posted on 24-Jul-2002 4:23:48 PM by ShayParkerEvans
Title: Shining Light
Author: Me! Shay!
Rating: Anywhere from G to R
Category: AU M/L
Disclaimer: My idea, my story. Names and such aren't mine. I don't have much. I'm 16, if you sue me you can have my CD collection and my stuffed animals.
Summary: Don't want to give the story away. Liz and Tess are best friends. They, with Kyle, Alex, Maria, and Adam (who the heck is he?) head out on a road trip, no idea about what's ahead of them. Not all characters are going to have big parts, and it may take time for others to finally appear. Gonna be a bumpy ride, but here's your happy ending insurance. *happy* Aliens? Yes, you'll figure out who along the way.

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Shining Light

Roman candles that burn in the night
Yeah you are a shining light
You lit a torch in the infinite
Yeah you are a shining light
Yeah you light up my life

You have always been a thorn in their side
But to me you're a shining light
You arrive and the night is alive
Yeah you are a shining light
Yeah you light up my life

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
But by dark divine intervention
Yeah you are a shining light
A constellation once seen
Over Royal David's city
An epiphany, you burn so pretty
Yeah you are a shining light

You are a force you are a constant source
Yeah you are a shining light
Incandescent in the darkest night
Yeah you are a shining light
Yeah you light up my life

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
But by dark divine intervention
Yeah you are a shining light
A constellation once seen
Over Royal David's city
An epiphany, you burn so pretty
Yeah you are a shining light

These are the days you often say
There's nothing that we cannot do
Beneath a canopy of stars
I'd shed blood for you

We made a connection
A full on chemical reaction
But by dark divine intervention
Yeah you are a shining light
A constellation once seen
Over Royal David's city
An epiphany, you burn so pretty
Yeah you are a shining light
Yeah you light up my life
Yeah you are a shining light
Yeah you light up my life

Shining Light - Ash


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Part 1

Sunlight peeking through the trees, the leaves making patterns around my feet. A child's laugh. The feeling of water lapping around my ankles in the pool. The way macaroni and cheese just seems to turn into cheesy heaven in my mouth. Ice melting in my hand. A mirror fogging up after a hot shower.

Things that I remembered vaguely, but somehow seemed completely new. Like a newborn baby, seeing everything for the first time. A four-year old asking mommy why, why, why, are things this way? The distinct feeling of reality slapping you in the face when you take off your sunglasses and stare up into the sun.

I remembered the important things.

I was the President's daughter. Jeff Parker and his lovely lady wife Nancy. My parents, though no one would tell you. My demanding presence of a father who wanted to own a restaurant when he was young became President of the United States shortly after our world went crazy.

Aliens were no news to any one. They existed, they had their share of planets out in the solar system, they're all different species. We: humans, they: a whole bunch of weird words. I know them all, but don't feel like going through them at this particular moment.

The world went crazy when we all sat our butts down and realized that we were probably just as scary to them as they were to us. The planet Earth as a whole realized that to ensure our survival we needed some sort of peace talks of sorts. So during this period of deciding who would be the negotiator, my dad became President. And a few years later, guess what country was elected to be the international go-between?

I'll give you one guess.

When the news first came about the aliens I was a baby. Two years old, I believe. My dad was already deep into politics, so as a safe guard I got sent to my Uncle Jim's in good old Roswell, New Mexico. My parents were pretty sure that I'd understand, and I did; I love them more than anything, they were just scared. After a while it seemed pointless for me to go live with them when they had so many things to do, and I loved my life. Roswell seems like some awful place to a lot of people, some hole in the desert, but I loved it. I still do.

So I remembered Uncle Jim. I remembered my cousin Kyle who was more of a brother.

I remembered my "Aunt" Amy. She wasn't technically related but Jim and Amy got married when I was still wearing cupcake dresses, so why shouldn't she be an aunt?

I remembered Maria. My sister by all means, we shared a room when we were kids, but when the house got renovated we got our own rooms. Not that that keeps us from "sleepovers."

I remembered Tess, my best friend. The way her blond hair could do anything she wanted it to. Curl, straighten, stick frickin right up in the air. And Alex, her brother, a year older than the rest of us, but failed third grade on purpose so he wouldn't graduate before us. We were thinking, even then, about how important it is to stick together.

I remembered just about everything. The doctors knew I would, only cautioning me about the vagueness.
You see, some jerk decided that drinking and driving might be a fun thing to do.

Idiot.

How many commercials do you see about it? How many posters? "Friends don't let friends drive drunk." This guy obviously didn't have any friends. I don't remember much about the accident. I know that I was walking with Kyle, and we were laughing about something. I'm not sure what, but I remember a story about Pam Troy and Tommy Frank. Kyle has the power of making anything funny, so it's not important that I remember what I was laughing about.

I have a habit of tipping my head back when I laugh hard enough, and I happened to be that time, and tripped over a dumb parking things. You know, those dumb yellow things that everyone always trips over.
I was trying to regain my balance and he came out of nowhere. I remember not seeing his face, he must have been bent over or something, and that's it. I woke up in the hospital with the doctor asking me questions and a cast on my arm.

