreed to meet back at the entrance around three that afternoon for lunch. They'd already lost Tess and Kyle to the games and Isabel and Alex wandered into a miniature planetarium, leaving the last four together.
"Come on, I see a Ferris wheel," Maria coerced them.
"I don't ride Ferris wheels," Michael stated simply.
"They make me sick," Liz admitted, turning a little green at the thought of the ride, a crooked smile brightening her face. "But Max will ride with you. Won't you, Max?"
He smiled at Maria. "Sure, come on. I usually end up having to sit out all the rides except the carousel, I'll gladly accompany you, DeLuca."
"What is it with guys and last names?" she asked, trying to make her thoughts cooperate with her reason and forget about her dreams.
"Oh... You don't play any sports, Max."
He shrugged and climbed onto the ride, reaching out to offer Maria a steadying hand. Tentatively, she accepted his assistance, knowing that if she didn't, she'd end up falling flat on her face in the rocking seat and probably land in his lap as well. She sat down as far as she could from Max without looking like she was trying to avoid being near him, and lifted her arms so the carnival worker could secure the bar across their laps.
"I don't bite, Maria," Max said, intrigued by the distance she was obviously keeping between them.
She laughed nervously and slid a little closer to him. If she could make it through the ride with her sanity intact, it would be a miracle.
Since they had been the first one's to get on the Ferris wheel, they had to wait patiently as the rest of the seats were filled. Rising steadily over the fairgrounds in slow increments, Maria scanned the crowds below. She had lost sight of Michael and Liz in the bustling waves of people and tried vainly to find them again.
"This was a good idea."
Maria turned to face Max, wondering what exactly he was speaking about.
"We all needed a break. I didn't even know this festival existed until Liz mentioned it to me the other day."
"Oh," Maria replied, "yeah, most people don't. Everyone in the country seems to know about the Crash Festival in Roswell but Carlsbad's little party goes pretty much unnoticed. My mom used to come every year and operate a booth. The shop's gotten too busy for her to get away anymore though. I'm surprised she can still make it to the convention each year in Roswell."
She was quiet for a minute. "This kind of stuff must be weird for you though." Seeing his confused expression, she explained, "you know, all the little green men from outer space nonsense. I mean, how unrealistic is that? But I guess you can't really make a buck by saying that aliens might look like us and aren't actually out to take over the world."
Max smiled at her concern. "I just figure it's no more distressing than using sacred religious figures as mascots, or naming cars after aboriginal tribes. It's the portrayal of the actual crash at the Roswell festival that's hard to live with."
"Yeah, that's gotta be difficult. But you should see my mom getting all worked up over the Redskins' blatant disregard for Native Americans. And don't even get her started on Jeep Cherokees!"
"I'll remember that," he laughed.
When the ride finally began, Maria was pleased to find herself much more at ease with her riding companion, casually joking with him much the same as she generally did. The dreams were forcing her to see Max in an wholly different light and she wasn't entirely comfortable with the emotions that the new Max was stirring up in her.
Jumping down from the seat at the ride's end, they set out to locate their stray partners. Michael and Liz had disappeared though and they gave up their search when they came across another ride.
"They probably found the carousel," Max said squeezing into the seat so that Maria had enough room to join him.
"Michael on a carousel horse? Now that would make an interesting picture."
They wound their way through the festival, standing in line for each ride they found and even trying their luck at a few of the game booths. Maria had to suppress her laughter when she spotted Tess toting a giant inflatable purple alien across the trampled grass, Kyle loped along at her side like a happy puppy. He'd finally found someone who could appreciate his athletic ability, even if it was only because of the growing collection of alien-themed prizes he was winning for her.
No one was more surprised than Max when he won one of the games they'd stopped to watch. Accepting his own inflatable alien, he held the impossibly large head up next to his own.
"So, Maria, what do you think? Is there a family resemblance?"
"You are so not funny, Evans!" she chuckled.
"For you, m'lady," he exaggerated, holding the green opalescent plastic doll out as an offering, "a gift from your most humble servant."
She laughed again, taking the alien and tucking it under her arm. "You do realize that my mom makes these things, don't you."
He shrugged. "You can use it as padding on the next ride," he suggested, pointing to something called the Texas Twister.
"Sounds like I'll need it."
Tess tried to peer over the heads of the people milling around her. It was a pointless exercise, she was too short to even see over anyone's shoulder, much less their heads. "Do you see them anywhere? Max did say to meet at three, right?"
The six people who had clustered together at the festival's front gate all nodded. They'd been waiting for half an hour but no one had seen either one of their stragglers.
"We left them on the Ferris wheel," Liz said, "but that was pretty long ago. Knowing Maria, they're probably still working their way through all the rides." She looked over at Michael, but his blank expression was no help.
"I say we give them ten more minutes and then let them find their own lunch," Alex suggested good-naturedly.
