posted on 16-Sep-2001 9:25:12 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

In case you're missing a part, I've got this one up to date on the repost board. The link is here [link=viewthread?forum=repost-fan-fiction&id=467]

Hey guys. I'm not sure if all of you read part 24 or not. It was posted up on the other board while this one was down. So, if not, then you have two new parts to read. I'm working on the next part to Learning to Live, for those of you who asked. It's a tricky part and it's giving me trouble. And this one is really important, so I'm trying to get it right. So, maybe tomorrow night or Wednesday unless I have a brilliant stroke of genius today. So, here you are. Enjoy

Finding Yourself
Part 24

Kyle arrived at the park early the next afternoon, anxious about the day’s events. Would he really get the chance to be a little league coach? He’d been applying for job after job with no luck so far. To think he could get one that he would actually enjoy would be a dream.

So, as he parked his car and jogged through the park, he scanned it for Liz. When he finally spotted her dark hair, he stopped a minute and watched her with a smile. The kids were already there, practicing in their crisp uniforms. Liz was all over the field, snapping an endless stream of candid shots. Occasionally, she would stop to talk to one of the children and they would throw their arms around each other to pose for the camera. Kids were just natural hams, he supposed. And some of them never did quite grow out of it.

Unable to resist, he closed the distance between them, jumping in front of her camera.

“My left side is really my best side.”

Liz couldn’t help but grin when his face filled her viewfinder.

“People like you don’t have bad sides.” On impulse, she took a few shots, then lowered her camera. “C’mon, I’ll introduce you.”

Kyle found himself being dragged to the dugout where an energetic looking older man was speaking with several parents. He broke away, smiling when he saw them coming.

“Liz! Have you come to take my picture? I tried to look especially spiffy today when the parents told me what they’d done.”

Liz grinned at him, reminded of her own grandfather. “I’ll make sure I squeeze you into a few shots. But I wanted to introduce you to someone. Coach Jackson, Kyle Valenti. He just transferred last week.”

“Did you bring me a job applicant?” But he was studying Kyle, sizing him up as he spoke.

“It’s nice to meet you.” Kyle held out his hand and was met with a firm handshake.

“Likewise. Tell me about yourself, Valenti.” The boy had a firm grip and the build of a fine athlete. He would do quite well.

“Captain of the Varsity squad, All Stars, we were first in our division last year.”

Liz listened with a grin as they discussed batting averages. She could tell Coach Jackson liked Kyle.

“I’ll tell you what, Valenti. This game today is against our county rival, the Tigers. You help me win today and you’ve got yourself a job.”

“Strange, but fair.”

Liz watched as the two men shook hands and headed for the dugout, already discussing strategy. She shook her head at the pair and reloaded her camera as the children took their places on the field.

Three hours and two dozen rolls of film later, the Flat Creek Tornados had defended their school’s price and Kyle Valenti had himself a new job.

Liz had hung back after the game, speaking with some of the parents who had hired her. She’d given them the information they requested on how and when to expect their pictures back. But really, she was watching Kyle and Coach Jackson. Finally, when the parents had claimed their children and cleared out, the Coach called Liz over.

“Liz, I owe you for bringing Valenti here to my attention.”

“So, he has the job?”

“Not only the baseball team, but I’m using him for every other team sport we have!” He clapped Kyle on the back. “I’ll see you tomorrow.” He tipped his baseball cap at Liz. “I expect pictures.”

“You’ll have them.”

Kyle managed to hold his enthusiasm at bay until the Coach had left them alone. And then it took him only a heartbeat to pull Liz into a bear hug, swinging her in tight circles.

“Thank you, thank you, thank you.” He set her down. “I owe you big time.”

Liz made a show of smoothing down her hair and skirt. “Wow, I have two men at my disposal now. You’d better be careful. I collect on my debts.”

He grinned at her. “Today was the best day ever. “C’mon, celebrate with me. Let me buy you an ice cream cone. It’s the least I can do.”

“I demand two scoops and sprinkles on top,” she declared seriously.

“A reasonable demand. I accept your terms. Now tell me where we’re going.”

She scooped her bag off the ground and linked arms with Kyle. “We can walk from here and you can tell me all about your new job.”

They walked the short distance to the ice cream parlor while Kyle told her about the plays and strategies they’d talked about.

Kyle bought them both a cone and they leisurely strolled back to the park, window shopping as they went.

“So, he says they’ll pay me a flat fee to sort of assist on all of the teams! I still can’t believe it. They’re even going to work with my schedule when I start playing football.”

“I’m glad it worked out for you, Kyle.” And she was. It was a good feeling, knowing she had been able to help him out. They still had a few things to sort out before they could become true friends again, but the ball was rolling at least.

“Okay, okay. I know I’ve been boring you senseless with sports talk. You pick a topic.”

“Did your father call you last night?” She had been a bit worried by the Sheriff’s lack of attention. Was there trouble with him leaving Roswell?

Kyle nodded, taking a lick at his ice cream cone. “Yeah. I’d told him I wanted to be by myself this year. He was still feeling guilty because I was alone, but I explained that I wasn’t alone.”

Liz froze. “You told him we spent the afternoon together?”

“Liz, he knows you’re here. He’s the only one though. You didn’t really think he’d let you just leave town without a trace, did you?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t think about it.” She eyed her ice cream thoughtfully. “Is that how you found me?”

“Dad? Yeah. But I asked, told him I knew he was checking up on you. He wanted me to tell you that he gave his word he wouldn’t tell anyone where you were, not Max or Maria, or your parents.” He saw the relief on her face and knew she trusted his father. It felt good to know she believed in his word. They were after all the two most important people in his life these days.

“So, tell me all about your secret life as a photographer.”

Liz began walking beside him again, accepting that he was trying to change the subject. She would have to think about this more a bit later. “My grandmother’s influence. When I was growing up, I used to travel with her on my summers. I went on a few digs with her and even more reservations. She used to do all the photography work on her books, and she taught me how to take pictures.” She was sad for a second, missing the woman who had shown her so much.

Kyle nodded, remembering Claudia Parker. The Parkers were as an established a family as they came in Roswell, and everybody had known and loved the free spirited Claudia. Everyone except for her own daughter. Kyle chuckled at the memory of Nancy and Claudia in another fight, over Claudia’s sometimes outrageous behavior.

“Hey, remember the time she came into town to take you to that huge rock concert in Albuquerque? You were like fifteen.”

Liz smiled at the memory. “Oh my god. I’d forgotten about that. Grandma decided that we had to dye our hair to fit in, but she bought the wrong kind and it wouldn’t wash out.” She laughed at the memory of her mother’s face when they had come home with identical purple hair colors.

“I almost died when you showed up at school like that.”

“Well, Mom had trouble getting a hair appointment to dye it back. And I had a huge History test I refused to miss. She was great. She always made me see things in a new way, made me live life.”

Kyle didn’t have to ask to know she was talking about Claudia now. They might have only dated for a few short, disastrous months, but he’d known her his whole life.

Absently, he tugged on a stray lock of her hair. “Well, I’d say she’d be proud of you starting over.”

Liz’s smile widened, knowing Kyle was right. “She would come into town and she and Alex would sit up late, playing cards. She taught us all one summer, but Alex was the only one that was any good. Maria, Grandma and I would stay up late eating ice cream and giggling over boys. But she and Alex could play cards all day.” Liz paused a minute, deciding she could trust Kyle. “That’s how I see them now, playing cards all day, talking about us and how if they were here things wouldn’t be as big a mess as they are now.”

“It’s a good image. Do you think they would let my mother sit in on a few hands? She used to play a mean game of bridge.”

The image of Alex playing bridge make her giggle, and it felt good.

“I think they get together all the time.”

They studied each other over ice cream cones before Liz linked arms with Kyle. “C’mon, I’ll let you give me a ride home.”

“Say, Mel isn’t seeing anyone, is she? Which is purely a random question, not at all related to any interest I may or may not have in her.”

Liz laughed at him. “Oh, no. Don’t even think about it. She’s not your type.”

Kyle let Liz lead him down the street, but he had the feeling that Liz was dead wrong about that one. He would just have to bide his time with her leggy friend. They all fell prey to his charm sooner or later.




Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 25

“Okay, well what do you think about this arrangement?”

Liz and Mel stood over a table with a few other students as they sifted through an assortment of pictures. Mel was clutching Liz’s arm behind the others and Liz knew she hated the suggestion as much as she did.

“Um, well, yeah, Janie. We could set up the yearbook without any names this year and I definitely think it would save space, but I think some of the parents would have a problem with that. Mel, didn’t you have something? Anything?” She murmured the last part and Mel snickered at her. The head of the yearbook staff had been out since Friday with the flu and she had asked Liz to take over the meetings while she was gone.

“Actually, I did have a few new ideas for those extra pages we’re trying to fill.”

Liz watched gratefully as Mel’s smooth southern accent captivated the room. Not for the first time, she wondered where Mel was actually from, but she couldn’t ask. It was one of their unspoken rules. If you wanted everyone to know something about yourself, you would tell them. And if she started asking questions about Mel’s background, she would have to answer a few herself. Thankfully, Mel seemed to know that she didn’t feel like leading the others, and had been trying to step in and help. Leadership just wasn’t her thing. She’d already tasted that once and it had been enough.

Mel guided the others through the half finished presentation she really hadn’t been prepared to give yet. But Liz seemed a bit frazzled today. Her friend had all the makings of a good leader as far as she could tell, but didn’t seem to want the responsibility of it. So here she was stuttering her way through an explanation of an idea she hadn’t even finished developing yet.

The door opened behind Liz and Mel watched with amusement as Kyle Valenti strolled through the door. He was always good for shaking things up a bit. But as Mel looked closer, she noticed that his step didn’t have it’s usual swagger.

“Kyle, what’s up?” Liz’s brow creased at his sudden appearance as well.

“Listen, I’m not going to be able to make it after school today. Can we get together sometime later this week?”

“Sure. Is everything okay, Kyle?”

“Yeah, sure.”

But Mel could see the waves of frustration rolling off him from across the room. What could cause Liz’s smooth talking new friend to lose his cool? She didn’t want to be interested, didn’t want to care, but she found that she did. Swearing at herself, she knew she had been spending too much time around Liz. She was usually much more guarded than this. She was far better off without a man in her life, much less a slick operator like Valenti.

Kyle clapped a hand on Liz’s shoulder. He hadn’t meant for his mood to carry over, especially not around Liz. “Really, I’m fine. I’ll see you in class later, okay?”

“Actually, can you meet me for lunch? Mel and I usually eat outside on the picnic tables.”

Kyle nodded, his eyes darting around the room, finally resting on Mel.

“Hey, beautiful. See you at lunch?” He winked at her, but he didn’t feel any real amusement from the gesture. Before Liz had a chance to cross examine him further, he was out the door.

Mel excused herself from the group and went over to where Liz stood watching the door in confusion.

“So, I guess whatever you two were fighting about is finished?”

Liz thought about the weekend and how far they had come in that short length of time. There was still a bit left to work through, but she trusted him. And that was a huge step. “Yeah, you could say that. Did he seem odd to you?”

“Isn’t he always odd?”

Liz sighed. “Nevermind.”

But despite herself, Mel found her thoughts drifting back to Kyle occasionally. What had put that look in his eye? It was almost defeat, and that confused her. Guys like him were invincible.

Mel kicked herself mentally as she dumped her things in her locker. She didn’t care about Kyle Valenti. She’d only known him for a few days. Hadn’t she learned years ago not to get close to people? If they didn’t let you down, she would leave town before they had the chance. It had happened a dozen times in a dozen different cities in the last few years. And it would probably happen a hundred more in her lifetime. Liz had proved to be the exception to her rules so far, but her father had been making noises about moving again before the year was out. Which proved her theory that it just didn’t pay to get involved with people.

But, when she heard the distinctive sound of rubber hitting metal, she wasn’t surprised to find Kyle at the other end of the hall kicking in his locker. But she was surprised at the feelings that wanted to surface. Where were these nurturing feelings coming from? She wanted to turn the other way and leave, to pretend she hadn’t seen him. But something deep in her told her to trust for the first time, and to involve herself.

With a sigh and a muttered oath, she clutched her next period books to her chest and made her way down the empty hallway.

Kyle gave the locker another swift kick and felt fractionally better for it. He knew it was childish, but he just didn’t care.

“That locker’s always had it coming.”

Kyle froze when he heard Mel’s sugary voice. He turned slowly to find her standing a few feet from him, her head cocked questioningly.

He ran a hand through his hair and realized he hadn’t styled it that morning. Weird, he was usually careful about that sort of thing.

“I’m-“

“Fine. Nothing’s wrong. I caught that act earlier. You want to talk about it, Slick?”

Tired and defeated, he felt some of his anger slip away just being in her presence. Liz was the only other person who had ever made him feel like that, but he couldn’t talk to her about this. He leaned back against his locker. Telling someone couldn’t hurt.

“I didn’t get in to NorthWestern.”

Mel sighed. Hell, she was starting to care. She closed the distance between them and leaned against the locker to his right.

“Sorry. But you had back up schools, right?”

“Three more letters. I was accepted, but not with a full scholarship.”

Then it clicked in Mel’s brain. “Those were sports scholarships, weren’t they?”

Kyle lowered his gaze to the ground. “Yeah.”

“It’s because you left Roswell in the middle of the season, isn’t it? Because you followed Liz.”

Kyle pushed away from the locker, filled with nervous energy. He didn’t like being read so easily. “Liz has nothing to do with it.”

Mel kept her gaze down. This had everything to do with her. He had followed her for whatever reason, and had lost his scholarships because of it. But she suspected he would cut out his tongue before he told her so. Great, the guy had hidden depths.

“When I first met Liz, she was a mystery. Not that she isn’t one now or anything, but I respected that she didn’t want to talk about herself. That’s why we get along so well. When I was a kid, I was never in school long enough to really make friends, so when I met people, I would make up stories about them. This one had a perfect home with a huge Barbie playhouse. Maybe another girl would have a brother she picked on. It didn’t matter what the real story was, because I could make up whatever I wanted. So, when I met Liz, I created this story in my head, like I used to do. I figured she was an orphan, no friends, no family, maybe an abusive past, probably hid in the shadows. But I knew she had definitely been hurt.”

“You don’t have it half wrong,” Kyle murmured.

Mel ignored him, but saved his comment for later. “But since meeting you, I’m revising that story. I think she had some great friends. Not everyone would leave their homes behind to help a friend.”

“You don’t know my home.” Kyle met Mel’s eyes, unsure of what to say. He had a feeling she was as new to this emotional sharing thing as he was. “Liz and I were never really close friends before.”

“Sometimes they make the best kind.” Mel squirmed against her own words. When had she turned into the Brady Bunch mom?

“Are you coming on to me?”

Mel threw up her hands in exasperation. The one time she tries to be nice, this is what happens. “Typical.”

Kyle grinned at her despite his situation. He really did feel better. He’d gotten the vibe that she didn’t usually play the nice guy and had decided to lighten the mood. Whatever happened, happened. Maybe it was for the best. Even knowing what would happen, he would still have left Roswell. Something had called him here and he would try to figure out why.

“So, tell me, what does Mel stand for? Melody?”

“I’m going to lunch.” She pushed off from the locker and headed down the hall.

Kyle quickly grabbed his books and jogged after her. “What are you doing this weekend?”

“Burning pictures of you.” She refused to think about how right it felt with him walking beside her.

“If you need me to pose for those, I’m free Friday.”

“I wouldn’t waste the film. Besides, I’m sure your time is better spent with your groupies. I promise you’ll get more out of them.” She rounded a corner, headed towards the double doors that led outside.

“I’m crazy about you, you know that?”

She snorted at him, and he laughed at her, opening the door for her just because he knew it would make her mad. And sure enough, as she pushed past him, bristling with anger, he felt like maybe the world had been turned right again.

~*~*













[ edited 152time(s), last at 24-Oct-2002 8:23:23 PM ]
posted on 16-Sep-2001 10:17:51 AM by Cookieman1234
Just bumping this for BelievingDreamsToo. You asked so nicely for this story, and it was already posted up for you. It just got kicked to the second page. I know I've been ignoring this one for awhile, but I'm back on line this week. Thanks to everyone that's been so patient this last week. It's just hard to write when you're glued to CNN 24 hours a day.





Edited by - cookieman1234 on 09/17/2001 10:24:23
posted on 18-Sep-2001 7:38:11 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Okay, guys, this is just a transitional piece to get this story moving. Now, let's have a talk. I've done alot of moving around on this story, and I can go one of two ways. I can either drop a whole chunk of this story to shorten it and get it moving to where it should be to bring the Roswell gang back in, or I can take the wonderful advice I've gotten from Abbi and AvengingAngelIQ and break this into two stories. I really don't want to cut anything out of this story. I'm starting to like it again, but it's gonna be long. As if my others are short, right? So, I'm going to plan a sequel to this story and here's what I'm gonna do. This one is going to be about Liz and Kyle and Mel. They've got some stuff to work through and some growing to do. Some of the others may drop in later, but I'm not really going to drop any hints as to what they're doing or the hunt for the Granolith or any of that until the sequel. I hope this doesn't upset anyone, but a few of you have been asking what's going on with them, and I'm just not going to tell you. Isn't that mean of me? *icon_smile_Dr_Evil* But there just may be some action coming up. Enough of my rambling. Sorry this one is a little shorter, but I'm trying to move it along. Be kind to me, I bruise easily.

Side Note: Have you guys actually looked at the list of like ten thousand smilies? They are hysterical. I killed like ten minutes playing with them.

Finding Yourself
Part 26

Journal Entry – November 16, 2001

The last few weeks have gone by quicker than any other I’ve ever known. Things have changed so much since I last wrote in here. I know I said I was going to keep up this journal, as a method of therapy of sorts, but it’s been hard. Mostly because I’m still running from my feelings. But I’m going to try.

Kyle and I made up, sort of. He spends his lunches with Mel and I now, despite the long line of girls that want his attention. He’s become the big man on campus and he loves it. I think he’s dated a different girl every week and Mel and I have a bet going to see if he can make it through the graduating class by Christmas, minus us of course. But if I didn’t know better, I’d say there was the beginnings of something between them. Maybe I’m imagining it. Maybe not.

Mel and Kyle are an odd story. They seemed to have formed this bond completely separate of me. And after a dozen frustrating encounters, I’m used to their banter now. It’s like they’re constantly trying to one up each other in the battle of wit, but it does make for some amusement. In some ways, it reminds me of Maria and Michael, way back in the days when they swore they hated each other. They would argue over something as trivial as the best brand of ketchup, then I would turn to Max and he would smile at me and I knew he understood.

But Max isn’t here now. And he might never be again. I know I said I left to work out things, but part of me, the weak part, still wishes I was still there with him. Will he even be on the planet by the time I find the courage to return home? I don’t know for sure, and it hurts me that we might not have the chance to create better memories than the last ones we have now, even as friends. I still miss him like nothing I’ve ever known. Being away from him is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know it’s something that has to be. He wasn’t the Max I fell in love with in the end. He lied to me, betrayed me, hurt me. If I let myself think about it, I’d cry all day. So, I push my grief to the back of my mind and pray Max will find the strength to do what needs to be done without me. I don’t know what the future holds for us, and I don’t want to know. Some things are better left to be discovered in the moment and not lamented over for fourteen years.

But I digress. I swore this journal wasn’t going to turn into a long letter to Max. So, I’ll move on now.

Kyle started his job with Coach Jackson and he loves every minute of it. I went by the school to drop off some pictures and he regaled me with stories of how useful Kyle’s input was to the sports department. And true to the High School coach’s word, he had tried out Kyle for the Varsity Football team and they started him immediately. They’d actually been giddy with excitement when Kyle had won them the game. I know, I caught it on film.

I went to take pictures and offer him my support, and I even dragged Mel along with me. She’d never even been to a game! Imagine that! She acted bored for most of the game, but when Kyle had been tackled after a foul had been called, Mel had been up on her feet with the rest of us, yelling at the referees. Kyle found out she didn’t know anything about sports, and she agreed to let him teach her if she could show him how to perform basic maintenance on his Mustang. He was pretty worried about letting her near his car, but after she yelled at him for being sexist, they’d started their first lessons. It’s hard to say who I feel more sorry for.

I still have the letter Kyle gave me from my parents. Every night I take it out and look at it, turn the envelope over in my hands. And every night, I put it back in my dresser drawer. And I promise myself that tomorrow I’ll open it. Tomorrow I’ll have the strength to open that piece of paper and read the words my parents wanted me to hear. But each morning comes without any of that strength, and I wonder if it ever will.

Kyle and I talked about it briefly, for like thirty seconds, and he told me not to rush it. When the time was right, I would know. He said that they loved me and for now it was all I needed. I think Buddha has made him wise beyond his years. Or maybe that was the aliens.

I know I should call them, tell them I’m alive and not only well, but better here than I hoped I could be. But every time I reach for the phone, my hand trembles and I hate myself for being a coward. So, maybe I’ll write them a letter instead, just a note to tell them all the things I can not say. I’ll send it to the Sheriff. He’d deliver it for me, no questions asked. But what would I say?

Hi, Mom. Hi, Dad. I left everyone behind for reasons I can never fully explain to you. I killed my best friend, not with my hands, but with my actions and the actions I drove others to. And the man I loved more than anything, that I sacrificed my future for, betrayed me with his wife, created a child that couldn’t live on this planet.

There were some things you just couldn’t tell your parents.

And so I write nothing.

But behind it all are the ever present questions that run through my brain. It doesn’t matter how far I run from Roswell and from Max, I still think about them. I have to. Because of the actions we took there, because I’m alive today at Max’s hand, I’m not entirely human anymore. And I don’t know how I feel about it. Ava alluded to it, but never told me how I was changed. And at the time, I was afraid to ask. That was me, the big chicken of Roswell. It was almost our motto. If your close your eyes, maybe it’ll all go away when you open them. Obviously, that worked well for us.

There was also something else about her visit that I never told anyone. Who would have believed me then? But I knew from the first time she looked at me that she knew something she wasn’t telling me. It was almost as if she recognized me. But I know that’s not possible. How could it be? But it was a sort of vibe I got and I’ve learned to trust my instincts. And they tell me that there are secrets inside of me I haven’t unlocked yet, but I know I won’t be whole until I do. So, I continue researching in secret. Kyle wouldn’t understand. He hates Max and everyone in Roswell for what they did to his life. And while I can’t blame him, I can’t share this with him either. Maybe some day, but not yet, with Tess’s betrayal so fresh in his mind.

So, while I want to distance myself as far from all of this as I can, if I really am trying to take a journey of self discovery, then I have to look at all parts of myself, and not just the parts I like. And like it or not, part of me may now be alien.

And when I think about it, and what it means, it makes me glad that Kyle’s here. I’m not quite ready to talk about Tess and Alex with him yet, and maybe Mel may be more objective about Max, but I think that with the two of them by my side, I just may wake up tomorrow to find the courage and strength that has so long eluded me. And hopefully when I do find out who Liz Parker really is, I’ll like who I’ve found.





posted on 22-Sep-2001 7:53:35 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [mail] Cookieman123⊕go.com [/mail]
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey guys. Here's your next part. I did check on the link I had listed, and for some reason, it's not working since they took the board down. I'm going to look at it tomorrow and see what's wrong. Thanks as usual for all the wonderful feedback you guys leave me. It gives me warm fuzzies.

Finding Yourself
Part 27

Liz flopped back on her bed in frustration. “I can’t do it anymore. I just can’t study. My brain is officially fried.”

Kyle glanced up from his History book. “I knew it was going to happen one day. Excessive studying only leads to trouble.” He examined her from where he was sprawled on the floor, his books surrounding him. Was now the time to voice his thoughts? Hell, it probably wouldn’t ever be a good time. “Liz, can I ask you a question?”

“Hmmm?”

“Do you miss it at all?”

Liz sighed. There was no use pretending she didn’t know what he was talking about. But it didn’t mean she was going to answer.

“Why don’t you ever talk about them? About how my leaving affected everyone or what happened?”

“I figured if you wanted to know, you’d ask. Look, if you want me to say that your absence shattered everything, I can. Because it did. But in a good way. We all had to wake up and look at our lives and I don’t think any of us liked what we found.”

Liz nodded. She refused to feel guilty for what had happened after she left. That was something the old Liz would have done. “Kyle, have you ever felt so alone, you didn’t know how to make it go away?”

He thought back to the first week after he’d arrived in town. “Yeah.”

“I’ve felt that way for a long time now, but since you came, it’s easier to breathe. I know I gave you a hard time when you first got here, but I’m glad you’re here now.”

Kyle smiled at her, feeling at home for the first time. “Careful, Liz. If you go all gushy on me, it’ll ruin your new bad ass image.”

“Well, it’s going to be blown to hell when I ask you to move in with me.”

“Whoa.” Kyle had never been taken more off guard. “Are you serious?”

Liz chewed on her lower lip nervously. “Well, think about it from a practical standpoint. We’re both young and full time students. And yeah, we both have jobs now, but I’ve seen your apartment and I’m obviously not living in the lap of luxury. Let’s face it, we just don’t make enough money alone to afford a semi-decent place to live. But I thought that maybe together it might be easier.” And she only really felt stronger when he was around. He knew her, where she came from and what had happened to her. He understood her better than anyone these days. Maybe he had been right when he’d said they could help each other.

Kyle considered what she said. It did make a small amount of sense. He’d had the feeling she was lonely, but faced with the pleading look in her eyes, he wondered if he’d understood how deep it really ran. Because as much as he’d been hurt and confused, Liz’s pain outdid his tenfold. “Are you sure about this? I mean, I’ve been doing a lot of dating here and I wouldn’t want us to do this and have you feel put out when I bring someone home.”

Liz made a face at him. “First, I’m not a goody two shoes that is flustered easily. Okay, not anymore. I’m working on it. Second, I know your reputation isn’t as colorful as you’d like it to be. We dated, remember? It took you like two weeks to kiss me.”

Wounded, Kyle clutched his chest. “My heart is broken. I’ll have you know I was trying to be honorable. You were the girl of my dreams back then. You made me nervous, you know. It took me a whole year to get the courage just to ask you out.”

“Really?” Liz was surprised beyond words. She certainly hadn’t known that. “Why didn’t you ever say anything?”

“It was kind of embarrassing. I mean, we’ve known each other since birth, and we were always friends, but we were never close. But the funny thing is, once I had you, I realized that I had really only wanted to get closer to you. All those feelings I’d convinced myself I had for you just weren’t there. I’m just not explaining this well.”

Liz climbed down from the bed to join him on the floor. “No, you’re explaining it perfectly.” She thought back to that summer they’d started dating. She’d been flattered and thrilled that someone like Kyle had found her attractive and interesting. They’d had good times together but things had become flustered and awkward whenever they reached a point in the date for them to kiss goodnight. And for a while, she’d thought it had been her. Until she’d been shot and her whole world had been turned upside down. “What do you say, Kyle? We can find a place that will give us both some privacy. If Max hadn’t come around and everything hadn’t gone crazy, we would have ended up really good friends. Let’s start over.”

“If we do this, there are two conditions.”

“Such as?” But she knew she would agree to pretty much anything.

“First, I don’t want my presence to stop you from doing things you would do in your own apartment. Like if you want to walk around in your…underthings, then hey, don’t let me stop you. Or if you want to invite your girlfriends over for pillow fights and sleepovers, then I can be understanding, then I can be understanding about those kind of things.”

“That’s kind of you, Kyle. But what if Mel comes over and we want to have a pillow fight / sleepover while in our bras and panties.”

Kyle’s eyes glazed over, an image forming in his mind. “That would be the best thing that could ever happen.” A pillow hit him square in the face and he grinned at her.

“My second condition is that we stay strictly platonic. I know I’m buff and manly, and charming and handsome,”

“You forgot modest and humble.”

“Right, I don’t have to list my virtues to you. You already know them all. But I’d appreciate it if you could made an effort to keep your hands off me. You had your chance with me and it just didn’t work out.”

“Does smothering you with a pillow in your sleep fall under that category?”

“Does that mean you agree to my terms?” Kyle crossed his arms over his chest primly.

Liz flashed him a grin. “I guess so, roomie. It might be hard, but I think I can manage.” Giddy, she threw herself into Kyle’s arms.

“I’ll allow this hugging this one time. But you’re going to have to work on this.”

“Shut up, Kyle.”

“Couldn’t have said it better myself.”

Liz and Kyle followed the voice to the doorway where Mel was leaning against the frame.

“And I thought if I waited long enough, the group hugs would be done.” She entered the room, tossing her books on the floor as she went. “So, what are we celebrating today?”

“Kyle and I are moving in together.”

Mel’s eyebrows shot up. “And what did he use to blackmail you into doing that?”

Liz made a face at her. “Nothing. It was my idea.”

“And you’re sure you’re not feeling feverish?”

Kyle wrapped an arm around Liz’s shoulders. “Sorry, Mel. Some women just find me irresistible.”

“And some women spend their whole lives dieting.”

“Which you obviously don’t believe in.”

Mel’s eyes flared with indignation. “What is that supposed to mean?”

Kyle grinned at her, a special mix of cockiness and amusement he reserved just for her. “Nothing, darling. You look wonderful. You can hardly see that extra inch of skin on your stomach. I just think it’s great you don’t care about things like that.”

Logically, Mel knew what he was doing. She’d done it to him a dozen times. But she’d be damned if she’d let him call her fat and get away with it.

“Well, I’d rather have an extra inch than those love handles you’re developing. Tell me, how long has it been since you worked out?”

Liz tried to stifle a giggle at the look that crossed Kyle’s face. Afraid he would strip naked to prove Mel wrong, she stepped in to mediate as usual.

“Okay, guys. You both get points for that round. Mel, I was hoping you could help us. You have been here longer than either of us.”

Still eyeing Kyle wearily, she nodded. “Yeah. I guess it wouldn’t hurt.”

Liz turned to Kyle. “So, how soon do you want to do this?”

“As soon as we can. Thanksgiving is next week and unless you have secret plans, I’m as open as you.”

Liz’s eyes widened with enthusiasm. “Oh! This will be great! We can find an apartment and cook Thanksgiving together.”

Mel and Kyle exchanged a look.

“I’m not cooking.”

Liz’s smile widened when Mel and Kyle made the declaration at the same time. This was going to be the best Thanksgiving ever.




posted on 29-Sep-2001 7:28:39 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey, guys! Sorry for being away so long, but I swear I have excuses and all of them are good. I looked at a calendar today and realized that I have exactly 31 days until my wedding. In case you don't hear the note of panic in my voice, let me assure you that's it's there. So, if I disappear for a few days at a time, don't worry. I'll still come back to post. But life around here is starting to get hectic to say the least.

I'm not quite finished with Learning to Live's next part, but I should have it up tonight. Most of it is done, but not the end part yet. So, I beg for your understanding. I have family coming in that I haven't seen in almost ten years and all of them either want to stay with me or spend all their waking time in my presence. So, I've also become a tour guide. And don't even get me started on the in-laws. That's another post altogether! But I do love you guys, and I promise that the next part of FY will be extra super good and it'll be on the Roswell gang. See? Ask and you shall receive. I got an overwhelming response wanting to know what they were doing, so there you go. Gotta run, but I'll be on later.

Finding Yourself
Part 28

“Kyle, this is like the tenth apartment we’ve looked at today.”

Excitement lit Kyle’s face as he considered the possibilities of this place. “I know, I know. I just want us to find the perfect place. Humor me. Let’s go take a look then we can go grab dinner.”

Liz let herself be dragged up the stairs, but didn’t really mind the climb. It had amazed her how excited Kyle had become once the idea of moving in together had sunk in.

He had shown up at her apartment the day after she had proposed the idea to him and he’d brought newspapers and apartment guides with him. But when she’d seen that he’d color coded the listings he’d selected to look at, she almost hit the floor in shock.

It had been three days since then and he’d dragged her from apartment to apartment in search of the perfect one. She’d had no idea Kyle could be so meticulous, but she was fast learning.

There was an excitement growing in Kyle that he couldn’t name. This was the journey he’d looked forward to embarking on when he left Roswell. The motel he’d been sleeping in was cheap and sadly about all he could afford. But with Liz, they could afford something better. He knew she thought he was crazy, and he didn’t blame her. But he couldn’t remember looking forward to anything as much.

They reached the third floor and Kyle consulted the chart he’d meticulously created.

“It’s 302.”

Continuing down the hall, they stopped only for Kyle to examine the paint or the condition of the hallway carpet.

“This is the one. I can feel it.”

Liz rolled her eyes at his back. The last four apartments had felt like “the one”. But when Kyle pushed the door open, they both found themselves in a state of shock. A furnished living room stood before them, brand new looking furniture set on hard wood floors, sparkling counters gleamed under the fluorescent kitchen lighting. And a large, stone fireplace took up a fair portion of one wall.

Liz ripped the paper from Kyle’s hand. “We have to be in the wrong place. This can’t be right.”

Puzzled, Kyle began moving around the room. “No, this is the right place. But how is this affordable?”

Liz verified the address and circled the room, as baffled as Kyle. “Where did you get the information from?”

“Coach Jackson. His aunt or someone moved out and he knew about it before it hit the market. There’s gotta be something wrong with it.”

“Oh, good. You two made it. I’m Patty, the landlord. So, how do you like the place?”

Liz and Kyle eyed each other wearily. A blonde in a pair of tight blue jeans and a sleeveless top stood in the doorway with a clipboard. Falling into their familiar good cop/bad cop routine, Liz moved forward to shake hands with the woman.

“I’m Liz Parker, and this is Kyle Valenti. So far, this place looks wonderful. But we haven’t seen everything yet.”

“The rooms are probably unlivably small,” Kyle grumbled, barely able to keep the joy from his voice.

“Oh, no. The bedrooms are the best part. In all, the apartment has just under 2000 square feet.” She began leading them to other areas, turning on lights as she went. “There are three bedrooms and one a half baths. The space has a unique design in that not only to the bedrooms all adjoin the bathroom, but each other as well.”

“We were only really looking for a two bedroom,” Kyle interjected with forced stoicism. The place was huge! The wood floors were in impeccable shape, the kitchen counters larger than he could have hoped for.

“Oh, well, a lot of tenants use the extra room for a guest room, storage, a nursery, things like that.” She opened the first bedroom door and again the two could only stare in shock.

The bedroom was huge, and more importantly, fully furnished. A four poster bed flanked one wall while dressers and a small armchair filled out the rest of the room. Patty walked to one window and pulled the drapes open.

Liz let out a gasp as the Arizona skyline lay out before her. It was beautiful, and it already felt like home. Slowly, she turned her head and locked eyes with Kyle.

Kyle could hear Patty’s voice as though through a wind tunnel. Liz’s whole face had lit up when that curtain had opened and he couldn’t remember the last time it had happened. And that was when he knew that whatever the rent, they would live there.

“The rest of the bedrooms are through here.”

But they’d already seen what they needed to. “And the rent is what we talked about on the phone?”

“Yes, it’s really a find.”

Kyle raised his eyebrows at Liz. She beamed back at him. “We’ll take it.”

“Great. I have the paperwork with me. All I need is your information, a deposit and your first month’s rent and it’s yours.”

Liz nodded while she filled out the information. She and Kyle had already pooled their money and Kyle went about writing her a check.

“So, when can we move in?” Liz’s excitement was uncontainable.

“Well, technically not until the first of December.” But one look at the pure glee on their faces was enough to sway her even if Coach Jackson hadn’t already called in a favor. “But since tomorrow is Thanksgiving, I’ll let you move in immediately.”

“Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Remember, rent is due the first of the month. The power and water and the rest of the utilities are still on. Just get everything transferred over to your name in the next few days and we shouldn’t have any trouble. Now, I’ll let you go. If you ever need anything, my number is on the fridge and I’m on the first floor. And if I don’t see you tomorrow, happy Thanksgiving.”

Kyle and Liz continued to grin at each other until the door closed behind them, a set of keys clutched in their hands. Without a word, they both broke away to run in different directions around the apartment.

Liz squealed in delight when she examined the first bedroom closer. The quilt on the bed was hand sewn purple, the armchair was soft and plush. With a few pillows to add color, it would be perfect.

Kyle rushed to the other two bedrooms, judging them carefully. He knew Liz had already claimed the first, so he didn’t bother with it. The second bedroom was a bit larger than the third and had it’s own exit, but the third room had a large screen TV bolted onto a shelf in the corner. Once they hooked up some cable, he could comfortably set up to watch sports if Liz was occupying the living room. A matching armchair sat across from the TV and he could almost see himself settled in for Monday Night Football.

He began opening doors, picking out the exact spots for all his things. He could even get his dad to bring up some more of his things. The old man had been hinting around about wanting to see him settled for himself. Before, Kyle had been afraid his father would worry or second guess his decisions if he’d seen that motel or Liz’s apartment. But now, there was nothing stopping them.

Kyle moved to the last door, opened it to find a spacious bathroom with a double sink. There were two more doors and he assumed they belonged to the other two bedrooms. As if on cue, one of the doors opened and Liz’s grinning face met his. With a squeal of delight, she threw herself into his arms for a hug.

“Can you believe it? This is ours now.”

“I think I’m still in shock. When do you want to start moving?”

“Now. I already started boxing up a few things yesterday. I still don’t have much, so we should be able to do it today. What about you?”

“I’m already packed. But it’ll take us awhile to get everything over in my car.” He watched her examine every inch of the bathroom with glee.

“I already called Mel. She’s gonna borrow her dad’s truck and meet us at my apartment in a half hour.”

“You move fast.”

“When I’m motivated.” She grabbed his arm. “C’mon, the sooner we go, the sooner we can come back and arrange everything.”

“Oh, great. Sure, you’re excited. You get the job where you stand and point and I have the back breaking labor part of moving the heavy pieces of furniture.”

“Am I going to have to live with a cry baby?”

“And I talk in my sleep too. I hope you don’t mind.” Kyle opened the door leading to his bedroom. Together, they walked into the living room.

“Not as long as you say things that I can use against you later.”

“This roommate thing may be more overrated than previously expected.” He grabbed his new set of keys, tossing them in the air for Liz to catch. Life with Liz would never be boring.




posted on 2-Oct-2001 2:21:12 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 29

Journal Entry, November 22, 2001

Dear Liz,

You’re going to have to muddle through this with me. I’ve never done anything like this before, but I’m going to try, for you. In case you haven’t guessed, I’m trying to keep a journal. I know I said before you left that you would always be a part of the group, but how could you really be if you didn’t know anything that was going on? So, I’m going to be your eyes and ears while you’re gone. I know there’s a good chance you may never read this or never want to really, but I’m going to write them down anyway. And who knows, it could be therapeutic.

Where do I begin? So much has happened since you left three months ago.


Max laid down his pen and stared at the sentence he had just written. Had it really only been three months? It seemed like longer somehow, as if the days had stretched into something unrecognizable. And not for the first time, he wondered if this whole journal thing was a good idea. He’d thought about it for awhile before finally going to the store and picking up the things he’d needed. If the day ever came when Liz wanted to be a part of their lives again, she could easily do so. Or if something should happen to them before she returned, she would have some way of knowing what had happened.

“Max! Dinner’s almost ready.”

“Coming!” He yelled back to Isabel. She had decided to tackle Thanksgiving dinner this year, relieving Mom of her Martha Stewart creations. And while his stomach thanked her, he still couldn’t get in the mood to celebrate. He’d come a long way from the boy who had been a step away from comatose when Liz had left, but still not far enough.

He looked down at the empty pages of the journal again, feeling helpless as they mocked him. What should he tell her? He could dedicate a dozen pages on their search for the Granolith, on what they had found and what they hadn’t. But that was one of the reasons she’d left to begin with. Should he tell her about the other questions that weighed down his heart? How could he tell her that since the night Kyle had left Roswell, he’d been remembering his past life in bits and pieces? How could he break her heart even more by telling her that he now knew that he never loved Tess before? That there was another girl that he remembered loving in snatches of dreams? The memories were fleeting and elusive and they usually left him with more questions than answers. If he’d loved this girl so much, why had he married someone else? So much of what they knew would hurt her, but if he was going to do this, he would do it all the way.

“Max! Are you coming or what?”

He closed the journal with a snap, his hand pausing to examine the outer leather cover. It had seemed too plain for the story he was sure it would tell. So, when he had waved his hand over the cover and a symbol had appeared in the bottom right corner, he had been amazed and confused at the same time. He was sure he had never seen it before, but yet it seemed familiar somehow. It was two rings interlocked, a sun hovering above them. Could it be his family crest? He didn’t know for sure, and he wasn’t sure how he could find out.

“Max! Are you deaf today?” Isabel appeared in his doorway, clad in their mother’s apron with a mixing bowl tucked under one arm and propped up on her hip.

“I heard you. I was coming right now.” Not wanting ridicule from his sister, he quickly tucked the journal into his desk drawer, carefully hidden under a stack of papers. He would have to pry up that loose floorboard later and hide it a bit more carefully when Isabel’s eagle eye wasn’t on him.

“You know, I could use some help.”

“Weren’t you the one that insisted on doing dinner all by yourself? If I recall, I offered to do dessert.”

Isabel snorted at his offer. “Frozen apple pie? I don’t think so.”

“I’m insulted. I would have gone to the Crashdown and picked up one from them.”

“Somehow, Men in Blackberry Pie just isn’t part of the Thanksgiving dinner I envisioned.”

“You asked for my help.”

“Serves me right. Come on, maybe you won’t totally screw up setting the table for dinner.”

Max followed his sister with a grin. She had been uptight and worried about him for so long, it had taken a toll on her. He’d sworn not to do anything to make her worry about him like that again. He should be the one taking care of her and he’d been trying. Unfortunately, his sister was prickly and didn’t want to be taken care of. It had been an uphill battle. But she had cheered up with the prospect of Thanksgiving dinner to be taken care of.

