posted on 28-May-2002 6:20:04 PM by Carol000
Title: Chameleon (Post-Graduation)

Author:
Carol000/spacemom

Category: M/L & gang

Rating: Every single one of them :-D


Disclaimer: They aren’t mine and they never SHOULD have been JK’s. He obviously had no idea what to do with them.


Summary: What happened back in Roswell after six local teens disappeared amidst a confusing military operation at West Roswell High’s graduation. How did the parents cope? Where did the gang go with no money, no possessions, and a whole lot of unsettled business between them? Who, in fact, was the enemy? Good questions. Here are some answers.



Chameleon

I’m Jeff Parker and 5 days ago, I read my daughter’s journal. After that, things got really weird.

[5 days previously]

The bell rang over the door to the Crashdown, and Jeff Parker looked up, squinting against the late afternoon sun. He blinked in confusion as the FedEx delivery woman extended her clipboard toward him and pointed to line #22.

“Sign here.”

He did as he was told, and she thrust the bright white box into his hands, spinning on her heel and heading out the door to her waiting truck. Jeff looked at the return address. He didn’t recognize the name, Beth Maxwell, but he did recognize the handwriting. It was Liz’s. He hurried to the back and stowed the box behind a carton of alien ties in the storage room. Now fully alert, he moved quickly into the restaurant and began to work, willing the minutes to fly by so he could open his package in privacy, his mind replaying the nightmare of the last few weeks over and over.

His daughter had run off three weeks before, the night of her high school graduation, and he hadn’t heard from her since. In his mind, he saw it all again, as if in slow motion: Max Evans mysteriously convincing the guest speaker to leave the stage so he could begin a speech of his own from a stage gone dark. Liz, rising to leave seconds before Isabel Evans also rose, whispering a frantic goodbye to her new husband and her parents. Then a motorcycle—motorcycle?¾roaring into the auditorium, then crashing out again with Max on board. Military everywhere. Pandemonium.

It wasn’t until later that night that he had finally tracked down Jim Valenti, the reinstated sheriff’s deputy, and learned that Kyle and Maria had disappeared with them. Jim had looked stricken, but for some strange reason, he’d seemed resigned to their unexplained departure.

Jeff was not.

After that, Jeff had sent Nancy, who’d been watching from the back, determined not to miss her own daughter’s graduation in spite of a problem with the balloons that she’d ordered for the post-ceremony reception, to find Amy DeLuca. What she’d found was a hysterical woman who was bouncing wildly between a total emotional breakdown and violent rage. She was sure that Maria had run off with that renegade Michael Guerin—a boy who had swerved in and out of her favor during Maria’s tumultuous relationship with him. At the moment, he had catapulted out of favor—probably permanently.

Jeff, on the other hand, went straight to the Evans home after speaking with Valenti. Somehow, all the drama in his daughter’s life always came back to Max Evans. Jeff had found Philip and Diane completely shaken, but not frantic, and Jeff had gone from bewildered to angry at their resigned acceptance of the situation. Jesse, Philip’s protégé and Isabel’s husband, sat bent on the sofa, his head in his hands, rocking slowly back and forth.

“Aren’t you worried about them? Aren’t you going to go to the police?” Jeff screamed, desperate to urge them to action.

Diane’s wide, tearful eyes were filled with sympathy. “Jeff, there is a reason behind all this, but we’re not free to tell you—not yet. Please trust us when we say they had to go, and as soon as it’s safe, we’ll explain why.”

Jeff stared blankly, idly wondering if somehow he were dreaming. Everything was surreal, and nothing was making any sense. “You know where they are?” Then the anger came crashing back. “Tell me where they are!”

Philip pulled Diane into his arms. He was shaking almost as badly as she was. “We don’t know, Jeff. And that’s the way it has to be.”

Jeff’s mouth worked furiously, trying to put words to the chaos of his own thoughts. Finally, his frustration erupted into the simplest of questions. “What the hell are you talking about!”

“We’ll tell you what we know, Jeff, but not yet. Right now, their safety must come first. Go home. Tell your wife that they’re okay, and that soon—as soon as we can—we’ll explain what we know. It’s the best I can do for now.”

Jeff had wanted to put his fist through the wall or smash that complacent vase of flowers sitting on the kitchen table—anything to jolt them out of this conspiracy of silence they had committed to, but he could see the hopelessness, and he’d slammed the door as he stormed out. Nancy and Amy had been waiting for him when he strode in.

“Valenti and the Evanses know something, but they’re not talking. All they did was promise more information ‘when it’s safe.’ What the hell is that? ‘When it’s safe.’ They’re in danger or something and no one will give us what we need to help. What is wrong with everybody!”

One look at the two women’s faces and Jeff immediately forced himself to calm down. They were a breath away from losing it, and he didn’t want to be the one who pushed them over the edge.

“Look, these are responsible people who love their children. If they say we have to wait, then I don’t know what choice we have. We’ll try again tomorrow.”

With that, they had ushered Amy to the spare bedroom, knowing she shouldn’t be alone in this fragile state. Then Nancy sought the comfort of normalcy and routine by fixing them some tea. As they sipped quietly, their minds tried futilely to answer the same spinning questions: When had they lost track of what was happening in their daughter’s life? When would they ever see her again? And—once again—did everything boil down to Max Evans and his shroud of secrecy?

Later, lying in bed, their imaginations ran wild. Or so they thought. For how could they have known that their imaginations would never begin to touch the truth?

The next three weeks had been nothing but unanswered questions and resolute, but sympathetic, silence from Jim Valenti and the Evans-Ramirez coalition. They uttered meaningless reassurances over and over, promised at least partial answers “when it was safe,” and kept themselves apart from everyone. Jeff and Nancy had hung in limbo, waiting for news they weren’t sure they wanted to hear, and praying that their only child wasn’t ruining her life. Now, finally, there was news, and Jeff’s heart was pounding with dread and anticipation.

When at last Jeff had hurried the last customer out the door and flipped the sign to “Closed,” he retrieved the box and set it on the counter in front of him. Nancy had gone to spend the weekend with her mother, hoping her frayed nerves would find some peace. His own had been so jangled that he and Nancy only seemed to feed each other’s anxiety. Now he found himself alone with what might be the first real answers.

He pulled the tab that would unzip the heavy cardboard box, then tilted it to allow a dark blue book to slide onto the counter. He recognized it immediately—Liz’s precious journal. She had been most adamant when she started writing in it that no one was to touch it. “These are my private thoughts,” she’d insisted. “I write in there for me, no one else.” They had been happy to respect her privacy. Liz had never given them any reason to worry or mistrust her—until last year.

Somewhere along the line, Liz’s relationship with Max Evans had started to lead her astray. Jeff had fought bitterly to keep them apart, but in the end, partly because of Jim Valenti’s reassurances that Max was a good kid, Jeff had chosen to trust her, and even Max. It had scared him a lot when he’d realized that ultimately, it was Max Liz would choose. Jeff wasn’t willing to lose her, so he decided to accept her terms. Now he wasn’t so sure that had been a good idea.

Pushing his reflections aside, Jeff slowly opened the cover of the book and stared in shock at the first words written there: “It’s September 24th and 5 days ago I died. After that, things got really weird.” Then he began to read. Four hours later, tears streaming down his face, his world had changed forever, and his fear for Liz had taken on a whole new meaning.

******

“I do.”

The words slid past Liz’s lips, familiar and full of hope, whispered a million times in front of mirrors, tucked between droplets of a shower, humming beneath the surface of every dream. Now they were a reality, lighting the eyes that caressed her even now with their love and amazement.

“And do you, Philip Maxwell, take this woman to be your lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death parts you?”

“I do.” He’d done it. He’d married the only girl he’d ever loved. It was almost more than his pounding heart could absorb and the extra just spilled onto his face in a huge, goofy grin.

“I now pronounce you husband and wife. You may kiss the bride.”

Their eyes kissed first, and once locked together, the rest followed suit. They were used to the flickers of electricity that tickled at the edges of their consciousness when they kissed, then merged into a warmth that spread throughout every cell. Still, whether is was the charged atmosphere of the wedding or a physical reality, there was something new and different this time—an emerging clarity in their sense of each other, and they separated, wide-eyed and smiling.

“I can’t wait to get you alone,” Max breathed, leaving Liz spellbound under his heated gaze. They stood lost in each other, each wondering how they had come to this place that had seemed impossible for so long.

“Maybe we should leave before they turn us all into voyeurs,” Kyle quipped.

The mood broken, the smiling couple ran from the church, joy radiating from their faces. Max had never felt so carefree or been in such awe of his wife’s natural beauty. Her lithe figure scampered happily out into the sunshine, a vision floating in a cloud of white cotton, dark hair falling loose and shining against a dazzling smile. Max was overcome. She was love and purity and everything good in his life. He squeezed her hand and bent to kiss her yet again: his bride, his wife, his soulmate.


[ edited 47time(s), last at 16-Feb-2003 1:09:56 PM ]
posted on 31-May-2002 4:02:20 PM by Carol000
Author's Note: First, THANK YOU!!!! for all the incredible feedback!*bounce* All of you who write stories know how much that means (and evidentally those who don't know it, too!!). I had notes to reply to each of you, but my son took off with the notepad, so I'll have to re-create those next time. Sorry.

I'm back with part 2, but it's short, I'm afraid. You have already deduced that we'll be bouncing back and forth between the intrigue in Roswell and the gang's new life. I had hoped to include a part of each in every installment, but I've been very busy this week and my aforementioned son and last child graduated from high school *sad*(read: empty nest), so I decided to go ahead and post this half of the next part!


CHAMELEON: Part 2

It was a subdued and wary group that settled into the Parker’s small living room. As soon as Nancy had returned from her mother’s, Jeff had called the group together: Diane and Philip Evans, Amy DeLuca, Jim Valenti, and Jesse Rodriguez. Nancy had been nervous all day, alarmed at Jeff’s unwillingness to explain the purpose of the meeting, but he hadn’t wanted to start without everyone. He didn’t think he had it in him to do this more than once, and besides, he now knew that Jim Valenti and the Evanses knew much of what he had to say and could probably add some details. He also anticipated that Nancy and Amy would need moral support, hearing such an absurd story for the first time. Two sleepless nights and a case of Tums hadn’t done it for him, and he’d had a little more warning than Nancy had, given his conversations with Philip over the last few months.

“Thanks, everyone. I know I’ve been very mysterious, but I have something here I need to share with all of you. Two days ago, I got a Fed Ex package from Beth Maxwell.”

“Sorry, Jeff,” Amy interrupted. “I don’t know her. Who’s that?”

“That’s Liz,” Jeff stated, watching everything from confusion to understanding pass over attentive faces.

“Liz and the others have taken on new names. They’re on the run, but they’re okay for now. Liz has sent me the journal she’s kept for three years.” He stopped, struggling to push back the recurring and overwhelming realization of what his daughter and her friends had been through. “I’m here to share it with you. We may be here all night, but what she has to say explains a lot, and I think we have to work through it together. It affects us all.”

He watched as Diane and Philip exchanged nervous looks, but it was Jim who spoke up. “I probably know most of what you’re going to say, Jeff,” he admitted, as Jeff nodded. “I’ll add whatever I can.”

Nancy’s eyes darted nervously from one face to another. “What is it? Why does everyone seem to know what’s going on but me?”

“I don’t know, either, Nancy,” Amy announced, looking annoyed. “What’s this all about, Jeff?”

Jeff sighed and picked up the journal. “Our children have been leading lives we never knew about, Amy. But the best way to explain it is to read Liz’s journal. You may have trouble believing what you’ll hear, but I’ve had two days to think about it, and I know Jim and Diane and Philip—Jesse, you, too, right?” Jesse nodded grimly. “. . . will be able to confirm at least some of it. Here goes:

I’m Liz Parker, and 5 days ago, I died. After that, things got really weird. My life has changed forever now. Max Evans changed it. Last week, when that man waved a gun in the Crashdown and his stray bullet pierced my stomach, I felt my life draining away. Then suddenly Max touched my dying body with his hands, looked into my eyes—maybe even my soul—and healed me. Then he ran off with Michael Guerin, the kid he’s always hanging around with, although I could never understand why. I’d always thought they were too different to be friends. But before I could even react, the Crashdown had turned into a crime scene, and everyone was asking me questions. All I could think about were Max’s last words. “Don’t say anything. Please.” And I didn’t.

A low moan escaped Nancy’s throat, and she reached a trembling hand toward Jeff. He reached for her and pulled her close. Her wide eyes looked toward Diane and Philip, her lips moving soundlessly.

“Nancy,” Diane whispered. “We didn’t know either—not until a month ago.”

“He’s taken her?” she squeaked, panic pushing her breaths out in shallow spurts.

“No, Nancy. It’s not like that. Just listen,” Jeff reassured her. Jim got up and went to sit on the arm of Amy’s chair; her blank stare of incomprehension was unnerving him.

Jeff continued to read.

When the Sheriff finally let me go, and Dad had finished hugging the stuffing out of me, I went to change clothes. That’s when I saw it. A bullet hole in my dress and a silver handprint on my stomach, right where Max had touched me. I had so many questions, I couldn’t think, I couldn’t sleep. I couldn’t even bring myself to return Maria’s or Kyle’s calls. All I knew was I needed answers. The next day in biology, I even scraped cells off the pencil Max had been chewing on so I could look at them under the microscope. What I saw sent chills through me. I confronted him and demanded to know the truth. And the unbelievable part is—he told me. He’s an alien. If I hadn’t seen those cells, I would never have believed him, but something in his voice, in his face . . . I knew. He was telling the truth.

Some scientist I am. Instead of asking him questions, I just bolted¾like a scared rabbit. What must he have thought of me? I must have hurt him so, and I realize already, I never want to do that again. Especially after that night. Max came to the alley and asked to talk to me. I was a little scared, but then again, not really. I didn’t know why, but somehow I felt comforted by his presence. There was just so much I didn’t understand. I let him in, but when he tried to explain what had happened, I realized he already knew things about me that he shouldn’t have known and I started to freak out again. That’s when it happened. He asked if he could touch me so I could see inside him. “So you can see I’m still me,” he said. When I looked into those eyes, all I could do was trust. He took my head in his hands, so gently, and let me see inside his thoughts. And for the first time, I really saw Max Evans. I saw him wandering with Isabel in the desert; I saw his loneliness and fear, his kindness and gentleness. I saw me as he saw me, and the amazing thing is—in his eyes, I was beautiful. When he took his hands away, I had no fear, only awe for the most tragic and most beautiful soul I’d ever encountered.

It wasn’t until the Sheriff grilled me again and showed me pictures of another silver handprint on a corpse that I realized I needed to know more. If I was going to guard this secret, I’d better know what I was guarding. But this time, I was a scientist; I made that list of questions, and I dragged Max into another classroom. He was so open, like he was really ready to share this with me. I just couldn’t figure out why. Soon he told me that Isabel and Michael were like him. He said they have some unusual abilities, and they don’t know anything about their past. And he was adamant about one point: They don’t tell anyone. Not even their parents. So I asked him why he’d risked it all to save me, and he said the most amazing three words I’ll ever hear in my life: “It was you.”

Those words shot through me, and I realized I was something special to him. He had trusted me with his life, just as I had unknowingly entrusted mine to him. Suddenly my world was new. I knew things no one else in the world knows. Now I know there is extraterrestrial life. I know that things I once thought were impossible aren’t. I know I have to rethink much of what I thought was true and real. And I know I will be forever linked to Max Evans.



The group sat in stunned silence. Even those who had known the secret for weeks or months had never heard how it had all started—how the first human had learned a shattering secret.

“Your son saved Liz’s life,” Jeff acknowledged in a shaky voice. “She would have been taken from us 3 years ago, if he hadn’t risked everything to save her.” Nancy was openly weeping, and Philip pulled Diane into a hug.

“All these years of fear, Diane, and we couldn’t see it.” His wife nodded wordlessly against his chest.

“I knew he loved her, Jeff,” Jim added, shaking his head. “I could see that so plainly from the beginning. I guess I just never understood for how long.”

There were several silent moments, everyone lost in private thoughts and memories.

“When did you find out all this, Jim?” Philip asked.

“I have a feeling it’s all in there, Philip,” Jim said, looking to Jeff who nodded his confirmation. “Let’s let Liz tell the story. I’m sure there’s a lot before we get to that part.”

“Are you up for more tonight?” Jeff asked, looking with concern at the two mothers who hadn’t had an inkling before tonight. They were leaning in frozen silence against the men who had already had time to adjust to this new truth. Amy nodded mutely. Nancy pushed back with a surprising determination in her eye.

“I’m not leaving here until I’ve heard every word.”

Jeff leaned forward and kissed her cheek. “That’s what I thought you’d say.”

He picked up the journal and let the story begin to unfold. Miles away, a young man, pale and sweating, turned up the volume on his receiver. He didn’t want to miss a word.


(NEXT UP: A peek at the honeymoon!)




posted on 2-Jun-2002 9:09:56 PM by Carol000
HEY, EVERYONE!!!! Wow! The feedback is making me smile really big! *big**big**big* Thanks SOOO much!

Okay, this is getting complicated. This is the "gang" half of part 2, but it's so long, I'll have to post it in two parts, so look for the second post right after the first one, okay?

ALSO: I AM A DREAMER! Don't forget that. The Dreamers are going to have a few rough moments here, but it's me, okay? It'll be alright!

Oh, and thanks to BLS for pointing out that I gave Jesse's last name as "Rodriguez" (the actor's real name!) and not "Ramirez" (the screen name). Duh. Thanks, hon!

CHAMELEON: Part 2b (first half)

It was all smiles as the happy wedding party left the chapel. Piling into the rusty old van, Michael at the wheel so the newlyweds could cuddle in the back seat, they laughed and rejoiced in the one good thing that had happened since they’d left Roswell two weeks before. Driving from campground to campground, constantly looking over their shoulders, they’d worked at keeping a low profile—which was tough—and at coming up with a plan—which was tougher. Now, with a very sketchy plan in place, they were determined to move forward. They had to have lives—real lives. They already knew all they wanted or needed to know about their origins. Now, for the first time, all were agreed that it was time to grow into their lives as humans. At least as much as they could. In truth, they knew they were fashioning totally unique lives, but this time, there was no question which planet they would live them on.

Step One was to fulfill the dream Max had held onto for 10 years—in some form or another. It had been Liz’s dream as well for three amazing, terrifying, and emotional years. Now, as their radiant faces left no doubt about the joy in their hearts at the fulfillment of those dreams, a calm settled over the group. They were on their way.

“Here’s the keys, kids,” Michael drawled, as they pulled up at their campsite, where two modest tents stood side by side. “Don’t do anything we wouldn’t do.” He hopped out of the van while Maria, Isabel, and Kyle tumbled out the other side. They had all pooled whatever money they could spare from selling graduation day jewelry and working a day job here and there so that Liz and Max could have one special night in a decent hotel for their honeymoon. Since the two tents Jesse had managed to stuff in the back of the van only held 3 people comfortably, the matter of dividing up the sleeping space had been awkward. Max and Liz wanted to be together; Michael and Maria wanted to be together; that left Isabel and Kyle to be the lone additional occupants in each, and neither relished the idea of sharing a tent with a—shall we say, hormonally motivated—couple. Eventually, it was obvious that the only viable option had been girls in one, guys in the other. That way, at least, everyone was unhappy.

And so it was that Max and Liz arrived at their hotel room giddy with anticipation. As Max slid the key card into the lock and opened the door, they were both incredibly aware that tonight they would cross a new line in their relationship, and in a very real sense, they had no idea what it would be like.

Liz moved to enter the room when she felt Max’s hand on her arm. She turned to look at him, and her breath caught. Emotions were running rampant in his eyes, and it amazed her how she could read them, almost as if they’d been written out for her. There was such intensity of love, she could feel her own eyes tearing up in response. But there were other emotions hovering on the fringe as well: traces of sadness and regret. She could have easily written a thesis on what had triggered those emotions, but she wouldn’t go there. Not tonight. Tonight was about them: Max and Liz. And for these next few hours, no one else would exist in their world.

“I have to carry you over the threshold,” Max choked out, the same strong emotions squeezing his throat tightly.

“That’s for our first home, silly,” Liz replied lightly, wanting so much to ease the weight of all she knew was threatening his thoughts right now.

She’d had quite the opposite effect, though. Max’s features clouded instantly. “I don’t know when we’ll ever have that, Liz.”

They stared at each other, their mutual pain and healing love doing silent battle. Then Liz looped her arms around Max’s neck. “But you’re wrong, Max. We do have that. After all these years of searching, we’ve finally found our homes.”

A few more seconds ticked by, and the love in Max’s eyes was tinged with gratitude, and he swooped her up with ease, the joy returning to his face.

“You’re right again, Liz. As usual.”

Kicking the door shut behind them, Max carried Liz to the bed and laid her down gently. He started to stand, but Liz kept her arms tightly wrapped around his neck and whispered, “Oh no, Max. You’re staying right here,” and she shivered as she felt his weight cover her completely, his lips crashing into hers like an arrow released from its bow after being poised against the tension for so long.

At first, there was nothing but heavy breathing and chaotic joy as they opened themselves to each other for the first time as husband and wife. There was no more doubt or tentativeness or fear that they could be together. They were together—officially, legally, and spiritually—and they would be so forever. But as the chaos settled, another sense intruded on them. That same heightened awareness that had descended on them in the chapel fought its way forward once again, pushing shadows and movement to the surface.

Breaking the kiss, their eyes locked for several seconds.

“Max? What is that? Did you see it, too?”

He nodded, then bent to kiss her again. This time, they were looking for it, and it surged forward. The forms became more focused, the movement more purposeful.

Max sat up, fear and disgust on his face. “God! This can’t be happening!”

Liz was at his side instantly. “What, Max? What is it? I can’t tell.”

Max pushed off the bed and began to pace. “I can’t do this. I won’t do this!” He walked to the window, staring out at nothing.

“Max, you tell me right now what’s going on! We knew to expect the unexpected, right? If we’ve learned nothing in three years, we’ve learned that. What is it?”

Max had turned inward, a look of concentration on his face, his eyes squeezed shut. He didn’t move or answer her. Liz’s heart was pounding. She thought they were finally going to be together, without all the crap, for at least for one night.

“Max, you’re scaring me.”

Her words snapped his eyes open, and he strode quickly toward her, sweeping her into his arms. “Liz, I’m sorry.” She felt his tear hit her neck. She pulled away and looked up into his tortured face, sliding one palm down his cheek.

“Max, tell me. You’re my husband, now. We’ll have no secrets.”

Max slumped to the bed. “Okay, Liz,” he mumbled, resignation in his voice. “But you may want an annulment when I’m finished.”

Liz stood stunned, looking at him. What could he possibly tell her now that would change how she felt about him? She hurried to sit beside him. “It can’t be that bad, Max. Not after all we’ve been through. Tell me.”

She reached for his hand, but he jumped up again. “Don’t touch me, Liz. I don’t want to feel your reaction when I say this. Seeing it will be bad enough.”

Liz heart was pounding as fear slid icy hands around it, squeezing furiously.

“When we kissed at the chapel, remember how we both felt so aware of each other? It was something new for us, right?”

Liz nodded.

“Even then, I felt something pushing toward my consciousness, but it didn’t feel scary or bad, and I thought it was just one more way we were getting closer. Like some kind of new bond between us.”

“I felt that, too, Max,” Liz agreed softly.

“But just now, when all I could think of was kissing you and loving you and making you happy you’d committed to us . . .” The words caught in his throat, and the ache was unbearable. “I began to recognize . . . oh god, Liz . . . I knew what I was seeing.” He began to cry openly, and his fingers began to drum nervously on the dresser next to him.

Liz rose to go to him. “NO!” he shouted, holding his arm out, warning her to keep her distance. Liz felt ill. He’d never raised his arm against her before. She knew what it could do.

He lowered it instantly, sensing her horror at his action. “Liz wait til I’ve finished.” His eyes pleaded with her, and she sat back down. “With each kiss, Liz, it’s like another veil is lifting away or binoculars coming into focus. And now I know what I’m seeing.” He moved toward the window, the fingers thrumming on the TV this time. “I don’t know why or how, Liz, and I hate myself for it, but I’m seeing . . .” A low, desperate moan escaped him, the helpless wail of an animal in pain. “I’m seeing . . . Tess . . . and me . . . that night when . . . when Zan was conceived!”

He sank to his knees, holding his head and rocking. “Liz, that was the worst night of my life,” he sobbed. “The biggest mistake I could have ever made. I would give my life right now to change it!” He lifted his tear-stained face, self-loathing written all over it. “Liz, you forgave me, somehow. But I can never, never forgive myself. And I can’t let myself push those images into your mind. Not ever.”

Liz sat staring. What Max had just blurted out was making her bleed inside, a barely healed wound split open with his sharp words. She was sure she was going to throw up. But she couldn’t tear her eyes away from the crumpled, trembling heap on the floor in front of her, sobbing quietly now, fingers drumming against the . . .

“Max!”

Max didn’t react.

“MAX!”

He turned to look at her again, the condemned man waiting for the axe to fall. He welcomed it. He wanted to die.

Liz’s face was no longer stunned, but animated. “Max, kiss me.”

Now it was Max’s turn to look stunned. “Liz, what are you doing? Didn’t you hear what I just said?”

“Yes, Max, but what I heard even louder was what your body said.”

“Huh?”

Max, look at your right hand. Max looked down, confused by what he saw. He stilled his fingers.

“Max, don’t you get it? Amy was strumming her fingers like that when she began to remember a mindwarp. TESS’s mindwarp! And Kyle did that when he was remembering carrying Alex’s dead body out to the car—thinking it was luggage! But he didn’t remember until we pressed him on it—until he looked around the room at familiar things and something finally triggered it.”

Liz fell to her knees beside Max, taking the offending hand in both of hers. “Max, don’t you see? We were about to make love. That’s when the images started; it brought it all back to you. And then you started with the fingers. Max, something about that night was a mindwarp. I don’t know how much or which parts, but something. We have to find out, Max.”

Max was processing her words slowly, putting the pieces together, a cautious hope altering his features. “But Liz, I can’t subject you to that. I can’t imagine anything worse than making you relive that night. It’s horrible enough for me.”

“Max, it’s not like I don’t know about it. And although I’d rather have nothing to do with the details, if there’s a chance that the truth is different than what you remember, different from what she told you . . . Max, it could free us. Everything, everything she has ever told you has been a lie. Why would this one thing—the thing she wanted most—be the exception?” She sat back, watching him expectantly.

“I’m willing to take that chance, Max. Are you?”

The power of Liz’s words washed over him. They were really reflecting the power of her love for him, and he was blown away. He pushed himself forward to fold her into his arms.

“You have made sacrifice after sacrifice because you know me. Because you love me. Every day since the day you were shot, I have blessed and cursed what happened.” He silenced her protest with a finger to her lips. “Blessed for me—for the way I could wake up in the morning and look forward to the day, for the way seeing you look at me with love and understanding filled the emptiness that had become a part of me, for the way I finally began to become human.” The glimmer of a smile had formed on his lips, then quickly changed to a frown. “But Liz, I cursed it for you—for the danger you’ve been in, for the pain you’ve suffered, and for the way it robbed you of the life you should have lived. This is too much to put you through . . . but I can’t say no. Not if it means we could start fresh.”

He pulled back and looked into her eyes. “If you can do this, then so can I.”

posted on 2-Jun-2002 9:11:16 PM by Carol000
Part 2b: Second half


It wasn’t the words as much as the look in his eyes that made it so easy for Liz to lift her face to him and brush her lips with his. Their touches were tentative at first, both wary of what might come when they abandoned the inhibitions that held them. But slowly, the gentle, careful kisses led them irrevocably deeper into each other to the place where they both lived inside each other’s souls. And when the images started to come, they held each other tightly, knowing that the inevitable pain held the promise of unimaginable relief.

*****Tess appeared at his side as he gazed at the stars, lost in hopelessness. She tested the waters with silky tones disguising her desperate agenda. Hadn’t everyone turned away from him? Hadn’t he worked too long to bury his alien nature? Wasn’t it time to turn to the one person who truly loved and understood him? She saw him wavering, agonizing loneliness pushing him toward the one person who was always in the shadows, waiting. It was such a simple solution. So why didn’t it feel right?

And then her eyelids shut and the look of concentration pushed aside the disguise of softness and caring. No matter. Max didn’t see it. For in his mind, he saw only his acceptance of her words, his resigned agreement to come with her into the closed planetarium, and his submission to her as she undressed them both and seduced him. But the images that unfolded before them looked nothing like that. They revealed a dazed Max, giving himself over to Tess as she undressed them and arranged them, naked, side-by-side, letting him remember only what she wanted him to when he awoke in the morning to find her in his arms.*****


Max and Liz parted, seeking each other’s eyes to confirm what they’d seen. Max and Tess hadn’t made love! She’d only convinced him they had. Somewhere in his subconscious, Max must have known what was happening, but it was buried, deeply, just as Kyle’s memory had been. The sense of relief that swept through them both was almost tangible. It was almost too good to believe. Could it be?

Max looked overwhelmed, as Liz tried hard to look for flaws in what they’d seen. She wanted the truth more than she wanted a superficial explanation. But she couldn’t deny the exhilaration she felt about what she’d just witnessed. She could barely think straight.

“Max, let’s think this through. Could she really have mindwarped you? You’re a hybrid. She mindwarped Alex and Kyle and Pierce’s agents, but we don’t know if it works on her own kind.”

Max thought for a minute, and then his face lit up. “Oh, yes we do! Remember, she mindwarped Nicholas. And she admitted that the baby hadn’t communicated with me—not from within her before she left or from Antar after he was born. She said it was a mindwarp! So she could have made me think that we . . . that we were . . .”

Liz plowed forward. They didn’t need to dwell on what may never have been. “The part about the baby not being able to live on Earth was a lie, too,” she reminded him. “And she even admitted her being linked to him was a lie. In fact, in all likelihood, the story that Zan was hers was probably a lie.”

Max froze. “You’re right! But if it’s not mine . . . or hers . . .” His face clouded with anger. “What if she took that baby from his real parents, Liz!”

“One thing at a time, Max. Stop and think what we’ve just learned.”

Max stopped his pacing and looked at Liz. Suddenly, he could look at her without the guilt that always crept into his thoughts. Even today, he’d been heavily aware of that shadow doggedly following them. Liz had always been first in his heart, but he’d thought he’d tainted his body in a weak and tortured moment. Now he felt only awe, awe for a moment he never expected to experience in a lifetime, a moment that Liz, once again, had made possible. Now he could be hers—first, last, always. It was a new day, a fresh start, and his heart was singing!

Liz watched Max’s face as all these realizations danced across his features and the most beautiful light shone from his eyes. She, too, was feeling lighter than air, free of the invisible weight that she carried in a secret place in her heart. This was how it should be, how it should always have been! Now it truly was just them—no shadows of the past and no hidden promises already broken. They were free to be together, unfettered and untried.

Liz slid back on the bed, smiling seductively. “You realize, of course, that this means there is an appalling lack of experience in this room. I guess we’ll just have to teach each other, won’t we?” she teased, her eyes happy and twinkling just like when they had first found each other. Max watched her sparkle and thought he would die of happiness. Suddenly, he was appreciating all over again how beautiful she looked in her wedding dress. The band of skin between her top and skirt begged for his attention, and he licked his lips, already anticipating his first taste.

He cleared the distance between the window and the bed in two long strides and slid next to her, his hand immediately touching the skin he’d been admiring. Liz felt electrified by his touch. Everything was . . . more now—more free, more sensitized, more intense.

“I love you,” she breathed, and he clung to her, sprinkling kisses over her hair, her ears, her neck, her lips.

“I will never be happier than I am at this moment, Liz. Never!”

He captured her lips and she opened to him immediately. This time, the only images to confront them were glimpses of their happiest times: their first date, their first kiss, their night in the desert when they’d found the orbs, and that other night hiding in an abandoned van when everything was at its darkest except their vows of love.

Max burned with desire for his new bride; her every touch was setting another piece of him on fire, and he shook with the effort of taking it slowly. He didn’t want to scare her or hurt her; she deserved a slow, thorough loving. Liz, however, was not interested in slow. Now that everything between them was wiped clean, every touch seemed to accelerate her need for him. She tore her mouth from his, gasping. “I want you so much, Max. Love me now!”

Max almost lost it, fully clothed and panting like a marathon runner. But he made no argument as he slid his hand under her lace top. Meeting the silky fabric of her bra, he teased her nipples through the material until she was writhing beneath him. Then he lowered his kisses down to the base of her neck where he stopped to suck gently on her beating pulse. She clawed at his jacket, eventually forcing it down his arms. Blindly, she started on his shirt buttons, freezing mid-button when he successfully unhooked her and shoved the material up to expose her aching breasts.

The warm, moist sensation of his tongue lapping at her nipple sent heated blood racing through her veins and she moaned, a long mewling sound that pierced Max’s heart. That he could do this to her! There was nothing better in the world, unless it was knowing that he had never touched another like this! This was only for Liz, his love, his life.

These thoughts floated aimlessly until brought to an abrupt end by the feel of Liz’s hand tentatively stroking his rock hard erection through the fabric of his pants. He pulled away from her breast with a gasp, and she snapped her hand back, her face contrite. “Did I hurt you?” she asked timidly.

He could have laughed out loud, but was afraid she would be embarrassed by it, so he harnessed his reaction to her absurd statement. Placing her hand against his length again, his own shaking, he shook his head. “I’ve never been touched there, Liz. It’s . . . incredible.”

She smiled shyly. “I want to please you, Max.”

“Dear God, Liz. Don’t you know that being here with you, having you touch me—wherever and whenever you want—is more pleasing to me than anything ever has been or ever will be? I promise you, there is no one happier than I am on this entire planet.”

His brief speech touched her, but it was soon forgotten by both of them as she resumed her attentions. At first, Max could only lay back and try to absorb this miracle of sensation, but soon, he wanted to return some of the same to his beloved. Propping himself on one shoulder, he used his free hand to rid Liz of her top. His body burned as she became exposed to him, and he reached forward reverently to touch the breast he had not yet tasted. As soon as he met its tip, he was startled at how it hardened beneath his fingers, seeming to invite him closer. Accepting the invitation, he leaned in to take it full into his mouth, rolling his tongue across the many textures, feeling the response to his every move.

Liz was whimpering in short little spurts, and he knew they were both teetering on the precipice. He helped her remove his shirt, and lifted his hips when she tugged at the pants and boxers. When his erection sprang up, released from its confines, Liz gazed in open amazement. She reached her tiny hand to touch him, and the anticipation almost made him come. He bit back a cry.

“Max!” she breathed. “That will never fit!”

Now the laughter came in spite of himself. “Well, I’d love for you to think this is an exceptional alien phenomenon, Liz, but I think you’ll find it’s within normal human parameters.”

Liz blushed. “I don’t intend to find out anything of the sort,” she informed him. “I won’t be making any comparisons.”

She took him in her hands and his flesh jumped within her grasp, offering forth a few pearly drops. Their lightheartedness vanished as Liz bent forward to taste him, ever so gently.

“Oh god, Liz!” Max jerked away from her. “Oh, my love, we’d better not . . . not this time. I’ll never make it, if you do.”

Liz understood all too well how close Max was. She was feeling a tightening inside her that was so unfamiliar, but so welcome, She knew instinctively that she was on the verge of something new and wonderful.

Moving quickly from the bed, Liz quieted Max’s protest by pulling her skirt, slip, and panties down in one long stroke. Her long tapered limbs stepped out from the pile of material, and Max was mesmerized by the glistening curls she revealed to him. Crawling back on the bed, she laid herself on top of him, nestling his erection in her warm folds. “Let’s see if it fits,” she whispered in his ear.

Max trembled as he flipped them over and reached his fingers toward those enticing curls, He could almost smell the sex in the air, and he knew he couldn’t have formed a clear thought if his life depended on it. He slid his fingers oh so gently into her, thrilling to the feel of her slick walls, ready and waiting . . . for him. His thumb grazed her clit and he heard her moan again as more fluid coated his fingers.

“Now, Max!” she urged. He rose up over her, locking eyes with the passionate ones that looked back, and gently nudged open her entrance. The electricity sparked between them, and Max pushed further, sharing Liz’s smile of wonder. He glided in further until he reached her barrier. He stopped, frowning slightly.

“I don’t want to hurt you, Liz. Let me do it so it won’t hurt.”

She shook her head ever so slightly. “Not this time, Max. I want my first time to be a real first time.”

Max hesitated, wondering whether it was best to grant her request or to keep from hurting her. He didn’t get to make a choice, though. Liz thrust her hips into him, a small sob escaping her throat as she did.

“Liz!” Max whispered worriedly. A tear trickling down her cheek alarmed him even more, and he started to withdraw. Then she opened her eyes, shining with tears and love.

“We’re one now, Max. Forever.”

They shared their precious moment with a gentle kiss. Then Liz began to move beneath him and his body answered her joyfully. A lover’s rhythm spun them higher and higher. Max cried out as his seed spilled into his wife for the first time, and she soared with him to their shared ecstasy. Their union had elevated them to a new plane, to another first.

For both of them.

posted on 3-Jun-2002 6:18:36 PM by Carol000
It seems many of you are worried about Zan and his origins/future. I promise you, I won't let that stand unresolved, but there is so much to address with the parents and the gang's immediate future, it won't be resolved right away.

Please be patient. We'll take good care of the little guy! (Who we all feel kinder towards now that we know he's not Max & Tess's, right?)

Look for the next part about Wednesday or so.

Thanks!
posted on 6-Jun-2002 12:38:17 AM by Carol000
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your support and bumps and kinds words. BelieveinTrueLove!--that was one of the nicest things anyone has ever said about one of my stories! You absolutely made my day!

Okay, here's the deal. All of Part 3 is written, but I'm only posting 3a--the journal reading--tonight because, well, the way it ends, I just can't bring myself to add anything after it. It's the kind of thing that needs to linger a little. So I'll post 3b tomorrow night, okay? (It's only another gratuitous honeymoon scene that my listserv buds MADE ME write--I mean threats and everything. It was getting ugly!) *big**big*



Part 3a

Jeff had been reading for at least half an hour, turning page after stunning page, laying bare the secret lives of their children. Jim had been filling in gaps from the police side—or at least the personal side, since it was his obsession that had hounded the teens early on. The initial shock had ebbed, but Liz’s words pelted them with a constant onslaught of revelation and raw emotion. They felt shell-shocked and completely wrung out.

“I’m parched,” Jeff announced, laying the book aside. “What do you say we take a little break?”

“Point me to the coffee, Jeff, and I’ll get it started,” Jim offered.

Jeff nodded gratefully. “Second shelf next to the stove. Anybody hungry?”

No one spoke up. There was no room for food in their roiling stomachs. Diane rose, “I’ll be right back,” she said, heading down the hall toward the bathroom.

Amy sat staring at the floor. “I thought Maria couldn’t keep a secret,” she grimaced wryly, a thin line across her face where a smile should have been.

Jeff looked down at his pale wife, leaning against his chest. She hadn’t moved since he’d begun reading.

“Nancy? Do you want to stop?”

She tilted her head back and found his eyes. “She could have died, Jeff. Our little girl could be dead and buried.” Her eyes filled with tears yet again, and she inexplicably wondered at what point the human eye runs out of tears. “I want to hear it all,” she murmured sadly. “I’ve already missed three years of her life—of her real life. So many things are starting to fall into place now.”

Minutes later, mugs of steaming coffee lent a comforting familiarity to the bizarre event, and everyone settled back down, looking at Jeff expectantly. Some of the horror was wearing off now, and curiosity was riding high. Jeff scanned the room and, satisfied that his audience was mentally prepared to hear more, he opened the journal once again.

*****Grandma’s dead. I can’t believe it. One day we’re whispering about boys and soulmates. The next, she’s gone. It’s not fair. I need her. I’ve never respected anyone so much in my life. She was all I want to be—strong, wise, willing to do the unexpected. And so full of life. Until now.

At least I got to say goodbye, thanks to Max. That’s more than anyone else got. I still can’t believe what he did for me. Especially after Kyle’s friends beat him up like that. It finally gave me the excuse I needed to end it with Kyle. Maybe I was a little hard on him; I know he wasn’t really behind it. But his friends were. His friends! Funny way of showing friendship. Besides, I’ve known it was over for a while. I just didn’t know how to explain to Kyle that we were never going to last. That we were high school. Hanging out. Having fun.

Kyle’s a good guy. I know that. But he can’t be my guy. Somewhere deep down, I knew it all along. But the day Max saved my life, I knew it with every fiber of my being. That’s why, even when Max told me it wasn’t safe for us to be together, I couldn’t help myself. I’m drawn to him, and I know he is to me. I saw it when he connected with me, and I see it in his eyes every time he looks at me. And last night, when Grandma had her stroke, he’s the only person I wanted to talk to.

I told him not to come to the hospital. I told him everyone was there. But when I looked up and saw him come through those doors, I wanted to throw myself into his arms and cry. I wanted him to hold me. I wanted him . . . to make it better.

It meant everything that he’d come. I saw Kyle give him the evil eye, but he didn’t let it intimidate him. He just asked how I was and how my grandmother was, and beneath his words, I could hear him telling me he cared. That’s why I went to him tonight. I knew he wouldn’t turn me away, and in spite of knowing I shouldn’t, I did it anyway—I asked him to save her.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget the look on his face. I think I knew it was hopeless, but I had to try. And I also know he would have done it if he could. You could hear the ache in his heart coming through his voice. “You had a bullet in you. Something had happened to you that wasn’t supposed to happen. But I can’t just save people. I’m not God.”

Sitting there with Grandma later, I wanted so badly to tell her what she meant to me, how I would miss her and love her for the rest of my life. But she was lying there so still and quiet, and I was so afraid she would never hear my words. Until Max walked in. And he said something so wonderful, I couldn’t breathe for hoping it was true. “Maybe I can help you say goodbye.”*****

Tears spilled onto Jeff’s cheeks, and his throat tightened so painfully, the sounds were coming out intermittently—a staccato pain that made the others want to cry, too. They weren’t sure what was coming, but they all knew Jeff, of all people, would have wanted that chance to say goodbye. Nancy reached over and took the book from his hands, hushing his resistance.

“Just this part, Jeff. Then I’ll give it back.” He nodded as fresh tears followed old tracks down his face. Nancy sighed heavily, steeling her resolve.

*****I may never know what he did, but I know it cost him. I could see the strain in his face and the brief hopelessness in his eyes when he thought he’d failed. But he hadn’t, because there she was, standing next to me, smiling and looking like she had no idea why I was upset. One look at Max and she knew immediately that he was the special boy I’d hinted at when we talked yesterday. Then she gave me some advice. Some really good advice. “Follow your heart, wherever it leads you.” And then she was gone.

Max drove me home. I was so full of grief for my grandmother and gratitude for what Max had done. He walked me to the door and hushed my thanks with a fingertip. In that moment, he was the largest hero I could imagine, and I wanted to tell him that. But for all the closeness we shared tonight, I could feel the distance he was trying to keep. So I honored that, for his sake.

Reaching for the door, though, I saw his reflection in the glass doors of the Crashdown, and I could have sworn Grandma was standing just behind him, smiling and saying, “Honeybear, follow your heart, wherever it leads you.” So I took her advice, and it led me straight to Max Evans.

Thanks, Grandma.*****

posted on 7-Jun-2002 9:36:31 PM by Carol000
I'm SORRY! I know I promised this last night, but I have a good excuse. I popped in a Roswell tape (had an urge to see "Missing" for some reason) and suddenly, I was on a roll--couldn't stop watching tapes. I must've seen 4 eps at least. And I never got to the computer to post. YOU understand, don't you?????

Now, here's another bit of honeymoon night, because loving Rospals who shall remain nameless [coughPhaecoughLinda] weren't nookie-fied enough by the first part. So here's another, BUT I promise I will re-introduce plot (yes, I still remember how) for the gang in the next chapter! LOL!

And finally: To MamaDee--I agree with you. I've never held Liz blameless for the fiasco following EotW either. They share that blame and have certainly paid the price (as have we all!). Also, thanks for your comment about the parents needing to see the real Max through Liz's journal. That's my main goal. I needed the parents to understand who he is besides an alien, and I wanted them to see how the pieces fit through the lens of the truth.
And to Rookie: You said my "mom-ness" was showing. When I used to post on FF in S1, I went by Spacemom, a name some cyberfriends still use. It is definitely a strong part of who I am, so writing about the parents is a natural. Thanks!


3b

For a long time, the two young lovers just reveled in the warmth of each other’s loving arms, whispering words of love and promises of forever. Eventually, though, Max’s breathing settled into a regular rhythm, and Liz took a few minutes to just stare at him—lovely and peaceful as he encircled her with his arms. How far they had come, and at such a cost. Their innocence had been lost in much more important ways than sex over the last three years. They had seen the best and worst of humanity and found the one true sanctuary—each other.

Liz felt the long day everywhere—in her muscles, in her hair, on her skin. And in spite of Max’s magical cleanup of the evidence of her lost virginity, she wanted a shower—badly! She eased herself from within Max’s possessive hold and tiptoed toward the bathroom, already giddy at the thought of a real shower with unlimited hot water.

She stepped into the steaming water and stood completely still, enjoying the rush of hot water everywhere, soothing the aches and renewing her body. Eyes closed, she reached for the shampoo, shrinking back and yelping when she felt a human hand instead. Well, almost human. Max grinned at her.

“You weren’t planning on taking a shower without me, were you,” he asked, innocently arched eyebrows widening his laughing eyes.

Liz watched as he poured the shampoo into his hand. “Turn around.”

She did as he asked, automatically leaning her head back into the hot stream. Max eased through her hair with languorous strokes until Liz could have sworn her whole body was being erotically massaged. Trembling, she braced herself against two walls of the shower, giving herself up to the magic hands that caressed her. Gradually, she realized Max had finished with her hair and was lathering her body with the same long, gentle strokes. His soap-slicked hands reached around to skim over her breasts, already arched toward them by her position and pushed further by her desire for the pressure of his touch.

Liz began to lean her weight against Max, giving up more and more control to him. Her legs spread of their own accord as he reached further down to wash her most intimate folds. He gently parted them, letting the soothing heat of the water sluice in and around every surprised crevice and valley. The soothing gave way to arousal, though—every touch electrifying. She didn’t see how she would ever spend another minute with Max that didn’t include this.

Liz turned toward Max, eyes glistening. “Your turn,” she whispered. She reached for the soap and worked up a heavy lather, enjoying the power she felt when Max’s eyes drifted shut. She worked her way down his powerful shoulders, well-defined chest, and rippled abdomen, idly wondering when it was he did all the working out that had molded this body. Then, kneeling down, she massaged the muscular thighs and calves, eye-to-eye with the rigid length that had given her such pleasure just a brief while ago.

Glancing up, she saw Max was still concentrating on her every move, eyes closed. Blushing at her own thoughts, she decided to take a chance, a bold and un-Liz-like move. With no warning, she took Max deep into her mouth, jumping a little herself when she felt him shudder violently.

“Liz!” His voice seemed to protest, but his hands grasped her head. “Liz . . .” His voice held a note of apology even as he began to thrust into her, low grunts matching their rhythm. Liz reveled in his obvious pleasure, taking him deeper and deeper as she listened to his voice change in pitch, becoming more desperate, more primal.

Suddenly he pushed her from him as he spilled himself in long jets of pearly liquid. Liz watched, fascinated by the power of his climax and the intense bliss on his face. She had given him this . . . this fulfillment. Only she had ever done this for him; only she ever would.

“I’m sorry, Liz,” he mumbled, pulling her to her feet. “I shouldn’t have let you do that, but . . . god, Liz, it felt so incredible.”

Liz wrapped her arms around his neck and looked at him, bewildered. “Why? Why shouldn’t you have let me do that? I love you, Max.”

Max looked at her with such intensity, she forgot to breathe for a moment. “Liz, I love you, too. More than my life. I don’t want you to think that my love for you is only about your pleasing me, satisfying my urges. That was incredible, but it was only about me, not about you.” He reached over and turned off the water. “This marriage is about us, Liz.”

Liz looked at him with the same look his mother used to give him when he said something completely stupid. Which shook him, since the last person in the world he wanted running around in his brain right now was his mother. “You did not just say that, Max.”

He frowned in confusion.

“Max, do you think that this was only about you? Can you even imagine the thrill it gave me to see your face just now? Has anyone ever given you that pleasure before?”

“Of course not!” Max looked appalled.

“Exactly,” Liz stated firmly. “That’s because this is us, Max. You and me. I’m the only one who can make you feel like that, just like you’re the only one who can make me . . .” Liz looked down, suddenly shy. But her words had driven into Max’s heart. A smile crept across his face.

“You’re incredible,” he told her, kissing her nose.

He opened the shower door and steered them onto the thick bathmat. Reaching for the oversized bath towels, he wrapped her up in one and began to dry her hair with another. When it was damp, he ran his fingers through it slowly, drying it into soft, silky strands. Then he began to rub her down, lingering over her neck, her breasts, her hips. Spreading the towel from her hair onto the long vanity, he lifted Liz to sit while he dried her legs. As he worked his way up to soft triangle of curls, he began to push her knees apart with his shoulders, far more than necessary to dry her, but Liz made no objection.

First the rough terrycloth did its thorough job, drying and stimulating at the same time. Then the rough was replaced by warm, moist softness, and Liz caught her breath, looking down at Max’s own damp hair bobbing gently. The sensations were running rampant through Liz’s body, heating her and chilling her simultaneously. The tightness began again in her abdomen and began to crawl outward, building pressure and warmth. She didn’t even hear herself moan, but Max did, and he knew it was time. Concentrating on the stiff bundle of nerves that cried for attention, Max’s mouth and tongue went to work in an assault so overwhelming, Liz was gone instantly. Her legs began to quiver and the pulsing glory of her orgasm was a thing of beauty.

Max could feel her coming apart; the spasms against his mouth, her loud crescendo, her quaking limbs. He stood and held her, enjoying the sight of her climax almost as much as he had enjoyed his own. Now he understood what she’d meant in the shower. It was a shared experience, no matter how it went down.

Rolling his eyes at his own unspoken pun, he pulled his wife’s limp body closer until she opened her eyes and he saw the happy tears.

“Wow,” she sighed.

With a chuckle, Max lifted his beautiful wife into his arms and carried her to the bed. Climbing in, they snuggled close.

“I’ve decided you made a good point earlier,” he said with mock seriousness. “I won’t be doing any more complaining about . . . “ He wasn’t quite sure how to finish that sentence. He didn’t think he wanted to give any of their activities clinical names, so he changed his tack. “I’ll try never to question how we love each other. As long as you’re happy, my life is perfect.”

Liz smiled up at him. “You know, Max, I’ve been thinking about all we’ve been through to get here. It’s been so hard, and we’ve lost so much, but I think I knew right from the beginning that we were going to be together. You know, our parents have all read my journal by now, and I wonder how it will strike them. You know what I think?”

Max shook his head, just grateful to be lying here listening to his wife talk about the two of them.

“I think what will come out strongest of anything is how I believed in you from the first. Because that’s really the common thread through it all—how I believed in you, in us. I hope that makes it easier for them.”

Her melancholy mood sobered them, both reflecting on their parents and the life they’d left behind.

“Maybe someday, Liz, we’ll be able to go back. I hate that I’ve taken you from them. But we’ll build a new life, I promise you. All of us. And it will be the best life I can give you.”

“The best life we can give each other, remember?”

He smiled at her, a partner from the beginning. They held each other, lost in thoughts of lives lost and life to come. The only certainty: they would do it together.

After untold minutes, or hours—she wasn’t sure which--Liz’s passive stroking of her husband’s glorious body took a turn, and she felt herself getting aroused again just thinking about what they’d done—and what they would do. Letting her hand drift down to trail through the curls, Max gasped.

“Be careful, Liz. You’re playing with dynamite.”

Liz smiled up at him and wrapped her hand gently around him. “From the feel of it, the dynamite’s about to go off.” She wiggled her eyebrows, suddenly feeling silly and playful. “I wonder if it’ll explode!” She punctuated her sentence with a long, firm stroke and Max tensed beneath her hand.

“It will—right now!—if you don’t slow down.” Max looked at her worriedly. “It might be too soon for you, Liz. Aren’t you sore?”

“Fine!” she bit out, feigning hurt. “If you don’t want me, then it’s your loss. I didn’t know you were going to ration me on our honeymoon.” Max studied her eyes with a frown, but she couldn’t disguise the impish twinkle that betrayed her teasing, and he caught her mood instantly. Two could play this game.

He pulled himself away from her and watched her pout. “We’re married now. I think that means we’re only supposed to do it once a week. We’re over quota. So—what else do you want to do until next Saturday?”

Liz eyed the raging erection standing proudly before her and resumed her stroking. Max fought to control his breathing. “Well, we could play miniature golf,” she mused. “Or we could see a movie—Star Wars is out now.”

“Yeah,” Max agreed vaguely, wondering what she’d just said.

Liz bent over to lick his heated length, mumbling against his flesh. “Or we could learn to play bridge. I’ve heard that’s fun.”

“Mmmm-hmmm,” he grunted. Maybe he was supposed to say something.

“Or maybe you can teach me to play PlayStation. Doesn’t that use a joystick?” she asked innocently as she bit lightly, smiling in amusement as Max almost leapt straight in the air. Eyes wide open now, his darkened gaze raked her up and down, and Liz could feel her skin start to heat up. Her nipples tightened from within and she arched toward him, seeking his touch.

He lifted her quickly to straddle him, and leaned in to feast on her creamy mounds, moistening each one with a lazy stroke of his tongue and then leaning back again to watch them turn an urgent pink. He couldn’t take his eyes off their slight sway as Liz began to run herself up and down his length, her long low moan spilling across him in an intoxicating flow. Like hot lava, it burned his skin and filled every space in his thoughts. All he could see was his Liz, flushed with passion, hovering above him. He couldn’t breathe. He didn’t care.

He watched, hypnotized, as she settled her body over him and took him in, cocooning him in her slick, welcoming walls. She was in total control—or out of it—riding him with abandon, each thrust pushing his name from her lips. Gone was the reasoned, cautious, shy girl he’d fallen in love with. This was what their love had let loose between them, and the miracle of it was beyond his understanding.

Of their own accord, his hands reached up to pull his dark-haired beauty into a searing kiss, completing the circle of their union. Her taut nipples, dangling deliriously close to his own, brushed his chest. One soft sweep of tip against tip, and they erupted, their soft moans belying the violence of their orgasms.

Slick with sweat and completely spent, Liz collapsed on Max, panting wildly. Max focused what little energy was left to him and stroked her back lovingly. “Are you okay?” he asked tenderly. When he heard no response, he frowned. “Liz?”

“We should’ve done this months ago,” she stated matter-of-factly.

Max’s stunned silence gave Liz the giggles, and soon Max joined her, squeezing her tightly with the renewed energy of euphoria. He rolled Liz to her back and kissed her quickly. “Never, Liz, in my wildest fantasies, did I ever believe for one minute that I would feel a moment of happiness like this.” Sheer joy radiated from his face, softening his usually somber features. Liz touched his cheek, reflecting his happiness back in a radiant smile. “I mean it, Liz. Every perfect moment in my life has been shared with you—our first kiss, the first time we said ‘I love you,’ the day you accepted my proposal, even today when you said ‘I do’ in front of enough people that you can’t ever take it back.” He grinned at his thinly veiled threat, then sobered. “Every moment of pure happiness . . . they’ve all been about you, Liz.”

Max weaved his fingers into her hair, wildly spread across the pillow just like in a thousand fantasies. “I love you, Liz.”

Liz closed her eyes and breathed in the heady smell of her lover, her husband. Then she took a quick moment to say a prayer of thanks. For the past three years, her life had been full of excitement and danger, secrecy and tragedy, friendship and fear. But the one constant had been her love for this man. She opened her eyes and looked into his soul, the image blurring from behind her tears. That didn’t change what she saw. You don’t need perfect vision to know when you’re home.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Jun-2002 11:19:11 PM ]
posted on 12-Jun-2002 12:31:33 AM by Carol000
Hi, guys! The feedback is wonderful, as always. I can't tell you how I appreciate it.

Puzzlechild: I am indeed the original spacemom, but the part about the chat isn't me. I was never in the chats but was a permanent fixture at Cherish. I faded away from there in S2 when Cherishing was a thankless job and buried myself in fic and like-minded lists instead. I'm so glad you're here, though!

Thanks for the bumps, the thoughtful questions (BelieveinTrueLove esp!), and the encouragement. We're back to a Journal installment. Enjoy!

Part 4a

Midnight had come and gone, and the weary parents were flagging. Jim had long since slipped into the big chair with Amy, stroking her back every once in a while and reassuring her with his side of the story when he could. Philip had finally become tired enough and oblivious enough to stretch out on the couch, Diane pressed closely against him. None of the couples were putting up any fronts now. The truth of the past three years was overwhelming. Their feelings of shock and fear for what their children had experienced and, possibly worse, would experience, and guilt for not realizing how their children’s lives were flying apart in front of them had overshadowed any superficial niceties they might have been inclined to observe. This was a whole new world. And a hell of a world it was.

“I know we said we’d read all this tonight,” Jeff said. “But I don’t think any of us are going to make it. I’ve got another few entries in me, and then I’d like to maybe take this up again tomorrow night.”

Judging from the reactions, Jeff concluded everyone had had about as much as they could handle. There was ready agreement.

“Liz finally mentions Alex in these next few entries,” Jeff told them. “I’m surprised it took this long, considering how close Liz and Maria were to him.”

“Poor, sweet Alex,” Amy sighed. “Such a tragic accident. Did he know any of this, I wonder?”

Jeff and Jim exchanged a silent look, and Amy stiffened. “What?”

“Hang tight, Amy,” Jim soothed her. “Your answers are coming.”

She nodded reluctantly and settled back against Jim. Jeff picked up the book again.

*****I feel like I’m being torn in two. I’m like the rope in a tug of war game--Max on one end and Alex on the other. Every new thing that comes up with Max pulls me a little further away from Alex. I want so badly to tell him what’s going on, but Max forbids it, and since it’s his life on the line, I guess it’s his call. Isabel and Michael agree with him, so I have to live with it.

Still, Alex is one of my two best friends, and he’s slipping away from me. Every day, I feel his hurt and confusion a little more. As soon as Maria and I were drawn into this secret—Maria likes to call it the “alien abyss”—it seemed as if that’s all we could talk about. So naturally, every time Alex came up to us, we clammed up. At first, we convinced him we were talking about female issues and he was more than happy to be left out of the conversation, but later, like when my journal was missing and I totally panicked, he could feel there was more to it. Then there was that road trip to Marathon . . .*****

Amy sat up stiffly, totally alert again. “Road trip? What’s that supposed to mean? When did they do this?”

Nancy chuckled wryly, and Jeff looked at her in surprise. “Amy, this is ancient history now,” she shrugged. “We might as well just listen.”

Annoyed but resigned, Amy nodded for Jeff to continue.

*****I got a real sense of how impulsive Michael is when we realized he’d taken Maria’s car—with Maria in it—to Marathon, Texas, to track down a vision he’d had. I remember the term “group dynamic” from sociology. Well, this was textbook. There was Michael driving across state lines in a technically stolen car, with a technically kidnapped minor, and here comes Max running after him like a frustrated father trying to head off disaster. Isabel came along, ever ready to keep peace between them. When Isabel spotted Maria’s car, still smoking, along the side of the road and we realized they must be holed up in that sleazy hotel, I thought Max was going to lose it.*****

By this time, Amy had jumped up, her eyes wide and her mouth gaping open. “Is everyone hearing this?” she huffed indignantly. “Alien or no alien, I knew that boy was trouble! He took off with my little girl? And my car? A vision? What is that about? Who the hell does he think he is?”

Jeff opened his mouth to speak, but Jim beat him to it.

“Amy, Michael’s a decent kid. He’s just a little . . . over-enthused. His mind was too occupied with getting to Atherton’s to take advantage of Maria, anyway. Besides, they barely knew each other then.”

“Who’s Atherton?” Amy asked. Then she realized she’d been diverted from her original point. “And don’t defend him!” she protested. “That wasn’t the last time he pulled this!”

Jim pulled her back against him, smiling affectionately. “That, Amy, is the least of the story. Besides, I thought you, of all people, would understand emotionally driven people.”

Amy opened her mouth to refute his statement but couldn’t think of a sound retort, so she crossed her arms across her chest and glared at him, putting a token bit of space between them in the cramped chair. Jeff took that as his cue to continue.

***** I was impressed, actually, with how Max handled himself when we found them, though. He was really pretty calm. He knows how to handle Michael. Years of practice, I guess. Then Kyle showed up and I thought we were dead for sure.*****

“Kyle was there?” Now it was the deputy’s turn to be outraged. “He never told me that! What was he doing down there in the middle of the night?” Amy looked at him smugly.

“Being over-enthused, maybe?” she challenged. Jim frowned at her.

“All of our kids were out there, in Texas, in the middle of the night, and none of us knew it,” Philip stated quietly. “Every page of this journal makes me wonder where the hell we were for the past three years! How could we have been so blind?”

Jim turned to him sympathetically. “Philip, you have no idea how good your children became at hiding—what they were, what they were doing. As each of us was brought into it, we all got good at it. We had to be. It was survival. I’m not proud of it, but even I deceived you on their behalf—more than once. It was about protecting them, Philip. And they were completely convinced that keeping you all in the dark was protecting you, too.”

They heard a sniffle and realized it was Diane. “They’ve been so alone,” she mumbled from inside her husband’s embrace. Her comment was met with guilty silence.

Jeff resumed reading Liz’s account; at least it was helping the parents put the pieces of this strangle puzzle together. Jim found out what happened to that missing key. Amy realized why her car was acting up during that time. Philip and Diane got a new perspective on why their house had been broken into, and they all learned about the mysterious connection with River Dog and the reservation on the outskirts of town.

*****I may have lost Alex for good. Keeping this secret from him is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. And to make matters worse, I’ve used him over and over, and he doesn’t even know why. I suppose the worst of it was a couple of days ago at the hospital. Max found out we had a sub for fourth period, so he invited me to take a drive. I’ve never ditched a class in my life, but the sun was shining and the sky was blue, and the boy who had saved my life was asking me to go for a drive. It was a no-brainer.

Everything was perfect at first. We were driving down this wonderful old highway Max knew about, listening to a song we both loved, and the smile on Max’s face was such a rare and beautiful thing. I don’t think I’ve ever been happier. Then out of nowhere, a horse trotted onto the road. Max hit the brakes and swerved, but suddenly we were airborne and then everything went black for a minute. When I could finally get my bearings, I saw him, slumped over with his head against the wheel, and I was so afraid. I thought he was dead, and in that instant, I knew I loved him.

It’s funny how a tragedy seems to heighten every sense, every emotion. I’d already accepted that I’d fallen for Max. I knew he was beautiful and smart and sensitive and so very different. But until that very moment, I didn’t really know I was in love with him. It was like a light went on in my head—or maybe my heart would be more accurate, because my head would have known better. But in that instant when I thought I’d lost him, I could feel the emptiness swelling in me, and I knew I didn’t want anyone else to live in that space. Not ever.*****

“Even then,” Nancy sighed, looking over at Diane. “Even back then, it was Max. I never knew.”

“I remember meeting Liz for the first time at the hospital,” Diane recalled. “Max introduced us from his hospital bed. Something about his voice . . . I knew this one was special. His whole face softened when he looked at her. Even his voice, when he said her name . . .” Her sob almost took her by surprise, and she pressed her hand to her mouth, her eyes tearing up. Breathing deeply, she regained control. “How could they have known so soon?”

“I think they feel something different, something . . . amazing.” Jim’s words hovered in the air, waiting for more. “Before I knew the truth, I could see their connection, but I chalked it up to teen loyalty, young love—just typical stuff. Once I was helping them, though, I got a deeper look into all of them. All you had to do was spend a little time with them together, and it was . . . I don’t know . . . electric.” He shook his head as if he were still trying to understand it.

“But we never spent any time with them together, did we?” Nancy muttered, a trace of anger in her voice. “They were afraid to let us in. Afraid of how we’d react. Why didn’t they trust us?” Her anger dissolved into teary regret and she slumped back in her seat again.

“No, Nancy, it wasn’t lack of trust, it was fear of what would happen to you. They wanted to protect you.”

Nancy locked eyes with him. “You’re saying they wanted to tell us?”

Jim shifted uncomfortably, but it was Diane who answered her. “No, “ she whispered. “They didn’t. Max and Isabel were afraid we wouldn’t love them anymore. They were afraid of losing the only family they had . . . the only home.”

Jeff nodded. “It was both. Don’t blame yourselves. And don’t blame them. It was an impossible situation, and I think you should be proud of how well they handled it for so long.”

Philip yawned. “Finish this part, Jeff, and then we’d better call it a night. We have plenty to think about, and I don’t think my brain can absorb much more. I thought I knew this whole story, but I only know the tip of the iceberg.”

“Yeah, imagine how it was to read this all the way through without any idea what was coming.”

“That’s what Nancy and I are doing,” Amy reminded him. “I agree. We need a break.”

“Okay, I’ll just finish this part, then.”

*****As soon as I realized Max would live, though, I got worried about all the other things again. For one thing, Michael and Isabel were panicked. Evidently, there is something different about their blood, and it was imperative no one examine Max’s. The only guy we could think of to help us was . . . Alex. Bless his wonderful, trusting heart, he came right away, and he even let us take some of his blood, just because I asked him. But when he inevitably asked me what was going on, I couldn’t tell him, and I wanted to cry at the look in his eyes. Everything we’d been hiding, all the lame excuses and halted conversations landed between us with a sickening thud, and he drew a terrible conclusion—we were covering for Max’s drug habit. When I let him believe that—because I couldn’t think of anything better—I was letting him believe that I was no longer the person he had cared for all these years. His disappointment shone in his eyes, and a little part of me died.

Even after that, though, he was there for me. I begged him to trust me, appealed to his sense of loyalty and nobility, and asked for one last—huge—favor. When he’d done it, we confirmed what we’d suspected—our guidance counselor, Miss Topolsky, was really an FBI agent. As soon as she realized we’d blown her cover, she disappeared. Again, Alex asked me for the truth. Again, I told him I couldn’t tell him. Then he threatened to abandon our friendship. I really didn’t think he meant it.

Turns out, he did.

In a way, the heat wave we had last week changed everything. Michael and Maria have suddenly heated up in a big way. Maria claims it’s just meaningless passion . . .*****

Amy was sitting on the edge of her chair again. “Passion?! At 16? I knew it! If I ever get my hands . . .” She looked around at the somewhat amused faces and stopped abruptly. “16 . . .,” she mumbled again, but remained quiet.

*****. . . but I think there’s more there than she’s willing to admit. Michael seems to be going hot and cold on her, but you can see it simmering all the time. Max, on the other hand? I admit it. I’m frustrated. When he told me that we couldn’t be together because we were different, I just accepted it. I thought it was physically impossible. But the night I caught Maria and Michael going at it in the Crashdown, I realized it wasn’t about physical differences. I was sort of hurt. Max was giving me mixed signals and I wasn’t sure what he wanted from me. A few days ago, though, when I was making up a bio lab, Max stopped in. I decided to go for it. Everyone else was. I asked him flat out why we couldn’t be together. I’ll never forget what he said. “Liz, I think what I’m afraid of is not that we try this thing and it works out really badly. What I’m afraid of is that we try this and it works out really well, because I know it’s not meant to be, and somewhere down the road we’re gonna get hurt. I can live with that, but I couldn’t bear to hurt you.”

I wish I could describe how I felt in that single moment in time. It was like stepping into the sunshine and breathing deeply. Max was completely open to me then, and I knew that he wanted what I wanted. He wanted us.He just wasn’t sure it was the right thing to do. And that, I realized, was Max in a nutshell—always worrying about the right thing to do. I didn’t let up, though. I held his eyes, and it felt as if something strong, something powerful was pulling us toward each other. I couldn’t even breathe.

Then my bio teacher walked in and totally broke the mood. I wanted to scream. Still, by the end of the day, we had a date to the rave tonight, and I had a really good feeling about it. Max showed up looking gorgeous, as always, and he was relaxed and open and happy. It felt so good to see him like that. We found a little privacy, and I was breathless with anticipation. Finally! I was going to kiss Max. It’s all I’d thought about for weeks. We were so close, I could feel his breath on my face. His hands at my waist. I could see . . . I swear it . . . love in his eyes. It was glorious.

That’s when the fire broke out and the police came and in the chaos, Alex and I wound up with booze in our hands, and the Sheriff was on us in seconds. I swear, he must have been watching us, hoping for a chance like this. I could see Max at war with himself in the doorway, but there was nothing he could do for me, and I was glad he left. No sense getting hauled in with us.

I’ve never seen Alex so angry. He yelled at me and threatened to tell the Sheriff everything—everything he knew, anyway, which was plenty when you put all the pieces together. So I did what I’d promised I wouldn’t do. In my heart, I truly believed it would do less damage to tell Alex the truth than to keep the secret. It was unraveling anyway. So I gathered up my courage and willed him to believe me. And I told him.

He was full of questions, of course, and looked at me like I was crazy or thought he was. But when the Sheriff came in and pressed him, he came through. Again. As always. And he bluffed his way out with threats of lawsuits and publicity, and the next thing I knew, we were out in front of the police station laughing. I made Alex an important promise tonight—to never to lie to him again. I intend to keep that promise.

He doesn’t really believe me, but he knows that we’re not doing drugs and that I was trying to protect someone I care about. That’s the kind of thing Alex understands. So he’s cutting me some slack for now. And I have my friend back.

Well, the heat wave finally broke and I’m probably the only person in Roswell who didn’t benefit from it. But it’s for the best, because if Max and I had given in to temptation, if we had kissed each other even once, it would have taken us somewhere we both know we never should have gone.

I guess I’d better amend that last part. That is, if I can get my hand to stop shaking. Max was just here, and my body is still humming. He came up the fire escape ladder—so smoothly, so easily. He’s incredibly graceful. Dad would kill him if he knew, but I was never so happy to see anyone in my life. He said he wanted to check on me, but we both knew he could have used a phone for that. He wanted to see me in person. He wanted to touch me. To kiss me. All the things I wanted. But he also wanted a push—permission. So I gave him one, and the second he touched my hair, I could feel myself melting inside. Then he told me that no matter what we go through, it’s worth it because we’re together, and I felt like I was floating outside myself. And then . . . Max Evans kissed me.

Gently at first, then more confidently. Then his arms were around me, and I disappeared into the most wonderful feeling I’ve ever known. I know I’ll never feel anything like that again in my life. It was like electric current running through me and little bursts of energy exploding. He felt warm and solid and strong, and his feelings for me just washed over me. I don’t know if any other moment in my life will be that perfect ever again.

A few minutes later, he pulled back just a fraction, and whispered my name. That whisper is permanently fixed in my memory. I want to hear that whisper echoing in my heart when I’m too old to hear anything else. And I want Max Evans’s arms around me when I do.

********

He flipped the switch on the recorder and slumped against his chair. His mind was racing, doubt wreaking havoc with his sense of right and wrong. He didn’t doubt what he’d heard. Between the words in that journal, the parents’ spontaneous reactions to them, and the government’s obsessive interest, he had little doubt about the truth. His doubts had more to do with what he was to do with this knowledge.

“Lieutenant!” His head jerked sharply and he snapped to attention. “Lieutenant, are you getting anything from the Parker house? The Evans house has been empty all night.”

Lieutenant Nate Christopher stared at his superior, beads of perspiration popping out across his forehead.

“Lieutenant, did you hear me? Have you picked up anything at the Parkers’?”

“I’m reviewing it now, Captain.”

“Clean it up as best you can. I’ll be back for it in half an hour.” Captain Gibbs turned on his heel and left. Nate stared after him. Thirty minutes. He had thirty minutes to decide the fate of people—creatures?—he didn’t even know.

posted on 14-Jun-2002 11:56:36 PM by Carol000
Hi, again! This feedback is so totally awesome, I'm pumped beyond belief! Between those of you kind enough to post reponses here and the lists' reactions, I've drawn some surprising conclusions:

1. I was writing the journal entries for me and the gang plot for you. Turns out, I think everyone likes the journal entries best! Someone even suggested that I write all journal entries until the parents catch up (timewise) with the kids. I may actually have to do that on a couple of chapters, but I do hope that as the plot unfolds, you will be drawn into that, too, Eventually, the two sides of the story will merge.

2. Everyone is surprised by the naivete exhibited by the parents here as they read the journal in their home. Shouldn't they suspect they're being bugged? Just remember, unlike a couple of other post-grad fics (like Tara's "A Father's Duty"--a good one!), my parents aren't getting hounded by the authorities. Instead, the gov't is bugging their homes to try to get more info on what the kids can and can't do. It's not an atmosphere of paranoia--yet. AND, I'm famous worldwide for my own naivete, so is it any wonder my characters are, too? *wink*

On with the show! Consider this part transitional. Getting from point A to point B takes time.

4b

Liz stretched and yawned, reveling in the warmth of the sunlight on her face. Her smile erupted almost immediately when she felt Max snuggle closer against her back and kiss her neck. His warm skin enfolded her and she wished fervently this wasn’t coming to an end so soon. She stroked the gentle hand that cupped her breast, wondering if he was awake.

“Morning, Mrs. Evans . . . uh, Mrs. Maxwell.” He sighed contentedly behind her ear.

“Morning, Mr. Maxwell.” She turned in his arms and smiled into those beautiful amber eyes that lit her world. Already his need for her was evident in his eyes . . . and elsewhere. “What shall we do with our last few hours of honeymoon?” she asked, a twinkle in her eye.

His eyes turned dark immediately, and he kissed her softly as his hands slid behind her, pressing the small of her back into him firmly.

“That’s what I was hoping you’d say,” she sighed. And they made love—again.

********

Checkout was in 10 minutes and they were still dripping wet from another steamy shower. Max sighed with regret.

“I’d better dry us off quickly. We’ve gotta get out of here.” He hesitated in spite of his words. “I love you, Liz. I can’t believe how lucky I am that we’re about to start a new life together. I promise to make sure you never regret this.” He rested his forehead against hers, letting his eyes speak so much more. “I’m sorry we have to . . .”

Liz stopped him with a confident gaze. “Max, I used to sit on my balcony and wish for something—anything—to happen in my life. I knew I couldn’t just be a small town girl living a small town life forever. I wanted to find love and excitement, and I wanted to be part of something . . .bigger . . . more important. I admit, nothing like this ever occurred to me . . .” Max chuckled and Liz had to laugh herself. “. . . but Max, this . . . you . . . are what I want. I meant it when I said I would do anything if it meant being with you. Promise me. You’ll never apologize to me for our lives again.”

Doubt clouded Max’s eyes and he said nothing.

“Max?” Liz peered at him warningly, then lifted up on her toes to kiss him lightly. “Promise me, Max.”

Max grabbed her to him fiercely, burying his face in her neck. After a long moment, she heard him whisper, “I promise.”

“Then let’s get out of here before they charge us for another night we can’t afford!” she smiled. Max mirrored her smile and dried them off quickly. They pulled on their clothes, threw what little was left in their one small bag, and ran down the stairs to the lobby. Minutes later, they pulled into the campsite to find a glum Isabel and Kyle sitting on a log by the firepit. They stood and smiled, though, as the van pulled to a stop.

“Hail, the newlyweds,” Kyle shouted, striding forward to greet them. “And wipe those grins off your faces. I don’t have to ask how your wedding night went. I just wish I hadn’t heard the replay next door all night,” he grumbled.

He pulled Liz into a hug, and Liz smiled at how great it felt to have Kyle for a true friend. She felt a little sad about how he’d been dragged into all this, but she was truly grateful for him. Isabel was hugging Max when Liz pulled away from Kyle.

“What do you mean, a replay?” Max asked, frowning. Surely there wasn’t some alien connection letting the others hear them! At that moment, Maria and Michael crawled out of one of the tents looking tired and not a little guilty. Isabel glared.

“Apparently, some people don’t need a honeymoon to go at it all night.

“Hey,” Michael glared back. “You had a tent to yourselves. Quit complaining.”

“Ah yes,” Kyle sighed, “my dream come true. Out in the wild, the stars, the moon, . . . and a married woman.”

Liz suppressed a giggle. Just the picture of Kyle, self-proclaimed stud, spending the night with a beautiful woman he couldn’t touch . . . But Kyle wasn’t finished.

“It wouldn’t have been so bad,” he continued, “if . . .”

“Kyle!” Isabel shot arrows with her look.

Kyle threw them right back. “ . . . if I hadn’t kept waking up with her practically on top of me!”

After a startled silence, there was a burst of laughter, and the bit of tension dissipated. As the teens began to put together a cold lunch, Liz and Maria went to the van to retrieve the groceries their last dollars had bought.

“Well?” Maria whispered. “How was it?”

Liz blushed. “Maria! That’s a very personal question!”

“Yeah, so? We’ve been asking each other personal questions our whole lives.”

“I know, but this . . . this isn’t just about me, ya know?”

“Liz, give! Was it awesome?”

Liz hesitated, then nodded, a dazzling grin erupting on her face. “Totally!” They giggled together behind the van until Max appeared next to them.

“Need some help?” He stopped abruptly as the two girls jumped, stopping their conversation in mid-whisper. “Did I interrupt something?” Max asked, looking from one to the other.

“Nope,” Maria answered him, picking up a case of bottled water. “Not a thing, Superman!”

She walked off, laughing.

“What was that about?” he asked Liz, afraid he already knew the answer.

“Just . . . girl talk,” Liz answered evasively, handing him a sac of groceries. She sent him off with a peck on the cheek. He walked toward the center of the campsite and set the things down.

“I’ll be right back,” he called, heading down the path toward the bathrooms.

“Wait, I’ll come, too,” Kyle shouted, jogging a few steps to catch up. Michael was behind them seconds later.

“I can do this myself, guys, really,” Max smirked at them.

“So, Evans,” Kyle began, ignoring his comment, “the honeymoon. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?”

Max arched an eyebrow. “I don’t think that’s open for discussion, Kyle.”

“Give, Maxwell,” Michael pressed. “We’re two alien guys makin’ it with human girls. We should compare notes, ya know? Establish what the norms are.”

Max stopped in his tracks, looking from Kyle to Michael and back to Kyle. “I can’t believe we’re having this conversation. What happened between Liz and me is private.” Even as he said the words, a grin broke out on his face.

“Aha! Good stuff, then, right?” Kyle encouraged.

“The best,” Max answered as he hurried down the path, grinning the whole way.

********

Lunch finished, the conversation turned towards the future. Max looked at his small band of refugees. The events that had brought them here were outrageous, even to him. And yet, here they were, six innocent teens, running from a government manhunt, broke, and virtually clueless about where to go from here.

“First things first,” Max began. “We need money, and we need to decide where we’re going. And if at all possible, we need to get a message home, just so they know we’re okay.” Heads nodded.

“I’ve been thinking about that last one,” Isabel said. “We can’t write or call or even e-mail without risking someone tracing it. But one thing can’t be traced. What if I dreamwalk Mom or Dad?”

“You don’t think they might freak, Iz?” Max worried.

“Max, they’ve had three weeks to think about what they learned about us before we left. They’re probably freaked about what’s happened to us. Hearing from us should calm them, don’t you think? Besides, don’t you wonder what’s happened to them? What if the FBI or somebody has been questioning them? They could be having a hard time of it, too.”

“Can it wait a day, Isabel?” Liz broke in. “I’ve been thinking about sending my journal home to my parents. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced they deserve to know what’s been happening with me for the last three years. And I want them to know we’re okay, too. Besides, we may need their help someday, or even the other way around, and now not knowing is more dangerous to them than knowing. Once they’ve seen it, then all our parents can at least be there for each other. Maria’s mom, too. What do you think, Max?”

Max thought for a minute, weighing whether it was better for all the parents to know or to shelter them from the darker side of their lives. Hell, it was too late for that. He had to get over that mindset. The bad guys knew, at least enough to be dangerous. The good guys should know what they’re up against. Sounded like a dumb western.

He looked at his wife, reading her, feeling her silent plea. It was important to her now that her parents know the truth. And she was right; they were better off knowing now. It would help them know what to say and, more important, what not to say. They also might be more inclined to help, should the need arise, especially if the Evanses could ease them into accepting the truth. “Yeah, they should know,” he agreed. “But how do we get it to them?”

Kyle spoke up. “Once, we FedEx’d a package to Coach Griffith full of condoms and porn magazines with a picture somebody got of him coming out of a strip club on the edge of town with a blond one night! We thought we’d scare the crap out of him.” Kyle laughed until he realized there were five blank stares waiting for the relevance of this story to become apparent. Kyle cleared his throat uncomfortably and continued. “Anyway, we just drove to Hondo, used a fake name and address, and sent it. They didn’t check ID or anything. We could do the same thing.”

“FedEx costs money,” Michael reminded them. “We’re busted. I’ve got two ones in my wallet.” Then he brightened. “I could changed them into twenties!”

“No!” Max blurted. “Listen, we have to play everything by the book. We can’t do anything that could raise an eyebrow, or be traced or detected or even questioned. We’ll earn our money and we’ll only spend what we earn. Agreed?”

They knew he was right. And they also knew that in spite of Max “abdicating” his throne, he was their leader. It was that way before they knew he was king, and it still was. It was their natural order, and even Michael had stopped fighting it.

“I’ll sell the watch Dad gave me for graduation,” Max volunteered. It was the last holdout of their valuables. They had all silently agreed not to suggest its sale because it was the first thing Max’s parents had given him since they’d known the truth; it represented their acceptance of him and their continued love. Everyone knew how hard it was going to be for him to part with it. “That should give us enough to send the package and get us through a couple more days.”

“Max, no,” Liz protested, taking his hand. “Not the watch.”

Max smiled at her sadly. “We’re out of options, Liz.”

Liz ached to see him relinquish his last physical memory of his family—the family he had really only felt a part of for two weeks before graduation. But she saw no alternative either.

“Okay,” Isabel pushed on. “I’ll dreamwalk Mom after the package is mailed and tell her they can talk to the others after they’ve read the journal. But where are we going? And where do we get money after this?”

Maria stood and began to pace, her usual m.o. when she was hatching a plan. “We need a place where we can blend in, get jobs, live on the cheap, and figure out what we want to do with the rest of our lives. It has to be big enough that six teens traveling together won’t stand out, and where there are lots of jobs that don’t require a lot of experience. High turnover is good, too. They won’t look so closely at background and all.”

Five pairs of eyes followed her in circles, amazed at the logical progression of Maria’s thoughts. This wasn’t the scattered, impulsive Maria they were used to. This was a practical mind at work. This was Maria with a plan. And they couldn’t take their eyes off her.

“I can waitress, of course, but I’d like to do something different for a change. Kyle’s good with cars, Michael has security guard experience, Isabel could hostess or model or something. Liz . . . you’re smart. You could bluff your way into an office somewhere. Max could, too. And until we know if our parents are going to need us, we’d better not get too far away, at least at first. So, what’s a big city where nobody notices you, lots of jobs, high turnover, and not too far away?”

It was as if the word appeared in mid-air before them: “Vegas.”

********

Their destination and short-term goals decided, Max and Liz ventured into the nearest town to sell his watch and gas up the car. After two jewelry stores turned them away in short order (“We don’t buy used jewelry,” one man had told them haughtily. “Especially not engraved.”), they went in desperation to a pawnshop. Max’s heart broke as he handed an older woman his watch.

“How much can I get for this?” he asked, eyes filled with pain.

The woman looked at them, this young man so obviously reluctant to part with a cherished possession, and the beautiful young woman standing bravely next to him, her hand on his arm. She noticed the wedding band and searched their faces. These weren’t gang members looking for money to spend on drugs or weapons, and they weren’t those rich punks who sold whatever they could sneak out of their houses to get some cash. This was a young married couple on hard times, and her heart went out to them. She looked at the watch. It was good quality, nothing extraordinary. It had probably sold for about $250. She flipped it over: “To our son. Mom and Dad.” Where were those parents now? she wondered. A family fight? Maybe they didn’t like his new bride, although that seemed unlikely.

“I’ll give you $150 for it.” She knew she’d never get that from a customer, but something made her want to help these two kids. They looked like they could use a friend.

Max nodded, relief mixing with regret.

“Thanks.”

She watched them leave with their cash. The boy got into a beat-up van while the girl headed across the street to the Internet cafe. As soon as he drove off, though, the girl came back into the shop. She approached the counter hesitantly.

“Um, can you tell me how long we have to reclaim that watch before you can sell it?”

“Thirty days,” she replied, the girl’s words confirming her sense that the watch was important to them.

“I’ll be back. Please, don’t sell it,” the girl pleaded, then turned and rushed across the street to the cafe. Fifteen minutes later, she saw the van pull up in front of the store and the girl climbed in, a sheaf of papers in one hand.

I’ll bet that’s quite a story, the woman thought. I wonder what will become of them.

How could she have known that they were wondering the very same thing?

********

That night, seated around the campfire, they discussed the results of Liz’s research. She’d printed out the job listings off the Vegas Better Business Bureau website, and they’d hit a potential jackpot. A new resort, called simply “Oasis,” was being built near the Vegas city limits. They were hiring a full staff as the building reached completion, and applications for all positions were being accepted.

“We’ll head out first thing in the morning,” Max announced, easily resuming his leadership role without even realizing it. “We’ll stop somewhere to mail Liz’s package, and then we’ll drive straight through. By the day after tomorrow, at least one of us should have a job.”

The mood lightened now that there was a plan with some hope of taking them one step further toward their new lives. They talked and dreamed and pretended to forget their plight for a couple of hours. Eventually, Kyle told more stories from his jock days, and the group laughed til their sides hurt.

Max was growing more and more conscious of Liz next to him, especially when her hand dipped between his thighs to warm up in the chilly air. Now that he’d tasted of her fully, and she was his in every sense, his need for her had ignited. The half dozen times they’d made love last night and this morning hadn’t taken the edge off; it had just fanned the flames. Unfortunately, the sleeping arrangements weren’t going to give them any time alone.

“It’s time to turn in,” Max said, standing. “I’m sure you understand that Liz and I won’t sleep apart anymore, but I know someone will have to be in with us, and we won’t . . . make them uncomfortable. Isabel? Is should probably be you.”

Isabel stood and faced her brother, smirking patronizingly. “Dear brother, we’re not stupid or crazy. We discussed this last night. We couldn’t afford a wedding present, so instead, until we can find the money for another tent, Maria and Michael will take turns with Kyle and me sleeping in the van. The back seat folds down for one person, and a reclining seat will do for the other. Let’s just hope we can find an alternative soon.”

Max couldn’t suppress the smile that lit his face. Music to his ears! He looked at Liz and grinned wider at her happy expression.

“Thanks,” Liz beamed, taking hold of Max’s hand. “Thanks a lot.”

With that settled, the six separated for the night. Pausing at the door to the van, Kyle turned around. “Guerin! Just so you know, this van is not soundproof. Got that?”

Michael pinned him with a menacing look, then smiled sardonically. “Whatever,” he shrugged, and pulled Maria into the tent behind him. A minute later, his overly dramatic voice could be heard above the cicada, “Oh, Maria. Yes! Yes!”

“Stop that, you moron.”

A shoe, launched from the van, flew through the air and flopped just inside the tent, and Michael’s muffled laughter filtered through the camp. Liz stifled a giggle against her husband’s chest. “Betcha we can do it undetected,” she challenged him softly.

“Not if I decide to make you scream,” he teased, and bent to his task.

********

River Dog frowned in concentration as the child’s father held her hysterical mother at bay. Bits of greenish light were flickering in the little girl’s hand and she was crying inconsolably. A partially melted toy lay nearby. River Dog reached down and picked it up, eyeing the toy and then the child. His frown deepened.

“I must take her with me for now,” he told her terrified parents.

“What’s wrong with her?” asked her father. “Can you fix this?”

“She will not die,” River Dog assured him. “But she does need help¾help she can’t get here. I will take her. Eddie will come for you when she’s ready to come home.”

Sobbing, her mother slid to the ground, holding herself tightly. River Dog nodded at Eddie, who scooped the little girl up and carried her from the small house to his pickup truck. Once River Dog had joined him, he asked, “Where to?”

River Dog looked at him meaningfully. “The cave.”

posted on 20-Jun-2002 10:37:10 PM by Carol000
Thanks, everyone, for the great feedback! I'm sorry it was so long between parts--I was with my son at college orientation. It's so hard watching the last one go off into the world. Prepare for some serious consoling come August.*sad*

And on the subject of long intervals between parts, it may be around the 4th of July before the next part BECAUSE (1) I'm headed to LA in a few days to play with my wonderful Rospals *bounce**bounce*> and (2) I'm going to spend writing time between now and then writing Dreamer Holiday Series: The Fourth of July. I'll post that as soon as I return from LA and then I'll get back on Chameleon. Thanks for hanging in there with me!

On with the show: This journal segment touches on The Balance and Toy House.

Part 5a

It was a long, sleepless night in the Parker household. Amy had accepted Nancy’s invitation to stay over; it was already so late, and Amy was reluctant to go home to an empty house where visions of all she’d heard that night would plague her dreams—if she could even sleep to have any. Nancy had busied herself with preparing the guest room in hopes that a busy body would shut out a busy mind. It hadn’t worked, of course.

Once Amy was settled, Nancy got ready for bed and slid under the covers, already praying for morning. What was it about the night that turned people inward and brought worry and foreboding to center stage?

“Do you want to talk, honey?” Jeff asked as he crawled into bed beside her.

She shook her head, gaunt eyes staring at nothing. “No, not yet. Just tell me again that they’re okay.”

“They are,” Jeff nodded, pulling her to rest on his chest. “For now, they are.”

“How could we not have known any of this?” she asked, still incredulous. “How could Liz have been brought back from the dead, discovered the existence of aliens, and then fallen in love with one—it just can’t be true, Jeff. . . . Can it?”

Jeff sighed, not wanting to give too much away. He wanted everyone to hear it as it had happened, just as he had. It’s the only way it made even a little sense. “We’ve been seeing Liz as our little girl, Nance. Because that way, we could convince ourselves that we could take care of her, protect her from the big bad world. But she grew up quickly and quietly. Invisibly, really. Where we saw a boyfriend, she saw a lifemate, and she took it upon herself to protect him above all else.” He raised her chin to look into her eyes, pushing her hair back from her pale face. “Just like I would do with you.”

“Lifemate?” Nancy pushed herself up, alarm deepening the worry lines already so evident. “What are you telling me, Jeff? Are you saying . . .?”

Jeff studied her face, trying to decide if knowing the very end of the story would help his wife deal with this or only aggravate her fragile state. Her eyes pleaded with him for answers.

“They’re married now, sweetheart. And very happy. He loves her, too. I’m convinced of that now.”

Nancy collapsed on his chest, crying. “Think about it, Nancy. He risked everything to save her life. Because he loved her even then. And yet he was willing to put that all aside to protect her later on. That’s quite a sacrifice.”

Nancy huffed bitterly. “Not for long, he didn’t. We heard tonight how he swept her off her feet. How could she resist? She was blown away! She couldn’t know what she was getting into.”

“Oh, Nancy. There’s so much more story left. You’ve only begun to hear what they’ve been through. Believe me, their love for each other may be the only thing you’re sure of when we’re through.”

Lost in reflection, exhaustion finally took them, and they slept.

Seventeen hours later, the group had reassembled. Philip, Diane, Jeff, and Jim were faring pretty well. They’d had much more time to digest the details, having already grown to accept the central truth. Nancy and Amy looked drawn, but calm, and they all assumed their same seats from the night before.

“I’ve been thinking,” Amy wondered aloud. “Shouldn’t the Whitmans be here? I mean, their son was involved in this for a time, too.”

Jim threw Jeff a quick look. “Amy, Alex was a little more involved in this than you realize yet. Hearing this would only hurt them, and for no good reason. Trust me on this, okay?”

Amy’s confusion was obvious, but she nodded in agreement. She wasn’t in a position to debate any of this.

Jeff picked up Liz’s journal, and began to read.

*****I’ve heard people talk about emotional roller coasters. I thought I understood what they meant, but nothing can prepare you for actually being on one. This past few weeks has taught me that. After finding such happiness in Max’s arms that night, it all seemed to start falling apart the day of our first real date.

I was on cloud nine after the night Max climbed my fire escape and kissed me. It seemed like all of my dreams had come true, and the time until I could see him again couldn’t come fast enough. Every day in school, my eyes searched for him in every hallway, at lunch, in the parking lot. And bio lab—I have no idea what we’re supposed to be doing in there this week because when Max is so near, I can’t think of anything but him. Just the way he looks at me, like his eyes are wrapping themselves around me when his arms can’t. I feel the way he rests his hand on my shoulder while we look at a slide or the way our fingers linger against each other when we reach for something at the same time. Little smiles and long looks. I was the happiest I’d ever been.

The day of our date, Max and Michael came into the Crashdown after school. It was obvious that Maria was upset with Michael again. She said he’d told her he couldn’t get attached, and after how close they’d gotten, that really hurt her. She may say she’s made of Teflon, but I know better. I wanted to console her, but it’s hard to share a friend’s depression when everything in your own life is going so well. Just Max’s little smile when he entered the restaurant made my heart race.

It must’ve been Maria’s tone when she set Michael’s drink down, but he wanted out of there fast and spilled Cherry Coke all over the place. Unfortunately, it was Max’s drawing of the cave paintings that he saved from the spill, and it was clear Max hadn’t told him about those yet. I could see right then that they’d be arguing about this later.

Even that couldn’t dampen my mood, though. Max had told me to come by that night and we’d go out for Chinese food at Señor Chow’s. When I got there, I think Max’s mom was surprised because she had the oddest look on her face, like it was unusual for Max to be going out with anyone. Then I realized, he probably hadn’t, and something about knowing that made me feel really special and privileged. Max hadn’t shared himself with anyone before me. In a way, neither had I. I mean, I’d dated, of course. Kyle and I had had lots of fun, but I could feel something open up inside me when I was with Max, and it wasn’t like anything I’d ever felt before. All I knew was, I wanted to feel like that forever.*****

“I remember that night,” Diane interrupted. “She was very perceptive, actually, because I was surprised to see her there. Max had introduced us in the hospital that time, of course, and I could tell he was smitten, but since then, she hadn’t been by at all, and I figured Max had backed off. He was never one to pursue relationships with anyone, really. Even with Philip and me he’d always seemed guarded.” Philip nodded in agreement.

“Jeff has heard me complain about that more than once, right, Jeff?”

Jeff snickered involuntarily. Philip was a master of understatement.

“I really was pleased to see her, though,” Diane continued. “She seemed a good match for Max. Intelligent, low-key, sweet. And so cute.” She smiled up at Nancy, who smiled back. “They looked so natural together as they left that night. I had to stop myself from quizzing him later.”

“I know that feeling,” Nancy nodded. “A mother’s curse, I suppose.”

Jeff pushed on. *****We played pool and ate and laughed. Real date stuff. Then we opened our fortune cookies and we both lied about what ours said. I told him mine said, “This is the best night of your life.” The only lie about that was, it wasn’t written on the paper. Then he told me his said, “Ask a girl to dance with you.” And when he drew me into his arms and looked at me with those incredible eyes, my world was perfect. I could feel us melting into a kiss—what I’d been craving all day—when Maria burst in. Michael was sick.

The next two days were a whirlwind of panic. I knew we were in trouble because Isabel had told me once that they never get sick. When we got to Michael, he was having convulsions, and it was clear no one knew what to do. He came out of it pretty quickly and shrugged it off, but none of us felt settled about it. The next day, it happened again, only right in the UFO museum, and that’s when they brought him to me, hoping to hide him at our place. I could feel Max’s frustration, and when he said he was going to the reservation to find River Dog, he reached for my hand. I took it. We were bound together now.

Or so I thought.

I’ve never seen Max so angry as when Eddie told him River Dog wanted nothing to do with him since he’d shared the secret with another person. Max vowed to wait him out, and wait we did. Watching him, I could see the strain that lives in him all the time. I don’t think anyone realizes how responsible for Michael and Isabel he feels—like it’s his job to make sure they’re safe and protected. They’ve come to expect it, and I’ve even seen Michael rebel against it, like a child lashing out at his parent’s authority, but through it all, Max is there, looking out for them. Suddenly, he seemed older to me, but more vulnerable, too. How could he keep all those balls in the air and not have it take a toll? Secrets are heavy things, weighing down your body and your soul. I could see them pressing against Max, an invisible drain on the childhood he never really had.*****

Out of the corner of his eye, Jeff saw Diane nodding in agreement, and he stopped reading, sensing that she wanted to say something more. Without looking up, Diane began to speak, almost to herself. “She saw so quickly what it took me too long to recognize. I remember asking Isabel once about how serious and guarded Max always was. I worried about him; he never seemed to exude that spontaneous joy that children sometimes do. And he was always so alone.” She raised her eyes to Philip. “It’s no wonder, is it? He was never really a child at all, was he?”

“It wasn’t all bad, Diane,” he reminded her, urging her to shed her guilt. “There were good times; don’t forget those—the fishing trips, the family basketball games, trips to the beach, Monopoly. Yeah, those were good times, childhood times. He had those, too.”

Diane smiled weakly at her husband, more than willing to be reassured. Her heart ached for her son, yet she didn’t know what she could have done differently. He hadn’t been able to open himself to her, and that hurt. But she understood it, too. She was already thinking back to the tension between them after that kitchen fire, and how she’d pressed him for answers he couldn’t give her even then. But he had offered her his love, and, in his way, asked for hers in return. That had been easy to give. If he’d only known how easy, maybe he would have trusted her.

Jeff gave them a quiet moment, then continued. *****I wanted Max to calm down, so I suggested a walk and got him talking. The next thing I knew, he was telling me about the day they’d emerged from the pods. He and Isabel had felt an instant connection, but Michael, true to his nature, couldn’t reach out to them. That’s why he wasn’t with them when the Evanses came along. In a way, he’s kept that wall between them ever since.

Then Max said something that hit me so hard, he may as well have slapped me. He said, “What if this is our life cycle? What if this is how we die?” If Max could have seen inside my head at that moment, he would have panicked at how that sent me reeling. I couldn’t even think about the possibility of losing him. It hadn’t occurred to me until that very second that what was happening to Michael could mean the end of us. I felt the air rush out of my lungs, and I couldn’t even speak. But when I looked in his eyes, I saw the hurt, the questioning. He thought I was feeling . . . what? Revulsion? Disgust? Cowardice? I think that’s when it started to unravel. I felt him pull away from me, as if he were retracting his end of the strong connection we had begun to forge between us. I felt so helpless, just watching the silence grow so vast between us.

Hours later, we were still waiting for River Dog. We’d almost lost hope when we heard chanting just like Michael had been humming in his delirium. It was then that River Dog finally came to us and promised to help. He had us take Michael to the cave, and he produced stones that he claimed came from a “visitor” who had needed the young River Dog’s help so long ago after the original Crash, stones that he claimed were from Max’s planet. He told us that their purpose was to “restore the balance” in Michael, but he warned us of the dangers, too. Then he instructed us to encircle Michael and hold one of the stones, waiting for our energy to activate its healing powers.

Everyone stepped forward, even Alex and Maria, but I was paralyzed with fear—not about the stones or the healing, but about what all this meant for Max and me. I should have been thinking about Michael, but I couldn’t. All I could think of was all the differences I was only beginning to understand. Max had a history I could never be a part of, a present that I couldn’t protect him from, a future I was beginning to think might not include me. Suddenly I was terrified for him . . . and for me, if I had to accept that maybe we really couldn’t be together. I guess I got overwhelmed at all the implications, and River Dog asked me to step back. Max’s look of quiet disappointment pierced my heart, and I never felt so alone.

