Like the Lightning Like the Lightning
By Erin

Disclaimer: If I owned 'Roswell,' would I be writing fan fiction?

Dedication: This goes to Joanne, who told me that she'd beta for me... and she told me that it was good and that it didn't need to be changed. (yeah! i was so happy) To Cotti, for reading it over when it was first starting off and for her awesome challenge challenge. And last (but not least) to Dizzy, who helped me figure out a name. Thanks so much, gals!

Author's Note: Okay, I'm having writer's block right now. Although, I thin* that it's being cured. I'm starting to get more ideas and things to write about. This fic is a challenge fic... Cotti's Our Lady Peace one. Here are the guidelines...

Cotti's Our Lady Peace Challenge
- one of them getting sick (possibly on their deathbed)
- one UC couple (i.e. Alex & Tess)
- someone getting pissed and tells everyone what (s)he think of them (and none too kindly either)
- roses (any kind)
- someone burning a photo of his or her girlfriend/boyfriend/significant other while crying
- a graveside goodbye
- must include one of the OLP songs (I selected 'Waited')


With that said, onto the fic!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Chapter 1


Lightning leapt overhead from cloud to cloud, illuminating the sky for a brief period of time before everything went black, again. The thunder shook the ground and Maria walked outside into the stormy night.

She shivered, despite the anorak and the fisherman's hat that she was wearing.

Her head and her stomach were both killing her. They were getting worse by the day.

She shook off the thoughts and turned them to her plans for tonight.

Tonight, she had a mission.

Tonight, she was finally going to say goodbye.

She jumped in surprise when she heard him clear his throat. Quickly, she turned around to find a lanky teenage boy standing before her.

"You wanted to see me or something?" he asked, running his hand through his spiky hair.

"Yeah, I think that we need to talk."

"What about?"

The lightning crashed as it jumped across the sky, once again changing the darkness into daylight for a second.

"You see the lightning?" she asked, pointing to the cloudy sky.

"Yeah..." he said, his voice droning off.

"That's our relationship."

"What?"

"Our relationship is like the lightning bolts jumping from cloud to cloud," she paused, thinking about what she was going to say next, "All night, I've been watching the sky and I've been trying to predict where the lightning will strike next. But you see, the thing is, I can't tell where it's going to go next."

He nodded his head, watching the light show in the sky instead of her.

"And that's like our relationship. You can't tell where it's gonna go and you definitely can't tell how we're going to act and react to each other. We're both just like that... like the lightning."

Silence.

"Do you understand what I'm saying?" she asked, praying silently that she wouldn't have to explain any more to him.

He nodded, looking up to the sky.

Once again, the lightning brightened the sky and the thunder sounded in the distance. Rain poured from the heavens and soaked the ground, as well as the two teenagers, within seconds of its start.

"What I'm trying to say is..." her voice trailed off and she turned her head, unable to meet his gaze because of the tears that were forming. "We aren't supposed to be together," she whispered, tears starting to fall from her emerald eyes, "You have a destiny to fulfill..." she took a deep breath and sighed, "And I can't get in the way."

"Look at me, Maria," he said softly, reaching out to touch her chin.

Slowly, she lifted her head and her teary eyes met his.

"Maria, you're the only one for me."

"You have a destiny, Michael," she paused, wiping the tears from her eyes. She looked to the sky, then up at him and whispered, "And I love you too much to make you give up something as important as that."

"You're more important to me than Isabel or my stupid destiny."

"No... you've been looking all your life for your home... a place where you belong and you have a family, a real family. I can't take that away from you," she sobbed, turning her attention to the sky, watching for another bolt of lightning.

"You are my home," he whispered as he pulled her in for a hug. He kissed her forehead and she cried into his shirt.

She pulled away from his grasp, looking up into his eyes for one last time.

"I love you, Michael. Remember that. Goodbye," she managed to choke through the tears falling like the rain down her cheeks.

"Maria..." he called after her, but she was already gone, running down the street in the pouring rain, leaving him, the only man that she would ever love, behind.

* * * * *

When she got back to her house, she managed to choke to her mother that she was safe and back home for the night.

Then, she dragged herself into her bedroom and collapsed onto her bed.

Why did she have to be the one who ended something that both knew was true?

Was she the only one who could see this whole situation clearly?

