posted on 20-Nov-2002 12:35:57 PM
Author: DMartinez
Email: shockerdm⊕icqmail.com
Disclaimer: Characters belong to Katims, Metz and UPN. No infringement intended.
Rating: R (language)
Summary: November 14, 1989. Two children emerge from a cave. November 18, 1989. Two other children are picked up by a trench-coated figure.
Note: Alternate Universe. No couples yet.


[center]Where once stood Kings…[/center]

[center]Date: November 13, 1989[/center]

The programmer typed and typed and typed. When the Colonel walked up behind him, he straightened and pretended he could pay more attention but he was so tired. They had a deadline and then they would test launch that missile. He leaned over to look over a blurry set of numbers, not noticing his fingers slip as he typed… God, he hated these military jobs.

[center]Date: November 14, 1989[/center]

"What was that?" Diane Evans gasped as there was an explosion not too far off in the distance. The following rumble rocked the car.

"Geez." Phillip Evans tried to get control of the vehicle as he stared at the cloud of dust that formed and lifted off the ground in the distance. "I think those military boys missed their target." Dust and pebbles bounced off the car after a few moments. "We'll report it when we get back into town."

"Phillip, watch out!" Diane yanked on the wheel and he slammed on the brakes. When the vehicle came to a stop, there stood two children struck dumb by the head lights. Naked and obviously cold. Diane opened her door and one of them ran off. The other, a girl, curled into a ball as if she could hide herself. "Sweetie? Are you okay?"

"The other one is behind that rock." Phillip nodded to the shadow of the shivering boy. "You see if you can get her into the car. I'll get the boy."

"Who do you suppose would leave children in the middle of nowhere without any clothes?"

"I don't know."

[center]Date: November 18, 1989[/center]

"Latitude, not longitude. Idiot humans." The gravelly voice muttered. Yanking off his trench-coat, he began pulling rocks out of the entrance. "Damned American generals." Suddenly he stopped, walked back and kicked the car tire. "I could have been making a twenty million dollar movie!"

Setting back to work, he had most of the rocks cleared out. A hand to the rock wall sent a door rumbling open. It was dark inside… which meant the pods had hatched a little early and that wasn't totally unexpected given the no doubt violent shaking that misaimed missile had caused. Putting his trench-coat back on, he grabbed the duffel bag from the back seat of the car. Creating light, he stepped forward into the darkness of the cave. "Come out, come out wherever you are." There they were, huddled in a corner. Nodding them out of the corner. "Let's go."

A boy stood, blocking the girl from the stranger. So protective for having just been hatched from the artificial uterus. Two, one boy and one girl… where should be four, two boys and two girls.

"Aw, shit. Where are the other two?" Of course the boy didn't answer, barely knew he had a tongue much less knew how to use it. "Jesus Fucking Christ!" Ripping open the bag, he pulled out both sets of clothes. Glancing at the kids, he resized one set then another. "Come here. We gotta get you dressed and out of here."

Boy stepped forward cautiously. Trench-coated-man could see the internal debate to remain naked or to accept the clothes and be warm. Instincts, gotta trust them, Trench-coated-man nodded to the boy. Boy nodded slowly and allowed Trench-coated-man to dress him. When Trench-coated-man stepped toward Girl, Boy shocked him with a finger to the sleeve that send a jolt of energy through him.

"Geez, kid. Watch it. I'm just going to put clothes on her. You're too young to be this protective." He finally got to dress Girl but her movements seemed off to him. Sluggish and sleepy, much less alert than the boy had been. "You okay?" She didn't answer but he hadn't expected her to. Looking around, he noticed the debris. Most likely a cave-in as the result of that missile test. Then he noticed her pod and all the liquid surrounding it. If he remembered correctly, she had been leaking when they had first crashed. She had bled out slowly and then some when one of the rocks pierced the pod. The other two had gotten out before the cave-in and these two were trapped. "Great. That's great. Let's go. Come on."

After a moment, Boy took Girl's hand and led her out of the cave. He turned his head to the East but Trench-coated-man shook his head as he closed up the cave. "Sorry, kid. We're going West. Land of Opportunity. If you're lucky and if you happen to become a good actor, we'll get you a job. The name's Kal, kiddies. I'm your uncle from now on."

TBC

[ edited 19time(s), last at 15-Feb-2003 5:48:59 PM ]
posted on 20-Nov-2002 4:23:12 PM
[center]Part 1 – November 20, 1989[/center]

Kal had studied the kids on the long drive back home. Boy was very protective of Girl. At the hotel they stopped at, he had lowered himself to bathe them. They'd have to learn for themselves and he finally admitted to himself that he would have to get used to it. There was no way in the world he could find enough money to get a nanny willing to keep her mouth shut about these kids. Boy wouldn't let him touch Girl until he had examined the soap, towel and shampoo for himself.

Food was harder. If their taste buds were anything like his, they couldn't taste much of anything either. Oddly enough, Boy had accidentally bitten a packet of hot sauce and then proceeded to suck it dry. He bit another one and put it in Girl's mouth, yanking it out when she tried to eat the packet itself. He was a smart kid.

Upon arrival at the mansion, he was pleased to see his housekeeper had opened up a suite and put some toys and books within. Boy moved around the room checking it all out. Girl found a noisy toy and it kept her well entertained. Kal could only stand in the doorway and watch. That boy made him laugh. "Well, your highness, is this up to your standards?"

Boy looked up at him with those big amber eyes of his. The kid had slowly gotten used to his presence and seemed to realize he wasn't a threat. Kal made a decision while they sized each other up. "I gotta name you, kid. You got a lot of the old man in you for such a little guy, you little wannabe hero. Bob isn't right. Evans'll do. Are you a 'Bashful Whirlwind?' Huh? A lot in a little. You're a little max-ed out so Max it is. Max Evans has a nice ring to it. Max."

"Max." The whisper came.

"That's right. Your name is Max." Kal used a finger to make the name appear on the shirt 'Max' was wearing. "What about her?" He pointed to the blonde little girl who didn't even realize they were still in the room. "What's her name?" Max just stared at the girl. Kal shook his head sadly. Even the boy knew there was something wrong with the girl. "What say we make her 'Woman of the Year.' Tess Harding. After Katharine… Barbara and Renee were kidding themselves. Her name is Tess."

"Tess."

"Yeah, you teach it to her." Kal moved near to the girl and marked her shirt with her name. Max followed him, still suspicious. "I'll tell you what. You watch her for me. You're going to be her big brother. I'm going to leave and Lizette will take care of you both until I get back. Don't do anything to make her leave."

Max nodded when Kal nodded. Kal knew he was only mimicking but the quicker Max learned to be normal, the quicker they could get Tess's situation under control.

TBC

I know Kal doesn't seem to make much sense but he does know his movies.
posted on 21-Nov-2002 4:50:27 AM
[center]Part 2 – May 5, 1990[/center]

Kal lit his cigar and ushered his associates into his parlor. "It's not an Emmy winner but trust me… we'll get something like 10 mil on opening weekend. I've got Roberts, Burstyn lined up and the kid from the war movie a few years back. D'Onofrio. The ladies will like it. With these new MTV awards and such, it'll be great publicity after the fact… video buys and rentals."

"I'm a little teapot! I'm a little teapot!" The high pitched voice slurred as a blond curly head streaked into the room and hid behind a high-backed couch. A batter of footsteps stopped just outside the doors.

"Langley." The man in charge cleared his throat, looking to his host expectantly.

"Just a minute, Louie." Kal set down his cigar. "Max!" The boy shuffled his way into the room. "Get your sister. Go to your room."

Max avoided the gazes of the strange men as he went about pulling Tess from behind the couch. The blonde kept giggling and resisting and it took a while before they were out of the room and Max could shut the doors.

"That's a pretty little girl you got there, Langley." Louie noted. "HBO is doing a show that needs a lot of little kids. That boy isn't so bad looking either."

"The weightlifter is doing a show, too." The assistant, Draw, piped up. "And Sesame Street is always looking for kids."

"Thank you for trying to make me a richer man, boys." Kal picked up his cigar and relit it. "But that little girl isn't going in front of a camera."

"Don't tell me that Kal Langley won't put his own children to work." Louie laughed and stopped when his associate didn't seem to be amused.

"I'm not, boss man. If I could, I'd put both of them to work." Kal poured them all drinks. "First off, that's my niece and nephew. Their deceased parents, namely my half-brother and his… ahem… two wives, would haunt me for working the kids. Second, the boy would crack under the pressure. Third, the girl is missing the higher faculties if you catch my drift. Where were we? The next project?"

[center]June 20, 1990[/center]

Max poked at the lemon chicken on his plate. Lizette told him he had to eat it and that was fine but he didn't like steamed rice or lima beans. Tess, on the other hand, had eaten her chicken and rice. Somehow the beans had gone missing. She was playing (banging) on the mini-grande in the solarium. He was done with the chicken and sulking over the remainder when Kal made his appearance in the kitchen. "What's with you?"

"I don't like lima beans." Max wiped at his eye and propped his elbows on the table. "Lizette say I can't leave 'til I eat them… and the rice."

"So eat them." Kal pulled a lemon from the fridge and bit into it, peel and all.

"They're yucky." Max saw his audience was unsympathetic. "They make me sick."

"Did Tess eat them?"

"No but I can't find where she put them."

Kal glanced around for the housekeeper, reached over and waved a hand over the mess. "She went home." Leaving the cleared plate, Max trudged off. "Kid." He turned, hands in pockets. "You and the sister are going to school."

"She can't read… or write." Max kicked at the doorframe.

"So teach her. She's not going to be in your class anyway." Kal bit into his lemon and eyed the kid. "You got until August to teach her, then it's up to the school."

"She's not going to talk to them." Max crossed his arms.

"And another thing… no using those damned powers of yours. Normal people can't do that stuff. I like my life the way it is. Don't mess it up."

--

Max gave Tess her little stuffed wolf and she tucked it under her chin before closing her eyes. "Night-night, Max."

"Night, Tess." Max trudged through the bathroom and into his room and crawled under the sheets or his own bed. He shut his eyes tightly and tried to go to sleep but the overwhelming homesickness washed over him as it had every night since he crawled out of the pod. He remembered the pods. He stayed and stared at the puddle under her pod… and then the roof had fallen on them, breaking her out and scaring the other two off. The other two… were lost. "I want to go home."

He heard the voice before he saw the shadow in the open doorway. "You are home, Max. Get used to it. It's really much better this way." The smoke was the only thing that actually entered the room. "I'm getting rid of Lizette. Be more careful… watch Tess better."

[center]July 29, 1990[/center]

Max watched the test-givers carefully as he answered their questions. He was behind. He could tell. They were looking at each other in that way. That way that people used when something wasn't right, when it was surprising in the bad way… or just not good way. Lizette looked like that when he was confused by the ice dispenser and the mailslot and the stove and the sink… These people didn't think he was good enough.

He wanted to be in there when they tested Tess but he wasn't allowed. He had about thrown a fit until Uncle Kal had gone in with her. That was the only thing that had calmed him down about it. He went through the tests. Shapes, numbers, letters, comprehension.

They talked to Kal at the far end of the room while he and Tess were left to their own devices. Tess hid her face under Max's shirt whenever she caught one of the testers looking her way. Max could only sit and let her. He could see his uncle getting frustrated with the testers. "Tess, I understand. Max is fine. I really don't have time to deal with this but he is fine for school. He learns fast. He'll surprise you. Six months ago, neither spoke English. Come on. This private school could use the money, I need a school for the brats."

"Mr. Langley—"

"No. You're taking him. Her, I can find a special school for. He's good to go. I'm paying you enough for these damn tests but I'm telling you."

"One trimester." The head tester finally relented.

"You're in for a treat." Kal clapped his hands. "Kids, let's go."

TBC
posted on 22-Nov-2002 8:39:58 PM
It would have been done sooner but I'm sometimes a freelance typer. Spent most of my day typing someone else's semester paper.

[center]Part 3 – January 21, 1993[/center]

Max gathered the stack of drawings to put them away when Louie entered the room. Tess worked on her next drawing without a look upward. Max's eyes narrowed when Louie paused to glare at them before storming out of the room. The guy had looked less and less happy lately. Max had a feeling he wouldn't be coming back. Kal appeared a moment later with a lemon in hand. "Burn those pictures."

"Why?" The kid could only blink at him and hand them over. Uncle Kal had never told him to do anything like that before.

Kal took the stack of pictures and took a good look at them. That's where Louie was getting his ideas. "These are all old memories best left forgotten. Nobody outside the three of us has any business knowing these things." They disintegrated into ash in his hands. "It's amazing with all the crap in her head and she can't be trusted by herself."

"I know those." Max said meekly.

"I know you do. I know them. She knows them. We all know them." Kal brushed his hands off and gazed down on the curly-headed girl. "Why can't you know better?"

"She tries." Max cut in. "She's not stupid. She's… different."

"Keep an eye on her, then. Don't let her be too different. She's doing good at that school about this stuff." Kal bit into his lemon and waited for Max's slow nod. "I tell ya, Max. You gotta teach her and she can't keep drawing this crap… even here."

"She doesn't like to be still." Max scooted beside her and touched her hair the way she liked. In the past two years it had been up to him to watch her. Somehow she understood that outside the house people were different from her, Max and Uncle Kal. She didn't do the things she could at home at that school. She liked school, they were different like her, in that way. "She gets distracted and she forgets. She likes noise."

"Noise?" Kal tilted his head, nodded and walked off. "She likes noise."

[center]February 4, 1993[/center]

Tess watched with fascination as the boy made pretty noise on the piano. Kal thought she was going to throw a fit when she had to share the bench with the boy but once he started playing, she was glued to the boy's side and watched his fingers fly. She had a bright smile on her face and she kept looking back at him. When he stopped playing, she turned to her uncle. "I wanna do that."

"Pay attention to what he says and you can do that too." Kal pointed to the boy, Billy or Willy… Justin? "You have to be patient with her. She's not right. She can't read."

"I'll see what I can do." The boy, Jake, nodded. He sized her up. "Can you play the Monkey Game?"

"Can you play the Monkey Game?" Tess imitated. Max hated it when she did that but she thought it was funny.

"Good." He nodded again and raised his right hand.

"Good." Nod. Lifted right hand.

His fingers fit to the keys. Her fingers fit to the keys. Thumb, middle, pinkie. Thumb, middle, pinkie. Again. Again. Faster. Faster. "Wow, you're good."

"I can do it." Tess straightened up and waited for more instructions. Kal just shook his head and left the room. Max would be home soon.

--

Max entered the house with his stack of books. Through the kitchen windows, he could see Kal sitting with three mobile phones, a stack of scripts and a notepad with notes all over it. Rolling his eyes, he opened the fridge only to have it closed for him. Millie, the new housekeeper. "I'm hungry."

"There's nothing in there but junk. I made you some granola." The broad woman set her stern gaze on the young boy in front of him.

"Yum." Max clapped his hands and then rolled his eyes. "I'm just getting a jello."

"No. Take your books to your room." Millie ordered.

"You're fired." Max shook his head. He always hated new housekeepers but there was only one way to keep them in line. He reached over and opened the window. "Uncle Kal!"

"Millie! Leave the kid alone! I don't have time for this." Kal called in without pausing in listening to whatever crony was on the phone.

Millie stood shocked where she had been in the midst of preparing dinner. She had only been working in the Langley home a week but surely she was meant to look after the kids. "Mr. Langley."

"You're a housekeeper." Kal turned, clearly annoyed at having to pause whatever he was working on. " Clean the sheets, the windows and make supper. Keep the fridge stocked. That's all. He takes care of himself and the girl. You don't like it, leave and save me the trouble of firing you."

Max opened the fridge, grabbed his jello-pack and plopped it on top of his books. Millie wouldn't last another week. Getting them fired was easier than getting rid of them. He vaguely remembered Lizette but she was ready to run back home to Mexico with her stories of the demon children. He jogged up the staircase to his room. Feeling lazy, he scanned his homework assignments and with a wave of the hand, printed the finished product on the stack of papers.

Opening the jello, he turned on the TV. Crap, crap and more crap. He'd have to wait for prime time. Suddenly he realized that Tess was nowhere to be seen. She hadn't greeted him or told him all about her day. Her stories usually started off with how she was a good girl and didn't use her fingers to do anything different. Everyday since she started school, it had been that way.

Shutting the TV off, he sucked a chuck of jello into his mouth and listened. Mushing the cool gel around his mouth, he peered into the bathroom and then her room. Empty. Tilting his head, he heard the piano and it wasn't producing head-aching and ear-piercing clangs and bangs. Winding his way down to the solarium, there sat his little sister and some strange boy. They were playing the same thing one right after another. "Tess?"

"Max?" Tess spun around. "I can play pretty. Jake teach me."

"She's really good." Jake stood and turned, expecting someone older and found a boy no older than the girl sitting next to him. "You're her big brother?"

"Yeah." Max nodded. "Uncle Kal hire you?"

"Yeah. She's got some gift. She's got an amazing ear for music."

"No, she doesn't." Max shook his head. "She's been banging on the piano for two years and she never played anything that sounded like anything before." He wished she had a gift like that but it was just like when he was teaching her to talk. She would only mimic him until she realized the words had meaning. Important things came first; hungry, sleepy, potty. She still didn't speak like a kid her age.

"Oh." Jake made a face but sat back down. "Well, then she mimics really well."

"She's good at that." Max moved to kneel beside Tess. "You having fun?"

"Yep." She raised her hands to him and then turned to play a simple rondeau. "It's pretty like Jake."

"Yeah, it sure is." Max patted her head and stayed for the remainder of the session. He could see the wheels turning in Jake's head. He wanted to prove something to the men in the Langley home.

--

Phone pinned to his ear, Max listened as his classmate panicked about the homework. He hadn't actually paid attention to the homework because he had cheated, so he just rattled off the equations as an answer. Ryan praised him for his helpfulness and invited Max over to hang out. Max had to decline. First, the kid was annoying. Second, he couldn't leave Tess home alone. Kal wouldn't watch her and the housekeeper wasn't supposed to. Kayla? Kylie? Karen?

He was walking past the front door when the chime went off. Suit, bright smile and a package. Suck-up. "What's that?"

"Looking for Kal Langley." The suit brightened his smile.

"He's busy. I'll take it." Max held his hand out.

"You might break it."

"Okay." Max nodded. "Or, you loose your chance of getting whatever you want from my uncle."

"It's from Mr. Zemeckis." The suit handed the package over. "A gift."

"Gotcha." Max shut the door in the guy's face.

"Who was that?" Ryan pressed.

"Somebody that works with Zemeckis." Max shrugged.

"Yeah, I heard his guys are working on a big movie and they want all the big names to get behind it and the publicity for the box office." Ryan offered.

"I wouldn't know." Max carrying the small box to Kal's room where he was no doubt 'entertaining' a guest. He left it on the shelf next to the door and continued on to his room where Tess was having a party with her stuffed doll collection. "I'm not into movies."

"You're kidding. My dad keeps talking about how I’m gonna work with him when I grow up. I know all the great producers by memory."

"That's cool, I guess but I'm not even sure my uncle wants me around much less work with him." Max decided they needed a change in subject. "Hey, I don't even know if I'll survive Linguini's test next week."

"You'll live, the rest of us will die." Ryan laughed. "Crap, I gotta go. See you in class."

Max set the phone down and left the room. He didn't feel like playing one of Tess's games. He reached the stairs in time to see Kal's guest leaving through the front door. Kal was holding a camera. "Look at this, kid. Prototype camera. Zoom lens." Kal touched something and the lens shot out an inch and then two. "Want it?"

He shrugged and stepped forward to take it. "What do I take pictures of?"

"Whatever. Life." Kal tapped him on the shoulder. "What's your problem?" Another shrugged as he examined the camera with all its buttons and functions. A scream got their attention.

They both raced into Max's room where Tess was holding the remains of a plush doll. Max rolled his eyes and knelt beside her. "What did you do?"

"She was a bad baby, she didn't sit up." Tess pouted. "She's broked. I was just gonna cut her hair."

"Give me the scissors." Max held out his hand. "You don't do that."

"I'm sorry." She ducked her head under Max's shirt while he fixed the doll.

"It's like she gets worse everyday." Kal shook his head.

TBC
posted on 24-Nov-2002 3:55:21 PM
[center]Part 4 – December 8, 1996[/center]

Max bobbed his head to the music blaring from his headphones. Pencil flying, he made quick work of his Algebra homework. He nearly jumped out of his skin when Tess's blond curls blocked his vision. He pulled off the headphones and turned in her embrace. "What's up? I'm doing my homework."

"Take pictures of me."

"When I'm done." Max sighed and picked up his pencil once more, only to have her hands stop his. Sighing again, he looked at the clock. "Okay, in twenty minutes." He pulled out a blank sheet of paper and wrote a number on it. "When the clock says this number, then I'll come take pictures of you."

"Okay." She pouted and ran off with the piece of paper.

"You indulge her."

"You want her quiet?" Max tossed over his shoulder as he jotted down the last equation. "If I refused, she would have screamed."

"I'm leaving again." Kal puffed on the cigar. "Your credit card is good?"

"Yes." Max closed his book and turned. "Hers is low."

"Don't let her buy so much." Kal shrugged. "It's an allowance. Teach her to budget."

"You know that she can't. Maybe if you tried to explain to her."

"Kid, I'm your 'uncle' I'm supposed to spoil you."

"Whatever." Max sighed. "I don't have any friends because of her."

"But you've got connections. That's what matters. You'll need those connections when you eventually get a job." Kal sat on the bed and watched Max pull several folders out of a drawer and set them aside before retrieving a camera and several rolls of film. "What do you got there?"

"Just pictures of Tess." He shrugged and handed the folders over. "She likes to pose. Mr. Lindham taught me to develop the film myself and which cameras to use."

"What have you been using for a dark room?" He opened the folders and spread the pictures over the duvet cover.

"Your bathroom. You don't use it and Bobby hates going in your room."

"These are good. These are really good.." Grabbing one of the folders, he began picking the pictures out. "I'm taking exposures 3, 9, 25 and 32 from the first folder. 12 and 19 from the second… and 25 and on from the last."

"Why?" Max didn't think the pictures were so good. They weren't perfect. Some of them were blurred.

"Let's just say that if Tess wants to keep spending, she can work to pay the bill." He examined his chosen pictures. "You've got a good eye and our woman of the year has found something she can do."

"Kal, what are you going to do with those?"

"I have a friend in modeling."

"She won't just pose for anyone." Max protested. "The second Bobby walks into the room, she runs and hides."

"Then you've got a job if they come out anything like these. She still likes to dress up?"

"Yeah but…" Max sighed. It was useless. "Ok."