He went about setting the table, amused when his mother came into the kitchen for what had to be the three hundredth time to stir Isabel’s pots and ask if she needed help. Isabel shooed her out of the kitchen while she put the finishing touches on the last of the dishes.

By the time Isabel carried out the turkey she had spent all day baking, the rest of the family was already seated around the table.

“It looks wonderful, sweetheart.” Phillip inhaled the aroma of fresh baked turkey as his daughter presented it to him for cutting. He sliced it easily and served it expertly as each plate was passed his way.

“So, Max, where is Michael this year? He’s not alone, is he?”

“He was invited to have dinner with Maria and her mother.”

“Ah, chinese food for Thanksgiving dinner?” Isabel teased, knowing Amy and Maria’s tradition.

Max grinned as he dug into his own dinner, thankful again Isabel had cooked instead of their mother. Tofu just wasn’t any competition for real turkey and stuffing.

“So, Phillip, finish telling me about that little boy.”

“What boy?” Max turned his head questioningly towards his mother, gaining his full attention.

“Just a case I’m working on. A small child was abandoned on the steps of a church a few weeks ago. The police were able to find out who he was, but the mother’s gone missing.”

“How old is he?” Max’s heart broke to hear of any child not wanted. It hit too close to home.

“Three, I think. They were able to find the aunt and she’s trying to sue for custody on the off chance her sister comes back to try to reclaim the child.”

“She can’t do that, can she?” Isabel was appalled. How could a mother abandon her child then try to tear it away from a loving home?

“Unfortunately, the law usually sides with birth parents on pretty much most occasions. But I think the aunt has a good chance. The birth mother’s been in and out of jail for the last ten years for dozens of violations.”

“Where is the child now?” Max poked at his mashed potatoes, his appetite lost.

“A foster home outside of town.”

“That’s horrible. He has to spend Thanksgiving in a foster home instead of with his family that wants him?”

“Isabel, it’s really a wonderful place. Colleen Martin runs the place with her daughter. They usually have a dozen or so kids up there and it’s nothing like the foster home they placed you kids into before we adopted you.”

Isabel tried to let herself be comforted by her father’s warm hand covering her own, but couldn’t do it. She remembered all too vividly the nights she had woken up alone and scared. She hadn’t understood anything then, still trying to learn to speak, and had been terrified of everything around her. “I guess.”

“Where is this place?” Max felt his heart go out to the child he had never even met. He knew how hard it was to feel alone. He had felt it his whole life.

“Just out past the old soap factory.”

Max nodded, remembering the place well. Liz had been arrested there when the Sheriff had been trying to get information on him. He pushed the memories back down with all the rest. There was no use looking back on those memories anymore. Maybe a trip out to this foster home wouldn’t be such a bad idea. He still had some free time on his hands and had been thinking about volunteering somewhere. Who knew better how to relate to orphans than an orphan that had lived through it all?

“What’s so special about this place, Dad?”

Phillip sighed deeply, not wanting to burden his family with the harsh reality of his job, especially on Thanksgiving. “Well, most of the kids they take in are sick. Most couples don’t want to adopt a child that doesn’t have a life expectancy of more than a few years.”

“It’s sad.” Diane held her husband’s gaze across the table. They both understood how lucky they were to be blessed with the children they had. “But thankfully, we have people like Colleen and Sara to take care of those children and give them a home for the time that they do have.”

Max listened to his mother with half an ear. What kind of people took in sick children? Wonderful people that could teach him a few things about the other side of human nature. For too long, he’d been exposed to the dark side of humanity and of his own people.

“Well, that’s what I’m thankful for this year, that I have two healthy children of my own.”

Isabel tried to smile at her mother, but found it hard. By the look on Max’s face, he would be making a trip out to the home shortly. She wondered if she could just catch a ride with him. Somehow, they managed to cheer up enough to enjoy the dinner. She had laughed at all the right moments despite the emptiness inside of her.

Max was the first one to finish dinner and he tried his hardest not to fidget while he waited for the others to finish their dinner and their polite conversation. The empty journal weighed heavily on him. He had figured out how to begin writing in it and now couldn’t wait to get started. When his mother stood up and began clearing dishes, he practically bolted from the table in his haste to get upstairs.

After closing the door firmly, he retrieved the journal from it’s temporary hiding place and flopped down on his bed. He re-read the short page he had started earlier before he started a new line underneath it.


We found the Granolith.





posted on 2-Oct-2001 2:22:54 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 30

“Sorry I’m late, but I couldn’t find the…cranberries.” Mel broke off what she had been saying when she stepped into the new Parker/Valenti household. It was utter chaos. Empty boxes lay in discarded piles around the apartment, and it looked as though some of the boxes’ contents had merely been dumped on the floor. Kyle sat on the light blue rug in front of the television, a large box open in front of him, one arm resting frozen inside. “Happy Turkey Day, Slick.”

“NO! NO! NO! What the hell was that? You call that a pass?”

“Okay, then. I’ll just find Liz. Good to see you too, Tiger.” Mel crossed the living room into the kitchen where Liz surely had to be hiding. She had been given the grand tour the day before and had absolutely fallen in love with the place. It sure was a far cry from the apartments they had lived in before. But she had been grateful for the invitation to dinner. Her father was off on another trip somewhere or another and she didn’t even know when he was coming home this time. Dinner with friends was better than a frozen meal at home alone. But when Mel stepped into the kitchen she wondered if a bomb of some sort had gone off. “Liz? Uh, I don’t mean to insult you, but what’s going on in here?”

“Mel! Thank god. Did you bring the cranberries?” Liz rushed forward to snatch the bag from Mel’s arms. Not waiting for an answer, she began rifling through it’s contents.

“So, what’s Kyle’s deal?” She snagged a stick of celery from a large pile of half-sliced stalks.

“He’s watching football. But he’s supposed to be unpacking!” Liz called the last part out louder, hoping Kyle would take a hint. Immediately, the two girls heard grumbling and movement from the living room. Satisfied, she went back to inventorying Mel’s bag. “Wait, where are the carrots?”

“Carrots? You didn’t say anything about carrots.”

“Yes, I know I did. How are we supposed to have stuffing without carrots?”

“I don’t know, maybe add water and stir.”

Liz glared at her. “I don’t think so. That is not stuffing. It’s freeze dried junk.”

Mel shrugged, not really offended. Truthfully, she’d only said it to get a rise out of her friend. She seemed to be taking this whole cooking for the holidays thing a bit too seriously. “Why are you going to all this trouble, anyway? It’s not like we couldn’t just go out for pizza or something.”

“We are having a nice, pleasant, NORMAL Thanksgiving day dinner whether anyone likes it or not,” she stated through gritted teeth. She peeked out through the open bar area to Kyle. “Kyle! I need you to go to the store for me.”

“What? Can it wait till half-time? This quarter’s almost over and we’re down by-“ Kyle broke off, taking a look at Liz’s face. She had woken up in Drill Sergeant mode and he’d tried his best to stay out of her way. He had a pretty good idea why she was so wacko about this dinner, but he didn’t want to bring it up. She was craving something normal and he was afraid she wouldn’t be able to live up to her insanely high expectations of herself. So, if driving to the store for-what did she want again? Whatever it was, he would have her write it down and he would escape from this place before he had a chance to screw this up for her somehow.

“I’ll get my coat.” With a backward glance at the television, he headed for his bedroom.

A knock sounded at the door.

“Oh, Mel, can you get that? The landlord said her husband was going to stop by today with some papers they forgot to bring.”

“Sure, first it’s buying groceries, then it’s answering the door. Next, you’ll want me to get your mail and answer your phone,” Mel teased as she moved for the door. She pulled it open with a grin and was surprised to find an older man standing nervously on the doorstep. He held a Stetson in both hands, anxiously running his hands over the brim. He took one look at Mel and then back at the number on the door.

“I’m sorry, I must have the wrong place.”

“No, you’re fine. You must be the landlord. Hi, I’m Mel. Don’t worry, I don’t live here, I’m just here for the food. Liz said you had some papers for her to sign?” She looked at him expectantly. This was the landlord? It just didn’t fit. He didn’t look the part. There were hard lines on his face that spoke of harder times, but there was a gentleness to him that puzzled her. Why did it feel like she knew him? “Have we met?”

“What? No. Do Kyle Valenti and Liz Parker live here? I’m not the landlord.”

“Mel, is that Mr. Stevens?” Liz stepped out of the kitchen, drying her hands on a hand towel. She made it half-way into the living room when she froze in place.

Mel watched with interest as Liz and this man stared at each other a minute.

“Liz.” He nodded toward her, not wanting to scare her. “How are you?”

“Sheriff. I’m fine.” She took a deep breath. Why was she afraid? He wasn’t here to take her home. He’d known where she was the whole time and had never interfered with her life. She forced herself to relax, letting a smile play across her lips. “You’re the last person I expected to see, but I don’t know why I didn’t see it coming. Does Kyle know you were coming?”

“No, I’m sorry to just drop in. But the place is a little lonely without him around.”

Liz felt her heart soften a bit. She always had liked him, trusted him long before they had a reason to. “Well, you should come in. I think I need a hug.”

Relieved, Jim stepped past Mel into the living room. Without a second thought, he pulled Liz into a hug. “You look better…good.”

“Well, I’d have to look better, wouldn’t I?” Hugging Jim brought out all sorts of feelings in Liz. She’d missed the simple act of hugging. It wasn’t as if Kyle was a hugger, and she had begun to think of Jim as a second father. And today was a day for family. Suddenly, remembering Mel, she pulled away from Jim’s warm embrace. “Have you met Mel?”

Jim nodded at her again. “Not formally. I’m Jim, Kyle’s father.”

Mel’s eyes widened. Suddenly it all made sense. She took his outstretched hand and found herself smiling at him. She had just learned more about her two secretive friends in two minutes than she had the whole time they’d lived here. “Nice to meet you. Sorry about the mistaken identity thing.”

“Okay, now I’m only making one trip to the store today. So, whatever it is you need, write it down now. The game is just starting to get good and-“ Kyle looked up from zipping his jacket and found himself looking into his father’s smiling face. “Dad?”

“Surprise.”

Kyle threw himself at his father, not wanting to admit how much he had been missing the old man. The two men hugged each other, neither wanting to let go.

“I didn’t know you were coming.” He threw a sideways glance at Liz to see how she was taking the sudden appearance of his father. He didn’t want her thinking he’d known about this or planned it behind her back. But she was smiling at him and he let his own grin grow.

“It was sort of a spur of the moment thing. I was telling Liz that I didn’t mean to intrude. The house was just a little too empty this year.”

“I thought you were going out with Amy and Maria.”

“Well, this year, Michael was invited to go, and as much of an understanding we’ve come to, eating dinner with Michael Guerin is just not the family holiday I envisioned.”

Kyle grinned at the thought of Michael and his father eating together. Michael still didn’t really trust his father much farther than he could throw him despite all the help he’d given them. It probably would have been filled with uncomfortable pauses and Amy’s idle chit chat. “I can see how much fun that would be. Wow, you’re really here. This is great. Hey, have you had a tour yet?” Not waiting for an answer, he clasped a hand around his father’s neck and led him through the apartment.

Alone, Mel and Liz exchanged a look.

“So, that’s Kyle’s father? Where’s his mother?”

Knowing how important privacy was, Liz was reluctant to say anything. But it couldn’t do too much harm. “She passed away a long time ago. It’s just been Kyle and his dad for as long as I can remember.” Not wanting to think about her own family or the letter that still weighed heavy on her conscience, Liz linked arms with Mel. “C’mon. I need some help with dinner. It looks as though we just added another setting.”

“I don’t know why you assume I can cook just because I’m a female. Now, if you want your engine rebuilt, I’m your girl. But baking a turkey? Uh, no.”

“How hard could it be? Millions of people do this every year. You just toss it in the oven and a few hours later, it’s done.” She felt a renewed sense of urgency to make sure everything was perfect.

Mel looked at her skeptically. “I don’t know. If it was that simple, pizza parlors wouldn’t be open today.”

*~*~

Liz took the seat Jim held out for her and she scooted closer to the beautiful antique table that had come with the apartment. Mel had done a wonderful job setting the table, the crystal glasses they had found in a cabinet glittered under the soft lighting.

“Okay, as a new Thanksgiving tradition, I think we should all list one thing we’re grateful for this year.” Kyle nodded at Mel. “Ladies first.”

She snorted at him. “Okay, I’m grateful for the sweet engine I picked up for a steal last month from this guy. He thought it was beyond hope, but all it needed was for-“ she stopped when the silence hit her. “You were probably looking for something a bit more touchy feely, huh?”

“Well, maybe not from you, but hey, if engines are what you’re thankful for, then go at it.”

Mel crossed her arms over her chest defensively. Only the presence of Kyle’s father and not wanting to ruin Liz’s dinner kept the scathing comment on her lips. “So, what are you thankful for then?”

Jim watched his son’s interaction with this girl with amusement. She was certainly spunky and would be sure to keep Kyle on his toes. He didn’t think his father radar was failing him, and was sure they weren’t dating, but the idea wasn’t too far out there. Wanting to diffuse the situation, he stepped in with the grace of all his years of skill. “Why don’t I go then? This year, I’m thankful for family and for friends, that we’re all alive and well and happy.”

“Good one, Dad. Well, I guess I’m thankful for this sweet apartment and my new job. And I’m thankful that I know I can trust everyone in this room with my life, which is something that should never be taken for granted.” He thought back to Tess and how he had trusted her and how hard her betrayal had cut.

Liz saw the look on Kyle’s face and knew what he was thinking about. It was her turn. “I’m thankful for new beginnings, for friends that love me. I’m thankful that we’re all here today, alive and safe.” A little bit sad, she raised her glass and held it high in the air. “To Alex, who couldn’t be here today to laugh with us, the best friend a girl could ask for.”

Kyle mirrored Liz’s actions, raising his own glass for their fallen friend. “To Alex, a great guy to hang with in a life and death situation.”

Jim followed the two kids, thinking back on the young kid he’d known since birth. “To Alex, who died too soon.”

Mel raised her glass, although she had no idea who this Alex was. He was obviously a friend that had died, and she paid her respect to the man that had impacted her new friends so deeply.

They all clinked glasses together, taking a long sip on the sparkling cider Jim had picked up from the store with Kyle.

“Alright, let’s dig in. I’m starving and this smells wonderful.” Kyle rubbed his hands together anxiously.

“What do you want first?”

“Uh, I’ll take a slice of the pepperoni and two supremes.”

Jim raised the lid of the closest pizza box and dished out the slices to his son.

“Yeah, sorry about the dinner, guys. Who knew you had to defrost the turkey before you baked it?”

“No complaints, Liz. You did an excellent job on the rest of the meal. Now, where are those mashed potatoes I was looking forward to?” Jim pulled out a few slices for himself, wanting to reassure Liz.

“Uh, well, they were sort of burnt.”

“Burnt? How did you-Ow!” Kyle broke off with a cry of pain as his father kicked him from under the table. “Uh, well, what about the stuffing?”

“Do you remember that smell we couldn’t get rid of?”

“Oh, right. The yams?”

“That was the small fire we had to put out that I wasn’t supposed to tell you about. Sorry, Liz.” Mel sunk into a slice of pizza before she got herself into even more trouble.

Suddenly, Liz started laughing, wiping at the tears that overflowed from her eyes. “I really am sorry about dinner. I had wanted to make this perfect meal and everything went wrong.”

“I think things turned out just fine.” Kyle looked around the table, at the small family they had created. “In fact, let’s never cook Thanksgiving dinner again. I believe strongly in supporting local businesses on days like this. Who needs yams and turkey? But oh, tell me for the love of all things good that the pumpkin pie is safe.”

“The pumpkin pie is safe. It’s store bought. Besides, the turkey is still baking. Who knows when it’ll be done.” Liz bit into her own pizza. Who ever said normal was turkey and stuffing?

“I think we should have a moment to thank all the little businesses that stay open on days like today for people like us.”

Mel sat back, listening to the chatter with a grin. But in the back of her head, she was working out the puzzle of what had happened to them. It had to be something horrible, for them both to pick up and leave their lives behind. And Kyle had mentioned something about life and death situations. Maybe the death of this Alex had been the cause. She wouldn’t pry, but she would put the small pieces she did know together and see what she came up with. She hated puzzles, after all.







[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Oct-2001 7:17:21 AM ]
posted on 12-Oct-2001 10:08:50 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Egad! What is this? Two parts in two days? Is the world spinning off it's axis? I actually managed to find a hour to do this part. Crazy, huh? Okay, so some of you may not like me much after reading this part, but I need you to remember that sometimes we need conflict or these postings would be just a bunch of runon sentences on how boring life is in Roswell. Does that make any sense? I've had ALOT of coffee today. So, enjoy, it's a bit longer than usual too. Double bonus! And thank you for all the wonderful feedback. I thought you guys would like the Alex toast and then Liz's ruined dinner. True story, my sister in law and her husband their first Thanksgiving together, didn't know they couldn't bake their turkey frozen and it wasn't ready until the next morning. So, I dedicate that last part to them. And I'm going to see them this year for Thanksgiving. So, I'll have to make sure I'm on top of that one.

Finding Yourself
Part 31

“Max, quit picking at your food and just eat it.”

“Sorry, Mom.” Max set down his fork quietly. He really didn’t have an appetite anyway. He wasn’t sure why he had been so restless lately, as if he was waiting for something to happen. Maybe things had just been too quiet.

Isabel finished off her stack of pancakes and took it upon herself to finish Max’s bacon. It wasn’t as if he was eating today. He was in one of his moods today it seemed. She wasn’t worried about him though, he was just cranky. She had learned how to judge him by now. Still, she would risk getting snapped at to ask him about it later.

The doorbell rang and Diane looked at Phillip in question. Phillip checked his watch, laying his newspaper aside. “Who would be here his early?”

“I’ll get it, Dad. I’m done anyway.” Isabel excused herself from the table and made her way to the door. Could it be Michael or Maria this early on a Saturday morning? It didn’t seem likely, especially since there seemed to be this new animosity that had cropped up between Max and Maria since the whole Granolith debacle earlier that summer. Things had been going along fine and then trouble. They had dropped most of their other friends and acquaintances over the summer. Isabel didn’t know about the others, but she just couldn’t seem to bring herself to worry over trivial High School things, especially since she had decided to finish up High School with the others.

She pulled the door open and came face to face with the most gorgeous green eyes she had ever seen. Instinct had her smile widening for his benefit. “Hi, there.” She judged him to be about twenty four, maybe twenty five, good height, looked as though he worked out and could have a killer smile if he ever used it. Here was potential.

“Hi, I’m looking for Phillip Evans.” He gave her a glance over, a smile playing across his lips. “You are obviously not him.”

Oh, god, she had been right about the smile. Her knees felt weak just looking at him. “Well, you’re quite the perceptive one. And who might you be?” She leaned against the door jamb, thankful she had taken the extra fifteen minutes that morning to put on a bit of makeup.

“Sorry, I’m Mark Christopher. Phillip must be your father.”

“Right again. Boy, you could make a living off that kind of perceptiveness. I’m Isabel. Is this business or pleasure?” She couldn’t figure out who this guy was and why he would have shown up for business on a Saturday at this hour.

“Business, I’m afraid. Do you mind if I come in?” Had he ever seen such a beautiful woman before? He didn’t think so. Her hair was short, cut just below the ears and he found it sexy in a way he never had before. She looked comfortable in a pair of jeans and a worn T-shirt. Her smile was inviting, but there was a wary look in her eye. He’d seen it too many times before not to recognize it. This girl had secrets.

“Oh, sorry. Please, come in.” She stepped aside, breathing in his cologne when he stepped past her. She recognized that scent, it was expensive. And she now knew all she needed to know about this man. “Please, take a seat. Is there anything I can get you?”

“Mark! What are you doing out this early?” Phillip entered the living room, moving forward to shake the younger man’s hand.

“Official business, I’m afraid. Jim asked me to come by and see if you had some time to go out to the Hudson House this morning.” Mark tried hard not to pay attention to Isabel, standing unobtrusively out of the way. It wouldn’t do any good to obsess over the beauty when her father was standing right in front of him.

“Is he still out of town?” Phillip sat on the edge of the couch.

“Yes, sir. Seems his son convinced him to stay a few days. So, he asked me to come by.”

“What’s the problem? Is Brandon okay?” Phillip switched his brain into lawyer mode, looking for potential trouble.

“No, he’s fine. It’s actually another kid out there, Ana Cole, six years old with heart problems. She was brought in earlier this year after the mother did a disappearing act for two weeks with her latest john. The neighbors found her living off of canned food and they brought her to the house.” He listed the facts from memory, hating to have to carry around paperwork wherever he went.

“Let me guess, the mother’s back?”

“You guessed it. Problem is, there’s already this family in Tucson that wants her. They came out here last month when Colleen called them from one of her lists.”

“And this family wants a lawyer to represent them? What’s wrong with Ana?”

“Diseased heart, I don’t know the technical terms, I’m afraid. I know she’s on some pretty expensive medicine though. She’ll need a transplant within the year if she wants to live.”

Phillip rubbed his hands over his face. “Give me ten minutes and I’ll come with you.”

“Dad, can Max and I come too? We won’t get in the way, promise.”

Phillip looked at his daughter in confusion. He’d actually forgotten she was there. “Sure, honey, if you want. Can you be ready in ten minutes?”

“Definitely.” She kissed him on the cheek and dashed off to find Max, hoping this would snap him out of his funk.

A half-hour later, they pulled to a stop in front of the Hudson House. It was a rambling three story brick structure that towered above them. Outside, the lawn was littered with toys of every imaginable kind and color. The sidewalk was colored in pastel pinks and blues, and as they approached the house, they saw that the windows were covered in drawings of turkeys that looked strangly like handprints.

Phillip rang the doorbell and it was immediately opened by a young woman with dark red hair pulled up on top of her head. A baby was perched on one hip and she smiled warmly at the two men. “Hey there. If you’re looking for Mom, she’s still out of town.”

“You’ll do today,” Phillip teased. “These are my children, Max and Isabel. They wanted to tag along today and see the place if you don’t mind.”

“Not at all. Nice to meet you.”

As Max watched, the baby grabbed a handful of her hair and pulled. He winced just watching, but she laughed it off, carefully untangling her hair. “You’ll have to forgive Bryan here. He’s a little sick today.”

“Is everything okay?”

“It’s fine, just the sniffles and a small fever. Probably just a cold. Please come in.” She stepped aside and let the troup into the house.

Max passed by, amazed at the small child in her arms. How could they be so small?

“It’s amazing, isn’t it?”

“What?” Max looked up at the girl for the first time. She didn’t appear to be much older than he was. From this close, he could see the light dusting of freckles along her nose and he thought it was kind of cute. Why hadn’t he ever met her before?

“How small and fragile they look. But let me tell you, they’re strong little guys.”

“How old is he?” Once again, Max’s attention was drawn back to the small child. He had released his grip on her hair, but now he was craning his head to get a better look at Max.

“Six months. He’s been here with us for a month now. But he’s a lucky ducky, aren’t you?” She bounced the baby and made him laugh. “He’s being adopted by a wonderful family pretty soon.”

“Do you usually do things like that? Just keep the kids until they’re adopted?” It seemed weird to have a revolving door like that.

“Mostly. They usually need a place to go until the paperwork has a chance to go through. But we get a lot of kids that aren’t as lucky as Bryan. Not many people are willing to adopt children with diseases or health conditions. So, they usually stay here with us as long as we can keep them.” She watched Max study the baby. He hadn’t really so much as glanced her way yet. Some people were just drawn to children, but he seemed to be sad looking at Bryan. And she always was a sucker for a sad face. “Say, would you mind watching him for a minute while I help out your father?”

“Me? But I don’t-“

“You’ll be fine. Just don’t drop him.” She smiled at him, idly wondering if he was available. It never hurt to keep an eye out. She hurried off in the direction of her mother’s office to help the two men waiting on her.

Max faced the small boy Sara had placed in his arms. He smiled up at Max and starting making gurgling noises. Despite himself, Max smiled back, forgetting his discomfort at being so close to the baby. He had no experience with them, and had never given them a moment’s thought until Tess had announced that she was pregnant. Truthfully, they had never thought they could have children and so it had been easy to glance past them.

“Who have you got there?” Isabel had watched Max handle the baby and had been ready to step in and help. At first, she had wondered if it would set him back to be around a baby after everything that had happened, but when he had smiled down at the little bundle, she knew he would be okay.

“Bryan and I are hanging out, I think. I didn’t know they got this small. I mean, look at these fingers, and they have fingernails! Look at how small they are.”

“My brother the genius.” But he was kind of cute.

“So, what’s up with you and Mark?”

“Hmm? What do you mean?” Playing dumb came natural to her after all these years.

“Don’t do that with me. I saw the eyes you two were making at each other all the way over here. He’s a cop, you know.”

“Thank you, Max. I hadn’t noticed when I climbed into the squad car. Thank god you were here to clear that up.” She took a seat on the couch, picking up a small toy car and spinning the wheels.

“It’s not safe, Is.”

“Max, don’t you think I know that? God, I just met him. I’m not planning our wedding yet or anything.” But she had been imagining how wonderful it would be to kiss those lips. Sadly, it would never be though. Max was right and she hated him for it. “Nothing is going to happen with Mark. It’s just a flirtation. He’s cute and he’s rich. But he’s not the forever kind.” No one would be for her. She knew that now. Alex might have been but he was gone. “Can we just play with the baby for a minute?”

“Sure, Is.” Carefully, Max handed the baby to Isabel, watching as she cooed at him. Had he caught a flash of loneliness in her eyes? Could she feel as empty as he did? He would save that conversation for another day.

Max climbed down on the floor with his sister and helped push a car along the floor, delighted when the baby clapped his chubby hands at him.

“Sorry that took so long.” Sara rushed back into the room, half-afraid she would find chaos, but found Bryan climbing up Max’s broad chest, pulling at his short hair. And when Max laughed, she thought her heart was going to melt. Oh yeah, she was a goner. “So, I see you two have acquainted yourselves.” She turned to Isabel, surprised to find her glaring at her. “You must be Isabel. I’m Sara.”

“Nice to meet you.” But she made sure there was just the slightest hint of frost in her tone. Enough girls had hurt her brother. The last thing Max needed was another one falling for the wounded puppy routine.

“Okay, I have what I need. Sara, good to see you again. Tell your mom I’ll look over these papers and give her a call next week. Kids, you ready to go?”

“Yeah, Dad. Let’s get out of here.” Isabel stood, taking the baby from Max and handing him to Sara.

“Sure. I’ll be out in a minute. I wanted to talk to Sara for a minute if that’s okay.”

“We’ll be outside.” Phillip juggled the large stack of papers and gratefully handed over half of them to Isabel when she came over to help. With one last glare over her shoulder for Sara, she followed her father and Mark out the door.

“What can I do for you, Max?”

“I was just wondering if I could come back sometime? I have a lot of free time on my hands and I think it would be fun to work here.”

“Oh, well, we don’t really have any money to pay you.” Why had she thought he would ask her out? She didn’t even know him and he paid more attention to the children than he did to her. But still, it would be nice to see him around again.

“I’m not looking for a paying job. I was thinking about volunteering. I could talk to your mother when she gets back if I need to.” He didn’t know why he felt so strongly about this. It just felt right being in this house, helping.

“You want to volunteer here? I don’t mean to sound ungrateful, but it’s not exactly a glamorous job, especially for someone your age.” God, could she sound any more like her mother? When had she become a complete spaz?

“I’m not exactly like other guys my age. So, is it a problem?” He knew he was being pushy, but he couldn’t help it. There was some force driving him here. And he had learned by now to trust his instincts.

“No, not at all. I’ll have to check in with my mother first though. Can you give me a call back in a few days or come back by?”

“Sure. Will Wednesday be too soon?”

“No, Wednesday is fine.” And it couldn’t come soon enough.

“Great. It was nice meeting you, Sara.”

“Nice meeting you too, Max.” She watched him tickle the baby one last time before heading out the door. He was this great big ball of mystery to her. When he looked into her eyes, she could swear she saw something there. But what had it been? He may have been right when he said he wasn’t like other guys. Because she had never felt like this before. He was coming back Wednesday. He seemed too impatient to merely call back. He would be here as bright and early as he could. And she would be ready for him. And if he turned out to be single, and she could manage to not trip over her tongue, then life was about to get interesting.



posted on 15-Oct-2001 10:47:28 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Another part from little old me. By the way, I'm not sure what's up with the screen sizes. I know I've been having to scroll left and right to read everything, but I think that's a board issue they're working on. So, work with me. I know it's frustrating. If it really bothers some of you, the easiest way to get around it until it's fixed is to copy and paste it to Word and then you can read away. Just don't forget to come back and leave me feedback telling me how brilliant I am. I'm going to try to get a part of LtL out today. I know it's been awhile since I posted over there, but we're getting into the last few weeks before my wedding and I'm running seriously low on time. But see how much I love you guys? Here I am typing away just for you. So, here you go...

Finding Yourself
Part 32

“Kyle? Kyle, are you here?” Liz walked through the door to her new apartment, still giddy over the newness of it, throwing her keys down on the small table by the door. She picked up a stack of mail and began flipping through it as she walked through the living room.

“Sorry, Liz, just me.”

“Oh, Sheriff, you scared me. I thought you were leaving this morning.”

“Please, haven’t we talked about this a hundred times? It’s Jim.”

“Fine, Jim, you scared the life out of me.” She smiled at him, glad Kyle had talked him into staying for the long Thanksgiving weekend. “So, is Kyle around?”

“No, some girl called and he apologized to me and ran out of here. Does that happen a lot?”

Liz chuckled. “That must have been Angelia. She’s his newest girl this week, and what Angelia wants, she gets.”

“Well, it’s good to see some things never change. I hate to say my son is a player, but…” he trailed off, not wanting to finish the sentence.

“But he is,” Liz finished for him. She loved Kyle dearly, but he seemed to think of himself as god’s gift to women.

Jim winced. “You know, he wasn’t always like that. As I recall, you two were a pretty good couple.”

Liz blinked hard. “Us? As in Kyle and I? Are we remembering the same times? Don’t you start that parental thing with me. Kyle and I are hardly couple material. At best, we were good friends. There just wasn’t any spark or chemistry. And then…”

Jim saw the hint of sadness that filled her large eyes and he regretted putting it there. But he felt like she needed to talk to someone. “And then you met Max.”

Liz sunk to the couch, knowing she couldn’t run from the conversation forever. And she really didn’t want to. “I guess you could say that. Let’s just say I met the real Max.”

Jim took a seat beside her. “How are you really, Liz?”

She blew out a deep breath. “I don’t know. Some days I’m great. I can go hours without thinking about what I left behind or how much I miss everyone. But other days everything just sucks, and I want to run home and hide.”

“Nobody would think less of you if you did.”

“No, but I would think less of myself. When Alex was killed…it sort of threw everything out of whack. No, I think that happened when Tess showed up in town. Nothing was quite the same after that. There’s just so much I still need to work out in my head. If I go back now, it would be so easy to fall back into the familiar pattern with Max and everyone else. In Roswell, I was expected to be a certain person. And I didn’t want to be mild-mannered Liz Parker with the perfect boyfriend and life. I hated that image, who I became and what happened because of it.”

“If I told you you weren’t to blame for Alex’s death, you wouldn’t believe me, would you?”

She smiled at him, covering his large hand with her own. “No, but I would appreciate the gesture.”

Jim nodded. There were just some things she would have to figure out and come to terms with on her own. “Have you talked to your parents yet?”

She had known the question was coming, but it still agitated her. “No. I can’t yet. What would I say to them? They don’t even know why I really left. What am I supposed to say when they start asking questions?”

“Why don’t you write them a letter then? Just to let them know you’re alive and well. Liz, I hate to play the parent, but when Kyle said he was leaving, it tore at my heart. Sure, I knew he was leaving for college anyway soon, but to lose your only child so suddenly, it cuts deep. And your parents don’t even know where you are. I can’t begin to imagine what they’re feeling.” He saw the look on her face and softened a bit. She was really hurting over this. “Liz, I’m not trying to guilt you into doing something you’re not ready to do. But I could deliver something to them if you didn’t want them to know where you are. They’re worried about you.”

“I’ll tell you what, I’ll think about it. I hear you. But I just can’t talk to them yet. I know I should, but I just can’t.” She rose from the couch with the sudden burning desire to read her parent’s letter. She walked halfway to her room before turning around. “You’ll still be here awhile, won’t you?”

“I’ll come say goodbye before I leave.” He hesitated a minute. “Liz, when Tess was living with us, I treated her like the daughter I never had. But it never felt right. I just wanted you to know that if you ever need anything at all, whatever time of the day or night, call me.”

Liz smiled warmly, understanding his unspoken words. “I may not call you Dad, but you’ve always felt like one. Thank you for trying to help, and for keeping my secrets.” Not wanting to cry, she fled into her room, throwing her books into a heap on the floor. She headed for the drawer that held her parent’s letter and took it out.

She turned the worn envelope over in her hands, feeling the smooth texture. It was now or never. She sliced through the flap with her fingernail and slowly pulled out the letter. Immediately, her mother’s flowing handwriting jumped out at her. She could almost smell her perfume, gardenias. With a deep breath, she opened the single sheet and began reading.

Dear Liz,

Your dad and I thought about the best way to write you this letter and we finally decided that I would put our thoughts and feelings onto paper. First of all, we miss you, and we love you. Honey, we know things were rough for you after Alex died and we’re sorry we weren’t there for you more. Maybe we should have seen how troubled you were by it all. And you’ll never know how much it hurts us that we couldn’t help you. We know there’s more to why you left, that we’ll probably never know exactly what was going on in your head that night two weeks ago, but we can accept that. We just want to know that you’re safe and happy wherever you are.

And saying that, I fear that one of the reasons you left was because you found out somehow the secret we’ve been keeping from you. If you already know, we hope this letter will help you. If not, it’s time you did know. But we regret not being able to tell you in person. Honey, you were adopted. Now, it’s not as heartless and cold as it may seem. We may not have brought you into this world, but we loved you with everything we had. And there were years that went by where we had actually forgotten that we didn’t make you ourselves. Your father and I think you somehow found this out and it hurt you that we never told you the truth. But we kept telling ourselves that it would be better to wait until you were old enough to understand. But we never stopped to see that not only were you old enough, but sometimes the truth doesn’t set you free.

We wouldn’t have brought anything up in this letter if we didn’t think you weren’t hurting over this. We are your real family. You were brought to us, a small miracle of pink limbs and a cry that could wake the dead, and we fell in love with you. In the letter you left on your bed for us, you said you were going on some kind of journey. And if part of that journey means you’re trying to find your birth parents, we’ll understand. But I’m afraid we can’t help you. Not because we don’t want to, but because we don’t know anything. Your grandmother brought you to us saying your family was gone and she helped us adopt you through less than legal channels. Phillip Evans helped us with the paperwork and he knew even less than we did. But when your grandmother passed away, she took any information about where you came from with her. I always told myself that I would ask her one day, but I was afraid without ever knowing why. Now, it’s another regret on a long list.

Liz, please don’t be angry with us. Your father and I love you very much and we respected your wishes not to look for you. And you’ll never know how hard that has been. We should have told you from the start that you weren’t ours, but we were afraid. We only hope that we don’t lose you over this. Please just let us know somehow that you’re okay. We love you and worry about you in a way that only parents can. Don’t forget about us and we hope that wherever you are, you’re happier than you were here and you find whatever it is you’re looking for. Remember always that we love you and that no matter what happens or what you find, you’ll always be our daughter.

With love,
Mom and Dad


Liz set the paper down with shaky hands. Her brain was overloaded with information. She was adopted? How could that be? Her whole life there had never been any indication, any clue that she had been adopted illegally. And her grandmother was involved? She had found her and brought her to her parents? Was that why they had always shared a special bond that her parents had never been able to achieve with her? Hundreds of questions flew through her head until they threatened to overwhelm her.

Deciding she had to only take a few deep breaths, she forced herself to calm down. She would make a list. That’s what she’d do. She would write out a list of questions she had now. Some of them she would ask her parents someday and others she would have to find answers to herself. But first and most importantly, she had to write a letter back to her parents. They were tearing themselves up over whether she was upset and had left them for good. How could she explain that her leaving had nothing whatsoever to do with them? Her heart was even heavier than before. She’d had this letter for weeks now while they thought they had done something wrong that had caused her to leave.

Moving with a purpose, she pulled a fresh sheet of paper from her notebook and began writing, the words coming fast and furious from her brain.


Dear Mom and Dad,

First of all, I want to apologize to you for not writing to you sooner. Kyle did give me your letter, but I was too weak to open it. That is, until today. And I’m sorry you’ve been thinking you did something to drive me away. Nothing could be further from the truth. I left for reasons that I can never fully explain to you because I’m not sure you’d even believe me.

I am happy here. I’ve transferred to the local high school and I’m still planning to attend college in the fall, though I’m not sure which one yet. Kyle moved here a few weeks ago and while I gave him a hard time at first, I’m glad he’s here now. He’s become this rock that I depend on. We moved in together last week, and before your parental instincts rise up, we’re just friends. Kyle and I will never on any planet at any time ever be anything more. So, don’t worry. But know that he’s like this older, sometimes annoying big brother that watches out for me more than I’d like for him to. And he’s turned out to be a hundred times more meticulous and dependable than anyone ever gave him credit for in Roswell.

The Sheriff came to see us for Thanksgiving and I’m going to send this letter back with him. I’ve asked him not to tell anyone where I am, not to hurt you, but because I’m still afraid to talk to anyone. If I went back now, I’d hate myself for it, but I still miss everyone more than I thought possible. We took some pictures that I’m going to send copies of too. I know it’s not a lot, but it’s all I can do right now. I know how selfish I sound, but I feel like I have to be so I can regain some kind of sanity. You were right when you said that Alex’s death threw me off balance. Truthfully, nothing will ever be the same and I’m trying to figure out a way to make sense of everything.

I can’t promise you anything right now other than I won’t forget about you. And no matter who actually brought me into this world, I am your daughter. It would have been easier to hear it from you guys, but I don’t hold any bad feelings towards you two. You did what you felt was the right thing for everyone and I understand that more than you might think. Your letter has given me a lot to think about and I will. I won’t disappear off the face of the earth. I want to call you, but I don’t know when I can. The Sheriff knows where we are and how to get in touch with us if any kind of emergency comes up.

I miss you guys and I love you. You’ll never know how much it means to me that you’re giving me the chance to do this. Tell Maria that I love her too and I’ll get in touch with her when I can. Please don’t give up on me. I’ll come back someday and when I do, I’ll be strong enough to face everything I left behind in Roswell.

I love you guys,
Liz


Liz sat back and reread the letter to her parents. It wasn’t much, but at least they would know she was alive and well. She pushed back the growing number of questions her parent’s letter had brought on. She wasn’t quite ready to tell anyone about it yet. There was some force telling her to keep the information to herself until she could make sense of it. She would have to call Mr. Evans and find out what she could from him. But could he keep it a secret from Max? She would have to think about that for awhile. Without understanding why, an excitement filled her. This was what she had been sensing was coming, what Alex had told her about when she lay sobbing at his gravesite. Something was going to happen and it was finally beginning.



*wink**wink**wink*

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 15-Oct-2001 10:49:48 AM ]
posted on 16-Oct-2001 9:21:58 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

I'm just a posting machine. These parts are practically writing themselves these days. If I'm not careful, I may spoil you guys and get you to expect these parts daily. Wouldn't that be horrible?

Finding Yourself
Part 33

“That’s two Will Smith burgers, a cheese fry and three cherry cokes.” Maria deposited the plates in front of the three aliens and couldn’t resist leaning in closer to Michael for a quick kiss. As predicted, he tried to pull her in for a longer kiss, but she sidestepped him easily. She still had an hour left on her shift and Mr. Parker had been a stickler about keeping personal time personal.

“Later, Spaceboy,” she promised, winking at him before she disappeared behind the counter.

Michael watched her go with a smile. She had been so depressed since Liz had left that he’d worried about her day and night. But after she had woken up that morning last month and kidnapped Max, she had been better. She still wasn’t her old bubbly self, and he suspected she never would be again. But the simple act of getting up and going to work without Liz didn't seem to depress her anymore. And it was a good enough start for him.

The door chimed behind them, signaling yet another customer. Maria’s head popped up, an automatic smile on her lips that died when she recognized the face.

“Sheriff. When did you get back into town?” She couldn’t help the bitterness that crept into her voice. He knew where Liz and Kyle were, had been to see them for Thanksgiving. And Maria still had no idea where her best friend lived or how she was doing.

“Monday night. Say, are the Parkers in?”

“Yeah, is everything okay?” Oh, god, was it Liz? Had something happened? Panic seized Maria’s heart.

“Everything’s fine, Maria. I just have something for them.” Knowing the trio would be sitting in their regular booth, Jim wasn’t surprised to find them watching him. Most of the information they had gained in their life had been obtained from eavesdropping. He supposed some habits died hard.

Max had been watching Jim since he’d walked in the door. He’d been to see Liz, he would have bet his life on it. And he had shown up to tell the Parkers about it, about how she was doing. And as much as he wanted to hang onto every word, he knew no one would talk about her while he was in the room. Maria had more hope n her eyes than he’d seen in months and he was afraid Jim would pull the Parkers into another room and Maria would miss her first chance to know how her best friend was doing. But if he left, it would be a far less uncomfortable situation.

Michael was wrapped up in the glow in Maria’s eyes when movement caught his attention. Max had risen from the booth and was dropping a few bills on the table.

“Maxwell, you got a hot date or something?”

“I just have some things to do. You guys stay.” He was thankful for the second car his parents had bought for Isabel. It meant he could have the freedom to drive for hours without having to worry about leaving her stranded somewhere. And he’d picked up the habit of wandering endlessly lately.

“But I thought we were hanging out.” Isabel eyed her brother carefully. Where was he off to in such a hurry? “Will you be home for dinner?”