But didn't she need Michael?

Maria looked over at her dresser and picked up one of the colorful frames, looking at the picture inside. She smiled at the memory. It was taken before they knew of their supposed destinies or anything related to that.

Liz had insisted on a picture of the two of them before they went to dinner one night. Michael had complained about not wanting to be in a picture, but the two of them somehow convinced him to be in it. Maria was smiling at the camera. Michael was wearing an amused grin and was staring at Maria, who was sitting on his lap.

Remembering those good times, the tears began to fall and she padded into the kitchen, pulling a box of matches out of the top drawer next to the sink.

Tears streaming down her rosy cheeks, she carefully held the frame up into the light for one last look then smashed it on the countertop, sending glass shards all over the floor. Picking through the broken glass, Maria took the picture out of the frame and lit a match, holding the memory into the flame until it caught on fire.

After a few minutes of burning, the photograph was completely seared from the flame. Their faces were the only visible evidence that the picture had ever existed.

Exhausted and teary eyed, Maria opened the back door and threw the picture and the memory into the night.

Then, she walked over to the sink and poured herself a glass of water and took two Advil out of the container. She washed both pills down with one swig of water.

She put the glass down and padded down the hallway back to her bedroom. Maria sighed and crawled under her bedspread, closing her eyes and praying that she'd get some sleep.

Lightning flashed in the distance and the storm's torrential rains began to calm.


Chapter 2


Maria groaned as she climbed out of bed.

She'd been awake all night, even though she had nothing to do... or to think about, for that matter.

It was all said and done and there was absolutely nothing that she could do about the situation now, even though she wished that she could turn back time and change her actions.

"Good morning, Maria," her mother chimed from the kitchen.

"Hi, mom," Maria said groggily, padding into the kitchen that smelled delicious.

"Sleep well?" Amy asked, not looking up from the pancakes she was flipping.

"Mom, why are you here? Don't you have to work today?"

"Maria, don't you remember where we're going today?"

"Disney Land?" Maria joked halfheartedly, her voice cracking.

She knew where she was going and she wasn't particularly excited about it.

"We're going to see Dr. Brough about your headaches and stomach today, sweetie. Remember now?"

Maria only nodded and sat down at the kitchen table, her head in her hands.

'Today is going to be equally as bad as yesterday,' she was reminded of the current events that had taken place in her life.

* * * * *

After sitting for an hour and a half at the doctor's office, Amy and Maria were called in to see Dr. Brough.

When they were led into the large examination room, Maria shivered, remembering the tales Max had told their group about the white room and the people that held him captive.

There was a woman sitting down in a spinning chair that looked to be in her mid-twenties and had shoulder length brown hair. When Amy and Maria walked into the room, she smiled at them.

"So, you must be Maria?" she asked, motioning to the teenager who had just walked into the room.

Maria mumbled 'yes' and nodded her head.

"Why are you here today?"

"We came because my daughter is having terrible headaches and nausea," Amy told the doctor, who had a look of true concern on her face.

"They seem to be getting worse by the day," Maria added.

The doctor looked up from her clipboard and smiled at Maria, who was nervously scanning the room.

"Sounds to me like you're having migraines. I'll give you some medicine that should help get rid of them. If they don't start getting better, I want you to come back so that we can do some more tests."

Maria and Amy both nodded and thanked the doctor for her help.

The doctor handed them the prescription and they walked out of the building.

* * * * *

"She broke up with you?" Tess asked, her voice filled with sympathy and hopefulness. "Over your destiny? Over the book?"

Michael nodded mutely and turned his attention to the floor, sighing loudly.

"Well, Maria obviously thinks that this is important, right?" she said softly, putting her hand on her heartbroken brother's shoulder in support. "She wouldn't have broken up with you if she didn't. Maybe you should give what the book said a try, you know, about you and Isabel."

Michael looked up at her, his face twisted in disgust. He shook his head in disagreement.

Max and Isabel, who just walked into Tess's apartment, interrupted them.

"You guys wanted to see us?" Max asked, raising an eyebrow.

Tess turned her attention from Michael to her new visitors and smiled.

"I thought that now would be a good time to talk about our destinies; about what your mother said at the cave and the book, since we never really got a chance before."

Max groaned.

