posted on 9-Oct-2002 7:54:58 PM by Kitcat26
Title: Mystification

Author: Cath AKA Kitcat26

E-mail: Kitcat3686⊕aol.com

Summary: Post-Convention. And that’s all I really want to say.

Disclaimer: Merely borrowing everything except the plot so I can squander away my time with my imagination. So, in other words, I own nada.

Category: Uhm…PG-13? M/L and CC

Author’s Note: *big* This is an idea Ive had for a long, long while now. I tried to post it as a challenge way back when, but no one was interested. Well since the damn idea just escalates as it sits in my brain instead of dying out, here you are. I know some of you are wondering, Why go so far back into the shows history? Well let me put it this way. Maybe I can fix the whole Destiny mess before it starts. You with me? Fabulous. Lets go. *big*

Oh, and did you know? Clicking the “New Thread” button is a disease. A poor, new disorder of which most cannot escape. Researchers are looking into it, but a cure looks a long way off. In the mean time, enjoy the stories I manage to churn out slowly yet surely. Special thanks to Meagzie, my all around beta, friend, and center of my universe.

In a haze, a stormy haze, I’ll be round,
I’ll be loving you always, always.
Here I am, and I’ll take my time
Here I am, and I’ll wait in line, always.
Always


Parachutes – Coldplay

- Prologue -

The figure crumpled to the ground after exploding white-hot pain smacked him square in the chest. The stench of freshly used gunpowder reeked in the air, blocking out the cool, crisp smell of the outdoors.

One thought blazed more blatant then the rest. How hauntingly poetic this was. To finally after all these years, perish, and to do so near the exact spot as his beloved.

Sound no longer held any meaning to him. All he could hear was the sound of the gun going off. Of all the guns, not specifically this one. The gun that had stolen away his one true reason for living, the one that had taken his never to be seen child. The gun that had wrongfully taken the drifter. And above all, the gun that should have went off to kill HIM, the monster responsible for all this.

After all these years, his vindication would never be quenched. To think, that he had been, finally, so close. So near in having vengeance for everything that he had done to him and those he had held dear.

HIM, The one responsible. He was still so close in proximity. Really, only an arm’s reach away. Had been for the entire night. WHY did he feel the need to wait to bring HIM back to the scene of the crime? Why didn’t he take his chance back in Roswell, regardless of the witnesses? For really, when he was finished with his revenge, what type of life waited for him after?

The answer was, irrevocably, nothing. There was no life without her, at least not one with meaning.

Her. That’s what he wanting to be thinking about as he sent his final breaths to mix with the chilling night air. Nothing more, nothing less…just the untainted memories and the hope that death would be so kind as to let him join her.

A burning thought seared him in that instant. How could he even fantasize the ideal of being reunited with the one he loved when he had failed her? Failed because of HIM?

Voices wafted from across the way as he felt his life start to slip away.

Get out of here. The both of you. You were never here.

Suddenly, adrenaline shot through his veins. Pure determination fused through his soul once more. He could do the same. He could play it off, like he was never here either. He could, only if he could find the strength to heal himself, to find the will to stagger away from this mess he was currently in and regroup.

He could, and would. Because in the end, it really wasn’t fair that he had been betrayed by him twice.

- Part One -

Michael Guerin stared into the Crashdown Café from the outside, blinking against the fiery sun. The diner itself was slowing down, the rush of business and out-of-towners dying out simultaneously with the insane festivities of the UFO Convention. He hesitated before entering through the doors, wavering ever so slightly as his heart lurched.

She was in there.

These days, she was everywhere. In his thoughts, in his brain, in front of him, working in the very place he, Max and Isabel were having a meeting…

It was like her very presence was one of which he could never escape. A swirling abyss of never-ending constancy.

Mud, he thought, as he mentally berated himself. Why the hell wasn’t he controlling his thoughts today? It had become gradually routine after a while, distracting himself with various forms of muddled thoughts to coat her persistent residence in his mind. The name Maria form in his brain? Not a problem. Contemplate mud. Think about dirt. Ponder about some other inane, distracting substance and be done with it. It had been a habitual reaction. Had been. But now, damn it, ever since she kissed him yesterday…

Mud, damn it, mud!

This was getting him nowhere. And he definitely had a place to be right now. He was supposed to be inside, ignoring Maria, and conversing with Max and Isabel about last night.

Last night…now there was a topic that could successfully lure his thoughts away from his tempting pixie. To think about how his best friend was almost murdered right in front of his eyes. About how Max’s powers were almost exposed to the Sheriff last night. To think about the pure desperation and need for vindication that shone in Hubble’s crazed eyes…

Yes, definitely a mood killer.

Michael raked his fingers roughly through his unruly hair, causing it to stand up taller. He had to go in there sometime. He might as well get it over with. Besides, going in there had nothing to do with her. It had to do with him, and finding the fourth alien. He wanted some decisions made and executed quickly.

He was sick and tired of Max’s “lay low” mechanism. If they kept on sitting on their asses, their chance might pass them by. And Michael was in no way going to miss an opportunity to uncover more about his past, his roots. His ties that could possibly provide a chance for him to BELONG somewhere…

For he sure as hell didn’t fit in here.

And in order for him, for all of them, to discover all the answers, all the whims and whys to their very existence, they had to find the fourth alien.

Nasedo was the key. He couldn’t do all of the work. He had made the first step in contacting them through the sighting in Fraser Woods. Now it was their turn to establish some sort of contact back. The only thing standing in the way of that was Max and his damn responsible demeanor. His comment last night resonated in Michael’s brain.

I think the one we’ve been looking for has killed people. A lot of people.

Disbelief still coated his insides. There was no way. No way that that statement could be true, no way that Michael was going to convince Max to get their butts into gear after hearing it, and definitely no way Michael was even going to fathom giving up.

It was a lie. It had to be. Hubble was crazy. The events last night PROVED it. Plus, he was one of those Convention nuts. Who in their right mind would even believe that crock of shit? Isabel was right. It WAS psychologically damaging.

A little voice nagged in Michael’s head, reminding him of how he had been pumping most of those so-called nuts for information just days prior. He immediately quashed down upon it and slammed open the door to the Café. The minute jingle of the bell alerted the entire room to his presence – or rather it alerted one particular person to his sudden arrival.

Michael scowled as Maria’s blonde little head shot up at the ringing sound and when her eyes darkened considerably after brightening with recognition.

He forced himself not to look again in her direction and to beeline straight for Max and Isabel, both of which were seated at their usual booth. Plopping down across from Max next to Isabel, he grunted in his typical monosyllabic manner.

“Hey.”

Isabel responded her salutation verbally, while Max met his gaze steadily and nodded. He seemed more composed than he did the night before, less shaken. Already, even in such a short amount of time, Max slide back into his ever-present role of Mr. Responsibility. Michael couldn’t tell if he was relieved or irritated by this current improvement from last night.

Although, seeing Max flip out and direct his pent up frustrations upon the Sheriff had been extremely unnerving. Usually, it was HE, Michael, who was the one who let his words and emotions rashly spiral out of control. To see Max lose it…well, it wasn’t an everyday occurrence that was for sure.

“So,” He started. It was time to get this conversation off of the ground. A small stretch of silence followed his pronouncement, and after a round of impatient waiting, Michael noticed that Max’s attention was not currently with them. Rather, it was jealously piercing Liz, who was obliviously taking some jock’s order at a nearby booth. Rolling his eyes at this unsurprising occurrence, he went to share an exasperated look with Isabel, only to discover that her gaze was trailing towards the bar stools – where Alex was gesturing wildly with his hands, simultaneously making Maria’s face shine with laughter.

Ignoring the way his heart skipped a beat at that particular sight, Michael sighed loudly, and rapped his hand smartly on the table. Both Evans’s jumped slightly and abruptly met his gaze.

“Suddenly, I seem to be the only alien living up to my name,” Michael quipped.

Isabel threw him a stupefied look. “What?” Her voice dripped with derision.

His nostrils flared impatiently. “Aliens. Alienating.” He paused, and when Max and Isabel continued to glance at him skeptically, he blew up. “Hello! You two are mooning over the humans while we should be discussing what the hell we’re supposed to do next!”

Isabel shot a discomforted look about the near empty café, and then hissed disapprovingly at him. “God, Michael. Be a little louder why don’t you. I don’t think Valenti heard in his office across town.”

“The place is empty, Isabel. Now could you two snap out of your yearning crap and pay a little attention to the more pressing matter at hand here? What are we going to do about this?”

“About what?” Max asked quietly, ripping the wrapper off of his straw and then slamming the plastic tube deep into his cherry cola beverage.

Michael took a silent deep breath and willed himself not to blow up the nearest glass. Gritting his teeth, he answered tersely. “About the sighting! The message from Nasedo! About our friggin existence! Our past! Why we’re even here,

He broke off breathing hard, believing that Maxwell would get the gist.

Max took an agonizingly slow slurp of his drink, and swallowed pensively. Before Michael could give a growl of annoyance, Max spoke calmly.

“We don’t do anything. We don’t know for sure if the sighting was an establishment of contact. And if it was, I’m not so sure Nasedo is one we really want to be looking for anyways.”

”He’s the forth alien! Why wouldn’t we want to look for him?”

Max pushed away his cola and leaned forward seriously. “Why wouldn’t we want to look for a potential murderer? Gee, I don’t know Michael. Does the idea that he could be dangerous have any repercussion in your mind at all? You weren’t there last night. You didn’t hear what Hubble said.”

“Max, he was crazy! You know it, I know it…”

Max shook his head and broke in. “Remember the pictures Liz saw in Valenti’s office?” Max pushed on as he saw Michael open his mouth furiously to interject. “Listen to me! You weren’t there. Hubble wasn’t insane. He was prostrate with grief. What Nasedo did to him and his wife…It was awful. Awful enough for Hubble to pull a gun on me thinking I was him…”

A soft, yet sharp intake of breath caused all three heads to snap upwards. Alarm resounded in Michael’s head until he raised his eyes to come face to face with…

Liz Parker. And she looked horrified, her pen and order pad still suspended haphazardly in the air.

Great. This was just what they needed right now. More distractions and butting in from the humans. The next thing they knew, Maria would be coming up to rant angrily about some inanity.

Not bothering to suppress his scowl, Michael glanced over at Max. His face was coated with guilt.

What the hell? Did he miss something?

“Max,” Liz asked, her voice wavering with uncertainty. “What happened?”

“Uhm, Hubble had a misunderstanding and he uhm,” Suddenly, Max was finding the salt shaker and Tabasco sauce in front of him quite enthralling. “He tried to kill me.”

Liz’s face blanched and Max hastily added, “But Valenti was there, so nothing happened. It’s over.”

Michael snorted, but wisely chose not to say anything, heeding the warning look Isabel was shooting in his general direction. Over. Maxwell, my friend, this is far from over.

Maria’s laughter peeled across diner and suddenly Michael couldn’t tell if that was a good thing or not anymore.

Liz’s face smoothed from one of shock to one of unmistakable anger. Michael didn’t blame Max at all for cringing.

“Oh. So you weren’t even going to bother telling any of us about it? Since it’s obviously over.” Liz’s voice was coated with venom.