“I don’t know. I’ll call.” Max grabbed his keys from the table and fled out the door.

“What’s his deal?” Michael moved Max’s untouched plate of fries closer. There was no sense in wasting food. “I thought the mood swings were getting better.”

“They are.” Isabel watched Max peel out of the parking lot.

“Could have fooled me.”

“For gods sake, Michael, you were there when we found the Granolith.” She’d dropped her voice to an angry whisper. “You saw what it did to him to find the damn thing empty. And now those dreams he’s been having. He’s remembering his past life on top of trying to sort out what from the last year has been real and what Tess planted in his head. So, I think he’s entitled to a few mood swings. You of all people should get that.”

“Are you saying I’m moody?” But he already felt guilty. Isabel was right. Max had been through a rough couple of weeks. From the mush in his brain, they had figured out that a lot of the things they remembered happening were Tess’s made up memories.

Max had confided in Michael that he was pretty sure that the sex had been real enough. But he wasn’t sure if the baby had been real or just Tess’s way of getting him to Antar and to Khivar. But before Michael could mutter out an apology, Maria had come back with the Parkers.

“Sheriff, is everything okay?” Jeff was hot on his wife’s heels, practically running from the kitchen.

The Crashdown was practically empty this time of night, and Jim didn’t see any harm in talking where they were. “Everything’s fine.” He saw their anxiety and immediately sought to ease it. “I just have a message from Liz.”

“Liz? You heard from Liz? Is she okay? Everything’s alright?” Nancy had taken hold of Jeff’s arm and he had pulled his wife into his arms, both bracing for bad news.

Michael had slid out of the booth to stand behind Maria and offer support.

Jim smiled at them. “She’s fine, healthy and happy. I went to spend a few days with Kyle and Liz was there. It seems they rented out an apartment together, close to the school. In fact, it’s so nice I’m thinking of moving in with them.” When no one seemed vaguely amused, he decided to give up. “She’s okay,” he repeated. “She asked me to give this to you.” Jim pulled out Liz’s letter and was caught off guard when it was snatched from his hand.

Nancy and Jeff ripped open the envelope then held out the letter to read. Nancy covered her mouth with her hand, silent tears making their way down her cheeks. Maria watched them read the letter while she practically danced from foot to foot to hold back until she was included.

Jeff finished the letter first. “What pictures was she talking about?”

“That’s why it took me so long to get out here. I had to have them developed.” He handed them the package of photos.

The group slid into a booth, the Parkers on one side and Michael and Maria on the other. Isabel had risen to stand beside Jim near the booth.

“Look at her. She cut her hair.” Nancy ran a finger across the glossy surface of the first photograph.

Jim glanced over their shoulders to see which pictures they were looking at. Liz and Kyle were smiling at the camera, wearing matching lopsided grins. The next one showed the moment Mel had captured when Liz had been trying to sneak up on Kyle and Jim to finish a pillow fight Kyle had started. The group flipped through picture after picture, occasionally asking Jim what a picture was of. When they reached the images of Liz and Mel posing, Maria’s eyes turned sad as she asked who the girl was.

“Uh, that’s Mel. She’s a friend of theirs.” Jim knew Maria like his own flesh and blood and he knew she felt replaced in Liz’s life. He made a mental note to talk to her later and reassure her.

“She certainly looks better.” Jeff couldn’t stop staring at a single picture of his baby. She wasn’t posing, but was staring out a large window. She was wearing the same look of sadness that he’d come to recognize in her over the last year. But she looked older to him, wiser if possible. And he’d missed it. His little girl wasn’t so little anymore.

Nancy had reached for Jeff’s hand again, joy in her heart over knowing her Liz was okay. But she couldn’t help but be jealous of Jim Valenti. Not only did he have the freedom to talk to his son and Liz, but he had been able to see them, spend the holidays with them. And it stabbed her deep.

“Thank you, Sheriff,” she managed to choke out, unable to tear her eyes away from the pictures. “If you talk to her again, tell her how much it meant to us.”

“She knows.” He hesitated to say more, not wanting to overstep his bounds. “She’ll come back one day. She just needs some time to figure some things out. She misses you.”

“It helps. Thank you, Jim.”

Jim nodded, “I’ll see you guys around. Maria, do you need a ride home later?”

Maria nodded, not sure how he knew the Jetta was in the shop. She supposed things between him and her mother were getting more serious. “Yeah.”

“I’ll come back by later then. Good night, everyone.”

Michael watched the Sheriff exit the building before turning to Maria. “Are you okay?”

Maria eyed the image of Liz and Mel smiling at the camera. Then she forced a smile back on her face for Michael. “I’m fine. Why wouldn’t I be?”

*~*~

Max drove without purpose, without aim. He knew the Parkers would drill the Sheriff for information on Liz, so they would more than likely be there for awhile. Which meant that hang out spot was dead for the night. He tried not to think about it. He knew Liz was okay, safe at least. They may have been separated, and her trust in him may have been broken, but the connection between them that had always been present still hummed steadily. It was the only comfort he had left these days.

He pulled the Jeep to a stop, surprised to find that he had wound his way through town to sit in front of the Hudson House. He hadn’t meant to come here, and he certainly didn’t want to seem like a pest. But since he was here, he may as well go in. If he was bothering anyone or in the way, he would simply leave.

After the second knock on the door, he began to feel foolish. What if they weren’t even here? Or they were so busy he was bothering them? He turned to go just as the door opened with a creak. An older woman with red hair peppered with gray stood in the doorway, her smile wide when she found Max looking more than a bit lost.

“Hi, can I help you?”

“I’m Max Evans. You know my father, Phillip. We came by here last weekend with him and I think I met your daughter.”

“Sara? Yes, I remember her telling me about you now. You wanted to volunteer here, right?”

Max let out a breath. At least she had a clue who he was. “Yes. I’m sorry to just come by like this. She said you might be back today, but if it’s a bad time I can come back.”

“No, please come in.” She opened the door wide and led Max into her office.

Max followed patiently. He hadn’t really had a chance to see much of the inside of the house last time he came. The floors were a polished wood and despite the clutter of toys they had to carefully step over, the interior was unbelievably clean. When they had reached Colleen’s office, Max found himself seated in a plush armchair facing her from across her desk.

“So, tell me, Max, do you have any experience with children?”

Max swallowed hard. “No, I’m afraid not.”

“Any experience with any volunteer work?”

“No.”

“Why do you want to help here? Sara told you that we don’t have much money here, and what we do have we give to the kids. I’m afraid we don’t have any money to pay you.”

“I’m not looking for money.” Max sat forward, struggling to put into words something he didn’t quite understand himself. “From the moment I heard about this place from my dad, what you do here touched me. You help people, take in children that have no place left to go. And you not only take them in, but you do it with a smile. I want to be a part of that. I want to help if I can in any small way. I have a part-time job, but it’s nothing that isn’t flexible the few days I actually work a week. I know I don’t have any experience with kids much less sick ones, but I know what it’s like to not have anywhere to go, to feel like you don’t belong. The foster home my sister and I stayed in before we were adopted wasn’t nearly as nice as the home you have here. And I guess I feel like I’m giving something back.” Max knew he was red. He hadn’t meant to say that much, wasn’t sure really what had gotten into him. But he knew that he felt a vibe from this house, and he didn’t want to overly question it. He just felt like he belonged here.

“I’ll tell you what, Max. I like you and I think I can trust you, especially if you’re anything like your dad. Can you come by tomorrow? Sara will be free and I’ll have her show you around, introduce you to some of the older kids. Then we’ll see how you like things.”

“Definitely. Thank you, Mrs. Hudson.” Max rose to shake her hand.

“Please, it’s Colleen. And you shouldn’t be thanking me yet. These kids are a handful. You’ll be pulling out your hair in less than a week.” She shook his hand, noting the determination in his eyes. Yes, her daughter had been right about him. He looked eager, almost as if he was trying to fill something empty inside of him. She’d seen enough of that kind of sadness to last her a lifetime. And just because a child was adopted didn’t necessarily mean that feeling of not belonging went away. Sometimes they just grew up. It looked as though she had herself a new ward to watch out for.




posted on 17-Oct-2001 7:30:52 AM by Cookieman1234
Hey guys. Wow. I love it when I log off and come back and have all your wonderful feedback to keep me company. You guys are the greatest. Now, come on with the Max bashing. He'll redeem himself in the end, of that I promise you. Now, don't you think it may be possible for Max to not act on any impulses where Sara is concerned? No, well, how about S1 Max? Well, I'm not saying he will and I'm not saying he won't. Isn't that half the fun?

Jane, welcome aboard. I'm glad you caught up with us and you're enjoying the story so far. I don't know what to say about chapter 30. That was a bit whoops on me. I think I was posting on the other board and I copied the wrong part over here. But have no fear. All has been fixed now. And for anyone else that may not have read part 30 on the other board, it's Liz, Mel and Kyle's Thanksgiving. I went back to page 3 and reposted it where I had accidentally done part 29 twice. So, the whole story is back in order again. Also, this story is up on the repost board, hopefully in order and complete. God knows it may not be though. I can't add. So, if anyone notices any other mistakes, let me know. Jane, I'll go ahead and e-mail it to you anyway. Since you asked so nicely.

Your wonderful feedback has inspired me. I'm going to go now and finish typing up the part of Learning to Live that I'm almost finished and then I'm coming back to see if I can get you another part of this story. See? I always told you guys that it takes so very little to inspire me. And here's your proof. I'll see what I can do for you.

Thanks for all your kind words. It makes me think I'm actually doing a good job. Love you guys!

posted on 18-Oct-2001 2:10:30 PM by Cookieman1234

Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Yea! Another part for you very lovely people today. I would have had it up this morning, but they actually expected me to do work at work today. The nerve of some people, huh? Well, let me know what you think.

Finding Yourself
Part 34

Liz snapped off another round of shots on her camera and then stood back. Aware of the cramp in her back for the first time, she arched, stretching her abused muscles. She’d been in the park for an hour now and Kyle had been right when he’d said the fresh air would do them all some good.

He’d organized a football game with some friends, who had invited a few more of their friends. And by the time they were all gathered, an impromptu party had formed. The guys had been playing for well over an hour and Liz hadn’t been able to resist pulling out her camera and taking a few pictures. From there, everything around her had jumped out at her and demanded attention. She’d taken pictures of the trees and flowers, as well as the park’s children playing on the swings. She had a quick flash of flying through the air on a swing, laughing as Alex pushed her higher and higher. And she smiled at the memory.

“Heads up!”

Liz was so engrossed in her thoughts, she never heard the quick shout or the thundering footsteps headed in her direction. Ten seconds later, she found herself coming into contact with a very hard body and the world spun off it’s axis as she crashed to the floor.

“Whoa. Sorry about that. I was trying to save you from being hit in the head with the ball.”

Liz gingerly placed a hand to the back of her head, wincing slightly as she found a tender spot. “My hero,” she muttered.

“Here, let me help you up.”

A hand broke into her field of vision and she took it, being pulled back onto her feet.

“I really am sorry about that. Dan tried to warn you, but I guess you didn’t hear. Are you okay?”

“Yeah, I think so.” Liz looked up for the first time and came face to face with her attacker. He was tall, with sandy blond hair that looked just a hint too long as it curled over his ears. He was wearing the same uniform as the other guys, a ragged jersey and shorts, both soaked in sweat from a hard game. But the muscles that peaked out from behind the cloth were quite impressive. And that was when she started thinking maybe she did have a head injury. Since when did she notice things like that? And why was she still staring at his face? His eyes were all cloudy with concern for her and she liked it.

“Liz! Are you okay?” Kyle came sprinting across the field when he saw Liz go down. He’d been relieved to see her back on her feet, but she still looked a bit shaky. “Maybe you should sit back down.”

“I’m fine, Kyle. Where’s my camera?” She began looking around wildly for her equipment, saying a quick prayer that it hadn’t been crumpled.

“I’ve got it. Don’t worry.” Mel had pulled Liz’s camera off the floor, knowing she would be more worried about it than her own health. The girl was so predictable.

“I tried to stop in time, but I couldn’t.” The man continued to explain.

Realizing their hands were still joined together, Liz looked down at them with an amused grin. The man immediately dropped her hand, embarrassed by his own actions.

“I’m fine, really.” She turned her attention back to the man. “I’m Liz. Nice to meet you.”

“Tag.” He accepted her offered hand and shook it carefully.

“As in ‘You’re it?’” Mel found that she couldn’t resist the comment. Tag was staring at her friend like he was afraid she was going to fall to pieces any minute.

“Exactly.” Liz was smiling at him, and he knew he was acting like an idiot, but he really hadn’t meant to hurt her. Dan had thrown a long pass and they’d seen a bit too late that someone was in the way.

“Hey, guys! Are you playing or what?”

Liz glanced back at the guys on the makeshift field. They had seen that she was okay and wanted to resume playing now. “Go play. I’m fine.”

“Are you sure? Maybe you should go home and lie down.” Kyle turned to Mel, his brow creased with worry. “She should go home.”

“Am I not standing right here?” Liz gave Kyle a little push. “Go play. I’m going to move over there where it’s a little safer. Have fun. You too,” she glanced at Tag. “C’mon, Mel.” Liz linked her arm through Mel’s and the two of them walked off together.

“Are you really okay?” Mel whispered to Liz as they walked.

“Let me put it this way, if you let go of my arm, I’ll probably fall.”

“Okay. Let’s find you a seat then and you can impress everyone with your resilience.”

Tag turned to Kyle as the girls walked away. “She’s okay, right?”

“Liz? She’s tough alright. They both are.” He watched Mel support Liz across the field, taking in the full view of Mel’s tight behind in her leather pants. Did the girl ever not wear leather?

Tag examined the way Kyle’s eyes followed the two girls. “You and Liz, you’re not…”

“Hmm, what? Liz and I? No way, no how.”

“Good.”

Kyle froze, not liking the way he’d said it. “Hold on a minute here. Why do you ask?”

“No reason. I was thinking of asking her out myself. You know, if she survives the mild concussion I probably gave her.”

“Oh, you don’t want to do that.”

“Why not?” From where Tag was standing, there wasn’t any reason why he shouldn’t ask her out. Now that the shock and fear were subsiding, he was able to take in her appearance. She was petite and had some fire in her. She hadn’t lit into him for knocking her down, even when she should have. And besides that, she was gorgeous.

“Oh, well, she’s pretty boring and hard to get along with.”

“She didn’t look like it to me.” Tag started off in the direction of the field again, Kyle following hot on his heels.

“Well, she is trust me. And then there’s that weird rash she can’t get rid of.”

“Uh, huh. So, she’ll need someone to help her rub lotion on her.” For some reason, Kyle was trying to dissuade him from asking Liz out, and it amused him. He’d only known Kyle for a few days, having met him through one of their mutual friends, and he seemed like an okay guy. But he was playing mother hen here. Why didn’t he want him to go out with his friend?

Kyle swore to himself. Why wasn’t this working? If anything, his list of things wrong with Liz only seemed to make this guy more interested. And the last thing she needed was to date someone this soon. He looked up and noticed that Tag was already half way down the field. “Did I mention she’s gay?”

Liz and Mel sat out and watched the rest of the game. Liz was still a little light headed and had decided to give her camera a rest. But Mel had been distracted by an elderly couple on a picnic bench. Liz had given her the go ahead and she had disappeared to try to convince the couple to pose for her.

Alone, Liz allowed herself to relax. She was already feeling better, the incident behind her. But Tag had been really sweet, worrying about her. She didn’t know why her mind kept going back to this guy. Sure, okay, he was kind of nice looking, in an All American Good Looks kind of way. But she’d known dozens of guys like him and hadn’t had any sort of interest in them. Maybe it was his eyes. They had a spark of something adventurous and alive, always looking out for something more. She used to have that spark, before she had learned to live in the shadows and not call attention to herself or her actions.

Before she knew it, the game was over and she watched as they broke up, some making plans for another game the next day. She rose on shakier legs than she would have liked and tried to bend back down to retrieve her bags.

“Here, let me help you with that.”

She straightened to find Tag smiling at her as he bent to pick up her bags. “Thanks.” Oh, yeah, it was that spark in his eye that was so amazing. What had it been like to live your whole life with a thirst for life, never knowing the fear of death lingering in every face around you? She couldn’t remember.

“Did you drive? Because, no offense, but you’re not looking so good.”

“No, actually I walked over.” Which was going to become a problem if she wanted to get home. She supposed Kyle would be happy enough to go home and get his car to pick her up in.

“Well, let me offer you a lift home. I promise not to cause any more head injuries to you today.” He smiled at her, trying to look as harmless as possible.

“I’m not really sure that’s a good idea.” It made her sad to say no, and confused her when she realized she wanted to say yes.

“Look, I’ve already hurt you today. The least I can do is make sure you get home safely.”

Kyle loped over to where Mel stood, snapping the last of her role of film on an elderly couple. Somehow, she had managed to get them to cuddle together, posing for her. Which just proved that she was amazing in every way possible. But in his haste to join her side, he hadn’t seen the children’s sand bucket half buried in the sand and he managed to hook his foot, sending him sprawling into the sand. Several children had noticed and had started pointing and laughing. Never one to miss a beat, Kyle bounced back onto his feet and took a deep bow for them all.

“No wonder you’re such a hit with the ladies. You save that move for all your women, Slick, or just the special ones?” Mel took one last picture of the couple and then set down her camera. “Thanks. You guys are wonderful. I’ll have these developed in a few days and I promise to send you copies of them all.”

Kyle watched as they left, hand in hand. “What did you do to them?”

“Nothing. I just asked them to pose for a few pictures. They’ve been together fifty five years in January.” She sighed, despite herself. “Doesn’t that sound impossibly long?”

“I don’t know, it sounds kind of nice. It must be good to know you’ll be with someone for the rest of your life.”

Mel looked at him, surprised by his comment.

“What?”

“Nothing. Say, isn’t that Tag over by Liz?” She wasn’t comfortable with the emotions churning inside her, and she knew Liz being drooled over by some guy would be enough of a distraction to change the subject.

“Where?” Kyle scanned the field for Liz’s head, swearing when he found them together. “I thought I told him she wasn’t interested.”

“How do you know if she’s interested or not?”

“I just know. The last think Liz needs right now is another bastard getting her hopes up and breaking her heart.”

Mel watched Kyle spring off to defend Liz’s virtue. She had already figured that Liz had been hurt by a guy, but it never helped to have it confirmed. She followed Kyle quickly. Someone was going to have to rescue the girl from Kyle’s brotherly interference.

“Liz. Hey, are you ready to go now? George is going to give us all a ride home, you know to our apartment, where we live together, you and I, alone.”

Liz grinned at Kyle’s none too subtle hints. “Yeah, I’m ready. It was nice meeting you, Tag. Maybe I’ll see you around.”

Kyle took Liz’s bags from Tag’s shoulder and couldn’t resist the smug look he sent the other boy. He had won this round. Oh, yes, he had won. And if he had anything to say about it, Tag would never get the chance to put his slick hands on Liz. He knew all too well when men wanted, and Liz was too good for that sort of thing. He had come to Flat Creek to protect her, and protect her he would.





posted on 25-Oct-2001 9:12:19 AM by Cookieman1234

Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey, guys. Where the heck have I been, right? Sorry, crazy week. I have only a few days now till the big wedding day and I'm nowhere near ready! Okay, this is the last part you'll get this week, but Abbi Morgan has been kind enough to post a part or two for me while I'm gone next week. So, let me see what I can type up and get over to her to proof read for me and you'll have something for next week. So, leave me copious amounts of feedback so that when I come back from my honeymoon, I'll see how much you love me and I'll sit right down and write you a part Nov 5th. Thanks guys and I'll miss you! Oh, by the way, I love you guys when I introduce new characters. So, half of you like Tag and the rest of you want him to die in a fiery death? Hmm, something to think about.

Finding Yourself
Part 35

“Hello? Is anybody here?” Max opened the door to the Hudson House, listening for sounds of life. He’d been warned that often they couldn’t hear the door and no one would answer when he arrived. So, he entered cautiously, moving towards the sounds of a baby’s cry. He sidestepped a line of toy soldiers on the bottom step and on the second floor, narrowly had a narrow miss with a lone roller skate.

“Colleen? Sara?” He peeked into a room and found Sara covered head to toe in baby powder, and Ben squirming atop a large table.

“Sara? Are you okay?” He stepped into the room slowly, not wanting to scare her out of the daze she seemed to be in.

“Max! Thank god you’re here. I know I was supposed to show you around and everything today, but I have a semi-emergency and I could really use your help.”

“Sure. What do you need?”

“Well, Mom and a friend of hers took the rest of the zoo to the park for awhile but I stayed with Ben and Ana. Well, Ben’s running a pretty high fever and I can’t take him anywhere near Ana right now.”

“The little girl with the heart problem my dad is helping?”

“Yes. So, could you keep her company, play with her? Whatever she wants, just don’t let her get too excited.”

“Uh, okay. I suppose.”

“Great. Thanks, Max.” Sara strode over to an intercom in the corner and pushed a button. “Ana? Sweety, are you there?”

“Yes,” came a timid reply a minute later.

“Honey, a friend of mine is coming up to play with you for awhile. His name is Max and he’s okay to talk to, okay?”

“Okay.”

Sara released the button with a smile. “Ana’s upstairs, down the hall on the right.” Trusting Ana was in good hands, Sara turned back to the baby and the dilemma of trying to keep his fever down. She’d learned from her mother how to make snap judgements with people. And Max Evans had not only passed through her but her mother as well.

Uncertain of where he was going or even what he was doing, Max backed up to the stairs and climbed up to the third level. The soft voice of a small child caught his ear and he followed it to an open bedroom door.

A little girl sat on her bed, indian-style under a fluffy pink blanket with butterflies. Her dark hair hung around her face, hiding it from his view. She had a Barbie doll in each hand and a dozen brightly colored doll outfits lay strewn on the bed around her.

“Ana?” He asked with a smile. He’d never really been around kids before, not to mention sick little girls. Would she be afraid of him?

Ana’s head popped up when she heard Max’s voice and she locked her eyes with his. Max wanted to squirm under her probing stare, but he waited for her to react to him.

“You’re Sara’s friend?”

Max nodded. “I’m Max.” He took a step into the room and when she didn’t flinch or move backwards, he took it as a good sign. “Whatcha got there?” He gestured towards her dolls.

“Barbies.” She tossed her head back, holding it high. The boys she knew usually made fun of her for playing with dolls.

“Do they have names?” He remembered Isabel had fantastical names for all of her dolls, royalty names that he still wondered if they belonged to real people. He moved to the edge of the bed, not sure what to do.

She made a frustrated sound that he recognized well from growing up with Isabel. “Yeah, Barbie.”

“Oh, sorry. I’m kind of new at this.” Had he just been put in his place by a six year old?

“’S okay.” She cocked her head to the side and examined him again. “You could play with me. I could teach you.”

Max watched as she batted her eyes at him, a frown all but formed on pouting lips. And he wondered if it was an ingrained trait all women just knew how to do from birth. But nevertheless, he knew he was sunk.

“Sure. What do I do?”

She scooted back on her twin bed and patted the empty space in front of her. “First you have to sit down. Here, you can be this Barbie. And I’ll be this one. We’re playing Magical Fantasy Fashion Show and they have to model the dresses.”

Max eyed the doll in his hand. Half of her blond tresses had been cropped off at uneven angles and her red dress was only half on, making him wonder if this was such a good idea after all.

“Don’t you have any boy dolls?”

She scoffed at him. “No. Now, I’ll go first and you can follow me.” She set the doll on her feet and bounced her along the blanket as if walking. “Oh, thank you everyone for coming. Isn’t my dress beautiful?”

Max grinned as her voice rose several octaves as she mimicked Barbie’s voice. She really was pretty cute. And while there were bags under her eyes, she looked almost okay, not really sick at all. He wondered if maybe there had been a mistake.

“Okay, you’re turn.”

Max turned his attention to the half-dressed doll again. Unsure of what to do, he bounced the doll as he’d seen her do.

“My name is Barbie and I’m wearing a red dress.”

Ana covered her mouth with her hands as giggles escaped. “No, silly. You can’t use a boy voice! You have to use a girl voice like mine.”

“Like this?” Max raised his voice higher, swearing on everything he owned that Michael and Isabel would never catch word of what he was doing.

Ana giggled again. “No! Higher!”

“Like this?” He rose his voice to an impossibly high pitch, her giggles filling in the empty holes in his soul. “Hi, my name is Barbie and I’m wearing a red dress.”

“You didn’t even dress her all the way. Let me do it.” She took Barbie from Max and deftly fixed her clothing.

“So, what happened to her hair?”

“Jesse!” She rolled her eyes. “He tried to play Beauty Parlor with me but he’s a boy. I told him he was doing it wrong, but he wouldn’t listen to me and then Nicole got mad at me cause Jesse cut her hair. It wasn’t my fault and Jesse laughed at me, but Sara made him apologize for being mean and he didn’t get any chocolate cake for dessert.”

Max tried to follow her rambling sentences the same way he did with Maria. He filed all the information away to process and sort through for later.

“So, these aren’t your Barbies?”

She shook her head sadly. “No. Nicole’s new family bought em for her before they took her away. Now, I have to share with Rachel.” She made a face to show just how distasteful sharing with this girl really was.

“But sharing is a good thing.” His mother had ingrained it into his and Isabel’s heads for years now. And she’d be proud he was passing it along.

“But she waits till I’m playing with them to want to play. It’s not fair.”

“Well, why don’t you just play with one of your toys when she does that?”

And plucked at the bedspread. “I don’t have any of my own.”

“No toys at all?”

“I had a real pretty doll my aunt Cara bought me, but Jesse took it and lost it.” Her lower lip started quivering.

Panic filled Max. “Don’t cry. It’s okay. We’ll just have to get you a new doll.”

“Really?” Her face lit up. “Like the Pretty Polly doll with the pink ribbons and all the neat dresses?”

“Yeah, exactly like that.” How could her enthusiasm be so contagious? He’s smiled more since he’d been in this room than he had in over a year.

“I’m hungry. Can we make a snack?”

“Sure, I guess.” He glanced out into the hallway, hoping the answer to the question would lie there. It wasn’t dinnertime yet. He didn’t see the harm.

“What do you want?” Of course, he had no idea where the kitchen was or what was in it, but he would try his best.

“Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich.”

Max stared at her incredulously. And he thought they ate weird food combinations. “I don’t know how to make that.”

“Oh,” her face fell in disappointment.

“But you could show me.”

“No, I’m not allowed to walk downstairs.” She returned her gaze to the bedspread.

“Why?”

“Cause last time I tried, I fell and hurt my leg. And Colleen said no more walking till my heart is all better.”

Max’s heart broke to hear her story. He searched for a way to bring back her smile so it would light up the room again. “Well, what if I gave you a ride downstairs and you showed me where everything is?”

“Piggy back ride!” she squealed.

“Yeah.” Faced with another first, he nodded his head. “Okay, a piggy back ride. Let’s go.”

Ana threw back the blanket and carefully climbed to her feet on the bed. Max leaned closer so she could grip his neck. The first thing he noticed was how small she was, She was all skin and bones and he was sure that she was small even for someone her age. The second thing he noticed was that she didn’t have enough strength in her small arms to hold on tight enough not to fall. Once he had hoisted her onto his back, he reached one hand around to grip her back. Ready now, he headed down the stairs.

“Sara! We’re going to the kitchen for a snack!” Ana called out when they reached the second floor landing.

Sara emerged from the bedroom, eyes wide. “You’re hungry, sweetie?”

Ana nodded, burying her head in Max’s shoulder.

“Is that okay? I didn’t know-“

“Are you kidding? If she’s hungry, feed her anything she wants.” Sara smiled at the two of them. They seemed to have become fast friends, despite the look of panic that filled Max’s face. “If you need anything, just call me on the intercom. And you, you know the rules.”

“Yes, ma’am.”

Max continued his journey down the stairs, following Ana’s directions to the kitchen. After the second wrong turn and a bout of giggles, he figured out she was doing it on purpose. The house seemed to be a maze of doors and hallways all connecting to another part of the house. He imagined some of the kids had quite a bit of fun hiding in the rooms.

Finally, they found the kitchen and he set Ana down in one of the softer chairs and went in search of bananas and peanut butter. But while Ana rambled on about a TV show she watched, Max’s mind wandered to Sara’s surprised face. Why had she been so shocked that Ana was hungry? He would ask her about it later. For now, he would hunker down in front of a the TV with Ana and a large plateful of Banana and Peanut Butter sandwiches to watch something called the Powerpuff Girls.

An hour later, he found himself laughing like the kid he’d never quite had the chance to be. He could see the popularity of the kids’ show. And Blossom kind of reminded him of Liz. But when he glanced down to ask Ana something, he saw that she was fast asleep. She had curled up against his side after she had wolfed down three sandwiches, and had proceeded to explain who each character was. She liked Mojo Jojo the best and they’d spent a few minutes during the commercial break trying to imitate his evil laugh. Ana had won.

Now, her small head was nestled on his chest, her hand fisted in his, and he couldn’t remember when that had happened. Asleep, she looked so much more fragile than she did when she had giggled over his reaction to his first taste of her sandwich. She looked…well, sicker. Her eyes were indeed carrying large bags and he wondered if she slept or if it was a fitful sleep when she did. So far, she had been sleeping pretty heavily and he didn’t think he should disturb her. But here, he could see the first signs of weakness. His dad had said that she would need a heart transplant before the year was out or she would likely die. And he knew that if he had it within him to heal her, he would. But like with Liz’s grandmother, he couldn’t heal something that was natural occurring. And a diseased heart was something even he couldn’t fix.

He heard the door open and a half dozen kids came scrambling inside. The sound of sneakers hitting hard wood floors and barreling up the stairs made him flinch, checking to make sure Ana stayed asleep.

Colleen stepped into the living room, momentarily startled to find Max and Ana on the couch. “Oh, Max. Hi. I see you’ve met Ana.”

“Hi, Colleen.” Max tried to untangle himself from Ana to stand up and greet Colleen, but she waved him back down.

“Stay. How long has she been sleeping?” She poked her head around the corner to keep an eye on two of her boys that had been whispering all afternoon. Nothing good ever came of that.

“Forty five minutes or so. We had a snack and she fell asleep.”

Colleen eyed the empty plate and the cartoon still running on the television. “Ah, I see you’ve been properly introduced to Cartoon Network. Ana’s a junkie for the stuff. Did she really eat?”

“Yeah. She had a few sandwiches and a glass of milk.” Max hesitated a minute. “Colleen, Sara acted a little funny earlier when Ana told her she was hungry.”

“And you were wondering what that was about?” Colleen sighed and took a seat on the other side of Ana. She smoothed back a strand of her dark hair. “How much do you know about her illness?”

“Not much,” he confessed.

“Well, her heart is diseased. It always has been. Her mother is a junkie that used to leave her alone for weeks at a time, and Ana’s always been on medication. Her aunt, Cara Page, was buying the medicine for awhile and tried to help take care of her, but her husband passed away and her mother is sick and living with her. So, she couldn’t take in Ana. I found a family in Tucson that is willing to take her, but she has to stay here until she can get a transplant. And to be honest, if she doesn’t find a donor heart soon, she may not be strong enough for the transplant.”

Max looked down at the little girl that had filled his afternoon with such energy and joy. “She said she wasn’t allowed to walk down the stairs?”

Colleen nodded. “Yeah. She had an accident last month. Her body is getting weaker and her legs have to work double time to support her. She tried to walk down the stairs in the middle of the night and she ended up falling. It was an hour before one of the other kids found her. She didn’t break anything, but she was too weak to climb back up. Her doctors said it would only get worse from there, so we told her she’s not allowed to walk down the stairs or climb by herself.”

“But she was so energetic today. We played and watched television.” Max was having trouble fitting the image of the dying little girl with the one he’d been with today.

“You caught her on a good day. We’d given her medication before we left and I guess she tired herself out. Usually, the medication makes her sick and we’re lucky if we can get her to eat much of anything. You did good to get her to eat what you did today.” Colleen placed a hand on Max’s. She could see he was having a hard time accepting what she was telling him. “I know it’s hard to accept, Max. It’s hard not to be able to do anything, but just being here for her is the best we can do right now.”

“So, you just have to wait and see if a heart is available?” How could they calmly sit back and wait to see if she would live or die? His whole life, he’d only had one person he couldn’t save and it had been Liz’s grandmother. And as much as he’d wanted to save her for Liz, he didn’t really know her all that well.

“She’s on a waiting list, but it’s not as simple as that. She is high priority, but it has to match her profile.”

Ana stirred beneath them. “Max?” She asked groggily.

“I’m here.”

And rubbed her eyes, yawning loudly. “I’m sleepy.” She moved closer to him and he tightened his arm around her unconsciously.

“Do you want to take her upstairs to her bed?”

“Yeah.” Carefully, he scooped the small bundle into his arms and tried to ignore the warm feeling it gave him when she nuzzled against his neck. How long had it been since someone had trusted him so implicitly? He sidestepped the toys, old and new, that had gathered since he had arrived that morning and made his way to her bedroom. He pulled back the fluffy pink bedspread and laid her down, careful to cover her back up. He didn’t know how easy it would be for her to catch a cold, and it was drafty in the old house.

“Max?” Ana half-opened her eyes to find her new friend.

“Yeah?” He moved back over to the side of the bed.

“Are you going home now?”

Max didn’t need to glance at his watch to know it was late. “I’m afraid so.”

“Will you come back tomorrow?” She yawned, her eyes closing more with every word.

“You betcha.”

She gave him a sleepy smile. “Kay. Good night.”

Max watched her slip back into a sound sleep and he stood there for another minute watching over his new friend. He would be back tomorrow and the day after that, and if the day ever came when he could do something to help this fragile little girl that had touched his heart, he would do it without hesitation.


posted on 6-Nov-2001 11:24:32 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Fate was just against me getting this part out yesterday. Someone called in a bogus anthrax call to the building and we were evacuated all day, then I tried to post this morning and I couldn't get on the site. Oh well, here it is. Thanks for sticking with me. I'm going to try my hardest to get a few new parts out this week. Oh, I need a HUGE favor from someone that loves me. I'm way behind on my television, you know wedding stuff. Well, I still have Buffy and Roswell to watch from 2 weeks ago where the promos showed Buffy getting a construction job and it looked like Isabel in Paris? Does that make sense? I have those episodes to watch, but my VCR malfunctioned and I don't have Angel, Buffy, or Roswell from last week and I was hoping some kind soul would help me out and fill me in on what I missed. Can someone e-mail me and give me a brief synopsis? You don't even want to know about this week. Thanks guys! Your feedback and well wishes were a wonderful treat to come back to.

Finding Yourself
Part 36

“I don’t like it, Kyle Something’s wrong.”

“I’m sure she’s just busy, Liz. It hasn’t really been that long.” Kyle secretly believed her, but knew it would only worry her more if he said so.

“Hasn’t been that long? Kyle, we haven’t seen Mel in two weeks. She’s been skipping class more than you used to and she hasn’t returned any of my calls.”

“It’s not exactly like she had a perfect attendance record at school before this.” But she had made her way over to their new apartment every day. Mel had become a permanent fixture in their home before she had dropped off the face of the earth.

“Something’s wrong,” Liz repeated, a frown on her face. “I can feel it. I always could and I have that same feeling creeping up my spine.”

A knock on the door caught their full attention and Liz dashed from the couch to answer it. When she found a very nervous looking Mel in the hallway, Liz pulled her into a quick hug before she had time to remember the other girl wasn’t one for shows of affection.

Seeing Mel’s discomfort, Kyle pulled Liz back. One look at her face told him that something was indeed wrong. Mel’s usually perfect appearance was gone. She had bags under her eyes and her lipstick looked as though it had been chewed off.

Before Liz had a chance to say anything, Kyle stepped in. “What’s wrong?”

Mel’s eyes flashed to meet his for a quick second before they slid away to flit around the room. “Sorry I didn’t return your calls. I was just…busy.”

“Mel?” Liz asked of her new friend.

“Okay, I’m not really one for big scenes, so I’ll just make this quick and easy.” She took a deep breath, glanced at them, then back down at the floor where it was safer. “I’m leaving town, actually Dad and I are. He’s been transferred again, and we’re leaving next week. I’ve never been one for long goodbye’s, so I just wanted to tell you both goodbye now. So, I’ll just see you around.”

That had been a week ago. The words had replayed themselves in Kyle’s head a thousand times. Mel was leaving, just when he was starting to really get to know her. It wasn’t right and it wasn’t fair, and those emotions were what drove him to Mel’s house, that and the look in her eye when she had announced that she was leaving. Unless he was mistaken, Mel didn’t want to leave Flat Creek anymore than they-no, Liz, wanted her to. He didn’t really care one way or another. He followed the directions he’d been given, wondering why neither he or Liz had ever been to her house. It was a small white house hidden behind a grove of trees and bushes and he nearly passed it. The yard was neatly groomed and looked tidy. But something seemed wrong, something he couldn’t put his finger on.

He parked and walked up the driveway to the front door, knocking heavily on the old wood door. He stuck his hands in his pockets and waited, not sure why he was really here. Was it really for Liz like he kept claiming in his head? It sounded right when he lay in bed in the middle of the night listening to Liz toss and turn in bed across the quiet apartment. She needed as many real friends around her these days as she could get. But was this just for Liz? The question had plagued him for a week now. And if so, why did he have that heavy feeling in the pit of his stomach when he thought about Mel leaving?

The door swung open and Kyle came face to face with Mel. Her eyes widened and her mouth opened in shock as recognition dawned in her eyes. “What are you doing here?”

“Can I come in?” Kyle bounced on the balls of his feet, nerves making him jittery. What was wrong with him? He watched as she regained her composure, sliding her mask over her features. And he felt a deep sense of loss, knowing for that brief moment, he’d seen the side of Mel that nobody probably got close enough to find.

“Sure, Slick. But I’m not sure why you’d want to.” She casually leaned against the doorframe, feeling more secure than when Kyle had surprised her. What was he doing there anyway? She hated being caught off guard and the quicker she could find out what he wanted, the quicker she could get rid of him and she could finish packing.

Kyle entered the living room, careful to step around the large piles of boxes that formed a maze of sorts. Even knowing that most of their belongings were in boxes, the room felt empty, hollow somehow. He leaned against the couch’s arm, wanting to be on his feet for this talk. He could tell she was annoyed by his presence and he wondered why he felt that it was the first real emotion he’d seen from her.

“You have five minutes. I’m a busy girl.” Mel chose to sit in an armchair opposite the couch. She refused to be intimidated by him, though he was invading the private bubble she never let anyone into.

“So, you guys are still planning to go this weekend. Where’s your dad?”

“You came all the way out here to ask me that?” Her father had left town again and she refused to talk about that with him. She watched him, trying to figure out his game. Was he here to make one last pass at her? She hoped not. For once, she thought she had met her match in the game of wits and if a quick roll in bed was what he was after, it would ruin the opinion she had formed of him.

Kyle’s eyes darted around the room, taking in what he could and not caring that he was being obvious. “I guess I was wondering why you’re leaving if you obviously don’t want to go.”

Mel’s eyes flashed hot. “Obvious? Tell me, darlin’, how do you read minds so well?”

“Not minds, but faces. And yours keeps haunting me.” Kyle turned to meet Mel’s eyes, hoping she would meet him head on and not shy away like she had done before.

“Well, I’ll be out of your hair soon enough, Valenti. I’m terribly sorry to have kept you from your beauty sleep. If that’s all you came for…” Mel rose from the couch and took two long strides towards the door before Kyle’s voice stopped her.

“What if I told you that Liz wanted you to stay? That she needed you to be here?”

His voice was so quiet, she wasn’t sure she’d heard him right. Were they really talking about Liz? Or could she be hearing what she thought she was hearing? She damned her inexperience in things like this. “Liz wants me to stay?”

“Yeah.” So she was going to keep her back to him. It would make this a little easier. He took a step forward, then paused, not sure what to do with the emotions churning inside of him. “She doesn’t make friends easily anymore and she trusts people even less. She’s been hurt before, lost until she didn’t know which way was up. And if you leave, it might make it worse.”

“I have to go.” But she found that she didn’t want to. The feelings of sadness that swamped her at midnight overwhelmed her now. Kyle’s soft voice was almost her undoing. What was it about this cocky guy that could break down the walls she’d spent her whole life building?

“What if you didn’t? Would you stay?” He stepped forward now, pulling a thick envelope from his pocket and tossing it on the empty hall table beside her. He saw her glance at it, knowing she would never ask what was in it. “I asked my father for some help, legal advice. You’re not eighteen yet, I pulled your records. Just because your father is leaving doesn’t mean you have to go with him. What kind of life do you have moving from place to place every few months? Don’t you want to graduate with people you know? Don’t you even care about the people you’re leaving behind?”

Mel closed her eyes tight, forcing herself to regain her composure. “Look, Slick, the decision has been made. Dad and I, we move around sometimes three or four times a year. Flat Creek was just another stepping stone. Next week, we’ll be residents of another no name town. This is why I don’t make attachments. They’re too hard to break. Let’s just say good-bye here and not bother with it later, okay?”

“No. Don’t do that to me, not now. You want to stay here and we both know it. Why can’t you just say so? Are you really that stubborn?” Kyle’s found his temper growing as he heard the cockiness firm in her voice. “I’m offering you the chance to stay, to have a family and a home with us. We have a third bedroom with your name on it.”

“It’s not that easy to cut ties to the only family I’ve ever known. You might be able to do it without a backward glance, but I can’t. All I have is my father and he might not be up for father of the year, but at least he didn’t take one look at me and bail. Do you have any idea what that feels like?” She whirled on him, her anger a force she didn’t recognize.

“You’d be surprised what I understand. You’re not the only one who lost a parent, or has had to suffer through pain, Mel. If you want to go, then go. I was just trying to tell you that if you do, you’ll be missed.”

“Liz’ll get over it.” Mel folded her arms over her chest, determined to stand her ground.