"There's a good boy." Kal nodded. "I'll see if I can't get some sponsors."

[center]December 12, 1996[/center]

Max wanted to throw the chess board across the room. She beat him again. Her glittering blue eyes told him that she loved besting him at something. He had seen the dull look in her eyes when he came home with As on his report card. The self-loathing when she broke something or said something that made people laugh at her. She loved him, that much he knew. He hadn't even realized he was daydreaming until she started hopping up and down.

"Brother Max, Brother Max." Tess's eyes glittered as she slowly bent over the chess board and reached out to touch him. "You're it!"

She was out of the room before he could blink. He would have just let her go but then he remembered Kal was bringing people home and had told him to make sure Tess behaved herself. Tearing down the hallways after her, he caught up with her in the foyer just as Kal and his associates entered the house with their dates. He and Tess were supposed to be upstairs and out of sight but it was too late for that. Tess laughed wildly as she tried to escape her brother's grasp. "Uncle Kal, I'm sorry, I forgot."

Tess immediately went still, wide blue eyes watched the guests as she quietly slipped behind her brother for protection.

"No harm done." A woman purred at Kal. "Will they be joining our party?"

"No. They're going to bed." Kal nodded his head to the stairs. Max gripped Tess's hand and raced upstairs with her. She was more than willing to go. Strangers made her nervous. After seven years, she still had not gotten used to the strange faces that appeared at the mansion from time to time. Once upstairs, Max sent her to bathe with the promise of a story when she got out.

They were thirteen years old but Tess was nearer to ten… if that old. Sometimes she seemed normal with her hairbrushes, clothes, and posters of boy bands but then she would sit and color like a five year old. Her handwriting much resembled a young child's. Sometimes he wondered if she would always be this way… if someday she might grow up. He already thought girls were pretty and he'd had sex education. She would probably never understand that. She was smart enough. Puzzles, math and anything that could be demonstrated visually, she could learn but her understanding was so young.

Kal had gotten an instructor to come teach her to play the piano while Max was at school. Jake had tried to teach her to freestyle but she would only mimic. The same with the violinist, the cellist, the flutist and the guitarist. Sheet music meant nothing to her but if she heard it, she could play it… she was never going to compose her own music.

Her vanity… was just that because she was fascinated by her reflection. That's why she liked to have pictures of herself. She loved dress-up and lipstick and perfume… because it made her pretty, not because she wanted to impress anyone. Like chess, she watched chess match after chess match so that she could play her brother. She knew what moves won games from watching but she didn't understand it. She played because he did.

Max sighed when the door opened and Tess emerged drying her hair with her hands. She scanned his bookshelf over and over until her hair was dry and in plenty of curls. "I want… this one."

He scanned the title and groaned. She did like her princess stories. They trekked back through the bathroom and into her room. Tess scrambled beneath the covers, Max gave her the stuffed wolf to tuck under her chin and he sat beside her with the book. "There once was a kingdom with twelve beautiful princesses and each morning when their father, the king, woke them, their dancing shoes were battered to shreds…"

[center]December 20, 1996[/center]

Blading around the pool, Max cast his glances to the city beyond the grounds. Tess splashed in the pool. Kal held a net conference in his office. They were promoting another big movie… one he wanted them to accompany him to the premiere of. It was supposed to be some big horror movie or something. Kal had predicted a franchise out of it. Something about a mask and a bunch of screaming teenagers mocking the classic horror movies. Who knew? Kal was usually right about those things.

"You about done, Tess?"

"No." She told him, turning up her nose.

"You're gonna turn into a prune." He warned her. "Get out now do you can dry off before you gotta shower before dinner. Uncle Kal doesn't like it when you drip through the house."

"Uncle Kal is a poo-head." She blew him a razzberry.

"He is?"

"Yes. He told me to stop playing the piano. Will you take some pictures of me playing?"

"When I get more film." Max promised then sighed. "And after Uncle Kal gives you a list of clothes to wear."

"He told me to stop playing." Tess pouted.

"He's on the phone." Max skidded to a stop beside the pool. "Wanna watch a scary movie?"

"I don't like scary movies."

"We're going tonight." He knelt and flicked some water at her. "Then Christmas we're watching the movie about the angel."

"The man with the wings?" She perked up.

"Yep." Max fought the urge to roll his eyes. She would like that one better. Some movie about John Travolta being a real angel. Their family requirement for Kal. "Come on. We gotta get ready."

"I'm still playing."

"Did you see the pretty new dress?" He grinned when her eyes lit up. "Let's go get cleaned up."

--

Maybe Kal had been right. It was time to stop hiding. Max climbed out of the limo and reached in to help Tess out. Kal had already started smoozing. He was able to get her out of the limo without any problem. Then the cameras had dazzled her and while she clung to him, she couldn't stop smiling. The lights, the people and the sparkly dresses. It actually put a grin on his face.

--

Kal sent them home so he could attend one of the many after parties. Max had just put Tess to bed and gotten into bed himself when Tess came barreling into the room. She scrambled beneath the covers and clung to him. "The movie wasn't that scary."

"Yes, it was." She pouted.

"Then don't think about it. Think about the angel we're going to see on Christmas." Max groaned.

"Are angels real? Can I get one?"

"Angels aren't real. It's just a movie." Max rolled on his side to face her.

"Kelly says angels are real. They watch us. Do angels watch us?" Tess curled up in a ball. "She says that God loves us and angels are here to watch us and make sure we're loved." She furrowed her brow. "What's love? Kelly says you and Uncle Kal love me. Is that true?"

"Yeah, I guess so." Max shrugged.

"She says Christmas is a time for peace and love. For family and friends. Are you my friend?"

"I'm your brother."

"Brothers and sisters love each other?"

"Yeah."

"What's love mean?" She brushed her curls out of her face. "Is that how you make me feel better when I do something stupid?"

"Kind of."

"Or when you don't let Bobby make fun of me."

"Sure." Max stopped and tilted his head. "Bobby makes fun of you?"

"He says I'm slow and I need to grow up."

"Then Bobby needs to find a new job."

"Another mouse keeper?" Tess narrowed her eyes.

"House keeper." Max corrected. "Get some sleep, huh?"

"I can sleep in here?"

"Yeah." Max shut his eyes and didn't open them again until the sun was shining in his window. Kal was reclining in the chair beside the TV. "Uncle Kal?"

"Come on. You and me need to have a talk." Kal gestured for him to get up. The two made their way down to the kitchen where Bobby was making breakfast.

"Fire him." Max nodded to the house keeper.

"After New Years." Kal led Max outside, away from prying ears. "Listen kid… you know you're different from everybody else."

"Yeah. I know."

"You know how?" Kal adjusted his robe to sit on the patio.

"Well, yeah. I have dreams."

"About what?"

"I don't know. Sometimes I see a red lake and big outcropping of rock. I see stars."

"Let me tell you something. You sleeping in the same bed as your sister makes me uncomfortable." Kal cleared his throat. "You're part alien but you probably figured that out. You're a smart kid."

"She was scared. She didn't like that movie last night. If she hadn't been so afraid of all the people there, she would have made a scene." Max protested.

"Yeah, I got it. I'm thinking it was a good idea to tell you she was your sister."

"She's not?" Max stepped back.

"Not so much. Let's put it this way. It's nobody's business. I thought I oughta warn you that you'll be having some dreams that are gonna make you feel sick about it. You'll figure it out."

"Why don't you just tell me?"

"I would but I figure I'll leave you some time to be normal. The dreams… they won't last so long and they probably won't happen again. Thing is… if Tess gets them, they'll freak her out cause she won't know what to do with them."

"Just tell me now." Max barked.

TBC
posted on 7-Dec-2002 4:44:02 AM
[center]Part 5 – August 4, 2001[/center]

Max flashed the girl a brilliant smile and she faltered in her explanation on how to get to the books he had asked about. He had been flirting with the girl for about ten minutes already and she was screwing up her job trying to keep up. "The uh, the um, the uh, the photography books are on the second floor but um, the uh, books on the artists are on the fifth floor."

He never heard the pounding of footsteps and never acknowledged the shifting of his jacket but the librarian's assistant did. "So, where would I go if I needed to take pictures of you?"

"Um…" She pointed over his shoulder. "There's a girl under your jacket."

"Is there?" He tilted his head at her. "Don't mind her. So… I think you would make the perfect subject for my next project. Your skin is so smooth and clear…" He traced a finger over her hand. "Your eyes have an inner light that I'd love to capture on film."

"Really?" She blushed hesitated before she let her hand rest on the counter where he could keep touching it.

"Yeah, I have a studio in my house… All my equipment is there, my cameras, my props and backdrops." His arm shifted unconsciously as she moved around his side to appear under his arm to look at who he was talking to.

"I don't know… do you really think I would come out good?" She ducked her head. "I'm not much of a picture person." She gasped when a blond head popped out from under his arm. Max was blinded as, suddenly, hands clamped over his eyes. The assistant started to talk but a hand clamped over her mouth.

"Max… No." Tess hissed.

"Tess, cut it out." Max ripped her remaining hand from his eye and pulled her hand from the lost opportunity. "I'm sorry. I really am."

"You can't take pictures of her, Max. You promised to take pictures of me." She hissed at him.

"Is this your girlfriend?" The girl glanced at him doubtfully.

"My sister." Max corrected and led Tess away from the desk. "Would you stop? I was talking to that girl. I told you that I have other friends. What happened to your books?" Tears slipped down her face as she pointed back the way she came. Sighing, he wrapped an arm around her shoulders and guided her back to the section he had left her in. Then he saw the reason Tess had deserted her books. A few guys from a rival high school of his sat at her table, her books in hand. "Can I have those books please?"

"Look, our little friend is back." The leader sat up. "She has to pay the toll first."

"You guys are sick." Max bit out. "Give me her books. If you insist on being animals, I'll make sure you regret messing with her."

"Let her speak for herself." He leered at her, blowing her a kiss.

"She can't. She's retarded, you morons." Max took their stunned moment as an opportunity to take her books back. "Let's go."

Tess followed him and waited until they were far enough away to explode. "I'm not retarded, Max." Max's shoulders sagged as he slowed his step, hanging his head in defeat. "I'm not."

"Yeah, I know. You are… the 'Woman of the Year.'" Max tried to flash her a smile but it failed to make her smile. "Tess, they don't understand… and it's not your fault. Forget them, they're assholes."

"Don't use that word, Max." She huffed and crossed her arms, refusing to move another step until he apologized.

"Tess…" He sighed and wrapped an arm around her. "You're not. I'm sorry. I won't say it again." Bent his head to look into her face. "Love you."

"Love you, too." She relented and took her books. "I hafta check them out."

"Why?" Max exclaimed, exasperated. Every two weeks they went to the library so she could look at the books and take some home but she could barely spell and recognize her own name.

"These are math books, Max. I can do math." She scolded him. "I'm not stupid."

"No, no you are not. Please, let's go."

--

Max slapped the negatives on Kal's desk. "Just finished."

"Good. Good." Kal shifted the phone against his ear and began looking the negatives over. "When does school start?"

"Twenty-eighth." Max shrugged and slid into a chair.

"Hugo will like these."

"Probably but she's wearing Vera's dress in that one." Max shrugged again.

"Then off to Vera, those go." Kal put the set aside. "We'll see what she thinks." He returned his attention to the phone. "The monster movie is going to be the next big thing. No kid's going to want an Elmo that burps or dances once they see this thing. We'll get the toys for the kids and the entertainment for the parents… I've never been wrong." Flipping a sheet of paper over he motioned to Max. "Two magazines want you. You've got interviews and appointments for trial shoots."

"Where?"

"Don't know yet." He motioned for something. "You've been taking those photography classes?"

"Yeah." Max shrugged. "They're boring."

"If all goes well on these trial shoots… next break you take a tour of the U.S. Get a feel for locations and local governments."

"You already planning to add me to the team?"

"Well, fortunately or unfortunately, you've got a knack for diplomacy and for strategic battlegrounds." Kal held up his hands. "No. The kids babbles incoherently to adults but the kids will understand her."

"Right." Max rolled his eyes and left the office. He strolled through the solarium where Tess was busy with one of her instruments and walked straight out the door to his car. He had no clue where he was going but he knew he had to get out of Hollywood and clear his head. In a trance, he sped down the freeway. He clicked off his cell phone when it rang the one time. Quiet was all he needed.

In Palm Springs, he filled up his gas tank and got something to eat. In Phoenix, he bought a thermos of coffee and took pictures of the dive with his camera, artfully avoiding the glare of the neon lights to capture the reality of the dingy place. In Tucson, he captured some drunks on film at a loud party. The mariachis hammed it up when they saw his camera. It wasn't until he was eating his breakfast burrito in an El Paso dive that he realized where he was going. He had been driving all night and there was only three hours or so before he got there. He could have been going anywhere. He'd been driving the same interstate since around five the night before. It was nearly eight and he wanted to leave it I-10and find highway 180. It was nearly eleven local time. He could make Roswell by three, that was eleven back in L.A.

--

The Wal-mart had aliens painted on the front glass. The 7-Eleven had them displayed in the windows. All the stores and restaurants on the strip mocked him and his kind. Max climbed out of the car and stretched his legs. 180 and 285 were lonely stretches of road and Roswell wasn't all that welcoming. He thought El Paso had been small for being one of the larger cities in the area but Roswell wasn't anything special either. His tailored clothes weren't just out of place. That was like saying Queen Elizabeth was out of place in the Ozarks. Roswell was not his kind of town.

Anger built, rose and ebbed. The restaurant directly in front of him was called The Crashdown and had a huge UFO coming out of the front. It made the bile rise in his throat… but he was hungry and it looked as good as anything else. It wasn't like these people knew they'd be serving an alien. When he saw the sign, he knew he was far from home. Please seat yourself. He took a booth and sat, trying not to display obvious distaste for the decorations.

Wiping the table to avoid greasing up his sleeve, he caught the eye of a blond waitress. He caught the face she threw her fellow before trudging over. "Yeah, what can I do for you?"

"A menu?" He cocked an eyebrow at her. "Or do I guess what you've got… because I'm guessing you don't serve Pellegrino, Passugger Heilquellen, or Albion."

"Whatever you said, buddy?" She walked away with raised eyebrows to retrieve a menu, shooting her friend a look. She presented him with the menu and forced a smile onto her face. "What can I get you to drink?"

"Whatever water's bottled, preferably not from around here."

"Dasani or Apani fine?" She scoffed, half laughing. He nodded after a moment of consideration. "Just a warning because I have the feeling our greasy spoon isn't what you're used to… we have deep-fried, stove-grilled, and overly-sweet. That's about it. I can arrange for a plain salad but that might be stretching things a bit."

"Give me a minute." Max waved her off and opened the menu. She was right. He wasn't used to the selection. The places that being Kal Langley's nephew got him into were usually healthy food places or gourmet delicacies. The brunette waitress passed and he had to stop her. "Excuse me, is there anything besides a salad that you serve that won't kill me slowly by way of high cholesterol?"

"Um…" She winced a little and turned more toward him. "You really came to the wrong place for that. We've got burgers with cheese, with grilled onions, or sauerkraut. We've got fries and onion rings. For a first timer…" She trailed off and appraised his ensemble. Tailored slacks, button shirt with no hope of finding the seams and shoes that she knew would set her back a few great tourist day tips. "Blue Moon Special."

"And what is the Blue Moon Special?"

"Blue Moon Burger, Saturn Orbit Rings and Mercury Milkshake for $3.99." She caught his raised eyebrow. "In layman's terms… that's your standard cheeseburger, onion rings and a milkshake of your choosing; chocolate, strawberry or vanilla."

Max studied her face for a moment. "You've got a very unique beauty. You don't see it much anymore."

"Um, thank you." She smiled and ducked her head.

"Ever considered modeling?"

"Um, in Roswell? No." She scrunched up her nose and wandered away.

Suddenly the blonde waitress was back with order pad in hand after she plopped a bottle of Dasani on the table. She simply raised an eyebrow that dared him to ingest anything. "Blue Moon Special."

"I could have given you the specials if you couldn't lower yourself to look at the menu." She scoffed and picked up the menu from the table.

"You didn't offer to be helpful." He tossed back at her. "Don't spit in the burger and I won't forget the tip."

"Right, right." She hugged and walked away to place the order. He knew she was supposed to be whispering but he caught her comment when she caught up to her fellow waitress. "Why do I always get the creeps?"

"I think he's sweet."

"You would." The blonde tossed her long hair over her shoulder and began working on the milkshake. "He looks like a walking American Express card. You'd think with all that money he could afford to be nice."

"You're being rude. He's probably reacting to your hostility."

"He started it. What the hell is 'Passenger Heil Kellen'? I think he mispronounced Evian." She crossed her arms and leaned on the counter. "Who the hell does he think he is in those clothes?"

"He's obviously not from around here, Maria. Not being from Roswell and dressing nice, does not make him a poser."

"He's like 20 and he's all Mr. Important. Did you see his car outside? I think someone's overcompensating…" She made a gagging face that made Max laugh. Maria covered her mouth and turned away. "Oh my god. Liz, he heard every word I said."

"That's what you get for making fun of customers on a lazy Sunday, Maria." Liz chastised her. "Take a physics class, sound travels. It moves in waves that bounce off solid walls and people will hear if you make fun of them without giving them the courtesy of a wall between you. It's also known as karma."

"Yeah, yeah." Maria waved her off. "I can't go back over there, now."

"Fine. I'm keeping the tip though." Liz turned to begin filling the sugar jars.

"Fine by me. I don't want my karma tarnished by his money."

"Order up!" Mr. Parker appeared in the walk-up window. "Girls, don’t scare off the customers."

"Got it, Dad." Liz nodded and pulled the plate from the window. She took the tin cup from the shake machine and poured it into a tall glass. She loaded up a tray and headed to her customer. She set the food down with a bright smile. "There you go. I'm Liz, I'll be your server for the remainder of your visit to the Crashdown. If you need anything, I'll be over there… this time maybe we won't be talking about you."

"Not a problem." Max cleared his throat and leaned toward her. "Just between us… your friend is wrong. I never overcompensate… for anything."

Liz had to bite back a huge smile. "Okay. I'm gonna… go. Enjoy your meal." Cheeks flaming, she made it back behind the counter without making a fool of herself. The phone rang and she answered, listened and then took a message. Head tilted at Maria, she took the scrap of paper and delivered it to her customer. "Um, this is for you."

Max set down his burger and looked at the paper. He looked up to the waitress but she seemed bewildered. "Thanks." Wiping his hands, he took the message and looked it over. Cursing, he bowed his head and sank against the seat. Liz stepped away from the table slowly. Max yanked his phone out of his pocket and hit the power button. It rang in his hand the second it found a signal. "Hello."

"You wanna tell me why in the hell you're in New Mexico?"

"Hey, Uncle Kal."

"Don't get cute with me. I know exactly where you are. Come home, now."

"Sure." Max hung up the phone and nodded to Liz. "Know of a hotel nearby?"

TBC

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 7-Dec-2002 10:19:58 AM ]
posted on 8-Dec-2002 8:26:43 PM
[center]Part 6 – August 6, 2001[/center]

Max tossed and turned in his bed. The sheets weren't as soft as he was used to, the smell was… musty at best, and the noise was not to a level he enjoyed in his hilltop home in L.A… nil. Actually, he didn't care where he was as long as he wasn't home. Home meant getting ready for school, it meant playing chess or Jenga with Tess, it meant showing his portfolio to a magazine editor or doing a shoot under the supervision of the photo editor for a magazine. None of it was painless. The phone had only rung once since Kal had interrupted his meal. That was Tess wanting a bed time story. He had forgotten and that was his fault. He was going to have to call her that night to tell her another one.

Yesterday had been spent wandering the city, getting some clothes and necessities, and taking another meal at the Crashdown. The waitresses were different, which was probably a good thing. They hadn't stopped staring at him after he had answered his phone. He had finished his meal in silence, half-expecting his phone to ring again with Kal demanding to know why he hadn't left yet.

When he hadn't found a store that sold his brand of film, he had hightailed it to the library to use a computer to order some film and some other supplies he'd need. If he could get some sleep, he'd be up in the morning to find some place to take pictures. It might be fun to take some on his own for once… like he had in the beginning.

--

With several rolls of film in each pocket, he set out. There was a little girl playing hopscotch, complete with pigtails and Mary Janes. It was quaint. The buildings were old and needed painting. They were classic. There were lawyers chatting in the early morning chill, taking a break from the musty offices inside and exchanging marriage stories. There were old men sitting outside the Crashdown taking in eggs, bacon and coffee. They were talking about the weather and the good old days.

He caught that brunette waitress in a smile as she served a gentleman inside at the counter. Just as he was moving on to the next shot, two people nearly bowled him over. He received a nasty glare from the tall and icy girl, and then a death stare from her beefy companion. "Excuse me." Both sets of eyes narrowed at him before he stepped aside and let them on their way. "Nice to see everyone's so friendly." He called after them.

"They are… when they want to be." A familiar voice reached his ears.

Max turned to find the brunette clearing a vacant table. "Good morning."

"Good morning." She flashed him a smile. "Eating?"

"Walking." Max raised his camera to catch her on film once more. "What's the story on Dumber and Dumber?"

"You ask a lot of questions for someone just passing through." She accused.

"I'm not. I'm rediscovering my roots." Max clicked off a few shots of her exasperation and lowered the camera. "What do you say?"

"Those are the Evans kids." Liz rolled her eyes and relented as she resumed her task of cleaning the table. "Isabel and Michael. She's the most popular girl in school and he hates everyone."

"I thought you said they were friendly."

"I believe that everyone is friendly. Michael's just a little… paranoid… but if I had been left out in the desert to die when I was six years old… I might be a little stand-offish myself." Liz lifted her dish bucket to finding him staring.

"Is that right? Left out in the desert?" What were the chances of that?

"Yeah. Him and his sister. They're adopted. I think they have to work with their dad down the street." Liz gathered her bucket to her. "Don't think I didn't see you snapping pictures of me… what's your name?"

"Max Evans."

"Really? You're not related, are you?" Liz's eyes bugged out.

"Probably not. I'm from California and named after a character in a movie or two."

"I thought you said you were discovering your roots?"

"I passed through here a long time ago." Max shook off her question. "May I have the pleasure of your name?"

"Liz Parker." She had to hide a grinned when he followed her inside and to the counter where she set down her load. "Nice change in wardrobe."

"I… spontaneous trip means a few bucks spent on whatever I could find around here. It's not up to my normal standards but I can afford to be lax here." He slid onto a stool. "If you get off soon, would you do me the honor of a tour?"