Isabel rolled her eyes and glanced over at Michael, who was equally annoyed with the short blonde standing in front of them. Then, she flopped down onto the couch and sighed.

"Tess, we've talked about this before. I love Liz and I want to be with her. No one else. I don't know why there has to be a part of our destinies about not getting to choose who we want to be with, but I don't buy it. I'm sorry, but it's not going to happen."

"Max, I know you love Liz. I do, it's not that I don't want you to be happy, but this part of our destinies, as you put it, it's there. It's written in the book. It's real. And it might be really important in saving our people. Are you willing to risk that?"

"A book! A book that was written a long time ago, Tess. We're different than we used to be!" Isabel exclaimed, her temper sailing over the edge.

"Don't you think that it's worth just trying this, in case it's crucial to our race's survival? Don't you think it's worth just trying to save our people? Our family?"

They looked around and all reluctantly bobbed their heads, knowing what Tess was going to say next.

"Don't you think that it would be worth a try for just a little while... just one night, for the four of us just to go out and see what happens?" she completed, watching the faces of her companions to gauge their reactions.

Max, Michael, and Isabel frowned back at her.

"What about we go to a movie tonight, just to see what happens?" Tess proposed.

Silence.

"It's worth a try," Max finally piped up.

"What?" Michael and Isabel exclaimed in unison.

"It sounds like a good idea for the four of us just to spend some time together. I mean, we should at least give it a try... and it's not like we're making the decision to be together like this forever. We're gonna go as friends. Learn some more about each other. It'll help when we're fighting for our people."

Isabel and Michael nodded mutely, unable to think of what to say at their leader's sudden change of heart.

Tess smiled at them.

"See you at the movie theatre tonight around seven."


Chapter 3


Maria entered the Crashdown Cafe, not wanting to remember or talk about what was happening in her relationship with Michael.

"Hey, Maria, could I use your help for just a second?" Liz called from behind the counter.

Maria rushed over to her best friend, who was struggling to carry two trays filled with food to her customers.

"Lemme take this one," Maria told her as she took one of the heavy trays.

"Thanks," Liz smiled.

When they had handed out the food on the trays, both girls walked into the break room, where they were greeted by Alex.

"Good afternoon, ladies," he said, grinning.

"Hey, Alex," they both responded.

"So, what are you doing here?" Maria asked.

"Just wanted to talk to my best friends about love, heartbreak, you know... the usual. Got a problem with that, DeLuca?" he raised an eyebrow.

"What did she do to you this time?" Liz sighed.

"Well, today, I saw her with Michael... and Max with Tess. And they all looked a little too couplish."

"Calm down, Alex," Maria told him, "I'm sure that you misinterpreted what they were doing. They're probably going off on another vision quest."

Alex shook his head and sighed.

The bell on the door jingled.

* * * * *

Tess, Max, Isabel, and Michael walked into the Crashdown Cafe and sat down at their favorite booth, talking and laughing quietly.

Liz rushed over to their table to take their orders.

"Hey!" she exclaimed, smiling brightly at Max.

"Hey..." Max said breathlessly, his eyes not once leaving hers.

It was completely silent for a minute.

"So, what do you want to eat?" Liz snapped out of her daze.

"Uh... just a Sigourney Weaver with fries and a Cherry Coke," Tess told her, grinning slightly.

"Just a Diet Coke for me," Isabel said, handing Liz her menu.

"Hmm... I'll take a Will Smith and some Saturn Rings," Michael completed.

"The usual," was all Max said.

"It'll be out in a minute," Liz called over her shoulder as she headed back for the kitchen to give Jose their orders.

* * * * *

"What are they doing here?" Maria asked Alex, who was sitting down next to her.

"Do I look like I'd know?" Alex raised his hands, shaking his head.

"I'm going over to talk to them," she said before she stood up and started to walk in their general direction.

"Hey," she said before she pulled up a chair at their booth.

"Hi, Maria," Max said.

Michael nodded in her direction while Tess and Isabel smiled at her.

"What are ya'll doing here tonight?"

"Not much, really. Just getting something to eat. You know, the usual," Isabel told her, not wanting to reveal where they had really been and what they had been doing.

"Fun. Done anything exciting today?" Maria asked in her friendliest tone.