Once the others began, though, I felt a little ashamed of myself. Here they were trying to save Michael’s life, and I was on the sidelines worrying about my future—or lack of it—with Max. I stepped back to my place and River Dog looked deep into my eyes. I think he was trying to decide if I was really ready. He must’ve been satisfied with what he saw because he took the stones that had already started to glow in his own hands and pressed them into mine. They immediately began to glow more strongly, and he smiled at me. “You have found your path,” he said, and I suddenly felt confident and ready. The next thing I knew, we were all in Michael’s dream plane, or something like it, and everyone was greeting him and hugging. Minutes later, he was truly back with us in the cave and knew instinctively what to do with the stones. He placed them in small indentations in the cave wall and stepped back. We were all amazed when they began to glow on their own in a large “V” formation. I could see Max’s face. He was awestruck—somewhere between joy and fear. I know just how he feels.

I also know . . . now . . . that this really is the end of us, and I feel like my heart has been ripped out through my chest. I had expected things to be awkward between us for a while. After all, that was a totally out-of-body alien experience we’d shared—only I’m not alien. And I could tell by the look on Max’s face when he saw that “map,” as Michael called it, that he had no idea what this would mean for them. But I never expected what happened when he came over tonight.

When I first heard him coming up the fire escape, I was overjoyed he’d come. I didn’t want to be away from him, and I thought he was feeling the same way. Instead, he told me . . . I can hardly write the words . . . he told me that we didn’t belong together. He said that our time together had been wonderful, but had left him unbalanced, and we needed to take a step back. I’m surprised I didn’t retch on the spot—my stomach was rolling and jumping the way it does when you’re aching to throw up but would rather die than give in to it. Even before I tried to talk him out of it, I knew he’d decided, and it was as if someone had drawn a curtain across the vision I’d had of the rest of my life. Colors turned to black and white, and then it all blended into a blinding gray—no landmarks, no context, no direction.

I couldn’t move until I realized he was on the other side of that wall, disappearing from my life. I ran to him and kissed him, because I needed to feel him against me one more time. He didn’t flinch, but he didn’t open himself to me either. He just let me kiss him, and somehow—I’m not sure how—I felt that same sense of utter loneliness I’d felt from him the first time he connected with me. We were both back to square one, only worse. Because now we knew what was possible. And now we knew that it wasn’t . . . not anymore.

You wouldn’t think it could have gotten worse after that, but it did. Worse because he left me with the two words I never wanted to hear from him in my lifetime—at least not like this. “Goodbye, Liz.”

Why do I feel like the best part of my life is already over?*****

Jeff’s voice cracked on the last words, and he laid his head back against the sofa, squeezing his eyes shut. They were all quiet, touched by the anguish that poured from the pages of a young girl’s journal. Nancy opened her eyes; she’d been concentrating on every word, imagining herself in her daughter’s place. They’d been so worried about Liz—for all the wrong reasons. Her eyes strayed to the journal, open across Jeff’s lap, and tears sprang to her eyes when she realized the smudges she saw there were tear stains.

“So that was it,” Diane mumbled to herself, understanding dawning on her weary face.

“What?” Philip asked.

Diane sighed. “That January.”

Jim’s head jerked up as he realized what Diane was remembering. “The fire?” he asked.

Diane nodded, “Yes, the fire and all the rest.” She looked at Philip guiltily. “I never told you this whole story, Philip, because I didn’t see the point in two of us brooding about it, but Max was going through such a bad time then. And I didn’t understand it because he’d been so much happier than I’d ever seen him for the couple weeks before, but I’d noticed how quiet and withdrawn he was, even more than usual. I was trying to get him talking one night—you were away on business—when that kitchen fire broke out. Max leapt up and put it out before I even knew what happened, but Jim . . .”

“I was suspicious all along,” the deputy interrupted. “When I heard Max’s story, it was just more fuel for the fire. I knew he didn’t put that fire out with a pot of water, and I could see that it had been quite a blaze. I had so many little pieces to the puzzle, but I couldn’t make them fit. I probably came on a little strong, Diane. I’m sorry.”

“I understand, Jim. But that’s only part of it. I got to watching those old family videos. You know the ones, Philip, from after we got the kids? I kept playing this one clip over and over. It was that time the kids found a wounded bird in the park. I kept telling Max to stay away from it, but he picked it up and held it. And the next thing you see is that bird soaring in the sky. I remember that day so well, but I’d suppressed it because there didn’t seem to be any logical explanation, and it was too uncomfortable to think about. After the fire, though . . .”

“I remember Maria talking about a fire,” Amy recalled. “And I also remember realizing that it happened at the home of the boy Liz had been talking . . . or rather crying . . . about. She and Maria spent a lot of time behind closed doors in those days, and one or both would usually emerge with puffy eyes. But Maria wouldn’t answer any questions about it except to say men were jerks . . .” She chuckled and glanced at Jim, wedged into the chair with his arm around her. “At the time, I agreed, so I couldn’t argue with her,” she grinned.

Diane smiled. “Well, Max wasn’t crying, at least that I saw, but he was in his room all the time listening to this depressing music and not eating. I finally made him watch that clip with the bird.” She shook her head, only now realizing what that must have done to him. “You should have seen his face,” she whispered, overcome with emotion. “He looked stunned and so vulnerable. It was like he was six again. Then he just closed off and got really angry when I pressed him for an explanation. I didn’t know whether to be hurt that he wouldn’t talk to me or scared to death of what he was hiding. In the end, I was both.”

Philip pulled his wife closer, recognizing that every person in that room had, in their own way, been keeping secrets. And look where it had gotten them.

“Finally, he came to me one day. I was sitting in the park trying to figure it all out, wondering what to do. I love him so much . . .” Her voice died out. She bit her lip, willing herself to keep control. Philip kissed her head, and she leaned into him gratefully. “He brought me that little house . . . remember, Philip? The one we gave him when he was little? It was supposed to help him with his homesickness, even though he said he didn’t remember where home was. Anyway, he asked me that day—begged me, really—to trust him. He all but admitted there was something . . . unique . . . about him. He said, ‘It’s nothing bad. It’s nothing dangerous.’ I remember thinking what an admission those words were, even though they really told me nothing.

“He even offered to go away, if you can imagine. So I knew I had to back off or lose him.” She smiled suddenly. “But when I hugged him, he hugged me back—so tightly. And I knew I had to trust him. There wasn’t anything else to do.”

“There still isn’t,” Jim stated, looking at each parent in turn. “More than ever now, we have to trust all of them.”

“How did Kyle get dragged into this, Jim?” Amy suddenly wanted to know. “He was on the outside of all this, judging from the journal.”

Jim managed a melancholy smile. “Miles to go before we sleep, Amy,” he replied, patting her leg. “Miles to go.”

posted on 2-Jul-2002 10:51:07 AM by Carol000
Hey Everyone! I had a GREAT WONDERFUL AWESOME time in LA with the Rospals. We had some Covina virgins with us, so that was cool, and we watched eps, laughed (until someone called security!), and bonded for 4 wonderful days.

HOWEVER, when I returned to O'Hare airport and got in my car, it wouldn't start. So now it's in a dealershiip, I'm imposing on Sue (the Chicago Rospal), and sitting here reading the fic I missed over the weekend.

THE PLAN: I have Dreamer Holidays: 4th of July ready to post as soon as I get home. I also drafted the next part of Chameleon while sitting in the parking lot waiting for help last night. So look for 3 Dreamer Holidays installments this week and Chameleon again by the weekend, okay?

Thanks for hanging in there with me!
posted on 9-Jul-2002 10:58:15 PM by Carol000
Thanks for your patience! I know it's been a while, but many of you already know why: it started with a Rostrip to LA (whoohoooo!!!!!!) and then it was time to post Dreamer Holidays: The Fourth of July. But now we're back with our favorite aliens. This chapter will bring you up to speed on a couple different story threads. For those who are enamored of the journal entries, 6a will be out in a few days covering ITW, Convention, and BD (hehehe).

Thanks for hanging in there with me!

Part 5b

The air seemed deathly still. Lieutenant Nathan Christopher watched surreal figures passing in the hall—fluid characters in a slow-motion dream sequence. But there was no sound other than the blood pulsing past his ears like a countdown. His eyes darted toward the clock. Major Gibbs, Tino, would be back in 15 minutes to retrieve the tapes of the conversation at the Parker’s home. Of course, Tino had no idea that Jeff Parker was revealing a tale so extraordinary that these scientists’ own theories paled in comparison. Nate’s orders, of course, were to turn the tapes over to his superior, who would take them to the reconstituted Special Unit. They would hear what he had heard. They would know what he now knew. But in this frenzied atmosphere of outright panic, would they understand what he was coming to understand? That these three . . . beings . . . were not the threat; they were the threatened.

Nate had spent the last few hours listening to an emotionally told tale of romance, adventure, and intrigue that would rival any blockbuster movie. He also knew enough about the original Special Unit to know that what Jeff Parker was reading was only the beginning of the story. If even part of the rumors that flew through the military were true, at least one of these kids had been to hell and back and people had died. So what did that make them? Evil? Bloodthirsty? Or scared and fighting for their lives?

10 minutes.

When he’d joined the military, he’d taken an oath to follow orders and to uphold the ideals of the United States. He had taken that oath seriously. His exemplary record had earned him this special assignment and his young wife had been so proud of him. Even his stern father, a full colonel, had beamed. And now, he admitted to himself, he already hoped that his son, due in 4 months, would follow in this proud family tradition. But he’d never considered what would happen when following orders and upholding ideals were two different things. Nate believed the ideals he was upholding had a lot to do with the respect for differences, peaceful coexistence, and “liberty and justice for all.” The warning of danger from aliens determined to invade or dominate or even annihilate had painted a very different picture from what he’d heard from that journal tonight. One of them had saved a life, risking exposure. Two had been raised and loved by human parents who, in all that time, had never suspected, and from what he could gather, that love had been returned. Strangely, they seemed to have little knowledge of themselves—their origins or purpose here. How very alone they must feel.

5 minutes.

If he tried to hide any of this, it could mean his career. He had a family, responsibilities, ambitions. It wasn’t his job to make these determinations. He was part of a larger picture. Once the Special Unit heard the tapes, they would probably reach the same conclusions he had. They would back off, revise their goal from “Kill the enemy” to “Investigate an unprecedented phenomenon.” He would have helped his country take a step toward a whole new perspective on the universe—and secured his career in the process.

Footsteps. Purposeful strides. Urgent strides.

“Lieutenant!”

Nate leapt to his feet.

“Sir.”

“I need those tapes.” Major Gibbs’ eyes shone, the almost crazed brightness that signals a predator’s love of the kill.

“Yes, sir.” Nate reached toward the bank of equipment in front of him and pulled a tape from the machine. The major snatched it from his hand.

“You’re dismissed.”

Nate watched the retreating figure leaning forward as he hurried down the hall, intent on his destination. Then he reached a trembling hand forward and pushed a button. A tape ejected from a second opening. He slipped it quietly into his pants pocket.

********

River Dog sighed deeply, scanning the stars and feeling small. The young girl, Maya, was in desperate need of help, and he honestly didn’t know what to do. Her frightening symptoms were not abating, and he feared that the only people who might know how to help her had fled New Mexico.

He’d heard sketchy and confusing details about Roswell High’s graduation. No one seemed to understand why commandos had burst on the scene, and the military wasn’t talking. But when he’d also heard that Max Evans had replaced the scheduled speaker mid-ceremony and then fled on a motorcycle with another boy, he knew it had something to do with the visitors. Now they were gone, and he feared for the child.

He turned and took the few steps back to the door of the isolated cabin. Only Eddie and a select few of the tribal elders were aware of its existence. The rest of his community just accepted his frequent and often lengthy disappearances as the norm. He had always been considered mysterious, some even thought dangerous, by his own people because of the way he held himself apart from them, and yet one couldn’t know what he knew without feeling somewhat separate. It changed you, just as it had the small family of Roswell residents who had come to know the truth.

Her whimpering moved him to action. Even from the doorway, he could detect the faint glow of light flickering through her hands. She rolled restlessly on the bed and cast pleading eyes in his direction. He swallowed his helplessness and went to soothe her.

“How’s she doin’?” Eddie asked as he slipped inside. “Any change?”

River Dog just shook his head. How he wished he could take this from her. She’d been through so much already.

“They asked again if they could come see her. I’m running out of excuses.”

“I know. But they can’t see her like this. Just tell them I’m not finished, but that she’s okay.”

“I want my mommy.” Maya started to cry, looking at him as only a child could, trusting that he could accomplish anything and confused as to why he would deny her. She’d been so brave, but confusion and fear were always hardest on a child.

“Please,” she cried, desperation creeping into her voice. “I wanna go home.”

“I’ll tell them to wait a few days,” Eddie offered. “After that, I don’t think we’ll be able to hold them off. They may not know where she is, but they’ll raise a stink if we don’t bring her back soon.”

“Yes, tell them.”

Eddie turned to leave.

“Noooo!” Maya sat up, extended her hand, and the door slammed shut. Three astonished faces froze, staring at it. River Dog slowly returned his gaze to Maya.

“We have to find Max Evans.”

********

As Liz and Maria poured over a road map, the other four packed up their camping gear and stowed it in the back of the van. The morning was warm and Liz watched Max out of the corner of her eye, appreciating the ease with which he shouldered their bulky gear. She could see the sheen of sweat on his forehead as he pulled up stakes and fought to control the billowing canvas. Maybe it was their too-brief honeymoon or the intimate knowledge she now had of her beautiful husband, but even these small, routine tasks became erotic to her, and her gaze intensified.

Feeling her eyes on him, Max stopped and turned toward the picnic table where his wife and her best friend were busy mapping their trip to Las Vegas. He knew even before he turned that she would be watching him. Their eyes met and the familiar heat swept through his body. Liz-induced heat. He hoped she never stopped looking at him like that; he hoped he never stopped reacting to it like this.

Knowing it was nothing short of showing off, Max bound the large tent in its ties and hefted it over his shoulder, making sure Liz got the full view of his bare chest and arm wielding the heavy load. He couldn’t help but smirk when he saw her nostrils flare. He was too obvious, though. She saw his expression and picked up the gauntlet of challenge. She stood and straddled the picnic bench, bending away from him to say something to Maria, letting the back of her cutoffs rise high on her thighs. Then she turned and walked toward him, unbuttoning one more button on her blouse and then lifting it back and forth from her moist skin to fan it. She licked her lips, and watched Max do the same in response.

When she reached him, she let one finger chase a bead of perspiration down his chest, ready to follow it past his waistband when it disappeared. She heard him gasp and suddenly the tent was on the ground and she was in his arms, thrilling to his demanding kiss.

“Oh god,” Kyle groaned from the van’s open rear doors. “I thought the agreement was that the honeymoon would stay inside the tent. The celibate among us deserve some consideration, ya know.”

“Chill out, Kyle,” Isabel sighed. “Honeymoons aren’t so easily contained.”

“Is that right? Well, you just had one, and Michael and Maria seem to be taking theirs for a test drive almost every night, and now these two, the last virgins in America until this week, are all over each other. Do you know how long it’s been since I’ve even kissed anyone?”

Isabel arched an eyebrow. “No, not really. And please!” she stopped him, “don’t tell me.”

“Michael,” Kyle pleaded, watching Max and Liz get more involved, “can’t you do something?”

Michael smiled, set down his box of canned goods, and marched to the picnic table. Lifting Maria up from her seat, he took her mouth and she happily returned the kiss.

“I’m not kidding, you guys. As soon as I develop some of that freaky alien lightening bolt power, I’m gonna zap you every time you do this to me, like a cattle prod. Pretty soon, you won’t be able to get it up at all and then we’ll all be miserable.”

Both couples pulled apart, sputtering with laughter, and soon a disgruntled Kyle was getting the help he wanted loading the van.

Hours later, Liz was driving. They had decided to stay on non-Interstate roads, just in case the State Police had a watch out for the van. Jesse had traded his own car for it in a rushed and lopsided transaction at a dealership just outside Roswell, but that wouldn’t take the Special Unit long to track. Their first tac had been northwest on old route 246. Then they’d opted for an even more remote trail into the Capitan Mountains. Needing supplies, though, they’d chanced the good road into Socorro before losing themselves in Gila National Forest. Silver City had opened its arms to the newlyweds on their one official honeymoon night, and now they were headed up 180 toward the Arizona line. The road had been fairly straight and desolate for a while, and Liz had been pleased to see that they were once again approaching a more forested stretch, probably the beginnings of the Mogollon Mountains.. It was a welcome change.

Relaxed and mellow, Liz was startled when a buck bounded from the trees into her path. She hit the brakes and swerved hard, missing the magnificent creature who looked at her with what seemed like mild irritation. Her sleeping passengers were thrown against each other, and when they righted themselves, their faces reflected a mixture of anger and panic.

“What happened?” Michael shouted, looking in every direction for the threat. Spotting the buck trotting off into the woods, he sat back and sighed, trying to slow his racing pulse.

“Are you okay?” Max asked Liz worriedly. “Are you hurt?”

“I’m fine. Really,” Liz panted, the adrenalin kicking in. “Sorry, guys, I was just so afraid I was gonna hit that buck.”

“He’s beautiful, isn’t he?” Kyle mused, watching the animal’s proud form move off into the trees. “My grandfather brought one of those down once.”

“Kyle!” Isabel huffed. “He hunted those beautiful animals? Killed them?”

“It’s legal!” Kyle protested.

“Liz?” Maria’s hushed tone brought everyone’s attention back to Liz. She had reached to steady the swaying talisman River Dog had once given her. She’d worn it ever since Max had reclaimed his medallion so he could bury it with the other alien artifacts. It represented her tentative connection to Max’s alien past and the clues they’d found in the cave that night. She’d hung it on the rearview mirror for luck one day after their bizarre journey began. Now she sat frozen, a faraway look in her eye.

Max frowned. “She’s getting another premonition; I recognize the look.”

Seconds later, she came back to them, immediately searching for Max’s face.

“What is it?”

“Max, there’s a little girl with the symptoms . . . my symptoms--the flickering light in her hands.”

“What? How?” Max looked at the others frantically. “Where?”

“I don’t know, Max, but she’s with River Dog.” She was silent for a moment, afraid to finish. “I think she’s dying.”

posted on 13-Jul-2002 5:35:00 PM by Carol000
Ah, the lovely summer weather (at least here) seems to be siphoning off some readers. Let's see if we can lure them back with more journal entries, okay?

A few responses to feedback. THANKS to those who left some--much of it very detailed. I LOVE THAT!!!! First a couple of general comments:

1. I'm glad everyone is liking Kyle. I think no matter what your shipper loyalty, you have a place in your heart for a sweet, funny, non-interfering future alien, right? I adore him and his sense of humor and I hope I can keep fitting it in.

2. Maya. She has many of you confused, doesn't she? *tongue* Scottie, Maya is Native American, yes. Let me just say that many of you are on the right track and kudos to silverwolf for making a very astute observation.

3. Nate has a good heart for severely divided loyalties. We will see more of him. And Jane--nope, he didn't. More on that later.

Now some specifics:

MamaDee: I will throw myself on my sword before Kyle and Isabel have a romantic moment. Nope. nuh-uh. Not gonna happen. Kyle deserves better, don't you think? Stay tuned. Oh, and if you've read my other stories, you know that River Dog and the whole Native American connection hold a special place in my heart. I can never stray too far.

Phae: Hey, sweetie. No, I'm not mad that you're monitoring the details. Yes, they will alter the vehicle soon. They've been in the boonies and haven't done it, but before they hit Vegas (and they will), it will change. Feel free to keep me honest anytime. Oh, and I know I owe you some NC-17. I'm sorry you had a bad week!

2crzy4roswell: WELCOME! I love to hear from new readers! I hope I don't let you down.

Okay, on with the show: Journal entries from ITW, Convention, and BD. Here we go!

In two posts for length . . .

Chapter 6a

The cookies Nancy had baked lay uneaten on a serving dish on the coffee table. At first, she had actually arranged them on the alien-head platter someone had given them when they opened the diner, but she changed her mind. Somehow, that plate didn’t seem funny or cute anymore.

As everyone settled in for the next round of journal entries, Philip broke the news that Jesse had called on the cell phone to explain his absence--he was needed in Boston ahead of schedule. An important case had gone sour, and his services were needed immediately. He was reluctant to leave so soon, but didn't see any other choice. Philip had promised to share what he could of the journal as soon as they had determined a safe method of communicating.

"I'm glad he's moving on," Diane said quietly. "I know it's hard on him, but staying here would be harder. We just need to be sure we keep in touch."

The remaining members of the group settled into what had become "their" places for these journal readings. They felt for Jesse. He went from looking forward to a wonderful new life with his lovely bride to abandoning that dream for a new and more frightening reality. They were all adjusting and it wasn't going to get better anytime soon.

The air was emotionally charged, and Jeff broke the silence. “There’s actually a gap of a few weeks here before Liz picks up again. There’s a very real correlation between what was going on with Max and her and how often she wrote in this journal. Later, there was a huge gap—literally months—when she and Max weren’t seeing much of each other. I guess this was her way of working that relationship out.” Jeff thought for a moment. “It’s really amazing that she decided to share this with us. There are going to be some personal things in here—about her, about her and Max, and about her relationship with Nancy and me. I actually thought about skipping parts of this. Just my sense of privacy—her and ours, I guess. But you all have as much right to hear this as we do, and Liz obviously intended for me to share it with you. I know you’ll respect the sensitivity of what you’re going to hear.”

“Jeff,” Diane began, already feeling the emotional turmoil return, “what you’re reading here is helping me to understand a side of my children, especially Max, that I never knew existed until recently. Liz is introducing us to our son, maybe for the first time. We’re grateful to you for sharing all of it.”

“And to you, Jim,” Nancy added, “for helping to fill in some of the gaps. In a way, I hate that you were keeping so much from us, but I think I understand why. I’m anxious to hear how you went from being their enemy to their friend.”

Jim looked uncomfortable. “I confess, I was on them all the time at the beginning.” He chuckled bitterly. “I could probably keep a therapist in sports cars for years analyzing all my issues with my dad and aliens and Kyle . . . but all that fell away one day, and I felt there was something more important to consider. I think we’ll probably hear a little about that in the journal.”

Jeff nodded. “Yeah, pretty soon here, although I don’t think Liz totally understood what happened.”

“Go ahead, Jeff,” Jim urged. “I’ll explain when we get there.”

********
The last few weeks have been a roller coaster, and I don’t know where I stand with anyone, really. My world used to revolve around Maria, Alex, and my parents. I went to school, I worked at the Crashdown, and I planned my life as a molecular biologist where I would wow the world with my theories and discoveries. Of course, there was a perfect guy in the picture and maybe even kids, but they were faceless ideas. I can hardly remember the last time I saw that as my future. Now, there’s only Max—or is there?

Take the camping trip, for instance. It was like relationship hell—for everyone, I think. As I’ve gotten older and drawn into this secret conspiracy of alien intrigue, I know I’ve pulled away from my parents. For a while, I thought they didn’t notice, but I was wrong—especially about dad. I’ve always been daddy’s little girl, and now he’s trying to recapture that closeness. But I just can’t be that anymore. There are too many secrets and too many feelings that I just can’t talk about with him. My heart is breaking over Max pulling away, and I can’t even tell him about it. How do you talk to your father . . . or mother, for that matter . . . about how your body comes alive in the presence of one certain boy, or how your breath catches in your throat with the effort of making casual conversation, or how you wonder if the best part of your life is already over when that boy tells you that what you feel so deeply in your heart can never be?

So when Dad brought up the father’s camping weekend, I almost panicked. First of all, Maria had made up this whole elaborate lie about how we had dates with college guys that weekend just to make Michael and Max jealous. Then, when Dad insisted that we go claiming we needed some quality time together, I couldn’t imagine what we would talk about when what was really on my mind was off-limits. I finally paid Maria to come with us, just to be a buffer. I could have died when we got there and found Max and Isabel climbing on that bus with their dad! The smirk on Max’s face was humiliating. We’d been caught in Maria’s lie and looked ridiculous. The only good thing about it, though, was he actually looked really pleased—like relieved that I didn’t have a date after all. Even with us not being together, his reaction sent a little chill down my spine. I wanted him to care.

********

“I still don’t know why Max and Isabel wanted to go that weekend,” Philip mused. “It couldn’t have been more out of character, and Isabel seemed downright irritated to be there, but she kept insisting she wanted to go. Then they disappeared in the middle of the night until your men brought them back, Jim, claiming they’d been lost.”

“I never got the full story on that, Philip,” Jim recalled. “But I know they were out there looking for something that night. Remember, there’d been another crash reported and the feds were on their way. I was trying to investigate, and when I heard you all were going, my radar went off the scale. When I found them, not only Max and Isabel were there, but Michael was there, too, with River Dog, no less. They were all hunched over something on the ground, but now that I think back on it, I realize Isabel and Michael purposely shielded my view so Max could get rid of whatever it was.”

Jeff shook his head. “It was a weekend of misdirection, from the sound of it.”

“Go on, Jeff,” Nancy encouraged. “What else does Liz say about it?”

********

Sitting around the campfire that night, I felt like I was watching a film on dysfunctional families. I was sitting there so full of secrets, afraid to talk to my own dad. Max was there, trying to pretend he was a normal teen out camping but really wondering what had crashed in Frasier Woods and glancing at me every so often. I can tell he still wants to be with me. It was never about not wanting it; it’s about his duty to Isabel and Michael, his differences from me, and his acceptance of both. I’m not buying it, though. There’s too much of his heart still in those eyes when he looks at me. And I know I’m looking back the same way.

Then I see the Sheriff and Kyle. Kyle’s still jealous of Max, but what’s weird is it’s not just about me. Kyle thinks Max took me away from him, yes, but he also thinks Max took his dad away from him. I know he’s always been sensitive about that; we talked about it sometimes. He says his dad is turning into his grandfather and that there’s no room in his dad’s life for him. Actually, he’d been upset the day before when his dad backed out on the camping trip, so I was surprised to see them there together—until I saw Valenti looking at Max and I knew. Kyle was right. Valenti was there for Max, not for his son.

********

A sniff betrayed Jim’s roiling emotions. He recognized the truth of Liz’s words and the regret was overwhelming. Once he realized he’d drawn the group’s attention, he bowed his head in embarrassment.

“She’s right. About all of it. I wasted so much time not being Kyle’s father. By the time I realized what I’d been doing, I was acting like a father to all of them. He’s never had me to himself like he deserved. It’s amazing he’s not more screwed up.” He attempted a weak smile, and Amy rubbed his arm soothingly.

“We do the best we can, Jim. Heaven knows I’ve made plenty of mistakes, but Maria’s wonderful in spite of them. They deserve a lot of credit, those kids.”

“We didn’t even know our children,” Diane sighed. “If you want to play ‘Guilt,’ Jim, you’d better make room for some serious competition.”

Jim looked at the other parents gratefully, and Jeff continued.

********

Then Alex and his dad—they were almost funny! Alex wanted to be with Isabel more than anything, and his dad didn’t want to deny Alex this father/son time, so the two of them were perched uneasily on a log trying so hard to look like they were having a good time! I wish I had a picture. And then Mr. Evans was being all friendly and trying to get to know everyone. It was painful to watch—secret agendas everywhere and almost everyone blind to them. Nothing could have proven that point more than when I found my dad going through my stuff. My almost desperate need for privacy right now had driven him to do something he would never have done before. He was actually wondering if I was using drugs! Imagine. Me. Little Lizzie Parker, all straight and studious and obedient. How I must have scared him to make him do something like that.

At least that gave me the excuse I needed to put some space between us. I wanted to sleep outside anyway because I just knew Max would be sneaking out. I’d seen Max, Michael, and Isabel huddling at school, and I knew that they had to be talking about the crash in Frasier Woods. After all, it was the first time anything like that had happened since their own crash, and they had to check it out. I watched them go, and I followed. I should have known Max would pick up on it. He was waiting for me in the woods, and even though Isabel was obviously put out, Max didn’t seem upset. Nervous, maybe. Worried for me, I think. But not mad.

Turns out Maria was following me, though, and she wanted me to come back to camp with her. That’s when I said out loud what I’d known in my heart all along, because Maria finally asked the question that had been hanging unasked for weeks. She said, “You can’t let him go, can you?” And the truth came out before I could censor it. “I don’t want to,” I said. And that was the truth. Because no matter what happened, or didn’t happen, between Max and me, the connection between us wouldn’t be denied. I felt it every time he looked at me, spoke to me, touched me. Sometimes I want to scream at him, “Why do you keep pretending we can deny this?” And then Michael or Isabel appears at his shoulder, challenging me, guilt-tripping him, and he pushes it back down inside of himself. That doesn’t take it away; it only hides it for another day. Someday soon, it won’t stay hidden. I live for that day.

All I know about what happened after that is that Maria and I distracted the police who the parents had sent after us long enough for the others to find what they were looking for. It must not have been anything concrete, but it was enough to keep them searching for the truth. I wonder if they’ll ever find it.

********
“Sounds like she never got the full story, either,” Jim commented. “She didn’t even see River Dog. That old Indian has been more involved than any of us realize, I think.”

“I’ve never seen him in town,” Jeff said. “I don’t think he ever came in the diner.”

“No, but another, younger one did,” Nancy recalled. “I saw Liz talking to a young Native American man more than once, always quietly and away from other people. I just thought he was asking her out or something, but I guess he could have been delivering messages.”

“Must’ve been Eddie,” Jim surmised. “I heard them mention him a time or two. Never met him, though. I gather he’s very close to River Dog.”

“You know what I just realized?” Amy mused, lost in her own thoughts. She snickered, then straightened. “Does anyone else see the irony in the fact that Max was working at the UFO Center?” She raised her eyebrows and looked at the group expectantly. “That place couldn’t be more of a tourist trap, and that nut who used to run it—Milton—was completely over the top! At least I used to think so. Imagine how Max must have felt there—a real alien working in a corny UFO Museum!”

Philip nodded, smiling. “Yeah, I was thinking about that, too. They have all those crazy displays and the creepy lighting and that insane convention. Boy, does that bring the looneys in!”

“Hey,” Jeff laughed. “That’s my bread and butter right there.”

“Yeah, but you don’t take it seriously, Jeff.”

“Maybe not, but the nuts who come to it do. And they spend money. Lots of it. Liz talks about that real briefly in here.”

********
After that weekend, Max was keeping his distance again. It’s like every time we take a tentative step forward, something or someone yanks him back again, like one of those nightmares where you’re running toward something but it just keeps getting further and further away. I see him watching me, though, and I see the same loneliness and frustration that I’m feeling. In fact, I think that’s why he’s working so much. He’s trying to stay distracted. I know that tactic. In fact, I think I invented it.

The UFO convention was a couple of weeks ago, and Max seemed to be handling a lot of the work. He even got to hang out with Jonathan Frakes, one of the guests of honor. In fact, the only guest of honor to actually show up. It was really hectic in town then, and I didn’t see much of him, but I heard a rumor that a famous alien hunter had come to town, and I was worried what that might mean for him. I saw Max drive off with him at one point, though, and he didn’t look worried, so I figured it was just a rumor. Now I think something important may have happened that night because I saw Max and Michael drive back into town late, and they talked seriously in the Jeep for a long time after closing. I finished up in the diner and turned out the lights and just stood watching them.

I know Max so well now. His silhouette against the light from the UFO Museum’s big neon sign told me so much. He was scared, confused, and at odds with Michael—again. They were so deep in conversation that they didn’t even see the Sheriff pull up down the block. I thought I’d be sick when I saw him start toward Max’s car. I prayed he wouldn’t overhear whatever they were saying. I’m still shocked by what I saw. Max didn’t even seem that surprised to see the Sheriff, and Michael just sat still, peering at him and being real quiet. The Sheriff said a few words to Max, and Max nodded. Then they just looked at each other for the longest time until the Sheriff stepped back, looked for another second, and walked away. I’ve noticed a change in Max and Valenti’s interaction since then. It’s cautious, but not threatening. I don’t think the Sheriff is hounding Max anymore. And now that I think about it, I didn’t see that man everyone said was an alien hunter again. I wish I knew what happened.

********
Jeff stopped reading and all eyes turned to Jim. He sighed, knowing they were waiting for an explanation and mentally preparing to give them one.

“Remember I said I changed my priorities one day? That was the day.”

He had their total attention. He knew it wouldn’t be easy for them to hear.

“Liz was right. The man she was describing was Everett Hubble, author of Among Us and, many believed, the only living person to have made direct contact with an alien. Milton was beside himself with excitement, and was hounding him to take part in a panel discussion that evening. What Milton didn’t know was that Hubble had come to me earlier and had asked me straight out about Max. I didn’t really tell him anything because I didn’t know anything for sure, but it was clear to him that I suspected things about Max. I never dreamed what he had in mind. All I knew was that he’d been with my father at the scene of a murder back in 1972, the murder of a man he thought, erroneously, had killed his wife. It took me a while to figure out that my father didn’t shoot the victim, Hubble did. Hubble just left him to take the rap. He had deduced that the murderer was an alien because of the handprint that had been left on the body, and when he realized he’d killed the wrong man, he began to track the alien again. The clues seemed to lead him to Max, who he finally decided was a shapeshifter hiding in a teen body. He only agreed to participate in the panel discussion so that he could lure Max into driving him to his home over at Bitter Lake to get some slides. He never intended for Max to come back alive.

“I talked to my dad, and in one of his rare lucid moments, he made me realize how dangerous this guy was. I realized that Max could be in serious danger, and even though I wasn’t sure what I believed about him yet, I knew I wasn’t ready to let him be killed by a madman. I headed for Bitter Lake, too, and from a distance, I saw them stopped in the parking lot of an abandoned diner. Suddenly, Hubble pulled on gun on him . . .”

Diane gasped, and Jim looked up, breaking his concentration on the unsettling memory. Diane looked horrified, and he realized again how little any of these people knew about what these kids had been through. Philip pulled his wife close, but his face reflected his own shock at what he was hearing. Someone had pulled a gun on his son! If things had gone even a little differently, Max could have died that night.

“I’m sorry, Diane, Philip. I’m afraid this isn’t the last or even the worst of what you’ll hear about the last three years. Your children have lived secret lives and most of it hasn’t been easy. Just remember, they’re okay now. You already know that they survived it. Do you want me to stop?”

Diane was visibly shaking now, but she shook her head. “I said I want to hear it all, and I do, but . . .” She took a deep breath, but it shook as badly as her body did. “Tell me one thing. Were any of them actually hurt through all this?”

Jim watched her carefully, weighing his answer. His silence spoke volumes, though, and gave Diane the answer she feared most. She whimpered and pressed her face into Philip’s chest. Philip maintained his intent look at Jim. “Answer her.”

“Yes.”

Now Philip was shaking, too. With anger.

“Who?”

“Both Max and Isabel.”

Philip closed his eyes, steeling his resolve.

“Who hurt them?”

When Jim didn’t answer, he opened his eyes and glared. “Who!”

“Our own government, for one. A group called the ‘Special Unit.’ Later, it was a rich old man and his wife looking for miracles—at any cost.”

Diane was openly weeping now.

“I know Liz will talk about that in her journal, Philip. She helped rescue Max . . . twice, in a way. I probably know more about Isabel’s incident than Liz did, though.”

At this, Nancy sat up from her resting place against Jeff. “Liz rescued Max? From our own government? How?”

“Please,” Jeff interrupted. “We’re getting ahead of ourselves. This only makes sense if we take it in order. Okay?” He looked at the Evanses. They were suffering for their son, and for their own ignorance of his burdens. Philip looked down at his wife.

“Can you do this?”

Determination pushed her anguish aside for the moment. “Yes,” she whispered. “Finish, please.”

Jim rubbed his face, a nervous habit that Amy had come to know. She squeezed his hand, and he managed a thin smile of thanks.

“Hubble pulled a gun on Max, and the next thing I know, Michael comes out of nowhere. It distracted Hubble just long enough for Max to tackle him. They were struggling when I pulled up, and I was afraid they’d both wind up shot. I drew my weapon and yelled for Hubble to drop his gun, but of course, he didn’t. He said Max was going to die one way or the other, and he didn’t think I could shoot him any more than my father could. Max just sort of lost it then. It was like all the pent-up fear came spilling out, and he told the guy to just do it—to just shoot. It was the first time I’d really seen him as a kid. I’d always seen him through my own filter as dangerous, even evil. But now he just looked like a vulnerable, scared kid, and I had to do something. So I shot Hubble.

“Anyway, Max and Michael were shocked and, I assume, relieved, but Max was still wound pretty tight. I tried to explain that I had no idea Hubble would come after him, but he was so angry. He wanted to know what I’d said to make Hubble so sure he was the one. I didn’t know what to say; I felt guilty about the whole thing. I tried to soothe him and called him ‘son.’ He looked right at me and said, ‘Would you treat your son like this?’ Suddenly, I saw Kyle staring at me through Max’s eyes. Just a kid, looking for someone to protect him, care about him. I’ve never been so uncertain about my feelings as I was at that moment. I told them both to get out and never to admit they’d been there.

“When I got back to town, I spotted them talking out in front of the museum. I knew they were still worried about what I might do. When I walked over to them, they stopped talking immediately. Obviously, they didn’t want me to hear their conversation. I just told them I didn’t know why Hubble thought Max killed his wife, but that he was obviously crazy, and it was best if they just let me handle it. I told them I wouldn’t involve them. Max just nodded and then . . . I don’t know . . . we just kinda stared at each other. It’s like we were both trying to figure out where the other one stood. We knew things between us had changed, but neither of us was sure how they’d changed. I just backed off and headed to the office to make my report. I didn’t get much sleep that night, I can tell ya that.”

There was a long, heavy silence. The trauma of that night was unimaginable. And yet Sheriff Valenti had continued to do his job. And Max Evans had continued to fool his parents. And they had both continued to pretend life in Roswell was normal. Surreal didn’t begin to cover it.

“That’s when you became their friend, isn’t it?” Nancy concluded.

Jim wrestled with his answer. “Not entirely. That was the beginning of my change of heart, but it didn’t happen overnight. I had a lot of soul searching to do, and a lot more encounters with that group before I got comfortable about which side I was on. It was a rather dramatic event that finally decided it.”

They all looked at him expectantly. Only Jeff knew which event he was referring to.

“All in due time, right Jeff?”

Jeff nodded and then smiled. “The next part is much less upsetting,” he assured them, a surprising grin breaking out on his face. “And it sounds much more like our Max and Liz.”

Diane looked up hopefully. Our Max and Liz. They had better get used to that, hadn’t they?


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 13-Jul-2002 5:58:00 PM ]
posted on 13-Jul-2002 5:36:11 PM by Carol000
6a continued

********

Sometimes I could just strangle Maria. It was her crazy idea that led to the oddest date of my entire life. In fact, it was so odd, I’m still not sure who it was with! It figures that I would be the one to win that radio contest, even though Maria is the one who entered us. And that emotional roller coaster with Max? It hit some new highs . . . and lows.

The day the radio station came to interview me on the air about my preferences in men, Max was sitting in a booth right across the aisle. Every question they asked—hair color, personality, where he should be from—all led me back to Max. There he was, throwing little glances my way and making me want to scream, “He’s right there! That’s my dream guy!” But I couldn’t, because Max hadn’t budged an inch about us, and I was reluctantly trying to move on with my life.

The beginning of the night is a blur. I think my fantasies got the best of me because I could have sworn I saw Max out there on my rooftop, looking at me with those bedroom eyes that make me melt every time. I thought the idea of me going out with another guy had finally broken his resolve, and he was here to rescue me from my fate with a blind date in the spotlight. I even imagined going out to him and hearing him tell me he loved me in that breathy, intense voice that turns me to jello. And the kiss . . .

I hope no one ever finds this journal because I almost embarrass myself when I talk about Max. But I wonder sometimes if the things he does to my mind and my body are typical for anyone who’s in love, or if it’s some kind of alien spell. Max wields this triple whammy when I’m around him. First, he looks at me with those incredibly expressive eyes, and that fast, I can’t think or form a coherent sentence. It’s like they’ve locked me into place and blocked any independent thought that doesn’t involve ravaging him.

********

Jeff’s voice began to falter, and he looked at his audience uncomfortably. “This is really awkward for me to read. I know it must be embarrassing for you to hear, too. Maybe I should skip some of this. It’s just important for us all to understand the kind of bond they had . . . have . . . because it explains how they got through some really rough stuff later on.”

Nancy sat up again. “I’ll read it,” she volunteered. “I know how it feels to be a woman in love,” she smiled at him shyly, “and besides, I feel better knowing she’s found something real and deep. I’ve been struggling with her running off with a boy when she’s not old enough to know her mind yet, but maybe I’m wrong. Max is a lot more than I ever gave him credit for . . .” She looked at the Evanses with understanding. “And I bet you’ve had many of those same thoughts. I think Liz wanted us to know this now.”

There was some restless shifting, but there also seemed to be general agreement. Nancy took the journal from Jeff and began to read.

********
Then he speaks, and it’s like being wrapped in a light velvet cloak, all warm and soft and inviting. He draws me in with just a phrase, and I want to stay right there for as long as I can. Then he touches me, and every part of my body turns into a puddle of liquid longing. Those few days when we felt free to kiss at will, I was constantly amazed that my body could function at all because I was sure my bones had melted and my insides had flowed into one warm mass of contentment. I couldn’t imagine anything feeling more wonderful. So my fantasy that night included a kiss, so real and so full of promise that when the noise from outside jerked me back to reality, I wanted to cry. That should have been my reality.

Then Maria came up and bullied me downstairs to meet this “perfect guy.” It was like being awakened from a dream by a slap across the face with a dead fish. There he was—Doug Shellow, average-looking, boring, way-too-sincere Doug Shellow. They made a big deal about me touching his greasy, slicked-back hair, and all I could think about was how Max’s soft bangs always begged me to brush them back from his face and how he’d smile at me indulgently whenever I did that.

Then we ate a too-fancy meal in a too-public setting and got pushed into a way-too-premature kiss. When Doug pulled me upright again, I wasn’t sure if I should believe my eyes or if I was having another fantasy, but it sure looked as if Max and Kyle were right outside, watching us. I finally decided it must’ve been a fantasy because Kyle and Max don’t even speak. It was unthinkable that they were out there watching this date of mine together. But seeing Max’s face gave me shivers. He stood completely still, his eyes boring into me, as if to say, “That should be me.” I think so, too, Max. But you’re the reason it’s not.

I tried to make conversation with Doug. He’s a nice enough guy and all, and I hope he has a nice life. It just won’t be connected to mine in any way. I just kept watching the clock. I was so afraid I’d miss the concert, and Alex and Maria were going to perform, so it was important for me to be there. But when I saw the radio van closing in, I hauled Doug upstairs to wait them out. Nothing could have prepared me for what I found there: Kyle going through my lingerie drawer and Max poking around my desk. Both of them drunk and acting like lost-lost friends. I still have no idea how they came to be together that night.

I was furious with Kyle. Who knew what Max had told him in his drunken state? If I hadn’t been so afraid of what Kyle knew now, or what Max might do, I would have laughed hysterically at the picture they made. Max especially was so adorable when he confessed they were drunk and announced to Doug that they—he and Kyle—were there to win me back. My attempts at damage control were completely undermined by Max—so honest and innocent looking—so I was shocked when Kyle actually fought Doug off so I could have a private talk with Max.

Funny how you have your mean drunks, your lovey drunks, and your blatantly honest drunks. Well, I’m still trying to figure out which category Max is in. I want to believe he belongs in the honest category because the loving Max on my rooftop that night, the one whispering his confession that only a sip of alcohol had done this to him and how it wasn’t wearing off, that Max was telling me everything I wanted to hear. He had created a glowing heart on my patio wall with our initials in it, and he urged me to run away with him where we would always be together and live happily ever after. His inhibitions had been left back in that bottle of booze because all of his feelings and hopes for us came tumbling out of that beautiful heart of his, and I wanted nothing more in my life than to believe him.

Even as I panicked about the effects he was creating on a public street—mirror ball lights and sparkling parking meters and car alarms playing pretty music—I thrilled to his words. He told me then that I was his Dreamgirl, that he can’t stand it when we’re apart, that we should run away to where nobody knows us so we can be together. I tried to do the right thing, to tell him it was only the alcohol talking and that none of it was true, but in my heart, I believed him. I had to, because he was offering what I wished and prayed and hoped for more than anything—a life with Max Evans. When I reminded him our lives could never be normal, he asked me a question—such a simple one. “What’s so great about normal?” And in that moment, watching his face alight with love and hope and openness, the answer that kept running through my head was, “Nothing.”

Sometimes I hate the part of me that’s practical and responsible. I’m becoming more and more convinced that all it does is keep me from all the things I want—fun and love and . . . Max. But I knew the fantasy had to end, at least for the night, so I called for a cab. While I did, though, sweet, drunk, ingenuous Max hailed the KROS van, and of course they took us straight to the concert. The wacky dj herded us onto the stage and demanded that I pick my Valentine. Poor Doug looked completely rattled and Kyle was too drunk to care. But when the dj told Max to “convince” me that I should choose him, he pushed the microphone aside and did what we’ve both been wanting for weeks—he kissed me, with such passion and honesty and love, it took my breath away. For just that moment, I completely forgot I was on a stage with hundreds of people watching. My whole world was Max and what he was telling me with his lips and hands and heart.

That magical moment transported me right into his world again, the one where I felt safe and loved and more cherished than I ever thought possible. But seconds later, the moment shattered. Something about the intensity of that kiss had snapped him out of his drunken state, and he looked confused and embarrassed. I could feel my heart sinking with the terrifying suspicion that we were back where we started. He bolted and I followed him, praying that he would at least admit that he’d spoken his true feelings. But he had no memory of it—not one bit. All that was left was his fear that he’d said or done something he shouldn’t have. And I think he worried that maybe he’d hurt me, too. Well, he had. But I couldn’t tell him, so I just let him go.

When I got back to my room, I had a good cry. The night was the best and the worst of my life. When I finally dragged myself up to get ready for bed, though, I saw something that made me smile, that made me hope that maybe those dreams could still come true someday. Because on my desk was what used to be a picture of me with Alex and Maria. Only now, it was a picture of me and Max . . . and Max. I wouldn’t have thought it possible that night, but I laughed. There was his face, sitting atop Alex’s slender body and atop Maria’s curvier one. I will keep that picture forever, even though I can’t let anyone else see it. It’s perfect, for Max surrounds me in every moment of my life—my friend, my love, my future, God willing. My fondest wish is that someday I will show that picture to our children and tell them about the first time their father invited me to spend my life with him—even if he doesn’t remember.

I don’t suppose I’ll be hearing from Doug Shellow again.

********
Nancy laid the journal in her lap, tears finally spilling over the rims of her eyes.

“She never gave up on them,” she sniffled. “Even when they weren’t together, she was completely devoted to him. That’s amazing, especially for 16.”

She exchanged a meaningful look with Diane. “Oh, Nancy, I could have told you early on that Liz was the only one Max ever looked at. We always wondered why Max never dated. I know I’m his mother, but I think he’s a beautiful boy, and I was sure the girls found him attractive. But once Liz had stopped by, and I saw the look on his face, his gentleness with her, I knew he’d found someone. He tried to keep her a secret, but he couldn’t keep himself from mentioning her from time to time. He talked about her constantly more recently, but I’ve known for a while.”

“Would you excuse me?” Nancy said, hurrying from the room, dabbing her eyes.

The group took the opportunity to stretch and freshen up. Amy and Jim got drinks for everyone, and they started to make a dent in the plate of cookies. This part of the story had been more predictable, more normal, more teen-like. They’d been chatting quietly for a few minutes when Nancy came back into the room, an unexpected smile on her face.

“Found it,” she giggled.

“What?” Jeff asked, curious.

Nancy pulled her hand from behind her back. In it was a framed picture of Max and Liz . . . and Max. Laughter filled the room and lightened their hearts for the first time in weeks. Miles away, even Sgt. Christopher had to suppress a smile.

posted on 14-Jul-2002 10:01:59 PM by Carol000
MEA CULPA!!!!!!!!!!!!

At least 4 of you (Scottie, Kath 7, ladylou, & ps_dreamer) called me on a huge gaff. It was indeed Atherton who wrote Among Us, not Hubble. I have now corrected my master copy, but that will only help the repost, I'm afraid. SO SORRY. Man, I can't believe I did that.

AND, after watching BD twice, just to carry every nuance with me to the computer, I managed to blow the radio call letters. Only Kath7 noted that one. That was just laziness because when I got to that point, I realized I wasn't completely sure, so I talked myself into the wrong ones. Shame on me.

On the bright side, you guys are paying REALLY close attention! LOL!

6b is under construction now, but I have to say--my mind isn't far away from the next journal entries: ID and SH!!!!!!!!!!!!! WHOOHOOOO! Which parent will have the guts to read that!

See ya in a couple days. Thanks, everyone!
posted on 18-Jul-2002 10:12:02 PM by Carol000
BONSOIR!


You guys are blowing me away with such wonderful feedback! I’m humbled and excited! So many of you have commented on the “satisfaction” of reading Liz’s journal. Believe me, I’m right there with you. This is Carol’s catharsis, too. I’m glad you’re coming along with me.

Some individual responses:

First, I already posted a “mea culpa” about miscrediting Hubble with writing “Among Us.” It was Atherton, of course, and at least 4 of you noticed that. I’m so embarrassed.

Second, Kath7 pointed out my error on the call letters for the radio station. I lazily crossed my fingers and wrote KROS. Nope. KROZ. Sorry. (2crzy4roswell, that was the mistake you were wondering about.)

Third, BelieveInTrueLove caught another one (jeez). She noticed that Nate went from Lt. to Sgt. in the blink of an eye. That was a case of my getting ahead of myself. You’ll meet the Sgt. in the next chapter. Nate’s gonna need him.

DayDreamBeliever: You aren’t alone wanting to read more of the journals, evidently. I am taking my time with the S1 journals because there is so much there to love. Most of us are enjoying getting back in touch with that magic. However, that will come to a screeching halt soon enough, and the journal entries I choose to expand upon will become few and far between, esp. for S2, so I must keep up with the “on the road” plot, or the story would come to an end VERY soon! LOL!

rjsasko: Undo Isabel and Jesse? LOLOL! Fine with me, but let’s face it. Who cares? As for Alex—(sniff) how I miss him, but this is post-Grad, and I’m afraid I’m stuck with certain realities.

MamaDee: Thank you! So you’re worried about the journal being destroyed? Well, between you and me, it might have a different fate.

Araxie: Just a quick note to THANK YOU for the wonderful Epiphanies feedback at Repost! It was some of the most touching feedback I’ve ever read, and I appreciated it so much.

sablaine: ROTFLOL!!!!!!!! You asked if the pic I mentioned in the journal—the one that Max changed—was something I made up? Go watch you BD tape, girl! That’s a priceless scene!

Debbi: High praise coming from you, my friend. I’ve been enjoying the magic you’ve been weaving, too!

Moonlit Jade: You’d never gotten to see ITW? Wow. So sorry. I’m glad I could help fill in the gaps!

Tazno: We are SO on the same “no Is/Kyle” page girl. In fact, read on!

6th Rock: Welcome! Nice to see some new faces.

Okay, I’m really concerned that this part will seem anti-climactic after the fun journal entries. It’s a little bit transitional, getting into the group dynamic and helping us to change gears on the gang’s plans. And it doesn’t even address all the things I wanted to get to here (including nookie, which has been in high demand, at least among my most vocal Rospals—LOL!), but that will come next time, along with some faster-moving plot. Hang in there!


6b

Lt. Christopher was trying not to smile as he pictured the altered photograph that Liz Parker had described in her journal—a photo in which Max Evans, in a bout of drunken silliness, had apparently superimposed his own face on that of two of Liz’s friends. The image just added to Nate’s growing conviction that the aliens the government was hunting were, when you got right down to it, just kids. Special kids, but kids. And certainly not the dangerous threat that less-informed leaders were preparing to destroy.

A loud thump redirected his attention to the console. Nate snapped to attention as Major Gibbs burst into the room.

“Lieutenant!” He thrust a tape into Nate’s face, his bulging eyes flashing above it.

“I had this couriered directly to the head of the Special Unit,” he hissed. “I assured her that I had a top man on it, and that the tape would reveal anything that girl’s family knew.” He stopped talking, breathing heavily, as if he’d run all the way down into the bowels of the facility where this top-secret operation was housed. Nate kept his eyes forward, standing at strict attention, fighting the urge to turn his head away from the major’s breath, sour with cigarette smoke and onions.

“Do you know what she heard?”

Nate remained stiffly quiet.

“DO YOU?”

“No, sir.”

Nothing! She heard nothing! This is a blank tape! Now hand over the right tape before I have you scrubbing latrines in Afghanistan!”

Nate knew this was coming. He had hoped it would take longer, but given the priority of the mission, he wasn’t really surprised.

“That is the right tape, sir. I’ll check the equipment immediately.”

“Not good enough, Lieutenant! There must have been a back-up. Give it to me.”

“The back-up system jammed last night, sir. I didn’t realize the main system was on the fritz, too. We’ll get right on it.”

“You’ve been listening, haven’t you? Was there anything significant on the tape from last night?”

Nate replayed the battle he’d fought with himself, hearing all the arguments in fast forward. He knew he wasn’t capable of another decision, but nausea swept through him when he listened to himself utter the words that would most likely mark the beginning of the end of his career.

“No, sir. They must’ve been reading or something. It was quiet, and they went to bed early. Mrs. Parker has been crying quite a bit.”

The major looked both relieved and frustrated. “What about tonight?”

“I think they were going over the books from the restaurant. They discussed what new staff they needed. You know, three of them worked at the restaurant. I think it’s hard for them to concentrate on their business with their daughter missing.”

Then Nate watched in horror as the major reached across the control panel and ejected the tape that was running. “I’ll check this one myself,” he announced, turning to leave. “Make sure you have that system up and running by morning!”

Nate lowered himself into his chair, staring at the door that swung back and forth from the Major’s departure. That was the tape. The real one.

Shit. What was he supposed to do now?

********

The afternoon had brought a new plan. After heading into the woods to find a completely isolated spot in which to regroup, Michael and Max had changed the exterior color of the van, along with the grillwork, interior features, and hubcabs. Liz talked through the shadowy details of her vision while Maria took notes, and Kyle watched nervously as Isabel paced around the perimeter, deep in thought.

Satisfied with the van’s new look, Max signaled for everyone to gather. Old habits die hard, and it was easy to let him take the lead. They had lived that way their whole lives, and one declaration of abdication in the desert didn’t really change anything.

“I wish we didn’t all have to go,” Max began, “but with only one car, we have to stick together. I have to go back. So does Liz. If anyone can think of an alternative, let’s hear it.”

The six teens looked uneasily at each other. Each was aware of the danger of returning to the center of the military’s manhunt . . . or rather, alien hunt. And they had almost no money left. They needed for at least one of them to have a job. Gas, food, campground fees. It added up. But a little girl was in trouble, maybe even dying, and Max and Liz were the only ones with a prayer of helping her. No one spoke. They knew what had to be done.

“Liz remembered a few things. I don’t know if they’ll help at all,” Maria shrugged, “but here it is. The girl seemed to be about 6 years old, she was in a cabin of some kind—it didn’t look familiar—and River Dog was with her. Her hands were flickering with a greenish light, and she was whimpering.” Maria looked up, wishing her list was longer.

Max reached for Liz’s hand, a loving gesture until he suddenly went still, staring at it, remembering how frightened he’d been when Liz’s hand had been lit with an alien light. He knew it had hurt her, and he knew the fear and pain she’d felt had driven her to confess her deepest resentment toward him. Once again, he was flooded with guilt, the old self-loathing flickering in his mind.

Liz watched Max’s face as he stared at her hand. She could have almost recited the images he was remembering, and she felt her own sense of remorse for the hurtful things she’d said. In a way, they’d been true enough, but she knew he’d been suffering in a hell of his own, and they both had plenty to be sorry for.

She reached for his face, and the soft touch of her fingers pulled his eyes upward to meet hers. There was understanding there, unlike any he had ever known. This was a love that forgave, that empathized, that endured.

“Max, don’t go there,” she said softly, and he knew that she had accurately read his thoughts.

He nodded, flashing a brief, grateful smile. “Do you remember anything else?”

Liz refocused on the memory. “Just that she was hurting and scared. She’s so young. And judging from my glimpse of River Dog’s face, he doesn’t know what to do.”

“Should we call him? Do you even have a number for him?” Kyle asked.

“No, it’s too dangerous,” Michael interjected quickly. “Besides, I don’t think he even has a phone.”

“We have something better,” Isabel stated, breaking her silent vigil at the edge of the group.

Max could hear the quiet intensity in her voice and tensed. “What do you mean, Iz?”

“I mean we need to contact our parents. I mean we need some money. I mean we need to tell River Dog we’re coming back to help that little girl. And we need to tell Valenti to keep the patrols away from where we’ll be.” She held her brother’s wary gaze. “I need to dreamwalk them.”

“Isabel . . .” Max warned, rising to face her.

“She’s right, Max,” Michael agreed, startling the others. Michael never voted for a plan that involved revealing any more of themselves than was necessary.

“They all know about us already, right? And we can’t keep that van running on exploding rocks and premonitions, we can’t dodge the law if we don’t know where they are, and we can’t find that little girl without River Dog’s help.”

Everyone knew the decision had been made, but they needed time to adjust. Not one of those people had been dreamwalked before, and it wasn’t as if Isabel could just observe; she needed to communicate. It was liable to throw them for a loop, and even if Isabel were successful, would her visits convince anyone that it was real and not just a dream?

“Okay, let’s think this through,” Max muttered to himself, starting to pace. “River Dog has to be first because he’s the only one who knows where we need to go, right?”

He looked toward the group for confirmation. “Then who?”

“Not my mom, please,” Maria begged. “She’s barely hanging on as it is, half the time.
She’d totally freak.”

Liz smiled at the thought. “No, definitely not your mom. . . . My dad.”

Isabel turned on her. “Your dad! Why? It should be one of our parents. They’ve had the longest time to get used to . . . things, and they’re our parents—they’ll help us.”

Liz gave Isabel a long look. She understood where Isabel was coming from, and her anger, as usual, was a defense mechanism. “Isabel, my father knows, too, and will be just as willing and able to get help from all the parents. But he has one thing your parents don’t—a busy place of business. A place of business where Eddie has been seen many times. A place where people leave with take-out packages and deliveries are made every day. A place where messages can be passed and packages can come and go without raising any suspicions.”

Max watched Isabel’s face. He knew Liz was right, but he didn’t want to be the first to say it. Isabel had always accused him of taking Liz’s side about everything, right from the beginning. The thing is, Max had had the good sense or good fortune—take your pick—to fall in love with one of the smartest people he’d ever known, and her opinions were almost always well-founded. But it was important someone else see the sense in her suggestion before he acknowledged it.

Isabel was clearly wavering, hating to admit to the wisdom of Liz’s suggestion but seeing the advantages in spite of herself. Kyle, who had become the calming influence in Isabel’s life recently—an irony of mammoth proportions—approached her, speaking softly.

“Isabel, think about it. If Liz’s dad is the one, he can act as the hub for this whole thing right away. He can let the other parents know; he can get some money and supplies to Eddie to bring to us; and he can talk in person to my dad or the other parents right out in the open with no one the wiser—no phone taps, no covert meetings, no mysterious packages.”

They all waited. Max knew Kyle had swayed her, but she still needed her dignity time—time to look like she was weighing her options. Max sneaked a peek at Liz and winked. He saw the corner of her mouth twitch in carefully disguised amusement.

“You think like a cop, you know that, Kyle?” Isabel snapped.

“Helpful in a situation where we have to think like criminals, isn’t it?”

She rolled her eyes in exasperation and then signaled her inevitable agreement. “Fine. First River Dog, then Jeff Parker . . .” Her voice reflected her extreme annoyance with that choice. “. . . and then Valenti.” She hesitated. “Senior.”

She glanced again at Kyle who broke out into a contagious grin. She followed suit and the tension between them dissipated.

Michael ignored the lighter mood and raised a question that brought them all up short.

“You’ve never dreamwalked more than one person in a night before, have you, Isabel? Last time I saw you do it, you woke up completely drained. What’s three gonna do?”

No one else had thought of that, and her answer could change everything.

“The last couple times carried a lot more pressure, Michael. First, I was looking for Max in the White Room and then I was trying to find out what Pierce knew about Nasedo. I was scared and tired, and I sort of figured lives might depend on it. It’s not so scary this time. I think I can handle it.”

Everyone’s thoughts immediately returned to the nightmare that had plagued them two years before. So much had changed since then—and so much hadn’t. The Special Unit had surely been revived by now, and their identities were common knowledge to even more of the military. They knew from the papers, though, that the military had chosen not to make this a civilian matter—at least not yet. And though they weren’t sure why, that choice was probably the only reason they were alive.

On the positive side, though, their parents now knew the truth and loved them anyway, they had the means to go out on their own, limited as those means were, and for at least four of them, they were with the ones they loved, making each day a little more tolerable and a lot more meaningful.

The silence lingered until Max shook himself from the solemn mood that had settled on everyone. This wasn’t doing them any good.

“We have about two hours until sunset. I suggest we make the best of this spot for the night. It’s not a campsite, but it is isolated and there’s water nearby. Then we should rest, relax, whatever until dinnertime. We’ll heat up what’s left of our food and discuss what we need to tell each person on Isabel’s list and what we need to know from them. By morning, we should know where we’re headed, and we’ll have mobilized whatever help we can manage. Agreed?”

Heads nodded and they rose to get their minimal supplies from the now-unrecognizable van. While the alien three worked their magic on the tents, Maria did an inventory of the food and Kyle and Liz ventured off to collect water.

Kyle was uncharacteristically quiet as they walked, and Liz glanced over, trying to judge his mood. His brow was crinkled in concentration and his mouth was pulled down at the corners, giving him a serious and troubled demeanor.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Liz ventured quietly.

Kyle stopped in his tracks and looked at her, almost startled to find her there with him. He studied her face, and she waited patiently. She knew Kyle pretty well. He used to wear that face on those rare occasions when he shared his more serious side with her, just like he had when he’d talked about his dad’s preoccupation with everything but him. Finally, he seemed to make a decision.

“Can I talk to you about something?”

“Anytime, Kyle. You know that.”

He nodded, then paused, looking for the right words. “I feel trapped.”

It was a simple statement describing an impossibly complex situation. Liz just nodded encouragingly.

“I mean, I know coming with you guys was the right thing to do. It’s just that . . .” He stared off into the distance, struggling to find the words that would make her understand.

“You ought to see a video of you and Max together,” he stated unexpectedly.

“What?”

“It’s actually a shame you two can’t see yourselves as others see you. I guess you know I was pretty jealous when Max blew into your life. I mean, one day, he was just Max, the kid nobody really knew or cared about knowing. He was just there, like part of the landscape. Until that weird incident at the Crashdown. Then everything changed. I could almost feel you pulling away, and he was always there, in the shadows, distracting you. I would have been blind not to see it. I thought he was quietly poisoning you against me—all that quiet, serious crap was just the kind of thing I figured would attract you. And I was scared.”

“Kyle,” Liz began. She had no idea Kyle was still harboring jealousy toward Max. “I’m sorry. I never meant to hurt you.”

Kyle looked at her strangely, then let out a surprised laugh. “No! No, Liz, I wasn’t saying I’m still jealous of him. No, what I’m saying is I watched what happened between you two. I could see it growing and yeah, my feelings were hurt, but that was as much about my rep as it was about love. I didn’t want to be the jilted boyfriend. It’s not cool.”

He smiled at her reassuringly, “But after that, when I saw you two together, I saw something we’d never had. A closeness that I’ve never felt with anyone. After a while, I started to think that’s what I wanted, too. It looked so . . . special.” He looked down awkwardly. He’d rarely opened up to anyone like this before. He guessed that’s what isolation did to you—made you draw others closer.

“I thought for a little while that I might find that with Tess.” He snorted derisively. “Among her long list of deceptions was letting me think she could care about me.” He shook his head, obviously berating himself for what he saw as his own stupidity. “Why would she fall for me? I’m just a guy . . . just a guy.”

“You’re not just a guy, Kyle. Over the last year, you’ve grown so much. You’ve shown compassion, discretion, self-sacrifice, courage. I think you’re incredibly special, Kyle. I have enormous respect for you.”

He looked at her, a mix of gratitude and skepticism in his eyes.

“I mean it, Kyle,” she assured him, resting her hand gently on his arm.

“Thanks.” He let the moment hum between them, welcoming the return of a closeness long abandoned. Then, “But now we’re all on the road. It’s you and Max, so much in love that even your casual conversation is disgusting.” He looked at her affectionately, wanting to assure her that he wasn’t completely serious. She smiled at him, embarrassed. “And Michael and Maria have something special, in their own abusive sort of way. And that leaves Isabel and me. And that’s sort of the problem. Because there really is no Isabel and me. I mean, we’re friends, and at one point, I found myself attracted to her, but I think that was just sort of a desperation thing.”

Liz suppressed a giggle, and Kyle couldn’t help but grin at her. “No, I don’t mean it that way. I just mean, once I knew about . . . ya know, everything, it was like I couldn’t really connect with regular girls and Isabel . . . well, she was the one that was left.” He shook his head in frustration. “I’m not saying this right. We’re just not together, like you guys are. For one thing, she’s married, obviously, and I know she loves Jesse. And for another thing . . . maybe you haven’t noticed, but she’s like this Amazon and I’m this buff, compact wrestler type . . .”

Now Liz was laughing openly, and they enjoyed their shared joke, but Kyle grew serious again. “The fact is, we’re not a match—not our personalities, not our bodies, and not our emotional status. And yet we’re always paired together. We have to entertain ourselves when you and Max or Michael and Maria are off doing . . . whatever you’re doing . . . and it’s like there’s this pressure to be a couple without being a couple . . .” He sighed. “Am I making any sense?”

Liz felt ashamed. She hadn’t even thought about how this was for them. Kyle had put it perfectly: the rest of them were treating Isabel and Kyle as a couple . . . but not. They were forced together by circumstance, not by choice.

“I’m so sorry, Kyle. I hadn’t really thought about it from your point of view. No wonder you feel trapped.”

“At least Isabel has Jesse . . . you know, to hold onto. She likes to talk about him.” He grimaced, making his sarcastic Kyle face. “I love it when she does that.”

Liz smiled back, but her heart went out to the young man whose life was turned upside down—just as hers had been, but without the fringe benefits.

“What can I do?” she asked, knowing the question had little hope of being answered.

“Have sex with me.”

Liz stared at him, dumbfounded, until she saw the twinkle in his eye and the tug of a smile at his mouth. She smacked him hard on the arm before they both burst out laughing. They resumed their walk toward the stream.

“Just talk to her, Kyle. She’s probably feeling much the same way. It won’t change the situation, but it might make it easier if you’re both honest about how you feel. And I’ll talk to the others; we need to be less ‘couple-ish’ sometimes—you know, do things all together.”

“Just don’t make me out to be pathetic, okay, Liz?”

“No chance, Kyle. I’ll just make sure they remember that you’re a buff, compact wrestler type who is very cool.” He grinned at her. “And very lonely,” she added. The grin faded, and he pulled her into a hug.

“Who knew you’d turn into one of my best friends,” he whispered, his voice hoarse with repressed emotion.

“I think I did,” she whispered back.

********

I had two additional goals for this part, but it got so long, and it’s been days since I posted (my son is ill), so I thought I’d get this part up. We’ll move things along a little faster in the next part. Now hang on folks—the next journal entries are . . . ID (short) and SH (looooooooooooooong!!!!!!!!!!).

posted on 21-Jul-2002 8:00:44 PM by Carol000
A PLEA FOR PATIENCE

I know that you are all looking for the next journal entries on ID (yeah, whatever) and SH (whoohoooo!!!) Here's the problem. My sister-in-law called and said, "We can come after all! We'll be there the 29th." This is good news because I adore her and her family of SIX (4 little boys). But she let me know this right AFTER I stripped wallpaper in one bedroom and was taking my own sweet time picking out paint and a new bed, etc. Now I'm in prep overload and it doesn't look good for Chameleon for the next two weeks.

I'm VERY sorry, and will do what I can, but I'm swimming in paint, looking for daybed bedding (apparently nobody makes that anymore), and wondering how I'll get everything done.

OH! And for those who commented on my son being ill--thank you so much! It was self-inflicted, actually. He's 18, had his cartilage pierced, and within 3 days had an infection that threatened the existence (yes, really) of his external ear, a possible brain infection, and possible hospitalization. Well, after 4 doctor visits in 3 days (including the ER), MEGA doses of antibiotic via injection and pills, and total rest, he's up and about again. He seems to have decided against further piercings. *happy*

Hang in there with me, please. I'll get this written ASAP, but it might be two weeks. Sorry.
posted on 25-Jul-2002 11:22:41 PM by Carol000
Sorry for the completely shameless bump. I'm afraid by the time I get back to the story (at least 10 days), I won't be able to find it. I may have to do this again.

And to anyone who actually READS this (if anyone), thanks for the concern regarding Matthew and his piercing gone bad. He seems okay now!

And I just finished painting the bedroom I was working on--company coming Monday. Hang in there! I've actually started the SH journal entry!
posted on 31-Jul-2002 12:44:27 AM by Carol000
THANKS to all those who are vigilantly bumping this story! I thought I'd better find it tonight just so it wouldn't fall off the board, and here I see you all have been taking such good care of it! Tigereyes, thanks so much for your kind words and regular bumps! I'm glad this gives you some warm fuzzies for nighttime reading.

My house is currently filled with 4 little nephews (and their parents), the youngest of which informed me today that "I'm fwee! So I can jump on da tramowene by mysewlf." They are fun and hungry and loud and energetic and my chance to write is severely limited! But this weekend will be quiet and full of Roswell, I promise!

I showed the series finale to my sister-in-law tonight. She went through 2 tissues. I love her so much!

Thanks again. See you in about a week!
posted on 3-Aug-2002 10:49:43 PM by Carol000
OKAY!!!!!! Company's GONE! (Loved them--truly--but ya know, ROSFIC has taken a real beating! LOL!)

I have caught up on fics and mail tonight, and taken a tentative step towards the next part. Tomorrow is WRITING DAY! With luck, I'll post tomorrow (Sunday) night. If not, MONDAY for sure. THANKS to everyone who's been patient and sweet and bumping like crazy! I owe ya!


posted on 4-Aug-2002 11:09:09 PM by Carol000
I'm baaaaack!

The room is done, the company is gone, and my wonderful readers (especially TigerEyes and Miranda) have kept this story from being bumped into oblivion. And Linda! Thanks for the one tonight. I was worried about finding this!

Bless you all.

Here is the long-awaited (I think) journal entry for ID and SH. I hope it was worth the wait. My butt has been glued to this chair all day!

A Special Extra: After SH aired in S1, I was itching for the scene they never gave us. What happened after they faced their folks in the Crashdown that morning? Well, I wrote that scene, aptly called "The Missing Scene from SH" (no points for originality there) and sent it out on Cherish. Pam picked it up for the DDD, where I'm sure it is old news to regular visitors. However, I'm guessing many of you have never seen it, so after this journal entry, I'm adding that missing scene. It's not officially part of that fic, but it seems to fit here, dontcha think?

Tonight I'm posting in two parts: The first will be the first 9 pages of the journal entry. The second will be the last 4 of the journal entry plus the missing scene.

Thanks for waiting for me!

Part 7a

*****Busted. And I don’t even care. In fact, I feel wonderful!

That doesn’t even sound like me, I know. Little Lizzie Parker—always playing by the rules. But this is different. It’s so different, in fact, I can’t even explain it now that it’s over. I just know Max and I have shared something incredible, and no matter what it means, I’m convinced I’ll never love anyone the way I love him. It’s not just about the physical, although that part was so amazing that it makes everything I’ve read and heard before just pale in comparison. It’s about us, and sharing secrets the universe is still holding onto.*****

Jeff hesitated, feeling Nancy stiffen beside him. He watched the muscles in her face pinch, pulling her brows toward each other, framed with worry lines. A quick glance at Diane and Philip revealed similar looks.

“I didn’t realize . . .” Diane began awkwardly.

“Wait, Diane,” Jeff interrupted. “Let me just say one thing. First, even though this entry has you thinking something . . . drastic . . . happened between them back then, it didn’t. I’ll tell you right now, they didn’t make love. They thought about it, but they didn’t. I’d even skip this part, except it actually tells us a fair amount about the alien side of things. And it also explains that night they disappeared. Remember how we freaked out? Thought the worst? We even waited up for them in the Crashdown the next morning, remember? Well, this tells what happened, and it’s not quite as bad as you’re thinking.” He watched their faces. “Frankly, I’m not all that comfortable reading this. It’s very . . . private. Sexual, even. But it explains so much. I can give you the gist or I can read it. What’ll it be?”

A tug of war played out across the faces in the room. Jim looked at the floor, unwilling to venture an opinion, and Amy’s eyes darted back and forth between the two other mothers. If this were Maria’s journal, she’d have been speed reading five minutes ago. But this was about Liz and Max, and it wasn’t her call.

Nancy looked up at her husband. “If you think it’s important.” She was clearly uncomfortable, but relieved at what Jeff had already told them. She’d never completely believed the story the kids had come up with that morning, although she always wanted to believe the best of Liz. She had struggled with the incident at school when Max and Liz had skipped class just to make out in the Eraser Room. That was so not Liz. And then there was Liz’s late-night return through her bedroom window the night she’d disappeared with Max. She’d never told Jeff about that. She knew he’d go ballistic. He was already an overprotective father—a characteristic she usually found endearing, but that was before he really had anything to protect his daughter from. The signs had all been pointed to a girl in love. And out of control. Max seemed nice enough, but Nancy wasn’t at all sure he was good for her daughter.

Diane and Philip nodded to Jeff, reluctantly agreeing to his reading of this sensitive journal entry, but even before Jeff could begin reading, Philip stopped him.

“Jeff, Nancy, I don’t know exactly what Liz wrote, but please remember one thing as you read this: Max has only ever cared about one girl—your daughter. Whatever they did, I promise you that Max wasn’t taking it lightly. There may be some things in this journal that make you wonder if that’s true, but I know enough about the truth to tell you that it is. We talked a lot during his last week with us; I think I know his heart.”

Jeff gave Philip a half-smile, knowing the truth of his words. After all, he’d read the whole journal and knew exactly what Philip was talking about. In fact, he had even more information than Philip did. Nancy’s response, though, was guarded; Philip’s words both reassured and worried her. Why would she doubt it as they read on? What had Max Evans done later?

Jeff took a deep breath and began to read the intimate details of Liz’s secret life with Max Evans. It was nerve-racking, even the second time.

*****I don’t blame Mom and Dad for being angry. I would be, too, if my daughter waltzed in from being out all night with a boy. But it’ll just have to be that way because there’s no way I can explain the last week, or how my feelings for Max have exploded and deepened beyond anything I could have imagined. He was magnificent this morning, trying so hard to take the heat for all this. But I won’t let him take it alone. We’re in this together, now more than ever.

We won’t be seeing much of each other for a while, I guess, but what has grown between us is strong and undeniable. When I look in Max’s eyes, I recognize what I see—a burning desire to be together, a bond of incomprehensible strength, and an acceptance of what we mean to each other. I really don’t think Max will pull away anymore. We’re finally there.

The whole thing was so unexpected. For weeks, we’d been dancing around the strain between us. Ever since that bizarre night when my blind date for a radio station turned into Max’s open but alcohol-induced declaration of feelings for me—which he promptly forgot—we hadn’t been able to talk honestly with each other. He came over one night and offered to talk about it, but he looked so lost and worried, I knew it wasn’t the time. He was scared, scared that the abuse Michael suffered at the hands of that drunken excuse for a foster parent would drive Michael to use his powers to harm Hank, or worse—he would leave Roswell. Like so much in this secret world of alien chaos, that had to take precedence.

Once Mr. Evans helped Michael become an emancipated minor, though, Max and Isabel both felt so relieved. I know Maria did, too. Something happened between them that drew them closer again, I think. She’s never told me the details, which isn’t like Maria, so it must have been very personal. I understand about that, though, so I’m willing to respect her need to keep parts of that relationship private. I guard some of those same moments with Max. *****

“So that was it,” Amy muttered to herself. She looked up, feeling the questions in the air. “One morning, I went to get Maria up for school and found Michael in bed with her!” She shook her head, still shaken by the image. After all of her talks with Maria, she’d been shocked to see this blatant example of poor judgment.

“When I thought about Maria’s explanation later, I realized she was probably telling the truth—at least what she decided to share. Michael had come to her very upset about something. She said sex was the last thing on his mind that night, and in all fairness, they were both fully dressed when my screaming sent Michael running out the door.” She smiled grimly. “I really lost it, though, and had a serious heart-to-heart with Maria. Then when she came to me later and told me Michael was in jail . . .” She rolled her eyes at the memory.

“Yeah, I’d taken him in for questioning when Hank was missing. Neighbors had heard strange animal-like wailing from their trailer, and at that point, I had lots of reasons to suspect that Michael Guerin was at best no good, and at worst, wrapped up in Max’s secrets somehow. They were always together, and they didn’t exactly look like two guys who would normally be friends. It was only Maria’s and Amy’s insistence that he’d been at their house all night that got him off the hook. At least until Hank showed up at my office and said he was moving on.” Jim shook his head. “He really was a piece of work. The State had no business approving him as a foster parent. Michael got the short end of the stick, that’s for sure.”

“I had that same impression,” Philip agreed. “I never could understand why Max and Isabel spent so much time with him, but they had always been close, even protective of him. I remember when he tried staying with us, he was like a fish out of water. He had no idea how to act, how to eat a meal in polite company, or even how to lose a silly board game graciously. He was really rough around the edges. But when he finally asked me for help, and I heard about his life with Hank, it started to make a little sense. I decided to trust my kids’ instincts and get to know the boy. He’s still rough around the edges, but he has a good heart.”

“Yeah, he grows on you,” Amy smiled. “He really was there for Maria when Alex died, and I can never forget how he came through for me at that UFO convention a couple years ago. Just when you think he’s gonna drive you crazy, he turns around and does something so sweet, you want to just forgive and forget the rest.” Her smile was more sincere this time. “I guess I can see why Maria loves him. It’s been the bumpiest romance in history, though.”

Jim rubbed Amy’s arm gently. “I’m sure of one thing, Amy. He’s out there protecting her with his life right now.”

The thought was both sobering and comforting. Jeff took the silence that followed as his cue to continue.

*****I’ve come to realize that putting my feelings down in writing makes me examine them and sometimes forces me to see things I couldn’t see before. I can’t wait to get this down on paper; I’ve never been so alive and so confused all at once.

It started with that strange night at the Crashdown. I was indulging in one of my favorite fantasies about Max—the one where he walks in on me in the shower. I get embarrassed thinking about it even now—every time it came into my mind, it got a little more erotic, a little more intense. I mean, I’ve always been attracted to Max, and when he lets his guard down, he’s so open and gentle and loving with me. I’d often imagined romantic moments between us and spent long hours dreaming about his heavenly kisses, but this . . . this was different. This was chemical, instinctive, compelling, powerful. My formerly tame fantasies were out of control. Obviously, in spite of the tension between us, something inside me wanted our relationship to get more physical because when I imagined him finding me there, wet and naked, there was no embarrassment or hesitation. I wanted his eyes burning into me hungrily, caressing me as he toweled me off so gently and thoroughly—it made me flush with excitement. My body was coming alive, almost calling to him like some primitive instinct. It seemed a lot different from what I’d read about hormones kicking in. Heck, I’m 16, almost 17. My hormones have been cooking for a while, but I’ve never felt anything like this. I wanted him. He wanted me. It’s like it was meant to be.

Looking back on it just a week later, I realize that was my first clue.*****

Jeff reached for his glass of water, avoiding eye contact with anyone else. Nancy was a rigid fixture pressed against his side, and he could hear the others shifting in their seats.

“Let me just get through this,” Jeff pleaded with his silent audience. “If I take it in one long gulp, it’ll be over sooner. Believe me, this is all relevant to our understanding of what happened.”

More silence. That was all the permission he needed. He plowed ahead resolutely.

*****But that night, when those dangerous fantasies were carrying me along in the midst of my Crashdown shift, Maria startled me. The strawberries from the bowl at my elbow went everywhere, and seconds later, Max was helping me pick them up. We were so awkward with each other, all his old insecurities about my safety, his obligations to Michael and Isabel, and our own differences were still center stage. I was thrilled to see him, but cautious, too. I knew that given the opening, I would let myself hope again, and my heart was tired of hurting all the time.

I went to get more strawberries, and he followed me into the kitchen, teasing me about his instructions to take over the planet. We were having a stilted conversation about still being friends, but that didn’t seem to be what his visit was about at all. Every time I looked into his face, there was something behind those eyes, something driving him toward me. I knew that look; I recognized that desire. It was like looking in a mirror. In those close quarters, keeping my hands off him was a monumental struggle, but I tried to keep my cool. He was the one with issues, after all. All I can say is, he got over them. Big time.

That last slide past him snapped something in his mind because the next thing I knew, he had whirled me around and started kissing me. No, kiss isn’t the right word. He was devouring me, pressing urgent kisses all over my face, my mouth, my neck, wrapping his fingers through my hair with one hand and grabbing fistfuls of my uniform with the other. It was almost like an attack except for one thing—I wanted it every bit as much as he did. I would have crawled inside his skin if I could.

Suddenly, it was like our minds began to merge. He was surrounding me; he was in me, touching every corner of my mind and heart. It was like a union of souls and we were hurtling through space—galaxies, stars, planets streaking by in a glowing parade of heat and light. I can’t pretend to know what an orgasm feels like, but if it has anything to do with explosions going off through your whole body and a dizzying sense of opening yourself completely to warm, liquid sensation, then . . . well, I just hope I’m not disappointed when the time comes.

When I came out from under this . . . whatever it was, we were just staring at each other, panting and confused, but oh so happy. I guess Max didn’t see the same thing I saw because when I said how beautiful it had been, he looked surprised. Then he said, “Yes, you are,” and kissed me gently that time. It was all overwhelming, and when I heard a dish break out in the café, I realized I had to get back out there. My dad was certainly not going to understand why I was spending my shift in a hot kitchen kissing a boy senseless while another bowl of strawberries hit the floor. Max just wrapped me in his arms until we started to breathe normally, kissed me one more time, and left.

I tried to get back to work, but between the aftershock of that experience and Maria’s insistent questions, I could hardly think. That night was filled with dreams of Max and when I woke, I wanted nothing more than to see him again. I was praying he wasn’t regretting it. I couldn’t bear to go through that again.

I needn’t have worried. The minute he walked into biology, the electricity was back. Our eyes locked and my body began to tingle, already anticipating what magic Max could work on it. He slipped me a note and our fingers touched. I don’t know what got into me, but I needed more; I needed him to touch me. I dropped my pencil, and Max knew immediately what I was up to. He slid down to retrieve it, stopping to caress my hand. Instantly, I could feel that same explosive power building between us. He was only touching my fingers, but my whole body reacted, filling with him, sending me reeling toward the stars again. I must have been pretty swept up because Mr. Seligman noticed me and called my name. I hate being in trouble at school. It almost never happens to me. But when he asked me if I had something to share with the class and then gave Max and me detention, I swear I almost laughed. Spending more time with Max wasn’t exactly a punishment.

When I opened Max’s note, my heart soared. He was asking me to meet him in the Eraser Room during 6th period. He’d actually come into class with the note already written! He’d been thinking about me as much as I had about him. The time between bio and 6th period must’ve been 2 days long. I think Michael must have heard what we were up to and slowed down time because I thought I would die waiting for those clock hands to move.

Finally, the 6th period bell rang. I had to be a whole floor away from my usual class, and I was so afraid someone would stop me and ask why I was headed upstairs, but when I slipped inside that room, my fingers had barely turned the lock before Max grabbed me. I don’t understand this urgency between us, but it’s all-consuming and so very wonderful. Just as before, I couldn’t get close enough, deep enough into Max to satisfy me. And from the way he was ravishing me, I could tell he was feeling the very same way. I knew I was out of control and I didn’t care a bit. Max was my world and those kisses my nourishment. I’m not really sure how long we were together before the stars beckoned me once more. This time, I felt the weakness threaten, and I whispered for Max to hold me. He pressed me to him, and I felt completely safe, knowing he was my anchor, the center of this new world. Being a little more prepared this time, I actually began to take notice of what I was seeing—rings, star clusters, and a large red glow. Then I saw the Earth’s surface racing up toward me, and just as it loomed in front of me, the vision was broken by none other than the principal. More trouble. For the second time that day, I tried really hard to care.

I felt bad for Max as we sat outside the Principal’s door. He hates being noticed, and he hates disappointing his mom. For all the secrets he keeps from his folks, I know how much he loves them. They can never know the depth of his gratitude for the life they gave him and Isabel. Now he’d done something to violate both of his personal rules: Don’t do anything to hurt your family, and don’t do anything to bring attention to yourself. That little scene had made him 0 for 2.

I could barely hear Principal Forrester’s voice through the glass explaining to our moms what we’d done. When they came out, they all wore this, “I can’t believe I had to come in here for this” look. Principal Forrester was cutting us some slack because we’re good students who never get in trouble; to him, it was small potatoes. But our moms obviously didn’t see it that way. Mom was just plain pissed, and Mrs. Evans looked incredulous. She must’ve been wondering who that boy was and what he’d done with her son: A girl? Necking? Cutting class? Looking at it from her point of view, I guess I can’t blame her.

After school, I was waiting in Mr. Seligman’s room when a picture of a distant galaxy caught my eye. I was stunned when I realized it was what I’d seen in my vision! I asked Mr. Seligman about it and he told me it was the Whirlwind Galaxy. I tried to be subtle when I asked about the red glow I’d seen; it wasn’t in that picture. But he reminded me about red giants, stars in the last stage of their life cycle whose light is weak. I knew then that I was right—this was the galaxy I’d seen in Max’s mind. I couldn’t wait to tell him.

When he came in the room, he just took my breath away. The feelings were just getting stronger, and from the look in his eye, it was mutual. I walked toward him, but even with my news bubbling on my lips, we were drawn into another kiss. Magnetic. Inevitable. And when I told him what I’d seen, he didn’t question it. He looked from me to that map and back to me and knew it was true. Our connection was growing stronger by the minute.

That night was one of the most awkward I’ve ever had with my mom. I think she came up to give me “The Talk,” but I just couldn’t deal with it. It couldn’t be abstract any more. Every sentence and every warning was going to be about Max—in my mind, anyway. I didn’t even understand what was happening between us, but for the first time, I could imagine doing things . . . sexual things . . . with Max that I never expected to do with any man until college or later. And I just knew that Mom would see all of that written across my face like a flashing marquis. So I let her say what she needed to say, and I tried to reassure her. I’m not sure it was helpful for either of us, but I am sure that her teen radar was on full alert and focused like never before. I love her and I love Dad. But I find myself chanting the number one teen cliché of all time: They don’t understand me. No one ever had better reason for saying that than I do. Well, except Max.

Things between us were finally perfect. My dream had come true. At least the first part. Max was open to me, he was loving me, and we were discovering uncharted territory together. I wanted to be with him all the time. Or so I thought, until he showed up in the girl’s locker room at school, and then even I thought he’d crossed the line. Then I found out why he was there, and I wanted the floor to swallow me on the spot.

Maria had been telling me how affectionate Michael had been lately, too. I was starting to form a hypothesis about the alignment of the stars or something when she admitted she’d faked having visions when she was kissing Michael. When she confessed, he had a fit. Big surprise there. But while we were talking, she started going on about something on my neck, so I went back into the locker room to check in the mirror. And coming through the door at that moment was none other that Max, straight into the girls’ locker room during a school day. I suddenly worried that what I had been experiencing wasn’t real at all because surely this was an alternate universe.

I was quickly distracted from that worry when another one came crashing down on me. All those times I thought I was seeing visions from within Max, it never once occurred to me what he was seeing. So when he told me he was trying to determine if something was true and looked over at that shower stall, I thought I was going to be sick. Just imagining his seeing my fantasy of letting him catch me in the shower, fold me in a towel, and kiss me so sensually . . . I could feel my face burning, and I couldn’t look him in the eye. It was his reaction, though, that really blew me away. Where I was embarrassed, he was awed. Where I was humiliated, he was touched. One glance had told him that what he’d seen was my own erotic fantasy, but instead of seeing me as pathetic or warped, he saw the love. Instead of feeling macho or empowered, he felt . . . humbled. His words almost brought tears to my eyes: “I didn’t just see what you saw. I felt what you felt when you saw me, and I never thought anyone could ever really feel that way about me.”

I looked into those eyes and saw my future then. Because in accepting my feelings for him, he had found the courage to share his feelings for me. They shone from his eyes, and his slight nod of acknowledgment may as well have been a trumpet fanfare announcing a new day for us. We had walked through a door together, and there was no going back.

They say timing is everything. My ever-vigilant gym teacher chose that moment to come looking for me. We were forced from the heights of our brave new world to the floor of a gym shower in seconds—and it only got worse. A hickey Max had branded me with was glowing. And when he put his hand over it to heal me, the visions returned, only this time, they were of the military and the desert and someone burying something. This was no longer romantic and beautiful; it was strange. My spectacular and exhilarating visions were slowly turning into a trail of breadcrumbs—clues that could lead Max home.

I agreed to meet Max at Michael’s later, but what I found when I got there took me by surprise. Isabel had lit candles and Michael had cued up some sexy music and then they left, leaving Max and me alone. Suddenly, things didn’t feel romantic. In fact, I think I accused them of cheering him on, like he was their team in a football game. He didn’t want to admit it, but he said that wasn’t far from true. They wanted to know as much as our connection could tell them. I didn’t really blame them, and besides, I had an agenda of my own. That hickey had turned into a nasty black scab. I was scared.

Max healed me, of course, and our closeness sparked an intensity between us again. He stroked my arm. I could feel it tingling, but it was his look of amazement that really caught my attention. I looked down, too. A trail of light and warmth followed his fingers down my arm, and a sensation of well-being began to spread through me. I was somewhere between turned on and incredibly curious. I asked Max what was happening, but I could tell he really didn’t know. He was fighting the same battle that I was—he was afraid of what was happening between us, but he wanted it . . . wanted me, and a thrill shot through me that I could make him lose himself like this.



posted on 4-Aug-2002 11:11:47 PM by Carol000
Continued from last post

Even as we stroked and kissed, floating in a haze of desire and intimate sensation, we were trying to analyze it. I helped him take his shirt off, eager to try to make him glow with the intensity of my love. It didn’t work for me, though, and I was crushed. I wanted him to understand that my feelings for him were every bit as strong as his for me. But, as always, he knew just what to say. He urged me to understand that he was glowing . . . everywhere, but especially his heart. I wanted to believe him, so I did. Everything I felt, physically and emotionally, pushed me to believe. Still, I could hear my mother telling me to be careful, to hold back. I could hear Max working so hard to protect me—from him—and yet wanting me so desperately. And I could hear myself saying softly over the noise of caution, “I can’t stop.”

We fell together into a world of love and abandon. Our kisses grew deeper, and when Max wrapped his strong arms around me and carried me to the couch, I know without a doubt I was ready to give myself to him—with full knowledge and a full heart. It was as if the path had been set last fall, and we had just taken our sweet time walking down it. I can’t even remember all the details, so wrapped in the sense of him that it all blended together. I know I denied him nothing, but I also know he asked little. Caution is as ingrained in Max as his alienness, and by his very nature, he couldn’t hurry this.

I do remember a few fleeting snapshots that will stay with me forever: the steel and satin of his muscles carrying me effortlessly, the feel of his hard body pressing me against the cushions, the soft ecstasy of his hand cupping my breast, the whisper of my name on his lips like a prayer, the sense that this was right—undeniably, inevitably right. We were ready to join ourselves in every way. It was only a matter of time.

Then fate stepped through the door with blond hair and full lips and a shocked hand on her chest, and reality settled against the dream and quieted it. I could already see Max berating himself for letting us get so carried away, and I secretly fumed at Maria, knowing her interruption was for the best, but hating her for it, too. Max slipped his shirt on, darting looks at me to see if I was okay with everything. When I smiled at him, I saw his shoulders relax, and I was surprised and pleased when he asked Maria to give us a minute alone. When she hesitated, I shot her my most threatening look, and she backed out of the room, still brave enough to give one last warning. “Only a minute.”

One of my favorite loving gestures is when Max cups my face in his two large hands so gently, I feel like a Ming vase. I think it’s his way of assuring my total attention. How foolish he is to think my attention could be on anything else when he’s around. He asked me if I was okay. Then he told me he would never hurt me, if he could help it, and that wherever this was leading, he would do everything in his power to protect me. I told him I never doubted it, and then he kissed me. This wasn’t urgent, though, or desperate or even passionate. It was sweet and caring and loving—all the things that Max Evans is.

Of course, Maria knocked again, so I let her drive me home. We had a rather intense conversation on the way home. She’s really worried about where Max and I might be headed, and she’s beside herself at the thought that I might be ready to take that step. Technically, she and Michael got together before Max and I did, if you’re going by first kisses, but that doesn’t seem to have relieved her stress about what might happen if we make love. In all fairness, I am having reactions she’s never had—the visions, the glowing hickey—and she doesn’t even know about that little trail of light. I love her for caring. I do. I just wish she’d let me worry about it. I can’t accept that something that feels this right could be dangerous.

I guess it was my night for intense scenes because Mom was waiting. She must have come up to talk to me and discovered I was gone because she was perched on my bed so worried and so angry, I don’t think she knew which one to feel more. I didn’t spot her right away, rushing like I was to get inside, so it looked really bad when I slid in through the window. I was embarrassed and guilty and still flushed from my time with Max, and I guess I turned it all into anger. I lashed out at her pretty hard, and I’m sorry for it now. She had reason to be concerned, but I can’t tell her what’s happening. It’s too personal, too alien, and . . . once again . . . not my secret to tell. I’m afraid this whole thing is driving a wedge between us, but I don’t see any way around it.

Later, while I was sketching a scene from the vision that filtered through Max’s and my last encounter, I heard him call my name from down below. Funny how a single syllable can light up the night. He climbed the fire escape, and I had to curb the urge to just pick up where we left off, but I knew he’d want to see what I’d been drawing. He recognized it right away—the old radio tower out by highway 42 just a couple miles from the crash. When he said he’d take a look out there with Michael, I read his face. He was being cautious again, afraid to drag me where I didn’t want to go. But I’m committed to this now . . . to him. So I laid it on the line. I let him know that I was ready to help him with this, that I was the one he needed and, I hoped, wanted with him. It took him about two seconds to agree. Then I told him it had better be tonight.

It’s a funny feeling, opening yourself completely to someone else. Very few people in this world have the power to hurt me with a look or a word. Those same people can bring me joy the same way. It’s a very vulnerable place to be, and when Max let what I was offering really sink in, I knew I had left myself open to that hurt or that joy. I really never doubted his reaction, though. He looked amazed and almost humbled by what I was offering, and he accepted it with only a look—a visible transformation from uncertainty to commitment. We were on our way.

The ride out into the desert filled me with anticipation. I knew we were on a mission, but we were also on a journey together. Every step toward the truth about Max’s origins was also a step toward the creation of a permanent “we,” so I kept thinking about two things. The first was about how this might affect the alien side of things. I can’t help but admit that in the back of my mind, I wonder if the answers Max and the others are looking for will take them away from here. But I can’t think about that, because it won’t change what I do now. I won’t keep Max here out of selfishness or default. If and when Max commits to me, it will be his choice—a free and conscious choice. The sooner he has those answers, the sooner he’ll be able to make that choice.

The second thing, of course, was wondering if this was the night I would lose my virginity to Max Evans. The idea of that thrilled me . . . and frightened me. No matter what would happen with Max, I honestly couldn’t imagine being with anyone else. How could any guy compete with what he has shown me, what he has made me feel? I know his soul better than I will ever know another human being’s, and it’s beautiful. I know his body and it’s incredible—magnificent to look at and a perfect fit with mine. And I think I know his heart because I see in his eyes what I feel in my own heart. I finally decided to let go of it. If this was to be the night, so be it. If not, then it would still be Max another night. My heart told me that, too.

Every time one of these thoughts would run through my head, I would look over at Max. Inevitably, he was looking back. I wouldn’t be surprised if there were similar thoughts scurrying through his own mind. In any case, he reached over and squeezed my hand, and flashed me a little smile. We probably both had enough adrenalin pumping to start a flash fire. He released my hand when he shifted gears to take the turn-off, and we pulled to a stop. While Max got the few tools and blanket we’d brought out of the Jeep, I took a look upward, wondering for the millionth time about the life out there that had sent me Max. Max followed my gaze and smiled. I’m sure he’s spent a lifetime pondering that very question. It was a clear sky, brilliant with a million dots of light, but instead of making me feel small and insignificant, it seemed to highlight how important what we were doing was. It was quite possible that our love would lead Max, Isabel, and Michael to a new understanding of their lives, their purpose. It might even change the world.

I asked Max what he wanted to do next. I guess I was sort of teasing him a bit, offering to just get started digging, but it wasn’t funny for long, because when he touched me, I forgot everything but him. I ached for him to touch me, hold me, love me, and he seemed to feel my need. It was his need, too. His words even echoed my own thoughts: “At this moment, I can’t not touch you.” I don’t think Max even knows how romantic he is without even trying. His gentleness and caring are so sweet, but the hunger that burns in his eyes is so strong. Together, they make me feel more desirable and more cherished than I ever imagined possible. If that’s not romance, I don’t know what is.

I told him we should lie down, and I swear I saw him blink in disbelief—even then. It’s like he just didn’t believe that I was seriously prepared to go through with this. After he spread the blanket, he asked me if I was scared. I think maybe I was . . . until he asked. Just his asking, just his caring enough to ask made me sure this was right—he was right. I think he was nervous, too, until I told him how I trusted him, how I was putting myself in his hands. I think my complete trust calmed him, and he smiled. It was the first smile I’d seen for days, and it told me he was ready, too.

After he kissed me, he knelt, looking up at me with such love. It was his invitation, and I was lost to him that fast. As soon as he laid down with me, all I wanted was to be as close to him as possible. The air was cool and a coyote howled in the distance, but the feel of his warm strength surrounding me was all I needed. I was his, and I didn’t question it. When he stopped to ask me if I was sure, I stared at him, unable to tell if he really still doubted me or if his cautious nature was leaving me one last out. I guess I’ll never know for sure what might have been, because right then, the beeping from my vision intruded on our world, breaking through the moment and slamming us into reality again.

We ran toward it and began to dig. Within minutes, an intense beam of light erupted from the base of the hole we’d dug and burst into the night sky. I’d never seen anything so bright. Max reached down and retrieved a smooth metallic orb with a familiar symbol carved into the top—the symbol from the pendant Isabel found at Atherton’s. After a moment, the light withdrew into the orb, leaving only a faint glow to outline the symbol. Max and I sat staring at it for the longest time, wondering if it was a beacon or a transmitter or a message. There seemed to be no way to open it and the blinding light never returned, but we decided to wait right there, in case it had summoned a ship or a being of some kind.

We talked a lot that night, hypothesizing what the orb was for, what we should do with it now, and how this would change things for the three of them . . . or not. We could feel immediately that the extreme sexual urges were gone, although the way he held me in his arms all night reassured me that the love was there. I knew, though, that the caution was in control again, and that things would slow down. Maybe that’s for the best. When Max and I do make love, it should be about us—just us. Not about clues or alien artifacts or detective work. Just him and me. I believe that day will come. We’re strong now. I can’t imagine what could tear us apart.