"I say we already gave them thirty minutes and I'm hungry." Isabel's good humor was being sorely pressed by the delay in finding nourishment. That and Tess' broad assortment of alien paraphernalia.
"Well, we can't just leave them here."
She turned to look at Liz. "Why not? They've got the Jeep keys; we can all pile into Alex's car and come back after we find something to eat. It's not like we're leaving them completely stranded."
"Isabel's right," Michael agreed, "they'll figure out what we did when they realize what time it is. Let's go."
"I can't say that Maria's being a very good influence on Max," Tess murmured, smiling at the austere Max's tardiness.
"Is Maria a good influence on anyone?" Isabel asked, unintentionally giving voice to her thoughts. All eyes turned to look at Michael and she admitted to herself that yes, maybe she was. Michael would have never ventured this far out of Roswell for a weekend of fun without Maria's insistent nagging. Maybe the ditzy girl did have one or two good points after all.
"Oh, that was not fun," Maria groaned, staggering off the ride. "Remind me to never get on something that has the words 'drop' or 'terror' in its name again."
"I'll second that," Max admitted, wanting nothing more than to sit down for a few minutes. He spotted a lemonade stand and directed Maria over to it and the picnic tables set around it. "Wait here, I'll get us something to drink."
It was amazing to her how different Max was from Michael. The whole politeness issue was just such a nice change and the jokes they shared about the inflatable alien dolls weren't laced with biting sarcasm. She set her growing family of green aliens down on the ground next to the table. They had set out to win a second one after discovering that they did indeed provide some padding for the rides, the smaller ones had been added when she had made the comment that their little green friends certainly weren't being very prolific in their sex life. Now their inflatable friends had a total of three 'children'.
"Here, ice cold lemonade, drink up."
She gratefully accepted the cup and guzzled half its contents before setting it down on the flaking paint of the tabletop. "Thanks, that's exactly what I needed." She patted her forehead with her now damp hands, relishing the breeze that helped to cool her over-heated face. She glanced down at her watch, wondering how much longer they had to wait until meeting up with everyone else for lunch.
"What's wrong?" Max immediately looked up at her, his face filled with concern.
"It's four thirty, we were supposed to meet everyone an hour and a half ago!"
"I think it's safe to assume that they probably gave up on us meeting them. Most likely they went on without us," Max surmised. "Come on, we'll go get some real food and try to find them after."
"I can't believe how irresponsible they're being," Isabel stated emphatically.
"It's no big deal, Is. You know they'll both turn up eventually." Michael watched in amusement as Isabel paced furiously. "We came to have a good time so let's enjoy it while we can."
His statement startled Liz, not that it wasn't the truth, she just hadn't expected to hear it come out of Michael's mouth. The fact of the matter was that she was about to offer the same suggestion. She knew that Max and Maria were just off having fun somewhere at the festival, she didn't want to ruin anyone's good time by calling for a search party when it was most likely completely unnecessary.
"Come on, Isabel," Alex encouraged. "Let's go see that mirror maze we walked by earlier. It could be fun."
"Why don't we all go," Tess suggested.
"Why not..." Kyle herded their remaining group toward the mirrored maze hoping Liz wouldn't suffer any ill effects from the over-sized toy. He had seen her riding the carousel with Michael earlier though, so maybe she'd been able to work through the terror of Max's previous abduction scene.
"You do realize that they're gonna kill us, don't you?"
"Nah, well, maybe Isabel," Max teased.
"Great, that's just what I need. Miss Teen Alien terrorizing both my waking and sleeping hours."
"What if I sneak into her room once we get back to Roswell and hide all her yearbooks? At least that way she won't have a picture to use to dreamwalk you. I can't do much about the waking moments though. Maybe you could just stay asleep for the next few weeks."
"Max! You are such a gentleman!"
It was late in the evening and they had been on all of the rides at least once, the Texas Twister had even seen them a grand total of three times. The sun was just beginning to hang low on the horizon and they were both getting tired of the noise and constant movement around them.
"Come on, let's get away from the crowds for a little while," Max suggested, reaching out to take Maria's hand and lead her up the gently sloping side of a craggy mesa.
After her initial unease that morning, Maria had been able to forget about her dreams and focus on just being herself and enjoying the festival. Smiling her agreement, she allowed Max to guide her away from the noise and bustle of the festival.
They walked up to the crest of the mesa, walking to the far edge where the sound of the raucous crowds were lost to the wind.
Maria dropped down onto the warm ground, spreading her legs out in front of her. She was so tired she didn't think she'd be able to walk back to the Jeep on her own. She patted the ground next to her in a silent invitation for Max to join her.
"It's beautiful out here."
"Yeah, it is," she agreed, sighing with pleasure.