It was a miracle, they said. The force of the impact alone should have killed me. I flew about fifteen feet and all I suffered was a broken wrist and some scratches. That's one of the main reasons they were worried about my head; everything else was way too perfect.

I remembered everyone making such a big fuss over me. The doctor sticking lights in my eyes and poking my body all different places. Aunt Amy cried, Uncle Jim couldn't stop smiling, and Kyle cracked jokes.

Kyle always cracks jokes.

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So sitting in the sand box underneath the jungle gym of the Roswell Elementary playground, I felt a vagueness. But I remembered, and that's what was important.

Tess and I always did it; not really caring about the sand getting every place imaginable and the way we would have to scrub our hair that night.

"I think I'm gonna sleep with Adam."

The revelation wasn't astounding. Tess always thought she was gonna sleep with her boyfriends, then ended up dumping them within a couple of days. Still the virgin she'd always been.

"Why?"

I always asked, the reason was always different. It interested me. What motivates someone to sex? I'd never felt the particular drive myself. Biology terms always flew around in my head, making the entire thing very practical to me. A means of reproducing. Nothing magical and romantic to Liz Parker.

Tess scratched her leg, her head falling to the side like it always did when she was thinking. And when she smiled. Her head always did a tiny dip to the side when she smiled. She reached her conclusion and laid her head down in my lap. My hand stroked her hair; it always did, just like hers did mine. Habit.

"He just smells so good. And his arms are just so strong, and he just has this…I don't know. It's something. And his eyes, they sparkle. I love it when a guy's eyes sparkle."

I laughed lightly and poked her on the arm.

"Guy's eyes usually sparkle when they think they're about to get laid."

She rolled her eyes and smiled. "I know that. Guys are just…uck. But anyway, his eyes sparkle when he sees me across the hall at school. It makes me go weak in the knees."

"Do you love him?"

She shrugged. "Maybe I do."

Our friendship had always been that simple.

The first day of kindergarten our teacher had told us to grab someone we didn't know and tell them about ourselves. The usual little kid crapoli that the teachers think are going to make a difference and usually don't.

That day they did. At least for two little girls who looked by all appearances to be the least likely to become friends. Me, big brown eyes and deep brown hair, a little on the tan side and a bit shy. Her, bright blue eyes and the blondest of hair, kind of pale, outgoing as could possibly be. She caught my eye and that was it. We ran to each other; a sort of magnetism you only find in the best friend of your entire life, the person who you're going to help shape, and who's going to help you become who you do.

And there's another thing about that day. I never ran to anyone. When I got a scrape on my knee when Kyle tripped me on the sidewalk, I stayed where I was and cried and watched my little tiny cut bleed more than anything. When I lost my teddy bear given to me by my parents as a baby, I searched for it diligently without telling anyone. I didn't run to Jim, and I didn't run to my kindergarten teacher when I peed my pants. I was just little Liz, who needed people but sure didn't act like it.

The fact that I ran to her just shows something. I've never been sure what, but something.

Nothing has ever kept us apart. The biggest of fights have been solved simply because we couldn't exist without the other. Honesty is not a policy to us; it's just the way we survive. Not a single lie stands between us. Not even something stupid like what color underwear we're wearing.

Hey, when you're a little kid, you lie about things like that. It seems rebellious.

She knows I'm the President's daughter, and she knows not to tell. And she doesn't. Implicit trust.
I know just about every thought she's ever had.

We don't envy one another; it's stupid since we make each other the way we are. It would be like being jealous of ourselves and the entire concept just doesn't make sense.

Innermost thoughts and feelings, deep desires…it all comes out. Nothing withheld.

So we both thought for a while about her possibly being in love.

Like I said, every thought the same.

We were graduating in about a month, and the whole group of us was taking a year off before college. The parents naturally disapproved. What were we going to do with a whole year?

We gave them a simple answer.

"Road trip."

Whether we were gonna go on this road trip was still up for debate.

It was a great idea. The five of us leaving our dusty hole in the sand behind and riding into the sunset, our destination unknown. The kind of things you made movies out of, the memories you would cherish forever. The road trip wasn't what really excited us though.

It was the year that we'd still have. The simple truth was that we were terrified of what could happen if we weren't all together.

Tess and I would go to the same college, it just went without saying. Maria wanted to ditch the college idea all together and have herself a nice music career. Kyle wanted to go wherever his football scholarships would take him, and Alex needed…well, he needed freedom. He needed a college with everything so he could change at whim.

We imagined the parents really hated our road trip idea, but they technically couldn't do anything. By the end of the summer after graduation, we'd all be 18, Maria's birthday in July. Legal adults, free and uncontrolled.

The money was easy to find. Tess, Maria, and I were waitresses at the Crashdown Café that Amy owned. It gave me a thrill to work there, knowing my dad's culinary dreams of owning a restaurant just the same. We'd been working since we were fourteen; our road trip dreams had existed since fifth grade. Can you smell the money?

Kyle worked at a gym. Perfect job for a well-built football player like himself. And baseball and basketball and yada, yada, yada… Alex made web sites for people. Interesting the amount of money people would pay for Alex to get online and do a little dabbling and produce a masterpiece of URL's and animations to dazzle your senses. I think he even made a porno site once. ("Only for the money," he said. Riiight…)

One month left, and our worldly adventure could begin.

