Burning Curtains
By Chandri MacLeod

Fandom: Roswell
Rating: PG
Categories: slash, angst, hurt/comfort
Pairing: max/michael
Summary: had left Tess behind, left Isabel behind. It was all Max's fault.
Disclaimer: They're not mine, alas. I'm just using them for fun.

It had been a whole day since yesterday.

Yesterday. They were so far away from where they had been, twenty-four hours ago. Yesterday, everything had changed. And now, far away from Roswell, from Earth, they were floating, trapped in the tiny space of the Granolith, shooting through space toward what, they didn't know for certain.

They had left Tess behind, left Isabel behind. Michael could tell that Max was thinking of both of them. He remembered the look of sudden realization on Max's face when the door to the Granolith had closed, separating him and his sister. He remembered the look of pain and betrayal, quickly-smothered, when Tess had told them the truth. And he remembered Max's desperate attempts to force the door, trying to let them both escape before it was too late, pounding his fists bloody even after his powers had been exhausted. But nothing had worked. They were alone, on their way to an unknown fate.

Michael watched him now, floating a few inches off the floor in the low gravity, arms and legs folded childlike against his chest, as if he were trying to keep warm even though the room wasn't cold. But he was shivering - Michael knew that was probably more psychological than physical. Max's face was deadpan, but contorting every few instants into an expression of pain, or anger - even fear. Michael had never seen real fear on Max's face before. Not even when Tess had become pregant, even though Michael had been sure that the emotion must have been there. How could it not have been? But Max had always hidden it, always kept to himself anything that might hurt the others. Because he was their leader, their King, and it was his duty to protect them, just as it was their duty to obey him when it was needed. Max always protected them all, protected himself, by keeping everything inside. It was an odd way of going about things, in Michael's view. Max always seemed to be in anguish, because of Isabel, wanting to leave, because of Tess and their baby, and now because of her betrayal - or because of Michael himself. Max knew him, and Michael had thought, sometimes, that he frightened his friend. With his temper, with his “absolute” solutions, with his history, with the truths about him that Max alone knew. Things not even Maria knew. Yes, Max had always been a little afraid of Michael. No matter how close their friendship had become. And Max was the only person with whom Michael had never felt it necessary to soft-pedal his ideals, or rein in his temper when one of them did something stupid. It was ironic. Maybe that was why.

He was having nightmares. Michael had slept in the same room as Max often enough to know that their King was usually a quiet sleeper. It was only when something was weighing heavily on him that Max slept like this, his face betraying his troubles. Watching him now, Michael felt a vague pang of guilt. Was any of this his fault? Probably. He was the one that had said he couldn't go. He was the one who had gone back in, worried at the last minute that Max might not make it out in time. He was the one who had thrown Tess out through the door of the Granolith. He had been angry that Max meant to let her go home, while the rest of them rotted on Earth. What was Max thinking? Letting her leave with his own son, sending her back to conspire with their enemies? No, Michael had been sure at the time that he was right. Tess could not be trusted, could not be allowed to escape.

But he had wasted time, and now they were trapped.

“Damn him, anyway,” Michael muttered under his breath. “Soft-hearted idiot. Soft head.”

Max stirred - Michael swore and closed his mouth. Max waking up would only mean a discussion - a lecture from the King. Michael wasn't sure his temper was up to a lecture right now - and they were in an enclosed space. And powers or not, in a physical fight, Max was his inferior. Besides, he was depleted right now. They both were. No, a discussion was definitely a bad plan.

Michael closed his eyes and tilted his head back, sighing. What now? Would they end up back home, open the doors to a welcome? Or would they be dragged outside and executed? There was no way to tell. They had no control over anything anymore. Michael hated having no control.

And it was all Max's fault.

“Damnit!” Michael swore, driving his fist into the wall behind him. The sound reverberated throughout the spherical space, making the recycled air of the pod resonate. The noise was unnerving, and Michael swore a third time.

This time, Max awoke with a start, his head jerking back and hitting the floor underneath him. He cried out in surprise and pain even as Michael pressed his hands into the wall to stop the noise. Max clutched his head in both hands, sitting up and staring at Michael with the abrupt expression of a trapped animal. The expression disappeared quickly when their eyes met, and the frightened boy was replaced with the King again. They stared at each other for a moment before Max looked away, still rubbing the back of his head.

“Uneasy sleep, Maxwell?” Michael asked, his voice neutral.

Max looked at him again, his dark eyes overshadowed by something, like a curtain pulled over the window of a burning house. Max was being held together with fragile pieces inside, and only his determination to remain impassive was keeping it all from falling apart. He didn't answer, though.

“It looked like you were having bad dreams, or something. Huh?”

“I'm fine,” Max said, his voice low and emotionless, as usual. He stared at his hands, then flexed them, and Michael saw him wince.

“That happens when when you beat on a wall and think you can win,” Michael said, raising an eyebrow as Max closed both hands into fists and closed his eyes. A moment later, he opened them, releasing the breath he'd evidently been holding in a rush.

“Hey, Maxwell. You okay?” Michael asked, his voice betraying some concern. Max looked at him again, his brows drawn together in obvious frustration.

“Forget it,” Max said, dropping his hands to his sides. Michael didn't miss that he flinched again.