"Having fun?" he asked although he already knew the answer. It had been a long time since he'd spent time with just Maria. Ever since their destiny encumbered summer when Liz had taken off for Florida and Michael had avoided Maria like the plague, they hadn't spent any time together when someone else wasn't there. He hadn't realized how much he'd missed being with her until they'd lost Michael and Liz that morning.
"You know what? I am. Thanks."
"For convincing everyone to come and for being my riding partner for the day even though it meant you didn't get to spend the day with Liz."
"The whole weekend was your idea, Maria. All I did was agree that it was a good idea."
"True, but without the say so of the fearless leader, no one would have agreed to come." Maria leaned back and supported her weight with her arms, feeling the warmth of the rock radiate up her arms. "My opinions aren't exactly the most favored."
"Don't sell yourself short."
"I'm not, I'm just being honest. You know it's true, Max." Dropping her voice an octave she continued, "Oh, you know how that Maria is. It must be all those oils she sniffs, they've really scrambled her brain something good."
"No one says that."
"Maybe not, but they think it."
Max considered what she'd said for a moment before responding. He hadn't known Maria was insecure about anything, with the exception of her odd relationship with Michael, but she'd have to be crazy not to be insecure about that. "I don't think it, and neither does Liz."
"You're deluded, alien-boy. Liz has even said it. I know she loves me and all, but she still thinks I'm a bit of a ditz. Hmm, maybe she's right. I mean, I'd have to be, right? Have you seen how my mother makes a living?" she chuckled.
Deciding to try another route, Max murmured, "It doesn't matter what everyone else thinks. What you think is the only thing that's important."
"And I think..." Maria thought for a moment. "Okay, you've got me there, I don't know what I think." She smiled at her comment. It was the only truthful answer she could give. She looked up at the sky, night was falling quickly, causing the stars to brighten in surreal radiance.
They sat in silent contemplation for a long time, watching the stars prick the sky with their tiny points of light. The first brilliant shower of the fireworks show awed them, shaking them out of their separate reveries. She watched the colors spiraling across the sky and a memory tugged at her consciousness.
She turned to look at Max and was surprised to find his eyes already on her. There was an electricity in the air around them, a spark that had nothing to do with the fireworks that lit the sky. Before she could stop herself, she leaned closer to him, closing her eyes in anticipation.
Her last conscious thought was that he tasted the same as he had in her dreams.
"Where have you two been!" Isabel demanded when Maria slipped into their hotel room.
Immediately defensive, she shot back, "At the festival, where were we supposed to be?" She couldn't bring herself to look any of her temporary roommates in the eye. She didn't think she could even look herself in the eye in the bathroom mirror.
The kiss had shocked them both. Max had looked at her in wide-eyed surprise when they had finally broken their embrace and she knew she had worn a similar expression. Dream kisses were one thing, but kissing the real, live boyfriend of her best friend (or best-friend of her own boyfriend, depending on how she chose to look at it) was something else completely. They couldn't let anyone else find out. No one would be able to understand what they themselves didn't even understand, and people would end up getting hurt.
All she could think about was what Michael would think if he ever found out. He would think he'd failed to measure up yet again, that he wasn't as good as Max was, that he didn't deserve to be loved. Maria was tired of waging that battle without adding fuel to the fire.
Maria grabbed the television remote, quickly flipping channels until she found the movie they had decided to watch. Surely ‘Revenge of the Prom Queen’ would suffice to lighten the heavy atmosphere that had predominated the room ever since her return. Tuning into the movie, she tossed the remote onto the bed she and Liz would be sharing for the night, sinking down onto the worn carpet next to it to stare blankly at the movie's opening scene.
Tess was determined to ignore the obvious daggers Isabel was staring at Maria, instead choosing to lounge across the bed and watch a bunch of girls in bloody prom dresses dismember various members of the student body at West Lake High School. Talk about your angry young women…
Liz watched Maria, curious about her friend’s obvious distress. She couldn’t recall a time that Maria had been so closed off. She hadn’t even commented on the horribly clichéd script the movie seemed to be based around. She wondered what had happened while Maria and Max were at the festival together.
“Hey,” Liz said, finally deciding on a course of action, “I’m gonna go and get some ice. Anybody want anything from the vending machines?”
Liz ducked out of the room, ice bucket in hand, and walked to the room next to theirs. She knocked lightly on the door so that the girls in her room wouldn’t discover her alternate destination.
“Liz, hi, what brings you over?” Alex opened the door to let her in, smiling broadly.
Entering the room, she scanned the beds and chairs looking for Max but he was absent from the group that was sitting, totally engrossed, in a televised hockey game. “Umm, Maria just got in a little while ago. I was wondering if Max came back too.”
“Yeah, he did but then he went back out for snacks,” Alex explained. “You want to wait here for him to get back?” He looked over at the game with dispassionate eyes. “Or we could always send him next door when he gets in.”