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Part 2

Two weeks before I graduated my parents called me. They called all the time, and I loved hearing from them. Sometimes I wondered if I would have loved my parents as much if I had stayed with them.

This particular afternoon Jim seemed a little nervous about the phone call. He came to my room and knocked, then poked his head in and said, "Your father's on the phone." Quite a change from the usual "PHONE!" yell we would hear, and Maria, Kyle, and I would run downstairs, not knowing who the heck the call was for.

"Hey Dad," I chirped into the phone. I was in a good mood. Maria and I had makeover plans. Not really much of a makeover since we shared everything anyway, but we could call it what we wanted.

"Hey honey." The beeping of telephone lines and voices of busy politicians could be heard in the background, as usual. I thought I heard my mom for a second, but my dad's voice drowned out the other noise. "Do you have any summer plans?"

I started walking into the kitchen for a snack, a phone habit. My parents especially hated it because they'd call and I'd be chomping away on a carrot stick or something of the sorts.

"Not really. Just getting everything ready for our road trip."

I heard a muffled chuckle and then the father did his job. "I really don't think that's a good idea, honey."

I laughed at his superior tone of voice. "I know, Dad. We all know." I listened to him chuckle for a minute and then went to fill myself up a glass of water. "So what's the deal?"

"Well, if we really can't convince you to give up this road trip," he paused to give me a chance to say we would. Of course I didn't. "Your mother and I think you should start a bit early."
I nearly choked on my water. Start early? It wasn't like we had a million things to see. We were just planning on bumming around wherever.

"What do you mean?"

"Your mother and I are going to be really busy come August. We've got some sort of diplomatic relation problem…you know I can't go into it honey, and it would probably bore you to death, but we're gonna have to be out of the country for a while. We thought you could start out after graduation and make your way over here."

I listened and got a little excited. I'd only been out to see my parents about three times my entire life.
Usually they just came to see me in my little dust bowl. But there was something sort of powerful about visiting your parents in the White House. And it would be great to have my friends, who were more family than anything, with me.

"It sounds great, Dad! I'll have to talk to everyone about it, but I'm sure it'll work out. I'll call you in a few days with the result, alright?"

I could hear his smile through the phone. "That's great, honey. We can't wait to see you."

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Graduation was a sticky process. Nobody was sure who was going to turn out being valedictorian; either me for my science acceleration or this kid Dave for his math whizness. Not that whizness has ever been a word.

When it was announced that I got the position, I was excited of course. But then I started to feel kind of bad. Like maybe I'd only gotten it because everyone knew who I was and nobody even knew this Dave kid's last name. I didn't even know who he was. I'd walk down the hall thinking, "Is that him?"

I always wondered about things like that. Does that girl really like me or is it just because she'd be "cool" by association?

I wasn't popular, or at least I don't like to think I was. I was smart, so everyone knew they could count on me if they needed help in their school work. I was a volunteer in all sorts of things, but really just to keep myself busy. Tess was the captain of the cheerleading squad, so I guess when you live in a tiny town like ours you knew who the captain's best friend was.

The White House idea was an automatic hit with everyone, and Adam was going to hit the road with us. During the last few weeks of school he just blended in to our group, like he'd always been there. I could tell that Tess was falling for him hard. The sparkle wasn't only in his eye.

One night we were sitting out on my balcony one night watching the desert sky. The desert really has it own sort of beauty that you just don't appreciate unless you see it for yourself. Pictures of cacti and dune plants don't give it the credit it deserves. The sort of beauty it has isn't the kind that you look at a photograph and think, hey, that is beautiful. You get that from the tulips in Holland or the northern lights - which, by the way, I planned on seeing some day.

Desert beauty is more of an emotion. The feeling you get when you're sitting out in the sand as the sun goes down, and it's getting colder around you, but the sand's still warm. The wind blows through your hair and the sky is an array of colors, and a calm settles over you. That's desert beauty.

Even people who live there don't understand it and sometimes don't feel it. That's why I always felt I was meant to live in Roswell. You can't get those feelings in Washington.

So anyway, Tess and I were lying out on my balcony, which was just a mess of blankets, and eating Twizzlers. We always had a thing for Twizzlers.

"You love him."

I heard Tess sigh next to me and then giggle lightly. She rolled over and got up on her elbows, the universal sing of 'girl talk.' I did the same and grabbed another candy string.

"Liz, the boy kisses like…I don't know! I've never had anything like it! He gets this really intense look in his eyes sometimes and I swear we're having conversations without talking."

I nodded to continue and she grabbed another Twizzler. "And he talks to me and there's times where you can just tell he's saying things he's never said before. He gets so vulnerable looking…" She sighed, then jumped as if she remembered something else and grabbed my hand for a second. "And…I get different around him. Not that he changes me or anything…I've always been my own person…it's more like I'm, I don't know. Happier, I guess. But I've never been unhappy, so. I don't know. I just can't stop smiling!"

I laughed. "I see that! I'm so happy for you, he seems like the greatest guy."

