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nobody said it was easy

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Her visions always seemed to want to trigger at the worst possible moments. Whether those were jump scares at the theater or actual life and death situations.

But the last thing she expected was to be hit square in the chest as she made her way to her mother’s room. For the sight of her mom laying down on the cot to knock the breath out of her lungs and leave Nora’s face floating in front of her vision. Replacing the soft almost gentle touch of Eduardo Valenti as he tucked a strand of hair behind Mimi’s ear.

Instead Nora is sitting in the middle of a white empty space, the table she is shackled to seeming to float in the air. The mottled bruises on her face making Maria wince, as she takes a few steps closer. Embracing the vision and trying to even out her breathing.

Nora looks up at her, directly in the eyes. “It’s risky.”

The words seem to echo across the space between them, like they had no where to go. Maria attempts to talk, her throat thick and words seeming to stop. She can feel the muscles in her throat working, as she tries to respond, but it’s like her vocal cords have been ripped out.

Nora’s eyes dart to the side, anxiety rolling off her in strange waves. “It’s important though,” she says eyes locking back onto Maria. “I have to send them a message. Let them know… it’ll be worth the pain.”

“What pain?” Maria asks, her throat relaxing enough for the words to come out.

This makes Nora wince, the bruise on her face seeming to throb. Like Maria can feel it on her own skin, a terrible ache in her bones. Something worse deeper inside, like a shard of glass slowly tearing the muscle of her heart into shreds.

“It physically drains me to make the glass so intricate,” Nora says voice cracking. “And this will be one of the most dangerous things I’ve attempted.”

She wants to ask what they are talking about, what this woman wants to make. It couldn’t be the Lockhart machine. She’d already dredged through all those memories. There’s something about this that feels strange, like the vision is being projected. Like it isn’t targeting Maria at all.

Maria takes another step towards the table, a frown etched deep into her face as she reaches out to touch the edge of the table. The cold metal seeming to bite into the palm of her hand.

“This one is new,” her mother’s voice comes from behind her.

Maria’s head snaps back, the entire room finally coming into focus. It’s the exact space Patricia and Nora had discussed Theo.

“Mom?” her voice comes out almost scared. Like her mother could fizzle out if her voice is too high pitched.

Mimi smiles bright, “hey little one.” She reaches forward angling Maria’s chin up and giving her a once over. “You’ve grown into such a beautiful woman.”

“Are you,” Maria motions to the space, “is this yours?”

“It’s Patricia’s memory,” Mimi says, turning to see where her mother is sitting across from Nora. “It’s been popping in and out since Lalo came.”

Maria gulps, “Lalo? As in Eduardo Valenti?Mom?”

The soft smile on Mimi’s face falters for a moment, the lights in the vision flickering. “It’s complicated Maria,” she says instead. “But it’s been dredging up thoughts and feelings, much like Nora’s.”

Maria turns to look at the woman, her face looked hollow, devoid of anything besides a small flickering of hope in her eyes. Some bit of the spirit that echoed Michael’s still intact. Even if her shoulders sagged slightly and there was a heavy sense of regret in the air.

“What do you mean?” Maria asks.

Mimi smiles, “she wants to open up, let her child know how she feels.”

“And what is that?” Maria asks, heart aching at the thought of Michael. Memories of the nights he had held tight to her waist, hiding tears by tucking his face into her neck. Old memories sure, but fresh from the amount of pain attached. That longing for answers about his mother, answers which only could have worsened since Jones.

“It’s complicated,” Mimi says, eyes glossing over, that all familiar distance coming to them. “How do you tell your child about their absent father?”

“Wait,” Maria says reaching out to grab her mother’s forearms. Anchor her into the present. “Is this about Michael or… me?”

The room fades in a flash of white light, the warm feeling of her mother ripped from her hands, her entire body stock still as she stares at Eduardo Valenti. He is looking at her, a look of awe and maybe even shock on his face.

“What are you doing here?” Her voice is stone cold, the kind of no nonsense her mom had taught her to implement.