“Oh, no, that’s okay. I just wanted to ask him a question, it's nothing important. I have to go get some ice.” She quickly turned around and left the room.
Snatching up their own ice bucket, Alex joined her on the walkway outside. “Better yet, why don't I come with you. Ice would be a good idea. Is something wrong, Liz?”
“I don’t know. It’s just me being weird, I guess, but did Max seem… strange when he got back?”
Alex thought for a moment. “He just seemed like Max,” he admitted, “maybe a little more Max-ish than usual but nothing too weird. Why do you ask?”
“It’s just that when Maria came back she seemed completely distant, I'm talking about really distant. She didn’t really say anything about today or anything and I was just wondering if maybe something happened while we were all separated. Something that we should know about.” Liz smiled up at Alex, suddenly feeling foolish. “I’m probably just tired. I’m sure nothing happened. They would have told us if it had.”
“It’s been a long day, and I’m sure Isabel was somewhat less than pleasant when Maria got in. But you know how Hurricane DeLuca can get, Liz. Any little thing can set her off sometimes and Isabel’s been rearing for a fight with her ever since this morning.” He laid a reassuring hand on her shoulder. “It’ll all blow over by morning, you’ll see.”
“You’re right,” she agreed. Lifting the door of the ice machine. At least she hoped he was right. Something just seemed slightly off about Maria, she was even refusing to meet her gaze. She was definitely too tired, she decided, if she was worried about Max and Maria having had a good time at the festival… much too tired.
“This is what you do at slumber parties?” Tess asked, her amusement evident in her tone. She watched as Isabel carefully painted her toenails with blue polish.
“There are always games to play too,” Liz added. “Like… ‘truth or dare’, or ‘spin the bottle’, or ‘light as a feather, stiff as a board’. Spin the bottle is generally relegated to boy/girl parties though and the whole lifting people into the air with two fingers isn't so interesting with people who can blow things up just by pointing at them.”
“And ‘truth or dare’ can be pretty risky when you’re in a hotel room, miles and miles away from good ol' parental supervision.” Maria stood up, stretching her over-tired muscles. She had planted herself on the floor and had refused to move for the duration of the movie, something she now regretted.
“So why don’t we play ‘truth’ instead?” Isabel asked, not looking up from Tess’ toenails.
Maria froze; there was something in Isabel’s voice that sent off a dozen little warning flags in her head. Somehow she didn’t think she’d like this game very much.
“I’ve got an idea,” Tess piped up. “Why don’t we get the guys over here and then play ‘truth’?”
“Now you’re talking,” Maria quipped. The more people there were, the less of a threat Isabel would be. At least that’s what her overactive imagination wanted her to believe. Besides, she had an overwhelming need to see Michael.
Maria didn’t know what Isabel’s problem was. They had been getting along great until she'd walked downstairs into the cafe that morning. Isabel had nearly snapped her head off. Maybe she wasn’t the only one who was suffering from the effects of sleep deprivation.
With the hockey game over, the other half of their group was more than willing to join in on their chosen mode of entertainment. After Isabel glanced into their short-term lair, she decided the game would stay in the girls’ room. How they could totally destroy a room in such a short span of time was beyond her realm of understanding.
“We’re playing ‘truth’, not ‘truth or dare’ now, guys. The same rules apply; you just don’t get the option of choosing to be dared. It was pointed out that dares would not be such a good idea so far from Roswell and everyone’s respective parental units.” Liz sat down after she explained what few rules they had agreed upon.
The eight of them made a disjointed, wobbly circle on the floor between the beds, and someone produced a coin so they could flip to see who would begin.
“Liz.” Alex said, grinning mischieviously. “What exactly goes on during all those chemistry study sessions you have with Max?”
She blushed at the insinuation, sputtering, “Studying! That’s why they call them study sessions.” She turned to look shyly at Max, seeing a similar flush stain his cheeks. “I promise, we really do study… mostly.”
“Yeah right. Okay, Miss Future Valedictorian, you’re up.”
“Alright, umm… Tess.”
Tess grinned. “Yes?”
“What’s it like to be a not-quite-official member of the Valenti family?” Liz asked, glad to be removed from the spotlight. Besides, she often wondered how Tess was getting along with her new permanently temporary family.
“Strange,” Tess replied. “There’s a definite vacuum of estrogen in that house. But, all in all, I like it. It’s nice to finally belong somewhere.”
“How sweet,” Maria cooed, reaching for the bottle of nail polish Isabel had left on the bedside table when she’d finished Tess’ pedicure.
“Sweet, huh? Okay, Maria, why don’t you tell us what you and Max were up to all day that you forgot to meet us for lunch?”
Maria’s head jerked up and she dropped the bottle of blue lacquer, sending it rolling beneath the bed. Her face turned beet red under the careful scrutiny of her friends. “Why would you think anything was going on? We just lost track of time when we were on the rides - end of story.”