The words were coming out but I was mentally taking charge of the situation. I'd seen enough movies and read enough books (not to mention seen enough of Kyle and Alex making lame excuses to break dates) to know what lying dogs the male population could be. If he really loved her, it would bring me joy unimaginable. But I would keep my eye on him, and make sure he was what he appeared to be.

Adam Lindey was actually a very handsome guy. Tall but not too tall, built like a surfer. Really his entire presence screamed "Cowabunga dude!" mixed with a bit of demanding roughness and sweet fluffity.
Fluffity is my own word, leave it alone.

His green eyes were like nothing I had ever seen before, with a silver glint in the right light. His sun streaked blond hair contrasted nicely with his tan skin. Perfect smile, perfect manners.

Hmm… maybe he was a bit too perfect.

He had transferred the last semester, which was strange since it was senior year. Every girl noticed him. the thing that I had loved the most about him was that he liked Tess right away. The first time he saw her as a lowly waitress and didn't know she went to his school and was captain of the cheerleading squad and hadn't seen her in a bathing suit.

Not that our Crashdown uniforms were that much better, but still.

The grin that stayed on Tess' face as she talked about him some more and the way she asked if it was bothering me that she talked this much about him while I was still single told me all I needed to know.

Tess was in love, and our friendship was in no danger whatsoever.

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The actual day of graduation was probably about the most nerve wracking of my life. Our school had decided on blue gowns with gold tassels and all, since blue and gold were our school colors. I'd heard from someone that Tommy Frank planned on wearing nothing under his gown.

Not that I cared.

Much.

Oh, leave me alone.

I hadn't written a speech, I figured I'd be okay to just voice my thoughts as they came to me. Tess and everyone told me I always spoke best under pressure and without a script, so I took their advice.

That day I was ready to kill them all with slow and painful deaths.

Chinese water torture?

"Liz, you're up in a couple of minutes," Kylie Parcell whispered to me. The principal assigned her to be my 'reminder.' What the heck did I need that for?

The water torture would take just a bit too long. And might not succeed in killing them.

Decapitation?

"This day will love on in our hearts…" Principal Heckley yada yada-ed on.

Too quick. Hmm…

"And here to tell us what she thinks high school and the rest of our lives will be about…your valedictorian, Liz Parker."

A round of applause boosted my from my seat, the loudest woops and hollers coming from the V, W, and H sections of the seating. Did I mention that Tess and Alex had different last names? Their parents got a divorce when they were still babies, but they lived practically next door to each other.

I was also a bit surprised to hear some screaming from the L section. Didn't know that Adam had it in him.

The climb up to the stage seemed about the longest of my life, and the deep breath I took before I started speaking was the deepest I'd ever breathed.

But then this feeling came over me. Like I had taken every student's confidence and stolen it from them. Looking over my audience…the nervous and excited faces of my peers and the proud eyes of their parents…I knew exactly what I felt. I knew exactly what to say. And my desire to kill my friends was forgotten.

"High school. You hear that these and the best days of your lives. Songs throughout the generations have spoke of it as a magical time when nothing seems real and everything seems so important all at once. It goes by so fast. A football game here, a pep rally there, your college admissions test somewhere along the line.

"The truth now, is that it's over. The real life that you've been trying so hard to act like didn't exist is about to jump out and scared the living daylights out of all of us. No more cheering on the Comets at a football game. No more sitting through a pep rally wishing it was over, or that you could jump in your car and skip the whole thing. No more racing to your next class for some talk time with your best friends."

I paused and brushed a strand of hair out of my face that had blown. The breeze was calming. "We're all brave. Every single one of us has something to be proud of just because we're here. It doesn't matter where you go from here; the point is that you survived. I know that I'm going on a road trip in a few days. And that's about all I know. Does it scare me? More than anything. But I'm confident in myself that everything that's supposed to happen does. Nothing is coincidence, nothing is accidental, and fate is playing it's part in each of us.

"This feeling you have right now…this jumping excitement that makes your heart skip a few beats, and the burning in your body to get out and do something will wear off tomorrow or maybe the day after. So live it. Enjoy it now. Look at the person next to you and just smile, because you're all feeling the very same things. Live your lives and live them well, and don't forget these last four years. They're going to seem a dream eventually, but don't doubt that they happened. The good and the bad, they come together. But remember that you made it. Reach with your hearts and let them guide you." I paused and grinned bigger than before. "Congratulations!"

I got a standing ovation. Kyle, Alex, Tess, Maria, and Adam even stood on their chairs. It didn't matter to me that I had made some great speech or that everyone was clapping for me. It mattered that I had spoken exactly what I felt and was appreciated for it. And that feeling was worth everything.

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The tears came, of course. They're unavoidable on your last day of high school, no matter how happy you are. Pictures were snapped, eternal images of the joy you felt that's impossible to forget. Images of hugging best friends. Images of parents with pride shining in their eyes.

The six of us just sprawled out in the grass. Who the heck cared who saw us? We were free people. We had graduated high school. And we had reassurance that we weren't going to be separated for a whole year yet. That more than anything got us excited.

After a nice relaxing conversation in the sun, we all stood up and started hugging our parents. Mine weren't there but I didn't mind. A lot of kids could be scarred for life by their parents not being there for them. I was just a different case. I knew they loved me and would be there if they could.