Eduardo takes a deep breath, standing up from the chair he had pulled up to the medical cot. Stretching his back out like he had been hunched over for awhile.

“Maria,” he says with a soft smile, “I was just stopping by. Seeing if I could talk to Amy for a bit.”

Maria narrows her eyes, “what were you talking about?”

“Just treatment,” Eduardo says, voice deep. “Alex and Liz are making leaps and bounds at Deep Sky. I wish I’d discovered Ortecho long before now,” he winces like it was some sort of failing on his part, “her mind is sharp.”

Maria nods curtly, walking around to the other side of the cot. “So you knew her from before?”

This seems to make Eduardo relax slightly, “yeah. She was the annoying best friend of my little brother.”

“Jim,” Maria says tone still clipped. “So you knew her growing up.”

Eduardo chuckles, “I knew her from the day she strolled into my house. Chin up, eyes narrowed, tongue sharp enough to fillet me alive.”

“She always spoke her mind,” Maria says, reaching over to grab and squeeze Mimi’s hand. “So the treatment is coming along.”

Eduardo nods, “very well. They think it should stop the visions from coming unwarranted, keep her in the present.”

“Why would you being here make her want to be honest?” Maria asks, looking at him straight in the eyes. Letting her vision blur around the edges so she can make out the faint pulsing of his aura. The colors complex and strange. Isobel had been teaching her a few new tricks.

“I don’t know,” he says flatly, causing something to twist in Maria’s stomach. It was confirmation of a sort, he did know.

“So you don’t know a single person she might have dated?” Maria asks, a casual tone hard to keep. As she plays with the laminated bracelet on her mother’s wrist.

Eduardo sighs, “only one or two high school flings. A terrible two week crush on Jesse Manes.”

Maria scrunches up her nose in disgust, “Eww.”

“He wasn’t so bad before the secrets,” Eduardo says. “He used to be inseparable from Jim. Two peas in a pod.”

This makes something gross twist inside Maria’s chest, the thought of a bright eyed Jesse Manes disgusting at best. Especially held up against the images of Alex’s bruises and the way he would flinch at sudden movements.

“Well, that doesn’t help decode my vision,” she says smoothly.

Which has Eduardo’s eyes glinting darkly, his jaw twitching. “I assumed from the way you froze, but…” he shakes his head, “you should go to the reservation get another flower. Until we know how to keep you from getting stuck in the memories like Amy.”

Maria senses a cold rush from him, blue and green thrashing around him. It’s protective, almost familial. Something twisting in her stomach, an understanding of sorts.

She’d had visions of Kyle’s death, seen the Valenti crest on a coffin. When her abilities were and had always been attached to blood lines and family memories. The past and future connected through the eyes of her family. Kyle, Louise, and Patricia.

Maria feels nauseous, so she closes her eyes, attempts to focus on the tangible. To recall what she could about the memory, delve into it of her own accord.

“Come on Nora,” she mumbles, “talk to me.”

The lights flicker in the room, Eduardo starting to say something in protest. But Maria feels the energy shift as she settles back into the memory. Ignoring the man who could be her estranged uncle or even father.

The room focuses in, her mind stretching as she watches Nora slide something across the table.

“You’re weak,” Maria says, in Patricia’s voice.

Nora nods, “I had to trap a piece of myself in each of them. Give up my abilities.”

Maria gulps, throat thick and the air feeling like it’s trying to suffocate her. As if there wasn’t oxygen in the room.

“There’s a message for them that will explain it,” Nora smiles weakly. “Tripp saved that though. He should have it given to them… which will leave just these.”

Maria reaches out, fingers sliding over the pieces of glass. They’re rounded and emblazoned with different symbols, alien ones. She recognizes one, the crop symbol Jones had been making. The one Max had claimed was his name. Running around like a kid full of glee for a short while, making sure everyone knew he was a person. Something Jones had crushed under his heel.

“What do I do?” She asks, looking up at Nora.