“No, Liz, it’s just that…”

“Can I speak with you in the back a minute? Privately.” She didn’t even wait for Max’s reply, she just strode purposely towards the break room. Max sighed, and moved to follow her.

“Max!” Michael stopped him. “What are you doing, we still have to…”

Max rubbed his eyes. “Later Michael. Okay? Just cool it for a while.”

Michael huffed with boiling frustration. Cool it, Max said. An act easier said then done. Sometimes Michael had to wonder whether or not the burning desire to uncover their past was rooted in him alone. Regardless of the answer to that query, Michael knew one thing for sure. His steadfast tenacity would ring true, and they would NOT be giving up on finding out who, or what, they were.

Michael watched as Max scurried quickly to Liz’s side, and the two entered through the swinging door, jumping slightly as their arms brushed tenderly against one another’s.

No, not giving up. No matter how tempting the lure of their life here on earth proved to be.

To Be Continued…


I honestly don't know when the next part will be out. It's all written inside my head, but time is of limited quantity these days, and I'm determined to finish up RoB before the month ends. In the meanwhile, feel free to tell me what you think. *happy*

[ edited 5 time(s), last at 16-Feb-2003 10:05:04 PM ]
posted on 20-Oct-2002 7:27:42 PM by Kitcat26
Author's Note: Hey all! Thanks for the great FB. *happy* I'm glad you're all enjoying this as much as I am writing it, and hopefully you'll all stick around for the ride. It will be a little while before we get to explanations as to what transpired in the prologue, but like they say, "All will be revealed in due time." *big* For now though, back to more mayhem in the Crashdown...

Hugs all,
Cath

Special thanks goes out to Meagzie, for whom without I wouldn't be able to decipher my own brain, let alone this part. Yes, it was that bad. *tongue* Gracias Meag.



- Part Two -

Maria Deluca stared at the familiar booth in the corner and sighed. Alex was swinging continually on the bar stool next to her, chattering non-stop above the dim buzz of slow business that went on around them about some facetious story that transpired in his English class. He had immediately launched into a number of anecdotes that had occurred recently after seeing the glum look etched upon Maria’s features, claiming they needed something to talk about that veered carefully away from “Czechoslovakian matters.” What came out of his mouth had been the same type of long-winded tales that Maria and Liz often suspected he stored for times like these.

Times like these. God, she sounded like she was in the middle of an energy crisis or something. Yet things were supremely frustrating as of now, almost more frustrating than if she was without the use of a blow dryer.

As usual, the source of her frustrations all came back to one particular person.

Michael had walked into the Crashdown without so much of a glance towards her, blatantly ignoring her, per usual, and metaphorically stabbing her in the gut. Unbelievable. Or it would have been considered as such for anyone other than Michael Guerin.

After that little snub (though she often wondered why she ever thought she would get anything else these days), she had listened distractedly to Alex’s prior story, half of her attention on her friend and the other half focused discreetly on Michael. When the punch line to Alex’s recount came, Maria had dissolved into loud giggles, her narrowed green eyes zeroing in on a certain Czech.

Ha. Take that! See me laughing, having a good time? I don’t need you, She had smugly thought that at the time, awaiting his reaction.

Except that there had been none. No effect whatsoever. Not even an eye roll.

Which left her consciously ignoring Alex, and perusing Michael’s every move as he animatedly argued with Max and Isabel. Oh, her attention had been distracted when Liz had walked up to take their order, and when her friend promptly dragged Max into the back, – the angry expression on Lizzie’s face had been enough to peak her concern – but her concentration gradually wavered back to Michael, her bafflement increased tenfold after that little scene.

She simply just could not figure Michael out. One minute he was selflessly helping her and her mother out, and the next he was spouting nonsense about “mud” when she kissed him in thanks.

Mud. Honestly! What in the name of pantyhose had he been mumbling about? Did the kiss taste like mud to him? Was it some weird alien flavor obsession, something similar to Tabasco? Only that in this case, mud signified disgust, rather than satisfaction? What?

Argh, what was it about him that made all sort of rational thinking fly out towards a galaxy far, far away?

But right now Maria was beyond any type of rational thinking. Her mind was whirling with the different possibilities in getting Michael to come out from behind his newest creation of a steely stonewall, and so far none of her ideas seemed plausible. But to hell with plausible. Plausible sucked. So what if she just happened to stalk up to Michael and give him a good shake? If she simply happened to smack some sense quite literally into the back of his spiky head? If she just suddenly happened to throw back her head and howl, “Kiss me you big, stupid Michael beast you,” and then if she…

“And then! Then, he slips on the very same chalk!” Alex burst out laughing, unable to contain himself until the climax of the story before doing so. “Right in the middle of his lecture! One minute he’s babbling on about some book we were supposed to read and then…down he goes! It was great!”

Effectively startled out of her reverie, Maria could only stare at her friend blankly, who was slapping his thighs loudly, until he realized she wasn’t chuckling along with him.

“I guess you had to be there,” Maria vaguely heard Alex mutter underneath his breath, her mind still elsewhere.

“Maria? You okay?” Alex’s wide, clear blue eyes searched her face, probing gently.

Before she could make up an answer to appease Alex, the front door to the Crashdown chimed, and Kyle Valenti strode through. His eyes swept across the diner for an instant, and after that slight hesitation, he seated himself down at a nearby table. Alone.

Grateful for the distraction, Maria pushed herself up from the stool in one smooth motion, and stretched her muscles out before starting over to him. Alex caught her arm. “Hey,” he said. “What are you doing? You’re on break, remember?”

Maria shook her head and pursed her lips. “Liz disappeared into the back just now with Max. And by the upset expression on her face, I’m guessing they’ll be there a while. I should probably cover for her.”

Alex seemed to buy her explanation, albeit not entirely, as his eyes still searched her face. “Yea. You probably should,” he answered slowly. After a pause, he nodded towards Kyle. “What’s up with Valenti? Usually when he comes in here he’s surrounded by his usual jock buddies. He’s not in here to snoop around some more, is he?”

Maria plopped back down onto her stool for a minute and pondered this. “I don’t think so. I mean, my God, if he’s not over Liz by now…” She ended on a teasing note.

Alex nodded, accepting her answer, but his brow still wrinkled uncertainly.

“What?” She implored.

Alex rubbed his eyes broodingly. “I don’t know. It’s just, what with his dad always on our butts, would it be considered likely that Kyle could be doing a little digging of his own?”

”What? No, of course not!” Maria immediately scoffed, ignoring the butterfly of fear fluttering in her stomach at the very thought. Her eyes darted towards Michael and Isabel’s booth – the two of which who were picking listlessly at their cold space fries – and she bit her lip uncertainly.

A million worst-case scenarios rolled around in her mind, all the ‘what-ifs’ threatening to drown out all comprehensible thought. The Sheriff wouldn’t stoop as far low as using his own son – would he? Maria was beginning to realize she didn’t know a lot about what had transpired between the man in question and the pod squad lately – and for the first time it slightly bothered her.

She blinked hard, trying to clear her mind. What was happening to her and her Teflon steel resolve to live and let live? To removing herself from the sucking pull of the alien abyss?

Tumultuous emotions rose within her breast, her gaze still piercing Michael.

Alex’s voice cut through her thoughts for the second time that day. “Maria? You sure you’re all right?”

With one last longing look, she swiveled her body back towards Kyle and sighed. “Yeah Alex. Just fine.”

* * * *

Liz Parker flinched slightly as Max’s arm whispered slightly against her own. Damn him. Damn him to hell for always affecting her this way. Especially now, when she was positively seething with anger, and needing to let out that pent up frustration. He deserved everything she was fueling up to give him. But if the merest sensation caused her mind to wander and her anger to fade –

No. She would ignore it. All of it. Because honestly, it looked like Max was having no trouble whatsoever in that particular department.

She jerked away from him, and slammed the swinging door open even wider, providing the necessary room for both to walk through without any superfluous contact. Max jumped faintly at the vibrating sound of the door connecting with the plaster wall, and for once Liz reveled in the fact that she was acting so out of character – or enough to shock Max a little anyways. She doubled checked to make sure no one was in the kitchen area, and stalked inside to stand beside a counter top, where a tray of un-chopped onions lay adjacent to a knife. Excess energy tumbled through her veins, and it was all she could do to refrain from pacing.

Why did he always do this? Shut her out, blow her off. He claimed once to be scared of hurting her, and at the time, Liz had been touched.

Now though? Now she was simply pissed off.

This entire thing had been building. Swirling inside her now for weeks. Ever since Max showed up the night after Kyle had hurt his ankle at the game trying to tell her how to go about her life, and when he had taken off for Fraser Woods on the campout, his goal being the sighting, deeming not to say one word to her about it… It stung; hurt almost as much as his walking away from her that night after Michael’s sweat. The fact that he tried to take everything upon himself, or that he didn’t feel that he could confide in her anymore…or even the fact that he was beginning to treat her like any other person in this town. As if she were merely his lab partner and not -

And not what? What exactly was she to Max anyway?

Liz pushed the thought away. Now was not the time for her to speculate the confines of Max’s heart. For she was certain to become lost upon the way.

Because one thing was for sure, she was part of this “Czechoslovakian mess,” as Maria would call it. She wanted the greatly debated answers as much as the rest of them did. She was an equal damn it, and it was high time Max remembered that.

She looked at him now, cursing her heart for skipping a beat, yet somehow expecting it. His jaw was set obstinately, but his liquid color eyes were a bit apprehensive as he met her gaze. His hands were shoved deep inside his pockets, his form compliant. For some reason, it only irritated her more, most likely being that he looked quite like a dog with it’s tail between it’s legs, and she subsequently then took on the role of the scolding owner.

And also because, quite suddenly, Liz didn’t know how to begin.

After a stretch of silence, and some uncomfortable shifting, Max opened his mouth. “Look, Liz, I know what you’re probably thinking…”

Narrowing her brown hued gaze, Liz cut him off. “Really Max? Are you sure about that? Because if you knew what’s running through my mind, then we probably wouldn’t be here, would we?” She meant more than being back here in the kitchen having this talk. For if Max truly knew her thoughts, then he would know this entire “taking a step back” method was stinging her. While she wanted to support Max, and respect his decisions, she simply couldn’t, not when they were resulting in this way.

“Is this the way it’s always going to be from now on?” She asked. “I just hear about things second hand, if at all? Or I am just out of the loop for good now?”

Max’s features wavered with compunction. “Liz, that’s not…”

Tendrils of ebony swayed on her back as she shook her head. “No, Max, that’s exactly what you’ve been doing. I don’t know how many times I have to tell you that you made me a part of this! In doing so don’t you think I deserve to know what’s going on?” When he made no comment, Liz exhaled a gale of aggravated air and turned to pick up the knife on the counter. She began haphazardly hacking at the onions before her, ignoring Max’s flinch at her sudden attack upon the poor vegetables, and throwing her excess energy into a task more constructive than pacing or wringing her hands.

“And not just because it could affect me, Max,” Liz continued, her voice raised an octave higher as to be heard over the dull sound of the knife hitting the cutting board. Out of the corner of her eye, she noticed Max move slightly toward her. “I want to know if anything’s happened to you too. Just because we’re not together anymore doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t care.” She paused, gnawing on her lip, and then went ahead. “And honestly Max? It hurts when I have to find out stuff only by walking into one of your conversations.”