"I don't even know you." Liz protested. "What are you doing in Roswell? It's not the best place to take pictures, or have fun, or vacation…"

"Let's just say I wanted to get away for a while." Max cleared his throat and leaned forward. "Ever get the feeling your life will be over before you get to make any decisions about it?"

"Yeah. Yeah, I know the feeling exactly." She pondered for a moment and then nodded. "I get off in twenty minutes… then I'll need about thirty minutes to change. Come back in an hour."

"We'll see." Max rewound the film and popped it out before replacing the roll in his pocket. A fresh roll was loaded in no time.

"There's a one hour photo place two blocks down." She offered.

"No thanks. I develop my own."

--

Ten minutes later had Max adjusting his lenses across the street from the law offices of Evans and MacGruder. The air conditioner in the building must have gone out because the lawyers spent a lot of time in the entryway downstairs fanning themselves. Occasionally the tall blonde had wandered downstairs to talk to the oldest of the three men there. What the two older men didn't note was the sly flirting going on between the youngest lawyer and the blonde… but Max caught it on camera.

Only once did the blonde look at him. In that moment he got the sense that he did know her. She seemed to mirror his expression. A mix of confusion and misplaced recognition. When she broke their gaze, she rushed back up the stairs. Through his extended lens, he could see her and her brother pointing at him and talking heatedly. He caught a few shots of the guy's profile and put his camera away. Hands in pockets, he fiddled with the rolls of film as he soaked in the alienness. After his second day it didn't seem so bad.

When he wandered back over to the Crashdown, the blonde was working. She glared at him and crossed her arms. "Enjoy slumming?"

"Slumming?" Max raised an eyebrow. "Honey, if I were going to slum, it wouldn't be in Roswell."

"Don't call me 'honey.' I don’t belong to you." Maria flipped her air and stalked off.

"Don't mind her." Liz appeared suddenly. "She's just mad because you have a third leg."

"Rosie fan?" He blinked at her. It'd be a waste.

"Nope. Just hating men at the moment." Liz straightened her shirt. "Are you ready to begin? It'll be short, especially on foot."

"Let's go." Max followed Liz down the main drag and she ran through a brief history of the owners and kids she knew. He kept catching her staring at him. "What?"

"You have yet to ask the question."

"What question?"

"I can't force it. It'll come on its own. It always does." Liz started to step backwards off the curb but Max rushed forward to pull her back before a big truck ran through the intersection. "Whoa."

"Yeah. Let's walk forward from now on." Max took a moment to slow his heart rate. "What question is it that I'm supposed to ask?"

"It's a couple of questions actually. How long has your family lived in Roswell? Have you ever seen any aliens?"

"I was never going to ask either of those." Max cleared his throat and rushed them past the UFO museum.

"That's definitely a first." She laughed.

"I guess it's a hazard of living here, huh. How obsessed are people?"

"Every year we have a Crash Festival and all the crazies come out of the woodwork." Liz tucked her hair behind her ear and pulled it loose from her large hoop earrings. "Why are you taking so many pictures?"

"I'm a photographer. It's what I do." Max lifted the camera and swept the area for something decent of capturing.

"How old are you?"

"18, about to enter college." Focusing the camera on her face, Max stepped back and stooped to get a good angle for the proximity.

"Wow. I've still got a year of high school to go and then I'm out of here." She groaned and put her hand over the lens. "No more pictures."

"I started school late and then skipped a year so I ended up on time." Max shrugged and put the cap on his camera.

"Where do you live in California?" Liz sat on a bench and tried not to smile too much when he grimaced as he sat.

"L.A." He nodded to her eyebrows raising. "Grew up in Hollywood. We live away from that though. Up in the hills, away from the general chaos of mud slides and riots but not safe from earthquakes."

"Wow. So, you're a photographer. Who do you work for?"

"Um, actually, no one yet. I’m supposed to have interviews soon. If they like my on spot attitude and my portfolio, they'll hire me and I've got something to do besides wade through my schoolwork."

"Wow. Kinda nice to have it all worked out."

"I don't though." Max swallowed nervously. He was dangerously close to spilling everything. "It wasn't my idea. None of it. Not going to college, not sending my photos to magazines, not working for them or my uncle. It's all him."

"Do I know how that goes." Liz laughed. "My plan involves a four year scholarship to Harvard and grants until I've finished graduate school."

"What's the real plan?"

"I take what I can get from the school that will give it to me and wade through as patiently as possible until I'm the head microbiology researcher wherever I land." Liz laughed to herself. "It's looking like Southwest at the moment. I've got a 3.8 at the moment and it's going to do me well."

"I got a 4.0. It hasn't done squat for me." Max blew some dust off his camera and shot a look at her. "I'm pretty much expected to stay close to home."

"That's sad."

Before Max could say anything, his phone rang. Cursing, he got to his feet to answer it against a nearby building. "Hello?"

"Why the hell aren't you home by now?"

"Relax."

"No. Don't tell me to relax. I want you to get the hell out of Roswell, today." Kal took a breath. "I didn't get as far away from that place as I could because I didn't like it. You stick around there and trouble will find you."

"Nothing's happened. I’m taking a break."

"A break. Max, sleep with her, take her picture or whatever, and then come home. Don't stick around that dumbfuck of a town."

Max stiffened and looked back at Liz. She was looking at him curiously. Then Max glanced around, he didn't see anyone. "How did you know?"

"I know you, your highness. You got a weakness for a pretty face. You like the old movies, you like the classic look. There's a sweet girl somewhere with face like Judy Garland and a brain like Einstein. You're talking to her like you got all the time in the world. You're not bragging about your connections. You're talking about your hobbies and how much you hate me. I'm telling you to get the hell out and get home."

"When's my first interview?"

"Next week."

"I'll be back in time."

"That's not what I'm saying, Max. You will come home now."

"The interview. What time?"

"2:00 on Friday."

"I'll be back by Thursday. No arguments about it." Max cleared his throat. "I won't want to make it an order."

"Yeah." The sound of his mouth smacking against a cigar. "Fine. Be back early Thursday. Don't go asking a bunch of questions. You'll just get into trouble. Just remember that my reach is far and wide. Wouldn't want that little girl of yours to get vanished."

"I didn't tell her anything."

"See that you don't… and call your sister. She's going crazy."

"Put her on." Max sank to the ground as he listened to a series of beeps and clicks that would ring the phone in every room until she answered. "Tess?"

"Max? Where are you? I've been waiting." She sounded as if she had been crying.

"Hi. Are you okay?" Max's whole face softened when she sniffed.

"Yeah. I got scared last night. The men were talking in my dreams."

"I told you. It's okay. The dreams are old things… to be forgotten." Max reminded her gently. "The men weren't there to hurt you. They were protecting you."

"I… I'm supposed to know what they're saying but I don't." Tess swallowed and sniffed again.

"I don't know either."

"When are you coming back?"

"Thursday."

"When's that?"

"Go to your calendar, Tess. It should have the picture of the people at a grill on top." Max waited for her to find the picture. "Today is the sixth day."

"I found it."

"Okay. I will be back on the sixteenth day. That's 10 more than today. Did you find it?"

"Yes. 10 days."

"Good girl. How are you doing? Are you eating? Alicia say anything to you?"

"She says I eat junk but you said it was okay."

"It is okay. Next time she says something, tell her to talk to Uncle Kal."

"Okay."

"Think you can do without a story until I get back?"

"Yeah."

"I love you, sweetie. Be careful."

"Love you, Max." Tess whispered, calmer than she had been before. "I start school in seven days. Be home three days after that before I get out of school."

"I will. In 10 days before you get out of school that tenth day. Bye-bye." Max snapped the off shut and rose to his feet to return to Liz. She kept staring at him warily. "Phone call from home."

"You just up and left, huh? Didn't tell anyone where you were going, when you would be back?"

"Something like that." Max nodded.

"Left your daughter?"

"Oh." Max smiled. "No. Tess is my sister." His gaze dropped to his shoes as he slid his phone into his pocket. "She's… not… mentally right. Change upsets her."

"Is she why you can't go away to school?" Liz rose to her feet and let them away from the bench. "Why can't your parents take care of her?"

"I don't have parents. My uncle… he's a busy man."

"Too busy to take care of his niece?" Liz stopped walking.

"You don't know what it's like." Max shook his head at her and kept walking. "It's my thing. I know how it works. It works well." When he got to the end of the block, he turned to find her where he left her. He nodded his head to her and kept walking across the street. He didn't even care that he was being followed as he made for the hotel.

TBC
posted on 10-Dec-2002 2:21:56 AM
[center]Part 7 – August 8, 2001[/center]

Max had trays of silver nitrate sitting in the bathtub. He had darkened the light bulbs and he had strings attached to the walls with pictures hanging to dry. Any equipment that he didn't have with him or couldn't find in town or couldn't order overnight, he managed without. Pulling down his dried pictures and making sure he hadn't left any proofs out, he stepped out into the room. Isabel and Michael Evans. Those were their names. He hadn't thought anything of them when he had first ran into them but that look he had shared with the girl… it was familiar. He had always wondered what had happened to the others and all Kal would ever say was that they were safe.

Sometimes he dreamt of the cave. The boy and the girl were waiting for him at the entrance. The walls shook and then the ceiling fell. The boy and the girl ran outside. He ducked under the pod rack. When the shaking was over, there was fluid all around his feet. When he checked on Tess, there was hardly any fluid left in the pod and she wasn't breathing anymore. His chest had hurt when he first breathed outside his pod. So, he put his hands on her chest and let flow himself into her. She gasped for breath, smiled at him and then gone to sleep. Tired himself, he went to sleep. When he woke the cave was dark and the rocks were stuck and he was too tired to do anything about it. Then Kal came and he woke up.

Max wondered what they knew about themselves. He had known some things… pop culture and good deductions but the truth was something he could have never imagined on his own. If those two, Isabel and Michael, were the boy and girl he had seen in the cave. That girl was his real sister. And the irony? They still ended up with the same last name. Michael had to be his commander.

Sorting the pictures, he studied the pictures he had taken of Michael and Isabel. The ones from the second story intrigued him. They were obviously talking about him. The 'why' could only be that she had recognized him. They were them.

--

It was late afternoon by the time he emerged from the room to look for something to eat. He immediately heard the footsteps that followed him. He turned a corner and ducked into a doorway. Five seconds later, Michael Evans stepped into view completely bewildered. Max couldn't resist. "Looking for me?"

Michael spun around to find Max leaning in the private side entry to a little shop. Suspicious eyes ran over the foreign guy. "Who are you?"

"No one." Max shook his head.

"Why did you follow me and my sister the other day? Why were you taking pictures?" Michael demanded, hand raised between them. Max took that as a threat and decided against theatrics.

"She looks like she could be a model. The camera likes her." Max looked to Michael's hand and cleared his throat. "Mind lowering your weapon, soldier? It makes me uneasy." Michael didn't move. "Michael, baby, come on. If I wanted to hurt you, I could have already." Max stepped out of the entryway and continued his walk into town. "I heard you were the paranoid type but I didn't believe it until now. I would ask you why you're following me but I know why."

"Why is that?"

"Because I started it." Max turned his head slightly to be sure that Michael was keeping up. "The name's Max."

"How did you know my name?"

"Friendly waitress that defended your honor. Said that despite obvious character flaws, you weren't a bad person." He turned the corner and paused. He looked to his stalker. "Crashdown is which way?"

"Two blocks back that way and four to the left." Michael blinked at him. "Why are you here?'

"Had some time before classes start." Max started back the way he came. "Meeting you was a pure coincidence."

"You know who I am?"

"Who do you think I am?"

"Another one of us. Aren't you? You're… like me?" Michael stopped him. Max recognized the desperation in the hazel eyes. "Are… you… like my dad or something?"

He couldn't help it, he laughed. It was just absurd. Soon he was clutching his sides. Every time he looked at Michael, a fresh wave of laughter rose. When Michael began to look indignant, he made a valiant effort to calm himself. "Few words, my friend. November 13, 1989."

"I don't remember that day." Michael shoved his hands into his pocket. "I vaguely remember the following night."

"Trust me… you were awake the thirteenth." Max motioned for the street and they crossed. He could see the Crashdown down the street. "You were awake before I was."

"Oh." Michael blinked, questions racing through his head. "Then you are one of us. Where have you been? Do you remember what happened or what we're doing here? What happened to everyone else on the ship?"

"You might want to lower your voice. You aren't the only one following me and I have no clue what status our stalkers have." Max slid into a table outside and reached for a menu. "I'm thinking of being brave. Do you recommend the Will Smith burger?"

"Only heavily drenched in Tabasco sauce. The vinegar neutralizes the grease… on everything." Michael hesitated before taking a seat. "You got sucked in by the joint?"

"What?"

"This is the hangout for the high school crowd. The girls come because the guys come… the guys come in case the waitresses bend over." Michael shrugged. "The whole human dating thing."

"Ah." Max gestured to the movement inside the restaurant. "I'm here for the one who should have been a 50s actress. She has a great look, even under the mascara and Native jewelry."

"Liz Parker." Michael nodded. "The look is new this past semester. Her father is pissed and lets every guy that gets near her know it."

"And have you had a run-in with Mr. Parker?"

"She's not my type." Michael leaned over the table to make sure he had Max's attention. "If you were with us. Where have you been?"

"You've been living your life and I've been living mine." Max waved him off as their waitress appeared in the form of a bored older women. "Dasani in the unopened bottle and the Will Smith Burger with the… Orbit Rings instead of fries."

"In accordance with house rules, if you insist at seating outside the main building, we ask that you pre-pay." The woman droned as she scribbled down his order.

"That's fine. Mikey, you want anything?" Max reached into his wallet and pulled out his credit card.

"Just a coke." Michael waved him off. "And don't call me Mikey."

"Fine." She took the card and wandered away.

Michael began to look very annoyed and Max immediately felt that was a bad thing. "I didn't come here to talk to you guys. I needed away and my car steered itself over here. I'm just trying to clear my head before college and a job beckons."

"Well, you ran into us." Michael bit out. "Answer some questions and if I'm satisfied… I'll let you go."

"What do you want to know? Specifically. No generalized questions." Max sat back in his chair and waited.

"Okay. Where have you been for the last 12 years?"

"L.A."

"How did you get there?"

"In a car."

"Don't be a smart ass with me." Michael shook his head. "Who took you?"

"Kal Langley."

"The movie producer? Why?"

"Some… dormant sense of loyalty sprang up when we nearly died in that cave-in and to keep himself from having to do too much or drive himself crazy ignoring his engineered conscience… he took us home with him and lied to us for the next seven years."

"Why are we here?"

"Damn government weather balloons and a tipsy driver." Max shrugged. That desperation was back in his fellow alien's eyes. "Michael, listen carefully to me. We're not leaving Earth. We're stuck here with little hope of going home. You and your sister just have to get used to living as humans for the rest of your lives."

"No. No. That can't be it. There's got to be a reason we're here. You don't just fly who knows how many light years, crash, and then forget the whole mission." Michael caught himself just as he was about to speak too loud.

"Trust me, it's better left." He tried to calm the teen across from him but he wouldn't be calmed.

"No. You know something and you have to tell me."

"Be quiet. It's not something that humans need to be hearing." Max muttered and ducked his head. "You don't want to hear what I have to tell you."

"Maybe I do." Not loud but not calm either.

"Your sister… is really your fiancé. She's really my sister and there's one more of us. I'm a king, she's a queen, Isabel's a princess and you're a war commander. We're reincarnated from the old royal family to go back but they screwed up because it's been 50 years and no one has come for us and our protectors hate us. That give you any clue how screwed we are?" Max sat back just in time because his dinner came to him in the hands of his favorite waitress rather than the surly old woman who had taken his order. "How's America's sweetheart doing?"

"Honestly… I didn't think you'd come back here after the other day." Liz set down his food and delivered the drinks. "Sorry it's a little late. Agnes has this habit of taking unauthorized breaks."

"Usually when your food is getting cold." Michael added. "Hey Liz."

"Hey Michael. It speaks." Liz teased him. "So… what'd I miss in Mr. Evans' ongoing saga to relax?"

"Not a thing. I've gotten lonely though. I need a movie and company urgently." Max flashed her a dazzling smile. "Tonight?"

"Mmmm…" Liz winced. "I'm closing tonight."

"And tomorrow night and the night after that." Maria appeared out of nowhere. She leaned on the table until she was eye level with Max. "Forget it."

"Why do you hate me?" Max took a breath and looked to his companions before looking back at the blonde. "I'm a nice guy. I tip well. You have no reason to hate me… unless of course you dream of me and harbor lustful thoughts about what you want to do with my body…" Maria inhaled through her nose, stood up straight and stalked off. Max could only smile. "I think I hit a button."

"I… have to get back to my tables inside…" Liz started to back away. "I work tomorrow night too but I'm off during the day… before five…"

"Maybe I'll stop by around lunch. Will you show up?"

"It'll be easier than you think." Liz bit her lip then turned and disappeared into the restaurant.

"Any clue what that means?" Max turned to Michael, who was just staring at him. "What?"

"You date?"

"Yeah."

"And nothing happens? To them?"

"No." Max shook his head and then tilted it as he conceded to a point. "I'm the best lover nineteen women have ever had." Drenching his food in Tabasco and opening his water bottle, he held Michael's gaze. "You haven't?"

"No. Didn't know what would happen."

"Not much unusual does. I was scared the first time but Kal didn't let me believe it'd be any different. Thing was, he was waiting to see if it would be." Max shrugged a little, grimacing at the greasy burger in his mouth. "Aside from prolonged orgasm, it's pretty normal, I guess. The ladies think it's the best."

"They don’t suspect?" Michael stirred his soda nervously.

"Nah. But in L.A… all the girls are into yoga and spiritual enlightenment. They just think they've reached the next plane. These 'enlightened' women seem to think that men are only good for sex and furthering their careers, if even that." He brought his eyes down to his food, wrinkled his nose, and then lifted them up to his fellow. "That all the questions?"

"Why'd you get the protector and we didn't?"

Max had to think about how to answer that one. He chewed his food and sipped his water. "Kal's asleep, waiting his turn to drive because it's a very long trip. He wakes up on impact. The one driving died instantly, he had something he wasn't supposed to. Alien version of heroine. Kal beats it out of there. Two of his buddies were dead and the last just as groggy as he was. Grateful to be alive and off Antar, he runs. When he turns around, the other survivor is right behind him. Then the military arrives the next day. They take everything, the ship, the weather balloon and every piece of debris they could find. When they get to us, the two of them get nervous. They don't want anything to do with us, they just wanted off Antar but they're… slave class beings. Their DNA is coded to serve. They weren't allowed to let us die without a fight… so they go back. They try to intercept the truck carrying us out and they get run over, not quite understanding what the truck was. After healing each other, they spring us from the base, store us where no one will find us and disappear. Kal stuck around town until a production company came to town to film a movie. He went to California when they left. He didn't say what happened to the other one.

"November 13, 1989, he gets this feeling. Hasn't felt it since that day he tried to run. Some incompetent civilian programmed the wrong coordinates into a test missile. You, Isabel and I had come out of our pods that following morning and we waited for Tess. Hours later, she's still inside and suddenly the world is falling down around us. You and Isabel go out the opening and I get trapped inside with Tess. The rocks prompt a premature arrival for her and I never see you two until the other day. Kal shows up, dusts us off and takes us home. Just so he can make sure we don't fulfill our destiny on our own. Does that answer your question? My food's getting cold."

[center]August 9, 2001[/center]

Max took a seat at the counter near the open back room and inadvertently caught some conversation wafting out the door. "Stuff it, Maria!"

"Liz, he's going to break your heart."

"It's my heart." The tone was cool and even… and very deadly. "You got your summer romance and you got trashed because you didn't see what I see."

"Don't even dare…"

"I do dare. You didn't anticipate him leaving. He slept with you and he left town. Boohoo. Everyone knew what was going on except for you but you did, didn't you. You just thought if you hoped and prayed it would turn out differently." Deathly silent pause. "This is my summer romance. We have one year of high school left and I don't plan to stick around next summer. This is it for me. He leaves next week and whatever happens between us until then, happens. I want it to. I have no illusions."

"But you do."

"Maybe… but those are allowed. I know that he'll be gone and off to college and I'll be here… in Roswell… in high school. I know the end result. I'm ready for it. For once in my life… I'll let something good happen that will leave me broken… at least in the heart department. There will be some attachments but none to this town." Some lockers shut noisily. "I know what kind of guy he is. You don't. That's the difference."

"He's using you."

"Maybe… but maybe he needs to. I know some… personal things about him. I'm willing to be used. Let me make a mistake. It's not your job to protect me." Liz entered the restaurant and stopped cold when she spotted Max. "Hi! Been waiting long?"

"I just got here." Max flashed her a smile. "I uh… I actually see quite a few movies and I've seen everything playing here. How about we take a drive?"

"I'd like that." Liz wound her finger through her belt loop and shifted on her feet. "So… did you want to grab something to eat first?"

"Not really. I think my arteries have gotten clogged already." Taking her hand, he led her out the doors. "One quick stop at the grocery store and we'll be on our way."

Liz endured the short ride to the store and sat in the car while he disappeared within. Out of curiosity, she picked up the portfolio at her feet. Flipping through, she saw image after image of porcelain beauties in sexy poses and dramatic stances. Dark make-up, shimmering eyelids, exposed body parts without being perverse. Every photo was breathtaking and gorgeous. When Liz examined the images closer, most of them were of a blue-eyed blonde with obvious adoration in her eyes.

Further wondering on the girl was prevented when Max appeared with a basket full of items. He flashed her that brilliant smile as he began unpacking it. He opened a brand new cooler, then dumped half a bag of ice into it. Then several deli-trays were placed inside. More ice then a box and a bottle. More ice. The cooler was placed in the trunk. Then a small basket was produced and he emptied several little boxes into it. Bewildering, Liz watched him set the basket and a plastic bag in the backseat and climb in. "Let's drive."

"Where would you like to go?" Liz turned slightly in her seat, sliding the portfolio discreetly to the ground.

"We'll let the car decide and you can tell me all about growing up in Roswell."

--

They ended up on the grass in the middle of the park, eating various fruits and vegetables out of the deli cartons with brand new sets of silverware. They drank sparkling grape juice out of glass goblets. Then there was a very fine cheesecake. Liz groaned as she sat up. "That's me. Liz Parker under the microscope. Tell me about you."

"Not much to tell. The official story is that my polygamous father and his wives died in a plane crash. My half-sister and I were taken in by an estranged uncle. I grew up in Hollywood with the producers downstairs, the actors in the backyard, the actresses in the bedroom and screenwriters everywhere I turned. While my uncle was making a buck, I was taking care of my sister. Then when he had a reputation to make, he introduced us to his crowd, started taking us to movie premieres, got me into photography and Tess into private modeling. Here I am."