The woman sighs, “they can access them. Just make sure they are kept safe for when they come out. My son… he deserves answers.”

“What did you have to give up?” Maria asks.

Nora looks to the door almost sadly, “only the special abilities. The things that made me stand out. But… that’s worth saying this.” She taps the piece with Max’s name, “it haunts me.”

“What does Max have to do with this?” Maria tries. She narrows her eyes, hoping the ability can work in a memory.

Nora seems to freeze, like the last time Maria tried to ask about Max.

“The clone, the other,” Maria says wildly shaking her head, “why?”

The last thing seems to make her eyes light up, a tear actually falling down her face. “I failed,” Nora says tone dark.

The lighting seems to have changed, like Maria had accessed a different memory, Nora’s lip split and blood on her chin.

“I should have done better,” she shakes her head. “The children will have to find their own way. Louise will be lost, too old by the time they come back.”

Patricia reaches out to squeeze her hand, “what can I do to help?”

It feels strange, whenever the memory seems stronger than Maria’s actual movements. Her body and mouth moving with the past instead of her own mind.

“Just keep my messages safe,” Nora squeezes her hand, “make sure they get to the children.”

Patricia nods, “I will. But you’re weak, and the machine isn’t ready.”

Nora gives her another weak smile, “somethings need to be said.”

The memories slip out of Maria’s grasp, ending right when she had started to buckle down on Nora’s energy. The almost painful yank into the present hurting her nervous system.

Eduardo is holding her up by her arm and shoulder, a scared look on his face. Blood trickling down from her nose as the real world crashes into her senses.

“Maria,” he says concern written all over his face. “Where did you go?”

His arms feel steady wrapped around her, and she can’t help but lean into him. Keep her from falling to the floor as all her energy is sapped out of her body. The vision taking more than usual out of her, the lingering cool touch of the glass burning her fingers.

“To get answers,” she mutters.

 

 

 

The fact they had all arranged the perfect reaction times to someone texting the group chat with 911, was both hilarious and terrifying. That Liz had texted everyone to meet at Deep Sky as soon as possible and everyone had responded with different variants of yeah within minutes.

Which left Rosa sitting at the bar on level three mixing the different flavored syrups for her newly patented soda flavor. Not that she actually took legal action for it, just refused to tell Liz no matter how wide she made her eyes or wobbled her bottom lip.

Isobel was watching eyes narrowed, “so they just showed you how all this stuff works?”

“No one can deny me when I decide to be annoying,” she says, grabbing the different tools she needed for the carbonation.

Kathleen had showed her how to mix the sodas herself, partially due to the amount of time Rosa hung out cause of Liz and Eduardo. But mostly because Rosa kept trying out new concoctions and the chemists adored her for it. Almost every day they had a new flavor to taste and leave little reviews for her.

She was beginning to create a mental list of their preferences, Charlie for example loved the more fruity flavors.

“That is the prime word to describe you,” Isobel says flippantly.

“When does your worse half get here?” she asks distractedly as she adds a few pumps of vanilla to the mix. A sort of not so secret joke for when the deputy arrived.

Isobel rolls her eyes, “he’s maybe fifteen minutes out.”

“Does your twin frequency really work that exact?” Rosa asks eyes narrowed.

“Does Maria actually not tell you and Liz everything before these pow wows?” Isobel counters.

Rosa shakes her head, aggressively adding another pump of vanilla, overwhelm the guys senses a little bit. Teach him a lesson of some sort, maybe some self realization.

“Max isn’t that bad,” Isobel says, tapping her nails against the counter. The clacking annoying at best. “You just don’t like how much attention Liz gives him.”

“Hmmph,” Rosa practically snorts. “Like that matters. I just think he’s bland.”

Isobel rolls her eyes, “ahuh. That’s why you put so much effort into him as a person.”

“I do not,” she says exasperated, finally finished with adding the syrups. “And for the record Maria doesn’t tell me anything. You,” she motions to Isobel with a glass beaker, “are the only one who tells me jack.”