I don’t think either of us meant to stay in the desert all night, but when we awoke, the sun was already high in the sky. Waking up and realizing where I was, spooned with Max in the middle of nowhere, his arms serving as pillow, blanket, and protection, I was as happy as I’ve ever been. When I stirred, his eyes fluttered open, and I saw that happiness staring right back at me. He leaned forward to give me our first-ever good morning kiss, but something caught his eye. I turned around to see a middle-aged Hispanic man watching us. He gently told us to get on home and watched as we packed up our things. I’ve never seen him before, and it was odd that he was out there at that hour. He didn’t seem to have a car or equipment or anything. I think he may be linked to our mystery, but I have no idea how.

On the way home, we were both quiet. I think we almost didn’t want this whole adventure to end. For one thing, the search for answers really only resulted in more questions, and Max had to be wondering what Michael might do with this new clue. And if I know Max, he was as uncertain of how I might change toward him now as I was about his reaction. I reached for him as we got closer to town, and he eagerly took my hand, squeezing it tightly. When he stopped a block away from the Crashdown, I knew he needed that last few minutes alone together just like I did. He pulled me close and kissed me, and the connection between us flared. It wasn’t gone. I felt better.

I’m still thinking about how he answered my questions about us, though. I wanted him to reassure me that he believed what had happened between us was just an exaggerated version of what was there anyway—that we were about something important even without the orb and its weird effect on us. He never really gave me a straight answer. At least not right away. He was more comfortable turning around my suggestion that I could feel used so it applied to him, and I admit he got me laughing. But as we neared the Crashdown, and we knew it was time to face the music, he mentioned my destiny, and I gave him one more opening. I asked him what he thought my destiny was.

I can’t begin to describe how his face changed or how his eyes spoke to me then. All the reassurance I could ever want was there for the taking. “I only know the part I’m hoping for,” he breathed. And he took my hand, sending me love through his voice and look and touch. Suddenly, I was at peace, and we walked through the doors to the Crashdown together, hand in hand. It’s the way I want to face everything from now on.*****

No one moved a muscle. How were they supposed to react to this? Yes, their children had almost had sex at only 16 and 17 years old. Not good. But they hadn’t had sex. What they had done was begin down the road to a love unlike any their parents had ever experienced or heard of. All this time, as the intimate group had come to terms with the “special” love Max and Liz seemed to share, they had never imagined anything like this. One could almost feel jealous. Nervous. Awed. And jealous.

Then there was the matter of a genuine alien artifact. This was world-shattering news. And yet, it would never be revealed, if any of them had anything to say about it. Looking back on it, Max and Liz had been incredibly together the morning they returned to find their parents waiting in the Crashdown. None of those parents had had the slightest clue what was going on in their child’s life.

“I had one of those orbs in my office for a while,” Jim said quietly. All eyes turned toward him, wide with surprise.

One of them?” Philip asked.

“Yeah, there were two. We’re getting to that, I think. I gave it back to Max as a goodwill gesture. I was beginning to understand—just beginning, mind you, and I wanted them to trust me. I hoped returning the orb would make a difference.”

“Did it?” Amy wondered.

“It made a dent. A small one,” Jim answered. “They don’t trust easily. They can’t afford to.”

The group pondered his words. How true they were. They hadn’t even been able to extend that trust to their parents.

Nancy frowned, still engrossed in the mystery of Liz’s relationship with Max. “As strongly as they felt about each other then, and now, apparently, what happened in between? Why were they apart for a whole year?”

The three men exchanged glances, and Jeff shook his head. “I’d say ‘You’ll never believe it,’ honey, but I think you’re beyond doubting anything anymore, aren’t you? Remember The Music Man? Professor Hill sings about trouble in River City? Let’s just say that in Roswell, trouble begins with a capital ‘T,’ too. We’re gonna need a break before we get into that one.”

Nancy threw her husband a confused look, but took her cue to stand and stretch.

“Let’s order a pizza,” Jim suggested.

It was going to be another long night.

And here is that extra scene written 2 years ago. Read it, if you like, but it's not an official part of this story.

Missing "Sexual Healing" Scene


Max and Liz looked at the door of the Crashdown café, the dread of the confrontation to come laced with a new confidence in their own relationship. They exchanged one last, long look, finding strength and determination in the love they found there. Max straightened his shoulders and squeezed Liz's hand. She smiled up at him and they walked through the door.

There they were. Four anxious, angry, confused faces struck temporarily speechless at the return of the two prodigals. Emotions flitted across each face for several awkward seconds. Unanswered questions and unspoken accusations weighed heavy in the air.

"Mom, Dad, Mr. and Mrs. Parker," began Max. "This is all my fault. . . ."

"No," interrupted Liz firmly. "This is our fault."

"Where have you two been?" asked Mrs. Parker from between clenched teeth. "We have been worried sick!"

"I know, Mom. We are so sorry. We fell asleep."

Eight skeptical eyes stared at them. The ultimate cliché. The default excuse. They had expected better.

"It's true," Max hurried to explain. "Really. We went for a drive last night and stopped to look at the stars. They were incredible last night, away from the city lights and everything. We really did fall asleep. We never would have worried you like that."

"It was the sun that woke us and we hurried back as fast as we could. We really are sorry."

For the next few seconds, the parents struggled with their own personal reactions. Mr. Evans looked at his son with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he was disappointed at Max's irresponsibility. He was sure the Parkers hated Max for doing what they probably suspected to their little girl. On the other hand, he felt sure Max wouldn't do such a thing. Max was a careful boy, an inexperienced boy when it came to girls. In fact, Mr. Evans was almost relieved that Max had found a girlfriend. He had never understood why his handsome 16-year-old son had never dated. He couldn't decide how to react, but he was having trouble being as angry as he knew he should be. Max's mother was studying Liz. Who was this girl who had drawn her reserved and guarded son out of his shell? What had brought him to this point where he was standing before them with someone he had insisted was only a friend, holding tightly to her hand, trying to take the heat for the trouble they were in? There was something electric between them; something strong, almost tangible was exchanged between them when they glanced at each other. Suddenly Diane Evans felt a pang of jealousy. She would swear that Liz Parker knew her son better than she herself did.

Liz had been the apple of her father's eye since the moment she was born. He adored her, spoiled her, and trusted her completely. In some ways, there was a maturity about her that belied her years, especially in the last few months. He was inclined to believe his daughter, who was looking at him now, pleading with her eyes for understanding. He had seen Max in the Crashdown often enough. It had been clear he was interested in Liz, but Mr. Parker hadn't realized they were actively dating. He seemed a good choice, though. Intelligent, well-mannered . . . good-looking, too, he smiled to himself. Liz could pick 'em. But still, "fell asleep"? He looked at Liz again. Yes, he believed her. His wife was not so sure. She remembered vividly the recent incident at school where she had been called in as a result of Max and Liz's make-out session in the Eraser Room. Somehow this relationship had gone from 0 to 60 in the space of a couple of weeks, and she was afraid it hadn't stopped there. Her baby girl was growing up too fast, and she desperately wanted her to slow down. She had never been worried with Kyle. Liz had always kept that relationship at arm's length, totally under control. But now her daughter was out of control, and she barely knew this boy standing before her, sharing this unwelcome limelight.

As the seconds ticked by, Max watched the faces, unable to read the expressions that studied him. He instinctively released Liz's hand and put his arm around her, pulling her to his side protectively. He felt Liz turn to look at him, and when he looked down, he was rewarded with a smile—a smile that said, "Don't worry. We're in this together, and no matter what happens, we have each other." He relaxed just a little, basking in the joy Liz's love brought him. For a second, he lost himself in her smile and forgot where they were.

"I think you both need a little time apart," said Mrs. Parker.

The spell was broken. Max and Liz turned to her with horrified looks.

"I'm not saying I don't believe you. What I am saying is that this is simply unacceptable. What you did was irresponsible and selfish and caused terrible anxiety for all of us. Not to mention that if word gets out about this at school, well . . . . I suggest you not see each other for a couple of weeks. How do you feel about that?" she asked, turning to Mr. and Mrs. Evans. They nodded silently.

"Mom," Liz started to object, but Max squeezed her hand. She stopped. Max was telling her this was inevitable and fighting it would just make it worse. She knew he was right.

"Mom, we apologize again. We know this upset you terribly. Believe me, nothing happened out there. We really just slept."

"I think you should go up to your room now, Liz. We'll talk more about this later."

"We'd better get going, too," said Mr. Evans. "Max, I expect you to drive straight home."

Max nodded, but as Liz began to move away, he pulled her back. His arms went around her and he placed a soft kiss on her forehead. Liz couldn't believe it. That one simple, defiant gesture said more to her than anything Max had ever said or done before. He was publicly acknowledging their relationship, and quietly telling both sets of parents that this short punishment would not change what they had. Privately, he was telling Liz that he was there for her, that what they had shared was here to stay.

Liz beamed at Max, trying to let him know she was okay. He smiled down at her.

"Lizzie," interrupted her father. "Come on."

Liz reluctantly let go of Max and turned toward the back of the café. She could hardly keep from smiling.


LATER THAT NIGHT

April 14, 2000. The last 24 hours have been the most wonderful of my life. I helped Max find a clue about his origins, and in the process, I fell more deeply in love than I ever thought possible. I don't completely understand what's happening to me. I don't think Max understands it either. But the great thing is . . . we plan to find out together.

When we were out in the desert last night, I never felt so alive. Feeling Max's arms around me, tasting his kisses, sharing that blanket of stars. I know what heaven is now. I'm glad I could help Max find the orb, but a part of me almost wishes we hadn't activated it so soon. What would have happened? Would we have made love? I can't even imagine what that would have been like. It would have been amazing enough if Max were human, but who knows what might have happened with a . . . Czech? I guess it's best that it didn't, but I know one thing. I've never had a more beautiful or romantic night than last night, and when it does happen, it won't be with anyone but Max Evans.

A few blocks away . . .

Max was lying on his bed, hands under his head. His father had grilled him about last night, but finally seemed satisfied that they had told the truth. Then his mom had asked about Liz. She had wanted to know more about her, and Max hadn't known where to begin. He told her the superficial things—she was smart, waited tables, was fun to be with. But he had kept on without really planning to, not wanting to stop talking about his Liz to an interested audience. He wasn't even sure what all he had said because it was as if he'd only been thinking about her, just as he always did. Then he saw his mother's face—an almost stunned look. What had he said?

"You have strong feelings for this girl, don't you, Max?"

Max had been embarrassed, but surprisingly calm about what he must have said out loud. It wouldn't be so bad . . . his mother knowing Liz was important to him. It might even make things easier. He didn't quite understand what he was seeing on her face, though. A slightly wistful look.

But now he was in his room where he could think about her all he wanted. And he wanted to . . . a LOT. She had done so much for him, had been willing to sacrifice so much. And she had been so wonderful today, standing with him in front of their parents, sending him signals of support and strength. And love.

They had almost crossed the line last night. He was glad they hadn't. They were playing with fire. Still, she had been willing to give herself to him, for the sake of the search, for the sake of truth, and he hoped, for their own sakes. But that wasn't good enough. When it did happen for them, it wouldn't be mixed up with looking for clues. It would be about them, only them. She would be his whole focus, his whole world . . . when it happened. She had been in his heart for ten years. She was in his soul now.

Max smiled into the darkness.

posted on 10-Aug-2002 12:48:15 PM by Carol000
Just a bump in preparation for a post of Part 7b tonight. It takes FOREVER to find this sometimes!

See you in a few hours.

Carol
posted on 10-Aug-2002 8:19:57 PM by Carol000
Saturday night is here! Hope you can take some time to snuggle up with Chameleon. We're back to real-time action.

Notes to a few readers:

Kath7:
You said SH was the most romantic hour of tv you'd ever seen. I agree. Remember "The Thornbirds" when Richard Chamberlain comes to the island to be with his love? That's up there, too!

AraxieHRH: LOL! This may have been uncomfortable to read, but it was a blast to write!

SansuCry: You read this at 1 a.m.? I'm flattered! I'd do the same for yours, though, believe me.

LindaCrazy4Jason: Thanks, my friend. You are a constant source of support. I love you for it.

MamaDee: Big grin? That's better than applause! Thanks. ". . . Tornado Tess as she cuts a destructive swath through Dreamville." Man, even your f/b is poetry.

AJK001: I was your first fanfic????? I'm touched! The fact that you are still around to read it is especially wonderful! Amazing.

TigerEyes: You are the bump queen. Thanks! And thanks to all who gave me a "lift." 'preciate it.

Breathless: You said you're interested to see how I handle "the horror to come." Me too.

2crazy4roswell: You thought the Missing Scene was a scrapped part of the show? LOL! That's a fabulous compliment! Thanks.

BelieveInTrueLove: I love all your detailed f/b and the thoughtful questions. You make me smile.

Okay, on with the show. As is often the case, this is in two posts for length.

7b

Once the makeshift camp was organized, Michael and Maria settled in for a nap, and Isabel and Kyle wandered off for a walk. Liz watched them leave and silently wished Kyle good luck with their talk. She was sure Isabel would understand.

Max was leaning against the van looking at a map. Liz sidled up next to him and slid her arms around his waist.

“Rumor has it that we’re on our honeymoon. Rumor also has it that we’re as alone as we’re gonna get any time soon.”

Max could feel his heart speed up. The pressure of Liz’s fingers was literally blazing a trail down his front. He steeled himself, keeping his eyes glued to the map. He’d make her work for it this time. She’d flirted with him shamelessly the last few hours, knowing all the while he couldn’t do anything about it. She wanted to drive him crazy. Now it was his turn.

“Mmm-hmm,” he responded, pretending to be distracted by his study of the map. Her fingers were sliding down . . . down . . . oh, yeah . . . sooo close!

“Max?”

“Ummm, yeah, Liz. You want something? Did you know there are at least five different mountain ranges in this part of New Mexico?” His voice sounded high and strained to his own ears. He wondered if she noticed. She’d be blind not to see this as an act, but so far . . .

Aaaahhhhhh . . . the fingers were lightly tracing the outline of an instant erection he couldn’t hide. Oh god, yes . . . right there!

“Yeah, let’s see. The Guadalupe Mountains, the Sacramento Mountains, the Organ Mountains, and uh . . . oh! the Mogollon Mountains. One more, huh?”

Damn! She was just teasing him! He needed her to stroke, grip . . . aaahhhh . . . too light! Too sweet. Too . . . gentle!

“That last one is on the tip of my tongue,” she whispered, tiptoeing up to lick at his earlobe.

She had completely turned the tables on him, and suddenly he couldn’t remember why he’d thought this stupid game was a good idea in the first place. He couldn’t win. Hell, he didn’t want to win! He turned abruptly, pressed her hand fully against his straining flesh, using the other to pull her willing head to his. Her squeal turned into a sigh as he roughly took her mouth, and she melted against him, happily running her hand up and down his length. He plunged into her mouth, satisfied enough with her stroking to put his own hand to better use. Quickly unbuttoning her waistband, he pulled down the tab on the zipper of her tiny little shorts, pushed aside her panties, and plunged his fingers into her waiting heat. Tongue and hand worked in harmony, coaxing her juices to flow in readiness for him.

She responded to his every touch, automatically spreading her legs to him and fumbling with his own jeans.

“Tent!” he gasped against her throat.

“Which one?” she groaned back, vaguely realizing she’d been absent when the tents went up.

“Closest one,” he mumbled into her ear as they began their awkward stumbling toward the first tent.

He pushed her backwards into the tent and they collapsed together, panting, tearing at clothes.

“What the hell . . .?”

“Ow!”

All movement froze as four startled faces gaped at each other. Michael pushed Max off of him, blinking to make sure he was really awake. “Max, what the hell are you doing?”

“You’re kidding, right, Space Boy?” Maria arched her eyebrows at his absurd question.

“Scratch that. I can see what you’re doing. I’d appreciate it if you did it in your own tent!”

Max turned a deep shade of red, struggling to stand amidst pant legs and real legs, all going in different directions. Liz tried to use him to pull herself up and succeeded only in bringing them both down again, this time on Maria.

“Unh! Oh, Max, if I’d only known,” Maria deadpanned, staring up into Max’s horrified eyes.

“Well now, Liz, if I’d known this is what you meant by doing things together, I would have been much more enthused!” Kyle’s grinning face, framed on the sides by tent flaps and above by Isabel’s wide eyes was the last straw. Maria was the first to start laughing out loud, and soon Kyle was guffawing until tears ran down his face. Isabel was trying hard to look indignant, but she was losing the fight to keep the grin off her face. Michael held it together with a glare until Max and Liz finally achieved a standing position only to have to grab at their pants before they puddled at their ankles; then he lost it, too.

With faces burning, Max pulled Liz from the tent, ducked inside theirs to grab a blanket, and then headed out of camp. “We’ll be back for dinner. Don’t come looking for us!” he yelled over his shoulder. His threat was met with another round of laughter that faded only with distance.

********

Sitting on a flat rock looking out into the desert, Liz sighed deeply. Max’s hand found hers immediately.

“You okay?”

“Yeah,” she smiled. “I’m just sitting here thinking about how 3 years ago, I would never have believed someone who told me this would be my life.”

Max winced inwardly. He’d put her through so much—physical pain, mental anguish, doubt, sorrow. She was so brave, and he was so lucky to have her in his life. He’d been selfish, though, and doubts about his decisions still plagued him.

“You’re doing it again.”

His eyes snapped up to hers. “Huh?”

“You’re doing that guilt-trip thing again, Max. That’s not what I was talking about. Not even close. I was talking about the fact that at the ripe old age of 18, I’m married to the man of my dreams, venturing into the world with my closest friends . . . well, all but one, anyway . . .” Deep sadness darkened her features, but only for a few seconds. “I am privy to one of the most astonishing secrets in history, and I’ve experienced things that, in all likelihood, no other human will ever experience. I mean really, it couldn’t get any more incredible than that. And yet . . .”

He reached over and smoothed the tiny creases that framed her dark eyes. “What?”

“No one will ever know.” She looked at him, her expression unreadable. “Well, almost no one. Doesn’t it ever bother you that you can’t just tell the world how amazing you are?”

Max shook his head slowly. “No, not really.” His eyes caught movement in the shadow of a nearby boulder, and he watched a scaly creature scurry from view. “I’m like that chameleon, Liz. Always having to blend in to survive. I need to be part of the background because standing out could mean death . . . or worse. I remember telling Topolsky once—when we still thought she was a guidance counselor—that I identified with the picture of the boy peeking out from behind a tree. That’s me, Liz. No matter how much I try to deny it. I’m a chameleon, destined to blend to survive. The world doesn’t find me amazing, Liz. It finds me terrifying and dangerous. A freak. We’re not on the run because they think I’m amazing.” His sarcastic tone was mirrored on his face, a look Liz had rarely, if ever, seen there. She could feel him sinking into a depression, and she was having none of it.

“Is that right?” She challenged him with her tone, and he looked up, surprised. “Because I happen to know a few things that you apparently don’t. For starters, that wasn’t a chameleon; it was an iguana.” Liz hopped down from her perch on the rock and began to unbutton her blouse. Max gaped at her, trying to figure out how her words and actions related. “Chameleons live in Africa and Asia, and many species are extremely colorful.” She finished unbuttoning her blouse and let it fall to the desert floor. “The males defend their territory by puffing themselves up . . . very . . . big . . . to intimidate the competition.” She lowered her lashes to focus on Max’s magically expanding pants, then slid her hands across her breasts until she came to the front closure. Flicking it open with a twist, she shrugged out of it, and it joined her blouse. “And they don’t change color to blend in; it’s a hormonal response to light and temperature.” She turned away from him and made a great show of spreading out the blanket in the shadow of the large boulder. She took her time bending over to straighten out its folds, shifting her hips from side to side. He could see her small breasts in partial profile as they swayed and bounced with her movements. He slid off the rock, feeling the strain against his jeans. Then Liz turned boldly to face Max’s wide eyes and open mouth. “When they get . . . hot . . . they turn brighter colors.” She shimmied suggestively out of her shorts and they landed next to her other garments. All that remained were her pink lace bikinis.

Max stood rooted in place. Liz was doing a strip for him! And a damn good one! He watched her step gracefully toward him, and he waited for the kiss that was sure to follow. He was totally turned on. “But you know the best part about chameleons, Max?” She licked her lips slowly, and Max made a strangled sound deep in his throat. “The tongue, Max.” He stopped breathing entirely. She took another step closer, almost touching him. He couldn’t stop looking at her breasts. “The chameleon’s tongue is so long, and so strong, it can whip out and grab whatever’s close by with lightening speed.”

She reached up and touched her fingertips to her nipples and her small pink tongue snaked out again. Mercifully, Max’s paralysis finally released him, and he swooped down to take one of those soft, tempting breasts into his mouth. It was sun-kissed and vaguely salty and completely malleable between his lips. His tongue encircled, teased, flicked across her tip until Liz moaned in glorious delight. She pressed his head against her, arching and pushing against him, wanting to share every bit of herself.

Max bent to lift her and settled them both on the blanket, tucked into the tentative shade the dessert begrudging offered them. He feasted on his sexy wife, planting kisses and tenderly sucking on her soft golden skin. She was so open to him, so giving and warm and eager, all thoughts of self-pity or guilt evaporated like water in the unforgiving dessert sun. He was the luckiest man in the world.

His jeans had long since become unbearably tight, stretched as they were over an erection that leapt and grew in response to his vixen’s every touch. He tried to open them, but he couldn’t seem to manage in his distracted state, and he growled in frustration.

“Let me,” she whispered softly, pushing him to his back and straddling him all in one quick and graceful move. She leaned over him provocatively, watching his eyes worship her body. He was so intent on her seduction that he jumped when she eased her hands up and down his hardness, long and languorous strokes that had him whimpering to her rhythm.

“Liz,” he pleaded hoarsely. His eyes beseeched her to give him some relief from the heavenly torture she inflicted. Aroused to the breaking point herself, Liz felt the warm dampness begin to trickle into her panties. She reached for Max’s zipper with one hand and drew a finger along the silky dampness with the other. Max’s eye popped from his head and his mouth went dry.

Having released Max from just enough material to expose his rigid erection to the warm air, Liz lowered her hips to meet him, rubbing herself against him in the same long, slow strokes her hands had loved him with just minutes before. The silky fabric created even more heat between them, and Max’s breathing became harsh and strained.

“No more, Liz,” he gasped. “I’ll cum, if you don’t stop, and I want to be inside you. Please! Come to me now.”

Within seconds, the remaining clothes had been flung aside, and Liz resumed her position over her lover. She joyously took him in, and he immediately propped himself up on his hands so he could suckle at her breast while she drove them together in exquisite urgency. They had already been so close to completion that their union quickly sparked long, intense orgasms. Max was dizzy with pleasure as he released his precious seed into his love, and Liz thrilled to feel him cum from within her rapturous waves. Their simultaneous moans echoed in the rocky emptiness and soared into the rosy peach of the young sunset.

********
Maria looked up from the logs they’d dragged together in a triangle as Max and Liz strolled leisurely toward them, fingers entwined and silly smiles on their faces.

“Guess they finished what they started,” Michael drawled, never one to let a tender moment go by unscathed.

“From the sound of things, so did you,” Kyle shot back. Obviously his confession to Liz wasn’t going to change things overnight. There were 6 healthy libidos on board this trip. Four of them had the option of doing something about it. He wasn’t one of them. He’d have to get used to it.

“We saved you some food,” Isabel offered, fixing Michael and Kyle with a threatening look. “Max, you’ll have to warm it up. We thought it best not to start a fire. It’s not really a campsite, so somebody might notice it. Besides, there was a fire over in the San Andres Mountains, the radio said.”

“San Andres!” Liz shouted, earning bewildered looks from her friends. “Sorry,” she giggled, “Max and I were trying to remember all the mountain ranges in this area. That’s the one we forgot.”

“This is how you spent your time?” Kyle snorted. “What a waste.”

Max threw Liz an “I’ll get you for that” glare and plopped down on a log, pulling her close beside him. “Good call, Iz. Thanks.”

He arranged two hotdogs and some cheese on buns and held his hand over them for a few seconds. Then he handed one to Liz. Maria gave them each an apple and some bottled water.

“Bon appetit,” she grinned cheerily. “That’s about the last of the food.”

As they ate, conversation turned to what Isabel should say during each of her dream visits that night. River Dog needed to know they were willing to help and that they needed directions to his location. Jeff Parker should be reassured that they were okay, but that they were headed back to the reservation and wanted Eddie to pick up money and supplies in the guise of take-out from the Crashdown. Liz also insisted that Isabel tell him that Liz was worried about how they were handling the news and that she loved them. Valenti needed to see what he could do to divert any police patrols in the area of the reservation.

“Anything else?” she asked, looking around the circle.

“Yeah, ask Dad if the military is still on the rampage,” Kyle suggested. “We’re gonna have to have eyes in the back of our heads.”

Somber faces peered into the deep dusk. “That’s another thing about chameleons, Max,” Liz said softly. “They can see in all directions at once.”

If anyone questioned that remark, they had the good sense to keep it to themselves.



posted on 10-Aug-2002 8:21:18 PM by Carol000
HEY FOLKS! This is the SECOND HALF of this chapter. The first half is on p. 22!)

Lieutenant Nate Christopher was relieved of duty at 2200 hours. At 2202, he was knocking at the door to Major Gibbs’s office, praying fervently that the major was not in. To his great relief, his buddy, Sgt. Tyler Heiss, was sitting at his desk outside the major’s office.

“Ty! I have a situation. I need your help. No questions asked. Will you do it?”

“Anything for you, Nate,” Ty grinned, “but I can’t get you a girl tonight. I’m chained here until 2400 hours.”

“Not a girl, asshole! When have I ever asked you to get me a girl?”

“Hey, watch what you call me, buddy. Seems you’re the one wantin’ a favor.”

The insulting banter between them was an old and comfortable part of their friendship. Nate knew he could count on his friend. He’d saved Ty’s life once in a training exercise gone wrong, and they’d been looking out for each other ever since.

“Ty, Gibbs took a tape from me about a half hour ago. Do you know where it is?”

“Yeah, in the vault.”

Nate hesitated. What he was asking his friend to do could just as easily end Ty’s career as his own. But what choice did he have? Not doing this could result in the murder —or worse, terrible experimentation—of innocent beings who wanted nothing more than to live their lives. The potential to learn from them was unprecedented, if the right people could be made to understand that there was no threat. Did the end justify the means?

The clock on the wall drew Nate’s attention. Time was running out.

“I need you to replace it with this one.”

“What? Are you crazy? Why?”

“I gave Gibbs the wrong one. He’s already mad as hell at me. If I screw up again, he’ll demote my ass so fast, I won’t even get to wave goin’ by.”

Ty looked at his friend. He looked frantic, sweat beading on his upper lip, eyes blinking rapidly. He owed this man his life. He’d made a silly mistake that Ty could rectify and no one would ever know.

“Sure, man. But let’s make it quick. He could be back any minute.”

Nate nodded his thanks and followed Ty to the vault. It’s combination lock clicked endlessly, and with every set of footsteps in the hall, a new stab of fear jolted his system. Ty turned and handed him a tape. Nate jammed the replacement in his hand and headed for the door.

“Thanks, man!”

Before the vault door was secured, Nate Christopher was out the door and jogging to the parking lot. 2205.

He threw himself into his ’91 Chevy Malibu and breathed deeply. He had to appear to be leaving the facility calmly. Once out of sight of the gate, however, he floored the gas pedal and prayed—that the car wouldn’t fail him, that the Parkers would believe him, and that the military wouldn’t suspect him. The abandoned military complex where those assigned to this “alien watch” were being housed was a good 25 minutes away from town. If he didn’t get stopped, he could make it in 15.

When he saw Roswell’s first traffic light in the distance, he slowed his car to an almost legal speed. Three minutes later, he pulled into the alley behind the Crashdown and knocked loudly at the service entrance door.

“Pizza delivery!” he called.

Jeff made his way to the door, irritated by the interruption. “Pizza got here 5 minutes ago,” he muttered as he opened the door. In a flash, a hand reached for him, pulling him forcefully through the doorway and pushing him against the brick wall.

“What the . . .?”

“Quiet! Listen carefully, Mr. Parker. Everything that you have read in that journal the past two nights has been recorded by the United States Government. Your house is bugged. You have to stop reading it in there. You’re signing those kids’ death warrants.”

Jeff paled. The night air started to spin wildly around his head, and he felt he was in a dream.

“Mr. Parker! Are you hearing me?”

Jeff nodded weakly. “Who are you?”

“I’m the officer who’s been listening. But I know what the mentality is at higher levels right now. Panic. Fear. The Special Unit has been reactivated. They’ll be on the offensive as soon as they have something to go on.” Nate released his hold on Jeff and waited to make sure he could stand on his own. “I’ve been hearing every word, Mr. Parker. I know they don’t deserve to be hunted down and killed. But that’s what will happen if you keep reading that journal in your home . . . or any of the others’ for that matter.”

“But the tapes . . .” Jeff’s eyes were round with fear. “They already know . . .”

“I’ve switched the tapes so far, but I’ll never get away with it again, if I’ve even gotten away with it this time. You take them. Destroy them immediately.” He pushed two tapes into Jeff’s shaking hand just as Jim Valenti came out the door.

“Jeff, everything okay?” One look, even in the faint light from the streetlamp on the corner, was enough to tell that Jeff Parker was anything but okay.

“What’s going on here?” Jim demanded, all his instincts going on high alert.

Jeff was breathing heavily, overcome with the knowledge of what they’d been doing by reading the journal aloud at home. “Jim, the government has bugged our houses. They’ve been listening.”

Jim’s face turned angry, his mouth formed a tight line across his face. “Damn it, Valenti! What the hell were you thinking? Of course they’re bugging us! Of course!! I should have realized that. I was so caught up in it . . .” He turned abruptly to the young officer. “Why are you here? What do you want?”

“I just came to warn you to stop reading the journal. I can’t protect them any more. I may have failed already.”

“What do you mean ‘failed’?” Jim’s bad feelings about this were getting worse by the minute.

“I don’t know how desperate they’ll get. If they figure out I’ve tampered with the tapes, they could give me a lie detector test, or even sodium pentathol or whatever truth serum they use these days. I won’t willingly tell anyone what I’ve heard, but I can’t make promises.”

“What’s your name, son?” Jim asked, more gently this time.

“It’s probably best if you don’t know, sir,” Nate replied. “You can’t accidentally say something you don’t know.”

Jim nodded his understanding. He was much more together right now than Jeff, who was still staring wide-eyed at the two of them.

“What going on out here?” Nancy asked, as she and the rest of the group emerged from the café’s rear entrance.

“I’d better go,” Nate said nervously. A crowd was the last thing he needed.

“Yes, you’d better,” Jim agreed. “Lieutenant. Thank you.”

He offered his hand and Nate took it. “For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t want to see anything bad happen to them. They seem like good kids.”

“I think that’s worth quite a lot. Good luck, lieutenant.”

Nate nodded his thanks and got in his car. He wondered if he’d still have a career when he got back to work.

********

River Dog shook himself from the shock of seeing Maya slam the door by just raising her hand toward it. Eddie blinked, but said nothing, looking nervously from Maya to the door and back to Maya. Maya’s whole body began to shake, and she held her hand at a distance, as if its very presence was offensive.

“Maya, it’s alright,” River Dog tried to console her. He reached for her hand, but she pulled it away violently. Fear-glazed eyes looked at him warily.

“Why’d it do that?” she gulped out between shaky breaths.

River Dog searched for words that were both truthful and reassuring. “You have a new gift, Maya. You’re a very special girl. We just need to learn how to control it, that’s all.”

It was obvious Maya didn’t feel special; she felt terrified. She lay down suddenly and jammed her hand under the pillow. Out of sight, out of mind. As her rigid little body continued to tremble, River Dog approached the still-stunned Eddie. He’d only heard about some of these things from River Dog. This was the first time he’d actually witnessed anything unusual.

“Eddie?” River Dog asked cautiously. “I need you to focus now. Are you with me?”

Eddie looked River Dog in the eye and nodded. Funny how he’d been able to accept all this from an intellectual point of view. The real thing was a little more unnerving.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine. Have you seen that before?”

“Something similar. They’re capable of many things; some are unique to individuals, just as we each have our own talents. That’s doesn’t make it bad, Eddie, just different. Maya doesn’t know what this is; she has no control. We have to protect her until she’s stronger, more comfortable with who she’s becoming.”

“How did this happen? You know, don’t you?”

“I only suspect, but I can think of no alternative. Maya was among the children in the pediatrics ward the night they were all miraculously cured, remember? I’ve always held that the miracle had a name: Max Evans. If he cured her, there could be latent effects.”

“But . . . but . . . “ Eddie’s eyes grew wider and his mouth worked to say what his brain was screaming. “But that means, all those kids . . . there could be others . . .!”

River Dog’s weary sigh echoed in the large room. He sank into a rough-hewn chair. “This is the one we must try to help, Eddie.” He rubbed a wrinkled hand over his face and blinked away the dryness. Eddie looked at him speculatively.

“You need to rest. I’ll watch her.”

“No, you talk to the parents. I’ll stay.”

“I’m not leaving until you’ve had some sleep. I’ll talk to her parents after that.” Eddie held River Dog’s gaze, and for the first time in their mentor/apprentice relationship, he was taking charge.

A yawn overtook River Dog, and he reluctantly accepted Eddie’s ultimatum. “Just a couple of hours, then.” He pushed himself out of the chair and shuffled to the other cot in the room. Minutes later, Eddie could hear the long, rhythmic breaths of sleep. Maya, too, had drifted off for the moment.

Eddie mulled over all that he had seen and heard from River Dog over the last three years. It was a fantastic story, but he had seen the cave drawings and the pendant, heard the story of the visitor, and met Max Evans. Now, having seen Maya use her fledgling power, any doubts he’d had fled, along with many of his notions about reality, normalcy, and the order of the universe.

What did this mean for Maya, for their people, and for half a dozen other children out there who might be suffering from the same symptoms? And going to doctors. The shit would definitely hit the fan then.

How in the world were they going to find Max Evans? And if they did, what could he do? He obviously wasn’t expecting this to happen. What if he didn’t know what to do, either? Would the symptoms fade? Would they become stronger? Would Maya be able to learn to control them without anyone to show her how? And how would she choose to use them? She’d have access to some world-class tantrums, if she chose to. The questions were making his head hurt.

He was rubbing his temples, eyes squeezed shut, when River Dog grew restless. He was muttering something in his sleep. Eddie walked toward him, leaning in to hear what the whispers meant. Then one word came out loud and strong.

“Isabel.”


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 10-Aug-2002 9:04:47 PM ]
posted on 20-Aug-2002 11:08:22 AM by Carol000
I'm SO SORRY, troops. TigerEyes, I really appreciate the bumps. RL has been incredibly hectic, but I am making progress. I have the next part about half written, but it's so hard--so much crap I don't want to deal with.

The rest of S1 gets 1 entry. S2 gets either 1 or 2--not sure. S3 gets either 2 or 3. The parents need to get through this asap because the gang is headed back to the reservation and will need them. So we're shifting into high gear.

I do apologize for the long gap in posting. Moving my son to college proved to be a multiple-day event, not to mention the emotional upheaval of saying goodbye to the last one. Rough.

Anyway, it may not be tonight, but it will be tomorrow night at the latest. Again, I'm really sorry.

posted on 22-Aug-2002 1:25:11 AM by Carol000
Well, BLESS YOU for your patience. Special thanks to the little RosBumpers, too. You've kept me from falling off into oblivion!

I know there are some f/b comments I want to respond to, but my butt may never come out of this chair as it is, and I really need to get some sleep. I'll get to it, though. Promise.

This part is really loooooong. But true to my word, I've finished up S1. So hang on. Post SH crap is about to begin.

Part 8a


Huddled outside the back door of the Crashdown, six adults with a new perspective on their children’s lives the last three years whispered urgently.

“Do you think that Lieutenant was right?” frowned Nancy. “Have they heard everything?”

“I think we have to assume so,” Jim nodded. “I’ve really let you folks down. I should have anticipated this. You’d think the last couple years hadn’t taught me anything.”

Jeff turned the two tapes over in his trembling hands. Both the message and the messenger had intimidated him beyond belief. “We could listen and see.” He thought he might throw up.

“We need to find another place to finish this,” Philip urged. “And I think we’d better get through the rest of this journal. We need to know everything we can if we’re gonna help the kids.”

“This is what it’s been like for them,” Diane said with an eerie calm, looking at the others intently. “This has been their lives—guarding a secret, trying not to attract attention, holding clandestine meetings, and never trusting anyone.” There was a bitterness in the tight muscles of her face, a grim line to her mouth. “And all the while, we’ve been flitting blithely through their lives as if we were these wonderful, involved parents. We didn’t have a clue. We only saw what we wanted to see.” Her pitch began to rise, and Philip put a hand gently on her shoulder to calm her. She looked up at him, and her shoulders sagged.

Jim could feel the tension rising and accepted that he was the only one with any experience at the game of cat and mouse they had to play with the government. He would have to take the lead here.

“Philip’s right. We can’t take this at a comfortable pace anymore. We’re out of time. Grab some folding chairs, blankets, some coffee, then climb in my car. I know where we can go.”

Less than an hour later, having listened to the chilling clarity of the audio tapes the lieutenant had brought, the SUV pulled up in front of an abandoned silver mine. No one but Jim had even been aware of its existence, but the memories it held for him were still fresh—a rescue, a revelation, a sting operation. It had almost cost him his son.

“Jim?” Amy nudged the man next to her. He was staring at this ramshackle shed as if he thought it might disappear in front of them. “What’s wrong?”

Shaking himself, Jim turned to her. Dear, sweet Amy. How he wished he could have protected her from all of this. One thing he’d learned, though, as fragile and flirty and occasionally ditzy as she sometimes seemed, she was strong. Stronger than anyone knew. Hers had not been an easy road, and she’d never disappointed him yet.

He leaned toward her and planted a sweet, almost grateful kiss on her lips. She smiled at him, surprised and embarrassed but pleased.

“What was that for?”

“None o’ yer damn business,” he grumbled good-naturedly.

The six piled out of the car. “What is this place, Jim?” Philip asked.

“It’s an old silver mine. Been sittin’ here for 25 years at least. No one will look for us here.”

“Is this the one . . .?” Jeff began.

Jim nodded. “Yep.”

Finally arranged in a circle in the darkness of the old shed, Jim lit the lantern and placed it on a rickety table next to Jeff.

“There’s only about 5 or 6 entries left,” Jeff told them. “Liz really cut down on her writing around this time. It was either her problems with Max or the pace of the weird things that began to happen, but she only records highlights here for quite a while.”

He cleared his throat and began to read. Every page led them even further into the stranger-than-fiction lives of their children.


*****Was it only a few weeks ago that I said “I can’t imagine what could separate us now”? The problem with that theory was I was thinking like a human, ignoring the truth that all of our problems are other-worldly, ignoring the fact that someday Max would have to come to terms with his alien side, ignoring the possibility that a history previously unknown to him would burst into his life and change its direction forever. Unfortunately, that direction isn’t even on my map.

At first, I thought we could handle it. Max and I were as close as ever, finally opening up to each other completely, relishing every moment together, strong in the face of anything the world could throw at us. At least that’s how we saw it then. We thought we could push everything into the mold we’d chosen—make our lives normal in spite of the non-normalcy of Max’s very existence. Max courted me, loved me, cherished me with every look and touch and kiss. I thought we’d built a fortress in which we could hide forever, sustaining ourselves only with love. Well, now I know why there are fortresses in ruins all over the world. There’s always a way in.

It started to come apart that night out at Buckley Point. Max and I had blown off the movie so we could spend some time together. I know making out in the back seat of a car is stereotypical teenage stuff. Maybe that’s why we did it. Because it was normal. And because even without the orb’s influence, we could hardly keep our hands off each other. Every time we were in the same room, we had to touch. Sometimes we were more public about it than I ever thought either of us was capable of, but it was undeniable. A force of nature. And I didn’t mind a bit.

But that night, as we enjoyed the simple freedom of kissing and touching in our own little world, a loud banging intruded on us, and from the other side of the Jeep’s window, Topolsky’s panic-stricken face peered at us through red-rimmed eyes, and her terrified whisper warned us that we were being hunted. She said to trust no one and that she would find us again. How I wish we had taken that advice more literally than we did.

We rushed back to town, scooped up the orb at Max’s, called Alex and Isabel to meet us, and went to Michael’s to talk. The apartment was dark, so Max used his powers to unlock the door and we slipped in. Under other circumstances, we would have been incredibly embarrassed because Michael and Maria were going at it pretty heavily on the couch, but the circumstances were too dire to worry about privacy issues, so when Maria spotted us, Max explained about Topolsky. We were scared, but we didn’t even know the half of it.

Our debate about what to do was completely predictable. Alex wanted to trust her and so did I. Michael and Isabel were completely against it. Maria just looked shell-shocked, and Max was cautious. In the end, we agreed to act normal, hide the orb at Michael’s, and wait to see what happened.

Even in the face of Topolsky’s warnings, we determinedly pushed on with our romances. Max and I were reveling in the new closeness between us—no more hiding our feelings or denying what we were to each other. Michael and Maria kept battling their way toward each other, too, even though their frustration with unfulfilled expectations was constantly coming between them. Even Alex and Isabel were taking some tentative steps toward each other. Somehow we thought we were balancing everything, however precariously.

Ironically, while we were on our guard about Topolsky and the FBI, we didn’t see the biggest threat to our existence walk straight into our lives, all smiles and innocence. The Trojan Horse. Brutus. Judas. Aaron Burr. Tess Harding. The latest in a long line of unassuming traitors.

Isabel said later that she’d felt inexplicably drawn toward Tess that first day when she insinuated herself into a private conversation. Why Isabel didn’t question how easily she warmed to this new girl when she’d avoided close friendships her whole life is still a mystery. But Michael and Max were on guard, especially with Topolsky’s words still ringing in our ears, and they warned Isabel to be careful. She wasn’t. But it wouldn’t have made any difference if she had been. Tess slithered into our lives and wreaked her havoc before we knew what she was capable of. It was to her advantage that we were so distracted by the fear Topolsky had triggered. It was the perfect way to push her way in—to ruin everything.

When Max found out that Topolsky had lured me to a meeting with flowers and a note from “Max,” he hit the roof. But when I mentioned the list—the FBI’s list of people associated with Max and therefore considered a threat—he went deathly quiet. Suddenly our decision about what to do was literally about life and death. The vote went down the same lines as before . . . except for Maria. She surprised us all, especially Michael, when she agreed that the aliens had the final say, and if they said no, then so did she.

So we dug in, even deeper, wanting to disappear from the eyes of the world, but it just kept getting scarier. Later that night, when Max and I and Michael and Maria went out to dinner, Alex stayed behind at the Crashdown to talk to Isabel . . . at least until Tess made another appearance and oozed her way between them again. He told us later how on his way home, a car had followed him down the alley and stopped. How a voice from inside that car was trying to persuade him to get in. How Valenti appeared out of nowhere and scared the car off. Alex accepted his offer of a ride home, but none of us knew what he was thinking. He kept asking for our trust, but why?*****

“She’s right,” Jim sighed. “I was trying so hard to earn their trust. Kathleen had come to me late one night. She was talking out of her mind, but I knew just enough to realize that much of what she was saying was true, and that if the rest was, too, these kids were in a mess of trouble. And maybe, just maybe, my dad hadn’t been as loony as I’d always thought.

“You should have seen her that night. She looked like an escapee from a mental institution, and the desperation in her eyes and her voice, her hair all wild . . . well, she scared the hell out of me, I can tell ya. But when she mentioned an agent I’d worked with before, told me he’d been killed as an example to others who might be tempted to reveal the existence of the Special Unit, I made a couple phone calls. Turns out she was right about that, too.

“I went to Max in the UFO Center one night. I tried to subtly remind him how I’d saved him from Hubble, how sometimes you have to trust those who can help you. I could tell he understood what I was saying, but he was still hesitant. I was afraid to push too hard, so I decided to let him mull it over for a while. I was a long way from their trust, though. A long way.”

“When did they finally turn to you, Jim?” Diane asked. The hurt in her voice betrayed her. How could they trust this man, almost a stranger, and not their own parents?

Jim smiled sadly. “It was hard won, Diane, and almost cost me a son.” His voice caught in his throat, and they watched him in ill-disguised amazement.

“Kyle? Why?” Amy gasped.

“Keep reading, Jeff,” Jim sighed. “It’s coming soon.”

Jeff nodded. He knew all too well.

*****After agreeing that we couldn’t trust Topolsky, we were shocked to find out that Michael had gone to meet her, with the orb! It turned out that she had gone to his apartment with one orb she’d stolen from the FBI and was searching his place for the other. She begged him to trust her and to meet her later that night with the other one. For whatever reason, Michael decided to go. It was only his desperate need for a car that led him to the Crashdown to take Maria’s keys. When she caught him, she insisted on coming, and secretly scratched out a note on her order pad to warn us.

I’ve never seen Max so angry. Michael’s impulsiveness had always tried Max’s patience, but this time, I thought Max was going to explode. I was right. When we tracked them down, Max went after Michael. He punched him right in the face. Until that night, I would have bet money that Max would never strike anyone except in self-defense, if that. But Michael went sprawling, the orb went flying, and our little group was officially out of control. They would have kept fighting if it hadn’t been for two cars pulling up, one from each direction. One was a white-haired man, a stranger, who told us that Kathleen Topolsky was an escaped mental patient, and that he was sorry she’d scared us. He claimed to be her doctor, Dr. Margolan. The other was Valenti, who confirmed the man’s story.

My heart froze in my throat as we headed back to the car and I turned around to see Valenti pick up that orb and put it in his pocket. We had no choice but to keep going, but an alien artifact in the Sheriff’s hands? For all we knew, it was the beginning of the end.

I have to say that in the midst of this nightmare, a couple of things stand out in my mind. One was how far out of our league we were. The danger was so overwhelming, the enemies so anonymous, the paranoia so insidious, I was beginning to doubt my own sanity. But the other, the one I can smile about, is that even with enemies all around us, many we couldn’t even identify yet, there were so many ways that Max let me know I was his priority. Like when the cars pulled up, Max pushed me behind him, shielding me with his body. Like when the man started toward us, Max took my hand, offering me his strength and assurance that he wouldn’t let anything happen to me. Like taking me home late that night, and telling me that now he had more reason to fight than ever, because he wanted a future with me.

If I’d know then what I know now, I wouldn’t have been so quick to believe.*****

“I was the pawn that night,” Jim blurted unexpectedly. “I thought I’d checked this doctor out completely. I still didn’t realize what lengths the FBI would go to—or the aliens could go to—to make me believe whatever they wanted. When the doctor left that night, I went back to my car. I noticed something catch the light, and when I bent to look at it, I found this metallic egg-shaped thing with a weird spiral symbol cut out of the top. I had no idea what it was, but I took it with me. I had a feeling it belonged to the kids, but that wasn’t the time to confront them with it. Besides, I needed time to think.


‘The next day, I called the doctor at the Bethesda Psychiatric Institute in Maryland. I left messages, but he never called back. Then the story broke about the fire there.” He shook his head, clearly still blaming himself for not catching on to the bizarre plot sooner. “Kathleen was dead, and the doctor had never heard of me. Never even been to Roswell. We’d been had, and I was more and more convinced that the kids needed to be protected, not captured. That was a real turnaround for me. After all those years with my dad, and then the past year since the shooting . . . I’d never once thought about their side of things. But . . .” He threw his head back and looked unseeing at the ceiling. “But after a while, it was hard to tell the good guys from the bad guys. A lot of what I’d always believed turned out to be fool’s gold—all sparkle, no substance.”

The group fell silent, each one inching closer to an understanding of their own blindness to the nightmare that had played out in their homes, in their town, in their children’s lives. The fact that they had been forced to hide out in this musty old mine shed was tangible evidence of the terrifying reality they now knew.

“How did this place play into it?” Philip wanted to know, pulling one of the blankets tighter around Diane. “What drove you here?”

Jeff picked up the journal. “We’re almost there.”

*****My parents always taught me never to use the word “hate.” They said it was destructive and extreme, and I would never need to feel that violent about anyone in my life. They were wrong. I think I hate Tess Harding. Or maybe I don’t. Maybe I just hate what she represents—the end of my dreams for a life with Max.

She gave me the creeps right from the beginning, always appearing out of nowhere, always making herself a part of things we thought at the time had nothing to do with her. But when I realized she was having some kind of an effect on Max, I could feel my heart beginning to hate.

The first clue was the strange way Max would sort of zone out when Tess was around, staring at her in the most intent way to the exclusion of everything around him. It happened in the Crashdown soon after they’d met, and suddenly he had me in the back room kissing me senseless. I never complain about Max’s kisses—they were the best part of every day—but he seemed unnaturally urgent about it, almost desperate. Then it happened in chem. lab. Mr. Seligman assigned Max to be Tess’s partner, and he zoned out right there in front of the class. He didn’t even notice when the Bunsen burner set his shirt on fire. But I was resolute in my faith in him. At least that’s what I told Maria.

Then Michael did some detective work and found out she wasn’t even living at the address she’d given the school. While he was there, military types walked into that very house, and we all got edgier. Between this news and the Sheriff coming to Max again talking about shapeshifters and that maybe his father wasn’t crazy after all, the tension was thick enough to cut with a knife. Isabel tried to prove everyone wrong with a visit to Tess’s, but what she noticed was some really odd behavior. Now even she was suspicious.

Events were spiraling around us, and I was afraid everything was going to burst open and destroy us all. I found out Max and Michael had found a miniature camera hidden in Michael’s apartment. Who put it there? Next thing we know, the Sheriff walks right into the Crashdown and sets the orb down on the counter. He says that he can’t expect Max to trust him unless he trusts Max, so he was returning the orb. We were stunned, and I could see Max beginning to wonder. If this was an act, it was a really good one. We didn’t know where to turn. We were clinging to each other because we knew that our bond was the only safe harbor we could count on.

I guess I’ve learned a lot about faith. I used to think having it meant things would turn out all right. Faith wouldn’t let you down if you really believed. Now I know better. Because I had faith—in Max, in me, in us. I really think Max did, too. At least as much as he could control. Even when Michael referred to Tess as Max’s “new girlfriend,” I pushed it aside . . . or tried. I knew what it felt like to be kissed by Max, to look into those eyes and see our future take shape. And when Max came to me that night at the Crashdown as I was closing up, standing in the rain, his whole body pleading with me to let him in, I did. And when he told me I was the one, the only one he could ever be with, that Tess meant nothing to him, that our love was fated from the beginning, I believed. And when he left me with a sweet kiss to seal his promise, I believed.

Then I watched him cross the street and kiss her. Faith can’t take a hit like that and be damaged. I cried until I thought my head would split open. My heart was torn in two, and I didn’t see how I would survive . . . until Maria came to comfort me. I told her that my eyes told me he was cheating, but my heart told me he wasn’t. Then she said something so wise, I don’t even think she knew how it affected me: “I just know you usually go with your heart.” And I realized, she was absolutely right.

So I decided to do something to put the pieces back together, to prove that my faith wasn’t a lie. I went to Tess. I told her I was in love with Max and that I knew they’d kissed. She passed it off as casual, a complete surprise to her, and made me empty promises about “never again.” I accepted Tess’s offer of a drink, planted the little camera, and took a chance at looking in the box marked “photos” that Tess had seemed so protective of when Isabel had offered to help unpack.

It was shocking—piles and piles of photos of Max and Isabel and Michael, with a big emphasis on Max. These people were there because of Max. FBI? Special Unit? Things were getting worse by the moment. I had no idea how much worse until Tess’s “father” startled me and I knocked over a priceless statue. He was obviously angry, but covered it up with a scary façade of friendliness. He invited me to dinner, and even though I knew Max would freak, I accepted. I called him, pretending to call my mom, and tried to let him know that their fears were well-founded—these people were after him. After an awkward and agonizing dinner, Max showed up and tried to give me an out, but I wasn’t about to leave without him. We finally managed to get out of there, and we all headed to the warehouse where Alex had set up the link to the camera.

Max and I had some time to talk then. He told me how grateful he was that I still believed in him, and that what had happened with Tess was something strange and unexplainable. He didn’t care about her. I heard his words, and I even believed him, but “unexplainable” doesn’t explain anything, does it? It’s not an acceptable answer for a scientist or a girl in love. I needed to know why. Now I know where the expression “Be careful what you wish for” comes from, because at that moment, Alex sat up straight and Isabel called to us. There, right before our eyes, we watched Tess reassemble the statue I had broken—with only the wave of her hand. Enter Alien #4. How’s that for an explanation?*****

Jeff reached for the large thermos of coffee and Nancy pulled out the Styrofoam cups, passing around each one as her husband filled it.

“I welcomed that girl into our home,” Diane recalled, horrified. “And she was a murderer? It hardly seems possible.”

“Yes and no, Diane,” Jim told her. “She wasn’t who they thought she was, although she was almost as dangerous in the end.”

“How about you read the next part, Jim,” Jeff offered. “I could use a break, and you obviously had a lot to do with what happened next.”

Jim reached for the journal. “This is when more and more pieces started to fall into place for me,” he agreed. “I still had so many questions, but I knew the people I would normally have trusted weren’t on the right side. And I knew these kids didn’t deserve what was being planned for them.”

He stopped, flipping through the next few pages, wincing at the memories recorded so cruelly there. Somewhere in those lines of black and white, his world had turned upside down. His voice was heavy as he began, relating Liz’s memory of their plan to flush Tess out, to interpret her odd hints at a shared past, and to explore the mystery of the “V” constellation. The pain of opening herself up to a more concrete acknowledgment of Max’s origins and history only highlighted her gritty determination to hang on to the love she couldn’t imagine living without.

There was a sketchy thread about Isabel wondering if she was having Michael’s baby. Shocked gasps were replaced by stunned confusion when Liz explained what Maria had told her—that they had shared dreams about being together and raising a family, and feared that dreams were all it took in the unknown world of aliens. Their relief upon hearing that it was all a false alarm was replaced with amazement when Liz recounted the discovery of the alien book, one that seemed to pair Max with Tess and Michael with Isabel. The biggest surprise came, though, when Liz described Max’s revelation that Tess was one of them. That had sent their relationship reeling.

CONTINUED IN NEXT POST
posted on 22-Aug-2002 1:26:21 AM by Carol000
8a continued

*****I don’t learn quickly. I used to think I did. I get top grades and I handle chaos in the restaurant just fine. But when it comes to Tess and Nasedo, I just keep making mistakes. I knew how strange things had been for Max, and I knew that Tess was all over him every chance she got—with her insistence that they were meant to be together and her constant efforts to pull the three of them further toward their alien heritage. That’s why I was so relieved when Max showed up that day at the Crashdown, telling me we needed time alone. I even dumped my shift and left Maria without a word when he asked me to. Just another case of believing what you want to believe.

I was actually enjoying the slightly bad boy side to Max, sweeping me away in the middle of the day, promising a surprise and time alone together. When we took off in what he described as a loner and hit the open road, I was more than ready. I even teased him into pulling off the road just so I could kiss him—he looked so sexy and roguish with the wind blowing in his hair and that devilish look in his eye. But one kiss later, I was scared to death.

One of the most precious and unique aspects of Max’s and my love for one another is our ability to read the other one when we kiss—emotions, memories, fantasies. But when I kissed him, I saw only emptiness, desolation, a vast wasteland where nothing existed. I knew then that I was in trouble. Then Max, my Max, called my cell phone, and Nasedo stopped pretending. He dumped the dead body of an FBI agent on the highway, destroyed my phone, and began to talk—about Pierce, about protecting Max and the others, about making me a hostage. He was thrilled to be in a young man’s body—weird considering how inferior he thinks humans are—but he clearly meant to lure the FBI toward him, and he clearly didn’t care whether I survived the experience.

As we drove toward the carnival in a nearby town, Nasedo’s demeanor became more frightening, more threatening. Once we’d arrived, he was momentarily distracted, intent on terrifying an innocent bystander who made the mistake of announcing she didn’t believe in aliens. I screwed up all my courage and took off, hoping to disappear into the crowd. Apparently, underestimating Nasedo was becoming a habit for me, because just when I thought I’d lost him, he appeared right behind me. In desperation, I dashed into the Hall of Mirrors. I had no idea then that Max and the Sheriff were right behind us.

I can only describe what happened next as surreal. I crept through that Hall of Mirrors, seeing so many versions of myself reflected back. Even as I watched for Nasedo’s Max, fearing every shadow and sound, I thought about how all those copies of myself really represent my life right now. Sometimes I feel as if there really are so many of me—waitress Liz, good student Liz, perfect daughter Liz, best friend Liz. Those have always been around. But now, there are others—the ones I hide from everyone except Max. Ones that are secretive, fearful, brave, in love. The Liz I am with Max is full of awe and wonder and passion and sexuality I’ve never known before. That’s the Liz who has found the courage to keep the secrets, deal with the fear, and live a double life. My world has unfolded, opening itself to glories and evils I’d never dreamed of. But now, with all of it threatened, I wonder if I’ll ever find all the pieces that will make me whole.

For several minutes, I felt alone with all of my selves. It was both comforting and frightening to see the truth within the illusion, and I was swept away with the possibilities until I saw him. Max. And something in those eyes, in his reaction to me was honest and real and I knew it was him. The real Max. He ran towards me but the panel of glass between us stopped him. He begged me to leave, to run and save myself. Once again, I knew I was his priority and it warmed my heart, but I couldn’t leave him there. I was prepared to do anything to protect him, just as he was for me. Behind him I could see the FBI, the Sheriff, guns. Soon chaos erupted, magnified and refracted into a kaleidoscope of nightmarish images.

Max found me and rushed me out of the building just as the agents caught up with Nasedo. We ran, taking refuge in an empty bus. I was so relieved. I threw my arms around him and kissed him. Then the void appeared in my mind, and my heart crumpled under the weight of another cruel twist. It was Nasedo. My Max, my love, had been captured.

Nasedo shapeshifted into a clown—some bizarre plan to rescue Max—but I was numb with the knowledge that Max had been captured. Who knew what they would do to him? How would that sweet, gentle soul survive the abuse that such a sick man as Pierce was bound to inflict? What could I possibly do to find him?

I stumbled out of the bus and almost fell into Isabel and Michael looking for Max. My head was spinning, but through my sobs, I told them. “They have Max.” The shock of it reverberated around us, bouncing against our minds as we closed them to the possibilities. It was too terrible to think about, too close to the nightmare that had always hovered in our minds.*****

Jim lowered the journal, heaving a sigh that spoke of the tension and emotion of that night.

“I was so confused. My instincts told me that Liz was in trouble, even though I thought she was with Max, and I couldn’t imagine him hurting her. I raced into that Hall of Mirrors when I saw Max. After that, nothing else made sense. When I finally caught a glimpse of him, I still couldn’t tell where he was, and then . . . then there were two of him. As clear as day, I saw two Maxes. One was taking Liz away from there, and one was being arrested, and I didn’t have a clue what I was seeing or why.

“I had no choice but to deal with my deputy, who wasn’t even supposed to be there, and let the FBI take Max away. Back in town, I tried to talk to Liz and Alex and Maria, but they were stonewalling me. I think Liz really wanted to talk to me; it was like the words were just on the tip of her tongue, but she bit them back and there was nothing I could do.”

“The FBI took my son away? Where? What did they do to him? Where were Isabel and Michael?” Diane asked, wiping at the tears that she no longer tried to control. “What happened to my son?!” The force of her emotions pushed her to stand over Jim, her anger doing little to disguise her horror at what her son had endured.

“Diane,” Philip cautioned, rising to stand beside her and pulling her gently back to her chair. “Jim did what he could. He was as confused as we are right now.”

Nancy rose to hand Diane more coffee. She didn’t know what else to do for her friend.

Jim looked at Diane with compassion in his eyes. “Diane, I was able to keep them from shooting Max, but I couldn’t keep them from taking him away. I had no idea where he was until Liz came to my office later that day. I guess they’d finally decided they needed help, but trusting me was an act of desperation. They had already figured out that my new deputy was really Pierce, head of the Special Unit, and that Max was being held at an abandoned army base. Michael, Isabel, and Tess had gone to rescue him, but it had been hours since Liz had heard from them and she got scared.

“She didn’t tell me all I wanted to know, but it was understood between us that there was an alien angle to all this, and that Max was in serious danger. I had no way of knowing what the truth was, but I’d thought long and hard about why I’d made it a point to go after him, and somewhere along the line I realized he’d never done anything to deserve being hunted or brutalized or even feared. If these kids had been able to open themselves up to him, then maybe I needed to rethink my priorities.

“I didn’t even think twice when she came to me. We worked out a plan and put it into motion immediately. When we got there, the others had already knocked out some of the security and either found or made a hole in the fence. We wound our way around, just heading for whatever lights or sounds we could detect, ducking into doorways if anyone got too near. We weren’t even sure how close we were when all of a sudden sirens started up and lights began to flash, and we saw Michael half-dragging Max toward a security door with Pierce right on his heels.

“When I saw Pierce raising his gun, I shot him, and he fell. I guess by the time he got up, the security lockdown kept him from getting through.”

“Jim! You could have been killed!” Amy gasped, realizing for the first time how close she’d come to losing him so soon after finding him. Maria had been outside the facility during this dangerous rescue, but Jim . . . he’d been right in the thick of it.

“Yeah, I suppose so, but what choice was there?”

He gazed at her steadily until she nodded. “I know, it’s just . . .” She took his hand in hers and attempted a shaky smile. Jim leaned toward her, planting a quick kiss on her forehead.

“Thanks for worrying, though,” he winked, and she looked down, embarrassed.

“Once we got out, Liz took Max, the other kids took off in the Jeep, and I took my car, each driving in a different direction in hopes of confusing them.”

“Wait,” Philip interrupted. “How did Michael get through security? And where were Isabel and Tess?”

Jim smiled and quirked his eyebrows, an odd reaction in the midst of his unbelievable tale. “Well . . .” He blew a deep breath from blowfish cheeks and smiled again. “You’ve heard so much strange stuff,” he began, “you may as well hear this, too. Each of them has special abilities, some of which you know. I guess Isabel had located Max by dreamwalking, and she informed him of the plan that way, too, even though he was drugged.”

“Drugged?” Diane’s tear-stained face lost a little more color.

“Yes,” Jim said softly, “Pierce was determined to make Max confess to being an alien, and he didn’t care what he had to do to make him talk.” He winced inwardly as he watched Diane lean against her husband. How was she going to handle the rest of this story?

“Tess has an ability they call ‘mindwarping.’ She can actually impose scenes that aren’t real into your mind and make you think you’re seeing things that aren’t there. That helped them convince Pierce that Max was still in the room as Nasedo burst through the wall and Michael pulled him out. I honestly don’t know where they were before they joined up with us. As for how Michael got past the security, that’s another amazing story.

“Nasedo told Michael that their abilities—that is, the four of them—are all actually human abilities; it’s just that their brains are using their full capacity, unlike ours. Max and the others aren’t like him—they’re fully human . . . with modifications and improvements, I guess you could say. Nasedo was only shapeshifting into a human form. He taught Michael to transfer the fingerprints from the dead body of an agent with clearance to his own fingers, and then he was able to pass through the security scanner.”

“Tell us,” Philip almost whispered. “What did they do to Max? Did they . . . hurt him?”

Jim looked at their anguished faces and wondered how much he should tell; then he thought of a better plan.

“I think we should let Liz’s journal tell what happened then. She was closer to the action after we rescued Max than I was.”

He offered the journal to Jeff, but Jeff shook his head. “This part is a little too hard for me,” he apologized. “If you don’t mind, I’d prefer you read it.”
Jim hesitated, knowing what he would be reading next, but at least he’d dealt with that already. This was all so new to these poor people. He braced himself against the emotions to come and began to read.

*****I was never so glad to see anyone in my life. When Max came stumbling through that fence, leaning so heavily against Michael and Valenti, I couldn’t even let myself think about what they’d done to him. He was weak, and he flung his arms around Isabel and me, somehow finding the strength to pull me closer. He whispered my name under his breath and cupped my head so gently. Our eyes met briefly, but he looked away, afraid I might see the dark, haunted look that still overpowered the relief I had expected to see there.

There was no time for talking or holding or reassuring. We eased Max into the car as best we could and I ran around to the driver’s seat. Isabel handed Max some clothes, and Michael stuck his head in the window, beside himself at Valenti’s involvement, but Max waved him off. He said he trusted him. I think he was almost relieved that Valenti knew. It was either going to be our salvation or our end. Either way, the impossible secret would be out.

As we took off down the road, I looked over at Max, shuddering and pale in the seat next to me. He was trying to dress. I can only imagine how badly he wanted out of those scrubs. I could see blood on his chest and raw wounds on his wrists. It made my stomach turn inside out. What had they done to my beloved Max? How could they harm such a pure and gentle soul as this?

I finally asked him what they had done to him, but all he would say was that it was over. Then he started to tell me something. He said, “Listen, Liz, if we ever get out of this . . .” How I wish he’d been able to finish that sentence, because I honestly believe he was ready to make good on that offer he made the night of the blind date; I think he was ready to leave Roswell . . . with me. I would have gone in a heartbeat. But he never got to ask the question. Gunshots exploded through the rear windshield and glass sprayed everywhere. I could see lights from a truck closing in behind us and the car skidded. I think they hit a tire. All I knew was, we had to run, and I was so scared that Max wouldn’t be able to.

They say you find extraordinary strength in a crisis. I think that’s true because somehow I was able to steady Max as he struggled to run . . . or maybe stagger is a better word . . .behind me. I thought we might be able to disappear into the woods, but when we came out through the trees, we were on another road, and before we knew it, cars came at us from both sides. We were boxed in. The only unblocked path was right over the side of a bridge. I looked at Max, and he was looking back with a determination I would have thought impossible for him in his condition. We scrambled onto the bridge railing and looked down into the blackness. I didn’t even know how deep that water might be or what rocks might be waiting to break our fall and our bodies, but I did know what would happen if we didn’t jump. They would take Max back there, and I would die before I let that happen.

I looked up at him one last time, and his lips were on mine in a second. For some reason, that kiss seemed to last forever, even though I know it must have been only a couple of seconds. I could feel Max offering thanks, making promises. And at that moment, I believed we would make it. I had to believe it. Seconds later, we were plunging into the darkness. As soon as we hit water, mercifully deep and calm, we treaded water noiselessly directly under the bridge. Then we glided toward the bank, hauled ourselves up, and made a run for it.

I had no idea where we were going. I just followed a barely-there finger off the river until we emerged in a car cemetery. I spotted a van and pulled Max toward it. He was weakening and I had to find a place for him to rest. He fell into a seat and looked up at me. I fell into his arms and kissed him. It should have been a sweet reunion, but it wasn’t. Instead, I was flooded with images of the tortures they had inflicted on him—needles, ice baths, electric shock, threats against his family, friends . . . me. It was so much worse than what my vivid imagination had conjured up. I wanted to hold him and rock him until all the hurt and memories disappeared. But we both knew that could never happen.

We talked for a long time. Max kept apologizing for the things he was telling me, wishing as fervently as I was that they weren’t true. The most painful part was that all of it pointed to one thing—we couldn’t be together. We were a mistake. I finally said it out loud, told him I wished he’d never saved me at all because now it could cost him his life. Then it came pouring out—all the beautiful words of love and hope and commitment that my heart begged to hear.

He told me that it was the thought of me that kept him going through the inhuman torture to which he was subjected. I kept thinking it was my fault he was there at all.

He said the day he met me was the day his life began. I wondered how he could not know that I felt the exact same way.

He said knowing me had made him human. I wanted to tell him that he was already human—the best one I’d ever met; that his special gifts were just icing on the cake.

He told me that no matter what the future held, I was his destiny. I wanted to confess my doubts—about my strength, my worthiness for such a future. “Weakness has no destiny in the stars,” I once read. How could I live up to his expectations?

And then he said, “I love you.” And I said, “I love you, too.” That was the purest truth. The one sure thing. All the rest just faded away. The kisses that followed were pure emotion—an outlet for all the things we hadn’t said, couldn’t say. Not now, when our world was turned inside out and our future could be just this one night.

Exhaustion overtook him, and he slept, holding me tightly in his arms and pressing me to him, as if afraid I might not be there when he awoke. Wild horses couldn’t have kept me from him that night, but after watching his face slowly relax into sleep, I drifted off, too.

This nightmare was too bold to live only in darkness. As soon as the sun came up, we could hear the engines of the cars as they searched for us. Once again, we were running, hand in hand against impossible odds. One of agents spotted us and began to run us down in the road. It was like a miracle when we saw Valenti and Michael coming toward us. I don’t know exactly what Michael did, but the FBI agents went off the road as their engine began to smoke. They could only watch as we fled in the Sheriff’s car.

Valenti was shaken. He had seen Michael do something that couldn’t be done. Even Michael seemed confused by it. I couldn’t deal with it then, though. All I could concentrate on were Max’s arms around me, his cheek resting on my head, his occasional gentle kisses in my hair, his thumb rubbing my palm. We were healing, using the only medicine either of us needed just then—each other.

When we arrived at what Valenti told us was an abandoned silver mine, I left Max alone with him. I knew they had to talk, and it wasn’t going to be easy. I was relieved to see the others waiting inside and surprised at how quickly Max joined us. He stepped up and took his leader’s role again, as if he were born to it. After all he’d been through, he was still most concerned about protecting everyone.

Valenti came in and the look he exchanged with Max seemed to settle something between them because suddenly Max was talking openly in front of him, and even accepted his offer of help to capture Pierce in hopes of finding out what happened to Nasedo. Eventually, they decided to use Valenti to lure Pierce into thinking he was there to help capture the aliens. Hours later, Pierce was under Max’s control, bound and nervous inside the UFO Center.

Every plan has a flaw. Ours was underestimating Kyle. He’d ignored Max’s warning to stay put, sneaking into the Center instead, untying Pierce, and providing him with a gun. When Pierce came up firing, Michael saw Valenti was in danger and his instincts took over. He blasted Pierce backwards and the body slumped to the floor. He was dead.

Michael was horrified. Max turned to talk to him when he saw the look on Valenti’s face. The Sheriff recognized the gun as his own, and when he turned to the pile of debris behind the projection screen, he saw Kyle’s body, still and bleeding.*****

Jim stopped reading, squeezing his eyes against the tears that wouldn’t be contained. Amy wrapped her arm around his shoulders and tried to soothe the sobs that suddenly wracked his body. Her own tears streaked down her face and she looked up helplessly, horrified by what they’d been through. There were only more tears looking back, and the group spent a few quiet minutes trying to climb back in control. They were beyond the amazement of all that had gone on without their knowledge. Now they were fully immersed in the pain and injustice of secret lives—a parallel universe by any definition.

Once Jim had calmed, Amy gently tugged the journal from his hands and began to read.

*****We all thought he was dead, and Valenti pleaded with Max to heal his son. Max hesitated, although I knew in my heart he wouldn’t let Kyle die. But this was the point of no return. If he did it, Valenti would know even more, and Kyle would be one of their inner circle, too. More people in danger. More people who could make fatal mistakes.

Max moved toward Kyle, as I knew he would, and he bent over him. An eerie sense of déjà vu crept over me as I watched Max’s hand press into Kyle’s chest. His body trembled with the effort of dissolving that bullet and mending the torn tissue, but finally he leaned back, panting and sweating, and gave the Sheriff a guarded look. Valenti put Max’s fears to rest. I remember he said, “I don’t care who you are or where you’re from, I’ll be here for you.”

We moved off to give him some private time with Kyle and realized that Michael was quietly freaking out about killing Pierce. He had somehow concluded, as only Michael could, that this made him a bad person—that he was dangerous and bad and out of control. He pushed Maria away and told her he loved her too much to endanger her. Then he left. Poor Maria. When will Michael learn to accept the love that he’s so sure he doesn’t deserve?

Eventually, we took Alex and Maria home. I insisted on staying with Max, so I was there when they brought Nasedo’s body back to the pod chamber and took out the healing stones. It broke my heart to watch Max pair off with Tess as one of the two couples needed to bring Nasedo back. When they did, Nasedo dropped the next bomb. He was their protector, but not their leader. That was Max. I don’t know why we were all so surprised by that. It’s always been that way. But I think Max was the most surprised of all. He’s never seen himself like that. Responsible for the others, yes, but in an unofficial way. To have this designation thrust upon him by an alien with knowledge of his past was a shock. And we weren’t done yet.

It didn’t take Max long to give his first order. He sent Nasedo to assume Pierce’s place in the Special Unit so that eventually its failures would force its dissolution. Then he decided to try to make the orbs work. Again, he and Tess formed a pair, and I could feel the icy tentacles of fear start to take hold around my heart.

Only minutes later, my fear had a face—a beautiful face. I listened as a hologram of Max and Isabel’s mother told them that Max was their leader, Tess his young bride, Isabel his sister, and Michael her betrothed and Max’s second in command. They were to learn everything they could and return to their planet to free their people from their enemies.

You could almost see the mantle of command around Max’s shoulders as he accepted this news. He seemed ready to follow through as best he could . . . except for one thing. Me. He was willing to do everything but give me up.

My heart was racing and my mind was spinning. I had just witnessed the single most amazing event in history, but I was standing there debating whether my feelings for this man, this boy, this alien were more important that the fate of another planet. I wanted them to be. I would have given anything for them to be. But they aren’t. So I did the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I released Max to follow his destiny. I gave him up of my own free will, in spite of my heart shattering, in spite of Max’s look of utter pain and disbelief, in spite of the knowledge that the best part of my life is over.

Goodbye, Max.*****

The silence was broken only by occasional sniffles and arms sliding around loved ones trying to brave the storm of emotion.

“It got better, though, right? They wound up together, didn’t they?” Amy asked, her voice cracking over the tightness.

“It was a long road back, Amy. There was so much worse to come,” Jim answered quietly.

“Worse? What could be worse?” Nancy asked. “No one died and . . .” She stopped, her face registering shock.

“Alex?” she whispered incredulously. “Did Alex’s death have anything to do with this?”

Everyone held their breath waiting for the answer. Jeff and Jim stared at one another. Who would read the next entry? The one that encompassed a whole year of treachery, betrayal, evil, and death.

posted on 11-Sep-2002 3:37:58 PM by Carol000
Hey, everybody! Thanks for coming back after such as long break. The Labor Day Dreamer Holiday story turned into a much longer project than I started out to write, so you’ve been waiting a long time.

TigerEyes! You awesome little bumper, you. THANK YOU!

Here’s the plan: I leave on vacation on Saturday, returning 9 days later. SO, I am posting this part now. 9a will go up a few days after I return—it will be the S2 journal entry OR the first of two, not sure which yet. I will start writing it during vacation, but I’m taking a cruise and won’t be able to watch any eps to nail down details, so I need to allow time for that before it posts. Once the journal entries are done (about 5 more, I think), the chapters will become one-parters that deal strictly with the story line.

In case you’ve forgotten where we are in the story: We’re post-Graduation. The gang was on their way to Las Vegas when Liz got a flash about the young girl who was suffering from symptoms similar to her own when she began to develop some alien powers. The group has decided to return to Roswell—or at least to wherever River Dog has the girl secluded—to try to help her. Isabel is to dreamwalk RD to find out where they are; Jeff Parker to arrange for exchange of news, money, and supplies; and Valenti to divert patrols from where it is they will have to stay. Meanwhile, Lt. Nate Christopher (at great risk to his career and possibly himself) has warned the parents that their reading of Liz’s journal is being taped by the army. They have moved to the silver mine (very upset by the news), and Nate is trying to do damage control at work. That’s the gist. If you need more, better go back and reread!

Onward. (In 2 posts, btw.)

Part 8b

Nate drove as if the minions of hell were after him. Images of those people who had been only voices to him a few hours ago swam before him. Their children—human, alien, or otherwise—were in grave danger, and those parents were feeling helpless and afraid. The whole thing was getting more and more real now that there were faces attached to some of the players in this bizarre plot. That sheriff was holding it together, but Jeff Parker had looked spooked, and people make mistakes when they’re spooked.

He put more pressure on the gas pedal, but it was already kissing the floor. He had to get back and sabotage that recording system before anyone realized there was another blank tape in the vault. If he didn’t, his career was over, and he wasn’t feeling any too confident about his life, either. What would the military do with a rogue officer who not only knew the secrets of the alien’s treatment by the Special Unit, but had actually taken steps to protect those same aliens?

The gates of the temporary installation loomed in the distance, and Nate let up on the gas. He couldn’t see any extra MP presence, so maybe he hadn’t been discovered yet. An ID and a salute, and he was easing the Malibu toward the parking lot. Everything looked quiet.

He jogged toward the building, his eyes sweeping in all directions.

“Nate!” a voice hissed from the shadows.

Instinctively, Nate turned in a defensive stance, arms poised to strike. Tyler stepped briefly into the light.

“What’s wrong with you? It’s me!” Tyler whispered loudly.

Nate joined his friend back in the shadows. “Shit, Tyler, you scared the hell out of me. What are you doin’ lurking out here like some kind o’ mugger?”

“I just got off and I saw you pull in. I thought you should know that Gibbs came and got that tape from the vault, so you’re in the clear.”

Nate could feel his stomach flip. “Okay, thanks.”

“What are you doing back here, anyway? I thought you went into town to look for some action.”

Nate almost laughed out loud. Yeah, action. He’d found some of that, alright.

“I left my book at my work station. Just wanted to do some reading before I hit the sack.”

Tyler shook his head in disbelief. “That’s just sad, man. You’re goin’ to bed with a book? Life’s too short, buddy. Come with me. I’m meetin’ some honeys at the roadhouse.”

“Maybe another time, Ty. I’m beat.” He patted his friend on the back in thanks and trotted up the stairs.

“Damn waste,” he heard Ty mutter as he turned away. Then an idea hit him.

“Hey, Ty. Maybe I should come out for a while. I’ll meet you there in a few minutes.” Tyler gave him a thumbs up and hurried out to his car.

Nate’s mind was spinning with possibilities. Maybe if he went out to the roadhouse, he could establish an alibi in case anyone suspected sabotage on the equipment. But of course, he had to sign in, so anyone who checked would know he’d been there. Damn! He wasn’t thinking things through.

He was brought up short when he entered the room where he’d been working the last couple of days. To his dismay, another officer was sitting at the recording set-up, earphones in place, looking bored.

“Jimmy, what’s up? Somethin’ going on at the Parkers?” He prayed that they had heeded his advice and stopped reading the journal together. He was sure he’d convinced them.

“Nah, when I came on, they were just deciding to go out for drinks. They’ve been gone a while. I don’t even know why I’m sittin’ here. What’re you doin’ here?”

“I thought maybe I forgot my book in here. Can’t find it.”

“Huh, that’s a good idea. At least if I had something to read, I wouldn’t be goin’ crazy listenin’ to nuthin.’ Hey, I gotta take a piss. Can you watch things a minute?”

Nate almost sighed with relief. “Sure.”

Jimmy nodded his thanks and took off down the hall. Quickly, Nate unscrewed the back panel on the recording console and pulled out a circuit board, staring in frustration at the maze of metal. He had no idea which damage would directly impact the recording process. He shoved the board back in and reattached the back. Walking back around to the front, he peered at the old-style cassette set-up. Brightening, he remembered a simpler set-up he’d had at home as a teen. When it stopped recording, his dad had tried to fix it for hours before realizing the only thing wrong with it was a broken spindle in the threading mechanism.

Noise in the hall sent a shiver of panic through him. In desperation, he stopped the tape, lifted it out, pushed a paperclip from the desk into the front of the machine, and replaced the tape. Pushing “record,” he listened with satisfaction as a small clunking sound was followed by a whirring noise. Jimmy stepped into the room.

“Something sounds a little funky, Jimmy,” Nate frowned in concern. “We’ve had some trouble with the tapes this week, but I haven’t been able to find anything wrong back there.” He tapped the back of the console. “But now it sounds like something might be wrong with this.” He peered with interest at the tape. “It’s not even feeding smoothly now.”

Jimmy stepped forward and squinted. “Damn it! Why is it always on my watch!” He began to fiddle with the tape.

“I gotta split, man. Good luck!” Nate waved, trying not to run full speed for the doors.

Jimmy didn’t even acknowledge him as he bent to figure out what was wrong with the machine. It would be another long night.

Back out on the road, Nate realized his ill-conceived idea about establishing an alibi was pointless, but he’d told Ty he’d join him, so he resigned himself to one drink with his friend before heading back to his quarters. Minutes later, Nate entered the roadhouse, wrinkling his nose in disgust at the stench of cigarettes, beer, and, he could swear, sex. What, were they screwin’ in the hallways now?

“Nate!” He followed the familiar voice through the haze and smiled in spite of himself. There was Tyler with a buxom blonde on one knee and his arm around a heavily made up redhead whose skirt almost covered her ample ass. His eyes widened as he saw the redhead spread her legs slightly and lick her lips before she sandwiched a lipstick-stained cigarette between them.

His eyes met Tyler’s, and one quirked eyebrow asked his question—where had his friend found these two desperate characters? Ty only winked and grinned. He’d never had any qualms about partying. It was just another fuck after a hard day’s work.

This was definitely not Nate’s style, though. He had no interest in sex with a complete stranger who was, in all likelihood, high on something, lacking in self-respect, and quite possibly carrying a communicable disease.

“I really just stopped by to say I’ve decided to head home,” he shouted above the music.

“Aw, come on, man!” Tyler protested. “I promised Deloris here that you’d buy her a drink.”

The redhead stood and walked toward him with what Nate suspected she considered a seductive look. Steeling himself against his instinct to step away from her—a ludicrous attempt not to be rude—Nate held his breath as she ground herself against him.

“Wouldn’t want to disappoint a lady, now would you, lieutenant?”

Biting back a comment about there being no “ladies” present, Nate smiled grimly. “I’d hate to do that, Deloris, but I forgot I need to make a call and it’s getting late.” He pulled a $20 from his pocket. “This should help with that bar bill, though, okay?”

She looked briefly insulted, but her eyes gleamed as she snatched the bill away from his fingers. “Suit yourself, but this’ll buy more than a drink, if you know what I mean.”

She winked, and he recoiled inwardly. He eyed Tyler, who he was relieved to see was also frowning in disgust. Looked like even Tyler had some standards.

“Later,” he waved as he moved quickly toward the door. Breathing deeply of the clean desert air, he climbed gratefully into his car. Nothing more to do now except get some rest and report for duty tomorrow as if nothing had happened. As he drove home, he had only one regret. He wouldn’t get to hear what else was in that journal, and he had a feeling there was plenty more to come.

********

The crumbs of their meager dinner cleared away, the tension grew in the makeshift campsite. Everyone tried not to look at Isabel or voice their expectations about her dreamwalking that night, but there it was. The more they didn’t discuss it, the bigger it grew until Isabel was pacing nervously. To no one’s surprise, Kyle stepped up to the plate.

“Feel like a walk?”

Isabel didn’t even break stride. “I am walking.”

“I mean to the river. I thought a nice dip might feel good.”

“Kyle, I don’t even have a bathing suit.”

“I know.”

She stopped, finally looking at him with a combination of confusion and wariness. He waggled his eyebrows at her and she lost it. Her laughter lifted everyone’s spirits, and when she threw her arms around Kyle’s neck in gratitude, he caught Liz’s eye. She smiled and shrugged. They were a pair—strange bedfellows, Mrs. Crichton would have said in English class—but he was good for her, and for now, his place was at her side, whether he liked it or not.

Liz made her way to the van and reached inside. Max watched her. He knew what she had in mind, and he was surprised he hadn’t thought of it. But Liz had. She was always thinking.

The smooth wood felt comforting—solid and sure. She retraced her steps to Isabel’s side.

“Isabel, I know you usually have a picture to work with when you dreamwalk, but none of us have a picture of River Dog, so I thought you could use this. It’s the talisman River Dog gave me, the one that first gave me the flash of the little girl. Maybe it will help you reach him.”

She deposited the polished figure into Isabel’s palm and watched her run her hands over it.

“Thanks, Liz.” Isabel looked Liz in the eye, letting the few remaining pieces of the wall she’d built between them so long ago crumble away. “This may just do the trick.”

“Liz and I will take the van tonight, Isabel. You’ll need to be as comfortable as we can manage if you’re going to pull this off.”

“No, we’ll take the van,” Michael volunteered. “You’re still on your honeymoon . . . such as it is.” Maria’s shocked face almost made him smile. He strode to the van and slid the door open. “Coming?” he asked Maria, as if challenging her to argue.

“I have to pee first,” she grumbled, heading toward the trees.

Max slid his arms around Liz and pulled her into his chest. Over her head, he nodded his gratitude to Michael, who shrugged it off and climbed into the van.

“Anything else you need, Iz?” he asked his sister.

She shook her head, and watched Max and Liz push into their tent. Kyle stood awkwardly by her side. She knew he wasn’t sure where he was to go. Sleeping with her in the car was one thing—rather public and exposed. But a tent. That bordered on intimate. Did he want to sleep in there with her? If he did, should she be nervous? If he didn’t—well, if he didn’t, she knew she’d be nervous.

“Kyle?”

“Yeah.”

“About the tent.”

She heard him sigh. “I know. I’ll just bunk out here tonight.”

“No, please.” She turned to face him, understanding his confusion and hesitation.

“Kyle, when I’ve done this before, under pressure, Alex . . .” Her voice caught in her throat. “Alex always held me.” Tears sprang to her eyes. “He said that if he held onto me, maybe I wouldn’t get lost.” Suddenly a pang of remembering pierced her chest and a sob erupted unbidden. Kyle pulled her into his arms, offering a warm, solid anchor as her emotions buffeted her in all directions. She gave in to a few more sobs before straightening and wiping determinedly at her tears.

“I know that we talked about this this afternoon. We both know we’re not a couple. But you are my friend, Kyle. Maybe my best friend. And I think Alex was right. I wasn’t so scared or so lost when he held me. So . . .”

She peeked at him from under damp lashes, and he couldn’t help wondering why it was women were always asking him to sleep with them—the operative word being sleep. Never had a man been asked into so many beds with such low expectations.

He offered her his hand. “Best friend Kyle, at your service.”

She accepted gratefully, and they headed for the tent.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 11-Sep-2002 7:40:37 PM ]
posted on 11-Sep-2002 3:39:12 PM by Carol000
********

She could see the little girl’s face plainly, and felt River Dog’s concern . . . no, fear . . . mounting as he looked at her. In his dream, the little girl kept slamming the door shut with a wave of her hand—over and over and over. On the other side of the door were a man and a woman, angry, crying, calling to her, and each time, the door would slam.

He had no idea what to do to help her, so his eyes searched the shadows at the edge of the dream where images of Max floated. How would he ever find him? Would it be too late by then?

“River Dog,” she said softly, stepping out of those same shadows and into the half-light near the girl’s bed.

He turned to her in confusion, saying nothing. He seemed vaguely aware that this was, after all, a dream, and he seemed cautiously willing to let it play out.

“River Dog, I am Isabel, Max’s sister. I’m here to tell you that we know you need help with this little girl. We’re coming back. But we need to know where to find you. Where are you? Where is this place?”

He continued to stare at her, oddly comfortable with her presence, but she couldn’t tell if he accepted that she truly existed.

“Liz picked up flashes from the talisman you gave her. She saw the girl in pain. She knows your fear. We’re coming to help, if we can, but we must come in secret. They’re hunting us. It’s dangerous.”

These details seemed to give River Dog some confidence in his vision. “Yes, she is weakening. I can’t help her. I don’t even have the stones anymore.”

Isabel looked away, afraid to tell him what she knew he needed to know. “The stones are gone, River Dog. They exploded during another . . . healing. But Liz saw the lights in the girls’ hands. She has experienced the same thing. We just don’t understand why this girl is suffering the same symptoms.”

“Because she, too, has been healed by Max.”

His eyes seemed to study her, looking for a reaction. She knew her face reflected her surprise, and she rummaged through her memory, looking for an explanation. Then it hit. The hospital. Almost two years ago. Dear God. If that were true, then how many others were there?

She raised her eyes to River Dog. He nodded. He knew she understood.

“Where is this place, River Dog?”

“You will never find it alone,” he answered. “I’ll send Eddie to meet you. Go to the cave. He’ll bring you from there. When will you come?”

“Tomorrow afternoon. I can’t say exactly what time, but early afternoon, I think.”

“I will send him.”

Isabel looked down at the child sleeping peacefully in the dream now.

“Maya,” River Dog told her, anticipating her question. “She’s 7.”

“Is she in much pain?”

“It comes and goes. Please . . . hurry.”

Isabel drifted from the dream and awoke with a start, which also woke Kyle who had dozed off, more comfortable than he’d been in days.

“Well?”

“He’s sending Eddie to the cave tomorrow afternoon. We’re to meet him there.”

“Didn’t he freak out or anything? I mean, you just waltz into his dream and he chats with you like you do this every night?”

“He actually seemed okay with it. Curious, but okay. Maybe it has something to do with his being a shaman. Maybe he sees visions or communes with spirits or something. I don’t know. But I think he really will send Eddie.”

“Okay, that’s one. Who’s next?”

“Jeff Parker, I guess.” She still harbored some resentment that it was Liz’s father and not her own that she was visiting, but she couldn’t argue with the logic. Still, when she’d finished with the others . . . if she found them . . . they couldn’t keep her from going to her dad, too.

Settling back against Kyle again, she willed herself to sleep. Liz had given her a picture of the two of them on the Dad’s weekend camping trip two years ago. At first, she didn’t expect to have a hard time finding him, but every time she thought she was getting close, there was so much noise, so many images strobing by, such chaotic emotion—it scared her. This was a stark contrast to the blurred shadows and gentle flow of the dreams she was used to entering. It felt like . . . That was it! It felt like when she had dreamwalked Pierce while Max was interrogating him! Strident and loud and sharp. Jeff Parker was still awake, and his emotions were in turmoil.

Isabel sat straight up, shivering even in warmth of the tent.

“Isabel?”

“He’s awake, and he’s upset about something. Really upset. I can’t talk to him like this.”

“You think something’s wrong?”

“How do I know? Maybe he’s been arrested, or maybe they just didn’t show up with this week’s shipment of onion rings. I don’t know! But he’s upset and I can’t talk to him.”

She knew her nerves were rattled, but she couldn’t seem to control it. The kind of panic that seemed to be consuming Jeff Parker couldn’t be a good thing.

“Try my dad. He doesn’t panic easily, believe me.”

Isabel nodded. “Okay, but I don’t think I can sleep just now. I’m too wound up.” She shifted restlessly. “Tell me a story.”

“What?”

“Tell me a story. Talk about football or basketball. That should do it.”

“You’re honestly interested in sports?” Kyle looked inordinately pleased.

“Of course not! I’m trying to fall asleep, right? What better way than to listen to you talk about football?”

The look on his face would have made her laugh under different circumstances, but not tonight. Tonight was deadly serious.

“Okay,” Kyle frowned. “But don’t be surprised if you wind up really interested. I remember this one game when we were down 21-zip. Jeremy Pritchard, our star receiver, had broken a finger, but he made them bandage him up and he got right back in the game. Well, I knew we needed to do something unexpected, so I asked Coach if we could run the shotgun play we’d been practicing . . .”

It worked like a charm. Isabel was asleep in minutes.

********

The moon was high when River Dog awoke. Eddie had fallen asleep in the chair, and a chill had settled over the room. Sitting up, he looked toward the bed to check on Maya. The white sheets reflected the streaming moonlight, a shadow darkening the small depression where a child had been. Struggling to stand up from the low cot, River Dog scanned the room, his heart pounding with dread. The door was ajar. He shuffled stiffly toward it, hoping and praying she hadn’t tried to run away. She was a danger to herself and others in her condition—confused and frightened and unable to control the awesome power that now ran through her veins.

The porch was empty, and fear gnawed at his gut. He had to find her! Peering into the deep shadow that fluttered against the moonlight, he searched for any sign of movement, strained to hear any telltale sound. A rustling behind him sent him spinning against the rail only to see Eddie step unsteadily onto the porch.

“Where’s Maya?” they asked in unison, answering each other with the very question.

Eddie ran down the pair of steps and scanned quickly back and forth across the small clearing. Hurrying to his left, he turned in a slow 360, then jogged to the right. When he halted suddenly, eyes wide, mouth open, River Dog felt the bile rise in his throat. And still Eddie gaped, motionless.

River Dog descended the steps, eyes riveted on the corner of the cabin. He swallowed convulsively, bracing against whatever it was that would meet his eyes. Four steps. Three. Two. One.

He gasped at the vision before him, believing for a moment that he was, in fact, still dreaming. He’d had a vision earlier, he knew. Perhaps this was another, more fantastic, more mercurial vision that would require him to ponder and interpret when he awoke.

“Do you see what I see?” Eddie asked, in a very here-and-now tone. “Tell me you see it, too.”

River Dog stood holding his breath as the child faced the moon, arms outstretched, eyes closed. Her hands flickered again with tiny streaks of light, but this time, there was no indication that the light hurt her. On the contrary, it almost seemed to beckon the moonlight, pulling it in focused rays into her hands where her fingers worked to weave a glowing image in the air before her. As the image evolved and took form, River Dog’s eyes widened even further, for in front of them all, Liz appeared. She was neither solid nor transparent; she was an outline of light—an idea not yet reality.

The image of Liz looked confused, caught unawares, but Maya simply watched, more curious than afraid, as if Liz were a creature behind glass in the zoo. Soon their scattered examination of each other intensified to a completely focused gaze. Eyes locked, they seemed to communicate, though no words were spoken. Apparently satisfied, Maya’s arms returned to her side and the image vanished. She turned and began to walk back to the cabin.

“They’re coming to help me,” she said simply as she passed between them. Then she mounted the stairs and walked through the open door.

Eddie turned to River Dog for an explanation, but the shock on his mentor’s face told him not to bother. They had both just witnessed a first. The spell broken, they hurried into the cabin. Maya had crawled back in bed and fallen asleep in just those few seconds. She would be the only one getting any sleep the rest of the night.

********

Liz opened her eyes, not surprised to find Max staring right back at her.

“Did you see that?”

He nodded.

“Did you hear that?”

“No. But she spoke to you, didn’t she?”

Liz sat up slowly, trying to put the pieces together. “Yes. And no. I understood her, but she never said anything. How is that possible, Max?”

“What did she tell you?”

“She asked for my help. I don’t know how she called me there, but she did. I was having a dream, about you actually,” she smiled, “but suddenly I felt like I’d been . . . called . . . summoned, and then I was there, hearing her ask for my help.”

“Where is she? Did she say? Did she even know?”

“No, but she’s definitely with River Dog. And Eddie was there.”

“Yeah, I saw them, too. We’d better find out if Isabel had any luck.”

“Don’t bother,” Isabel cried, pushing into the tent, tears still dampening her cheeks. Kyle settled for sitting just inside the tent flaps. “I can’t get through to anyone—not Jeff Parker, not Mom or Dad, not even Valenti. They’re all awake, and something’s got them upset. They aren’t calm enough to notice me or hear me or anything. Their minds sound like a whole bunch of radio stations playing at once. What’s happened, Max?”

“What about River Dog? Did you reach him?”

“Yes.” She calmed slightly, finally able to report some small shred of progress. “He’s sending Eddie to meet us at the cave tomorrow afternoon. The little girl, Maya, is only 7.” She hesitated, knowing she was going to deliver a blow, and wishing more than anything she didn’t have to do it. “Max, she’s one of the ones you healed at the hospital that night.”

Max’s eyes flew to hers, then to Liz. No one spoke. What was there to say? Things were now officially out of control.

Back in about 2 weeks. After that, chapters will be posted regularly. I promise!

posted on 26-Sep-2002 10:15:35 AM by Carol000
Hello again!

Thanks for all the WONDERFUL bumps and additional feedback. So heartwarming to come back to!

I wanted to give anyone who still remembers this story a brief update. We’re back from our cruise (it was wonderful!), but I discovered a new policy on board this time. Last time, word processing was free on the ship’s computers (they only charged for time online). This time, though, they were imposing a $.50/minute charge for ANY time on the computer! As a result, all my writing was longhand. In addition, I found I was able to write Liz’s reflections on many major incidents, but that my memory was a little blurred on some chronology and details. I determined that the only way to do this right was to watch all my S2 tapes when I got home. Needless to say, as a Dreamer, I was NOT watching and rewatching eps as I did S1.

So, I’ve been watching them this week (not quite as painful this time, but still pretty rough), and plan to get the first of two journal entries on S2 finished this weekend. Look for a post on Sunday.

I know this story has been coming in fits and starts. Between breaks for Dreamer Holidays, vacation, and getting that last kid to college, I don’t seem to have the time I want for writing. Not to mention, fall shows are premiering now (did everyone see the AWESOME West Wing premier?) and that usurps writing time, too! I hope most of you can hang in there with me. If not, I’ll know from the feedback and I’ll abandon ship. Your call.

Thanks!

posted on 29-Sep-2002 5:07:32 PM by Carol000
You guys are AWESOME! I’ve been out of the loop for two whole weeks, and you’ve been bumping and encouraging me the whole time. THANK YOU!

BTW, I’ve left two bmail messages that I haven’t heard back on. One to Razz214 who asked me for tips on cruising and one to somebody (sorry, can’t remember!) who asked me about where to find the Dreamer Holiday series. If either of you didn’t get that, let me know.

TigerEyes: You are awesome, babe! You had some help this time, too, didn't you. Thanks to ALL who played bumperfic while I was away!

Sansu: You crack me up! I want to see more of that dialogue. You really had me laughing!



This part was rough. Really rough. I watched every ep (except Surprise and Summer of ’47. HATED the first—except for our sweet boy’s strip tease. LOL!—and the second wasn’t relevant) and sorted through the horror of it all and came out with this. Two things: First, this is the journal entry for the FIRST HALF of S2. And second, there are lots of things Liz doesn’t know yet as she writes this, so don’t think I’ve lost my mind. Keep the time frame in mind. She is writing this BEFORE Departure, but after the TEX (which we know now to be a mindwarp—but SHE doesn’t know that yet) and the baby fiasco.

A plot part will follow this in a week or so, and then the second half of S2’s journal entry. All this is time-consuming, so bear with me, please.


9a

The moon was high as the six weary adults stretched their legs, eager for some fresh air and a break from the pages filled with crises, fear, pain, and love. Evening had long since turned to night, but time was working against them now. Knowing that the government had bugged their homes, they were more anxious than ever to finish reading Liz’s accounts of these three lost years—lost because with the exception of then-Sheriff Valenti, they had been blissfully ignorant of the drama and danger that permeated their children’s lives. It was hard to know whether to feel anger or guilt or shame at their lack of sensitivity to the stress the years had wought on these young people, fighting for their lives against impossible enemies. And it was hard to feel anything but awe at the depth of love that had grown between Max and Liz, mature beyond their years.

“I suggest we better get back to it,” Philip called to the couples quietly breathing in whatever calm the night had to offer. “There must be a lot more, and we have to finish this tonight.”

They began to file back into the silver mine, peering into the darkness as their eyes adjusted to the dim lantern light. They settled into the uncomfortable chairs and looked at Jeff expectantly.

“Liz’s account of last year is going to be rough,” Jeff warned. “She didn’t actually keep up with the journal that year, probably because there was so much happening, and almost none of it was good. What she did was sit down toward the end of the year and write two long entries, trying to record the main events and working through her relationship with Max. It was pretty rocky, as you can imagine, and as that year progressed, it got even worse.

“I think it’s important to read it, though, because the kids learned a lot about their history and their enemies. Be prepared, they were in serious danger several times, and we just have to remember that they survived it, okay?”

Nancy, Amy, and Diane exchanged nervous looks. It was hard to imagine that they were going to hear even more terrible stories than they’d already heard, but it had to be done. And Jeff was right. Knowing that they were alive and together now would help them cope with the tension.

