Marriage wasn't a huge priority for him. He didn't really think he and Maria needed to do the whole 'spew-your-guts-out with a bunch of kissy-kissy vows, proclaim undying love and seal it with a chaste kiss while wearing white' type thing like Max and Liz had, because in his mind they had already been married for years. Although he'd only admitted openly to it recently, it had always been her. He had never had eyes for anyone else, Maria was the only girl for him and that's the way it would always be. He didn't need a piece of paper to declare to the world what he already knew to be true. And going on the amount of times people would mutter that they bickered like an old married couple, it seemed as though the rest of the world already knew they were bonded for life too.
But was it enough for Maria? He didn't need the piece of paper, the pomp and ceremony - but did she? He was certain she knew how he felt about her, because he had made a habit of telling her more often. Since the that afternoon he left Roswell and told her he'd always love her, and ever since that evening when she'd chosen to leave with them - with him - he had made a point of letting her know how he felt about her. Not super regularly and certainly not in huge proclamations, it wasn't his style. But during quiet moments together in the back of the van, or when she was nearly asleep in his arms, he'd whisper the words quietly against her ear, so she would never forget. He'd also made their fake IDs with matching surnames. He didn't bother correcting strangers when they assumed that he and Maria were husband and wife. These were all just little gestures and he did them mostly without a second thought, but he also knew it culminated in ensuring that she knew exactly where he wanted her to be - with him.
But still, he wondered - did she need a receipt for these actions? The paperwork?
His thoughts were answered one sunny Spring afternoon in May, when they were in California. They'd been careful, and they hadn't managed to find anyone on their trail, so they had stopped in a small town north of LA for a few months or so to re-group and get some temporary work to keep the finances flowing. They had a small 3 bedder, which was better than the nookie motels they'd previously stayed in, but it still wasn't 5 star living by any standard. Better than the van, though. Michael was ready to toss that load of junk in and find something a little more reliable, but so far he had to concede that it had done them proud. They'd changed its colour several times so it was less traceable - at the moment it was a lightish, mustardy yellow.
Across the road from the apartment was a park - a pretty decent size, with a playground for kids, and picnic areas, a pond and lots of trees. It's where they usually went when they needed to discuss something in-depth that they didn't want anyone in the apartment complex to overhear. But they also went there to relax in-between their temp work and errands. Michael and Kyle had just finished their shift helping a local mechanic with parts, and were making their way over to the park to find the girls. Max was back at the apartment, using their old clunky computer to check for any updates and research where they might head for next.
Michael could see the girls sitting in a bushy clearing near the pond, they all had ice creams and seemed pretty relaxed as they chatted and laughed. He smiled a little as Maria tossed her head back, laughing at something that the other two had said - he liked seeing his girl so happy. She was like sunshine, she made everything brighter. Warmer.
"Hey, I'm gonna grab a water. You want one?" Kyle asked, pointing over to a kiosk near the playground.
"Yeah, sure. I'll meet you over there," Michael said, nodding towards the girls.
They hadn't seen him walking towards them, and they were continuing their conversation happily as he approached. They were sitting in a clearing near the pond, with shrubs and bushy trees surrounding them. He couldn't fault their choice; they always had to be wary of who could see them or hear them, and he was pleased that they'd done so well at finding a secluded patch to hang out in.
"It definitely wasn't something I was expecting, especially after what Future Max had told me we'd done in the other timeline with the wedding in Vegas," Liz smiled at the girls as she recounted the tale of how Max had proposed the night before graduation. Michael slowed down a bit and hung back. They still hadn't seen him, and he didn't really want to interrupt her moment. "But I just knew it was the right thing, the best thing for us. I didn't mind that we were so young."
"I think it's so romantic. Star crossed lovers," Isabel mused. Michael rolled his eyes.
"Well you were pretty young yourself, Isabel" said Maria, nudging her lightly with her elbow. Michael leaned against a tree, just out of their sight in order to continue listening to their conversation. He didn't want to barge into any girly chat, especially one that was about marriage. Next thing you know they'd be cooing at the prospect of babies, and he sure as hell didn't want to be present for that conversation either.
"Yeah, you're right. I guess when you know you know - age shouldn't factor into it," Isabel shrugged, taking a lick of her ice cream.
"Is that why you conducted your hypothetical survey on me at the Crashdown that day?" Maria smirked and raised an eyebrow.
"It wasn't so much that I wasn't sure about marrying Jesse. I loved him, I wanted to marry him. I was more concerned about everyone else, how they were going to react. I knew there would be push back…"
"They all came around eventually though," said Liz kindly. "They all wanted to be part of your special day in the end."
"Yeah," Isabel smiled tightly. Convincing her parents, Max and Michael to give her their blessing had been hard. But she didn't want to think about her wedding day for too long, it was too painful to recount. She switched the spotlight off her. "So…what about you Maria? That day at the Crashdown you dropped a handful of plates when I asked my hypothetical question about marriage. Still feel the same way?" Isabel raised her eyebrows expectantly at Maria, awaiting an answer.
Michael's eyes narrowed. He was pretty certain he knew which day Isabel was talking about, but he'd been distracted with his friends, devouring breakfast and sharing jokes after a long night shift at Meta Chem. He'd never thought to discuss it with Maria in more detail, thinking she had just accidentally dropped a bunch of plates in a rush. Now that he thought about it though, she never dropped plates.