“I know,” he answered softly, a myriad of emotions tied up into two words. He sounded sincere. But Liz had to wonder, was that the same as realizing and not doing it again?

He hesitated, concern written all over his face. “Liz, be careful…”

His admonition came too late. Liz let out a short, albeit loud, yelp of pain as the sharp steely blade sliced open the skin on her left hand, expelling crimson blood. The rich color contrasted strongly against the opaque pearly color of the onion, making Liz feel somewhat ill.

Her eyes fluttered automatically closed due to the searing pain, and so she felt, rather than saw, Max close the gap between them instantly. His warm hands enclosed around her wrist, and she allowed him to cradle her arm. His tender gaze closely inspected the damage, and after a minute he raised his eyes to hers. The raw, concerned anxiety she found there was enough to melt her anger instantaneously.

”It looks pretty deep,” Max finally said as he brushed his fingers lightly over the wound, disregarding the blood that was still flowing out from it. He worked his throat uncertainly for a bit, but she was still completely unprepared for what he asked next.

“Will you let me heal it for you?”

Liz sucked in a silent gust of much needed oxygen. He was asking if he could heal her. Asking if he could reenact the very deed that brought her more permanently into his life. For a second, Liz wavered, not entirely sure she wanted Max to be able to see everything that was in her soul right now. All the thoughts and feelings she had for him, the bad and the good (Though face it Liz, she thought wryly,wherever Max is concerned, there’s always more good than bad)…did she really want them all presented to him in this way?

Yet Liz knew she would comply with his request. And not just because of the throbbing pain in her hand. No, because of the manner in which he asked, the way in which his eyes pleaded with her. Almost as if he were trying to make it up to her, to tell her something – to make things right.

So it was without any initial surprise that she felt herself nodding her head softly, her gaze still locked with Max’s. A look of utter relief crossed his features, replaced with one of concrete concentration as he spoke the familiar phrase of taking deep breaths and letting her mind blank out. But before doing so she couldn’t help but flash back to a time, not so long ago, when Max uttered those very same words to her, leading to an event that she often speculated led to her first falling for him. Just as fast as the memory flitted across her brain, she made it fade away, letting her mind become blissfully blank, relishing in the moment where there were no threats from the Sheriff, no ‘taking a step back,’ no worries or fears about the uncertain future. In this moment it was just her and Max.

It wasn’t until an upsurge of emotion washed over her that she realized why he asked her of this in such a manner. He was reversing the connection as he healed her. He was letting her see every part of him, just as he was more than likely seeing every part of her. Sentimental tears pricked at her vision, but she refused to let them fall, focusing intently on the potent connection that was unfurling between them.

Just as before, she could feel everything he was feeling, but it was more of an impression this time, the emotions fueling together in a rush. Yet right at the top of the concoction was yearning, followed shortly after by an image of her own face. These flashes were rapidly replaced with mild irritation at Michael, and then fear and confliction. Suddenly Liz was viewing all the events that had transpired once Everett Hubble had taken Max out to Bitter Lake. The image of a gun pointing straight at her was preceded by a sense of trepidation so great that it clawed at her insides and caused her heart to race, though she knew she was safe inside the Crashdown with Max beside her.

And then, all the flashes were of her, almost like a play-by-play movie screen was showing the past few weeks – months even. They were coupled with appropriating emotions to go with each image. Exasperation. Passion. Longing. Elation. Pain. Regret. And dare she hope…? Something resembling l-

As abruptly as it began, the connection began to dissipate. Her hand forgotten, Liz’s eyes snapped open (when had she closed them?) and Max’s expression filled her view. His mouth was open slightly, but it was his luring eyes and the emotion swirling within them that caused her breath to catch in her throat. Amber hues drew her in, surrounding her until she was saturated. And yet, all she wanted to do was inch closer despite the fact that he was only a breath away. “Max,” she breathed. “Max…”

A cloud slid across Max’s expression, and his gaze became dark and unreadable. His head pulled back and he straightened, clearing his throat. Liz felt her heart drop. “You’ll be all right now. Good as new.” He smiled faintly, but his eyes remained the same, shadowy and incomprehensible.

“Max!” She exclaimed. Was he really going to do this? To ignore the connection, to just disregard all the tumultuous feelings she knew, she absolutely knew, he had felt too? Were things supposed to go back to normal now, as if none of this had happened? As if her very soul wasn’t crying out, longing to be intertwined with his own?

In the end, however, it was his decision. And his actions spoke volumes about just that. She couldn’t force him to see anymore than she could force herself to let go.

Liz languidly slid her hand out of Max’s, instantly shivering with the loss of the warm contact. It was then that Liz realized that things were far from normal, and would always be, no matter how hard they tried.

This realization was only deepened further when Liz turned around and was met face to face with Kyle Valenti’s dumbfounded expression.

To Be Continued…

posted on 10-Nov-2002 4:31:27 PM by Kitcat26
Thanks to Nikkisue, roswellluver, Asabeth, frenchkiss70, ISLAND_GIRL5 and TeddybehrJKT. *happy* I truly appreciate all your lovely commets.

Christian~ Hee, girlie, you crack me up. Thanks for starting this, though I know how you feel with being swamped. And as for computers not liking you? Huh. Same here. Which is why I've been MIA lately. Stupid pooters. Toss them in a lake I say. Or perhaps bribe them with more chocolate? {wink wink}

Niki! I've been a horrible beta haven't I? I see you've updated AU, AND what's this I see in your sig? You've started MM? Awesome! I sincerely apologize. RL is being awful, and I haven't had time for here nor there. But I've been meaning to ask you, did you recieve my bmail? I sent one a while back, but today my sent box says it wasn't. Hmm...



Good news folks. I've finished Part Three. It just needs some brushing up, and perhaps a quick looksie from my beta. So expect it up later tonight.

Cath


posted on 10-Nov-2002 10:43:59 PM by Kitcat26
Scottie - I'm immensely flattered thank you! I hope this next part suffices in keeping up your high level of enthrallment. *wink*

Sorry for the wait all. Had to watch Alias first. *big*

Hugs,
Cath

- Part Three –

Max Evans stared in horror as Liz’s gasp alerted him to Kyle’s presence. Cold, gnawing dread clenched his insides, and the urge to be suddenly sick caused his eyelids to quiver and close. Taking a deep breath, he simultaneously wished this entire nightmare to be just that – a dream. A horrible dream from which he would soon awake.

He had no such luck.

Max opened up his eyes to find the scene exactly as he’d left it. Completely and truly screwed up. Fighting the urge to groan, he shot a look at Liz. Her expression mirrored exactly how he felt – aghast with a smidgeon of fear.

What exactly did Kyle see? How long had he been standing there watching him and Liz?

Too long, was the apparent answer as Max took in Kyle’s flabbergasted appearance. Way too long.

This was all his fault. If only he had actually considered thinking before he decided to heal Liz, to heal her in broad daylight - inside a crowded, public restaurant for Christ’s sake! (Though face it, an annoying voice in his head piped up, You’ve done it before, and would do it again if you had to) If only he had just told Liz what had happened, instead of trying to show her by reversing the connection as he healed her. If only he hadn’t allowed the connection to go as far as it did.

Max silently cursed as he recalled just exactly how much of his soul was bared to Liz a few moments ago. He scowled at the likelihood of it all. Sure, the one instance where he lost control of his powers and it would be this time. He had only meant to tell Liz that he wasn’t deliberately trying to kick her out of his life and to show what had occurred last night, with Hubble’s attempt upon his life and the shocking reiteration that Nasedo wasn’t someone who you would want to come across. But once more, Liz Parker took complete control of his emotions, thoughts, and actions, throwing him off balance and sending his head spinning.

It was totally exhilarating, freeing and –

And frightening. How was he supposed to keep his distance, keep her safe and free from hurt, and slow things down when she did this to him? When all he could ever think about was when the lights hit her head at a certain angle, her hair simply shined? About the way her brown eyes bore into his, stripping away everything until all there was left was her? About the way she darted her pink tongue out sporadically to wet her lips? About the way those lips had felt pressed against his own?

He used to dream about what it would be like to be able to touch her, allowing himself to imagine what the sensation of kissing her would do to him.

But now that he actually knew, it was driving him slowly insane with the need for more.

And now, thanks to him and his inability to control his damn feelings around her, she was aware of all this, aware of everything. And he was willing to bet that that particular enlightenment would only prove to hurt her more when he had to push her away again. And for that, he hated himself, because he had to do it. His heart suddenly felt like lead, sinking down into the pits of his stomach at the very thought. He battled the urge to grab her and kiss the living daylights out of her - Kyle and his astonished wide eyes be damned - and focused instead upon the matter at hand, the result and repercussion of his inherent impulsiveness that seemed inevitable whenever anything concerned Liz.

Kyle Valenti was presently still gaping openly at him, utter shock etched on his features like words chiseled in stone. It looked as if Liz and he had a lot of explaining to do. Guilt washed over him in waves once more as he imagined the expressions that Michael and Isabel would don once they found out what he had done. How he had once more exposed their secret, and however unwittingly, broke their silent yet sacred pact: Tell no one. Never risk exposure.

Kyle’s irregular breathing patterns sliced through the anxious, extremely uneasy silence. Quite ironically, Max almost wished that Hubble had killed him last night.

Why? Why couldn’t it have been anyone other than Kyle? Max mused desperately. Despite himself, Max felt a familiar surge of jealousy flare up as he stared helplessly at the boy. Quickly squashing down upon it, he chastised himself. This was so not the time for that kind of petty crap. The Sheriff’s own son had just walked in on their carefully guarded secret for crying out loud, and all Max could think of was the expression upon both Liz’s and Kyle’s face as they laughed together in the Crashdown. What the hell was wrong with him?

Max’s shoulders sagged as the new overbearing recollection of just who exactly Kyle was dominated his thoughts. Valenti’s son. The offspring of the man who was currently trying to hunt him down and force out his secret, the man who would literally jump at the chance to be in Kyle’s shoes right now – and also the man to whom Kyle would most likely be confiding in after today’s little revelation.

Max bit back another sigh. This totally sucked.

“Wha - ” Kyle gulped. “What the hell just happened?” His dark blue eyes skittered to and from Max and Liz’s stricken forms.

Liz sighed and, darting a look in Max’s direction, replied with false ignorance. “What do you mean Kyle?”

Kyle shook his head violently, and she fell silent. “Don’t try and pull that crap with me Liz.” Snapping his gaze to level with Max’s, his expression hardened. “I knew something was screwy with you Evans. These past few months, I-I just always smelled something fishy. And it wasn’t Fish Fry Friday at the Crashdown.” Breaking off, Kyle shoved his fingers through his brown hair, and then used the same fingers to rub his eyes furiously, muttering muffled curses under his breath. After gaining a thin veil of control, Kyle continued with his tirade. “You did something to her just now. And I wanna know what the hell it was.”