And I had Amy and Jim. My second pair of parents.

Then came this moment. It's a moment that I don't think I'll forget.

I was laughing with Amy and Maria at Kyle, because he just couldn't stand having to wear a gown - typical male reaction - and I happened to glance to the side of Maria's face. Her long blonde hair blew aside and it was like a fog lifted somewhere in my mind.

I saw him across the crowd. He was staring straight at me, and our eyes met with a snap. My body stirred with a kind of reaction I had never felt before. Every nerve ending was sensitive and I felt like I was on fire.

He was tall, with dark hair. He wasn't standing too far away, but every feature of his face and body was very clear to me, like I'd seen him before; it was impossible that I had, but it felt like it. His hair fell across his forehead in boyish wisps, the ends almost in his eyes. His eyes captured me. They drew me in like a magic spell, whispering words of love into my ears. His body was perfect, his tan skin shining golden in the sun. His simple outfit of jeans and a black T-shirt seemed superior to every other form of clothing.

His entire presence screamed at me. I felt like I was surrounded in everything him; his amber eyes sparkling, his hair ruffling ever so slightly, his mouth quirking up in the sexiest half smile I had ever seen.
He swallowed hard, and I licked my lips without thought.

"Liz!"

Alex's voice cut straight through to my consciousness. I jumped and glanced at him, then jerked my gaze back to him.

But he was gone. Vanished like a leaf in the wind, like he'd never been there at all. I was almost convinced that he hadn't been.

"Did you see that guy?" I asked Tess because she was facing the same way that I was. "The guy over there with the deep brooding look."

Tess shrugged in confusion, shaking her head slowly. "I don't think so…why?"

Then everyone was looking at me for the answer that I didn't have. I brushed it off with a smile and a little laugh. "No reason, nevermind. Just thought he was someone we knew."

Everyone else nodded, but Tess looked at me through slightly narrowed eyes. Can never fool the best friend.

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posted on 24-Jul-2002 4:31:57 PM by ShayParkerEvans
AN: I'm updating queen! Woohoo!

Part 3

I swear to this day that our parents' grins were bigger than usual the day we left on our trip. It was that glint they get in their eyes just a bit when you're going to be gone one night for a party. Only bigger. Much bigger. They may say that they didn't want us going on that trip, but I knew otherwise.

Mama didn't raise no fool.

Kidding.

It was a close call with Adam's parents. When he first asked about it they just flat out told him no way. But after a few "convenient" get togethers and a lot of talking, it worked out. Adam was really persistent about it. I was proud of him, trying so hard to not be away from Tess that long.

We ended up taking two cars. That was a big part of what our parents said we had to do. They wouldn't have us breaking down somewhere in the middle of nowhere and being forced to walk a hundred miles to some gas station where the only attendant would be a crack head who would pull a shot gun on us.

They had big imaginations.

We all had cars, but Adam's convertible and Maria's Jetta seemed like the most fun of the options, so we hopped in. Tess and Adam swore up and down that they wouldn't be lovey dovey the whole trip, and I think they tried to prove that to us by being in different cars. Maria, Tess, and Kyle rode in Maria's car and Alex, Adam, and I got the convertible. Riding through the desert is an exhilarating experience. The wind blowing all around you, the sun setting over the distant mountain tops.

"Hey Adam, where's your music man?"

"I meant to tell you Alex, it's Ada now. I got the operation a couple days before we left." Adam grinned at Alex in the mirror and waved a hand over his head. "I think they're in my green bag."

The other nice thing about two cars was that we had plenty of room for a year's worth of luggage. With souvenir room, of course.

Alex rummaged through some bags looking for CDs and Adam kept glancing at me from the corner of his eye. I kind of felt like a bug, but not really that unpleasant. A bug is probably pretty damn nervous with a huge eyeball above it, a hand or foot not far away. I didn't feel like he was studying me, more like trying to figure something out. Something about his demeanor kind of seemed familiar.

"You know Adam, staring like that isn't going to help you figure anything out."

I looked over at him with a smile and he blushed with a shake of his head. He sort of had dimples when he smiled, an adorable trait. "Whatcha thinking?"

I glanced back at the colored sky with the burning clouds. Always so beautiful.

"Are we friends?"

He had this really soft voice. Not whimpy or anything, and at moments very commanding, but naturally soft. It was just more smooth than Kyle and Alex's. Kyle had a tiny bit of a western accent going on, and Alex had something different. Adam's was sort of calming. His question kind of confused me.

"What do you mean?" I brushed some hair out of my eyes and turned to give him my attention. I could hear Alex going through some more bags mumbling about how there were no green ones.

Adam put his left arm on the door and started driving with his right. "Well, I know we're friendly and everything. Sometimes it just seems like you're more doing it for Tess than you like me at all. Like I might have done something to you."

I watched a flash of guilt darken his eyes, then dissipate. I shook my head, while tying my hair up with a rubber band.

"No, it's not like that at all. I mean, one of the major reasons any of us are friends with you is because of Tess, but you're our friend now. I can tell you that if one of us had any sort of problem with you, you wouldn't be here right now."