"Actually, we just were on a double date," Tess said, still smiling.

"What?" Maria asked, not able to believe what she was hearing. "I thought... I thought..." she stuttered.

"We were just trying it out," Tess said, smiling at Maria.

The smile was what set Maria off.

"You have absolutely no right to take them away from us!" she exclaimed, drawing the attention of all the other customers in the Crashdown, but she didn't care. "Isabel, I thought that you told Alex that he was your destiny... same with you, Max."

Isabel turned her attention to the Crashdown's mural, avoiding Maria's shocked emerald green eyes. This was exactly what she didn't want to happen.

Max tried to protest, but she cut him off.

"And you know what? I bet they believed you!" she hissed, lowering her voice, "You both are aliens who were damned to this planet. And I can tell you that everything will change when I tell Liz and Alex about this. You can count on it that this will change."

She turned her attention to her ex-boyfriend, looking him dead in the eyes.

"And Michael, I thought that you told me that you loved ME... and that I was your destiny," unshed tears clouding her vision. She blinked them back, refusing to cry in front of them.

Michael watched her with pleading eyes, but she shook her head.

"I actually thought that I loved you!" she exclaimed.

"But Maria..." she cut him off, waving her hands in the air.

"No, Michael. We were over, but I always thought that this would work out in the end. I guess that your destiny is too important..." her voice droned off.

Tears were now streaming down her face, she could no longer hold them back.

"I hope that all of you are happy with what you've done to us," she choked between sobs, now fully aware of all her spectators.

Then, she turned on her heel, intending to walk away from the situation before anyone spoke.

Everything went black as her body fell limp to the floor.


Chapter 4


Two hours later, a worried mother and seven frightened teenagers were still in the waiting room, hoping and praying for a verdict on Maria's fainting spell.

A nurse came out of the swinging doors and came up to them and Amy DeLuca. They stood to hear the news.

"Mrs. DeLuca?" she asked, looking at her clipboard.

"Yes," Amy said anxiously.

"I'm sorry. We're all sorry. But Maria has Reye's syndrome," the nurse completed, pity in her voice.

"What is that?" Amy asked, brushing her hair back from out of her face.

"To sum it up," the nurse said, "Reye's Syndrome is a disease that affects children of all ages. We don't know the cause of it, but we think that it has something to do with taking aspirin during a viral infection. Maria's behavior was affected and the headaches and nausea were all signs of this. I'm just so sorry that we didn't detect it sooner. It's so far advanced that we can't do anything to help her."

"What are you saying?" Amy exclaimed, tears in her eyes.

She knew what the nurse was going to say, but she didn't want to hear it.

"Maria is in a coma and she doesn't have much time to live," the nurse told her, a mix of pity and sorrow evident in her voice. "You can go in a visit her whenever you want." With that, the nurse turned on her heels and headed back through the swinging doors.

Isabel gasped and turned around to find Alex behind her, who quickly wrapped his arms around her, burying his face in her hair, unable to find words to say anything to anyone.

Liz ran out of the room, tears streaming down her face. Max followed closely behind her, trying to conjure what he was going to say when she finally stopped sprinting.

Amy's tortured cry could be heard miles away. It was the cry of a mother who had lost her only child. And that was exactly what was happening.

And surprisingly, Michael calmly walked over to her and put a comforting hand on her shoulder. She turned around and embraced him in a hug, letting his chest absorb her sobs.

He let his tears flow from his dark eyes freely.

* * * * *

When everyone, including a very upset Amy, had gone home to rest for the night, Isabel and Michael were still waiting, plagued by guilt.

They waited for news on Maria.

They waited, hoping and praying for the best.

They were waiting for answers that they would probably never get.

"I can't take this anymore," Isabel finally said, taking in a shaky breath. "I can't take this… our destinies, at least the one where we can't choose who we want to be with."

Michael turned to her, his eyes soft and understanding.

"You know, I always wanted to find home."

"Yeah, what does that have to do with destiny?" Isabel sighed.

"Everything..." he paused, "I always wanted to find a home and I found one in the most unlikely place, the very same place that I hated all these years."

"Uh huh," Isabel nodded, not quite following what he was trying to say.

"Forget it," Michael snapped, his stonewall building up, once again. "Let's just go in a see Maria."