Max frowned at the steely determination that overrode the horror and fear in Kyle’s eyes. Shit. Kyle wasn’t going anywhere without an explanation, and a darn good one at that. What exactly was he supposed to say? Any type of excuse that popped into Max’s mind seemed not even remotely plausible. Frantically searching his mind for something, anything to satisfy Kyle’s inquisitive mind, Max realized that all he could do was give it his best shot. And pray that Kyle was as stupid as Max often liked to imagine.

Raising his eyebrows in what he hoped was an innocuous expression, Max looked at Kyle dubiously. “What are you talking about? I was just holding her hand. Do you have a problem with that?” Max longed to also ask if the fact that Liz was in the back of the restaurant with him and not Kyle himself had anything to do with Kyle’s angry accusations, but he held himself in check. Best not piss off the confused jock anymore than he already was, because no matter how satisfying it might be, it probably wouldn’t move things in their favor. Probably.

Kyle scowled. “No, what the problem is Evans, is that you’re a goddamn liar! Your hand was glowing!” As soon as the words were out of his mouth, apprehension dawned upon Kyle’s face, almost as if he recognized how insane he sounded.

Max almost snorted aloud, because the fact was that it was all insane. Preposterous and appropriately so. Max suddenly fantasized how the scenario would turn out if he simply blurted everything out right now as blatantly as possible. Well, you see Kyle, my hand was glowing because I was healing Liz’s cut with my special powers, just like I healed her gunshot wound last fall in the Crashdown. You remember that, don’t you? Oh, and I suppose I should also mention at this time that I’m not exactly from around here. A little green about the gills if you will. Yes, that’s right, I’m an alien. You know how every year this town celebrates the Crash Festival, reenacting the supposed 1947 Crash? Well, I came from said crash, surviving in an incubation pod. A little crack and hatch 50 years later and wha-la, here I am. Any questions?

Oh yeah, that would go over real well.

Shaking off his tiny reverie, Max blinked at Kyle, trying to further ignite the little seed of doubt that was beginning to form in Kyle’s eyes. “Glowing? What are you trying to get at Kyle? Are you trying to imply that I have special powers or something?” Faking a laugh, Max did some quick thinking. “You probably just saw some light reflect off of something onto my hand.” Cocking his head, Max faked a concerned look, all the while ignoring the way his heart was beating rapidly in it’s struggle to leap out of his chest. “Kyle, are you okay?”

Out of the corner of his eye, Max saw Liz inch slightly forward with baited breath that matched his own. He had to buy this, he had to!

Max’s breath then hitched with hope when Kyle’s face wavered with confusion. The other boy expelled a gust of air from his lungs as he stared off into space for a minute, conflicting emotions flitting across his features. Max was about to let out a sigh of relief when Kyle snapped his gaze back towards him, his perplexed expression melting into a smug one.

“Nice try Evans.” Max couldn’t stop his jaw from clenching, nor could he keep his heart from stopping cold with fear.

Kyle paced slowly and deliberately back and forth along the tiny room. “But where did this supposed light come from? Hmm?” Kyle looked pointedly up at the ceiling. Raising his gaze to follow Kyle’s, Max’s heart sank just as he heard Liz quietly groan. Indeed there were no light fixtures anywhere near the spot where he and Liz had stood. Kyle was right, damn it, and proud of it. The very idea made Max want to punch him.

Wide realization soon replaced the smirk on Kyle’s face, and he sucked in a loud gust of air. “Does this have anything to do with why my father is on your tail all the time?”

Max struggled to keep his face neutral, but as a small sly smile broke out across Kyle’s countenance, he knew he was busted. Damn him to hell.

Kyle took a step towards him, his expression full of menace. “I wonder what my dad would think about this…this little hand glowing…thing. He would probably find this very interesting, don’t you think so Evans?” He stumbled on his terms as to what had just transpired, but his tone was enough to send shivers down Max’s spine and anger to his fists. Just as he was getting ready to pound Kyle one, Liz stepped between them.

“Stop it! Kyle, just stop it!” Liz cried. Taking a deep breath, she fixed him with a resigned stare. “We’ll tell you everything, but -”

Max’s eyes grew wide as he spun towards her. “What?”

Liz blew out an exasperated sigh. “What else can we do Max?”

Max fell silent. She was right, of course. What else could they do? Lie until they were blue in the face? Deny everything until Kyle left it alone? Let Kyle go off without any explanation, so he could go and tell his father that he saw something, regardless of the fact that he had no clue what it was?

None of those would suffice. Max knew it, Liz knew it, hell even Kyle knew it. Yet the alternative didn’t look anymore promising. How could he be expected to tell Kyle everything? To let him in on their carefully guarded secret? Michael and Isabel were going to murder him on the spot. Hot, fresh guilt swooped down again, and Max grimaced.

And moreover, how could they expect Kyle to be okay with it all? To keep it to himself, and not turn them into his father? To simply accept the fact that aliens did indeed walk among them, and that absolute secrecy was needed?

Liz and Maria did it. Alex did it, even when he was feeling betrayed and hurt. They’ve all come through for you in ways you could have never even thought of. Maybe Kyle will prove to be the same, maybe, just maybe, telling him won’t be such a bad thing. That annoying voice in Max’s head decided to nag at him again. Max immediately told it to shut up. Was he insane?! Of COURSE telling Kyle was bound to blow up in his face! How could it not?

But as Max watched as Liz looked at him helplessly, and as Kyle folded his arms, clearly not going anywhere for a while, he knew that he had no other option right now. And there was no time to try and compose a new one. Swallowing hard, Max opened his mouth to begin.

All he could do now was pray that fate would be kind, and if not that, at least be merciful.

It was only later that Max realized just how foolish that kind of wishful thinking was.

* * * * *

Isabel Evans smacked Michael’s hand as he tried to sneak one of her space fries. Giving him a cold look, she then tossed her golden hair over her shoulder and sighed, staring out the window onto Main Street. Her expression sobered a great deal, and one could only guess at what sort of turmoil plagued her soul and caused that little crinkle to form in between her forehead – the crinkle that usual meant deep pensive thought was occurring.

And also, the crinkle that left one with the desire to rub all problematic thought away so that her beautiful features would be unmarred by such qualms.

Stop staring, Alex Whitman scolded himself. For the love of God man, control yourself and salvage what’s left of your poor mangled dignity!

This was quickly becoming absurd. So Isabel wanted some space. He could do that. He could do that without making a fool of himself. He could be more distant around Miss Isabel. He could cut back on the obsessive-like behavior. He could be un-romantically involved. He was as a cool as a cucumber. Hell, cucumber should have been his middle name! He was aloof. He was calm. He was collected. He was -

A goner. A complete and total goner. He suppressed the urge to groan.

Okay, so lying to yourself isn’t working. Try diversionary tactics Movement flashed out of the corner of his eye, and he turned his attention onto Maria, who was using the lull in business to wipe down nearby tables. Now, this was where his focus should be. On his friends, on the people who actually had some sort of need for him. It was obvious that all this alien crap was getting to his two best girls. And he had just the remedy for that.

Alex’s eyes narrowed, however, when he noticed the sporadic glances Maria kept stealing behind her towards the break room. He sighed softly. Now what? He watched her silently for a few more minutes, trying to ignore the mild exasperation he felt while watching her take a few more suspicious peeks. This was almost as bad as watching someone pace back and forth; as the nervous energy coming off of Maria was painfully palpable.

He pursed his lips as she shot yet another look towards the back of the Crashdown. This was getting ridiculous. Now she was making even him nervous! “Maria, would you cut it out? Liz is fine.”

Maria shook her blonde head, her antennae bobbing along for the ride. Her wide green eyes shone with wary concern as they sought out his blue ones. “They’ve been back there for a really long time, Alex.”

Girls. They say one thing one in one moment, and the next they’re off on another tangent.

Alex raised a dubious eyebrow at his friend. “Maria? Weren’t you the one who, like five minutes ago, said that ‘judging from the look on Liz’s face, they were going to be back there for a while?’” He gave her a knowing look as she shrugged sheepishly. He leaned down to take a gulp of his orange soda, the sound of ice tinkling on the glass echoing loudly in the near-empty diner.

“If I didn’t know any better, I’d say that all the Czech cloak-and-dagger mumbo jumbo was going to your head.” He joked. Immediately, he regretted it when he saw Maria’s face fall as she slumped down onto nearby bar stool.

Nice going Whitman, he reprimanded himself. Good way to get her mind off of everything so you could both enjoy a normal, Czech stress-free day

“Maria,” he started sorrowfully while mentally kicking himself. “I didn’t mean -”

She shook her head forcefully. “No, you’re right.” She glared over at a certain booth in the corner. “Knowing Mudboy over there has put me in a perpetually paranoid state of mind.” Still glowering, Maria whipped her order pad out from her silver apron and slammed it vehemently atop the counter in front of her. Alex winced at her brute force, but stayed silent, choosing to keep his perplexities about the moniker “Mudboy” to himself.

“Can we talk about something else please?” She complained, her eyes darting everywhere but towards the “Mudboy” in question. Suddenly, realization dawned upon Alex, and her abrupt worry for Liz made perfect sense.

Diversionary tactics. She was attempting the very same thing he had tried to do just now, to take his mind off of Isabel by forcing his thoughts elsewhere. Maria was trying to get her mind off of Michael, and in doing so, latched her attention onto Liz, and her earlier disappearance into the break room with Max.

Goners. Both of them, goners. So far Liz was the only one of them to tackle one of the Czechs head on.

“Sure,” Alex replied to her question. “I wanted to ask you something anyways.” Maria turned her head towards him, letting him know she was listening. “I was thinking that we need a Girl’s Night Out.” He paused, and then amended. “Or a Two Girls and A Guy Night out. Whatever.” Grinning when he saw the amused smirk break out across Maria’s face, he continued. “Just a night to relax, pig out, watch extremely cheesy teen flicks, and basically just be normal teenagers, you know?”

Maria smiled. “That actually sounds like the best idea I’ve heard all week.” Her smile dimmed however, as she looked across the diner. “Now if only Kyle would get his ass out of the toilet and pay, I could get off this shift and be able to help you plan.”

Alex wrinkled his nose. “Jeez, how long has he been in there?” He paused. “Scratch that. I’d probably be better off not knowing. Some things are better left unsaid.” Scrunching up his face even more, he groaned. “Oh, yuck! The visuals, eww, the visuals!”

Maria laughed outright and smacked his shoulder. “Alex! That’s gross!”

“Yeah well…” Isabel and Michael ambled out of their booth and made their way over, and Alex’s words died off right as Maria’s laughter did. Czech incoming, Alex thought wryly as Isabel walked right up to Maria and placed the bill on the counter, then began to dig through her purse. A tight silence settled over the small group as Maria picked up the check and made her way over to the nearby register, Isabel not far behind. Which left Alex and Michael by themselves at the bar.

Alex cleared his throat nervously after a minute. “So,” he started. Michael jumped slightly, his form inquiring silently as to why Alex was deeming to make small talk. “How’s it going?”

Michael merely shrugged. Typical, Alex thought, but then was surprised when Michael answered verbally as well.

“It’s going, I guess.” The spiky hair boy replied dully as the bell to the front door jingled. Four heads swiveled towards the door and all immediately stiffened when the tall, grim form of Sheriff Valenti filled their views.