“I wasn’t talking about Liz.” Kyle’s voice softened again. Apparently, he wasn’t going to get through this with his pride intact. He ran a hand through his hair in frustration. “Look, all I know is that I’ve never met anyone like you. And I’m afraid I never will again. I’d really like the chance to get to know you. I want to know your life story. Why does your dad move around so much? Who do you get your smart ass sense of humor from? What places have you seen and where do you want to go? Hell, I’d settle for knowing what ‘Mel’ is short for.” Kyle took a deep breath. “I don’t want you to go, Mel.”

Mel stood frozen in shock. She hadn’t expected that. Had anyone ever said anything like that to her? No, no one had. Now, here was someone who cared about what happened to her and she was leaving in a few short days. Her eyes slid down to the envelope Kyle had tossed at her. She wanted to stay, to become a vital part of the small group they had created. She wanted to be known as thoroughly as Liz and Kyle knew each other. She wanted to know what had happened that had driven her only two friends in the world away from their homes. But it was fear and doubt that held her back. She’d never opened herself to anyone like that before. What if they decided they didn’t like what they saw after all?

Kyle watched with a heavy heart as Mel closed her eyes. He looked away, unable to figure out what the hell he thought he was doing anyway. He brushed past Mel and fled out the door.

Safe inside his car, he drove aimlessly. The empty desert soothed him and instead of questioning it, he let the feelings engulf him. How many times would he trust women only to be bruised? When would he learn that he just couldn’t trust anyone besides Liz and his father?

Darkness fell and by the time he finally glanced at his watch, he winced. Liz would still be up and worried about him. They were supposed to have met for dinner hours ago. He’d hoped he would have been able to bring Mel with him and give Liz good news for a change.

He slammed his transmission into gear and swung his car towards home. Once there, he took the steps two at a time, a thousand excuses flying around in his head. He turned his key in the lock, but the door swung open before he could turn the knob.

“Kyle! You’re home! We were getting worried.”

“Liz, sorry. I lost track of time and-“

Liz was shaking her head, a large grin plastered on her face. “Why didn’t you tell me you went to see Mel?” Liz laughed, throwing her arms around Kyle and pulling him into a hug.

Kyle looked at Liz in confusion. How had she known that?

“I told you he was keeping it a surprise. But a word to the wise, Tiger. Next time you invite someone to move in, run it by your other roommates first.”

Kyle blinked hard as Mel entered his field of vision. “But I thought-wait, you’re moving in?”

Mel shrugged, tossing her long curls over her shoulder. “I was already packed.”

Kyle’s smile was slow forming, but brilliant. “You’re staying.”

“You always this far behind in conversations?” Mel’s smile was lazy, but he caught it. “I talked to Dad. He thought I should stay, maybe graduate someplace with friends. Still have some room?”

Noting the sparkle in both her and Liz’s eyes, Kyle put one arm around each girl.

“Did Liz explain the rules around here?”

“I shudder to even ask.”

“Well, rule number one is to never let my presence stop you from walking around in your underwear.”

Mel’s lip curled. “Who said I wear any?” She slipped out of his embrace, uncomfortable by how easy it felt. She picked up the closest suitcase and began dragging it towards her new room. Unable to resist, she glanced over her shoulder, amused by the look on Kyle’s face. He was frozen, still trying to figure out if she was kidding or not. But half the fun, she decided, was in finding out.

posted on 9-Nov-2001 10:43:40 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Yeah, um, I just don't have anything funny to say today. Leave me feedback, it's been a long week. So, here you go...

Finding Yourself
Part 37

“Okay, here are your lists. You have your budgets, so let’s go.” Isabel handed Michael and Maria a sheet of paper each.

Maria scanned her list, her eyes lighting up with delight by the items she found.

“Whoa, wait a second, Isabel. I think you mixed up mine and Maria’s lists. There are dolls on mine.”

Isabel leaned closer to glance at his sheet. “No, it’s fine.” She caught the look on his face and sighed. “Suck it up, Michael. This is for a good cause, remember? Don’t you want to see the smiling faces of those kids on Christmas day? Okay, look. I even gave you an exact list of which dolls I want you to buy.” When his expression still didn’t change, Isabel slapped the paper flat against his chest. “Just do it, Michael.”

Michael rubbed at the spot on his chest where he was sure he’d find a bruise later. He’d never admit to it, but he’d always had a healthy fear of Isabel. She could be downright violent with him if she didn’t get her way. He took the list and glanced at it with a scowl. “And why doesn’t Maxwell have to help?” he mumbled to himself.

“Because he snuck out of bed this morning before I had a chance to volunteer him.”

Maria leaned in close to Michael and planted a kiss on his lips. She remembered how Isabel had woken them up that morning at six o’clock just to make sure they wouldn’t go anywhere. To say she’d gotten an eyeful would be an understatement. But Isabel now knew better than to not knock before entering, and that Michael had a wicked libido first thing in the morning. “See ya, Spaceboy.”

“Wait! Why don’t we just do this together?” He grabbed hold of Maria’s arm, giving her his most pathetic look.

Maria grinned at him. “That would defeat the whole point of splitting up to save time.” She flashed him a wider grin and batted her eyelashes at him. “Play nice and I’ll make it worth your while tonight.” She nipped at his chin. “We can pick up where we were interrupted earlier.” She pulled away and winked at him before skipping off down the aisle.

Michael shook his head as he watched her blond pigtails bob behind her. He was all but shaking with lust and she left him standing there. How could she do that to him? In an even fouler mood, he quickly turned towards Isabel in a last ditch effort to have help, only to find that she was already gone.

“Great,” he muttered, twisting to examine the store around him. Where the hell would they put dolls in a place like this?

A small blonde girl caught his eye and he watched her as she sucked on a large blue lollipop, a stuffed dog clutched tightly in one arm. His gaze shifted sideways, looking for a parent. Not seeing one, he approached the child. Who would know better about dolls than a girl?

“Hi, I’m Michael and I was wondering if you could help me.” He smiled at her and the girl merely continued with her lollipop, her eyes wide as he spoke to her. “I’m trying to find the dolls. Do you know where they are?”

She pulled the blue treat from her mouth and Michael grinned at the cute picture she made. Maybe this wasn’t going to be so bad after all. Then the girl let loose with an ear piercing scream.

Panic guiding him, Michael tried to quiet the child. “Shh, there’s no reason to cry. Oh, forget it. I’ll find them myself.” He carved a hasty path, sure someone would be by to claim the screaming kid and he didn’t want to be there when it happened. Plus, if Maria found out, he’d never hear the end of it.

He walked aimlessly, secretly hoping to find Maria or Isabel to plead one last time. But when he spied an aisle filled completely with pink boxes, he knew he’d hit the jackpot. Examining the list Isabel had given him closely, he didn’t see the figure that rounded the corner the same time he did and they collided.

An automatic scowl on his lips, Michael turned to give the stranger a piece of his mind and found himself face to face with his oldest friend. “Max?”

“Michael.” Max froze, wondering what to do. He hadn’t expected to see anyone he knew today.

“What, did Isabel rope you into shopping for her many charities too? It looks like the Christmas Nazi is back with a vengeance.”

“Yeah.” Relief flooded through him and he instantly felt guilty for it. Max hadn’t told anyone but his parents about his volunteer work yet. It wasn’t because he was ashamed, but just something he wanted for himself a bit longer. He’d become a permanent fixture at the House and all the kids loved him. But no matter how busy he was, he always found some time to spend alone with Ana. Sometimes he’d play with her for hours and was slowly trying to introduce her to the world of action figures, but other nights, he only had time to read her a bedtime story. Sometimes she made up stories for him of princes and knights who went on fantastic journies to save their princesses. And each one made him think of Liz and how in their own fairy tale, it had been the princess who had slain the dragons and suffered the hardships for the prince. And he would go home and write another letter to her, to apologize and make up a new list of all the ways he would make it up to her if he ever had the chance.

But now, he had Michael in front of him and he was telling him a lie and hating himself for it. But he only wanted a little more time before he had to justify it to everone.

“So, look, why don’t we put these lists together and get this over with? I’m starved. What do you say we grab some tacos and make a night of it? I really think I’m close to the body count in Braveheart.”

“Um, actually, I sort of have plans. But we could do it tomorrow or something.”

Michael eyed Max. Something was going on. First, they hadn’t actually seen Max outside of class in weeks, and even at school, he’d been spending most of his free time in the library. The few times he’d seen him on the computer, Max had tried to close down the screen. But not before Michael had caught a glimpse of a headline or two. For some reason, Max was researching heart diseases. He hadn’t asked yet, but he’d told Maria about and she’d advised him to wait. Whatever Max had been doing, it was making him softer, more like the old Max. And they didn’t want to impede on that. But at the same time, Michael knew that Maria feared that what had been making Max so energetic these days was another girl.

“Hey, man, is everything okay with you? You bailed on us last week for dinner and you’ve been non-existent. You know you can tell me anything and I won’t judge.”

“I’m fine, Michael. There’s nothing to-no, that’s a lie. I do have something going on. I’m just not ready to talk about it yet.”

Michael nodded his head, surprised by the admission. He was used to the ‘I’m fine’ song and dance then quiet brooding. Outright honesty was more than a bit foreign to them but maybe it was about time. “Okay. Just-“

“Here’s your doll, sir.” A teenager in a red apron approached Max. Michael watched as Max’s face turned a beet red. But the boy didn’t seem to notice Max’s discomfort. “It’s a good thing you ordered this a few weeks ago. The Pretty Polly doll is one of the hardest toys to find this year.”

“Thank you.” Max glared at the boy, then at Michael, daring him to say something. He grabbed the brightly wrapped box from his outstretched hands, and Michael couldn’t help the chuckle that escaped.

“Don’t make me hurt you.”

Michael shook his head as Max stalked away. “Hey! Don’t forget about the tacos tomorrow night!”

Max raised a hand in acknowledgement and Michael returned to his list.

“Damn it!” He turned back to the employee who was busy rearranging a display. “Hey, I’m gonna need one of those Patty dolls too.”

“I’m sorry, sir. We’ve been sold out of the Pretty Polly dolls with Rainbow hair for months now.”

“Then how the hell did Maxwell get one?” This guys voice was starting to wear on his already foul mood.

“We had a cancellation and he happened to be here.”

Michael swore again. Isabel was going to kill him. Somehow this would all be his fault, he just knew it. Somehow, the image of him and Maria alone at his place was turning into the image of him trying to hunt down this toy all day long. Could life suck anymore than this?

posted on 13-Nov-2001 10:25:15 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Okay, I don't know what's wrong with me, but I only seem capable of writing long parts these days. I'm sorry for that, guys. I know you hate it when I write seven page chapters, right? Anywho, both of my stories are writing themselves these days and I have a week with absolutely nothing to do, so if I'm properly motivated there's no telling how many parts I may pump out.*big*

Finding Yourself
Part 38

”Dashing through the snow”

“Kyle-“

”In a one horse open sleigh”

“That’s enough.”

”O’er the fields we go”

“Can’t you at least sing a new song?”

”Laughing all the way – Hahaha”

“Kyle, it’s been four hours now.”

”Bells on Bobtail ring”

“What do you want, my first born? Take it, it’s yours.”

”Making spirits rise”

“Are those even the right words?”

”Oh what fun it is to sing a sleighing song tonight”

“No, don’t do it again. Kyle!”

”OH…Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way, oh what fun it is to ride in a one horse open sleigh – HEY – Jingle Bells, jingle bells, jingle all the way. Oh what fun it is to ride…in…a …one…horse…open…sleigh!” Kyle ended his song by going down on one knee and raising his hands high into the air. Around him, the residents of the food court looked on and laughed.

Liz found herself smiling despite herself. It had been her mistake to mention to him that morning that she hadn’t felt very Christmasy this year. So, Kyle had dragged her to the mall to do some Christmas shopping and had been serenading her with carols for hours now. Around them, a few shoppers clapped at Kyle’s over the top singing. Liz merely buried her head in her hand as Kyle reclaimed his seat at their table.

“I have to smother you with a pillow in your sleep now.”

Kyle grinned at her. “Feeling more in the spirit of things? Cause if not, I can sing the Twelve Days of Christmas again.”

“Which version?” She asked dryly. Before today, she’d never even known there were a dozen different versions of the annoying holiday classic.

“I can sing them all.”

“Tis the season.” She plastered a fake smile on her face as Kyle laughed at her and picked at the last of her cinnamon roll.

“So, what do you want to do now? Do you want to go pick up Mel’s present?”

“Yeah. We may as well. It’s a good thing she had to work this morning, it may be the last chance we have to slip away and pick it up for her.”

“She’s gonna be so surprised.” Kyle’s grin widened when he thought about the present they had picked out for Mel. She’d been eyeing it in the window for a month now, but they knew she would never buy it for herself. So, he and Liz had decided to go in together and buy it for her.

“Yeah, so have you picked up something for your dad yet?”

He heard the trace of sadness in her voice again, but decided to let it go for the moment. “No, I’m having kind of a hard time figuring out what to get him. He’s not exactly the easiest person to shop for.”

“Has he decided to come to visit?” Did her voice actually sound as hopeful as she thought it did? Damn the holidays. Could she be any more stereotypical? The holiday blues.

“Liz, why don’t you just call them?” Kyle was tired of playing the game with her where they tiptoe around the subject. He knew she missed her parents, but she was afraid to call them. It had taken her months just to write them a letter to let them know she was alive and well.

Liz sighed. “I don’t know. What am I supposed to say?”

“’I miss you’ is a good start. I hear parents eat that kind of thing up. Especially when your only daughter runs away from home in the middle of the night. They might be thinking about you a little.”

Liz glared at him. “Don’t start with me. I thought you understood what I had to do.”

Kyle raised both hands up in a defensive gesture. “Whoa there. Easy. I’m on your team. I left Roswell too, remember? I’m just saying, it’s Christmas. You’re lonely, they’re lonely. So, if you put two lonely groups together, there might not be so much loneliness and I won’t have to sing Christmas carols day and night just to get you to smile at me.”

“Okay, I get the point. I’ll think about calling them. How about that?”

“It’ll do for now. So, let’s move on to more important things. What did you buy me for Christmas?” Kyle propped his head on his hands and batted his eyelashes at her.

“Forget it. If that eye thing didn’t work when we were dating, why would you think it would work now?” She sat back in her chair, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Because I’ve been practicing, and I think I’ve gotten better at it.” He batted them at her some more, just wanting to hear her laugh again. She had started to become more moody as Christmas approached. And he knew that she was missing the brightly lit Crashdown that she and Maria decorated every year. She was missing her family and friends, and she was probably missing Max and it drove him crazy. Max didn’t deserve someone like Liz in his book, but then he’d never liked the guy from day one. Unfortunately, she still wouldn’t talk about it with him and he knew it was because she knew about his feelings towards Max. He tried not to sigh in frustration. Maybe she would open up to Mel now that she was living with them.

Liz laughed at Kyle, throwing a wadded up napkin at him. “Nope. My lips are sealed. Besides, what kind of surprise would it be if you knew what you were getting?”

“A good one. Surprises are overrated anyway. In fact, why celebrate Christmas on the twenty fifth? Let’s break tradition and celebrate early this year. We can open presents this weekend, or even tonight. What do you say?”

“We don’t even have the tree up yet.”

“But that’s what we’re doing when we get home. Don’t you see the beauty of my plan?”

Liz rose from the table, picking up their trash. “Let’s go.”

Kyle rose, grabbing the bags of presents they had bought. He saw her moving to the left side of the mall and he hurried to catch up with her. “Liz, wait! Hang on a second.” He pushed past a mob of shoppers and caught up with her, trying to steer her to the right. “Mel’s present is the other way.”

“I know. I just want to go in this store again real quick.” She turned and fluttered her eyelashes at him. “It’ll only take a second.”

Kyle swore, not the eyes. How did she know he was powerless against the eyes? “I really don’t think that’s such a good-“

“Thanks, Kyle!” She dashed away and rounded the corner that led her to the camera shop.

“Damn it. Mel’s gonna kill me.” He shifted his packages, looking around madly for any sign of Mel. Not seeing her, he followed after Liz. She hadn’t even gone inside the store yet, but was standing outside looking at the display in the window, a sad look on her face.

“It’s not even here anymore. Somebody must have bought it.” Everyday for the last month, she had stopped by this shop to check out the newest camera equipment they had for sale. The camera she was using was old to say the least and it belonged to the school. When she graduated in the fall, she wouldn’t have anything to use. So, she’d been checking in to see if the camera she’d had her eye on would ever go on sale. She’d been hoping she could catch it after Thanksgiving, but she’d been held up clothes shopping with Kyle and they’d missed her only opportunity to afford buying a camera for herself.

Kyle placed an arm around her shoulder, awkwardly hugging her amidst the packages. “I’m sorry, Liz. We’ll find you another one.”

“It doesn’t matter anyway. It’s not like I could afford it or anything. Stupid camera.”

“Are those more holiday blues I hear? How about a jolly chorus of Frosty the Snowman to cheer you up?” Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw Mel’s head pop out from behind a counter. She gave Kyle an evil glare and began gesturing to the bag in her hand.

“Please no more Christmas carols, or I really will have to kill you in your sleep.” Liz turned away from the store, catching Kyle’s lack of attention. He was looking over her shoulder at something. Curious, she turned to see what he was looking at.

Mel caught Liz’s movement and ducked behind the counter again, just before Liz could catch sight of her. Oh, Kyle would pay for this later. Hadn’t she given him specific instructions to keep Liz away from the camera store for the morning? Now, she was crouched on the floor while the salesman rang her up. There was a man standing beside her that kept glancing down at her and she was afraid he would give her away. So, she stomped down hard on his foot and he glared at her like she was crazy, but he walked away. Maybe she was a little crazy. Who cared? All she knew was that Kyle had exactly two minutes to get Liz out of there before she skinned him alive.

“Kyle, what are you looking at?”

“Uh, nothing.” He’d seen Mel disappear behind the counter and knew he was in for trouble later. But as long as Mel had gotten the gift, that was all that mattered. “A girl. She was flirting with me, but I think you scared her away. Good job, Liz. I can’t even get a decent date with you constantly hanging around me.”

“Yeah, you’re a regular wallflower these days. How many girls have you gone out with this month?”

“Numbers aren’t important, Liz. Shouldn’t we get going? We’re supposed to meet Mel at the Christmas tree lot in an hour. And I’d hate to be late on top of everything else.” He’d seen some guy looking at Mel, no doubt wondering what she was doing on the floor, then his face had twisted in pain and he’d wondered what she’d done to the poor guy.

“What else?”

“Huh? Uh, nothing. Forget it. Let’s just get her gift and go.”

Liz gave Kyle a strange look before letting him lead her from the store.

*~*~

Hours later, Kyle sat back on the couch and let the last few minutes of “It’s a Wonderful Life” play on the television. After the debacle at the mall, the trio had met up and spent all afternoon picking out the perfect Christmas tree. Much to Kyle’s chagrin, they had put it in his car and taken it home, where they had decorated with the newly purchased ornaments and lights Kyle and Liz had picked out that morning. He’d even convinced Liz to turn on some Christmas music, agreeing to Bing Crosby and no Twelve Days of Christmas.

They’d popped popcorn and had managed to have a pillow fight when Kyle had accidentally dumped the bowl of popcorn on Mel’s head. It had been an honest mistake. And how was he supposed to know that socks and hard wood floors didn’t go together? He’d fallen hard when Mel had started chasing him and she’d tackled him instantly. The girl must have some sort of professional wrestling experience, because she’d pinned him in a minute flat. He’d been more than a bit impressed, but had felt obligated to hit her with a pillow when she’d released him.

They’d ordered takeout and had curled up to watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” on television when they found out that Mel had never seen it. And both of the girls were fast asleep on the couch. He’d handed Liz a box of Kleenex as she sniffled her way through the movie and Mel had acted insulted when he’d offered her a shoulder to cry on. But he thought he’d seen a few tears glistening in her eyes throughout the movie.

But in the silence of the living room, with their newly decorated Christmas tree glowing in the corner of the room, Kyle let himself actually ponder the thought that had been growing in his head since lunchtime. He knew Liz was lonely, that she missed her parents. And he knew that she was stubborn enough not to call them for Christmas. His father had told him how broken up the Parkers had been by Liz’s disappearance and he’d seen it firsthand before he’d left Roswell. And then there was whatever information had been the in the letter he’d given to her from her parents. Something in there had rattled her, but he hadn’t brought it up yet. He knew she would talk about it when she was ready.

Determined, and more than a bit scared he was doing the wrong thing and Liz would never forgive him, he rose from the couch and towards the kitchen. He stopped in front of the phone that hung on the wall and stared at it for a minute. If he did this, there would be no turning back.

“Screw it.” He picked up the phone and punched in the familiar numbers of the Crashdown. He knew the Parkers would be closing right about now and he hoped it wasn’t too late to catch them.

“Crashdown Café. How can I help you?”

Kyle paused, his vocal cords not cooperating.

“Hello?”

He was going to hang up any second. He had to say something quick. “Mr. Parker?”

“Yes. Who is this?”

Kyle could all but hear his frown of confusion over the phone. Liz did the same thing. “Uh, this is Kyle, Kyle Valenti.” He made sure to keep his voice down, not wanting to wake Liz.

“Kyle? Is Liz okay?”

Way to go, Valenti. Scare the parents. “No, I mean yes. Liz is fine. Everything is okay. I, uh, just wanted to call you…for her.” Kyle let out a breath. Okay, he was in this far, he might as well go all the way. “Look, she misses you, both of you. And I’ve been trying to get her to call you, but she’s stubborn and I think she’s scared.”

“Scared? Of what?”

“I’m not really sure. Mr. Parker, I know you don’t understand why she left Roswell. But I promise you that she had good reasons. I know she’s afraid to go back to Roswell. She’s gotten so much stronger since she left. She’s afraid that if she has anything to do with the place, then she’ll take a big step backwards.”

“Kyle, we love our daughter. We only want what’s best for her. And she told us that staying away was what was best. Are you telling me different?”

“What I’m telling you is that she’s lonely, and she needs her family, especially for Christmas.” He paused, sure Liz would kill him for this, but knowing she needed to see them. “Would you two be able to come and spend some time with her? She doesn’t know I’m calling and I’m not going to tell her you’re coming. She’ll only talk herself out of seeing you. We could meet someplace neutral, and let her decide if she wants you to stay for awhile.”

“Kyle, just tell us where and when and we’ll be there.”

“Okay, give me a few days to think about where, but how about Christmas Eve? And, Mr. Parker? You can’t tell anyone where she is. She doesn’t want to see anyone else, not even Maria right now. I don’t think it would help.”

“I understand.”

“Okay, I’ll get back with you soon.”

“Kyle? Thank you. You have no idea how much this means to us.”

Kyle winced at the gratitude in the older man’s voice. He hoped this would go as well as he hoped. “I’m not going to lie to you, Liz might end up hating me for doing this, but I don’t think she will. It’s up to you guys now to work this out. I’m just the middle man.”

“Thank you anyway.”

Kyle replaced the receiver with a soft click. He was done for now. He’d called the Parkers. They could trace the phone number and call her now if they wanted. And Liz would kill him for it.

“That was a pretty brave thing to do, Slick.”

Kyle jumped when Mel’s silky voice filled the air around him. “What are you doing up?”

“Do you think she’ll see them?” Mel ignored him. She didn’t know much about what was going on with Liz and her parents, but she had a feeling that her new friend needed some family around her this time of year.

“I don’t know.” He gave in to the urge and laid his forehead flat against the wall. Had he just made a huge mistake? A ball of nerves was forming in the pit of his stomach.

“Well, for what it’s worth, I think you did a good thing.” It felt right somehow, with the silence of the apartment settling around them to watch Kyle’s moment of weakness. He usually put on such a show, it was rare to see anything real. And it was disconcerting. She couldn’t joke her way out of this and she found that she really didn’t want to. Unsure of what she was doing, she placed a tentative hand between Kyle’s shoulder blades.

Kyle froze when he felt Mel’s small hand on his back. She’d never made any sort of forward move with them, never initiating hugs or any contact really. So, the move was surprising, but comforting. He gave into the moment and turned, wrapping himself in her arms. After only a moment of hesitation, she returned the embrace, letting her fingers rest at the base of his neck, playing with the hair she’d harassed him about cutting only that morning.

He knew if he were to pull back, he’d see vulnerability written all over her face, so he didn’t. It would embarrass her, so he let her have her moment as well. He made a show of pulling back, composing himself even while he knew she was doing the same.

“Well, that was manly of me.”

“I’d say.” She hadn’t quite pulled her mask back yet, knew he was seeing something in her eyes that she usually hid. But for some reason, she didn’t mind with Kyle. Here, she could be safe.

“Hey, how about some ice cream. I think I saw Rocky Road in the freezer that Liz was hiding from us.”

He knew her favorite ice cream flavor. Was there anyone else in the world that took the time to know and memorize such mundane things? No, there had never been. And him knowing was nice. She offered him a rare smile, not tinted by sarcasm. “Yeah. That would be nice.”

“You sit and I’ll scoop.” He turned to gather bowls and spoons while she went for the ice cream. Together, they sat at the table and dug in.

“So, tell me about yourself.” Kyle knew this would probably be one of the last times he would be able to get her to open up, so he took advantage of it.

“What do you want to know?” She spooned up a large glob of ice cream.

“Everything.”



posted on 15-Nov-2001 9:23:59 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Ask and ye shall receive...

Finding Yourself
Part 39

Liz,

I’ve fallen in love.

There’s no other way to describe the way I’m feeling. She’s beautiful and smart and funny and she has a smile that lights up the room. She can spin tales of people and places she’s never been before and the pictures are so bright and colorful you’d swear they really existed.

Her name is Ana.

She’s six years old.

And she’s dying.

When I first met her, I didn’t see how that was possible. She was so full of life and energy. She could play for hours on end and never get tired. There were times when she didn’t have the physical strength to do things, but those days are nothing like how she is now. Now, she lies in bed all day. Even sitting up to eat can be a chore, and that’s when you can get her to eat.

I’ve done nothing but research for the last month, day and night, it was what kept me sane. She was born with a heart problem called Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome. Scary sounding, isn’t it? Believe me, it is. I know you and you’ll love the scientific explanation for it all. Basically, the entire left side of her heart was underdeveloped when she was born. She’d had three major surgeries before she was three years old, the first one before she was a week old. Each one was designed to help her blood flow, and for awhile things looked hopeful. Until earlier this year.

The fixes the doctors kept promising her would make her feel better didn’t work. She kept getting sicker and sicker until they finally told her that there was no fix. She needed a new heart. And that was when the waiting began.

I don’t know how Colleen and Sara do it. I know they’ve taken care of sick kids before, but I think Ana is the sickest they’ve seen. This summer, Ana was bumped up on the waiting list for a new heart. Instead of being a ‘Status 2’, which is the lowest you can get, she became a ‘Status 1B’. Which meant that everyone began counting her life expectancy in terms of months.

And then there was this morning. We took her back to the hospital to be poked and prodded and her doctor, a balding guy with thick glasses and a kind face, came back with the news we’d been dreading. And she was bumped up on the waiting list again. This time, she’s a ‘Status 1A’. Which means she may not live to see Christmas.

Just in the last three weeks, I’ve seen the change. She’s so sick, I’m amazed she’s still alive. Some days, she can’t talk very well and her breathing has become a bit more labored, but she still smiles at me when I come to visit. And my heart breaks a little more every time I see it. She’s so brave, so strong, it makes me feel ashamed of all the things I used to worry about. They seem so petty now, so far away from this new world I live in.

And I can’t help but wish you were here. You’d know exactly the right thing to say. But you’re not here and I’m trying to muddle through this the best I can. The funny thing is, I can hear your voice in my ear, whispering that I can’t play God and heal everyone in the world. And you’re right. Sitting back and watching, waiting has never been harder to do.


“Max?”

Max set down his pen and closed the leather journal with a snap as Sara poked her head into Ana’s room.

“Hey, Sara.”

“She’s still sleeping?”

“Yeah. The trip to the hospital and those new medicines the doctors gave her today really wore her out.”

Sara watched him rub at a tension spot on his shoulder. He’d been sitting in that same spot for almost five hours and she had been worried about him. “You don’t have to stay all night, you know. I’m sure your family would like to see you for a bit. Why don’t you go home?”

“No, I’m fine. Besides, I promised her I’d be here when she woke up.”

“Well, have you at least eaten anything?”

“And I thought your mother was bad at nagging.”

She smiled, leaning companionably against the doorframe. They’d had a few conversations over the last few weeks but Sara still didn’t know anything about Max Evans. He was an elusive mystery, puzzle that she was sure she would never be able to figure out. But there were two things it hadn’t taken her long to discover. There was a girl. And she already had his heart.

She’d watched him when he thought he was alone, in the dead of the night after Ana had fallen asleep and he would sit in that chair and watch her until Colleen threw him out. He would have moved in by now if they would have let him. But the sadness in his eyes, the defeat in every move he made, told her that he was in pain. And as much as she wanted to be the one to take away the pain and help him learn to love again, she had a feeling that Ana had beaten her to it.

Sara shook off her own melancholy mood and smiled at Max. She’d figured out weeks ago that there would never be anything between them more than friendship, but she would settle even for that.

“Well, where do you think I get my bossiness from?” She quieted a minute, knowing his thoughts were still on Ana and the doctor’s prognosis this morning. “They’ll find her a heart, Max. I know they will. We just have to believe.”

“Yeah.” Absently, he fingered the beeper that hung on his belt loop. He remembered the pride he had felt when Colleen had handed it to him. If…no, when they found Ana a heart, they would page that beeper and the race against time began. They trusted him enough to give him that responsibility, and they understood what it meant to him. “I know, but blind faith that everything will work out for the best has never been my strong suit.”

“Well, you’re just going to have to work on it then. So, what do your friends think about you spending so much time here? I know they have to miss you. You’ve been here everyday as soon as you get off work.”

Max hung his head a little lower. “I haven’t exactly told them yet.”

“What? Why not?”

Max knew she was surprised and probably more than a bit confused, but he really didn’t feel like going into a lengthy explanation at the moment. Sitting and waiting in the hospital all day only to find out that Ana was in fact dying, had taken away the last of his strength. “It’s a long story, Sara.”

Sara saw the despair on his face and cursed herself for bringing it up. He’d been through enough today, they all had. She nodded her head, but saw that his attention had been drawn to movement from the bed.

“Max?” Ana whispered groggily.

“I’m right here, sweetie.” Max moved to her bedside, crouching down low so that they were eye to eye.

She struggled to open her eyes when she heard his voice. “I had a dream.”

“Was it a bad one?” She was struggling to stay awake and talk to him. He saw it but still wanted just a minute more of her sweet voice to hold him until tomorrow.

She shook her head. “It was a good one. You were there and I was there and you were pushing me on the swing and I was flying high in the air. And then we went to the zoo and we were making fun of the monkeys.”

Ana yawned and Max smiled, despite the heaviness in his heart. “What were the monkeys doing?”

“They were making funny monkey noises. Max, can we go to the zoo?”

“Anything you want.” But the nagging voice in the back of his head told him not to promise her anything. They had no guarantee that she would ever go anywhere other than the hospital again. “Why don’t you go back to sleep?”

“Kay.” She closed her eyes again, her small arms wrapped tight around the stuffed dog he had bought her last week. “Max?” She forced her eyes to open again.

“Yeah?”

“Will you come back tomorrow?”

She had asked him that every day. After a life of being deserted by her family, he couldn’t blame her for wanting to know if the people around her would return. “Of course I will. We can have dinner together. Do you want me to bring you something?”

“Chicken nuggets.” Her eyes were already closing again.

“You got it.” He couldn’t resist smoothing back her hair as she slipped back asleep. Gently, he placed a kiss on her forehead. “Good night, Ana.”

Quietly, he moved away from her bed and slipped out the door with Sara, pretending not to see her wipe a tear from her cheek.

Together, they walked to the front door and Sara opened it for him. “Go home, Max. Spend some time with your family. You’ll be here all day tomorrow again I’m sure.”

Max nodded, knowing she was right. “Thanks, Sara. Tell Colleen I said goodbye, will you?”

Sara nodded, pushing him out the door. She was going to crack any moment and she wanted to be alone when she did. What kind of world was it where innocent little girls died?

“Goodnight, Max.”

Max heard her close the door gently behind him and he slowly made his way to his Jeep. He’d been resisting the urge to destroy something all day, and now he was caught between temper and frustration.

“Max, we have to talk.”

Max looked up to see Maria sitting atop the hood of his Jeep. “Maria? What are you doing here?”

“I could ask you the same question myself. But would you answer it?”

“Maria, could we not do this tonight?”

She shook her head. “Sorry, Max. We’ve given you weeks now, hoping you would come to us and tell us what’s going on. Isabel lives with you and she says she hasn’t seen you in four days. So, your time is up. We’ve been patient and we’ve been understanding. Now it’s time for the truth. What are you doing here? And who was that girl you were talking to?”

Max sighed and sagged against the side of his Jeep. “I can’t do it tonight, Maria. It’s just too much.”

“Max, I thought we talked about this after Liz left. You can’t let your feelings bottle up inside. Look, I know you’ve been lonely since Liz left, and I just want to say that it’s taken me great effort not to storm up there and kick the cheap floozie’s ass, but are you two seeing eachother? Because although I’m trying to be a friend to you, I’m also Liz’s friend. So, if you want to tell me about it, I’ll listen, but I need to tell you that I’m going to have to hurt you when you’re done telling me about all the new ways you’ve broken Liz’s heart.”

“What?” As usual, Max had trouble keeping up with what Maria was saying. “Floozie? Who are you-oh, you mean Sara.”

“Sara,” Maria repeated, a gleam in her eye. “So, that’s her name.”

Max recognized that look and it only meant trouble. “Maria, it’s not like that.” Defeated and tired, he gave in to the depression that had been hanging over him all day. “Can we go somewhere and talk?”

“There’s no one at Michael’s.”

“No, I think I need to smash something.”

Not understanding, but willing to try, Maria hopped off the Jeep. “The rock quarry?”

“Perfect.”

They drove in silence down the dark highway. Max knew it was taking Herculean effort on Maria’s part not to question him yet. She thought he was seeing someone? That was laughable. Of all people, she should have known that he couldn’t do that again. He’d learned his lesson and was suffering through the consequences.

When they had finally arrived, Max cut the engine to the Jeep, but couldn’t bring himself to get out.

“Max? Talk to me.” His silence had begun to worry her. Her fear over the last week had been that Max had been seeing someone new. But everything inside of her told her it wasn’t true. This wasn’t like before, with Tess. She knew he’d learned from his mistake and was doing everything he could to try to measure up to the man he used to be. That was the only thing that had kept her from smacking him around earlier. But something was definitely wrong.

“Her name is Ana.” Max fixed his gaze out the window, taking comfort in the darkness. “And she has less than a month to live.” He settled himself in the drivers’ seat for the long story ahead. If he could tell anyone, he could tell Maria. And knowing he had someone to share it with made the burdon a bit easier to bear.


posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:09:28 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 40

“You’re never going to believe what I found!” Mel swung through the living room door, an excited grin on her face.

“Elvis is still alive?” Kyle offered from the kitchen as he and Liz unpacked a bag of groceries.

“The location of the dead sea scrolls?” Liz suggested while handing Kyle a jar of peanut butter.

“Proof that we’re not alone in the universe?” Kyle lowered his voice to what he thought was an appropriately spooky level.

Not amused, Liz elbowed Kyle in the ribs. “Kyle!”

“Ow!” He exclaimed, unable to stop the chuckle that erupted when he saw the look of horror on Liz’s face. “What?” He asked her. “C’mon, it’s funny.”

“Kyle, you’re going to be the death of us one day.” Liz continued unpacking the groceries despite the look on Kyle’s face. When she felt his finger dig into her ribs, laughter pealed out.

“Kyle! No! That’s not funny! Stop!” She pleaded through her laughter as she twisted to escape his grasp.

“If we’re going to be hunted down, I’d rather do it laughing.”

“Okay, okay, you win. Please stop.” She was having a hard time catching her breath and Kyle let her go, satisfied with her pleas.

“You guys are so weird,” Mel announced, hands on her hips and a confused look on her face.

“Ignore us. It’s been a long week. What have you got?”

Mel’s excitement returned as she faced Kyle and pulled a crumpled piece of paper from her pocket. She held it out for his inspection. “A Rave, tonight. And we’re all going.”

“Excellent,” Kyle announced, crossing the room to take the paper from Mel. “I’m in.” They slapped palms in the air, then turned to face Liz expectantly.

“Oh no. Forget it. Count me out.”

“C’mon, Liz. You have to come. It’ll be so much fun. Have you ever been to a rave before?”

“Oh yeah.”

Kyle snorted with laughter as he remembered the rave of their sophomore year. “I’m sorry. It’s really not funny, but it is.”

“Am I missing something?” Mel inquired. They could do this all day, talk about the past without ever really talking about it. She wondered if it was just because she was around or if it was something else that prevented them from outright reminiscing.

“Let’s just say I’ve never had a good experience with one. You two go. I have plans for a bath and bed.”

“Oh, you would have had a good time at the last one if not for, you know, Dad arresting you and Alex, and Max not talking to you, and Michael breaking up with Maria.” Yeah, that hadn’t been one of their better nights.

“And you know that how? From your days of stalking us in the bushes?”

“Your dad arrested Liz?”

Liz turned a glare on Kyle. They’d forgotten Mel was still there. Apparently, they were getting lazy these days. “I was a victim of circumstance. But that’s beside the point. I’m not going,” she announced. “Really, forget about it.”

*~*~

“What am I doing here?” Liz shook her head in bewilderment as the party raged on around her.

“You’re going to have fun if it kills you.” Mel declared, scoping out the room for the alcohol.

“What’s the point of living without parental disapproval if you don’t get drunk and live it up once in a while?” Kyle was dancing in place, automatically checking out the room for available women. He spotted a blonde in the corner and he grinned. “It you’ll excuse me, ladies.”

Liz watched as Kyle made his way through the throng to his latest victim. “Amazing. How can he even see in this place?” The lighting was so dim, it was almost non-existent.

“It’s mood lighting. Okay, I’ve spotted the good liquor. We’re going in.” Mel dragged Liz to the makeshift bar.

“Whatta want?”

Mel examined Liz thoughtfully. It was going to take some work to get her loosened up. “Two tequillas.”

“Mel,” Liz protested.

“Hush. It’ll be good for you to loosen up and have some fun. Thanks.” She took the drinks from the shifty looking bartender.

Liz took one of the shots reluctantly.

“Bottoms up,” Mel raised her own glass cheerfully.

“Yeah.” Eyeing the liquid wearily, Liz raised both eyebrows and sighed heavily. “When in Rome…” She raised it to her lips and downed it in one gulp.

“Oh, god, this is foul.” Liz grimaced as she choked, a trail of fire burning in her belly.

“Oh, I think I see Jello Shooters. C’mon!” Mel took off in the direction she’d been looking in, sure Liz was a step behind her.

“Mel, wait!” Liz called out, feeling more than a bit dizzy all of a sudden. What was the matter with her? Sure, she’d never drank before, but she hadn’t expected this kind of reaction. She tried to move forward, but found her footing uneven. Frowning, she tried to remember if the floor had been slanted before. But she found that she couldn’t remember much of anything. A wave of giddiness swept over her body and she had the sudden, ridiculous urge to giggle.

She clamped a hand over her mouth. No, she was going somewhere. Now if only she could remember where exactly that was, she’d be great. Maybe she had been looking for someone. She glanced around the room, but everywhere she looked, dozens of bodies moved together to the beat of the music.

Liz closed her eyes, her senses momentarily on overload. But the world continued to spin around her. Deciding it was better to have the real world spin, she reopened her eyes and caught movement from her peripheral vision.

“Max? What are you doing here?” She could see his dark head moving away from her and she frowned in thought. Why was he leaving? Trying to follow, she tripped on her own feet and stumbled into someone. She opened her mouth to apologize, but a giggle erupted instead.

The annoyed stranger scowled at her as beer dripped from his hand. “Watch where you’re going.”

Liz continued stumbling forward, following the dark head through the crowd. Her head had never felt lighter, no thoughts able to form in her spinning head. And she felt freer than she ever had. If only Max wouldn’t move so fast, she could find out where he was going.

*~*~

“Hey, I’ve been looking all over for you.”

“What?” Mel yelled back at Kyle, the noise in the room deafening.

“Nevermind. Where’s Liz?”

“Liz? She’s with you.” Mel finished her second round of Jello Shots, surprised when Kyle grabbed her arm and spun her around to face him.

“She’s not with me.” A slick panic raced down his spine. “I haven’t seen her since we got here.”

“Well, she was following me, then she left. I figured she went to find you.” Mel began to panic, this was not good.

“Shit. You lost her?”

“Whoa there. She’s not lost, just misplaced. Don’t worry. We’ll find her. How much trouble could she have gotten into in a few minutes?”

Kyle considered the question. In his experience, they didn’t have to seek out trouble, it always had a way of finding them. He grabbed hold of Mel’s arm, not wanting to lose her too. “Don’t ask. Let’s just find her.”



posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:09:52 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 41

Maria sat in Max’s Jeep, running a comforting hand through his hair. The sun had begun peeking over the horizon an hour ago and they had just finished talking. Max had poured his heart out to her, telling her every fear, every wish he had. He’d told her all about meeting Ana and the endless doctor appointments. He’d told Maria about her failing heart and that the only hope Ana had of living was if another little girl out there somewhere died to give it to her. And they had cried together all night.

In turn, Maria had told Max her fears about never hearing from Liz again, or the hundred irrational reasons she had come up with as to why her best friend hadn’t called or even written yet. She’d told him about her progressing relationship with Michael and how they were looking more and more likely to have a future together.