Adam nodded slowly, glancing at me a few times. His green eyes seemed to glow a bit in the twilight. "So what you're really saying is that I'm the best guy in the world?"

Alex popped up between us from the back seat with a playful grin. "That's my position."

I ruffled Alex's hair with a giggle. He handed me a CD to put into the player and sat back, his head falling back against the top of the seat. The Goo Goo Dolls filled the air and Adam looked over at me again.

"I really like you, Liz. You're a great person. I can completely understand how you're Tess' best friend."

"Thanks, Adam. And I really do think that you're great too," I reassured him. "I think we're going to have a lot of time to grow close…I mean, we're gonna be together for over a year. I'm sure we can manage to close some distance in that span of time."

He laughed and nodded and I watched the muscles in his arm flex a bit when he moved his arm slightly. His laugh was also a unique thing. Just so…Adam-ish.

If that makes sense.

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Our first meal stop was in Texas. Yes…Texas. We stayed the night in some motel in Arizona, but Maria was 'yicked out' by the diner, so we just grabbed some snacks at a convenience store and continued on. Car arrangements got switched around, and I ended up with Maria and Kyle in the Jetta. That was a louder ride, us being practically siblings and all.

"What! I think that it would make me look macho. I mean, I've got the muscles, I've got the bod. Not to mention my intelligence, wit, charm, and once again back to my body."

Maria and I were collapsed in giggles in our seats. My stomach hurt from laughing so hard, and tears were running down my face.

"I don't care how great your 'bod' is Kyle, the earring just wouldn't fit." Maria managed to gasp out. "I mean, come on, you may be able to handle the body bruising on the football field but infections and blood make you yak. One morning you'll wake up and find some puss around your earring from forgetting to take care of it, and you'd have a heart attack."

I managed to calm a little bit, and nodded in agreement from the back seat. "She's right, Kyle. It just wouldn't work."

Kyle rolled his eyes and wiggled in his seat. He ran a hand through his hair and looked at me in the mirror and Maria next to him.

"You guys just don't understand. I mean, Maria, no one supported you when you got that butterfly tattoo on your back, but you did it anyway, and it looks amazing. I swear, there's no love in our group of amigos. I'm lucky I'm so self-assured."

I felt a little bad, because he was right about Maria's tattoo. I moved up in my seat to give him an awkward around-the-seat hug.

"You're right, Kyle. We're sorry."

Maria patted his head, pouting her lips and nodding. "Yes, we really are. We didn't realize that you were unaware of your ego problems."

Maria lost it in giggles, and I slumped back in my seat, smiling as we pulled into the diner. We jumped out of the cars and headed towards the front door.

"Are you guys sure about this?" Maria asked. "I think I can hear them killing the cows in the back."

"MOO," Alex made a noise as we stepped inside.

The place was practically empty, truck drivers at their usual place by the bar. We crowded into a large booth and took a look at the menus.

"The Lasso Lentil Soup? Cowboy's Cowpattie? This is worse then the Crashdown. At least our alien theme was cool."

"Come on Maria, where's your sense of adventure? I'm gonna get me a Moo Moo Milkshake, and shout myself a yeehaw! Come on, pardner!" Adam grinned, and shot a wink at Tess when she rolled her eyes with a smile.

"Welcome to Wild Dan's Wild Diner. My name's Izzy May and I'll be your serve this evening. What can I get ya'll?"

I glanced up at our waitress and was momentarily stunned. Though annoyed, she was still gorgeous. Blond hair fell down her back, dark eyes glanced at each of us in turn. Something seemed a bit familiar about the way she looked at us.

In a second, however, it was gone, and I was left wondering.

"Is your name really Izzy May?" Kyle asked. "It's too good to be true."

Izzy smiled at us and leaned down a bit, inadvertently giving Alex a bird's eye view of her cleavage, which he didn't seem to mind. "Actually," she dropped the accent. "It's Isabel, and I'm not from the country bunkin they make me out to be here."

We all nodded, impressed by how much an accent could effect your judgment on a person. We placed our orders with snorts of laughter at the ridiculous names, and Adam, true to his word, ordered his Moo Moo Milkshake with a 'Yeehaw!'

Isabel left to place our orders and I watched her walk away. She glanced back at me for a moment and I was struck again with something familiar. But she turned back around and I knew I was missing something important.

"She… was a goddess," Alex panted. "Did you see the way her hips moved?"

"Straight from heaven," Kyle agreed.

I waited for Adam's input and it never came. I looked over at him and he was staring straight at me. I jumped a bit in surprise, and he swung his head the other direction. Maria was scolding Kyle and Alex, telling them how Isabel was not just another piece of meat in this place. Tess and I nodded in agreement, a motherly look on our faces.

Alex and Kyle both held up their hands in a surrender, and I laughed a little bit, but generally avoided looking at Adam for a while.

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After an actually pretty good dinner and a few smuggled drinks - thanks to our own waitress - the place closed. The truck drivers were booted out but Isabel just came over and sat with us. She told us her horror stories of waiting on various sorts of people, the worst being a football team that stopped on their way to a game.

We were approaching various stages of drunkenness and realized that we needed to leave if we planned on driving anywhere. We all filed out of our booth, saying goodbye to Isabel. Maria just waved at her and smiled, Alex and Kyle went in for the hugs that they - surprisingly, with the way they'd been obviously drooling - received.