The Sheriff’s eyes scanned the tiny diner, finally coming to rest upon Michael Guerin. Taking off his large, dark sunglasses, he made his way over to the bar stools. Alex wished briefly for a knife, so he could cut through all of this palpable tension hanging in the air, but his thoughts halted when he felt Isabel come up to stand beside him.

So not the time Whitman.

The Sheriff came to a stop once he reached them, keeping an ample amount of distance between them, but also remaining close enough to be intimidating. He smiled weakly, almost seeming to sense the tension himself. “Hello Miss Evans, Mr. Guerin, Mr. Whitman, Miss Deluca.” He nodded respectively to each of them. “Is Max around?”

Okay, if Alex’s heart wasn’t beating double time before, it most definitely was now. He sensed Isabel stiffen next to him, and he longed to take her hand, touch her arm, anything that could comfort her. He restrained himself however, reiterating inside his mind her need for space.

“Why?” Isabel queried in a seemingly casual manner, but Alex caught the steely undertones of apprehension that managed to waver through.

The Sheriff’s gaze jumped from Michael to Alex to Isabel and then back to Michael. “I thought he might be here, since he wasn’t at your home when I called.” He paused, taking in their reactions, his blue eyes widening slightly when he realized how that must have sounded. “I just have some information I thought he’d might want to know.”

Michael stepped belligerently forward. “I could pass it on to him.”

The Sheriff pressed his lips together, seeming to weigh his options. For some odd reason, the hairs on the back of Alex’s neck pricked up.

“All right,” the Sheriff began. “I suppose you, Mr. Guerin, would want to be informed of this as well.” When Michael nodded bemusedly, Valenti took a deep breath and dropped the bombshell.

“It appears that Mr. Everett Hubble is still out there somewhere.”

To Be Continued…


[ edited 2 time(s), last at 10-Nov-2002 10:50:24 PM ]
posted on 18-Jan-2003 6:44:42 PM by Kitcat26
Hey guys! Remember me? She who does not update? *cough* Yes, well I'm hoping to remedy that soon.

Just a quick little note letting you know that, no, I have not forgotten this one, and that a new part is coming. Soon, I promise.

Big thanks goes out to Islandgirl5, frenchkiss70 (*hugs for the bumps*), Scottie, and TeddyBehrJKT. *happy*

Christian~ As always, you crack me up. *happy*
quote:
And of course, you know I'm loving Kyle in this story. Not letting anything get past him. I can see him watching Max and Liz with one eyebrow raised, a smirk on his face, his arms crossed, his muscles-oops! Okay, so I got carried away.....But It seems most people pass Kyle off as a dumb jock, buy you, Cath are my hero.

Because in this story, he seems quite the little smarty. Asking all kinds of questions. About details, no less! Like the lighting? Way to go, Valenti! Let him know if he needs a date, or someone to dump all his alien-induced thoughts and theories on, that I'm available. All the time. Just give me a call, and I'll bring the chocolate.


Just a hint then, you're probably going to love the next part. *heehee* *assumes innocent expression*

And I agree, those sunglasses that Valenti had totally added to his character. Glad you guys are liking the Sheriff, or at least this version of him. *grin* As for the rest of your questions, I'm just going to ask you to be patient. All will come out soon.

Cath
posted on 22-Jan-2003 9:08:31 PM by Kitcat26


This part is dedicated to Christian and her healthy obsession with anything Kyle. *happy* And for all you out there (or the few. You know *wink*) giving me little nudges (nudge, push, whatever) of encouragement. Thank you! Note that this is just a transitional part and enjoy. *happy*

Oh, we're sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
All those places we've gone,
All of us are done for.

We live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world,
Oh, we're sinking like stones,
All that we fought for,
All those places we've gone,
All of us are done for.

We live in a beautiful world,
Yeah we do, yeah we do,
We live in a beautiful world
Oh, all that I know,
There's nothing here to run from,
And there, everybody here's got somebody to lean on.


Don’t Panic – Coldplay

- Part Four –

Holy Shit!

“Kyle!”

Holy shit … The thought came once more for perhaps the tenth time in the span of a mere minute. Holy shit. And again.

“Kyle, please wait!” Liz’s panicked voice cut through his mantra of curse words, and despite himself, despite everything he had just heard, he slowed his gait back down to something resembling a carefree stroll, rather than a quickened getaway. His hand clenched where it rested on the swinging door, and he gazed longingly out through the tiny glass pane above him into the bustle of the diner. Suddenly, he wished fervently that he had never left his seat to go to the bathroom. He could have waited until he had gotten back home for God’s sake! He sighed inaudibly, inherently knowing that when a Valenti had to go, he had to go. Still, he could have ignored the voices that came from the break room after he had finished his business. He could have brushed aside his curiosity and gone along his merry way back to his table. Back to where it was normal, sane.

But now?

“Kyle,” Liz repeated anxiously.

Normal wasn’t even a spec on the radar.

He sighed, loudly this time, yet didn’t tear his eyes away from the happily mundane scene in front of him. “Liz,” he answered back flatly, every part of him yearning to be somewhere else. Aliens. Either they really did exist, or Evans was trying to put him away permanently in a padded cell.

“How are …” She cleared her throat and started again. “Uhm, are you okay? I mean, I know it’s a lot to take in -”

Kyle’s head snapped over his shoulder and he pierced her with an incredulous look. “Okay? OKAY? Liz, are you kidding? I was just informed of some lunatic and completely mind-blowing story telling me that there really was a Crash in 1947! When, for my entire life, I have been told differently!” His azure eyes fluttered shut momentarily, and he unconsciously wished for them to open with the realization that this was some horrid, late night taco consumption-inducing nightmare. “Plus I see Max do something straight of a Steven Spielberg movie, and you expect me to be okay!?”

Liz bit her lip. “I’m sorry,” she acknowledged quietly. Kyle started. What was that about? “I know what you’re probably feeling right now.” He snorted and looked away. What could she possibly know about what he was feeling?

“I do,” She went on emphatically, almost as if she was aware of how his thoughts were progressing. “When Max first told me, I thought he was joking.” Her eyes lightened in memory and a tiny smile graced her features. “When I realized he wasn’t, I ran.” Liz’s eyebrow inclined pointedly. “Like you’re trying to do right now.”

Kyle shrugged feebly. “I just – I can’t help it. This is something out of a bad science fiction novel.”

She didn’t smile at his lame attempt at humor, and frankly, he didn’t blame her. Absolutely nothing about this moment was even remotely funny, yet that was what made the desire to burst out laughing all the more strong.

Liz’s face became gravely serious as she locked eyes with him. “Kyle you have to understand. You can’t tell anyone about this. Anyone. There are people who would try and hurt him because of it.”

A realization came like a blow to the head. “Oh my God.” His gaze became glued to the floor as his thoughts tumbled together. “My dad.” He breathed. Suddenly, everything, all the questions about Max, all the time spent in the office, the random UFO search data that had shown up on their computer history list at home made perfect and undeniable sense.

Liz’s grabbed his arm with such force that Kyle let out a strangled yelp. As his eyes met hers, he was immediately quieted by the fearful, frantic expression that danced there.

“Especially not your dad, Kyle! Please. You have to promise. No one. You cannot talk to anyone about this.”

His brow drew together as he questioned the powerful hold Max Evans had over Liz. And once again, it irritated him. “Why should I?” He asked flatly. “My dad’s the Sheriff! You’ve both been lying to him for the past few months. Besides,” Kyle lowered his voice and gestured towards the kitchen area where Max had been when he’d left. “How do you know that you’re protecting the good guys here Liz? How are you sure of anything!.” Her deep calm, the candid way in which she had informed him of aliens indeed walking among them bothered and unnerved him. In fact, MAX had been the one who had seemed more sickened by the idea, it HE was the one who Liz had been talking about!

He shuddered, trying to shake off the memory of what had transpired in the kitchen just mere moments ago. However, as was always the way, the thoughts bombarded his brain, pushing relentlessly through.

”Kyle,” Max had taken a deep breath during the brief lull that had occurred, but now all that air absconded out into the kitchen as Max sighed and began to speak. “I’m not from around here.”

Kyle rolled his eyes. “That’s real nice Evans, but I know what you’re trying to do, so quit stalling.” He was so sick of the half-answers and the creepy magic shit. It was time for the truth, and he was beyond ready for it.

However, his flippant reply to Max’s random admission did not get the response he thought. No, if he wasn’t mistaken, Max was sighing in helpless frustration and looking like he wanted to shoot Kyle and himself. In that order.

It was Liz who stepped once more in between them and the growing level of testosterone to spell it out for him. “Kyle, where Max is from has **everything** to do with what you saw.”

Kyle folded his arms and glared at Max expectantly. This had better be good. He bit back another sigh and decided to cooperate. For now. “So Max, where are you from.” He slowly enunciated each syllable as if he was speaking to a five year old. From the way Max seemed to gnash his teeth together, Kyle was betting that the other boy was not amused. The thought made him smirk.

Max glanced at Liz before closing his eyes again. Kyle felt a flicker of concern ripple through his chest. If he didn’t know any better, he’d say that the poor guy looked like he was about to throw up. Carefully, Kyle took a step back. If Evans got any puke on his varsity jacket, he would kill him.

Slowly, surely, Max held up one index finger. His eyes snapped open with a quiet resignation to met Kyle’s.

Kyle’s gaze traveled up towards the direction where Max was pointing. The ceiling? Why the hell was Max telling him that he was from the ceiling? Subsequently, Kyle chuckled. “Oh no, Max. We went over this.” He widened his eyes and said his next words slowly. “There are no light fixtures up there. Your little cover story is not going to cut it.” The smart alecky tone in Kyle’s voice died when he looked at Max’s face. A face that looked …scared for lack of better adjectives. Terrified. Before Kyle could ponder that, Max’s eyes darted towards Liz helplessly, and she sighed before taking over.

“Kyle? What Max is trying to say is that,” she paused, and Kyle internally groaned. For the love of pizza, nothing could be as bad as they were making it out to be! “Is that he’s an alien.”

Oh man. Kyle had been wrong. Dead wrong. There was no way in hell that he was ready for this.

Every cell in his body came to a screeching halt and a cold trickle of apprehensive slid down his spine. “Wha -” He felt his eyeballs curve into huge circles, so much that they felt like they were about to fall out of his head. “What?”

And so it had come out. In short, chopped sentences, Kyle was informed of incubation pods, unknown facts of origin, lies, truths, a shooting, a healing, a Crash …and of a world never to be looked at the same way again.

His response had been the one predictable thing about the whole experience. “Holy shit.”

Liz glanced at him anxiously, while Max continued to look like he was going to bolt at any minute. Kyle stared at both of them, hysteria rising in his throat. Languidly, he began to inch for the door, keeping his gaze locked on Max and his movements cautious least he provoke an attack. Oh God! An attack! Alien powers! Ahh!

For once in his life, Kyle was left without something to say in retort and not a thought in his head other than the one screaming for him to run. Fast.

Liz started forward, worry etched on her features. “Kyle.”