"Private modeling?"

"She gets gifts from top designers. She wears what she likes and I take pictures of her to show them what girls like. She'll be in the their top demographic for another seven years and then we'll have to find something else to keep her entertained."

Liz studied him for a moment. "Why is that the official story?"

"When I was thirteen… I found out that Tess wasn't really my sister. It was just an easier thing to say to a couple of kids who didn't have anyone else in the world but each other." Max shook his head from side to side as if it didn't matter. "Sometimes it's easier to believe the lie. She's never known any different."

"What's the real reality about your parents?"

"My mother may or may not be alive somewhere and my father died in the military. I think Tess is really an orphan."

"Why the lie, though? Why let you believe your father was a bad man?"

"Famous Hollywood producer suddenly acquires two wards and if there's a chance my mother is alive, we would have been shoved off on her." Max lied. "It was a story his buddies would believe and accept."

"A famous producer?" Liz's lips quirked up. "Anybody I've heard of?"

"Probably. You know that movie coming out soon? About the cartoon monsters?"

"Yeah?"

"He's backing it."

"Kal Langley in association with Pixar. Kal Langley is your uncle." Liz shook her head in disbelief. "Isn't he like… a billionaire? Couldn't you have gone somewhere more exotic if you wanted to get away?"

"Because of my sister." Max nodded his head when she made an expression that showed she remembered. "Plus, he doesn't exactly like to have me out of his sight. He likes to know exactly where I am."

"Controlling?"

"Careful." Took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "His delusional little world relies on nothing changing. Not me, not Tess, and certainly not the millions of dollars to be made per movie in the industry or the people who spend the money to watch them."

"Wow."

"Yeah. I try to live in reality but… Kal has contacts that can make life really easy or really hard."

"How do you mean?"

"Let's put it this way. My uncle is so careful that he knows more about any of the girls I've slept with than I do. He probably knows what brand of condom I used with each girl. I couldn't possibly tell you for certain that I used anything."

"Doesn't that scare you?"

"No. Not really. It's his way of parenting. It works for us. We haven't had an embarrassing conversation since I was 13. It serves us well."

Liz shifted slightly on the grass. "I guess all the money, connections and advantages in the world don't make anyone happy."

"They don't." Max sipped his grape juice and reclined. "It's not a perfect environment by any means. I learned about familial love from Tess, who heard about it from a teacher at her school. I tried to explain to her how it worked but I don't think I did a good job. That's when I started paying attention to the movies I watched, the relationships explored. I watched a few movies with mentally… deficient people and realized I had to make it better for her. I already felt this brotherly love for her but I had to make sure she knew it was there."

"That's really good."

"She's great. She doesn't read too well and if it can't be demonstrated, she can't do it. She loves to pose for pictures. I have to make three sets. One for her, one for the file and one for whoever I'm sending it to."

"How old is she?"

"18. Those teachers are determined to teach her how to read. But she learns so fast. I learned to play chess once. Had a kid over to play with me. She spent the next day watching a chess tournament on some foreign channel. She's been kicking my ass at it ever since." The silence stretched between them. "Did I scare you off yet?"

"Not a chance." Liz shook her head.

"Are you working Friday?"

"No."

"Don't make any plans. I want the whole day." He saw the ghost of a smile before she turned her head away. "I want to take pictures of you. I want enough time to get them developed before the weekend's over."

"I bet you say that to all the girls."

"Maybe but none of the other girls had a look like yours."

"I'll think about it."

"I'll stop by Friday morning for your answer." Sitting up, he set aside his glass and took her hand in his. He laid kisses on the knuckles. "It's getting late."

"Yeah, I should get home." Before she could move away, he had his arms around her and she was relaxing in his embrace as he explored her mouth. Max supported her as she melted into him and nearly dropped her when a floodgate was opened. All those stories she had told about herself flashed in his mind. Gently, he pulled away. "Wow."

"Wow works for me, too." He cleared his throat. "Um, you're going to be late if we don’t get going." While they cleaned their mess, Max couldn't stop staring at her. Why on Earth had that happened?

TBC
posted on 2-Jan-2003 7:09:53 PM
(Is coming out much longer than I anticipated. Broke it up into two parts. B will come soon enough.)

[center]Part 8A – August 10, 2001[/center]

Max leaned on the trunk of his car as he adjusted the settings on his camera. He picked the old one for this. Liz was inside the beauty parlor having her hair and make-up done to his specifications. He was so relaxed, that Michael and Isabel snuck up on him unawares. "Isabel can be a model but I hate to tell you, Michael baby, you're one ugly son of a gun."

"That's not why we're here. I want to know if it's all true." Isabel demanded.

"Yeah." Max nodded and peered down into the view finder.

"Why are you here if you're not here to take us with you?" Isabel ran a hand through her long blonde hair.

"Your dad know you're dating that fine young lawyer at his firm?" Max clicked off a shot of her stunned face, followed by a shot of Michael's angry one.

"I… How did you know that?"

"I have eyes."

"I thought you said there was nothing going on between you two." Michael turned narrowed eyes on his sister.

"We're getting off the subject." Isabel shrugged him off.

"I told Michael. I'm just taking a vacation. I never meant to find you two." Max sighed heavily.

"This isn't getting us anywhere." Isabel sank onto the bumper of the car. "If you're my brother, what do you know about our parents?"

"Dad's been dead a long time and Mom could still be alive but who knows. I don't keep in touch with anyone and they don't care to get in touch with me. I'm just as stranded as the two of you."

"But you have a protector. We've got Mom and Dad but they don't know about us." Suddenly, Max realized she'd been crying over this. He had never put much emphasis on it because Kal had said it would be useless.

"That's a good plan. Be normal. Be a cheerleader, join the NHS. Play football. Who cares?" Max changed exposures slowly. "I was never one for football but wrestling's not bad. Surfing when I can get away. Kind of hate what seawater does to my hair, though."

"That's it. Drop a bomb on us and go back to normal?" Isabel scoffed at him. "What kind of king are you?"

"I'm not a king. I'm an incoming freshman at UCLA. I'm going to be a photographer, professionally. That's it." Max set the camera in the trunk and pulled Isabel up off the car. She tried to pull away but he gripped her hands tightly. "Michael, watch my stuff. We'll be back. I'm waiting for someone, just don't let her leave."

Michael crossed his arms indignantly and started to protest but Max had already pulled Isabel down the street. Max sat her down on a step outside some place that had yet to open and crouched down in front of her. "Isabel, listen to me. I know everything. I know how and why and what for and I wish to whoever it is that we are supposed to pray to that I didn't know a damn thing."

"Tell me." She demanded.

"You're my sister. I imagine that at some point we were very close. You betrayed me though. You went to my enemy and plotted to take over and he killed us all."

"What?" Isabel froze.

"I told you that you didn't want to know." Max shifted carefully, these pants were every expensive and very hard to clean. "Listen to me. I don't know what you two thought but no one wants us and anyone that did… they were probably murdered either not long after we were sent here or some time in the last 50 years. It's a war… started by me and ended by you. Kivar won. The planet is his. We were a last hope but things went way wrong from execution to delivery. I'm just doing what Kal told me to do. Move on. Try to live a normal existence."

"How can you be so calm about this?" Isabel demanded. "Oh wait, you've only had these answers for years."

"It's not my fault. At least you've got parents who are as close to real as you can get." Max stood and strode back to the car where Liz was standing rather awkwardly under Michael's amused gaze. Max had to stop and admire his work. "That's perfect. Absolutely perfect."

"I feel stupid. I can't believe I let you talk me into this." Liz resisted the urge to wipe the bright red off her lips.

"Stay absolutely still." He motioned for her to stay put. After he had his camera in hand, he snapped a shot of her where she stood. "Now, go stand by that wall. It looks great, I promise you."

"What kind of camera is that?" She crossed her arms self-consciously as he snapped away.

"An old one. You don't want the details, those are boring. It's a miracle I can find film for it anymore." Max motioned to the car. "Get in. We've got so many places to hit in a specific order for the lighting." He turned to his fellow alien. "Tell your sister to relax. Life is full of goodness if you look in the right places. Kinda like that ever elusive chocolate-covered fudge piece."

"Are you trying to tell me that 'life is like a box of chocolates'?" Michael couldn't contain his laughter.

"I didn't say that and laugh if you must but that movie got me my first camera and paid for my supplies for the next two years. When I'm a world famous photographer, remember that I tried to give you advice. Excuse me. The beautiful Ms. Parker and I need to finish today's shoot."

--

Liz smoothed the vintage dress and looked around the hotel room. Max had used several rolls of film on her around town in the look he had prescribed for her. It was a far cry from the hoop earrings, heavy mascara, dark eye shadow, tiny Ts, and low slung jeans she had been wearing since much earlier that year. She never really posed much for cameras and she alternately loved and hated it while Max gave her instruction on how to stand and look. She watched him line up the used film on a tray and then pluck a fresh roll from a box. "I saw your portfolio in the car."

"That right?" Max carefully wound the film in the weak light of the bathroom.

"Do you think I could pose like that?" Liz tilted her head at her reflection in the mirror. "Like that redhead?"

Max turned to appraise her. He nodded slowly, smirking at the thought of how the redhead had ended up that way. Letting the camera hang around his neck, he reached over and rumpled the comforter. "Have a seat and trust me. Do you trust me?"

"Well, I know I shouldn't but there's something about you… and I do." Liz sat and waited for his instruction. His hands were gentle when he pushed her backward to lean on her elbows. He stood over her and shook his head. "What?"

"The dress ruins it. You can't do a good sexy shot in that dress, it's just… it's creepy." Max ran a hand through his hair and pretended to think. "Your purse is in the car. Go get it. When you get in here, wash your face, redo your make-up and there's a robe in the bathroom." He gestured and took off his camera. "I'll order us something and go pick it up."

"Um, okay." Liz nodded and got up off the bed. She caught his keys and ran down to get her purse, she just hoped she remembered to put most of her makeup in it. She ran into him on the way down and handed him the keys.

"You turn back into you and I'll be back with food." He kissed her cheek and kept going down to the car. The whole trip he debated with himself. He could take the pictures, or he could take the pictures and seduce her. Something about that air of innocence made him want to spoil it. Then there was that conversation he had overheard. She was waiting for him to make some move. Just then, his phone rang. "'Lo."

"Interview number one is a no-go. College will kill you. They all want you to relocate to New York. Here all you'll get is catalogs and 'aspiring actor' head shots."

"Kal, come on."

"I'm serious."

"Then screw it. I'll do it the hard way."

"Want me to cancel the other interview?"

"No." Max sighed. How could he get away from it all if he couldn't get away from it all. "No, I'll still be back for the interview. I'll have more to add to the portfolio. Can't hurt to pad it now."

"Listen, Max. I know that you're relaxing or whatever in Hicksville, USA but I gotta tell you, Lady Tess is getting on my last nerve."

"What's five more days?" Max hung up the phone and turned off the ringer. He was on autopilot for the duration of his trip after that. He was about to walk up to that hotel room and tell Liz to call it a day but the second he opened that door, inspiration struck.

TBC
posted on 3-Jan-2003 2:29:28 AM
(I decided against going a certain *ahem*ratingchanging*ahem* direction and the part didn't end up as long as a result. It might work a little better this way.)

[center]Part 8B– August 10, 2001[/center]

He was about to walk up to that hotel room and tell Liz to call it a day but the second he opened that door, inspiration struck. Setting the bags down, he grabbed the camera and slid to his knees, snapping pictures as Liz blow-dried her hair on the bed and bobbed her head to the music blaring out of the little clock radio. Her hair was almost dry and blew around her done-up face. When she saw him, she screamed and jumped, an expression he caught on film.

"Sorry." Liz smiled sheepishly. "My hair was bothering me and I just went ahead and took a shower. Hope you don't mind."

"I'm glad you did. These are some great shots. I can always crop the hair-dryer out of the shot later." Max presented her with cartons from the one Chinese restaurant in the town. "I like everything. I just hope there's something you'll like in here."

His earlier worries were forgotten the second he captured her on camera slurping a noodle into her mouth. The look of disgust when he slid an oyster into his mouth. At one point, she had gotten a hold of the camera and snapped a shot of him sucking another one out of its shell. She tried to sit demurely in his robe but he caught glimpses of those shapely legs every now and again.

When they laid on the bed with the fortune cookies, the tone became heavier. Liz read her fortune. "The cricket plays all day and spends winter in the cold."

"That sucked." Max nodded and opened his. "Dreams without risk are not dreams." He gave her a look. "Right."

Liz rolled onto her stomach. "You are such an old man."

"What?" He blinked at her.

"You just… you're so laid back but at the same time you're old. You just… weren't you ever just a little kid?"

"Maybe. But maybe I was a little kid for LA's elite. Maybe it's a different kind of little kid."

Liz turned that over in her mind. "Didn't you have picnics or ride bikes or skinned knees?"

"Sure. Tess and I would eat out on the patio sometimes. Plenty of skinned knees and all that stuff. I've never felt like a little kid though. I always had to look after Tess and make sure she stayed out of the way when Kal was working or had people over."

"Pretty tough." Max looked over her features. He reached over for the camera and snapped off a few shots of her serious face. "Maybe that's why you like the camera. You get to steal other people's moments."

"Maybe." He flipped the shoulder of the robe off her shoulder and snapped a picture of just the shoulder before getting part of her face in the shot. "Maybe I just use the camera to trick pretty things into bed."

"There were men in your portfolio." Liz narrowed her eyes at him.

"For show."

"I don't think you're that shallow."

"Maybe I'm just that depraved."

"I don't think you are. I think that under all the old man and expensive clothes is a vulnerable little boy."

"Oh, so you're the depraved one."

"Max." She furrowed her brow at him and he snapped a few more pictures. "Put the camera down."

"Nope." Shook his head and wound the film to the next shot. "I like you and the camera likes you, too." He kept his eyes on the view finder as he climbed off the bed to get a different angle on her. He was so intent on snapping the pictures that he never really registered that she had shrugged off the robe completely until he moved back around her. He stopped himself before he could take a picture of her in all her nude glory. "Wow."

He set the camera aside and leaned over her. Her hands shook as they reached for the buttons on his shirt. Lip caught between teeth, she focused on a button at a time. Max helped her remove the garment. She reached for his pants but he distracted her with a kiss. His hands lightly ran over her body before he pulled away. "Max," she whispered. "I've never… ever… done this before."

"That's ok." Max ran his eyes over her face. "I'm not going to hurt you."

"Liar." She managed a small smile.

"Not on purpose. Better?"

"Yeah."

"I promise to make this memorable for you." Max lowered his face to hers, nipping at her lips for a moment before claiming her mouth. Almost instantly images flooded his mind. Every touch and kiss carried some great emotional weight from her, embedding it in his soul. Before it was near to over, he was the one with tears in his eyes as the emotional weight built and replayed, forcing forward emotions he had missed in his overly privileged life.

--

Liz could hardly bear to tear herself away from him when he finally dropped her off. Night surrounded the two of them, standing in the shadows in front of the Crashdown as the minutes ticked away. Max had to smile every time he caught her with her bottom lip between her teeth. She always did that when she was nervous; when she was thinking; when she was going to embarrass herself by asking a question she thought was absurd. The day at the park, she had told him everything she could think of about herself and yet… experiencing it the way she had, in her memories and mind… she hadn't talked about herself at all. Max had to break the ice. "Do you work tomorrow?"

"Yeah." She sighed and folded her hands into his shirt. "All day. I get off at eight though."

"I just, I'm going to be developing tomorrow. I just didn't want you to think I had blown you off. Once I start developing, I lose all track of time." Max rubbed her back where it began sloping to her behind.

"I work early bird Sunday. I wouldn't be much fun for three hours anyway. In bed by eleven so five doesn't seem so early." Liz turned her face upward and then tried to pretend she was looking up at the sky instead of hoping for a kiss.

Max nuzzled her neck, planting kisses along her collar bone. "Monday?"

"I'm free that morning… until eleven."

"I'm leaving Wednesday afternoon. I promised Tess that I'd be home before she got out of school, Thursday. I don't want to rush the trip. I gain two hours on the trip back but it's still a good 18 hour trip or so."

"I'll see if I can't trade my Wednesday morning shift." Liz finally got her kiss and had to pull away when she felt a light on her face. Her father had turned on the restaurant lights. "I have to go. Dad's waiting."

"I don't imagine he'd be happy with this."

"Nope. You've been driving him crazy since he realized that you are a source of tension between Maria and I. He thinks she's got this infallible judgment of character. If only he knew what I do."

"And what's that?" Max tilted her face up to look into her face.

"That Maria is wrong more often than not. That I am a much better judge of character. That you aren't some stuck up Californian out to break a small town girl's heart… or that even if you did, I wanted it broken." Liz let her eyes drift aside. "Those pictures of me on the bed…"

"Will never leave my possession. I'll send you copies of the others."

"Don't… I mean. No goodbyes tonight. We'll do that later." Liz shook her head, lip between her teeth.

"You better go inside before I'm tempted to throw you down on the hood of my car."

She blushed, pecked his lips and disappeared into the restaurant. Max stood in that spot until long after the street was once more darkened. He had known girls who would wear a trash bag if Ms. Wang herself considered it fashionable but he had never met a girl who would wear a hideous dress just to make her mother feel some pride in an accomplishment. It was going to be harder to leave Liz than he had originally thought.

TBC
posted on 8-Jan-2003 6:24:30 PM
Part 9 – August 12, 2001

Sunday morning found Max sitting at the counter of the Crashdown hunting for a fruit platter or something that wouldn't upset his stomach. This grease thing was not agreeing with his digestive system. Giving up, he switched his gaze to the newspaper he had bought on the way. He had just engrossed himself in the World section when a hand crumpled the paper before his eyes. He was met with a pair of angry green eyes. "I was reading that."

"I'll bet you were."

"No bets. I was. I said I was." Max sat up and studied the angry waitress before him. "Why do you hate me so much?"

"You've known her a week."

"Eight days."

"Eight days, whatever. It's only eight days. I don't know how things work in Hollywood, Mr. Bigshot… but in the real world, you need more than eight days before you get a girl in the sack." Maria fumed, leaning forward with every word out of her mouth. "If you hurt her, I'll kill you. Hurting her is inevitable since apparently you're skipping town in a few days."

"You want me, don't you? You lust for me. You dream about me ravaging your body until you're nothing but a limp mass of sated flesh." Max blinked at her and waited as his words registered. She huffed and stormed away. It took him a few minutes to straighten out his newspaper. The front page had been a little quiet, made him a little suspicious, that part of him that was fascinated by war. "Something's up."

"What's that?" An older man poised with an order pad in hand.

"Just seems a little quiet in the news is all." Max shook his head.

"Know what you mean. It's a little too quiet. What can I get you?"

"That um, pancake platter." Max shook his head. "They're still wondering on that Levy case and I wouldn't have voted for Bush."

"I hear you." Weary shake of the head. "Voted for Gore myself. Looks like they're still looking into that Florida mess."

"All the news is home-based and already worn out. Guess no news is good news."

"What my mom always used to say. I'll get that platter out to you in a bit." Max watched him tack the order to the rotating order clip and then wander around straightening things out. One look at the clothes and Max realized that was the infamous Mr. Parker. Before another thought could form, a shadow fell over his paper. "Morning, handsome."

"Well, good morning." Max turned with a bright smile. "How was the dreaded early shift?"

"Horrible and I'm working all afternoon too." Liz sighed and sat on the stool next to him. "I don't know what you said to Maria but she just took off."

"She started it." He turned to face her with a smile. "Did you miss me?"

"Yes. It's very sad." She sighed heavily. "I'm going to have to give up all my dreams and follow you around like a helpless puppy."

"Over-actor." Max chided.

"What are you reading?" Liz turned slightly to pull his newspaper away.

"Recent stuff on stem-cell research."

"Oh yeah?" Before he knew it, she was completely engrossed in the article.

"Lizzie! Back to work." Mr. Parker smacked her arm with his towel and turned to retrieve the pancake platter for his counter customer.

"Dad, they're trying to push through the stem-cell research." Liz protested.

"If you don't get back to your tables, you'll never have enough money to look at those damn stem-cells yourself. Git." He slid the plate in front of Max without another word and wandered off.

Max found himself inside an image where a small brown-haired girl looked up in admiration at her father. Pigtails and shiny shoes, staring up at a youngish man poring over what looked like a ledger. The image was quickly replaced by the current Liz poring over a science book and writing down a series of complicated formulas… shrugging off her father's hand when he laid it on her shoulder. Mr. Parker was slightly wounded by the gesture but proud of her all the same. Max had to shake the image off. Strange feelings had bubbled up and he had no clue what to do with them.

The pancakes may have well been sawdust for all he tasted them. Casting a wave toward Liz, he left enough for the meal and then some before taking his leave. There was only one thing he knew for certain… he was bored out of his mind. It was as he was walking that he found something to do, or something found him. "You know, all the kids are talking about you and Liz Parker."

"Is that right?" Max didn't even have to turn to know it was a certain tall blonde.

"Oh yeah. There's a pool going on."

"You want the inside track? Ask her."

"Smart answer." Isabel lengthened her stride just a bit to walk beside him. "Why in the world would you come here to relax?"

"I'm beginning to ask myself that same question. Truthfully, I had made it all the way to El Paso before I realized where I was going. I didn't have a plan. I was just driving… getting away from all the crap in my life… all that fake crap. What happens? I land here… with more fake crap."

Isabel pulled his arm and led him down a side street. "Now what in the world is fake here? Aside from the illustrations mocking our existence?"

"The people." Max shrugged and leaned against a wall. "Now, obviously you, Michael and I would be the fakest people in town. Everyone else… mostly those I've met."

"What's fake about Perfect Parker?"

"Now, what do you call her that?"

"She makes people gag, she's that sweet and smart." Isabel winced. "Then you have to factor in that she's actually nice and pretty cool if you like that type of person." Sighing, she sat on an old box. "She's the girl that your parents want you to be. Though, recently… at least to those of us who watch other people closely, she's a little more palatable."

"This is her wild streak?"

"Apparently." Crossing her arms, she pinned him with a look. "So why is she fake?"

"She's pretending that I'm her boyfriend. I know what she knows and she's been playing around like I'm never going anywhere."

Isabel let a smile cross her lips. "You know… Michael and I do this all the time. He gets these imaginary problems with girls that are pissed at him."

"What's imaginary about this?"

"You. God, you're so smooth and slick and you're just as stupid as every other male on the planet."

"Now what are you talking about?"