“Aww,” Isobel cocks her to the side with a grin, “so flattering.”

“Si, si primadonna,” Rosa rolls her eyes. “Just tell me I’m allowed to pick on deputy vanilla.”

“As much as Liz will allow,” the blonde says flippantly. “He’s a grown man, he can take it.”

“I’ve seen him cry because Michael stepped on a snail,” Rosa deadpans, turning to squint at Isobel. “A snail.”

“He thinks their little faces are adorable,” she says in an almost baby voice. “Something about reading doctor Doolittle I think,” she shakes her head, “the real question is when does Maria get here. We could… suggest she give us hints.”

The devious look on the blonde’s face is more than enough to make Rosa want to join in on her shenanigans. But something in her gut twists, a sort of eerie knowing. Like this was something bigger.

“She’s already here,” Rosa shrugs instead. “Having some top secret chat with Alex and Liz.”

Isobel’s eyes widen, “and you’ve been distracting me? Traitor.”

It takes her all of two seconds to get up, heels clicking as she heads towards the lab. Making Rosa roll her eyes, putting the finishing touches on the soda for the deputy. Before heading off after her.

Knowing Liz sill be giving the blonde a hard time for so much as popping into the lab uninvited. On top of interrupting their whisper session, which if Rosa knew anything revolved around their alien lovers.

“I’m just saying,” Liz is dramatically waving her hands about, “you can’t stroll in like you own the place Isobel.”

“But the three of you can have secret meetings?” Isobel crosses her arms. “It’s not fair.”

Rosa walks into the lab nonchalantly, falling into a chair and kicking her feet up onto a table. Making Liz glare at her, but they both knew the only reason they were meeting in this lab was cause it didn’t contain anything Rosa or Max could contaminate.

So she just arches her eyebrow l and slides the glass she’s holding onto the table. “When’s Max getting here?”

She’d assume it was perfectly timed and not at all suspicious except Liz rolls her eyes and Alex gives her a funny look. Both effectively ignoring her.

“So what’s the big secret?” Isobel asks, batting her eyelashes at Maria like it would actually help.

“Nothing,” Maria says nervously, “we should discuss without Michael.”

That’s what makes Rosa sit up straight, dropping her sneakers to the floor and narrowing her eyes. Maria and Michael still had a strange energy about them, and if Maria had done anything during the Jones situation it was skirting around that relationship when possible.

“We’re waiting for Michael?” Isobel scrunches up her nose in distaste.

“It’s about Nora,” Alex says clearly, moving something at his workstation. A sort of anxious calm seeming to radiate from him, like he was both at peace with whatever was about to happen and… not.

“What about her?” Isobel asks, softening around her edges. Obviously not excited, secrecy meant issues of some variety or other.

Maria rubs at her temples with a soft sigh, “I had a vision. And not one we can make make sense.”

“Unless,” Alex shakes his head, “somehow there’s a part of your story that you left out. Or more likely my family screwed Michael over- again.”

The tension in the air seems to grow thick, like everyone is about to snap and say something at the same time, while Isobel does that soft expression thing that means she poking her nose into people’s emotions. So Rosa jumps up, almost excitedly as the door opens.

Issuing in both Max and Michael with differing worried expressions. Michael zeroing in on Alex and calming immediately, while Max just anxiously takes in the room as a whole.

“That’s everyone,” Liz says weakly.

“‘Cept Kyle,” Max says throat scratchy.

“Aye,” Rosa narrows her eyes, “he’s at work. You sound thirsty,” she’s already handing him the soda-pop by the time he’s blinked in her direction.

Nervously glancing between her and the proffered drink, before looking to Liz like he needed permission.

“Come on,” Rosa rolls her eyes, “I don’t bite.”

Max grumbles something under his breath that remarkably sounds like ‘I doubt it’ but takes the glass from her hands. Offering her a tight smile before walking further into the room, and settling down by his twin.