He shook his head vehemently. “No. No. I have to go. The entire world has just gone crazy, taking everyone with it, and apparently, I missed the memo. So go me. I mean I’ve gotta go.” And with that, he bolted for the exit, echoes of profanity resounding through his mind.


That is, until Liz had called out to him. And he’d stupidly stopped.

“How am I sure that I can trust him?” Liz’s voice brought Kyle forcefully back to the present.

Liz’s voice softened perceptively, lowering to an intimate whisper. “He saved my life Kyle. He’s saved me in all the ways that count, in ways that I’ve never even dreamed.”

Kyle felt his chest tighten painfully. “Like how he saved you from being with me?”

Liz’s face fell, and he immediately regretted what he’d said. “Kyle, you know that’s not what I meant.”

Kyle nodded, refusing to meet her gaze head on. She was right. He knew that she didn’t mean to hurt him. It wasn’t her way. But the thought didn’t make the whole matter hurt any less. Oh, sure, it wasn’t like he wanted to win her back or anything. He did still have some residual feelings for her, but that’s all they were now. Residual. The desire for what had been.

No, what really hurt was the fact that his first serious relationship was over. The first time he had actually felt like he could open up to a member of the opposite sex, the first time that he had been truly happy to see a girl at the end of the day for a reason other than that she filled out a sweater nicely, the first time he felt like he could truly care for someone – it was all gone. And the manner in which it had ended was a sharp blow to the ego. He hadn’t of been good enough for her, and that sucked.

All in all, it was the principle of the matter.

In fact, looking at her right now didn’t really do anything for him. She wasn’t the same girl he had gone out with over the summer. Now she was …brighter, for a lack of better description. Complete. Unrecognizable. Secretive. And all because of Max Evans.

Max Evans. An alien. Oh dear God. Kyle felt his breath hitch again and the panic surge deep in his gut. This is me, he thought dully. This is me trying really hard not to freak out.

“Kyle, the fact of the matter is that he risked everything to save my life.” Her eyes were suddenly shining with tears, and for some reason it made him feel guilty. Him! As if he’d done something horrible! “What kind of person would I be if I turned him in for it?”

He stared hard at her, her words causing the sensation of being kicked in the gut to apply. But ultimately, it was her unspoken words that were the real kicker.

What kind of person would he be if he revealed who, and what (the very thought made him momentarily pinch the bridge of his nose, making sure he wasn’t completely insane) Max Evans was to his father, the freaking Sheriff, the governed law? And moreover, what kind of person would he be if he didn’t?

A ripple of anger bubbled up in his stomach as he thought about his father. That is, if the man even deserved the title. All Kyle had heard at home since the shooting was alien this, UFO sighting that, and Max Evans this, Max Evans that. Quite frankly, he was sick of it. He was sick of the interrupted dinner conversations, the cryptic warnings, the absentmindedness. But most of all, he was sick and tired of being a low priority. To Jim Valenti, Kyle was nothing more than an on going reminder of how his long estranged wife had bailed. Lately, Kyle had been wondering if Jim would have rather of had his mother take custody of him all those years ago. And that hurt. It was as annoying as hell, but it also hurt.

So why should he let his father know what he’d been dying to discover about Max Evans? Why should he give his father yet another reason to blow him off?

Kyle shifted uncomfortably and his gaze darted all over the room, coming to rest on the kitchen area where Evans was still standing dejectedly. Unexpectedly, his heart lurched as he watched the other boy – the alien – run a shaky, sweaty palm over his face. Kyle was struck with how normal, how human Max looked.

Nothing was making any sense.

“I want, no. I need to trust you right now, Kyle,” Liz said fervently, following his gaze. “We both do.”

His cerulean eyes were burning with tumultuous emotions as he started forward, brushing past her. “I have to go,” He muttered quietly.

“Kyle!” Once again, the raw terror in her voice tore at him. What the hell does she want from me? I didn’t sign up for this!

“Look,” He snapped. “I won’t say anything about his and your precious secret.” Not yet anyway, he added silently, mystification and trepidation clouding his thoughts. “I got to go Liz. I can’t,” He sighed deeply, and rubbed at his temples. They were pounding with a frightening force, demanding his attention. “I can’t be here right now. I have to be alone, okay?” His words came out more harshly then he intended, but he couldn’t find in himself to care much about anything except getting out of there.

Liz nodded, her relief entirely palpable as her shoulders sagged. “Thank you.”

He didn’t acknowledge her thanks, not quite sure that he deserved it yet and caught up in the myriad of conflicting emotions and thoughts that were racing through him.

A random conception was shoved to the front of the jumbled mess inside his brain. Grandpa was right. All this time. He had been right.

Kyle sort of wished he could appreciate the irony.

* * * * * *

The familiar burning sensation in his muscled thighs engulfed his senses. His heart thudded rhythmically against his chest in a comfortingly steady rate as he arms pumped in sync with the pounding of both his heart and the sound of his feet slapping against the pavement. Somehow, running always made him feel less stressed, allowing his mind to blank blissfully out as he concentrated on nothing except beating his best time.

Kyle had run into his dad outside the Crashdown after leaving it. The situation had been so awkward, to him at least. His dad probably hadn’t even noticed that Kyle was not as calm as he normally was. Jim had seemed extremely pensive, oblivious to everything except his thoughts. Troubled almost Not that that was anything new. Kyle snorted mentally. Small talk had been made, and Kyle had then taken it upon himself to make up a sorry excuse about homework before jogging home. Once he had plopped down on the couch, however, he found that he was filled with restless energy and about five million questions – each more unapproachable than the last. Flipping through an endless array of cable channels had done nothing to relax him. Not eating, not thumbing through his ‘adult magazines,’ not even attempting to do his homework early for once had done it. Nothing.

That is, until he saw his running shoes strung haphazardly across his desk chair.

Kyle sighed as he rounded the corner onto the next block, not really focusing on the scenery in front of him. Not really focusing on anything except his movements, on maintaining his speed. And on keeping his thoughts completely neutral.

What if Max wasn’t as passive as he seemed? What if he was some horrible creature thing, like from those late night movies, the ones that had little green tentacles swarming out to suck –

Stop it! He rolled his eyes to himself. So much for letting his mind blank out.

Kyle concentrated on breathing in and out. In and out. Immediately, he felt better. In control. Sane.

I swear to God, if Evans comes at me with anything resembling a probe, I’m so outta here.

Groaning, Kyle stopped abruptly on the sidewalk and stared hard at the neighborhood around him, breathing heavily. This was insane! Aliens did NOT exist. He was going to wake up in a minute with one hell of a headache and a good laugh.

Right?

Wrong.

That was it. Kyle was just going to have to go home and tell his father everything. This entire thing was by far way too big for him to handle by himself.

But you promised Liz …, a small voice piped up, the words nagging at him.

Shut up! Kyle snapped at the tiny, irritating voice.

What were promises anyhow? His mother promised to love his father until death did them part. His father promised that he would always be there for him. The point was that some promises broke, for better or for worse. Sometimes breaking a promise was the right thing to do. But honestly, how was he supposed to know when it was the right thing? And moreover, how was he supposed to know?

I don’t want to think about this right now. Above all, that thought was the one that was the most prominent. Maybe ignoring the whole hullabaloo for a bit would help with perspective.

Or maybe it will just further your insanity, the annoying voice offered non-too helpfully.

Shut it you.

Kyle sighed, stretched his well-toned arms for a minute and took off again at full speed, running with all his might to escape the questions, to escape the uncertainties.

But most of all, to escape that damn pipsqueak that was currently residing inside his head.

He was so preoccupied with escaping, that as he cut across a lawn onto the next street over, he didn’t see where he was heading.

And knocked the wind out of an innocent pedestrian.

The sharp pain of bodies clashing together so forcefully sent a shocking gust of air right out of his lungs. Tripping blindly, Kyle managed to steady himself, and he winced, looking down to see what damage he caused to the other person.

He blinked. Unadulterated horror clenched his gut as he heart began to pound wildly.

He had just about taken the head off of a girl. A very pretty girl. Who was currently sprawled on the ground, muttering darkly about stupid humans or some other inanity. Kyle didn’t quite catch her irritated words, for some one else was berating him at the moment.

You unbelievable IDIOT! Apparently, his sprinting had done nothing to squash the nasty little voice.

Do something! He thought frantically, struggling to remember the last time he felt so completely disorientated and tongue tied.

“Oh my God! I’m so sorry!” He said anxiously, reaching out a hand to help her up. “Are you er – alright?”

The girl stared at his hand strangely, almost as if she were unaccustomed to such kindness. After a moment, she glanced up at him, a beautiful smirk on her face. Taking his hand firmly, she yanked herself up with all the grace of a tipped cow.

He had never been more captivated.

“Well, considering how you almost dislocated both my knee caps, I’d said I was as right as rain,” she quipped sarcastically. Her smirk was still in place as she arched a perfectly shaped blonde eyebrow at him, her blue eyes twinkling.

Kyle was momentarily taken aback before his own brow inclined in wry amusement. “Yeah, uh, sorry about that. I guess I wasn’t really watching where I was going.” It was then that he realized he was still holding her hand, her very soft hand. He quickly dropped it as if the skin had scorched him.

“Lot on your mind?” She smiled at him knowingly, her cerulean eyes clouding with sadness.

He started, wondering at her astuteness. “Yeah. Yeah, you could say that.”

She nodded. “I know the feeling.” The expression of loss in her clear eyes intrigued him. Unconsciously, he inched closer before remembering what he had been previously doing - running. Which meant that he more than likely smelled like a hot afternoon on a goat farm. Discreetly, he shifted back to where he had originally stood.

Kyle raised his head slightly and was startled when he collided with her impossibly blue gaze head on. And for the first time that day, he achieved what he had been trying desperately to do.

His mind went blissfully blank.

“Well, I have to go, my fa -” She stopped and a glum shadow slid over her features. “I need to get back.”

He frowned. “Did you just move here?” He didn’t remember seeing her at school (and he definitely would have remembered), and she looked to be about his age.

“More or less,” was her cryptic answer as she titled her head at him. “Well, it was nice meeting you. However unconventionally.” The smirk was back. His heart skipped a beat and he chuckled at her comment.

“Yeah, again, I’m so sorry about that.”

She shook her head. “Don’t mention it.” With a toss of her blonde strands and one last twinkle in her blue eyes, she brushed past him, her shoulder lightly brushing his.

Leaving Kyle to stare after her, kicking himself for not asking her name.

To be continued...
posted on 23-Jan-2003 8:39:58 PM by Kitcat26
Thanks for the feedback you two!

Just a quick note to clarify frenchkiss70's comment:

quote:
Are we going to go trough the destiny crap? Please no!!! I don't want Tess get her claws on Max, the idea makes me want to gag.


The feeling is mutual, believe me. But remember what I said in beginning of the story?

quote:
I know some of you are wondering, “Why go so far back into the show’s history?” Well let me put it this way. Maybe I can fix the whole “Destiny” mess before it starts. You with me? Fabulous. Let’s go. *grin*


I'll leave now, before I give everything away. ;)

Hugs,
Cath

posted on 16-Feb-2003 9:57:08 PM by Kitcat26
Bump. *happy*

Update in a few...