They had laid everything they had bare and had ended up watching the sun rise together. Hours and hours ago, they had called Michael and had asked him to inform the Evans that Max would be staying with him all night. Maria knew Michael had been curious and a bit miffed at being left out, but she knew he understood. So, he had covered for Max, and they had both been thankful that Amy was out of town. With Jim Valenti again, no doubt. But she had other things to worry about than her mother’s sex life.

Max’s head was resting on her lap as she smoothed back his hair the way her mother used to do when it had felt as though her world was coming to an end. She knew he was still awake and had fallen back into his thoughts again. He had told her all about Ana, the little girl with the dying heart, and though she had never met her, Maria’s own heart broke for them all.

Poor little Ana had never known a life without pain and loneliness, desertion from her family and the people she thought she could trust. And poor Max had never known a life without fear, without the feeling that he didn’t belong, and now he lived with the constant questions that haunted him. They still didn’t know if Tess had mindwarped him into believing they had slept together and conceived a child. Their relentless pursuit for the Granolith that had driven Liz away, had ended months ago and it had left Max with more questions than answers.

Maria could still remember the look on Max’s face when they stood in front of the Granolith for the first time after seeing it blast out of the chamber walls. They had searched night and day, finally able to locate it in the middle of the desert. Max had stood frozen, staring at the empty cylinder that had contained Tess when it had taken off.

The Granolith was in relatively good shape, a few patches that needed fixing, but they had taken care of that easily enough. Or at least they thought they had. It was always hard to tell with alien devices. But when Max had reached out and touched the Granolith’s smooth base, he had been assaulted by images. And the confusion had begun. The events he’d seen had led them to believe that Tess had been mindwarping them all at one point or another. Max had said that he felt as though he connected with Tess through the Granolith, and through that connection he had not felt a baby.

Maria glanced down at Max’s head and sighed deeply. Their lives had become so screwed up, she didn’t know which way to turn now. Low moral she could deal with. Alien enemies were no sweat. But dying little girls and the heartbroken look on Max’s face were too much for her to bear. It was no wonder they’d found each other. They seemed to be filling a place in the other’s very soul that no one else had been able to fill. She only hoped for all their sakes that something could be done to save Ana. Because for the second time in Max Evans life, it appeared that he had fallen head over heels in love. And he was in danger of losing out on even more this time.

“Maria?”

Max’s voice brought her out of her own thoughts. “Hmm?”

“It’s almost breakfast time. Do you want to go to the House with me? I’d like you to meet Ana.” Somehow, talking to Maria, putting his emotions into words had been cathartic. He saw things more clearly this morning. There was hope today that wasn’t there before. By the end of the day, Michael and Isabel would know what was going on and instead of having to avoid his friends, they could walk beside him.

Maria smiled at the strength in his voice. She knew that Max. He was the Max that had been taught by Liz to know that in the end, it always works out and love conquers all. It had been a long time since anyone had seen him.

“Yeah. I’d love to meet her.”

Forty five minutes later, Maria found herself walking up to the front door of the house she had spent all of last night staring at. Max walked in, knowing he was welcome and she followed him with a smile. Michael and Isabel were behind them, a bit more confused, but there nonetheless. They had called the others and asked them to meet at the House. This seemed to make more sense to Isabel than it did to Michael, but he had only complained marginally about being left out of the loop.

While Max had gone to play with a group of boys in the yard, Maria had filled them in briefly on what Max had been doing these last few weeks. She had explained how important it was for them to meet Ana, and so the trio had followed Max into the house.

“Max? Is that you?” Colleen came around the corner, wiping her hands on a dishtowel. “I didn’t expect to see you so early this morning. Sara told me how late you two were up last night.” Her eyes lighted on the trio surrounding him. “Oh, hi. I’m sorry, I didn’t see you there. I’m Colleen.”

“Colleen, this is my sister, Isabel, my best friend Michael and his girlfriend Maria.”

“Hi.” Maria moved forward to shake Colleen’s hand. She’d heard about the wonderful things this woman had done and she would have given her a medal if she could have. “I’m so happy to meet you.”

“Maria, is it? I’m happy to finally meet you, as well. Max has told us quiet a few stories.” Colleen smiled, already liking the younger girls’ energy.

“Well, I’m sure they were all good, because Max knows better..”

“We’ll talk later,” Colleen promised with a wink. She turned to Isabel. “You’re Phillip’s daughter. He’s done some wonderful things to help us out. I heard you came by for a visit while I was out of town last month. I was hoping you would come back so I could meet you.”

“I meant to come back and let you know how impressed I am with how you run this place with so little funding. I’m on a few committees, and if they knew about the wonderful work you were doing here, I’m sure you could get more help.”

Colleen smiled. The girl was a copy of her father. They held themselves the same way, had the same mannerisms. And Phillip had said almost the same thing to her when they had first met. So, she gave Isabel the same answer she had given her father years ago. “I look forward to talking to you about it.”

Michael looked around uncomfortably. He knew he was supposed to say something clever or polite, but when were they going to learn that those sort of things just didn’t come naturally to him? “Uh, hi. I’m Michael. Which of course, you already knew because we were already introduced. So, I have nothing else to say at this time.”

Colleen’s smile widened. She’d seen his kind before, gruff exterior with a soft heart underneath. How could he be otherwise if he had a girl like Maria on his arm? “Nice to meet you as well.”

A trio of children skittered down the hall when they saw Max, all clamoring for his attention.

“Max!”

“Hey, Max! Are you here for breakfast?”

“Yeah! Sara’s making pancakes. You coming?”

Max smiled at the group of ten year olds excitedly trying to win his attention. “Yeah, I’m coming. Can you save me a seat and I’ll be there in a minute?”

“Sure thing, Max. Max is sitting next to me!” The girl ran off in the direction of the kitchen.

“No, he’s not! He’s sitting with me!”

“He sat with you last time!”

The remaining two children followed at breakneck speed and as they turned a corner, the distinctive sound of breaking glass could be heard.

Colleen rolled her eyes. Those three were nothing but trouble when they were together. “If you’ll excuse me, I have some glass to attend to.”

“Could you use some help?” Isabel asked. When Colleen nodded her head, Isabel found herself smiling back at the older woman. She really did want to talk to her about helping her get funding.

“It looks like the Christmas Nazi just found herself another good cause. And let me tell you, I am not doing anymore doll shopping this year, no matter what the reason.”

“C’mon, Michael. You only had to spend one afternoon in a toy store to help out. Is that too much to ask?”

“One afternoon? Try three days. I couldn’t find the stupid Patty doll Isabel told me she had to have and I spent the better part of a week trying to track the stupid thing down.”

Maria looked at her boyfriend strangely. “You spent a week trying to find a doll?”

“I don’t want to even talk about the nightmares it gave me. Screaming kids and all those parents pushing and shoving to get in line.” He shivered. “It still creeps me out.”

“Michael, you do realize you could have just, um…used a little…you know…and changed a normal doll into the one you were looking for?”

Michael stared at her, jaw hanging slightly open. Why hadn’t he thought of that? And he felt monumentally stupid. “Well, where the hell were you last week?”

Maria rose up on her tiptoes to place a kiss on Michael’s lips. He was too adorable when he pouted. “Waiting for you at home. I wondered where you were spending all of your time.”

Max tried not to smile at the look on Michael’s face, but it was getting hard. “Michael, if Sara’s in the kitchen cooking, she may need a bit of help.” He leaned closer, whispering. “She doesn’t make her batter from scratch.”

“What?” Michael’s eyes got wide. “Well, that’s just stupid. Where’s the kitchen?”

“That way.” Max pointed in the direction the trio of kids had run off to. Michael followed Max’s direction, muttering under his breath.

“You know that’s one of his cardinal sins, right?”

“He does make some mean pancakes.” Max’s eyes drifted upstairs, the humor dying from his eyes.

“Do you want me to come with you? Or do you want to go by yourself?” Maria squeezed Max’s arm gently.

“I want you to meet her.” He couldn’t explain it to Maria, but if Liz couldn’t be there to meet the little girl herself, having Maria there was almost as good. Maria would understand and she wouldn’t forget. She would know how important it was to Max that someone remember Ana if she didn’t make it.

Together, they climbed the steps up to the third floor. Maria followed Max, knowing this would be the first trip of a hundred she would make to this room. Max pushed open the door and Maria felt her heart fly into her throat. Tears flooded her eyes when she saw the little girl propped up in bed by a dozen pillows. Her long, dark hair was fanned out around her. She was dressed in a faded pink nightgown and around the drooping collar, Maria could see how pale and lifeless her skin was. She was combing the matted hair of an old doll, and when she turned and saw her visitors, her face lit up in an angelic smile. The dark circles around her eyes seemed to fade a bit and though there was fatigue behind every movement, she moved to the side of the bed, allowing room for Max to join her.

Max crossed the room to take his seat beside Ana. She was awake already and he hadn’t expected her to have the energy to do anything other than sleep again today. But here she was, surprising him again, playing with her doll, and smiling at him like the world wasn’t in fact ending.

“Ana, I want you to meet a good friend of mine. This is Maria.”

Ana smiled shyly through her lashes at the new girl. “Hi. Wanna play dolls?”

Maria found herself unable to resist that grin and she crossed the room to sit at the foot of the bed. “Of course I do. You are talking to the girl that owned the most dolls on her entire block.” Maria took the old doll from Ana’s limp arms and she began to slowly untangle the knot of hair with the comb.

Ana watched in awe as the tangles disappeared out of the dolls hair. “Max can’t do that.”

“I can too,” Max protested, running a protective hand over Ana’s head.

Ana rolled her eyes and Maria found herself laughing at the gesture. This kid had Max pegged.

“Oh really? What about Betsy?”

Max blushed. “Okay, that was an accident. And Sara fixed it, didn’t she?”

Maria leaned in closer to Ana. “Let me tell you a secret, honey. Men are useless when it comes to things like that. You need a woman’s touch for delicate matters like hair brushing.”

Michael burst into the room, a mixing bowl in one hand and Sara trailing close behind. “Max, there you are. Would you please tell Julia Childs here that you can’t make pancakes from a box? I’ve tried to reason with her, but she’s too stubborn to listen to reason.”

Sara sputtered, making a dash for the mixing bowl. Michael easily pulled it out of her reach, holding it high above Sara’s head. He turned back to Max. “If you need me, I’ll be making breakfast.” He turned his attention to the little girl on the bed. “After all, it’s not everyday I get to make breakfast for two beautiful ladies.” He winked at Maria before turning and heading for the kitchen.

Maria felt her heart flutter as Ana giggled over Michael’s words. If she hadn’t already loved him, that would have done it for her. She turned to Max, but found him engrossed in pointing to something out the window to Ana. She sighed in contentment.

Fate wouldn’t let anything bad happen to them again, would it? Hadn’t they been through enough? Somehow, someway, this would all work out and Max and Ana would realize that the world wasn’t an unfair place to live in after all.




posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:10:17 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 42

“Oh, god. Kyle, it’s been over an hour. What are we going to do?” Mel’s eyes continued to dart around frantically. They’d searched the place high and low and still had seen no sign of Liz anywhere. And though she had been trying to keep calm, panic was starting to set in.

Kyle ran his fingers through his hair nervously. He’d lost Liz. How could he have been so stupid as to leave her alone in a place like this? She hadn’t even wanted to come and now she was missing. She could be anywhere. She could have been picked up by a stranger and kidnapped. Or worse. It could have been one of their old enemies. And that was the paralyzing fear that had been growing in his head for an hour now.

If Nicholas or one of the skins got a hold of her, dear old King Max would give up anything and everything to get her back. Or at least the old Max would. The new and not so improved version that had broken Liz’s heart might not give up their all important artifacts for a lowly human. How could they have forgotten the threats that faced them? Take them out of town for a few months and they started feeling safe again, started forgetting that their lives were in constant danger.

“We need to search again.”

Something about the tone in Kyle’s voice was beginning to worry Mel even more. But now wasn’t the time or place. “I agree. Let’s split up and meet back here.”

“No.” Kyle grabbed hold of her arm, not letting her leave his side. “Splitting up is never the best way to do things. If we stay together, they have less of a chance to capture one of us.”

“Capture? Kyle, what are you talking about? Who are ‘they’? I’m talking about Liz, and all I know is that she’s missing. We’ve stuck together and it didn’t work. Now we’re doing it my way. And in my way, we meet back here in fifteen minutes. If we can’t find her, then we come up with another plan. I’ll take the second floor. You take down here.” She eyed him warily. Was he okay? Ever since they’d discovered Liz missing, he seemed to have turned into a different person. He kept making vague references to “them” and she wasn’t sure if she should be worried about him losing his mind, or worried about some unknown group of shifty characters that were hunting them down. It was definitely a question for later, when Liz was safe and sound in her bed.

Kyle was still in his trance, so she pinched his forearm hard.

“Ow! What the hell did you do that for?”

“Now isn’t the time for guilt. We need to be on the same page here. Liz wouldn’t just disappear, so she’s in some sort of trouble. So, you need to snap out of whatever you’re in and search this floor. I’ll be back in fifteen minutes.”

Kyle nodded. She was right. Worrying wouldn’t find Liz. “Fifteen minutes,” he agreed, watching her disappear towards the stairs. He hated letting her out of his sight, but it was unavoidable. He moved into action, searching the ground floor. His mind automatically sought out all exits out of the building. Which would have been the most inconspicuous way to drag someone out of a crowded room?

*~*~

Tag was bored. There was just no other way to describe what he was feeling. A friend of his had dragged him out here, promising it to be the party of the year. He looked around him at the hordes of people drinking and jamming to the overly loud music. Why had he agreed to come here anyway? Oh, yeah, his adventurous side.

“Hey, man! There you are! Some party, huh?”

“Yeah,” Tag moved a step away from his very drunk friend and sighed. Some friendships should just stay High School friendships and end there. “Look, man. I think I’m gonna head out of here.”

“No! You can’t! The party’s just started! I’ll tell you what, why don’t you come upstairs with me. I know of a couple of the more secret rooms with some action going on.”

“What kind of action?” Yeah, this was something he wanted to get tangled up in. Oh, was this friendship over as of tonight.

“Relax!” He laughed, spilling beer everywhere. “It’s not that kind of action. There’s some gambling. That’s all. A couple of pool tables, some card games, the usual. I know that’s right up your alley.”

Tag sighed. Too many people knew his weaknesses, it seemed. He never could turn down a good game of pool. If that was all that was going on upstairs. “Okay, one game, then I’m gone.”

“Excellent! C’mon, I’ll show you the way.” He turned towards the stairs, knocking into someone flying down the stairs.

”Watch where you’re going, Creep.”

Tag watched his friend give the girl a drunken leer and he wondered if he really thought that would work. But the girl looked familiar somehow.

“Hey, baby. Where you goin’ in such a hurry?” He only grinned when she kept moving. “Her loss.” But oh, what women in leather pants did for him.

“Right. You said something about a pool table?”

“Step this way, my good man.”

Tag followed his friend up the stairs and down a hallway. He watched him pull open a door that had looked just like another wall panel to him.

“Welcome to the real party.” He gestured him inside, stopping to talk to a skinny kid that couldn’t have been more than sixteen. “What’s going on up here, man?”

The kid folded his arms over his chest. “The usual. Couple of games set up in the back. Louie’s here. The Feldman brothers started some trouble a few minutes ago. Oh, and some hot chick’s wiping the floor with Eddie in the pool room.”

“Then that’s where we’re headed.”

Tag could only roll his eyes. What had he gotten himself into? He could be at home planning his trip right now. Instead, he had fallen on the pleas of an old friend set on rekindling a dead friendship. They walked into a large, open room and Tag frowned in recognition. A brunette was laughingly chalking up her pool cue as a couple of guys continued hitting on her. Why was she so familiar looking? She was dressed in a pair of form fitting black pants and a blue tank top that didn’t leave much to the imagination. Then her dark eyes turned in their direction and it hit him like a bolt of lightening.

“Liz?” He began moving across the room, long legs eating up the space between them. What the hell was she doing here? Sure, he’d only met her for a few minutes, but he really didn’t get the impression that she’d be the type that would hang out in a place like this.

“Tag! I’m so glad you’re here.” She tried to move forward, but tripped over her own feet, landing squarely in Tag’s arms. “Have you met my friends Eddie and Joe? I thought Eddie was Max,” she confessed. “But that didn’t make any sense. What would Max be doing here? And they were kind enough to invite me up to play with them.”

“Yeah, I’ve met them before.” He’d gone to school with them for four years and he knew more about them than he liked. “Liz, you’re drunk.”

“No!” She exclaimed, slurring her words slightly. Then she lowered her voice and leaned in close enough for Tag to catch a whiff of her perfume. “Maybe just a little.”

Tag resisted the urge to close his eyes in frustration. “A little? How much did you have to drink?”

Liz tried to squeeze her fingers together to show him how much she had drank, but kept missing. She focused all of her concentration on the movements. And Tag had his answer, way too much.

“Okay, you are going home.” He turned to the two guys that were still busy leering at her. “Alright, guys. Fun’s over. Give her back whatever money you took from her.”

“Are you crazy? She’s taken us for everything we’ve got.”

“What?” Tag turned back to Liz, pulling her aside. “Liz, are you…hustling pool?”

She let out a girlish giggle and he found himself grinning back at her.

“It’s really not that hard. Besides, I’m using my secret weapon.”

“And that is?” He was almost afraid to ask. If those two guys found out she was cheating them, there would be hell to pay.

“Geometry. It’s just a game of math. All you have to do is calculate the…I can’t remember the name just now, but it’s all numbers.”

“You’re drunk and you’re scamming them by using math?” This was almost more than he could bear. Was this girl for real?

“Hey, are you playing or what?” Joe called out across the room.

“She’s leaving. You’re leaving.” He started dragging her across the room, surprised when Eddie blocked his path.

“Hey, the lady promised us another game. We have the right to win some of our money back. You got a problem with that?”

Liz turned in his arms and suddenly she was uncomfortably close to him. “Oh, we can play doubles!” She exclaimed, then turned her pouting lips to Tag. “You’ll play, won’t you? Pretty please, with sugar on top?”

Suddenly amused by the entire situation, Tag felt as though he was living someone else’s life. “Why the hell not. But one game then you leave with me.” He eyed his old High School chums. They met his glare, but backed down.

“Okay, I’m breaking!” Liz announced cheerfully as she stumbled around the pool table to set up the pool balls. The other three men watched her failed attempts and Tag decided to take pity on her. How long could one game last in her condition anyway?

*~*~

Mel and Kyle rode back to the apartment in silence. They had searched the building a half dozen times and had even expanded their search to the surrounding buildings, but they hadn’t had any luck. Currently, their plan was to see if by some miracle, Liz had made it home, and if not, they were heading straight for the police station.

Mel studied the familiar road before them. Kyle had reached a near panic hours ago and now he was sitting quietly. And that fact almost scared her more than his panic attack had. All night she had turned the events over in her mind. Why had she not made sure Liz was following her? What if there was something in Liz’s shot and she hadn’t been able to call out for help? Dozens of endless scenarios rant through her head as Kyle continued to break all laws to get them home.

She placed a hand on Kyle’s thigh in an attempt to offer him some sort of comfort. She knew he didn’t blame her for Liz, but blamed himself. And that was harder to bear somehow.

They pulled to a stop in front of the apartment building and they both hopped out in a leap, taking the stairs three at a time to the room they shared. Kyle hadn’t expected Mel to keep up, but she was a breath behind him.

Finally, he pushed open the front door, dropping his things loudly. “Liz! Liz! Are you here?”

Mel went one way and Kyle went the other, both searching the apartment for signs of Liz. Tearfully, they met in the living room.

“She’s not here.”

Mel saw Kyle beginning to zone out again and she moved to his side. “It’ll be okay. We’ll call your dad and the police just to be safe and-“

The door knob turned and both residents were surprised to see the door swing open again.

“Tag? What are you-Liz! Thank god!” Mel was at her side in an instant. Her friend was draped over Tag’s back, and she was giggling like a loon.

“Liz! Where have you been? We were looking all over for you!” Kyle moved to pull Liz from Tag’s back and began dragging her towards the couch. “Are you alright?” Unable to help himself, he began searching her for injuries.

“Why, Kyle, I didn’t think you cared.”

Kyle let her drop to the couch in confusion, turning to Tag. “She’s drunk.”

“Not my fault. She was like that when I found her.”

“Where was she?” They’d searched the place high and low.

“Back room. I found her hustling pool from a couple of low lifes. She did pretty good too.”

“Hustling pool?” Kyle turned a frantic look to Liz, who was still giggling at him from the couch. “We were worried sick and you were hustling pool?” It was amazing. He saw Mel pull Tag aside and he crouched down beside Liz. “Are you okay?”

“Oh, Kyle, you’re hurt!”

Kyle looked down and saw a thin trickle of blood on his arm. When had that happened? He’d been so intent on finding Liz that everything else had been secondary. “It’s nothing.”

“Let me fix it for you.” Liz pulled Kyle’s arm closer, resting her hand over the cut on his elbow.

“No, Liz, really, it’s a scratch.” But his eyes widened considerably when he saw the faint glow of light under Liz’s palm. What the hell? He pulled her hand back and examined the skin that had been torn a second before. It was smooth and whole now. Had she just…

“See? All better.”

Thought churned in Kyle’s mind. Liz had just healed him. There had to be a logical explanation for it, but hell if he could find one that wasn’t likely to freak him out. Max. It had to be Max. Hadn’t Ava told them that Max had changed Liz when he’d healed her? Were some sort of freakish alien powers developing inside of her? That was the last thing they needed right now. Should he tell her? Or should it go under the file of things to tell her only if she outright asked him about it? Like that “Elise” slip of Max’s in Roswell? Would it do her any good to know she was developing alien powers just when she was starting to have a normal life? No. He would keep it under wraps for now, wait until the time was right and then tell her. It wouldn’t do any good to anyone right now.

Relieved that the danger was over, Mel could smile at the situation. Liz was alright, a little drunk, but alright. “Thank you, Tag. But I think we’ve got her from here.” She gestured towards Kyle, who was still kneeling next to Liz, whispering to her. “You might want to head out of here while you still can.”

“Yeah. Listen, tell her to lay off the liquor for awhile. I don’t think she handles it very well.”

Mel pushed Tag towards the door. “Oh, don’t worry. I’m sure she’ll figure that out for herself tomorrow. Good night, Tag.” She closed the door in his face and turned back to her two roommates.

She watched as Kyle ran a hand through his hair again and she fought not to smile at him. “Relax, dad. I’ll take her to her room and get her undressed.” She pulled Liz off the couch. “Up we go.” She hooked her arm under Liz’s shoulder and half dragged her down the hall. She knew Kyle was following them, unwilling to let them out of his sight, but she pushed Liz’s door closed in his face. “Sorry, only girls allowed in here.” That would piss him off, guaranteed, but she could worry about him later.

Mel dropped Liz onto her bed and began the difficult task of pulling off Liz’s shirt. When she was done, Mel could only stand back and laugh. Tucked in Liz’s bra were dozens of dollar bills. “You really did hustle them, didn’t you?” And she found that she was strangely proud of her friend.

“Oh, yeah. They really weren’t all that hard to beat anyway.” She rolled her eyes, recounting the tale as Mel tried to strip Liz of her pants. “I thought Eddie was Max, and I kept following them. But when I stopped them, I realized that Eddie could never be Max. He just has those eyes, you know? I always could just melt when he looked at me.”

“Eddie?” Mel asked, struggling with one of Liz’s boots.

“No, Max!” Liz giggled again, flopping back on the bed, a dreamy sigh escaping her lips. “He used to just watch me, all the time, no matter where we were. He would just walk into the room and I would know. I could feel him inside.”

Mel stopped her struggles, sitting on the floor. This was the first time she’d heard any stories of Liz’s old life. So, there was a guy. Didn’t it just figure?

“So, this Max, what happened?”

“He broke my heart. And I broke his. There was so much pain it was hard to breathe.” Her giggles had stopped, her eyes closing as she talked.

“Well, it’s like I always say, Men are nothing but trouble. What did this guy do to you?”

“He found his destiny. And it wasn’t me.” Liz yawned loudly, rolling over on the bed, still half dressed. “He’s a king, you know. And he lived in a beautiful castle in the stars. And I was going to live with him.”

Mel shook her head as her friend rambled on about royalty. “Oh, yeah. You’re drunk all right. I’ll be surprised if you remember any of this tomorrow.” She pulled off Liz’s last boot and stood up, not surprised to find her fast asleep.

“We were worried about you, you know. Don’t ever do that to us again.” Mel pulled Liz’s comforter around her, cocooning her in the soft blanket. She turned out the light and went to find Kyle, knowing he would want a full progress report.

posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:10:37 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 43

“Oh, no. I got the gumdrop guy again,” Max lamented as he moved his cardboard player back to the beginning of the game. A game of Candy Land was spread out on the bed before them.

Ana giggled, covering her mouth with her hands. “You always get that card.”

Max glared at her. “I think you’re cheating. You always get the Princess card. So, where do you hide them? Are they up your sleeves?” He made a show of looking up the long sleeve of her purple nightgown. “I don’t see any up there.”

“Silly! I’m just lucky.” She pulled another card from the deck, delighted when she pulled a double red card. “Only one more turn and I win.”

“Thanks for reminding me,” he said dryly. “We’re playing Chutes and Ladders next. Isabel never could beat me at that game. She used to get so mad, she’d yell and stomp her feet and not talk to me for a whole day.” Max leaned in close to whisper. “But that was okay with me.” Max pulled a card from the stack and moved his piece forward a blue square.

Ana sighed. “You’re so lucky to have a sister.” She picked at the quilt, her interest in the game lost.

“I guess so.” Max hadn’t really thought of himself as lucky before. He’d spent most of his childhood attached at the hip with Isabel, and though he was glad he had someone around who understood him, he’d never really stopped to think about how lucky he was to have her in his life.

“I’d give anything to have a sister,” she whispered.

“How about a brother?”

Ana scrunched her face in disgust. “I guess so. If I have to have one. But he’d have to do what I said.”

“Well, I hate to break it to you, but brothers usually don’t. Isabel used to try to boss me around all the time, and I never listened to what she had to say.”

“Used to? You mean you got her to stop?” Michael walked into the room, dropping an armful of bags carefully on the floor.

“Michael. Where have you guys been? You went out for lunch like two hours ago. I was beginning to wonder if you were ever coming back.”

“Yeah, well, we got a little sidetracked.” Michael moved back into the hallway and Max could hear noises.

“What are they doing?” Ana asked Max, craning her neck to see out in the hall.

“I don’t know. But if Isabel and Maria are involved, it could be anything.”

On cue, Maria breezed into the room, a bright red Santa Clause hat perched on her head with a sprig of mistletoe attached to the white tip. “Merry Christmas,” she announced cheerfully. She walked around to the bed and placed a smaller version of her hat on Ana’s head. It sunk down over her eyes and Maria laughingly pulled it back up on her forehead. “We’ll have to work on it.” She gestured to Max. “Maybe you could see what you can do with it?”

“Got it.” He pulled the hat from Ana’s head and moved behind the little girl. It took him only a second to size it down to fit her small head. “Perfect fit.”

“Don’t worry about me, Maria. I’ve got it all by myself.” Isabel staggered through the room, a tightly bound Christmas tree under her arm.

Max moved to take it from her and she sent him a thankful look. “I don’t even want to tell you where I have sap. It’s going to take a week to get rid of it all.”

“What’s going on here, guys?” Max asked as Maria continued to pull red hats from her bag and placing them on the heads of everyone in the room.

Maria turned to look at Ana. “Isn’t he slow today. What does it look like to you?"

“Christmas!” Ana bounced lightly on the bed in excitement as she watched Maria pull bows and bulbs from the bags Michael had deposited on the floor.

“Aren’t you clever.” Maria turned to Max. “Colleen was telling us how disappointed Ana was that she couldn’t come downstairs to help them decorate the Christmas tree last week, so we thought we’d bring Christmas to her.”

Max smiled in gratitude as he remembered the look on Ana’s face when she found out she had slept through the entire process of decorating the big tree downstairs. She had been running a high fever at the time and she hadn’t been able to keep any food in her system. Max had sat with her, watching her sleep and reading her the occasional story as they had listened to the others cheerfully decorate for the holidays.

“Maria…”

“Yeah, I know, I know. You’re in eternal debt to me.” She winked at him, placing a Santa hat firmly on his head. “Just be more cheerful this year than you were last, okay? And if you feel in the giving spirit this year, I’m a size four and there’s this little black dress at Macy’s in the window that I’ve had my eye on. I hinted at Spaceboy over here but I think we remember the present he tried to pass off on me last year.”

Max found himself grinning as he remembered Michael polishing the bumper for Maria’s car he’d found at the dump. He and Isabel both had tried to warn Michael that Maria wouldn’t stand for it, but he had stubbornly ignored them. Thankfully, Isabel had foreseen it and had bought a pair of pearl earrings for her. “Yeah, but he did buy you those wonderful earrings.”

Maria scoffed. “Like I didn’t know Isabel picked those out. Have you seen Michael’s taste?” She glanced at him out of the corner of her eye. He was wrapping a strand of colored lights around Ana’s shoulders and making her laugh. Her heart softened just watching it. They’d come a long way. “But I love the guy, so I let him think he’d pulled one over on me.”

“Maria, you’re too good to him sometimes.” Max teased.

“All women are a little bit more understanding when it comes to men. We have to be.” She patted him on the cheek. “But you wouldn’t understand that, would you? It’s alright. Just remember Macy’s, size four.”

“Okay, I know I come off as independent and all, but could someone please help me out here?” Isabel was struggling with the tree, trying to set it upright in the tree stand they had purchased.

“I’ll help,” Maria offered, moving to help Isabel.

“Yo, Maxwell, do something with these.” Michael tossed a bag of CD’s to Max. “There’s a player somewhere in these bags.” Michael was busy wrapping Ana up like a Christmas tree, engrossed in trying to make the star stay on her head. But she kept giggling at him, and it slipped back to the mattress.

“Smile, guys!”

Michael held the star atop her head as they both obediently faced Isabel’s camera.

Max watched his friends work together and he couldn’t help but smile. Maria was busy trying to make sure the tree was perfectly straight. Michael and Ana were mock wrestling on the bed as he tried to hand tinsel from her ears. And Isabel kept snapping pictures of the two.

His family had really come through for him and he wondered why he hadn’t known they would. How could they not look at Ana and fall in love with her instantly like he’d done?

“Max! Come on over here and help me decorate this tree. There’s something wrong with it, I think. It keeps moving.” Michael tried to keep Ana still, but she was giggling uncontrollably now.

“Michael, can you get the rest of the decorations out of the bags, please?”

Michael mock saluted Maria and Max took Michael’s place on the bed.

“Where did Ana go? I thought I saw her on the bed, but she’s not here now.”

“I’m right here, silly!”

Max made a show of pulling the tinsel off her and gave her an exaggerated smile. “There you are. What happened?”

“He kept putting this stuff on me, and I tried to tell him I wasn’t a tree, but he wouldn’t listen to me!”

“Well, we’ll just have to find a way to get him back for it later, okay? Do you feel okay enough to help decorate? Or do you want to take a nap first?”

“Decorate!” She announced.

Max hadn’t seen her so excited in longer than he could remember and he made a mental note to personally thank all three of them later. The soft sounds of Bing Crosby floated out from behind them.

“No, not that CD. Put in the one where the dogs bark out the Christmas Carols.” Michael instructed, his hands full as he hung a wreath on Ana’s bare walls.

“I thought I took that one out of the cart.” Isabel rolled her eyes, looking to Maria for support. But Maria cheerfully grinned at them both.

“That was the decoy CD. He usually keeps the real one on him and slips in it at the last minute.”

“You think you know all my secrets, huh?” The wreath hung, Michael turned to pull Maria into the circle of his arms.

“Honey, I do know all your secrets. You only think you’re fooling me.” She placed a kiss atop his nose, settling further in his arms.

“Are they always like this?” Ana asked as she sorted through box after box of ornaments to decide which ones she liked best.

“Oh yeah.” And he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Here, how about we move the tree next to the bed so you can hang the ones you want?”

“Already on it,” Maria sung out, slipping from Michael’s arms. “Give me a hand here.”

Together, they moved the tree to Ana’s bedside so she could gleefully hang the brightly colored balls from the limbs. And in the background, Isabel continued snapping away with her camera, recording their first Christmas together as a family.





posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:10:59 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 44

“Oh, god. I think I’m going to die.”

Kyle held Liz’s hair back as she clung to the toilet in agony. “No, you only wish you were.” He grimaced as she began retching anew. “You know, sweetie. If there were any faint glimmers of attraction left over from our days of dating, I think this safely stamped them out.”

“You’re too good to me, Kyle.” She closed her eyes, wishing for death to come quickly and take her away. How could simple things like the sun and Kyle flushing the toilet make her want to claw out her eyes and rip off her ears?

“So, you had exactly how much to drink last night?”

“I’m kind of fuzzy on that. All I remember is tequilla and then nothing. I feel like I drank a gallon.” Shakily, she sat back against the wall, resting her head against the cool tile. “Remind me never to drink again.”

“I have a feeling I won’t need to.” He eyed her a moment, unsure of how to begin the conversation she wouldn’t want to have. “You scared us last night.”

“I know. I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to.”

Kyle looked down at his hands. “Well, I owe you an apology too. You didn’t even want to go last night and we browbeat you into going.”

“You were just trying to make me have some fun. I just wish I could remember some of it.” She had a feeling she knew where this was going.

“The thing is, we shouldn’t have done it. It was stupid, Liz. You of all people know how unsafe things like that are. We’ve been here for a few months and we think we’re safe from everything we left behind. We’ve got to start being more careful than that. We should stick together from now on, never separate. And Mel is living with us now too.”

“And what? She should pack her bags and move out? Kyle, listen to yourself. The reason I left Roswell was because of all this. I was tired of being afraid all the time. Okay, we had a scare last night, but nothing Czech related happened.”

Kyle’s eyes floated around the room nervously.

“What?”

“Nothing.” It was nothing. He’d sworn to himself he wouldn’t bring it up this morning. “I just think you should be safer.”

“Kyle, I appreciate the gesture, really I do. But I’m not going to let my life be rearranged to keep me safe. The truth is, you can’t protect me all the time. I know you try and I love you for it. But I wouldn’t let Max make decisions for me and I won’t let you do it either. Besides, what are you going to do? Give up all your dates to spend your waking hours with me? Or maybe I should tag along with you.”

“I just don’t think you’re taking it seriously,” he pouted.

“I am. But the thing is, I’m not anybody of any interest anymore. Max had Tess and hopefully by now they have his son. If anyone wanted to get to Max, why would they bother with me?”

Because you’ll always be the love of his life. He wanted to tell her, but knew she didn’t need to hear it to know. As much as he hated Max for what he’d done to Liz, he understood that there would always be that ‘other half of my soul’ kind of love between them. But maybe she was right about him overreacting for now. He couldn’t very well follow her everywhere she went and he couldn’t kick Mel out of their lives completely based on the possibility of an enemy threat. So, what was the happy medium?

“So let’s compromise,” he suggested. “How about you promise to be more careful and I’ll back off on the safety issue?”

“Deal.”

“So, hustling pool, huh?”

“Apparently. I made fifty dollars last night.”

“Then you can treat us to dinner when you’re up for food again. At least one of us got to have a bit of fun last night.”

“If I apologize again, can we stop with the talking?”

“Silence it is.”

“Hey, guys! How are we feeling on this bright and sunny morning?”

“Please kill her,” Liz moaned, covering her head with her hand.

“I made breakfast,” Mel announced cheerfully. “Eggs, extra runny with sausage and bacon sizzled to perfection.”

Liz made a grab for the toilet and Kyle stood, pushing Mel from the bathroom forcefully.

“Liz, are you…”

Liz waved a hand at him, her forehead resting on the toilet rim again. “Go. I’m not going anywhere.”

Kyle followed Mel into the living room. “That was evil.”

“Yeah, well the good ones are just easy targets. It makes me feel better for all the worrying I did last night. I mean, don’t get me wrong, I’m glad she’s okay. But she did spend the evening having fun while we drove ourselves mad with worry. And if a little good natured ribbing makes me feel better about that, then so be it. So, how is she doing really?”

“She’s okay, just hung over. I think we had a worse time than she did.”

Mel watched him sink to the couch in frustration. Why did it always seem like he was carrying the weight of the world on his shoulders? “Well, she was having the time of her life last night. She kept going on and on with wild stories about this and that.”

“Oh? Like what?” Kyle tried to make the question casual. Had Liz said something to Mel last night?

“Nonsense really. She kept talking about Max, and then a bunch of nonsense about royalty.” She saw Kyle’s body jerk at her words and curiousity got the better of her. “Okay, what was that?”

“What?”

“You know what I’m talking about. You just had a freak attack when I said the name Max. I already figured he’s Liz’s long lost love that stomped her heart into the ground. But what is it about him that makes you react like that?”

“You’ve got the stomping part right.” Kyle rubbed his heads wearily over his face. He hadn’t gotten any sleep last night, worrying the hours away with their newest predicaments. “Mel, please don’t ask me about this. Yes, Max was part of the reason Liz left Roswell. But the rest of the story is long and complicated and it involves secrets that we aren’t allowed to tell.”

His eyes were pleading with her to understand and she wanted to drop the whole thing, but something was driving her forward. “Does part of the story involve shifty looking guys that you might refer to as ‘them’?”

Kyle met her eyes. “Yes. But that’s all I can say.”

“Fair enough.” He wasn’t lying to her and that was all she could ask for. The rest of the answers would come soon enough. Secrets, she had learned, very rarely stayed secrets for long.

posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:11:38 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 45

“Okay, so it’s settled then. We’ll leave here the minute finals are done and head out for Colorado.” Kyle could barely contain his excitement. They were finally going to take a trip, see some of the world. Granted, it was only skiing in Colorado for Christmas, but it was a start.

“I’m still not sure we’re going to be able to fit everything into your car.” Liz had thought about the seating arrangements long and hard and she didn’t think it was feasible.

Kyle rolled his eyes. “I told you it would work. But we have to keep to the one suitcase rule.” He saw the look that passed between Mel and Liz and he became even more determined to keep them to that, even if he had to pack their suitcases himself. “Okay, second item on the agenda today…”

“When did we start holding town meetings?” Mel asked. She was sprawled on the couch, amused by the whole experience. She’d seen so many cities in her time, it was hard to remember a time when she was excited about leaving.

“When we discovered that the New Years party of the year was being thrown.” Liz put an exaggerated tone in her voice, lightly mocking Kyle’s excitement when he’d told the girls about it.

“Fine. So, Liz doesn’t want to have any fun. That’s okay with me. But you’ll have to forgive me for dragging you along and forcing you to live your life and go out and meet new people. You can just stay here and die an old maid and we’ll come back someday and visit you and your cats.”

Liz scowled at Kyle, but remained quiet.

“Why do men think that just because women choose not to live a life of frustration with men, that they’re old maids? Did you ever think maybe we would choose to live alone?"

“Okay, so Mel doesn’t have a date yet. We’ll put it on the list of things that have to get done. Oh, I know this guy. He’d probably go out with you, but you’d have to keep your mouth shut or he might ditch you before midnight.”

Liz struggled not to laugh at the sheer outrage on Mel’s face. Kyle had really done it this time.

“Keep my mouth shut? I’ll have you know that I don’t need your charity. I’m more than capable of finding my own date and actually keeping him around.”

Kyle turned to face Mel, a look of pity on his face. “Honey, if you need a date, all you have to do is say so. No one will think any less of you for it. In fact, I’ll tell you what. How about we go together? That way you won’t suffer through the embarrassment of being left alone with all those couple around.”

Mel snorted. “The day the best I can do for a New Years date is you, is the day I kill myself…honey. I can’t imagine being stuck with only you to kiss at midnight.”

“Hey, I’m very kissable. Tell her, Liz.”

“Oh, no. I’m not getting dragged into this mess. You’re on your own.”

“C’mon, I need my honor defended here. Tell her that we had some spectacular kisses when we dated.” He turned pleading eyes on her now.

“When did I miss the story where you two dated?” Mel’s curiosity was piqued.

“Oh, it was a hundred years ago at least,” Liz explained, not understanding why she saw hurt flash across Mel’s features. “But, yes, we did have a few memorable kisses,” she threw in for Kyle’s benefit.

“See, Princess? You could do worse than to have me for a date.”

“Yeah, well, I don’t think zoo creatures count.”

Liz bit her lip, the laughter threatening to bubble to the surface. They were practically nose to nose, glaring at each other. She decided she’d better interrupt before it turned into a death match. “Kyle, I’m sure Mel appreciates your offer, but I’m sure she can find her own date. Plus, if you go with her, you have no absolutely no chance of getting lucky. And didn’t you say that was the whole point of New Years?”

Kyle leaned back and examined Mel. “Hmm, you do have a point there. Sorry, Mel, but I retract my very generous offer.”

“You retract-“ Mel sputtered, unable to form a full sentence. “I’ll have you know that I already have myself a date.”

“Really?” Kyle looked at her skeptically. “Who?”

“Eric Harris.” She smiled smugly at him.

“Eric-You can’t go out with him!”

“And why not? He asked, I accepted. It seems like it’s going to happen.” She examined her fingernails calmly. She couldn’t explain why, but it felt good to have him glaring at her over this.

“Because he’s…Look, he’s only out for one thing.” How could he explain to her what guys wanted when they looked at a girl like Mel? She was drop dead gorgeous, and her smile could be as charming and as beckoning as a Sirens’. She just oozed sexuality and a guy like Eric was only going to expect one thing from her.

“Getting lucky? Yeah, I kind of figured that out all on my own there, Slick.”

“Okay, this is getting ugly. I’m out of here if we’re finished?” Liz rose from the couch, but her roommates seem not to have noticed.

“Well, shouldn’t you break off your date then?”

“What? You think you’re the only one with plans to get lucky on New Years? You’re such a typical male.”