That’s another point for team Ortecho and loss for Vanilla, she thinks, mentally updating the tally. He had won one so far. Which was dating her numbskull of a genius little sister.

“So what’s the emergency?” Max asks, taking a small sip of the drink. Face contorting as he does so, before he not so gracefully spits it back out.

Michael gives her a wink like it was some secret between them, as Isobel just takes the glass away like an annoyed mother and places it on Liz’s precious lab table. Turning her into a fuss as she practically darts to the glass and scoops it up, a disappointed look thrown Rosa’s way before she heads to the chemical sink.

“Maria had a vision,” Liz says tone even, not an ounce of joy in her body.

Which makes all the aliens freeze, Rosa’s eyes anxiously glancing towards Michael. She liked him well enough, a lot actually, and if anyone knew how much momma drama could sting it was her and her sister.

“About Nora,” Maria says giving Michael a weak smile.

Alex is holding onto his hand, like he could ground him keep him tethered to the earth. He murmurs something imperceptible, face pinched in concern.

“What about?” Michael asks, turning to look at Maria.

She looks to Alex for confirmation, something that makes Rosa furrow her brows. The idea that she needed some sort of permission or go ahead from him was strange.

“Uncle Tripp was supposed to give you a letter from her,” Alex says, clearing his throat. Eyes anxiously glancing to the ground, like he was ashamed. “I’m assuming you never received it.”

Michael shakes his head, eyes glinting darkly, like he was barely hanging on.

“No letters,” Isobel says, standing up and starting to pace in front of Max. “What else did you see?”

Maria sighs, “she gave Patricia three amulets. With… your names on them. Saying something about how they would explain everything.”

“Explain what?” Michael asks, looking taken aback. Like he was ready to break, in which direction Rosa had no clue.

This makes Maria shrug, “that’s what we need to figure out.”

 

 

 

It’s complicated, everything about their situation. But there is a comfort in knowing that both of their ancestors could have saved and stored a sort of closure for Michael and his family.

Alex wasn’t at all shocked to find that he and Maria still had that same energy. A pervasive calmness and compatibility that seemed to follow them everywhere they went. Even if that was the dusty attic his mother had never cleared out.

He looks over his shoulder as Maria digs through a cardboard box, legs crossed on the creaky wooden floor. Eyes sparkling as she pulls out a old yearbook, one of Flint’s he thinks.

“Freshman year,” she waggles her eyebrows. “Remember the slow fade into your signature style? Or book club?”

“Ugh,” Alex groans, “I can’t believe you suckered us into that.”

“It looked good on college applications,” Maria says half heartedly. “And I had that half crush on Max, remember?”

“After he complimented you for making Juliet in the school play,” Alex recalls. Shaking his head, as he continues digging through a box of random family mementos. Some old journals that belonged to his dad, mostly documenting training regimens for Flint and Clay. They used to go through ‘boot camp’ every summer, to make them better men.

Maria shakes her head curls bouncing, “ah, those were the days. Blissful ignorance, and too occupied to look at Michael Guerin.”

Alex can feel his heart clench, it was hard. Being in love with Michael, being with him, all while watching his best friend, the woman he loved most in the world still carry a flame for him. All while Michael got starry eyed and stared off into the distance.

“Where would my dad have put a letter like that?” Alex furrows his brows. “It wasn’t in the box of Tripp’s things.”

Maria sighs, dropping the yearbook back into the box. “Well, if your dad ever saw it I doubt it survived. It sounds like it was a final farewell, an explanation of the amulets.”

Alex shakes his head, “my dad was cruel. But he’d never destroy something that read like a manual on alien tech.”

“Okay,” Maria nods, “you’re right.”

She stands up stretching out her back, before biting at her bottom lip and scanning the attic one more time. A frown etched into her face as her eyes skin over the boxes. “But I doubt it’s lying amongst yearbook’s and your mom’s old recipes.”

He nods, she was right of course. They would have better luck hoping Tripp had passed the letter along to Jesse, that it was uploaded into some file in the Project Shepherd database.