“Go ahead, Jeff,” Philip encouraged. “The more we know, the more we can help, right?”

Jeff took a deep cleansing breath and plowed in.

*****A year. It’s been a year since I’ve had the courage to open up my heart and look inside. I guess I’ve been trying to protect it inside a pod of its own, encased in denial and duty and determination. If I hadn’t—if I’d even so much as peeked inside—I just know the fractured pieces would have scattered to the winds, and I would never have been able to put them back together.

Even now, I don’t know if the damage can be repaired; my heart may be permanently defective, like a cherished antique that shows the wear and tear of time and experience but you just can’t give up on. No matter. I will go on. Not the way I wanted, not the way I once dreamed, but with a numbing sort of perspective that will let me look at what’s happened and learn from it. I’m still not sure, though, if these are lessons I want to learn.

For the sake of that perspective, and my own brutal desire to record the unbelievable events of this past year, I suppose I should at least hit the high . . . make that low points. It may start the healing . . . or the learning . . . or at least the purging of the worst year of my life. I hope that includes the rest of my life, too, because I can’t survive anything worse than this.

How do you record a nightmare and stay true to the facts and implications of it without screaming all over again? I don’t know the answer to that, but maybe screaming while I’m awake will stop the screaming in my dreams. I hate to sleep anymore because that’s where my mind betrays me, dragging the past through my dreams like a plow, gouging painful rows of memories that seem to take root and grow. They thrive in the darkness, wrapping their insidious tendrils around my very soul and squeezing until the pain breaks into my consciousness, no matter how I try to keep it buried. Perhaps writing these memories, exposing them to the harsh light of scrutiny, will at last force them to whither away.

I honestly don’t think I’ll ever hear the word “destiny” again without feeling physically ill. In spite of Max’s denials, I heard his “mother” say he belonged with Tess, that she was his wife in their life on Antar. Maybe I should have seen it coming. Maybe Max should have. But ultimately, it was that single ugly truth that made everything else make sense: the strange attraction, the mysterious book, their purpose for being here.

Even after a whole summer apart—a summer where I naively tried to distance myself emotionally as well as physically from Max—he was still there, always hovering, trying to convince me that it wasn’t true. I could see his battle, though. How like Max to try to balance our love against his duty as king to a desperate people . . . and still believe they could both work. That nobility, that sense of right and wrong, that instinctive acceptance of duty were among the things that made me fall in love with him. And yet they were the very things that would keep us apart.

One night, coming home from another lonely walk, I came through the Crashdown, marching determinedly past Max and the others in spite of feeling his eyes burning into me, willing me to look at him. I had survived one night not long before when his touch had opened the floodgates to sensual memories and breathtaking discovery. I willed myself to avoid that again. I knew another experience like that would shatter my already fragile willpower, and he would be able to break down my reserve. He almost succeeded that night, because just as I raced for the finish line, so close to escaping behind the swinging doors at the back, I felt his hand on my arm, and in spite of myself, I heard him telling me what I wanted to hear—that he wasn’t going to “get over” me, that he wouldn’t move on. I tried not to look at him, so aware that by looking into his eyes, I might lose myself in him again. No, that’s not right. I was already lost. I had been since the first time he touched me. But looking at him was like inviting a wrecking ball to demolish the wall I had erected, stone by tearful stone. And then he captured my gaze, reaching into me with those intense eyes, making me the promise of my dreams: Know this. I’m coming for you, Liz.

I almost crumpled into his arms right then, but Tess’s face suddenly loomed in my mind, her superior look of pity turning hope into hopelessness, and I poured my strength into that wall once again. I had long since realized that Tess was only the personification of the forces keeping us apart, for even as Max fought against his connection with her, outside threats pulled them ever closer together. What I didn’t know then, though, was that this burden was only the tip of the iceberg. My life was just beginning a downward spiral, and every time I thought I was at rock bottom, I found out “bottom” was about to be redefined.

Even at this low point, I held out a tiny shred of hope that someday, somehow Max and I would find each other again. But even a little hope is a dangerous thing. To be honest, I don’t think there is such a thing as “a little hope.” Once you let yourself believe that there is hope—any at all—you wish and pray and believe with all your heart, whether you admit it to yourself or not. I think I knew that before, but I still let myself fall into the trap. Maria was so insistent about going to that psychic, and I figured it couldn’t do any harm. Well, I was wrong. Because as soon as Madame Vivian told me my heart’s desire would choose love—choose me—over duty, a seed sprouted somewhere within me and the next thing I knew, I was practicing wedding vows in front of a mirror.

That’s when Max came to me and trampled on that young seedling until it writhed in protest and died. At first, I wasn’t convinced it was really Max. He looked so different—the long hair touched with gray, the muscular, leather-clad body, the weariness in the eyes—and said things I never thought Max could say, but once I glimpsed his soul in those eyes, I knew it was him, and I had to listen. He told me he’d come from the future, 14 years to be exact, and that the world was coming to an end. You would think it couldn’t get any worse than that, wouldn’t you? But in the world of alien secrets, things can always get worse. It turned out that the war was the result of an alien invasion that had already taken Michael and Isabel and thrown the world’s future into chaos. And all because—here’s the clincher—Tess had left Roswell when Max chose me over her, weakening their powerful foursome.

Eventually he told me we’d been married at 19—in Vegas of all places—and that we’d been blissfully happy. Even now, I cling to those words, knowing I could have lived the life I wanted, if only for 14 years. But when he told me Isabel and Michael had already died, and that I had to find a way to make my Max fall out of love with me, I could feel my heart shatter.

Thinking back on what I did—to both of us—brings on more pain than I ever thought I could bear. Nothing I tried at first worked. Pushing Tess at him didn’t work. Telling him I didn’t want to live the dangerous, insecure life he offered . . . that I didn’t want to die for him¾all those vile, horrible lies I told¾only hurt him. I wounded him so desperately, so deeply, so painfully—but somehow, that didn’t change his feelings for me. I found that to be the most wonderful and most terrible reaction in the world. Seeing the pain in his eyes, the anguished vulnerability, almost brought me to my knees on the spot. Later, when it was obvious it hadn’t worked, I suffered, knowing I’d accomplished nothing, and yet I rejoiced that his love for me was as rock solid as mine for him.

But it meant I had to deliver one last unthinkable blow. I had to make him believe—in the most brutal and heartless way—that I was moving on with someone else. Kyle was my only option, and he really came through for me. He accepted my insistence on perpetuating this lie without explaining why, and respected my rules that would ensure nothing physical truly happened between us. So, when Max came to my window, just as Future Max knew he would, he saw with his own eyes the last thing he was prepared to see—Kyle and me, in bed, looking as if we’d just made love. I thought I’d seen pain in his eyes before, but I soon discovered that that was only a fraction of the devastation I was capable of inflicting on the man I love. His love for me armed me with a terrible power, and when I wielded it, I was forced to witness the total and complete destruction of another soul.

After that, I wanted to die. I felt such anger at Future Max for asking this of me. And then I realized this had affected him as deeply and more drastically than it had me, for this Max, the one who had been my devoted husband for 14 loving years, had already accepted that he would cease to exist, and all that we had been to each other would evaporate like a dream. As we awaited the inevitable out on the rooftop, he told me that through all the battles he’d fought, all the death he’d witnessed, all the defeats he’d suffered, nothing had ever been harder than watching me kill the hope in his own young heart. As I watched him suppress the agony of having lost the love of his life and replace it with quiet acceptance, I realized there was more than enough grief to drown us all.

We shared one last dance—our wedding dance—as strains of “I Shall Believe” played in our heads. This had become “our song,” he told me, and I knew it was true. We had each loved that song, feeling its relevance to our bruised relationship. And in spite of the years between us, we came together in love, setting aside the mourning long enough to create one last beautiful memory. Future Max disappeared from my arms during that dance, his essence evaporating into a future that no longer existed, and only he and I will hold the memory of a love so strong, a sacrifice so great, that the future would be rewritten.*****

A long, low moan interrupted Jeff’s reading. No one was bothering to resist the flow of tears Liz’s words seemed to constantly evoke, but Diane was doubled over now, collapsed under the weight of the hurt her gentle son had endured.

“How could she . . . break his heart like that?” Her voice was hoarse with the ache of new tears. “He could never have hurt anyone. It wasn’t in him.”

Her eyes searched for answers in the silence, finally coming to rest on Nancy. “How could she?” In spite of herself, there was accusation in her voice. She knew Liz had done what she thought was right, and she knew Nancy had nothing to do with it, but her mother’s heart was breaking for her son, and she needed to find someone to blame.

Nancy only shook her head helplessly. Diane swung her look to Jim. “And Kyle. He helped her do this to Max!” Her voice began to rise and her body stiffened as she gained momentum. “He didn’t even know why! He just did this to hurt my son. Surely he knew how that would destroy Max!”

Her body collapsed back into Philip as he hushed her. “Sssshhhh, Diane. Remember the outcome. It’s okay.” He stroked her head and looked to the others for help. Nancy was crying openly, but Jim gave it a try.

“Diane, I know it seems harsh . . . cruel even, but there are a couple things you should understand. I’ve learned to know these kids pretty well over the last two years, and I can tell you that their caring for one another is beyond anything you’ve ever seen. I can say without hesitation that Liz loves your son more than anything, more than her own life. What she did was because she loved him. She’s strong, really strong, and if Max came to her from the future and told her this had to be, she’d find a way to do it. I feel sure it about killed her.”

He glanced over at Nancy and Jeff, who were looking at him gratefully, perhaps a little surprised themselves to hear such a strong affirmation of what they were coming to understand about their daughter.

“As for Kyle,” he continued, “he was going through uh . . . a phase just then. He got into Buddhism, actually, and he looked at everything from a very philosophical perspective. I mean he was letting the fish we caught back into the river, and he was analyzing football plays based on a player’s spiritual balance. What I’m saying is, he would have seen this as serving a greater good at the request of someone he trusted. I know his goal wasn’t to hurt Max, even with their history. The fact of the matter is, I don’t think he had any romantic feelings for Liz at that point. To be honest, I think maybe he was falling for Tess around that time. How’s that for irony? If that’s true, he was hurting himself with this performance, too.”

“I know. I’m sorry,” Diane sniffled. “I just hate to think of him . . . hurting . . .” She began to sob softly.

“I’m sorry, too,” Nancy whispered. “They were both hurting.”

Diane raised her eyes to Nancy’s and nodded. It was all so unfair.



*****The months that followed were horrible. In spite of the chasm of misunderstanding between Max and me, we were still bound together. We still belonged to a group destined to fight unseen enemies and unrecognized memories. What we couldn’t have known—even as we fought against a virtual parade of threats—was that the greatest evil was growing among us.

The Skins were first. The night Nasedo stumbled to Max’s room, bleeding and weak, his last words were a warning about the Skins. Max was panicked. He’d never really liked or trusted Tess’s guardian and professed protector of the Royal Four, but Nasedo had been their only link to their past. After the healing stones failed to revive him, they realized they were truly alone, unprepared to face an enemy whose nature and purpose were complete mysteries to them.

Michael was actually the first to find evidence of the Skins out near where Pierce was buried, but he didn’t realize what it was until Max found similar skin, like the skin a snake sheds, outside Tess’s house. Skins. Now there’s a concept: alien bodies, incompatible with Earth’s atmosphere, living inside humanoid “husks,” as they call them.
Even after I learned of their existence, I couldn’t believe it when we learned that Congresswoman Whitaker was one of them. I mean, the years she spent laying the groundwork to become a member of the House of Representatives just so she could monitor, use, and then derail the government investigation of possible alien life—well, it just staggers the imagination. Had Pierce realized that he was having an affair with the very species he was sworn to destroy . . . let’s just say I would have bought tickets to see that. But when she abducted Tess, betting that she was the incarnation of Vilandra, the king’s sister and traitor to the royal house, it was Isabel who came to the rescue. In the process, she learned that it was she who had betrayed her own brother in favor of her lover, Khivar. Isabel was so horrified and ashamed that she had been capable of such treachery in any lifetime, she could hardly look at Max. We didn’t learn that part for weeks, of course, but it explained a lot later on. And I think she was just as horrified to know that she had the power to kill someone. The showdown between Whitaker and her was terrifying, and when Whitaker finally died, Isabel looked shaken to her very core.*****

“Wait a minute,” Amy interrupted. “Congresswoman Whitaker was one of them? An alien?”

“Isabel killed her?” Philip gasped simultaneously.

“Enemies were surfacing everywhere,” Valenti recalled. “And each time, the kids learned something new about their powers or their history or their choices. It was scary, and completely amazing that they didn’t just crack under the pressure. I know Isabel killed her in self-defense, so don’t judge her too harshly. She was thrown into a desperate and impossible situation.”

“That’s not the last of the surprises, by any means,” Jeff cautioned them. “Remember Courtney, the blond waitress I hired that year so that Liz and Maria didn’t have so many hours? I thought they needed more time for high school . . . ya know, studies and social stuff. I had no idea what was really keeping them so busy and so tired. Anyway, even Courtney was involved. As I read this the first time, I started to think I was one of the few who wasn’t involved!”

“I can’t believe I was never pulled into this,” Amy mused.

Jim took her hand and frowned, a strangely ominous gesture. “Oh, but you were, Amy.”

“What? When?”

“You’ll see down the road. We’re not quite there yet. Go on, Jeff.” He silenced Amy’s protest with a look, and they turned their attention back to Liz.

*****Then Courtney, who at first seemed to be a brazen newcomer out to seduce Michael, turned out to be a rebel Skin, committed to thwarting the Skins’ agenda and to installing Michael as king. As hard to imagine as that was, it was Courtney who finally helped them destroy the harvest in Copper Summit—an entire town populated by Skins. When we first arrived there, ostensibly to return the Congresswoman’s personal effects to the family, we were taken in by the simple lifestyle and down-home hospitality they offered. We actually believed that they didn’t realize their adopted daughter was an alien. That’s when we met her brother Nicholas, an unassuming and awkward teen who seemed to be taking his sister’s death very hard. How wrong we were.

That night, having accepted an invitation to stay the night, I was really feeling the pressure. Things between Max and me were so strained. He had all but accused me of leaking the story about the Congresswoman’s death, and his hostility was palpable. But he needed me, too. I was the only real link to her, so my presence was essential. Tess coming along didn’t help. She was always watching him . . . us . . . like a predator waiting to swoop in and claim what was left of the prize. I went for a walk. I should have known Max would come after me. We had agreed not to go anywhere alone, and in spite of his hurt and anger, I could tell the love was still there. He would protect me, no matter what.

When I heard him call to me, I tried to pretend I didn’t hear him, but I knew it wouldn’t do any good. It didn’t take long for him to get past the lecture about being out alone and start on the question that was always there between us, screaming to be answered. For the hundredth time, I wondered if I could withstand the earnest pleading in his voice for the truth, for an explanation that made sense in a world where our love was a given. He asked me again, as I knew he would, to help him understand what he’d seen in my bedroom that night, his heart determinedly refusing to accept the obvious and more than willing to hear an acceptable alternative. I reached deep inside for the courage and willpower that threatened to abandon me every time we had this conversation. How many times could I be expected to rub salt in the wound I’d inflicted on him? How many layers of selflessness could I be expected to peel away before I bared the naked love that begged to be indulged? But somehow, I did it again. I took his love and faith and sincerity and I buried it under vile lies that were meant to save the world. And even knowing that, I wondered if it was worth it.

In spite of our personal scars, we had to work together to unearth the secrets of these mysterious enemies. Everyone did their part, piecing together the most unbelievable scenario. We learned that the town’s inhabitants had spent years carefully constructing a greenhouse-like facility where high-tech bioengineering combined with rigid climate control had resulted in the “crop” needed to replace worn-out husks. Recognizing Michael’s loyalty to Max, and knowing that she was condemning herself to death, Courtney destroyed the power supply to the husks in a last-ditch effort to sabotage the Skins’ plans to kill Max and return Vilandra to her powerful lover.

Nicholas may have looked like a child but he almost single-handedly destroyed all of us. In fact, he almost eliminated the entire town of Roswell, and only a few of us will ever even know it. Soon after we returned to Roswell, Nicholas and his Skin followers, fighting off the deterioration of the aging husks, came to Roswell, imposing a time distortion that effectively wiped out the town. The only reason Maria and I didn’t disappear was that Dad had sent us on an errand out of town. Same for the Sheriff and Kyle, who were fishing. Eventually we gathered at the Crashdown and realized that even Max didn’t know what was going on—until Isabel spotted Nicholas and his “mother” down the street. Then it was obvious. They were planning to take care of business, and it didn’t matter who got in their way.

Once we started putting the pieces together, Kyle realized where the power source was—he’d actually seen it without knowing it—but by then, the time distortion had already caught up with the Sheriff, and Kyle was pretty shaken up. We knew time was running out for the rest of us—humans, that is—so Kyle, Maria, and I offered to go to the edge of town to try to short circuit the system while the others stayed in town to figure out what Nicholas was up to.

I could see Max wrestling with himself. His dislike of Kyle had escalated since he’d seen us in my bedroom, and he didn’t want Kyle within a mile of me or the rest of them. He’d already told Kyle he didn’t trust him enough to include him in our plans, but at this point, there weren’t many options. Kyle knew it. I knew it. And in the end, Max knew it. He looked at me, then, and it was so clear that he still couldn’t accept what his mind . . . and I . . . kept telling him was true. But when Kyle told Max he’d take care of me, there was a hint of gratitude in Max’s expression. I watched the exchange, knowing the truth of it and hating the sham I was forcing down Max’s throat, because after everything, his first priority was still me. He was even willing to watch me leave with Kyle if it meant protecting me.

It must have been while we were gone that Isabel came to the conclusion that Nicholas wanted her more than the rest of them, and she disappeared to take him on alone. She still hadn’t told Max that she’d learned she was Vilandra, so he had no idea what was on her mind. I only heard later about what happened then because I disappeared, too. I really have no memory of where . . . or should I say when . . . I went. No one seems to. But I do know that Kyle disappeared, too, and Maria was left alone to sabotage the power rod embedded in that billboard. She told me later that she’d used her jumper cables, and they did the trick . . . right before she disappeared. Pretty smart for a girl who swears science is for geeks. Still, while she was working on that, Max and the others were almost killed. Nicholas was more powerful than anyone knew—except Courtney, who told them not only what he was capable of, but how to destroy the husks, which would kill them.

Courtney was in really bad shape, but Michael was doing everything he could to help her. I’ve never actually seen him like that before, just stepping up when someone truly needed him. I guess I knew he had that in him somewhere, but it was never more obvious than with Courtney. He’d already retrieved her replacement husk, but it just wasn’t getting the proper nutrients, and she was dying. What we didn’t know then was that he told her the location of the Granolith, in spite of promising not to tell anyone, and she disappeared, making one last desperate attempt to save herself.

Ah yes, the Granolith. I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet. It’s a big, noisy, rocket-like . . . machine, I suppose you’d say, hidden out in the pod chamber. Max, Isabel, and Michael didn’t even know it was there until shortly before all this happened, since it was hidden in a separate chamber from the original pods. Fact is, we don’t really know what it is or does. Strangely, I actually knew more than the others because Future Max warned me not to let it into the wrong hands. That’s what he’d used to travel into his past to find me, and that, it turns out, was the main thing Nicholas and the others wanted. Of course, Max didn’t know this because I had no way to explain how I knew it, but he and the others did know enough to do anything to keep it from the Skins.

The way Michael explained it to Maria and me later was that Nicholas had taken them all prisoner and was using his ability to literally suck memories and information out of another brain to locate the Granolith. When Tess saw what he was doing, a power almost exploded within her, and she generated a fire that literally turned the Skins to dust without injuring any of the hybrids. Michael seemed to think that even she didn’t know how she’d done it. Before Nicholas died, though, he told them that Courtney had killed herself rather than betray their secret. You could just see the pain in Michael’s eyes. She had become important to him, and now she was dead. It was one of his greatest fears—letting someone in and then losing them. I wanted to wrap my arms around him and console him, but I knew it wasn’t me he needed, and I left him with Maria.


posted on 29-Sep-2002 5:09:04 PM by Carol000
Part 9a continued

The more I write, the more I realize that even Star Trek or Twilight Zone wouldn’t buy this story. If anyone read my journal, they’d lock me up and throw away the key. I guess then I’d have to rely on Max to get me out. It’s sort of a perfect circle. He’s changed everything about how I see reality, and yet that has made it almost impossible to live in what others accept as reality. Now when I look around me at people going about their daily routine, it’s as if they have blinders on. Our friends, our teachers, even Brody and our families—they don’t have a clue. Some days, I wonder that my own parents haven’t begun an intervention or sent me off to a counselor. I must be pulling off this façade of normalcy a lot better than I thought.

Each weird event has built up our understanding of the events that led to the Royal Four being sent to Earth, but our knowledge grew by leaps and bounds after we met the Dupes. That’s what we started to call the identical four hybrids that grew up in the sewers of New York City. Until three of them showed up in Roswell, none of us knew they existed. They knew about the Roswell versions, though. They showed up here really looking the part, that’s for sure. Michael’s double, Rath, was involved with Isabel’s double, Lonnie. It didn’t take long for Isabel to realize Lonnie was short for Vilandra. That troublesome history just wouldn’t die for her. Tess’s counterpart was named Ava, a timid and unhappy tag-along.

In a nutshell, we learned that Max, as king of Antar, was a powerful force in a system of five planets that had apparently been at war for a very long time. A summit meeting had been called but Zan, Max’s doppelganger, had been killed. They needed Max to accompany them to the summit and negotiate the peace. Max’s cautious nature served him well until our recent history pushed him to make an emotional decision.

He came to my room one night. I was so glad to see him, hoping he was ready to rebuild the close friendship we had started out with. Even now, I miss him so much, it’s like a part of myself is dead, a part that lived only for him. But back then, I still clung to hope, and his rapping on my window brought a smile to my face.

It didn’t last. He handed me a small box, and when I opened it, I found the engraved penknife I’d given him for Christmas. “Max and Liz 4 Ever,” it said. Forever wasn’t as long as I’d thought. He told me he’d thought about trying to put the twisted pieces of our friendship back together, but that he couldn’t do it. He said he was still holding on to me and what we had meant to each other, and he couldn’t settle for friendship. So, in an effort to move on, he was returning the last physical reminder of me, and he was going to New York . . . with Tess . . . to learn about his alien side and maybe do something good for his people.

I guess it was noble or practical or at least a proactive step, but it left me feeling so very empty. I tried to at least warn him about how powerful the Granolith was and how it was vital to keep its whereabouts a secret, but he was understandably confused about how I knew what I did. When I asked him to trust me, he gave me a cold and well-deserved answer. “I guess that’s the problem, Liz.” And that may have been the harshest moment of all. His voice was controlled and bitter, and I knew he’d built a thick and towering wall around his heart to protect himself. Our love was not only ravaged beyond recognition, but I had succeeded in destroying the strong bond of trust and respect on which it had been based. I cried that night until there were just no more tears to shed.

I may never know all that transpired in New York, but I do know that Ava stayed behind, and when she finally confessed that it was Lonnie and Rath who had killed Zan, Isabel tried desperately to warn Max through a dreamwalk. The panic on her face when she realized she couldn’t reach him rattled me. I was used to seeing Isabel confident and in control. Nothing could have shaken me more than Ava’s words, though. She told us that Max bringing me back from the brink of death had undoubtedly changed me, and that I should be the one trying to reach him. Even Isabel acknowledged that my connection with Max, as battered and frayed as it was, was still the strongest link we had to him.

With Isabel’s help, I searched my mind for him, praying I could do this one thing that might at least save his life, even if I couldn’t be a part of it. I was shocked when I felt myself standing on a New York City street watching him turn the corner and walk toward me. He saw me, and my heart must’ve stopped right there. I couldn’t move. It was all too unbelievable. He was completely confused, of course, not trusting what he was seeing. I was forced to react, though, when I saw Lonnie stretch her hand upward. The window-washing platform began to sway and I knew what she intended. I yelled for Max. I couldn’t hear myself, though, and I’m not sure he could either, but my gesturing was enough to draw him forward, and the platform crashed to the ground behind him.

Seeing that he was safe for the moment must have calmed my sense of urgency because the next thing I knew, I was back in the Crashdown staring into Isabel’s eyes. We hoped what I’d seen was real, and not the product of an over-eager imagination, but we didn’t rest until Max called later on. Apparently, Lonnie and Rath had had an agenda of their own and were only using Max. He didn’t play by their rules, so they tried to kill him and rape Tess’s mind. The only other things I know are that Max did protect the location of the Granolith—I like to think it’s because of what I said to him before he left—and that the dupes disappeared and Max and Tess came home. I guess the “peace” talks are stalled. And it turns out Brody really has been abducted a couple of times; Max said one of the alien leaders uses Brody’s body when his presence is required on Earth. I wonder if Brody would see that as a fair exchange for his body being cured of cancer after the first abduction.

Ava seemed determined to start life over somewhere new, so we’ve said goodbye to her. I almost took a chance at starting my own life over when Max got home. Finally telling Maria the truth about Kyle and me got me thinking. She told me she “should have known it was an alien thing” because nothing about it was “me.” I realized that was Max’s dilemma, too. He knows me better than anyone—even Maria. And he knows I couldn’t have betrayed him that way. So when he came to me a couple of days later, and told me that I had saved his life, that he missed our friendship, and that he did want to build that closeness between us again, I let the old hope spring to life. Eventually, Max would realize that it wasn’t true, and somehow he would understand and forgive me. Or maybe I should just tell him the truth, and it would be okay.

I was kidding myself, though. Because just as I was taking my first deep breath in weeks, he turned to me. He said he had a question that he just had to ask, and he’d never ask it again: Did I sleep with Kyle? It just hung there between us, and I knew my next words would alter the course of my life. I wanted to tell him. I wanted to confess everything and throw myself into his arms and beg him to understand. I wanted to promise him that we would go to Tess and explain that she was wanted and needed, that I had only done what I had because he had asked me to, that I couldn’t lie to him anymore.

But instead, my mind kept ringing with Future Max’s words: It’s you I trust. It’s you I have faith in. So I just stared at him, and my silence screamed my guilt into the space between us. I saw the shutter come down over his expression. He had pulled his vulnerability in like a turtle retracting beneath his shell, and we were back at square one. Let’s try to be friends.*****

“That was the worst Thanksgiving of our lives,” Diane said. “Isabel told us Max had gone camping with Michael. I was so angry at him for leaving without asking, but I was even more worried about him. He’d been moody, even more quiet than usual, and it was scaring me. His psychologist told me he hadn’t made any progress either. He seemed convinced that Max was hiding something.” She chuckled wryly. “Was he ever.”

“I tried talking to him once,” Philip added sadly. “I’d always felt just on the verge of being close to Max, but even that tentative relationship was cooling off. It must have been right before Thanksgiving that I suggested we spend some time alone together. He was pretty evasive, and told me there just wasn’t time these days, what with school getting harder each year. I was actually kind of hurt when I thought he’d gone off with Michael. I even wondered if . . . maybe . . .” He stopped, embarrassed that he’d started that statement.

“What?” Diane pushed. “What were you wondering?”

Philip shook his head. “Nothing. It’s stupid.”

“Philip! What?”

“I wondered from time to time if he were gay.” Five pairs of startled eyes settled on him. “I know it sounds crazy now, knowing what we do about him and Liz. But I didn’t know that then, and he never seemed to date. I didn’t even know about Liz coming over at all,” he protested defensively. “Anyway, half the time, Michael was in his room come morning. It just crossed my mind. That’s all.”

Diane sighed. “He certainly did keep to himself,” she agreed, offering her husband a reassuring squeeze. “I guess I can understand. But Michael?” She arched an eyebrow and smiled. Philip grinned back, feeling a little foolish.

“I would have stopped Tess, if I could,” Jim recalled. “The fact was, I had no legal jurisdiction over her. We’d avoided any legal arrangements for fear someone might look too deeply into her situation, so when she told me she was going, there wasn’t much I could do. And I was still Sheriff, so I couldn’t just drop everything and go off with them. They probably wouldn’t have let me anyway.”

“Please tell me we’ve heard the worst now,” Amy pleaded.

Nancy nodded in agreement. “Surely things start to get better from here, don’t they, Jeff?”

“In general, no. I’m afraid there’s even worse to come. But first, there is a good story to tell. Listen.”

*****This was all still fresh in our minds as the Christmas season approached. I found myself just going through the motions. I know that if Mom and Dad hadn’t been totally preoccupied with the café being so busy and preparing for the seniors’ New Year’s Eve party, they would surely have seen that the words “Christmas” and “cheer” were totally unrelated in my world. Still, I was trying to keep up my façade of friendship with Max. I kept imagining how different the Christmas season would have been if we had been together. All of the decorations and lights, now dull, would have sparkled. The songs of hope and joy, now meaningless, would have burst with promise. And this season of love and sharing, now a cruel irony, would have been alive with wonder. There was some wonder, though—at least enough to keep my heart from dying completely. How could you not feel wonder at the knowledge of a miracle?

Brody, who lived to renew contact with the aliens who had abducted and cured him, would have been stunned to learn that he had a real live alien working for him. Knowing this about him made us think we knew all we needed to know, so we were shocked when we learned he not only had a beautiful little daughter, but that she, too, had been stricken with cancer. It made us realize two things: first, there was more to Brody than we knew; second, his obsessive search for aliens had less to do with reestablishing contact out of gratitude and curiosity than it did with seeking a cure for his daughter.

The season was harder on Max than most people knew. I think his sense of loneliness and isolation was worse than ever this year. I know it was for me, and I had fewer reasons than he did to feel alone. But on top of that, he was crumbling under a terrible burden of guilt. The whole town had been shocked and saddened when an out-of-control car careened into a Christmas tree lot a few days before Christmas. A man, seeing his daughter in the path of the car, had leapt to push her out of the way and was killed seconds later. Max had been there, but with thoughts of the White Room still horribly fresh in his mind and Michael urging him to leave, he had fought his strong instinct to heal the man. He’d been filled with self-loathing ever since, barely able to look himself in the mirror.*****

“I remember that!” Diane said excitedly. “I even remember talking to the family about it, remember, Philip?” He nodded. “That was so sad. Poor Max! What a terrible decision to have to make.”

*****When he came to me that night, in such pain, he told me the dead man’s ghost was haunting him, challenging him and his fears. I may never know if that was true—I don’t discount the unbelievable anymore—but it reinforced what I already knew about Max: he is a pure soul. Yes, he’s flawed, too. His human side guarantees that, if nothing else. But that doesn’t change his basic nature, and it doesn’t change the fact that I can’t help but love him. I know deep in my heart that I always will. Sometimes I can’t breathe for the unfairness of it all.

That’s when I saw a way to throw him a lifeline—Brody’s daughter. Her name is Sidney, and she’s a sweet, lovely little girl who Brody adores. Maria was caroling at the homes of the very ill when her group approached the home of a 5-year-old with cancer. I can only imagine her shock when the door opened to Sidney and Brody. She hadn’t even known until then that he had a daughter. My wonderful, big-hearted best friend really threw me a curve, though, when she started talking about marrying Brody to give Sidney a mother! When the dust settled, though, I saw the puzzle pieces begin to form a picture. Max needed to redeem himself in his own eyes, Sidney and Brody needed a miracle, and Maria needed a happy ending.

In the end, I knew he would heal her, but his hesitation started another chain of events that still brings me back to that sense of wonder. When he went to Brody’s home and learned that Sidney had been hospitalized hours before, he went to her, and in the children’s ward, he opened his heart and, in a very real sense, his life to those five children. He healed them all, and in that moment of alienness, he found a humanity that brought life and hope to so many families and restored a balance in his own heart. I understood that he was trying to cleanse his soul or pay penance or whatever, but I also knew that if it weren’t for Michael and Isabel and a heightened instinct for self-preservation, he would have chosen this path without hesitation.*****

Again, Diane became animated. “Philip! Max healed those children! Can you believe it?”

“So it was Max’s handprint they found on those children? Just like the one on Liz?”

“Sure was,” Valenti told them. “I’ll never forget seeing that on Liz’s stomach. Fortunately, these parents saw it more like the hand of God.”

“I even told the kids it was like a Christmas miracle, and I hoped it might be enough to get Max to join us at services. He said no, but when he showed up that night, I thought maybe that was why—that he’d been moved by the miracle.”

She looked up at the group in awe. “But he was the miracle.”

Philip and she locked gazes, sharing the revelation that their son had basically given life to 5 small children whose future was bleak. He pulled her into his arms, and their faces looked peaceful for the first time in days. Amidst the fear and danger, there had been a Christmas miracle named Max Evans. Once again, the memories of the healed bird and the kitchen fire popped into Diane’s mind, but this time they were points of pride and happiness, not confusion and concern.

*****At the Christmas Eve service, I sat alone, watching the warm effect the season was having on so many people I cared about—Michael and Maria taking a break from the “alien chaos” to accept the gift of each other, the Evanses beaming at the program Isabel (the Christmas Nazi, Michael calls her) had organized, the Valentis holding tight to a ragtag family that now seemed to include Tess. I’d never felt so alone—until a second miracle happened: Max came to services. And after greeting his stunned but pleased parents, he came to sit by me. It felt right and inevitable that we, too, should set aside the pain for that one night and spend a few minutes acknowledging a basic truth—we are in love, connected at such a deep level that we must eventually return to that bond time and time again. And that simple truth both exhilarates and frightens me because now, more than ever, I doubt we’ll ever be able to live our lives within that bond. And when I let myself face that, I wonder if I can go on.

With the revelations of the months that followed fresh in my mind, I think back to Max’s words that night. In my surprise at seeing him, I reminded him he’d said he didn’t believe in God. His answer, as he took my hand in his for the first time in months, was, “I believe in you.” Looking back, I realize that’s all we needed that night, for him to believe in me. Now, having been dragged through a living nightmare for the last few months, I realize my faith in Max is in question for the first time, and that’s something I never thought I could feel.

I can’t write anymore now. I’m weary and empty and much too drained to record what came next. I think I’ll escape into sleep and try to finish tomorrow. Sometimes, like now, I almost wish tomorrow wouldn’t come. But it will. So perhaps my prayer tonight will be that another miracle will appear on our horizon and that somehow, we can find the right road again.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 29-Sep-2002 5:11:00 PM ]
posted on 6-Oct-2002 12:39:31 PM by Carol000
Wow. That last part really struck a nerve with people. Isn't it absolutely amazing how we all suffered that year, and how it still hurts? I'm so glad I have you all to share it with.

I want to thank everyone for their wonderful f/b. It is more appreciated than you can ever know. This chapter, more than some others, generated comments I'd like to respond to, so please allow me a few notes:

MamaDee: You started writing after watching EotW? I thought it was AWESOME acting, too (and wasn't JB droolworthy?) BUT I also thought they'd fix it quickly. In the end, they never really fixed it at all! You will read that convo in a few chapters--as a flashback to the summer when it supposedly happened.

SciFiNut: Well, S2 is in 2 parts here, not one; you'll have the rest next weekend. But rushing to get to S3? LOL! Yes, I hear your sarcasm!

LindaCrazy4Jason: Thanks, my friend. Your words mean so much to me.

Sansu: The way you comment on specific passages thrills me. We share a love of writing and language, so when you select specific words that work, it means so much. Thank you!

PS_dreamer: See my note to Sansu and thanks for the same thing. Also, you asked about the chronology. You are right that the Skins are before EotW, but because Liz is summarizing a whole year, there are times she follows one line of thought and then goes back and picks up another. In this case, she mentioned their fighting "a virtual parade of threats" and then goes back to describe them. In that sense, "The Skins were first." I can see how that might be confusing, but it was my intention that she describe one facet of those few months before tackling another. Sorry.

Scottie: You blew me away with your f/b. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.

2crzy4roswell: Your f/b was downright poetic. Thank you!

So many others responded. I'd like to leave a note for everyone, but you can imagine . . . LOL!

In this section, I am beginning with a bit from last time to help you remember the context. Now--a warning:

First, the gang are only in a short opening scene. Then we will go see what is happening in Nate's world, and that occupies the rest. I'm not abandoning our group--you should know me better than that--but I need this to set up a part of the plot that pulls the gang in eventually.

Second, I'm not a person who is comfortable with extremely foul language. When I wrote a couple of these characters, I felt, however, they would talk that way. I was nervous about what impression I was leaving with this and voiced it to my beta reader (waves at Linda!) and she barely noticed it! LOL! So I hope I don't offend anyone. It's the characters talking, not me, okay?

Here we go! (finally--and in 2 posts again)

PREVIOUSLY, on Chameleon . . .

“Did you see that?”

He nodded.

“Did you hear that?”

“No. But she spoke to you, didn’t she?”

Liz sat up slowly, trying to put the pieces together. “Yes. And no. I understood her, but she never said anything. How is that possible, Max?”

“What did she tell you?”

“She asked for my help. I don’t know how she called me there, but she did. I was having a dream, about you actually,” she smiled, “but suddenly I felt . . . called . . . summoned, and then I was there, hearing her ask for my help.”

“Where is she? Did she say? Did she even know?”

“No, but she’s definitely with River Dog. And Eddie was there.”

“Yeah, I saw them, too. We’d better find out if Isabel had any luck.”

“Don’t bother,” Isabel cried, pushing into the tent, tears still dampening her cheeks. Kyle settled for sitting just outside the tent flaps. “I can’t get through to anyone—not Jeff Parker, not Mom or Dad, not even Valenti. They’re all awake, and something’s got them upset. They aren’t calm enough to notice me or hear me or anything. Their minds sound like a whole bunch of radio stations playing at once. What’s happened, Max?”

“What about River Dog? Did you reach him?”

“Yes.” She calmed slightly, finally able to report some small shred of progress. “He’s sending Eddie to meet us at the cave tomorrow afternoon. The little girl, Maya, is only 7.” She hesitated, knowing she was going to deliver a blow, and wishing more than anything she didn’t have to do it. “Max, she’s one of the ones you healed at the hospital that night.”

Max’s eyes flew to hers, then to Liz. No one spoke. What was there to say? Things were now officially out of control.

Part 9b

Half an hour later, Max could still feel Liz trembling in his arms. Despite her protests to the contrary, the experience she’d had with Maya had shaken her. He bit back the old guilt about what he had done to Liz’s life and focused on calming her.

“We can talk about it, you know, Liz. I don’t want you holding this inside.”

Liz pulled her head back from his chest and looked at him, trying to read his expression.

“I’m fine, Max. But we can talk about it, if you want. I just don’t know what more to say.”

Max pushed them to a sitting position and shifted so they were sitting cross-legged, knee to knee. He wrapped her small hands in his, stroking her smooth skin with his thumbs. “You asked me not too long ago if you were changing . . . if you were becoming one of us. I told you then that I didn’t know, but that whatever happened, we would face it together. Well, it’s happening, with stronger evidence every day. You’ve had premonitions, you’ve had power surges, and now you’ve been contacted and transported somehow at the call of a child a couple of hundred miles away. I think it’s safe to say, you are changing. I want to know how you feel about it.”

His earnest eyes tore at her heart. No amount of reassurance would ever put his heart to rest about this. She would just have to get used to reminding him that whatever had drawn them together was the answer to a prayer, and she wasn’t about to question it or complain about it.

“Yes, Max, I’m changing. And the experiences do rattle me a little, but I am able to do things no human ever dreamed of. And every new manifestation of that change opens me to a world of new possibilities. I’m not just changing, Max. I’m growing. It’s new and exciting and yes, a little scary. But I don’t regret it; I only wish I understood it more. I want to know what I can do and how I can control it.”

Max chuckled in spite of himself. “Welcome to my world,” he smiled. “Isabel, Michael, and I have had that very thought every day of our lives.”

Liz smiled back, relieved to see him relax a little. “I can imagine. And if we feel that way, think how this little girl feels. She didn’t seem scared, but you know this has to be weird. And I think River Dog is plenty scared—not for himself, but for her.”

“Liz, if she really is changing because I healed her, then what about the other four? Sidney and the three boys. They’re going to start changing, too, and their families won’t know what’s going on. They’ll take them to doctors and then . . .”

The concern was turning to fear right in front of her eyes, but he was pushing it down, probably to avoid alarming her any further.

“You’re right, Max, we have to find those kids, starting with Sidney, but for now, all we can do is get to this little girl.”

He nodded. “I know. I wish we could start now, but I don’t want to wake the others.”

Liz pulled herself forward so that her hands straddled Max’s lap. She raised her face to his and watched the familiar reaction take over. His eyes focused on her lips, and his head bent to taste her. It was a gentle kiss, souls holding hands, promising forever. They drew strength from each other and a familiar peace settled over them. Together was all that mattered. The rest would work out.

The van door slid open with a groan. “Come with me, Michael!”

“I’m trying to sleep here, Maria. Can’t you go alone?”

“It’s dark out there. There could be snakes or coyotes or mountain lions,” Maria whined.

“Then wait til morning”

“I can’t!

“Damn it, Maria! Where the hell are my shoes?”

Max and Liz grinned at each other and pushed through the tent flaps, emerging as Michael stumbled out of the van, cursing under his breath at a prancing Maria.

“What’re you guys doin’ up?” Michael asked.

“Well, it’s been an eventful night, but you’d better take care of Maria first. Tell you when you get back.”

“I don’t want to hear it, Maxwell. Bad enough we’re in the van; I don’t want to hear about your exploits, too.”

Max looked nervously at Liz. “What are you talking about, Michael? When have I ever told you anything about . . . exploits?”

“Miiiccchhhhaaaeeelll!” Maria now looked like the human pretzel, and she tugged firmly on Michael’s shirt. He rolled his eyes and followed her.

“Exploits?” Liz arched an eyebrow at Max, knowing it always threw him. He was so easy.

“Liz, really. I’ve never said a word to him about . . . us . . . like that. Really . . .”

He was floundering for words until he saw the corners of her mouth twitch. He knew if he’d been able to see her eyes, he would’ve caught on sooner, but it was too dark, and she’d gotten the best of him . . . again. He, however, knew exactly how to wipe that smirk off her face.

He stepped into her, threaded his fingers through her hair, and pulled her abruptly to him, homing in on her mouth like a heat-seeking missile. He plunged into her sweetness and swept his tongue across her lips, thrilling to her answering moan. This kiss wasn’t gentle; it was confident and demanding. The kind of kiss that usually led them to more intimate activities. She wasn’t smirking now. Seconds later, though, a low murmur caught their attention. Confused, Liz looked off toward the direction Maria and Michael had gone.

“Wait, I think it’s coming from Isabel and Kyle’s tent,” Max frowned. “Maybe they couldn’t sleep, either.”

As they walked tentatively toward the tent, the voices were recognizable.

“Iz?” Max whispered loudly.

“Come on in, guys,” Kyle answered.

Peeking through the flaps, Max and Liz had to smile. There sat Isabel and Kyle, knee to knee just as Liz and Max had done when they had their heart to heart. Thank heaven they have each other to talk to on this trek, Liz thought. It would have been unbearable for them otherwise.

“What are you doing up?” Isabel asked.

“Couldn’t sleep. Kind of a weird night, huh?” Liz answered.

“You know,” Max suggested, already anxious to get going, “everybody’s up. Why don’t we leave for Roswell right now?”

“Fine with me,” Kyle nodded. “Isabel is working herself into a state about not being able to reach the parents and all.”

“What’s going on?” Michael grumbled from behind them.

Max looked over his shoulder at his frowning friend. “Pack up, Michael. We’re outta here.”

********

Deloris Delgado watched the lieutenant hurry out the door. She stared for a moment as the door swung closed and then looked at the $20 bill in her hand. An emptiness settled over her, and suddenly the stench of smoke and booze and cheap perfume hit her stomach, and she thought she might throw up. She bolted for the door and tripped down the steps, sprawling in the gravel and dirt with a thud.

Pulling herself to a shaky standing position, she gingerly rubbed a finger across her face. Blood. She wiped her hands against her ruined blouse, feeling woozy. Her world spun crazily, and she swayed against a parked car, forcing herself to take deep breaths. For the first time in a long time, she looked up. A blanket of stars seemed to surround her, and she tried to reach out and touch them, just as she had done as a child. She rarely thought about her childhood. The moments of happiness and wonder that one usually associates with that time of life were few and far between, plucked from much longer periods of abuse and fear. Her mother had swallowed a bottle of pills, selfishly abandoning her daughter to a mean and twisted drunk who found her a very arousing replacement, even as an adolescent. When teachers told her she was smart, he told her she was stupid. When friends told her she was a talented singer, he told her her efforts were a waste of time. And when she was invited out, he told her she was needed at home, which meant servicing his animalistic lust. It was the only approval she got from him, so she obediently accepted it, swallowing her shame and self-loathing.

When she’d first met Star, they’d taken to spending Saturday nights at the roadhouse. Some women were lucky enough to nab a military man and get out of this parched bit of hell for good. It seemed like a plan. She was pretty, even sexy, some said. Why not? But as time went on, and Deloris continued to give away the one thing she knew would bring approval, she realized none of those guys were sticking around. Sometimes, she saw them again, but only for the few minutes it took to get off, and then they were gone. She’d never even considered prostitution, but as she looked at that $20 bill in her hand, she realized she was worse. She was a whore.

She bent over the car and hurled. As the spasms eased, she took a good look at herself. It wasn’t pretty. In fact, she was looking up from a place so low, she didn’t even recognize it. That lieutenant had actually stiffened in disgust when she stepped near; all that had kept his feet planted in one place was good manners so deeply ingrained that even in the midst of these human dregs, he’d bowed to their influence. That’s the kind of person she had wanted to marry. Now it was the kind of person who had to brace himself to be near her.

She stared at the $20 again. This was it—the last money a man would ever give her that she hadn’t earned respectably. She wasn’t sure what she’d do next, but it would be something else . . . something worthy.

She looked around the parking lot, realizing she had no ride home. Usually, a guy took her home and got paid for his trouble on her overused mattress. Not tonight. Not ever again. She pondered calling a cab, and then pocketed the bill. She wasn’t about to share that with anyone. This was her seed money. This was going to start her future.

Pulling herself upright, she pushed away from the car and began the long walk home.

********
Tino Gibbs was one pissed off Major. He was counting on this top secret, yet high-profile investigation to push his promotion through. He’d already been passed over twice—always some bullshit about excessive force or anger management or something--and now, at 38, he had only one more chance. If they didn’t promote him this time, he’d be put out to pasture, and he’d be damned if that was going to happen. The military was all he knew. He was alone in the world, and his skills weren’t exactly the most sought after in the private sector. He knew if he blew it this time, he was out, and he had nowhere to go.

Getting the assignment as liaison to the Special Unit was a godsend. One alien prisoner—or cadaver--and his promotion was assured. But nothing was going right! First those damned alien freaks got away. Then that screw-up Christopher produced nothing but a blank tape. Tino hadn’t taken any chances with the equipment a second time; he’d had it all checked out. So how could he explain a second blank tape? Something was fishy, and he wouldn’t rest until he found out what it was.

Storming into the special operations room, Tino bee-lined for Lt. Namoki. He was bent over the taping equipment as if there were a problem.

“What’s wrong, Lieutenant? I thought this machine was supposed to be up and running,” he barked.

Jimmy snapped to attention. “Yes, sir! It was, sir! But now it’s . . . stuck . . . or something.”

With his eyes directed resolutely forward, Jimmy didn’t see the fist hurtling toward the table, so he was totally unprepared for the crash that followed his statement.

“Shit!” he cried, jumping to one side. His eyes grew wide when he realized what had made the noise, and he resumed standing at attention. “Sorry, sir.”

He grimaced inwardly, having caught the Major’s beet-red face. The labored breathing was another grim clue that this wasn’t going to be pretty.

“I suggest, Lieutenant, that you fix . . . it . . . NOW!

“Yes, sir!” Jimmy bent over the machine once again and continued to fish around the mechanism. He’d taken it apart minutes before, and was just peering inside when the Major had arrived. As he scanned the path the tape would normally follow, a broad smile broke across his worried face.

“Sir, I think I’ve found the problem!” His fingers squeezed awkwardly through the narrow opening until they emerged, a paperclip held tentatively between the very tips. He turned triumphantly toward the Major.

“How the hell . . .!”

Jimmy’s face lost its momentary pride; he felt the heavy mantle of blame descend to his shoulders.

“Could this be why our tapes have had only dead air on them the last two days?” he hissed.

“Oh, no sir. This must’ve just happened. The tape wouldn’t have advanced at all with this thing lodged in there.” He swallowed convulsively. Suddenly he had no saliva whatsoever.

“Did you drop a paperclip down there, Lieutenant?”

“No, sir. At least, I don’t think so . . . sir.”

“Have you left your post at all tonight?”

“Oh, no sir! Well, yes, sir. Just for a couple of minutes . . . to hit the head, sir.”

“Did you see anyone in here as you left or returned?”

“No sir, except for Lt. Christopher, sir.”

“Christopher! What was he doing here? He’s supposed to be off-duty.”

“He just came back for his book, sir.”

“Did you see a book, Lieutenant? Did he leave with a book?”

“Uh . . . I don’t remember, sir. I don’t think I saw one. I . . . uh . . . I’m not sure.”

Jimmy had thought Gibbs couldn’t get much redder, but he was turning purple, and his eyes were bulging out of his round face.

“Sgt. Heiss!” Gibbs howled, half-jogging from the room.

“Sir!” Jimmy called after him. “It’s after 2400 hours, sir. I believe Sgt. Heiss is off-duty.”

Gibbs stopped in his tracks and turned, much like the bull in that bullfight Jimmy had seen on the Spanish channel once.

“Any idea where he might be?” Gibbs bit out from between clenched teeth.

“He usually stops by the roadhouse, sir,” Jimmy gulped.

Jimmy watched his commanding officer stride from the room and sank into his chair. The shit was gonna hit the fan. He just had no idea where it would land.

Continued in next post

posted on 6-Oct-2002 12:40:59 PM by Carol000
Part 9b continued

********
Tino blew down the hall, barely looking in either direction until he reached his office. Captain Mitchell was just coming in, offering a brief salute on his way.

“Captain!”

“Sir.”

“Find Lt. Christopher for me, and get him into my office, pronto.”

“Sir, he’s not on base. I just came from town, and I saw him drive in.”

Gibbs froze. “Where, Captain? Where was he?”

“It looked as if he were pulling in behind the Crashdown Café, only I think it was closed. He probably didn’t get any alien food tonight!” the Captain chuckled.

The wheels began to turn, and the anger that clouded Major Gibbs’s face wiped the smile from the Captain’s.

“The Crashdown?”

“Yes, sir. Shall I call his hotel room?”

Tino watched as the puzzle pieces began to fall into place. One blank tape. A second blank tape—even after the equipment was checked out. A paperclip in the tape machine—after his brief visit. A stop at the Crashdown—after hours. One of the girls who disappeared was their daughter. Christopher had either gone into business for himself or had actually decided to hinder the investigation because of . . . what? Sympathy? Profit? Did he make a deal with the aliens? In any case, he was a traitor to his country, and traitors don’t respond to messages when they realize their cover is blown.

“No, Captain. Thank you.”

“Yes sir.” The Captain continued down the hall, and Tino closed the door to his office, his head spinning. What if they were controlling him somehow? There was some documentation about people being convinced they saw things that weren’t there. Even then, he was a danger to this operation. He had to find him. Tonight.

Grabbing his keys, he shouted an “I’ll be back” to the Sgt. at the front desk and, signing out with a scrawl, ran to his car. He would go to the roadhouse to find Heiss; he knew they were friends and there was a good chance Heiss would know where the lieutenant was. They might even be there together.

Gravel spewed from the tires as he pulled into the parking lot, pulling up directly in front of the door. As he entered the noisy bar, his eyes swept the room. Smoke, booze, sex. It felt familiar. Once upon a time, he’d spent his fair share of nights in just such a place. Now it was considered bad form for an officer of his rank to frequent such dives, but it was in his blood. He missed it.

A brunette, teetering on spiked heels and too many margueritas, wobbled her way toward him. Her breasts spilled from the wide scoop neck, and her full lips painted a permanent red pucker on her face. As she sidled up to him, one of her long legs wedged between his two short ones and his groin tightened. One tug of my finger, and that tit would be free for the taking, he fantasized briefly.

“Want some company?” Her breath reeked of alcohol, and suddenly he wanted a drink. Bad. But movement over her shoulder caught his eye, and he pushed her aside.

“Sgt. Heiss!”

Tyler bolted to a standing position, sending his blond companion off his lap and grabbing for a nearby chair. “Sir?”

“I’m looking for Lt. Christopher. Have you seen him?”

“Yes, sir. About an hour ago, sir. But he left.”

“Where?”

“I don’t know, sir. Probably back to his room.”

“Was he alone?”

“Not sure of that either, sir.”

“Did he or did he not leave with someone?” The angry pitch of the Major’s voice was intimidating, and the last thing Tyler wanted was trouble.

“I think so, sir, but . . .”

“Deloris might be with him,” Star interrupted, not at all intimidated by the short, rude buffoon. “She ran out right after he left, and if I know her,” she snorted abruptly, “they took care o’ business, ya know? But she don’t fuck in no car. She likes to go back to her place. Otherwise, sometimes they don’t take ‘er home.”

“And where is her place, may I ask?” Tino was starting to remember another reason he stopped going to these places. There was a much better class of women available to a Major.

“Lookin’ for a three-way?” she laughed, grabbing at the chair for balance. “How ‘bout Tyler and me?” She laughed harder, finding herself highly amusing, especially when she saw the expression on his face.

“Sir! Excuse her, sir, she’s drunk. I don’t know where Deloris lives.”

“I do!” Star volunteered, still chuckling, and proceeded to slur directions to the cheap resident motel a couple miles down the road. “But tell her I get a cut o’ the proceeds; finder’s fee an’ all.”

Without responding, Tino turned on his heel and left, surprisingly grateful to escape the atmosphere that had seemed appealing, in a nostalgic way, when he’d arrived. Within minutes, he arrived at the rundown motel, squinting at the doors looking for number 12. Pulling up, he eyed the cheesy curtains in the single window and the burnt out bulb in the light fixture. What a dump. He would have expected the lieutenant to be a bit more discerning than this.

Knocking on the door, his stomach clenched. What would he do if the lieutenant ran? He would never catch him; he was too young and fit to be caught by a 38-year-old who hadn’t seen real action in years. Why hadn’t he thought to bring an MP? Damn!

“Who is it?”

“Is Lt. Christopher in there?” he asked, keeping his voice calm so as not to scare her or the lieutenant.

There was a pause. Why? Maybe they were dressing.

“No, he’s not here.”

“Ma’am, this is his commanding officer. I’m afraid I’ll have to see for myself.”

Another pause. “You have no right to come in here, whoever you are. I’m not interested in company tonight, if that’s what you’re here for.”

“No ma’am. Just looking for my officer.”

“Well, he’s not here. Goodnight.”

Tino had had it with military courtesy. She was hiding him, he was sure of it. He pounded on the door, insistent.

The door cracked open, its flimsy chain limiting Tino’s field of vision to about four inches.

He’s not here.” The redhead clutched a thin robe to herself and glanced behind her. “Leave me alone.”

Tino heard a shower running in the background. The bastard was in there! Who was this bitch trying to kid! He had to get to the bottom of this tonight or his career was effectively over, and no cheap working girl was gonna stand between him and his career.

With practiced aim, Tino’s foot rammed the door, easily breaking the safety chain and sending Deloris tripping backwards. Her robe flew open as she grabbed at the air for balance, but he barely noticed as he pushed past to get to the bathroom. He yanked the shower curtain aside. Empty.

Looking around in confusion, he began to notice details. The towel still folded on the sink, the steam fogging up the mirror. He touched the stream of water and jerked his hand back. It was scalding hot. She’d been about to shower and was waiting for the hot water when he’d come. Shit! He prayed she wouldn’t press charges. He could probably intimidate her out of that. She didn’t look that bright.

“I’m sorry, ma’am. Government business, you understand . . .”

He stopped short, wondering where she’d gone. Coming around the bed, he looked down to see her naked body sprawled, unmoving, on the floor. Frowning, he imagined the trouble she could cause him deepening, and he reached for her neck pulse, praying she was only knocked out for a minute. Nothing. The bitch had died on him.

Beads of sweat dotted his brow, and he swiped at them with his sleeve. Think! he told himself, raking his fingers through his thinning hair. He could hear himself breathing hard, almost as if he were hearing the guy next to him. Except there was no one next to him . . . except the woman, and she wasn’t breathing. She’d never breathe again. He looked down at her, oddly unmoved. She didn’t matter particularly. What was one less whore in the world? It was what this could do to him that had his insides in spasms.

His eyes widened at the red stain on the carpet beneath her head as it crept outward, alive and growing. Damn it! He was standing it in! There would be blood on his shoe! He ran out the door, scraping the sole of his shoe against the rock and gravel until he was satisfied there were no traces left. Why did everything turn to crap for him? It was all Lieutenant Christopher’s fault! How was it that the traitor was no doubt lying in bed somewhere right now and the man who was trying to stop him was watching his life fall apart?

Headlights appeared at the end of the narrow parking strip, and Tino bolted for the cover of the room, looking around nervously to see if anyone was watching. He heard a TV set in the distance, but everything else was quiet. Shutting the door, he slumped to the bed, his mind racing with possibilities. He was screwed. He couldn’t prove anything about Lt. Christopher—at least not yet—and now there was a dead body to explain. Not to mention people who knew he’d just gotten this woman’s address. They’d tell the police that he’d been headed over here, just like they’d told him that . . .

The idea began to take shape, slowly easing into focus. Those same people would say that Christopher could have been here, too. He’d been seen with the woman, had left with her. Hadn’t the blond bimbo said this woman liked to take men home with her? If he called and reported finding a dead body, who would be the focus of suspicion? The guy who called it in? Or the guy who probably fucked her earlier anyway? Hell, they’d probably do some kind of DNA test on her proving Christopher had done the bitch. He’d be discredited, imprisoned. And not around to interfere with the investigation. Tino would be a hero. Then, when he’d nabbed his alien, he’d be sittin’ pretty at the review board.

He liked it. It worked. Better than anything he could have planned. Taking a deep breath, he reached for the phone.

********
Nate let himself into the room and threw the key on the table. The Best Western where they were putting up the members of the investigative unit wasn’t exactly a 4-star hotel, but right now, it was looking pretty good. Between the close call with the tape, the discussion with the kids’ parents, the stop at the roadhouse, and then the problem with the flat tire, he was exhausted. He unwrapped the handkerchief from his palm and blotted at the few remaining drops of blood. As he washed his hands, he winced; the tire iron had flown from his grasp, leaving a gash across his palm. Now every time he flexed his hand, which was about 30 times a minute, it hurt. Sinking into a chair, Nate rubbed his eyes. So tired. He felt like the weight of the world was pressing him downward, and try as he might, he just couldn’t get up.

Stale smoke and pungent perfume penetrated his senses, and he realized he had brought the roadhouse home with him. Wrinkling his nose in disgust, he hurried to shed his uniform. He’d have to drop it by the cleaners in the morning. His other one was ready and waiting in the closet, although his shoes would need a shine before he reported for duty tomorrow. They were encrusted with the grime of the roadhouse parking lot; even his hat was dirty. He was too tired to even shower now, so he set the alarm for a half-hour earlier and crawled gratefully into bed.

It felt like only minutes before there was a loud knocking at the door, but when he opened it, groggy and irritable, dawn was peeking over the horizon. That was the last rational thought he had before he heard the police officers reading him his rights and slapping handcuffs on him. From the backseat of the patrol car, Nate looked out the window, desperately trying to make sense of things. This couldn’t be about the tapes. That would have been a military matter. And he could have sworn he heard the word “murder.” What the hell was happening?

posted on 13-Oct-2002 5:58:21 PM by Carol000
Hello, friends!

Well, if I thought the last journal entry was hard to write, it had nothing on this one. Rewatching what, in my opinion, was the most cruel, warped, and out-of-character arc of the series was painful. I’ve shed a lot of tears and combed the eps for glimmers of silver lining. This is the result. I hope it’s not too tough on you.

If f/b on the last part (plot) is any indication, there is some confusion and/or disapproval of the new plot twist (Nate being framed for murder). Those who left feedback seemed intrigued, but there were fewer responses than other chapters have gotten, so I would be interested to know if this has to do with being perplexed about how this will relate or whether it’s a lack of interest in the same thing. If you don’t mind, leave a note about what you didn’t understand/like about that part.

Okay, on with it. Look at it this way. Once we’re past this one, it does get slowly better. This takes us right up TO but not THROUGH “Departure.” And since I plan to spend almost NO TIME on the Isabore/Jesse fiasco, it’ll go pretty quick, too!

Part 10a 2 posts, as usual

As the shell-shocked group sat quietly, similar thoughts flew through their minds. If just hearing about the events and emotions that had defined their children’s lives this last year had affected them this strongly, how in the world had their sons and daughters lived through them, let alone given the impression that life was normal—well, as normal as a teen’s life ever gets? The tale was the most astonishing, unbelievable story, and yet there was not a doubt in the room that it was all true.

“No wonder you told us to be prepared,” Amy sighed, leaning her head against Jim. “I don’t think any of us could have imagined such a story.”

“I hope things calmed down after this,” Nancy agreed. “I don’t think I can take much more, and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t have either.”

“Well, we haven’t even gotten to that whole fiasco with the convenient store hold-up. I’ll go to my grave wondering whatever possessed them to do that,” Diane frowned. “Maybe it was all this other stress. Maybe they started to wonder if regular life could be exciting and just got carried away. I think they both came away realizing it was the stupidest stunt they’d ever pulled.”

Jeff and Jim had been listening to the exchange, knowing full well that one of the worst parts of the story still remained untold. Jeff was wondering if the others could take any more right now. They seemed downright overwhelmed, and with good reason. He caught Jim’s eye and silently asked the question. Jim looked sympathetic, but glanced at his watch meaningfully. They had to keep going.

“I wish I could give you more time to digest all this,” Jeff began, “but we have so little time. I’m afraid there is more to come, and it won’t be easy to hear, but once we’re done with that, we’ll take a couple hours to catch some sleep before we finish up. You’ll need the time even more then.”

Philip closed his eyes. He had an idea what was coming. He’d been practically stalking his own son lately, and between that and the week they’d had with Max and Isabel after the truth about their origins came out, the pieces were starting to come together. His children had still been reluctant to tell all, and now, having heard Liz’s journal thus far, he understood why. But he worried about how the rest of the adults, who hadn’t raised and loved his children for 12 years, would react to what Liz dealt with next. He pulled Diane closer and kissed her head. “Diane and I have heard enough from our children now to anticipate this next part, and since this is Liz’s journal, I know there will be a lot of anger and sadness. Please, just remember, they had all been living in extraordinary circumstances, and they couldn’t control everything that happened any more than we can.”

Jim nodded. “I was part of all this, and I agree with Philip. They did the best they could, and they made some mistakes along the way. Given how little they understood about what was going on, I think it’s remarkable they did as well as they did. Keep that in mind.”

“You’re scaring me,” Nancy whispered, looking to Jeff for reassurance.

He took her hand. “It’ll be okay, Nancy. We can’t change what happened, but you still need to know.” With that, he took the journal and began to read.

********I'm thinking about the past few months and wondering how it all went so wrong. And will I ever believe in anything again? And will my heart ever ever get over this love that has consumed me and yet condemned me at the same time? There is so much poison in my mind, strong feelings of loss and anger and . . . can I even admit this? . . . hatred in my heart. I don’t even know who to direct that hatred toward yet, but I can hardly breathe thinking about it. I can't live like this. So here I am again, praying fervently with a faith as brittle as kindling, that pouring this from my heart onto the cold, inanimate page will somehow neutralize it and keep it from festering inside me. I'm not sure it can. I'm not sure anything can. But I have to try.

Actually, the time after the holidays wasn’t really so bad. Max and I continued to try to honor our pact to stay friends. He would come to me for advice and help. I would stop and talk with him whenever he came into the Crashdown or down the hall at school. I would forward him e-mail jokes and the latest gossip. We weren't really fooling each other, of course. It was a poor substitute for the most amazing relationship of our lives. There was a lot of pain between us--unasked questions, unspoken accusations, unfulfilled expectations--but at least we could spend time together. At least we were communicating, at least superficially. And we were trying, painfully and slowly, to move on. That last one was the real sticking point.

On the one hand, I could see he wasn’t really taking any serious steps to be with Tess. He still resisted that mandate of his destiny, and the part of me that couldn’t let go was cheering every time he walked away from her without a second look. The other part of me—the responsible, mature, scared to death part—worried that I had given him up for nothing, that the connection between them was so far in the past he’d never accept it, and the world would end anyway.

Meanwhile, I had Maria urging me to move on with my life. A life without Max. Sort of an oxymoron, if you ask me. Because after loving him, after experiencing emotional and physical highs most people couldn’t even fantasize about—including bonding with an alien who adored me—I wasn’t sure that what I was facing for the next 60 or 70 years could even be called life. My So-Called Life. Didn’t that used to be a TV show? Good name.

Anyway, I don’t know if it was Maria harping in my ear, or the fear that Max wouldn’t get with Tess and save the world unless I was blatant about moving on, or whether it was just the attraction of spending time with someone who knew nothing about aliens or sacrifice or even advanced algebra, but when Maria’s cousin Sean came to town, I found myself almost relieved when I talked to him. It was superficial and shallow and so, so easy. I needed easy.

I don’t suppose my life will ever be easy again, though, because even then I was still dreaming of Max. I mean, it would start out being about someone else, some sexy, attentive fantasy guy until suddenly, he was Max, and it became more obvious than ever that Max would always be the standard against which I would compare every other man I would ever meet. Good luck measuring up, guys.

It was dreaming that started our next round of crises, too. Isabel started to dream about a girl being buried underground. Valenti’s willingness to believe her cost him his job eventually. Like the rest of us, he knew what he needed to do, and he knew he couldn’t explain himself. That terrifying place between a rock and a hard place has pretty much been home to us over the last two years, and now the Sheriff and Kyle were being sucked in, too. Kyle was freaking out, wondering if Max’s healing was changing him into an alien, and Valenti was caught between doing what was right and doing what was acceptable. I’m not surprised he chose what was right, but it cost him. It’s costing all of us.

Soon after Isabel came to him, Valenti started to think that the girl in her dreams was the missing daughter of an old friend, so he bent the rules trying to save her life. Isabel had seen glimpses in the dreams of Grant, the geologist she had actually been attracted to and dated a few times. When Valenti challenged him, though—a little too aggressively—he pressed charges. The friend’s daughter turned up unharmed and Valenti came up with no evidence against Grant. His butt was in a sling.

At the same time all this was happening, another of his old friends came to town. He wasn’t here to catch up on old times, though; he was here to investigate the Hubble shooting. We all thought that was ancient history, but we were wrong. So all the while this thing with Isabel’s dreams was going on, this guy was breathing down Valenti’s neck, watching how much time he spent with Isabel and Max, trying to put the pieces together. Valenti got a temporary reprieve when they did find a girl buried underground with an oxygen source to keep her alive: Laurie Depree. That only delayed the inevitable, though. Pretty soon everyone wanted to know how he knew she was there and why Isabel and Max were with her when he found her. His refusal to answer those questions resulted in his suspension, and the FBI was not happy.

It only got worse. Laurie escaped from the hospital and found her way to Valenti’s house. She was skittish and disoriented, and when she started talking about aliens and being drugged, he figured it was safest for her and for the pod squad to let her stay in his house. Agent Duff, however, had enlisted Valenti’s help in solving the crime, still believing he had insights she couldn’t grasp being so new in town. When she called him in, he left Laurie to Max and Isabel. What they couldn’t have known was that Michael’s appearance would push her over the edge, and she fled—right into the path of a car. Although she wasn’t badly hurt, it was enough to get her talking about Valenti keeping her under wraps and being friends with the aliens. That got him kicked off the investigation for good.********

“Pod squad?” Philip started to smile, even in the midst of this frightening story. “She called them the pod squad?”

Smiles broke out around the room. “Well, I guess it fits, doesn’t it?” Jim chuckled. “But she’s right. If I’d taken Laurie back to the hospital, her ranting would have accomplished one of two things. Either they’d put her away again, or they’d start to listen. Either option was unacceptable. I had to keep her hidden until we could get her calm enough to talk rationally about what had happened to her. Of course, the problem is, Agent Duff couldn’t just let that go. After the inquisition was over, and I hadn’t said anything of use, Duff let everyone else go and tried to talk to me privately. I finally told her that I understood why she was handling things as she was—I would’ve done the same—but appearances aside, I was one of the good guys. It didn’t change much except her attitude. I think after that, she was still able to trust me just a little. It just bugged her that I wouldn’t explain.”

Amy was looking at him with what could almost be described as wonder. “All this time, Jim, I had no idea what a friend you were to these kids. You’ve been so brave.” She watched him bow his head modestly, but silenced his protest with a kiss on the cheek. “A hero, really.”

He couldn’t help the small smile that tickled the corners of his mouth. What man isn’t flattered when the woman he loves calls him a hero?

“She’s right, Jim,” Jeff agreed. “We all owe you a lot.”

“I appreciate the thought,” Jim blushed, “but I do regret how many times I’ve lied to you folks. There just never seemed to be a choice. Protecting you all was their first priority, and I knew from experience that the more you know, the more danger you’re in. I couldn’t help but agree.”

“We know,” Diane smiled. “And thank you.”

Jeff pushed on.

********Just the fact that Laurie had been kidnapped and no one knew why had a strange . . . and, I admit, wonderful . . . effect on Max. One night at closing time, I noticed Max was hanging around. He pretended to eat and drink, but the fact was, he was nibbling and sipping. Basically, he was just hanging out. When I finally asked him straight out why he was still there, he said he didn’t want to go home. At first, I thought something was wrong, so I sat down with him. That’s what friends do when they think someone they care about is troubled. Well, there was no trouble. Not at home anyway.

He started to stutter and explain about how with a kidnapper out there nabbing young women . . . I stopped him right there. The light had gone on. It was me. He was protecting me. After everything, he was standing guard so I wouldn’t be hurt. This was the man I was supposed to stop loving? This was the man I intentionally hurt and tried to turn my back on? The fact is, this was the man who loved me still, just as I did him. I’ll never understand how all that love just kept hurting us. That’s not how I grew up thinking it worked.

My whole reaction to this was a study in self-control. In my heart, I stood up, took the two steps to his side of the table, pulled him up to face me, and drew him into a long, sweet, gentle kiss that said “Thank you for loving me. Thank you for protecting me. Stay with me. Tonight. Forever. I love you.” But my head won out—that persistent fear that the slightest weakness could condemn a planet. So instead, I turned Sean and his craving for pie away at the door and gave it to Max. It was a small, insignificant gesture, but it was the only thanks I could give safely. I wish now, I’d let my heart control that night.

The whole thing got me thinking about us, and I found myself doubting the path we were taking. The night Alex came over to show us his slides from Sweden, he was a changed man. And I mean man. He was more confident, more mature, and he didn’t pant after Isabel like a puppy anymore. He seemed willing to enjoy her company or not; it was up to her. Either way, he was moving on, stepping boldly into a new phase of his life, and as I watched him, I realized I wasn’t. And neither were Max and the others. Not because they were unwilling, but because fate had dealt them a blow, and with all their powers and their knowledge above and beyond human understanding, they were boxed into one small corner of this planet—bound by secrecy and destiny and the granolith to remain in Roswell. The irony ate away at my resolve, and later that week, I decided to talk to Max about it. Maybe we could change this . . . somehow.

He met me in the Eraser Room—another irony I can’t even think about—and I told him what I’d been thinking. I painted a picture of breaking out into the world, changing, experiencing, growing. I told him he’d been cheated, that there was a big world out there and we should be a part of it. The look on his face spoke volumes. He wasn’t masking the love that day. He was blessing me with it. He seemed sadly resigned to his fate—as I knew he would be, I suppose—but he made it so clear to me that he loved me enough to let me go. He didn’t say he loved me; we didn’t allow ourselves that luxury anymore. But he told me to go and enjoy and grow, and that he would be watching and waiting for my return.

And then he held me, and we let the old feelings mold us together just as they used to. We fit again, like two pieces of a torn photograph coming together into a perfect whole. And for just a few minutes, we gave ourselves up to the Dream again. Such a sense of belonging and completion. It was almost impossible to let it go once we held it in our hands again, but when the bell rang, we knew it was also “ringing out the old.” As we parted, he bent to kiss me and I didn’t stop him. It was a goodbye kiss and more honest than anything we’d said or done in months. He didn’t speak again, just held my face and let his eyes pour their love into me. When he left, I saw tears in his eyes. Mine rained down for the whole next period.

I didn’t have long to wallow in self-pity because things really started to burst out of control. To say things were complicated is classic understatement. For one thing, Michael found a blue substance at Laurie’s burial site that was completely strange to him—and everyone else, as it turned out. Meanwhile, Laurie was recommitted, and Isabel and Michael took it upon themselves to figure out who she was. They were absolutely shocked when they found a picture of Michael in her personal effects. Except it wasn’t Michael; it was Laurie’s grandfather. They finally deduced, with Maria’s help, that this was Michael’s human DNA donor. To make it even spookier, they learned that Laurie’s grandfather had claimed to have been abducted by aliens.

Kyle was about at the end of his rope. He wanted nothing to do with any of us, and he was horrified at what was happening to his father. It took a lot of convincing to get him to go into his dad’s former office to retrieve the mysterious blue substance Michael had found. Much later, when things with Tess had turned so horribly bad, he told me that that night, Agent Duff had caught him and it was Tess’s mindwarp that rescued him. He said he’d lost it then, ranting about aliens and his dad’s problems and the whole untenable situation. In what turned out to be a masterful bit of acting, Tess offered to leave, ultimately coaxing from him a confession of affection for her. They’d actually bonded then, he’d thought. The circumstances we were fighting when that came up made the whole scene a bitter and sickening memory, but I’m getting ahead of myself.

I don’t have all the details about what came next, but I’ve pieced a lot of it together from conversations with Maria. I know that I helped Max try to identify the blue substance, and all we could conclude was that it was an alien parasite. I can only imagine how freaked he was when he woke up to find the stuff covering his hand. His reaction did something, though, because the stuff retreated into a ball again and he contained it. Then I got online and started looking around. I got really scared when I realized that the water that ran under that part of Frasier Woods came from Pullman Ranch—the site of the original crash. Now we knew why it was there; what we still couldn’t figure out was what it might do . . . and to whom.

It was Isabel’s idea to try to get some answers by reaching Larek, the alien from the summit who uses Brody’s body to communicate on Earth. If she had known how it would endanger Brody, I know she wouldn’t have done it, but of course, no one had tried this before. She reached Larek almost instantaneously, but found out from him that Brody’s body had not been properly prepared and the contact could kill him. All they learned in the brief moments Larek remained was that the substance was called gandarium, and that it was dangerous. Fortunately, they were able to revive Brody, but I know they still feel guilty about using him that way.

The Sheriff wasn’t much help. He was being sued by Grant Sorenson and watched like a hawk by the police and the FBI. At the same time, Michael and Maria took off with Laurie, trying to protect her, and had Maria’s mom in a real state. She thought Michael and Maria had gone off to rebel in a wild, and probably sexual, weekend, and she was beside herself. She even held me hostage so that when Maria called me, her mom would get to talk to her instead. If she’d only known what was going on, I think she would have been proud of them—and scared to death.********

“Oh my god,” Amy gasped. “That’s what that was all about? They were trying to get this girl away from town? And I thought . . .” She looked around, embarrassed. What she thought was abundantly clear to everyone. “I learned to like Michael later, even respect him, but you have to admit, after finding him in my daughter’s bed one morning, and then having them disappear on some kind of lost weekend . . . well, what was I supposed to think?”

She’d worked her way into an agitated state, and Jim turned her face to look at him. “No one’s blaming you, Amy. You had plenty of reason to worry. Any of us would have.”

“And have,” Nancy interjected. “Remember, we’ve experienced a couple of those lost weekends, too, with Liz. Only we were even more clueless than you. We weren’t always sure who she was with! It was so unlike her.”

“Well, it wasn’t so unlike Maria,” Amy frowned, then looked up, a very different expression on her face. “No, that’s not fair. It wasn’t so unlike me. I’ve been doing that to her my whole life—imposing my mistakes onto her life, as if she were a clone or something. She’s really been very responsible, and now that I hear what was actually going on, I realize she was more than responsible. She was courageous. If I ever get to see her again, I’m going to let her know that.”

Amy turned her face into Jim’s chest and cried softly. Jim just stroked her back and nodded to Jeff to continue.

********Maria told me that they were almost ready to give up calming Laurie into any kind of rational state when Michael finally had a talk with her. Whatever he said convinced her that he wasn’t her grandfather and wouldn’t hurt her. After that, she trusted them, completely. She directed them to Tucson where her grandfather’s home was, and they learned that her greedy aunt and uncle had kept her under psychiatric care in order to maintain control of her grandfather’s substantial estate, which he had willed to her. To hear Maria tell it, they had quite a harrowing experience there, and finally had to find legal recourse to get Laurie’s relatives to sign over control of the estate to her.

The weirdest part of that whole story is that while we were looking in a cold and rainy Frasier woods for the source of the gandarium, Grant had abducted Isabel. He was driving her to Tucson in pursuit of Laurie when she realized he’d been possessed or something by an alien force.********

“What?” Diane squeaked, sitting upright. “She was abducted . . . by an alien?” Philip tensed next to her.

Jim watched the horror on her face begin to take over, and he hurried to reassure her. “Diane, she is an alien, remember? I don’t mean she wasn’t in danger, but she was more able to handle herself than any other woman would have been. And she did handle it. Remember, she’s okay.”

Diane relaxed slowly against her husband, and the two sank back against their chairs. Yes, Isabel was all right. It must’ve turned out okay.

********He didn’t want to hurt her. He hadn’t wanted to abduct Laurie or bury her. Suddenly it made sense why he acted like two different people, why he thought the Sheriff was harassing him, and why he didn’t even seem to recognize the Sheriff when they met that last time. One minute, he was attacking Valenti and the next he was turning in the weapon he “found” a mile from the crime scene. He was juggling two different minds in one body, and he was suffering.

That ended so sadly. He was a good man, a victim. Hiding inside of him, controlling him, was the queen of the gandarium “hive.” Once Kyle, trapped underground with Alex in a gandarium nest, inadvertently killed some of the gandarium, I realized this substance could be suffocated. We let Michael know about it, so when the FBI agent had to shoot Grant and the queen emerged, Michael was able to suffocate it. Once the queen was dead, the rest died, too. When you think about it, we sort of fumbled our way through saving Kyle and Alex and all the people at Laurie’s home, and, in a very real sense, the world.

We saved the world. Strange how simple that is to write down and how totally bizarre it really was. I’ll never be able to say I haven’t done anything with my life, will I?

In a sense, Laurie is Michael’s relative. They sort of decided to pick “sister,” since that worked best in terms of ages. I don’t know when I’ve seen Michael more touched by anything. The fact that he has family, even in this odd sense, has done something to him, given him a connection he’s been searching for his whole life.

Our next adventure really marked the last even close to happy moments we’ve had since. Michael had been given $50,000 as a bribe by Laurie’s aunt and uncle when he’d first arrived at the estate in Tucson, and it was burning a hole in his conscience. He convinced Max that he was about to have a breakdown, and that they needed to head to Vegas and blow the money. I think it was his own private metaphor for ridding himself of the “blood money” they’d offered, even though he had no intention of abandoning Laurie.

I guess Michael still didn’t realize that our group is almost too close for their own good. His scheme wound up spreading through our ranks, and pretty soon, Maria and Alex had even convinced me to go—little Lizzie Parker, resident goody two-shoes. Next thing I know, we’re in a fabulous suite in a ritzy hotel with ridiculous fake IDs, cash to spend, and the sparkle of Vegas all around us. Everyone split up to go gamble, but I wasn’t surprised when the bouncer spotted Tess and me as underage with one glance. Apparently, we were destined for a high old time in the kiddie casino.

Well, we are who we are, and it couldn’t have been more obvious on that little trip. Kyle was in hog heaven testing his gambling skills, Alex hyperventilated when he lost all his money on one bet, Maria about burst with excitement about a singing audition until she found out it was for a singing stripper . . . ********

Jeff hesitated as he watched Diane’s eyes pop, but she remained silent.

********. . . and Isabel hooked up with a Vegas groom’s best man.********

More eye popping from Diane and Philip. More silence. They all knew they had to hunker down and just listen.

********I was fighting the memories of Future Max’s description of my marriage to Max in Las Vegas, wondering how I could have found meaning and satisfaction in a ceremony that took place amidst such superficial flash, and then I would look at Max without his knowing, and remember how it felt to be with him. If he looked at me during that wedding the way he had looked at me so often before—with love and devotion that most girls only dream of—it wouldn’t have mattered where we were. And then I knew that’s how it must have been. We didn’t see flashing lights or hear Elvis or get swept up in the façade of sparkle. We would have seen only each other, and that flash of Max cradling me in his arms and kissing me, his new bride, with eager lips and shining eyes . . . those were the real memories, the ones that mattered.

And then I would snap back to reality and watch him, shouldering the responsibility for everyone, especially Michael—trying to let him blow off steam with some semblance of control. It wasn’t working. They wound up in jail for fighting in the casino, had a big argument, and Max took off for Roswell. Isabel pulled back from her big plans for a hit and run romance. Maria was at wits end trying to coax Michael into a world of sophistication and glamour. And me? I sat longing for the way things had been, the way things might have been.

The end, I suppose, was perfectly appropriate. Maria got her chance to sing in a Vegas night club because Michael paid someone in the band. She loved it . . . and him for doing it. Kyle and Tess seemed to get closer. Alex and Isabel wound up in each other’s arms again. And Max. Max didn’t go to the airport. He dressed for dinner and came to me, standing there looking handsome and open, holding his hand out to me, and I could almost convince myself that we were back where we’d started.

I felt my knees go weak when he told me what had pulled him back. He’d had a vision . . . of us . . . getting married in Vegas. He even said it was more like a memory. My mouth went dry and my heart was racing. I was trying to pull the words together to tell him, “It’s not a dream! That’s us. It’s our future. We’re going the wrong way!” But Maria’s song finished and the moment was gone. Instead, I settled for his arms around me, the feel of his hand on my back, and then our fingers touching as he twined his with mine. Just that one sensory gift lightened my load, and I wondered, so briefly, if we had a chance to fix this. I needn’t have bothered. It was only a matter of weeks before the true nightmare began.

When we returned to the suite, we were pretty shocked to see Sheriff Valenti sitting there. He looked pissed. Really pissed. He read us the riot act in a way that reminded me a little of before he knew our secret. Except you could tell that this time, he was angry like a parent who cares, a protector, a friend. So we looked contrite and accepted our fate and headed home. I think we’d all had enough anyway. The tragedy is, we were heading back into the worst time of our lives.********

All eyes were on Jim. How had he managed to keep that one a secret?

“If there had been any point in telling you all, I would have,” he explained, knowing what was behind those looks. “But there was no harm done. They’d gone a little crazy, and although I never told them this, I could understand it. But I couldn’t condone it, so I just went up there and hauled their butts back here. They’d done what they went there to do—let off steam and stop thinking about the craziness for a while—and they didn’t give me any trouble about coming home.”

“You know our kids so much better than we do,” Nancy said quietly. “I could sit here and think about a million things I’ve heard from this journal, but I just can’t get past how much we didn’t know. Thank God you were there, Jim. At least someone was keeping an eye on them. I just wish it had been us.”

Jim opened his mouth to offer another explanation, but Philip stopped him. “Don’t bother, Jim. We know why you did what you did, and we’re grateful. It still hurts. Imagine how it would have been if it had been Kyle you were just hearing about for the first time.”

Jim smiled. “Yeah, I know. Funny thing is, it was the opposite at our house. I was the one involved before Kyle was. He had a hard time with it, too. And Nancy? You do know your kids. You may not have known all the things that were happening to them, but you do know who they are, what they stand for, and you’ve done a great job. All of you. I’m proud to know them.”

Smiles of gratitude for his words helped relieve his worry about their reaction, and Jeff read on.

Continued in next post



[ edited 2 time(s), last at 13-Oct-2002 6:08:43 PM ]
posted on 13-Oct-2002 6:01:58 PM by Carol000
********All that nostalgia about how Max and I used to be put a crazy idea into my head. All last spring I had expected, counted on, dreamed about Max and me going to prom together. When I brought it up, I was pleasantly surprised that he agreed to it. It gave me some hope that he and Tess were going to work this out without becoming a couple, and that maybe there was room to build us again.

There was one minor complication. Sean DeLuca. He was pretty obvious about his feelings for me. He even kissed me once, and I let myself try it. I honestly did try to kiss him back. But in the back of my mind—actually, more toward the front—was the constant image of Max: what would he say? what would he think? what would he do if he saw us?

Did I say one complication? I guess I should have said two. Max was beginning to remember his planet, including Michael, Isabel, and even Tess. He didn’t say in what context. I didn’t ask. It was hard enough to accept that they really and truly did have a history together. It was quite another thing to contemplate the details. So there we were, both with influences trying to pull us forward, and both of us clinging to the past—our past.

I guess none of those prom pairings came easily, now that I think about it. Kyle was trying to decipher his feelings for Tess—girlfriend or sister? Alex told me Isabel literally begged him to go with her. He’d been resistant because he was finally at a place where he could accept her as a friend. He knew if she let him, he’d fall in love again, and he just didn’t trust her to return his love. Then there was Maria. Michael had called prom stupid and said he wouldn’t go. Maria was devastated and began to suspect he was up to something. She was shocked, though, when we found the address of someone named Juanita and followed him. It looked at though they were having an affair.

It was her hysteria following that revelation that led me to Max’s window that night. She’d wanted me to find out what he knew about Michael’s activities. I found out something else instead. As I approached the window, I saw Max and Tess on his bed in an embrace, candles lit everywhere, and suddenly I knew why Max was remembering his past—and Tess. We weren’t back to building an “us.” We were back to Destiny.

I have a feeling that what happened at the UFO Center the night Brody zapped himself with his high-tech headgear may have had something to do with it. Apparently the electrical charge triggered memories of the alien Larek, who used his body when he needed to communicate on Earth. In his confused state, he recognized Max for who he really is—Zan, king of Antar—and he wound up taking several of us hostage. So much alien stuff went on that night that Tess had to erase Amy’s memory of it; she just wasn’t ready to handle all she’d seen and heard. I noticed when I came to deliver the hamburgers that Brody had demanded that Max and Tess had already been down there together, and Maria told me that before I got there, Larek had some pretty clear memories of the two of them that probably got them thinking.********

“Wait a minute!” Amy protested. “She’s saying I was there? What’s she talking about? I was never there. The only time I even go in that place is to deliver souvenirs for them to sell and during the Festival.”

Jim had been waiting for this. “Amy, remember when you said you were surprised you hadn’t been pulled into all this?”

“Yeah.”

“And I said you were? This was it. We left together that night. The power had gone out and Brody had you and the others down there as hostages. He was trying to get an explanation from Max about who this Larek was who had invaded his mind, and where he’d been taken during his abductions.”

Amy was searching her mind for the details. “I remember the night the power went out and they had to rescue us, but . . .”

“Believe me, Amy. She wiped out your memory of that night. You won’t remember anything she didn’t want you to.”

“Larek.” Amy frowned at the floor. “Why is that name familiar?”

“Is it?” He examined her face. “Are you saying you remember it?”

“No, not really. I just know that name, and it scares me a little.”

“Must be residual memories. I know Kyle had a breakthrough, too. Only he remembered all at once.”

“She did that to him, too?”

Jim looked over at Jeff. “Yeah, that’s coming soon. Just don’t worry. You’ll be okay. Kyle hasn’t suffered . . . at least not from that.” He shook his head sadly, and Jeff picked up the journal again.

********So as I watched Max and Tess hug in the candlelight, I couldn’t help but think back to that incident in the UFO center. I wondered if hearing Larek’s stories about how Max and Tess met started Max thinking more about trying to access those memories. I never blamed Max for wanting to understand where he comes from and who he was in another life, but I guess I didn’t let myself think about how close that might bring him to Tess. I suppose wanting to save the world and making the sacrifices that go along with that are two different things. I hardly knew where to put all my anger and frustration, and I just couldn’t resolve my feelings about seeing them together, but what I did was pretty selfish. Even knowing how Sean felt about me, and even after agreeing to go out with him in order to secure his silence about the events at the UFO Center that night, I took all my pent-up hostility out on him--the one person who just wanted to be with me.

I’m afraid I really let him have it. It’s funny. For a guy who’s been in jail, a guy who has little interest in school or self-discipline or self-improvement, he wound up teaching me quite a bit. That night, he took me bowling (after hours—how typical) and said some things I didn’t want to hear. But I needed to hear them. He told me I wasn’t getting what I needed from Max. He said we were both suffocating. I tried to deny it, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized he was right. Except it wasn’t about getting what I needed; it was about getting what I wanted. And the only way to fix that, I thought, was to change what I wanted.

Never let it be said that I shrink from tackling the impossible.

Prom night arrived, and in spite of all the crap, we were excited. Everyone looked wonderful, especially Max. Yes, I know what I just said about changing, but I also know you can’t change natural law, and the fact is, he was beautiful. I couldn’t help the leap in my chest when he walked through the door, and he couldn’t help that look in his eyes when he saw me. I may just die the day I look at that face and don’t see that reaction anymore.

Amy DeLuca started to organize the group photo, so we pulled together—a very literal move that mirrored what we’d been doing as a group for two years. And there we all were. All together, with everything we’d all been through over the last two years: the battles we’d fought, the relationships that were formed, the feelings for each other stronger than any feelings we’d ever known could exist. And somehow in that moment, I had this really strong, really upsetting feeling that this was the last time we’d all be standing together.

Nothing felt right after that. This feeling of foreboding kept growing stronger. As Max and I danced, I was overcome with the urge to hear him deny what I was thinking. I needed to know that he didn’t believe what was becoming ever-present in my thoughts. So I told him I was feeling weird about us, that I couldn’t forget he had once been married to Tess, that maybe we should stop pretending and let it all go. And then, without even realizing I was about to say it, I used Sean’s word—I told him I was suffocating.

I don’t know if I stunned him or if I hit the nail on the head, but he just stood there, his silence giving credence to everything I’d said. Maybe that’s what hurt most of all. He wasn’t fighting for us anymore, and all the fight drained out of me, then, too. It was over.

I tried hard to be happy for Maria. It turned out that Juanita was Michael’s dance instructor. He hadn’t stopped fighting. He’d tried to learn to dance for her. He didn’t exactly succeed but that didn’t matter in the least. Maria was touched so deeply by this uncharacteristic effort on his part, she just melted into a pile of smiles. Then I turned to find Alex. So much for not getting involved with Isabel again. There they were, kissing so sweetly as they danced, and I just said a little prayer that Alex wouldn’t be hurt again. In the end, that was the least of his worries.

There must be a name for someone who just doesn’t learn, who always thinks things can get better, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Wasn’t it in South Pacific that Mary Martin sang “Cockeyed Optimist”? Yeah, that’s me. Because as I watched Maria and Michael and Alex and Isabel, I felt an urge to go find Max and just talk things out—honestly. I couldn’t have been less prepared for what I saw coming around the corner in that hallway. Fifteen minutes after Max decided not to contest my suggestion that we stop trying, he was kissing Tess. Not a peck on the cheek. Not even a light meeting of the lips. He was kissing her. And she was kissing back. And it’s a miracle that all that got tossed in that trashcan was my corsage because I thought my insides would erupt at the sight.

I ran from the prom wanting to break something, hurt something, escape. So I went to the one place I knew I would be accepted and listened to. I went to Sean. And he did give me what I needed just then—a friend. I was using him, I guess. I knew it. He knew it. But he let me, and I was grateful to him. It gave me time to stop thinking and battling and trying. I gave me time to just be.

I’m trying to get some perspective on things. I can’t stop loving. I just can’t. So what do I do with that? A part of me wants to close off my heart, to let a scab form over the wound, protecting it from hurting any more. Another part of me, though, is trying to take a step back and figure out what’s best for my life. We try to live responsible, logical lives, but we can’t tell our hearts what to feel. Sometimes our hearts lead us to places we never thought we wanted to go. And sometimes our hearts can be the sweetest, gentlest things we have. Sometimes our hearts can make us feel miserable, angry, excited, and confused all at once. But at least my heart is open. And I’m writing again. I’m feeling. Everything.

Feeling everything may not be the best plan, after all, though. Because it seems like there is nothing in the whole world to feel anymore except pain.

Alex is dead.

I could sit here and stare at those words all day, but they wouldn’t get any more real. It just doesn’t seem possible. Alex has been a presence in my life since I can remember. He was my friend, my confidante, my co-conspirator, my ally. He was a part of me, and the hole in my heart at his death is so big, I feel as if I could fall in and never come out. Sometimes, at night, I don’t even know if I want to. And if you can make the worst possible event even worse, I seem to be the only one who wants to know why.

It was only a couple of days after prom that we all realized Isabel was truly interested in Alex. He was beside himself with excitement, but we knew that Isabel loves a challenge, and that if he was too easy, she’d lose interest, so at our insistence, he reluctantly played hard to get. It was empowering to watch him wrestle for the upper hand. I know if he’d had his way, he would have gone to her in a heartbeat, but Maria and I felt it was our duty to coach him. So we weren’t at all bewildered by his absence that night when we gathered at the Crashdown for some relaxed fun. It was contrived. And that’s what made it so impossible to understand what happened next. He was supposed to be at home. Why wasn’t he at home?

Our first clue that our world was about to change—again—was Maria’s scream from the back room. She rushed through the doors and threw her arms around me, sobbing. Seconds later, the Sheriff was telling us Alex had died in a car accident. For several minutes, we couldn’t think or move or even react. That’s what real shock looks like—it looks like nothing at all. It’s the total lack of reaction. But the Sheriff had had longer to think about it than we had, and he hurriedly told us that he could get Max a few minutes alone with Alex’s body.

We were so sure Max could do this. He’d saved me. He’d saved Kyle. He’d saved 5 children in a hospital ward. Surely he could save our dearest friend. It only took seconds after Max emerged from that coroner’s van to know that he hadn’t succeeded. Maria fell into Michael’s arms, Kyle went to grieve alone, and Tess returned home with the Sheriff. Max was torn about whom to console—his sister or me. But I was in that state where denial and anger keep you breathing and walking and acting alive. And Max was no longer mine to claim, anyway. So I sent him to his sister, and he went.

I stood there, alone, staring at the doorway that had swallowed Alex’s lifeless body, and I made myself a promise to find an explanation. I could never have guessed where that promise would lead me.

The first night, it led me to Max. Yes, even after everything, we had one brief moment, one small reminder of what we once meant to each other. When I was at my lowest, he listened, which is what I needed most just then, and he fed me when my stomach gave away the fact that I hadn’t eaten in over 24 hours. He promised to help squelch the ridiculous rumors that Alex had killed himself, and we even shared some wonderful memories of Alex together. But the minute he mentioned prom, even in passing, our current relationship pushed forward again, and I held it together long enough to let him know that I’d seen him kiss Tess at prom, and that I acknowledged that we were both moving on. I couldn’t quite stop myself from salvaging one last shred of our old bond, though; I asked him to always be my friend. He said, “You know I will.”

I guess some promises just can’t be kept, no matter how sincere you are when you make them. I have no doubt he meant it at the time, but fate wasn’t about to leave us anything to hold onto.

Even now, I’m wondering where I found the focus and single-mindedness to pursue this course. Proving Alex’s death was murder has become an obsession, costing me even my fragile friendship with Max, and it has driven a wedge between Maria and me. When the Sheriff implied there might be evidence of suicide, I lost it. I know Alex like a brother . . . better than a brother! He would never, NEVER consider such a thing. And especially not given things were going so well for him now. But when even Max started to consider the possibility, I knew I was on my own. I’ve got quite a bit to go on now—all but the final piece of the puzzle. Even Maria and Michael have accepted that I’m on to something, and that “something” might be the very thing that takes them from us for good.

At the beginning, all I had were suspicions and concert tickets. The day of the funeral, I found concert tickets that Alex had bought the day of his death. Why, I asked the others, would someone buy concert tickets for a week from now if they planned to die? No one even wanted to talk about it.

They cited falling grades. Yeah, right. We were all suffering from dropping grades; it was the price of dealing with all the alien crises that kept cropping up. No one else was thinking of doing themselves in.

They cited his over-reaction to a tepid food delivery. Well, the delivery boy brought me that receipt, signed in a binary code that made no sense to us at all. That had to be a clue.

They cited moodiness. Give me a break. Every single one of our parents would have made that same observation. None of us had succeeded in acting “normal” through all the crap we’ve been dealing with. Alex was better off in that regard than any of us.

But when I mentioned a possible alien connection, Max became defensive, and I had just enough anger and bitterness built up to funnel it into a direct hit. It came out very much like an accusation, but I didn’t care. I’d reached my limit. Max grew very still, a stance I’ve come to know as more fearsome than visible anger, and he left with the others following right behind him, even Michael. When Kyle stood and said, “I guess it’s them against us,” I got chills. I never in a million years would have thought it would come to that. But here we were.

So now where am I on all this? I wish I knew. I feel so close, so close. I know that Alex was never in Sweden; the building in the background of one of his pictures was torn down when he was 10. Someone has generated false photos, sent flowers to his funeral, and involved a girl from the University of New Mexico. We now know that Alex was holed up in a dorm room for the two months we thought he was in Sweden. He ate only Thai food and only left the room to work at the super-computer on campus. A guy from that computer lab helped us track what he was working on, and when we followed that trail to an abandoned building outside of town, we found it protected by an alien explosive. If it weren’t for Michael tagging along uninvited, we would probably be dead now.

What was in the file, though, is the most amazing thing. It’s a complete translation of the Destiny Book. I only read part of what was there, but it was enough to know that Max and the others have the option to go home now, if they want. In spite of my vow to move on, I can’t quite grasp that this is really a possibility. For two years, every day—every thought, every decision, every breath—has been influenced by the world Max introduced me to the day I should have died. It’s been full of wonder and excitement and awe, and in spite of everything, I can’t honestly say I would trade it for the two years that would have been.

If it meant bringing Alex back, of course, I would make the trade in an instant; his life was too precious to be cut short like that. But for myself, I think not. I honestly think that experiencing something so unprecedented as meeting—and loving—alien beings would have to be worth it. And since I know without a shadow of a doubt that I will never know a love like Max Evans again, I wouldn’t trade that either. It’s just that now, watching him begin to fulfill his destiny with Tess and knowing he could leave my life forever, I can feel a part of me dying. So much has died already, I wonder if there will be enough left to sustain the rest of my life. But I would never kill myself. It seems there are plenty of others standing in line to do that.

Tomorrow I will begin again. I will find the rest of the answers to Alex’s death. And if, at the end of it, Max and the others leave us behind, I will keep Alex and Max in my heart until my life is over. They will live in me as I live, and I pray there is a God and a heaven because I want to see them again when I die. Alex is a part of who I am; Max is a part of who I will become. And in spite of their leaving before their time, I will find a way to make it matter that they were here. And that they loved me.

posted on 20-Oct-2002 3:21:49 PM by Carol000
OMG. I don't know when I have ever read such heartwrenching f/b. I owe each and every one of you who had the courage to relive this with me a HUGE thank you!

As I read feedback, I wanted to respond to each of you personally, but it was a bit overwhelming. I hope you all know what your responses meant to me, esp. the sympathy for having to watch S2 again! LOL! There were a couple of points, though, that need specific replies:

MamaDee: It's not every fic author who would take the words "I'm looking forward to this being over" in the spirit it was intended. LOL! But I know exactly what you mean. I said that to several Rospals while writing.