Cath
posted on 16-Feb-2003 10:03:16 PM by Kitcat26
- Part Five –

Alex Whitman dug his fingers vehemently into his scalp, trying to banish away the acute pricks of pain that had been stabbing his head all afternoon, ever since hearing the Sheriff’s cryptic words.

It appears that Mr. Everett Hubble is still out there.”

An hour ago, those words would have meant nothing to him. They wouldn’t have inspired a panic attack, and there would be no reason for the tiny invisible hammer that seemed to take pleasure in attacking his brain. In fact, an hour ago he would have still been happily engaged in a state of ignorant mystification.

But now?

The quarry was eerily silent with the only sound that of the mounting anxiety ringing in their ears. Isabel was standing slightly askew from the rest of them, her brown eyes staring determinedly at the vast expanse of dusty sand before her. Her face wasn’t as pale as it had been when the Sheriff dropped the bomb on them, but her complexion still lacked its usual luster. Alex swallowed hard while looking at her, remembering how terrified she seemed earlier, and how she wasn’t getting any calmer. None of them were.

In fact, judging by the fierce way that Maria was pacing behind him, Alex was willing to bet that she was building up a dangerous steam of anger that was bound to let loose soon.

God help Michael, Alex thought with a flicker of amusement as he watched the other boy glance at Maria warily.

They had all decided to meet up here after Liz and Maria finished up their shift, much to Michael’s dismay. The surly, spiked haired boy had gone straight into the backroom to Max after the Sheriff had flipped back on his sunglasses and left, with Maria on his heels demanding hotly to know exactly whom Hubble was and informing him tersely that the backroom was for employees only. Max had emerged from the break room looking ashen, with Liz biting her lip behind him.

“We need to have a meeting,” he had said flatly before starting for the door.

Michael had stared after his retreating back, looking utterly bewildered. “Max? Max! Didn’t you hear what I just said?” Glancing uncomfortably around the room, Michael had inched closer and whispered, “About Hubble?”

Max had paused and turned around briefly. “Yeah. Which is why I need to go get something.” His gaze had shifted from Michael towards Liz, who had been trying her best to look anywhere but Max. “After Liz and Maria finish up their shift, meet at the quarry.”

Michael had stalked out soon after Max, mumbling something about being sick of sitting around doing nothing, leaving a hot, bothered Maria, a solemn, quiet Liz, and a bemused Alex behind. Isabel had tersely filled them in on why Hubble reappearance in their lives was such a seemingly impossibility, her body language oozing with taut worry, coaxing the rest of them into a state of frenzied apprehension. And now here they were. Trying their best not to jump to conclusions on why Max and Liz were late or how Hubble could possibly be alive.

The silence was getting too much for Alex. He needed to do something before he went insane. Previous occasions had given him the strong conviction that it was best to wait for Maria to fizzle out when she was in such a state, so he started cautiously towards Isabel, his heart aching for her troubled expression and the tightness in her stance.

“I’m sure they’re both fine, Isabel,” he reassured her gently, the sound of his shoes crunching gravel filling his senses.

She turned towards him, her wide eyes sad. “You don’t know that.”

Ignoring the sting of her words, he quirked a grin at her. “Sure I do. I’m psychic, remember?”

She looked at him dubiously, but Alex thought he could detect a hint of a smile on her lips. Score one for Cool Cucumber!. “Oh really?”

He nodded seriously, trying hard not to grin like a dork. “Yep.” He turned his sights towards Michael and Maria, who were dancing stiffly around each other. “For example, I can accurately predict that in, oh say, about five seconds, Maria will lay in on Michael and let him have it.”

Isabel snorted lightly, the act sounding charmingly inelegant on her, yet she continued to watch the scene with him in earnest, all her worries and anxieties laid to rest for a few blissful moments of entertainment.

The two did not disappoint. After watching Maria discreetly out of his eye for the past ten minutes, Michael seemed to have finally reached his breaking point. “For God’s sakes, would you stop pacing all over the place? You’re giving me a headache just looking at you.”

Maria stopped mid-stride and whirled around slowly, green fire glittering in her narrowed eyes. “Excuse me for caring about someone, something you obviously don’t know anything about!”

Michael rolled his eyes, yet said nothing, which seemed to only fuel Maria on further. “Yeah, what’s that about? That eye roll thing. Get some eye drops or something.” Huffing loudly, she stepped right up close to throw back his words in his face. “It gives me a headache just looking at you do that.”

“Then don’t look at me.”

Alex had to hide a smile at the way Maria swelled like a bullfrog. Daring a look at Isabel, he relaxed when he saw that she was regarding the little spat before them with a touch of levity. “So, uh, did I call that one or what?”

The tiny smile grew along her mouth. “I guess you did. But really, anyone knowing Michael and Maria would know that they can’t be in the same vicinity together without either making out or blowing up.”

“True.” Alex’s next words were cut off by the sound of Maria’s voice cracking. Immediately, he started towards her with concern.

“I’m scared okay? I mean, Liz is late, and first of all, she’s like never late. And second of all, I don’t really know if she knows what the deal is with Hubble. She was spacing when Isabel told Alex and me earlier, and she never spaces, so I don’t even know if - ”

“She knows.” Michael cut her off, a flicker of emotion shining quickly through his eyes. “Believe me, she knows.”

Alex stopped in his tracks, not sure if he liked the way Michael said that. “Whoa, whoa. Wait a minute. What do you mean by that?”

Michael shrugged. “You saw how she dragged Maxwell back into the break room. What did you think she was so mad about? That he left a bad tip?”

Swift comprehension dawned on Alex. “Ohhh.”

Maria snorted indignantly yet looked more relieved. “Well it’s about time she tore Max a new one for keeping her out of the loop.” She glared pointedly at Michael, who regarded her statement with annoyance.

“Look, we shouldn’t have to worry about reporting back to you twenty/four seven. This is OUR problem, all right? Not yours.”

Alex groaned silently at Michael’s statement. It’s times like these that you have to wonder if Michael actually enjoys getting yelled at. A ripple of disbelief circled through him as he shot a glance at Isabel, who was pursing her lips. Was that really how they felt? That he, Maria and Liz were just …butting in on their alien business?

Maria sputtered, clearly too appalled to speak right away. Her eyes were dangerous slits as she spat out her next words. “This is unbelievable. Do you know how many times I have helped save your ass? Or is that suddenly all forgotten now?” Alex winced as he detected a waver of hurt in her tone. “Allow me to remind you then.” Maria’s voice raised an octave, and she shoved her hand in Michael’s face as she began to count off on her fingers. “How about the time when I helped get the Sheriff off your trail at the Festival? About the time I kept my mouth shut even when I half felt like I should have turned you all in! How about the time you stole my freaking car and dragged me up and down 285 South?” At this, Alex shot Isabel a confused look, and in reply she rolled her eyes and shook her head. Since when did Michael steal Maria’s car? He wondered briefly, before tuning back into Maria’s rant.

“Or when I helped save your life during the freaky sweat thing? Or how about the time Liz and I distracted the authorities while you went traipsing into the woods - for something, by the way, that I still have no idea was about! Huh? Any of those ring a bell?”

Michael winced, almost as if her words were sending a guilty spear into his side.

Maria’s voice lowered to a mere whisper; anguish beginning to line her countenance. “God, you think you can just pick me up and then drop me whenever it’s convenient for you? Well let me tell you something Mudboy, I’m not going anywhere fast.” Michael’s head jerked up in surprise, his brow knitted together with some unnamable emotion. Maria locked eyes with him, and suddenly, Alex felt as if he was trespassing on a private moment. Shifting uneasily, he shared an awkward look with Isabel, both trying to discreetly move away from the heated argument.

Michael seemed to be at a loss for words as he opened and shut his mouth a few times. And despite his discomfort, Alex noticed that Maria was quickly loosing it.

Still talking in that unnaturally quiet tone, Maria inched backwards, her shoulders sagging with resignation. “Maybe if you took three seconds to cut the wounded loner act, you’d see that you’re not as alone as you like to think. Like it or not, we are in this together. I didn’t ask to become apart of this secret club, but damn it, I’m here. So deal with it!”

The quarry lapsed back into its prior silence, leaving Michael to gape after Maria, who stared right back.

The stillness was broken by the roaring sound of the Jeep. Beside Alex, Isabel’s shoulders sagged with relief. “Thank God,” she whispered.

Alex was about to agree when he noticed that, even though she was sitting in the front next to him, Liz was inched as close to the door as possible – and as far away from Max Evans as she could get.

He blinked. Something about Liz not wanting to be near Max just didn’t sound right, even in his head.

Max hopped out of the car, pocketing his keys and heading towards them. He eyed Michael before stopping next to his sister, and it was then that Alex realized that Max had a pale blue folder tucked under his arm.

Michael cleared his throat, almost as if he were trying to get together his bearings. “What’s in the folder Maxwell?”

Max shifted the folder into plainer view, and darted an uneasy glance towards Liz. She seemed to communicate whatever he needed through the expression in her dark eyes, so Max snapped into focus. “Right. Um, before we get into that, I think that I should tell you guys some - ”

Michael sighed loudly. “It’s amazing what lengths you will go to to ignore what’s happening.” When everyone continued to stare blankly at him, Michael burst out, “Hubble! Jesus, are we going to do nothing about this? Are we just going to ignore it, hoping that it will leave us alone so we can go back to our lives? Max! What are we going to do?”

Max’s stance slumped with a quiet acquiescence. “All right. All right. But I do have some …news after that.” Sighing, he opened the folder and gave it to Isabel to pass around. Alex leaned over her shoulder to read, trying to ignore the way her fragrant shampoo was drifting up towards his nostrils.

Isabel perused the contents a minute before shooting a perplexed look at her brother. “The Silo murder? Max, what …?”

“It has everything to do with Hubble. Read on,” Max said grimly.

At that cryptic statement, everyone else present gathered around in a tight circle to read, past grudges and scruples momentarily forgotten. That is, everyone gathered around except Liz and Max, who must have already gone over the new information together and whose problems weren’t quite yet forgotten.

Michael’s eyes rounded slightly upon reading a few lines. “Maxwell, where’d you find this stuff?”

Max shrugged. “I told you working at the UFO Center might have perks. The database Milton’s acquired is outstanding. A little sad that he had nothing better to do, but still, outstanding.”

“His wife was a silverhandprint victim too?” Maria wondered aloud while flipping a page.

Max grimaced. “Yeah. And Hubble thought I was the one who was responsible for that. Hence him trying to enact revenge.”

Alex scratched his chin thoughtfully. Something didn’t quite fit yet. “But what does that have to do with Hubble’s, well, non-dead status?” Non-dead status? Brilliant, Whitman, brilliant.

Max nodded. “Milton told me that Hubble was rumored to have what he called ‘direct contact’ with who I’m assuming to be Nacedo. He said that of all the UFO nuts out there, Hubble was the closest. Which got me to thinking, what if he was closer than anyone thought?”

Alex looked at him with eyes blank like marbles. Across from him, Maria had a similar expression etched on her features as she spoke. “Uh, care to translate Mr. Spock?”

Liz piped up for the first time. “What Max means is, what if Hubble was the Fourth Alien?”