“Typical? There’s nothing typical about me, baby.”

Liz sighed and picked up her camera bag, slipping out of the apartment quietly. Though she could have stomped around naked and they wouldn’t have batted an eye at her. Unless she was mistaken, there were very undeniable feelings in that room and unless they got over their stubborn streak, it could be years before they would ever admit anything. But she would let them figure it out on their own.

She headed down the street towards the park. Maybe she could get a few good pictures for the portfolio she was slowly trying to put together. Catching site of her favorite coffee house, she made a change in plans and skipped across the street. Maybe some caffeine would help inspire her.

She paused outside the door to check on her cash and was surprised to have something crash into her back. She managed to catch her balance, then turned when she heard familiar apologetic mumbles.

“Tag.” She smiled when his eyes widened in recognition.

“Liz. We really should stop meeting like this,” he joked. “So, uh, how are you doing?”

“I’m fine, thanks to you I hear.”

“Hey, all I did was play some pool with a very good partner. How much did you make, by the way?”

“Enough to buy you a cup of coffee. Do you have a few minutes for me to thank you properly?”

“I think I can spare you one or two.” He held the door open for her, then followed her inside to a table. It was late in the morning, so the place was thinner on customers than usual.

A waitress came by to take their order, then sailed off into the kitchen. It made Liz think about the Crashdown and she smiled wistfully.

“Coffee makes you nostalgic too?”

“No. Sorry.” She blushed, returning to face Tag. “I was going to try to figure out a way to get in touch with you. I hear I was a little…tipsy last weekend. And I don’t remember much, but I remember you showing up. So, I’m sure I owe you a thank you for something in there, or at the very least for getting me home in one piece. Which leads me to my next question. I didn’t, uh…”

“Do anything embarrassing? Nothing besides running around naked singing show tunes. Or do you usually do that?”

“Haha.” She returned his smile, surprised at how easy it was to laugh with him. “So, I’ll take that as a no.”

The waitress returned with a plateful of sugary pastries and Liz picked at one. “So, tell me something about yourself. I just realized I don’t know anything about you other than you play football and pool.”

“Well, I graduated from James A. Marsters High School last spring and it was a very lovely ceremony. It rained buckets and the whole thing had to be moved inside the gym. But the reason we hadn’t had it in there to begin with was because it was closed for remodeling. So, here we were, the graduating class and all of our family and friends standing on tarps and in between paint cans and ladders.”

Liz smiled at his memory. “So, you’re going to college this year? Which one?”

“Nope. I’m a certifiable bum this year. I decided to take a year off and see the world.”

“And how have you found it so far?”

“Well, I never actually left as planned. A friend of mine that was supposed to back pack around Europe with me was killed in a car crash a week after graduation.”

Liz didn’t offer him the platitudes she’d grown accustomed to after Alex had died. They didn’t do any good. So, she laid a hand over his. “What was his name?”

“Carl. We hadn’t known each other more than a few years, but he had the same zest for exploring things that I did. We used to bungee jump all the time. We’d planned to take skydiving lessons when we came back from Europe.” He trailed off a minute, but managed to clear the sadness from his eyes. “So, I stayed here. Europe didn’t seem the same without him and it was too late for me to sign up for classes. But I’ll be going in the Spring. What about you? All I know is you like to take pictures and you play a mean game of pool. Oh, and I’m guessing you don’t drink much.”

“You guessed right. A couple of friends convinced me to go. I’m a transplant from Roswell, New Mexico, and so is Kyle, one of my roommates.”

“So, you live with Kyle?” He tried to ask it casually, but there really wasn’t a good way to ask that question.

“Yes,” she grinned at him. “He can be such a mother hen sometimes. He’s my self-declared body guard. Sorry if he gave you a hard time. He’s just a little overprotective.”

“So, you’re not dating him then? Just a friendly, casual question in case he decides to come find me later and hurt me for talking to you.” Could he sound any lamer?

“No, formerly dated, but not in a long time.” She knew he was deciding whether to flirt with her or not and it made her want to giggle. What was wrong with her? She hadn’t acted this way since…well, since Max had come along and swept her off her feet.

Tag took a sip from his mug. “So, you’re from Roswell? I’m sure you’ve been asked a hundred times if you’ve seen any little green aliens running around, so I’m not going to ask.”

“Yeah, you wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard the question.” And avoided it. “But you get used to it. So, what are you doing with your time if you’re not going to school and you’re not working?”

“I plan mostly and I write.” He tried to shrug it off as ordinary, though he had a strong streak of pride in what he wrote.

“Really? Anything in particular?” If he had asked her the least likely thing she would have thought he did, it would be writing. He just seemed more of a jock than a writer, but she supposed she was stereotyping with no reason.

“Fantasy mostly, some Scifi. Nothing you’d be interested in, I’m sure.”

“I have a very wide belief system. Try me.”

“Well, if you wanted to, I guess you could read some of my stuff.” Nobody had ever really asked before and it amused him that this girl would be interested. Usually, people thumbed their noses at him when he told them what he wrote.

“So, is your family adjusting well to life in Flat Creek?”

“Actually, my family is still in Roswell. I headed out on my own.” And she’d never missed them more in these last few weeks with Christmas approaching. She knew Kyle had been so insistent on them going out of town because he thought he could distract her from becoming melancholy over her family. And though she appreciated the gesture, she couldn’t imagine a Christmas without them. “Kyle and Mel and I are actually planning a trip out to Colorado for Christmas. We’re trying to get out a little bit too.” She didn’t want to answer the parade of questions that would follow now about her family and why she was here alone.

“Some snow skiing, huh? Ever been before?” He picked up one of the rolls and ate it, forcing himself not to ask any questions. She looked like she would run if he did.

“No, but Kyle has and he promised to show Mel and I the ropes. What about you? Big New Year and Christmas plans?”

“Christmas, no. Just the traditional where my brother and I fight over the television while my mother slaves away cooking a feast. But they’ll be gone for New Years and Seth is planning some big shindig.”

“Wait, Seth? He’s your brother?” Liz smiled. Sometimes the world really could be pretty small. “He invited us to his party. It’s supposed to be pretty big from what I hear.”

“Yeah, last year he narrowly escaped being arrested for the twenty minute firework display he put on. It seems he almost set some guys house on fire. But you guys are coming?” Did he dare to hope he would be able to see her there?

“Definitely. And you’ll be there, right? So, maybe we could meet up and talk.” She was way out of practice with this sort of thing. Was there a subtle way to ask if he already had a date? There was something about him that made her feel normal again.

“Yeah. That would be great. And maybe if you’re not doing anything, you know, before the party with your date, then we could eat something. Together.”

Liz grinned at his discomfort. “Well, since I don’t have a date yet, he shouldn’t mind.”

Tag let out a breath. Why would someone like her not have a date? It was puzzling. She should be beating them off with sticks. “In that case, I feel obligated to take you out for a good meal. And I know this place with a pool table in the back. Maybe we could see how good you are without the liquor. And I could drive you to the party from there?”

“Yeah.” Liz considered it, knowing he was asking her out in a round about way. She had a faint twinge of guilt, Max’s face filling her mind, but she pushed it aside quickly. She and Max were done and there was nothing wrong with her going out on a date. She had left Roswell to start a new life and eventually, that meant jumping back out into the dating pool. “I think I’d like it a lot. But only if we called it an official date.”

Tag let his eyes rest on her. She was peering out at him from behind dark lashes and he couldn’t resist her. Maybe he had finally found someone who would adventure with him. Most girls he knew wouldn’t be able to hold their own against a couple of guys like Eddie and Joe, but she had managed it while completely liquored up and she’d even hustled them for good measure.

“I think I can handle that if you can.” And as she smiled at him, he knew he’d found himself a partner.




posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:11:50 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 46


Max fought not to drum his fingers on his desk in boredom. How could any of the people around him stand the quiet? Somewhere in the back of his mind, he knew he should be finishing the final exam laid out before him, but he just couldn’t do it.

The weight of the beeper that hung on his belt was oppressively large. With each passing minute, Ana got sicker. They were simply running out of time. How the hell was he supposed to concentrate on History?

He thought back to the fight his parents had won for him. Electrical devices like beepers and cell phones were prohibited in the school. So, his mother had insisted on informing the principal of the situation. Max could still smile at the memory of his mother going head to head with their surly principal. And in the end, Max had been granted special permission.

It still amazed him to think about how supportive his parents had been. But since Liz had left, they’d tried to be a lot more understanding about things. Michael had figured they remembered those few hours when they hadn’t known if their son had run away.

But whatever the reason, they’d given him free rein as long as he didn’t get into trouble and he kept his grades up. So, he’d fallen back on his old habit of speed reading. Isabel had called it cheating years ago and they’d stopped. Well, mostly they’d stopped.

Max had come to rely on it when he and Liz had been involved in their whirlwind romance. They never had gotten any studying done in those days.

Liz. Just thinking about her brought a smile to his face. As always, he wondered what she was doing. She probably had a whole new life carved out for herself somewhere. He had hurt her so many times, but Liz was a survivor. She would never let him ruin her life. And that had been why she had left. Because he very nearly had.

He closed his eyes, letting her face form in his mind. Her round eyes staring up at him, her hair framing her face, a smile on her lips. She was perfection. Somehow, he’d forgotten that.

Thinking about Liz, he pushed the History exam to the side. There was no use pretending he was going to finish it. He yawned once, his late night at Ana’s bedside catching up with him. He glanced at the clock. Another hour to go. Suddenly feeling incredibly tired, he let his eye lids droop closed again. Ten minutes and he would finish the test. He gave in to the sleep that was hovering on the edge of his sub consciousness.

*~*~

With a yawn, Max opened his eyes to the sounds of soft music. Why had he been so tired? He couldn’t remember. He looked around at his surroundings and found himself confused. Where the hell was he? It looked as though he were in a lounge of some sort. He found that he was sitting at a table in the corner, hidden in the shadows. A band played quietly near the bar. He glanced around the room, wondering why he was the only person there.

Then he saw her.

A woman in a white dress was sitting at the bar, her back to him. Her dark hair was twisted up into a simple knot on top of her head. And that dress clung to every curve on her body. And his heart leapt in recognition.

He pulled himself out of his chair and made his way across the empty dance floor to her. He hadn’t let himself dream about her in so long, afraid of what seeing her would do to the progress he was trying to make. But here she was, sitting alone, and he was helpless.

Max stopped behind her, knowing she would feel his presence. She turned slowly, her sad eyes meeting his and she smiled.

“I knew you’d come.”

“You were the only one that ever did.” He held out a hand to her. “Dance with me?”

She gave him a full smile and he knew he had to be dreaming. He hadn’t seen that dazzling smile in longer than he could remember. She placed her delicate hand in his and let him lead her across the room to the dance floor. Holding her right hand in his own, he pulled her into the circle of his arms and felt complete for the first time in months. Or was it even longer?

He could feel the loneliness coming off her in waves and it tore at his heart. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” she shook her head. “It’s just hard sometimes to be hopeful. And with the holidays and everything…I miss you,” she confessed softly after a minute.

“I miss you too, Liz.” He couldn’t help the selfish thought that snaked through his brain. If she were in Roswell to hold him just once for real, he might be able to get through another day. He might find the strength to believe that Ana would live a long and healthy life.

She tilted her head and examined him. “You’re so sad. Why?”

“Someone I love is sick.” He twirled her around the dance floor slowly, not wanting this dream to end. It was so real, he wouldn’t have been surprised to snap his fingers and find out it wasn’t a fantasy he had conjured up. She felt so soft, her fragrance still the same. And she wasn’t looking up at him with hatred burning in her eyes the way he feared she would if he ever saw her again.

“You can’t help them?”

“Not this time.” He gave up on the pretense of dancing and caressed her face with his hand. “I wish you were real. I wish I could go back and fix so many things. I’d go back to the day I saved you and I would do it right. I would never give you a single reason to cry, or to worry. And you wouldn’t ever have a reason to leave me. I would do it right, Liz. I’m trying so hard.”

“I know you are. You just got lost along the way. We all did.” Her hand was caressing the back of his neck, tangling in the overgrown hair she found there. “Things happen for a reason, Max. Our meeting wasn’t an accident. It was meant to be. If things hadn’t happened the way they did, we wouldn’t be the same people we are now. And I think I’m learning who I am, away from you and away from Roswell. And one day I’ll come back.”

“I still love you. I love you more than you’ll ever know, Liz. And if I ever see you again, I swear I’ll make it up to you.”

“I still love you too, Max. But I’m afraid. I’ll never belong in your world no matter what I do. But I want to. I want to be able to trust you and love you without hesitation. And I don’t ever see that day coming.”

She was fading and he panicked. “No, Liz, don’t go yet. Stay with me another minute.”

“You’ll be fine, Max. You’re the strong one. And your friend, the sick one? Just be there. If that’s all you can do, it’s enough. You just have to believe it’ll all be okay and it will.”

“Do you still believe, Liz?”

She smiled at him, stepping back from the circle of his arms. “I do now.”

*~*~

“Max! Max, wake up!”

Max awoke to the sharp pain in his arm, and his sister’s insistent voice. “Ow! Is, knock it off,” he hissed. And then he heard it. The beeper, hooked protectively on his belt was vibrating softly.

With shaking hands, he unclipped it and brought it under the light to read. He turned wide eyes to his sister and found a world of hope on her face.

“They found a heart.”

Isabel grinned broadly at him. “Well, go. What are you waiting for? I’ll call Mom and Dad and everyone else and we’ll meet you at the hospital.”

Max shot out of his chair, only remembering to grab his book bag and incomplete test when Isabel hissed at him again. He laid it on his professor’s desk and mumbled an apology. He didn’t have time to worry about that now. The race against time had begun.

posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:12:16 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 47

Kyle sighed, gripping the steering wheel of his mustang while the desert passed them by in a blur. They’d been driving now for a few hours and Liz still had yet to say anything to him. She had been energetic enough when she’d woken up that morning, chattering about how great it was going to be to get away for a week. But after they had finished their exams and had begun packing up his car, she’d been moody and silent.

Mel had fallen asleep soon after they’d climbed in the car. She’d stayed up all night cramming for her finals, declaring it to be the only way she knew how to study. So, Kyle had waited until he was sure she was asleep to broach the subject with Liz. Mel had a history of not being as asleep as he thought she was and he had a feeling Liz’s sudden mood swing had something to do with Roswell.

He turned down the radio that had been blasting since they’d left.

“So, you wanna tell me about it?”

Liz never turned her attention from the passing scenery. “No.” She didn’t even pretend not to know what he was talking about. Kyle always had been too perceptive.

Kyle nodded. “Okay. Have it your way. Let it fester inside and eat up your insides until it becomes a major problem instead of just telling me what it is. Hey, it’s your life.”

Liz closed her eyes and rested her head against the back of the seat. “I just had a dream. That’s all.”

“Oh.” That was it? He’d been worried over nothing? “Well, do you want to tell me about your bad dream?”

“That’s just it, Kyle. It wasn’t bad. It wasn’t bad at all.”

Uh oh. And then he knew exactly what they were talking about. Only one person brought that note of wistfulness to her voice. “Max.”

“Yeah. I guess I was sleepier than I thought after helping Mel last night. I went to the library to finish studying this morning and I fell asleep. In my dream, we were in this bar or lounge or something. And I was all alone and then he was just there. And we danced and we talked and it was the most amazing thing. It felt so real. I didn’t want to wake up.”

Kyle chose his words carefully. This was the first time Liz had openly talked to him about Max, and he didn’t want to screw it up right off the bat. “So, all you were doing was dancing?”

“Somehow, we stopped dancing and we were just holding each other. I’d forgotten what it felt like to have him look at me, to hold me in his arms like he was afraid to let me go.”

“But, it was only a dream, Liz.” Something in her tone was worrying him. “Right?”

“I don’t know. I mean, are you asking if he was dreamwalking me? I don’t think that’s even possible, is it? That was Isabel’s area, and I wouldn’t have put it past Tess, but Max? I don’t know.” She frowned in thought. She’d spent all morning trying to figure out that exact thing.

“Well, did he say anything that we could trace? Like so and so did this, or wore this, or something like that?”

“He did say a friend was sick. He was so sad, Kyle. It was crushing. I’d hate to think he was real and he was feeling those things.”

“Well, that’s easy enough to solve. We’ll just call Dad when we get into town and ask him if he knows if anyone’s sick. If it is alien related, then the parents wouldn’t necessarily know, but Dad should.”

Liz nodded. “I guess you’re right.” She laughed, shaking her head. “I’m probably just being silly. It was just a dream. I was thinking about Max, wondering where he was and how he was doing at Christmas time. That’s all.”

“Right.” But Kyle made a mental note to have his father check around for them at home.

“Speaking of your dad, are you sure you don’t want to invite him to come up? There’s still time.”

“No. I can’t have him running to come see me every holiday. It’s not fair. I promised myself I wouldn’t do it, no matter what.”

Liz noticed how rigid his arms had become, his knuckles white from his tight grip on the steering wheel. Why couldn’t he just admit how much he missed his father? Men could be so stubborn. “If you change your mind…”

“I won’t, but thanks.” Kyle forced himself to calm down. Seeing this might be his only time to ask, and knowing Mel was fast asleep in the back seat, he took a chance. “Liz? Do you ever think about Tess and what she did?”

The half smile fell from Liz’s face. “All the time.”

“Yeah. You know, when I left Roswell, there were so many things to sort out in my head. Alex’s death and the role I played in it, the things I thought I was feeling for Tess. But I still don’t know if any of it was real. She screwed with us so many times, I can’t rely on my own memory.”

“She did whatever she had to do to get Max and to have a child with him. We were just in the way.” She’d had plenty of time to think back on every word Tess had uttered since she had mysteriously arrived in town. Liz had known from the start that there was something off with her, but it had been passed off as jealousy. At least now she knew to trust her instincts.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I shouldn’t have brought it up. But we never talk about it, what she did.”

“It’s okay, Kyle. You don’t have to be the upbeat guy all the time. You loved her, maybe not in a relationshippy way, but you and your dad loved her like a part of your family. And she betrayed you worst of all.”

“I just wish I could forget, just move on and not still feel like I could have done something to save Alex. Maybe if I’d been a little quicker or stronger, I could have fought her.”

“What?” Liz turned to face Kyle. “Is that what you think? Kyle, no. None of that was your fault. You just walked in at the wrong moment, and she took advantage of you. She used her powers on you. How were you supposed to defend yourself against that? None of us could. Max and Michael and Isabel couldn’t even protect themselves.” She laid a hand on Kyle’s leg. “It’s not your fault.”

“It’s not yours either, you know.”

Liz closed her eyes again. “That’s different.”

“Right, because you had some secret way of stopping Tess and her evil mind controlling powers?” He loved Liz, but she could be one of the most frustrating people he knew sometimes.

“Alex was my best friend. She mindwarped him for months and I never noticed a thing was wrong with him.”

“He was out of town the whole time deciphering those damn destiny books. How were you supposed to know?”

“I just should have.” She should have known. That thought had plagued her for months after his death. It had spurred her on when everyone had been ready to label Alex another suicidal teenager. But she knew Alex, and he loved life.

“Alex wouldn’t want you to blame yourself.” Kyle let the silence hang in the air. They would both have to get over these feelings of guilt if they ever wanted to move on from the whole mess Tess had created.

“Alex isn’t here,” she whispered. She could feel the tears welling up in her eyes and she tried to force them back.

Kyle turned his head cautiously, hoping he hadn’t driven her to tears like he was afraid he had. With a muttered swear, he pulled Liz tight against his side. She buried her head in his shoulder and he let her cry.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I didn’t mean to upset you. Let it all out. I won’t tell anyone you’re not Brave Liz all the time.” He pulled her closer, gently patting her back as her tears fell. He didn’t remember ever seeing Liz cry, and he had a feeling this had been welling up for a long time. “It’ll all be okay, I promise.” Kyle glanced in his rear view mirror at Mel’s sleeping form. At least they could be thankful that they hadn’t woken Mel. Otherwise, there would be a lot of explaining to do.




posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:12:40 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 48

Max paced the waiting room floor nervously. What was taking them so long? After his frantic rush from the school, he’d called Colleen and told her the amazing news. She had insisted on getting Ana ready and meeting Max at the hospital. When they’d finally arrived, the nurses had taken her to prep for surgery. But they had promised Max he would be able to see her before she went in.

Colleen appeared at his elbow, two coffees in her hands. “Here.” She seemed to be in the state of shock he was in, and they didn’t bother with words.

“Thanks.” Max took the drink, though he knew it wouldn’t do anything more than warm his hands. How could people just sit here and wait like this? Just sit and wait to see if their loved ones would live or die?

“They’re good doctors. She’ll be just fine.” Colleen continued to stand. There would be time for sitting and waiting after Ana had gone into surgery. Now, she felt better standing.

Max nodded, wishing with all his heart he could believe it. But the truth was, he had a long history of losing people. And he had lost his blind faith so long ago that good would win out in the end.

“Max! Oh, honey. There you are. We’ve been looking all over for you.”

Max looked up when he heard his mother’s voice. She was rushing down the corridor towards him and he only wanted to be held in his mother’s arms for a minute.

Diane let her son pull her into a hug and cling to her and she felt a twinge of sadness that she couldn’t do anything to take away her baby’s pain.

“Where’s Ana? Is she in surgery yet?” She didn’t have to question how Max had become as involved as he was so quickly. Her son always did have a soft heart, a bit too soft sometimes.

“They’re still admitting her. The heart is being flown in from Albuquerque.”

“Is there time for that?”

For the first time, Max saw Maria, Michael and Isabel standing behind his parents.

“They wouldn’t have told us if there wasn’t time.” Max loosened his grip on his mother, fully appreciating her and everything she’d done for him for the first time. How had she gone through countless years of worrying about him and Isabel?

Maria stepped forward to pull Max into a hug. “We came as soon as Isabel told us. Have you seen her yet?”

“No, they’re supposed to come get me.”

Even as Max was speaking, the doors opened and Ana’s doctor approached them. Max rushed over eagerly.

“Can I see her?”

He nodded hesitantly. “Yes, but only for a minute. We just received a call. Her heart’s just arrived at the airport. So, we have to get her into surgery.”

Max nodded quickly, not wanting to waste more time talking. “Anything you say.”

“Follow me then.”

With a backward glance at his family and friends, Max followed the doctor through the double doors. He allowed the nurses to dress him in a sterile gown, all the while watching Ana’s still form on the hospital gurney behind the pane of glass that separated them.

Nervous now, Max opened the last door and stepped into Ana’s room. She was lying in the middle of the room, a dozen machines monitoring her different systems. An IV had already been attached to her arm and he felt the ridiculous urge to rip it out and grab her and run. Didn’t they know what the success rate for heart transplants were? Even if the surgery went off without a hitch, she would still have to take immunosuppressants for the rest of her life so her immune system didn’t reject the heart. And that was assuming her body didn’t reject it in the first few days. The whole thing was so dangerous and uncertain, he didn’t want to put her through it. But the logical side of him knew it had to be done. This surgery would either give her a chance to live, or it would kill her.

“Ana? Are you awake?”

“Max?” She asked groggily.

“Yeah, sweetie. It’s me.”

“Colleen said the doctors are gonna give me a new heart.” She yawned, but opened her eyes.

Max saw a world of trust in those half open eyes and his heart clenched. “That’s right. Remember what we talked about? The nurses are going to give you something to make you sleepy and when you wake up, you’ll be in a room with some other kids your age.”

“Will you and Colleen be there?”

“Wild monkeys couldn’t keep us away.”

She smiled weakly. “Sara too?”

Max thought of Sara, who was back at the house watching the other kids. She’d called him already to make sure he was okay and to give him a quick pep talk. “I know she’ll be here too.”

“I’m scared,” she confessed, her voice so low Max could barely believe she’d spoken.

Moving to her bedside, he was careful to side step the machines and cords that she was hooked up to. “You don’t have to be. The doctors and nurses know what they’re doing and this is going to make you feel so much better. Just think, you’ll be able to go out and do things.”

“Like go to the zoo?”

Max smiled. “Yeah, like go to the zoo. How about I take you there? Just you and me? And we can watch the monkeys all day and have cotton candy.”

“Can Michael come too? He makes silly monkey noises.”

“Of course Michael can come too.”

“Max?” She fought another minute to keep her eyes open, struggling to focus on Max. “I love you.”

Max closed his eyes, letting her words wash over him. He felt as though a tidal wave of emotion were going to burst through, but he held it back. Now wasn’t the time. He could break down later, but now he would be strong. “I love you too, Ana.”

“Max? It’s time.”

Max turned to face Ana’s doctor and he nodded slowly. The nurses had entered the room and one of them moved to adjust Ana’s IV. He shifted out of their way and watched as the little girls’ eyes closed firmly and he knew the drugs had taken effect.

There was a flurry of activity around him and he knew he should move, get out of the way, but he was rooted to the floor. He didn’t want to take his eyes off her, knowing it could be the last time he saw her alive. He wanted to kick the fatalist in him, force himself to be optimistic, but it was the hardest thing he'd ever had to do.

They wheeled Ana past him and his feet moved of their own accord, following after them. A part of his brain recognized that they had returned to the hallway where he’d been waiting for so very long. But still his feet kept moving. A hand on his arm stopped him and he turned to look into Maria’s tearful face.

“You have to let them take her, Max.”

Numb with worry, Max let Maria guide him to a nearby chair. He could feel her arms around his shoulders as she rocked him, whispering words of hope in his ear. Max closed his eyes and let her words sink in. He just had to hold on to that feeling. What had Dream Liz said to him in that dream he’d had earlier that day?

Just be there. If that’s all you can do, it’s enough. You just have to believe it’ll all be okay and it will.

Max held fast to the words, letting them roll around in his head. He just had to believe and it would be okay. He knew it. And as the walls he’d built for himself over the years began crumbling down anew, he trusted in Liz’s words. Even if she was only a dream, he believed in her. And if she could believe, then so could he.



posted on 27-Nov-2001 11:13:06 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Finding Yourself
Part 49

“Okay, my happy little driving buddies! Everybody out of the car and let the fun begin.”

Liz and Mel eyed Kyle as they slowly moved out of the car. The car trip had been one of the longest ever and Kyle’s sudden cheerfulness was beginning to grate on Liz’s nerves.

“How long until we have to get back in that car again?”

“Five days,” Mel replied, pulling her bag out of the car with her. The trip hadn’t been that bad. Who knew Kyle was a closet Sinatra fan? They’d had a sing along that had lasted through half the state. And she knew they’d driven Liz half-crazy, but it was her own fault if she was going to be moody to begin with. Mel was determined to enjoy her vacation.

“So, we check in, then what do you say we do a bit of exploring?” Kyle clapped his hands together and eyed the two girls hopefully.

“Sounds like a plan. Liz?”

“Yeah, sure.”

Mel locked eyes with Kyle over Liz’s head. Kyle merely shrugged and Mel pursed her lips together in thought.

“Kyle, why don’t you go check us in and Liz and I will get the bags ready?”

“Okay, I’ll be back in a second.”

Mel waited until Kyle loped off before she rounded the car to Kyle’s trunk. Liz moved to help her, but her friend’s mind just wasn’t in the task. “Okay, you want to talk about it or what?”

“I’m fine, Mel. Just a little Christmas blues.”

“Uh huh. Well, I’m convinced. Look, Parker. This is supposed to be fun. Do you remember that? You were the one that was the most excited of all about this trip. So, now we’re here. Let’s make with the happiness.”

Liz watched Mel standing beside Kyle’s car, hands perched on her hips while she glared at her. Maybe she was right. It was silly to mope around when there was no reason to. “Okay. I’ll cheer up. I promise. Now, let’s empty the trunk before Kyle sees those bags we slipped in there when he wasn’t looking.”

“There’s my girl. So, what do you say we check into this skiing thing?”

Liz tugged on a bag, trying to free it from the overly packed trunk. “Explain to me again why we’re not just getting Kyle to show us the ropes? He used to go skiing with his father all the time. I hear he’s pretty good.”

“Well, that’s exactly why he can’t show us anything. Do you want him lording it over us that he is the expert? No, I didn’t think so. Trust me on this one. We’re better off letting the real pros teach us.” Mel took the bag Liz handed her and began a pile at her feet.

“Look, I’m not out to lure some unsuspecting ski instructor into a snowy romance. So, if that’s your game, count me out.”

Mel made a face at her. “Like that was my plan. Although it wouldn’t hurt if the instructors were easy on the eyes, my goal is to be able to ski better than Kyle before this trip is over.”

Liz rolled her eyes at the pair of them. Would they ever stop competing and just learn to co-exist? “Okay, but I’m warning you, my goal is to be able to walk to the car when it’s time to go. I’m not following you to the Big Slope of Death just so you can prove to Kyle that you’re not a wimp.”

“You’re such a girl,” Mel leaned back against the car, examining her nails casually.

“Hey! I resent that. I mean, okay, I am a girl, but…oh, never mind. Just help me out here with your big, strong non-girly muscles, huh?”

“Okay! We’re all checked in and with only one small goof up. Isn’t that great news? How are we coming out here?”

“What goof up?” Liz straightened from the trunk and the two girls eyed Kyle.

“Well, it seems they had some overbooking issues and they…well, they seem to only have one room for us. But on the plus side, it does have a roomy king size bed.” Kyle smiled at them encouragingly.

“You’re kidding! I thought we booked these rooms weeks ago. You did book them, didn’t you?”

Kyle took a step back from Mel’s threatening posture and held his hands up in defense. “Of course I booked them. Look, there’s some sort of convention or something in town. And all the rooms are booked. We can try another resort if you want, but they’ll probably all be booked up too.”

Liz sighed, weighing the options. Well, she already lived with them. How bad could sharing a bed be? “No, we’ll just stay here and make the best of it. Besides, this place is supposed to be a four star resort. I’m not leaving to stay at some place we’ve never heard of.”

Mel nodded reluctantly. “I still think this mess is your fault, but I don’t know how to prove it. Yet.”

Kyle eyed the growing bag of luggage on the sidewalk. “Hey, where did those bags come from? I didn’t pack them in the trunk.”

*~*~

Liz shifted patiently from one foot to the other, her gaze resting on the snowy scene outside of her window. She’d never seen so much snow before, and waiting inside was killing her.

“Kyle! What’s taking so long?” She yelled at the bathroom door.

“And he says it takes me a long time to get ready,” Mel muttered, filing her already non existant fingernails from her seat on the bed.

“Just trying to look my best!” Kyle answered as cheerfully as he could muster. For the last ten minutes, he’d very secretly and very quietly been having a panic attack in their shared bathroom. This was it. The next hour would either make or break his friendship with Liz.

When he had checked them in, the woman behind the desk had informed him that Nancy and Jeff Parker had already arrived and had left him a note asking him to invite Liz and Mel to dinner. Unfortunately, he had yet to tell Liz about any of it. So, he’d been trying to rehearse different ways of breaking it to her in the mirror.

“Hey, Liz. I hope you didn’t mean it when you said you didn’t want to see your family for Christmas, cause they’re downstairs.” No, that wouldn’t work. Maybe if he threw in a compliment first?

“Hey, Liz, you look great in that dress. Say, remember your parents?”

He dropped his head in his hands and wracked his brain for another way. There had to be a better way. Or maybe he should grow up and quit acting like a spaz and just tell her. Squaring his shoulders, he braced himself for the inevitable confrontation with Liz. He pulled open the door and immediately launched into his speech.

“Liz, first of all, you look beautiful tonight. Second-“ Kyle stopped, glancing around the room and finding only an amused Mel staring at him. “Where’s Liz?”

“Save your best line, Tiger. She’s not here.”

“What do you mean she’s not here?” Panic clawed at his stomach.

Mel shrugged. “She said she was tired of waiting for your sorry ass to primp.” She looked up from her nails to see that he wasn’t buying it. “Actually, she muttered something under her breath, but I know what she meant. And then she took off.”

“And you didn’t stop her?” Kyle began pacing the room. She could be anywhere by now, and this resort was huge.

“Apparently, I didn’t get the memo about Liz needing a babysitter. What’s your deal, Slick?” Didn’t he ever get tired of constantly keeping Liz in his sight?

“The deal is, her parents are downstairs and she doesn’t know I invited them.” Kyle stopped pacing long enough to stare out the window.

“Oh my god, are you screwed.”

“Thanks, Mel,” he drawled sarcastically. But she was right.

“No, really. What happened to ‘I’ll break it to her in the car’?”

“I got distracted.” Mel was glaring at him with an all knowing smirk and he threw up his hands in defeat. “Okay, so I chickened out. Besides, you didn’t think it was a bit odd when she didn’t bring it up?”

“I thought she was brooding or something. Hell, I don’t know.”

“I have to go find her.” He started for the door, only to be pulled back by Mel.

“Ah, no, you can’t do that.”

Kyle shook his head in confusion. “What are you doing? Let go of my arm!”

“Um, why don’t you just stay up here with me and we can play a nice, friendly game of blackjack.”

“Mel-“ he warned.

“Gin Rummy, then?” She suggested hopefully.

“I don’t have time for this.” He tried to shake her off, but the girl was strong as an ox.

“Okay, Strip Poker, and that’s my final offer.” She dug her heels into the carpet when he tried to drag her across the room with him.

“As appealing as that offer is, why don’t you just tell me why you won’t let go of my arm.”

“Okay, fine.” She released her death grip on his arm. “It’s just that, um, well, your dad is downstairs too.”

“What? What are you talking about?”

“Your dad, I sort of invited him.” He was looking at her like she’d grown a third head. It really had seemed like a good idea at the time and Jim had been thrilled at the idea, especially when she’d told him about the Parkers.

“You did what? When were you planning on telling me this?”

“Would you believe in the car?” She grinned, amused by his stance. “Hey, I was busy with the sleeping. Besides, you and Liz were talking the whole way.”

Kyle froze. “What do you know about that? You were sleeping.”

“It was kind of hard with all the blabbing, but I made due. Why? Did I miss all the good stuff? Lighten up, Tiger. Your secrets are safe.”

Kyle continued to watch her a minute longer. She’d been asleep, hadn’t she? And if she had heard anything from the conversation he’d had with Liz, she’d have brought it up by now. Wouldn’t she? So, why did his gut tell him he didn’t have the whole truth from Mel?

Why was he looking at her like he was trying to get inside her brain and pick it apart? It made her more than a bit jumpy. “Look, I thought I was doing a good thing. Either Liz is going to have her family and leave us alone together, or she’s never going to talk to you again. Either way, I’m stuck with you twenty four hours a day for the next five days and a girl could use some personal time. It was purely selfish, really.”

Kyle eased off his defensive stance. Maybe she had been asleep after all. And she had invited his father, so he wouldn’t be alone at Christmas when Liz had her family around her. She might be tough on the outside, but she was all kittens and cotton candy inside. And he knew if he ever said so, she’d kick his ass around the block.

His dad was here, in Colorado for the holidays. A slow smile spread across his face and his heart felt a bit lighter than it had. She had known what it meant to him. How she could know him so well after he’d sworn not to let anyone else in? He’d thought only Liz knew him that well. But somehow, she’d gotten under his skin and he liked to think he’d done the same with her.

“Well, I guess I can’t really be angry.”

Mel let out a breath she hadn’t realized she was holding. At the time it had seemed like a good idea, but just this moment, she hadn’t been so sure. “Good.”

“Because I invited your father too.”

“What?”

Kyle grinned at her, swinging an arm around her shoulder. “I was going to tell you in the car if you can believe it.”

*~*~

Liz wandered idly around the resort, peeking her head in whatever doors were open. This place was amazingly large. She’d glanced through the pamphlets Kyle had picked up on the place and she remembered it boasted a few hundred rooms and even hosted a skiing competition each year. Liz found herself thanking her lucky stars that it wasn’t this week. She could just see Mel and Kyle competing on the slopes. It didn’t matter that Mel had never skied a day in her life before. If Kyle did it, she would strive to do it better. And the idea of spending Christmas in the hospital wasn’t appealing.

She climbed down the large, curving staircase, trailing her hand along the slick, oak railing. She had been trying to pinpoint what the exact cause of her moodiness was. And it didn’t take a rocket scientist to know she was homesick. She missed the brightly lit Crashdown. She missed the argument between Michael and Maria when Michael claimed it festive to hang ornaments from the spaceship in front of the building.

She missed Maria, her laugh and her eternal optimism. She still missed Max, but ever since that dream, she’d been trying to put him out of her mind. She’d decided to take Kyle’s advice and call his father, just to see if everyone was okay. And that would settle whether or not it had simply been a dream, or if it had been something more.

And then there were her parents. She knew how selfish it was of her not to talk to them. That’s why she had been building up her courage over the last few days. She’d decided to call them, at least let them know she was okay, and hear their voices again. Wasn’t Christmas about family anyway? If she couldn’t go back to Roswell yet to see them, the least she could do was call. And she would. There wouldn’t be any chickening out this time. She wouldn’t just pick up the phone and hold it in her hand until it started beeping at her. She would punch in the numbers and when they answered, she would…

She had no idea what she would do.

Liz shook her head, trying to clear the melancholy from her brain. This had to stop. She had left town, and this is what came from it. She would just continue moving forward and call her parents and it would be enough.

She paused at the bottom of the stairs, deciding where to go next. Maybe a cup of hot chocolate would do just the trick. She’d bundled up in her new winter gear they’d gone shopping for, but it was just ridiculously cold here. She wrapped her arms around herself and stepped into the restaurant. They seemed to be gearing up for the dinner crowd, because she couldn’t find anyone to help her.

Not in any rush, she wandered her way to the bar. A tall man in his late twenties smiled at her. “What can I get you?”

“Hot chocolate?”

“Now that I can help you with.” He moved to prepare her mug and Liz seated herself on the barstool. The people she’d seen so far were so different. She guessed growing up in a small town had spoiled her. She’d basically known everyone around her and now she was in an environment where everyone was a stranger. It was a different feeling, but she wasn’t sure if it was better. There was just something about small towns that made her feel more welcome.

“Here you go, darlin’.” The bartender handed Liz her drink. She reached into her pocket to pull out money, but he stopped her. “Sorry, but this one’s already paid for.” He gestured towards a table behind her and when she turned, a grin formed on her face.

She hopped off the barstool and moved to sit with Jim Valenti. “Hey, what are you doing here?”

“You don’t believe in coincidences?” He saw the look of disbelief on her face. “Not anymore, huh? Mel invited me. She thought it would be nice to spend Christmas with Kyle. She said something about him being pigheaded and irritating.”

Liz grinned back at him. “That’s our Mel, soft spoken and afraid to voice her opinion.”

“I like her,” he confessed, taking a sip of his own drink. “So, how could I refuse an offer like that? And with your parents and all…”

Liz’s smile faltered. “What about my parents?”

“Well, they got in safely, didn’t they? Mel told me all about it.”

“Wait, I’m confused. Where are my parents?”

“Well, they’re actually right behind you.”

Liz turned in her chair, sure Jim was mistaken. Her parents were in Roswell, not Colorado. But the world seemed to slow down as her eyes locked with those of her parents. They were frozen in the doorway of the restaurant, and she figured they had seen her first. Slowly, she rose from her chair, half-afraid if she moved too quickly, they would vanish.

She kept moving until she was only a few feet from them. Her mother seemed to be clinging to her father and she wasn’t sure why. Unless…were they worried that she would run from them?

“Liz?” Nancy whispered.

Liz wasn’t sure what her mother was asking and it didn’t matter anyway. With a small sob, she launched herself into the waiting arms of her parents. Arms immediately moved to pull her closer and together, they clung tightly. With her mother’s whispered words of love in her ear and her father’s soothing hand on her back, Liz felt some of the holes in her heart fill. And suddenly, the holidays seemed so much brighter.


posted on 29-Nov-2001 11:04:00 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

You wouldn't believe how much trouble this part gave me. Seriously. But here it is. I will definately have a new part for you guys tomorrow, but it won't be until at least 5:00 pm eastern time. I'm switching work shifts with someone tomorrow. But I'll definately have a new Colorado part for you. Enjoy!

Finding Yourself
Part 50

Max had never known what it was like to literally count every second of every minute that passed by. But he was learning. He’d been waiting four hours so far for word on Ana’s surgery. Fourteen thousand, four hundred seconds had ticked by on the clock across from him. And he’d watched every one of them go by. Still nothing.

Since they’d wheeled Ana into surgery, things had quieted down. Colleen and his parents had talked for a bit, hushed words from the hallway and he’d heard his name more than once. Isabel had taken to playing den mother, making sure everyone had coffee and checking for updates on Ana. She’d also dreamwalked Ana and had quietly assured Max that she was dreaming happily. Maria had consoled Max for a while until he’d told her he was fine. He knew she hadn’t believe him, but she’d given him the space he wanted and she had taken to watching him from her resting place on Michael’s chest. Michael had been blissfully quiet and he realized that he took Michael’s quiet support for granted sometimes.

And as Max had watched those seconds tick by, he’d tried to think about anything besides the little girl down the hall. He’d gone through a lifetime of songs, had recited almost entire Shakespearean plays in his head. He’d even tried to count the number of bumps on the wall around the clock.

And when none of that had even worked a bit, he’d thought of Liz.

In his mind, he’d recounted every moment they’d spent together from the beginning, the good times and the bad. He’d once cursed his ability to remember such specific detail, but that had been after he’d found Liz and Kyle in bed together. He’d moped for days, doing nothing but remembering the softness of her skin and the way her eyes would light up when she saw him. At that time, he had hated his memory, sure it had been playing tricks on him. How could Liz have gone from looking at him like he was the world to sleeping with Kyle? It hadn’t made sense. But he had believed it anyway. And his whole world had crumbled because he hadn’t listened to his heart.

Now, he thought back to that horrible year that had followed that night. He’d pushed Liz away, treating her more horribly than he’d ever thought himself capable of. But he still hadn’t been able to cut her out of his life completely. Maybe he had been masochistic back then. Or maybe his heart still believed somewhere deep down that it had all been a lie. But he had asked her time and again, and every time she had told him yes, she had slept with Kyle.