“Like hell,” Michael said, moving toward Max and then dropping down beside him. “Lemme see.”

Max tried to move away - but Michael caught his hands by the wrists and pulled them out so he could see them. He turned Max's hands over to look at the undersides. The knuckles were flaked with dried blood and the palms and fingers were covered with purpling bruises. “Stupid, Maxwell,” Michael muttered. “You just don't know when to stop, do you?”

Max said nothing as Michael continued to mutter. “You can't heal this, can you?”

“Never could heal myself very well - and I did it to myself, anyway.” Max spoke very quietly, almost in embarrassment. Michael smirked inwardly at the moment of indignity on his friend's part, then let go of Max's hands.

“Don't tell me that the great Xan lost his temper?”

Max's eyes narrowed for a moment before redirected his view to the blank wall opposite them. “I never claimed to know everything,” he said.

There were a few moments of terse silence. “So what's the plan, Maxwell?” Michael finally asked, expectantly. “Do we come out shooting? Try to go back to Earth? What?” He was watching Max, some annoyance in his face.

“I don't know.”

Michael pressed his lips together, and crossed his arms. “You don't know?”

Max was silent.

“Well, you'd better figure something out, Max, because we're about to run out of time.”

That was the trademark Michael-voice, and it made Max jump, looking at him in surprise.

“There's nothing I can do,” Max said, his eyes slightly widened, his hands fisted. “We have no way of seeing what we're getting into, where we're going. We're flying blind.”

Michael gazed at him levelly. He hadn't expected to hear so much anger in Max's voice. “Maybe you should have thought of that before you trapped us in here.”

If Michael had been surprised by hearing anger in Max's voice, he was shocked to see fury in his eyes. “Before I trapped us here? I wasn't the one who came back in and complicated things. I knew what I was doing. If you had just listened, we'd be back home now, and safe. But you let your temper get away with you.”

“And you let your soft-heartedness cloud your judgement,” Michael returned angrily. “You let her play you, Max. Like a goddamned board game. You let her fairy-tale-romance stories get to you. That's why we're in here.”

Max surged to his feet as best he could, the low-grav making him stumble. “If, Michael,” he said, hands clenched at his sides and his voice low and angry, “You could, once in a while, look at anything in a scope wider than five minutes, maybe you'd understand why I meant to let her go. That I was trying to protect us and everyone else, to buy us some time. If you could keep your paranoia in check and actually do your job...”

“At least I can think ahead far enough not to jump into bed with the first girl that rubs up against me.”

It was a cheap, petty thing to say, and Michael regretted it the instant it left his lips. He watched Max's face close up again for a brief instant, and he watched his whole posture stiffen, and then he watched Max take three steps forward and swing out his fist to punch him, hard, in the jaw.

It happened so quickly that it actually caught Michael by surprise. His head jerked back, one hand going to his jaw. In the next second he was on his feet, catching Max under the chin with one fist while the other hand seized his shoulder. Michael kicked Max's legs out from under him and the other boy went down in a heap. Michael held him down, one arm across his shoulders and the other pinning Max's fists to the floor. Max struggled furiously, but Michael's superior weight and strength overwhelmed him.

“I guess the boy-king has a temper after all, huh?” Michael growled. “That was stupid, Max,” he said to his friend's angry face. “And losing your temper like that can get you killed.”

Max continued to struggle, trying to get up, but stilled when he found he was trapped.

“Are you finished?” Michael asked. Max let his head fall to the floor, eyes squeezed shut.

“Get off me,” he said hoarsely.

“You're sure?”

“I said, get the fuck off me,” Max repeated fiercely, his eyes on the ceiling. Michael frowned and stood up, but Max stayed where he was, one hand over his face.


Max sat up, turned away from him, sitting on his knees with his arms supporting his weight. “You made your point, Michael.” It was clearly a dismissal, but an angry one. Max's shoulders sagged, his head hanging almost to the floor. So Michael approached him again and reached out to touch his shoulder, but Max slapped his hand away.

“Don't touch me,” Max snarled. Michael stepped back, surprised. Max's shoulders were shaking, and there was bitter laughter in his next words. “I give up, okay? I don't know what to do. We're helpless here, and I can't fix any of it. I give up.” He collapsed back against the wall, head tilted upwards. There were tears of frustration on his cheeks. “I give up,” he repeated. “You were right, Michael. I'm no kind of leader.”

Michael approached him again, and this time Max didn't throw off his hand.

“Idiot,” he said gruffly, pulling Max towards him. Max drifted up in the low-grav, floating forward until they were facing each other. Then Michael pulled Max against him. Max resisted at first but in a moment was clinging to him, holding onto Michael as if he were the only thing keeping him sane - which at the moment, Michael realised, might be somewhat true. Max clung to him as if fearing that he might disappear if he let go.

“You're scared, aren't you, Maxwell?” Michael said into Max's hair. “You're just as obsessive as me, just as much of a control-freak. And now you've got no control at all, and you're scared.” There was mild surprise in Michael's voice.

Max's voice was muffled. “Everything's falling apart. I can't even protect you...”

Michael tightened his grip reassuringly. “I'm not going anywhere, Maxwell,” he whispered as Max shivered. “Brothers, remember? I'll be right here.”

And they floated, and then there was silence again.

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