The reaction was instantaneous. Isabel stiffened, Maria gasped, and Michael started with excitement until …

“You mean to say that the one you’ve been looking for tried to kill Max, one of his own?” Alex’s brow knitted together with incredulity.

“That’s insane,” Isabel breathed.

“No, actually it’s not,” Max answered. “How else could Hubble have survived Valenti’s bullet?”

“You think he healed himself?” Maria asked.

Liz nodded. “It’s entirely possible. I mean, Valenti said he had only turned around for a minute for backup before noticing that Hubble had disappeared, right?”

Michael snorted. “That’s what he said.”

Alex arched an eyebrow. “You don’t think he’s telling the truth?”

Michael pondered that for a moment. “I’m not sure of anything anymore.” He paused, letting that sink in for everyone before adding grittily, “So what are we going to do about this Max? Sit around and twiddle our thumbs?”

Max sighed. “We’re not going to go looking for the man, or alien, that tried to kill me, no.” Swallowing hard, Alex didn’t miss the fearful glance that Max shot towards Liz. “There’s no telling what, or who he’d go after to try and get to me.”

Isabel inhaled deeply, her breath shaking slightly with ill repressed fear. “So what do we do, Max?”

“Iz, you, Michael, and I’ll go back to the spot of the Silo murder, see if we can get a flash or find some clues as to who exactly this guy is,” Max rejoined, wiping his hands over his face wearily. “Then we’ll - ”

Liz made a sound of disbelief in her throat and stalked up towards Max. Round Two anyone? Alex thought tiredly, wondering what else could go wrong today.

“Excuse me?” Liz bit out. “Why are you only addressing Isabel and Michael? God, Max, don’t do this!”

Max seemed just as riled up. “Do what? Try and keep you safe?!”

Liz’s eyes glittered with a dark fire, lashing out simultaneously with her words. “I’m not some weak china doll, Max. I won’t break!” Before Max could retort, and by the way his mouth opened furiously, Alex could tell that he was just about to do so, Liz continued, her voice rising in anger. “Max! How many times to we have to have this fight? Stop shutting everyone else out! You can’t always take the entire world onto your shoulders, okay? You made me apart of this, and - ”

“That’s just it though, Liz!” Max cried out, his voice strangled as he stared into her eyes, a mixture of longing and regret swimming in his eyes. “I don’t want you a part of this!”

A hush settled over the group, and suddenly Alex was wishing for the yelling to continue. Anything was better than this horrible quiet, anything was better than watching his best friend recoil back as if she had been slapped, her dark eyes filling to the brim with pain.

And also quite suddenly, Alex began to size up Max, wondering whether or not, alien powers or no alien powers, he’d be able to take Evans and pummel him into a green pulp.

“Liz,” Max’s voice was soft now, apologetic. Alex’s gaze snapped up to take in Max’s expression. The other boy’s eyes were aghast and horrified, desperately trying to seek out Liz’s. The urge to feed Max a knuckle sandwich started to fade, especially when Max continued to speak in that sorrowful tone. “Liz, I didn’t mean it like that …”

Liz shook her head, biting her lip hard. Alex winced for her, as she seemed numb.

“I have to go,” she mumbled quietly, not meeting anyone’s gaze. Alex started towards her, but Max beat him to it. Or rather, he would have beat him to it had Maria not stepped in and blocked the both of them.

“Liz, don’t,” Max started.

Slowly, excruciatingly slowly, Liz raised her head to look at Max. The moment stretched out as she continued to stare at him sadly. “I won’t trespass where I’m not welcome,” she whispered before turning away.

Max bore a hole into her back, his forehead creased. Seeming to snap to his senses, he started forward. “Liz!” He spoke her name with such an aching longing that it sent a shiver down Alex’s spine.

Maria stepped artfully in front of Max, barring his way. Her eyes were narrowed with furious precision, and the anger coming off of her in waves made everyone stand back. “Uh uh. Max, you stay right there. I’m taking Liz home.”

Max shook his head in denial, his eyes still haunted. “No, no I can’t let her leave like - ”

“Like what? Like you just tore out her heart and stomped on it?” Maria growled with frustration.

Max still put up a fight. “But - ”

Maria shook her head fiercely. “NO. What Liz needs right now is a dish of ice cream and girl-time, NOT more of this. Okay?”

Max stepped back, his shoulders slumping. Before Maria was out of earshot, he called out to her suddenly. “Be safe, okay? Lay low, trust no one, and stay close.” His words were quiet, anxious. Maria softened and nodded before slamming into her Jetta next to Liz and driving away. A swirl of dust trailed after the car, and Alex waited until it dissipated into the air before turning back towards the three Czechs. Ignoring the small, whiny voice in his head that squeaked that he should have gone with his best friends, he squared his shoulders, determined to stay. Liz and Maria would want to know what happened, despite their anger. He was sure of it.

The four of them stared at each other helplessly, each drowning in their personal pit of despair. Alex looked from Isabel to Max, from Max to Isabel, until finally he couldn’t stand it anymore. By God, they all needed to laugh damn it! Or something. Vaguely, he wondered if the three in front of him had ever really laughed. And that was a sad thing indeed. So he cleared his throat and said the first thing that popped into his head.

“So, uh, Michael? You really stole Maria’s car?”

Silently, he groaned. What the hell Whitman! You were going for **funny.** Not lame.

Isabel let out a strangled cry. “God, Max! I can’t take this anymore! We’re all on a different page here, and it’s tearing us apart!”

Alex smiled weakly, choosing to ignore how true that statement really was. “Actually, I don’t think I’m even in the right book,” he quipped.

Isabel gave a choked, short laugh that sounded anything but humorous. “You see? Everything is crazy right now because of this. No more half-truths! Either we let them in or we don’t, Max. Frankly, I’m sick and tired of all the dancing back and forth you and Michael are doing. It’s driving me insane! Are we letting them in or not?”

Alex stared at her, barely aware of the fact that his mouth was hanging slightly open. Something was beginning to click in his mind as to why Isabel was running hot and cold lately …

Max shifted uncomfortably and Michael shrugged, both seeming at a loss. Isabel’s nostrils flared as her hand flew to her hip. “NO! Don’t even pull that wishy washy stuff here. Right now, the both of you! Do you want them in your life or not?” She softened somewhat, her voice returning to its usual decibel. “We can’t have it both ways. It doesn’t work.”

Alex bit back the urge to ask if she knew that from experience. Instead, he contented himself with holding his breath for what Max and Michael would say, because by God, if he was wasting his time here, he wanted to know. Suddenly, a thought occurred to him.

“Would you go back?” At the bewildered look on their faces, Alex clarified. “If you could, would you go back to things the way they were? Before Liz was shot? Before anyone knew about you?” His blue eyes darkened, daring them to answer such a sensitive query.

A brief lull ensued, before Isabel looked at him. “I wouldn’t,” she confessed.

Alex’s eyes rounded. The question had been intended for Max and Michael, but the fact that she answered, so confidently, so sure …it made his head spin. So much in fact, that he nearly missed Michael’s and Max’s quiet yet certain convictions that they wouldn’t go back either. Not for the world - this one nor the one still unknown to them.

It was only the sound of Max beginning to talk that brought Alex out of the clouds and away from Isabel’s compelling blue gaze.

“Um, on that note,” Max was saying dismally, looking for all the world like he was about to be sick. “I have something to tell you guys.”

Michael snorted. “That doesn’t sound good.”

Max sighed deeply, causing Isabel to glance at him with alarm. “It’s not.” Max paused, and for the second time that day, the hairs on the back of Alex’s neck sprang to attention. “There’s no other way to say this other than to just say it.” Golden brown eyes meet each and every person present. “While I was talking to Liz, she cut herself. Pretty bad. I healed her, and …someone saw.”

“What?” Isabel exclaimed. Michael’s face was darkening dangerously.

Max scuffed his feet on the desert floor, looking every bit the part of a guilty child. “It was Kyle.”

“Please tell me that this is your idea of a sick joke,” Isabel pleaded, glaring at her brother.

Max stared helplessly back. “I wish it was, but - ”

“God, Max! What is wrong with you? Didn’t you learn your lesson the first time? How is it that the rules are just too good for you, huh?” Michael demanded hotly, clenching and unclenching his fists furiously.

Max started as if he was going to retort, but then his eyes fell, silently acknowledging that he was in the wrong. “I only told him about me, not you or Isabel.”

“Well that was thoughtful of you,” Michael spat out. “Don’t you think that Valenti’ll be able to figure it out? He’s not the dumbass he appears to be!” His eyes rounded with realization. “Jesus, Maxwell! The Sheriff’s son! You told the Sheriff’s freaking son? What the hell is wrong with you?”

“Michael, I really don’t think that that is helping,” Alex said quietly, his eyes on Max’ stricken form, his heart constricting with the news. Michael responded with a scowl in his direction, which Alex shook off.

Isabel ran her fingers wildly through her long, blonde mane. “How’d he take it? I mean, is he going to tell anyone?” Her unspoken question hung like the humidity around them. Would he tell his father and ruin everything?

Max swallowed painfully. “I don’t know. Liz did most of the talking, and well …”

Alex couldn’t take it. The skittish, petrified gleam in Isabel’s eye was tearing up inside his chest, and her shrill voice grating on his mind. The words were out of his mouth before he could think.

“I’ll talk to him.”

Isabel’s hands stopped mid-swipe through her hair. “What?”

Alex shrugged. “Hey, I only just found out about this wonderful alien life not too long ago. Maybe I can help him with some perspective.” He paused, taking in Michael’s dubious expression. “Kyle’s not all bad.” Or so I hope, he added quietly to himself. For everyone’s sake.

“Alex, you don’t have to - ” Max started until Alex cut him off.

“I know. Didn’t you hear anything Liz said to you?” He stopped as Max flinched and moved onto a less sensitive reason. “I don’t mind. Honestly. I want to.”

Max smiled ruefully at him. “You didn’t let me finish. You don’t have to, but thank you. For wanting to do it.” The two boys shared an understanding before Alex broke the moment.

“So uh, I guess I’d better head over there. Time is money, as they say.”

Michael grunted. “Are we going over to Bitter Lake tonight?”

Max hesitated, and Isabel stepped up. “It’s Pizza Night with Mom and Dad, Max. We can’t.”

Michael snorted, muttering ‘typical’ under his breath. “I’ll go then.”

Max quickly put his foot down. “No. Michael, it’s not safe.” After a pause, he quickly appeased his friend. “We’ll go tomorrow night.” Glancing pointedly at Alex, he added, “All of us.”

Alex nodded, receiving Max’s message. “I’ll tell them.”

“Come on,” Isabel said to him with a look of unabashed gratitude and …was that awe he saw reflected in her gaze? Alex swallowed hard. She jerked her head towards the Jeep. “We’ll give you a ride.”

The three trudged towards the jeep, and Alex was willing to bet that all of their thoughts were centered in the same place. Honestly, how could things get any worse?

An unsettling chill settled along Alex’s spine despite the hot sun, and suddenly he was afraid to discover the answer to that particular question.

It was later that he remembered the unspoken rule of thumb when it came to fate.

Whenever you thought you had hit rock bottom, someone always threw down a shovel in the cruelest, most bizarre way.

To be continued…