He knew it still wasn’t any reason for the way he treated her, but he could see it now, with clarity that came from being so far removed from those horrible days. He’d walked around like the living dead, a ragged hole in his chest that only grew when he saw her. In those days, the world had seemed against him, but Tess had been there. But now he could see that it was calculated, planned carefully to have worked out that way.

Max forced his thought away from Tess. Her name alone had the power to make him feel physically sick. And he still had a hard time believing he had ever touched her. But he knew he had. Despite all the confusion surrounding Tess and what she had done to their memories, he knew he had slept with her. And it would be the biggest mistake he would ever make in his life. If he could be certain of anything, it was that. And he knew that it had been calculated on Tess’s part to lie to him about having a son in order to take him home, into the waiting trap of Khivar’s. And he had fallen for it. It had only taken him months of questioning every word that Tess had spoken to put all the pieces into place. Plus, there had been the visions he’d received when he’d touched the Granolith.

Weary, he scrubbed his hands over his face. When had he started thinking about Tess again? He must be more tired than he thought. Filled with the sudden urge to get up and move, Max rose suddenly, catching the attention of everyone in the waiting room.

“I’m going for a walk,” he explained.

Maria nodded at him, wanting to offer to come with him, but she knew she would only be hovering. “You won’t go far?”

“Just down the hall.” Why would he go anywhere where that door wasn’t visible? Soon, the doctor would be walking back through those double doors and he had been keeping half on eye on them.

He started down the hall, not wanting to meet the concerned eyes of his family. He knew they were expecting him to break down if the doctor came back with bad news. And he could hardly blame them. He had been a basket case for longer than he could pinpoint. But he just needed to get away for now.

Not having anywhere to go, he wandered to the water fountain, taking a long sip. Around him, doctors and nurses hurried by to tend to unseen emergencies and he felt a sort of longing to be one of them. He knew it was ridiculous, but the white halls didn’t bother him as much as he thought they would. Maybe one day…

“Max! Has there been any word yet?” Sara came rushing down the hall, her eyes filled with concern.

“No. We’re still waiting. Everyone’s over there if you want to wait with them.”

She eyed him carefully. “How are you?”

He laughed, not meaning for the bitterness to come out. “I’m just fine.”

Sara laid a hand on his arm. “She’s a fighter. She’s lived this long, hasn’t she?”

Max met her eyes, and nodded, Liz’s words echoing in his head. He just had to believe. “Yeah, she has.”

Satisfied, and more than a little confused as to the reason behind his sudden change in attitude, she nodded. The last time she had seen Max, he had been moody and depressed. Now, she almost thought she saw hope in his eyes. It was unexpected, but nice.

Before Max could say anything, he caught movement from the wide double doors and he immediately turned his attention to Ana’s doctor. He moved quickly across the slick floors.

“Mr. Evans?” When they had admitted Ana Cole earlier that afternoon, he’d been assured that Max Evans would be the one to received most of the updates.

“How is she?” Max barely registered that the others had formed a small circle around them.

“The transplant was a success.” He watched as the group let out sighs of relief. “She’s not out of the woods yet,” he warned. “Her body could still reject the heart, but we’ll just have to wait and see.” He offered them a smile. “But everything looks good so far.”

“Can I see her?” Max couldn’t help the joy that was bubbling in his heart. Ana was going to be okay. She had survived the surgery.

“Only one of you and only for a minute. She’s in ICU now. We’ll keep her there for a day or two until we know better if there were any complications.”

Colleen placed a hand on Max’s shoulder. “Go see her.”

“Are you sure? Maybe she’d rather see you.”

“I’m sure, Max. Give her our love.”

Max nodded before pulling Colleen into a hug. She smiled back with the same energy he had. “Go.”

Following the doctor, Max allowed himself to be suited up again to see Ana.

“I’ll give you two a minute alone.” The doctor excused himself and then Max was alone, pulling back the curtain that kept Ana semi-private. She was lying on the gurney still, tubes and wires attached from almost every patch of skin he saw. He could make out the gauze bandages underneath her hospital gown and it reminded him of how much she’d been through.

With a quick glance behind him to make sure they did indeed have privacy, Max approached Ana slowly. She was still out from the drugs and he decided it was probably easier on her that way. Carefully, he picked up a thin hospital blanket from the foot of her bed and laid it gently on her chest. Silver handprints wouldn’t do in the ICU. He laid his hand atop the blanket and focused on forming a connection with the small girl.

Within seconds, he could feel her life pulsing around him and he went about tracing the blood flow to her heart. He examined the doctor’s work, giving the blood vessels a small nudge to help them begin attaching to her new heart. When he was satisfied that there wasn’t any further damage or anything else he could do that wouldn’t arise suspicion, he pulled back.

“Max?” Ana sleepily called out.

“Hey, honey. How do you feel?” Max leaned in closer to make out her words.

“Funny. I’m really tired.” She didn’t even have the strength to open her eyes.

“Well, you should sleep then. We’re all going to be outside when you get up. So, you just rest, okay?”

“Kay,” she whispered, already sleeping again.

Max knew he should move from the bed, but he found it difficult. He moved the blanket back to it’s original place and ran a hand down her sleeping face. Ana would be okay now. He was sure of it, not only because of his healing powers, but because he could place faith in others to do what he couldn’t. Once again, Liz had been right. And the knowledge of it made him smile like he hadn’t ever known possible.

posted on 30-Nov-2001 7:57:46 PM by cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey guys. Here's the part I promised you. Is anyone still out on the board tonight? See, this part is an example of this story writing itself. I fully intended to have Liz in this part, but it just didn't happen. But I know you guys will love it. I'm just in a mood I guess. But a good one for a change, a romantic one. Too bad I don't have anyone to write a romantic scene for right now, huh? Well, enjoy and as a note, since this one ended up being long and Liz never showed, the next part - hopefully tomorrow - will be another Colorado part. We're skipping over Roswell again. But there's not much going on anyway. Just picture them all still hanging out in the hospital and you've got all you need to know. Enjoy this part, I know it's been a long time coming, but here it is.

Finding Yourself
Part 51

Kyle dragged himself down the plush carpet hallway, his father and Mel in tow. Together, they’d had a very lovely dinner and had laughed long into the night. His father had called them from downstairs and had been more than a bit upset at having been the one to tell Liz about her parents. He’d apologized to Kyle and explained how he’d thought she’d already known her parents were in town before he let out the news. He’d recounted their reunion and then they had left together at Jim’s insistence.

And all night long, Kyle hadn’t known what to make of it. Had she been so upset with him for inviting her parents that she didn’t want to speak to him? Or had she been so thrilled about seeing her parents, she’d forgotten how exactly they’d gotten there? It wasn’t likely, but it was still a possiblity.

Who was he kidding? She was going to kill him. He’d violated the only rule she had laid down. No contact with Roswell.

Now, he was walking back to their room as though it were death row.

“So, how did you guys manage to afford this place?” Jim asked Mel, who was walking companionably beside him. She really was an amazing woman and he enjoyed her company immensely. He was proud that his son and Liz had found such a good friend.

“One of my father’s friends. He did a photo shoot for this place years ago and sort of it on the map. So, he told us if we ever wanted to come stay, we can have the place.”

“And you only have one room?” Jim hated it when the father in him came out. Sure, he trusted all three of them, but he was still a father of a teenage son.

“Well, we had two rooms.” She eyed Kyle distastefully. “But we’re sharing due to some overbooking.”

“And you’ll all be sleeping in one bed together?”

“Dad, what are you getting at?” Kyle stopped envisioning his own death long enough to rejoin the conversation.

“Nothing. Nothing, really. I’m sure you guys will be fine. Just ignore the old man.”

Kyle relented and pulled his father into a one armed hug. “You’re not so old.”

“And you’re probably healthier than all of us.” Mel agreed. Jim Valenti had grown on her much the way his son had. And it amazed her. She’d always considered herself a loner, never getting close to anyone for any reason. But now she had strong friends, ones she could almost hesitantly call best friends, and an extended family. What was happening to her?

The trio reached the door and Kyle hesitated, key in hand. Mel sighed, snatching the key card from his hand. She swung the door open once she had unlocked it.

“Liz? Are you here?” She turned back to Kyle after a second of silence. “She’s not in yet, Darlin’. You’ve been granted a temporary reprieve.” She tossed a grin at Kyle. He’d worked himself up into a fit of worry all night. He’d only half-heartedly joined in their conversation and she’d known he was worried about how Liz was going to react to his involvement. And she couldn’t for the life of her figure out why he was so worried. Okay, he should have told her before she found them on her own, but they’d had a happy reunion. Why would he think she would be mad at him? They were as close as two people could be and if Liz threw that away because of something that helped her in the long run, then she just didn’t know her friend very well at all.

Kyle let out a shaky breath. So he had another hour or so before he had to pay the piper.

“I really am sorry about telling her the way I did, son. If I’d known, I would have been a bit more tactful about it.”

“It’s not your fault, Dad. I should have told her. At least she had a few seconds of warning before she saw them. But you said they looked happy?” He was holding on to that one piece of information, sorry he hadn’t been there to see it.

Jim grinned at the memory. The three of them had clung together a minute, holding tight. And he knew he’d seen more than a few tears shed. “Yeah, they looked good together.”

“Then whatever else happens is okay. It was all worth that moment for her.”

Jim could only marvel at how much his son had grown in the past few months. It made him ache, but it also made him proud. He turned to Mel, placing a kiss on her hand. “It was lovely to see you again, Mel. I’m sorry your father had to postpone his vacation. But I’m sure he’ll be here for Christmas.”

“Yeah, I’m sure you’re right.” Mel plastered a smile on her face for Jim’s benefit. She could at least fool the father, if not the son. And for that reason alone, she avoided Kyle’s gaze.

“Well, I’ll see you two in the morning for breakfast. And I trust you,” he added more for his benefit than theirs.

“Good night, Dad.” Kyle moved for Mel to enter the room and waited until his father turned down the hall before he closed the door. His father’s worried face amused him. Kyle knew he wasn’t worried about him and Liz. His father knew them well enough to know that Max still had complete control of Liz’s heart. So he was actually worried about something happening between him and Mel? The whole idea was laughable. It had taken him months just to work himself up to a quasi-friendship status with her. And if there was one thing he knew about Mel Carter was that she simply wasn’t interested in him like that.

“I’m taking a shower,” Mel announced, closing the bathroom door behind her as she sailed past Kyle.

Kyle shook his head. He would never understand her, but he could predict her. For a few hours, she’d been open with them. Or at least, more open than usual. She’d laughed and even shared a few stories from her days of traveling. But when it was just the two of them together, she clammed up again and shut him out. What was she so afraid of? Was he that bad of a guy to talk to?

As Kyle stripped out of his dinner clothes and slipped on a clean t-shirt over his boxers, Mel consumed his thoughts. He’d been living with her for a month now and he still didn’t know anything about her other than the few things he’d gotten out of her that night they’d shared a pint of ice cream and talked.

He had a feeling Liz knew some of her past, but Liz would never tell him anything private. She was too good a friend for that. Besides, for some irresistible reason, he really wanted to hear Mel’s story from Mel.

Kyle climbed into bed, moving to the far right side. And he lay, staring at the ceiling, while the sounds of Mel moving around the bathroom filled the silence of the room. She would laugh if he told her he knew her pattern. It was kind of cute really, and kind of reassuring. No matter what she’d done that day, she would always take a shower at night, even though she always took another one in the morning anyway. But she would follow it up with brushing her teeth. After that came the brushing of that long mane of curly auburn hair that she kept wrapped up in her favorite purple towel. She would put some kind of gel in it that made it smell like wildflowers and after she changed into her clothes, she would go to bed.

The first week she’d lived with them, he would stay up listening to those sounds, trying to pinpoint exactly what each one was. And after awhile, it was second nature to listen out for her nightly ritual. He couldn’t say why, but he found that he couldn’t sleep without hearing the soothing sounds. And she would probably belt him if she knew he kept track of her.

So, when the door opened and the sounds of her footsteps padding towards the bed filled the room, he closed his eyes and pretended to be asleep. He felt the bed curve under her weight and she scooted over to the middle of the bed, sure to leave room for Liz, but not coming too close to him either. And when he felt the pillow hit his rib cage, he knew she had placed it between them as a barrier. And he grinned into the darkness.

Silence settled around them and the soft glow of the moon was the only light. He could hear the soft sounds of her breathing and he could tell she was still awake.

“Mel? Are you asleep?”

“I would be if you’d quit yapping.”

Kyle shifted, linking his arms behind his head. “When your father called earlier and said he wasn’t going to be able to make it tonight, you weren’t surprised.”

Mel tried not to sigh, but settled instead on burrowing further into her pillow. She’d known he was going to bring it up. He couldn’t resist the opportunity. Maybe if she just answered his questions and told him what he wanted to know, he’d let her be and she wouldn’t succumb to the soft pull she had to pour out her secrets to him. Damn this whole situation. Kyle Valenti could be a complete softie sometimes, and it would be different if he knew what he was doing. But it was those flashes of him when he was actually vulnerable that got to her. Like that time when they’d been frantic to find Liz. Apparently, when he loved, he loved completely.

“Yeah. Let’s just say he doesn’t have the best track record when it comes to promises.” She shrugged, though she knew it was dark and he couldn’t see. “Don’t take it personally. I’m sure he intended to come when you invited him. Things just have a tendency to creep up that are more important.”

“More important than his own daughter?” Kyle asked, genuinely surprised. He’d never actually met her father, but how could he not love Mel?

“You’d be surprised how far down on the list I rank.” She caught the bitterness in her voice, and tried to shove it back. Why was she letting herself get emotional? Purposefully, she put a hint of amusement in her voice. “A last minute poker game or a photo shoot of polar bears could all be considered more important than family.”

Kyle could all but hear her put her mask back in place. And it saddened him. In her whole life, had she ever had anyone she could confide in? “Tell me.”

Mel considered her options. She could either pretend not to know what he was talking about and have a good verbal spar to distract him from the original question, or she could just tell him.

“My father used to be this hotshot photographer back in the seventies.” She sighed thinking of all the articles she’d seen with his name attached. “If you wanted something shot, you called Jack Carter. He did everything from Tribal Indians and African wildlife to fashion. That’s how he met my mother, Alyson Price. She was this big up-and-coming actress that was looking for some shots to add to her portfolio. And since my father was the best, she wanted him.” Mel focused her gaze into the darkness around her. Kyle hadn’t said a word yet and she knew he would lie there until the end of time if she wanted to talk. And it made her feel warm inside. No one but Liz had ever sat and really listened to her.

“You can probably guess the rest of the story from there. They met, had that instant sizzling attraction and fell into a relationship. My mother liked the press being with my father got her and my father thought the whole thing was pretty amusing. He got a handful of new offers from the fanfare and so they continued dating. And then this little thing popped up, me. Neither one of them were expecting it and my mother was livid. She’d finally gotten in the spotlight and the sort of roles she was after weren’t exactly family roles. But the press managed to find out before she had a chance to…take care of the situation. And she decided she’d rather be known as a mother than the alternative to the press. She agreed to marry my father, who was less than thrilled too. How was he supposed to jaunt off to the Egyptian pyramids with a kid? I think they both planned to pass me off on the other, but dear old Mom beat Dad to the punch.”

Kyle waited out the silence. He had no idea what her childhood must have been like. And it sounded as though she hadn’t meant to tell him this much, but he hoped she would finish. It filled in the holes he’d been trying to peg her with.

“She left one night a few months after I was born. She slipped out in the middle of the night and left a stack of divorce papers behind and a note that said she couldn’t handle marriage and a kid. So, dad did the only thing he knew how to do, he took me along with him. He couldn’t give up photography. It was his first love, above my mother and above me. So, we’ve always traveled together from town to town. During the summers, we would travel overseas. It was pretty great really. I’ve seen corners of the world that nobody else will probably ever see.”

“I’m sorry.”

Kyle’s words were so soft, so gentle that it made tears spring to her eyes. Angrily, she blinked them back. She didn’t cry, ever. “Weren’t you listening? I’ve had chances normal kids never have.”

“I heard every word. But I think you missed out on a lot that normal kids had too.”

“Like what?” She scoffed at his accusation. “Riding a bike down a suburban sidewalk? I rode an elephant on the African plains. That’s a pretty fair trade off.”

“Did you make many friends?”

Mel stiffened, not sure how exactly they had gotten this far. “I wasn’t lonely.”

“That wasn’t what I asked.” Kyle didn’t doubt that she hadn’t let herself be lonely. She had more control over her emotions than even King Max did. And it made him want to take it all away.

“Look, Slick.” She rolled over to face him and found that he had turned his head to look at her. The light was low, but she could still see those eyes probing her. “I didn’t mean to give you a sob story. I’m sorry if that’s how you took it, but I’m happy with my life. I like where I am and how I got here. I didn’t have a hometown to grow up in, knowing everyone who walked past me. But then, I’ve never had to run away from it all either.”

Kyle recognized that she wanted to fight. She was more comfortable attacking than being attacked. And he vowed not to let her do it. So, he remained silent. Mel huffed and flipped back over on her side, turning her back to him. Unsure if he was stepping over the bounds of friendship, but doing the only thing he knew how to do, Kyle moved the pillow she had placed between them as a barrier and tossed it at the foot of the bed. Slowly, he moved closer until he was behind her. He felt her body stiffen when he draped an arm over her waist and settled it gently on her flat stomach. He was striving for as chaste as he could get, not wanting to scare her, but offer her a few moments of comfort.

Mel forced her body to relax when she felt Kyle align his body against hers. Instinct told her to swat him away, to refuse the comfort he thought she needed. But there was something so gentle about his touch, she found the urge subsiding. Slowly, she uncoiled her muscles and let out a breath. She could go back to being bristly and driving him crazy tomorrow. If he thought he was helping her out, she could at least give him the illusion. It was Christmas after all. Besides, if he tried anything funny, he knew she studied kickboxing for a year.

She closed her eyes, letting his hand generate a warmth that flowed through the thin cotton shirt she was wearing. And if she felt more at peace than she ever had, there was no reason he ever had to know that. What could one night hurt?


posted on 30-Nov-2001 10:12:20 PM by Cookieman1234
Okay, this is a quick note for Kira~ Where is that Dr. Seuss quote from? I absolutely love it! I hope you're still online. *happy*
posted on 30-Nov-2001 10:48:30 PM by Cookieman1234
Okay, now see what you've done, Kira? I'm going to go insane until I find out which book that came from. I'm a HUGE Dr. Seuss fan and I thought I knew most of his stories (sadly, I started collecting them a few years ago. My husband thinks I'm a nut.) So, my weekend will probably be spent searching out bookstores. But it really is one of the best lines I've read in awhile. I may have to steal it in the future for something. In fact, I think I just found a way to toss it in this story. See? Good job with the feedback! It inspired me.

~Stacey

posted on 30-Nov-2001 11:27:41 PM by Cookieman1234
Kira~
We should just start our own thread and chat. *happy*

Are you trying to banish me to Barnes & Noble this weekend? Now I'm in a children's book mood.

I think I started back up with Dr. Seuss about the time I became addicted to Harry Potter. Boy, was I mocked for that one (this was before it was a huge craze). But I made my husband read the first chapter and by the time I was up to the third book, we were fighting over who was going to read it first. Then I hooked my mother and my stepfather on them. They actually had a screensaver on their computer with a countdown to the opening of the movie. That was funny.

I absolutely loved "Oh, the Places You'll Go." It's one of my all time favorites of his. But I grew up with "Green Eggs and Ham" and "How the Grinch Stole Christmas".

And believe me, you don't even want to get me started on the Jim Carrey version of the Grinch. My husband rolls his eyes when I get started. He won't even go out with me lately, since the movie is playing in every store that has a television up.

If you come up with any more, give 'em to me. I'm a sucker for nonsensical ramblings and Dr. Suess is right up my alley.

~Stacey
posted on 30-Nov-2001 11:30:47 PM by Cookieman1234
Sorry, SciFiNut, I think we posted at the same time.

Heck, let's all chat.*happy*

What is that cited as a source for? It's like midnight my time, so if I'm being a little slow, I apologize. Is that a title for Dr. Seuss? It sounds like one. I think I'm more familiar with the older ones that he actually wrote, so I don't recognize it. But I'll definately check it out.

~Stacey

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 30-Nov-2001 11:32:12 PM ]
posted on 30-Nov-2001 11:47:24 PM by Cookieman1234
Okay, that was funny.

You really want to know what happened to the Granolith? They found it and then they were unexpectedly attacked by Scaribes and their bodies were taken over. No, wait. That's not right. I'm mixing my stories again, aren' t I?

Hey, side note, I started reading your fic earlier tonight and I'm enjoying it so far. I haven't caught up yet, but I'll make sure to leave you lovely feedback when I do. Since you were so kind as to leave me copious amounts of feedback when I tried to pick up from "Departure". *happy*

You know I'm kidding you, right? But man, did we have some discussions in those first like ten parts?

I'm off to bed, kiddies. I'll see you tomorrow and let's see if I spend all my time looking up Dr. Seuss quotes or finishing the part I started a little bit ago. See, now I have that direct link to them, so you never know...

~Stacey
posted on 2-Dec-2001 1:29:08 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey guys. Sorry I didn't make it on the board yesterday, but I got caught up in errands and sleeping. Oh, the wonderful sleeping I did yesterday. And if I told Kira one of my errands involved certain bookstores, would anyone be surprised? By the way, still looking.

Okay, this part is a little bit shorter than I wanted it, but I've had my overactive brain working on Christmas and I have that part so completely mapped out, I have to start writing it now. So, I'm not sure if I'm going to put out another part before I dive into Christmas or not. But if I do, it'll be Colorado again. Unfortunately, not much is going on in Roswell. But the Christmas part is just swimming around up there and I have to get it on paper, so I didn't want to worry about making this part longer than it is. Alright, I'm still rambling. Go read, enjoy. I'll see you guys Monday morning.

Finding Yourself
Part 52

Liz let herself into her room quietly. It had been such a long night, the last thing she was up to right now was talking. The room was dark except for the faint glow over the horizon of the rising sun and her only thought was taking a long, hot shower. She pulled off her boots, hopping on one foot since she couldn’t remember where the chair was supposed to be. As quietly as possible, she groped around in the dark for the bathroom door, and gave a small cry of achievement when she found it.

Inside, she leaned against the door for a minute. A dozen emotions were churning inside of her and she didn’t know what to do with them all. Deciding to shut down her brain for the duration of her shower, she stripped and climbed into the large shower.

Kyle’s eyes snapped open when he heard the bathroom door close. Liz was back. Panic filled him before he could help it. All night, he’d lain awake, terrified of what she would say to him when she finally came home. He had finally fallen asleep not too long ago, but terrible nightmares had plagued him.

And then he felt something warm pressed against him. Confused, he looked to his side and smiled when he found Mel sprawled out across the bed. She had pulled the heavy blanket from his body and she lay cocooned in it now. But her head was still resting on his chest, one arm draped over his chest.

He was filled with the sudden thought that if Mel woke up and found them like this, she would die of humiliation. She would be unbelievably embarrassed to be found in that position with him. And a huge grin split his face. Looking around, his eyes lighted on the phone book on the bedside table beside him. Trying not to move too much, he stretched his arm far enough to push the book until it was teetering on the edge. With a last gentle nudge, Kyle sent the book falling to the floor with a loud thud.

Mel’s head popped up sleepily. Trying to take in her surroundings, she became all too aware of a very male body lying underneath her. Her eyes opened wide when she realized she was lying on top of Kyle. She pulled back as though she’d been burned and then glanced back at him. His eyes were still closed and he had a contented smile on his face.

He was still sleeping. She let out a breath of relief. He would never let her live it down if he’d woken up before she had. She tried to ignore his state of undress, the way his shirt was riding up above his stomach. That just wouldn’t be smart. Yet here she was, still staring at him. What was she doing lusting after Kyle Valenti? She must be going insane. There was no other reason for it. And unless she got out of there quick, she would wake him up and there would be a whole new world of teasing. And she could happily do without that.

Then she heard the shower turn off and she realized Liz must have woken her. Moving off the bed carefully, Mel padded to the dresser and pulled her unruly hair back in a clip.

Kyle peeked one eye open, trying to contain his grin. He could practically feel the nervous energy in the air. He watched Mel move around the room, picking out her clothes for the day and he got a glimpse of long leg peeking out from the shorts she had slept in. He rolled his eyes, glad he hadn’t known that she’d slept beside him half dressed. His control only went so far. Mel turned sharply and he dropped his head back on the pillow.

Mel continued to stare at Kyle’s still form, a frown on her face. She’d had sworn that she’d seen him move. But that couldn’t be. Because if she had seen him move, it meant that he was only pretending to be asleep. And for what purpose she couldn’t even guess. Unless he was trying to make a fool of her. And she simply couldn’t let that happen.

The bathroom door opened and Liz stepped out, wrapped in an oversized bathrobe. Her eyes lighted on Mel and she gave her a smile. “Hey, Mel. I hope I didn’t wake you up.”

Mel resisted the urge to glance back at Kyle. “No, you didn’t wake me up.” She examined Liz. “How did things go with your parents?”

“Good. Really good. I’m sorry I disappeared last night on you guys. I didn’t mean to leave you alone.”

Mel waved away her apology. “Don’t worry. We were fine. Jim treated us to a very lovely steak dinner.”

“When did Jim get here?” She thought back to his surprise appearance in the restaurant last night.

“Oh, yeah. I guess you missed that. I invited him.” She shrugged. “I thought it would be nice for him. Plus, I was getting pretty tired of babysitting the smooth talker over there.”

Liz glanced at Kyle guiltily. She dropped her voice to a whisper. “I forgot he was still sleeping. Do you want to go talk somewhere else?”

“Hmm?” Mel asked, trying to sound distracted. She kept one eye on his still form and then she knew he couldn’t possibly be sleeping. He simply wasn’t that still. With a smile, she turned back to Liz. “Oh, I wouldn’t worry about Kyle. He’s sleeping like the dead. Say, Liz. I’m glad you’re here. We need to talk.” She pulled Liz closer, giving her a quick wink and nodding her head back towards the bed. “You remember what we were talking about the other day when Kyle was at work? I think we should go ahead and ask him to join us. I think Kyle would be okay with the idea of a threesome with us.”

Liz looked at Mel, confused. But when she heard a thump from behind them, the two girls turned to find Kyle sitting on the floor, rubbing his head.

“That wasn’t very nice.”

Mel grinned at him even as she smacked him in the head with a pillow. “One good turn deserves another.” She turned to Liz. “I’ll just let you two talk.” She whacked Kyle over the head with the pillow one last time for good measure before gathering her things and locking herself in the bathroom.

“Why do I always feel like I’m a conversation behind with you guys?”

“Trust me, you don’t want to know.” He picked himself off the floor and faced his friend. It had been easy for a minute to forget. But now she was standing in front of him.

“Look, Liz, about your parents-“

Liz smiled and threw herself in Kyle’s arms, cutting off his well rehearsed speech. She held him tight and he felt his own arms wrap around her tiny waist.

“Thank you, Kyle. I don’t know how I can ever think you enough for that.”

“So, you’re not mad?” He pulled back, searching her face for the truth.

“I was, for about thirty seconds. But I got over it.” She shook her head. “It was so amazing. We went out for dinner in town and we stayed talking so long, they had to throw us out. I told them everything that happened since I left and they filled me in on some Roswell stuff.” They’d thought they’d been helping with updates on her old friends, and she hadn’t had the heart to tell them she didn’t want to know, that she couldn’t know, or she might run back to them. “I asked them if they knew if everyone was healthy and they said yes.” She smiled at him. “See? I told you my dream was just a dream.”

Kyle nodded, though he wasn’t convinced. He made a note to check it with his father just in case. “So, we’re good then? Because if you need time, I’m good with that too.”

“We’re more than good. And to prove it, how about I buy you breakfast?”

Kyle’s eyebrows shot up. “You’ve got yourself a deal.” He turned and reached for a pair of jeans and pulled them on.

“Should we wait for Mel?” Liz glanced back at the bathroom door.

Kyle followed Liz’s glance, listening for something Liz couldn’t hear.

“Nah, she’ll be eighteen minutes and I’m hungry now.” Liz gave him a funny look .’’She still has to dry her hair and brush her teeth, and-you know what? Forget it. It’s just a thing I know.” He pounded on the door.

“Hey, Sleeping Beauty, Liz and I are heading downstairs for breakfast. Get your butt in gear and meet us downstairs!” He yelled through the door as he pulled on his jacket. “That ought to get her moving,” he decided.

Liz just shook her head at the pair of them. If it was possible for two weird people to rub off on each other and become even more weird, then she lived with proof of it.

posted on 3-Dec-2001 7:30:34 AM by Cookieman1234
Hey guys! Good morning to you all. I'm up super early this morning and I wanted to let you know that I was hard at work for you lovely people yesterday and I'm working on the next part of FY for you. But I'm not sure if it'll be up for you today or tomorrow. I've decided to run with Christmas and this part is going to be probably triple what I usually post, so I'm not sure how long it will take me to finish writing it.

I'm not sure who asked, I think it was Jane? But, yes, I'm making this one up as I go. I'm just a writing machine these days. I used to post everyday with Do What You Have To Do, but with my wedding last month, I got WAY behind. But now I'm caught back up on real life and here you go, posts every day.

Anywho, thanks for all the great feedback. I'm glad you guys like Mel and Kyle as much as I do. They're just fun to write. And I think Kyle has quickly become my favorite character. There's just something about that smart ass sense of humor.

OH! Quick question. Sadly, I have been weeks upon weeks behind on my television and I just watched Roswell last night. On a plus side, I'm caught up now. But on a negative side, what the hell was up with that episode? Okay, I get that Maria needs to be her old self and maybe knowing Michael has held her back a little, but are they breaking up couples just for the sake of angst? I guess it would be nice to see Michael have to chase after Maria for a change, but c'mon. It's Michael and Maria. Ah, I guess they can't pair up everyone on the show. But I still have issues with it.

Okay, on to my question. What was that episode called? I've got a small fic in my brain to basically fix that whole episode in either one part or two. (I've been going through a massive Maria/Michael thing lately and I can't stand to see them apart.) Don't worry, it won't interrupt my other fics. *happy* But I wanted to know the name without actually doing the work to find it. I'm lazy that way. And I figured some of you might know it off the top of your heads.

So, I'm done rambling now and I'm off to work on some fics or two. See you lovely people later.

~Stacey
posted on 6-Dec-2001 1:27:19 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Oh, my. You aren't going to believe it, but I finally finished this part. No, really, it's done. Be kind. I'm trying to do something different here in addition to the song thing at the end. I've never written a part like this before, which is probably why it's like ten pages long. So, here you go. And put a little Christmas cheer in your hearts even though it still feels like summer outside. *big* Oh, and I promise that I'm not doing anything else until I get another part of Learning to Live out. And the way it's looking these days, it's going to be like ten lines of dialogue and the rest will be nothing but pure NC-17 goodness. Well, enjoy and let me know what you think of this part.

Finding Yourself
Part 53

“Merry Christmas everybody!” Maria opened the doors to the children’s ward with a flourish. Ana had been moved out of ICU the evening before after the doctor’s had given her a healthy prognosis. She had a feeling Max had done something to help the little girl along, but he hadn’t said a word about it.

Ana sat up straighter when Maria dragged a half dozen bags into the room behind her. She giggled and clapped her hands as Maria pulled out Santa hats for all the other kids in the room. Saving the best for last, Maria plunked an especially festive Santa hat on Ana’s head.

“I decorated it myself,” she confessed proudly. She had woken up early to glue the glitter and sequins on herself. “And Liz used to accuse me of not being crafty. Hah, I say to that. How are you feeling today, angel?”

Ana followed Maria’s topic changes easily, but wasn’t dissuaded. “Fine. Who’s Liz?”

Maria looked down into those sharp eyes filled with questions and it reminded her of herself. “Well, I’m glad you asked. Liz is one of my bestest friends in the whole world.”

“You have more than one bestest friend?” She sounded skeptical, but she was willing to believe anything Maria told her.

“I most certainly do. I have…” Maria did head count. “Six.”

“Six?” Ana’s eyes were wide.

“Absolutely.” She began emptying the contents of the many bags she had filled to the brim with Christmas items. “There’s Liz, and my boyfriend Michael, and Max.” Maria tickled Ana’s nose at the mention of Max’s name and was rewarded with a giggle. “There’s Isabel and Kyle and Alex.”

“Who’s Kyle and Alex?”

“Well, Kyle is this sort of annoying guy that –well, you know how brothers are? No, well neither do I really. But if I’d ever had one, I’m sure he would have been exactly like Kyle.” She sighed when she saw the look on Ana’s face.

“Oh,” Ana said, really not sure what she meant.

“Well, you know what boys are like.” Ana rolled her eyes in understanding. “Well, I love Kyle, but he can be pretty irritating when he wants to be.” She smiled, missing the frustrating bully dearly.

“And Alex?”

Maria’s smile was bittersweet. “Alex was one of my bestest bestest friends in the whole universe. But he died.”

“Did he go up to Heaven to be with the angels?”

Maria’s heart twisted painfully. “Yeah, I’m sure he did. He was the nicest person you’d have ever met.”

“Where’s Liz? Can I meet her?” Ana could tell that Maria was sad and it made her feel funny inside.

“Someday. She and Kyle moved away. But they’ll be back some day.” How many times a day did she tell herself that? She had to force herself to believe that she would see them again.

Shaking off her mood and blaming it on the holidays, Maria shifted gears and smiled. “That’s not why I’m here though. See, I have this problem and you’re the only person who can help me.”

“I am?” Her eyes widened in surprise.

“You are,” Maria confirmed. “You see, it’s Christmas and I haven’t wrapped any of my presents yet. And I need someone with little fingers to help me tie the ribbons.”

“I have little fingers.” She held them up for inspection.

“You know, those are exactly the right size. You’re hired for the job. I have to warn you though, I can only pay you in candy. I hope that’s not a problem.”

“I’ve never wrapped presents before.” Excitement laced her words.

“Well, it’s easy.” Maria began rifling through bags looking for tape.

“Maria?” Ana asked in a small voice.

“Yeah, angel?”

“Do you think Max would like it if I made him something?”

There was a shyness in her voice that was heartwrenching. “I think Max would love anything you made for him. And I have just the stuff we need. Tell you what, we’ll get you set up and I’ll do the hard part of wrapping the presents.”

They worked steadily, only stopping for an occasional gigglefest or for Ana’s opinion on which wrapping paper was best. And once when Maria had tried to sneak a peek at her masterpiece, Ana had informed her that it was a secret.

“Oh, shoot. I’m out of tape. Ana, I need you to do me a huge favor. I’m not done wrapping presents and Michael’s gonna be here any minute. Can you make sure no one goes in those bags? I have a super surprise present in there and I don’t want anyone to see it.”

Ana nodded her head, thrilled to be given such an important task.

“Great! I’ll be back in a second. I’m just going out to the nurses station.”

Ana watched Maria leave before returning to her own project.

“Hey, kiddo. Whatcha got there?”

Ana looked up when Michael’s cheerful greeting reached her ears.

“I see Maria’s already been here.” He glanced around the newly cheerful room with a chuckle. “So, where’s she at?”

“She went to get tape.” Ana looked up from her coloring with a smile.

“Tape?” A glint shined in Michael’s eyes. “That must mean she’s wrapping presents. What’d she get me?”

“Nuh uh. I’m not supposed to tell.”

“Well, then I’ll just take a peek in the bag here.” Michael moved towards the bags slowly.

“NO! You’re not allowed.” Ana glared at him menacingly. “Maria said not to let anyone look. She’s got a super secret present.”

“A super secret present, huh? Well, did she say who it was for?”

“No.”

“Well, I’ll bet it’s for you then.” Michael figured Maria would skin him alive if she heard that lie, but he needed to know what she had gotten him so he knew if his present for her was enough. “And I’m sure she didn’t mean me when she said nobody.” He sent Ana his most pathetic look. It had worked hundreds of times on Maria before she had figured him out.

Ana frowned, but relented. “You think Maria bought me something?”

“I’m sure she did.” He straightened up. “Tell you what, I’ll just take a peek inside and see if the super secret present is yours and I’ll give you hints about what it is.” Michael peered into the bag before she had a chance to stop him. And he became confused when his eyes lighted on the red and green sweater. He pulled it out of the bag and laid it on the bed. “What in the world is this?” He asked Ana.

“I don’t know.” She looked at it. “It’s kinda pretty.”

“Pretty? It looks like a dog chewed on this side.” He held up one side for her examination. “And this arm is way longer than the other. You and I both could fit inside this thing. Who in the world would she buy this ugly thing for?”

“You.”

Michael turned stiffly when he heard Maria’s voice from the doorway behind him. And he had the distinct impression that he had just screwed up royally. “Maria. I didn’t know you were there.”

“I gathered.” It was taking everything in her not to burst into tears. She’d walked in to hear his mocking tone and her heart had crumbled. Stiffly, she strode over to the bed and began tossing her things into the bags she had brought them in.

“Maria, wait. Let me explain.”

“Explain? What would you like to explain, Michael? You know what? Just forget it. I don’t want to talk to you right now.”

Michael threw his hands up in the air. “What’s the big deal? It’s just a dumb sweater. So I don’t like it. It’s not the end of the world or anything. You can just take it back and get one that isn’t defective looking.”

Maria glared at him. “I made that dumb sweater for you.”

“Oh, hell.” Michael saw the pain in her eyes and he knew he’d not only screwed up, but he’d done it in the worst way possible. She finished tossing her things back in their bags and leaned over to kiss Ana.

“Good night, angel. I’ll see you tomorrow.”

“Are you mad at me, Maria?”

“No, sweetie. I’m not mad at you. I love you and I hope you have a very Merry Christmas.” She straightened and brushed past Michael.

“Maria, wait.” Michael tried to follow after her, but she was already half way out the door.

“I don’t have anything to say to you that can be said in the presence of children. Good night, kids!” She called out behind her.

A chorus of “Merry Christmas’s” followed Maria’s retreating back.

“You made her mad.”

Michael took a seat on Ana’s bed. “No, I’ve seen her mad. This is worse. I hurt her feelings.”

“You should apologize.” She offered him all her wisdom.

Michael turned his attention from the empty doorway to Ana’s project laid out before her. “I think you may be right.” But he needed to figure out the best way to do it. “So, whatcha got there?”

“It’s a secret.”

“Great. Well, I don’t have much of a track record with them today, so you’d better not show it to me.” Michael sat on Ana’s bed in silence a minute, trying to figure out a way to fix the mess he’d made of things.

*~*~

The Christmas party was in full swing by the time Kyle entered the courtyard. After a long morning of skiing with his father and an even longer afternoon of keeping overly amorous ski instructors away from Mel and Liz, Kyle had squeezed in a nap. He’d had just enough time to shower and meet everyone downstairs before the party really started. Besides, didn’t Maria used to say that it was fashionable to be late for a party?

He spotted the Parkers easily enough. They were sitting at a table with Liz, their infamous video camera lying asleep on the glossy oak surface. Since their reunion with Liz, Kyle would have bet they’d filmed every minute of their trip, catching every move Liz had made. And my extension, that had also meant that he and Mel had been in every shot as well.

Kyle spied Mel next. She was finishing off a roll of film outside, catching nature in all it’s wintry wonderness. Or was she really doing something more sinister? More devious? It was hard to tell with her. She’d been disappearing at odd hours of the day and night and whenever he questioned her on it, she got defensive and changed the subject. Something was going on with that girl and he was going to figure out what it was.

“I just love the smell of a fresh snow, don’t you?” Jim clapped a hand on his son’s back.

“Yeah,” Kyle answered, still keeping an eye on Mel. Why was she shooting pictures of the fresh snow?

“Is everything okay, son?” Jim had caught the supposed animosity and fierce competition between his son and Mel and though it amused him, he felt as though Kyle had finally met his match. And it made him want to sigh, making him feel old.

“Actually,” Kyle forced his attention from Mel and back to his father. “There was something I needed to talk to you about.” Instinctively, he glanced over both their shoulders.

“What is it?” Jim knew that look. It was the same one Max Evans gave him when they had something unbelievable to tell him.

“I’m going to tell you, but you have to let me tell the story. Okay?”

“Alright.” Jim led Kyle over to a table, out of the way of the doors.

Kyle blew out a breath, searching for a place to start. “First of all, is everyone okay in Roswell? No one is sick or anything?”

Jim thought back to the other kids. “No. Everyone is fine. They were all at the Crashdown before I left. Maria and Michael were working and Isabel and Max were sitting at a booth.” He thought back harder, knowing it was important somehow. “Max did seem a little antsy, like he wanted to get out of the place. But they were in pretty good spirits. Why?”

“Liz had a dream the day we drove up here. She fell asleep in the library and she says the dream felt real.” Kyle looked at his father, sure he would know what he was talking about.

“You’re saying someone dreamwalked her?” Jim asked anxiously.

“Not someone, Max.”

“Is that possible? I thought only Isabel could do that.”

“So did we. I told her it was probably just a dream. But she said the Max in her dream said a friend was sick.”

Jim sat back now, thinking back. “No, none of them were sick. They all looked fine to me.”

“Well, that settles that then.” But there was still the matter of the party.

“Kyle, what else aren’t you telling me?”

Kyle grinned sheepishly. Why did he ever even consider lying to his father? “There was this other thing. Liz sort of healed me.”

“I’m sorry. I think my old ears are playing tricks on me again. Did you say Liz healed you?”

“We went to this party-“

“Were there adult chaperones at this party?”

“Dad,” Kyle warned. “Do you want to hear the story or not?”

“Sorry. I’m your father. Continue.”

“Well, at this party, Liz sort of got separated from us after Mel tried to get her drunk.”