Sansu: I LOVE LOVE LOVE long, detailed f/b (don't I, Linda?). I'm so grateful to you for that. And I'm SO sorry I plan to breeze over the Isabore plot. I feel your disappointment all the way downstate. *wink* By the way, try "cheapvalium.com."

Scottie & Tigereyes: Again, love the detailed f/b. You guys are the best!

AJK: No, hon, I won't let this be a Max roast. I adore him too much. Besides, I've already established the bitch was mindwarping from the beginning AND as much as I love her, Liz has to share the blame. In the end, they were vicitims, and that's how I'm playing it.

BilieveInTrueLove: Wow. I think yours was the most painful f/b of all. You sounded really torn up. I'm sorry. Just remember--it wasn't real. And GOOD NEWS!--Neither is JK!

SciFiNut111: SFOL!!!!!!!!!! So you want me to handle the first 10 eps of S3 in 2 paragraphs? Better yet, a few sentences? OKAY! I'll do my best.

Two general comments:
1. I asked for some comments about the murder plot with Nate et al. A few did respond and the feeling seemed to be "We'll wait and see." I can't tell if you're just not sure how that will relate to our gang (it will) or whether you just don't think it will be interesting. Just bear with me, okay?

2. I read on Susan's story the other day that she got some bmail because her story went NC-17. Warning: This chapter is NC-17. It's my feeling that we all need to get the bad taste out of our mouths, and good ol' M/L nookie is the best way to do it! So it you don't want to read that, stop when we get to the reservation.

HERE WE GO!

Part 10b

Max strained to look over his shoulder without disturbing Liz, who dozed fitfully against his chest. They had opened the back seat of the van to make a bed where Isabel might try to reach one of the parents again. Kyle stared back at him from beyond Isabel’s mussed ponytail and gave a slight nod. She was asleep. Just like a baby, the rhythmic swaying of the van had finally soothed away her tension.

Lowering his gaze to her eyelids, Max watched the rapid movement and wondered what . . . or who . . . she was seeing. There was a mild crease between her eyes, and he worried again about what was upsetting everyone, praying that none of the parents who had continued to love and help them were paying a terrible price for that loyalty.

Looking forward, he watched Maria gently massaging Michael’s neck as he drove through the darkness. He could never quite get a handle on what made these two tick. All he knew was, they were great together. They needed each other almost as much as he and Liz did; they just had a very odd way of showing it. But when the chips were down, whenever one was scared or lonely or upset, the other one was right there, giving strength and reassurance . . . and love. Love had many faces, Max mused, and sometimes they were damned unpredictable.

Liz turned against Max’s chest, her gentle breath coming in warm, damp puffs against his shirt . . . just over his nipple. In spite of the heavy burden facing them, just that small sensation went right to his groin and he stiffened, caught between alarm and amusement at his uncontrollable reaction. He was quite sure he would never lose this intense physical and emotional reaction to his beautiful wife. It had been with him in some form since he was in third grade and it just kept growing stronger.

Feeling hidden in the darkness of the car, he laid his head back against the seat and closed his eyes, giving in to the fantasy that was already pushing into his mind. Now, in his daydream, Liz’s small tongue darted out to trace little circles around his nipple, leaving a warm, then cold wet circle over its target. As the tip hardened and sent lightening bolts of sensation to his lower body, his erection came to life like a hot air balloon, rising from its limp, prone starting point to a taut and swollen tower of heat. Liz moved down his body . . .

He jumped with a gasp as he felt Liz’s hand come to rest against his heated length. She gripped him loosely and shifted against him. Of course, he thought through the fog, she shared his dreams, and apparently, that went for daydreams now, too. Their connection grew stronger every day, and he honestly didn’t know if the change was in them or in her. He didn’t really care.

Oh, what he wouldn’t give to be alone with her right now! She may be asleep, but she was still in tune with him, even with his thoughts. Shifting again, she effectively rotated until her breast filled his hand that had been resting against her side, and they caressed each other slowly, sensually. Max fought against what he wanted most. For one thing, Liz didn’t even realize this was happening. For another, this couldn’t happen. Not here. It took so little from her to send him to a heavenly climax; sometimes it had happened just talking to her late at night on the phone, and he’d had more than one close call right in class when they were bent over a task, so close it could have been a kiss. Having her hand grasping him now with such gentle firmness, oh god! He put his hand over hers to stop her from bringing him to the breaking point, only somehow her dreamworld interpreted that as encouragement. As she increased her pressure, he felt her press into his hand and heard her sigh. He knew that sigh. This wasn’t good! This . . . couldn’t . . . happen!

“Oh my god!”

Max pushed Liz upright in an instant as Maria swung her head around in reaction to Isabel’s outburst. Michael’s eyes flipped up to the rearview mirror and back to the road over and over, trying to see Isabel’s face in the dark.

“What is it?” Kyle asked worriedly as he, too, sat up.

Isabel blinked several times, studying her dreamwalk and working to retain all the details. “I talked to Valenti,” she finally whispered.

“Dad? Is he okay? Did he freak when you started talking to him?”

“He’s fine,” she reassured him. “I think I scared him a little, but he’s come to expect the unexpected. He’s known for a long time that I can do this, so he got used to it pretty quickly. He told me what’s been going on.”

Michael pulled the van over to the shoulder. He wanted to hear this, and he couldn’t do it with the engine running and his eyes focused on the road.

“What’s happening?” Max pressed. “Are they in trouble?”

“No, they’re okay, but they’ve been reading Liz’s journal together as a group, almost non-stop over the last couple of days. They were reading it at Liz’s house at first, but some military guy came to the Crashdown late at night and warned them the house was bugged! They’ve moved out to the silver mine now.”

The muscles in Max’s jaw were twitching against clenched teeth. Where there had been lust seconds before, there was now anger and fight.

“Bugged?!” Maria squealed.

“Of course they are,” Max spat. “Of course they are! Why didn’t Valenti . . .?”

He bit back the angry words, realizing just a little late that there was a Valenti in the car, and that both Valentis were good friends.

“He’s in shock over all this, too, Max,” Kyle said tightly. “He’s lost his whole family now. Cut him a little slack.”

“You’re right. Sorry, Kyle. They haven’t been practicing paranoia as long as we have. They don’t think like fugitives. I’m just sorry they have to learn.”

“What else did he say?” Michael urged.

“The reason I was getting all these upset vibes was because they’ve been reading for hours and hours, all the stuff Liz wrote about all that’s happened. You can imagine how shocking it is.”

Liz looked pained. “Maybe that was TMI. I just wanted them to understand what was happening.”

“Well, the problem is, they’ve only just gotten to the part where you thought . . . well, we all thought . . . Max had gotten Tess . . . you know . . . pregnant.”

Now it was Max’s turn to look pained. “Liz, I’m so sorry. I wish we’d figured out sooner that it wasn’t real. My parents at least knew about it. So did Valenti. But your parents, Liz . . . they’re thinking you’ve run off with a lowlife . . . a scumbag . . . even my parents don’t know the truth . . . that it was all a mindwarp. No wonder they’re in turmoil! Isabel, did you tell Valenti the truth, so he can tell the others?”

“Yes, Max, and Jeff Parker has already read the whole thing, but he said they’ve been really careful to take it all in order. They aren’t telling anything in advance because they’re afraid it won’t make sense and that would be even more overwhelming. Well, except that you’re married. Mr. Parker told them that.”

“How are they taking it?” Liz wondered. She loved her parents, and she knew she was exposing them to incredible trauma and danger. She would have done anything to protect them, but now all she had to give them was the truth.

“He said they’re in awe of all of us.” She smiled weakly, still touched by Valenti’s words. “He said ‘They can’t believe what you’ve been through and what you’ve dealt with alone all these years. They just wish they could have been there for you.’ He also said they were glad we had each other.” A tear slipped down her face and she wiped it away with a sniff. Kyle rubbed her back lightly, blinking against his own tears.

“And he said they’re reeling over the truth of Alex’s death. The thing is, they haven’t read the whole truth.”

“Meaning . . . ?” Max asked nervously.

“Meaning they don’t know yet that Tess did it. Only that it was alien related.”

A quiet sob escaped Liz’s throat and Max leaned forward to gather her into his arms.

“Max, that’s the worst part of the journal. You and I were . . . we were so angry with each other then. And everything was falling apart for all of us, and Alex . . . “ The sobs grew deeper now. She gulped out her words in rushes of air. “They must be so upset. . . I was so upset . . . when I wrote that. . . . I thought we were through, . . . even though I still loved you. . . . I’d lost Alex, . . . even Maria and I were at each other. . . . If that’s where they stopped, . . . think about what it looks like to them!” She buried her face against his neck and let the tears fall.

“Chica,” Maria called softly. “They know it turned out alright, don’t they? They know you two were together last year and that you’re married now. They know we’re all safe . . . sort of . . . and that we’re together. They’ll handle it.”

“And Valenti is filling in some of the gaps in the journal,” Isabel assured her. “I guess it’s like group therapy. They stop and talk about everything. as if they each had a few pieces of the puzzle and now they’re putting it all together.”

Maria caught Michael’s eye and he reached for her hand. He knew she was worried about her mother’s reaction, too. Amy DeLuca was a little high strung, after all, and was most likely the one panicking right now.

“Isabel? How’s my mom?”

“Valenti said she was handling things pretty well. She was a little shaken at some of the escapades you’ve been involved with, but she said she really respected what you’ve done the last couple of years. He said she was proud of you.”

It was Maria’s turn to cry, but they were happy, relieved tears. Her mom really did come through sometimes.

“So, did you tell him what we need?” Michael had the least at stake when it came to emotional family reactions, so he focused on what needed to happen next. Actually, he liked being able to take the lead once in a while, and Max was finally getting more comfortable about letting him. He often wondered if this is how it had been with them on Antar.

“Yeah, I think so. I told him what was happening with Maya and that we were coming in to the reservation the back way. I also told him to explain to the others that we could really use some supplies and some cash, and that we’d probably be using Eddie as the go-between.”

Michael nodded his approval. “Okay then, let’s hit the road.”

“Want me to drive?” Max offered.

“Thanks, Max, but you’ll need your strength tomorrow for Maya. I’m fine.” He looked over at Maria. “Sing me somethin’, Miss Margarita Salt,” he sighed, stretching briefly before starting the ignition. Maria smiled and began to croon an old folk tune, “The Answer Is Blowin’ in the Wind.” A kind of melancholy settled over group, and they began the uncertain road home.

********
As dawn spread it’s purple and pink fingers across the sky, River Dog listened to the forest. All seemed as it should be. Nature seemed satisfied with its routine, and outside the cabin there was no evidence of last night’s extraordinary event. But in the bed at the end of the room, a small figure lay huddled beneath a blanket, restless and whimpering. After a couple of hours of quiet sleep, she had begun to toss and turn, and now she lent her voice to the unsettled morning.

“What do you think Max will do?” Eddie asked, startling the old man from his thoughts.

“I have no idea,” he frowned. “I have no idea at all. But I hope he can do something. She’ll just grow weaker if she doesn’t eat or sleep better than she has been.”

They watched in silence as the mound of covers stirred yet again and settled into a new shape.

“River Dog?”

River Dog turned to look at the young man. Something in his voice was very serious.

“Is she turning into . . . one of them?”

River Dog pondered the question for the hundredth time. “I’ve never seen one of them do this, but then, I didn’t know them at this age. Still, with human parents who don’t know the truth about them, you would think they would have reported this to a doctor, if they’d seen it.”

He stood and began a slow, uneven pacing. “I’ve been aware that such creatures existed most of my life, and I’ve guarded their secrets. But as Shaman, it’s my responsibility to help the sick, advise the troubled, protect the weak. If the visitor has done this to one of our own, however unintentionally, how do I protect her? Heal her? And if I can’t, how do I protect him? Or should I?”

He sighed in frustration. Perhaps when they arrived, they would have some answers.

Maya began to mumble, her restless tossing gradually becoming a violent thrashing. The two men rushed to her side just as she bolted to a sitting position, suddenly still and calm. Looking at River Dog with knowing eyes, she said one word.

“Samuel.”


posted on 20-Oct-2002 3:23:27 PM by Carol000
Part 10b continued

********

The sun was fully up when Michael pulled the car behind a stand of young pines, effectively blocking it from the old road leading south out of the reservation. It was rarely used, since a newer road now connected to the main highway, but precautions like this were second nature to them. Isabel and Kyle were sound asleep, but the passengers who had been sitting up were more than ready to abandon the car.

“We have about a mile walk to the cave,” Michael surmised. “I, for one, am more than ready to stretch out and catch some z’s. Eddie won’t be here for hours.”

“How about you, Liz?” Max asked, worried at how tired she looked.

“I can’t sleep, Max. I keep feeling like I should know how to help this little girl. It’s me she called to her, and I don’t know why. I can’t rest until I figure out why I’m the one with the key.”

“You and Maria take the sleeping bags,” Max offered. “Liz and I will wake Iz and Kyle in a while and meet you by noon. That’ll give you at least a couple of hours.”

In no mood to do anything but find a place to sleep, the two grabbed the lightweight sleeping bags, slung them over one shoulder, and headed toward the cave. Max grabbed a blanket out of the back, mumbled something to a barely conscious Kyle about being back soon, and reached for Liz’s hand, tugging at her playfully.

“I want to show you something,” he smiled.

Liz couldn’t help but be intrigued; she didn’t see that little boy smile on his face that often anymore, and she was curious to know what he planned to show her. Within minutes, she found herself following Max down a narrow path she would never have known was there if Max hadn’t been leading her. Thick layers of pine needles had almost obscured it, but Max seemed to know where he was going, so she followed willingly.

Minutes later, Liz stopped, straining to identify the sound she heard.

“Max?” She stopped, looking at him expectantly. “It sounds like . . .”

His smile turned into a grin and he pulled at her harder. Smiling with him, Liz eagerly hurried after him, and as the sound grew louder, so did her anticipation at the treat she knew was coming. The path took a sharp turn around a low outcropping of rocks and there it was. A waterfall.

Liz was amazed. She never dreamed that the arid desert and scrubby prairie that surrounded Roswell hid such a beautiful treasure. It was small, of course, the result of a gentle stream created by runoff from the nearby mountains. Suddenly devoid of terrain or direction, it plummeted into the small pool at the base of the rocks where it rested just long enough to catch its breath, and then, with sure footing once again, continued its meandering deeper into the woods.

“It’s beautiful, Max,” she breathed, her eyes wide with appreciation. “How did you know it was here?”

“After River Dog showed us the cave that first time, I came out to find it again on my own.” He ignored her reproving frown. “I came in this way so no one would see me, and I turned too early, thinking this barely used path was the one we’d followed. After that day, I often fantasized about bringing you out here and making love to you. But, of course, we weren’t . . . really . . . you know . . . ready for that yet.”

“You mean I wasn’t,” she stated honestly.

“Same thing,” he shrugged, spreading the blanket out at the edge of the short drop-off. “I would never have hurried you on that, Liz. It had to be right for both of us.”

She took his hand and pulled his face down to look at her. “I’m glad you saw this beautiful place and thought of me, Max.” She kissed him lightly. “And I’d like nothing better than to fulfill that fantasy of yours, but I haven’t had a shower in two days. . . . And neither have you,” she reminded him.

“Ah, but this is a full-service fantasy,” he grinned, pulling his t-shirt off over his head and reaching for his waistband.

Liz’s mouth fell open. “What are you doing?” she whispered, for no apparent reason. He just kept watching her and grinning. She couldn’t help but appreciate the show. He was gorgeous. She’d always thought so, only now she got to do more than observe. She could already feel herself reacting as her eyes scanned down his muscular arms, defined chest, washboard abs, strong legs. Gorgeous.

Her eyes flew open as he stepped from his boxers and turned to her in all his glory. “Your turn.”

“What?” she squeaked.

“Your bath awaits, milady.”

Liz looked down into the clear pool of water a few feet below the rocky overhang, then back to Max’s still-grinning face. His eyes held a challenge. He was almost daring her.

A sly smile stretched slowly across Liz’s face and her body began to tingle. With agonizing slowness, she unbuttoned one small button at a time, revealing just a little more with each button, never letting the blouse gap open too wide. She watched his eyes following her movements, darkening with desire, and felt a thrill shoot through her, releasing a damp sensation between her legs.

Once the blouse was completely unfastened, she peeled back the sides and shrugged it off her shoulders. She could tell his breathing was speeding up, and she was gratified to see his eager cock springing to life as well. As she unzipped her shorts and slid them down her legs, she saw him take a step forward.

“Ah-ah,” she warned. “I was promised a bath first.”

His grin had long since turned into an intense, almost menacing look. Every move she made was driving him crazy. Well, he’d started it, Liz reminded herself, and eventually, he’d finish it, but in the meantime, she loved exercising the power she had over him. It was a rare and beautiful thing when Max trusted enough to offer another person the control.

Standing in her tiny blue satin bra and panties, Liz reached to unclasp her bra, then leaned forward to shimmy out of it. She saw Max inhale sharply as her small firm breasts swayed invitingly, and his erection twitched in response. Every erotic reaction filled her with more boldness and more desire to watch him watching her. They’d had precious little time to play like this, sexually, in the confines of small tents with close neighbors. The few times they’d had the chance, it had been explosive and incredibly satisfying. This was definitely something they would have to explore when they finally had a place of their own.

Running her hands languidly across her breasts and down her front, her fingers reached the edges of her bikini briefs, but instead of pulling them down right away, as she knew he anticipated, she let one hand slide toward the apex of her thighs, running one finger lightly between her legs. Her own reaction took her by surprise that time. The feel of the wet panel and the sparks almost flying from Max’s eyes spiked her own desire, and a soft moan escaped her lips.

Max had taken all he could take. When he saw her hand slide toward the focus of his very aroused gaze and then heard that small, helpless sound escape her lips, he almost came without ever touching her. Striding toward her, he dropped to his knees, peeled the panties off, and dove into her heat with a fierce need. Liz spread her legs for him, a completely instinctive reaction. All thought had flown from her mind, and every nerve in her body was focused on what Max’s tongue was doing to her.

It took only seconds to come against his demanding mouth, and several more seconds to realize that she’d sunk to the ground and into Max’s waiting arms.

“Oh, god, Max. What you can do to me . . .” she sighed, then tried to rouse herself. “But Max, you didn’t . . .”

“Uh, yeah, I did,” he whispered hoarsely, pulling her back against him. “You don’t think you can just strip like that in front of me and not drive me over the edge, do you? I almost came just watching you.”

They lay quietly for several minutes until, “Max?”

“Yes, my wife?”

Liz grinned against his chest. “I like the sound of that.”

“Me, too.”

“But I still need a bath. Didn’t you promise me one?”

“That I did, milady. Come with me.”

Max pulled Liz to a standing position and kissed her forehead. “You’re beautiful.”

“I bet you tell that to all your wives,” she pouted.

“As a matter of fact, I do,” he smiled, and pulled her toward the overhang.

“We’re jumping?”

“Sure, we’ve done it before, remember?”

The memory of that night when she and Max were running for their lives from Pierce’s unit flooded her mind and wiped the smile from her face.

“I’d rather not remember that,” she protested.

“But this time, Liz, I know how deep it is, we’re having fun, and . . .” He squeezed her hand and leaned to kiss her as they had done that night. “. . . we’re naked!” He pulled Liz forward and they jumped, laughing, into the pool.

They immediately fell into a game of chase, as Liz used all her speed, flexibility, and determination to stay out of Max’s arms. It was frivolous and funny and the best possible way to forget what might lie ahead.

********
Isabel and Kyle were nibbling on some granola bars they’d found in the cavernous space under the back seat.

“Where is everyone?” Isabel asked, annoyed to be left with the car when everyone else was . . . well, that was the question, wasn’t it?

“I vaguely remember Evans saying they’d be back soon, I think. I was pretty sound asleep.”

“Well, I’m not just sitting here,” Isabel huffed. “I desperately need to get cleaned up and change clothes or something.”

“Okay,” Kyle agreed distractedly, admiring the very blue sky peeking from above the canopy of trees that hid them.

“Kyle, I need to change.”

“Yeah, okay,” he said again, looking at her blankly.

Kyle! Take . . . a . . . walk!”

“Oh, right, yeah. Sorry.” Note to self: Steer clear of Isabel first thing in the morning. He hopped down from the rear ledge of the van where they’d been sitting and announced with great exaggeration, “I think I’ll take a walk, Isabel.”

“Great idea, Kyle,” she glared.

He left her rummaging through a suitcase and mumbling. He wasn’t sure what about. He was sure he didn’t care just now. The road was obviously rarely used, and certain of the heartier weeds had begun to invade the tiny cracks in its veined surface. Somewhere ahead was that cave, he knew, but he was enjoying the beautiful day too much to want to find that just now.

Noticing a vague path to one side, barely distinguishable except for the disturbed layer of pine needles that cushioned it, he decided to go exploring. Feeling quite cheered by the idea, he looked back at Isabel . . . still rummaging . . . and stepped into the woods.

It was hard to be sure he was actually on a trail, and the further into the woods he walked, the more he worried that he might not be able to find his way back to the main road. He was on the verge of turning around when he thought he heard something. A familiar sound—the soft roar of water. Surprised, he pushed forward down the obscure path, listening intently as the sound grew louder. Water? Out here?

Turning past a sharply jutting rock formation, his eyes took in a beautiful sight. A small waterfall plunging into a small pool of water, spraying the foliage that had grown lush in its limited mist, a small circle of green in a very brown landscape. He smiled to himself, feeling as if he’d been rewarded with a special surprise.

A squeal of laughter shattered the solitude, and Kyle spun around, startled. Immediately he spotted the two laughing figures in the water. Liz must have been hiding behind the single boulder that broke the surface of the pond, and Max had just sneaked up on her from under the water. As she laughed and struggled against him, she pulled herself partway out of the water, trying to keep it between her and Max. Kyle’s eyes bugged out when he realized she had no top on.

Immediately, he averted his eyes. Obviously, they hadn’t expected anyone else to happen down this trail. It’s not like he hadn’t seen anything like that before; after all, he had the finest porn collection at West Roswell High since he had no mom cleaning his room. In fact, when he and Liz were dating, there had been that one brief visit to second base, followed by a short but satisfying relationship with Vicki Delaney. But these were his friends, and he shouldn’t be here.

The squealing and laughter had fallen silent, and Kyle risked another glance toward the water, concerned. What he saw stopped him cold. Max had captured his quarry, and she had conceded, willingly and lovingly. There, with the sun dancing across the water at the base of the serendipitous waterfall, Liz had her arms wrapped tightly around Max’s neck, and his were holding her tightly to him, chest to chest. He watched, mesmerized, as their lips met, and even from this distance, the word that popped unexpectedly into his head was “cherishing.” They were cherishing each other, sharing a love that was so powerful and undeniable, it had survived the most extraordinary circumstances.

He couldn’t pull his eyes away, but the physical ache he felt wasn’t in his groin, it was in his heart. This is what he so desperately wanted. This is what he knew now he had to find. He’d been hurt by his mother and by Tess, both people he’d come to trust and invest his love in. They had both turned their back on him. Someday he would find a person he could share this kind of love with. It was truly beautiful.

He was pulled from his reverie when Max swung one arm under Liz’s knees and the other braced her shoulders and he began to wade toward the edge of the water. Just that quick glimpse confirmed what he’d suspected. Neither of them was wearing anything. Time to go.

He turned and headed back the way he came, feeling a deep sadness envelop him, when he heard it.

“Kyyyyllllllle!” Isabel. She was calling him. He didn’t dare answer because he didn’t want her coming this way, and he certainly couldn’t risk Max and Liz becoming aware of his presence. He began to jog toward the road, willing her to quiet her yelling before Liz and Max heard. He didn’t want them to know he’d been a witness to their private time. They would never know. Still, it was an image he prayed his life would one day live up to.

Bursting from the brush on the side of the road, Kyle ran toward the van. “I’m right here. Are you finished . . . whatever it was?”

“Yes. Where were you?”

“You told me to take a walk!”

“I know, but I didn’t know where you were.”

“Of course not. It’s not like I could leave an address. What’s wrong with you?”

Isabel sighed heavily, and slumped against the side of the van. “I want Jesse,” she admitted with a self-deprecating smile. “I miss him.”

Kyle understood completely, especially just at this moment. “I know, Isabel.” He pulled her into a brotherly hug and did his best to console her. He just wished someone could console him.

********
Max glided through the clear water, easily detecting Liz’s legs against the rock. He rose up suddenly and grabbed her waist, laughing at her piercing squeal. “Got you!” he shouted triumphantly.

“That’s what you think,” she laughed, wriggling out of his watery grasp. Curling her fingers over a ridge in the boulder, she kicked mightily and inched her way to the far side of the rock. It brought her torso out of the water, and Max watched in fascination as rivulets trickled down each smooth mound and hesitated before dropping off the tip of her hard nipples. He could feel the blood rushing to a different set of muscles now, and his look went from playful to erotic in seconds.

He saw Liz react to his change in expression with a change of her own. Releasing the rock, she pushed off and into his arms, encircling his neck with her willowy arms and his waist with her lithe legs, nestling herself against the full erection he was already sporting. He could feel her heat there, in stark contrast to the cool skin that surrounded him elsewhere, and he looked into her eyes.

“I love you,” he whispered. “You’re everything to me.” He bent his head slowly and took her mouth with tightly restrained control. They had already indulged the frantic need that had been building between them. Now he wanted to show her how he cherished her, how grateful he was to have her in his life. She opened to him instantly, as she always did. Liz never held anything back. That had been the huge difference between them for so long. Liz had been open, honest, giving, self-sacrificing every single day since he’d healed her. He couldn’t say the same. Yet here she was, his wife, giving herself to him with no hesitation and no limits. He was overwhelmed.

One arm swept her legs into his embrace while the other continued to pull her tightly to him. He released the kiss only long enough to negotiate his way back to the single spot where the pool was accessible by foot, and he pulled their dripping bodies out of the water, attacking her mouth again as soon as he was on solid ground. Her breasts rubbed against him and he deepened the kiss in sheer reaction. He never wanted her to think that her body was the most important part of their relationship, but he also couldn’t keep his hands off her when she was near, especially not naked, wet, and squirming against him eagerly.

He almost dropped her when he felt her reach back and grab his erection. Her cool hand was a shock to his heated shaft, and it felt so good he thought his knees would buckle.

“Liz!”

“Hmmm?” She had started to nip at his chest, concentrating around his nipples.

“I’m gonna drop you if you don’t stop that.”

“You want me to stop?” she purred, not slowing down in the slightest.

“At least let me get us to the blanket.”

“I can walk, you know,” she offered, beginning a slow stroking rhythm up and down his rigid cock.

“That makes one of us,” he gasped. She was a minx, all innocence and sexiness at once.

“Max, really,” she began, worried now that she was too much of a burden for the short but steep climb up to the ledge.

She needn’t have bothered. About 5 long strides brought them to the top of the incline, and he sank to his knees to lay her gently on the blanket.

“Sometimes, I don’t think you understand what you do to me, Liz Parker Evans. You make me want to protect you, impress you, confide in you, and make love to you all at once. You make me want to be a king, just so you can have everything you want. I love you, Liz, so much. I don’t know if you can ever understand.”

His sudden rush of emotion took her by surprise, but only because of the timing. He’d felt so playful all afternoon. What he said didn’t surprise her, though, because she felt exactly the same way.

“You are a king, Max, because of how you live your life . . . and how you love me. I’m the lucky one, to share this extraordinary life with you, to share this extraordinary love with you. I will always be here, Max. You’ve made me believe in soulmates and true love and forever.” She brushed his damp bangs away from his eyes, the ones that looked at her now with adoration and love that took her breath away. And then, as he moved to kiss her, she felt something poke her in the leg.

“Besides . . .” she whispered.

“Besides what?” he mumbled against her lips.

“You’re sexy as hell,” she mumbled back, surprising him by pushing him back against the blanket and straddling him. “Eye candy isn’t fattening,” she grinned, shifting them back into playful mode. He was right there with her.

“Eye candy? So you do just love me for my body?”

“Absolutely,” she confirmed. Snuggling down between his legs, she licked his sensitive tip and he gasped with pleasure. “I wonder if Harry Potter has a jellybean this flavor,” she quipped, taking his length into her mouth and sucking gently. This time he rewarded her with a moan. Her tongue continued to work its magic, tracing the wildly pulsing vein, tasting the iridescent drops that gathered at his tip. “No, I wouldn’t want anyone else tasting you but me. You’re my treat.”

Her mouth was on him again, taking him in deeper, sucking harder.

“Liz! Wait, I want to be inside you this time.”

He pulled her up his body and watched as she settled over him. Every nerve sparked at the contact. This was his heaven, his salvation. He could barely keep his eyes open, but he loved watching her ride him this way—head thrown back, lips parted, breasts bouncing—but the best part, oh the best part was watching the ecstasy on her face when she came.

He reached down, pushing tenderly toward the one spot he knew would send her over. He had barely touched it when she exploded, and he along with her. It was a remarkable and precious thing to experience his own orgasm while he watched hers. Their voices lifted together like a single-minded prayer, and her shuddering body almost floated to his chest as the spasms subsided.

Several moments passed, their boneless bodies melted into one satiated mass of happiness. The roar of the water, the warmth of the sun speckling their bodies, the physical and emotional release of their love making . . .

It wasn’t immediately clear how long they’d slept, but a very annoying thud every few seconds finally brought them to a semi-lucid state.

“Maaax, wadisthat?” Thud.

“Hmmm?” Thud.

“Noise.” Thud.

“Dunno.” Thud.

“Ow!”

Fully awake now, Liz sat up and looked around. “Something just hit me.”

“What?”

“Max! Liz! Time to go!”

“Shoot, Liz! We fell asleep! We have to get to the cave!”

They scrambled into their clothes. “Coming!” Max shouted back.

Kyle trotted back down the path, hoping fervently that they would never suspect he’d had to throw pinecones at them to wake them up enough to hear Isabel calling. He had no desire to explain what he’d seen or hadn’t seen to Max Evans, and he certainly wasn’t going to go over there and wake them. So, with his eyes closed, he’d started chucking pinecones in their general direction until he heard Liz yell “ow!” Now he was making his escape. He’d just made it back to the car when Liz and Max emerged from the woods at a full run.

“Sorry!” Max yelled as they approached the van. “We fell asleep.”

“Uh-huh.” Isabel gave her brother the eye, clearly skeptical. “Come on, Kyle.”

The foursome began their trek to the cave in silence. Kyle turned to say something to Liz and caught a quiet exchange between the two. “I love you,” she mouthed to her husband, who kissed her forehead and smiled broadly. Kyle turned back around.

Someday.


posted on 29-Oct-2002 10:57:33 PM by Carol000
Hello, my patient friends.

I have continued to be amazed and grateful for the feedback you have been kind enough to leave. Some of you have speculated, some have complimented, and all have warmed my heart. I wanted to leave some specific responses tonight, but this part turned out to be something of an unwieldy monster. Tough ep, of course, and I needed to write the convo where Liz tells Max about FM. We all wanted to see it, but they never so much as mentioned its taking place. It boggles the mind.

Well, by the time I finished, it was 19 pages of 10pt. type. I figured I'd better not press my luck with lots of responses, but I appreciate the bumps, the feedback, and the encouraging words about my writing. That's what keeps me going.

Well, just to be on the safe side, I'm posting this in THREE parts. I know that sounds nuts, but these pages are so packed, I fear two parts might exceed the post limits, so I'm opting for caution.

Story note: I really tried to figure out the logistics of the night Liz went to Sean (gag) and then to see Maria. They were supposedly living in the same house, and yet the way it was presented was very illogical and contradictory. AS A RESULT, I have taken liberties with the details right there. Please don't flame me for being inaccurate. Accuracy to the televised ep meant inaccuracy in terms of logic, so I've given Sean his own entrance, and that's that! Okay? It's my party and I'll lie if I want to. *big*

Thanks, everyone!

Part 11a

The brief naps had calmed emotions but aggravated sore muscles and general moods. The silver mine’s limited hospitality had run its course and everyone was tired and frayed.

“How much more is there?” Amy yawned, arching her back to work out the kinks. “I’m tired and more than a little overwhelmed. I need a shower, a meal, and about 12 hours of sleep.”

“Still a couple of hours worth,” Jeff answered. I’ve asked Jim to read the next part. Not only is it rather a sore point for me, but Jim knows a whole lot more than I do about what happened at this point. More than Liz, in some respects, so I thought it was best for him to read and decide when to elaborate on Liz’s story.”

“Why a sore point?” Nancy frowned. “Is it possible there’s more bad news? I can’t take much more.” She looked nervously at her husband, beseeching him with her eyes to promise no more shocks.

Jeff slumped against the chair. “Jim? I think you better give an overview here first. Liz’s slow way of getting this all out might just be too much at this stage.”

Jim nodded. “I agree. This is tough, but I promise you, it’ll get better as we move on from here.” Jeff looked at him askance. “Well, sort of, anyway.”

He settled into the chair and opened the journal, scanning the next few pages to orient what he should say next.

“Diane and Philip, you know some of this already, and obviously Jeff has read the journal already, which is more than I’ve done, but Nancy, you and Amy will have some rough spots in here. Let me just preface this with a few comments. First, Tess had us all fooled. After we had accepted her into our family, opened our hearts and our home to her, she . . .” He clenched his jaw and closed his eyes. Even after all this time, it hurt. A lot. “. . . she was the cause of much of the tragedy that disrupted our lives since last spring. She had an agenda, a deceitful and malicious agenda that could have resulted in even more deaths. I didn’t want to believe it, and I know Kyle didn’t, but it’s true. Second, not everything is as it seemed, so be patient. You’re going to feel a lot of anger and anxiety over some of these events, but I promise you, circumstances can be deceiving. I’ll explain what little Liz couldn’t as we go along.”

He slipped an arm around Amy and pulled her close, sighing.

********I guess the only way to say this is . . . to just say it. Our lives have been hell the past few months, and I blame Tess. There. I’ve written it down, and it’s staring at me in stark black and white, and heaven help me, I hate her. Yeah, Max has made some pretty bonehead mistakes. So have I, truth be told. We have to share the blame, but in the end, the root of the problem is Tess. In fact, I’m beginning to think she’s not just an alien. I’m beginning to think she’s the alien version of evil.

Last year, we read Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. I remember reading the opening lines—It was the best of times, it was the worst of times—and wondering what, exactly, that was supposed to mean. How could it be both? Well, here’s the answer: It’s when the thing you want most finally comes to you, but the pain and suffering that come with it overwhelm your victory. Tess is gone. Max loves me. Life should be perfect. So why isn’t it?

I could rage for the rest of my life against the unfairness, the injustice, the crime against decency that Tess’s time with us represented, but it won’t do any good. People’s lives will still be in shambles. Alex will still be dead. And Max . . . Max will still struggle to find a son he may never even meet.

I can’t believe it took me so long to figure it out. I know part of it had to be that we weren’t working as a group anymore. Tess’s deceit and manipulation had pitted us against each other, and where there used to be trust and loyalty, there was only accusation and blame. No one’s interests seemed to coincide, and pride led the charge against common sense. Dear God, had we only known!

At first, I didn’t understand what was really going on: the Royal Four were about to go home, using the information in Alex’s translation of the Destiny book to start the granolith. They had given themselves one day to tie up loose ends and say goodbye. When Max came to me and told me I was right, that Alex had been killed by an alien, I wasn’t sure where he was headed. Was it just an apology? A peace offering? And when he said he was going to Las Cruces to “take care of” Leanna, the girl who they had concluded was the alien responsible for killing Alex, my instinct was to go with him, to help take revenge on this monster. When we got there, though, there was another voice in my head telling me something just wasn’t right. We didn’t really know anything about Leanna except that she was in a picture with Alex in front of a building that didn’t exist anymore, and that she had run from us when we tried to talk to her. That seemed like pretty slim evidence to justify killing her.********

“Wait!” Diane shouted, rigid in her chair. “Is Liz saying my son was about to kill someone . . . in cold blood? He would never do that! Never!”

“She’s right,” Philip confirmed, his posture aggressive, the lawyer in him leaping to defend.

“I know that’s hard to hear,” Jim soothed, “but they were leaving the next morning . . . or thought they were. They thought Leanna was the alien who killed Alex and figured she might come after the others they were leaving behind as well. Max thought he was protecting his friends and ridding the world of a dangerous alien. He didn’t do it, though, so try to relax. Here’s what Liz says.”

********We were in a big air duct looking into her room. Max was explaining how he was going to cause a fire in her room, then contain it so it wouldn’t harm anyone else. I knew then that I just couldn’t do it. I used to say I’d do anything for Max, and I accepted that they had had to kill in order to survive on extreme occasions, but when I saw Leanna prick her finger while threading a needle and wince with the brief pain, my doubts overwhelmed me. I couldn’t be a party to murder, so I started to leave.

The picture of Leanna pricking her finger nagged at me as I climbed from the vent and started toward the car. Why? Why did she even bother to thread a needle? Why sew at all? Isabel wouldn’t have struggled to thread a needle. She wouldn’t have even used her powers to do it. She would have just waved her hand over the torn shirt and never given it another thought. Suddenly, it was all so clear. Leanna was human. She was just as much a pawn in all this as we were!

I pounded on her door and pulled her into the hall. When I dashed in and grabbed the tissue that she’d used to blot her finger, Max pulled back, too, and we left together. I know he was secretly grateful that I’d kept him from killing an innocent girl. I also know now why he rushed into such an ill-conceived plan. He told me on the way home.

When he pulled off the road, I knew we were about to have another heart-to-heart, and I really wasn’t in the mood. I was still feeling the adrenalin shakes that you get after a traumatic experience, and I didn’t think I was up to another of Max’s lectures on how I should feel about him and Alex and Tess and everything else we’d been arguing about. But I was totally unprepared for the bomb he dropped on me then.

I don’t know if there is a word to describe the feeling that grabs hold of you when the man you love tells you he not only had sex with another woman, but fathered her child.********

“What?!” Nancy was on her feet, looking from Jim to the Evanses, eyes wide with anger. “He has a baby with that girl? Why didn’t any of us know that? How could Liz have married him under those circumstances?”

All of her efforts to come to terms with all that she’d heard dissolved in that instant. Her precious Liz had made a terrible mistake, and was now on the run with an alien cad who was taking full advantage of her.

“Nancy, it’s not what you think. In fact, it’s not what any of you think. We’ll never get through this if you’re going to react to each individual revelation, so I’m going to break my own rule and tell you the end now. Liz had found it in herself to forgive Max for this, honestly believing that circumstances had just broken him, and that he considered it to be a terrible mistake. But their honeymoon revealed a true blessing: Max had some kind of breakthrough shortly after the wedding, and realized that the whole incident was a mindwarp. He never did have sex with Tess, and couldn’t possibly be the father of her baby. So come sit down, Nancy, and listen to the rest. When Liz was writing this, she did think Tess had left carrying Max’s child, but now they know differently, so don’t think too badly of him, okay?”

Nancy looked skeptical. “A breakthrough? On their honeymoon? Ha. That’s convenient.”

Philip squirmed uncomfortably. “As much as I’d like to believe that, Jeff, we’ve seen the baby, held him in our arms, watched Max with him. We never questioned Xan was Max’s.”

“Neither did he, but remember the finger thrumming that Amy and Kyle and Alex had done when they’d been mindwarped? Max was doing that, and getting flashes, and remember, Liz can share those flashes through their . . . connection, I think they called it. So she saw it, too. It was a mindwarp. Max never cheated on Liz.”

“Are you saying there’s no baby? We were all mindwarped? But a couple adopted him!” Diane protested.

“There’s a baby, all right,” Jeff nodded. “But he’s not Max’s, and for all we know, he’s not even Tess’s. As a matter of fact, he’s completely human, so he could be anyone’s child. I’m just glad he’s in a good home now. I just pray she didn’t abduct him from his own home.”

“Jeff’s right,” Jim added. “I was there when she confessed he was human, but since Max and Tess are both half human, we realized he still could have been theirs. Anyway, let’s listen to Liz’s accounting of what happened. Just keep these things in mind, and remember that Liz didn’t know everything yet when she wrote this.

********There shouldn’t be a word for that feeling anyway, because it should never happen. You shouldn’t need a word to describe the sensation of your insides seizing up in denial and your heart tearing into shreds, every nerve a new adventure in pain. You shouldn’t have to describe how it feels to watch your hopes for the future turn dark and scattered as they evaporate into a meaningless void. I need words not yet conceived to articulate how I felt in that moment, but all I have are the ones I know, and as inadequate as they are, they’ll have to do.

Every syllable Max uttered felt like the shot that violated me in the Crashdown that day. I tore and bled and fell into nothingness. All those words, all those firsts—they should have been about us. They should have been about love and joy and commitment and unparalleled happiness. Instead, they were about death. The death of the Dream. The death of my heart.

I stared at him, not hearing, even as he spoke the words. Not believing even as I knew he spoke the truth. Not accepting, even as I felt my life shatter. I don’t honestly know how he looked at that moment. The world blurred behind the tears, and my heart squeezed so painfully, I really thought for a minute that I might die, and the thought was almost a relief. But I didn’t die. I lived. And I heard his voice—tentative, pained, almost apologetic, though he didn’t apologize. Not then, anyway. And in spite of everything, I found enough feeling to pity him. I might be dying inside, but he was the one condemned to a living hell. Because even then, I knew this is not what he meant to choose.

We drove back to town in silence. I wanted to wake up from the nightmare, but I knew this one wouldn’t disappear with the dawn. This nightmare was my life. Still, I played my role. Ms. Scientist. Ms. Analyst. Ms. Put-my-own-feelings-aside-for-the-good-of-the-group. Because this wasn’t just about Max. This was about saving all of us from an unknown killer. Back in the lab at school, we confirmed that Leanna was human, and I thanked my lucky stars—scratch that; there’s nothing lucky about the stars to me anymore—I thanked heaven we hadn’t killed her. I told Max we had to start from the beginning, trying to stay focused on the danger we were in and not on the unfathomable fact that Max was going to be a father without my becoming a mother. It shouldn’t have been possible. We’d always just understood that that special bond was reserved for us. It was a given. An inevitability. . . . A pipedream.

I was furious when he told me he had no time to start over looking for the killer. It’s a good thing I was furious, too, because the anger is all that kept me from dissolving into a mass of hopelessness when he let the rest of the bad news spill. The baby, his and Tess’s baby, was dying here, and they had to go home. He was leaving. For good. With Tess. With the baby. With Michael and Isabel. He was going back to Antar to be a king. Destiny Fulfilled.

I wanted to be sick.

So I let the venom spew. I yelled at him, reminded him how I’d jumped off bridges for him, lied for him, broke laws for him, risked my life for him . . . saved myself for him. I hadn’t meant to say that, but my emotions were ruling my head just then, and somewhere deep inside me, I needed him to know that he had been the one to betray us, not me.

At least he had the decency to look stunned. Then he reminded me that I’d slept with Kyle, and I realized that the fate of the world might still rest on my shoulders, that what had happened was exactly what I’d set out to accomplish that night with Kyle. So I pulled it together and demanded that he take me home.

Something about knowing you’re never going to see someone again makes it suddenly easy to be honest. When we pulled up outside the Crashdown, I was numb. There was so much I wanted to say, and so little point in saying it. Max had the courage to start, though. I guess he figured there was nothing to lose. He told me that he’d always expected to give me his high school ring at graduation, but now, with no graduation in the cards, he wanted me to have the broken pendant—the one Isabel had found at Atherton’s that time, and the one that had led us to River Dog and the cave. He said at least it was something from where he’d be.

I wondered if he was telling me that he’d still be thinking of me. Or maybe he wanted to be sure I was thinking of him. But as I took that cold, hard metal into my hand, I was gripped with a debilitating sense of loss. This disk with the enigmatic swirl on it was all I had to represent two years of revelations and sharing and love. What was supposed to happen to my life now? How do you go back to normal when you know that aliens—especially one in particular who risked torture and death to save your life—exist; when you’ve seen someone heal wounds, repel bullets, enter another’s dreams; when you’ve touched souls with someone whose love for you exceeds your most romantic ideals?

All this was flying through my mind in great waves of emotion until my focus came back to that one small piece of metal. I couldn’t hold it in any longer. I didn’t want to. I started to cry, giving voice to my disbelief, my first honest and uncensored reaction in weeks. Max knows me so well; he quickly took advantage of my low resistance by breaking his promise never to ask the burning question between us again. After all, my outburst earlier had given him reason to ask again. He looked at me directly, painful resignation already tingeing his eyes, and said, rather than asked, “Liz, you never slept with Kyle, did you?”

It didn’t take long to decide how to respond. The plan had worked. Max was leaving for Antar with his wife and child. The world was safe. What harm could the truth do now? Besides, that urge to tell him the truth had been eating at me for months. I was tired¾bone tired¾of carrying this burden alone. So I shook my head, and in that one split second, everything between us changed. I felt it as surely as if I’d seen the invisible wall shatter with my own eyes.

The emotions flooded his face—regret, sorrow, guilt, grief, frustration. He told me how he wished things could have been different, but we both felt the heaviness of reality settle around us again, and knew there was nothing left to say.

I could see it coming and I wanted it every bit as much as he did. The kiss: the reflection of what once was, what still lived beneath the surface of our lives but would never be again. It was surprisingly sensual because for the first time in what seemed like a lifetime, I was able to touch him, feel his hair under my fingers, taste the familiar and intoxicating essence of him, and share the air that sparked with life between us. In spite of the anger and hurt and betrayal, there was no hiding what we both felt. More than want, more than love even, there was need. We needed each other, and the fact that we understood the finality of what was happening made the pain crushingly bittersweet. It was pure and honest and, we were sure, the last thing we would ever share.

When we finally parted, there were tears in our eyes, and we were completely open to each other. I found the courage to ask the question that had been burning in my heart; I asked if he loved her. It did my heart good to hear him respond without hesitation or thought, “Not like I love you.” And I knew then, finally, that he was doing what Max always did: what was expected of him, what he thought duty demanded. But I still owned his heart, and no one would ever take that away from me.

I climbed out of the Jeep, knowing that we had said all there was to say. Prolonging the goodbye would only damage the fragile place where we had found each other again. As I reached the Crashdown door, I turned to look at him, and he gave me a reassuring nod. He must not have realized that the lamplight was shining in his liquid eyes, or that my own shadowed ones were brimming with tears of their own. I went inside, fighting the overwhelming urge to go to him. I ran upstairs and looked out the front window, perversely determined to watch him drive out of my life, when my heart—the one I was sure was dead forever—spasmed yet again. He was bent over the steering wheel, his forehead pressed against his hands, and I could see his shoulders shaking. The sobs I knew were wracking his body suddenly took over mine, and we wept together, but apart, like so much of what we’d experienced lately.

I willed him to look up at me. At first, I didn’t think he would because he started the car and turned on the headlights. It was like he was fighting the desire to seek me out again and lost. Slowly, almost reluctantly, he raised his eyes to the window. My face was pressed against it like a little girl who wants what’s in the store window so badly she can taste it, but knows it will never be hers. Our eyes locked, and his hand went to his heart. I mirrored his action, and we stared at each other for a full minute, exchanging vows that would never be spoken.********

Jim put the book down and let Liz’s emotional words sink in. Even he hadn’t quite imagined what took place between Max and Liz that night. He’d been too wrapped up in other details.

“It must’ve killed him inside,” Diane sobbed softly. “I know he loved her so much; as private as he was, there was no mistaking how important she was to him. It must’ve just killed him. Nancy,” she whispered tentatively, knowing that Max had come off very poorly in that entry. “Nancy, it’s true. He did love her. Please know that.”

Nancy was staring straight ahead, not sure what to think. Liz had painted this picture of a boy who loved her beyond reason, who was filled with nobility and character, but he had hurt her over and over. Still, in the end, maybe it wasn’t all his fault. But Liz didn’t know that when she wrote this, and she still found a way to forgive him.

“I don’t know what to think,” Nancy admitted. “Liz forgave a lot, given what she knew and didn’t know at the time. I don’t know if I can be that generous. I’m sorry, Diane, but my daughter had been through so much, and when you look at how things were just then, I don’t know how she managed to keep going. He claimed to love her, but then he went off with another girl. Maybe he wasn’t the father of that baby, but apparently he could have been, and that’s just about as bad.”

“It wasn’t like that, Nancy. I explained about the mindwarp,” Jeff murmured, pulling her to him as best he could in the uncomfortable chairs.

"Sounds pretty convenient, if you ask me," she muttered under her breath.

“Remember, Nancy, I told you not everything was as it seemed. Liz explains that here in a minute, but this is as good a time as any to fill in a few gaps that Liz couldn’t know,” he began, noting that most of them were wiping tears from their faces.

Philip interrupted. “They were going to leave without saying goodbye?” The hurt in his voice was palpable.

“No,” Jim assured him. “They made you a tape—Max and Isabel made it together. They gave it to me to give you when we were out at the cliff getting rid of the Jeep.”

“So you were in on that!” Philip gasped. “You flat out lied about that, Jim.” Then added hastily, “But I understand why. Would’ve saved me a lot of money if I’d known, though.”

“I’ve lied to all of you, I guess,” Jim confessed. “I just hope you can forgive me. It was always to protect those kids. You can see what they had to deal with already, and they needed an ally. It was their love for you that kept them from telling you. They were trying to protect you.

“Anyway, I did help them get rid of the car so there would be a logical story behind their disappearance, and I took the tape they made to give you so you wouldn’t believe they’d died. They didn’t want to leave you with that grief.”

“Do you still have it?” Diane asked hopefully.

“I destroyed it, Diane. Too dangerous. Look what happened when the military got hold of the tape you made.”

Philip hung his head, guilty about how that tape had endangered his children.

“I’m sorry, Philip. I didn’t say that to make you feel bad. Just to explain why I destroyed the tape.”

“I know.”

“When they left, expecting to never return, they were truly upset. They loved you. Very much.”

Jim waited until everyone had found their equilibrium again, and continued.

********I’ve never felt such pain. Somehow, when I could stay angry, it was dulled. I thrived on my bitterness and my goal of finding Alex’s killer, and it kept the excruciating anguish from taking over. They say pain can drive you insane. I always thought they were talking about physical pain, but now I know mental anguish qualifies, too, because it drove me insane—at least temporarily.

I can’t explain what I was thinking, even to myself, but somehow, I wanted to lash out. I paced in my room and felt like I would explode with the pressure building in me. So, for whatever reason, I took off in the middle of the night and found myself at the DeLuca’s. To my surprise, there were still lights on in the house, and I wondered why. I wasn’t even sure I was ready to talk to Maria; there was so much anger and hurt clouding my thinking, and I knew I couldn’t answer the questions she was bound to fire at me. Of their own accord, my feet carried me to the back entrance that I knew opened onto the bedroom where Sean was staying. Amy had agreed to let him stay there, not because she trusted him or felt obligated to grant him a sense of independence, but because it was the only vacant bedroom in the small house. She’d warned him that there was an alarm on the door, and she’d know if he snuck out at night or let anyone in, but he’d told me before how easy it was to circumvent so I wasn’t surprised when the door swung open at my light knock. I hadn’t planned what to do or say, but I took one look at him and threw myself at him.

Even writing that down makes me feel ridiculous, but there I was, taking advantage of this boy’s feelings for me. I knew it was wrong and I began to hate myself, but it was several minutes before that hate burst into action. I pulled apart from Sean and one look at my face must have told him something was wrong. When he asked, I just blurted it out. “Max Evans broke my heart.”

I have to give him credit. He went from lover to friend in the space of about 15 seconds, and this time when he held me, it was about getting me through it. Every time I think I have him figured out, he surprises me, and so far, always for the better. I need to remember to tell Maria that her cousin isn’t as big of a loser as she imagines.

I got myself out of there amidst a litany of apologies, and went where I truly belonged¾down the hall to Maria’s room. I was disappointed to find she wasn’t home, but I lay down on her bed to wait. Now that I had decided I needed to talk to her, nothing was going to dissuade me.

It was only about a half hour later when Maria came in, and she didn’t seem even a little surprised to see me. Obviously, she knew that I knew the aliens were leaving, and we were both in a state of shock. We had just started to talk when we heard Amy’s distraught voice coming from the kitchen. She seemed to be explaining to someone about Larek, about the night at the UFO Center when Brody, struggling to maintain control against the memories of Larek’s use of his body, had taken hostages, convinced that Max could give him the answers he so desperately sought.

Maria and I crept down the hall, wondering what was happening to Maria’s mother. When we reached the kitchen, we watched as Amy explained to an imaginary presence that Larek was an alien and had threatened her daughter. I could feel my heart racing, and Maria’s hand held mine so tightly, I could feel a pulse pounding between us. As soon as Maria spoke, though, Amy came out of it and questioned us about being up so late. What I couldn’t help noticing, though, was the uncharacteristic thrumming of her fingers, over and over and over, as she talked. It was as if someone had turned on a light in my mind. Instantly images of Kyle and Alex performing this same strange repetitive movement flitted through my mind, and I realized what the key to all this was.

Tess.

Dread settled over me like a cold mist, seeping into every pore and breath. Tess. She had mindwarped Amy that night, trying to ensure that she wouldn’t remember anything about what had happened. She had almost certainly mindwarped Alex into deciphering the language in the Destiny book. Didn’t it stand to reason that she had mindwarped Kyle, too? She had constant access to him. But the big question was, why?

We waited only long enough for Amy to go to bed, then flew to the Valentis just as dawn was breaking. Kyle was pretty disgruntled about our early appearance, but when he saw our panicked faces, he threw on some clothes and tried to understand what we were telling him. He accused us of grasping at straws at first. I had expected as much; he’d grown quite fond of Tess, and he didn’t appreciate the accusations he knew were coming. Still, he overcame his initial reluctance and acquiesced to our pleas to just walk around the room, handling things and trying to open his mind to the memories those things might trigger.

I could tell the moment it started to come back. His whole demeanor changed when he looked in the mirror—not at himself but at some unseen point behind him. His eyes grew wide, a drinking glass slipped from his hand and crashed to the floor, and he began to breathe in short irregular gasps. What he told us would have been too incredible to believe a few short months ago, but now it was like seeing the lines in a jigsaw puzzle melt away to reveal one very sharp, very horrific picture.

Tess had indeed mindwarped Alex into finishing the translation of the Destiny book, and in the process has almost destroyed his mind. He was there pleading with her to stop, crying that he had almost nothing left, and that she was destroying him. When Kyle interrupted, trying to figure out what problem had these two arguing, Tess tried to send him away. When he wouldn’t leave, she was desperate to control the situation.

It was one mindwarp too many for Alex. Kyle said he held his head and cried out in pain before he crumpled to the floor.

I’m shaking. I can’t even cry enough tears to rid myself of the horror of it. When I think about what she did to my friend—the sweetest, smartest, most loyal and unselfish person I have ever known—I feel raw, unbridled hate for the first time in my life. There is nothing too despicable, no revenge too extreme for her. I can only pray to a just God that He will make sure she burns in hell for what she’s done. She has no soul. No right to exist. She is a monster.

Kyle almost lost it when he remembered the rest. She mindwarped him into carrying Alex’s body—in his mind, a heavy suitcase—to the car, after which Tess must have manipulated it into the path of an oncoming semi, giving the world the impression that Alex died in an accident, maybe even a suicide. What did she care, as long as everyone believed she had nothing to do with it? Never mind that his friends and family were in anguish and turmoil over the thought that Alex might have intentionally killed himself. Never mind that others might have been killed, too. There was no “other” in Tess’s world. Only her. Only her selfish, vile, evil self.

We had no time for shock or self-pity, though. We had to let the others know. If Tess had lied, mindwarped, and manipulated all of this, who knew what else might be a lie? What if Max and Michael and Isabel weren’t headed back to the life that Tess and Nasedo had described?

The car couldn’t go fast enough to satisfy me. It seemed as though the miles out to the pod chamber kept multiplying, stretching themselves across the brown expanse of desert like a rubber band pulled taut. We were too tense to talk, so we guarded our thoughts in silence and prayed we would be in time.

Continued in next post



[ edited 2 time(s), last at 29-Oct-2002 11:58:41 PM ]
posted on 29-Oct-2002 10:59:57 PM by Carol000
Part 11a continued

Pulling down the slope into the large flat area near the chamber, we looked up at the spot where the pod chamber door should have been, hoping that by some miracle it would be open, but the solid wall that protected it from the prying eyes of infrequent visitors was closed and intact. We ran panting up the narrow, uneven incline and began to shout and beat against the rock, but there was no indication anyone could hear us, or wanted to. We were desperately trying to brainstorm another way in when the door slid open. The gaping hole was empty for a second, and I tried to move my muscles in that direction, but the surprise had frozen me. Michael’s appearance was even more surprising, but when Maria blurted out “Tess killed Alex!” Michael didn’t hesitate to lead us back inside.

I’d been to the pod chamber before, but to see it alive and humming like that was both fascinating and alarming. There was no time to examine it, however. It was only minutes away from taking off, and we had to make Max understand what we’d learned.

My heart lurched at the sight of the man I loved and thought I would never see again standing next to the woman and the machine that were taking him away forever. I realize now that a lot of the impressions and emotions I felt then were suppressed in favor of the immediate need to explain Tess’s crimes, but they were there, propelling me through this nightmare and cushioning the reality that I couldn’t face full force.

Max was totally taken aback at first, confused about why this was only coming out now and unwilling to believe that this woman, who he still felt bound to accept as his alien destiny, was as evil and cold as this news painted her to be. But when he faced her and demanded to know the truth, I knew he’d finally listened to his heart—the one that belonged to me—and saw the duty he’d been coerced to accept as the loathsome sham it was.

He ordered us out, and I was seized with fear about what he might do. I had no interest in what happened to Tess, but I feared for Max. What would this do to him? Would she somehow be able to force him to go with her? Would he stay and die with her as some sort of warped penance for the havoc she had wreaked in his name? Would he kill her and then hate himself forever for killing his son?

I was never so relieved in my life as I was when I saw him come out of the opening with Isabel. He reached for me right away, and it felt so natural. It was the way we had faced the world for the last two years—together. We ran with the others to a sheltered place and watched as the granolith burst through the rock and shot into the sky, carrying Tess and the baby back to Antar. The reality that there had been a way home, and now it was gone forever, carrying the embodiment of evil and a new and helpless life to another world, was almost too much. We stood, stunned and speechless, for several minutes until long after we could see the dot in the sky. Then Max turned to me, a whirlwind of emotion spinning in his eyes.

“I’ve been wrong about a lot, but I was right about one thing¾to get you into my life, to be with you, . . . to love you.”

How I had longed to hear those words. They would have healed everything a few weeks ago. I knew that at this point, though, they were only the beginning of a long road. Still, we would have all the time we needed to talk. For now, the most important thing was to acknowledge the first step, and begin the healing together. As he pulled me into his arms, I welcomed him, so grateful that we had gotten this reprieve and that our love could breathe once again. I just hoped, with all my heart, that this time, the love would be enough.

It was inevitable that Max would eventually come to me for the truth about Kyle the night he saw us in bed together. For two weeks after Tess left, we walked on eggshells with each other, both afraid to damage our delicate new world. By now, we’d heard about the big step Michael and Maria had taken the night before they left, . . .********

“Excuse me? What step? What’s she talking about? I warned that boy not to touch my daughter!”

“Amy, be realistic. They were in love and Michael was leaving forever. He’s a good kid behind all that gruffness and rough-hewn bluster. If I had to guess, I’d lay money that he and Maria shared something very special that night. You can’t change it now, anyway, so just be happy for her, okay?”

Amy frowned, caught between her protective instincts and Jim’s on-target speculation. “Michael is a good kid. He treated Maria and me like china dolls after Alex was killed, just taking care of us and being there for us. I know he loved Maria, but I thought I’d made her understand . . .”

“Amy? Her alien boyfriend was leaving this world forever. They’d been through life-and-death experiences together. Maria is a passionate girl, just like her mother . . .” Amy blushed down at him, embarrassed and pleased. “It was bound to happen, Amy.”

She nodded. “I know. I don’t have to like it, though.” She sat back down and folded her arms across her chest. “He’d better be good to her,” she mumbled, almost to herself.

“Where was I? Oh, yeah . . .”

******** By now, we’d heard about the big step Michael and Maria had taken the night before they left, and Michael had admitted that loving Maria had finally given him the home he’d been searching for his whole life. That’s why he had come out of the pod that day; he’d told Max and Isabel that, ironically, his home was here. And surprisingly, they had accepted that and said their goodbyes with a combination of sadness and love.

That left Michael and Maria on pretty solid ground, but Max and I were anywhere but. The unspoken questions hung between us, weighing down what should have been lighter hearts and throwing up roadblocks on the rocky path back to each other. Finally, we admitted that we couldn’t move on until we’d had an honest discussion.

I hardly know how to describe our conversation that day. It was cleansing and honest, but it also dragged a lot of baggage out into the open where we had to deal with it, and that was hard. I don’t know if I can face writing the details—too draining—but I don’t really need to write them down; that afternoon was our new beginning, our second chance, and every detail is burned into my memory.

****Flashback: One Year Ago****

“I think we’d better talk about it.”

Max pulled off the main road and bounced down the little-used trail until he brought the Jeep to a stop in a quiet, shady spot just at the edge of the reservation. It was warm and breezy, and the sky was the perfect shade of blue. Everything about the environment was calm and relaxing and beautiful. Unfortunately, that didn’t penetrate the wall of tension that enveloped the two teens.

“I guess we better, but this won’t be easy to hear, Max.”

“I know. But I need to hear it. I need to know what made you do what you did, why in the world you would want me to believe you made love to Kyle.”

“NO!”

Liz reacted so fast, she even surprised myself. “I’m sorry, but you can’t ever say ‘make love to Kyle.’ That would never happen. Even if, for reasons I can’t begin to fathom, I had sex with him, it wouldn’t have been making love. The only man I could ever make love to is you, Max. And now I don’t know if that will ever happen.”

The relief and the hurt mingled on his face but he didn’t pursue it. He stuck with the safer script. “So tell me.”

“There’s only one person in this world who could have made me hurt you like that, Max.”

Liz watched him mull that one over, but he didn’t ask. He just waited, his forehead creased with confusion, his eyes clouded with caution, bracing for what would surely be a hurtful response. She wondered briefly if he could possible think she meant Kyle.

“You, Max. I could only have done such a thing for you.”

That’s not what he’d expected her to say. Actually, he wasn’t sure what he was expecting, but it wasn’t this “I did what was best for you” excuse. A flash of anger cleared his eyes. “Maybe I should have been the one to decide what was best for me, Liz. Seeing you in bed with Kyle was most definitely not it.”

“I know that’s how you feel, Max, but that’s not how your future self felt.”

Okay, this was getting weird. Future self? Now the anger and confusion were doing battle, and he saw her flinch. He gentled his demeanor. Now that she was talking, he didn’t want to scare her away.

“Why don’t you start from the beginning, Liz? You’re losing me here.”

“Yeah, you’re right. The beginning. Okay. Well, I was alone in my room when it happened. There was a flash of light out on the roof and a man came to my window. It was you, but older, with long hair and decked out in leather. I recognized you right away, of course, but I was confused by your appearance and very suspicious. I thought maybe you were a shapeshifter or something. But it was you, Max, from 14 years in the future.”

Liz watched him trying to digest this bizarre news, and wasn’t surprised when his own suspicions surfaced immediately.

“Maybe it was a shapeshifter, Liz. How could you think that was me? Do you honestly think any version of me would tell you, ‘Go sleep with Kyle for Max’s sake’?” His words had an edge of barely contained sarcasm, and Liz forced herself to remember that all of this was bound to make him defensive and angry, so she bit back a cryptic comeback and pushed on.

“Not like that, he didn’t, Max. Just let me explain. Actually the whole story only came out over a period of the three days that he was here . . .”

Three days? You had a future version of me in your room for three days? And you never told me? What happened between you?” Max knew he was overreacting, but all of this sounded so . . . sci-fi. Ironic, considering his whole life was a sci-fi movie, but if he really had come from the future, his future self would have no doubt been bolder, more experienced. Had he done something to Liz? Something that scared her? Drove her to Kyle? Had he tried to . . .? No, he could never do that to her.

Liz absorbed his question and almost burst out laughing at Max being so jealous of himself, but there was nothing light or funny about any of this, so she just answered him as best she could.

“Nothing happened between us, Max. Not sexually, anyway, if that’s what’s worrying you. Just listen to me. He was very worried about my not knowing any more about the future than I had to to accomplish his goal, which was . . . to make you fall out of love with me.”

If Liz had expected an outburst at this point, it was her turn to be surprised. She’d announced this last bit of information with her gaze firmly locked on her fidgeting fingers. She didn’t want to see what her words did to him. But when she heard nothing, she found the courage to look up into the silence and found him just staring at her, as if she’d suggested something so absurd he had to question her sanity.

“He told me that the world—Earth—was being destroyed by enemies who had come here to kill the royal family. Isabel had died a few weeks before and Michael had died in his arms just before he came. And all this was happening, he said, because he . . . I mean you . . . and I had stayed together and Tess had left town, leaving your 4-square too weak to repel the attack.”

That whole speech had come tumbling out in one long rush of air, and Max could only blink, replaying the incredible story over and over in his mind. Nothing about this made any sense to him. How was it possible that loving this girl had brought the world to his knees? Was it really possible that their very presence on this planet had led to Earth’s destruction? Had he really lost his sister and best friend to a war he wanted no part of? The questions darted chaotically in his mind, shooting forth in rapid-fire succession.

“Why didn’t he come to me?”

“He told me that a friend of mine from the future—Serena—had warned that if you met yourself in this time you would both be destroyed.”

“How did he get here?”

“The granolith.”

“It’s a time machine?”

“Yeah, among other things.”

Liz smiled at how his questions mirrored the ones she had asked at the time. Her smile evaporated, though, when the next question turned their conversation in a new but inevitable direction.

“Why couldn’t you have come to me, then, if he couldn’t, and tell me what was going on? We could have found another way. Besides, you and I haven’t even been together, really. Not lately.”

He looked mournful just then, and Liz knew the depth of hurt it cost him to acknowledge that out loud.

“We were going to be,” she said quietly, and felt her heart break at the hopefulness that pushed aside the hurt for a few seconds.

“We were?”

“Future Max told me that the night of the Gomez concert, you came to my window with tickets, but instead of going to the concert, we . . . cemented . . . our relationship.”

“Cemented?”

“We made love, Max.”

Almost afraid to believe her words, Max still couldn’t contain the elation he felt. It just spread across his face in a broad smile and sent a warm feeling shooting through him. Oh, how he had dreamed of loving her! His fantasies had been frequent and detailed at one time, but he’d determinedly suppressed them over the last few months. While they had given him rare moments of joy, he had always come away from them feeling more hopeless and more alone than ever. To even imagine that this had really happened for them, should have already happened, was a mixed blessing. Did that mean their time had come and gone? Was this hopeful or hopeless? He looked into her eyes, now soft with imagined memories. “We . . . we made love, Liz? I . . . we . . . we really did?”

Liz nodded, feeling suddenly shy. Smiling, she admitted to her own initial reaction. “Actually, when he told me that, I was furious. I was scared to death at the thought because I knew I had fantasized about it over and over . . .” She looked up to see him smiling, the love in his eyes warm and familiar, even though it had been much too long since she’d seen it shining so openly when he looked at her. “. . . but the way things were between us, I had convinced myself it was a good thing we’d never taken our relationship that far. His presenting it to me as a fact, well, it just threw me. I told him I wasn’t ready and that he was lying. But of course, he wasn’t. He knew what had happened between us. After that, he said, we were inseparable. We even eloped to Vegas.”

Max’s smile dissolved into a grimace. “Vegas?”

Liz laughed. That had been her reaction, too.

“I know, but you . . . he . . . said it was wonderful, and that we met Michael and Maria and Isabel and Alex halfway and partied with them all night.” Her tone grew melancholy. “We were completely happy together, until . . .”

“So what went wrong?”

“You said you didn’t treat Tess very well, so she left. Then, when your enemies came, the three of you weren’t strong enough, and people began to die.”

Didn’t treat Tess well? What did that mean? Did he fail to include her in their activities after he’d married Liz? Married Liz. That sounded so wonderful. But it never happened. Could it still? But she had said Michael and Isabel had died. People began to die. Then it struck him, hard, right in the chest, and the tears replaced the dreamy look of “if only.”

“Liz?” His voice caught, and Liz instinctively squeezed his hand. “Liz,” he whispered again. “Did you die, too?”

The anguish on his face tore at Liz’s heart, and she reached to stroke his cheek. “No Max. I didn’t die. In fact, we were together for 14 years. The love between us never died either.”

Relief flooded his features, and as he pulled her into his arms, she heard him whisper, “Thank God.” She reveled in the feel of being in his arms again, but once the moment passed, they pulled apart, both painfully aware that there was a lot more discussion left.

“But how could I have left you, Liz? If this future me succeeded in changing the future, then who knows what he returned to, or if he even did? What if, when he got back to his own time, you were gone? Surely, he wouldn’t have wanted that.”

“No, Max, he didn’t want that, but he and I . . . the future me . . . felt it was the only way to save the world. They had agreed that it would have to be that way.”

“So you pretended to sleep with Kyle? That was awfully drastic, wasn’t it?”

“It was a last resort, Max. First, I tried to push you and Tess together, but you saw us watching you from across the street, remember? And you came storming over and asked me out instead. Future Max was in the back room, hiding. He was so angry. . . . He saw you kiss me, Max, and then he told me that I wasn’t trying hard enough.”

Max sighed against his seat, looking up at the rustling leaves as the pieces started to fit. “I was so sure that if I showed you how serious I was, that I wasn’t going to give up on us, that you would come around. I couldn’t stop feeling . . . all that I have always felt for you, Liz. And I couldn’t believe you didn’t feel it anymore, either. When I kissed you, I could feel the love, but I felt the pain, too. I could never understand why I didn’t get any flashes from that kiss. Especially now that I know what was going on. Why didn’t I see this Future Max when we kissed?”

“I guess I was pretty successful in my first attempt at blocking flashes,” she told him, having wondered about that herself. “I was so afraid. I didn’t want to be responsible for ending the world, so I had to close myself off, lock my feelings deep inside. I couldn’t bear to think about how I was working to destroy the most beautiful and meaningful part of my life, so I was blocking it from my own thoughts. I guess it worked on you, too.”

“So when you came to my room that night . . .”

She nodded, ashamed as she remembered what she had said to him. “Yes, when Future Max realized the first attempt had failed, we thought of another plan. I think it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done. When I came to your window, I had been reciting that speech in my mind over and over, almost convinced that I could never utter those lies to your face. Then it turned out your face wasn’t the only problem.” She had to smile at his bewilderment. That hadn’t changed. He still had no idea how beautiful he was.

“You were doing those pull-ups, remember? Shirtless. I jumped down from that windowsill and came face to face with that unbelievable physique . . . it took my breath away for a moment. That’s why I asked you to put the shirt on. I couldn’t think.”

That finally evoked a smile, and he looked down, embarrassed. “If I’d known that, I would’ve left it off.”

She smiled with him, a brief flicker of relief in a tortured conversation.

“Those things I said that night, Max, I know how they hurt you. Believe me when I say they hurt me a hundred times more.” Her eyes grew intense, demanding he believe her. “I would give my life for you in a second. I have no interest in other boys. And most of all, I would rather die than be responsible for the hurt I saw in your eyes that night.”

She pressed his hand to her heart. “Max, I cried all through that night, with Future Max sitting there trying to console me.” As the jealousy flitted across Max’s face, she hurried to explain. “He only talked to me, Max. I couldn’t stop crying; I felt like my own heart had been ripped out of my chest, and I so badly wanted to stop feeling . . . anything . . . because I knew it had to be better than feeling my heart die a slow, painful death. Future Max kept assuring me that I had done the right thing. We thought it had worked, too, because he started to . . . I don’t know . . . fade out, I guess. And then, suddenly, he was solid again, and we realized we’d failed. You must have started to believe we were through and then changed your mind or something.”

It was Max’s turn to explain, the memories painfully fresh in his mind. “I was so depressed, I couldn’t sleep. All I could do was hear your words in a constant loop, and I just couldn’t believe you meant it. I finally called Maria. We’d had so many conversations about you over the previous summer that she seemed like the obvious person to talk to. I told her to be honest with me, and believe it or not, she told me to give you up. I wanted to do what was best for you, and if letting you go was best, then I tried to convince myself that that’s what I’d do. But it only took a few minutes before I knew I couldn’t change the way I felt about you. I could stay away from you, if that’s what you truly wanted, but I couldn’t stop loving you. I told Maria that, and she just called me hopeless,” he smiled. “I guess she was right.”

“I suppose that’s what it was, then. You doubted us for just long enough to change the face of the future, and then you came back to the same starting point, and back to this timeline.”

“So that’s when . . .”

“Yeah. Future Max was getting even more desperate. I begged him, pleaded with him to find someone else to fix this because I honestly thought I would die if I had to hurt you anymore. He just told me to do something, anything, to make you believe we were over forever. I had no idea what to do until Maria told me about finding Michael with Courtney. She said it took that jolt to make her realize it was really over. That’s when I realized that might work on you, so . . . I went to Kyle.”

A bitter snort punctuated the stillness that followed. “Well, evidently it wasn’t a permanent fix for Michael and Maria. They’re closer than ever.”

“Yeah, I know.”

“And here we are.” We sat in silence for a few moments, wondering what, exactly, that meant now.

“How did you talk him into it?”

“Kyle? Well, he’d just discovered Buddha at that time, so he took a very philosophical view of it, even when I told him I couldn’t explain why we were doing this. I made it very clear nothing meaningful was going to happen between us, even though we might have to fake a couple of kisses when you showed up.”

Max scowled. How in the name of all they meant to each other could she have gone to Kyle in this crisis instead of him? Suddenly, he was right back where he’d been at the beginning—on the outside looking in at Liz and Kyle. They’d come full circle. Except not, because this time, he was a part of the equation. He was even responsible for the whole thing. His felt like his head was going to explode.

“How did you even know I’d be up there then?”

“The concert, remember? Future Max knew you came to me the night of the Gomez concert.”

“Oh, yeah. So you and Kyle just lay there until I showed up? Just lay there?” Liz knew he was trying to squelch his jealousy, but it couldn’t help but leak out around his words.

“Yeah, and talked. We talked about how we were the only ones who’d been healed by an alien, and he cracked a couple of jokes when I asked him if he’d seen flashes.”

Max’s head jerked up. “Did he?”

“No, nothing. But his answer did make me laugh. I think that’s the night we started to be good friends again.”

“What was so funny?” There was that jealous edge again.

“Nothing you need to worry about, but let’s just say that Buddha aside, I think maybe he found a certain satisfaction in knowing whatever we were doing was going to bug you.”

“But nothing happened?” he mumbled, hating himself for asking but having to ask just the same.

Liz reached up and turned his face until she held his gaze. “Nothing at all, Max. We had gotten so wrapped up in our conversation that we forgot to listen for you and didn’t even have to fake a kiss. You saw everything you needed to see in just that one look, and then you were gone. I had never felt such pain as I did seeing the expression on your face. I prayed never to feel that much hurt again in my life. I would never have believed I could be faced with that again so soon.”

The tears welled up and spilled down Liz’s cheeks before she even knew they were there.

“You mean Alex?”

Liz nodded, unable to make any sound but a muffled sob. Max reached for her and she fell willingly into his arms. She felt so tired, almost too tired to go on, but she knew once this Pandora’s Box was opened, there was no way to contain it. She sniffed unashamedly into his shirt for several minutes, pretending she didn’t notice the light kisses he was pressing into her hair, or the way his cheek rubbed gently against her forehead. It was just what she needed, and she was tired of putting her own needs last.

posted on 29-Oct-2002 11:01:08 PM by Carol000
Part 11a continued

Max stroked her, soothing the turmoil he could feeling rolling across them both. Just the act of wrapping her in his arms was balm for his soul. This was what had been missing in his life for so many months. This was the basis for his equilibrium that had gone tripping uncontrollably through one crisis after another. Here was his answer, his miracle, his love.

When she was finally spent, she pulled back and looked gratefully into Max’s eyes, knowing what a dangerous place they were for her. They had always been windows to the most beautiful soul she had ever known, and they had invited her in, a privilege few enjoyed. The strange thing was, she saw gratitude in his eyes, too. The contact between them was as healing to him as to her, and the truth they now shared reinforced their fragile bond.

“You’ve been through so much,” he whispered, caressing the tears from her cheeks. “It’s always been the price for knowing me. Worse for you because . . . because you loved me.”

There was a finality to his words, a resignation Liz couldn’t bear to hear, and she couldn’t stop the words that fought for release.

“Not loved, Max. Love.”

She couldn’t read what settled over his features then. Was it doubt? Skepticism? A careful mask to hide the hope? Even Max wasn’t sure. He’d become gun-shy about hoping, and yet here she was, saying she loved him still.

“I do love you, Max. I just don’t know if it’s enough. We’ve done a lot of damage.”

He nodded, thoughtful. Maybe this was the light at the end of the tunnel. Maybe she would be willing to try again. But first, he needed to know the rest of the story. It had led to a nightmare, and they wouldn’t wake up from it until it had all been aired in the light of day.

“So the future me just ‘faded out’ that night?”

Liz smiled sadly. “Not right away. I was a basket case after you left. Kyle tried to comfort me, but I asked him to go home. Poor guy. I can only guess how confused he must have been. He really was a good friend that night.”

Max frowned, but remained silent. There was no getting around the fact that Kyle had come through for her, even if it was at Max’s expense. He was glad she’d had a friend to lean on. He just wished it could have been him.

“Future Max had been hidden in the bathroom during the whole thing. When we went out onto the roof afterwards, I felt so empty and lost. I told him I knew I would be alone now, always. He said maybe not. He reminded me that you’d always said we make our own destinies and actually suggested that maybe it was for the best. He even commented on how decent Kyle had been about the whole thing, and that maybe I would be better off with a human.”

Liz watched Max’s face then, wondering if that statement sounded as ridiculous to him as it did to her. But his next words confirmed the selfless love he had always shown her, consistent across years and timelines. The brave, earnest expression mirrored the one he had worn that night, reflecting his determination to put her first.

“Maybe you would,” he whispered softly.

We stared at each other for a long, honest moment, and in spite of my best intentions, I leaned toward him and kissed him lightly.

“I’ll tell you what I told him. I told him that he was . . . you are . . . the love of my life, and that anyone else would be second best.”

The gratitude flickered, deepening the gold flecks that lit his eyes.

“Then I asked him to dance with me. I wanted to have my wedding dance—the one that would never happen for me in the new timeline.”

A sudden curtain of tears shone in his eyes as he waited for her to continue. Liz was choking back tears of her own, almost afraid to resurrect the most bittersweet memory of her life.

“He took me in his arms, and it was as if we could hear ‘I Shall Believe’ playing just for us. That was our song, Max, and it was magical. He held me, and he let our love really flow for the first time since he’d appeared. I guess he knew he would be leaving for good soon, and it wouldn’t hurt to leave me with one last memory of what we’d shared. What could have been . . .”

The tears began to flow freely now, and she couldn’t go on. She had locked that scene tightly in her heart’s darkest room ever since that night, afraid that exposing it to the light of day would make it less real or worse—make it disappear completely, just as he had. Now, with Max sitting here with her, it was caught between dream and reality, and she wasn’t sure which it would turn out to be.

Max soothed her, mumbling gentle reassurances through his own pain. Liz heard the muffled moans that poorly disguised his efforts to rein in his own tears. She realized how very unsettling this must be for him—to know that a future version of himself had been so desperate that he had come back in time to wipe out 14 years of love. He had asked her to give up her world, her future, but in truth, he had already had to make that same sacrifice. In fact, he had given up his past and his future—any kind of future. They both had, because the future Liz had given it up as well. And that Max and Liz knew better than she did what they were losing. It helped her to remember that in truth, the suffering wasn’t all hers. Not even close.

When she could speak again, I tried to finish the story; it was time to put this memory away again, back in the dark room, sacred and safe.

“I don’t know what happened to you . . . when exactly your heart shifted away from me enough to finally change the future, but suddenly, right in the middle of the dance, he was gone. The night was so still and dark, and suddenly so empty—of you, of him, even of the me I had been. I remember wondering if daylight would ever come again, or if somehow everyone else’s world had ended too. I couldn’t hear any noises or see any lights in town. I guess they must have been there, but it felt like I’d fallen into a bottomless hole¾maybe an afterlife that wasn’t even life but just meaningless existence.”

Max took Liz’s face in his hands and tilted it up, and she saw for the first time how he was crying, unrestrained and so full of regret.

“I can’t believe what you’ve sacrificed, Liz. All this time, I thought you had been so badly hurt, that you were striking out at us, especially me. I thought you’d lost faith in what we had, and I’ve been so torn by guilt and hurt, I didn’t know where to turn.”

He was on a roll now, gasping out his pent-up emotions, finally trusting that the love of his life was open to hearing him again.

“When I saw you that night, it was like someone had shot me. I burned inside—anger or hurt or hopelessness, I don’t know. All three, probably. But I felt like the one person I knew I could count on had turned on me. I wanted out. Not just of this planet, but this life. I was sitting there in the park, trying to decide if there was any point to going on, when Tess found me there.

“These last two weeks, I’ve wondered how she found me. She had no reason to be in that park, or to think I would be. But there she was, just out of the blue. Now I realize she must have been watching me, waiting for a chance to catch me at my most vulnerable.” He snickered bitterly. “She hit the jackpot that night.”

“So it was Tess that made the difference, wasn’t it? She gave you someone to turn to.” The thought tore at Liz, and yet she knew it was exactly what was supposed to happen. Or at least what they thought was supposed to happen at the time. How could Future Max and Liz not have known Tess for what she was?

“She just swooped in with her nonstop campaign of pretending to care and pushing her destiny agenda. I was at the point where I wasn’t sure I even knew who you were anymore, and Isabel stopped speaking to me and Michael was challenging every decision I made . . . I’d never felt so alone. And there she was.

“Honestly, Liz, I still didn’t buy into it. At least not all of it. I was trying harder to remember our past, and she was helping me with that, but now I don’t even know which memories were real and which she mindwarped me to remember. Finally, though, I was at the end of my rope. I had run out of reasons to keep going and just didn’t know if anything mattered anymore. Then there she was again, promising . . .”

He squeezed his eyes shut and the tears trickled down his cheeks. He didn’t even bother to wipe them away. He just held Liz’s hands tightly, desperate for her to hear him.

“. . . promising that she would never leave me . . . and I . . . I thought I had lost everyone. I don’t even remember what happened then, Liz. I swear, it’s just a fog after that.” He began to gulp at the air, swallowing sobs that would only keep him from getting this out. “If only I’d known . . . what you’d given up, what you’d done to save us all, that you . . . were still out there, loving me.”

Their tears fell against twisted faces reflecting tortured hearts. So many mistakes. So much hurt. It was almost too much to bear.

The sun was going down and the air cooled. They lost track of how long they’d just sat holding each other, the occasional sniffle the only sign that this was more of a confessional than a lovers’ tryst. Liz began to shiver, though, in spite of Max’s arms holding her tightly, so he reached behind the seat and pulled out the blanket, tucking it in around her, and watching her face for whatever came next.

“So.” Liz didn’t seem sure about what came next either.

“What happens now, Liz?” Then he chuckled quietly. “I’m usually not the one who gets to ask that.”

“I don’t know, Max. I guess it’s never been a matter of not loving each other. As much as we’ve hurt each other, the love has always survived. But Max, is that enough? I mean, if we’ve loved each other through all of this, and yet we’ve been miserable and people have died and the world has escaped extinction—twice actually, remember the gandarium?—then is the love enough?”

Max struggled with her question. The irony was, the love was all that ever really mattered to him. The concept that it might not be enough would never have even occurred to him. He was more than a little disconcerted that it had occurred to Liz. But then, she’d been the one hiding in plain sight this time, hurt by that love more than she should ever have been hurt by anything in her life. How could he answer her? It was enough for him. That’s all he was sure of.

Liz watched Max pondering her question. He was looking at her so much like he used to when life was simpler—you know, just normal alien teens hiding from the law with the help of normal human teens, one of which would have been dead but for alien healing powers. His eyes were bright with hope and love; it had been a long, long time since she’d seen that look.

“Liz, most of that stuff was going to go down eventually anyway. We couldn’t stay hidden forever. And if I know anything for sure, it’s that I love you, and I’m stronger with you than without you. I want to try again, Liz. I want us to try to start over, and this time—no secrets, no big plans that don’t include the other. I want to be a team. No, not a team, a couple. I want to be with you, Liz. I always have. I always will.”

Liz was stunned. That look on his face had only been the preamble to his words—open and vulnerable. He was just laying it out there, and it was up to her to admit how badly she wanted a life with him or to continue to accept the assumption that their love could condemn the world. Conflicted didn’t begin to cover how she felt at the moment. She had dreamed of hearing these words from him for two years, and yet now, she didn’t know if what they wanted was right . . . or even possible. Could a beautiful, loving, gentle alien boy really make a go of it with an ordinary human girl. Maybe some things just weren’t meant to be. On the other hand, what had trying to do the right thing done? Nothing they’d done apart amounted to anything but trouble. All of their efforts were incomplete, ineffective, just like they were without each other.

Liz responded instinctively when he leaned toward her and pressed his lips to hers, and suddenly nothing else mattered. She knew the answer in her heart. Deep down, she always had. They were bound together in ways they didn’t even understand yet. And she loved him so. That love was the only thing to survive the harsh realities—and non-realities—of the last year. They had a lot to work through, a whole lot, but they’d survived this far. And right then, she knew she was committed to making it the rest of the way. “I Shall Believe” began to run through her mind again, and she suddenly knew why that had been their song. It really was their song, the essence of their history and their future. It was about letting their love be their truth, and as the lyrics floated through Liz’s mind, she bowed to the only answer she could give him.

“Your love has made anything possible,” she smiled up at him. “We’ll take it slow, okay? But we’ll figure it out. I shall believe.”

Max beamed at her, confident for the first time in a year that they would survive this. Tucking the blanket around her even more firmly, he reached over for the CD case and slipped one into the slot in the dashboard. Liz’s smile broadened when the first monotone of the “I Shall Believe” track eased from the speakers. Their eyes met.

“So do I,” Max smiled.

♫♫
Come to me now
And lay your hands over me
Even if it's a lie
Say it will be alright
And I shall believe

I'm broken in two
And I know you're on to me
That I only come home
When I'm so all alone
But I do believe

That not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
Please say honestly you won't give up on me
And I shall believe
And I shall believe

Open the door
And show me your face tonight
I know it's true
No one heals me like you
And you hold the key

Never again
would I turn away from you
I'm so heavy tonight
But your love is alright
And I do believe

That not everything is gonna be the way
You think it ought to be
It seems like every time I try to make it right
It all comes down on me
Please say honestly
You won't give up on me
And I shall believe
I shall believe
And I shall believe

♫♫♫♫

****END FLASHBACK****

The details aren’t the important thing about that afternoon. They were old details. What was new was that we talked about them, honestly. We aired the secrets, and they became less dark. We acknowledged the problems, and they got smaller. We admitted to mistakes, and we practiced the art of forgiveness. We asked the questions and found the answers in each other.

I suppose the most important thing is that we started down that road again. The detour was scary and lonesome, but we’re back on track. At the beginning in a way, because we promised each other to go slowly, to date like regular teens, and see if we can be a couple in the human world. We’ll see how that goes. The alien side always seems to catch up with us. But if senior year can just be calm and normal, maybe we’ll be able to make some decisions about a future. Maybe we’ll talk about colleges and vacations and friends. And maybe we’ll find out that the love is enough.********

posted on 3-Nov-2002 3:31:57 PM by Carol000
Ah! Back from the angst and into the plot. I always need these breaks! I must once again pour my heartfelt appreciation out to those who left f/b. You all are the ones who keep me writing. Reading your comments can make my day, and I so appreciate the time you take to leave them

Two must be addressed individually this time. One reader asked if the Future Max convo took place AFTER "Busted." She assumed it was. It's not. It's before. That conversation was just a couple weeks after Departure, and was meant to set up a new, slower pace in their relationship. Obviously, it reheated over the summer. I mean, by fall, they were climbing on top of each other in an open car right before "robbing" a convenience store at gunpoint, right? ARRRGGGHHHH! THE IDIOCY!

Pardon me. Anyway, that's why fic writers like me are writing S4 now. Gotta get that taste out of our mouths.

And a very special thanks to 2crzy4roswell: I am humbled by the wonderful compliments and heartfelt f/b I sometimes get, but when you wrote, "If only you and Breathless and Sansu could have written this ep . . ." I was ecstatic. You named two of my top 5 favorite writers in that note, and I am honored to be considered in their company. I know Debbi and I have talked often with Sansu in b'mail. Believe me, if we had the chance to do that, we'd be there so fast it would make your head spin. THANK YOU!

Okay, back to "present day" Chameleon! (Posted in two parts.)

Part 11b

“Murder?! Is this a sick joke? Who is it I supposedly murdered?”

Nate fought the urge to throw up. He was waiting for the military lawyer who had been assigned as a consultant on his case, but the sheriff’s deputy had come early to read the charges.

“You’ve been charged with manslaughter, actually. And leaving the scene of a crime. The deceased, one Deloris Delgado, was found dead during the night in her hotel room.”

“I don’t know any Deloris Delgado, and I wasn’t in anyone’s room but my own last night!”

“Save it, soldier. The evidence is pretty overwhelming. I’ll come back when your lawyer gets here.”

The door closed with a dull thud, and Nate pressed his hands to his head, trying desperately to figure out how he could be implicated in the murder of someone he didn’t even know. He hadn’t been drinking last night. Everything was clear as a bell. He’d gone to Roswell and warned those parents about their home being bugged. He’d sabotaged the tape equipment at the temporary base outside of town, and then he’d gone to the roadhouse, as he’d promised Tyler he would. When he left, he’d driven around for a while, trying to sort out what to do when the good guys you worked for suddenly became the bad guys, leaving you between a rock and the ultimate hard place. Then he’d felt the tire burst. He’d had to change it by the light of one flashlight, and he’d cut his hand badly in the process. Then he’d gone back to his own room and gone to bed.

Fear washed over him, its cold clammy fingers squeezing his heart. That wasn’t an alibi. At least not one he could testify to. If he told where he’d been, he would be dishonorably discharged and imprisoned. Besides, he had no witnesses to the drive or the tire incident, although he did have a flat in his trunk.

A young woman whooshed through the door, all efficiency and professionalism. She set a briefcase down on the table without a word, flipped it open, and sat facing her new client.

“I’m Lt. Taylor Holbrook, and I’ll be acting as your JAG consultant. Are you aware of the charges?”

Nate stared at her, wondering if she were old enough to be a real lawyer. She was beautiful. Shining red hair, wide green eyes, a trim figure, and approximately 17 years old.

“You’re my lawyer?”

“I’m your JAG, Lieutenant, but this is a civilian case, so I can only act as a consultant. You’ll need to hire a civilian lawyer. Do you have anyone in mind?”

Nate was taken aback by this woman’s abrupt attitude, and he was still trying to register all she had just said.

“In mind for what?”

“Have you chosen a lawyer to represent you?”

“Uh, no. I’m not from around here. I don’t know any lawyers.”

“I could make some inquiries on your behalf,” she offered, reaching for a notepad to start a list. “I asked if you were aware of the charges.”

“How old are you?”

“That’s not your concern, Lieutenant. Now please answer the question.”

Nate shook himself. “They say I killed someone. I don’t even know who it is—some woman named Deloris . . .”

The nausea threatened to send him to his knees this time. Deloris. That had been the name of the woman in the roadhouse last night. I promised Deloris here you’d buy her a drink. That’s what Tyler had said. Could this be the woman they were talking about?

“Are you saying you didn’t know the deceased?” Lt. Holbrook asked, noting how the color had drained from her client’s face. He looked as if he might faint.

“I . . . I don’t know. A friend introduced me to a woman named Deloris last night, but I don’t know her last name, and I certainly didn’t kill her.”

“Where was this?”

Nate took a gulp of the water, but it didn’t help. “At the roadhouse. I stopped by to tell my friend that I couldn’t stay and have a drink with him after all, and he introduced me to this woman. But I left then. I didn’t see her after that.”

“Where did you go?”

“For a drive, and then back to my hotel.”

“Alone?”

“Yeah.”

“No one saw you at all during that time?”

“I don’t think so. When do they think she was murdered?”

Taylor wrote some notes on her pad, cursing the knowledge that she wasn’t going to earn any brownie points with this case. Her first solo assignment, and they’d handed her a guy with no alibi and a mountain of circumstantial evidence against him.

“Between 12:30 and 2 a.m. There’s a fair amount of evidence against you, Lt. Christopher, but it’s all circumstantial. If you can think of someone who could verify your whereabouts during that time, we could end this quickly.”

Between 12:30 and 2 a.m. He hadn’t seen another soul after he’d left the bar.

“I was alone then. Why is that so unusual? Lots of people are alone at that hour.” He was starting to get angry. This was preposterous.

“That’s true, Lieutenant. But those people aren’t accused of murder this morning, so let’s concentrate on you, shall we? I need to know if you killed this woman.”

Nate was struck dumb. There was ice water in this woman’s veins; she had completely removed herself emotionally from the nightmare he was living. It was as if she really didn’t care one way or the other. She was just doing her job.

“Of course not! I didn’t even know her! I met her for a few minutes last night. We barely exchanged ten words.”

“Fine. Then you’ll be entering a plea of not guilty?”

“Yes!”

Taylor stopped and looked at him. After reviewing the evidence the authorities had collected so far, she had come into the room privately assuming he was guilty, but he was pretty convincing as an innocent—the frightened eyes, the disarming confusion, the apparently honest question about when the murder took place.

“Perhaps you’d care to hear the evidence against you—so far.”

Nate frowned, but nodded.

“Several witnesses saw you cozying up to Deloris Delgado at the roadhouse. You were also seen giving her a $20 bill and leaving with her just after midnight.”

“That’s not true! I didn’t leave with her.”

“Allow me to finish, Lt. Christopher. One witness said her habit was to take . . . clients . . . back to her room, which is where she was found dead from a blow to the head, apparently resulting from a fall during which she hit her head sharply on a nightstand. No one else who was at the roadhouse that night admitted to giving her a ride home, but you had a car, didn’t you?”

Nate nodded mutely.

“In the pocket of her clothing was a $20 bill. In addition, her blouse was ripped and her face and arms scratched. Bloody footprints on the carpet were made by military issue shoes. Your hotel room revealed a uniform on which was found blood and women’s perfume, as well as a bloody handkerchief and military issue shoes with traces of blood on them. Fellow officers from the temporary base outside of Roswell have confirmed that your behavior last night was somewhat erratic.”

Taylor stopped and looked up, wondering if this impressive list of circumstantial evidence would cause her client to crumble in the early going. He looked pale and in shock. She reached to pour him a glass of water, praying that her hands weren’t shaking. She had no intention of letting on that this was her first solo assignment as a lawyer, even if she weren’t acting as defense counsel. She was still just a lieutenant and had a long way to go before earning a promotion to captain and trial cases of her own. In fact, she was aware that there were those who considered her too softhearted and emotional to make a good attorney, but in her mind, that was one of her strengths—really empathizing with a client, and seeing things from his or her point of view. In the meantime, she was determined to be as thorough and professional as possible. Important people were watching.

“How can this be happening?” he mumbled, more to himself than to her. “I haven’t done anything. The blood on my clothes is mine, from changing the tire. They’ll test it, right? And then I’ll be cleared.”

He looked at her with wide eyes swimming in confusion, and her heart went out to him. Then she remembered herself and resumed the tactic she’d been taught: bombard them with the evidence against them and assess guilt or innocence. If you suspect guilt, in spite of protests to the contrary, so will the jury, and it’s from that perspective that you must plan the defense.

“You should know, Lieutenant, that they will do an autopsy. If you . . . were with . . . that woman, in an intimate way, the additional evidence will be devastating.”

She was quite sure his disgust was genuine, and for some strange reason, that made her happy. “I was not with that woman . . . or any other . . . last night. I did give her the $20, but only to help me get out of there fast without feeling guilty about bailing on the drink my friend had promised I’d buy her. She was drunk and obvious and I wouldn’t have left with her under any circumstances, but especially not last night.”

She smiled at his response without thinking, until his final words struck home. “Why ‘especially not last night’?”

Nate’s eyes flew to hers, and for the first time, she detected guilt of some kind.

“I just meant I was really tired last night, and wanted to get home.”

At her silence, Nate launched into the rather dull story of his evening, starting with meeting Tyler at the bar and ending with the flat tire and arrival at the hotel. Nothing that came before that was relevant anyway.

As his mind reviewed what he wasn’t saying, though, a light went on in Nate’s head. He did know of one lawyer—Philip Evans. But he wasn’t sure if Max and Isabel’s father was a criminal attorney or not. In any case, he knew him to be a good man who would now have a personal interest in seeing Nate set free. If this was not his area of law, he would surely at least recommend someone.

“I know one person you could contact,” Nate suggested. “His name is Philip Evans. I don’t know what kind of lawyer he is, but if he can’t take the case, he must know someone who can.”

“He’s from Roswell?”

“Yes.”

“Okay, I’ll look into it.”

As she scribbled some notes, he watched her face, wondering what she thought of him, whether she believed him. Her natural expression, the unguarded one that her face relaxed into when she wasn’t working so hard at image and attitude, was kind and soft. And she seemed so very young.

“This is your first case, isn’t it?”

She looked up sharply, and he watched her pride do battle with her honest nature. Finally, she let her shoulders sag a bit.

“I’ve been working as second on cases for over a year, but this is the first time I’ve been sent out alone, yes. I assure you, Lieutenant, that I am a good lawyer. I was sent here because I don’t yet have all the experience—or the rank—to try cases alone, but that’s okay because I am not technically your attorney in this case. I’m here to advise you and brainstorm with your civilian lawyer, when you get one.”

She stopped and looked at him as a person for the first time. “I’ll do right by you, Lieutenant. I promise.”

He breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe she wasn’t such a hard-nose after all. He’d had his fill of those lately.

Then a question occurred to him, culled from years of watching detective shows on TV. “How do they know she died before 2? An hour and a half is a pretty narrow window for time of death, isn’t it?”

“Someone found her body and called it in.”

“Who?”

Taylor checked her notes. “Major Anthony Gibbs.”

A gnawing feeling began to spread through Nate’s chest and stomach, and he gaped at her. “Tino Gibbs?”

“Yes. Do you know him?”

“He’s my commanding officer. What was he doing there?”

She checked the report again. “Looking for you, he said.”

Nate’s mind was spinning. He couldn’t see how it all worked yet, but he knew in his bones that Gibbs had set him up. And he knew why. He just wasn’t clear on how. Surely Gibbs hadn’t murdered this woman just to discredit him. Murder was too extreme even for that little prick. But he wanted Nate gone, preferably without revealing any details of the Special Unit Investigation. And it looked like it might just work, too. Even his well-placed father couldn’t make this go away. He fixed desolate eyes on the young woman across the table.

“Run for the hills, Lieutenant. This ship’s going down.”

In spite of her barrage of questions after that cryptic remark, Taylor got no more information from her client, so she promised another visit soon and left. She had made her personal assessment. Not guilty. Of murder, at least. But that man was hiding something, and she’d bet anything it had something to do with Major Gibbs.

She hurried to her car, pressed “star 6,” and waited, sighing in frustration when the answering machine clicked on.

“Aunt Nancy? It’s Taylor. Didn’t you tell me last fall when Liz and her boyfriend got into that legal scrape that the boy’s father was a lawyer? The name was Evans, wasn’t it? Can you give me a call, please? I need to know if he practices criminal law and what you think of him. I have a client who might need his services.”