When they walked into the room, Maria sighed and turned over to face the door they just entered, like she could feel their presence.

Michael and Isabel sat down by her bed and Michael looked at Isabel with pleading eyes.

"Could you..." he began.

"I can't, Michael. I'm not as good as Max at healing and it's her time. I can feel that, unfortunately. I'm so sorry," she completed, her voice tainted with sorrow.

Michael nodded and leaned over, stroking Maria's soft, golden locks. He took her hand in his larger one and softly squeezed it softly.

"Maria, if you're listening, we just want you to know that we're sorry," Isabel started off, leaning in closer to Michael and Maria.

Maria tossed over again, away from Isabel.

"I guess she wants you to talk," Isabel finally said dejectedly. "I'll be waiting for you in the hall when you're done."

Michael only nodded and waited until Isabel was out of the cold hospital room before he started speaking.

"I'm so sorry, Maria... for the date surprise. Really, we were just going as friends and I'm so sorry that Tess made it out like we were on a double date," he whispered, unable to articulate what he was going to say next. "I just want you to know that I never meant to hurt you... ever."

Maria sighed.

"I'll always love you," he completed, brushing her golden hair behind her ear. "And I just wanted you to know that."

And with those last words on his lips, he leaned down and kissed Maria's pale forehead.


Chapter 5


The next afternoon, they quietly entered her room, afraid to see what was happening to one of their best friends.

She lay silently and it looked as if she was sleeping in the hospital bed.

But they knew better.

They knew that she was dying and there was nothing that they could do about it. They knew that they couldn't use their powers to help her. It was her time.

Alex was the first to kneel down by her side. Liz followed the same suit. Michael took her hand and Isabel touched her face. Max was touching her arm and Tess was at her feet.

"We can't stop what's happening… it's her time," Max finally said, breaking the silence. "But maybe we can do something so that we all can say our last goodbyes."

The five others nodded, looking intently at Maria.

Then, Max took her hand and began to pour energy into her.

::flash::

Maria playing on the Roswell Elementary playground with Liz and Alex. He could feel the joy she was feeling because she had the two greatest friends. But he could also tell that she felt something missing. She just didn't know what.

::flash::

Maria watching Michael from a distance, afraid to come too close. Max sensed Maria's curiosity and wonder about why this guy was so closed off. She wanted to help him.

::flash::

Maria making out with Michael and telling him about her visions. He could feel her pleasure and the guilt that she felt after she told him about the fake visions.

'Come on, come on,' Max thought, 'Connect to me, Maria.'

::flash::

Liz being shot at the Crashdown that fateful day in September. Maria's shock and fear for her best friend was overpowering.

::flash::

Two green aliens in one of her dreams... Max and Isabel. And Max felt that she was scared, but also curious at these two new people who just came into her life.

'Bingo!' his mind exclaimed. He was in.

Max poured all his energy into Maria and there was a flash of light.

"Lizzie?" Maria asked.

Everyone turned around to find Maria standing behind them.

Most did a double take, looking at the Maria standing in front of them and the Maria lying on the hospital bed.

"Maria!" Liz exclaimed, letting the tears roll down her cheeks.

"Lizzie, don't cry. I don't want you to be sad, chica," she said, wiping a freshly fallen tear from her best friend's cheek.

"We're going out of the room, when you're done, Liz, come get one of us," Isabel told her, leading everyone but Max out of the room to await their turn to say their last goodbyes to Maria.

"I can't help it, Maria, I'm going to miss you so much. What will I do without you?" Liz sobbed.

"You're going to do just fine, Liz. Really, you are. You're going to go to Harvard and become a molecular biologist, just like you've always dreamed. And you're going to get married and have kids. And you'll tell them all about me, right?" she paused and Liz smiled through her tears. "You'll be all right, just stick with these people and you're all set."

"I love you," Liz said, wrapping her arms around Maria's neck.

"I love you, too," Maria whispered, "and don't you ever forget that."

Liz sighed and kissed Maria's cheek.

"Lizzie, will you tell my mother that I love her and that I'll always be with her?"

Liz nodded, tears still streaming down her face.

"Good luck," she finally said.

"I'll be watching over you," Maria completed, waving to her best friend, a smile evident on her face. "And good luck to you, too."

When Liz exited the room, Maria sat down in the chair by her bed.