“Then why did you get back so late?” Isabel asked.
“Okay, first of all, that’s two questions, secondly, it’s not your turn to ask…” Maria began, reaching out a hand to feel blindly beneath the bed for the prodigal bottle of polish.
“Come on now, guys, what’s the big deal?” Liz had been intrigued by Maria’s blush but pushed it aside in order to save her friend from being on the receiving end of the third degree. "Let's not harass Maria here."
“It’s okay, Liz. If you really must know…” she drawled, “We were sitting out in the desert making out under the fireworks.”
Max’s eyes shot toward Maria, incredulous at what she had just admitted.
“Oh yeah, I believe that!”
“Sure you were, Maria,” Kyle laughed.
The rest of their friends joined in on the laughter. That Maria, she was always good for a laugh, making wild accusations and insane conversation...
She raised her eyebrows at Max, and shrugged. If they didn’t want to believe her, that was their choice. She silently breathed a sigh of relief though, she had figured they wouldn’t take her seriously, but there was always the chance that someone might. Poor Max looked like he was about to go into cardiac arrest. They both missed the flicker of emotion that passed across Isabel's eyes.
“My turn. Hey, attention, everyone! It’s my turn to ask a question.” She announced grandly, waiting until the noise had died down before turning her attention to her love interest. “So, Michael, tell us, what is it that you like about me?”
No one moved; Michael himself didn’t even appear to be breathing. Maria only felt slightly guilty for putting him on the spot. She had needed something completely outrageous to take everyone’s attention away from the fact that she and Max had disappeared for the whole day, plus she was actually curious to hear his answer.
"This is a stupid game."
"Only because you don't want to answer the question, Spaceboy. So tell me, what do you like about me? There's bound to be something..."
"It's certainly not your bluntness," he replied, drawing more laughter from their friends. "I don't know, your hair I guess, and your eyes."
"Okay, so you're merely going on the physical here?" Maria asked, truly curious as to what his answer would be.
"Like you said, that's two questions, you only get one at a time. Alex?" Michael dismissed Maria quickly, turning his thoughts to how to phrase his question. "How did you ever put up with Liz and Maria for so long?"
"Michael!" Maria cried, indignant. She was echoed by Liz who turned a warning gaze on Alex, waiting for his response.
"At first it was because they were the only kids in class who would talk to me. But once I got to know them, it was because I cared about them. By then, I could ignore the strange quirks of their personalities." He grinned at the girls, hoping he'd steered clear of destruction with his answer.
The game carried on long into the night. They learned favorite colors, least favorite teachers, and more personal information about various relationships and home lives than any of them would have expected. Max and Maria's strange absence earlier that day wasn't mentioned again. Long past midnight, Tess' eyelids started to droop and Kyle suggested they call it a night.
Bustling the boys back into their room and securing the door against intruders, Isabel dimmed the lights and sequestered herself in the bathroom. Tess was more exhausted than anyone had expected and had fallen asleep on top of the bedspread. Maria and Liz helped her slip out of her jeans at least and crawl under the covers until only the very top of her head was visible.
Changing into their nightclothes, Liz and Maria looked longingly at the bathroom door. They'd have to wait until morning for a shower, that much was painfully clear.
Crawling beneath the covers of their own bed, Liz turned to face Maria. "Did you two have fun today?" she whispered, trying not to disturb their slumbering roommate.
"Yeah, we did. I don't think there was a ride we didn’t get on, even though there were a few we should have passed up. I never knew those stupid inflatable aliens could be good for anything but I do believe they saved me a few bruises." Maria smiled. "Michael didn't drive you insane did he?"
"No, we just talked... a lot. I don't think I've ever just talked to him before, it was kinda strange at first. I didn't know he could string more than a few sentences together."
"Funny, Parker. Michael and I do have conversations upon occasion."
"Yeah, all that free time you two get between kissing and fighting. I can see how you'd talk a lot."
"Well, tomorrow I think we should at least make an attempt to keep our own boyfriends, this swinger's lifestyle isn't quite what I go for," Maria suggested. She wasn't in a hurry to be alone with Max again. She knew he'd want to discuss what had happened and she didn't know what she would tell him. "Besides, I don't have the baggage space for my alien family to proliferate any more. Max can win you a family of Martians of your very own tomorrow."
Liz grinned at the suggestion. She had all the aliens she could handle in her life already.
Isabel stepped out of the bathroom after Maria and Liz had followed Tess to slumber-land. She watched the steady rise and fall of Maria's chest in the dim light that seeped in around the drawn draperies. She had known Maria for too long to become suddenly distrustful of her, but the feeling was there all the same. She just wished she knew the cause of it all. Shaking her head slightly to clear her thoughts, she retrieved the comforter that Tess had knocked to the floor and lay down next to her friend, determined to get some rest. Maybe if she could sleep she would be able to figure out what it was about Maria's statement earlier that night that was bothering her.