TO BE CONTINUED in next post


posted on 3-Nov-2002 3:33:38 PM by Carol000
Part 11b continued

********
Eddie approached the entrance to the cave, a nervous feeling in the pit of his stomach. He wasn’t sure if it was due to meeting three of the aliens at once, now that he’d had his very own close encounter of the third kind, or whether it was because of his doubts that they could help Maya. This was new ground. He could no longer think of this as a legend of miracles and the unexplained handed down from one generation to the next. This was real and way too up close and personal. Somewhere along the line, it had ceased to be romantic and intriguing. Now it was just plain scary.

As he entered the cave, he could hear them talking softly amongst themselves. His eyes adjusted, and he had to admit that what he saw wasn’t scary at all. Six teens sitting together in a circle talking. It could have been anyone—except three of them could kill him with a flick of the wrist. It was something to keep in mind.

“Hi.” Six heads swiveled in his direction. Max and Michael shot up first, on guard despite the prearranged plans.

“Eddie,” Max said quietly. “Thanks for coming. How’s the little girl?”

Eddie’s eyes moved to Liz, who had pushed herself up to stand beside Max. He didn’t miss how she took his hand immediately, and started to step in front of him. He pressed her back, though, and took the forward position. It was hard to say which one was acting more protective: she seemed to be protecting him; he seemed to be protecting her. In any case, they certainly projected a united front. Eddie faced them nervously; both sides had some work to do in the trust department.

“She’s not good. She’s not sleeping well, hardly eating at all. And last night . . . “

He shook his head, searching for words to explain the otherworldly event he’d witnessed.

“I know,” Liz nodded. “I’d like to know more, but it can wait. Can you take us to her?”

“Yes. She knows you’re coming. Somehow, she just knows. So does River Dog. He said he had a vision. Me? I wasn’t sure you’d actually be here.”

Isabel smiled. “You have a lot of questions, Eddie, I know. We’ll talk later. Meanwhile, we’d better get to Maya.”

“How did you know her name?” Eddie asked, getting that nervous feeling again.

“That’s one of the questions we’ll get to,” she promised him. “Let’s go.”

Michael had been uncharacteristically quiet. He was always distrustful of someone new learning about them, and he had to keep reminding himself that River Dog had had to take Eddie into his confidence some time ago. Still, it was another matter dealing with the wary look in Eddie’s eyes. Facing the reality of it was apparently a lot different than listening to River Dog’s bedtime stories.

They walked for at least 15 minutes before emerging into a clearing where a hand-built cabin, the lone nod to civilization in the vast expanse of wilderness, perched unexpectedly. River Dog was waiting on the steps, relief flooding his features when he saw Max.

“You’ve come,” he said simply. Then his gaze landed on Isabel, and a hint of surprise flashed across his features. “You.”

She smiled at him, oddly embarrassed at his amazement. “Yes.”

He bowed his head slightly acknowledgment. “Come in. Maya is waiting.”

Max and Liz held onto each other anxiously as they crossed the threshold, all too aware that they didn’t know how to help this poor little girl. Max recognized her immediately. She, too, had been stricken with cancer, and had accepted his help in the hospital without question or doubt, as only a young and innocent heart could. It upset him to know that he had caused her a different kind pain and fear, although he couldn’t regret healing her. Her small body had been so vulnerable to the quickly multiplying cells—more alien and deadly than anything he could have inadvertently inflicted on her, he was sure.

They reached her bed and smiled at her reassuringly.

“Liz.” The one word startled them. How would she know Liz’s name? Confused glances were exchanged among the onlookers, but Liz seemed calm and suddenly self-assured.

“Yes, Maya. We want to help you, if you’ll let us try.”

She nodded, waiting for Liz to step forward, but pulled back when it was Max who made the first move.

“No! Her!” Maya pointed at Liz.

“Maya, I think I’m the one who can help you,” Max crooned gently. “But I’ll need to touch you.”

Maya’s eyes were fearful, and as Max reached for her, the flickering in her hands grew brighter and more active. She cried out in pain.

Max jumped back, flashes of the night he’d tried to heal Liz playing out in a frustrating déjà vu. He glanced at Liz, but her eyes were riveted on Maya.

“Everybody out.”

“What?” Max asked, confused and a little alarmed at the focused intensity of their eye contact.

“Please, Max. Go outside with the others.”

“Liz . . .” He stopped mid-protest when he saw Liz’s hands flickering. That hadn’t happened in months! Was this thing contagious? Fatal? Horrible scenarios began to explode in his imagination, and he stood rooted to the floor.

“Max,” Michael whispered. “Let’s go.”

“But . . .”

“Liz.” Again, Maya repeated the single syllable, calm and insistent.

“Max, I think you should come with us,” River Dog urged. “Maya has brief moments of complete calm like this when she seems to know what’s going on. The frightened child disappears and it’s like something else takes over. I think she knows what must be done, even if you don’t.”

“Liz? Are you sure?” Max looked at his wife, terrified that something could happen to her. She had no experience with this. A few hours ago, she couldn’t sleep for worrying about how to help this child. Now she was standing here telling him to leave, as if she knew what to do.

“Go, Max. I’ll be out soon.” She tore her eyes from Maya’s hypnotic stare and smiled at him. “Max, she knows, and I’m the one she’ll tell. It’ll be okay. Go on.”

Max reluctantly let Michael steer him toward the door, looking over his shoulder all the while. As soon as he was outside on the porch, he and the others huddled closely at the window to watch this first-of-its-kind contact take place. Liz was sitting down on the edge of the bed, but neither girl was talking. The energy flowing through Maya’s hands had calmed, but she and Liz were both still staring, still flickering softly. The silent face-off went on for several minutes. Finally, Max turned to River Dog.

“Tell me everything that’s happened with this girl so far,” he demanded, then softened his tone. “Please.”

River Dog nodded and indicated a set of old chairs just to the side of the window. Max took one more glance inside and accepted River Dog’s unspoken invitation.

“Her parents came to me about 5 days ago, very distraught over their daughter’s condition. Her hands would flicker with a strange electricity sometimes, and it was causing her pain. They were afraid to take her to the doctor. They thought it might be a side effect of the treatment she’d received for the cancer, or even from the angel who miraculously cured her.”

River Dog looked at Max meaningfully. It was obvious that he had long since deduced Max had been responsible for the children being cured in the hospital two Christmases ago. After Michael had healed River Dog’s turned ankle in the woods so long ago, he knew that the visitors had healing powers. When he had asked Michael about it later, he’d learned that Max was the most gifted healer of the group. Then when he heard about the handprint each child bore for a few days, it had all fallen into place.

Max simply held his gaze and nodded slightly.

“I’d never seen anything like this before, but I knew I couldn’t let them take her to the hospital. I didn’t know what to do either, but I decided she’d be safer with me. Since then, I haven’t let the parents come to see her, and they’re getting very restless. She hasn’t been eating or sleeping well, but she has had intermittent spells of lucidity where the pain disappears and she seems calmer, as if in those moments, she has some idea about what’s happening to her.”

“How did she contact Liz?’

River Dog shook his head. “I have no idea how. But I can tell you what it looked like. She came outside in the middle of the night and stood facing the moon. Her hands were flickering then, but she wasn’t whimpering with pain like she usually does. She just reached up and . . . it’s hard to explain . . . but it was as if she manipulated the moonlight to create a likeness of Liz. I recognized Liz plain as day, but just as an outline of light. Does that sound crazy?”

Max shook his head. “Yes and no. I mean, yeah, it sounds crazy, but Liz was asleep when that happened, and I was with her. We are so connected in our dreams that I saw what she saw. I just couldn’t hear anything, but she seemed to.”

“Yes. Maya seemed to be communicating with her, although no one spoke. Then she lowered her arms, the image disappeared, and she informed us that you were on your way.”

Max sat quietly, pondering River Dog’s words. It sounded much the same as what he knew already, just from the opposite perspective.

“And that’s all? Nothing else unusual?”

“Well, one thing. This morning, Maya was extremely restless in her sleep. It got so bad, she was flailing wildly in her bed. Eddie and I both went to her side, but before we could do anything, she sat up and spoke. It was just a single word. Samuel.”

Max looked as if he’d been struck.

“Samuel?”

He hadn’t thought about Samuel in months. For a while last Christmas, he’d believed the autistic boy who had called him “daddy” one day at the Crashdown was somehow getting a message to him from his own son on Antar. At that point, of course, he still thought he had a son. Even when he realized the boy had nothing to do with funneling messages, though, he’d tried hard to heal him, to return him to his family as a normal boy.

The toll was mounting. Liz. Kyle. Valenti. Five children in the hospital. And now Samuel. How would he ever contain this?

“Max?” Isabel was staring intently through the window, and Max jumped up to see what was happening now. The flickering was intensifying again, and as Max watched Maya reach for Liz’s hand, he was seized with fear. What if they weren’t supposed to touch? What if it were dangerous? What if that caused some sort of damage to them? What if . . .? His mind was screaming for them to stop, but Liz gave no indication that she felt his panic. They still weren’t communicating verbally through their connection in the waking world, and Max was suddenly terrified that he was about to lose his wife.

As he turned to bolt for the door, River Dog put a surprisingly strong grip on his arm.

“Let them do this, Max,” he murmured.

“No! We don’t know what could happen!” He wrestled his arm away from River Dog when Michael stepped in his path. “Get out of my way, Michael!” Max yelled, raising his hand to fend off his best friend. Michael was like his brother, but he would not keep Max from protecting his wife.

“Max, this is the only hope we have of helping this girl. And if the others you’ve healed turn up with these symptoms, we’d better have some kind of plan, or doctors all over this state will start seeing kids with alien symptoms they can’t treat. You think there’s a manhunt out there now, just wait and see what happens then! Liz is smart. She’ll know if it’s getting dangerous.”

“Oh my god!” The gasp ripped Max’s attention away from Michael and toward Maria.

“What happened?”

Maria didn’t need to answer, for through the window he could plainly see the brilliant light that emanated from their joined hands. There didn’t seem to be any pain or fear—just concentration from both of them. When the light abated, the flickering was gone, and the group outside gaped as Maya and Liz leaned in to embrace each other.

Liz tucked a weak but calm Maya into bed, and turned toward the door. Max was there in an instant, pulling her into his arms. She was crying, and Max’s instincts were again on alert.

“Liz! Are you okay? What happened in there?”

She pulled back from him and looked up at his worried face. “Oh, Max,” she breathed. “You’ll never believe it.”

But before he could ask her anything more, she fainted in his arms.

posted on 10-Nov-2002 11:55:33 AM by Carol000
Just a status report, everyone.

It was a very busy week (I know, old story). I've watched the first 8 eps of S3 (told you we'd be whipping past them, didn't I?) and written a draft, but I totally forgot I have a performance this p.m. (I sing.) So I gotta run instead of fine-tuning the next chapter. I will work some later today and try to finish it tomorrow night.

I realize you are used to getting the new installment on Sundays, so I do apologize. I wanted to let you know it was imminent, and that we'd be taking S3 in 3 journal entries. Then we'll get into plot full-time.

This next section is "Busted" through "Behind the Music." As of now, I intend for the next one to be "Samuel Rising" (yes, we need a refresher because Maya just mentioned him, didn't she? hmmmm.) through "WDAMYK." Then the final one will be "Crash," "4AaaB" and "Graduation," where we started all this.

Okay, gotta go. See you in a day or two! Thanks for all the great feedback and support!!!!!!!!!!!*bounce*
posted on 12-Nov-2002 7:45:40 PM by Carol000
Hang on, kids. It's another marathon! Sorry, but I HAVE to get the folks caught up before the kids get do much else, so you're stuck with loooong journal entries and short plot for two more chapters.

THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for the great feedback, bumps, etc. It means the world to me.

Oh, Jane, you asked what I was singing. This was a Veteran's Day gig--old WWII songs with a great jazz band. BTW, I don't sing alone--it's a group.

This part is in THREE posts. Anyone who gets through it in one sitting gets to have Max and Liz's first child names after them. LOL!



Part 12 a

It was becoming a familiar pattern. They’d read parts of Liz’s journal that jarred them, amazed them, touched them, and then they would sit quietly trying to absorb it all. Hearing about the traumatic end to an already upsetting year had left them shaken. Getting a glimpse into the emotional talk Max and Liz had endured while they tried to keep their tentative relationship from evaporating into an intangible memory left them drained.

It was past dawn, and there were still many pages left to read. Their bodies were tired and their minds reeling. Businesses needed attention. They were hungry and dirty and almost crushed beneath the weight of this new reality. They’d worn out the phrase, “How could we not have known any of this?” They had cried all the tears and left disbelief far behind. Now the pressure of time was pushing them on.

“I can’t read anymore,” Jim sighed, rolling his head from side to side.

“We haven’t even read anything from senior year yet,” Nancy said flatly, no longer bothering to ask if the worst was over. “We still have that whole Utah fiasco to read about. I can’t wait to find out what that was all about.”

“Neither can I,” Philip agreed. “I really stuck my neck out for those kids, but I never could get the whole story from Max. I meant to ask him about it after they finally had to tell us the truth about themselves, but there were so many other things to talk about, we never really cleared that one up.”

Jeff was uncharacteristically quiet, and Nancy rested her hand on his arm. “Jeff? What’s wrong?”

He continued to stare, looking resigned. “I know that this next part makes me sound like an ogre. I hated what had happened to Liz’s and my relationship, and I was more than happy to blame it all on Max. I guess I was right to, in a way, but I had no idea what was going on, so I could only see the effect he was having on her grades, her attitude . . . her criminal record!”

He bent his forehead into his palms and shook his head. “She hated me for keeping them apart, and now that I know what they were to each other, what they were going through . . .”

“Jeff,” Diane reminded him, “none of us knew. All we could do was react as responsible parents with the facts we had. No rational person could have seen the truth. It’s funny. As horrifying as it is to think about the burdens these children have carried, I can’t help but feel relieved—even proud—that Max is who we always thought he was: an upstanding, responsible, loving son. Too bad it was exactly those qualities that made us think otherwise.”

She reached for the journal. “Let me read for a while, Jim. I haven’t taken a turn, and besides, none of us are going to come out smelling like a rose considering what happened last fall. Somebody’s going to have to read this, and I don’t think the dads are in any shape.”

No one disagreed, so she began.

********20/20 hindsight. If I knew then what I know now. Look before you leap. Experience is the best teacher.

I’m pretty sure my first freshman English paper will be on where clichés come from. It turns out, they come from people figuring out too late that they have rocks for brains. Most people figure that out by doing something stupid, but insignificant, that gets them in trouble for a while, and then they know better. Well, the only difference with Max and me is that nothing is ever small in the world of aliens. I mean, when Max wants to impress a girl, he saves her life or helps her say goodbye to her grandmother’s ghost. And apparently, when a girl falls for Max, she’s willing to risk her life and lie to her parents and the law. Oh, and let’s not forget that when a girl gets dumped by Max, she leaves the planet in a spaceship.

It’s almost Christmas. I just haven’t kept up with this journal the way I intended to. I’m not sure if it’s because things are just so crazy that I don’t have time, or whether what’s happening to me . . . to Max and me . . . well, to all of us . . . is so out of control, again, that I can’t even make enough sense of it to write it down. Sometimes I don’t recognize myself. Circumstances have made me do things I would never have thought myself capable of, and one way or the other, everyone in our small group is becoming someone new.

Max and I, after beginning what was supposed to be a normal dating relationship, lost all credibility by thinking the end justifies the means. Oh, look. Another cliché. Just for the record, it doesn’t . . . justify the means, that is. And Michael is branching out into the world in ways we never thought he could . . . or would. Isabel has suddenly fallen in love and married. Maria is having a rough time deciding what her dream is and what she’s willing to sacrifice to realize it. And we’ve discovered a second protector—he’s not what we would have expected, by the way. Put it all together, and you have a lot of people becoming someone different from the people we thought we knew.

I know that especially at our age, we’re supposed to grow and change. We’re supposed to reach into the world and take risks and find out who we are and what we want. The thing is, the best way to do that is to have something stable in your life that you can count on and come back to when reaching into the world smacks you down and sends you running for cover. But I’m just floating right now. No anchor. No rock. No stability. I’m like one of those stars I stare at each night as I try to make sense of this brave new world I’ve found myself in—alive with light and potential, but lost in a dark sea of uncertainty.

After what happened at the end of the summer, my parents aren’t the same. They don’t trust me anymore, and they hate Max. And Max can’t be my anchor because he’s on this quest to find his son, and even though I understand that, and I’m willing to help, just the fact of his son is painful. It throws me off-balance as nothing else could, because it calls into question the one thing I once believed was true—that Max and I are inevitable, a foregone conclusion in all the insanity. But now I don’t know where I fit into that plan, or even if I fit into it. Then there’s Maria, struggling with her own identity and dreams. She wants to be a star, but at what price? She loves Michael, but she’s let him go. Was that the right decision for her? Has it helped her center her life again? Tough call. But I do know that she needs me to be there for her as much as I need her to be there for me, and in the end, we’re letting each other down. Alex is gone, and that has left an empty place in me so big, I don’t think anything will ever fill it. How ironic that it took his death for me to realize fully what a rock he was in my life.

So that pretty much covers the list of potential stable influences in my life, and there’s nothing stable about any of them. Instead of leaning on them, I’m trying to figure out who they are. And the really hard part about that is, I’m not sure I even know who I am. I used to. But that seems like a really long time ago. A whole different life of truths and certainties and realizable dreams. So here I am, pen in hand, ready to take another whack at making some sense of it all. Maybe it will help me see what to do now because I have to say, I don’t know when I’ve been so lost.

After Max and I had our heart to heart about the whole Future Max fiasco, things seemed to settle for a while. We dated. Odd, but before that, we’d hardly ever dated formally. I mean, we had that one awesome date at Senor Chow’s. That was the night I knew beyond a doubt that I was in love. After that, though, there was an uncomfortable double date watching Michael and Maria try to figure out their relationship, and a prom that turned into the date from hell. All in all, not much to go on.

So it was nice just going out like two normal teens. There were flowers and dinners and wonderful, dreamy kisses. It made me realize that if Max hadn’t been an alien and our lives had been normal, I would have loved him anyway, just for the person that he is: his generous heart, his caring attitude, his sense of humor, and his drop-dead gorgeous body that sends my nerves into overdrive at the slightest touch. Of course, under those circumstances, I would have had lots more competition because he wouldn’t have been hiding behind that tree, as he likes to say. Still, I like to believe we would have found each other anyway. It’s a nice fantasy.

It was all going well—at least as well as it could with my parents watching us like hawks and setting dating rules. They knew Max and I had a bumpy history, and they totally blamed him for the broken heart I’d been so unsuccessfully hiding at the end of junior year. They didn’t trust him with that heart anymore, so they did what parents do—laid down all kinds of rules thinking that somehow that would protect me. Well, my heart was long gone, of course, but they were right about one thing. I was still fragile, not sure how recent events would affect our relationship, even with the love still so strong.

One night, Max asked me out a whole week ahead for a special date. He brought me white roses—my favorite—and took me to dinner. Then he headed out to the lakes east of town. It was late enough in the year and late enough at night that the place was deserted, and he dazzled me with beautiful lights and passionate kisses. But as much as I was loving it, there was still something separating us. The oneness we had shared at one time, the intimate recognition of souls, was damaged, maybe even broken. Max’s fervent hope that we could pretend much of the last year never happened was impossible. I’d lost my best friend, and Max had fathered a child with my—and his—enemy. Those are pretty big roadblocks to forgetfulness.

Still, he was trying, and I tried, too, because I couldn’t pull away from the love that never died between us. In spite of the horrors, I never doubted that Max was somehow a pawn in some larger game, and I knew beyond a doubt that he would have changed all of it, if he could. So when he began to tease and play, I played along. We’d had far too little of that in our lives as it was.

I have to admit, I never thought I’d see the day when Max suggested skinny dipping! I totally thought he was kidding until the shirt came off and he reached for his pants.********

Nancy stopped, her eyes wide and her mouth gaping. She looked at the others, clearly uncomfortable. “Maybe I shouldn’t be reading this part,” she whispered.

Jeff couldn’t help but chuckle. The look on her face was priceless, and his own wife’s frown only broadened his smile.

“It’s okay, Nancy. It was relatively harmless, at least in terms of what you two moms are thinking. But it’s important. What happened that night set the whole year in a new direction, and it’s really the first clue to the Utah thing. You want someone else to read it?”

“No, I can do it. It’s just . . . this doesn’t sound like Max at all! At least not the Max I thought I knew.”

“That’s what Liz was just talking about, wasn’t it?” Jim reminded her. “She was saying how everyone was changing, and believe me, they were. Me included. Just being exposed to all this, and having to handle situations that none of us ever envisioned . . . it can’t help but change you.”

His comment was greeted with nods of understanding. Everyone in that room had changed in the last few days, and all they were doing was reading about it.

Nancy took a deep breath, wincing visibly as she read the next words.

********I totally thought he was kidding until the shirt came off and he reached for his pants. Then they were gone and there he stood, grinning and daring me to join him. I remember laughing when he said it was something we could tell our grandchildren about. I joked about them being 3 feet tall and green, but inside, a little ember of a former dream sparked to life. He was teasing me from between chattering teeth in freezing water, but at the same time, he was offering me my warmest, fondest dream—a life together—and letting me know that his dream was not so far from mine.

I threw myself into the mood and took off my dress, but only a few laughing comments later, I turned to see him going under. He looked desperate. Teasing was over. It took every stale memory I had of lifesaving class two summers ago, and every ounce of strength I could muster to pull him from the water. He was unconscious, and I was so scared he would die. By the time we got back to Michael’s apartment, I was beside myself. Thank God he woke up, but what he had to say lowered the curtain on any hope we had of beginning a normal life. He said his son had contacted him in a vision, and was in trouble.

That was the exact point at which our lives began to descend into the alien abyss again, and as usual, these otherworldly situations seemed to bring out the best and the worst in us. We are dealing with things no one has ever dealt with before, but we have only human contexts in which to do that. The result, I’ve learned, is usually something that’s not acceptable to, or explainable to, the uninformed humans in our lives. And in fact, we often find ourselves doing things that aren’t even explainable to ourselves. So there we were, about to embark on another round of lies, deception, and inexplicable decisions.

The vision lit a fire under Max. Suddenly, our whole focus was on getting him back to Antar to rescue his son. To do that, he needed a ship. And to run the ship, he needed to find the key that was pictured in a letter Nasedo had written to Tess. Max researched possible government facilities where the ship might be hidden while I spent hours at the library in Albuquerque trying to find a connection to this huge diamond-looking key. In the end, we were both successful.

I wish we hadn’t been.

I saw Bonnie and Clyde on the late show as a kid. I remember wondering how people could get so excited about committing a crime. Didn’t they know how they were hurting people? Didn’t they have any sense of right and wrong? Those characters actually seemed to get high on it. I just turned off the tv, chalked it up to Hollywood, and went to bed. Well, I have a new appreciation for that feeling now. It’s still wrong. It still hurts people. But there’s this kind of emotional rush when you find yourself in that situation. It’s like it becomes a game and your adrenalin kicks in and you’re all about the winning, the rising to the challenge, the beating the odds. Instead of thinking logically and morally, you’re thinking strategically, competitively, and suddenly you only want to see if you can do it.

Of course, Max and I told ourselves this was all necessary. We wouldn’t really be hurting anyone, and we were only trying to save his son—an innocent soul who had been thrust into a dangerous situation with an amoral, deceitful, and malicious mother. Whatever we did to save him was justified, right? So that’s where my head was when Max and I posed as waiters at the gala where the “diamond” that was really his ship’s key was displayed. We actually got a kick out of play-acting that scene where I went into a jealous rage and started the fight that allowed Max to switch the real key for a worthless copy. We were totally different people—no rules or expectations or repercussions.********

“Wait a minute!” Nancy sat up straight in her chair, her mild frown deepening. “Are you telling me our children stole a diamond? Before they robbed a convenience store, they stole a damned diamond?” She held her head, whether to keep out more bad news or to keep in some rational thought, no one was sure.

This was a shock to everyone but Jeff, who had had pretty much the same reaction when he read this the first time. He tried to temper the shocking news with a shred of reassurance.

“Well, it wasn’t really a diamond. It was an alien material—and their key to the ship they were looking for.”

All eyes were on him, waiting for him to explain how that made this better. He shrugged and slid down in his seat. “Yeah, they stole a diamond.”

A low chuckle broke the stony silence, and everyone’s gaze turned to Jim. He had a big, shocked grin on his face, and the most unlikely laugh was bubbling out of his throat.

“I’ll be damned,” he laughed, still looking astonished. “My office worked on that case. It never once occurred to me that Max and Liz were the wait staff everyone described. They just vanished into thin air. Didn’t even leave a clue.”

Amy was reenergized. In spite of the seriousness of the situation, this was downright fascinating—better than a novel! “What about the woman whose diamond was stolen? Wasn’t she beside herself? And the insurance must have had to pay out! And . . .”

“No, no,” Jim grinned, remembering. “That woman lives for social status. As soon as the diamond was revealed to be a fake, the rumors started. The last one I heard was that she’d been involved in a love triangle with a hunk . . . sorry, Diane . . . with a guy half her age—which , of course, raised her status a couple of notches—and he’d taken off with her diamond because the young girl was pregnant . . . sorry, Nancy . . . and he’d left her a note telling her how he hated to leave her. Something like that. Anyway, she milked that for months, and money-wise, it wasn’t an issue. They hadn’t even had the first diamond appraised yet. If they had, someone would have realized that it wasn’t a diamond, so no insurance company paid out.

“No, she was rather pleased with how things turned out, I think. We finally let the case go cold.” He shook his head in disbelief. “Max and Liz. I never even thought.”

“I’m glad you’re amused,” Philip said angrily. “But I’m not. Two felonies is not my idea of a responsible son, and to drag Liz into it, too. Liz is right. The changes going on then were pretty scary.”

Diane turned to him, strangely resolute. “They weren’t the only ones,” she challenged. “We changed, too. Think of the things wedid because we thought the end justified the means.”

Her thinly veiled accusation hung on the air, and the onlookers watched with a combination of discomfort and confusion. Philip lowered his eyes in the face of her statement.

“You’re right,” he mumbled. “God help me, you’re right.”

Diane softened and rubbed his back gently. “We all do what we think we need to do. We’re in no position to judge.”

At his mute nod, she continued.

********The high was real. We came back from that “caper” so full of energy, especially sexual energy, that I’d never felt anything like it. We were all over each other, congratulating each other on committing this amazing crime. We were almost unrecognizable. If Dad hadn’t come down then, I honestly don’t know where we might have stopped. All I do know is that right then, nothing seemed impossible and nothing seemed wrong, and when Max touched me, all my senses were heightened. I wanted him so badly that night. But I know Max, and I’m betting he would have been the one to come to his senses somewhere along the line. I also know I have a whole new perspective on Bonnie and Clyde.********

A low growl from Jeff stopped Diane again, but he only waved her to continue. He’d obviously assessed what he saw that night pretty accurately, at least to a point, but nothing he said would make a difference now.

********Somehow that success fed our plans for the next step. Soon I was learning how to handle a gun, Max had whittled down the ship’s possible hiding places to a short list of five, and we had a plan to scout out each location. I fought the nagging voice that told me that whether we managed this or not, I could lose Max—forever. Failing meant getting caught. (“What if we get caught?” “We won’t.”) Succeeding meant sending Max to Antar. (“Then you’ll leave and I’ll never see you again.” “I’ll come back.”) All his certainty and confidence was contagious, I guess, sort of a mini group psychosis, and eventually, we located the ship in a convenience store in Utah and hatched a plan to pretend to hold it up. I could feel that now-familiar rush take over. What I didn’t feel was the first thread coming loose, the one that would unravel everything.

I don’t like to think about the rest. We were caught of course, largely, we discovered, due to an actor posing as a private detective who was following us and called in the “robbery.” He thought that would further his client’s goal of getting Max to “stop looking,” as he told Michael at gunpoint. He had no idea what he was talking about, but he delivered his threat to Michael convincingly enough to get his attention. Once we were in jail, Mr. Evans did his best, but since I’d had a gun, I was turned over for trial while Max walked.

I have to give him this—Max was devastated. He told me he wished we could trade places, and he even tried to break me out of jail. But when he came for me and offered to run away with me, I knew that was no answer. We just weren’t cut out for a life of crime. I told him to find his son—to make our ridiculous escapade at least worth something. And then he did what he does so well: he kissed me so tenderly, so deeply, that I felt his gratitude, his apology, his deep love for me just hum through my body like a drug. I felt it so strongly that I could almost accept where I was, at least for a while.

He told me later how I was finally released. It turned out to be a blessing for me, but the beginning of a nightmare for him, because when he returned to where the ship had been, he found nothing but some chemical powder . . . and his dad. The powder, a restricted substance that would have raised very uncomfortable questions for the government, had it been made public, wound up being the leverage that got me out of jail. But his dad’s questions had to go unanswered, and that began the rift that has widened between them ever since. Max lives with Michael now, and his distant but loving relationship with his parents may never be repaired.********

Diane’s voice caught on those last words. No one had felt that distance between them more than she had. She had lain awake nights wondering if he was alright, struggling to solve the mystery of what secret held him so tightly in its clutches that he couldn’t come to them for help. She had felt the hole in her heart that had been filled that night in the desert 12 years ago draining away to emptiness again. And now, to finally know what he was doing and to finally understand that his silence was only about keeping them safe—she could hardly bear it. What they had put him through all because he loved them so much!

But that wasn’t the whole reason, she knew. He had also been protecting himself, protecting his own vulnerable place in this world. She realized now that he’d been afraid of their reaction, afraid they wouldn’t love him anymore . . . or worse. That tore at her heart, too, that he could think for one minute that they might turn away from their children. Because whatever the circumstances of their birth, Max and Isabel were her children.

The group had sat quietly, sensing the emotional turmoil that was gripping Diane, and Philip, too, in the wake of Liz’s words. Nancy rose slowly and went to hold the shaking shoulders of her friend. She knew a little of what the Evanses were feeling. Things had never reached this extreme with Liz, but they had lived with her withdrawal and lack of trust, too. It hurt . . . from both sides.

“Do you want me to read for a while?” she offered.

Diane straightened and gave her a grateful smile as she reached for Philip’s hand.

“Thanks, Nancy, but I need to do this. I feel like somehow, reading this myself brings me closer to understanding. Does that make any sense?” she sniffed.

“Of course it does,” Nancy nodded, squeezing her friend’s shoulder.

Taking her seat again, she smiled her encouragement, and Diane picked up the journal.

continued in next post

posted on 12-Nov-2002 7:47:50 PM by Carol000
Part 12a continued

********Since then, nothing has been quite right—for anyone. Michael got a job, and wound up hurting an already dismal high school record, getting his new friends fired (although he did unearth a bizarre crime within the organization), and inadvertently damaging his relationship with Maria. The Sheriff has started a band, which really threw Kyle since he has somehow turned into the principle breadwinner in the family with a part-time job at the auto shop.********

Jim shifted uncomfortably. “Poor kid,” he mumbled to himself. Then, to the others, “He was really something, you know? If it hadn’t been for Kyle, I don’t know if I would have made it through that crap. I think he’s the one who showed a parent’s patience while I found myself and got back on track.” He frowned, regret shadowing his features. “I wish I could make it up to him now.”

“Maybe we still can . . . to all of them,” Amy said softly. They exchanged hopeful glances, and Diane read on, hesitating again over words that resurrected another difficult time.

********And about that time, Kyle accidentally discovered that Isabel was sneaking around with a lawyer from her dad’s firm who’s about eight years older than she is. Of course, those two got married a few weeks ago, but that’s another story.

The worst of it, from my standpoint at least, is that Mom and Dad hate Max and forbid us to see each other. How can they know what we’re up against? How can they understand what’s in our hearts or what drives us to such extremes? I can’t tell them, so we have to live with their hovering and watching and regulating. At least I still have a relationship with my parents, as awkward and hostile as it sometimes seems. Ironically, I may even be getting to know them better than I would have otherwise.

Hearing them arguing over me one night, I heard something that made me wonder if my dad had a secret he’d never shared with me. I pestered mom about it until she finally told me—his first girlfriend . . .”********

“Stop!” Nancy was standing, looking down at her husband in alarm. “I think you should skip that part,” she urged. “It’s private. Family business. I . . .”

“It’s okay, Nancy. Let them read it. I knew you told her, and I’ll bet the others know already. We all grew up in this town. It’s a matter of public record. Keeping it a secret won’t change what happened.”

Nancy sat down again and pulled him into her arms. He allowed her to hold him as Diane read the next part.

********. . . his first girlfriend died in a car accident caused by my dad’s drunk driving. I can’t even imagine his guilt over that. It’s hard enough to think of him as a wild young man, but to know that someone died because of it . . . The guilt must weigh on him always, a cloud that hangs over him every day. When I told Max about it one day in the eraser room at school, I saw the pain in his eyes, and I knew he was thinking of Alex. Max may not have been directly responsible for Alex’s death, but if Alex had never learned about aliens, he’d still be alive. And that, of course, is what Max has feared for all of us since the beginning. I think Max understands my dad’s position, even though he hates it because it keeps us apart. Still, he knows that heaviness of heart that clings to you like the stale smell of smoke, and the heartbreak that lies like an open wound, never quite able to heal.

They have a lot in common, those two. More than either would be willing to admit. And happily, one of those things is that they love me.********

Jeff straightened and kissed his wife lightly on the cheek. “That’s our girl,” he smiled through watery eyes.

********I wonder if that conversation set the stage for Max’s decision to try and talk to my dad. He felt some sort of link with him now, I think. And he certainly understood Dad’s desire to protect me. But I’m also wondering if Mr. Seligman called my dad about finding us in the eraser room, because the second Max set foot in the Crashdown, Dad started yelling, even in front of all those customers. He didn’t care that everyone could hear him. He didn’t care that this would be the talk of the town. All he cared about was getting Max as far from me as he could. I guess Max figured there was no way to win, so he left. Still, I was proud of him for trying. It just confirmed how hard he was fighting for us now, and I had to love him for that.

No matter how hard my parents try, though, they can’t keep us apart. Not without locking us up. Without meaning to, they’ve almost made this another challenge—a safer one, of course. Max made me giggle that day he made the aliens on the wall of the Crashdown “come alive,” like cartoons complete with bubble dialogue telling me to meet him in the kitchen. Then there was the night he had me meet him at midnight, and he took me hang gliding just because I told him I’d had dreams about us “flying off” together. He’s been wonderful and attentive and doing everything in his power to make sure I know how important I am to him. When we have to meet this way, the loving is even more intense, like we appreciate every single second we have together and don’t want to waste it.

When Dad confronted Max after the hang gliding adventure, he threatened to send me to boarding school. I was furious when I heard. He’d never even mentioned this place to me, but he told Max they had applied on my behalf, been accepted, and all he had to do was write a check and put me on the plane. No discussion. No input from me. Just gone. I was beyond incensed when Max told me, and I offered to leave town with him right then. When Max said that would “cost too much,” I thought he meant he was worried about money, but then he just gave me another reason to love . . . and respect . . . him. It wasn’t money that worried him; it was knowing deep down that the price was too high for me.

He knows me so well. As angry as I was, and as sincere as my offer was, he knew how important my family is to me. He knew that one day, I would resent having lost them, and he didn’t want that for me . . . or for him. I argued that I just wanted to be with him, and that fast, he created one of those snapshots that will stay with me forever. He stopped dead in his tracks, turned me toward him, and looked so deeply inside of me, I felt his words vibrate in my heart, “You’re with me all the time. All the time.” And he’s right. Because no matter what has happened to us or between us, I feel him in my soul always.

I also know, though, that Dad is a different person than I’d always seen through my little girl eyes and hero-worshipping heart. He’s a man with a past, with pain and scars of his own, and with poetry in his soul. Poetry. Who knew? Seeing that side of him made all the difference to me. Our war of wills had now revealed a way for us to relate on a new level. I’d been waiting for him to cut me some slack. Now, I realized, I was the one who needed to reach out. I asked him if he had any poems I could read. I could see the surprise in his eyes, and wondered if that simple question had blown my promise to mom about not letting on that I knew his painful story. His words stopped me cold, though, and will forever epitomize the love he has for me. He said, “You’re the poem, Liz. You’re the poem.”********

Jeff had been quietly weeping through this whole account, long past embarrassment in this gathering of bared souls and unearthed secrets. His daughter’s words had both struck and soothed him the first time he’d read them; now they were easing his broken heart and beginning the healing process. He was the only one in the room who knew everything this journal had to tell, and he now knew that Max was everything Liz believed him to be. To see how she found the common ground between them—their deep love and desire to protect her—touched his heart. She knew him better than she’d let on, and he was grateful.

Liz’s next words were especially precious to him, and Diane’s voice made it clear that she understood their intense meaning.

********I don’t think he could have said anything more meaningful or beautiful to me. I suddenly felt so special, so incredibly lucky that two loving, honorable, and caring men loved me beyond all else. Again I was struck with how much alike they really were, and wondered with a smile how they might react if I ever told them that.

So when it came time for Max to go to LA to find out who this man was who threatened Michael and called the police in Utah, I had to stay home. That turned out to be another test for Max and me. Not because of the mystery we worked together to solve or because of the time apart, but because of the war that still raged inside Max between his alien obligations and his human connections—mainly me. I thought the worst of that was over, but we had one more hurtle to jump, and we almost didn’t get over it.

We never would have known who the mystery thug was if it weren’t for the fact that he died a mysterious death in LA and Max’s license plate number was in his car. That sent the cops to Michael’s apartment to find Max, and Michael recognized the picture of the man—Joe Ferrini. Between my research from home and Max’s leads in LA, we figured out that the second protector was an alien passing through this human life with the name Cal Langley. Long ago, he had worked as a clapper loader during the filming of a sci-fi movie shot in Roswell. The actual clue came from Kyle’s granddad, who suddenly snapped out of his stupor one day when Kyle and I were there filming the nursing home for a class project, and shouted, “They are among us!”

Jim Valenti, who’d been avoiding seeing his dad, was uncomfortable when I asked about it, but explained about the old movie. His father had suspected alien involvement when the lead actress was effectively incinerated on the spot one clear day. Everyone else chalked it up to a freak lightening strike, but the senior Valenti thought it was the clapper loader—the alien element in an on-set love triangle. Given that clue, Max found the dailies in the Paramount vaults and recognized the man as a powerful Hollywood producer. Bingo. Alien protector identified.

Among the stories I’ll want to save to share with those grandchildren Max promised me is how he came to be on the Paramount lot in the first place. He was so anxious to get to those film archives that he took advantage of an agent who was eager to represent him and wrangled his way into an audition for Star Trek: Enterprise! When he told me about it, I laughed so hard, I was crying. He actually auditioned for Jonathan Frakes who’d been to Roswell for the UFO Convention the year before. What was hysterical though, was Mr. Frakes told him he wasn’t believable as an alien! How many times I’ve thought about the look on Frakes’ face if Max had chosen that moment to reveal himself to the world!********

They couldn’t help the laughter. All of them knew Max well enough to know how self-conscious he would be auditioning for a big Hollywood producer. And “not believable as an alien?” Funny . . . and true. After all, they were having trouble believing it even now! But how in the world did he waltz into Hollywood one day and get a high-profile audition the next? It wasn’t supposed to work that way.

“Remember the time he had a part in the school pageant?” Diane laughed to her husband. “The skit was about healthy eating, and he . . .” She started to laugh harder. “He was assigned the part of the carrot . . . with that ridiculous green leafy thing sprouting out of his head!” They were all laughing now. Each of their children had had a part in that skit.

“It was just like a commercial for Kodak!” Amy giggled. “All the parents standing around pointing to their kid and boasting. I’ve never seen so many cameras and so many grinning parents.”

“He begged us to make Mrs. Schumacher switch him to a strawberry,” Philip chortled, “because he said less of his face would show, and he didn’t want anyone to know who he was.”

“Liz was a strawberry,” Nancy said quietly. The laughing died away, and they all looked at her. “Liz was a strawberry,” she repeated breathlessly.

“Even then,” Diane breathed. “That was third grade.”

So much looked different in the light of the love they knew had grown quietly for years. So much.

********That was about the only light moment of the trip. Max knew someone was watching him—notes on the windshield, e-mail specifically for him at Ferrini’s house, and then . . . Langley confronted him in the vaults, finally revealing himself as the other alien, and wielding his well-developed powers as he set fire to the film Max had just found. Surprisingly, at least at the time, he only told Max to go home and never come back. Max was determined though. He called me and told me what had happened. He said he was going back to Cal’s and insisting on his help. As threatening as the man had been, he hadn’t killed Max. He could have; we knew that. He’d killed before and had ample opportunity to do it again, but he didn’t. And it was obvious he had information that Max needed.

Maybe I should have seen the writing on the wall during that conversation, but I didn’t. I did what I always do for Max—I supported him, boosted his confidence, and offered to help however I could. He promised to call the next night. He didn’t.

From what he said later, he returned to Cal’s that night and played the role of a screen writer making a pitch for a movie. In front of all of Hollywood’s elite, he outlined a script that was, in reality, his own life. Using veiled threats and implied expectations, he hoped to coerce Cal into helping him.

After the party, Cal was furious. He hurled Max’s body across the room with a wave of his hand, and screamed his displeasure, but again, he didn’t do any serious harm. When Max told him about his son, Cal lets him stay. It wasn’t until the next day that Max started to understand the whole story. Cal had been working at becoming more human for 50 years, and had seen vague signs of hope as taste buds and his sense of smell began to waken. He credited some of his progress to avoiding shapeshifting for so many years. As the day wore on, however, Max began to put the pieces together. Cal had to obey any direct request Max made. That changed everything.

Maybe that’s when Max’s focus shifted. He started to really believe he could rescue his son, and that thought supplanted everything else. He ordered Langley to get the military’s cooperation for a fictitious film in order to gain access to the ship, but when General Chambers failed to get permission, they circumvented security and broke into the ship’s hangar. Max told me that it was as if he began to turn into someone else then, as if the alien king inside him was pushing his human identity aside and asserting his former persona.

That whole experience became another painful memory for Max. When he returned to Roswell, we talked for hours while my parents thought I was studying at Maria’s. I hated to start the cycle of lies again, but Max was in trouble, emotionally, and so were we, as a couple. So we held each other and talked about it, and so much came tumbling out. Max’s account of that entire day was a little surreal. He said that after it all, Cal had been broken, hateful, and had said to Max, “That’s how you’ve always been—selfish and ungrateful. . . . I’ll never stop hating you.”

That was so hard for Max to hear. Zan, his former self, had not been the person Max had always tried to be. He had been cold and demanding and every bit the powerful king. That brought back the taunting words that Tess had spat out during their last bitter encounter, “You were a king. Now you’re just a boy.” He realized then that it was Zan who had ruled the day. Zan had slowly, subtly pushed “Max” aside and taken over his mind and heart—a coup de coeur that terrified Max with its ease and totality.

He had coldly ordered Cal, who had invested 50 years in becoming more human, to shapeshift in order to fly the ship, and in the back of his mind, Max’s words of protest had been nothing more than a mild nuisance. He had looked at my name on his cell phone and let the voice mail pick up my message, as Max’s screaming was dismissed with barely a thought. And he had been willing, he confessed with tears in his eyes and a tremor in his voice, to kill anyone who got in their way. Max’s helpless presence in their shared mind was his first true and brutal realization that he, Max Evans, wasn’t a king, and he wasn’t meant to live his life on Antar or lead an alien race. He was just Max, a boy who lived on Earth with his parents and sister and who loved a human girl beyond all reason. That was the life he was born to live, and now that he knew it, he might never get the chance to see it happen.

When the ship had fallen to the hangar floor and Cal had been unceremoniously deposited next to it, back in human form but emotionally destroyed by what he’d given up against his will, Zan disappeared. Maybe it was that persona’s inability to accept defeat. Or maybe it was the high current of alien energy that had brought him forth to begin with. Either way, he was gone, leaving Max to deal with the broken remains of the man he’d forced into subjugation. When he left Cal in his home, even he recognized the emptiness of his apology. The last words Cal spoke to him—would ever speak—were the truest words Max had ever heard, though it had taken a long, hard road to get him to the point where he recognized them as such: “The more you embrace your alien side, the more you’re going to lose.”

My hurt and anger over Max’s not calling me dissolved two minutes after he walked through the Crashdown doors. It was as if the whole experience had somehow cleansed him of the need to search for meaning or purpose in his alien side anymore. When I told him I loved him, but lately hadn’t been feeling it back, he fell apart. The first of the trauma started coming out in a disjointed flood of guilt and self-loathing. Once again, I felt the chaos of his emotions roll over me, and I could do nothing else but go to him, holding him and assuring him that there was one thing he could count on.

In the midst of his tears, he said, “I’ll never leave you.” There was a different tenor to those words than I’d heard in a very long time. There was a finality, a commitment, an acceptance that what we had together really was the reality he’d struggled to find. The rest was speculation, intermittent memory, and elusive potential. We . . . Max and Liz . . . were real and solid and true. Finding each other had been the turning point, the pivot around which the rest of our lives could revolve. The tragedy is that after all those hours of talking it out and promising each other a future together, right here and now, I can still feel Max’s fear that one day Zan will have the power to send this reality tumbling to one side to make room for a different one.

Soon Zan wasn’t the only other “blast from the past” he had to worry about. Almost as soon as Isabel decided to marry Jesse Ramirez, Khivar started haunting her dreams. She didn’t want anyone to know at first, but after the wedding, Kyle spilled everything, and it sent Max and Michael into a tailspin, especially when Kyle showed them video of the guy dancing with Isabel at the reception. Knowing that he had been Max’s enemy and Isabel’s lover in their lives on Antar just made it all the more threatening. Max didn’t know if he was after Isabel’s . . . or should I say Vilandra’s? . . . love or if he was using her to get to Max all over again. It didn’t really matter either way since both goals were dangerous.********

“Wait,” Amy interrupted. “I need a refresher course here. Who is Khivar—a ghost?”

“He was at the wedding?” Diane gasped incredulously.

“Not a ghost,” Jim explained. “Khivar was that leader of a neighboring planet who had an affair with Vilandra—Isabel’s Antarian identity—and then used her to get to Max and Michael. Isabel felt him come to her in her dreams. That scared her plenty, but when he showed up in the flesh at the wedding . . . well, you can imagine.”

“And Jesse still didn’t know anything about this then, did he?” Jeff asked.

“No,” Philip answered. “He didn’t find out for a few months, actually. I can’t imagine how Isabel kept it from him.”

“I think that’s what’s coming,” Diane said.

********When Isabel first confided in Kyle, he just thought it was just pre-wedding jitters. After all, the wedding sort of took everyone by surprise, and the Evanses were so upset that they weren’t even planning to attend the wedding. Valenti was going to give her away, Max was the best man, Maria and I were bridesmaids, and I was catering through the Crashdown. I know Dad thought I was just trying to find a way to see Max. That’s almost funny considering how much we were seeing each other. I certainly wouldn’t have gone to all that trouble just to catch a glimpse of him in a crowded room, although I have to admit, he looked luscious in his tux. Max was upset, too, but didn’t want to abandon his sister, so he pretended to support her. In reality, he was doing undercover research on Jesse, finding a way to check his blood, grilling his friends at the bachelor party, and making every conversation with Jesse an investigation into his history. When Isabel got wind of it, she freaked. She thought Max was the one person she could count on, and she felt betrayed by what she saw as his lack of trust in her.

I thought about it at the time, sort of watching from the sidelines as it all played out. I could see her point, in a way. She had fallen in love and wanted to give herself, heart and soul, to her husband. Maybe she’d forgotten her own reaction when she realized Max was in love and had given himself to me. Not sexually, of course, but certainly his heart and, I believe, his soul, too. He had saved me, revealed himself to me in a way he had never expected to with anyone. He had told me the truth and trusted me to keep his secret safe. Her reaction at the time was pretty extreme. Max has told me how she and Michael tried desperately to keep us apart, always urging him to step back from me. But he couldn’t. And neither could I.

So it’s not surprising that Max and Michael would have reservations about a man who no one knew a year ago, who was entering into a marriage with an alien without realizing it, and whose background was a complete mystery. Michael even warned her about the probability of questions after the honeymoon, given what he now knew about alien sex; according to Maria, apparently there are some . . . unexpected effects. That really has me thinking. She said it was indescribable.********

“There aren’t details, are there?” Amy grimaced. “I think I already know more than I want to.”

Diane scanned quickly, her eyes squinting against the possibility that she would need to shut them quickly. “No, I don’t think so.”

“I don’t remember any, either,” Jeff agreed. “I’m pretty sure that would’ve stuck with me.”

“Good . . . I think.” Amy’s eyes began to sparkle impishly. “Although, aren’t you a little curious? I mean . . .”

“No! I’m not,” Jim hurried to interrupt. “And you shouldn’t be, either. The last thing I need is you comparing me to . . .”

He stopped abruptly. He could feel the heat rising in his face and glanced around with a hopeless prayer that no one had heard him. Of course, they had. The smirks and lip-biting designed to suppress a laugh were obvious on every face.

“Keep reading,” he ordered gruffly, and a few chuckles erupted in spite of their best efforts.

one more post to go!

posted on 12-Nov-2002 7:49:17 PM by Carol000
********This is one of the aspects of this whole thing that upsets me the most. I mean, I know some of this is my own choice, but a lot of it’s not, and I keep wondering how it is that Max and I have been together . . . in some way, at least . . . for over two years, and yet it was Michael and Maria who made love before they almost left the planet, and now it’s Isabel who is married to the man she loves. How did Max and I lose each other in all this? I felt his love for me from the first, and I realized quickly that I couldn’t love anyone else. So how is it that 2 ½ years later, we are the ones still being so cautious, so reserved? Which one of us doubts our future? Because that’s what it is, right? Fear of an unknown alien situation ripping us apart? Fear of regrets down the line when some otherworldly presence lays claim to him? Fear that we’re just not strong enough?

When I daydream about our loving, I always let it go further than our reality, but when I study my actual memories, I look to see which of us puts the brakes on. What I see is that Max is the one who actually pulls back, but I’m the one who’s sending the vibe that makes him do it. I think he knows that this whole nightmare with Tess has hurt me so deeply—not deeply enough to touch the inner core of love that burns for him as brightly as it ever did, but deeply enough to wonder what event will send him off on the quest again, looking for a son that should never have been, on a planet that can never be a part of my life. Even though I think that’s behind us now, I’ve thought that before. Max feels it; he feels everything I feel. He’s not willing to push me into making love with him until he knows that I’m doing it without reservation.

When will that be? I don’t know. But I’m grateful to him, and love him even more for taking such care of me. It will happen. It has to. I can’t leave this life without experiencing the physical act of love with the only person I can ever imagine loving like this. He lives in me. Every breath and thought and desire is so infused with him that I could never separate him out. I want to share my body with him, too. Someday.

Anyway, where was I? Oh, yes. The wedding. I was so proud of Max at the reception when he stood and told Isabel how much he loved her, trusted her, wished the best for her. To most listeners, the words were sincere but predictable. I knew, though, what they cost him. His true feelings were tucked between his words and aimed directly at his sister. She understood. I could tell by the look on her face.

His courage gave me courage. I went to my father and told him, firmly but lovingly, that I was going to go dance with Max. Not to piss him off. And not to take advantage of the situation. But because I wanted to, because I loved Max, and that was just the inevitable reality. I told Dad that I loved him, too. I never want him to think I’m choosing between them. It can’t be like that. I love them both, and they both have to find a way to live with the other one in my life. I think he understood that because he didn’t make a scene. He even gave me a little half-smile. I can’t wait for the day when I can have them both in the same room and not worry about what will happen. That’s coming, too. I have faith.

The wedding was a milestone of sorts—Max began to mend the relationship with his mom and his sister, the three aliens all seemed to finally accept that they could live their lives with human partners, and I could see Dad gradually mellowing about Max and me, although even that road had some bumps. For starters, Philip Evans began a full-blown investigation into Max’s activities that pulled Dad, Valenti, and a private investigator into the mix. It was hard for Max to do any damage control because he was off with Michael tracking down Khivar at Isabel’s honeymoon resort. We knew they planned to kill him before he could take off with Isabel or come after them, but when we saw the missing person’s poster that identified the poor unsuspecting human whose body Khivar was using, we called the guys, warning them not to harm this man.

Max’s recounting of what happened was both scary and comforting. The best part of the outcome, aside from the fact that the human man was returned to his family, was learning that Isabel, as Vilandra, had not betrayed her brother to the extent she’d thought. Yes, she had fallen in love with Khivar, but she only led him to her brother when he convinced her he wanted to negotiate a peace. In that moment, he betrayed her and killed Zan, Rath, and countless others. He had not meant for her to die, but she fought him at the end, and was killed herself. I think that was a huge relief to Isabel. Now she’s more comfortable with herself, and less afraid of the influence Khivar has over her.

The downside was that Jesse saw too much, and even now is only hesitantly accepting Isabel’s version of the story, blaming much of his memory loss on being hit on the head. The whole thing made Jesse that much more receptive to Philip’s recruitment, too. Between the animosity that grew between Max and Jesse before the wedding, and Max and Michael’s unlikely appearance on his honeymoon, he was more than willing to accept that there was something strange about Max. How could he not help his concerned father-in-law figure out what it was?

When Max came home, I showed him what I’d found in his father’s law office—a whole corkboard full of notes listing pieces to the puzzle he was trying to put together: Tess, the Jeep, Utah, LA, me. Max was stunned. He felt betrayed and vulnerable. In a way, it was his worst nightmare—for his family to find out what he is and reject it. I tried to convince him to tell them the truth. It certainly couldn’t be worse than what they were thinking and doing now. But he was adamant. He is so sure their lives will be in danger if they know the truth, and he will do whatever it takes to protect them. I can’t argue with that. Alex is dead. The rest of us could have been killed any number of times. And clearly, threats are coming from both planets.

So Max did what he always does. He decided how best to protect everyone and went into action. First, he buried all the artifacts they’d ever found: the destiny book, the healing stones, even the pendant I’ve worn every day since he gave it to me. For months, it was the one tangible that I could hold onto, and I hated to give it up. But I understood what he was trying to do, and handed it over willingly. In a way, I felt I finally had Max back, and that was tangible enough.

Max tried to head more trouble off at the pass by spending some time with his dad, but it only made things worse. His answers weren’t enough to satisfy his father, and when he confronted him about the corkboard, his father made no apology, accusing Max of having terrible secrets. Max’s continued reticence just drove a larger wedge between them, and they returned from the fishing trip with more baggage than they’d left with.********

“He came to my office that day and suggested we go fishing, so we could talk uninterrupted,” Philip remembered. “I thought he was ready to just clear the air and tell me everything that was going on. I could already feel the weight of the past weeks lifting, and I slept well that night for the first time in a long time.

“But when we got out there, I asked a few tentative questions and the BS just kept coming. He was dodging questions and giving me half-answers. Lies, mostly, I was sure. I was so frustrated and so disappointed that we weren’t getting anywhere that I used the first excuse I could find to end the excursion. I felt like I’d lost my son.”

“And what would you have done if right there in that fishing boat, he’d told you everything?” Jim asked.

Philip was silent. “I’ve asked myself that question a thousand times. And the only honest answer I can give is ‘I don’t know.’ When the truth finally started to come out months later, we were in a crisis situation and I had only seconds to decide whether to trust my children or not. But out there on the lake, I don’t know. I might have thought it was an insulting barrage of lies, as if he were saying, ‘You want an explanation? Try this one on for size.’”

“I’ve been searching for aliens most of my life,” Jim said thoughtfully. “My dad lost his career and his mind looking for them. Then one day, I was staring one right in the face. I even knew it was true, and it still blew me away. But like you, I knew something about them before I had to decide which side to come down on, and it was enough to push me in the right direction.”

“You have to see the irony in his working at the UFO museum these past couple years,” Amy chimed in. “I’ve seen him over there stuffing the insides into rubber aliens and setting up displays of little green men. He’s even taken my crazy alien knick knacks and unloaded them in the gift shop. Can you imagine what he was thinking all that time?”

“Those three were in the Crashdown every day, too,” Nancy added. “The murals, the decorations, the menu, even the straws for pete’s sake! All of it was like a daily insult to who they were.”

“Believe me, Nancy,” Diane smiled. “Max was never insulted inside the Crashdown. If Liz was in the room, you can bet he never even noticed anything else.”

“Not true,” Jeff grinned. “He definitely noticed the Men in Blackberry pie whenever possible.”

They laughed together, finding some comfort in the fact that there were normal aspects to the kids’ lives, too, even if they were overwhelmed by the double lives they were leading. There was a deep history of hurt and fear under everything, and this year had perhaps been the most extreme example of that yet.

Diane cleared her throat and resumed her reading.

********The whole thing just escalated when they found the burnt chasse of the Jeep down in the ravine. Kyle tipped Max off when Mr. Evans called for a tow truck. Michael, Isabel, and Max watched from a distance and finally decided on one more desperate plan: reveal enough of the truth to defuse the investigation, but not enough to endanger anyone. So at dinner one night, Isabel told her parents and Jesse that Max had gotten Tess pregnant, that he might have a child out there somewhere, and that he’d pushed the Jeep over an embankment in a fit of rage and emotion about the whole situation. It looks like that satisfied them. At least they said it did.

Meanwhile, I had my hands full with Maria and Michael. I know I was just saying that I was a bit jealous that they were now closer than Max and I are, but that’s hit a snag, too, and I don’t know how it will end. It came to a head when an old friend of Maria’s showed up. Michael kept any traces of jealousy from getting the better of him at first, but as Billy hung around and he saw how close they were, his façade of maturity was betrayed by the constant explosions going on all around him—eggs, salad, lamps, sugar canisters, car windows. Michael was out of control. He finally asked Maria to send Billy away. She did . . . reluctantly . . . but not before she and Billy shared a kiss.********

“Billy was back in town? Her first little crush? They used to go to band camp together.” Amy was struggling to remember his visit. She was sure Maria would have brought him over to the house. “I don’t remember seeing him. It sounds like he was here at least a few days.”

“I thought he was staying at your house,” Nancy said. “I remember Maria mentioning it at work, and that’s where Michael headed when we closed one night. I thought he was joining them.”

Amy’s expression darkened. “Why do I get the feeling he was there? I’ll bet I was on a buying trip in Albuquerque. That little sneak. Just when you think you have your kids under control . . .”

“From the sound of it, Amy, all they shared was a kiss,” Jim reasoned. “Don’t sell Maria short. She’s in love with Michael, and she’s not the type to throw something like that away.”

“She also the passionate one, remember?” She narrowed her eyes at him as she threw his own words back at him.

“Yeah, but passionate doesn’t mean promiscuous. I’m sure it was fine.” He put a reassuring arm around her and she settled against him.

********That night Maria and I lay on my bed talking. She told me everything, and all this stuff came pouring out. Yes, she loved Michael, deeply, but at what price? Was she giving up her dreams? Was she holding herself back from a real life while she went from one alien crisis to another? In the end, the question was, “Is it worth it?”

I was being the sympathetic friend, the supportive confidante, when the most surprising thought came out of my mouth: “Sometimes you have to go after your dreams. I can’t tell you to give them up, because without your dreams, you’re just . . . me.” Maria’s gasp made me replay that line in my own head, and hearing it shocked even me. What did that mean? What was I really thinking?

Then it clicked. Somewhere along the line, my dreams had changed. I still had plans and hopes for the future, but now they were . . . what? Flexible? They were still there, strong and inviting in my intellectual world, but I knew that now they had to bend around my heart, that Max had to be a part of my life, and that loving an alien means never having anything set in stone.

All this flew through my mind in a split second. I think I must have been mulling this over on a subconscious level for some time, but this conversation had sort of just brought it to the surface. It’s funny what goes on in our minds without our being aware of it, and then one day, you just know something you didn’t think you knew. It was Maria’s still-shocked expression that made me put those thoughts into words. She was watching me, waiting for some explanation for a declaration she’d never expected to hear from me, so I told her, “I’m committed to going down this road with Max, and I’ve given up a lot along the way, so unless you’re sure that’s what you want to do with Michael, don’t be so quick to give up your dreams.” She seemed to understand what I was saying, but I admit, she didn’t reach the conclusion I expected her to.

Thinking about it now, I think maybe she did what she had to do for Maria. She’s a free spirit with a poet’s soul. She needs to find herself, and be able to stand strong on her own before she can be a permanent part of Michael, too. Being in love with an alien is draining; it makes you question everything you ever thought you knew. Unless you’re strong, it can suck you in and subjugate your own identity in favor of a more overwhelming one.

I don’t think Max and I could ever have connected if he didn’t understand that. He has always been so gentle and patient, always downplaying his special gifts and never acting—or even thinking—like I was a lesser being. That gave us the more even playing field we needed to make us possible. Michael can be very overwhelming, and I think Maria needs to find her own strength before she can withstand his.

So here we all are. Christmas is coming. Who knows if it will add to the stress or whether its true message of peace and joy can somehow penetrate the walls we’ve spent all year building. Max is estranged from his parents. Michael and Maria have broken up. Isabel is married to a man who doesn’t even know her. And my parents are threatening to send me away. Max and I are together, but it’s hard. I’m trying to see the light at the end of the tunnel, but it seems a really long way away.

In a few months, we’ll all be 18. We’ll graduate, and maybe then life can be normal. Less answering to well-meaning but clueless parents, more decision-making freedom, more options. That will be nice, for everyone. A nice, normal summer. Here’s hoping.********

A nice normal summer. That couldn’t have been less prophetic. The weight of their children’s burdens settled again over the parents.

“Do you think we’ll ever see them again?” Nancy’s weak whisper echoed in the large room and hung in expectation.

Amy turned to Jim and buried her face against his shoulder, another round of tears soaking into his rumpled shirt.

“Of course we will,” Philip said. “Someday it’ll be safe enough. In the meantime, we need to finish this up and get back to town. There has to be a way to help them from our end. And if Jim’s right, and they’re headed back to the reservation, maybe we can figure out a way to see them.”

“We’re being watched all the time, Phil,” Jeff scowled. “My house is bugged. Yours, too. We can’t very well pile into a van and head out of town. They’ll be tracking us like hounds.”

“I know, but maybe one at a time or something. I don’t know. I’m not sure how we’d even reach them to arrange it. River Dog doesn’t exactly have a phone, let alone a computer, and we don’t know when or if Isabel will make one of those dream visits again.”

Diane sighed deeply. “I guess this is just another taste of what their lives are. I feel so helpless and frustrated. I can’t stand that we actually made it worse for them.”

Jim set Amy upright and leaned forward, looking at Diane and Philip intently. “Maybe, in some ways,” he said, “but having you in their lives was a godsend, too. You two have offered them a home and so much love. They know how lucky they were. And if they ever forget, all they have to do is look at Michael. That boy had a hard road. Isabel and Max have had you at the forefront of their thoughts since I’ve known about all this. They thought about telling you a hundred times, especially Isabel, but Max was always adamant that it would put you at risk, and he refused to allow it.”

“That’s what he meant in Utah,” Philip suddenly remembered. “He told me he could never tell me the truth; it was too dangerous. Then he asked me not to make him lie to me.”

Jim nodded. “He never liked the lies, but he saw them as necessary. That’s why he moved out. He didn’t want to endanger you with the truth, so he gave up the only security he’d ever known.”

He leaned back again in his chair and smiled. “I know things have been rough lately, but believe me, those kids are wonderful people and a lot of the credit for that goes to you.”

Diane returned the smile, gratitude softening the lines that continued to crease her face.

“Thank you, Jim, for being there when we couldn’t these last two years. We owe you a lot.”

Embarrassed, Jim looked down for a moment. “I’ve fulfilled a dream in that time,” he mused. “I haven’t come down on the side I might have expected to even three years ago, but I have come down on the right side. I’ve been allowed to participate in something only a small handful of people have shared. I’m honored, and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.”

Lost in their own thoughts, the group sat quietly. They were so tired, so sore from hours in hard chairs and damp air. But they couldn’t imagine being anywhere else. Not until they’d read every last word.

Thanks for hanging in there, gang. We'll find out "what Liz saw" next!

posted on 17-Nov-2002 1:10:39 AM by Carol000
Hi gang. I'm a very frustrated author right now. I was working on the next chapter today; it was about half done when the computer crashed. I wasn't too worried because I'd been saving after every paragraph, just in case. When I rebooted, it was gone. I have to start over. *sad*

Sunday is mostly spoken for, so all I can do is promise to try to get it up by Tuesday. I'm sorry to do this again, but I just don't have much choice. Thanks for being patient (if, indeed, you are being patient!).


posted on 19-Nov-2002 9:32:43 PM by Carol000
Eureka! Another chapter has been born. thanks for all the sympathy, esp. the war stories (Mama Dee !). Misery does, indeed, love company.

This is a little different than the first version. BTW, I had only written the Nate/Major Gibbs part, so that's all I lost. The M/L part is "fresh."

I have some responses to your WONDERFUL feedback, but since I tried to post this a couple of hours ago and the board was down, I'm gonna post the story and THEN come back with responses.

MEANWHILE--will someone please tell me what is UP with the new scroll effect. It's making me go blind! I hate it! Do you think there' s anything the mods can do?

Okay, to the story. Reader comments in a few! Oh--this is posted in two parts.

Part 12b

Tyler peered through the reinforced window in the heavy metal door and bit his lip. He hadn’t expected this . . . this pale, resigned image of a defeated man, slumped over in his chair, head in his hands. Where was the confident, affable friend he had come to depend on?

The guard opened the door, and Tyler stepped through, slightly shaken at the unexpected lack of acknowledgment.

“Hey.”

Tired eyes looked up at him. “Hey, Ty. What’re you doing here?”

“I came to see what kinda trouble you got your sorry ass into this time.” The stillborn attempt at humor landed solidly between them.

“They say I killed somebody, Ty. That woman from the roadhouse. Deloris.”

Tyler sat down at the metal table and pushed a granola bar across the table. “Thought you might be hungry.”

It lay there, untouched.

“Why do they think you killed her? You didn’t even know her.”

“Exactly, but for some reason, witnesses said we left together, and the next thing anybody knows, she’s dead. Gibbs found her. What do you make of that? Gibbs. What was he doing there?”

Tyler shifted uncomfortably. “Well, he came to the bar last night looking for you. Star told him where she lived.”

“But why? What did that have to do with me?”

“Man, I’m sorry. We didn’t know if she left with you or not, so he was checkin’ it out, I guess.”

“But I didn’t leave with her! You know that.”

“I didn’t think so, but when she ran out after you, Star was pretty sure that you two . . . you know.”

“She came after me? I never saw her. I just got in my car and left. Alone. And there’s the problem. I can’t prove it.”

“They can’t either, right? If you weren’t with her, there’s no evidence.”

“It’s circumstantial. I had a flat on the way home, and I cut myself when I changed it, so there’s blood on my uniform, which, lucky for me, also smells of her vile perfume from when she rubbed up against me like some kind of bitch in heat . . .” His fist slammed down on the table and Tyler jumped. “I never touched her! I don’t know where she lives! Hell, I didn’t even know her last name until this morning!”

Tyler watched his friend’s meltdown and felt it spilling over into him. This was bad. Really bad.

“There’s gotta be something I can do, Nate. Anything. You name it.”

Nate stilled and looked intently at Tyler. “I didn’t kill that woman, Ty, and I think Gibbs knows that. He’s framing me. He either knows who did it or . . . he did it himself. Either way, he wants me gone.”

“But why, Nate? Why would he want you ‘gone,’ as you put it? What is between you two?”

“Do you trust me, Ty?”

“You saved my life, Nate. Of course I do.”

“I mean really trust me. Because there are some things about last night I can’t tell you. Not because I don’t want to, but because they’re not my secrets to tell. I will promise you one thing, though: I’m one of the good guys. Gibbs isn’t. Not by a long shot. That’s why he wants me gone.”

Confusion tangled with loyalty and friendship, but only for a moment. “Whatever you need, man. You can count on me.”

Nate nodded his gratitude. “Thanks, Ty. You’re doing the right thing.”

“And what exactly is it I’m doing?”

“For starters, I need his uniform and shoes. Do you think you can get your hands on them before they’re cleaned?”

“Yeah, probably, but what are you going to do with them in here?”

“Nothing. You’re going to take them to a lawyer in Roswell. His name’s Philip Evans. Tell him I sent you and we need them analyzed.”

“Does he even know you?”

Nate hesitated. “Not by name, but tell him I’m the guy who stopped by late last night.”

Tyler studied his friend’s face, troubled by the secrecy behind what he was being asked to do. “Nate . . .?”

Nate waited while Tyler weighed his options. Meaning and intent flowed between them, and eventually, Tyler seemed to make a decision.

“I’m on it. Anything else?”

“No. Not for now. Just don’t tell anybody about this, okay? And act natural around Gibbs.”

Tyler walked to the door, head bowed in thought. Hesitating, he turned. “You ever gonna tell me what this is about, Nate?”

“I doubt it, Ty. But I promise you, you are doing the right thing.”

A thoughtful nod, and he was gone.

********

Major Gibbs stared, unseeing, at the papers spread across his desk. He’d been sitting that way for the last half-hour, playing out the night’s events in his head. The police had taken his statement until well past dawn, and then he’d had to report for duty. He was still wearing last night’s uniform, and he couldn’t wait to get out of it. So far, everything was going according to plan, but he was starting to see cracks in his hurried scheme, and the thought had him in a cold sweat.

He’d lucked out for now. For whatever reason, he’d heard Lt. Christopher had been found with blood on his uniform. That was still a mystery, but so be it. However, there was blood on his own uniform, too. Her blood. And he hadn’t had time to change before reporting for duty. Of course, he’d been the one to “find” her, and it was only natural he may have come in contact with blood on the scene, but still . . . a lab test would prove the blood on the lieutenant’s blood wasn’t hers. He had to get out of these clothes and send them out for cleaning immediately.

He just hoped the motherfucker had screwed her. That, at least, would place him with her, and that might be all he needed. Then he could proceed with his alien hunt unobstructed by the spoiled, mercenary son of a general, discrediting anything he might say as a desperate attempt to save himself. It was perfect. Secrecy for the Special Unit. Justice for the traitor. Promotion for him.

Noise in the outer office jarred his train of thought.

“Heiss! Is that you?”

“Yessir.” His aide appeared in the doorway.

“There was an incident last night. Lt. Christopher was arrested for murder. I was at the police station all night. I’m going to change uniforms and I want you to get this one cleaned on the double. Have them shine the shoes, too. Spit and polish by tomorrow. Understood?”

Tyler swallowed hard. Nate was obviously on to something if the Major was this anxious to get that uniform cleaned.

“Of course, sir. I’ll take it as soon as I get off duty.”

“You’ll take it now, Sergeant. I’ll give you a pass.”

“Yes sir!”

Minutes later, Tyler opened his trunk and loaded the duffle bag containing one major’s uniform and one pair of army-issue dress shoes—two items that would never see the inside of Starshine Dry Cleaners.

********

Max’s heart beat a sickening rhythm in his throat as he carried a limp and unconscious Liz back inside to the spare cot. Searching her face for a flicker of activity, he smoothed the hair from her face and murmured softly, “Liz, Liz, love, wake up. Please, you have to wake up!” His soft tone did nothing to disguise the urgency in his voice, and he looked up at River Dog in fear. River Dog leaned across her, the wisdom of years of experience in his eyes and fingertips. He checked her pulse, scrutinized her skin, and listened to her breathing.

“She’s fine, Max. She fainted, that’s all. She’ll come around in a few minutes.”

The other teens had formed a tight circle around the head of the bed, peering at her intently.

“If she wakes up to find all of you staring at her like that, she’s liable to pass out again. Move back, please,” he urged. “Give her some air.”

They all shuffled back a few steps, with the exception of Max, who continued to croon low soft sounds, his hands rubbing up and down her arms gently. She was pale and cool. And so small! Her whole face fit in his hands, her whole body tucked perfectly into his embrace. She couldn’t take this—this constant battle to keep their secrets and fight their enemies. It was too much. Oh, Liz!

And yet she was always so strong . . . for herself and for him. He would die, right here, if anything happened to her. He knew the truth. Somewhere along the line, she had become his strength.

A moment later, he leaned forward and brushed his lips ever so lightly against hers, barely a whisper of contact. As if on cue, Liz’s mouth moved against his, seeking his warmth and familiarity. Within seconds, the kiss evolved into the real thing, and her arms snaked around his neck, pulling him closer.

“Uh, she’s awake, Max,” Michael informed him, as if his friend was somehow unaware that his wife was awake and planting a good one on him.

“And to think,” Maria drawled, “he figured that out all by himself and still couldn’t graduate with his class.”

Michael glared at her briefly before dropping any pretense of subtlety.

“Max!”

Max pulled back from Liz by a few short inches, but refused to let go of her.

“Liz, are you okay? What happened? There was a light . . .”

The memory kicked in and Liz’s face shone with a brilliant smile.

“Max, oh Max! You won’t believe it!”

“What? What is it, Liz?”

Liz pulled herself up to a sitting position and strained to see through the mass of bodies to Maya’s bed. “Is she still sleeping?”

“Yeah,” Kyle said from his vantage point at the edge of the circle. “You two lit up like a Christmas tree. What was that all about?”

Kyle’s words triggered an immediate reaction in Max. He reached quickly for Liz’s hands and began to turn them over again and again. Liz smiled patiently and stilled his hands by pressing them between her own.

“It’s the most amazing thing. I just hope when I tell you, you don’t think I’ve gone crazy.” Satisfied she had everyone’s full attention, she explained.

“As we suspected, Maya is having symptoms like mine because Max healed her in the hospital. Now all those children are beginning to change . . .”

The panicked look on Max’s face stopped her. “No, Max. It’s okay. It’ll be okay. Now that we know what’s happening, I think we might be able to control it.”

“What is happening?” Isabel asked, looking only slightly less panicked than Max.

“Michael, do you remember telling us that Nasedo once said that your powers were really just a fuller use of the human brain? That there was nothing you were doing that all humans wouldn’t do eventually as their brains evolved?”

“Yeah,” he answered cautiously.

“That’s what’s happening. When you healed us, Max, you accelerated that evolution. What these kids and I have experienced is simply the awakening of a part of our brain that has been . . . dormant, I guess you could say. That awakening has generated more energy in our bodies. When you blow up a rock or throw something across a room without touching it, you’re focusing that energy that just runs like a current through your body all the time. But when I first started to change, that energy didn’t have any predetermined pathways. It was just flowing to my fingertips and out the ends, like a downed power line.”

Liz was bursting to continue, but watching the confused faces processing her words slowed her. She had “felt” this answer when she connected with Maya; it was like it had been lying there, just outside of her understanding until she found another like her. Then the answers seemed so simple, so obvious.

“How can you know this?” Michael asked, looking agitated. “You didn’t know it an hour ago. You just suddenly figured it out? How do you know you’re right? This is just a theory, right?”

“No, Michael. It’s not a theory. I can’t explain it exactly, but it was crystal clear once I connected with Maya.”

Max wasn’t even hearing the conversation. His mind was flying in a hundred different directions, and they all led back to his having hurt others and exposed himself and his loved ones.

“But your hands were doing that again just now, when you were with Maya,” Max reasoned. “And the flickering got worse when I was near her. Why?”

“What you saw in my hands wasn’t my energy. It was Maya’s, finding a receptive vessel . . . me. I have some control over my energy now. If I concentrate, I can do small things with it.”

Maria snickered, and all eyes turned to her, slightly irritated. “What? I was just thinking that hurling Tess across a room wasn’t that small.”

to be continued in next post



posted on 19-Nov-2002 9:35:53 PM by Carol000
Part 12B continued

A grin broke out on Isabel’s face, then Michael’s. Even Max relaxed for a moment at Liz’s embarrassed nod. “Those were . . . extreme circumstances. But normally, my connection with Max or my premonitions seem to flow, almost like a physical sensation. Now that I put it in this context, it would be like the hum of electricity.”

“But how did Maya contact you?” Isabel wanted to know.

“That’s the best part!” Liz enthused, growing more confident with each revelation. “Somehow this extra energy is unique to each person—maybe like you each have special talents. Maya’s energy was . . . looking for me, you might say. Like a signal, looking for others like her. She found me, probably because my energy is the strongest, since I was healed first.”

“But why hasn’t that happened to you, then?” Maria wanted to know. “You’ve never mentioned looking for someone else in your dreams.”

Liz smiled. “I think that’s because I had about all the light I could handle already in my dreams.” She lifted her hand and stroked Max’s cheek.

“Could we stick to the subject?” Michael interrupted. “So you’re saying Maya needed to find someone else like her, and she was searching while she slept?”

“Exactly, Michael. She was reaching out with her mind.”

Max was nodding now. Somehow the pieces fit, and he started to ask the questions that would push the explanation to its logical conclusion.

“So they all have this energy, and it’s just out there, looking for the others that share this new plane of existence. But you were healed three years ago and just got symptoms a few months ago. These kids were healed less than two years ago. How could they be showing symptoms already?”

They all pondered Max’s question, letting their minds open to new possibilities. River Dog and Eddie stood to one side, watching with amazement as the group coaxed the truth out in the open.

Liz began thinking out loud. “Well, kids are growing at a faster rate than I am, and much faster than an adult. If you changed something at the cellular level, . . .”

“. . . then it would have multiplied faster in young children and exhibited itself much quicker,” finished Michael. Maria gaped at him. “What are you lookin’ at? I went to class sometimes. Besides, I thought we established early on that I learn what I want to learn and screw the rest. This stuff is interesting.”

Maria held his face between her hands and kissed him hard. “You never cease to amaze me, Space Boy.”

Michael shrugged her off, but couldn’t contain his pleasure. Max smiled at them, then returned his attention to Liz.

“So what happened with Maya?”

Liz turned to look over her shoulder. “River Dog? Didn’t you say Maya hasn’t been sleeping, and when she does, she’s restless?”

“Yes. She rests for short periods, but then she gets more and more active in her sleep. Sometimes, I worry she may hurt herself.”

“When I connected with her, I could feel some of the others. Their signature energy, if I can call it that, is just floating out there, searching like Maya’s was. They’re all looking for the others. She’s restless because she can feel it, and she’s trying to find them. There’s almost a . . . an urge to connect with the others like her.”

Max looked over at the old man standing to one side. “On the porch just now, you described the night Maya came outside and communicated with Liz. You said she did something with the light.”

“Yes, it was as if she could control it. The moon was full, and she just came out and started manipulating the light into Liz’s form.”

“I wonder,” Liz mused. “She couldn’t have known what I look like. I suspect she focused my energy, not the moonlight, and I simply appeared as I am.”

Max nodded his agreement. “And you also said that she was calm after that and slept well.”

“She slept like a baby then. She knew you were coming.”

Michael was intrigued with this idea. “That makes sense. She had accomplished what she set out to do—find the source of that energy and focus her own. It reminds me of what Isabel does when she dreamwalks.”

“That’s right,” Isabel agreed. “That’s sort of how it feels, like a flow of energy in search of another. The difference is, that person isn’t seeking me out, so it’s kind of a one-way deal. But in this case, the energies are seeking each other.”

“So why did she have trouble sleeping again later, and why did she mention Samuel?” River Dog asked.

“Samuel?!” It was a chorus raised as a single voice. Max was the only one who had heard River Dog’s story about Maya mentioning Samuel. Everyone turned to Max, even though no one expected him to have an explanation.

“I don’t know . . . unless . . .”

“Max, isn’t that the little autistic boy? You never healed him. Why would he be involved in this?”

Max and Liz exchanged a meaningful look. They had kept this particular incident just between them. Max had been driven by his guilt and his heart that night, and Liz had been there for him, even though she didn’t necessarily agree with his choice. Max had so desperately wanted to return a happy, normal boy to his family—another Christmas miracle—but it wasn’t to be, and he had struggled with his limitations that night more than any other of his life. They had chosen not to speak of it again. It was private knowledge that had left them to wrestle with the philosophical dilemmas of the cosmos, and led them to a new, more honest realization about themselves.

“What? What don’t we know, Max?” Isabel persisted.

Liz nodded her encouragement, and squeezed Max’s hand.

“I did try to heal him,” Max admitted. “I thought maybe I could break through his autism and give him back to his family.”

No one spoke. This was big. Max had attempted something no one had ever even thought of . . . and failed. Imagining his disappointment and self-doubt was troubling enough, but the more urgent question was, what had that healing attempt done. It had failed. Didn’t that mean Samuel wasn’t changed? But if that were true, why would Maya have mentioned him?

Finally, Max continued. “Obviously, I didn’t succeed, but I did try to heal him, and while I did, I saw inside his mind. There, he was normal—loving his family, playing with toys, appreciating his life and the people in it. There was an active, intelligent mind in there that just couldn’t find its way out.”

He looked at Liz, a light dawning in his eyes. “What if this is his way out, Liz! What if he can communicate on this plane!”

“But why would he have developed symptoms sooner than the others? You only tried to heal him last Christmas,” Isabel reasoned.

“But don’t you see?” Max answered excitedly. “He lives in a different place mentally already. His life takes place in his mind, in his dreams. Maybe he was already further developed in the part of his brain that responds to this energy.”

Then a new thought hit him, and his enthusiasm began to wane. “But if he’s getting symptoms, his family will have him at a doctor in hours. He wouldn’t even think to hide it, and he has medical appointments every week.”

The repercussions of that scenario imposed a chill on their rising excitement, and they were back to figuring out how to corral all these children without anyone detecting their newfound abilities. As they sat quietly, Isabel realized she’d heard nothing from Kyle. She turned to find him staring out the window, subdued and thoughtful.

“Kyle?”

He turned and offered a weak smile. “Yeah, I’m here. Just listening.”

She walked toward him. “You’re thinking about when this will happen to you, aren’t you?”

He shrugged. “I knew it would come. I’d just let myself forget about it for the last couple weeks.”

“What are you saying? It’s okay to hang out with freaks, but you’d just as soon not be one?” she teased.

He turned serious eyes to her, and her smile faded. “I don’t know how to do this. I don’t even know what it really means to change.”

Liz pushed herself off the cot and walked toward her friend. When she reached for his hand, he involuntarily flinched, but she took it anyway, determined to ease his mind.

“Kyle, listen to me. The only bad thing about this was not knowing what was happening. Now that we have an idea, it won’t be so bad for you.”

“Yeah, sounds great. Electricity shooting out my fingers, pain, sleeplessness, and when it’s over, you’re an alien. You’re right. Not so bad.”

“Maybe I can help you. Once Maya connected with me, she was able to refocus her energy again. Look at her. She’s sleeping like a baby.”

“Just keep Evans the hell away from me. I saw what that did. He blew up the healing stones and about killed you.”

Liz turned to see Max go pale. She knew him so well. He was awash in the guilt that she spent so much effort to keep at bay.

Kyle’s voice was rising. His panic was winning. “And my dad. He won’t know what to do. He’ll be all alone when it happens to him. They’ll probably lock him up with my grandfather.” He pulled his hand from Liz’s and started toward the door, but Liz’s voice pulled him up short.

“Don’t you dare walk out of here, Kyle. You are a part of this. And the reason you’re a part of this is because Max saved your life. And he saved your father’s and mine and all of those children in the hospital! Don’t you make him feel guilty for that. Your alternative at the time was pretty grim.”

Her eyes flashed at him now, and he turned to face her, ready to challenge her words. “Perhaps I should remind you that none of us would have been dying if it weren’t for the “Lost in Space” cast here, so maybe gratitude isn’t the angle you should be playing!”

“Stop it!”

Six shocked faces swiveled to look at Eddie, who had been standing to the side, observing this whole unsettling scene.

“For the last two years, I’ve spent every minute I could with River Dog, listening to the stories he knows of alien beings from the skies. His knowledge is limited, but some things are obvious. These stories aren’t all pretty fairy tales. There was deception and treachery among the visitors just like in human history. You know that better than anyone. But what makes stories like these important are the lessons we learn from the great ones, like the chiefs in the legends of my ancestors who brought leadership, bravery, and compassion to the people they led. Every people has their heroes, and every people has their villains. We can’t always control what the spirits have in store for us. All we can control is how we deal with it. From what I know, the visitors in this room have dealt honorably with difficult times. That’s the mark of character that earns respect.

“This has all been legend to me until today. Now I see what River Dog has been telling me all this time. This is a miracle, a crossroads in history. How we react to it will write the next chapter. Do we face it with acceptance and dignity and honor? Or do we run from it, and leave evil unchallenged? I choose to take it on. I am ready to help, to be a part of this. I can’t imagine any of you choosing otherwise.”

As the teens stared in varying degrees of shock and approval, River Dog beamed at his young protégé. All that he had worked to instill in the young man had just come roaring forth to rein in a situation that could have spiraled out of control. He had proven himself worthy of River Dog’s faith in him, and River Dog could feel some of the weight of responsibility lift from his shoulders. Now there was someone to share the burdens of their people, both of this earth and not.

After his outburst, Eddie suddenly felt awkward, facing down so many pairs of appraising eyes. He thought he saw respect, but he was not used to being the center of attention, and even good attention was uncomfortable in big doses.

Kyle helped divert the scrutiny when he spoke. “Max, I . . . uh, sorry, man. I guess I sort of lost it for a minute. I’m still getting used to the idea of morphing into Superman.”

Max grinned at Kyle’s lame humor. “Yeah, me, too.” Then he turned. “Eddie, thanks. I know this has been rough. I appreciate what you said. It’s nice to know we have another ally.”

Eddie looked down, embarrassed now, but straightened when he felt River Dog’s hand on his shoulder. He had big shoes to fill.

Michael looked over at Liz. “But Kyle raises a good point, Max. Both Liz and Maya lit up like Christmas trees when you got near them. Why? What made it worse to be around you?”

“I’m still working on that one,” Max frowned. “Liz, got any ideas?”

“Maybe.” She pursed her lips, deep in thought, and Max smiled. He’d seen that expression so many times over the years as they bent over a biology lab, a chemistry experiment, a physics project. Ms. Scientist was in logic mode.

“How about this? If this energy is always coursing through your body, but in someone like me or Maya, it doesn’t have a regular path yet—you know, like routine synapses and standard conduits, so it just takes the path of least resistance—then when you’re emotional or afraid and your pulse speeds up and your heart pumps faster, then that energy is bound to move faster, too. And since you already have little or no control over it, it just starts pouring out because it has nowhere else to go.”

She beamed at her audience, clearly in her element.

“Max, when you tried to heal me, I was scared about what was happening to me, and I was angry at so many things that had happened between us, and I was fighting my love for you because we’d gotten so twisted around, I was doubting that we could be together. I couldn’t have been any more emotional. And when it began to hurt, and you kept trying, it just made it worse.”

Then an amazing thought struck her, and she raised wide eyes to her husband. “Maybe it was my energy that blew up the healing stones, not yours!”

Max’s face was alight with understanding. “That makes sense! And this morning, Maya was expecting only you. You’re the one she’d found and communicated with. You were the one she thought could help. She probably doesn’t remember anything from that night at the hospital. She was sick and I woke her up out of a sound sleep. Then this morning, I scared her, but she felt comfortable with you. She’d ‘seen’ you.”

Every mind was busy putting the same puzzle pieces together. They were slowly falling into place, but they hadn’t asked the hardest question of all.

“So what about the kids?” Maria finally asked for all of them. “How do we reach them all, and more to the point, how do we keep the parents from finding out what’s happening to them?”

Max looked at Liz, hesitant but resigned. Their eyes locked and she nodded. They both understood now what had to be done. And they both knew who had to take the lead to do it. Max stepped toward her and pulled her against him, unwilling to say the inevitable aloud. Finally, with heavy sigh, he answered them.

“Liz will have to find them, and bring them to one place where she can explain, and tell them to keep this to themselves. Liz, did Maya seem to accept what you told her. In fact, what did you tell her?”

“I just made it as simple as possible. I told her that when her illness went away, it left something special behind, but that a lot of people wouldn’t understand, so she should keep it to herself. And that we’d help her, of course.”

Max tightened his grip on Liz, closing his eyes against the fear of putting her through this again. “We’ll have to help you—Isabel and I both. I’m not going to have you passing out every time you find one of them. With our connection and Isabel’s ability to reach out with her mind, like you said, maybe it won’t be so hard on you.”

Isabel bit her lip and started to twirl a strand of hair around her finger. Max recognized her nervous habits.

“What, Iz?”

“Does this mean I have to sleep with you and Liz?”

Michael snorted with laughter and Maria grinned.

“I wouldn’t be you for anything in the world,” Maria chuckled.

It was hard to say which sibling looked more horrified, but they groaned in unison.

"Oh god."

posted on 26-Nov-2002 1:38:32 PM by Carol000
Ah, my patient and kind readers—I wanted to get one more installment posted before the holiday. I know I told you there would be two more journal entries, but once I got into the second half of S3, it was just too intense. I had expected to cover 6 eps in this journal, but that proved to be impossible. I wrote up Samuel Rising, Tale of Two Parties, and Ch- Ch- Changes, and found myself looking at 18 pages. No way was I going to add 3 more!

So, there will still be two journal entries after this. I really mean it this time (I think!).

As for a couple of responses:

MamaDee: ROTFL! You are totally grossed out about Isabel sleeping with Max and Liz? OH YE OF LITTLE FAITH! You should know me by now. Not gonna happen.

ps_dreamer, Arazie, Scottie, and others who wonder “where do you get your ideas?” and “you must be a scientist”: Not even close. But I do struggle to make sense of the alphabet soup the show’s writers left us, and I can’t rest until it makes sense. So I make it make sense. You see the result. You can call it creativity, revisionism, delusions of dreaminess—it’s the only way I can sleep nights!

BelieveInTrueLove: So many questions! LOL! All I can say is, they’ll all get answered eventually. I’m totally excited you care enough to have questions!

SciFiNut: You explained how you felt Eddie’s speech would not have turned Kyle around because he’d been front and center for all of Max’s a-hole moves. You may have a point, BUT there are several factors at work: 1) MY Max can’t be a jerk—not over the long haul. Cf. my revisionist tendencies above. 2) I have already woven so many plot lines into this story, it’s intimidating even to me. I have a plan for Kyle, and his animosity toward Max can’t part of it. 3) Kyle has mellowed a LOT since Buddha. I’m giving his spiritual center some credit, too. He just needed to get a grip on his anger. Eddie helped break his train of angry thought. K?

Oka--two posts again (what a surprise). I hope you enjoy it.

Part 13a

Nancy was the one holding the journal this time. Another break—just long enough to stretch and refresh themselves—was over, and they determinedly pushed on. It was clear that they were nearing the end. This next entry was about the holidays just six months ago. Now they were all feeling the pressure to finish and get back to their homes where they had some chance of helping their children. They had no idea how yet, but they would find a way. Everything had changed, including their own doubts about their children. It was time to give them the support they’d lacked for so long.

“How much left?” Philip asked, looking at the folding chair with a certain loathing.

“Thirty or forty pages, looks like,” Nancy answered, flipping the remaining sheets against her thumb. “Let’s just do it.”

The group creaked and winced back into place and waited for the words that would put the final pieces of the puzzle into place.

********

Love triangles. I’ve been thinking a lot about love triangles lately. I always thought they dealt with three people who can’t figure out which two should be together—romantically. Well, my love triangle isn’t like that at all. It me and Max . . . and my dad. It’s an exhausting balancing act, and the only reason I haven’t gone completely crazy is because they each know what the other one means to me, and neither is willing to push too hard because they know they just might push me away.

Even when I forget that, they know. Like the night I told Max I’d run away with him and he told me I’d never get over breaking away from my family like that. I don’t know if I ever thanked him for that. So many other guys would have just said, “Yeah, let’s get out of here.” But not Max. Max knows me so well, and he loves me so much, he just knew that down the road, I’d hurt. And for all the hurt he’s put me through, the one thing I know for sure is, it was never intentional. I wish I could say the same. The worst hurt Max has ever felt in his life was not only at my hands but was brutally intentional. My only defense is that I was convinced I was saving lives—literally saving the world. So maybe we’re even.

Dad’s careful, too. Even with all his strict rules and protective instincts, he knows that Max and I are together. It’s in the background, hidden away for now, but things like the dance at Isabel’s wedding and the glimpses of Max stealing out the back door of the Crashdown as Dad comes in have been pretty hard evidence that rules aren’t enough to keep us apart. Even so, he lets those things slide. I think he knows that if I absolutely have to choose, I’ll be with Max. He’s my future, my new family.

Funny. That’s what Max said to me Christmas night—that I was his family—and I think it was the best present I got. I’d been feeling a little on the outside . . . again . . . so I really needed to hear him say that. The whole holiday was a little strange, but then, strange is a way of life for us, isn’t it? It started with one of those little incidents I was just writing about—Max walked right into the Crashdown one morning, kissed me, and sat down. I can’t deny I felt a little thrill when he did that and I told him so. I mean, he had to know my dad was close by, and he sure couldn’t have forgotten the last time he walked in and Dad threw him out. But there he was, braving it all to get a few minutes with me. God, that was sexy.

Then the oddest thing happened. A little boy just began to stare at Max, and Max was feeling a little self-conscious about it. He was a sweet-looking boy—big eyes, tentative smile, and a pure glow about him, like he had no mischief in him at all. Finally, he came over to Max, stood quietly, and then said one simple word: Daddy. Max was obviously confused and little embarrassed, but he was so gentle with him. He just smiled and told him he thought he had the wrong guy.

The incident wasn’t really all that weird until the little boy’s mother came over and found out her son had spoken to Max because, she said, her son didn’t talk. That’s all it took. That one innocent incident sent Max off on a whole new “my son is trying to contact me” campaign. I guess I can’t blame him. After all, he doesn’t know how the alien world works any more than I do these days, and so nothing is out of the realm of possibility. It’s just that I wish more than anything we could put this behind us. His son’s existence is so painful to me, and Max’s constant grasping at straws to find him continues to disrupt the relationship we’re trying to rebuild. I wish we could just find an answer. This little boy, though, wasn’t it.

His name was Samuel, and his mother told us he was autistic. The coincidence was just too much for Max to ignore. At first, he made himself available to Samuel’s family, trying to establish some kind of connection with the boy. For some reason, Samuel trusted Max—to a point. He would smile at Max, acknowledge him, he even drew a picture of a spaceship and handed it right to him during a visit to the psychologist. I understand why Max read something into that. I mean, it was a pretty specific thing to do. That morning when I went over to Max’s for our skating outing, he showed me the drawing, and cancelled our date without a thought—he was going back to Samuel’s.

Déjà vu. I wondered if there would ever again be a time when I came first with Max. Then I felt selfish and petty and tried to be supportive. I don’t known which feeling is valid. All I know is, I’m tired of being understanding and mature. I want to be Number One.

I saw Max with Samuel again later when they came to see Santa. Talk about weird—Michael was the Santa Isabel had picked. At least that’s what we thought at the time. Isabel was doing her “volunteer til you drop” Christmas routine, and Maria and I had agreed to help. I have to say, we weren’t expecting to find ourselves dressed in elf costumes and controlling the line to see Santa, but Maria and I were both astonished when we saw how good Michael was with the kids. That was nothing, though, compared to the shock of discovering that it was actually Michael who had begged Isabel to be Santa—just so he could be near Maria. If those two could only see themselves—never have two people worked so hard and so out of sync to get together. When one’s ready, the other isn’t. Then it flips. They’re good for each other, though, and their hearts aren’t distracted—only stubborn. They’ll get there eventually. I just know it.

It was Max’s distracted heart that had me worried. Whether or not Samuel was bringing Max messages from his son, he was clearly Max’s focus, and I have to confess, it hurt a little. I was going to say something to him about it when he came into the Crashdown after hours later that night. He said he’d tried to talk to Samuel—about the drawing, about the “messages,” about his son—but that when he tried to connect with him, the physical contact had upset Samuel to the point where he got hysterical and ran for the street. Max didn’t know what to do next, but was still so sure that the drawing had some meaning.

At that point, he pulled it out of his pocket and showed it to me. Now my heart ached for Max instead of for myself, because right over his shoulder was the very same spaceship image. Somehow, Samuel had linked seeing Max in the Crashdown with the spaceship mural on the wall. That connection, so innocent and obvious to Samuel, had been full of a different and self-imposed meaning for Max. But in truth, it was nothing. Just a picture.

No one likes to see someone they love learn a lesson the hard way, but I guess those are the lessons that stick. Max could see what he’d done, and he even felt a little guilty about it. He let go of his fantasy and focused on the little boy who had reached out to him. This time when we talked, it felt like we were on the same side, working out a problem together. I encouraged Max to explore why this boy had approached him, and to be there for him just as one person to another.

I remember writing in this journal once that Max never does anything small. The pattern continues. In a way, his reaction was so Max: with his constant desire to fix whatever is wrong and take responsibility for things that are out of his control, he went to Samuel and tried to heal him. I wanted to cry when he came to my room late that night, anguished over his lack of success. He wants so much to use his gifts to make things better, and he was so sure that he could do that for Samuel. It was a painful awakening to realize that he couldn’t “fix” Samuel, that maybe Samuel didn’t need fixing. Maybe he was the way he was meant to be.

I knew he’d found his way when he said, “Maybe I was trying to heal the wrong person.”
I may never know if he was talking about Samuel’s parents or about himself. I think it was both. I do know that he asked Isabel to bring Samuel and his parents together in a dream, and she did. She told him it was beautiful, and from what Max saw later—when Samuel was reenacting almost the same scene with his mother and his estranged father on Christmas morning—it did begin a healing within that family.

I think it began a healing in Max, too. The idea of his son being out in the universe, beyond his influence or control, has plagued his heart for months. Somehow, accepting that Samuel’s life was beyond his control seemed to allow him to make that same leap for his own son. Watching Samuel’s parents accept their son, as he is, with such joy and love was a reminder to Max that the people in our lives are our greatest blessing and strength. That our own reality IS. Just is. Period. And the healthiest thing we can do for ourselves and our loved ones is to make that reality the best we can.

So it meant the world to me that night when Max and I finally found the time—and focus—to go skating. It was a beautiful night: Christmas lights, gently falling snow, and just the two of us alone together. I could feel those little warning butterflies in my stomach when Max asked me if it was weird seeing him with Samuel’s family, and how things might change if he ever found his son. When I asked if I should be worried, though, he smiled at me and took my hand. And that look of love that I wondered if I’d see again—the one that banished any doubt in my mind that I was Number One—was there, sparkling and shining and speaking to me louder than any words. Those butterflies were still there, but this time, they were excited, charging into action in response to that expressive, possessive look of love.

Then he gave me my Christmas present; he said, “Now I realize you are my family.”

He was right. We had found a home in each other 2 ½ years ago, and although we’d gotten lost along the way, I knew we had found our way back again. That knowledge warmed my heart and my mind and even my frostbitten toes. So once we had stumbled and laughed our way onto the ice, the kiss was the natural close to our Christmas. It sealed the warmth into the home we now shared, the protective shelter of our love that has already weathered so much, but kept us safe and together.

Max says he doesn’t believe in God. I wonder when he’ll realize that he does. It is his belief in the Good and the Just and the Honorable that signals his unshakable faith in a higher power—the governing right and wrong of the universe. We all lose track of it once in a while; apparently that is something all of God’s creatures have in common—human and otherwise. But eventually, he comes back to it. It is his center and his guiding force. Someday he’ll give it a name, but for now, I’m just proud to share it with him.

Merry Christmas, Max.

********
“You know, I remember a little about that,” Diane recalled. “I was walking through the park on my way to do some shopping. I wanted to see the Christmas village Isabel had been working so hard on, and I was curious about Michael, too. I’d overheard him asking Isabel to play Santa and couldn’t believe it. He was pretending it was because he wanted to see what all the Christmas fuss was about, in deference to Isabel’s dedication to the season, but she wasn’t buying it. I think she said something like ‘Interesting how you came to this decision right after you found out Maria was going to be an elf, Michael. How stupid do you think I am?”