Tess entered the room silently, unable to look at Maria or Max. She focused her eyes on the cold hospital tile floor.

"Tess..." Maria's voice drifted off, partly because she didn't know what to say and she didn't want to talk to Tess.

Tess looked up at her, her eyes filled with sorrow and fear.

"I didn't want you to die... I just wanted to fulfill my destiny," she whispered as she sat down on the bed, next to the 'sleeping' Maria.

Maria nodded. She couldn't articulate what she was feeling.

"Good luck, Maria," was all Tess said before she silently slipped back out of the room.

Maria sighed and waited for her next visitor.

The door creaked and Alex walked into the plain hospital room, carrying a bouquet of daisies, Maria's favorite flower as a child.

"These are for you," he said simply and held the flowers out to Maria, who carefully took them into her arms.

"I can't believe that you remembered!" Maria exclaimed, remising on the day in fifth grade that she told Alex all about flowers and her favorites.

"I did," was all he said.

"Alex, I'm going to miss you so much," Maria said, standing up so that she was eye level with her other best friend.

"And you know that I'm gonna miss you," he said, stepping closer and making the space between them lessen.

"Thanks for all the experiences, DeLuca," he finally whispered, leaning over and kissing her cheek before he pulled back and retreated out of the room.

"Good bye, Alex. Thank you!" she called after him, waving.

Next to enter the room was a teary eyed, red cheeked Isabel. She walked swiftly to where Maria was standing and quickly encompassed Maria in a strong hug.

"I'm..." she stuttered between sobs. "I'm... so... sorry," she managed to get out before she ran back out of the door, leaving Maria speechless.

The Ice Queen? Sorry? Since when did this come about?

She heard Max cough and she turned around, smiling at him.

"I don't know what to say to you, Maria. I really don't. I guess I just need to tell you one thing before you go..."

"And that is?" Maria asked, raising an eyebrow in question.

"I just wanted to tell you that you changed Michael, for the better. You made him so much happier with his life. And I know that he won't admit it, but you did change him, Maria. You helped him experience love in a way that he had never before. And he learned how to love from you, from your strength. Thank you so much for doing this for him. We all appreciate it and you know that we're all going to miss you so much," he completed, gazing into Maria's eyes.

Maria nodded, tears starting to form in her eyes.

She laid back down on the bed, eyes still open and became one with her real body again as Max's speech overpowered her thoughts at the moment.

What he said was true.

She had changed Michael.

She had shown him love.

But why did it have to end like this?

"I'll go get Michael," Max finally said, realizing that Maria was deep in thought and that her time with them was shortening by the minute.

Soon after Max left the room, the door opened again and Michael slipped into the room.

He slowly walked towards the bed where Maria was lying and he sat down next to her on the hard mattress.

"Maria..." he began, grasping her hand, but she cut him off, waving her other hand halfheartedly in the air.

Her time was almost up. She could feel it.

Before she was gone, she had to tell him just one thing.

"Michael, I just want you to remember that I will love you forever and that I'll be watching over you until you join me one day," she gasped as she took in her shaky last breath.

The heart monitor went flat and the constant beeping became a long, drawn-out buzz, signifying Maria's death.

"I love you, too," he whispered, leaning down over her to kiss her soft lips once more before they were separated.

And for the third time in his entire life, Michael Guerin let the tears flow freely from his eyes.

He had waited and he was too late, again.

And this time, he couldn't tell her any other time.


Chapter 6


The funeral took place on an overcast day, setting the mood. It was emotional, to say the least.

Mrs. DeLuca wanted Maria's friends to speak about her before she was buried. So that was what they did.

Liz was the first one to go up and talk about her friendship with Maria. It was beautiful, making Maria's life seem like it lasted a lot longer than it really did. She spoke of their childhood together and growing up. And about how they had become closer in the past year because a few new people had come into their lives.

Alex also spoke for the people at Maria's funeral, explaining his relationship with Maria and all the fun things that they did together, past and present. He, like Liz, made her relatively short life seem longer than it lasted.

And even Max went up to speak about Maria. He talked about how she had come in his life only a year ago and he felt that she was as close to him as his sister. He said that he regretted, for himself and his friends, where he looked directly at Michael, that they hadn't become closer to her sooner.