"She's not being fake. She's being a girl. Obviously she likes you. Apparently she knows you're not sticking around… she's temporarily deluded. She's just enjoying what she can."

Silence fell over them as hey returned to their own thoughts. Finally, Max had had enough. "What do the cool kids do for fun?"

"Which ones? This is a small town. We have cliques and you are cool within the clique." She pulled her hair back with a clip. "I am in the popular clique. We make fun of the other cliques when we're not trying to stay on top of the latest fashions. It's delightfully shallow."

"And just what you need to blend."

"Exactly." She made a face. "It's tiring. You know? Pretending."

"Yeah. I know." Max nodded.

"What does Liz know?"

"Scraps of truth." Shrugged and slid his hands into his pockets. "You know, this feels good. Bonding or what have you." He made a noise through his teeth and pulled an empty film container from his pocket, twirling it between his fingers. "I never have anyone to talk to?"

"What about…" She motioned quickly with her hand.

"Tess?" He shrugged again. "What do you remember about coming out of the pods?"

"Almost nothing. I do know that there was someone else there, in there with us. Do you get those feelings? Stuff you… sense to be true but with no… images or sounds to make you sure?"

"Yeah. My memories were prompted by Kal's fine storytelling." Max made a face and rolled his eyes. "We named her Tess. She's been raised to think she's my sister. I love her to death but it's an ordeal to live with her, you know? A combination of events left her less than whole."

"Oh my God, is there something wrong with her?"

"I'm not a fan of religion but people always say that people like Tess are God's gifts. Her teacher once told me that they know something that the rest of us will never know." Max shook his head. "I get a lot of pity for Tess being Tess."

"How… I mean… How do you even classify that?"

"I have the same problem. I hate P.C. and Tess is smart enough to know when she's been offended. She's really very smart when you get down to it but at the same time, she's just so… far behind." Max sank down to sit on the ground. "She doesn't read too well. She's had the classes and taken tests and now that she's advanced this far, they think she's got a form of dyslexia where words that can't be associated with images just don't make sense to her. She learns math really quickly now… so long as she only has to look at the equations. She learned chess by watching a tournament on TV. She can play the most beautiful music on several different instruments but it's only mimicry."

"Wow."

"She spends money like crazy on clothes and loves to have pictures taken of herself… You should see her eyes light up when she sees a new Vera. She looks good and she knows it… The expressions she makes, like she knows she's hot… but she wouldn't know what to do with that feeling."

"Feeling?"

"You don't ever feel sexy? Like if you walked into a room, every man would be panting, waiting on you hand and foot?"

"Well yeah."

"She looks that good but if anyone ever approached her, she'll find me and hide under my jacket… with me still in it."

"Sounds demanding."

"Only when it's inconvenient." Max laughed. "She's great though. She can ruin my plans for the evening, trash something important I was working on… and still manage to make me laugh my head off before her bedtime."

"Michael and I are close. We've only got each other. Mom and Dad don't know about us and Michael… he keeps them at arms length. It gets to Mom sometimes but I think Dad understands. Michael has always had this fear of getting attached." Sighing, she shrugged. "He's always guarded and inside himself. I at least have a fairly healthy bond with Mom."

"That's good. It's really good that you have parents."

"Don't you and… Kal…"

"He's a reluctant guardian with plenty of money to throw at problems." Tossing the film container up in the air, he caught it. "You have an aunt or uncle that's always giving you money. You like it but your parents get exasperated with them?"

"Yeah."

"That's Kal, only since I don't have parents… I'm the one that gets exasperated." Another shrug and a bit of silence. Max couldn't help it. "So… Liz."

"You, like all men… are completely transparent." Isabel rolled her eyes and moved to sit next to him on the ground. "What's the problem?"

"Tell me exactly what I'm not getting there."

"You slept with her, right?"

"Yeah."

"Her first time." A wry smile crossed her face. "She's smart. Very smart that one."

"Isabel."

"It's like this. I would die if people dissected my life the way they do hers. Her parents are an institution in town, just like that damned restaurant. Her dad is best buds with our beloved Sheriff. Her mom in on the PTA. She's nice looking. She's nice and sweet. For all intents and purposes, she's perfect." A faraway look crossed her eyes. "She hates his town, dreams about getting out… but she's human. She's got urges and wants and needs. You should see some of the guys she's dated. Not the brightest bulbs and some not the cutest but… nice guys. Guys you could bring home to your parents… not the guys you'd want if you planned to get out of Roswell and stay out."

"Break it down for me. I'm in Hollywood. Plenty of overactors and never enough meaningful dialogue."

"Okay. Liz Parker on a wild streak. Has dated the football players and the chess geeks. Now she's dating the cooler guys but she's afraid of getting tied down, so it's all pretty casual. Then summer before her final year, this rich handsome guy sweeps into town and off her feet." Isabel sat up straight and made movements with her shoulders the more she got into her storytelling. "So, he's a sweet-talker. Makes her feel gorgeous and he's leaving soon. Very soon. Against her better judgment and that of her best friend since the cradle, she falls. It's perfect. Stranger, who's intriguing and won't get attached, gives her what she won't accept from her small town boys.

"So when you leave, she'll have an excuse to put the guys off. 'Oh, there was a guy this summer and my heart is still broken. Boohoo.' Nothing to tie her here, she goes off the college minus that nasty innocence and when she comes back into town to visit mom and dad, there's nothing to remind her of a mistake or have an ex-boyfriend with possibly jealous tendencies. Small towns breed those you know?"

"Huh." Max eyed her suspiciously. "How do you know so much?"

"I blend very well. To do that. You have to understand the small town mentality. Liz is smart. That's what she'd do. My friend on the other hand would sleep with you, hope to get pregnant so you'd have to take them with you when you leave."

"Yikes."

"And… I tend to dreamwalk…" At his confusion, she pressed on. "It's something I do. I go into people's dreams. I examine what's in their heads as applied to what I already know about them. Liz Parker is boring most of the time but I know what happens in her nightmares." She laughed. "What is your hang up with her?"

"Let's just say that this is the most intense I've ever gotten with a girl. I've never lied to her. I told her about the girls that were just a night or a few days to me and she didn't seem to care…"

"But you do. Maybe you have a soul after all."

Max turned slightly to look at her. There was a weight to her. "What are you going to do when Jesse decides he loves you?"

"Hey! We weren't talking about me."

"How old is he?"

It was Isabel's turn to squirm. "Older. I'm 18, though. One more year of high school. No one knows. If anyone's seen us, they're not talking." She wrapped a strand of hair around her finger. "It's the most real feeling I've ever had."

"Do me a favor, Isabel."

"What?"

"Live."

TBC
posted on 11-Jan-2003 12:38:59 PM
[center]Part 10 – August 14, 2001[/center]

Isabel led Max through the store. Michael lagged behind, knowing that Max was in for it. With Liz working virtually every possible hour, he'd had to find other ways to entertain himself. He had been reading The Prince when the Evans duo had shown up at his room. Isabel taken suggested a shopping day and Michael had been surprising quiet about it. Then Max realized why Isabel had suggested it. She needed to know what girls were wearing in L.A. He had tried twice to tell her that he really didn't know but she wasn't listening. "I was thinking of cutting my hair, what do you think?"

"Depends." Max shrugged and then tried once more to reason with her. "You know, the girls in my circle are a little higher priced than you. They don't dress like teenagers. They dress with sophistication and personal shoppers."

"I just think that I need a change in wardrobe." Isabel shrugged, avoiding Michael's eyes.

"This is for him, huh." Michael scoffed and stormed off.

"Michael!" Isabel stomped her foot and let out a low shriek. "I swear, he's like a caveman sometimes. I know that I used to date a lot. A different guy every few weeks but since this past spring, he's been… erg! I finally find a guy that I like, that I could really, really, like and he's mad. Jesse and I understand each other. We both have all this pressure to be perfect, to be more than perfect and when we're together, we don't have to worry about being perfect."

"Slow down. I'm new to the brother thing."

"I'm almost 19, Max." Isabel clasped her hands together. "Why do I have to be treated like a child?"

Sighing, Max wrapped an arm around her shoulder and guided her over to a section with clothes he thought she would look good in. "I see you in a wine. Less makeup but effective to show that you are young but mature. Maybe some short layers, is this your natural hair color?"

"No."

"Well, maybe you go back to nature or a shade darker. Nothing too drastic." Max pulled a blouse from the rack. "This would look fantastic. Some black pants. Low rise for a sexy look or regulars for mature…"

"You do this with Tess when she's upset, don’t you?"

"Yes."

"Keeping doing it but don't talk to me like I'm five. I doubt she likes that either."

"You're probably right." Max dropped a kiss on her forehead and nudged her hand with the blouse until she took it. "Go get pretty for me."

Max watched her go and wandered away and into an aisle where a very angry blue-eyed teen was waiting for him. "Max?"

"That'd be me." Max shoved a hand into his pocket. "Who are you?"

"The guy that's going to kick your ass."

Max studied the teen's skinny stature. Sure he had an inch or two on him but he was really very skinny. "Before you start, may I know why?"

"Liz is my best friend and she doesn't deserve to be hurt by a jerk like you. Does she know what you're doing?"

"I think Liz is perfectly aware of everything." Max nodded.

"Then does Isabel know that you're seeing Liz?"

As the words registered, Max's jaw went slack in shock and distaste. "Yes, she does. She actually approves… considering she thinks most girls are skanks and if she were going to pick a nice girl for her brother, Liz would be the one."

"Bro--." He stopped. "Um."

"Max Evans." Max held out his hand. "You've got to be Alex."

"Yeah, Alex Whitman." He shook the hand offered and just stood there. Alex worked his mouth for a moment, trying to figure out exactly what was going on. He had seen the infamous Max with his arms around the ever-popular Isabel Evans and he had to say something. "Did you say brother?"

"I did. I'm glad Liz has such a fine bodyguard and friend."

"But Isabel has one brother. Michael."

"Biological brother." Max corrected. The poor boy looked more and more confused with every moment that passed.

"Oh. Then… see you… I guess." Alex turned and walked away, shaking his head and talking to himself.

Max turned in time to find Isabel examining her appearance in a three-way mirror. Isabel studied her reflection and turned one way then another. "Max… I really hope you don't mind but I told my parents about you… and Jesse, too."

"How'd they take the news about Jesse?"

"I meant that I told Jesse about you." She turned to face him. "I know it's weird and Michael is still so suspicious and paranoid but… I base my existence on lying as little as possible to my mother and to Jesse." Her eyes grew shiny and wide. "I would appreciate it and love you forever if you came to dinner tonight and then go with me to meet Jesse afterward."

Max wanted to. He really did. He wanted to meet the parents that he should have had and for the millionth time since he and Isabel had bonded, he wished that he had never met Kal, that he had grown up in Roswell like she had. He had promised Liz that the night was hers, as was the following morning. "One condition."

"Name it."

"Cover for Liz tonight. Maria won't do it."

"Done." Isabel nodded and then threw her arms around him. "I've taken care of everything so all you have to do is show up and be as charming as possible. Mom is going to love you."

--

Dinner was emotionally trying for Max. He quickly found that he had nothing in common with Michael. Isabel had shown up at the table with short brown hair and her new outfit, courtesy of Max's credit card. Much to Isabel's surprise though, Mr. Evans had invited Jesse without checking ahead and the table had ended up slightly crowded. Watching the Evans made Max's heart ache for a parental figure.

Mrs. Evans frowned at her crowded table. "Maybe we should have gone out to eat." She smiled at Max. "Roswell isn't the kind of place that you're used to if Isabel's told me correctly. I'm sure you'd much rather be at Andrea's or Kwan Den or Claim's."

"Are you kidding? This is great. I never get the chance to eat food that someone put love into." Max flashed her a smile. "It's either really rich food in small portions or whatever my uncle's housekeeper threw together as quickly as she could." He took a big bite of his chicken fried steak. "This is delicious."

"Thank you." Diane beamed at her family. "Jesse, how's Roswell been treating you since you've been back?"

"Mmm." Jesse wiped his mouth and cleared his throat. "This is really good. Um, it's been great. I think my mother likes having me around. I can do all the grunt work around the house."

"You live with your mother?" Michael spoke up, a smirk on his lips when his eyes slid over to his sister. She threatened to kick him and he sat back.

"Yeah." Jesse nodded. "I haven't been home in a good while, seven years or so. It's the least I can do, to be there for her. She feels like she's needed again and I get her tacos on Sunday."

"Honey, we're going to have to invite her to dinner sometime or solicit an invite. Jesse talks on and on about her tacos." Phillip shifted his plate slightly and reached for his glass. "We need a bigger table. If the kids ever invite their boyfriends and girlfriends over, we'll never have room."

Isabel kicked Michael into silence on that comment. "It might be a good idea."

"I don't know. I've had this table since we got married. We ate our first meal in this house on this table. This is where we had our first meal as a family and now, Max is here. It's yet another memory associated with this table." Diane sighed and squeezed Isabel's arm. She paused to look over her daughter's hair. "That is a… beautiful color sweetie."

"It's all very sudden but it looks good." Phillip chimed in.

"I think it looks nice." Jesse added, his lips curved up at the corners. Isabel kicked Michael again for good measure. He glared at her but didn't say anything.

"Thank you. I just thought a change would be nice. New school year and all. This year is going to be so boring, though. I only have one class to take and everything else will be padding on my transcripts."

"We're so proud of you." Phillip nodded and turned his gaze on Michael.

"Yeah, I know. Work harder. Get those grades up." Michael nodded and just barely managed to keep from rolling his eyes. "Not everyone can just absorb everything they read."

"Max, Isabel told me that you're a photographer." Phillip sat back in his chair.

"I'm trying to break into the business. I've got an interview with a magazine editor on Friday. Classes start next week." Max nodded and sipped water from his glass

"After school job?"

"No, career. I've already eliminated most of my basics through college credit tests. I'm going part time so I can work on my contacts with the magazine and spend some time with my sister." Max froze when most the people at the table also did. He looked to Isabel, who fiddled with her ear. Max cleared his throat and continued. "My other sister, Tess."

"Oh." Diane sat up. "How old is she? She's Isabel's sister too, then, right?"

"Actually, Mom." Isabel tried to explain but gave up right away.

Michael surprised everyone by filling in the blanks without even looking up from his plate. "She's 18, not related to Max or Isabel by blood. Sort of adopted or something. She's mentally challenged." When he realized people were staring at him, he scratched at his eyebrow. "What? I paid attention when he told me."

Jesse changed the subject slightly. "I think I heard someone say your uncle is a movie producer."

"Yeah. He gets his name in here and there and it accumulates into fear. A lot of unknowns are lucky to get his name on their projects. Right now he's promoting a kid's movie or something. I try not to pay attention but we're going to end up going to the premiere." Max pushed his plate a side and relaxed a little. "He's got his thumb in a few sci-fi movies and their sequels. He really likes doing those but he always says it's not a good movie unless someone dies."

"Oh?" Diane listened with wide eyes.

"Red Planet was his recent favorite. He laughed through most of the movie." Max sighed and patted his stomach. "That was really good. Probably the best I've ever had."

"It's too bad you can't stay longer. I would have liked to get to know you a little better." Diane let her eyes rest on her son. He worried her sometimes, so stand-offish but he hadn't shied away from Max like he normally did strangers.

"Serendipity, I guess. I didn't think I'd meet Isabel or Michael the way I did. The real world beckons, though." Max adjusted his shirt slightly. "I feel guilty for leaving Tess for so long anyway."

"Well, at least some brothers and sisters get along." Phillip made a gesture to his teens.

"We get along just fine." Isabel protested. "We went shopping together this morning. We didn't fight… much." She kicked Michael to make sure he stayed quiet about why he was mad.

"Isabel, quit kicking your brother." Phillip wiped his mouth with his napkin and turned to his young colleague. "Aren't you glad you're an only child?"

"Sometimes." Jesse nodded and was about to add something when Michael spoke up.

"Hey, Iz. Were you still gonna sneak out for dessert with your boyfriend?" Michael sat back and watched the carnage unfold.

"Boyfriend?" Diane's head popped up. "Who is he, sweetie? Do we know him? Does he go to West?"

"Aren't you glad those days are over?" Phillip nudged Jesse, who nodded stiffly and avoided Isabel's gaze.

--

Max parted with the Evans, walked with Jesse to the curb, shook his hand and pat him on the back, making him promise not to hurt Isabel, and was gone. When he returned to the hotel, Liz was waiting for him.

TBC
posted on 15-Jan-2003 7:27:06 PM
Part 11 – August 15, 2001

Max took a deep breath, his heart rate had just returned to normal and Liz was stroking his temple with her thumb. "That feels good."

"Did anyone ever tell you that you've got a slow recovery time?" Liz pressed her lips against his gently.

"And you know this?"

"I was a virgin, not a nun."

"Price you pay for loving the best."

"That's some ego you got." She laughed gently. Then there was the silence. Weighty silence that could only mean one thing. "Why are you with me?"

"Come again?" His eyes slid open.

"I know that you were only half joking about sleeping with the girls in your pictures. I look at them and wonder why you picked me."

"Girls like you don't exist in L.A."

"I have no body and I'm actually quite a geek."

"You have a body, made apparent by those low rise jeans and that shirt with the V-neck and hem that ends right below your ribs. And those legs," he pointed, "are amazing. To top it off, you're intelligent… I don't consider that geeky."

"I'm president of the science club."

"Then again." He tilted his head side to side before he flashed her a smile. "Shows leadership actually."

Pinching his chest, she sat up. "Seriously, though. Why me? I saw you talking to Isabel and Alex saw you talking to Isabel… and I am definitely not Isabel. She's tall and blonde and perfect."

"Isabel is spoken for." Max shifted onto his back to look up at her. "It's a juicy bit of gossip… He's a lawyer."

"Max."

"Apparently he does well for himself, some epiphany she had last school semester made her realize that superficiality wouldn't serve her if she wanted a real boyfriend. Something to do with a local tragedy. I'm sure he and I will hate each other thoroughly when he becomes my brother-in-law… legally or common law, whichever." Max shrugged at her tilted head. "But we were talking about what a catch you are." Sitting up, he cupped her face. Validation. That was all she wanted and he could give her that. "You know more about me than any girl I've ever been with and I, for once, am completely fine with it."

"You should be illegal. There should be prisons to put people like you. You are dangerous." Liz sighed and slid back beneath the sheets. "How many hearts have you broken?"

"To date? Maybe two or three."

"I don't believe that."

"I'm not as bad as you think. Few girls get together with me not knowing the rules of the game. They use me as much as I use them. My uncle is a famous producer. I get used quite a bit."

"Oh you poor baby. I'll bet you feel just horrible sometimes with all those bad women using you." Liz rolled her eyes.

"Well, you're one of them." Max nodded to her silence. "Promise me one thing… that you won't ever feel guilty about this." A small nod was all she could muster. After a strange silence, Max slid down so that their faces were level.

"Do you remember your first time?"

"Yeah." Max snorted. "An after party, some actress that has already faded from public memory. Weird and not something I like to relive."

"I remember my first kiss." She cracked a smile. "He probably doesn't even remember but he was a new kid sitting by himself. I think it was the 3rd grade. He wouldn't talk to me when I walked over. He just kept staring. To this day, I don't know why I did it but I kissed him. Small innocent little peck but he turned bright red and ran away."

"What a loser." Max shook his head. "I wouldn't have run away."

"I guess my point is that um, it was never awkward, I guess because I was like nine or something but recently… it's like because I remember, I act funny around him. It makes me paranoid but I always get the feeling he's laughing at me."

"Who is this guy?"

"Michael Evans."

"Michael." Max cleared his throat. "You like Michael?"

"No, I mean…" Liz covered her face and let out a laugh. "I did have a crush on him and I don't really any more but I feel weird now for something that happened then."

"No offense… but he told me that you weren't his type."

"I'm not his type… I actually don't know what his type is. I have a sneaking suspicion that he might be gay and would be a waste of a good male."

Max had to laugh. A hazard of not dating would be gossip. "I've talked to Michael, he's definitely batting for this side. He's shy."

"Michael is not shy and when did you talk to him?"

"I hung out with him and Isabel a little this week."

"Oh really."

"Really."

"Why?"

"Found out I'm a little more connected to them than I thought. No big deal. Can't make much of a difference now."

"No?"

Max just lay his head down on her shoulder. He didn't want it to make a difference. He couldn't get attached to them… any of them.

--

It was dawn when Max said his goodbye to Liz. An exchange of addresses and phone numbers, a hug and a kiss, maybe a tear or two. Then it was on the road. Max drove as fast as he could, stopping only for gas. He was more upset than he had ever planned to be. Slipping into the house at midnight, he made for his dark room in the basement and began developing. With any luck, no one would know he was home until he was done. It was six in the morning when his cell phone went off and nearly all his pictures had been developed, half of them dried. "Yeah?"

"In the basement?"

"Yeah."

"You couldn't sleep first?"

"Didn't feel like it. I'll get some sleep today. I'll be plenty rested tomorrow." Max shrugged and hung a few more pictures. "So who was it?"

"Who was what?"

"The person that followed me. I never caught them."

"A dog walker."

"I never saw a dog walker." Max stacked the pictures he had developed in Roswell and set them next to the stack he had just copied. The final rolls were hanging now. Putting his negatives into protective sleeves, he waited. "No dog walkers."

"I don't know what his cover was but it must have been good. I'll have to put him on payroll." Kal cleared his throat. "Kid, she was just a girl."

"Maybe." Silence held the line for a moment and Max wasn't sure who was waiting on who. "I told them."

"Who?"

"Michael and Isabel, the other two. I told them what they asked about."

"Maybe I won't put him on payroll. What did the princess have to say?"

"Not much beyond initial shock. Both of them think it was unfair to them to be in the dark so long but I doubt we'll be seeing either any time soon." Max fumbled with his earpiece before he plugged it in and clipped his phone to his belt. The small strips were fighting him as he tried to slip them into the covers.

"Did you tell them about… our situation in New York?"

"No. This was enough of a bomb… you really should have gone to them sooner. Told them something. They were waiting, putting their lives on hold… they thought maybe there was something more to it." Michael kept flashing through his mind. He had seemed so lost. He had a tenuous relationship with his parents and it seemed as if he couldn't let himself let it be more. "I told them to blend."

"Good. There's no need to draw attention that way." There was a noise to indicate that Kal had one of his ever-present cigars in his mouth. Then there was a click of heels. "Lupe, not in there. You don't clean in here. You're early anyway."

"Another one?"

"I think this one wants to be an actress." Kal muttered. "Cleaning in heels, who in the hell is she fooling?"

"When are you going to fire her?"

"Me? Not this time. I'll let you have the honor."