"Wait…what was this hypothetical question you asked?" Liz hadn't witnessed their interaction and had never sought out a further explanation as to what had happened. Michael smirked, he was grateful Liz hadn't been there either.
"Oh, Isabel asked me what I would say if Michael asked me to marry him," laughed Maria. He froze. Isabel had what?! "And she didn't mention it was hypothetical until after I dropped all the plates."
All three girls giggled. Michael didn't. What was so funny about that? Was the idea of marrying him so far beyond her - no, so terrifying to her, that she forgot all fine motor function? He remembered when George at work had asked him if he would ever marry Maria, and although he assumed that the guys were expecting him to flip out at the question, he hadn't. In fact, he'd properly considered it, for a few milliseconds at least, before he gave his answer. And it had been a truthful one - it was something he'd think about further down the track. He blinked. That had been nearly 3 years ago. Was 'further down the track' now? They were both only 20 years old, but they felt more like 40. They'd been on the run for nearly 2 years, and even before then they'd all grown up pretty quickly. So much for misspent youth.
Isabel snickered and continued. "Honestly, the look on your face. You were gobsmacked. But also - I remember there was something else there in your eyes too. Excitement?"
"Uhh, I'm not sure if that's the word I'd use," Maria smiled. "I've never had any huge desire to have a traditional white wedding - no offence. I guess it just comes with the territory of being raised in a broken home - my dad deserted my mom." She shrugged. It wasn't a big deal for her, she just wasn't sure she believed in all the fuss of marriage. "I don't exactly have a great track record when it comes to the men in my life sticking around long-term. Why tempt fate?"
"C'mon Maria, your dad - yes, that was lousy. Unforgivable. And yeah, Michael has done his fair share of running in the past, but you really think he'll ever walk away from you again?" Liz grinned. "I know he's not exactly your traditional marriage prospect, but you must have at least thought about it. You and Michael, surely one day you want to make it official?"
Michael held his breath, and bristled slightly. Good old Parker putting his girl on the spot. He suddenly felt tense. Did she really place him in the same category as her dad? Fearful he'd abandon her? Those times he'd walked away, he thought he'd made it clear it was for her own safety - her own protection. Never on a whim. And certainly not because he didn't love her enough. Christ, it was the opposite of that - he'd even said it to her. Suddenly he didn't want to stay and hear anymore of this. But he couldn't pull himself away. He needed to know her answer.
"Well, I mean - does a piece of paper make true love official? I think there's more to it than that," she paused and looked at the other two women as she realised they might take that the wrong way. "I know there's more to it than that for you guys too, I just… I don't need a big white dress or an official ceremony to know that Michael and I are in it for the long haul. He stayed here for me, I left there for him," she shrugged again. "One day sure, I'd love to have an intimate ceremony with him somewhere and make it official. It'd be great to do that in our own type of way. But I also kinda feel like the night we left after graduation was a ceremony in itself. It was a one-shot decision. Just like the night he was supposed to go home. Make a choice, and that was it. No turning back. I chose Michael."
Michael released the breath he didn't realise he'd been holding. Leaning against the tree, he closed his eyes for a second. He was taken aback by her honesty, and touched by her feelings towards him. It had been unspoken, they'd never really gone into detail on it. But she was right - had had stayed on earth for her, and when it was time to leave Roswell forever, she had left for him. She'd left everything for him. Despite all the crap he had put her through over the years, she had chosen him. They'd chosen each other over everything else - there wasn't really anything bigger than that when it came to love. They didn't need a ceremony with sappy vows to prove it.
Well, sometimes it's nice to hear it out loud too though, you know.
Michael opened his eyes sharply and looked around. He had sworn he had heard that voice out loud. But there was no-one else around, no-one close by enough to be able to invade his thoughts. And though he didn't want to fully admit to it, the voice had sounded pretty close to…
Alex. Yeah, good work Sherlock.
Michael shook his head a little. He must be dehydrated. Where was Kyle with that water? Instinctively he rubbed a hand down his cheek, feeling a tingling sensation on his face.
Just remember what I told you a few years back, Guerin. She's not just some girl.
Get out of my head, he thought angrily, trying to shake the voice of Alex out of his brain. He knew she wasn't just some girl. Hadn't he already proven that countless times? She was his girl, and he was planning on keeping it that way. He wasn't planning to leave her side, ever again. But a wave of fear washed over him. Did she doubt that, even a little bit? He looked down at his hands, they were trembling a little as the sun through the trees glinted off the rings on his fingers. What the hell?
Prove it. She's your girl. Make sure she knows it.
"Hey, what are you doing?" Kyle was approaching, holding out a bottle of water to him.
"Nothing, just…waiting for you. What took you so long?" He grabbed the water and opened it quickly, guzzling it down in the hopes of washing Alex's voice away from inside his head.
"Big queue, lots of people here today," Kyle glanced over to where the girls were sitting in the clearing and nodded in their direction. "You going over there?"
"Trust me, you do not want to go over there right now," Michael said emphatically.
"Ohh," Kyle breathed and furrowed his eyebrows. "Girl talk."
"Yeah, listen - I need your help. Let's go talk somewhere away from their kissy-kissy conversation," Michael muttered, taking all his might not to physically grab Kyle and drag him back to the apartment as quickly as possible. He had plans to make, and he needed all the help he could get.