I just smiled at her and said bye, and she smiled back, but something was weird about it. But since I seemed to be the only one noticing it, I left it alone and walked ahead. I turned back in the doorway to wave again, and watched Adam and Tess leaving the booth. Tess smiled a goodbye and walked ahead, but Adam paused in front of her, and the look they exchanged was not lost on me. But it was gone in an instant and we were piling into cars. Once again getting the feeling I was missing something, I sat confused for a while, but the jabbering of Tess and Alex brought me back to the present.

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Part 4

We stopped somewhere in Arkansas to spend a night in a hotel. We were all worn out from driving and it was decided that rest was needed. We got two rooms, though we didn't really care if girls and guys ended up together. Although Kyle did make Tess and Adam swear that they wouldn't have any 'wild nakey nights' if they were together and another person was in the room. Imagine that.

It ended up with Alex, Maria, and Tess in one room, with Kyle, Adam, and I in the other. I had pretty much pushed Adam's latest actions to the back of my mind, but when he was across the hall in their room, it came back to me in a rush. Kyle and I were watching TV, but the air around me suddenly felt suffocating, and I got up.

"Liz, watch out! Baywatch is coming on." Kyle waved his hands in the 'move' gesture.

"Kyle, some things never change. Are you gonna be sharing a bed with me?" I twisted my hair into a knot on my head, a habit for when I was bored or nervous. Currently, I was both.

"Yeah, sure. Sleeping with another guy could be bad for the rep."

I shook my head, walking towards the bathroom. "I'm gonna take a shower," I called back to him. I thought I heard a response as I shut the door and locked it.

Shedding my clothes and stepping into the warm flow of the water, I felt tension drain out of my body. So Adam stared at me a little bit. So he got a guilty look across his face sometimes when I caught him by surprise. It didn't mean anything, not really.

Nothing at all.

I rubbed my strawberry shampoo through my hair, forcing my mind away from thoughts on Adam. In a day or so I would be meeting up with my parents, caught in the whirwind of a family reunion of sorts. It would be sort of interesting for my friends to meet my parents. Kyle and Maria had, naturally, with the connection. But for Alex, Tess, and Adam, this was new stuff. Tess was nearly frantic about meeting my parents. She kept going on about how she had to make a great impression on them so we could keep being friends. Like they'd try to stop us? Sometimes she's a bit too spastic.

I turned the water off and pulled the curtain open, reaching for a towel. I was drying off when I realized I'd forgotten my pajamas.

"Kyle!"

I listened for a response but could hear nothing but a few cries of 'help' coming from the TV. Damn drowning people.

Figuring it wouldn't hurt anything, I stepped into the room, wrapped in my towel. I grabbed my clothes from my bag and stood up just as Adam walked in the door. We stood staring at each other for a couple moments, and just as silently, he walked back out.

I looked at the door for a full two minutes before I went back to the bathroom.

Strange.

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I brushed my teeth distractedly, listening to Adam in the shower. He'd come back a little after I got out of the bathroom, dressed in my pajamas. Not that they were much different from my clothes, just a pair of shorts and a T-shirt. He smiled at me, blushing a bit.

"Sorry…about just walking in on you like that."

I shook my head, a tinge of pink spreading across my face as well. "Oh, don't worry about it. It's your room too. At least I had a towel on."

He blushed even more at that, then pointed towards the bathroom. "I'm just gonna…take my shower."

"Yeah, go ahead," I nodded, moving out of the way.

Now I ran a comb through my damp hair, then headed towards the bed Kyle and I were sharing. Poor Kyle had fallen asleep halfway through Baywatch. Not even bouncing gargantuan boobs could keep him up. He must have been dang tired.

I clicked the 'mute' on the TV remote, leaving it on so Adam would have light to maneuver himself around when he got out of the bathroom. I took Kyle's jacket off for him, throwing it on his stuff.

"Not yet, Amy," he groaned a little.

"Kyle, move your ass over before I shove you off the bed."

His eyes shot open, his tired eyes finding mine. "Liz?"

I nodded. "That's right, bed buddy. Now move over. I'm tired."

Kyle yawned, then moved over, pulling the blankets from under him and covering himself with them. I sighed, pulling myself into the bed as well, growing comfortable with Kyle next to me. At least if I woke up sprawled all over him he wouldn't care. I set the alarm on our clock, then rolled over and closed my eyes, willing sleep to come.

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The sand was warm beneath my feet, despite the fact that it was the middle of the night. The full moon shone brightly, lighting the beach and making the water sparkle. I felt the breeze on my arms, a relief to the warm air embracing me. The white gown I was wearing blew around my ankles, and I noticed a tattoo on my ankle. I bent down slightly to study it, but a noise to my left interrupted me.

My head snapped up, my gaze locking on the figure who had made himself known. A surge of recognition ran through my body.

Hair as dark as midnight, eyes rich amber, strong jaw and a body made for a god. His black pants and white button down shirt accentuate his features.

"What am I doing here?" I asked. I didn't know what I wanted to say, my mind was a jumbled mess. But something inside of me knew what I should be asking.