“Maybe go to Project Shepherd?” Alex asks. “See if he has it there somewhere.”

Maria nods, “I can call Liz on the drive. See if Rosa’s found anything.”

Alex nods, ducking his head down to look in the box with the yearbook. A small smile on his face, “you know how much different it would have all been. If we’d hung out with them before… if I knew Michael when we were fifteen. Or Isobel had hung out with across before Noah.”

This makes Maria frown, “dwelling on the past won’t get us any further.”

“But those possibilities still exist,” Alex shrugs. “We don’t need to think about the negative ways it fell together. But…” he gives her a weak smile, “if you’d been around to help Michael feel loved like you made me. Where we could have been before all of ‘this’.”

Maria’s eyes widen slightly, a nervous energy coming over her. “You made him feel loved,” she says softly. “You were- are enough Alex.”

He chuckles dryly, “I know. Trust me, after a year of him reminding me, and is starting again, I’m at peace with that.”

Maria smiles weakly, “good.” She reaches up tapping him gently in the cheek, “I’m happy for you.”

“But I want you to be happy too,” Alex says slowly. Making sure to hold her eyes, as he smiles gently, this was something he’d be rotating in his mind for awhile. A sort of idea that they hadn’t ever addressed the strangest most bizarre night of his life, after both he and Michael had professed to feeling loved. Something they had both felt starved for the entire lives.

“I will be,” she says reassuringly, “Liz is going to put me and my mom back together. And then we are going to be a family, all of us. Once we get Michael his answers.”

Alex sighs, “and maybe talk about us three?”

Her sharp intake of breath is enough to make him feel more comfortable with the whole situation. Even if timing wasn’t the best, but when was it in their lives.

“Us?” She echoes.

Alex smiles, “like I said, I want you to be happy. Michael too.”

 

 

 

Watching Rosa use her abilities always made a sort of awe flit through her body. It was the science of it all, the fact her sister’s dna could be altered in such a way that it was possible. It was strange how she could grow up and still be in awe of who her older sister was. Still feel that same burst of energy and respect and longing to be like her. Independent and thriving, stronger because of the fight she made to be clean.

So watching her bicker at Max while trying to locate the alien glass, it’s a complex mix of emotion in Liz’s stomach. Especially when Rosa rolls her eyes at everything Max says. It endearing, the way they bicker almost like siblings. Even with Max making those big sad eyes every time Rosa is half mean to him.

“If you keep being so loud I don’t think we’ll find anything,” Liz huffs.

Breaking the inconsequential argument between them. Something about Max trying to help too much and getting in the way.

“I grew up in this bar,” Rosa reiterates. “He worked here for like a summer.”

“Doesn’t mean you both don’t have good perspectives,” Liz says exasperatedly. It felt like corralling kindergartners every time she had to spend time with both of them. But some how alien stuff made them more amicable then when she took them bowling. Rosa didn’t hold back from death threats when it came to spares.

Max sighs, “sorry. I just don’t think them being here is going to pan out.”

“There isn’t many places in this town that vibrate with Michael Guerin energy,” Rosa rolls her eyes. “This bar is near the top of the list. Since I assume the bunker and junkyard is more to do with him imprinting his psyche from over exposure.”

“Is that a thing?” Max asks, wide eyed and curious.

Liz sighs, grabbing onto his forearm, “muñeco come on.” She tugs him towards a table, “let’s let her work.”

Max follows her easily, almost no resistance as he follows after her. A soft smile on his face, he looked tired. Like the alien stuff mixed with his duty’s on the force was pushing him to his limits. Which Liz could understand, especially with the entire Nora situation.

“Good,” Rosa says saltily, “he was getting obnoxious.”

Max pouts, mumbling sorry as Liz rolls her eyes. “She loves you,” she says reassuringly. “She doesn’t show it though.”

“No need to lie,” Max huffs. “My feelings aren’t ‘that’ fragile.”