Isabel drifted into a restless sleep just as Maria's dream reclaimed her sleeping mind.
"Okay, so what shall we do first today?" Alex asked.
They stood at the entrance to the festival, looking around at the various booths.
"How about not loose anyone?" Isabel muttered, casting a glance at her brother and Maria. She smiled when Alex took a step closer to her and rested a hand on his arm.
"What's it gonna be first? Food or fun."
Alex covered his ears with his hands in mock pain at the unanimous chorus. "Well, when you decide to make a decision, at least you're in agreement," he chuckled. "Food it is then."
They walked through the crowds toward the funnel cake and food-on-a-stick stands, opting for carnival fare. Throughout the day they managed to stay relatively close together. They sat and watched a puppet show and a troupe of jugglers, sat through magic performances and sideshows, they even followed Alex and Isabel back into the tiny dark building that was optimistically labeled a planetarium.
The crowds had thinned considerably and they were halfway back to the parking lot that afternoon, groaning about the long ride home they were facing, when the heavy clouds that had been threatening rain all day opened up and sent a torrent of water down on all those who were unlucky enough to be caught out in it.
In the melee of confusion, Maria lost sight of the rest of her friends and ducked into the funhouse to escape the deluge. Wringing water from her shirt and hair, she shivered in the cool quiet interior, surrounded by huge grinning clown heads and distorted mirrors. An instant later Max appeared at her side.
"We've got to stop meeting like this, alien-boy. People will start to talk," she teased, smiling up at him as she continued to try to get rid of the excess water that clung to her.
Max smiled in reply, brushing his hands along his arms and sending a shower of droplets onto the floor. "I never thought you cared much what other people said."
Maria shrugged, having to agree with his comment. "I don't. It's a hazard of being Amy DeLuca's daughter. If I'd cared what everyone said, I'd have gone insane by time I was in the second grade. I might even have even been the world's youngest clock tower sniper."
Max laughed at the thought. The only images he could pull up of Maria as a child seemed to hinge around mischievously sparkling eyes, rosy cheeks, and golden curls. She had looked more like a cherub than a demon.
He looked around the interior of the building, eyeing the massive clown heads and shining mirrored surfaces with no trace of remembrance. "Did we come in here yesterday?"
"Nope. I'm not exceptionally fond of clowns, they used to scare me when I was a kid," she admitted, grimacing up at the nearest grotesque face that leered down at her.
"Maria DeLuca, the girl who faces down inquisitive sheriffs and intensely withdrawn aliens, admitting she's afraid of something? Who would have thought the day would've ever come..."
"I said I used to be scared of them." She drew back her shoulders and walked further from the decapitated clowns. "Alright, I still don't exactly like them overly much," she allowed. "So what is it that scares you, Max. I mean, you've discovered something about me that only Liz and Alex knew until now. Come on, fess up. It's your turn."
Max smiled sadly. "I thought we had stopped playing 'truth' last night."
"Ha! You were obviously mistaken, mister. Unless you feel like sitting around staring at each other until this storm passes, I suggest you get with the game and answer my question."
He knelt down, feeling the floor with a tentative hand before he resigned himself to sitting on it. He watched as Maria followed suit and slid down the wall across from him, her face half hidden in the dense mottled shadows of the building.
"Being found out."
Maria nodded. "I can see how that would be worrisome. I mean, look at what the FBI did when they caught you. White rooms and torture and living science experimentation isn't exactly on my list of the top ten ways I want to spend my summer vacation either."
"No, I mean, yes. Having anyone else find out that we're not from this world is a constant worry, you know it is, but that's not what I meant."
"If Liz or Michael, or any of the others found out about what happened yesterday..."
"Oh." Maria twisted the ends of her hair absently, knotting the soggy strands with her nervous fingers. "Yeah, I guess we should talk about that, huh?"
Max nodded, watching the shadows that danced across Maria's face and trying to judge her emotions through them.
"I love Michael," she began, "and I love Liz too. I would never want to hurt either one of them. I don't even understand what's going on in my own head anymore. The dreams have been really..."
"We just won't let it happen again," Max said, cutting off anything else she might have said.
"With ya' there, a hundred and twenty percent. One alien boyfriend is more than enough for this chick to handle, Teflon or not. Don't want an alien affair on top of it. I think that would push me completely over the edge."
They were quiet for a long time, listening to the loud rattling of the rain on the roof of the portable building in contemplative silence, neither one of them wishing to further explore their earlier betrayal. It wasn't until Maria started to murmur softly that Max realized she had fallen asleep.
He watched her through the shadows, trying to make out what she was saying but the rain was too loud and her voice too soft to be clearly audible. Finally, curiosity got the better of him and he moved across the room to sit down beside her.