"Do I wait for her to hit on me so we don't get sued or do I just come out and fire her?"

"You pick."

--

Max let Tess lead him through the house. "And there's a new teacher, his name is William but he wants us to call him Will. He has brown hair and green eyes and he's taller than you. He has two dogs, he brought pictures. One is a big dog like the one in the movie with the man we met. The man who pretended to be like me in that movie."

"Mr. Hanks?" Max furrowed his brow. "So Will has a mutt?"

"Uh-huh and the other one looks like my puppy."

"A husky or a wolf?"

"I think both." Her blue eyes went wide as she continued to talk. "Lupe was teaching me Spanish."

"Lupe's leaving, Tess."

"But Max…" Tess pouted and stomped her foot. "I like Lupe. She plays dress up with me."

"Oh really?" Max shook his head.

"But she's still not as pretty as me."

"Nope. Not even close." Max planted a kiss on her head and entered the kitchen to find several of his folders on the counter in front of Kal. "What are you doing?"

"Max! I wanna wear that dress." Tess stomped her foot and glared at the pictures.

"Kal." Max pressed. "What the hell are you doing?"

"Trying to figure out what the hell kept you in Dullsville. She's pretty enough. I see she has the look I predicted she would. And look at those gams. I'll bet she was smart, too." Kal clucked his tongue over a picture. "Too much eye makeup though."

"Do you mind? I had these put away. They are not for public viewing." Max began gathering the pictures.

"Hope you didn't go and fall in love." Kal called after Max.

TBC
posted on 17-Jan-2003 1:58:50 AM
[center]Part 12 – September 11, 2001[/center]

Max had been ripped from sleep early that morning. His heart pounded and his blood raced. It had taken him several minutes to calm down. The clock glared an obscene hour of the early morning. When he checked on Tess, she seemed to be having a nightmare. He moved around the house in half-darkness and in the study, Kal was pacing. All the TVs had a different channel on them and each channel showed the same thing. Over and over on all the screens a plane flew right into one of the World Trade Center towers. It made Max sick to his stomach. He turned to Kal who was watching in silence from the corner of his eye as he paced. "Please tell me that was an accident."

"Ok." That's when Max realized that Kal was fidgeting. Max wanted to leap into action. He needed to do something but there was nothing he could do. Kal smoked that damned cigar, watched the TVs and fidgeted. "The other set is in the building. One of them is hurt."

Max's heart clenched. Was that what had woken him from sleep? Was his other half feeling terror? Pain? Loss? Then they saw it. They watched as another plane smashed into the other tower. He wiped at his eyes and blinked rapidly but it never made the image go away. He sank into a leather chair and blinked rapidly as the towers collapsed before his eyes.

"One of them is dead." Kal announced and rubbed at his head, sinking into the chair behind the desk. "Or at least seriously injured."

"Can't you go? Can't you help them?" Max stammered.

"I didn't know this was going to happen. No one did. I'll tell you what though… this was no accident. I won't be able to get a flight through." Kal moved around like every joint in his body was aching. The TVs replayed both events over and over and the light in the room grew brighter and brighter. Reports of other planes, in D.C. "You're gonna miss your class, kid."

[center]December 20, 2001[/center]

Max climbed out of the limo and stared up at the Waldorf-Astoria. Regal yet worn with its fine architecture and soot- and calcium-stained walls. It never ceased to amaze him how the building could be so old and unchanged but marred by progression. He replaced his cell phone to his ear and listened intently to his college buddy. "No, I signed a contract. I took the final early and promised not to spill the details. I think she made one up just for me… No, I've been in New York since the 11th… You'll find out… No, we're doing a circuit of the New York premieres and all that."

The inside was full of quiet hustle and somewhere was his room, draped in plenty of gowns for Tess to decide from. The ride up in the elevator was uneventful and Max was getting bored. This guy was obviously looking for an in but Max wasn't going to allow that. "Talk to you when I get back."

New York was turning out to be quite boring. Three premieres since arriving and three more before departing. It was tiring, with all the schmoozing. Kal always sent Tess to bed early but he and Max spent the evenings making contacts. Six beautiful women waited for Kal in the common room. Max had to take a second look. He stopped in front of one. She looked right through him but he had already seen right through her. "Leave."

"Excuse me?"

"Kal doesn't take kindly to reporters. Leave now with dignity or be escorted out by security." Max pointed to the brooch on her dress. "That thing is too bulky for that dress. He would have spotted the camera straight off. Out."

With a huff, she grabbed her purse and stormed out the door. Kal entered the room and gave Max a look. Max shrugged and continued to his room. When Kal stood in the doorway, Max sat on the bed. When Kal blew that hideous cigar smoke into the room, Max faked a believable cough. "Stop over-acting. Let's go. I'll even let you pick your own girls tonight."

"I'm gonna stay in. Tess is getting cabin fever."

"Whatever. This time when you leave, make sure she's asleep before you pretend you were here the whole night." Kal strode out and a few minutes later the click of heels was silence by the shutting of the door. Max laid still for an hour. He felt the lights go out in the rest of the suite before he rose to change into some street clothes.

--

Max kicked around a subway terminal for awhile. Anything to keep from thinking. He had passed the pile of rubble that had once been the center of trade worldwide and for one fleeting moment allowed himself to think of whoever it was that had been hurt in that act of terrorism. Months later, he still felt anger and helplessness at the tragedy. The leader inside him wanted to lead an army but the human in him pushed it down and away… trying forever to forget what was in his blood.

When he emerged from the terminal, he fell to the ground. His head throbbed and finally he registered that he had been hit. Rolling over, a hand was aimed at his head. He didn't even have time to think. A shield shot from his hand to block the shot. His attacker ducked in a blur of hair. Then a short-haired vixen stood above him that he recognized more than he felt he should. "Yo, it's him. Let's take him to Duke."

"Get him to take that damn shield down." A male voice said from out of Max's sight.

"Hey guy!" The girl leaned over him and the face leapt out at him. His shield dropped and then it was black.

[center]December 21, 2001[/center]

Max woke in a torn leather arm chair. Stench surrounded him. The first image that became clear was a pile of blankets and pillows in front of him. A guy lay atop them, casually yet powerfully. He had something in his hand and two girls sat on either side of him. "Max Evans, California. Student at UCLA. That'sa pretty girl you got in your wallet."

Max's vision blurred then cleared. The guy could have been his twin… who hadn't shaved or taken a bath in weeks. "Shit." He took a breath and tried to sit up but found himself stuck in his position. "Where's the other one?"

"Rath? He's around." Spikey-haired-guy sat up, coughed slightly and brushed off the girls who had suddenly become worried. "You know, I didn't believe them when they said there's another set."

"Who told you?" Max fought to keep his eyes open but he had been hit pretty hard.

"Some asshole we sent packin'." Spikey-haired-guy closed the wallet. "My sister figured was you when she saw you a week ago. She was sure last night when you threw that energy shield. This tells me that there's another set of us and accordin' to the contents of your wallet, you guys have been livin' high while we been rottini in this sewer."

"He left you in a sewer?" Max found himself suddenly able to sit up, and he nearly pitched forward onto the floor.

"Who's he? Not the shape-shifter we killed." Spikey-haired-guy attempted to sit up higher but the short-haired girl on his left stopped him. "Let me go, Lannie."

"Sit your broken ass back down, Zan." The two had a staring match before he relented and lay back down.

"Zan?" Max's eyes shut. "You guys remember your names?"

"Course we do." A voice spoke from behind him.

"Why did you bring me down here?" Max turned back to Zan. "Does this have to do with you guys being in the World Trade Center when the first plane hit?"

"Yeah." Zan nodded.

"I felt you get hurt."

"Yeah." Zan nodded again. "They brought you here to fix me. We didn't know there's another set until Lannie saw you. You got the healin' hands, right?"

"I don't know. I don't really use my powers." Max stood up.

"I can't fix this. While we got you here, you'll fix me."

"But I don't know exactly what I'm doing."

"You did the shield, you can do the healin'. It's instinct."

"Zan, give him a break." The other girl stood up and Max could see her face and her eyes. Her eyes made him want to cry. They showed him everything that was missing in Tess. No confusion or loss lay in those blue depths. This version was as perfect as possible, whole. "What're you starin' at?"

Zan cocked his head as he watched his duplicate stare at his mate. "Don't tell me you didn't get one."

"One what?" Max turned his attention back to Zan.

"Ava. You got her picture in your wallet." Zan flipped open the wallet.

"I thought you meant… Liz. Tess, she isn't…" Max shook his head. "How about I just try to fix you?"

"Liz? This one?" Zan flipped to another picture. "Not bad. A little too cholilla for me, though. Girls dress like this in L.A.?"

"Can we not talk about her?"

"Rath, King Maxie was dissed by a chola." Zan tossed the wallet over Max's head.

"Nice."

"You want to cut the dramatics? You're all over-acting and I get enough of that with the skanks Kal brings home." Max turned and grabbed his wallet from Rath's hands. "Anyone ever tell you that subtlety can do wonders for a believable performance."

"Out." Zan nodded to his companions. When Ava hesitated, he smacked her leg. "Out. You too." Once she was gone, he ran weary eyes over his dupe. Short hair, flawless complexion, nice clothes. Zan knew what he looked like. Several earrings in each ear, a labret, eyebrow ring. He hadn't bathed thoroughly since early September. His hair had been groomed by Lannie when she was in a good mood.

"Talk me through it." Max sat. "I didn't know you guys were living in a sewer."

"We ain't been thought of much…"

--

Max sat across from Zan in the cafeteria of a YMCA. Zan had made use of the showers first off. He was still weak but too proud to ask for help. Max had leapt in to help when he nearly passed out on his way down the hall. Zan had refused to go back to the Waldorf with Max. So Max had to be content with paying for Zan's meal. No stories needed to be exchanged since the healing. Zan had gotten hurt when he had slammed a door shut to keep his family safe. He didn't remember anything until waking up in the sewer with pain in every inch of his body. Ava, Lannie and Rath had all taken turns trying to heal him but they had never had the healing ability to the extent that Zan had needed.

Zan ate three hamburgers and two orders of fries. Nothing had been said because there was nothing to say. Neither wanted a responsibility so heavy. Taking a drink of his iced tea, Zan sat back. "So, what're you thinkin'? You thinkin' you take the kids outta the ghetto? I'm tellin' you that you can't take the ghetto outta the kids."

"I have felt guilty about this since I was 13 years old. Not knowing how any of you guys were doing. Now… I know that Michael and Isabel are dealing okay. Now they know the truth and they're dealing. They've got parents and college trust funds. I don't know how much they wanted to be something more." Max sipped his own tea and sighed. "You guys take care of yourselves. You've always known who you are and that's good. You don't want it but I take it that the others do."

"Lannie and Rath want it. At first, not so much. When uh, the shape-shifter came 'round, none of us wanted him. We blamed him for wakin' up in the sewer alone. We felt death would be preferable to anythin' he had to say. Then Lannie has a change of heart. 'Parently the shape-shifter was our only link so now, no one knows how to getta hold of us… which is fine by me, but she's getting' antsy and that's bad. Rath and I always butt heads. Lannie and I got our fights but that's from sharin' genes. It happens. Lannie uses that against me. She's got his dick wrapped around her finger and he sides with her on every argument for the last two years." Zan polished off his fries and shook his head. "I guess you don't have problems like that."

"No, not really." Max shook his head. "My concern is if Tess will react badly to a change in plans. Or if Kal is going to make another decision for me."

"What do you know about our enemies?"

"What enemies we have are dead or very close to dead. That's what I'm told at least. Kal isn't really trustworthy with facts unless he's taking an order." Max ran a hand over his face. "What do you need done?"

"I just need insurance that goin' home ain't possible for the immediate present. That I'll have a chance to meet someone… like you did?"

"What are you talking about?"

"Aight. Aight. You don't want to talk about it… Ava ain't it for me, though. I could jump the girl twice myself and she'd still throw herself in front of a train for me. It's pathetic and I can't stand it." Zan sighed and leaned forward. "She's great. She'd die for me and I appreciate that but not the weepy whiny shit she goes through if I so much as say hi to someone, you know?"

"She's good for now but she's not the one?"

"Yeah."

"I had a lot of for-nows. I think I left the one in a small town to forget about me and live her life of studiousness."

"The brunette?"

"Yeah." Max pushed his glass away. "It's better this way though. We both got something out of our systems. No attachments."

"With Ava, everythin' is an attachment." Zan quieted for a moment, the wheels turning in his head. "I'm gonna take your word that we don't need all this shit. I'm 20. I feel like a freakin' old man. I raised those punks myself and they don't do a damn thing for themselves."

"You guys never thought to find someone to take care of you?"

"And get separated like you guys?" Zan shook his head. "Forget it. We're a family. This… shit strings us together and you gotta have someone to rely on. For all the shit, if it really goes down… I know I got Lannie and Rath. From what you said, you ain't even got Kal and Tess… is a dependant."

TBC
posted on 25-Jan-2003 2:45:01 PM
Part 13 – December 22, 2001


Max let Zan into his room after the premiere. It was late, sometime after midnight. Max yanked off his tie and slung it over a chair. Zan snorted and eyed the suit. "You look like a monkey."

"I feel like a monkey." Max sighed. Zan was avoiding the subject again. "I can't just leave knowing you guys are going to be staying in the sewer."

The door opened, saving Zan from answering. Tess poked her head in and froze when she saw Zan. "Max?"

"Sweetie, it's okay." Max motioned her in. "Tess, this is Zan."

Tess edged her way into the room, giving Zan a wide berth. She stared for a good long time. "How come he has your face?"

"How d'ya know he don't have my face?" Zan leaned forward to look at her. He winked at her and she hid her face.

"He's just playing with you." Max whispered, brushing her hair out of her face. "Why don't you go to sleep?"

"I wanna go home." She pouted and leaned on Max.

"In a week." Max promised. "How long is a week?"

"Seven days."

"Okay. Go back to bed." Max sent her off to her room and turned to his guest.

Zan tapped his leg and leaned back on the bed. "I don't want nothing from you, Maxie. We take care of ourselves alright. If you give us money… Lannie and Rath will spend it in a blink. If you get us a place, they'll trash it. I'm the man and they gotta remember that."

"How about a job?" Max reached for his wallet. "Kal's always got these people trying to get me to model or something." He found the card he was looking for. "If you let me take a couple of pictures, I could forward them on to a couple of Kal's friends."

"Not exactly what I'm into." Zan pocketed the card anyway. "Not low profile either."

"Kal isn't low profile but we're pretending to be humans, right?"

"And what do you get out of it?"

"I pad my portfolio." Max shrugged and kicked off his shoes. "Of course, I'd advise a name change though. I honestly don't know about those enemies." He thought it over and cleared his throat. "If I were you, I'd go see someone as soon as possible and hope for a quick rise to fame. If you were to go missing, there'd be an investigation. Publicity that wouldn't be good for either of them."

"Probly."

December 28, 2001


Kal sat back and observed the shoot. "The tattoos have to go."

"Shit." Zan groaned and sank into a chair. "Which ones?"

"Any tattoo that has anything to do with Antar." Kal shook his head. Motioned to Max to come closer. "He's got a nice build… but he's too pale. This hair thing, is that in?"

"Not yet." Max smiled. "Wanna see how long it takes before it catches on?"

Kal wrapped an arm around Max and squeezed Max's cheeks. "See, Zan. Every once in a while he's a good boy." He relaxed his hold on Max and gestured to Zan once more. "This low rise thing is already catching on but there's a rise on girls buying guys clothes. Let's see if we can boost guy's low rise jeans. I'm gonna talk to my girls at the magazines and see what they think. If they don't think it'll work, we'll show them these pictures."

"Whose pie don't you got a finger in?" Zan crossed his arms, eyes looking the shape shifter over suspiciously.

"Can't think of a single one in this fine country of ours." Kal produced a folder. "These are so clever, even the government won't know the difference. There's a bunch of identities in there for each of you… on the condition that I never see any of you again."

"Unless it's business related?" Zan took the folder and grabbed his shirt.

"Of course." Kal conceded. "Just don't forget who discovered you when you make it."

"I'd advise you to keep Ava out of it… you know? A lot of the names already know Tess's face." Max tossed in as he wound his camera. "You might want to develop some kind of personality in front of the camera… it sounds silly but it's all about presentation. So long as you aren't unreasonable."

"All the really good faces are jerks but if they weren't they wouldn't be famous." Kal lit his cigar. "Now, clear out, both of you. I got girls coming over."

"When do I know something?" Zan pushed his head through.

"We leave the 2nd, I'll make some calls, spread your picture around. Show up at that address we gave you on the 10th or something. They'll be expecting you by then. Just remember to shower." Kal blew the smoke out. "Out, both of you."

January 23, 2002


Max was ready to tear his hair out. "Tess! Cut it out!" the banging continued to drive him insane. She was pissed about something but he had no clue what. He had a test the next day and there was no way he was going to be able to study if she kept it up. "Tess! Stop!" When he found her, she was banging her fist on the piano… a complete mess in her jeans. "Hey, what happened to you?"

"I don't feel good."

Immediately getting it, Max sighed and knelt beside her. "You forgot?"

"I didn't mean to." Tess sniffed. "We forgot to mark my calendar."

"Aw shit." Max hung his head. "I'm sorry. Come on. Let's go get cleaned up."

"I'm sorry." She mumbled but Max shook his head and took her hands in his. "I don't mean to mess up."

"Sh. It's okay. We just forgot. Accidents happen." Max took a breath and sighed. "We're going to go upstairs and get you into the shower, then we'll get some fresh clothes and your things and we'll remember to mark your calendar. But it's okay to have accidents, Tess. I'm not mad. Come on."

"I don't mean to be like this, Max." Tess whispered. "I try to be better."

"I know." Max nodded with a small smile. It always hurt him when she talked that way. Those few times she sounded like a complete person who understood everything. Those few times it seemed like she knew what it cost him to look after her.

March 15, 2002


Max listened to his voice messages as he sat atop a building on campus. "Happy Birthday, Max. Call me. This is Angela."

"Max, it's Julie. Happy Birthday."

"This is Amy. You weren't in class today, Happy Birthday Max."

"Max, this is Davey. Call me. Happy Birthday."

"Kid, where'd you go? You're gonna miss your party."

"Max, I've got a hell of a present for you. You remember where my room is."

"Max. Vicki. Wyndham Hall. 406."

"Max, where are you? This is Valerie. If you don't already have plans… um, my number's on the group project list. If not… it's cool. I'll see you Monday."

"Kid, come on. We're waiting. Get off that stupid building and get to the house."

"Max, hi. I really hope you remember me. It's Liz Parker. I… just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday. I… something made me think of you today and I remembered what you said about the Ides. Okay, I feel stupid. Hope you have a good one. Bye, Max."

"Max, it's Jamie, call me."

"Yo, we's the same age for another five hours… here anyways. Have a good one."

"This is Jason. Where are you Evans?"

"Okay, so I saw this picture in a magazine and I could swear it was you but the guy is all pierced and he's got a different name. He could be you… I just… couldn't stop thinking about you after I saw that. Now, I really feel like an idiot. Bye, Max."

"Max. Where are you? The food got cold and your cake melted. I wore my pretty dress for you and you aren't here. Max. Max…"

"Where the hell are you, Max? I've waited all night. At midnight your birthday is officially over and so is my offer."

"Max. Vicki. Never mind."

"It's Jamie again. Jason's driving me crazy. Call us."

"Kid, it's late. Your sister is unbearable. Your friends took off. You'll catch your death on that roof."

"I'm sending the car for you since yours seems to be impounded. Get in, come home."

Max shut the phone off and peered down at the headlights that had just pulled into the lot below. "Happy Birthday, me."

TBC
posted on 26-Jan-2003 4:26:37 PM
Part 14 - March 16, 2002


Max stretched out on his bed, listening to his voice mail and choosing who he wanted to return calls to. It was early and no one would be awake. "Angela, it's Max. Sorry I wasn't around yesterday, thanks for the call. Later."

"Hey Amy. Sorry I didn't show. Things came up. We'll get together tomorrow or something to work on the paper and stuff."

"Hey Davis. Thanks for the call. See you in class."

"Val, it's Max. Sorry I didn't call you back last night. We could get together tonight or something. Let me know… I may actually be around today."

"This is Max, Jason. Hope you kept Jamie warm for me."

"Zan. Happy Birthday, man. You're an old fogy… saw the spread, not bad… shoot the photographer."

Max's finger hovered over the call button on his last call. Then the phone was ringing in his ear before he realized he had hit the button. He was just grateful to get the machine. "Hey Liz… this is Max. Thanks for the call, it really meant a lot. It brightened my day. You're not stupid or an idiot… and the guy, it isn't me… and… I think about you, too."

Pushing the phone away, he shut his eyes. He shouldn't have called her and he shouldn't have said that. The sinking feeling in his gut that he'd been feeling for days grew. Something wasn't right. Sometime during the afternoon, he drifted into a fitful sleep. Images that passed for dreams cruised through his mind. By the time he realized that the woman standing at the end of his bed was going to kill him, he should have been dead already. His eyes popped open and he scooted back on the bed. Lannie continued to stare at the bed. "He was here when I looked in the window. He was right here."

Max winced as her hand nearly brushed his leg. Slowly, he scooted away from her hand. Another movement caught his eye. Tess, she was squatting in the doorframe to the bathroom that connected their rooms. Her eyes were squeezed shut tight. Heart pounding, he silently slid off the bed to join her. While he was on the move, a second figure stepped into the room through the window. Rath. On a split-moment's decision, Max all out ran for the bathroom door and threw up his shield between Tess and himself and Rath and Lannie. The shield got their attention.

"What the fuck?" Lannie growled. "Zan didn't say anything about a warper."

"What the hell were you going to do?" Max demanded, sweat poured down his face.

"Were going home, Maxie and either you come with or we kill you." Lannie tilted her head at the blonde girl hiding behind Max. "Hell, you can take her if you want. We don't need Ava."

"We're not going."

"I've been contacted and being a royal beats the hell off riding my brother's coattails the rest of my life. The fucker's got a restraining order on us. Some bigwig hired Feds to watch for us. Feds." Lannie sat on the bed. "Just come with us. We know you got the Granilith."

"The what?" Max played dumb.

"The Granilith. Our ride home."

"There's no way off Earth. We're stuck here."

Lannie looked to Rath. "I thought you said he had it."

"He said the others had it. That's Maxie and his bitch." Rath shrugged.

She let out a laugh. "Shit." The laugh bounced off the walls. "I can't believe we wasted time on this. He ain't got it. He ain't even heard of it." Her laughter subsided after a moment. "Where's the faces like us?"