The parents chuckled, each knowing Michael from a different perspective, but none able to imagine him seeking out the position of Santa for the holidays. Amy was more than amused, though. She was touched.

“He’s a funny boy,” she mused. “You get all this attitude from him, and then he reveals a part of himself that cares. One thing I’ve grown to accept—he loves Maria. I don’t doubt that anymore, and believe me, that’s a big change of heart for me. There was a time I was so sure he was nothing but trouble and only wanted to corrupt my innocent daughter. Then, after Alex died, I saw a side of him that impressed me very much.”

She smiled at Jim, a gleam in her eye. “Now that I know what all she and Michael were dealing with, I realize why she was lecturing me about relationships!”

He rolled his eyes and grinned. “I know Michael better than any of you, but the day I take dating tips from him is the day I give up on women.”

There was a certain sense of relief that they’d made it through another segment of the journal without stumbling across a deadly enemy or a life-threatening situation. Slightly buoyed by that fact, Nancy continued.


********
If New Year’s morning sets the tone for 2002, it’s going to be a great year. This morning, I looked around me and found all my closest friends together, enjoying each other, loving each other. And the icing on the cake was my dad—accepting Max and me together and opening up a new day with his smile. This has just got to be a great year.

It makes me glad I didn’t give him an even harder time than I did last night. I was so angry that I was being forced to stay at the Crashdown to work the party for the senior citizens of Roswell. I was finally doing some real rebuilding with Max, finding that loving and stress-free relationship we’d searched for for so long, and I was going to be forced to make do with the blue-haired set on New Year’s Eve. I begged, and negotiated, and compromised. Nothing. Dad turned on those puppy dog eyes and talked about family tradition and father-daughter time. He’s a master at the guilt card.

When I offered to stay for the party and then leave, he finally admitted he didn’t want me out with Max. “Catting around” he called it. He’d be amazed at how restrained our physical relationship has been compared to lots of others, but that’s not exactly the kind of thing I could discuss with him, so I resigned myself to dealing with it.

Max came over to see if we could sneak some time together, but he was understanding when I told him I couldn’t get out of working. The conversation after that, though, would have been another feather in Max’s cap if I could ever have told Dad—Max didn’t want to go party. If he couldn’t be with me, he was just going to hang out with Michael. How’s that for a dangerous influence?

I finally talked him into going with Maria and Michael to find the elusive Enigma party—a Roswell tradition for teens for at least two generations. He resisted, saying he was more of a one-on-one kind of guy. Mmmmm. That kind of talk really got my imagination going. Just the thought of a quiet New Year’s Eve, just the two of us, got my whole body heated up. My lips were saying “go find a party and have some fun,” but my heart and my body were aching for him to stay with me and show me a whole different view of the stars. The kisses only made it harder to sound convincing, and my devious, beautiful boyfriend insisted that only more kisses could persuade him to do as I asked.

It was a Catch-22: The more we kissed, the less convincing I became; and the more he convincing he required, the more kisses he claimed to need. It was only the picture of my irate father looming in the rational part of my brain that gave me the strength to finally pull away and send him off to have fun without me. I can’t pretend I wasn’t relieved when he insisted that we find a way to be together at midnight. At least I had that to hang onto.

I guess I had a pretty bad attitude at the beginning of the party, but then Jane Covindahl, that sweet old woman who had given us information that helped us identify Langley as the other alien protector, arrived at the party with her parents. Imagine. She’s in a retirement home, and she’d brought her parents to a New Year’s Eve party. She said something to me that I hope I never forget. She said she was missing New Year’s Eve with her boyfriend, but that was okay because New Year’s Eve was special to her parents, and she tried to remember that they weren’t always going to be there.

That really hit home. I sometimes feel a certain distance between my mom and me, but I love her, a lot. She’d really gone out of her way to fix all the food that was set out for the evening, and now she was off visiting her own folks for the night. She was doing just what Jane had done—given up an evening with the man she loved to bring some happiness to her parents. Then I looked over at my dad. He was dancing the Funky Chicken with a bunch of fun-loving older folks, making sure that they had a good time on a special night. And I suddenly remembered why I love him so much to begin with—he’s special. He cares about people, especially me, and this whole thing about Max was as much about keeping me safe as it was about keeping me close to him for as long as possible. One night. I could give him that.

Next thing I know, I’m dancing, too, and calling Bingo games and having a pretty good time. It really is all about attitude, isn’t it? The party was at its peak when Maria came through the back door and waved me to come with her. It shouldn’t have come as much of a surprise, but apparently Michael hadn’t learned from Max’s experience with alcohol; he was drunk, and a drunk alien is not an easy thing to deal with. Where Max had gotten happily drunk on one sip, Michael had downed beer after beer, and his senses were heightened to a painful degree—every noise, every light, every touch caused him pain. When I got upstairs, Max had him hovering over my bed like a David Copperfield stunt and it was really talking a toll on him. Eventually, Michael was desensitized enough to lay on the bed, and we went downstairs.

Maria and I talked about the vicious cycle they were in—a dance, she called it—where they can’t seem to establish exactly what their relationship is. I bit my tongue. How easy it would have been to tell her they’d been doing that dance almost constantly since they’d met, but she was in no mood for jokes or lectures, so I let it slide. I couldn’t fix it anyway. Hmmm. That would have been a good concrete example for Max!

The next few minutes were nothing short of miraculous. Max had stopped in the bathroom, and as luck would have it, he came out just as my dad came to the back. Max began to slink out the back door when my dad stopped him and asked where he was going. Max hardly knew how to answer him; no matter what he said, he was sure it would be the wrong answer. But to our amazement, Dad said a good boyfriend wouldn’t leave on New Year’s Eve, so he should stay.

There was this very weird moment where we both waited for the other shoe to drop or for the punch line or something. The words didn’t sound like my dad at all. But he didn’t say another word, so with a certain amount of trepidation, we entered the party together. I guess Dad was serious, and later I had to stop and wonder if the Sheriff . . . I mean, Mr. Valenti . . . said anything to him. I’d seen them talking quietly at the counter earlier and looking at me. I’ll have to remember to ask Valenti about that. If he helped Dad change his mind about Max, I owe him one.

********
“I guess she owes you, then, Jim, because it was your opinion that finally swayed me. Of course, I had no idea what you knew then that I didn’t.”

Jim looked contrite. “I know, Jim, and I would have loved to tell you right then, but it wasn’t my place. But what I did say was absolutely true. I think the world of Max, and the danger that existed for Liz was gonna be there whether they were together or not, by that time. She was too close to him to be immune from whatever was comin’ down the pike. It just wasn’t the danger you imagined, and I knew beyond a doubt that Max was prepared to give his life for her, just as she was for him.”

“You know, with all the tension there was between us for so long, I was a little surprised Liz’s objections to staying in that night weren’t more hostile. I was actually pleasantly surprised she just accepted it. Of course, then I saw Max in the back room, and got one more indication that just because I couldn’t see it, didn’t mean they weren’t together.”

He chuckled, remembering. “You shoulda seen the look on his face when I asked him where he was going? He was sure I was gonna produce a shotgun or something. He was afraid to open his mouth for fear of saying the wrong thing. I had no idea I was so intimidating.”

Nancy eyed him skeptically. “Intimidating? I don’t think Liz was cowed by intimidation. Neither was Max. Think about it. Liz loves you and was just trying to make you happy. And Max . . . he could have vaporized you with a look or turned you into a houseplant or something . . .”

“Nancy!” Diane looked horrified, and Nancy grimaced.

“Sorry, Diane, I didn’t mean to seem so callous. It’s just that my husband seems to be enjoying a little fantasy. Jeff, Max had nothing to fear from you, except that Liz would be the victim if you two couldn’t make peace. He fought for her. Sometimes by confronting you, and other times by appeasing you. Because he loved her. Not because he was intimidated. So just put your testosterone on the back burner and let me read.”

Jeff looked up, embarrassed but grinning, and saw Philip smiling back.

“You have a point, Nancy. I think I would have been the intimidated one if I’d known what Max or Isabel were capable of when I punished them for something. When you think about it, they showed remarkable restraint, especially as young children. Can you imagine a normal 4-year-old being told no and accepting it instead of doing what it took to get their way?” He shook his head. “Amazing.”

“I never put it together before, but now that I think of it, I’ve witnessed times when that internal battle was going on. Once, when Max was about 12, he wanted to take swimming lessons at the Y, just out of the blue, but I was taking a class at the same time and just couldn’t get him there. I promised him we’d do it the next session, but he was beside himself. I remember because he was red and shaking so much, it scared me a little. Then he seemed to come to terms with it and just went to his room.”

“When he was 12? At the Y?” Nancy’s questions were more like statements.

“Yes, why?”

Nancy just looked at Diane, but said nothing.

“Liz.” Diane’s one word repainted the picture. The canvas kept changing with every line, every anecdote.

********
Anyway, the party got a whole lot nicer then. When we celebrated “Crashdown midnight” at 10:30, I welcomed the new year with Max’s arms around me and watched the individual resolutions that had been pinned on the cactus go up in flames. I was completely ready for “Out with the old, in with the new” if it meant Max and I were getting a fresh start. I think he felt it, too, because as the fire caught the last of the resolutions, Max turned me in his arms and whispered, “This is a new year. Our year,” and then he kissed me. It wasn’t our most passionate kiss, but it was our most significant one. I felt a promise in those words and in the way he kissed me—determined and confident. He knew my dad was watching, and I think he was sending a message in his direction, too. “We’re together. That will never change.”

P.S. Dad—What he said.

Dad sent another little shocker our way when he told me I could leave to spend New Year’s with Max. I hardly knew what to say, but he did. He looked right at Max and told us he’d made a resolution to give second chances. It was the most generous, loving, amazing thing he could have said, and Max gave him a quiet nod of thanks. They’d reached a tentative peace, and I thought of the Grinch and how his heart swelled when he discovered love. I sort of felt like that. I knew love already, of course, but the impact of Dad’s gesture sent waves of it through me, and I wanted to burst. I threw my arms around him, and I know he felt my gratitude. I looked at Max over his shoulder and saw that little smile of his. The love was there, too. This is what he’d wanted for me that night when he turned down my offer to run away. He hadn’t wanted me to give this up.

Giving me the choice to go out that night meant the world to me, but having the choice also meant it was my choice, and I made it. I decided to stay and help Dad clean up. After all, Max and I had time now—no more sneaking around to get a moment alone, no more wondering when we’d even see each other again. So now I could afford to love both of the men in my life, and show them in every possible way. In this case, I could show my dad how much I appreciate him. And Max? Max was ready to party.

It sounds like a contradiction in terms: Max . . . party. But somewhere along the line, our urging Max to find Enigma caught hold. I still don’t know if he wanted to party or if he just enjoyed the challenge of finding something others couldn’t find. In any case, he had an eager partner in Maria, who told me Michael had heard us talking and encouraged her to take a night off from the “alien chaos” and have some fun. Of course, Max offered to stay and help. That’s just who he is. But it took surprisingly little convincing to send him out the door with Maria in search of Roswell’s biggest party of the year.

In an evening full of surprises, there was one more in store. Michael had also made a self-sacrificing gesture in telling Maria he was fine and she should go find the party. As soon as she left, I found him on the floor of the back room in such pain. Michael and I have never been really close, but I was so proud of him for what he’d done, and he was obviously so miserable, it was an easy decision to be the understanding friend. Dad had no problem buying the fact that Michael had had too much to drink, and he helped me get Michael into my bed to sleep it off. I slept down on the couch.

I admit that when I snuck past him to take my shower in the morning, there was a slight ewwww factor to seeing him in my bed. After all, I’d spent more than a little time imagining Max there, and the picture of Michael planted so comfortably in his place sent little jolts of nausea through my system. But I just kept reminding myself that this is what friends do for friends. If it had been Maria or Alex, I wouldn’t have blinked. The fact is, Kyle had even been in there, by my reluctant invitation, once. So I would just have to deal with Michael.

That’s unnerving. I realize now that about the only person who hasn’t been in my bed is the one person I want there the most. I wonder . . . how long will it be until . . .

Never mind.

Anyway, I’m back to this morning, when the love of my life and my best friend laughed and sang their way back into the Crashdown looking tired and happy and carefree. Jesse was back, which put a smile on Isabel’s face. Michael was feeling better, although a smile from Michael in the morning, especially a hung-over morning, would have been too much to ask. And presiding over it all was Dad, with the first genuine smile I’d seen in weeks.

Yep. It’s going to be a pretty good year.

to be continued in next post
posted on 26-Nov-2002 1:41:20 PM by Carol000
Part 13 a continued

********
“I was feeling the very same way,” Jeff recalled, the happy memory lighting his face, even from within dark-circled eyes. “I just had the feeling things were going to get better.” Then the expression darkened again. “I guess I was wrong.”

“Not wrong, Jeff. They were better for a while, until someone else found out about them.”

“Who?” Amy asked. “Are we in for another horror story, I mean besides this government mess, because my tolerance is just about shot.”

“One more big one,” Jim admitted. “And I’m afraid it might be pretty unsettling, especially for you all,” he frowned, indicating the Evanses. “If I know Max, he conveniently left this out of his story. He wouldn’t have wanted to upset you.”

“Oh, no,” groaned an instantly pale Diane, automatically reaching for her husband who didn’t look much better.

“It’s okay, but you might doubt that along the way. Why don’t I read this part? At least I know what’s coming.”

Nancy willingly handed over the journal and settled back against Jeff. It was obvious they weren’t going to like this at all.

********
I’m sick and tired . . . emotionally, physically, romantically. I’m sick of people saying, “No one said life is fair.” If I remember correctly, it used to be fair a lot. I had bad days once in a while, but I didn’t have bad weeks and months. I’m just so tired.

It was three months ago that I greeted a new year with excitement and hope, safe and happy in the arms of the man I love, and warmed by the bond within our tight-knit group of alien secrets. Things were finally calming down, mellowing out, turning around. How could I ever have predicted how quickly it would all fall apart again, driving yet another wedge between Max and me, through no fault of our own? Or how Maria’s dream of a singing career would blossom and fade in weeks? Or how Kyle would take on still one more burden of being in the “I know an alien” club? His dad, too, for that matter. In other words, when did lack of control become a permanent feature of our lives?

Like so many of our crises, it started innocently enough. I was sitting watching Maria perform with the KitShickers. She was doing an awesome job, although Kyle was making me laugh, as he so often does. He was totally creeped out by the seductive antics of his father and his good friend on stage, and watching his discomfort definitely qualified as fun.
********
“Wait a minute,” Amy interrupted with a threatening look. “Seductive? You were acting seductive on stage? With my daughter? When she said she was singing with your band, I thought it would be completely innocent. I was even going to come except for that stupid shipment arrived 3 hours late! What did you do?”

“Nothing,” Jim shook his head. “Just sellin’ the song, Amy. It was nothing.”

“What was the song?” She squinted suspiciously, not sure who to be mad at—her boyfriend or her daughter.

“Uh, ‘Paradise.’”

“Paradise? That old Meat Loaf song? You were singing that with my daughter?”

“Well, uh, the later version is Dashboard Light . . . “

“I don’t care! Hardly appropriate for a girl and her stepfather . . .”

She stopped dead . . . her incomplete thought splintering in the air as she realized her mistake.

“What did you call me?”

“I mean . . . a man your age, really,” she squeaked, trying to build up her head of steam again, hoping it would blot out her ill-conceived words.

“Did I miss a wedding, Amy? Because that would be a darn shame,” he grinned.

“Don’t change the subject,” she huffed, regaining her equilibrium. “The point is, you used to be Sheriff. You used to arrest men for stuff like that. And now . . . Maria?”

“It was nothing,, Amy, really! Just stage stuff, show biz . . .”

Jim squirmed uncomfortably under her doubtful glare and cleared his throat. “Where was I?”

********
It was a time that could have been described as normal until a few minutes later when Max rushed in. The fact that nobody else had shown up to see Maria perform had me pissed and I took it out on Max—just because he was there, I guess. When he asked me what was wrong, I told him I felt like I was coming down with something.

He gently teased me out of it and got me out on the dance floor, where I let the bad stuff fall away and just enjoyed feeling the music and Max’s hands on me, tossing and twirling and then pulling me back against him. We felt so in sync just then, laughing and holding each other. It came rushing back at me a few minutes later, though, when I heard someone yelp. I looked up to see the busboy with his hand crammed in someone’s melted ice. He was frowning down at a plate. My plate. It had melted.

********
“Melted?!” Nancy was rigid now, bolt upright in her chair, eyes wide with disbelief. “Are you trying to say she did that somehow?”

“Hold on, Nancy. You have to hear the whole thing. Just stay calm,” Jeff murmured, pulling her back against him.

“I make no promises,” she glared. “Go on, Jim.”

********

My heart was in my throat, but I didn’t say anything to Max, who was enjoying himself for a change. I couldn’t take that away from him. Not yet. Not when I didn’t even know what was happening. But the nagging feeling of dread wouldn’t leave. The next day, I fell asleep in AP bio, and Max had to wake me, although Mr. Seligman noticed. Dad was already on me about my grades slipping, and I didn’t need any more pressure before the Harvard interview.

I felt guilty mentioning that interview to Max so late in the game. He controlled his reaction. He’s Max, after all, and that’s what he does. But I could see the hurt, disappointment, even fear in his eyes at the thought that I might go that far away. I didn’t even know what I wanted. Could I leave Max behind? Harvard had been this idealistic “maybe someday” part of my life since I could remember, but to actually leave it all behind—Max, Roswell, the closest friends anyone ever had—to start a new life in the farthest reaches of the country, that was a big step.

I went to the doctor, hoping against hope that what was wrong with me was something normal and human and fixable, but not only did I check out just fine, I developed a new symptom—I couldn’t hear what my doctor was asking me. His voice cut in and out like a bad radio signal, and I was so scared. I did hear some of what he said, though, and when he asked if I was sexually active, I could honestly say no. But his next words sent my mind in a whole new direction: “Sometimes young people don’t think about the repercussions of their actions. You can catch something even from someone you love.”

He was talking STDs. I was thinking alien changes.

********
“I knew it!” Nancy was on her feet, staring down the back of the journal as if she could make it take back the words that realized her worst fear. Jeff put a soothing hand on her back, but she shook it off and turned on him, anger and fear building in her eyes and voice. “Tell me, Jeff Parker, that you did not keep from me that our daughter is . . . is . . . changing! Is she? Did she? Is she an alien now, too?”

“Nancy, calm down.”

“Calm? CALM? It’s hard enough to accept that there are aliens here from another planet. But if you want me to be calm that Liz is turning into one of them . . . What if her body can’t take it? What if it hurts her . . . or kills her? What if Max can’t fix that? Why? Why would this happen? Is it Max? Did he do that to her?”

Her confused accusations flew toward the Evanses now. “Is that it? Is that the only way he could be with her? To change her? That wasn’t his right. That was not his choice to make!”

Jeff had been trying to gentle her outburst, but she refused to acknowledge him. This was beyond “what I did for love.” This was . . . what? Murder? Kidnapping? What crime was it when you changed someone into another life form?

Philip looked shocked at Nancy’s conclusions, but Diane rose to defend her son, knowing in her heart that what Nancy was thinking just couldn’t be.

“Listen to yourself, Diane. How can you even think such a thing after all we’ve learned? Do you think Max would do anything . . . anything to hurt Liz? Even if it meant being able to . . . to be with her? They’re married. Jeff told us that already. I know my son. He would never have let that happen, not if it meant harming her in any way. If this happened because of their love or their . . . physical relationship, I promise you, Max didn’t know about it.”

“Stop it,” Jeff said quietly. “This is one point I think you’d better know now. They pretty much narrowed it down to the healing. Something about Max saving Liz’s life caused something in her to change. Nancy? Think. He saved her life. Would you change that if you knew this would happen?”

Nancy stood, shaking and teary-eyed. No one expected her to answer. There was only one answer and they all knew it. Her unspoken apology reached out to Diane with her eyes and was accepted. Then a new thought occurred to her, and she turned to Jim, the question written all over her face.

“Yeah, it’ll probably be Kyle at some point soon.”

Amy gasped. “That’s right! He healed Kyle, too!”

“And the children at the hospital,” Philip almost whispered.

They looked at each other as the implications mushroomed around them. Nancy sat down hard, her knees unable to support the weight of this unfathomable news.

“I’ll be last, I suppose.”

Every eye moved to Jim, but no mouth could ask the question he had already answered. Jim looked at Jeff, who nodded imperceptibly.

“Pretty soon here, you’ll read how he saved my life, too.”

“What? How? When?” Amy stuttered her shock in staccato syllables.

“All in good time, Amy. We’ll get there.” He picked up the journal and continued.

********
That was something I’d never really considered. I went to the one person who would be able to put himself in my place. Who would, in fact, probably be in my place someday. Kyle. Well, if he felt creeped out watching his friend and dad on stage, it was nothing compared to the prospect of turning into another life form. He downplayed it until I tossed aside the book on Buddhism he’d recommended, and the radio it landed on started to crackle and spark. That was the most visible, tangible proof that something was happening, and it scared the crap out of both of us.

Kyle wanted me to call Max, but I just couldn’t. I realize now that in the back of my mind, I was trying to accomplish two things—keep Max from having one more thing to feel guilty about, and keep me from possibly having to face that the one person I want to be with more than anything in the world might be the one person that I couldn’t be with anymore. Who knew where this was headed?

A couple days later, the same symptoms appeared when Maria came over, bubbling with excitement about being recruited by a record label and doing a demo for them. She told me, almost in passing, that she had visited Michael with her news and that they had made love again. I was astonished when she seemed to blow by the way this would affect Michael, saying he understood it was just a celebration and not a commitment. I couldn’t tell if she just chose to forget who Michael was—a blustery, impulsive alien who would give his life for you once you’d earned his respect, friendship . . . love—or whether she was just that determined to separate herself from the “alien chaos,” as she likes to refer to it. Either way, it was obviously the wrong time to drag her back into it. There was nothing she could do anyway. So I kept it to myself.

After that, I started to think that maybe I did have to get away, and I started prepping for the Harvard interview. I was hiding out on the football bleachers watching the flag team practice when Max found me. To my surprise, he offered to help me prepare for the interview. I let him ask me practice questions for a few minutes, and he was all business about it. I finally asked him why—why would he help me get ready for something that could take me away?

His answer was quintessential Max. I knew what he would say even before he opened his mouth. “Because I know how important it is to you.” That has always been the one constant between us, and maybe all by itself it defines true love. In the end, swimming in and out of all the crap and fear and hurt, is our willingness to do whatever is right for the other one. I was willing to make him believe I didn’t love him anymore even though it left my heart for dead. He kept his feelings to himself for years to protect me, and now he was willing to see me leave—if it was right for me.

Suddenly, it all seemed so sad and hopeless, like we were spending our lives making ourselves and each other miserable for our own good. The irony of it was sickening. I told Max I needed to get home, but my emotions were in turmoil and when I stood, the world began to spin and Max had to catch me before I fell. I used the flu excuse again and went to reach for my book when it burst into flames. That was it. Max knew he hadn’t done that, and I knew I had. I think my bitterness spilled into my words when I told him he had healed me and now I was different. I wanted to take that tone back, but it was too late. I’d laid down the gauntlet of guilt for Max, and as predictably as dawn, he picked it up and ran with it.

I should have known better than to think I could get through that stressful Harvard interview without incident. I never would have gone at all if I’d known what a fool I would make of myself. First, things were okay, but soon, I couldn’t hear the interviewer’s words and then the room began to spin, and before I could make sense of any of it, I’d knocked over my chair and fled the room. The letter we got later said, “I’m sorry to inform you that Harvard does not currently see a place for you in our molecular biology program.” My parents were stunned, but thye let it go, even though I think they were more disappointed than I was. And the thing is, I wasn’t even that upset about not going to Harvard; I was upset because I know it should have been my choice, and this . . . this alien effect had taken that choice away from me.

********

“So that’s what did it! For the life of me, I couldn’t figure out why she hadn’t been accepted. She had the grades, the poise for the interview, the test scores.” Jeff looked at Nancy. “Remember the day that letter came? She insisted on reading it alone first. Then she brought it out to us. I wonder if she was worried that something more specific about the interview was mentioned.”

“We were so shocked, but she seemed really resigned to it, right from the start. She didn’t even get upset about it. I suppose she knew she didn’t have a chance after blowing the interview. Poor thing.”

“Moot point now, anyway,” Jeff sighed. “I wonder if she’ll ever get to college.”

“She’ll get there,” Jim said quietly. “So will Max. They’ll find a way. Maybe Isabel, too. I don’t know that the others ever intended to go, but they may surprise us. Don’t sell their futures short. They’re smart and incredibly resourceful. This will calm down eventually and they’ll be able to start fresh somewhere else.”

“Somewhere else.” It was barely more than a whisper, but a mother’s pain shouted from its depths. Diane looked from one parent to the next, knowing they all shared the same heartache. Unimaginable circumstances had taken their children away from them, and there was no way to know if or when they might see them again. Even a phone call or an e-mail could be dangerous.

They shared their silent grief for a moment, but time was working against them. Jim picked up the journal and read on.

********

I was talking to Michael in the kitchen soon after that and realized I had been much closer to gauging Michael’s reaction to his and Maria’s night of love than she had. He was hurt. Bad. He’d tried to support her by asking Jesse to go over her contract before she left for New York, and she’d just stepped on his heart by telling him they were “no longer linked.” Good luck with that, Maria. If there’s one thing we’ve learned, it’s that we are all linked . . . forever.

I cut off my talk with Michael when my hands started flickering again. I raced up to my room and called Kyle. Somehow he had become my confidante about all this, only what I didn’t know until he arrived was that he’d taken matters into his own hands and called Max. I can only describe Max’s face when he saw my hands as horrified. That would probably describe my face, too, when I asked him if I was going to die and there was only fear on his face. How could he answer me? Like so many other things we’d experienced, this was a first.

********

“Well, there’s our answer,” Nancy conceded. “I’m sorry Diane, Philip. It’s just all so upsetting. Right under our noses, she’s flickering and melting things, and we just go blithely on as if everything is normal. Good god.”

“It’s okay, Nancy. I know what you mean. It’s all a bit much to take in. I’ve never been proud of what we did to find out what was going on with the kids, but at least we finally realized something was going on. Just about 12 years too late.”

“Even with the P.I. bringing me pictures and reports, I couldn’t make sense of it. When I found out, I felt ashamed that I hadn’t trusted them, but hurt that they hadn’t confided in us. I don’t think I’ll ever know what the right way to handle it was.”

“Max would’ve done almost anything to keep you from finding out, but now that you have, I think there’s a part of him that’s relieved. No more secrets. They’ve been carrying quite a burden. It’s got to feel good to let some of it go.”

Philip nodded, choosing to fight his demons alone. He’d be second-guessing himself for the rest of his life.

********
Kyle came with us to the desert and that’s when I learned Max and Michael had dug up all the alien artifacts they’d buried earlier when Mr. Evans had begun to investigate Max. He had hoped there would be some scrap of information he’d overlooked that would help him stop what was happening to me. I let him arrange the stones around me and begin his healing, but my body’s reaction was unprecedented and painful. I was actually levitating, and the painful flickering escalated to the point where I begged him to stop. But he was so sure it was working, he kept telling me to hold on, to trust him.

I don’t know if it was the pain or his words that caused something in me to snap. The flickering lights in my hands became streaks through my whole body, and Kyle ran to Max and forced him to stop. I struggled to catch my breath and let the world stop bursting in front of my eyes. But then . . . then I began to spew all the pent-up hostility I’d worked so hard to keep from him. I told him how he’d hurt me, and he knew I wasn’t just talking about the greenish sparks flying from my body. I told him he always hurts me, and then it began—the accusatory questions about Tess, the anguish of knowing about his son and pretending we could talk about it without it bringing up a backwash of leftover hurt and bitterness, my sense of betrayal.

I think his face—as I splattered my pain up against the new wall that materialized between us—will be forever burned in my memory. His usually controlled features that fought against the constant rush of unwelcome emotions and rationed the rare happy ones crumbled. He was a portrait of pain and guilt and regret, and yet all I could do was lean against Kyle as he led me to the car, knowing Max was a beaten heap on the desert floor behind me.

I regretted it almost immediately, but Kyle soothed me, saying Max understood what I was going through, and besides, I needed to take care of me right now. Kyle is definitely getting that good friend thing down. He had all the right words.

Later, as I lay in the darkness of my room, I ached to take the words back. What was to be gained by always hurting each other like this? And yet, my defenses had never been so low. I was tired . . . of everything . . . and I wasn’t sure even our love was enough to get us through it.

Maria came to me that night. I guess she’d gone to Michael again when her record deal didn’t turn out to be the realization of her dream, and he’d told her about my situation. She was there with me then, apologizing for being so wrapped up in herself, she hadn’t known what was happening. I tried to explain that I’d kept it from her on purpose, that I wanted her to go after her dream and to be happy. She told me never to keep important stuff like this from her again—good or bad. I guess that true love isn’t just for romantic lovers, is it? Because there we were, wanting only good for each other, and damned the cost to ourselves.

So we went for a walk and held each other up like we always have. She had lost a dream and struggled with a love. I had entered a nightmare and struggled with a love. Different lives, different loves, same medicine—a best friend. We both felt better.

When I came home, Max was waiting on the roof, frantic with worry over my whereabouts. He offered to take me to see Langley in California, and when I refused, he reached for me, trying to offer some comfort, some contact that we both craved. When I flinched involuntarily and the flickering began again, his whole body sagged with helplessness. He finally turned to me, pleading with his eyes and his words: “We need to talk about what you said in the desert tonight. We can’t pretend it will just go away.”

I think those words were directed at himself, because it must have been beyond clear that I wasn’t pretending it had gone away. That was his strategy. He begged me not to shut him out, but now that I knew I couldn’t look to Max to fix this, I felt a determination well up inside me to wrestle control of my life back. I knew my next words would hurt him . . . again . . . but I couldn’t see any way out of it. My throat was clenched so tightly against my tears, I could hardly breathe, but I managed the one sentence he had to hear: “I have to figure this out for myself.” And I closed the window.

He sat there, tears in his eyes, resignation and sadness in every muscle, and he stared at me for the longest time. That intense, silent look spoke of the love that couldn’t die and the wishes that might never be fulfilled. My mind was screaming at the unfairness of a universe that would bring our two souls together and yet conspire to keep them from uniting. That window represented everything about our relationship—we could see what we wanted so clearly, and yet we could never quite touch it.

The rain started then—how appropriate—and he mouthed “I love you” to me before pulling himself over the wall and onto the fire escape. He gave me another long look then, but between the raindrops and my own tears, I couldn’t tell if he was saying goodbye. All I know is, the minute he disappeared from view, I felt empty and lost. Almost of their own volition, my feet carried me down the stairs and into the darkened Crashdown where Dad was working on some receipts. I told him my life was out of control and I wanted to go away to school. He just gathered me in his arms, and I think we both hoped that we’d finally found the right road.

I couldn’t leave without writing Max a letter explaining my decision. I knew he would be devastated, but I at least wanted him to know why. I reminded him how he once asked me “What’s so great about normal?” and that at the time, I was sure nothing was great about it, because of how he loved me, and how that wonderful state of affairs could never be normal. But then came the hard part—explaining that for now, at least, normal was perhaps the only thing that could save me. That I had to figure out who I was and what my life meant outside an alien paradigm. And then I left him the most important message—the one I prayed he would tuck into his heart and pull out to examine whenever he had doubts: “I love you more than you can ever know.”

I know that’s the truth I took with me, even though nothing else in my life was sure. It turned out to be the only truth worth knowing.

********
Liz’s words echoed against the hard, unfeeling walls of the silver mine, but the souls within them shared silent tears of injustice and heartbreak.

posted on 6-Dec-2002 1:21:25 PM by Carol000
Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving!

I did, but that and decorating for Christmas and watching "Taken" on Sci-Fi has really taken a bite out of writing time. December will be slow, folks. Sorry.

TigerEyes: I see you're back on bumping duty. Thanks! And that goes for some other wonderful bumpers as well.

2crzy4roswell: Well, there just isn't ANYTHING better than logging on to read feedback and seeing a long post that targets specific passages. You made my WEEK with that post, and I read it twice, enjoying your reaction to things.

As for writing Diane's name where I meant Nancy's, that was just brain freeze. Craig, my crazy Aussie friend, e-mailed me seconds after posting with THAT one. He never misses a chance to take a whack at me. (j/k, Craig. You know I love you.) Leave it to an Aussie, though, to leave YOU f/b on MY thread. LOL! BTW, I plan to read your story. HONEST! I just can't keep up at the moment, but it WILL happen.

Lullaby: Your reinforcement of 2crzy's "best friend" comment touched me. I know a lot of people are taking this ride with me through the sorrow that was Roswell, and I love knowing we're all in this together. You are friends, by a whole new definition. Thank you.

Okay, this part is only 12 pages, but I still need to break it up because of board rules. I hope you enjoy it.


Part 13b

The law offices of Philip Evans comprised a modest suite of rooms on the second floor of a refurbished building along Roswell’s main drag. Quaint shops and understated businesses lined the quiet sidewalks, and wrought iron streetlamps stood ready to cast their comforting glow over Roswell’s sporadic nightlife. It was all as normal as apple pie. The army sergeant who hesitated nervously at the top of the stairs stood in stark contrast to his relaxed surroundings.

How was he supposed to approach this lawyer about Nate’s request? According to Nate, this guy didn’t even really know him. He only knew of Nate, which made it highly likely he’d toss Ty out on his ear. Why hadn’t it seemed this preposterous back at the police station?

Pulling himself up to his full height and tugging one last time at his uniform, Tyler did his best to exude confidence as he walked through the door. The vague light that filtered through it’s translucent glass pane gave way to bright sunshine spilling over an old wooden desk covered with neat piles of folders.

“May I help you?”

A heavyset woman in her fifties peered over a pair of reading glasses, an officially helpful expression on her face. “Did you have an appointment?”

“Uh, no. I . . . uh . . . came to see Mr. Evans.”

“Well, I’m afraid he’s not in. He’s ill today, and I’ve already rescheduled all of his appointments. Would you like to make an appointment?”

“Yes, ma’am. That is, no ma’am. I mean, I need to see him today.” He tried to insert an official tone into his stuttering, but the result was very much like a teenage boy trying to be brave when meeting his date’s parents for the first time. Pathetic.

“As I said,” she explained patiently, “he’s ill today. Perhaps you could come back next week.”

“No ma’am. Uh, yes, well, I’ll try to see him later.”

“You’d do well to make that appointment, Sergeant. This is a small law office, but a busy one.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Knowing full well he couldn’t afford to wait for another appointment, Tyler nonetheless scheduled one because he didn’t know how else to get out of there without looking even more foolish. His name was past his lips and on the appointment calendar before he even thought about the fact that revealing his real name was probably not a good idea. His only cause for self-congratulations as he left the building was that he’d noted the home address for Philip Evans that had been on an envelope on the desk. Mr Evans must have brought it into the office from home for some reason. In any case, he knew what his next stop had to be.

********
Taylor scowled as she stepped into the bright sunshine. Agnes, the slowest waitress this side of a coma, had informed her that the Parkers had been called away and weren’t expected back until evening at the earliest. She did, however, confirm that Liz had dated a Max Evans, whose father was a lawyer, and that she secretly suspected Liz had run off with him after the brouhaha at graduation. Happy to gossip about her boss’s family, she told Taylor, in utmost confidence, that the Parkers had been acting strangely ever since that night when their daughter and some other local teens had disappeared, but had refused to call the police or talk about it in any way. Good kids gone bad, she said. Knew there was somethin’ funny about those kids for years. Up to no good for sure.

Taylor left the diner convinced that Agnes hadn’t recognized her as Nancy’s niece. Just as well. She was sure she’d gotten more information this way. Deciding on a walk to assuage her guilt over Saturn Rings and a shake, Taylor started down the street toward the address she’d gleaned from the Yellow Pages. As she entered the well-maintained brick building, she almost ran into a young army officer hurrying from the stairs and out the door. With a brief nod and a murmured “pardon,” he half walked, half ran to an old car parked out front, and sped off.

Mild curiosity was quickly replaced with thoughts of her mission, and she climbed the stairs and headed for the door bearing the name “Philip Evans & Associates, Attorneys at Law.” Just inside the door, she found a middle-aged woman crawling around on the floor, apparently gathering papers that had fallen from a folder on the desk.

“May I help you?” she panted from her unlikely position, struggling to bring herself to her feet. Taylor bent to retrieve the last couple of papers and handed them to the woman.

“Thank you,” she sighed from between reddened cheeks. “Nice to see some folks have manners.”

“Are you alright?” Taylor asked, looking around for the implied rude culprit.

“Yes, I’m fine. It’s just that Mr. Evans is ill, I have stacks of work to do, and some young army kid just flew in and out of here in such a hurry that my papers started to fly off the desk. I swear he must’ve heard those folders start to hit the floor, but he never even looked back!”

“I’m sorry, Mrs. . . .?”

“Howard. Doris Howard.”

“Mrs. Howard. I’m Taylor Holbrook. I’m a JAG officer here on behalf of an lieutenant who has been charged in a civilian case. I came to see Mr. Evans about representing him.”

“Well, as I mentioned, Mr. Evans is ill today and his associate recently moved to Boston, so I’m alone here. I’m sure he’d be glad to see you next week. Would you like an appointment?”

“No, I really need to see him right away. Do you think he’ll be in tomorrow?”

“What is it about military personnel, anyway?” she groused. “Everything has to be now, just like that sergeant.”

Taylor’s eyes widened as the possible connection hit home. “What was his hurry?” she asked casually.

“I don’t know. Wouldn’t say. All he said was, he had to see him right away. Finally made an appointment for Monday, though.”

“Thank you for your time, Mrs. Howard. I’ll call later about that appointment.”

Taylor hurried down the stairs and out onto the street, eyeing the pay phone on the corner. A glance confirmed what she had expected; the phone book had long since disappeared. She headed back to the Crashdown and checked the white pages. Good. He was listed. She noted the address and went to retrieve her car.

********

The Evans home was a comfortable looking two story with a stucco exterior and a welcoming front porch. With a basketball hoop in the driveway and a lovely view of a family-friendly park, it had all the hallmarks of a happy home. Given what Taylor knew about the children who had disappeared or run away—no one was sure which—she wondered if that were true. Her own cousin was probably with them, yet even the family wasn’t talking.

When the doorbell failed to get a response, she tried knocking. Still nothing. There was a car in the driveway and a light on in the living room—odd, given the brilliant sunshine that sizzled on every paved surface and drove restless children back indoors. Taylor retreated down the steps and walked around the corner of the house looking for any signs of activity, but all indications were that the house was deserted.

Turning back toward the street, her eye was drawn to a familiar car, and she realized it was the same one she’d seen pulling away from the law office earlier. Squinting against the sun, she thought she detected someone behind the wheel. On impulse, she started toward the car, quickly making out the silhouette of a single figure, the unmistakable outline of a military hat on his head.

Her interest was definitely piqued now, and she picked up her pace. As she neared the car, she could tell the man was intentionally avoiding eye contact, obviously hoping she would pass by without noticing him. She bent down and spoke to him through his open window.

“Good morning, Sergeant. I saw you at the Evans law office this morning, if I’m not mistaken. I have a feeling we share an interest in Nate Christopher. Care to find somewhere cool to talk?”

His mouth twitched slightly and his eyes scanned the park and street as if there was still somewhere he could hide.

“Who are you?”

“My name is Taylor Holbrook. I am the JAG consultant on Lt. Christopher’s case. I was looking for Philip Evans. I understand he might be interested in taking the case. I can’t, since it’s a civilian matter.”

The Sergeant eyed her cautiously, assessing her motives.

“How about the Crashdown?”

********
Unseen, Maya had slipped from her bed and come to look for Liz. When she found her, though, she was practically glued to that guy who had scared her this morning and made the pain in her hands come back. Her Liz stood so close to the man, Maya couldn’t even see her face, and he was holding her so tight, it made Maya afraid for her new friend.

Wriggling determinedly, she wedged herself between the two and pushed at Liz, helping her to free herself. When she looked up, though, Liz didn’t look like someone who was afraid. In fact, she was smiling down at Maya.

“Hello, Maya. Did you sleep well?”

Maya nodded her head and reached for Liz’s hand, now a rosy flesh-tone instead of green and flickering. Looking up in the other direction, she glared at Max. She wanted him to go away, but instead, he crouched down to face her, and she cringed against Liz.

“Maya, I’m Max. Are you feeling better?”

She nodded again, warily this time. She felt Liz slide down behind her.

“Maya, this is my husband, Max. He’s special, too.”

“Husband? You’re a married lady?”

Liz chuckled. “Yes, I am. A newlywed, actually. Isn’t he handsome?”

Max blushed under Maya’s appraising stare. She decided he wasn’t quite so scary when she thought of him as Liz’s husband. And he did have a very kind face, now that she looked closely.

“Yeah, but not as good as my dad,” she finally announced.

Laughter filled the room, even from a very embarrassed Max.

“He’s special, too? Like us?”

“Actually, we’re special because of him,” Liz explained. “When you’re better, I’ll explain it to you, but for now, Maya, I want you to trust him. He’s our friend.”

Liz watched Maya digest this information. She was clearly uncertain about Max, but she trusted Liz, and Liz seemed to like him. Max waited patiently as she held council with herself, and when he detected a chink in her armor, he leaned in to whisper in her ear. Brows knit in concentration, the little girl listened carefully, then smiled and looked up at Liz, nodding enthusiastically.

“Now don’t you go telling her what I said,” Max cautioned softly. “It’s private.”

She smiled at him broadly. “I won’t,” she giggled. Lifting her arms to him, he gathered her in and stood up, facing his bemused wife.

“What did you say to her?”

Max and Maya looked at each other and shook their heads in unison. “It’s private,” Maya reminded her.

Max’s laughter was spontaneous and genuine, and Liz thrilled to the sound, so rare in their serious lives. Suddenly, she imagined him holding a child of their own, building a family full of laughter and love. That would have to wait, of course, but it was sure easy to picture.

Continued in next post
posted on 6-Dec-2002 1:24:46 PM by Carol000
Part 13b continued

“I hate to break up this quaint little scene, but what exactly did you mean when you said we need to ‘get the kids together in one place’? We don’t even know where they all are. And how do we get them together without their parents getting involved?”

“Michael, weren’t you listening?” Isabel growled, still shaken at the thought of sleeping in the same bed with Liz and Max. It was too gross to even contemplate.

“Yes, I was listening! That’s exactly what Max said.”

“Let’s all go sit on the porch, and I’ll tell you what we have in mind,” Liz suggested, inwardly smiling that it took no verbal discussion for Max and her to know exactly what the other was thinking. They were more in tune with each other every day. She turned to take Max’s hand and smiled when she realized his hands were rather full of little girl at the moment.

They had filed onto the porch and arranged themselves on steps, railing, and a couple of old chairs when Liz realized River Dog and Eddie had stayed inside. She stuck her head back in the door and threw them a questioning look.

“I wasn’t sure you wanted us to be a part of this discussion,” River Dog offered in explanation. “We can’t help with what you have to do.”

“You’ve already helped,” Liz assured them. “Both of you. Please, come join us. We’re all in this together now.”

Eddie met her eyes for the first time since his outburst. “Liz, I’m sorry if . . .”

“What are you apologizing for?” she chided him. “I happen to agree with you. And besides, you got Kyle calmed down. It was like one of those ‘thanks, I needed that’ slaps.”

She saw his shoulders relax, and he smiled at her.

“Please come outside with us.” When she was satisfied they were following her, she stepped back onto the porch to find Maya had already staked her claim in Max’s lap. It was quite a turnaround for someone who had been so frightened of him only moments before. Max caught her eye and offered a tiny shrug of apology, although she could tell he was enjoying himself immensely. Apparently, Max loved kids. Who knew?

“So, chica, what’s the master plan?” Maria asked from her snug position between Michael’s legs as he perched on the porch railing.

“You’re right, Michael, we can’t physically uproot all these children and bring them to us. But we can find the others the way Maya found me. We don’t have to get their bodies here, we only need to communicate with them. Apparently, my energy is strong—it’s probably the most developed either because of my age or because of how long it’s been since I was healed—but we know Maya was able to find it over all the others. And if Max’s theory is right, Samuel will find us easily, too. The problem is time. We need to make these kids understand what’s happening before they develop symptoms or show them to their parents . . . if it’s not too late already.”

“That’s why you need me,” affirmed Isabel. “I can help locate them faster.”

“So you’re saying you’ll do all this during your sleep. We won’t even have to find out where they are?”

“Exactly,” nodded Max. “Although eventually, we should know where they are so we can keep track of them. I mean, someday, they’ll grow and marry and have families. In another generation, this thing could multiply geometrically.”

That thought brought conversation to an uncomfortable halt for several minutes. No one else had even thought that far down the road yet.

“Samuel needs to be first because I don’t think he’ll be able to hide this without our help,” Max continued. “He probably won’t even try. His mother watches him constantly, out of necessity. Besides, Maya’s already had some contact with him, right, Maya?”

“I didn’t really talk to him, like Liz. I could see him, and I think he could see me, but he didn’t tell me anything.”

“How did you know his name?”

Maya considered the question. “I just did.”

Max and Liz exchanged a look. Like Liz’s encounter with Maya the night before, the conversation must have taken place telepathically. This added a whole new dimension to the evolution of advanced powers in humans.

“Sidney should be next,” Max went on. “In fact, what do you think of telling Brody the truth?”

“What?!” Max would have laid money on Michael’s reaction. Some things never change.

“Why don’t we just take out an ad in the Roswell Daily Record? How many people do you think we can bring into this and still keep it secret?”

“You forget, Michael, that Brody already believes in aliens. He believes in their existence and their powers. He even wants to reestablish contact. It’s the easiest leap we’ll ever have with anyone. And it will help him cope with Sidney. He might even be a good go-between with the other families, if necessary, since he’d actually have a plausible reason to contact them. All their kids had the same ‘miraculous’ experience.”

“Believe me,” Kyle added, “once you know aliens have saved your life or the life of someone you love, you get pretty inclined to be supportive. Look at me. Look at my dad. You couldn’t have found two people less inclined to accept and protect aliens, could you? But Brody runs the damn UFO center. He’ll be ecstatic.”

“You weren’t feeling so supportive half an hour ago,” Michael countered. “You were freaking out, and you’ve been living with this for a year.”

“I know,” Kyle admitted, looking at his shoes. “I did freak. It gets to me every once in a while, so sue me. But that was five minutes out of a year, okay?” He raised his eyes to face Michael. “Wanna count the times I’ve been there for you guys?”

They stared each other down until Maria broke the silence.

“I know Brody better than any of you, even Max. We used to talk about all sorts of things, and I can tell you, he’d be okay with it. He’ll have tons of questions, of course, and he’ll have to come to terms with the fact that a lot of what he thought was true isn’t really that way, but he’ll be okay. He told me once that if he could just know in his own mind that he wasn’t crazy, he could sleep again. And he adores Sidney. If he knew you were responsible for saving her, there’s nothing he wouldn’t do for you.”

“Let’s see what happens first,” Max offered. “We’ll see if Liz and Maya can contact Sidney and find out if she’s had any symptoms yet. One step at a time, okay?”

A deep sigh against his chest drew his attention downward. Maya had fallen asleep again, tucked safely in Max’s arms. Her total trust in him, after such a rough first meeting, was a mystery, but he seemed more than happy to bask in its side effects. He tenderly balanced her across his arms and carried her inside, enjoying the undeniable peace on her face. He knew that peace. Not often enough, maybe, but he found it every time he and Liz were alone together—whether he was in her thoughts or her arms or buried deep inside her welcoming body, Liz was his peace. And maybe, someday, they’d have a beautiful child to show for it.

That day would be a long time coming, but the rest he could have now. Right now.

He lowered Maya into the bed and covered her. Then, grabbing a blanket from the chair, he returned to the porch and pulled Liz to a standing position. “We need to get some sleep. We’re the only ones who haven’t had so much as a nap.”

Kyle opened his mouth to correct him, then snapped it shut as his face heated up. Shut up, Valenti. The last thing you need is Evans finding out what you saw out by that waterfall. So he watched in silence as Max took Liz by the hand and disappeared down the path.

********

It was only late morning, but between the almost sleepless night, their burst of energy at the waterfall, and their somewhat traumatic meeting with Maya, they were exhausted. That was one very good reason to get away from the group and get some rest. The better reason was that their alone time was rare, and any opportunity that presented itself was a gift. No amount of loving could quench their thirst for each other, and their need to join had only grown more powerful as their bond strengthened and matured. It was a mystery, but neither of them was all that interested in solving it.

As they walked together into the woods, Max delighted in the sun-dappled forest floor and the swoosh of the leaves greeting the day. It seemed to set the tone for finding that peace he had recognized on Maya’s sleeping face, the peace that he’d found as soon as he’d opened himself up to Liz and she had returned his feelings.

He looked down at his bride and acknowledged that his internal struggle between pride in her and fear for her would never leave him. She had been amazing this morning—confident in the face of yet more changes, gentle with a sweet but frightened little girl, and so trusting as their connection grew to unprecedented levels. He had always loved and respected her, but now he was seeing her with new eyes. He thought back to what she had told him about Future Max and his reaction to her, referring to her as so young and innocent. Already, he knew, he had seen some of the change his other self had seen as his bride grew into her potential at his side. She was a soulmate, yes, and a lifemate, too. They were meant to do this together, lending their own strength and support to each other along the way.

How could it be that he had found her here after a long journey from another galaxy and 40 years in the pod? Was it truly written in the stars that he would find this one woman who completed him, loved him as he loved her? If the ship had crashed in Arkansas or Argentina or Africa, would he have found someone there as well? Or would he have braved other distances and obstacles to find this one, this beauty who stood before him now with a puzzled but gentle smile on her face.

“What,” Liz asked with good-natured suspicion. “You’re staring at me.”

“Yes, I am,” he admitted with a sheepish grin. “I’ve spent years developing that particular skill into an art form. And now we’re married, so I can stare as much as I want.”

She slid her small, warm hands up his chest, looking beyond his teasing eyes into the battle of thoughts behind them.

“I freaked you out a little this morning, didn’t I?”

He idly stroked her hair as he searched the distance for an answer. “No, not freaked out exactly. But what you did, I guess I just have to change the way I think about you.”

Her smile slipped into a frown. “Why? I’m still the same person.” She tipped his face down so that their eye contact would boost their connection. “I’m still me.”

Liz watched Max’s face relax into a beautiful smile. “Using my own words on me, my queen? I know you’re still you, but now you’re growing, expanding, and I have to let you do that, just as you’ve let me. As much as we yearn for a normal life and try to hide the truth of our existence from the world, we just seemed to be destined for the dramatic, Liz. By breaking my own rules that day in the Crashdown, I opened Pandora’s Box, and I’ll never get it closed. Now, instead of three of us, there are more people touched by this every day. We have to change the way we see the world . . . and each other.”

He pulled Liz toward a cluster of trees whose highest branches opened to a perfectly circular view of blue sky. With a casual wave of his hand, the leaves and twigs on the ground broke into a soft mulch, and Max spread the blanket over the makeshift mattress. They reached for each other automatically, and snuggled side by side, eyes turned toward an azure dome.

“I’ve always said we were a team, Max. You only saw someone to protect and love, and while I admit to liking that feeling sometimes, I always wanted you to see me as someone more. I wanted to prove to you that I could be a partner to you, even though I’m human. You fought me for a long time.”

It was a gentle scolding, and a loving one, but he knew she was right.

“Yeah, I know,” Max sighed, “but when you think you may have endangered the most important person in your life, you tend to be a little overprotective.” He turned and looked deeply into her eyes. “I couldn’t survive without you, Liz. Not any more. I wouldn’t even want to try.”

“You won’t ever have to,” she breathed, leaning forward to brush her lips against his, the crackly hum of electricity spreading inward like rays of sun on a winter-chilled face. She gasped as he lowered his body against hers and swept inside her mouth, tasting her almost as if for the first time.

You’re my life, Liz.

Startled, Liz pulled back, searching Max’s face for some obvious solution to the question that her dazed mind couldn’t grasp.

“What’s wrong?” he asked, tensing in reaction to her unexpected withdrawal. Her face was wary, confused. “Liz? What’s wrong?”

“I . . . I . . . Did you say something? No, you couldn’t have. We were kissing.”

“What did you hear?” Max questioned softly, wondering if this was what he suspected.

Liz tried to read his face, certain she was missing some important element, then looked away, embarrassed. “Never mind. I . . . It’s stupid . . . impossible.”

“Liz, I never thought I’d hear those words from you, of all people. What did you hear? It’s okay. Tell me,” he coaxed as his hands rubbed her arms soothingly.

Liz let out a nervous chuckle. “Probably just me fantasizing,” she shrugged, “but I thought you said, ‘You’re my life, Liz.’”

Max froze, digesting the exact words he had expected to hear, had hoped to hear, but thought perhaps he never would. He watched her watching him, trying to understand what her words meant to him, to both of them. Then his mouth broke into a wide smile and happiness lit his eyes.

Liz smiled with him because she could do nothing else when he looked like this, but she was still afraid to let herself understand. Finally, he began to laugh and hugged her to him.

“I did say it, Liz. I did.”

He pulled back again, looking into her eyes to see if she understood. She did. She threw aside her doubt that this would ever be possible for them and let the truth penetrate her consciousness. Her sudden smile dazzled him, and she clung to him as the laughter bubbled between them.

“Do you think it works both ways?” she wondered.

“Give it a try.”

Liz closed her eyes and frowned in concentration.

“You’re not making a wish and blowing out birthday candles, Liz,” Max laughed. “Just relax and think what you would normally think.”

Her eyes flew open and he instantly heard a familiar voice say Make love to me, Max.

He grinned in acknowledgement, and Liz beamed at his understanding. Their connection was complete. They could hear each other’s thoughts. Seconds later, his eyes turned from alight with joy to dark with passion. “We are one, Liz. Truly one. Every time we pass a new threshold together, I think we are finally one—as close as two people can be, and still I wonder why I . . . I can’t get enough of you.” He buried his face in her neck, kissing her urgently, teardrops leaving slow tickles of honesty in their wake. Never enough!

The rush of his words, uttered silently amidst waves of powerful emotion overwhelmed her, and she began to cry under their onslaught. Sobs broke the tranquility of the forest, belying the peace that replaced them.

********

posted on 10-Dec-2002 12:49:59 AM by Carol000
I'm giving this a bump myself this time. I feel enthusiasm for this story draining away, so I'm considering calling a halt to it. I'll know in a few days if it's worth continuing.
posted on 27-Dec-2002 10:10:28 AM by Carol000
I'm NOT GONE FOR GOOD!!!

I owe you all an explanation of my absence:

First, I love Christmas and get extra busy around the holidays.

Second, about 10 days before Christmas, my colleague's father died. We are the only two journal editors, so my work life became unbelievably busy! I was now doing work for two and also last-minute Christmas things.

Third, we were only home for Christmas a few hours when my father-in-law died suddenly. We were in shock and planning a funeral for the first time ever. It has been a trying and busy time, and needless to say, I haven't been writing.

BUT, I haven't forgotten you or Chameleon, and will be back as soon as I can with the next journal entry. I hope you'll be patient and return to the story when it's finally ready.

Thanks to the many Rospals who have sent their condolences and good wishes.

Carol

posted on 2-Jan-2003 11:32:25 PM by Carol000
You guys are overwhelming me with your kind thoughts and prayers. Thanks so much!

As I told a friend, my muse is beginning to stretch and yawn again. I feel ready to get back to the story, and just need a big chunk of time to write. I hope this weekend will be the start of a new journal entry, and hopefully, I'll get it up before leaving for the burial (yes, this is an interstate deal) in Nebraska on the 11th.

I've been trying to catch up on READING fic, and I realize how much I've missed! Please be patient if you are one of the authors I seem to have abandoned. I'm getting there! And to readers of this story, THANK YOU for the patience you've already shown.

See you in a few days, I hope!


posted on 5-Jan-2003 1:01:47 AM by Carol000
Hey, you sweet, wonderful bumpers! I wrote quite a bit today. If I get the same effort tomorrow, I should be able to post by at least Monday night.

All your messages of support and encouragement have meant the world to me. THANK YOU!

Be warned--this next journal entry is rough stuff--Panacea, Chant Down Babylon, and WDAMYK. Eeek.


posted on 6-Jan-2003 8:08:19 PM by Carol000
What a patient bunch you are! Thanks for the many messages of condolence and the many bumps! I so appreciate it.

Well, does anybody remember what this story is about? LOL! This journal entry covers Panacea, Chant Down Babylon, and WDAMYK. That means only one more after this.

As usual, this is posted in two parts,

Without further ado, I give you . . .

Part 14a

Nancy’s voice was giving out, so Jeff reached for the journal. They would have been grateful for a break, but the sun was high in the sky now, and they knew they were close to finishing. Without debate, they agreed to continue. Jeff straightened to ease his tired back, and pushed on.

********I left Roswell behind. Or tried to. And now, a month later, I’m back. I’ve been trying to sort out everything that happened during that time. It’s a little like doing a puzzle blindfolded while people tell you where to put the pieces. It’s all disjointed and confusing, but I know that eventually, I’ll have the whole picture. Here’s what I’ve figured out so far.

For my part, the bus ride to Vermont was a chance to do some much-needed soul searching. As I wrote in a letter to Maria, it almost felt liberating. The further away I got from Roswell, the more I felt like myself again—like a normal teenager. Not once did I examine the faces of the other passengers wondering if they were Skins or shapeshifters or any other kind of alien. Not once did I tell a lie to explain my actions or worry about whether I could fit in a meeting with the others to address some emergency and still study for my AP bio test. And not once did I feel the painful flickering in my hands that signaled another round of alien energy that had to be hidden inside my sweater sleeves. I was just me. Liz Parker. And I was going to start fresh in a new school. As I said—liberating.

It was enlightening, too, though, because I found that in a way, I can’t be just Liz Parker anymore. Not the one I used to be, anyway. I slowly began to realize that getting away from the alien chaos may have been a good thing, but getting away from Max was like leaving part of my heart behind. The thing is—and I think this is something that I knew deep inside but never consciously acknowledged—Max is not just an alien. I mean, of course he is alien, but that’s not all he is. Max is a living soul. One that has infused my every thought and every breath since the day he saved my life. And even though so much of what we’ve talked about and experienced since then has been about aliens and about the danger and differences between us, all that’s done is help me know the man he is, and that he is the one I want to invest my love and my life in forever.

It’s all very confusing and very clear at the same time. What I needed most was time to think, and that’s what this change was supposed to give me. Or at least that’s how I approached it. The dean would have been intimidating had I not longed for the orderly routine she outlined—uniforms, rules, curfews. It sounded perfect. I didn’t want decisions or adventure. I wanted peace. My roommate, Eileen Burrows, tried to come off as confident and rebellious, but her idea of trouble making was smoking in the room and drinking in an attic hideaway they referred to as The Rat (a reference to rathskeller, she said). I could have laughed at the simplicity of it.

I told her a bunch of lies—that I went by Beth, that I was from California, and that I had no boyfriend. I guess I wanted to reinvent myself, since the first version had problems I just didn’t feel equipped to deal with anymore. My new identity didn’t last long, though. One call from Max blew the name and boyfriend lies out of the water, and once confronted, I spilled the beans on the whole messy story. Not the alien part, of course, but the boyfriend/ overprotective dad/ arrest for armed robbery/ grades going down the tubes parts. She was impressed. In a funny way, her reaction was a kick, and it made me anxious to uphold my reputation. That was the night I insisted on seeing this Rat place for myself—after curfew—and I began my brief flirtation with drinking.

Drinking and deep dark secrets are a dangerous combination. I know I didn’t tell her anything that could hurt Max and the others, but I also know that she got me talking about Max again, and I should never do that when I’m not thinking straight. Still, as I talked, she saw such easy answers for my complex problems, and I resented that a little. When I think of Max, our love is always the lens giving the rest of it form and purpose. But without that, through Eileen’s eyes, there was only a cheater and a girl afraid of leaving him.

It’s like when you’re really, really mad at your mom, and you complain bitterly to your friends about her. And then they agree, and tell you that she’s a bad mother or a mean person, and suddenly you find yourself defending the very person you were so set on dissing a few minutes before. When you love someone, you’re allowed to complain about them because you have a solid foundation to balance it against. But others aren’t allowed to agree. Your close bond gives you the space to voice your opinions without fear of permanently damaging that relationship, but outsiders don’t have that balance. It’s all black and white to them. Nothing is really black and white, though, when you know enough about it, is it?

That’s how it was that night. I remember Eileen calling Max a cheater, saying “Once a cheater, always a cheater.” She asked if he’d hurt me, and when I said yes, she gave me a speech about how mean and useless men are. Her words got me thinking, but not about how awful Max was. Instead, they reminded me how special he is, and how we’d both made mistakes, and how most of what happened was beyond his control. For Eileen, I shouted against the horror that is men; in my heart, I found myself defending Max, and recognizing that who I am—no matter where I am—is so wrapped up in him that there is no separating the two. For the umpteenth time, I remembered a little poem that I always thought described our relationship: You have gone through me like thread through a needle; now everything I do is stitched with your color. Yep, that’s us.

Still, even if I couldn’t separate myself from Max’s influence, the physical distance was justified. The one phone call from Max had my hands flashing again, and I out-and-out melted the phone in the hallway. Clearly, I needed to regain my equilibrium, and that, I knew, couldn’t be done with Max by my side.

I was just settling into the routine and learning how to circumvent the more restrictive Winnaman rules when Maria showed up. I was thrilled to see her, and yet I knew that when she blew through the door, Roswell was blowing through with her. At first, it didn’t seem too threatening. She was regaining her own equilibrium after a painful education at the hands of a talent scout for a major record label. I knew she’d been invited to cut a demo in New York following a terrific performance with the KitShickers, but the dream morphed into a nightmare when Maria realized they weren’t after her songwriting talents or her personal musical statements; all they wanted was to plug her into a pre-molded persona that could sell the songs they already had hanging on the rack. It was a blow to her ego and her artistic integrity, but she stuck to her guns and called their bluff. Her first shot at stardom had fizzled, but you can’t keep Maria down. All she needed was time, just like me.

We shared our heartache up in The Rat, talking until the wee hours. Then, having unburdened ourselves, we drifted into the warm security of sleep until a horrible vision burst in on my dreams and I knew . . . Max was dead.********

“Dead?!” Diane sat bolt upright, the shock reverberating through her body even though she knew her son had been alive long after this incident. “What does she mean dead? He was fine later on! Was it a dream?”

“No,” Jim soothed, “not a dream, but not really a fact, either. It’s very complicated, and I have no doubt Liz will explain in her journal. But be prepared, Diane. It’s a scary story, and in a way, Max did go to hell and back. Just keep reminding yourself, he came out of it. We’ve been down this road a few times since we started reading this journal, so try to stay calm.”

Diane frowned, her breathing ragged, and Philip, who had remained quiet, was looking pale, too. He reached for her hand and squeezed. “He’s okay, sweetheart. Just keep telling yourself that.”

She nodded and settled against him, looking anything but prepared to hear how her son died . . . or almost did.

********That’s when Roswell came flooding back into my life, even from across a continent. Maria didn’t believe me at first. I don’t really blame her. The connection Max and I share startles even us sometimes, and the whole thing sure had all the earmarks of a bad dream. But I knew. The cold certainty of it left me numb, devoid of any feeling except emptiness and hopelessness. As I wandered through the empty campus that night, unable to feel even the chill of the light fog that hovered over melting snow, I knew I had separated myself from the only man I would ever love. I had lost those weeks with him—weeks that could have been full of the love he was so eager to give and the intimacy we had been so afraid to share. Maybe my being there could have made a difference. Maybe I could have stopped whatever it was that took him from me. Maybe my leaving had left him unable to care about being watchful or prudent or smart. Now he was the one who had left, and my future had disappeared.

When Maria found me later, and I watched the tears streak down her grief-contorted face, I felt no sense of shock. All I could do was wrap my arms around her and offer unfeeling comfort. I couldn’t share it with her. I couldn’t offer her words of solace. I had nothing to give. My past, my future, my hopes and dreams—they had all drained out of the gaping hole left by one brutal flash.

Maria told me that night that Max had died in a fire trying to save Valenti’s life. He’d been heroic. While I didn’t have trouble believing Max capable of such a thing, I learned later that this was Michael’s stripped-down version of the truth, suitable for public consumption and eavesdropping ears. The real truth, as usual, was much more complicated and explained what happened later on campus.

The details are sketchy; no one was privy to all the events that led to Max’s death, but I’ve talked to everyone involved since I’ve returned, and the chronology I’ve pieced together looks like this:

Michael was still working as a security guard at MetaChem. Downsizing had hit staffing there as it had so many other companies, and the team of guards that used to work the night shift had been stripped to pairs. That night, Michael was working with Monk Pyle, a strange character who had, for whatever reason, endeared himself to Michael. During their shift, they detected a breach at one of the secured labs. Michael had gone to investigate while Monk called 9-1-1. After making the call, Monk headed down to the scene of the breach but stopped to call Michael on the walkie-talkie when he caught sight of movement down the hall. The next thing Michael heard was gunshots, and when he finally found Monk unconscious and bleeding on the floor, there was nothing he could do for him but cry.

MetaChem’s cursory investigation left Michael feeling angry. He felt there was no sincere effort to find the murderer, and MetaChem had successfully kept him from talking to the police. In desperation, he went to Valenti, who offered help the only way he could as a civilian. He applied for and got a job as Monk’s replacement, allowing him access to the crime scene and limited bits of evidence. A special phosphorescent spray allowed him to track the footprints that the police had established belonged to the culprit, and they led him right to a locked lab. When Michael got them into that lab, they were horrified to discover evidence that MetaChem scientists had been studying Michael, including blood analysis. Other artifacts, such as the dress I was wearing when I got shot, were also bagged and tagged. It was Michael’s worst nightmare.

Valenti and Michael got everything into a plastic bag but were forced to hide when two technicians walked in. Valenti managed a good cover story, asking for IDs—a precaution since the break-in, he said—allowing Michael to sneak out behind them. Valenti didn’t make it out, though. He said a woman, who he later learned was Merris Wheeler, wife of Clayton Wheeler, the corporate magnate and MetaChem’s owner, had him taken at gunpoint and thrown into a closet.

Michael immediately called Max and Isabel, and they spent all night worrying about what the lab had learned and about Valenti’s whereabouts. When Kyle showed up saying his dad had never come home, they planned a rescue for that evening. It started out well, I think, because Max found Valenti, and Michael was able to help him avoid other personnel by watching security cameras. But Merris Wheeler had been expecting the rescue, and had Valenti shot. She and her goons waited, hidden, until Max had healed Valenti, and seconds later, they led the two men away at gunpoint.

At first, Max said, he couldn’t figure out what they wanted, but soon Merris introduced her husband to Max—an old man on oxygen, breathing his last breaths. She told Max that they’d been tracking every lead for years, and that they had pieced together at least part of the truth about aliens—or one alien—with miraculous healing ability. Now they knew they had the right one, since Michael had failed to heal Monk. The idea that they had let a young man die in an effort to find someone to bring an old man back from the brink of death shook Max to his very core. He tried to explain that his healing abilities did not extend to preventing the elderly from a natural death, but she threatened to kill both him and Valenti if he didn’t try.

I think I’ve said before that Max never does anything halfway. He gave it everything. Everything. He gave his life. Every bit of life force flowed into that old man until there was nothing left of Max. A rejuvenated Clayton Wheeler bolted from his wheelchair to escape with his wife as an aged and lifeless Max collapsed to the floor. Valenti told us that within seconds, a burst of flames spread outward from Max’s body, creating a spokes-and-wheel effect with Max at the center. As the fire spread, Valenti reached for him, but his body turned to dust right before his eyes.********

Sobs punctuated the horrendous story, and even Jeff had to stop to regain his composure. Diane was buried in her husband’s chest, oblivious to his tears as they dropped to her hair and disappeared. Amy was shaking, and a somber Jim wrapped his arms around her. Nancy swiped at her own tears, regretting for the hundredth time the suspicions about Max and his character.

“How could . . . he . . . have come back . . . from that?” Diane hiccupped. “Is it really . . . Max . . . who came back . . . to us?”

“It’s Max,” Jim assured her quietly. “But I think the body must be a genetic phenomenon. I even talked to Max about it, and he’s as confused as anyone about how Clayton Wheeler awoke from this looking like Max.”

“What?” Philip asked, clearly confused.

“Jim’s gotten a little ahead of us,” Jeff cautioned. “This is why we’re reading all this in order. Liz has explained it, at least as well as she can.”

********That must have been the very moment I felt his loss. I always knew I carried something of Max with me all the time, but I don’t think I ever knew how much a part of me it was until it was gone. His presence in my life and in my heart and soul changed me. When that presence disappeared, what was left was only part of me, and I hardly recognized it. Maybe that’s why I felt numb and lost. My heart was ripped from me, and I was adrift in unfamiliar space.

Michael said that he and Isabel came on the scene after the fire had started. They were able to blow the door in with their powers, but the flames leaping from the doorway were too much even for them. Valenti emerged with a burnt hand and told them Max was dead. He had to drag Isabel screaming from the building, and even Michael had to accept that there was nothing he could do.

They had little time to grieve as they emerged from the building because Merris and Clayton Wheeler were making a run for it. Isabel and Michael tried to challenge them, but the goons had guns and a bullet caught Isabel. To make things worse, Jesse, who had been following Isabel in his confusion about her secretive ways, came on the scene. Michael and Valenti said he was beside himself with panic and naturally fought with them when they wouldn’t call for help. Michael had to blurt out the truth to keep him from calling, and even then it was only the violent streaks of electricity leaping from her fingers that stunned him enough to accept what they were saying. Poor Jesse. What a way to hear that his life would never be the same.********

“So that’s how he found out,” Philip said to himself, then looked up to find the others waiting expectantly. “We found out a few weeks later, and Jesse told us he hadn’t know for long, but he never explained exactly how he did find out. I honestly thought it might be something sexual, and I didn’t want to pry, but now I realize he didn’t want us to know about Isabel being shot.”

“His situation was even more shocking than ours,” Diane agreed.

“How did you find out?” Nancy asked, wondering what could rival Jesse’s revelation.

“We didn’t know until Tess showed up with the baby.”

“WHAT?! The baby is here?” Nancy was wide-eyed and her fingers were digging painfully into Jeff’s leg.

“Stop!” Jeff shouted, leaving both women with their mouths open. “We are so close to the end. Liz explains everything. Please, let’s finish this in its logical order. It turns out alright, Nancy. Please stay calm.”

Nancy quieted, but her eyes still focused on Diane accusingly. Tiredness and tension were taking their toll.

********What happened at the Valenti house after that is fuzzy. I guess Jesse had an old college buddy who became a doctor and then lost his license over bogus prescriptions. He probably saved Isabel’s life that night, and knew enough not to ask too many questions, but when her fever reached 112 and later rose to 115, he was pretty shaken. Kyle said they took turns sitting with Isabel, and he even tried to heal her himself, thinking maybe he might have developed some powers along the way, but it did no good. In the end, it was Michael’s voice that Isabel said she followed back to us, and I think that made Michael feel good. He loves her, in his way, but even more, he needs her. He has so little stability in his life, and Isabel is his center, even more than Max. Less rivalry and a lot less testosterone. I wouldn’t be surprised if he even managed a little prayer.

I know it was rocky for Jesse and Isabel. I think it still is. But to his credit, he’s agreed to try and work through it. I don’t know how that will come out, but I hope they had enough together to make it work. If one of the three couples makes it, it gives the rest of us hope.

What happened to Max, though, is the fuzziest part of all. Even Max is struggling to make the pieces fit on that one. He knows his original body disintegrated, but he also knows that somehow sending all of his healing power and life force into Clayton Wheeler didn’t result in a younger version of Clayton; it reproduced Max with Clayton’s mind in charge.

It was hard to make Max talk about this later. At first, I thought it was because the memory was either too painful or too scattered, but once he admitted to some hazy details, I realized he was afraid I might be jealous. With Clayton’s mind firmly in control, he began to make love to his wife, who was more than excited to have a virile young man in her bed. But Max insists it never went beyond a few kisses because he fought hard against Clayton. He told me that he concentrated on me, just as he had in the White Room two years ago, and that those memories had strengthened him, helping him to push into Clayton’s mind enough to disrupt his thoughts.

Once Clayton knew he was in there, I guess they fought constantly for control. Max found himself arguing with Clayton about who he loved and where his loyalties lay. He doesn’t remember doing it, but we know they found Merris’s body in the library. We can’t think of any explanation other than Max somehow won out over Clayton and silenced one of the demon voices by killing her.********

“He killed someone?” Diane breathed. Jim and Jeff exchanged glances. Diane Evans was beginning to dissolve. This was all just too much for her.

Jim looked over at Philip, who held her helplessly, stunned himself. “Philip, maybe you and Diane ought to sit this one out. This is hard enough to hear without the love of a parent intensifying every shock.”

Philip’s eyes narrowed. “This is our son, Jim. He endured this alone. If we can’t even listen to it, what kind of parents does that make us? I haven’t given up on the hope that we’ll see him again, and when that day comes, I want to look at him—man to man—and know what he’s been through. I’m learning that my secretive, quiet son was never someone to mistrust or doubt. He’s a man. A king. With courage and character that I couldn’t begin to lay claim to myself.” He straightened Diane, half propping her up in her chair. “We’ll hear this. Go on, Jeff.”

Jeff nodded his admiration and glanced at Jim, who nodded his consent.

********Meanwhile, I had tried drinking again to escape the grief that had started to well up inside of me. I’d had quite a bit already when Maria found me. I guess I was pretty ugly to her. And my powers were back, too, because when I couldn’t open the liquor cabinet, I inadvertently blasted a hole in it. It was the worst possible scenario, and in spite of what I told Maria, it actually crossed my mind to jump out that window and end the pain.********

It was Nancy’s turn to fight for her resolve to listen. A soft moan escaped her throat in spite of her best intentions, but a worried glance from Jeff stifled any more sounds. She, too, intended to hear every word.

********What I did do was bolt, heading out again into the empty campus, away from her familiar face and, I hoped, away from Max’s. He was haunting every thought, superimposed on every image. I was trashed—a state I had never really expected to find myself in. I had looked at my drunken classmates with disgust on so many weekends, and here I was, following their very unstable and purposeless footsteps. When I slipped and fell on a patch of snow, I looked up to see Max standing over me. Even in that state, I knew he couldn’t be real, so I had a good laugh—until he didn’t go away, that is. I remember how my stomach lurched when I reached for the apparition and it was as solid as I was. The flashes started, too—memories of beautiful moments we’d spent together, and I could feel him for the first time in two days. I was overwhelmed with blessed relief, reaching for him and kissing him.

He didn’t really kiss me back, though. Not the way Max would have. And when I pulled back to ask what was wrong, I saw so much confusion on his face. Then he ran from me, and I think that’s when I passed out. Maria found me a while later and got me back to the dorm. She gave me her mom’s hangover cure and convinced me that what I’d seen was a drunken hallucination. I had to accept that. What other explanation could there be?

Later, I went to take a shower, but when I walked back into the room, Max was strangling Maria. I froze. Nothing I was seeing made any sense. Max couldn’t hurt anyone unless they were hurting someone else, but there he was, his hands around her throat, squeezing and pressing her back across the desk.

I yelled his name and he turned instantly, throwing Maria aside and focusing only on me. I looked at his eyes, and knew that no matter what else I thought I saw, the man standing in front of me was not Max. There was a menacing threat in those eyes, and a dark purpose controlling the mind that spun wildly behind them. I ran. As fast as my legs would carry me.

I’ve seen a hundred movies where the victim being chased goes up, and in every case, I’ve yelled at the screen, “Never go up, you idiot!” But for whatever reason, I ran up—right to The Rat. It was a stupid move, but I’ll be kinder to those movie victims in the future. He followed me easily and attacked me with only one thing on his mind—murder. The next thing I knew, his hands were around my throat, and our eyes locked. Then suddenly he was pushing me away, and he fell to the floor. He whispered my name, and I knew Max was back with me. I was so confused, though, not understanding what was driving him like this.

The only explanation he could offer in the few seconds he had control was that it wasn’t really him in that body, and that someone named Clayton—I didn’t know who that was at the time—was controlling it and had to be killed. I looked at him dumbstruck. He was asking me to kill Max, or at least Max’s body. How could I do that? How could I raise a weapon against the man I love? How could I seriously attempt to take his life?

But he pleaded with me, and I could tell he was desperate. I could still imagine his fingers squeezing my throat with no hesitation or mercy. My reluctance drove him to shout at me, “Do it!!” I raised the poker I found in my hands and braced myself to do the unthinkable, but before I could make the move, Clayton had returned and lunged at me. He seemed to intentionally send us both through the window, and I suspect that at that moment, maybe it was Max calling the shots, because as we fell, Max created a net of energy to catch me and break my fall, but he let his own body slam to the ground.

How many people would willingly sacrifice themselves to assure that I would be safe? How do you measure that kind of love? As I sat up, disoriented at first from the fall, I realized Max might really be gone for good this time. I remember wondering how many times I could go through losing him—the White Room, the Destiny message, Tess, the goodbye before they planned to leave on the granolith, the sudden sense of his death just a couple of days before, and now this. No one should have to grieve that often. Not over one man.

I bent to kiss him in what I feared was the final goodbye. When I pulled away, he was as still as ever until a light infused his face and for a moment, I was looking down at a very old man. Just as quickly, though, that face disappeared, and Max returned, eyes open this time. It was really him. He was back behind those eyes I have loved so much for so long. He told me I’d saved his life, and I told him we were even now. And then we held each other for a long time, lost in the feel of arms we both thought never to feel again. I tried not to understand anything just then. All that filled my world were strong arms enfolding me, warm breath on my neck, and a simple truth that our lives are forever linked.

Maria found us, of course. I imagine the noise of bodies crashing through a slatted roof might have given our location away. She seemed to understand that this was not the time for questions or answers, so when I said, “Let’s go home,” there was no conversation. We simply walked away.

Maria made the phone calls to Roswell. By the time she’d finished, Michael and Isabel were sighing with relief, and we had e-tickets home. Max and I just sat in the airport holding on to each other. I think we knew that once we started talking, it would take hours and lots of emotional energy. Neither of us were ready, so we touched, and looked, and soothed each other in a silent exchange that we had perfected long ago. He was alive and in my arms. That was enough.

You would think that after all we’d been through, there would be very little that could scare us, but you’d be wrong. Even after coming home and falling back into something of a routine, we avoided having any meaningful conversation. I think we both knew that we had some dangerous territory to cover, and we were too fragile to chance any more conflict between us. Not talking ensured that we wouldn’t add any new baggage to an already formidable pile.

When Max showed up at the Crashdown one night and asked me out, I was torn. I wanted to go. I wanted to spend my evening with him, or better yet, my life. But I could hear myself putting him off, and it wasn’t hard to recognize that I was afraid to start down that road again. It was like the world’s most painful case of déjà vu. How many times had we grown close, become a couple, been slammed with a crisis, and parted—either by our own doing or by an outside force? The answer is: too many. So I felt myself resisting, already looking down that road and predicting disaster. I didn’t have it in me. I was tired right to the center of my being, and I just didn’t think I could do it again.********


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 6-Jan-2003 9:39:54 PM ]
posted on 6-Jan-2003 8:12:00 PM by Carol000
Part 14a continued

“I think I remember that day,” Jeff murmured, squinting to focus the faint memory. “I saw him talking to her at her locker, and all the old worries started to niggle at me again. It was almost reflex to tell him to stay away from her, but something stopped me. I thought about how sending Liz away hadn’t done anything to keep her safe or protect her from undesirable elements—not even in a fancy girls’ school. And I could never shake what you said to me on New Year’s Eve, Jim, about Max being a really good kid who’d made a mistake. I know I made a ton of them at his age. I guess once Liz came home, I started seeing her as more grown up, more able to handle herself out there in the world. That’s what made it possible for me to just say hello as I walked by.”

“Max was juggling a lot then,” Jim agreed. “Can you even imagine? He’d actually died and had to fight another psyche for possession of his own body! He’d come home to find he’d almost lost his sister, and Jesse was an unknown quantity, too. Still, Liz was never far from his thoughts. When you think of all they’ve been through, you can’t deny that their love is something really special. I confess I’ve been a little awed by it—intimidated even.”

“All those suspicions we had,” Diane sighed. “We wasted so much time being suspicious of what he was up to, worrying that he was getting in with the wrong people or something. It’s almost laughable.”

Philip was very quiet, keeping his eyes on the ground as he listened.

“That’s about the time you came to me at the Crashdown, isn’t it, Philip?” Jim asked. “You wondered if Liz’s sudden return had anything to do with Max.”

Philip leaned forward and rested his face against his hands, wiping at his eyes and blowing a resigned sigh from puffed cheeks. “Yeah, I did. Everything I’d uncovered always led me back to Liz, and I just couldn’t shake the feeling that her return was linked to him. What you didn’t know was that when Maria called you to get Liz a ticket home, she had called me to get one for Max. She fed me some line about Max and Michael coming to see her in New York and Michael taking off with the only car. It was bullshit, and I knew it, but there was no point in arguing with Maria about it. I just wanted Max home where I could get some real answers. When I realized you didn’t know they’d both come home from Vermont, I didn’t have the heart to tell you. I guess I was afraid you’d go after Max for sure.”

“This has been as hard on you as it has on us,” Nancy stated softly. “Remember how we worried and drank coffee for hours when they didn’t come home from the desert that time? Maybe we should have kept that alliance up.” She smiled, letting her comment hang between truth and teasing. They all knew it was both.

“But you knew something I didn’t know, Jeff,” Philip continued. “Because you told me that night not to waste time not trusting Max. You said life was complicated enough already. You were right. Somehow you wised up before any of us. Still, even you didn’t know how really complicated it was.” He sighed. “I’ve been such a fool.”

“It’s okay, Philip,” Jeff offered. “Besides, if you hadn’t come that night, I might never have gotten that $2000 back. And if you’d told me about Max being in Vermont, I probably would have just made things worse. It’s probably best I didn’t know. And Amy?”

She raised her eyes to his. “Yeah?”

“Maria has been a great friend to Liz through all this. You’ve raised a wonderful girl.”

Amy blushed with pleasure. “I have, haven’t I? I don’t think I’ve ever given her enough credit.”

“Or yourself,” Jim added, kissing her temple gently.

Her blush deepened, and Jeff continued reading.

********And, as it happened, I wasn’t far off about another crisis. Jesse was freaked. Imagine that. Married to a woman who turned out to be an alien with enemies on two planets, who could fry his brains if she got angry enough, and who would never be awed or amazed or even slightly impressed with any accomplishment he might achieve because her abilities defied human understanding? That’s intimidating. Heck, it’s terrifying. But what was more terrifying to our group was that Jesse was a modern man—a man who seeks help for emotional crises by seeing a shrink.

Did I mention a crisis?

Isabel wasn’t too specific about what was going on in their marriage, but she was confident Jesse was guarding their secret, even in his visits with Dr. Weiss. It was clear he wanted no part of Max and Michael, and he wasn’t real impressed when he caught Isabel trying out hairstyles and nail color with a sweep of the hand, either. All we know for sure is, he moved out, and Isabel was devastated.

Somehow, in the midst of all this upheaval, Max asked me out again. Well, I’m not sure he asked, exactly. He knows me so well, including how I can’t turn my back on a challenge. He struck up a conversation one night at the Crashdown, saying how bad Isabel was at miniature golf and that he didn’t think girls could beat guys at that game anyway. I knew he didn’t mean it. I knew it. I could even see the gleam of humor in his eye as he baited me, but it worked. Not that I needed much convincing. He had me right where he wanted me. And right where I wanted to be.

So there we were on a beautiful spring night, and I was enjoying beating the pants off him in miniature golf. I wasn’t sure if he was letting me win or not, but I didn’t care, because our conversation was easy and relaxed and completely unstressed for 16 holes. It was like having all the lightheartedness of a first date with the familiarity of a long-term relationship. It was comfortable and fun and I was enjoying myself thoroughly.

Inevitably, though, as Max pretended to object to my unfair advantage of having played that course often and for free as a child, we began a teasing negotiation about using powers. Max asked if I’d had any more symptoms since my return. Happily, I answered no, but it led us to a discussion of Michael’s unusual behavior lately. Max said Michael had told him that he felt like he was living with a ghost, and that being around Max freaked him out. I was surprised by that, especially when Max asked if that’s how I felt. I assured him that I didn’t feel that way, but I did venture a pretty serious question. I asked what it was like when he was dead.

He didn’t answer me, saying talking about it made it too real, so I didn’t press him, but later, Maria told me that Michael opened up to her about a violent fight he’d had with Max the day after I asked that question. He told her that Max had told him he didn’t want to kill him, but that he would if he had to. As horrifying as that was to hear, his next words were even more chilling; he said, “Speaking as someone who was just there, you don’t want to go there.” That’s really eating at me. All my life, I’ve thought that death would take me to a “better place,” that God and His angels would greet me with warmth and joy and love. I don’t know what Max saw, but it will keep me afraid of death for the rest of my life.

Maybe one good thing came out of it, though. Max says he’s been changed. That he’s ready to live in the now—leaving behind kingly responsibilities and the hopeless search for his son. He told me he wants us to start over. He was waiting for my answer when the phone rang. I wonder if that was fate of some kind, because I was ready to agree, ready to abandon all those walls I’d erected to avoid hurting again. I love him, and no amount of logical argument can change that. I kept hearing the now-famous Borg mantra, “Resistance is futile.” With Max, it always has been.

Of course, we can’t have a one-dimensional garden-variety crisis; we have to make it as complicated as possible. The phone call was more bad news. During a stop at Kyle’s work to discuss a car repair, Jesse had been abducted—and not by aliens, but by alien hunters. Kyle said they had all the markings of FBI agents. Speaking of déjà vu.

What we didn’t realize was happening around this time was that Michael became convinced he was now king. It took a lot of attitude, some direct challenges to Max’s authority, and a completely ill-conceived visit from Michael to Dr. Weiss to raise everyone’s warning flags. But when Michael completely ignored Max’s wishes about the search for Jesse and then dumped Maria at the side of the road, all the alarms were ringing.

Maria relayed some of the wild things Michael was saying, like he was king and humans who found out about their alien status should be killed, and then she described the points of light in a V-shape that had suddenly appeared on Michael’s shoulder. Max reminded her that this was the royal seal of Antar and proved his identity as the true king. I suggested maybe those who had created the hybrids had installed some kind of back-up system in case anything happened to Max. It all made sense. When Max died, Michael inherited his unique abilities. Reconstructing what all had happened, we realized Michael must have healed his own hand when he put his fist through a wall during an argument with Max. Yet when Max tried to heal a simple cut on Kyle’s hand or tried to extend his protective shield, he failed.

We were all upset, but something Max said really set us all on edge. He pointed out that all of Michael’s usual characteristics were now exaggerated and running amok. Michael is impulsive, ruthless, dangerous. Now, with increased power and what he perceived as ultimate authority, he was a threat to others and himself. Michael had to be stopped. Somehow, Max had to get the royal seal back from him.

What happened next got pretty confusing. Michael had gone to Jesse’s to see if he returned home from wherever it was he’d been taken. When Jesse did return, Michael found a listening device in his briefcase. Jesse had indeed been taken by FBI agents—the remnants of the Special Unit, no less—and Michael assumed he’d promised to spy for them. When we got there, Michael had Jesse up against the wall . . . and the ceiling. Isabel tried to intervene, but Michael was over the top. They say absolute power corrupts absolutely. I don’t know if that’s entirely fair in Michael’s case. At least I know that Michael thought he was protecting himself and his family. For all I know, Kyle and I were on his “protect list” too, since I had developed some powers and we had every reason to suspect Kyle would. But he was going about everything like the Terminator, and there was no doubt in my mind that someone was going to get hurt.

Then Max stepped in. He managed to break Michael’s hold on Jesse and ordered everyone out, in spite of seeing the V symbol on Michael’s chest. He knew Michael was stronger now, but he also knew he was the only one with even a slight chance of stopping him. I don’t know exactly how the fight unfolded; I do know that Isabel said their apartment was a complete disaster afterwards—broken glass and furniture. I also know that Max succeeded in taking the symbol back from Michael and then tried to heal his wounds. He told me later that they’d talked, and that Michael had accepted what had happened. Ironically, he saw it as Max’s kingly duty. Go figure.********

“It’s awful to think about them going after each other like that, but having heard all this, I can see how each of them fits into their little circle.” Diane stood and began to pace, working things out in her mind. “We always thought it was strange that Max and Isabel were so close to Michael. They couldn’t have been more different, and certainly led different home lives, and yet there was always a bond there. I’ve said before that Max seemed like the leader of the three, but you could sense a sort of tension between them, like Max was always trying to keep Michael reined in. And Isabel was often the arbiter, sort of the fulcrum of the relationship. But more than once, I noticed how they pulled together when any of them faced a problem.

“Philip, remember how they invited Michael to the house when they’d found out his foster father was hitting him? You could see how tense they were that he would say or do the wrong thing, but they still wanted him there, like they were protecting him. And how many times did we find Michael in a sleeping bag on Max’s floor in the morning. That connection was always there; it was just so unofficial and underplayed that I never really thought deeply about it. On the one hand, I can hardly imagine Michael trying to take Max’s position from him, but on the other hand, I recognize that wildness and that desire for empowerment in Michael.”

Philip had been nodding thoughtfully as Diane reflected on the three teens. “You’re right. Even those pictures that the P.I. took for me showed that same kind of dynamic. There were times when Max and Michael were working side by side, like when we saw them burying those artifacts, but there were plenty where the two were facing off, and a lot of the time, it was Isabel standing between them.”

“I’ve seen Michael from a very different perspective, I think,” Amy interjected. “He was always avoiding me at first. Maria would have him over and he’d try to be anywhere except where I was. I’m sure he had no use for adults, considering what his experience had been. And I know he was volatile because he and Maria were getting together and breaking up every other day. But when Alex died . . . my god, he was right there. For Maria, of course, but for me, too. He cared for us like a loving friend, and sheltered us while we grieved. It was the first time I’d seen what Maria saw. I understood why she loved him after that.”

“I don’t think he liked Max’s relationship with Liz,” Jeff mused. “Whenever they would start talking, Michael found a reason to pull Max away—especially at the beginning. I remember one time, soon after I noticed the flirtation picking up steam, Max and Liz got so lost in each other, just staring over Liz’s order pad, that I was about ready to go over there and say something because she had other customers waiting. I almost laughed out loud at Michael’s disgusted expression and then he just very deliberately pushed his drink over. He seemed more than a little pleased when Liz ran off to get some paper towels.” He smiled at the memory. “It was a much more uncomplicated time—at least to me.”

Nancy snickered. “Now that you mention it, I came downstairs one time when Michael was working the grill. He must have seen my startled expression when I saw Liz and Max talking a little too closely in a darkened corner outside the storage room. He caught my eye, and the next thing I knew, the back door flew open and slammed Max in the back. I remember his smirk after that, but until reading this journal, I figured it was a funny coincidence. Now I’ll bet anything that he made it happen.”

“I’ve gotten to know both of them so well,” Jim finally said. “And I respect both of them, but Michael can get carried away. Max is the rightful leader—both in character and by Antarian law. Like any leader, though, he needs the right people around him. Michael watches Max’s back and motivates him. Liz . . .” He shook his head slowly, trying to find the words. “Liz makes him better. He’s stronger, more centered when Liz is with him.” He looked at the Evanses, his eyes and tone sincere. “At the risk of sounding trite, she completes him.” His gaze swung to the Parkers. “And he completes her. If you do get the chance to see them again, please accept that.”

The couples exchanged looks of understanding and hope. That day had to come. It just had to. And when it did, there would be no debate about Max and Liz being together. It was out of their hands, and they wouldn’t have changed it now, anyway.

After a quiet moment, Jeff began to read again.

********What we learned about Jesse’s abduction was that a rogue leftover from the Special Unit, an Agent Burns, had indeed asked Jesse to spy, but Jesse had protected Max and Isabel, saying only that Max was a troubled kid. In a strange twist, Isabel finally agreed to flee Roswell with Jesse, but instead, they returned to the warehouse where the meeting with Burns took place. Isabel destroyed their evidence, and Jesse killed Burns in self-defense. They put him in the trunk of an old car down at the junkyard, destroyed the remains, and compacted the car. It’s over. At least as much as it can ever be.

Now, instead of fleeing, Jesse has accepted that no matter where they go, they are a part of this. They’re still together, but I think things are very tense between them. I sure hope they work it out. I’ve never been close to Isabel, but I recognize that she took the biggest leap of anyone when she married Jesse. She should have told him first, of course; her desperation for a normal life sort of clouded her judgment. And maybe they would be better off somewhere else. I don’t know. But I do know that even Max and I still have a lot to work out, and I have to believe it’s possible.

Max left Michael that night and came to me. I was cleaning up after a shift and he stood outside the door, watching me. I can’t count the number of times I’ve looked up to see him there. I can always feel him humming through me when he looks at me like that, and every part of me responds. All it took was the slight arching of my eyebrows and a nod from him. Less than a minute later, we were on my balcony holding each other, letting our closeness lay the groundwork for the conversation that we knew we had to have before we could move forward.

Max was the one to pull away first. I could feel his tension and knew that he was determined to get this overwith. We sat side-by-side on my chaise, and I waited for him to speak. He startled me when he rose suddenly, but he was only turning to straddle the chaise so he could look directly into my eyes as he spoke. I know it seems shallow, but as he turned to me, and I watched his body moving so gracefully and powerfully, I couldn’t help but admire how beautiful he was. He’s one of the lucky ones, I guess; beautiful inside and out.

I may not be able to record his exact words, but what he said burned a place in my heart that will be forever sacred, so I want to try to reconstruct them here, in case I ever lose sight of where it was we turned the final corner and truly began our life together as a committed couple.

He looked at me for a long time, his eyes brimming with depths of emotion that took my breath away. I couldn’t move, mesmerized by the promise of what was to come. It went something like this:

I’ve put you through so much, Liz. More than anyone should be expected to tolerate. And yet here you are, with me, and I can still see the love in your eyes. You’ve said time and again that I saved your life. You even called it a miracle once. But what I want you to understand is that you, Liz, are my miracle. You’ve saved my life every day since then—with your acceptance, your wisdom, and your love. I wasn’t really living before I finally let you into my life, and in spite of all that’s happened since, I would rather be here with you, like this, than anywhere else on Earth.

I meant what I said on our date the other night. I’m ready to live in the now. I want to be with you, Liz. You truly are my destiny. I know that now. I don’t care about kings or power or other planets. And although I wish I could be a father to my son, that’s out of my hands. You’re my life, Liz. My destiny. I knew that once, but I let other things cloud that knowledge. No more.

When you left Roswell, I was back to living inside myself. I think maybe that’s why Clayton was able to take over the way he did—I had so little left to fight for. But the thought of you kept enough of me alive to put up one last struggle, and it led me back to you, just like it always does.


He kissed me then, so softly and gently, I felt like a porcelain doll. It was almost . . . reverent. And then, taking both of my hands in his, he asked me one question: Can you love me enough to forgive what’s past and look for us again?

I couldn’t hold back the tears anymore. They spilled down my face, and my throat constricted around the words I was trying to get out. I suddenly knew that all we had to talk about was secondary to this one central truth, and it wasn’t important to work down that checklist right now. We would make it, because the universe had already thrown its worst at us, and we were still here, finding our strength in each other. All this was stuck in my throat, pushing more tears out where words would not come.

I recognized a brief flash of despair in his eyes, and I knew he didn’t understand my reaction, so I did the only thing I could do to soothe his fears. I cupped his face, as he has so often done to mine, and I drew him into a kiss that held all the answers he needed.

The rest of the night is a blur of emotion. We reveled in each other’s promises and touches, and I know we very nearly made love that night. I don’t remember what stopped us, exactly, but I think we both understood that we couldn’t let our emotional momentum decide a step like that. That was another thing to talk about . . . another day when we were standing on firmer ground. I didn’t mind. Max Evans loved me that night in every other way. Our promises were sacred and real, even with the full expectation that there are still forces out there waiting to challenge our future. But this time, we will stand together to face them.

It’s a new day. Our day.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 6-Jan-2003 9:38:16 PM ]
posted on 19-Jan-2003 1:22:59 PM by Carol000
Hello again!

Finally hitting the post-holiday stride again. Most of you know we had a death in the family over the holidays, and "Part 2" of that funeral was last weekend in Nebraska, followed by car trouble coming home, so it's been a disjointed month. However, I hope to be back on track again.

THANK YOU to the many who offered personal condolences, and to the others who are encouraging me to continue this story. I have mentioned to several folks that I fear when the journals are done (only one left), many of you will stop reading. If that's the case, I'll be offering an outline of what was to come to those who request it. We'll see how it goes. I hope to post more regularly again now.

If for no other reason that my OWN need right now, I present part 14b--an angst-free zone of love and humor. Just what the doctor ordered, eh?



Part 14b

Eddie was pacing the short length of the porch, obviously stewing about something. River Dog watched from the old, rough-hewn chair, wondering which of several possible unsettling circumstances had his attention.

“Do you think you could just plant somewhere?” Michael muttered irritably. “You’re wearin’ a rut in the floor.”

Eddie arched an eyebrow at him but finished one more lap before crouching down next to River Dog.

“Maya’s parents . . . we told them we needed a little more time. That was two days ago. We have to tell them something.”

River Dog had been pondering that very situation. “I think she’s ready to go home.”

“What? How can she go back there? Her head must be spinning with all this, and what if she starts flickering again? What if they see something weird happening to her? She might need Liz. Or Max. Or even us. But they won’t know what to do. They’ll go straight to the hospital again.”

“Eddie’s right,” Michael agreed reluctantly. “She has no idea how to control this, and she’s liable to go right to mommy if it happens again.

“No, I won’t,” a small voice said from the doorway. Heads swiveled toward her, and she stepped onto the porch, eyes still heavy from sleep. She crawled up into River Dog’s lap, and a rare flash of surprise and pleasure lit his face. He adjusted her comfortably in his arms and let her speak.

“It’ll be okay,” she said matter-of-factly, looking straight at Michael. “I understand now.”

“Understand what?” he answered cautiously. Maria stepped in behind him, a calming hand on his arm.

“That I’m different. Like Liz. Max made us special. But it has to be a secret. Mommy and Daddy can’t know because they won’t understand and they might be scared.”

Michael stared at her, impressed but skeptical. “What if your hands start to flicker again? What would you do?”

Maya contemplated the question, peering at her hands with seven-year-old seriousness. “I would hide them until I could find Liz . . . in my dreams, I mean.”

“What if you were at school?” Michael challenged. “Or playing with friends or reading with your mom? You can’t just hide your hands.” Frustration was pushing Michael’s voice louder, and Maria squeezed his arm.

Maya held his gaze for a moment, then her poise cracked. Large brown eyes filled with tears. “I miss my mommy and daddy. I want to go home.”

River Dog’s arms pulled her closer and he glared at Michael. “That’s enough. Let her be.”

Michael opened his mouth to speak but a warning look from Maria preempted him. He ran his fingers through his hair. “We need to get Maxwell back here. We need a plan and then we need to get the hell out of here. Kyle, find Max.”

“Huh?” Kyle had been seated on the step, absorbed in his own thoughts. Like what was in his future. Like []who was in his future. The conversation on the porch had floated right over him.

“Go find Max. We have to make plans.”

“No.”

“What? Why not?”