She was in the desert, once again near the granolith chamber, and again she wasn't alone. But something had changed. She couldn't quite put her finger on the difference, she only knew that she had been there before and that the course of events was altering from what they had been.
The stars danced and spun over the desert and she watched them in amazement, wondering what would have to happen to make them act in such an unnatural manner. For all the scientific impossibility of their astral dance, they were beautiful and she found that she couldn't tear her eyes away from them.
The voice was as gentle as the desert breeze that caressed her cheek but even it failed to wrench her gaze from the heavens. She didn't even care that she was unsure of who it was that was calling to her. She wanted nothing more than to sit and watch the bright lights above her.
"Maria, it's time."
"Time?" she whispered the word to the stars. There was a niggling feeling at the back of her mind, a question that she could not put to words, something important. It was time. She knew the voice was right, knew she was supposed to understand the ramifications of those two words, but it was lost. Their meaning had been stripped away with the last of her strength.
It was at that moment that she realized she couldn't move, couldn't even turn her head or wiggle her toes. He mouth and tongue would only allow her to choke out a startled whisper as she watched the dancing stars become larger until they were no longer pinpoints of light but had morphed into ships that hung and buoyed in the atmosphere unlike anything she'd ever seen before.
"It's time." The person had closed the distance that had been between them, his breath rustling against her hair. "Don't worry, it will be over soon."
She barely felt the needle as it slid into her arm.
She came awake with a surge of movement, gasping for breath and pushing herself to her knees. Startled by her sudden spurt of motion, Max reached out to lightly grasp her arm, only to have her shriek and leap away from him in the dark room.
"Maria? It's me, it's Max. Are you okay?" He inched closer to her. "You were dreaming." He paused before reaching out to touch her again, wanting to soothe the ragged breathing and palpable fear that emanated from her. It wasn't from any sense of romantic attachment, his need to help her, he cared about her without the kiss complicating their friendship, he just wanted to help.
"Just a dream," she muttered. "Yeah, I'm fine. I'd be great if these dreams would go away."
"What dreams?" Max recalled a half-spoken comment about dreams from their earlier conversation and he wondered why he hadn't asked her to explain then.
"Just ordinary dreams, Max."
"Ordinary dreams don't scare you this much, Maria. What happened in your dream?"
Maria reached into her pocket and pulled out the little vial of Cyprus oil, unscrewing the lid and lifting it to her nose to inhale it's calming scent. She wasn't sure she wanted to elaborate on her dreams to Max, that would mean that she'd have to tell about the ones that had preceded their kiss. There was a lot of territory she had no interest in pursuing, her mind's insane nocturnal ramblings being one of them.
"Maria?" Max pressed, he wasn't about to let the topic drop without a fight; a fight he was determined to win.
Maria opened her mouth to speak, unsure what words were going to come out, when they heard Liz's unmistakable voice ring out in the cavernous room. "Max? Maria? Hey, you guys, you want to head out?"
Maria looked up, noticing for the first time that the rain had lessened to a reasonable summer shower. Relieved beyond belief to be saved from an explanation of her crazed dreams, she bounded to her feet and joined her friends in the gentle rain.
Walking back to their cars, Max brushed his hand against Maria's arm, gaining her attention. "Don't think you're going to get out of telling me that easily."
She tensed at Max's words, wishing she could take back any mention she had made of the dreams.
They drove back to Roswell in exhausted silence. No one was up to playing any more road games or even talking much beyond the occasional request for a pit stop or answering the trilling of a cell phone.
Maria kept up an inner battle to stay awake as she stared out the window, leaning slightly against Michael and drawing what warmth she could from him. The rain had left her cold and wet and her teeth chattered slightly, causing Michael to sling his arm around her shoulders and pull her closer to him. Between the warmth that radiated from his body and the gentle rocking motion of the jeep, she lost her silent battle and was asleep in bare minutes.
The scream that tore from her throat surprised everyone in the jeep, as well as Tess who had been talking to Liz thanks to Maria and Isabel's borrowed cell phones and echoed the terrified sound in Alex’s car due to her own shock. Jerking the vehicle off the road and onto the dusty shoulder, Max spun around in his seat to face Maria.
Michael was struggling to hold onto her as she fought his grip, his ears still ringing with her cry. "Maria! Maria, wake up!" He shook her in an attempt to bring her from the dream.
Her eyes snapped open and tears streamed down her cheeks unchecked. Twisting in Michael's embrace, she buried her face in the crook of his neck, breathing in the reassuringly familiar scent of his rain-dampened skin and trying to steady her breathing. She remained clinging to him even as the jeep became surrounded by worried friends from the other car.
"What happened?" Alex asked, peering into the back seat.
Liz shrugged, her voice brimming with concern, "I don't know, she was asleep and then all of a sudden she was screaming." She was as much at a loss as the rest of them, watching anxiously as Michael gently rocked Maria, holding her tightly against his chest.