"Don't know. Never met them. I don't even know if they're still alive." Max bluffed but Lannie stood directly on the other side of his shield, staring at him before her eyes shut. Some force invaded his mind, like fingers flipping through a file cabinet. Max dropped the shield unexpectedly and he had to reach for Tess with one hand and reach the other out to knock Rath off his feet before the blast could escape. Rath flew backward, knocking his head on the wall.

The mental fingers still rifled through his mind. With no power left, Max reached out and grabbed Lannie's head. Her eyes popped open seconds before the crack echoed in his ears. His heavy breathing hung in the air until the smell of smoke reached his nostrils. Lannie's body lay in flames. He stumbled backward, almost tripping over Tess. Gripping her hand, he raced with her out the bathroom and through her room. "Kal!" They had just hit the staircase when they heard the explosion.

Kal strode out of his office. "Shit, they heard that in the Valley. Get out of the house, kids." The three of them had just hit the driveway when the second explosion went off. At the end of the drive, Max looked back at the house and panicked. Liz's pictures. Where they in the basement or in his room? As they watched the house burn and listened to the approaching sirens, Max was struck by what he had just done. He had killed someone with his own bare hands. He stared at his open palms and shut his eyes against the memory of the sound. The crack. Kal clapped him on the back. "They won't find bodies in there… unless of course the maid was upstairs."

"I killed her." Max whispered.

"Survival of the cunningest, kid." Kal shrugged. "It was time for a new place anyway." He sniffed the air and he wished that he could smell the smoke. "What's with your sister?"

Tess was curled in a ball clutching her head. Max swallowed thickly. "Lannie called her a warper. She… I don't know. She didn't let them see me." He reached out to touch her but she shied away. "I… took energy from her."

"She'll be okay enough soon." Kal pulled a cigar from his pocket and lit it when no one was looking. "Choose a place to live… we're gonna need a new place."

"East coast." Max whispered then cleared his throat. "I wanna try the east coast for a while… at least when the semester's over."

"We'll see."


March 20, 2002


Max rolled his eyes at the caption in the newspaper. A reporter had captured the three of them on camera the day of the fire. They all looked less than sad about their home burning and a journalist had called them on it. Kal's reply, "It was a house with things in it. Sure, some of them are irreplaceable original works of art, some are awards for movies I helped to bring to the screen. There are twenty-five years of memories in that house but none of that is important. I've got more money than God. We can buy more things. My niece, nephew and I got out of the house safely. That's what really matters."

It was sappy enough to work and just materialistic enough to stay in character. Max folded the paper shut and reached for the mail. A new cellphone… a courtesy from the company to cover the damage to his. The newest model, not bad.

The apartment was liveable for a while but Max really wanted to be across the country come summer. An application sat next to him, ready to be sent in hopes of transfer granted. His camera sat in its case, untouched in seven days… he might have to change his major. He stared at the New Haven address for another twenty minutes before getting up to mail it.

When he returned, Tess was staring at him like she had for the past four days. She had been scared since the fire and Max thought it had to do with the 'warp' she had pulled to save his life. It could just be his guilty conscience for taking a life. "Hey Sweetie, what's up?"

"Do you hate me?" Tess whispered.

"No." Max froze. "Why?"

"I used… the… thing in my head so they wouldn't see you. I don't know how I did it." Tess's blue eyes brightened with tears

"Hey." Max sat next to and had to think about what to say. "It's okay. You did good but you gotta remember that you can't do things like that where normal people can see."

"She was gonna hurt you. I knowed it."

"But she didn't. You saved me. Thank you."

"Max, I was scared."

"Me, too, Tessie. Me, too."

TBC
posted on 30-Jan-2003 1:56:39 PM
AN: While I've never been higher than Colorado, I believe my details are accurate. Forgive anything I missed.

[center]Part 15 – June 19, 2002[/center]

Max was awake late that night, or early that morning, when the knock came. The subject of that night's venting didn't even stir when he got up to find some pants and his way downstairs to the door. Thankfully Tess remained asleep on her side of the house. Max peered out a second story window before continuing on down to answer the door. When it opened, Zan was standing there. The East Coast native brushed passed Max and took in the look of the house. "Aight."

"Hi. Come in. How are you?" Max shut the door and turned to his unexpected guest. "What can I do for you?"

"Yeah, hi or whateva." Zan shrugged. "I hadda git out of the city, you know? Nice place."

"It's alright."

"It's puke green." Zan sat on a couch and stretched his legs. "You know, it'seasy to git lost when the directions're pretty much the same as the ones for the campus."

"Who gave you directions?" Max took a seat and turned on a light.

"Kal's assistant gave it up easily enough. I think the bitch got fired." He shrugged and looked out the window. "Corny 'hood. Mr. Rodgers live next door or what?"

"Well, we looked at houses in 405, 514, 511 and 524 but 519 had the puke green house that Tess wanted. It's roughly two miles from school and it's quiet." Max took a breath. "You here about the fire?"

"Funny you should bring that up. I felt the fire." Zan's eyes went hard for a moment. "They dead?"

"Lannie for sure…" Max cocked his head when he heard a sound. "Go get something to drink. I gotta get this chick out of the house." He motioned down the hall. "Kitchen's that way."

"You been 'ere, what, three weeks and you aready plowin' the locals?"

"How long would you wait?"

"You gotta point."

"Max?" The voice made them go silent. Zan disappeared the way Max had directed and Max made for the staircase. "Hello?" The girl jumped back when Max suddenly appeared on the staircase. "Where'd you go?"

"Look, I got company now. You'd better take off."

"Yeah, okay." She shrank into herself for a moment. "Just let me get dressed."

Instead of following her back to his room, Max hit the corridor and made for Tess's room to make sure was still asleep. The house had been meant for two-family occupation and the second floor held two suites. Max had given Tess one room for her and the adjoining room for her clothes. It seemed to suit her just fine. He had the summer to get her settled and find someone he could trust to cook and clean for them. By the time he had finally made it to his room, his guest had just hung up the phone. "Cab?"

"Um, yeah." She smoothed her skirt as much as possible. Grabbing her jacket, she moved to the door. Max had pulled a shirt over his head and followed her down. At the base of the stairs, she turned to him. "You know… I'm not… going to expect a call anytime soon or anything but… if you ever want to get together…" She produced a card from her purse. "Give me a call or something. If by some miracle I'm actually busy, we'll do nothing, if not… we have some fun… no strings."

"I'll keep you in mind… Brenda."

"Breena."

"Sorry."

"It's cool. My dad never gets it right either." Breena shrugged and opened the door as a set of headlights turned the corner outside. After just a moment's hesitation, she pressed a kiss to his mouth and disappeared out the door.

"Aw, she's all jaded and shit. How old was she? 30?" Zan spoke up from behind the stairwell. "Come on. I wanna hear about this fire."

"Why are you here?" Max followed him back to the kitchen.

"I'm bored. My agent made me take some classes at the college and shit. We're on break and I'm bored. Sides… It's only a two hour trip and I had to check out the new place." Zan popped open a coke and downed half of it. "Tell me about the fire."

"I killed her." Max admitted and clenched his fists. "She threatened me and Tess and I had no choice. I… I snapped her neck. Her body caught fire and it swept the room. Before I knew it there was an explosion… and then another. She took Rath with her." He sank onto a chair at the table. "I keep hearing the sound her neck made when it gave… and I see her eyes when she realized that was it."

"I killed the shape-shifter." Zan admitted. "He didn't think we'd be able to do it and his face… his real face showed when he couldn't run anymore. It… it haunts me." There was a long silence. "I don't blame you for protectin' you and yours. It's only right." He drew in a long breath. "I couldn't do it… she's my sister." Silence took over the kitchen until pink glowed in the Eastern windows. "Got a couch I can crash on?"

"We got room." Max stood up from the table and led Zan up the stairs. "We've been furnishing the house. There are a couple extra beds that we haven't put together yet."

"It's cool." Zan nodded. They ended up in a room on the west side. The bed went together easily enough and with a couple of blankets straight from their packages, Zan was settled in to sleep.

Max crept to his own room and stretched out on the sheets. He never went to sleep and was ready to make breakfast when Tess appeared demanding that he get out of bed and find her something to eat. She seemed to have adapted to the house pretty quickly but he had been careful when he chose not to give her the suite with the balcony in front of the house. The new instruments had been set up in what passed for a parlor on the first level. The first thing he had done was change the locks and shown her how to work them. For some reason he hadn't really known, she had relaxed considerably after he had done that.

There she sat at the table, eating toast and poached eggs. Her eyes drifted to the window every now and then to watch the neighbors rushing out the door to work and the kids off to summer camp. A cloud entered her eyes as the mother waved to the kids as they ran down the street. Clearing his throat, Max sat down with his own breakfast. "Is there something you wanted to do today?"

"No." She pouted and chewed carefully.

"Zan is here." Max had to smile when she blushed and dropped her eyes to her plate. "He came last night but I think he's still asleep. Maybe we could do something when he wakes up."

"I don't know." Her blush grew deeper.

"Or the two of us could go to the library and get you a card." Max changed the subject so she would finally look at him. "If it's too hard to remember the way, we'll have to hire a driver for you."

"I… can take the bus." Tess whispered. "I can learn. Miss Debbie always says that I have to learn to do by myself. I'm… I'm 19 and a woman and I can take care of myself."

Speechless, Max just stared at her for a moment. That outburst was uncalled for but had obviously been building for a while. After a moment to collect his wits, Max took a breath. "Alright. Then we'll get you a bus pass and practice a few times together."

"Good." A short sigh and a return to her breakfast. "And… I… I don't want another school here. Miss Debbie taught me everything. I'm through with school."

"Okay." He nodded.

"That's all?" Tess crossed her arms suddenly.

"What else is there? You're a big gi—I mean, you're a young woman. You can do what you want." Max dug into his breakfast. "Did you want to concentrate on your music or your paintings?"

"I want…" She sat up in her chair and then slumped down. "I don't know what I want."

Max reached out and grabbed her hand, waiting until she looked up at him. "You don't have to decide today, sweetie."

"Max, I don't want to go back to California. Bad things happened there." She pleaded.

"We won't." Max squeezed her hand. He turned when he heard footsteps. "Thought you were sleepy."

"Thought I was." Zan scratched at his head and sat at the table, shirtless. He grabbed Max's plate and started eating, not even noticing that Tess's head was bowed or that her face was flaming red. Max just shook his head and tried not to laugh

--

Max cruised the library with Zan while Tess filled out her application. She had insisted on filling it out by herself, even thought that could take up to an hour. Max had filled his out and told her where to find him when she was done. Zan waited a while before producing an envelope from his pocket. "Meant to give it to you when I got here but we was talkin'." A plain white envelope with the L.A. address on it and his name. On the back was a sticker with a pair of wedding rings raised on its surface. "Kal said to pass it along."

"She's getting married." Max whispered.

"Who?"

"Isabel." Max sat in a chair and opened the envelope. Inside was the invitation to the nuptials of Isabel Marie Evans to Jesus Estaban Ramirez. Behind that was a letter.

[font face=georgia color=green]Dear Max,
This is weird, you know? I asked you to meet Jesse and you did and I kind of felt you approved but I feel that you should really be here when the big day comes. There is something else though… I remember things and I've been seeing things. It scares me and… Michael and I don't know what to do. I don't want you to think that's why I'm inviting you. I really want you here so that my dad and two brothers can give me away. This is just something that concerns me a lot. These dreams and visions are just… Please say you'll come.
Love, Isabel.
[/font]

"So, who's Isabel?" Zan repeated his question.

"My sister… Lannie's duplicate." Max sat back and shut his eyes. "She's going to marry him."

"Cool. Who's the lucky guy?"

"This lawyer that works for her father."

"Seems to me that maybe you should go…" Zan examined his nails.

"Wait…" Max sat up and looked to Zan. "Where did you get this?"

"Told you, Kal." The punk cleared his throat. "Maybe I got it from his trashcan."

That made more sense. "Why did you really come here?"

"Agent's pissed at me. I got my GED and took the classes she wanted me to take but I'm not… maturin' or somethin'. I don't know." Zan scratched at the back of his head.

"You slept with her."

"She invited me up for a drink… and maybe I wasn't interested after that."

"So you left the state?"

"No, that was a month ago. I went to find out where you went and I got into it wit Kal. He's pissed that Angela's pissed at me. I'm wastin' my youth or somethin' like that." His boot knocked against a chair as he slid to the ground. "I cain't do this. I cain't be human."

"Where's Ava?"

"She took off back in April. Said she couldn't watch me fuck around no more." He turned his face to the ceiling. "I cain't just sit in front of a camera every couple of weeks. It's borin' and I just cain't."

"Then don't." Max shook his head. "Find something else to do."

"Like what?"

"I don't know. Get a job or take some more classes."

"I'm contracted or somethin' for a good while."

"I don't know, Zan. Live, man, live. I can't tell you what to do."

The two stayed put until Tess found them with her new library card and a stack of books. Proud smile and straight shoulders led them to the counter to check out. By the time the car pulled into the garage, Max had made up his mind. He would call to Roswell before he went. There was no way he couldn't go.

Zan disappeared into 'his' room and Max watched Tess go upstairs with her 'chapter' books. She was bound and determined to read the 13-chapter book and understand every word of it. Cell phone in hand, he climbed the stairs to the second level and debated for a moment which would be more private, the attic or his balcony. Choosing the latter, he began dialing as he went. The tinkling laughter that met his ears was not what he expected when the call connected. "Augh!… Stop! Michael!" Bursts of laughter both male and female erupted over the line. "Let me see--- Augh! Cut it out! This is your phone, let me see who it is… ahem… Hello? Hello? Anybody there?"

Max clicked his phone off. Maybe he shouldn't call. He'd go, see to his duty as Isabel's brother and leave.

TBC
posted on 30-Jan-2003 3:43:45 PM
You're not missing anything. Months have passed since the great fire. Just to hint, that was not Maria that answered Michael's phone.
All will come together soon enough.
posted on 5-Feb-2003 3:19:22 AM
Part 16 – August 8, 2002

Tess's hands shook where they lay on the armrests. Even the view couldn't calm her down. Max shut his eyes for a moment as he thought of a way to soothe her nerves. When he felt the flight attendant pass, he flagged her down. She knelt and waited. "Do you think it would be possible for my sister to meet the pilot?"

She looked at him skeptically. "May I ask why?"

"She's really nervous and I think it would calm her some. She's harmless." Max cleared his throat and turned to Tess. "Sweetie?"

When Tess's wide vacant, yet fearful, eyes turned to the flight attendant, the woman understood. "Hi sweetie. My name is Hannah, what's yours?"

"Tess." Tess seemed to shrink back a little.

"Tess, would you like to go up and meet the pilot?" Hannah offered her hand. Tess looked to Max, who nodded encouragingly, and then slowly rose from her seat. After they had passed, Max rose to follow, just to keep an eye on Tess. He knew that she associated west-bound planes with California and that's why she was acting this way. Hopefully this would work or else he was afraid she might have a panic attack.

After a few minutes, he returned to his seat. They weren't too far away, He could see if he leaned into the aisle. The flight attendant eventually returned to her station behind him and he could hear her talking to one of her coworkers about Tess. A while later, Tess returned to her seat with a pair of wings stuck to her shirt and a coloring book, a broad smile on her face. "It was so cool, Max. Uncle Kal never let me do that before. I wanna learn how to fly a plane, Max."

A beat later, Max realized she was serious. With a pen, a pencil and her crayons, she drew the main flight panel in the cockpit, telling him everything about everything button and knob. Shutting his eyes against the building headache, Max sank in his seat even as she kept on and on about what was in involved in flying a 747. A moment later, the flight attendant appeared next to him with a cup of water and two aspirin. "You looked like you could use them."

Max took one aspirin and the water. "Thanks. I should have known better."

She raised an eyebrow and looked to Tess and her drawings. "She's really good."

"Yep." Max nodded and thanked her again. With any luck, they were close to their connection in Philadelphia.

--

As predicted, Max and Tess were the last ones off the plane. Tess refused to get off the plane until she had proof that they were not in California. Max sighed and pleaded with her. "Come on, Tess. We have to get our bags and get onto the next plane. This is Philadelphia."

It was still too early to be fighting with her. It was barely after seven in the morning. There were thirty minutes left in which to get their things and get on the next plane. "How do I know?"

"The ride was barely an hour, Tess. How long does it take to get back to California?"

"A long time." She reasoned to herself. "Longer… a lot longer than an hour."

"Right, come on. Let's go." Max finally managed to get her out of the plane so that the flight attendants could do their sweeps. Time was short on this connection but the next one would afford them more time. He hated connecting flights but what was he going to do? Buy a plane? Right and feed into this notion that Tess was going to fly a plane someday.

They just barely made it to their gate in time to catch the plane and Max spent the whole first hour trying to convince her they would be in Texas, not California. This plane was larger than the last and they ended up in the middle rows, which was fine by him but having a stranger sitting on the other side of Tess made him nervous. Lucky for him it ended up being the grandmother of a famous football player or something. Max was able to doze while the older woman cooed over Tess.

--

In Dallas, Max could relax a little. They had their bags in a locker, and were sitting in a nice restaurant with two hours before their next flight. As he sat there, not touching his food, his mind drifted back to the first call he had made to the Evans two months before. Liz's laughter had reached across the waves to his ears, mocking him. Since, he had only called once more and luckily Isabel had answered, expressing her excitement at his attending. He didn't think that Tess understood what Isabel meant to them but she was excited about her new dress. Max's gift to Isabel had been her wedding gown and her honeymoon trip.

Tess ate her salad with great enthusiasm since they had been on planes all morning. Then she proceeded to inhale a Texas-sized cheeseburger. It made him smile. There she sat, attracting looks from men all over the place until that first big bite into the burger, which had earned her a mustard covered chin. It was as she was dipping her fries into gravy that she announced she wanted to learn to cook.

"Is that right?"

"Yes, sir, Brother Max." Tess nodded. "I want to make fettuccini and hamburgers and chocolate cake."

"How many books have you read this summer?" Max tried to ask as innocently as he could.

"One." Her meek tone spoke volumes about what she understood in him asking.

"How many chapters?"

"12."

"That's really good." Max nodded, trying to bring her spirits back up. He laced his fingers together over his barely touched plate. "I'll make a deal with you."

"What?"

"If you agree to go to one class. One class, Tess. I'll help you learn to cook."

"One class?"

"A tutor, probably… to help you read?"

"But… no more school." She protested. "I'm a young woman, now. I don't need school." Her tone was low, her words barely made it across the table.

"Tess, listen to me." He cleared his throat. "I still go to school. Am I a little boy?"

"No."

"I go to school because there are still things I have to learn. When you learn to read better… I will learn to cook with you. Okay?"

"Okay."

"Smile pretty for me?"

"You don't have your camera." Tess glared at him.

"Fine, be ugly." Max returned his attention to his meal. In exactly five minutes, he felt her head on his shoulder.

"I'm sorry."

"Come on. Finish eating so we can get back to the airport."

--

Max pulled into the hotel around seven that evening, feeling more like the nine his body said it was but he had promised Isabel that he would stop by when he arrived. He figured he could shower and change before going over. Tess was cranky but she only freshened her lipstick and straightened the two pairs of wings on her shirt, having refused to take them off until she earned wings of her own.

The ride to the Evans was interesting. He didn't think she'd really react to the alien paraphernalia but this expression of distaste rested on her face throughout the business parts of town. Then there was a store with a little green man painted on a window. She huffed and turned away from the street. "Uncle Kal doesn't look like that."

His laughter began and didn't end until he was parked two houses down from the Evans, the nearest possible spot. He had to shake it and prepare Tess for what she would find in the house. There were a lot of cars, which meant at least one person per car. Climbing out of the rental, he scanned the street and found ten cars. "Sweetie, there's going to be strangers in there. A lot of them. You don't have to talk to them but try not to run, okay?"

Tess nodded in the affirmative and followed closely behind Max all the way to the door. The second it opened, she stepped behind Max, peering under his arm at the brunette who answered. The brunette broke into a wide smile. "Max! You came!"

Max accepted the hug and squeezed Isabel back. The contact felt good. "Of course, I did. I said I would."

"It's good to see you, again. I can't believe it's been a year. Come in." Isabel stepped aside and froze when she saw the blonde head over Max's shoulder. "Is that her?"

"Yeah, Isabel, this is Tess. Tessie, Come out and say hi to Isabel." Max lifted his arm and she peered up at Isabel with wide eyes. "I knew this would happen. She's shy around strangers." He guided her into the house.

There were swarms of people in the house. Max had severely misjudged the crowd. By his calculations, there were five people for every car outside, including his rental. Apparently Jesse's side of the family was twice as large as Isabel's. Isabel led them through the house, introducing them to people as they made their way through to the kitchen where Jesse was trapped at the table between his grandmother and Isabel's grandmother. "Sweetie!" His eyes rounded as they darted from old woman to old woman. "Come introduce your brother to abuelita and Grandma."

Max barely managed to suppress a smile at the man's predicament before he followed Isabel down a hallway. She turned to him with a bright smile. "He's been there all night, poor baby. Michael and our friends have been hiding in his room all night. I hope you don't mind but I think it's better if you and Tess take up residence in there until people start leaving."

"Yeah, it'd probably be better for Tess anyway." Max nodded.

"Just don't leave before I can talk to you about what's going on. Okay?"

"Alright."

When the door opened, only the glow of a television provided light enough to see there were bodies strewn all over the place. Isabel flicked on the light to the groans of eight people. "So, you know Michael, Liz and Alex. That is Kyle on the floor over there, Brandy is on the chair, Jake on the sleeping bag, Carolyn at the foot of the bed and Faris by her. Jesse's cousins Raul and Erica are passed out over there. Everyone, this is Max and Tess. I will be back sometime tonight."

She was gone before he could say anything. Max nodded to the group and moved to sit on the edge of the bed. "Michael."

"Max." Michael shifted slightly but Liz had been leaning on him and he couldn't move much. "Welcome back. That her?"

"Yeah. This is Tess." Max reached out and guided her to sit next to him. "Say 'hi,' Tess."

"No." She whispered and buried her face in his shoulder.

"She's being shy." Max stroked her hair and cleared his throat. "What's that?"

"My Step-mother is an Alien…" Michael snorted. "I thought it was appropriate but Isabel threaten to slay me with her death ray eyes."

"Why didn't you just rent So I Married an Axe-murderer?" Max made himself as comfortable as possible with Tess clinging to him.

"I did." Michael snorted again. "She threatened to castrate me if I showed these movies to Jesse. I also got Very Bad Things, He Knows You're Alone, Haunted Honeymoon, The Devil's Daughter, Rosemary's Baby and The Descendant. You know… feel good marriage classics."