"I was asking myself the same question." His voice was deep, soothing, drew me in and made me forget everything else.

We moved toward each other, gradually, electricity sparking the air between us.

"Why did I see you before?"

I stop a few feet from him, and he does as well, turning to look out over the water.

The wind blows his hair across his forehead, his eyes are searching the sky. I don't know what he's looking for, but a moment later his eyes come back to mine.

"Did you want to see me?"

He walks toward the water now, and I can't stop myself from following. I don't know how to answer him. I choose to just follow him instead, let him lead me to where my thoughts need to go. He pauses just before reaching where the water ends on the sand.

My mouth keeps talking, my mind has no idea what's leading it. "You disappeared."

He looks back in the direction he came from. "I was never really there."

He turns around and looks at me. Straight into me, his eyes staring directly into mine. Flecks of gold appear in his eyes. His eyes…the way that they speak, if only I could understand what they were saying.

He steps closer to me, and runs a hand down my arm, slowly, watching its trek. Warmth shoots up and down my arm, through my body, through my soul. His warm breath blows softly onto my arm, the only indication that he's real, that he's not a figment of my imagination.

I look up at him, my lips curving into a small smile. "What are you doing to me?"

I don't think the question, yet it's the perfect thing to ask, on so many different levels. What are you doing to my body? My soul? What are you making me feel?

He looks at me again, his eyes roaming across my face, pausing at my lips. Is he going to kiss me?

"Liz…" he says softly, it sounds like a prayer coming from his lips.

A tingle shoots through my body, I shiver involuntarily. His arm drops from mine, his eyes tear themselves away. I feel a bit of the warmth recede, and cling to it desperately, praying I can keep it inside. Hoping it won't go away.

He looks back to where he came from, and fear courses through my veins. He's not leaving? He takes a step back, turning back to that direction.

No! My heart screams at him, my mind is still caught in confusion. With every step he takes away, warmth recedes and an ache grows. My mouth, previously so free, now seems to have lost its nerve. The breeze blows stronger now, taking my gown and hair with it. I stand frozen, my feet unwilling to move forward. My eyes watch him walk so slowly away, my heart breaks ever so slightly, and the ache grows.
He's fifteen feet away, the distance growing.

Stop! Don't do this! Don't disappear again!

Like he's heard me, he pauses, turning back to me. We stand for a moment in time, not moving, our chests moving up and down as we breath in sync.

There's an apology in his eyes and he shakes his head slightly as he whispers. "Goodbye, Liz."

And he's gone. I can still feel him in the air, feel a small amount of warmth wrapping itself around me. I look out at the water, wrapping my arms around myself to ward out the cold that's fighting it's way in.

"Goodbye…" I whisper.

His name floats through the breeze, wrapping itself around me.

Max.

And my soul slams shut.

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I shoot out of bed, wide awake. My chest is heaving, my breathing is fast and shallow. I look at the clock. It's red lights glare at me, 3:16. I shut my eyes and force myself to take deep breaths, for my heart to calm down.

My dream is fading fast, and I cling to it with all I can. I remember the beach… a white dress… his eyes, but it's fading from my memory. Just his name, let me keep his name.

Two minutes later and it's gone. Every part of it. I know I had a dream but I can't remember what about. I'm left with the same vague feeling I've had sporadically since the accident. I look around our room, to Kyle snoring next to me, his legs tangled up in mine. Across the room at Adam, sleeping peacefully, buried face down in his pillow.

I run my fingers through my hair, scrub my face with my hands. After another deep breath I climb back beneath the blankets, cuddling close to Kyle, trying to fall back asleep. A few minutes later, I do.

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"Hey Liz," Adam greets me in the morning. I look over to the clock. 8:30. I run a hand through my mussed up hair. Adam chuckles a bit.

"Don't worry, it's not that bad."

I smile at him tiredly. "Thanks." I notice Kyle's not in bed, but hear the shower running. I force myself out of bed and walk to the mirror. Adam was sweet, but lying. My hair sticks out in every direction and I cringe at the sight.

"Hey ya!" Tess bursts in our room, still in her pajamas but very awake. She walks over to me, shaking her head. "Miss Parker, just pulling yourself out of bed? I'm appalled!"

I smile at her, rubbing some water over my face to wake me up. She walks over to Adam, planting a kiss on his cheek. "How did this room manage to sleep last night?"

"Great," Adam smiled. "Even with Kyle's unbearable snoring."

"I heard that, Lindey!"

We laughed a bit, and I met Tess' eyes in the mirror. She came back up to me, wrapping an arm around my shoulders and squeezing a bit. "You look tired, babe. Did you sleep okay?"

I sighed, relaxing into Tess' sideways hug. "I slept most of the night, but I woke up a little after three. Some dream, but I can't remember it. Then I fell back asleep and dreamed about itsy bitsy teeny weeny yellow and polka dot bikinis." Tess and I grinned at each other in the mirror. I shook my head. "I know, I know. Don't ask. It was like a replay of the song over and over with a cartoon playing out in front of me."

Tess shook her head, giving me another hug. "Get some more sleep, Parker."

She walked back to Adam and I turned my attention back to the tasks at hand.

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To be continued... Feedback please!