Liz smiles brightly at him, “no, she loves you. She just shows it by being mean.”

He rolls his eyes, “yeah, yeah.”

She pushes him into a booth, in the far corner of the bar. Out of Rosa’s way and ear shot, giving them the first taste of privacy since the entire reveal.

“You good?” she asks, sliding in beside him. Practically curling into his side, as she leans her head into his shoulder.

Max sighs, wrapping his arm around her shoulder and propping his chin on the top of her head. “Yeah,” he murmurs, “just stressed. With all of this, Michael’s gonna be going through a lot… and I feel bad.”

“Being upset,” Liz murmurs, “for having negative feelings about his mom.”

Max releases a shaky breath, turning to bury his face into her hair. A long silence enveloping them as Liz curls close into his side, hoping she can make him feel at ease. He hadn’t talked much about it, the few times had been in the dark. Too much shame associated with the entire subject.

He loved Michael after all, could see how much love he had for Nora. How hard it was to have no warm fuzzy feelings himself.

On top of the night he’d been loose enough to bring it up, his memories that was. And to have Michael say he didn’t want to know, it was a reminder that the worst thing to happen to Max was something he couldn’t air. For fear of hurting his brother more than he felt he already had. It was a trade. Max blamed himself for Michael not being adopted, blamed himself for all the bad things that occurred because of it. And therefore bottled everything up, gave Michael what he wanted.

“I don’t know how I feel,” Max murmurs into her hair. “Dallas told me about them. All the reasons I should be able to move passed it.”

“But you can’t,” Liz says simply, turning to look up at him.

He sighs, face flushed, it was hard for him still. Discussing the bits and pieces he’d remembered over the years.

“I can’t get rid of that feeling,” Max says voice shaking. “The fear… the pain. I… it makes no sense but I remember loving her,” he says slowly, like each word stung. “Even when I flinched away from her touch, I wanted her to love me too.”

Liz can feel tears clawing at her throat, she knew a lot of the pain he had associated with those memories. But they’d never discussed it like this, with his hands shaking as he held to her for dear life.

“I didn’t understand what parents were,” he says, squeezing his eyes closed. “But part of me knew she was supposed to take care of me. Part of me loved her for doing it. Giving me small pieces of parental concern. Keeping me alive.” He chuckles darkly, “but… now it’s a jumbled mess. I hate her because I can’t hate her.”

Liz bites at her lip as she reaches up to cup his face, “you are allowed to love someone you hate.”

“But not to hate someone Michael loves,” he says it bitterly. That anger pointed towards himself and his brother and Nora. A poison seeming to infiltrate his body.

She strokes his cheek with her thumb, leaning in to press a chaste kiss to his mouth. “We can work through this,” she says voice thick.

“I know,” Max says weakly, “I just don’t know if I want to.”

“Gotcha!” Rosa calls from behind the bar, she’s standing on a stool. A small wooden box held in her hands, and a hole in the actual wall.

Liz groans, Maria was going to have words with them. Regardless of Michael getting his answers or not.

 

 

 

Thankfully the letter had been in the box, one Mimi had hidden in some sort of vision mode no doubt. The box having to be forcefully opened with Isobel’s powers, Michael too scared to hurt anything his mother left for them. While Max hesitantly stayed at the edge of the room.

Michael knew it was wishful thinking that they could get many answers from whatever his mother had left behind. But anything was better than nothing, better than the few memories Max had and the journal entries in Tripp’s journals.

So watching Maria pull out a piece of alien glass, rounded and emblazoned with a symbol he doesn’t recognize. “This one feels like it’s for you,” she says voice thick. Holding it out to Michael, someone had strung it into a black cord. Patricia or Mimi no doubt.

His nose flares as he reaches for it, a warm feeling buzzing through his skin as it comes in contact with the glass. Colors flaring beneath his touch, the circles and lines seeming to caress his mind. Like a familiar something that doesn’t have words. Just how Max had described seeing his name written in a field.