Liz bit at her lip for a few moments then offered Max a smile. "Hey Max… I didn't know you were coming for this."

"You know, family obligations." Max felt Tess relax a little and that took a little load off his chest. It meant she wouldn't flip any time soon.

"Hey, you know, Isabel had tried to call you before she sent the invitation…" Michael trailed off, nudging Liz a little.

"Our house caught on fire. My phone was in the center of the inferno." Max rubbed Tess's back and dropped his voice to a low whisper. "She's a little traumatized still. The flights were okay for the most part but getting her off the planes was an ordeal. She thought we were going back."

Michael nudged Liz again, this time a little harsher. "So where are you living now? Still in L.A.?"

"In a green house off Howard Avenue." Tess whispered, turning her face to the two. The lights went out and a body returned to the floor. "It's really big and I get a whole room for my clothes and a whole room for my instruments. I go to the library and I take the bus all by myself."

"That she does. I'm no longer allowed to tag along." Max brushed her hair out of her face.

"It's five minutes from Max's school." Tess sat up and told them. "If I have you, I can walk there in twenty minutes. I just have to go to the building that says Yale School of Art."

"Yale?" Liz's lip twitched. "You're in Connecticut?"

"Yeah."

"I'm just in Massachusetts." Liz bit her lip again. "I just flew down to keep Michael company. When did you get in?"

"Just a couple of hours ago—"

"I have two sets of wings." Tess leaned over to show them her wings. "I'm going to be a pilot someday."

"Slow down, Speedracer. Remember, we talked." Max sighed and patted her head. "We learn to read big people books first."

"Max…" Tess whined and pouted.

"Wow. And I thought Iz was difficult." Michael scratched at his eyebrow.

"Hey." Kyle called over. "You guys want to keep it down? Some people are suppressing. Can't believe she's getting married."

"Hey Liz, I'm thirsty." Michael cleared his throat. "Go get me something to drink."

"Michael." She smacked him.

"Please? Take Max with you. Give him the tour." Michael nudged her again and then turned to Max. "Leave Tess here, she'll be fine. We can talk planes."

"Max, go." Tess started pushing him. "I flew in a 747 and the pilot showed me how to…"

Liz sighed and crawled off the bed and then grabbed Max's hand. "Obviously we are not wanted here and I could take a break from all the moping in here anyway."

Max didn't have the energy to protest, he let himself be lead into the hallway and into the crowded kitchen. His cheeks were pinched by a few of Jesse's female relatives. Liz led him outside where a cooler was set among many insect torches that weren't keeping anything away, hence the crowded house.

"I uh, tried calling you before I moved to Cambridge… but I guess you had already moved." Liz reached in a grabbed a coke for herself and for Michael.

"Early June but the fire was earlier this year." Max reached in and found something for Tess. "Michael seemed… friendly."

"Yeah." Liz smiled to herself. "He… I don't know. This year he opened himself up a little. It was amazing to see. He doesn't have many friends still but the ones he has really count."

"So you've gotten close to him?"

"Well, yeah. For some reason he picked me to get close to first." Liz laughed suddenly. "He found the pictures you took of me and he still hasn't stopped teasing me about that outfit you made me wear. I knew he was laughing at me that day."

Max shoved his free hand into his pocket and stared out into the night. This was sounding worse and worse by the minute. "Any old feelings resurface?"

Liz let out a small laugh but recovered quickly, crossing her arms and shrugging. "You know, stuff happens. You're fooling around, wrestling and then it all goes still. You kiss…" She noticed the flicker in his eyes and decided to spare him any further discomfort. "Then you recoil when he says you kiss like his sister." It took a moment for her words to register. His head whipped around, giving away his previous assumptions. "Michael and I are just friends." He cleared his throat and looked away again. "Was someone jealous?"

"I wouldn't say that." Max reached into his shirt pocket. "I ran into somebody. Got that for you."

Liz slid the drinks into the crook of one arm and took the small picture from him. She laughed when she got a good look. "To Liz, Sweetest cherry I never met, Emory 'Zan' Zannamen." Her head bobbed up and down. "He doesn't look like an Emory."

"Well, Eminem doesn't look like a Marshall." He pointed out.

"How weird that this guy looks so much like you…" Liz let out a breath. "How'd you meet him?"

"Saved his life, got him a job. He's been crashing in a spare room in my house for a while."

"You're kidding."

"Nope. He can be a pain in the ass but we're dealing." Max moved for the door. "I've gotta go check on Tess…" He trailed off as he looked in the window. Tess was sitting in the chair Jesse had previously occupied. She was smiling and tasting everything his abuelita set in front of her and talking to both the older women.

"Looks like she's doing fine." Liz peered over his shoulder. "She's… a lot different than I would have expected."

"She's deceptive. People, strangers, see her and thing she's just another blonde bimbo and when they talk to her, they think they're right… until she says some like… she loves kitties and puppies and those thingies big girls use…" Max sighed but smiled. "She's usually talking about curling irons but I don't let her use them."

"You're really patient."

"I have to be but… I love her." Max opened the door and led Liz back through the house after depositing Tess's drink on the table. She only smiled and returned her attention to the women at the table. In Michael's room, they were starting up another movie. Jesse's cousins had woken but didn't look too happy about it. Brandy and Faris had trapped Michael on the bed. Faris spoke up when the two entered the room. "I've been a dutiful cousin and I've plucked the information from Mikey. You guys are so cute together."

"She tortured me." Michael raised his hands in surrender.

"Some torture." Alex snorted. "He surrendered faster than you could boil an egg in Hell."

Liz tossed Michael his drink and the other to Alex. "So you talk about me to other people?"

"She was going to curl my eyelashes." Michael protested.

"I really was." Faris nodded.

Liz looked up at Max. "What do you say, Stranger? Will you be my date for Isabel's wedding?" She winked at him and stepped back. "If you refuse… I'm gonna be stuck with Michael… the whole night."

"Hey!"

TBC
posted on 5-Feb-2003 5:33:29 PM
Ain't it the truth, Starlady.
All diets cease to exist when the big day closes in. Not even the bride is safe from Tias with food. Everybody is too skinny and no one ever has enough kids and the relatives who swore they couldn't make it always show up and need someplace to stay.
You're always tripping over someone else's kids and trying to avoid the Tios who have been drinking since they arrived and wanna hear all about your life and your boyfriend and if you don't have one, they give suggestions on the kind of boyfriend you should get.

Hehe, it's actually been a while since the last wedding in the more ethnic side of my family but it was bi-racial and dual faith. What a load of fun that was. Let me tell you.
The Americanized side of the family had a wedding and rather than dual-faith, they had a priest preside over a ceremony that wasn't necessarily Catholic. And the stink that caused with the bride's family is still being talked about two years later. I feel sorry for their kid. hehe.
posted on 8-Feb-2003 4:43:37 PM
[center]Part 17 – August 9, 2002[/center]

Isabel burst into the hotel room bright and early. "So, I'm sorry that you had to leave before Jesse's family left. Things have been so crazy and I still have to yell at the florist."

Max pulled his head out from under a pillow to glare at her. The weak light that spilled in through the door was barely gray. "What time is it?"

"Five… I think. I'm not wearing a watch. It doesn't go." Isabel tapped his bed with her foot. "Wake up. We've gotta talk."

"What's this problem?" Max rolled over and stared up at her form.

"My alien lover has been trying to crash my wedding. I've been having dreams and they scare the crap out of me. Who the hell is Vilandra?" Isabel shut the door and took a seat on the bed.

"You are." Max rubbed the sleep out of his eyes.

"Oh." Her face turned up. "Well I guess that makes sense then."

"Your alien lover… Kivar?"

"I suppose that's his name. He keeps telling me that I won't marry Jesse because I love him… Kivar." Isabel sighed heavily and opened her purse for her planner.

"He tells you these things… when?"

"In my dreams… or daydreams whichever. It's really getting to him and I can't control myself in the dreams. It's like I'm speaking but I'm not choosing the words… kinda like déjà vu or something. Like I've said them before."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Take care of it."

"I can't. There's no person. It's a dream." Max leaned forward and took her hand. "What did Michael think?"

"Michael thinks that it's my conscience tell me that I'm not ready to get married. I am so ready. I have never felt like this before. Jesse is the one." She pulled a pen out of its holder and began writing notes on her errands for the day. "It's bad enough that my parents don't really approve but Jesse's younger cousins are giving us flack because I'm white. Why can't people just be happy?"

"You better be or else I'm going to have to kick some butt." Max lay back and rolled over pulling his pillow over his head.

"Max."

"I'm tired. Liz and I talked a long time last night before I had to take her to her parents." The words came out muffled but Isabel wasn't satisfied and pinched his leg. "Ow!" He jerked away and popped his head out. "You're a little too close considering we've only met five or six time."

"It always works on Michael." Shrugged and made a mark in her planner.

"How is Michael really taking this? Is he jealous?"

"Why would he be jealous?"

Max set his jaw when she wouldn't look up. "You know why?"

"Well, that's gross, Max." Isabel mock-gasped.

"So you guys had the dreams?"

"Yeah."

"Weird much?"

"Beyond weird but we've lived like brother and sister all this time and it was just absurd. I was so glad when I managed to get rid of them." She gagged and continued her scribbles. "I mean, I'm sure it was the same for you guys."

"Yeah. Bizarre." Max nodded. "We're actually late bloomers in that sense. Zan and Ava were at it when they were barely teens." He noted her confused look. "That model isn't me."

"There are more?" Isabel leaned forward and took his pillows. "Where? Is there another me?"

"Was."

"Was…" She blinked at him. "What happened?"

"She was a conniving, murderous bitch and she was dealt with. I'm going back to sleep." Max flopped down.

"Well, if you don't care that my alien ex-lover is going to kill me or Jesse… go on. Go back to sleep. I'm waking Tess. She's spending the day with me." Isabel got to her feet and went to the adjoining door. "Abuelita loved her and my mom couldn't stop talking about how sweet she is."

"If you wake her, you won't get that sweet girl. You'll get an angry alien queen." Max settled back into bed after retrieving his pillow.

"I bet if I were seven inches shorter and my name was Liz, you'd get out of bed."

--

Max and Michael leaned on a wall while Jesse examined his tux. The poor guy was paranoid. "Are you sure this tux will look okay with Isabel's dress? I heard her dress is really expensive."

"It is. Just ask my credit card." Max yawned and took a look at the tux. It'd do.

"Hey Max, thanks man for the tickets and the room. It means a lot to us." Jesse turned to the boys. "You really didn't have to."

"My pleasure. Besides… I'm not paying for it. My uncle is."

"You gonna stick with me, tonight?" Michael muttered.

"Um… tonight?"

"Bachelor party." Michael clarified. "I don't drink for obvious reasons and Jesse's friends and cousins will gang up on me."

"Gotcha. Sure, I will be there." Max rubbed at his neck. "Liz told me that you guys are really close now."

"Well, I figured she'd be a good friend because I thought you had told her about you but apparently you didn't and she's a good friend anyway."

"So, tell me about Alex and Kyle."

Michael rolled his eyes. "Alex is her best friend since the fourth grade and Kyle dated her sophomore year. They're just friends now. Maria and I clashed majorly."

"How is the love of my life?" Couldn't help the smirk that crossed his face.

"Okay I guess. Liz still talks to her and all." Michael hissed and scratched at his forehead. "I wouldn't bring her up when you talk to Liz though. Maria's mom's business went under and they moved right after graduation to Albuquerque. It was rough on Liz. Took me two weeks to cheer her up before she went to Cambridge." He cleared his throat. "And Maria will be pissed that Liz flew down to help me through this tough time and not up to see her."

"Yikes."

"And she'll go postal when she finds out how I coerced Liz into coming."

"And how's that?"

"I told her you were coming." Michael shook his head when a ghost of a smile crept over Max's face. "God, you two are sickening."

"Why?" Max blinked at him.

Before Michael could answer, Jesse called them over. "Hey guys. I know it's early but you think we could stop off and pick up my buddy before we go to lunch. I'm trying to stay off Isabel's radar until I have to go confirm the hall tonight. She drew me a picture of what it should look like." Jesse looked to Michael. "And I thought Christmas was bad."

"Hey, you don't live with her yet." Michael pointed out. "You didn't have to pick out a tree by height, color, and foliage." Michael looked to Max, who was laughing. "You laugh now but when you're given a charted and samples, not to mention a sketch… there is no room for error. She's your blood sister. I'll bet control issues run in the family."

"Funny."

--

"Hermanos de tu novia?" Guillermo nodded to the guys then to Jesse.

"Yeah. They're cool." Jesse slid over and let his friend into the back seat of the car. "Memo, this is Max and Michael. Guys, this is my buddy, Memo."

"Sweet ride, yours?" Memo called up.

"Rental." Max nodded to his rearview. "Where are we going for lunch?"

"Leti's."

"No." Jesse shook his head. "Don't start stirring up shit, Memo."

"I want a burrito. I don't know if she's working."

Michael looked to Max who shrugged helplessly. "Where are we going?"

"Twin Diamond. It's called Cecilio's." Memo tapped Max's headrest against Jesse's protests.

"I know where it is." Michael began giving directions while Jesse and Memo argued. It wasn't soon enough when the car pulled into the lot at Cecilio's. "Could you guys give me and Max a minute?"

"Sure. Come on, Tontito." Jesse climbed out of the car and grumbled all the way inside the restaurant.

Michael sighed and turned to Max. "This has been going on all summer. Liz and I have been able to figure out a couple of things. Whenever Jesse's friends from high school want to get together, it's here… and usually during Leti's shift. Leti is an old girl friend and one of the gang. She's got an invite through a brother… Freddy or something. Thing is… Jesse's never come here. He'll concede to order out or calling it in but he's never picked it up. I'm not asking you to do this because I like Jesse. I'm doing this to make sure Jesse doesn't look Leti's way and give me a reason to kick his ass one day before the wedding."

"What do you want me to do?"

"Charm Leti the way you charmed Liz last summer. Get your camera and keep her attention off Jesse." Michael paused and tilted her head. "And if Liz asks, you didn't do anything."

--

Kyle, Alex, Michael and Max sat around the table laughing and drinking. Michael patted Max on the back. "Leti's hot. I mean hot. You have no idea. I had no idea girls in Roswell were ever this hot. Jesse's not looking. He's looking at the menu, he's looking at the Southwest mural on the wall, he's looking at the ingredients on the packets of sugar on the table… everywhere but at this gorgeous creature, right? It's obvious he wants to right. She… saunters up to the table and she's winking and trying to get Jesse's attention and his buddy keeps trying to find ways to make her stay.

"That's when Max pulls out his camera. He's staring at her objectively, no emotion and then he just snaps off a few pictures and she's startled. She just blinks at him and then asks why he took the picture. He's all. 'Flawless, absolutely flawless.' You know, the whole deal he pulled last summer on Liz. 'Have you ever thought about modeling?' Leti gets all flustered and she starts posing. He gets her to go out in the alley for some candid shots. Meanwhile, Memo or whatever is fuming and Jesse's eating his meal as fast as he can. I get Max's food to go and when they come back from out side, the woman is blushing. She's acting like a lovesick puppy and Max is still as cool as he was before he walked. He's un-phased and you can tell it's driving her crazy."

"So, Max, what happened in the alley?" Kyle bounced in his chair.

"Nothing." Max shook his head. "I pretended to take pictures but the girl either isn't very bright or was too starry-eyed to noticed I never wound my film… because I didn't have any in the camera. The car I gave her is real but if she ever gets the courage to call, they won't have never heard of her or seen any pictures… and I'll be safe in New Haven in my house."

"Nothing." Michael turned to him. "Right. That's why she's in love with you now."

"I can't help it if she fell for me. All I did was compliment the hell out of her… maybe I posed her a bit." Max winked at the guys and they started laughing.

They were still laughing when Jesse made his rounds. "Hey… you know… you guys can have a drink. I'm sure no one's going to tell your mommies and none of us are gonna tell the cops."

"Allergic." Max lifted his coke.

"Me too." Michael nodded.

"Against my religion." Kyle squinted.

"I'm driving." Alex waved him off.

"Alright, but I tried to loosen you guys up." Jesse pointed a wavering finger at them. He stumbled away to join his buddies and was promptly shoved into chair for a lap dance.

"I should go and see what Isabel has done with my sister." Max pushed away from the table.

"No. Stay just a little longer." Kyle pleaded. "You still gotta tell me about the babes in California."

"Which ones?" Max settled back into his seat. He finished his drink and another, and another by the time Kyle would let him go. Max had just said his goodbyes, down the last of his coke and disappeared out the door when two of Jesse's friends ambled over. "Psst. Mikey."

"Don't call me Mikey." Michael glared at them.

"Tu hermano? He really allergic to booze?"

"Come again?" Michael jumped to his feet.

"We didn't know. There's a couple shots in his coke at the last." One snickered but stifled it a moment too late. "Jesse just told us. Is he gonna get sick?"

"It was just a couple of shots?" Michael narrowed his eyes at the two drunks in their dew-rags and plaid shirts over wife-beaters.

"Two fingers, s'all." The other managed to mumble.

"He'll be fine." Michael waved them off and then turned back. "Did you put anything in my drink when I went to the bathroom?"

"Naw. We got strict orders from the bride, man. She said she'd castrate us if we did anything to you." He leaned in and settled his arm over Michael's shoulders. "And I believe her, ese. I do. I think she'd really cut my pinger off. Your sister is one scary mujer."

--

Max shook his head to clear it of the cobwebs that had taken residence on the drive to the Ramirez's where the women would be cooking, where they would have Tess. Knocking, he leaned on the wall to keep from falling. The concerned tía who opened the door clucked her tongue and rattled something off to the other women. He was lead into the kitchen where everyone was up to their elbows in something or other. Isabel rushed into the room and blinked at him. She stepped closer and examined him. "Are you drunk?"

"I only had coke."

"Jack and Coke?" She snapped at him. "What are you even doing here?"

"Came to get Tess…" He looked around. "I thought you were having it catered."

"Change of plans." Isabel kept a smile on her face when she turned to her future mother-in-law. Diane sat next to her trying to get the masa to stick to the corn husk. "I don't think you should be driving."

"I'm okay. I don't know what you're talking about."

Isabel glared at him and then smirked when someone walked up behind him. "Liz, take my wayward brother home, will you?"

"Liz? Where? She's pretty hot."

Isabel bit back her smile at both Max's comment and Liz's wild blushing. "As you can tell, he's had a few. Could you take him to his room?"

"Sure. Tess." Liz called to the table where Tess was busy rolling cheese inside chile coated corn tortillas. "Tess, sweetie, let's get you cleaned up."

"Max!" The blonde looked up. "I'm cooking."

"Cool." Max leaned on the door and nearly fell when it gave a little. Liz and Isabel rushed to catch him. "Whoa." His brow furrowed. "I really didn't drink anything. You think someone slipped me something?"

Isabel narrowed her eyes suddenly. "I'm going to castrate those boys."

"Isabel!" Diane gasped.

"Mom, they swore they wouldn't do this."

"Boys will be boys, Isabel." Nena told her.

Taking a breath, Isabel looked to Liz down the hall in the bathroom with Tess. She shrugged then nodded. "Okay, then. Max, Liz is going to take you and Tess to your room. Where are the keys to your car?"

Max stuck a hand in one pocket, then the other, patted his back pockets then straightened to pat his chest. Then he looked at her. "In the car?"

"My hands are clean." Tess thrust her hands into Max's face. "Guess what? Liz showed me how to make cookies shaped like wedding bells. I even got to take them out of the oven when they were done."

"You're not supposed to." Max's voice got stern and she shied away.

"Max." Liz turned him to face her. "I was watching her. She did okay. Ready to go?"

"Anywhere with you." He told her and let her lead him to the car. Liz said her goodbyes and promised to be at Isabel's early to help her get ready. The car ride was silent for the most part. Tess was tired and nodding off in the backseat and Max spent the ride staring at Liz's profile. At stoplights, she would turn and smile at him. At one point, he had hand her hand, placing strategic kisses on her palm and knuckles until she had to yank her hand back or drive off the road. "You'll kill us all, Max Evans."

"It's okay. I've already died and come to heaven."

"You mean… gone to heaven." Liz brushed his fingers out of her hair.

"That's what I said."

Finally, they made it safely to the hotel and up the stairs to their rooms. Liz helped Tess change and get into bed. Poor girl passed out immediately and it wasn't her that Liz was worried about. It was the man in the next room who had nearly given her a heart attack on the road. For all his friendliness since he arrived, he seemed to be feeling particularly amorous. Shutting the adjoining door behind her, Liz sat on the edge of the bed where Max had stretched out and tried to look smooth.

"Hey there handsome." Liz leaned over him. "I'm gonna go now. You gonna be okay?"

"You can't leave. I won't let you." Max gripped her hand in his.

"Oh, no you don't, Mister. You almost made us crash into a semi with that trick." She shook her head at him.

"Spend the night."

"I thought we were friends, Max."

"We are." He pulled her hand out so that she had to lower her face to his. "We're good friends who only see each other once in a great while. It's a shame. You're a friend that I could see every day." He made to kiss her lips but she backed away. "I'm not letting you get away." He pulled her back. "Not today, not tomorrow, not ever."

"Max, you're drunk."

"But I mean every word. I think you're perfect for me. If love passes me by, I'll kill myself."

"Max."

"I'm serious." Max sat up and cupped her face with his hands. "I have thought of no one else since you. I've tried but you captivate me." He lowered his mouth to her throat. "Stay."

"Damn you, Max Evans, for sweeping me off my feet." Liz finally gave in to the kiss. It was too good. It was too damn good and there was no way she'd get her spin back in place without losing her clothes first.

"Damn you, Liz Parker, for making me feel this way."

There went the spine, on the floor with the clothes.

TBC
posted on 15-Feb-2003 5:49:49 PM
quote:
I can't describe the way I felt when I read Jen's farewell. It didn't seem possible but here I figured if the mods and such were able to put up with all the conflict that made my head hurt, then I could too.
No pretty words from me. When the Captain and builder of a ship won''t stay aboard, it's time for even the rats to go. Consider me a rat, I'm... I'm not comfortable posting here, haven't for quite a while now. Guess I've found my excuse to go.
I've enjoyed the board since I found it way back when three or four episodes into the series. I've tried to follow it even through my own personal trauma. I've grown tired... not of writing (people who know me best will know that I would write if no one but a sand crab and I would read it). I don't like people and I'm tired of dealing with people. If you want to continue reading, you know where to find me. Least there I don't get ranted at for following through with a story line.

Huh. A weight was just lifted. Funny that.

DMartinez