“I will hide out, sleep in tents, work odd jobs, and turn into an alien. I will not go find Max.”

“What the hell is wrong with you? Are you even making sense to you?”

Kyle stood and faced Michael, a completely resolved look on his face. “I don’t care what you do, Guerin, I’m not going after them. Period. Do it yourself. I’ll be napping inside if anyone needs me.”

Several pair of confused eyes followed his path into the cabin and watched the door shut with a determined thud.

********

Liz wasn’t sure how long they had been lying quietly beneath the brilliant blues and greens of their oasis, but she suspected Max was asleep. His head nestled on her shoulder where he had come to rest as they held each other and shared their tears of joy. It shouldn’t have been a shock that they could now communicate telepathically. The strengthening of their bond had been headed in that direction for some time. Still, to actually hear him in her mind, to be filled with his love and thoughts so completely . . . it was indescribable. Max now filled spaces within her she didn’t even know she had, and the words He completes me took on a whole new meaning.

Philosophy aside, though, his gentle, warm breath against her breast was sending her body messages of a very different kind, and she fought to suppress the warm ache that had sprung to life inside her. She hated to wake him, but her need was building and their opportunities were limited.

She started slightly as she felt his smile slide over her skin, and his hand, which had been lying comfortingly on her stomach, began to roam lower, a slow and seductive path that set her tingling.

You can hear what I’m thinking, can’t you?” She wondered idly if her silent words would carry the same attempt at indignation that her spoken words would have. He’d been eavesdropping on her! The impact of that hit her and she smiled. She’d have to get used to that.

I can and I did and they do, he answered, continuing his languorous stroking.

Then why didn’t I hear anything from your side? she pressed, arching slightly under his hand that was now working its way upwards again, so slowly that she could almost feel her nipples reaching for him.

I was blocking you . . . or trying. I thought you were asleep, and I didn’t want to wake you.

She rested her hand over his. “Well, I’m not,” she spoke aloud. “And no fair blocking me if I can’t block you. How do you do that?”

Max lay still, making no response, and she wondered if he thought she was actually angry with him. Then his thoughts filled her mind, and he lifted his head, propping it on one hand. He seemed to be concentrating.

“I don’t really know how I do it. It’s like a mental toggle switch. I just seem to decide to keep my thoughts from you, and apparently, it works.” He frowned at the look on her face—a cross between irritation and concentration. A moment passed, and she didn’t move.

“Liz? Are you mad? I’d tell you if I could, but I honestly don’t know.”

She beamed at him. “I guess I can do it, too, then! You didn’t hear what I was thinking just then, did you?”

Max’s eyes widened in surprise. “No, I didn’t. What did you do?”

“Just like you said—I simply decided not to let you hear.” They sat, contemplating this latest revelation.

“It’s probably a good thing,” she continued seriously. “Otherwise, we’d have this jumbled conversation going on in our heads all the time. And what about Christmas . . . and birthdays . . . and just plain private thoughts? We’d never be able to keep anything to ourselves. We’d probably go crazy being in each other’s minds all the time.”

She glanced up to see him watching her, a smile tugging at the corner of his mouth. “Do you have a lot of private thoughts that I shouldn’t hear? I mean, if you have secrets that you can’t share with me . . .”

He waited for her protest, but his emergent smile faded as she sat in silence—verbally and mentally. She was staring back, her look morphing from fascinated scientist to mysterious vixen. She moved to all fours, cat-like, and licked her lips; his eyes were drawn to her mouth, then to the cleavage that had suddenly swung into view when her tank top succumbed to gravity. A familiar pull tightened his groin, and his breath rushed from his lungs when her whispered words finally reached his ears.

“Some things are better when you’re surprised,” she purred. She rose to her knees and slowly lifted her tank top over her head, letting the soft breeze tickle her nipples. They peaked instantly, whether from the air dancing across them or the heat in Max’s eyes, and again, she ached for his touch.

Mouth open, eyes wide, breath shallow. Max was telling her all she needed to know. She had no need to hear his words or thoughts; his body was speaking for him. Before he could react, she moved gracefully into his lap, straddling the firm thighs and hardening length between them. She pushed the open shirt off his shoulders and slipped her hands inside the muscle shirt beneath, softly grazing his own pebbled nipples and shocking him into motion.

Max had seen his beautiful wife naked, lustful, in the throes of orgasm again and again in their short marriage, but there was something newly erotic about this encounter. Not only were they out in the woods alone—as they had been by that waterfall only hours before—but they had just discovered the deepest possible connection between them. They were bound in a way that no two people on Earth had ever been bound. And yet, Liz was seducing him silently, teasing him with an intentional secrecy that he found intensely erotic, thrilling. She was right; he didn’t want to hear her thoughts right now. This was unscripted. Physical.

Her breasts danced across his line of vision at the instant her fingernail grazed his own, and he was propelled into action. He closed the scant inches that separated her swaying mounds from his hungry mouth, and he pulled her hardened tips into his warm, moist world. A deep moan filled his ears and spurred him on; the more he sucked, nipped, laved the sensitive tips, the more she writhed against him, increasing the pressure and heat against his rigid length. She arched into him, begging him for more.

A trail of hot, wet kisses and gentle bites seared her skin and consumed her concentration. She didn’t notice her lover’s hand had loosened her shorts and plunged into the slick folds beneath until her body began to respond to the insistent rhythm he set. Her hands stilled against his chest and her eyes closed in bliss. She arched her back and knew that she could withhold nothing from him.

Opening her eyes, she took in the sight of him feasting on her. His muscles bunched and relaxed in the gentle cadence of their lovemaking, and she could feel the warm promise of readiness building inside of her already. She saw his tongue drag across the dark, aching circle of her right breast and felt her body leap to him. His eyes were closed, but his face was lost in focused pleasure, and she was afraid she would cum if he so much as looked at her now.

Unwilling to find her end too soon, Liz extracted herself from Max’s lap and pushed him down on the makeshift mattress. Her fingers fumbled hurriedly with his jeans, and she turned them inside out in her rush to strip them off of him. She eyed the impressive erection that pushed so urgently against his boxers, but when he moved to lower them, she stopped him with a shake of her head. His brief puzzlement evaporated when his eyes followed the movement of her own hands.

She stood before him, proud and flushed with want, and reached for her loosened shorts. Max had already taken care of the button and zipper, but they had clung stubbornly to her tiny hips. He could only watch helplessly as her fingers eased into each side and pushed gently. Once over the swell of her hips, they dropped quickly to the ground, leaving only the small scrap of fabric that still hid her from him.

His eyes blinked, as if dry from staring, and then they darted to her face. She remembered that morning, by the waterfall, when she had begun to arouse herself in front of him, and how that had driven him crazy. She wanted him as hot and bothered as he’d made her, and that seemed a likely way to get him there.

Again, she licked her lips, and the barest hint of seductive smile played at the corners of her mouth. He never knew if she finished that smile, though, because her hands had reclaimed his attention. This time, her fingers dipped into the front of the bikinis and began an uncertain motion. Max was frozen, his fingers feeling what her fingers were feeling, his erection twitching with anticipation.

As she fell into a stronger, more purposeful rhythm, her free hand came to rest on her breast, tracing around the nipple, then squeezing and twisting at it, all the while keeping watch on Max’s fully aroused body. Without conscious thought, his own hand had slipped down to stroke himself, watching as this impossible wood nymph drove him wild.

Liz was barely hanging on. Between Max’s seductive ministrations, and the desperate hunger in his eyes as he watched her, she was once more on the precipice. With one sudden movement, the panties fell to join the shorts and she stepped out of both, curls glistening. She knelt between Max’s legs and moved his hand that had stilled when she had so quickly shed the last barrier between them. Then, with one smooth motion, she pulled the boxers back and took him in, her tongue swirling over his hypersensitive tip.

The groan was that of a wounded animal, but when she raised her head, he pushed it back and thrust his hips against her with abandon, moaning quietly now. His cock was hard and hot and starting to seep against her tongue, and she reveled in his complete surrender to her. She began to suck in long powerful strokes, and again he cried out.

Any sense of control Liz had was swept away in the next instant. She wasn’t sure how, but now she was on her back and the brilliant blue of the sky was pressing down on her. The next sensation to register was the blissful combination of coolness and warmth that overwhelmed her as Max’s mouth dove into her folds. His tongue picked up expertly where her fingers had left off, and now there was nothing in Liz’s world but sensation and ecstasy.

She knew she was close, and she knew she should stop him before she came without him, but the faint voice that was telling her these things was easily quieted by the building promise of a breathtaking explosion. And then it hit her—waves of pulsating warmth that lifted her out of her body and sent her hurtling upwards toward the azure sky and beyond. She heard the drone of engines launching her ever upward, and she felt herself shatter into the heavens. It was only as she descended softly back to the soft forest floor that she realized she was the source of the engine drone, or rather the series of primal moans that were being squeezed from her body along with the juices that Max was still lapping gently.

She felt limp and sated, and a little guilty, until Max pulled himself up and covered her with his body, smiling a heavenly smile. He was practically glowing, and she thought back to their wedding night when she had reminded him that giving him great pleasure gave her great pleasure, too. Then she realized she wasn’t alone in her mind. The power of the experience had completely obliterated any efforts to keep Max from sharing her thoughts, and she knew his glowing smile was more than happiness that he had pleased her; he had felt what she felt.

Their love was wrapped around them now, and Liz almost felt sorry for people who said they couldn’t tell where one partner began and the other one ended. They couldn’t begin to know what she and Max were sharing now. The boundaries between them had been obliterated, and the very air around them was infused with a mutuality that had never existed before. At least not on this planet.

Liz hadn’t had any doubts about her and Max for quite some time, but if she had, they would have evaporated in the face of this phenomenon. She could feel him, his total love and devotion just part of the reality of his presence inside her. She hoped he could feel it, too, because it was exhilarating and comforting and true. A force of nature. And then she saw into his eyes and knew. He did feel it. He felt her just as surely as she felt him. It was a complete melding of souls. They were one.

It was almost funny, watching their thoughts play out on each other’s faces. Expressions reflecting realizations acknowledging reactions accepting understandings. It was like a Mobius strip, with no beginning and no end. Forcing herself to push her own thoughts aside, she listened for Max’s, and chuckled lightly from beneath him. He was still focused on her orgasm. Their orgasm.

“That was amazing,” he whispered. “It’s different from mine, but . . . amazing.”

“I wouldn’t know,” Liz breathed. “How about I find out.”

He hesitated, breathless, almost giddy at what was to come. Then he entered her slowly, watching her face expectantly.

“Don’t think about it like that, Max,” she coaxed. “I experienced it just for me, and it was spectacular. But you felt it, too. Let this be for you. I’ll be there.”

He nodded imperceptibly and bent to kiss her, his outpouring of love spreading over her like warm honey. It was as if the experience was expanding by a dimension—she could feel him, smell him, taste him—but now . . . now she was experiencing him. He was filling her, stretching her, heating her from within. There were no identifiable thoughts, only the ebb and flow of love and erotic sensation. She was swept away, willingly giving herself over to it and meeting his eager thrusts with a renewed need. How was it possible that she could feel so urgent after feeling so satisfied and weak just moments ago?

It didn’t take long. The heightened state they were in both physically and emotionally hurled them forward into a rush of completion, different from before, but equally intense. When Max came inside his soulmate, there was a suspension of time, as if they were meeting in some ethereal world of idyllic perfection, no longer separate entities but rather one complete being. It was just the way Liz had always imagined heaven—total peace and security and love. Only it wasn’t God at the other end of the journey; it was Max.

For the second time, they spiraled down into the reality of the woods, staring into each other’s eyes with astonished contentment, if there can be such a thing. It was minutes before either could form a coherent thought.

“I love you, Liz Parker Evans. I always have, and I always will.”

Thoughts were flowing between them so fast and so forcefully that is was a relief to simplify them into finite words. Liz smiled at her husband, the love of her life, and sifted through all they were exchanging for a response.

“I know,” she finally whispered, and they drifted off, two bodies, one heart.

********

Michael wrapped his fingers through Maria’s as they started down the path Max and Liz had taken earlier. When they were alone like this, he found he could let his guard down. Maria knew him now, warts and all, and still loved him. He didn’t need walls or pretense or posturing. It was more freedom than he ever expected to feel in his whole life.

“Watcha thinkin’ about, Spaceboy?” she asked, noticing the contemplative look on his face.

He stopped and turned to her. Her face tilted up toward him, as open and loving as ever. She was amazing. “You.”

A pleased smile lit her face, along with a touch of embarrassment. “Oh yeah? What about me?”

He sighed. “Just . . . how amazing it is that you love me. Sometimes I still don’t believe it.”

Her eyes softened, and she pulled him down for a gentle kiss. Then her eyes took on that impish gleam that he loved. “I know. Sometimes I don’t believe it either.”

“Is that right?” he protested, squinting into the distance. “Well, maybe my next girlfriend won’t be such a smartass.”

He got the reaction he wanted, grinning as Maria pelted him on the chest with her fists. “Next girlfriend? Fat chance, Spaceboy. I am the girlfriend, so you might as well get used to it. You’d be lucky to find another girl who’d put up with . . .”

Her words were cut off when her lips were immobilized by a kiss, deep and passionate, and she sunk into it willingly. Nobody kisses like Michael Guerin when he means it, she thought happily, snaking her hands around his neck and pulling him closer. I don’t care how Liz swoons about . . .”

“Max!”

Michael looked taken aback, and then he closed his eyes with a pained expression. “Déjà vu all over again,” he muttered. “I wish you wouldn’t do that.”

Then he heard it, too. A long low wail, as if something . . . someone . . . were hurt. Michael was on instant alert, eyes scanning the underbrush, hand poised to ward off an attacker. Seeing and hearing nothing, he pulled Maria into a jog down the path toward the source of the sound. This time the sounds was coming in short, agonizing grunts, and Michael broke out in a cold sweat. This couldn’t be good.

Michael’s arm jerked painfully when Maria stopped suddenly, looking to her right with huge eyes and slack mouth. His eyes followed hers. Oh god. They froze, momentarily unable to look away, and yet wanting to desperately. They’d found their wounded animal, only it wasn’t an animal and he wasn’t wounded. Max’s voice rose again in sexual ecstasy, and then he flipped Liz over and . . .

As if finally released from their invisible restraints, Michael and Maria turned and ran . . . and ran . . . until just before the clearing to the cabin. They stopped, unspeaking, to calm their breathing, exchanging an intense look filled with both shock and arousal. Then, with long, purposeful strides, Michael grabbed Maria and crossed the clearing, forcing her into a trot to keep up. Kyle, back on the porch after an unsuccessful attempt to sleep, watched in amusement.

“Did you find them, Guerin?”

The couple didn’t even slow down, but Michael’s voice carried easily to the porch. “I will hide out, sleep in tents, work odd jobs, and deal with being an alien. I will not go find Max again.”

Kyle’s laughter followed them well into the woods on the opposite side of the cabin.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 19-Jan-2003 1:24:55 PM ]
posted on 26-Jan-2003 5:36:52 PM by Carol000
THE LAST JOURNAL ENTRY

When I started this fic, I honestly didn’t expected to recreate Liz’s journal in its entirety. I thought I would skip whole sections and just write down the “good parts.” But it couldn’t be done. From the opening scene in the Crashdown to the van disappearing down the highway, we were all in it for the long haul. How do I know that? Because you’re here. Reading this. And only the diehard fans, the ones who really “got it,” are here.

I think early on, I actually did skip a part. I’ll have to go back and check, but in general, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. Even the parts I hated, the parts where I wondered if JK and his band of idiots had gone from just incompetent to certifiably insane, begged to be told, because for my purposes, the characters were a product of all those experiences, and I couldn’t deny them.

So here is my take on the end of the Roswell saga that was filmed. It comes with warnings:

First, I offer Tess no mercy. If there are those of you who find any rationale for her behavior, or have been inclined to offer her any forgiveness, be warned. I don’t. And it will be abundantly obvious as you read. Just thought you should know.

Second, before you rant and scream at the reference to Zan as Max’s son, please remember that this was written BEFORE Max and Liz’s honeymoon when the truth was finally revealed. Zan is not Max’s son, as we now know, but at this point, Liz was still coming to terms with the “fact” that he was, and so the journal had to be written that way. If you need consoling or a reminder of “The Truth According to Spacemom,” go back and read Chapter 2b.

Third, I used Liz’s journal words as faithfully as I possibly could, but there were a couple of liberties I just had to make to allow for the segue into what happens in my story. They mostly relate to Warning #2. I need the parents to know that Zan is not Max’s. Please forgive the literary license.

Okay, enough preamble. Come finish the journey with me. Then we’ll return together to life after JK and watch our gang find new destinies.



Part 15 a

Tired. Hungry. Dirty. Hoarse. Emotional. Drained. Pick your adjective. They all applied. 40-something bodies weren’t cut out to sit on hard chairs in semi-darkness without food or sleep for what seemed like days. But no one suggested stopping. They were too close to hearing the rest of Liz’s journal and too desperate to have every possible bit of information about their children’s secret and fantastical lives so that they had some hope of helping them now. If it wasn’t too late.

They had refreshed themselves as best they could during the brief break they agreed to, nibbling on the last of the stale snacks hurriedly stowed from the Crashdown yesterday, and stretching in a futile attempt to ease the kinks out of their screaming muscles. When Jeff took the journal in hand again, he surveyed the group.

“Any volunteers to read the last part?” he asked, the scratchy voice clearly beyond its capacity for reading aloud. “Philip? It has a lot to do with those last couple of weeks. Would you like to read it?”

Philip shook his head. “No, Jeff. I have a feeling that much of what Liz wrote won’t bode well for Diane and me. I guess I have to hear it, but I don’t think I can bring myself to read it.”

Diane nodded in agreement, and looked at the floor. They had been out of their minds with worry, but it didn’t justify what they’d done to uncover the truth.

“I’ll do it,” Jim murmured. “I doubt there’s much in there I don’t know, and I know how hard it will be for any of you.”

Jeff handed him the book gratefully and lowered himself to the chair with a grimace. He pulled Nancy against him and sighed. Jim sank down, tense in spite of his foreknowledge. Amy gave him a reassuring smile, and he began to read.

********I feel like we’ve come full circle. Well, not really full circle, because that would mean we were back where we started, and we can never be there again. Too much has happened, and we’re no longer innocent or safe—both feelings we took for granted just a couple of years ago. But what we have come back to is us—Liz Parker and Max Evans. A couple, young and in love, and sure of that, if nothing else.

Maybe what we’ve really gained is perspective. We’ve handled some things over the last week that we once thought we’d never survive: Tess’s return to Max and the painful evidence of their lost night together, the military knocking on the door while Isabel and Max told their parents they were aliens—Max’s worst nightmares playing out in digital surround sound. Every nightmare except losing me, that is. And that’s really the point. I’m still here. We’re still here. And I have to say, it’s nothing short of a miracle.

The other thing we’ve come back to is working together—all of us. Even Maria and Michael, in spite of their yo-yo relationship, have been a team, and Michael especially has opened his mind to the value and friendship of the humans who care for him. Where Alex once stood is Kyle. Not a replacement, of course. No one could replace our beloved Alex. But Kyle brings his own dynamic to the group, and we’re glad he’s one of us. His change in attitude is the stuff of legends.

That really hit home for me last week when we were sitting in the Crashdown after hours doing homework—the three of us. Max, me, and Kyle. I can still hardly believe it. When I think back to those first months after the shooting, I realize just how far Kyle has come. After all that jealousy, anger, and suspicion, he was perfectly comfortable sitting there with us, watching Max and me flirting playfully—another pleasure we used to take for granted—and he never batted an eye. In fact, he even cracked a joke about Michael having “I’m sorry” permanently tattooed on his chest to save time. Max and I had to bite back a laugh because Maria was in no mood.

The whole ugly experience of Michael becoming temporary king had pitched them back into that bickering, insulting, lack-of-real-communication mode they’d honed to a fine art when they met. And of course, Michael never sees apologizing as an option, so when he stormed out, shattering the glass in the restaurant door, Kyle’s suggestion started to sound pretty good.

We finally let our laughter out, though, when Kyle went to the jukebox, gave Maria a sly look, and punched a button. Before she knew it, he’d swept into the middle of the floor and was performing an off-key rendition of “R*E*S*P*E*C*T” right along with Aretha Franklin. Even Maria couldn’t resist, and soon she was laughing and singing with him. Max fixed the window, and we joined in the last few lines. We were happy, and it felt good. We should have known things wouldn’t stay peaceful for long.

The next morning, things were happening fast. The news broadcasts were full of sound bytes and scattered reports of another crash in the desert. Dad had dollar signs in his eyes, and was more than happy to accept Max’s help with re-pricing and blowing up alien dolls. I kept watching Max’s face, wondering what he was thinking. I thought he’d be more anxious to get out and investigate, but he was playing the whole thing very low-key.

I found out why when I went back to help him retrieve a box of alien ties from the storeroom. I asked him straight out if he was curious about the crash. That’s when the “full circle” moment first struck me, because his answer wasn’t the one I would have gotten two years ago or a year ago, or even 4 months ago. It was the one I would have gotten right around the time that the heat wave hit, and Max and I found our way to each other at last. I could see the curiosity about the crash in his eyes, but that wasn’t what reached out to me from that look. Not even close.

What I saw was the look that told me I come first with him. A girl can never see enough of that look. But the amazing part was how long it had been since I’d seen it. Those eyes had shared caring, love, hurt, anger—every manner of emotion—over the last two years, but this . . . this was the look from our beginning, when being together was the focus of every day, every breath. And that’s what I was feeling when he said, “I have more important concerns.” Then his head bent forward, and he looked at me from beneath those luxurious lashes, and his message was not lost on me: [I[I’ve found home, and it’s you.

Magical moments are magic, in part, because they’re so fleeting that you’re not quite sure they were real. I had only begun to absorb Max’s words when Michael burst in with his account of witnessing the crash. I left quickly. I knew exactly how the conversation would go: Michael would urge Max to help investigate; Max would urge Michael to leave it alone; Michael would roll his eyes in disgust and go do whatever he wanted to do. Talk about reruns.

I’d almost forgotten the whole thing after the Air Force announcement that it was a test flight. They even paraded the dead pilot’s daughter, Connie Griffin, in front of the media to fend off suspicion. We saw Michael on television asking if her father had ejected, but she answered “no” and the press conference was abruptly suspended. What we didn’t know was that Michael had actually found Colonel Griffin’s helmet out by the crash, and after the press conference, he’d taken it to her as proof that her father was alive and the military was lying. She didn’t believe him until he told her to look under the interior lining. When she saw the picture of her and her dad from years ago, she broke down . . . briefly.

It didn’t take her long to get it together, though, and she tossed Michael out as a malcontent, questioning his patriotism and motives. Bless Michael, though, he looked past her anger and kept an eye out. If he hadn’t been following her when a 4x4 tried to run her off the road, she would have died in the explosion that destroyed her car minutes later. Once she realized that Michael was trying to help her, she confessed to turning the helmet over to Major Carlson, and the pieces started to fit.

We learned all this that night when Max and I were studying and Michael showed up with Connie. We’d been doing homework and flirting and kissing—just being relaxed with each other. It took three consecutive questions from Max about the math homework before I realized he was snowing me—every time he’d ask for help, I would prop my chin on his shoulder and rub the back of his neck while I figured out what he’d done wrong. Then he’d thank me with a kiss. But then I realized . . . Max is as good at math as I am! He was just enjoying the tutoring. It made me laugh, but I called him on it just to watch him blush and look guilty. It felt so good, warm and comfortable, like lying on the floor in a sunbeam after being chilled. It penetrated my bones and my heart and relaxed me like nothing else could.

We gave up on relaxed when Michael arrived, of course. He had effectively dumped a new project in our hands, but in spite of Max’s initial reluctance to get involved, he couldn’t turn his back on this desperate girl who, despite her first instincts, was doubting what the military—her military—was telling her. There was no question something was going on. Before we knew it, Michael and Max had a plan.

I would have given anything to be a fly on the wall that night. If it hadn’t been so deathly serious, it would have been a hoot as a Saturday Night Live sketch. I helped the guys dress up in these ridiculous alien masks and foil capes. They weren’t even good Halloween costumes. But when, as they were leaving to lie in wait at Michael’s apartment, Max stopped and eyed the helium tanks Dad uses for the balloons, I couldn’t contain the snickers anymore.

Michael caught on with a grin, and we were all laughing as quietly as we could while I helped them fill four balloons with helium. It’s a good thing Max has that green cloud thing going or the bad guy wouldn’t have bought it in a million years.

Once they’d scared as much information out of the guy as they could, they hatched Plan B--dressing in security uniforms and penetrating the base, planning to free Colonel Griffin and find out what they could about the ship. To help with that goal, Michael used the mask again, but altered it with his powers to look like the man who’d tried to kill Connie. She was really skeptical—not that I blame her. How could she know all we’d been through? The dangers, lies, deceptions? How could she know that our lives were not what they seemed?

When the guys were ready, they came down the stairs with their badges and berets, and I got that cold, heavy feeling in the pit of my stomach. The last time Max had gone off to see if there was a ship, he had every intention of getting on it and leaving me behind. I knew that wasn’t on his mind this time, but once burned, you tend to be sensitive. I couldn’t stop myself from saying, “If there is a ship, don’t get on it.” He knew what I needed to hear. He held my gaze and said, “Not a chance in hell.” Bingo.

That made me calm enough to hear another reassuring statement—Michael apologizing, finally, to Maria about the jerky things he said during his brief stint as king. She handled it in true Maria fashion, dismissing it with a smile and telling Michael to “go do a good thing.” I wonder when Michael will realize how lucky he is to have Maria.

Our plan worked. Max found and retrieved Colonel Griffin, Michael pocketed a piece of the ship that crashed, and Connie and her dad were reunited. They had a few questions, but were willing to accept their freedom in spite of the bizarre circumstances, and we all felt pretty darn good about having helped someone else for a change. When Max turned to me and said, “Let’s go home,” I felt as if a new phase of our lives had begun. Maybe finding each other had led us to finding new purpose to everything that had happened. Maybe it was time to turn our attitudes from defensive to offensive, and get out there in the world to help people. Maybe it was time to get on with our lives.

I was starting to feel positive about the future again, and it showed in my attitude and my relationship with Max. Every day brought us closer, and I began to accept that Max was ready to move toward our future. I was more than ready. For the first time in two years, we weren’t jumping hurtles or battling obstacles. The road was clear and our confidence soared. What could get in our way?

Never ask a question you don’t want the answer to.

Tess showed up in her usual selfish and unsubtle way. None of us ever once suggested that the crashed ship might have been Tess returning to Earth . . . to Max. Maybe we should have guessed, but we didn’t. I know that when she fled that day last spring, leaving Max behind but taking his son with her, I resented her with every fiber of my being. I watched that granolith disappear into the sky and honestly wondered if she’d managed to take any chance of happiness for Max and me with her.

It was no secret that I never liked Tess. What girl would like someone who openly made it her goal to steal the love of her life away and use every form of deception and trickery to do it? But that was contempt. Wariness. Maybe jealousy. That didn’t begin to touch the loathing I felt when I knew she’d succeeded in her goal, and was carrying Max’s child. Or the unabashed hatred that seized my heart when I learned she’d killed Alex. Alex. My best friend, and the most intelligent, loyal, and guileless boy in Roswell. She took advantage of those qualities, and used them to kill him. Hatred doesn’t begin to cover it.

But in all that time, I never felt defeated by her until she left the planet. Maybe that sounds crazy. I don’t know. But in that moment, she took the decisions away from Max, and left with the only thing that could stand between us—his child. Chaos and questions scattered in her wake; she had stolen from us any control we might have been able to wrestle from the aftermath. She hadn’t been gone five minutes when Max became a slave to her legacy with the words, “I have to find my son.” And since then, that weight has rested on all of us.

Now, with Max just coming to terms with the futility of that search, she was back, and her timing, as usual, was terrible. That whole 24 hours is burned into my memory, a slow-motion nightmare that replays in an endless loop. Ironically, it started out with one of the happiest moments of my life. I wonder if I’ll ever get past the sense that if I’m happy—I mean really happy—that something terrible is about to happen.

When Max came over that afternoon to study for finals, we both knew we weren’t going to spend much time with the books. Now that we’d put the baggage behind us, forgiving and forgetting the mistakes of the last two years, the sun was shining on a new relationship—open and positive . . . and physical. My body had adjusted to whatever alien changes had disrupted it, and now our touches were not only incident-free, they were our survival. I wonder if other people . . . humans . . . ever feel the undeniable pull, the almost critical need to be a part of someone else. Maybe they do. Or they think they do, given that they have nothing else to compare it to. But now that Max and I are truly willing to make a life together, to pursue a match unknown in the history of the world, something has ignited between us, a fire that only our closeness can contain and, I have a feeling, only our joining will control. We haven’t made love yet, at least not in the most technical sense, but I don’t know how long we can postpone what our bodies and hearts are telling us must be.

I was in heaven that afternoon, lying with Max on my bed, trying so hard to make all my senses work at once. It’s so hard when he’s near because he fills each one so intensely, and I can hardly take it all in. First, I take in his fresh, male scent and my whole body reacts to him. It’s distinctly Max, as if he’s just come inside from a windy spring day and every cell is bursting with the sun’s warmth and the fragrance of the desert air. Then he looks at me, with that tender, all-consuming love that makes me feel fragile and cherished and completely safe. I forget the smell for a minute, and plunge heart-first into him. But then he kisses me, and I can’t smell or see, I can only feel how his hands slide over my skin and his lips brush a question across my mouth that can only be answered by opening myself in welcome. My body just seems to know his. Does that sound strange? I may never know how much of this is all human, and how much is alien. But the last part—I know that part is because of who . . . what . . . we are. Because once we lose ourselves in that kiss—it’s so amazing—our souls touch, with images and memories of the long path to this moment, and the one that stretches endlessly ahead. It’s reverent and exhilarating, and there is nowhere on Earth that I would rather be than sharing time and space in this man’s arms.

Oh my. I’ve just read back over that, and I suppose I got carried away. No matter. I’m the only one who will ever read this. Or maybe not. Maybe I’ll show it to Max one day. I bet it would embarrass him, but deep down, he’d be happy knowing what he does to me. In fact, I have a sneaking suspicion that he knows exactly what I’m talking about.

Anyway, that’s where we were—loving each other, so relaxed that we could be together without fear of bodily harm—when the phone calls came. First, it was his cell phone, which I rather enjoyed digging out of his pocket and throwing across the room. If the look on his face was any indication, he enjoyed it, too. But as soon as that one shut off, my phone rang. We agreed to ignore it, but when Diane Evans’s voice came across the machine, we gave up. A buzz kill, Max called it.

His mom was calling an emergency family dinner. That sounded pretty strange, and Max was certainly confused, but the outcome was inevitable, so we made a date for Michael’s apartment later that night, and he went home. That’s when the shit really hit the fan.

It was the next day before I got details on what happened at the Evans’ that night, and I still have trouble believing it, but apparently Diane Evans convinced Isabel to stay overnight in her old room while their two husbands were away on business, and when Isabel was alone there, a hidden video camera filmed her. It sounds like something out of a Lifetime movie, but it really happened. I would never have thought the Evanses capable of such a thing. The truth is, on any other day, the film wouldn’t have picked up anything, unless Iz was trying out new hairdos in front of the mirror. But that morning she was really upset, and I guess she handled her anxiety in a very alien-like way. I might have thrown something or written in this journal or called Maria or cried. Not Isabel. She set all the movable objects in that room spinning around her, venting her pent-up energy in a private tornado. When her mom called her to breakfast, she settled everything back into place with a sweeping stroke of her arm. It made for stunning viewing.

The “emergency” dinner had nothing to do with food. It had to do with two terrified parents demanding to know, finally, what secrets their two children had been harboring. Max told me he had just watched in stunned silence, barely able to breathe, and when he finally looked at Isabel, he thought she was most certainly about to pass out. Jesse was resigned, and sat there staring at his hands.

Max was incredulous. He didn’t know whether to be scared or outraged or both, but instinct kicked in and acted on the fear. Outrage wouldn’t have been of much use just then. Isabel was trying to use her anger to deflect the questions her parents were asking, but there was little doubt that their parents were beyond feeling guilty about it. They had bigger worries.

Max was stumbling through, reminding his parents that he and Isabel were still their children, when there was a noise from the kitchen. He went to investigate and, finding nothing, turned back when he heard his name. I can only imagine what went through his mind when Tess appeared in the doorway with a baby in her arms. Apparently, she pushed the baby toward him and collapsed. I admit to a certain satisfaction when he realized later that he’d been so absorbed in the shock of seeing his son that he didn’t even go to her when she fell. I don’t like to be vindictive, but somehow that just felt good.

Things must have been really confused for a while after that. Of course, Mrs. Evans turned into a grandmother on the spot, and even pushed her pressing questions about Max and Isabel aside for the moment. I gather Mr. Evans had a harder time doing that. But Max stood guard over Tess until she woke up calling for Zan. Figures. She’d named the baby after Max’s Antarian identity. Makes sense, I guess. Just one more way she held onto the fantasy that Max, Michael, and Isabel could ever be the people Nasedo had taught her they were.

It’s hard to keep track of all the different versions of Tess’s story. We learned a long time ago that her lies are a part of her, and I sometimes wonder if even she knows what is truth and what is fallacy. Max did learn that the story about the baby not being able to survive on Earth was a mindwarp. Big surprise there. That had been Tess’s ace in the hole—the one thing she knew would get Max off the planet.

I filed away another guilty thrill when Max told me she asked him to heal her leg, and he refused. She tried to leave the room, and he used his powers to prevent her. She made a play for his sympathy with her sad story, and he listened, stonefaced. My heart has never been so closed to another living creature, but I don’t see one of God’s creatures when I look at her. I see a monster.

Max pressed her for answers, knowing that what she said may or may not be true, but even he wasn’t prepared for her confession that in the process of escaping the base with Zan, she had killed as many as 20 people. His disgust may be what prompted her next set of questionable statements—like their attraction hadn’t been a mindwarp and that she and Zan were linked, so if anything happened to her, if would affect him, too.

Max’s interrogation was cut short when the military knocked right on his front door. Another nightmare realized. In that instant, Isabel made a decision that would either save them or condemn them. Isabel—the ice princess, the Elle McPherson of Roswell High—had based her reality on one core truth that she clung to like a life jacket: that their parents’ love was truly unconditional. In the end, it was that faith that gave her the courage to finally shed their 12-year-old façade. She blurted out that Max’s baby was an alien, as was she. Max said he walked into the room just as the words he had dreaded his whole life came pouring from her, and he held his breath waiting to see what his parents would do.

I guess it was to be expected that they were beyond confused. But it was their turn to act on faith, to believe in the inherent goodness of their children, and to instinctively protect them. Max said his heart was in his throat as his father rose to open that door. But when he heard his father resisting the military and demanding a search warrant, he knew Isabel had been right. A parent’s love was unconditional, and they suddenly had new and unexpected allies—albeit scared ones.

He took off with Tess and the baby, then, leaving Isabel and Jesse there with his parents. They didn’t want to attract even more suspicion by emptying the house. It was Michael’s turn to be shocked when Max walked through the door with Tess. In fact, Max said Michael would have killed her on the spot if she hadn’t been holding the baby. It’s good to know everyone else was as happy to see her as I was.

I’m not sure if Max even remembered I was coming over to Michael’s. I imagine our date, so eagerly made hours before, was a distant memory. Not to me, though. I was already tingling with anticipation at the thought of spending the evening alone with Max. I even toyed with the notion that this might be the night for us to make love for the first time. I felt I was ready, and I had felt the readiness in his body just that afternoon. But Max’s mind had always kept control, and I was full of plans to wrest that control away from him.

So I was completely off balance when I walked through Michael’s door to find Tess standing there. I still don’t know exactly what happened, but without a moment’s thought or hesitation, I raised my hand and sent her flying against a wall. Hatred and power just seemed to flow through me, and I wanted her dead. I could feel the venom rushing through my veins and out my fingertips, and I felt alive. She stood, and I blasted her again. I should have been scared, but I wasn’t. Not just then, anyway. It was only later that I shook uncontrollably in my room and shrunk away from the realization that I was capable of such feelings.********

posted on 26-Jan-2003 5:39:11 PM by Carol000
Part 15a continued

Jeff could feel Nancy shaking in his arms, and he looked at her worriedly.

“Our daughter has turned into one of them,” she whispered, her voice quivering with disbelief. “She . . . she has powers. She could have killed that girl. Killed her, Jeff. Liz couldn’t do such a thing. But this . . . this alien Liz can.”

Her eyes sought his, desperate for consolation, comfort, words that would refute what she so desperately resisted as truth.

“She could have, but she didn’t, Nancy.” He made direct eye contact and held her firmly. “She didn’t. And neither did the others. They threatened and postured, but not one of them did it. She’s still our Liz, Nancy. Keep listening. You’ll see what I mean.”

“Nancy, I was there for a lot of this,” Jim soothed. “You would have been proud of Liz. She is your daughter, powers or no. For all we know, Kyle and I could develop them, too, but from what I’ve observed, it won’t change who we are. Think of it this way, the kids who’ve grown up with these powers aren’t monsters. They’ve done nothing but try to stay alive and help others. Please. Don’t worry about Liz changing. I can’t think of anyone who could be trusted with that responsibility more than Liz.”

Nancy settled back against Jeff, looking over at Philip and Diane. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to imply . . . I’m sorry.”

Two weak smiles greeted her from faces shadowed with guilt, and she realized they had had similar thoughts about their own children, in spite of their great love and history together. That was a comfort, in a way. Maybe her reaction was normal. That would be nice. Nothing else was.

********It was that second hit that finally shook Max out of his shocked silence, and he rushed toward me, afraid that I might actually succeed in killing her. I was furious that he hadn’t done it already. He told me what she’d said about being linked to Zan, but I didn’t believe her. Not for a minute. It would’ve been laughable if it weren’t so painful to see how her newest lie had Max second-guessing himself again. That indecision was the wedge that caused us to face off . . . again. I thought those days were over, but Tess hadn’t been back on the planet for a day, and Max and I were already staring each other down over her. The bitch had lied about everything since she’d come to Roswell. I didn’t expect that hanging out with Khivar had cured that.

I couldn’t be in the same room with her, so I forced a promise from Max that once Zan was safe, she’d pay. He promised, and I left, passing Kyle on the way out. I wondered how he would react to seeing her. They had formed something of a bond before those last days, and I knew she’d hurt him with her treachery and betrayal, just as she’d hurt everyone else she’d come in contact with. But I couldn’t stay and watch the reunion. I couldn’t bear to see either reaction—not his compassion and not his hurt. It was a lose-lose situation.

The next day is a blur. I’ve been trying to sort it out, but I’m still so conflicted about what happened that my emotions are clouding my memory. I wonder if somehow I’m partially responsible for the disaster that marked Tess’s departure, and that’s guilt I’m not sure I can live with. All I know about what happened the rest of that night is that Tess had gone to Valenti’s first, and then got scared enough to all but wreck the place and escape by blasting a hole right through an exterior wall. I think I already used the word unsubtle to describe her, didn’t I?

That’s when she headed for Max’s house, and he took her to Michael’s. Then, once the full-scale military search was on, the dogs picked up scents from the baby’s blankets, and Max realized that Michael’s apartment was probably next. They counted on Tess’s mindwarping to get through the roadblocks and out of town, but when Zan started to cry, Tess’s concentration was blown, and they were discovered. A car chase and a phone call later, they met up at Isabel and Jesse’s. Max let me know where they were, and Maria, the Valentis, and I joined them there.

And this is where I become conflicted. I’ve read enough history to realize that people fear what they don’t understand, so when everyone gathered in Isabel’s living room to decide Tess’s fate, I couldn’t help but be reminded of the thousands of people through the ages who have been abused, imprisoned, or killed by a mass mentality of fear. I stood and listened as Tess confessed to yet another lie—she was not linked to Zan; in fact, he’s totally human—and watched Max’s face. He was struggling to balance his hurt and anger at being used again, and his relief that Zan now had a better chance at survival.

But as we began to vote on whether we should turn Tess in to the military, thus giving them their alien and hopefully eliminating their impetus for the search, those witch trials loomed in my mind, and I fought an internal battle over what my heart wanted and what it could live with. Those few moments aren’t a blur at all, for although my mind was swimming in conflicting emotions, each person’s point of decision became a frozen tableau, permanently etched in my mind; they will haunt my dreams forever.

Maria: “I say yes. Turn her in.”

She is a witch, with her evil ways and her willingness to destroy whatever interferes with her heartless plans.

Valenti: “We shouldn’t be doing this. I vote no.”

She wormed her way into the Valenti’s home and used their goodness and caring to her own advantage. She hurt them both deeply, especially Kyle.

Michael: “Do it. Turn her in.”

She killed at least 15 men at the Air Force base and isn’t even sorry.

Max: “I vote no.”

She seduced Max in order to conceive his child, and then lied to lure him back to Antar to be killed.

Isabel: “I trusted you. And Alex . . . I vote yes.”

She killed Alex, the last person in the world who deserved to die.

Kyle: “I don’t know. . . . No, I can’t do it.”

3-3. I had the deciding vote. Tess’s fate rested in my hands.

I could have turned her in at the Crashdown earlier when the soldiers were standing outside and Maria was challenging me to follow my instincts and put an end to her. But I couldn’t do it then, and I couldn’t do it now. I am not a killer. And if I became one, no matter what the reason, I would live with that the rest of my life. I felt the decision settle over me like a mantle: I won’t give her that control; I will not condemn myself to the burden of a blighted conscience because of her. So I reached inside my heart and pulled out words that tasted bitter on my tongue.

“I vote no.”

I thought I had outsmarted her. I thought I had slipped through the fingers of the master of manipulation and saved myself from her last chance at destroying me—taking my soul. Now I’m not so sure. Later that night, when we were all sprawled around Isabel and Jesse’s apartment trying to sleep, she woke me. She asked me why I hadn’t voted to kill her, and I told her with some satisfaction that I was not a killer, hoping she caught the implication that this fact alone demonstrated the oceans of difference between us. And then she worked the last of her evil magic. She told me she wanted to turn herself in, to sacrifice herself to save her son and the others. But she needed a ride.

What is it about some people that we just need to see good in everyone, even if it’s only a sliver of hope that there is something redeemable inside them in spite of everything? What can I say? I bought it. She’s finally doing the decent thing, I thought. This one thing would make up for so much. So I agreed to drive her there, trusting that she would let the military see her just long enough to believe they had what they were after. Then, I knew, she would kill herself to avoid the White Room. I didn’t begrudge her that.

God, I am naïve. Even now. After playing me with revelations that Max only thought of me when they were together and how she knew how I had hurt over it all, she sighed dramatically and said, “At least I can do one good thing with my life.” I reached out nobly in her final moment and gave her my blessing. “You just did,” I comforted. Then she created a gap in the chain-link fence and walked through. I had spent about 15 seconds reflecting on the reassuring thought that there is indeed a seed of goodness in everyone when I heard the explosion. I wanted to be sick right there in the car. She had taken out more than half of the base and all the personnel inside it. She had seized her revenge for the injustices she imagined suffering at the hands of the human race, and she had left me with that blot on my conscience for helping her. She had won her victory.

That was only 24 hours ago. I’m tired, confused, and angry. Angry that in spite of my knowledge of her and the many walls I built to protect myself from her, she had the last word. I don’t even know for sure that she died in that explosion, though Isabel tried a dreamwalk and feels sure that she’s dead. I think she’s right. Ever since we met, Tess has been a festering presence in my mind, as if I could never quite shake her. Now she still lives there, but as a memory, not a presence. If I succeed in forging a life with Max, perhaps we will have our victory after all.

This afternoon, Kyle came into the Crashdown. I wasn’t working, but I was home, so we went out on my rooftop and talked. I could tell he was shaken, and it helped pull me out of myself to try to help him. I could see that despite the hurt and grief she had caused, especially to him, her death had shocked him, and no one was more surprised by that reaction than he was. He had let some shred of their relationship live untarnished deep down inside, and now it was gone. Curious, I asked how he had first reacted to seeing Tess again, and I was taken aback to see tears spill down his cheeks. He wiped them away quickly, pretending to cough, but it only brought home all the more clearly how deeply Tess had hurt him.

I admit to chuckling when he told me that he’d asked why Michael hadn’t killed her yet, and Michael answered, “Max wouldn’t let me.” That has such a childlike ring to it, in perverse opposition to the crushing seriousness of it all. To hear him tell it, he really vented a lot of his latent hostility when he realized she’d expected him to befriend her yet again. Clearly he was as conflicted as I was, just for entirely different reasons. His last words were the most telling, though: “Out of all the aliens I’ve met, you’re the only one without a soul.” Nicely put, Kyle.********

Jim sat, unmoving, staring at the page. Amy frowned nervously.

“What’s wrong, Jim?”

He didn’t answer right away, but her timid, “Jim?” finally pulled him from his reverie.

“I’m not sure what I would have done if Liz had voted the other way.”

The silence was oppressive as each person pondered that dilemma. Jim went on, almost to himself. “If she had voted to kill Tess, could I have let it happen? That’s murder, no matter what the crime. But we didn’t have recourse to a judge and jury. None of the usual rules applied. But I’ve killed. I know what does to you. And I wouldn’t wish it on those kids for anything.

“I think I would have wanted to save them from that memory as much as save Tess. And the truth is, I couldn’t have stopped it if I’d wanted to. They had the power to do it right there, with no bloodshed or physical violence. Any one of them could have raised a hand to her and done it. I don’t think she would have fought them just then.”

“What if you’d known what she had planned,” Philip asked. “If you’d known she would walk into that base and kill all those people, would you have tried to save her then?”

Jim winced against the pressure of his emotions. “Until the moment I learned what she’d done, I would have told you she was incapable of that. I still thought she was just a scared, lonely girl trying to make sense of what she’d been taught. I thought if she had a real family . . .”

His head dropped into his hands and his shoulders shook. Amy reached an arm around him and rested her head on his back, murmuring soothing nothings.

“You did your best for her,” Diane reassured him. “When we adopted Max and Isabel, the social worker told me something I’ve never forgotten. She said, ‘Give them what they need and all the love in your heart, and you’ll have done your job. But remember one thing, parents can never take all of the blame or all of the credit. Children have to do their part, too.’ She was right, Jim. This isn’t your fault. You gave her all you could in the brief time she was with you, but what she did with it was up to her. Your few weeks couldn’t balance the rest of her life or who she really was.”

Jim nodded and wiped his eyes. “Knowing that and believing it are two different things,” he choked.

“You want me to read?” Amy offered.

“No, I’m fine. I’ll go on,” he stated firmly. And he did.

********
It’s been two weeks since Tess died. Max and I have spent every possible minute together. The first week was largely taken up with long, draining talks with his parents and getting to know his son. But it’s been healing, too. Finding that they still love him and Isabel, and that they feel more sadness than anything that he didn’t trust them enough to share his secrets, created a new bond with them. An honest bond that has taken so much weight from his shoulders.

I know he hasn’t told them everything. He told me that there were certain grim experiences of the last few years that they didn’t need to know. Since there was nothing they could do about them now, why deepen their horror and guilt at what he had suffered? That is so Max. Always protecting those he loves at all costs.

I asked him what he’d said about me, and he smiled, the tips of those adorable ears turning pink. “There wasn’t much they hadn’t figured out about that,” he confessed. “I guess I didn’t keep my feelings for you as hidden as I thought.” In fact, he said, his mom was relieved that it was me he was with. That when Isabel said he’d gotten Tess pregnant, she had been as disappointed in his choice of girls as she was in his irresponsible behavior.

That left an uncomfortable silence between us, but I had promised myself a new day, and the old baggage wasn’t going to hurt me anymore. And that’s when he told me his decision about Zan: he was putting his son up for adoption.

I didn’t know what to say. A part of me wanted to celebrate because no Zan meant we could more easily put the past behind us and start fresh . . . together. But another part of me wanted to cry for the pain this sacrifice was causing the man I loved. A baby is a gift, a fresh untainted soul who shouldn’t have to carry the sins of his parents. I had seen Max look down on his son with wonder, the awe that strikes every parent at the miracle of a new life. That never bothered me. After all, Zan wasn’t to blame for any of the heartache surrounding his existence. But I did wonder if Max wouldn’t see Tess in him someday, and either resent his own child or second-guess the events that led to Tess’s death. He might even resent me for my part in it all. Either option was frightening, and I knew his decision was the right one. As a human, this baby would have a brighter future with human parents who would keep him safe and loved. But that didn’t change the anguish I knew would strike another blow at Max’s heart.

In a way, Zan was bringing out the best in lots of people. He gave all the Evanses a focal point on which to base their attention and their healing. Isabel and Jesse sat and talked together for a long time as Zan dozed in Jesse’s arms—conversations I’m not sure they could have had yet, if not for the atmosphere of caring that only a baby can create. I even caught Kyle crooning to him one day when the Evanses had invited all of us to dinner. Zan was supposed to be napping in his bassinet in the den, but there was Kyle, singing bits of old lullabies and making up the words he couldn’t remember. He had the most amazing look on his face. Even Michael held him a time or two, trying to look aloof, but secretly sneaking smiles at the wide-eyed face in his arms, hoping Maria hadn’t noticed.

I didn’t hold him much. I was afraid of all I would feel—good and bad—and none of it helpful. So I just observed, and watched Max slowly come to terms with what he had to do.

The day Zan was to leave for his new home in New York was hard. Max gratefully accepted his parents’ offer to take Zan to the airport where the adoptive parents would arrive to meet the newest member of their family. He didn’t want to see them. It seemed enough to know that a young couple with a strong family network had cried with joy when they learned of the chance to adopt this beautiful baby boy. The child would never want for love or care, and that was the best Max could do for him.

Right before they took Zan away, I saw Max do something I’d never seen before. He passed his hand over Zan’s head and I saw sparkles, like Tinkerbell’s fairy dust, and he smiled through his tears. When his mother asked him what that was, he whispered, “Just a memory.” I have to wonder what effect that memory will have on Zan one day.

As his parents drove off, I promised Max that I would always be there. He pulled me into his arms and clung to me, and I could feel the quiet flow of tears soaking my sweater. I said a prayer then that God would show mercy to this gentle, tortured soul. His life has been heavy with secrets, fear, and danger since the day he set foot on the planet. He has never willingly harmed another soul, but the barrage of pain he has endured—physical and emotional—has been unrelenting. He’s earned some happiness, some peace. And if it is within my power to help him find it, I will.********

Sniffling stopped Jim’s reading, and he looked up to find Diane crying this time. Philip was fighting tears, too, and the group realized that Max was not the only one who had given up a precious member of his family. The Evanses had lost a grandchild.

“Was it the right thing to do?” Diane whispered into the air. “Should we have let him go?”

Philip nodded above her. “If I had doubts before, Di, I don’t now. Think of all we’ve heard these last few days. Would you want Zan to be a part of that? For his future to be shaped by the threat of danger from who knows what aliens might be out there and our own government?”

He stroked her arm and bit back another wave of tears. “We had to let him go. Max knew what he had to do, and he did it. That took a man, honey. A strong man.”

“Yes. Yes, it did,” she sniffed, straightening, and nodded at Jim.

(continued in next post)
posted on 26-Jan-2003 5:40:32 PM by Carol000
Part 15a continued

*******
I’m not religious, but I’ve been to church. I know right from wrong, and I know it’s wrong to benefit in any way from someone else’s passing. But I won’t deny that Tess’s death has freed me, like a dark shadow passed over the sun before the light came flooding back. It’s a brand new day, full of possibilities and hope. I haven’t felt like that in a long, long time.

It’s different for Max. He lost more than his son. He lost his sense of direction to his life, his sense of purpose. He puts up a brave front, but . . . I know. So I’ve made myself a promise—that I’ll help him find his direction again, no matter where it leads. I’m hoping it leads to me.

Tonight, Max actually asked me how I would feel if he came with me to Northwestern. My heart leapt at the possibility, but I also know how strongly he’s always felt about staying in Roswell. Maybe those reasons aren’t reasons now—the granolith is gone, Isabel is married to a man who has learned to accept who she is, and any mystery about Max’s son is resolved. Still, I don’t want to get my hopes up. Max thinking about leaving Roswell is huge. Maybe too huge.

So I laid it out for him. I would talk about that if he was serious. Otherwise, don’t toy with my emotions. They’re too fragile. I was hanging on his response, praying he would tell me things were different now, but our last customer for the night was ready to leave, and I had to interrupt our conversation. I reached for her money and our hands touched. The flash was instantaneous and disjointed, like watching an MTV video, but its impact was extreme. I fell back into my seat, feeling sick at what I’d seen.

Max saw the look on my face and came to me, worried. I told him what I’d seen and, bless him, even though I could tell he had doubts that I’d seen the future, he followed me without question. It’s a good thing, because that woman was mugged walking down the alley, and her attacker held a gun on her. If it hadn’t been for Max hurling the gun from the guy’s hand and starting nearby car alarms, she would have been killed. She saw our faces before we could leave, but I don’t think she realized we were responsible for what happened. At least I hope not.

The next day, I was working a shift and thinking back to my conversation with Max about Northwestern when my dad came in with the letter. As soon as I touched it, I could see the words saying I’d been accepted, and I said it right out loud. How stupid! They were all looking at me like I’d lost it completely. Dad reminded me that actually reading the letter might be the way to go. Jeez.

Still, when it was official, I was jubilant, and happily accepted everyone’s congratulations. I wished Max had been there, but I knew I’d see him later. We definitely had things to talk about. After work, I showered and changed, wondering yet again if this would be the night we made love. I was thinking about it more and more all the time, and if Max really did want to come with me to Northwestern, I thought I could take that as a sign that we were really going to make a go of it—lay the groundwork for a life together. I was almost giddy with anticipation.

Once he got there, it was only minutes until we were out on the roof with candles glowing and passions flaring. So I asked him—was he really serious about coming with me to Northwestern. He told me he’d never been more serious about anything in his life. That sealed it. It was time to start laying that groundwork. No more inhibitions or hesitating. I was ready. I hoped he was, too.

Things between us were really heating up, and I remember the feeling of sinking into him, deeply and completely, when another flash hit—so unnerving that it killed all the raging emotions I’d been feeling seconds before. Because this time, I’d saw us die—Max, Michael, Isabel, and me. Bloody. Dead.

Awkward as it was, we agreed we had to tell the others, so we called another of our almost routine crisis meetings. Funny how just because something is an oxymoron doesn’t mean it’s not true. Routine crisis. Yeah, that’s us.

Anyway, the usual doubt fell away when Max told them about the customer who was mugged the other night, and they all made sure to hassle us about the means by which these flashes were generated, but at least now everyone was on alert, and Max and I agreed to, as Kyle put it, “achieve another flash.” I almost smiled. Apparently even grim jobs can have their upside.

Our next attempt at a flash was wonderful . . . until I actually had it. In between kisses and spine-tingling fondling, I asked Max if he thought I was becoming one of them. He had the perfect answer: “I don’t know, but whatever is happening, we’re together now.” That’s exactly what I needed to hear, and I threw myself into our project. Results came too quickly. I saw the deaths again, only this time there was another face in the vision—familiar, but not. I groped through the stuff on my desk, sensing that somehow I’d seen that face recently.

I had. Bryce McCain. Sci-fi novelist, and guest of honor at the upcoming UFO convention. We knew the day we were to die: June 12. What a bizarre bit of knowledge to hold inside—the date of your own death. How do you deal with that?

The answer to that question was different for each of us. We all met out at the pod chamber and hypothesized about why this was going to happen. I think it’s because when Tess destroyed that base, she left another menacing legacy I hadn’t even envisioned yet—a thoroughly pissed off Air Force on a mission. The why wasn’t important, though. What we were going to do about it was.

We all looked to Max—old habits die hard. He was strangely quiet for a minute, and then he announced his decision: he wouldn’t decide. He told us he was abdicating his throne, and that Michael and Isabel should shed the idea that they were second in command or a princess. It was about survival now.

We talked through what to do next, but there only seemed one reasonable solution, and that was for Max, Michael, Isabel, and me to leave Roswell . . . separately. Michael even volunteered to go first, since he wasn’t graduating from high school like the others. Even as Michael said it, my stomach seized up. They could say what they liked, there was no way in hell I would leave Max’s side now. They could go their separate ways, if that’s what they decided. But Max and I were together. Period.

I guess Maria felt the same way, only without the confidence that Michael saw things that way, too. The hurt on her face broke my heart when she confronted Michael about being so willing to leave her, and when she stormed off, I saw him make a move to go after her. I stopped him, because I knew what Maria needed to hear, and I wasn’t at all sure he knew.

When I caught up with her, I could see the confusion on her face. She was back in the middle, struggling to figure out where she belonged—in the thick of the alien chaos or safely apart from it, where life could be normal again. She wasn’t thinking clearly, so I yelled through the fog to get her attention. I told her that here she was complaining about being left out, when what she was left out of was almost certain death. She just fell apart then, admitting that she had no idea what to do. She thought I could tell her, being prescient and all, but I told her that I couldn’t know her heart, and she had to decide for herself.

When we got back to the group, I heard Isabel tell Jesse to take the job in Boston—I didn’t even know about that, but I imagine it’s quite a career move. I hope she knows what she’s doing. Jesse will be easy to trace with a high-profile job like that; and if they find Jesse, they find Isabel.

Then it was time to go, and I saw Max move toward Michael. Michael resisted the goodbye he could see coming, but I knew Max needed it. Michael knew it, too. They compromised. Max skipped the speech and poured everything into an embrace that said it all for him. He loves Michael. In spite of the arguments, the power struggles, and the differences a mile wide, they’re brothers, and their lives will be forever linked. Leaving Michael was leaving a part of Max behind. Another hole to fill in a soul riddled with holes. I had no idea how many of those I’d be able to fill.

Later that night, I was waiting for Max when Maria called and told me Michael had stopped by to say goodbye. I could hear her voice cracking as she worked to unburden her heart. He’d finally said some of the things she’s been waiting to hear: Their time together meant so much to him; he knew from the beginning that she was the girl for him; he’d never wanted anyone else; wherever he was, she should remember that he would always love her. Her voice broke on that last one, and she began to cry, telling me she needed time alone and she’d see me tomorrow. Why did he wait so long to admit his commitment to her? I could feel her heart breaking from blocks away. Sometimes I could just shake that boy. She loves him so.

I know how that feels, because that night was the most amazing night of my life. Even now, two days later with graduation only a day away, I don’t think I’ll ever have another night like that. My dream came true, and so beautifully that it will warm my heart for the rest of my life. Max proposed.

We were out on the roof again. I was lighting candles; Max was spreading out a blanket for us to stargaze . . . among other things, and we just got to talking. Max surprised me by putting words to the very worry I’d had a few days before. He said he had no path, and he wondered if maybe he were here to help people, that maybe this was what he was to do with his life. I was thinking he was probably right, but wondering what form that help might take when he turned and looked at me, his face an open book. I stopped what I was doing just to look at him, to read what his eyes were telling me. Then he said, “The thing is, I can’t do that without you.”

I suppose I could have taken that to mean he needed my precognition to intervene in bad situations, but that’s not what his eyes were saying. They were telling me, so clearly and honestly, that he needed me. Me—in his life, in his arms, in his heart. My heart answered before my mind even knew what it was saying, “I would do anything if it meant being with you.”

He took me at my word. I watched him, almost instinctively knowing what he was doing as he lifted a briquette from the grill and made a little joke about Superman. His hand glowed fiercely, and I could see the perspiration break out on his face with the effort, but I wasn’t afraid; I was in awe. When the light died, he turned his back to me like a little boy sprucing up those dandelions he’d picked for his mom, but when he turned to me, there was no little boy. There was a man.

He walked toward me and knelt down, lifting his hand and his eyes. I looked down, seeing first the love blazing from those deep amber eyes, and then the stone, a diamond, sparkling against his fingertips. I could feel the tears spring to my eyes, and only a small strangled sound escaped by throat, constricted so tightly, I couldn’t swallow or breathe. I promised myself then and there that I would record those words in my journal. I’m absolutely sure no other couple has been through more to get to where we are right now; the feelings we share have been forced to the background for so long. Now Max’s words have touched me in a private place that I guard fiercely in the center of my heart, and I know what they have cost him. I don’t ever want to forget them.

“Liz, there are people after us. They want to take our homes; they want to kill us, and they might. But when I look in your eyes, I don’t feel angry or deprived. I feel like the luckiest half-human on Earth. You’re pure. You’re true and you’re real. And right now, that seems like the only thing that’s important. I want to be with you, Liz. Forever.”

I remember interrupting him then—a thought pushed out in pure reaction as my head spun: I reminded him that forever might only be twelve days. He smiled at me, as if that was of little concern. Forever was what it was, and there was no use worrying about it.

Then he said, “Then we’ll take those twelve days and we’ll live twelve lifetimes. Liz Parker, will you marry me?”

I’m smudging the page, but I can’t help the tears. When your heart can’t hold all the joy, it just leaks out the eyes, I guess. Here I am, in more danger than anyone could possibly imagine, and all I can feel is joy. Well, love and joy. Joy borne of love. It’s all the same, isn’t it? I love Max and he loves me, and in the midst of chaos and evil and potential death, that love has risen above it all and given us the peace I promised to help him find.

Well, I suppose I don’t even have to write down that I said yes, and I honestly think I saw relief on his face, as if there were the slightest question that I might say no. Then we kissed, so tenderly, so gently and lovingly; it was like floating, and I never wanted to come down.

We spent hours loving each other. What’s strange is, the urge to make love abated. Our loving that night was . . . new. It was like discovering each other for the first time—sweet and tender and full of promise. I think we just understood that now we could wait for the wedding night; we no longer felt that if we lost the chance now, it would never come again. So we kissed, offering each other murmured promises and a loving welcome to the world of us—a world that never existed until this night.

Tonight is graduation—the last bit of normalcy we will know for quite some time. After that, we will leave Roswell, secretly and together. Who knows what life will bring? All I know for sure is, it will bring a life with Max, and it doesn’t get any better than that.********

Tears were the order of the day. Nancy and Jeff were both wiping their faces, but this time, it wasn’t about regret or sorrow. It was about the thrill of knowing that their daughter had truly found the love of her life, and had committed to him and the life they’d accepted with a full heart.

“It’s amazing how hard I worked to keep them apart,” Jeff smiled, shaking his head in disbelief. “Not at first, but later, after that whole Utah thing, I was just sure he was a terrible influence on her.” He shrugged. “I guess I was right about the danger, but not about the boy . . . the man,” he corrected. “She knew what she was doing when she picked him.”

“I thought he picked her,” Diane teased. “Better go back to page 1.”

Nancy smiled through a small sob. “They picked each other. They’re both smart.”

This time the quiet was peaceful, contemplative.

“How beautiful,” Nancy sighed up at Jeff. “I think it was the most beautiful proposal I’ve ever heard.”

“And exactly how many proposals have you heard?” Jeff asked, eyebrows arched in surprise.

Nancy laughed. “Okay, I’ve only heard yours. But I’ve read enough romance novels to have seen quite a few. Trust me. That one was a winner.”

“And what was wrong with mine?” he pouted, glad to see Nancy calming now.

She laughed harder this time. “It seems to me yours was delivered on the back of a motorcycle as we watched a wedding party come out of a church. You said, ‘So how about it?’ and nodded toward the newlyweds. Hardly stiff competition for Max.”

Everyone chuckled and Jeff played the wounded suitor. “It’s the thought that counts,” he huffed, kissing her hand.

********
Dear Dad,

If you have read my journal now, you know what happened after that last journal entry. At least the part at graduation. You also know a lot of things about my life over the last three years. Some of them have you really scared, I’m sure, but I hope other parts have given you some confidence in Max and me and the life we’re trying to carve out of this strange and unstable reality. There are lots of things I would have preferred you not see—things about our most dangerous experiences, or about my darkest thoughts, and even about Max and me. Some of those things were too private to share, but there was too much you needed to know, and no other way to give you the kind of understanding you’re going to need now.

You must have guessed long ago that Maria and Kyle are with us. Michael and Maria have finally acknowledged their need for each other and are doing fine. Kyle tries hard to accept this new life, but without someone to love, it’s harder on him. He and Isabel have become fast friends, though, and are a great comfort to each other. Tell Jesse not to worry; Isabel is determined to find a way back to him as soon as she can do it safely, and we will make sure Kyle never feels alone. He is one of us now.

In case the night of graduation is still something of a mystery, I’ll just say that once we realized Bryce McCain was our speaker, everything changed. We knew that the UFO convention would not be the scene of our deaths. It was coming right then. Max turned and I saw in his eyes a heart-shattering goodbye; I wasn’t sure what he planned to do, but I knew he was ready to sacrifice himself to save the rest of us. I couldn’t stop him, so all I could do was make sure that his sacrifice wasn’t in vain. That’s why we all left as we did; we knew he was giving us one last chance to escape, and taking his only opportunity to thank his parents for giving a lonely boy and his sister a loving home.

Thank God Michael actually heeded the words of that fortune teller Maria hauled him to; he came back to Roswell as soon as he spotted the military convoy on the highway. It’s a long story, but he told us about it around a campfire one night and we all realized just how close we came to being killed. Suffice it to say that it was Michael on that motorcycle, and Jesse who made an instant trade for the van we’re using now. He’s probably told you what happened that night, but I’ll just say—he was a hero. Tell him we know that.

I can’t tell you much more than that. It wouldn’t be safe—for you or for us. I can tell you that we’re far away, and we’re all trying to avoid the law and do good in the world. Oh, and I guess I should tell you that Max and I did eventually tie the knot. Not only am I deliriously happy, but the honeymoon unveiled some more great news. I can’t . . . or won’t . . . explain how, but we now know—beyond a shadow of a doubt—that Zan is not Max’s baby. Max and Tess never had sex; it was another of Tess’s mindwarps, and an integral part of her plan to get the others back to Antar. What we don’t know is if Tess was ever pregnant at all. We strongly suspect that she abducted the baby from another family, but there is nothing anyone can do to put that right now. In any case, that revelation has only added to our supreme joy and our confidence in the future. It was important to me that you and the Evanses know that.

Give my love to Mom. Let her read this journal, too. Then give it to Maria’s mom. After that, take it and burn it out in the desert by the ruins of the pod chamber where my husband was born.

So that’s the end. Our life in Roswell. What a long, strange trip it’s been. Will we ever go back? I don’t know. Even I can’t see everything in the future. All I know is that I’m Liz Parker Evans, and I’m happy. And someday, when it’s safe enough, I’ll tell our children about a boy who loved a girl, and how it changed the world.

I love you.

Liz

posted on 2-Feb-2003 1:00:08 PM by Carol000
So here we are my friends. The Acid Test, I think they call it.

First of all, I want to THANK, from the bottom of my heart, the wonderful people who left feedback on the last of the journal entries. I appreciated every word. Some made comments to which I feel I must respond:

Gigo: THANK YOU for the many bumps. You are a dear!

SciFiNut: (Some of you may have noticed that SciFiNut brought me to task for making Liz appear callous regarding the possibility that Zan was abducted from some poor human couple. I assure you, that was not my intention.) SciFiNut: Given that the kids have no contact with the outside world just now (or didn't at the time), there was nothing they could do about their guess that this could be the case. I promise you, Liz and Max will ask Philip to look into it, and Zan will have a major story line very soon. He's gone, but not forgotten.

Klaatu42:You were among many who asked if there will be a parent/child reunion. The answer is . . . maybe!

TigerEyes: I agree that as I watch the reruns on SciFi channel, I see Kyle in a whole different light. At first, I just wanted him GONE, out of the picture, out of the way. But I came to love him--as we all did--for his humor, his sweetness, and his willingness to do the right thing, when push came to shove. Funny how he's changed for us.

Scottie: THANK YOU for saying this was your favorite post-Roswell fic. That means a lot to me. I KNOW how much fic you read!

Sansu: I can't believe it. Reading this has given you the courage to re-watch S3? Okay, that may be the nicest thing anyone's ever said about one of my fics! LOL!

Breathless: I feel honored that you're reading this fic, knowing what I do about your feelings. Thank you. And I agree that seeing Jeff crying over his daughter's journal is one of the most heartwrenching scenes I've ever watched, brief as it was. It tore my heart out and left me more satisfied about the end all at the same time.

BelieveInTrueLove: SFOL! I loved your Note to gang: Don't go looking for Max and Liz. hehehehe I think it's safe to say, they've learned that lesson--in spades.

Now we're ready to fall headfirst into the non-journal plot of the story. This is where I'm nervous about folks continuing to read. I plan to post this and at least two more parts and judge the response. If people are enjoying it, great. I love writing it. If not, I'll take the hint. But if you would like to see more of this story, just drop a line--doesn't have to be an essay--and let me know.

In this chapter, we're going to revisit all the folks who've been involved up to now (oh, except Major Gibbs)--like a refresher course--and get the moving toward more story action. Posted in two parts.


Part 15a

She watched his sleeping form from beneath lashes bright with tears. She’d run out of words to describe her feelings for Max, so she’d quit trying, and let all the nameless emotion pour from her in tears of gratitude, joy, and unspeakable depths of love. A smile touched her lips as she recalled a time not long ago . . . god, it seemed a lifetime . . . when she wished so fervently that something . . . anything . . . would happen to make her life different and exciting. Well, she’d gotten her wish. She’d fallen in love with an alien who adored her and saved her life at the risk of his own one sunny afternoon. Since then, she had witnessed acts of unimaginable heroism and horror, and learned more about another being that she thought it was possible to learn.

That being, that man, lay in her arms now, sleeping as though government agents weren’t tracking him, as if aliens weren’t plotting his death, as if he hadn’t given up a life in a loving home to protect those he loved. This man, her husband, was still able to open his heart and his life to her, and to wield his hidden power with a gentle and compassionate touch. How she loved him.

A hand slid further around her and pulled her closer. Lips nuzzled at her neck. He was awake. But when he lifted his head to scatter kisses on her cheek, he found it wet and pulled back in alarm.

“Liz?” His brow creased with worry and a thumb wiped away the latest tear. “What’s wrong?”

She opened her thoughts to him then, and watched as he processed the flood of love and awe and happiness that had prompted her tears. His face relaxed into a smile, touched with embarrassment, and he settled her back in his arms again, noting with regret that the sun had moved some distance while they slept.

“I feel the same way about you,” he told her aloud. “I’m amazed by you.”

Liz let out a derisive puff of air. “Me? I’m nothing amazing, Max. I’m a girl. An ordinary human girl. Anything amazing about me is only because of you. Because of how you love me.”

She felt his head shake and listened to the long hiss of his sigh.

“You don’t get it, do you? You don’t get that I lived every day in hiding before that day in the Crashdown. That I clamped down on my emotions, my reactions, even every word I said. I couldn’t let myself do or feel anything that wasn’t invisible and safe. Now . . . now, Liz, you’ve changed all that. Now my life is full, and I’ve never been so happy.”

“Or in so much danger,” she reminded him. “That’s because of me, too.”

“Liz, are you sorry? Are you sorry that knowing me has endangered you like this? If you could, would you go back and change what happened? What if you’d never been shot? Would things have been better then?”

Liz sat up, looking down on Max to see if he was kidding. “Are you crazy, Max? Go back to a life of routine and small town high school and not knowing how you felt about me? Would I go back? No! I wouldn’t. Stop thinking like that . . .”

The smile crept across his face, and his eyes glowed knowingly. She bowed her head in defeat. “Oh.”

“Yeah, oh. So you stop talking like that, too, okay? Let’s just be glad for what we have together. The rest will work out.”

Liz settled back down in Max’s arms and looked up at the dome of sky that rested along the tops of the trees, now streaked with wisps of pink and peach; the afternoon was winding down. “We’d better go back. It’s time to talk to the others about what comes next.”

“Yeah, I know.”

They lay there, unmoving.

“I love you, Liz.”

Liz turned to give an answering kiss on his cheek. “Would you answer a question, Max?”

“Anything.”

“What did you say to Maya that made her suddenly trust you?”

The smile that lit Max’s face was a thing of beauty, and Liz couldn’t help but smile back. He turned to look at her and touched her cheek.

“You had just told her that you and she were special because of me. I told her that I thought you both were pretty special even without me, and that someday, I hoped you and I would have a little girl just like her to love, but it was a secret for now.”

As he spoke, his eyes danced with hope and excitement squeezed between the sparkles of love. Her heart burst with his words and the extraordinary emotion they carried. A little girl . . . or boy . . . a child created from their love. So she wasn’t the only one hoping that would be a part of their future.

“I never even hoped before . . .”

He never finished his sentence. His wife’s sudden kiss swept away his ability to speak. And his wish to.

********

The ride back to town from the silver mine was quiet. A late afternoon sun shimmered on the pavement as the SUV shot down the highway toward Roswell. Tired minds were reeling with a terrible understanding of all that had brought them to this point. Hearts were breaking at the quiet nightmare their children had lived through. Plans were churning for how to help them now.

“They need money, supplies, clothes, and fake IDs, maybe,” Jeff muttered, his mental list so long now, he was afraid he’d never remember it all.

“I’m pretty sure they’ve taken care of the fake IDs,” Jim reminded him. “They’re better equipped for that than most. Don’t forget Las Vegas.”

Jeff snorted. “Yeah, I did forget. But how do we get them money and stuff?”

“Isabel told me Eddie would be the go-between,” Jim said. “I’m sure he’ll be making contact soon. They’re as close as the reservation now.”

“Can’t we see them?” Diane asked, a desperate edge to her voice. “They’re so close.”

“Honey, if our homes are bugged, you can bet they’ll follow us, too, as soon as we show up in Roswell again. If we went out there, we’d be leading the authorities right to them.”

“There has to be a way,” Nancy whispered. “I have to talk to Liz, to tell her that I didn’t understand before . . . I never knew . . . I have to tell her . . .”

“She knows,” Jeff comforted. “She knows. We’ll figure something out.”

Philip was concentrating on the more practical side, and addressed his comments to Jim, the other parent who seemed to have a rein on his emotions just now.

“It will look too odd if we all take sums of money from our accounts at once. I think we have to assume that the government can gain access to our financial records pretty easily. But I have a sizeable petty cash account at work that I can get to without anyone knowing—a few hundred, at least—and we can take modest amounts of cash out at the ATM, as we always do. If we all do that, we should be able to give them enough cash to last a while, especially since they’re camping for the most part.”

Jim nodded. “Yeah, that’s a start. Once things are straightened out with this little girl at the reservation, though, they’re gonna hafta get out of New Mexico. They need to put some distance between them and the center of this search.”

“I could go out to the reservation,” Amy said quietly. “I go out twice a month to get trinkets to sell in the shop—you know, carved keychains, pottery, jewelry. We get a lot more traffic in town than they get out at the reservation, and we split the profits.”

Jim frowned. “I don’t know, Amy. Let me think on it. Philip’s right. We may all be tailed now. We have to be really careful.”

They approached town, tensions high. Every eye watched for cars and people with a paranoia they’d never had to feel before. Dropping Diane and Philip off first near their home on the city’s outer rim, the remaining four adults prayed they wouldn’t be noticed riding into the center of town together. Jim pulled quickly into the alley behind the Crashdown and stopped just long enough for Jeff and Nancy to climb out and slip through the back door of the café. Coming out on the opposite street, Amy snuggled close to Jim. People were used to seeing them together these days, and no one would raise an eyebrow when he stopped to kiss her at her front door or when the hug that followed was tighter and longer than it had ever been.

********

Nate rose from his chair as Taylor Holbrook walked into the room. He hadn’t expected to see her again so soon, and he certainly hadn’t expected to see Tyler with her. He swiped at his day-old stubble and waited. Their faces betrayed nothing.

“Please sit down, Lieutenant. I’ve come to ask you a few questions based on my conversation with Sgt. Heiss.”

Nate glanced uneasily at Tyler, who was studying his folded hands carefully.

“I’m sure you’re wondering why Sgt. Heiss is with me, but since we’ve run into each other twice today in relation to your case, it seemed sensible to team up. Wouldn’t you agree?”

Nate just looked from one to the other, confused. Clearly, Lt. Holbrook had assumed her officious and controlled demeanor again. He’d hoped he’d seen the last of that. Then he fixed Tyler with a menacing glare and whispered, “How exactly did you ‘run into each other,’ Ty?”

“Nate, I’m sorry, man. I was trying to do what you asked, but Evans is gone. He wasn’t at his office or his house, but both times this JAG was there. I just couldn’t stay out of her way, I guess. Sorry.”

Taylor tossed her pen on the table with irritation. “Hello? Excuse me? I’m right here, gentlemen. Is there some reason you’re choosing to ignore that fact? Or does being rude just come naturally?”

Nate grimaced. “I’m sorry. That was rude. Sgt. Heiss was doing me a favor, and I just want to be sure he got it done.”

He looked meaningfully at Tyler until his lawyer surprised him. “If you’re talking about dropping off the Major’s clothes with Philip Evans, I know all about that. But we have a problem, I’m afraid.”

“You told her?

Nate’s glare went from menacing to threatening. Tyler looked miserable. Taylor rubbed her eyes. All this secrecy. One would never have suspected they were all on the same side.

“Look,” Taylor ground out. “I’m trying to help you here. I was looking for Philip Evans, too, as it happened. You had mentioned him, and I realized later that I also had reason to know of him, so I thought if I could get him on board right away, we could get a jump on this thing. But like the sergeant said, we can’t find him. I’ve left messages at work and home with my cell phone, so hopefully, he’ll call. His secretary thinks he’s sick, but he’s not home, and neither is anyone else.”

Nate nodded. He didn’t know where Philip Evans was, either, but he knew what he was doing—trying to get through the rest of Liz Parker’s journal. He couldn’t tell anyone that, though. All he could do was hope that Evans would be home soon, and would return Taylor’s call.

“Lt. Holbrook, I apologize. I know you’re trying to help. I’m just so . . . blown away by all this, and I don’t know who to trust. I don’t know you. I do know Tyler, so I decided to trust him.”

Taylor smiled, and Nate realized again how beautiful she was when she wasn’t intimidating the hell out of him.

“How about you trust us both, Lieutenant. Anything you tell me is in confidence, and I promise you, you’ll get my best.”

They held a long gaze, then Nate’s shoulders relaxed with a sigh. “You’re on, Ms. Holbrook. Get comfortable. It’s a long story.”

“I’m ready, Lieutenant, and the name’s Taylor.”

A new attitude pervaded the next hour as Nate outlined what he could of the evening’s events, the sketchiest of details about his role in the government’s investigation into a local threat to national security (invoking his pledge not to divulge the nature of the threat), and his reasons for suspecting he was being framed by his superior officer. Taylor was flabbergasted as each new detail was revealed, but was soon taking copious notes and asking lots of questions.

“I realize you can’t tell me what the army is investigating, Lieutenant, so that makes your suspicions about Major Gibbs hard to substantiate. Not to mention the fact that asking your friend to take his clothes for analysis violates about ten different laws. How did you know about Philip Evans?”

Nate sighed. “I can’t tell you that, either. But believe me when I say he’ll be motivated to help me. I did him and his son a favor once. I’m pretty sure he’ll want to help me now.”

Taylor had long since taken off her military jacket and kicked off her shoes. Her head was supported by one hand as she wrote furiously with the other. She barely looked up when the door opened to allow another visitor to enter. It was only the scrambling to attention at her right and across the table that brought her head up with a confused squint.

“What . . . ?”

Then she was up, too, arrow straight and eyes forward. “Sir. Sorry, sir.”

General Christopher took in the scene with a calm, slow scan. “At ease.”

They snapped to the official “at ease” position, still locked in tense silence.

“Hello, son.”

“Hello, sir.”

“Let’s take off the uniforms, son. You’re in jail, accused of murder. I need to know everything. Sit down, everyone.”

They sat, the air charged with nervousness and expectation.

“Want to tell me what happened?” the general asked, a gentler tone in his voice.

“Yeah, Dad. I do.” The shoulders sagged again. “This is my friend, Sgt. Tyler Heiss. This is my JAG consultant, Lt. Taylor Holbrook.”

They nodded in turn, still ramrod stiff in the general’s presence.

“JAG? Isn’t this a civilian matter, Lieutenant?”

“Yes, sir. I’ve only been sent to consult. We’re awaiting a call from a local civilian lawyer now. We’ve had trouble reaching him.”

“Then call another one!” This time, the general used his military voice, the one that was used to being obeyed without question.

“Wait, Dad,” Nate interrupted. “There’s a reason I want this one.”

Eric Christopher awaited his son’s explanation.

“I can’t explain everything, Dad. It’s classified, but this guy has reason to want to help me. He’s the best chance I’ve got.”

“Classified? I’m a general, for god’s sake, Nate.”

“I know, sir, but this is classified at ‘K’--‘Need to know’ only.”

The general sat contemplating his options. He looked at Tyler.

“Sergeant, would you mind waiting outside for a few minutes?”

It wasn’t a question, and Tyler immediately left the room, probably relieved, Nate thought wryly.

“Son, if you’re worried about my knowledge of what’s going on in the facility outside of town, I know all about it.” He hesitated, then looked directly at his son. “I’m running that show, Nate. I’m the military liaison to the Special Unit.”

Nate fell back in his chair, mouth gaping. His head was spinning with implications, and for the first time in his life, he didn’t know if he could trust his father. It was the worst feeling in the world. He thought he might be sick.

“Nate?” Taylor leaned forward, worried by how pale he had become. She reached to pour him more water.

“You, Dad?” Nate breathed. “Oh god.”



posted on 2-Feb-2003 1:01:42 PM by Carol000
Part 15b continued

He grabbed the water glass and downed several gulps, still reeling.

“Nate,” his father frowned. “Is there something I should know? Am I missing something here?”

“Perhaps I should leave you two alone,” Taylor suggested. “Permission to wait outside, sir?”

“No!” Nate grabbed at her hand and squeezed. “I want you to stay.”

Taylor sat, looking at the general uncertainly. He hadn’t ordered her to leave, so she’d stay until he did. Meanwhile, Nate still had her fingers in a death-grip. She looked down and wondered what protocol was appropriate here. Following her gaze, Nate let go self-consciously. Taylor smiled politely as she withdrew her hand to the safety of her lap.

Nate pinned his general father with a look that only a son could get away with. “How do you feel about what’s going on out there, Dad? Is it all happening according to your plan?”

“First of all, it’s not my plan. I only coordinate the personnel and equipment. The orders come from even higher up.”

“Let me put it this way. Do you approve of what they’re doing?”

“It’s not my place to approve or disapprove, Nate. You know that. I’m expected to coordinate an effort to protect the citizens of this country. As far as I know, that’s what I’m doing.”

Nate sat quietly, eyeing his father. “What if I told you they don’t need protecting? At least not from the object of the investigation.”

The general frowned. “I don’t understand what you’re trying to tell me, Nate. If you’ve got something to say—something Lt. Holbrook can hear—then say it. Otherwise, she needs to leave.”

“Dad, I want her to get special clearance to hear what I have to say. All of it. Can you do that? I’m a dead man, otherwise.”

General Christopher’s frown deepened. “Why, son?”

“Because what I have to say, nobody wants to hear—not the military, not the civilians, not . . . anyway, if I’m going down, it’s not going to be because no one else knew the truth. I want someone else to know. And that’s got to include my lawyers. I’ve been framed, Dad. And I’m pretty sure I know by whom and why. But there’s a lot more than that at stake. Other lives depend on this, too.”

“Nate. I can’t let you breach national security. You know better. I doubt Lt. Holbrook has clearance, and we certainly can’t divulge any of this to a civilian lawyer. He’s not bound by the same regulations and oaths that we are.”

“It doesn’t matter, Dad,” Nate said quietly. “This civilian already knows.”

Now it was the general’s turn to be shocked. He sat speechless for several seconds, trying to control his reaction.

“How is that possible?”

“That’s what I have to tell you,” Nate said.

Nate watched his father’s struggle. He wanted to help his son, but he had sworn an oath to his country not to divulge its secrets.

“What’s your clearance, Lieutenant Holbrook?”

“Top Secret, Sir. You’d be surprised how many of my cases require it.”

The general nodded, thoughtful now.

“Okay, Nate. You know what that means. You can divulge the nature of your mission, but not the specifics of our operations. Understood?”

“Understood, sir. Thank you.”

Nate began to talk, surprising his father on occasion, shocking Taylor with every sentence. She sat, stone-faced, letting the rigid posture and professional demeanor paint a composed façade over her tumultuous emotions. Aliens? The 1947 Crash? Teen love? A journal? The FBI?

And apparently, that was the tip of the iceberg, for Nate was sure he’d only heard the beginning, that there was lots more to come. But in and around all the shocking details of a story Taylor couldn’t have imagined in a lifetime, she was also struck by Nate’s reaction. He had risked his career, maybe even his life, by warning those parents because he believed it was the right thing to do. He had listened with an open mind to a reality that flew in the face of all he thought he knew, and yet he had accepted responsibility for trying to prevent a terrible and inhuman end to it.

Liz. Her cousin Liz. Taylor and Liz hadn’t been close; their ages and locations had prevented that. But they’d spent their fair share of time together over the years—reunions and weddings and holidays. She’d always felt Liz was nice, sensible, smart. To think that the last 3 or 4 times they’d been together, Liz had been living a double life! Incredible. One thing was sure: Liz was one hell of an actress.

When Nate was finished, they sat in silence, each digesting the information and anticipating the others’ reactions. Finally, the general spoke.

“Lt. Holbrook, legally, how do you see this playing out?”

“Honestly sir, I think we should have a pretty easy time counteracting the circumstantial evidence. We’ll easily prove the blood on Nate’s uniform is his own, we can produce the flat tire he claims to have changed and also the tire iron with his blood on it. We should be able to prove that Deloris wasn’t in his car by the lack of hair or fiber evidence. But it will come down to circumstantial evidence vs. lack of circumstantial evidence. We’ll be leaving it to the jury to choose. Unless . . .”

“Unless what?” Nate asked eagerly.

“Unless we can prove that Gibbs was in Deloris’s room. And unless we can get that evidence off of the major’s clothes. General, may I ask Sgt. Heiss to step in?”

He nodded his consent, and she went to the door. Tyler was asleep in a chair, his neck at a very uncomfortable-looking angle. They must have kept him waiting for quite a while.

“Sergeant?”

Nothing.

“Sgt. Heiss?”

A stirring.

“Sergeant!”

Tyler sprang to his feet, at full attention but completely unaware of where he was. She saw his eyes darting, looking for clues to his whereabouts. She stifled a chuckle.

“Sgt. Heiss, we need you.”

Conscious now of where and why, he followed her back into the meeting room.

“Sergeant, are the clothes you took for Major Gibbs still in the trunk of the car?”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Taylor checked her watch. “Okay, it’s 6:30 on a Saturday . . . The dry cleaner on Citrus is closed now. I know because I tried to get my uniform out of there last weekend, and had to wait until they opened on Monday. They have a bag drop near the drive-thru. Go drop the clothes in there. With any luck, Mr. Evans can get a court order before Monday, and we can get those clothes tested legally.”

Tyler looked quickly at Nate, swallowing hard. “Gibbs is gonna fry my ass,” Tyler said. Then he pulled himself up quickly. “Sorry, sir. I . . . uh . . . sorry. Major Gibbs told me to have his clothes done at the one-hour service. This morning. He’ll never understand why they weren’t dropped off before closing.”

General Christopher dropped a thoughtful look on each of his three companions, pursing his lips. “He might if I told him I had borrowed you for an assignment on your way out of the building this morning. I don’t expect he’ll argue with me.”

Three pairs of eyes stared at him in stunned silence, and he returned their stares evenly, challenging anyone to question his willingness to bend the rules for his son. The heavy anticipation stretched out so long that they all jumped when Taylor’s cell phone rang.

“Hello?”

“Thank you for returning my call, Mr. Evans. Let me tell you why I called.”

********

Jeff Parker was lost in thought as he stored the new shipment of supplies into the storage room. He had to find a way to see Liz. He needed it, and so did Nancy. But how? And what should he take to her if they managed it? Money, of course. Clothes? Photographs? They were traveling light—very light. No room for anything but the essentials. They were running from the law and aliens and government agents who would rather eliminate them as learn from them.

When he thought of the hard time he’d given Max, issuing ultimatums and threatening to send Liz away, he felt ashamed. But how could he have known what was really going on, or that two teens were even capable of finding such an extraordinary love? He’d been thinking back to his own teen days, when hormones and conquests overwhelmed rational thought. Yes, he’d assumed Max was a horny teen with a dangerous streak. But he hadn’t really seen Max at all, had he? He’d seen himself. And he wouldn’t have wanted himself with Liz, not for a minute.

And how could he have understood the strength Liz was exhibiting every day just dealing with it, and still keeping up her schoolwork, waitressing shifts, and family obligations? His daughter was incredible. He’d always thought so, of course. But he’d only scratched the surface. She had become a woman without his realizing it.

“I hear you have an opening,” a voice said from the doorway. “I’d like to apply.”

Jeff sighed. The everyday business of running a café had suddenly lost its appeal. He had more important things to worry about.

“Ask out front for an application. I’ll call you for an interview,” he said, not even looking up.

“I hoped I could interview now.”

“Look, . . .” Jeff began. He turned to face the voice and stopped cold.

“Hello, Mr. Parker. I’m Eddie.”

********

The air was charged with expectation. Gathering again in the welcome breeze of early evening, the group settled in to attend to the serious work ahead. Maya had reestablished her place in Max’s lap as soon as he settled on the porch steps, and no one missed the intimate look Liz and Max shared over her head. Michael and Kyle exchanged an awkward glance and then looked away quickly, convinced that certain images would be with them forever.

Collectively, the group had agreed to send Eddie into town to make contact with the Parkers and pick up some food. He was also going to introduce himself to Brody over at the UFO Center, just to make his face known. While he was gone, they would decide on how to proceed with their first try at contacting the other children who’d been healed.

“I don’t think there’s any question that Samuel and Sydney should be our first contacts, if we can even control who we find,” Max began. “Sydney knows me from the UFO Center and probably from the hospital. And Samuel has already made a tentative contact with Maya, so he’ll probably be looking for her again.”

Liz nodded in agreement. “I’ve been thinking about how this might work. Since Maya found me first, we’ll assume I have the strongest presence in that . . . plane, I guess you’d call it. And Max saw everything I saw when she found me. He just didn’t hear anything, although . . . that might not be the case anymore.”

She looked at Max with a question in her eyes, and he realized she was referring to their breakthrough with the telepathic communication. If he could hear her thoughts when she chose to let him in, then in all likelihood, he’d be able to hear these conversations now, too. He nodded and, glancing around the group, cut off questions with an “I’ll explain later.”

“Trying to reproduce the circumstances could be interesting,” Liz continued. “We were sleeping and . . . touching . . .” She blushed slightly, but no one made a crack—not even Kyle, to her surprise. “And we all know that Isabel has advanced dreamwalking ability. So it would seem logical to try an accumulated effect—Maya, Max, Isabel, and me all working together.

“What worries me is that this has all taken place during sleep, and I just don’t see how we can all literally be sleeping and touching and coordinate this thing. Isabel, do you have any ideas?”

“Well, I’ve been gradually working on my ability to dreamwalk in a waking state,” she was relieved to report. “I would suggest we wait for Maya to fall asleep. When she does, you and Max lay down with her. Once you’re asleep, I’ll . . . I don’t know, sit on the foot of the bed or something, and touch Maya. Once I’m in her mind, hopefully you all will find each other and our combined energy will make it easy for Sydney or Samuel to find us.”

Liz smiled at Isabel. “That’s kinda what I was thinking, only I couldn’t quite put it together that logically. That’s great. Max?”

“Sounds good to me.”

“Who have you been dreamwalking in a waking state?” Maria asked, eyes squinted at Isabel. “Because the other day, I had the weirdest feeling . . .”

“No, Maria,” Isabel rolled her eyes. “Not you. Not anybody here.” She stopped awkwardly, shrinking from the rapt attention focused on her. “I’ve been . . . it was . . . Jesse.”

posted on 7-Feb-2003 9:21:08 AM by Carol000
Cham

Will you all just LOOK at the awesome, beautiful, and totally unexpected banner BordersInsanity made for me? I am so thrilled, I can hardly stand it! (I hope it works--is there a picture above this?????)

No, it doesn’t precede a new part . . . yet. I hope on Sunday to post again. But I couldn’t resist showing off this wonderful gift!

posted on 9-Feb-2003 12:09:59 PM by Carol000
Hello all! I had several f/b message I wanted to respond to, but hubby is practically tugging at me to hurry. The Illinois plays Ohio State in an hour, and we have to get to the game. GO ILLINI!

I will just mention Araxie because I just now read hers. Hon, your words meant so much to me. I was flattered and humbled at once. Thank you.

I'm posting my COOL NEW BANNER AGAIN. Thanks for BordersInsanity for the absolutely wonderful fanart.

Cham

POSTED IN TWO PARTS

Part 16

The Special Unit was in turmoil. Not only did they have two blank tapes to show for their surveillance efforts, but the main officer assigned to the job had been arrested for murdering some whore in her sleazy motel room, and his father—the military liaison for the operation—had arrived in town this morning, though no one had seen him since shortly after his arrival. Rumors were flying about Lt. Christopher’s loyalty, or lack thereof, and what he might have revealed--either accidentally or for a price--and to whom.

Tino Gibbs had been in meetings all day about upping security and intensifying efforts to find the alien teens. He thrived on the tension, loving the sense of inclusion and purpose it gave him, but he was distracted by the fact that he hadn’t seen his sergeant—the one with his incriminating uniform—since morning. Where the hell was he? The kid’s butt would be in a sling when he got back. He’d just better have that cleaned uniform with him.

“Major Gibbs!” Tino started, blinking rapidly as if trying to clear the mental haze.

“What?”

“I asked you who you have doing audio surveillance now, and what, if anything, he’s getting.”

Tino focused on the cold eyes of the FBI agent—the latest in a long string of ambitious hard-asses looking to make their mark by working for the Special Unit. They all looked alike—dark suits, dull ties, and ice in their veins. He couldn’t help but be glad he was on the same side as this guy. There was no emotion or warmth in those eyes. They were mindless lenses, taking in everything but reacting to nothing. That was the other thing these guys had in common—a unique gift for making the work environment feel like a pressure cooker. It intimidated him and gave him a rush all at the same time.

“Lt. Namoki, sir. He was the back-up. When I checked an hour ago, the Parkers had finally returned to the café, but it’s been business as usual. No mention of where they’ve been or anything about the kids.”

The cold eyes narrowed imperceptibly, and Gibbs swallowed hard.

“We have to step this up, gentlemen. Every day, every hour, the trail gets colder. I’ll be issuing new assignments within the hour. If we let them slip through our fingers now, we could be signing a death warrant for this whole planet.”

No one knew what to say to that, so they stood awkwardly, waiting for some sign that they could leave. It didn’t take long. Sgt. Heiss trotted through the door, stopped on a dime, and saluted.

“Sir, I was told you wanted to see me.”

“Where the hell have you been, Sergeant!” Gibbs barked, eager to pass on some of the intimidation he’d just been subjected to.

“I’ve been with General Christopher, sir. He required my assistance.”

Gibbs studied the young sergeant. It was hard to tell if the flush in his face was due to anxiety or exertion.

“With what?” he asked cautiously.

“Sorry, sir. I’m not at liberty to say.”

He could feel the heat rising in his own face now. “You’re what? I asked you a direct question, soldier!”

“Sir, I’m under orders. The General told me not to discuss my activities today.”

Suddenly aware of his captive audience, Gibbs turned toward the door. “In my office, Sergeant. NOW!”

Busy hallways parted like the Red Sea as Major Gibbs, a formidable scowl on his face, led a nervous Sgt. Heiss back to his office. The door closed behind them, and Gibbs wheeled around to face his unfortunate aide.

“What were you doing this afternoon?”

“I told you, sir . . .”

“Who do you work for, Sergeant?” he bellowed.

“The United States Army, sir.”

A fist hit the table. “Who do you work for, Sergeant?” he roared again.

“You, sir?”

“Damn straight! Now, what were you doing this afternoon?”

“I’d be happy to tell you, sir, as soon as General Christopher clears it.”

Gibbs took a deep breath and let it out slowly. You catch more flies with honey, he thought, reining in his anger through sheer will. “Of course, Sergeant. After all, an order is an order.”

Tyler frowned slightly. “Thank you, sir.”

“Did you handle that errand for me today?”

“Oh, yes sir. Your uniform is at the cleaners. The full treatment, sir.”

Gibbs clenched his fists, but forced a tight smile. “At the cleaners? I sent you for 1-hour service this morning. Why don’t I have a clean uniform in my closet right now?”

“Well, the General required my assistance for most of the day, so when I finally got there, they were closed, but I’ll pick it up as soon as it’s ready Monday morning. It’ll get the 1-hour service, and I’ll have it back in your closet by mid-morning, sir.”

A shudder of foreboding traced a lightening path down Tino’s spine, and he grabbed the edge of the desk. There was nothing to be done. The uniform was locked away until Monday, and he wasn’t going to get any answers from the sergeant. All he could do was hope nothing broke on the case against Lt. Christopher before Monday, and he’d be fine.

“Aren’t you off duty by now, Sergeant?”

“Yes sir.”

“Then get the hell out of here.”

Alone at last, Gibbs sank into his chair and cradled his head in his hands. Maybe it was time he helped his own cause. Maybe it was time to do a little one-on-one alien hunting.

********

His hands were sweating like a teenager before a big date, and he wiped them impatiently on his slacks. His nerves were brittle after the long hours across days reading Liz’s journal. Lack of sleep, too much caffeine, and a barrage of alien and sexual revelations about his son had him rattled and raw, and the latest phone call from an army lieutenant hadn’t helped. She’d told him enough to get him there, but not much more. For the first time in his life, he was afraid of the military. It shook him to his core to admit it, but their power, always a comfort in the context of foreign threats, had become a real presence in his life. It was an unsettling perspective.

He filled his lungs with stale air and entered the interrogation room. At the table were three people, and every one of them was wearing an army uniform. Breath rushed from his lungs in sudden panic as images of his home being invaded and his vulnerable children making hurried confessions flooded his mind. Uniforms like these had come after his son, his daughter, and his unexpected grandson. Uniforms like these had threatened their existence long before he knew anything. What the hell was he doing here?

Taylor saw Philip Evans sway, his skin drained of color and his breathing shallow. She rushed to his side and lowered him into a chair.

“Are you alright, Mr. Evans?” For the umpteenth time today, she reached for the water pitcher. They’d been through several. Pouring him a quick drink, she thrust the Styrofoam cup into his hand and helped lift it to his mouth. The cold trail must have pierced through the fog, because he straightened abruptly. The panic in his face turned into grim watchfulness, and he spoke.

“What do you people want?”

The General took over, silencing his son with a look. “Mr. Evans, I’m not a man who beats around the bush. My son has told us all he knows about what happened the night Deloris Delgado was murdered. He’s innocent, and beyond that, he thinks he knows who did kill her and why he’s been framed. He wants you to defend him, and I agree with his choice.”

“Why me? I’m not a criminal attorney. Why would you want me?” His voice rose along with his suspicions. This wasn’t the kind of law he practiced, and why would a military guy intentionally seek him out anyway? He didn’t like this at all.

“I’m not your man,” he said firmly, rising to leave. “Call my office on Monday and I’ll give you the names of some good criminal attorneys.”

“No, please!” Nate stood, too, his words rushing out in a flood. “Mr. Evans, don’t you recognize me? It was me who came to the Crashdown a couple nights ago and warned you. I know who you are, who your children are, and I need your help.”

Philip fell back into his chair, his mouth opening and closing like a fish. Finally, he croaked out the only thought in his head. “Don’t say anything more!”

Nate lowered himself slowly, keeping his eyes focused on Philip. The man was on the