After Max spoke, a pastor made the last words of the sad occasion, saying how Maria was now in heaven and how she was watching over each and every one of them. He finally ended his speech and dismissed everyone, letting them disperse from the stuffy funeral parlor.

Everyone made their way to Maria's gravesite to say their last goodbyes.

Michael sat down by a tree, watching his friends and relatives tell Maria goodbye, for the last time. He thought about her.

How had she had the power to change him?

How come she never gave up?

Why was she always there for him, even though he was never there for her? And when he was, he gave her the cold shoulder.

He would never be able to fully understand Maria's love for him, but he defiantly could understand why he fell in love with her.

She was beautiful.

She had a shining personality, even though some just considered her just 'another blonde.'

She was more than that.

She was just as protective as he was and when she loved… her love was stronger than anything that he ever experienced before.

And he was going to miss that and everything about Maria… his Maria.

Amy DeLuca was the first person to make it to her daughter's grave. She sat down, her head in her hands, and cried, attempting at the same time to tell her daughter goodbye. She finally stood up and went straight into the arms of Jim Valenti for comfort and support.

Liz and Max went together, carrying a large bouquet of yellow roses, symbolizing friendship and laid them on Maria's freshly dug grave. And they stood there for a few minutes, thinking or talking, he didn't know which one. Then, they both turned, holding each other and walked out of the cemetery.

Alex and Isabel were next, both sitting down carefully by the headstone and each talking for a few minutes to each other and to their deceased friend. Before they got up, Isabel took a picture frame out of her purse and laid it on the grave.

He had waited and she never knew that he loved her with all his heart. And she'd never know that he could carry her in his heart for the rest of his life.

But he was too late.

* * * * *

Once everyone had gone home, Michael made his appearance at Maria's grave.

It had started to rain and Michael was thoroughly drenched.

He didn't care.

The rain soaked the headstone of Maria's grave, but it was still was colored a dark gray. On the stone, flowers were laced around her name and the message engraved below. It read:

Maria DeLuca
1983-2000
Beloved friend and daughter.
We will never forget you.

Michael wanted to turn away, but he couldn't run from this.

He had said no running a long time ago and he meant it. He was going to follow through with it, even if it killed him.

He sat down on the cold grass, unable to think of what to say.

The rain began to fall a little harder and he remembered the last time it rained… and their last fight. About how they were like the lightning bolts.

All of a sudden, lightning flashed across the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance, warning that the storm was yet to come.

He picked up one of Max and Liz's roses and started to play with its stem. He also looked at the picture frame that Isabel had put on the grave.

The picture frame itself was silver and had stars as a border. And the picture... he had totally forgotten about it. It was taken the same day that Liz had insisted a picture of them before they went to dinner. But this picture, it was of the whole group. Alex's hand was entwined with Isabel's and they were both grinning like idiots. Max had his arm wrapped around Liz and they were both turned so that they were facing the camera. They, too, were smiling. Then, there was he and Maria. Maria was in his lap and she was smiling at the camera. He... well, he was grinning at her.

He smiled at the memory, but frowned remembering that no more pictures could be taken of them… ever again.

Maria was gone.

Forever.

Or at least until he was gone, too.

"Maria, I was always too late to tell you this," he paused and ran his fingers through his spiky hair. "And I know that I'm too late now and that I've always been, but I want you to know that I'll always love you. No matter what," he finished, tears forming in his eyes. He tried to blink them back, but they wouldn't go away.

He let them fall and they streamed down his face, mixing with the rain and finally dripping to the saturated ground.

"Remember that, Maria. I'll always love you," he completed, tears streaming down his face.

Lightning danced across the sky and the thunder shook the ground. The wind started to pick up and the rains poured from the heavens with no relent.

He stood there in the storm and turned around to give her grave one last look before he left.

She would be waiting for him.

Then, he turned on his heel and started to walk away slowly, trying to leave all the memories of Maria and their lives together behind.

The wind blew, protesting Michael's absence at Maria's final resting place.

And a charred photograph, looking like it was from another time, floated in the air and landed softly on the ground in front of Maria's headstone.

And in that picture was a couple that was once happy and thought that they would be together forever, unaware and oblivious of the obstacles to come; one smiling at the camera and the other smiling at her.


The End