"It's the dreams."
All eyes focused on Isabel. She simply watched Michael continue to soothe Maria, pointedly ignoring the questioning looks.
"Isabel," Max studied his sister, "what are you talking about?"
“I’m not sure.”
They crowded around the booth; they’d been back in Roswell for half an hour already and everyone was more than ready for some kind of an explanation.
“How do you know about Maria’s dreams, Isabel?” Max watched his sister closely, trying very hard to believe that she had not been using her dreamwalking activities as a recreational activity again but finding it increasingly difficult to do so.
She glared back at him. After a lifetime on Earth of living in the same house with him, and if the message they had received in the pod chamber was to be believed, a whole other lifetime spent as his sister as well, she knew without a doubt what he was thinking. “As surprising as it may sound, I have no desire to see what it is Maria dreams about. Seeing Michael in a tux was enough to last me a lifetime. I really don’t want to know what fills her dreams now that they’re actually together.” Isabel shuddered, meeting Max’s gaze evenly.
“Then how did you know?”
Isabel glanced across to where Maria sat between Liz and Michael. She would have taken exception to the question but for the empty, plaintive note in her friend’s voice. She shook her head slowly. “I’ve been having these weird dreams lately, really weird dreams. When you woke up screaming, I just figured you were having bad dreams too. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist ,” she turned a pointed glare on her brother, "or dreamwalking to figure that one out."
Maria accepted the simple explanation. It would, at the very least, explain why both of them had been at each other’s throats all weekend. If neither of them was sleeping well it was no wonder that their almost diametrically opposed personalities were grating against one another so much more than usual.
Liz leaned forward. “Maybe if we compared the dreams you’ve been having we could figure out what was going on.”
Isabel opened her mouth, unsure of how to begin, but was stopped by Maria’s desperate denial. Intrigued, she focused solely on the upset teen.
Maria clamped her mouth shut again. Her generally overwhelming quirkiness could only go so far when it came to explaining her actions. She wouldn’t be able to keep their questions at bay for very long if she just shouted ‘no’ every time the dreams were mentioned. She already had Max’s curiosity piqued from foolishly allowing herself to fall asleep in the funhouse; she didn’t need anyone else to jump on his little bandwagon of well-intentioned determination.
“Um, what I mean is, let’s not talk about them here.”
Max nodded slowly. “Okay, how about if we go to our house?” He glanced at his sister to see her shaking her head. “Why not, Is?”
“Look, these dreams are weird enough without trying to talk about them with Mom and Dad in the next room.”
“My apartment in one hour. No parents, no surveillance equipment, just us,” Michael said, his blunt statement leaving no room for dissention. He slid out of the booth and reached out to take Maria’s hand in a rare gesture of affectionate possession. “Come on, you can help me pick out snacks at the grocery store, all I've got at home is Tobasco and sour milk.”
Those left behind watched the pair as they left the diner.
“I guess those dreams aren’t the only thing that’s weird these days,” Alex commented, curious at Michael’s actions.
Maria and Michael walked up to his apartment half an hour before the rest of their friends were due to arrive. Lugging in the few bags of groceries they’d brought from the store, Michael flipped the tiny black and white TV on and sat down at the counter. Maria set her bag on the kitchen floor and leaned heavily against the refrigerator, relishing its cool surface against her heated skin.
“I’m tired,” she said, partly to see if Michael even remembered that she was there.
“You should lie down. Bed's made... clean sheets even. Changed 'em before we left." He gestured vaguely in the direction of the bedroom.
Maria eyed the doorway. She was so exhausted she thought she could probably fall asleep standing up, but the thought of the dreams returning was too much of a deterent. "Nah, everyone'll be here pretty soon anyway. I'll just make some coffee."
She rumaged through the bag she'd carried in, looking for the Folger's instant coffee bags she'd added to their snack run. If Michael had thought her selection was odd, he hadn't said anything about it at the time.
Michael opened the front door before Max's knuckles made contact with the badly painted wood.
Noting his friend's questioning expression he shrugged, "Maria's passed out."
Looking beyond Michael into the apartment, Max saw Maria precariously perched on a bar stool at the counter, her arm slpawed across the surface and her face obscured by the tumbled waves of her hair as a coffee maker cheerily brewed up a fresh batch of caffine laden refreshment.
"How is she?" Liz asked, looking up into Michael's eyes.
"Asleep." He turned aside in order to allow them entrance, accepting a grocery bag from Isabel as she passed him by.
"I didn't want to have to take my chances on what you two thought snacks were." She strode purposefully into the apartment, settling into one corner of the couch.
Once everyone had filed in, Michael closed the door and looked back at Maria. She looked exhausted, even aside from the fact that she'd fallen asleep almost before she'd finished setting up the coffee maker, her eyes were shadowed by dark smudges and her skin looked too tight. He didn't want to wake her up.