Michael strikes the smooth glass, looking up into Maria’s eyes. Feeling a calm steady energy take over his body as she smiles, reaching into the box to pul out the next one.

“Isobel,” she says fingers stroking the glass delicately.

Michael can feel his mother’s presence inside the glass, it’s strange to say the least.

“And Max,” she says pulling out the last one. While Isobel squints the symbol on hers.

Everyone waits on baited breath as Max looks at the piece of glass being held out towards him. Michael feels pain flare in his chest, because he could blame his brother for being hesitant, not with the little he knew about the memories.

Liz takes the amulet with a half smile, before turning to Alex. “You want to read the instructions?”

Michael sighs watching as the love of his life tears open the shed envelope. Throat feeling constricted as he pulls out the paper, dark script written in Tripp’s hand, not very many words. Not enough to explain half of the questions that still plagued them.

Alex looks up in shock, dark eyes landing on Maria like she could help him out. “Umm,” he gulps, “this says to activate the amulets by opening your minds. That ummm… Nora didn’t tell him much, just that she had a message for each of you.”

He hands the letter to Maria, who skins over it quickly. “Oh,” she looks up at Michael, “she wanted to leave you with information on your planet and histories. It says she trapped a piece of herself in each one to… guide you through memories. And… he’s sorry he couldn’t save her.”

It feels like a punch to the gut, he’d expected a letter penned by his mother. Something with substance to it, that they could tear apart and get to know her better. But it was just another piece to Tripp’s journal, the glass in his hands the last piece of his mother.

“There’s uhh,” Maria takes a deep breath, “a message for Max at the end.”

Max’s jaw clenched, eyes glinting in a way Michael can’t decipher.

“Do you,” Maria sighs, walking the few steps to hold it out to him. “Do you want to read it?”

He glances to Michael some sort of regret in his eyes, whatever he sees makes him reach for the letter. Eyes skipping over the page, the scowl one his face deepening. Liz reaching out to rest a hand on his forearm, like she could steady him.

“It’s just a plea for me to few the message,” he says gruffly, passing the letter back to Maria. “She didn’t know we don’t have our memories.”

“So how do we activate them?” Isobel asks, “just open our minds? That’s very specific.”

“It’s the same technology that Theo used to keep a message for Dallas,” Alex says easily. “An imprint of her neurological patterns, how the electricity fired between synapses.”

“It’s a clone of her exact psyche in the moment it was created,” Liz says in awe. Hand still resting in Max’s arm, brows furrowed as she narrows her eyes at the piece in her hand. “A small replica of her.”

Alex nods, “a way to leave a piece of her and your planet for each of you.”

His chest aches, he doesn’t understand why, just that it’s all too much. The glass flares to life beneath his fingers, as if thinking about his mother was igniting something living in the glass.

“So,” he gulps, looking up at Alex. “I just open up my mind and her message projects into the room like with Theo?”

Alex shrugs, “Tripp didn’t get exact. These seem more intricate than what Patricia and Nora made for Dallas. She was alive when she consciously made them.”

“She said she sacrificed for them,” Maria says slowly, “put what made her special into the glass. Like her special abilities had to be used and forsaken to make them.”

Michael nods, “okay.”

His eyes drift close and he he brings Nora’s face to the front of his mind, pushing delicately at the surface of the glass. Hoping he can access whatever his mom had waiting for him.

It’s a cold shock, like be submerged into a mindscape, the light dim as he opens his eyes. The room empty besides Nora standing in front of him, white linen invading her body. Not the way she looked at Caulfield, a smile on her face.

“Little one,” she says- well ‘thinks’. The language isn’t verbal, it reverberates through his mind, seeming to settle all around him at once.

“Mom,” he says voice cracking. He takes a few steps towards her arms coming out as she grabs ahold of him, letting him melt easily into her arms. Tears starting to fall down his face as she runs a hand through his hair, the other rubbing up and down his back.

“It’s alright,” her voice seems to come from all around him. Gentle and calm. And Michael finally let’s his body relax.