“Should I be hearing this story?”

“Let’s not get carried away in details. Suffice to say, Mel and I were worried about her and a friend brought her home safe and sound,” he emphasized the last part. “But she was completely out of it. I guess I managed to cut myself while we were looking for her and she just…healed it.”

Jim let the knowledge roll around in his head, knowing it would be there for weeks. “How?”

“That’s the question of the hour.”

“Well, what did she say about it?”

“I sort of didn’t tell her she did it. It’s not like she remembered much from that night.” He defended his actions against his father’s angry stare.

Jim leaned forward again and whispered his words. “She used alien powers and you didn’t tell her she’d done it?”

“You don’t understand, Dad. She left Roswell behind because she was tired of dealing with all that mumbo jumbo. Ava said Max had changed her when he healed her. What if this is part of that change? Is that going to help her have a normal life? I don’t think so. It’s going to suck her back in. And that’s the last thing she needs right now.”

“Kyle, she should know about this. It’s bigger either of us. How is she supposed to make this journey of self discovery she was telling me about if she doesn’t have all the pieces to do that?”

“I’m only trying to help.” But there was doubt in his mind now. What if his father was right?

“I know you love Liz, and you want to watch out for her. But part of growing up is getting your heart broken. It’s up to her to decide what she wants to do about Max. But I think she should know if she has powers.”

“Who has powers?” Liz threw herself in a chair beside Jim.

Kyle scrambled for an answer, surprised by her sudden presence. “Uh, Wonder Woman. Yeah, Dad and I were talking about this…comic book I used to read as a kid and we were discussing it.”

Liz threw Kyle a weird look. “You used to read Wonder Woman comics?”

Kyle blushed. “Yeah, sure. All the time. So, how are your parents?” he asked, hoping to change the subject.

Liz smiled warmly. “They’re great. I finally convinced them to put down the video camera and just talk to me.”

“They missed you.” Jim laid a hand on hers.

“I know. And I missed them too. They were telling me about Maria. She asked Mom to teach her how to knit so she could make Michael a sweater for Christmas.” Her fingers traced the pattern on the table cloth, her thoughts on her best friend. “Mom said it was the most hideous looking thing she’d ever seen, but Maria was so proud of it.”

“I’m sure she’d love to hear from you, Liz.”

Liz shook her head. “No. She’s busy. Maria was telling Mom that she was volunteering at a foster home.” She shrugged her shoulders. “I’m sure they all have plans already.” Realizing how depressed she was sounding, she forced herself to brighten. “Have we heard from Mel’s dad yet?”

Kyle frowned. “Yeah, he called last night and said he was running behind. He doesn’t think he’s going to be able to make it at all.”

“How did Mel take it?” Liz glanced at her friend nervously.

“The same way she takes everything. She brushed it off, then she made some crack about the way I was dressed and changed the subject before I knew it.” Kyle glanced at Mel as well. She might not let it show, but she was disappointed. And maybe a little bit lonely.

“If you guys don’t mind, I think I may go harass her for awhile.” Kyle rose from the table, giving his father one last look before disappearing down the snow covered steps.

“I think I’m going to go upstairs for a minute too.”

Jim squeezed her hand when she tried to slip away. “Liz, whatever happens, you know you can trust me, right? No matter what it is.” If any of what Kyle had told him was true, she was going to need all the friends she could soon.

Liz smiled at Jim. “Of course.”

Satisfied, he nodded. “Go make your phone call.”

“I’m not-“

“I know you want to call her. She misses you, Liz. No matter how far apart you two are, she’ll always be your best friend.” He smiled at her. “Merry Christmas.”

“Merry Christmas to you too.” He released her hand and she quietly slipped up the stairs, desperate for a minute alone with her thoughts.

~*~*

Isabel kicked at the candy machine, swearing when her chocolate bar wouldn’t fall from its’ perch.

“Hey there. Can I help you out?”

Swinging around, Isabel came face to face with the familiar green eyes that she’d been thinking about. “Detective Mark.”

“It’s Sergeant actually.”

She found herself grinning at him despite the resolve she had to stay away from him. “What brings you to this lovely wing of the hospital?” She turned and began kicking the machine anew.

“Well, we’ve had a rash of incidents involving people kicking in vending machines. You wouldn’t know anything about that, would you?”

She turned to glare at him, surprised when it didn’t have the usual effect. She had considered using her powers to blast the thing open, but she hadn’t thought Max would appreciate that. “I’ll be sure to call if I see anything.”

“Look…Isabel, was it? Since you’re obviously in need of sugar, how about I treat you to something in the cafeteria?”

“It’s not that I don’t appreciate the offer, but I don’t think-“

“How’s Ana? I heard she came through the surgery with flying colors.” He interrupted her, knowing an apologetic refusal was on her lips.

Isabel studied him carefully. His concern for Ana seemed genuine and it made her nervous. “Yeah, she’s doing just fine. Is that why you came all the way out here?”

“I actually went by the Hudson House to speak with Colleen and she told me you and Max were spending Christmas in the hospital. It seemed a bit lonely, so I thought I’d see if maybe I could help.” And he hadn’t been able to get Isabel Evans off his mind since he’d met her a few weeks ago.

Isabel weighed her options carefully. She knew Max would be occupied with Ana all night long and her parents were roaming the hospital somewhere. Maybe spending some time with someone new would raise her spirits a bit. “I can spare an hour.”

“Is! There you are. Have you seen Maria anywhere?” Michael rounded the corner, taking Isabel by the elbow.

“No. I haven’t seen her for hours. What’s up?”

“I screwed up,” he admitted bluntly.

Isabel scoffed. “Tell me something new.”

Michael glared at her. “If you see her, just tell her I’m looking for her.”

Isabel watched as he continued sprinting down the corridor. She turned her most charming smile on Mark. Flirting with a handsome guy wasn’t a bad way to spend some time. Even if it couldn’t ever go anywhere. She offered him her arm. “Shall we?”

“Let’s pop into Ana’s room first. Colleen asked me to give Ana something.”

Together, they set off in the direction of the children’s ward.

“Knock knock.” Isabel smiled at the picture Ana and Max made on the bed. “Merry Christmas, you two.”

“Merry Christmas!” Ana called out to them, a smile stretched out across her face.

Max turned a dazed face to his sister and she questioned him silently. “Ana made me a present.”

Isabel stepped forward to examine the work of art draped across Max’s lap. It was a drawing of a couple of stick figures and some brown blobs Isabel couldn’t identify. It had large piles of glitter and she was afraid to touch it. “It’s…ah…lovely, Ana.”

“It’s me and Max at the zoo with the monkeys. He’s gonna take me there when the doctors say I can go.” Ana was still coloring on another sheet of paper, working on another masterpiece.

Isabel looked into her brother’s eyes and found them moist. The simple act from Ana had touched him the way none of them had been able to. “It sounds like you two are going to have fun.”

“Lots of it,” she agreed.

Max turned to the stranger at Isabel’s side. “I’m sorry. I know we’ve met, but-“

“Mark Christopher,” he supplied, holding out his hand for Max to shake.

“Right. You work with Valenti.” Max shot Isabel a look asking what she was doing with him. Isabel sent him her best “Butt out of it” look. “You here on official business?”

“No, I come bearing gifts. Ana, Colleen asked me to give this to you.” Mark held out a box to the small girl.

Ana’s eyes lit up. “Presents? For me?”

Mark handed them to her gently so she wouldn’t have to reach. She tore into the bright paper as eagerly as her stitches would allow and gasped out loud when she reached the boxes inside. “Barbies!” She held the boxes up for Max’s inspection.

Max nodded approvingly, taking his time to examine the dolls. He knew Ana was waiting for his reaction. “Not just any Barbies. These are Barbies of your very own.” He took the boxes from her and went about opening the first one.

“Well, my job here is done. Merry Christmas, Ana, Max. Isabel? Are you ready?”

“Where are you two going?” Max paused his actions.

“We are going to have hot chocolate in the cafeteria. I will see you later, Max.” She linked arms with Mark and led him from the room before Max had a chance to come up with a reason why they shouldn’t.

“Max?”

Max returned his attention to Ana. He would have to talk to Isabel later and find out what she was doing with the newest member of the Roswell Police Department. “Yes?”

“Can we look at the stars tonight? You promised.”

Max remembered his promise to her when she had caught him stargazing one night. It had been too cloudy that night and she had become so sick after that, they hadn’t had a chance. “Sure.” He moved over to the window and looked out. “It’s clear enough. You want to do it now? Or do you want to play with your new dolls?”

“Now.”

“Okay.” Max returned to the side of her bed and shifted it until she had a better view of the window. It wasn’t ideal, but he didn’t want to risk moving her out of bed. He took a seat beside her and crouched down to her level. He looked up to find his guiding star and was surprised to find it burning bright.

“See that big bright star right there?” He pointed to it, hoping she could follow his finger. “There are five stars that look like a big V?”

Ana scrunched up her nose. “Oh, yeah. I see it. What’s it called?”

Max smiled as he remembered naming that star cluster well over two years ago. He had just left Liz’s and had driven out to the desert to think. That star had burned brightly then too, drawing his attention. It was his guiding star, the one he always looked for to orient himself no matter where he was. It was the biggest and the brightest of them all.

“I call it ‘Liz’.”

“Like Maria’s bestest friend?”

“Maria told you about her?” He wasn’t surprised. What he was surprised to find was that he hadn’t.

Ana nodded her head. “Maria said she lived far away but she’d come back some day and I could meet her. Is she your bestest friend too?”

“We used to be bestest friends.” And if he ever had the chance to become so again, he wouldn’t hesitate. “But that is another story for another time. I thought you wanted to know the star names?” He saw the questions forming in her eyes and he had to remind himself not to be swayed by the pouting lips.

A nurse entered the room and called out gently to the occupants. “Visiting hours are over. It’s bedtime in here.”

Max looked around the room, knowing none of the kids were ready for bed. They were still wired from the excitement of the day. It was more the parents who looked tired.

“I have to go, Ana.” He leaned down and placed a kiss on her forehead, trying to stand tall against the puppy dog eyes she was giving him.

“Okay.” She clutched at the Pretty Polly doll he had given to her that morning.

“That means you too, Mr. Evans,” the nurse called from the doorway. He’d been the last to leave and the first to enter the room since Ana had been admitted. And he was driving the nurses crazy.

He made a show of tucking Ana into her bed. “I’ll see you in the morning. You be a good girl and go to sleep.” He turned one last time and with his back to the nurse, winked at Ana.

Her eyes widened, then she smiled. She covered her hand over her mouth to prevent her giggles from escaping. “Good night, Max. Thank you for the present.”

“I love you, Ana.”

She wrapped her small arms around his neck. “I love you too.”

The nurse rolled her eyes at the pair of them, waiting patiently to escort Max out of the room.

~*~*

Liz climbed the stairs slowly, her heart heavy. Jim had told her just what her parents had. Maria missed her. And she should call. They’d been best friends for as long as she could remember. But Liz had skipped town and had left Maria to deal with everything on her own. Had it been too much? Would Maria resent her for what she’d done?

She let herself into their room and walked mechanically to the phone. Then she froze in place, unable to make her hand move those last few inches.

“Are you really going to call this time? Because I think you should.”

Liz closed her eyes when the all too familiar voice washed over her. “Alex.”

“You getting other ghostly visits I don’t know about?” he joked.

Slowly, she turned and found her old friend standing beside her, his hands in his pockets and a wide grin on his face. “If you keep showing up like this, I’m going to start thinking I’m crazy.”

“You were already crazy to begin with.” He pulled his hands out of his pockets and held them open. “What? Dead people don’t get hugs around here?”

She smiled, brushing at the tear that slipped down her face. Closing the distance between them, she pressed herself into Alex’s chest. “I miss you.”

“I know.” He closed his arms around her, gently stroking her hair. “I wish I could be here to help you more. But all things happen for a reason. You know that.”

With a sniffle, she pulled out of his embrace and smiled brightly for him. If Alex was here, he must have a reason. “And to what do I owe this visit?”

Alex rolled his eyes at her. “You even need to ask? C’mon, Liz. You’re being stubborn again. Just call her.”

“I’m not being stubborn. She’s too busy for me to call today. I’ll do it tomorrow.”

“Uh huh. And there won’t be another excuse tomorrow? Or the day after that?”

“Why aren’t you bugging Maria? How do I get to be so lucky?” She grumbled, knowing Alex wouldn’t take her seriously.

“You always were more fun. Maria bugs right back. Tell Doctor Alex all about it.” He took a seat on the chair, crossing his legs primly.

“Does she hate me?” Liz asked in a small voice.

“What? Hate you? Liz, where would you get an idea like that from?”

Liz shrugged. “I don’t know. Alex, I left her with so much stuff to deal with. Your death, Tess’s betrayal, looking for Max’s son. She’s the only non-alien left in the bunch. She was hurting too and I didn’t even say good bye when I left.”

Alex stood, taking Liz by the shoulders. “Listen to me, Liz Parker. What is it going to take for you to get over this guilt? You didn’t kill me. And neither did your actions. It’s going to eat you alive if you don’t let it go, you and Kyle both. And as for Maria, I love you both. And all I can tell you is that you’re going to need each other soon. Or more importantly, she’s going to need you first.”

Liz whipped her head around to meet Alex’s eye. “Why? Is something going to happen to her?”

Alex shook his head. “You know I can’t tell you that.”

“To Michael, then?” Her mind whirled with possiblities.

“Liz, does it matter what’s going to happen? Maria is going to need you.” He repeated the words slowly to her, willing them to sink in. “And she won’t be able to turn to you if you’re not there for her first. Call her. Wish her a Merry Christmas. You won’t regret it.”

“You sure about this?” She eyed the phone skeptically.

“Hey, it’s me, Alex, you’re talking to. Have I ever steered you wrong?”

“You mean besides the time in fourth grade when we went camping and you assured me the green plant wasn’t poison ivy?”

He grinned sheepishly. “Okay, let’s forget about that minor incident. We have more important things to deal with here.”

“I’ll call her. You’re sure she’s home now?”

Alex looked off in the distance over her shoulder at something she couldn’t see. “Yeah, she’s there now. And if you call her, it might soften her up for when Michael gets there.”

“What did he do now?”

Alex grinned. “You don’t even want to know. But they’ll be fine. I promise.”

Liz turned back to the phone, picking up the receiver. She dialed the familiar number quickly, before she had a chance to change her mind. She shut her eyes tight while she listened to the phone ring. On it’s fourth ring, she was beginning to doubt Alex’s ghostly wisdom. Then someone picked up the phone and Liz held her breath.

“Hello?”

Liz’s voice caught in her throat. Too many emotions flooded her system and she couldn’t speak.

“Hello?” There was an irritation in Maria’s voice now. “Michael, is that you? Because I thought I told you not to bother calling me tonight.”

Liz’s eyes opened and she met Alex’s. He’d known about her and Michael. Maybe he knew what he was talking about with the rest after all.

“Fine. You know, what, I don’t want to talk to you either.”

Liz panicked as she realized Maria was going to hang up. “Maria, wait. It’s me.”

There was a pause on the other end of the phone before Maria’s hopeful whisper came through the phone lines. “Liz?”

“Yeah, babe. It’s me.” Liz took Alex’s earlier seat.

“Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. So is Kyle. I just…I missed you, Maria. I missed my best friend.”

Liz could hear her shaky laugh and knew Maria was as close to crying as she was. “I miss you too, Liz.” She sniffled and Liz could almost hear Maria turning into full gossip mode. “So, tell me what’s been going on in your world.”

*~*~

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Diane Evans turned down the hospital corridor into the cafeteria, pausing in her tracks when she saw Isabel and Mark sitting together. Their heads bowed together as they laughed softly over mugs of hot chocolate. Diane couldn’t help but let her heart soften towards the man who had made her baby laugh after everything they had been through lately.

Let your heart be light

Phillip came up behind his wife, circling his arms around her waist. Caught, she offered him a sheepish grin and he placed a forgiving kiss on her forehead. For a minute, they watched the new couple together with a smile. Laughter had been a foreign sound around them lately. But maybe things were finally starting to look up.

Next year all our troubles will be out of sight

Movement caught their eye and they shared a smile when they saw Max sneaking past the nurses’ station to slip back into Ana’s room. A smile graced his lips when he spotted his parents. He saluted them before crouching low and slipping past the nurses. Diane turned to smile at her husband. It was about time their children smiled again.

Have yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Kyle watched the Parkers share a slow dance in the courtyard and he couldn’t help but smile. The joy on their faces was unmistakable. His father appeared at his side and offered him two cups of egg nog. With a secret smile, he nodded at Mel. She was busy taking pictures of the enormous tree that filled the lounge. Kyle smiled back at his father and mock saluted him before setting off.

Make the yuletide gay

Mel could feel the moment when Kyle came up behind her. He held out a glass to her and she took it, offering a rare smile of her own. With a free hand, he pulled a sprig of mistletoe from his pocket and held it above his head. With a suggestive eyebrow wiggle, he puckered up his lips. Mel chuckled and elbowed him in the ribs.

Next year all our troubles will be miles away

Mel felt a hand at her elbow that was too bony to belong to Kyle. She turned and found herself looking into the grinning face of her father. Without questioning it, she flung herself into his arms and found herself amazed when he returned the gesture.

Once again as in olden days

Michael climbed through Maria’s open window, surprised she hadn’t locked it tight in anticipation of his visit. He stumbled his way through her room, his eyes lighting immediately on the infamous sweater. He slipped it over his head, doing his best to hide that the left sleeve was longer than the right. He was careful to smooth down the hideous looking green and red sweater she had lovingly made for him. Following the sound of her voice, he was amazed by what he saw. She was curled up on the couch, the phone attached to her ear. And she was laughing.

Happy golden days of yore

Michael listened to the sound a minute, not sure when she’d last been so happy. Content to watch her forever, he took a seat in one of the dining room chairs. And when he realized she was talking to Liz, he smiled with her.

Faithful friends who were dear to us

With a last smile, Maria hung up the phone and turned to Michael. She’d known he was there, just like he always was when she needed him. Liz had been right. Why be upset over the little things when there were so many real problems out there?

Will be near to us once more

Petty arguments forgotten, Maria found herself in his arms. Her heart was too full of love for anything to ruin that moment. And when Michael smiled at her, she saw the regret in his eyes that he had hurt her. And all the apologizing that was necessary was done. Her eyes were drawn to the sweater she had knitted and she giggled when she realized that it was indeed pretty hideous looking.

Someday soon we all will be together

Liz slowly hung up the receiver and smiled. Her heart ached to see her friends again, but there would be time. She turned her attention to the large window behind her and to the V of stars in the sky. The lowest of them seemed to glow brighter tonight and it made her smile even more, thinking of Max.

If the fates allow

Alex appeared beside her and when he offered her a brilliant smile, she knew she’d done the right thing for once. She laid her head on his shoulder and together, they watched as a star shot across the night sky.

Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow

Max gazed out the window of the children’s ward, his attention drawn to the familiar V of stars he’d pointed out to Ana only hours ago. He caught sight of a shooting star and made a quick wish that wherever Liz was, she was happy and safe.

So, have yourself a Merry Little Christmas now.

Ana moved on her bed, an impish grin on her face. She’d known he would come back, had trusted him to. Holding out two Barbie dolls to him, she scooted up the bed to make room for him. He took a seat and took one doll from her. Unexpectedly, she threw her small arms around him. Max closed his eyes and took the love she offered, stroking a hand down her long hair. He didn’t have anything to offer her but his love and she took it gladly. He could hear some of the other kids moving around and knew they weren’t all asleep yet. One of the older children was reading a Dr. Seuss story he recognized from his childhood and a single line stood out and carried across the stillness of the night.

Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps means a little bit more.

And as he settled in for a long night of Magical Fashion Show Barbie doll playing, he couldn’t help but be thankful of how bright their Christmas had turned out.



posted on 6-Dec-2001 2:30:10 PM by Cookieman1234
The end of my story? Are you kidding me? Ack, no! I have like a hundred more parts to post yet. And the quote at the end is from the best cartoon ever. The Tick! You should all be familiar with it, and if not you should be ashamed of yourselves.
posted on 11-Dec-2001 12:19:11 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey guys. Sorry I've been disappearing for days at a time. I've been busy with Christmas and LtL has been giving me a hard time. Plus I've decided to take on a challenge fic and I'm brainstorming on that. I'll let you know when I get something posted on it.

CCDreamGirl - You're doing such a good job writing my story for me, I'm just going to let you have it. You know you have my permission to ramble away in feedback. It's my favorite kind.

Kira - my Dr. Seuss friend, I'm shocked and appalled that you didn't recognize the Dr. Seuss quote in the Christmas part. It's from How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which has been running on Cartoon Network EVERY night for a week now. Can we talk about how happy that makes me? But it should never be confused with that thing they made with Jim Carrey where he claimed to be the Grinch. GRR You really don't want to get me started on that one.

Thanks for all of your faboo feedback, guys. You know I love you all and it makes me giggle when you're so kind. So, I'm going to try to be more on the board this week for you in appreciation. Enjoy your new part!

Finding Yourself
Part 54

“Sorry I’m running late.” Nancy Parker quickly scooted into her chair across from Liz and offered her a smile. “Your father kept telling me to go and he would finish packing, but you know how he is.”

Liz laughed when her mother rolled her eyes. It felt nice to be able to spend time with them again. These last few days had been too short. And today was checkout day. “He’s not folding the clothes too, is he?”

“There are some things I would never leave for him to do. So, what are you having? Did you order already?”

“No, I was waiting for you, but the breakfast special smells wonderful.”

Nancy closed her menu. “I agree. So, what time are you guys heading out today?”

“Sometime after lunch I think. Kyle wanted to hit the slopes early this morning again and I think Mel wanted to surprise him with her new skiing skills.” She didn’t want to think about when they would have to leave. Everything had been so perfect those last few days, she didn’t want it to end.

Chuckling, Nancy sipped at her coffee. “I like her. She seems like a good girl.” Nerves jangled in her stomach despite herself. There was so much she needed to talk to her daughter about, but she didn’t have any idea where to start.

“Mom? Can we talk for a minute?”

Nancy set down her mug and gripped Liz’s hand in hers. She had been dreading this moment for so long. “You want to know about your adoption.”

Liz bit down on her lower lip, nodding her head. There were so many questions she wanted answers to and she just didn’t know how to ask them.

“I figured as much. I’m afraid I just don’t have much to tell you. Your grandmother brought you to us. We’d been trying to have a baby for so long and we hadn’t had any luck. We were about to give up hope. Then one day out of the blue, there was your grandmother standing on our doorstep with this little bundle in her arms. You were all red from crying and she just handed you to us.” Nancy’s eyes glazed over with the memory. It seemed so long ago. “We knew you were ours.”

“Did Grandma ever tell you anything about where I came from?” Liz hated asking the questions, but she needed answers. There was something burning inside of her that told her to push for more.

Nancy shook her head. “We asked, but she wouldn’t ever tell us. All she said was that you were all alone and you didn’t have any family here that could take you in. So, we asked Phillip to help us with the legal end of things. I remember he was hesitant at first, and he insisted on talking with your grandmother privately. And it was like he changed his mind overnight. After that conversation, he was great about helping us keep things quiet. I believe he had just married Diane and they had started planning for a family themselves.”

The words swirled in Liz’s head. Something was here, in those words, an answer to a question she didn’t know how to form.

“What did Grandma say to Mr. Evans that convinced him to help you?”

“I don’t know. They wouldn’t ever tell us. And it just wasn’t important at the time. We’d fallen in love with you from the first time you cried and we would have done anything to keep you.”

Claudia Parker and Phillip Evans had spoken in private and she had convinced him to bend the law to help them. Liz knew her grandmother could be persuasive, but Max’s father was one of the most law abiding people she’d ever met. So, what had her grandmother said? Lost in her own thoughts, Liz missed the crestfallen look on her mother’s face.

“I’m sorry I can’t tell you where you came from, honey. I know you probably want to meet your real parents. It’s only natural for you to be curious. But we just don’t know. After Phillip told us he could legalize the adoption, we just stopped asking questions. You were this beautiful gift and we were thankful just to have you. I’m only sorry we never told you this sooner. I don’t know if it had anything to do with why you left the way you did, but you seem so much stronger now. And I think you can handle the truth. Your father and I had always meant to tell you someday, but we could honestly go years forgetting that we hadn’t created you ourselves.”

Her mother’s words sunk into Liz’s head and she gripped Nancy’s arm. “Don’t apologize to me, Mom. You and Dad only did what you thought was right. It’s not easy to make decisions that effect the lives of others and I’m sure you thought it through. I just wanted to know anything you knew about it. I’m not upset, or looking to track down my birth parents. I love you and Dad both. And nothing will ever change that. You will always be my parents, no matter what some DNA test says.”

Nancy pursed her lips together, trying to hold back the tears that threatened to spill. She’d wanted to hear those words, but had been afraid to hope for them. Needing the comfort, she pulled her daughter into a tight hug. She felt Liz’s arms tighten around her and they rocked quietly a minute.

Wiping at a tear, Nancy finally pulled back. “I promised your father I wasn’t going to cause a scene by blubbering on you.”

“You can blubber away. I don’t mind.”

“No, I’m done. See?” She smiled brightly as Liz. “Besides, I still have more I wanted to tell you. Your father wanted to give us some alone time, but I know he wanted to tell you this himself. We’re moving out of the apartment.”

“Oh?” Liz felt her chest crush under the sudden weight. They were moving?

“We’re not going far, just out of that place. We talked about it and when Kyle invited us up this weekend, we said we’d see how you seemed before we made any final decisions.” Nancy tucked a strand of hair behind her daughter’s ear. “And what we found was this strong, independent woman who isn’t likely to come running home to her parents any time soon. You’ve grown up on us sometime in the last year or two. I feel like I blinked and I missed it. You’re carving your own place in the world and we’re happy for you.”

“So, to celebrate, you’re moving?”

Nancy chuckled. “Not like that exactly. We just want a smaller place for the two of us. We lived there so long, chained to the restaurant, and we want a break. I want to be able to travel before I’m too old to enjoy it. And that’s why we’re selling half of the restaurant.”

“You’re selling…” Liz trailed off. Her whole world was spiraling out of control.

“It’s okay, Liz.,” Nancy explained when she saw the horrified look on Liz’s face. “None of your stuff is going to be touched. Your father worked it all out. Amy Deluca is buying forty nine percent of the business. And we’re keeping the rest for you one day. We’re not kicking you out of the house or anything. And if you want to keep the Crashdown, it’s yours. Amy knows that. She just happened to be looking for a business venture and your father and I want some more time to ourselves.” The initial horror had faded, but shock still clouded her eyes. “We’re not leaving Roswell or anything. We’re just finding a place of our own. We don’t need all that space.” Nancy patted her hand, sure Liz would be fine once she’d had time to think it through. She picked up her coffee and sipped it again.

“Is there anything else you want to tell me? You and Dad aren’t getting divorced? Moving to Egypt? Anything?”

“No, I think that about covered it. Oh, and I brought some of your grandmother’s things I thought you would want. Actually, it’s an old box from her travels. I didn’t know what to do with some of it, but I couldn’t bring myself to throw them away. Besides, you always did understand her better than I did. Maybe some of it will make more sense to you.”

Liz shook her head, trying to clear some of the confusion away. “Yeah, I’d like that. I don’t have anything of hers.”

The waiter appeared at their side, sensing that their conversation had reached a stopping point. Liz listened as her mother rattled off their orders, but her mind kept wandering back to what her mother had said about her adoption. The words replied themselves over and over in her mind, but she didn’t come up with anything more concrete.

All she knew for certain was that her mother didn’t know anything more, and she doubted her father did either. Phillip Evans might know something, but in order to find it out, she would have to contact Max’s father. And she wasn’t sure if she could do that yet.

Why would Claudia Parker appear on her daughter’s doorstep with a baby and never tell anyone where she had gotten it from? Could her grandmother have been involved with black market dealings? It didn’t seem likely, but then none of this fit her grandmothers’ personality.

She would have to sit down with this information and put it on paper. Maria used to tell her that she couldn’t think clearly until her thoughts were organized and she’d constructed a pie chart. She would come up with leads and she would figure out why she had this burning desire to know the truth. After all, wasn’t that why she had left Roswell? To discover who she was? She wasn’t interested in finding her birth parents and meeting them. And she wasn’t even sure if that was a possibility from what her mother said. But she was interested in finding the answer to why no one seemed to know where she came from. And she had a feeling the best place to start would be the box of her grandmother’s things that her mother had brought. Somehow she knew it would hold the key to all the answers she needed. It would only be a matter of time before she found them.


posted on 13-Dec-2001 1:31:07 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Bump and you shall receive.

Thanks for all of your wonderful feedback. My computer ate the first half of this and I spent the morning trying to retrieve it. So, to make it up to you, this part is extra long.

Finding Yourself
Part 55

“Good Morning. Welcome to the Crashdown Café. My name is Maria and I’ll be your server. Would you like to try the Martian omelet?” Maria chirped cheerfully to her new table of customers.

“Maria, it’s us. What’s with the routine?”

After a careful glance over her shoulder, Maria let her cheerful façade slip. “When Mr. Parker left town, he put Rosalee in charge. Why he would do that I don’t even know. Don’t even get me started on that! But the girl’s power tripping and she thought it would increase business if we were a bit more…cheerful when we read the specials.”

“Well, it made me want the omelet. So, count me in.” Michael closed his menu and managed to smile at his girlfriend. Since her conversation with Liz, Maria had been more relaxed and happier. Plus, he had managed to get through the sweater incident without losing any body parts. So, he figured he owed Liz one the next time he saw her. But that hadn’t stopped him from trying to be a bit nicer to Maria. He was even willing to let Isabel help him set up a surprise for her.

Maria returned his grin and jotted down his order. “Okay, that’s one Martian omelet. What about you guys?”

Habitually, Max checked his watch.

“Give it a rest, Max. You still have an hour and twenty three minutes before the nurses will even let you into the hospital wing. I swear they have your picture up in the lounge with a warning to keep an eye on you. You have time for breakfast.” Isabel examined the new menu carefully. “I’ll have the omelet and so will Max.”

“One hour and twenty two minutes, but who’s counting?” Max forced himself to relax when his sister threw a wadded up napkin at him playfully. He knew he’d been taking life a bit too seriously lately, and he was trying to sit back and just enjoy the calm that had enveloped the group.

“Alright, I’ll be back with your order in a minute.” Maria sauntered off, pausing a moment to check in with another table. A song in her heart, she joked for a second with the guy sitting at table two. Snippets of her conversation with Liz still rang through her memory. They’d talked for hours about nothing and yet everything. Liz had told her about picking up photography again and about living with Kyle and Mel. And though her heart still clenched at the mention of Mel’s name, she had listened. Liz had regaled her with stories about Kyle and Mel and the two girls had secretly agreed that something was brewing.

It had been good to hear her voice again. It had felt as though the world were crashing down on her after her oldest friend had disappeared and she had never felt more lonely. But on the day she had woken u p and realized that Liz had been living in that state for countless months, she had felt ashamed of herself. From that moment on, things had changed. And now, she was glad to hear from her friend and to know that she was happy again.

She had wanted nothing more than to tell her everything that had happened with Tess and the Granolith, but knew Liz wouldn’t want to hear the information. It was, after all, why she had left, to distance herself from it all. Maria had thought briefly about telling Liz about Ana and everything Max had been going through, but something had held her back. Maybe it was the hope that Max would have the chance to tell her himself one day, but she had held her tongue.

Michael watched her laugh lightly with one of her customers and the sound thrilled him. It wasn’t the half-laugh she’d been trying to fool them with for so long, but a deep chuckle. And if he hadn’t already fallen head over heels in love with her years ago, that moment would have done it for him. Needing to capture that moment, he excused himself from the table when he saw her deliver the order and then head in the direction of the break room.

Isabel saw the look in Michael’s eye and called out after him. “Michael, don’t keep her too busy! I want breakfast sometime this morning!” She sighed and turned back to Max. “When did he turn into a love sick puppy dog?”

“About the time I turned into an arrogant ass.” He met his sister’s cautious eyes and grinned. “It’s okay to talk about it, you know.” He’d been wanting to bring this up with his sister for awhile now. “We’ve tiptoed around it ever since Liz left. And I know I worried all of you for awhile. And then with Ana, and not knowing if she was going to live…I know you’ve been worried I was going to go off the deep end. But you don’t have to. I still have a long way to go, but I won’t break if you decide to yell at me or throw an occasional insult my way. You’ve been bottling them up for so long, I’m sure you’ve got some good ones saved up.”

“Only one or two.” A weight was lifted off Isabel’s shoulders. She had been handling him with kid gloves. It was nice to know she didn’t have to all the time. “And just so you know, having your permission to use them doesn’t take any of the joy away…your Highness.” Her lips twisted in humor, knowing he would bristle at the title.

“Ha ha.”

The bell over the front door rang cheerfully and Max had a clear view of the Parkers’ entrance. They were laden with suitcases and bags, but the smile on their faces was enough to light up the room. Automatically, he rose to help them with their bags.

“Thank you, Max.” Nancy flashed him a smile as he took the bag that hung from her shoulder. “Boy, it’s a relief to be rid of that one.”

“Where do you want these?” He asked, trying to ignore the stab of guilt he felt every time he saw the Parkers.

“Upstairs will be fine, Max,” Jeff answered.

Hearing the noise, Maria pushed through the break room doors, busily adjusting her apron. “Hi! Did you just get back into town?”

Michael followed her into the restaurant, mildly annoyed at having been interrupted. But he supposed it was better to stop than to have his boss catch him making out in the back room with one of his on duty waitresses. “Hey. Did you guys have a good trip?” He followed the caravan up the stairs and into the apartment.

“Just put those anywhere, boys.” Nancy dropped her own load, then turned a beaming smile on her daughter’s friends. “We had a fabulous time. I’d forgotten what snow looked like, it’s been so long since we went skiing.”

“You went skiing?” Maria’s head popped up. Jim had gone skiing too. And she knew for a fact that he’d gone to see Liz and Kyle.

Nancy met eyes with Jeff before answering. “Yes, and to answer your next question, Maria, yes, we saw Liz.” The smile that had permanently creased her face returned. “She looks so good! She cut her hair and even though Jeff thinks I’m crazy, I think she grew another inch.” Nancy couldn’t stop gushing, her whole demeanor changing when she thought of her strong-willed daughter.

Isabel shifted closer to Max, noticing that he had become rigid when Liz’s name had been mentioned. In a gesture of support, she laid a hand on his arm. Surprised, Max turned to see his sister looking at him with concern in her eyes. He immediately snapped out of the trance he’d been sucked into. Sooner or later, he was going to have to face Liz and know how she was doing. And he would have to do it without rushing to her side immediatly.

“So she’s…okay?” Max heard the words come out of his mouth, and he fought against asking the thousand other questions that threatened to follow. But first and foremost was the question at hand.

Nancy spared a pitying look at Max. She and Jeff knew that Liz’s decision to leave and the secrets she kept had something to do with this boy. But they’d decided that as long as their baby was safe and happy, they wouldn’t pass judgement on things they didn’t really understand. And Nancy had seen the way he had suffered after Liz had left. And there had been enough suffering to last a lifetime.

Max watched as Nancy reached out a hand to grip his arm. “She’s good, Max. She’s happy and full of life and we all had such a wonderful time. Oh, we brought our video camera. Do you want to see?”

Maria all but leapt forward. “Yes! You brought your camera?” She turned to Michael. “That means they probably filmed every single minute,” she teased.

“Well, not every minute, but close.” Jeff was already pulling the camera from its bag and moved to the television with a jumble of cords. “Just give me a minute to get these things hooked up just right.” He struggled with the wires, attempting to connect them. The television screen went from blue to black and he stopped his struggles. “There we go.”

“Come, sit.” Nancy urged them all onto the couch while Jeff pressed the play button on the camera.

Max felt an uneasiness settle in his stomach, butterflies that he hadn’t felt since his days before Liz. Then the television jumped to life and they were assaulted with images of snow.

“This is the resort we all stayed in. Liz’s friend got us all a wonderful deal on the place.”

Max watched as the camera panned around the exterior of the resort, finally coming to rest on Nancy’s smiling face. But beneath the smile, he could see nerves. This must have been before they saw Liz. Nancy was rattling on about the snow lifts and the skiers, but Max wasn’t listening. The camera flashed, changing images and now it was Liz’s smiling face that filled the television screen.

And in that moment, Max felt his heart stop beating.

Liz turned, laughing at something outside of their vision. She disappeared suddenly and when she returned, she was dragging Kyle with her. She had thrown her arm around his shoulders and was pressing her cheek close to his.

“Liz, cut it out. I don’t want to be a part of the Parker film vault.” On screen, Kyle tried to shake Liz loose, but she wouldn’t have any of it.

“They want a Christmas picture. Now, hold still a minute before I have Mel tackle you. Okay, Dad. Now.”

There was a flash and Max figured that Jeff had been standing behind Nancy with a camera.

Kyle immediately shook Liz off him. “Okay, I’m done here. Can we open presents now?”

“No, you’re not, son. I want one with you and Mel.” Jim’s booming voice of authority rang through the speakers and they watched Kyle grimace. “Dad, I thought you promised no more picture taking today.”

“I lied. Now, go get together on the couch.”

“Oh no. That couch is not big enough for the three of us and I am not snuggling with Slick here.” The camera panned until it rested on a girl with flowing auburn curls. She stood defensively, arms crossed over her chest.

Maria recognized the girl instantly from being in Jim’s Thanksgiving pictures. Mel. She felt the familiar twinge of jealousy, but she beat it back. Liz looked happier than she’d been in ages and that was what mattered.

“You know your secret desire is to snuggle with me.” Kyle lunged into view, grabbing Mel in a headlock.

“In your dreams, Tiger.” She maneuvered quickly, slipping from his grip and sending Kyle sprawling to the floor.

“This could get bloody. Maybe we should open presents now,” Liz suggested to the adults in the room.

“Give up?” Mel asked, bending Kyle’s arm behind his back. She was sitting on him, one knee pressed into his spine.

“Never! I’m just getting my second wind!”

“Opening presents now!” Liz announced. “Oh, look. Kyle, this one is for you. And Mel, it looks like Santa brought you something as well.”

“A present for me?” Mel released her grip on Kyle and moved to the overflowing Christmas tree.


The group watched as Christmas unfolded before them. Instead of taking turns opening presents, there was mass chaos as everyone ripped into their boxes together. Liz and Mel had taken up residence on the floor and the others looked on as they tried to stick their bows on Kyle’s head. He protested, but laughing all the while.

Max watched the easiness between the group with a hint of sadness. He refused to let the emotion consume him, soaking up every gesture Liz made to review it later. She was happy. He had broken her heart and destroyed the life that lived inside of her and she had moved on and prospered. It just proved what he had always known about Liz Parker. She was the strongest of them all.

Maria watched the screen as Kyle traded uneasy glances with Mel. Mel nodded and pulled a hidden gift from behind the couch. She slid it towards Kyle and he handed it to Liz with a grin.

“What’s this? Another present? Kyle-“

“Oh, quit your yapping. Kyle and I bought it for you together. So, open it up already.”

Liz frowned in thought, then pulled at the bright green paper. Her gasp filled the room and she turned watery eyes to Kyle and Mel. “You didn’t! Guys, this is too expensive.” She pulled the camera box from the wrapping paper carnage and turned it over carefully.

“Nonsense. Like we didn’t spend a lot of money on Mel together.”

“And we both went in on that present for Kyle,” Mel piped up, looking at Kyle. “You spent a lot of money on me?”

“You spent a lot of money on me?” Kyle asked Mel. With mischief in their eyes, they both dove for the tree, looking for their names.

Mel sat back triumphantly with a large, rectangular box. Not bothering to shake the contents for clues, she ripped into the box. “Oh my god. You bought me the jacket! Thank you thank you thank you!” She flung herself at Liz, who had enough foresight to move her camera aside.

“Hey, I bought half of it. Where’s my hug?”

Mel snorted at him, but grinned, running her hands over the supple leather of the trench coat. “I don’t like it that much.”

“Okay, you guys get boxes and I get an envelope?” Kyle turned the envelope over in his hands. Curiosity getting the better of him, he ripped into the envelope, jaw dropping open in shock. “No way. You bought me tickets to the opening basketball game at ENMU?”

“I know you and your dad go every year. It’s a fine, family tradition, I’ve been told. So, we thought we’d throw in a plane ticket too.”


Isabel watched as Kyle threw himself at Liz, then at Mel. They hugged and she felt a stab of jealousy. She used to be Kyle’s friend. And while the logical part of her brain told her she had ruined that friendship herself, it still hurt. They used to all be such a close knit team. What they had become hurt more than she ever imagined it could.

Beside her, Max had yet to move. His eyes were boring holes into the television screen but she wasn’t worried about him flipping out after watching the home videos. Maybe it was good for him to see that she was okay.

Michael pulled Maria closer against his chest as the rest of the videos played out before them. Christmas ended only to be followed by dinners and skiing lessons with Liz and Mel. Maria laughed as she caught a glimpse of Kyle’s scowl when the ski instructor tried to show the girls a few moves. He kept interrupting their lessons and an inevitable argument with Mel ensued. Despite the situation, Maria found liking Mel more and more. The girl had spunk and she could bring Kyle Valenti to his knees without hesitation. And that took talent.

They watched as a snowball fight broke out, led by Jim and Mel. It was hard to tell which side won in the end, since they were all wet and covered in snow. Then the images shifted back to the ski slopes and Maria was surprised to find two figures racing down the slopes. She recognized Kyle right away by the blue snowsuit she’d helped Jim pick out for him. And after a minute of watching, she realized Mel was the other figure. Apparently, the lessons had paid off.

“They competed all afternoon.” Nancy explained as they watched the two zip down the slope. “Liz was telling me that Mel stayed up every night trying to learn so she could show up Kyle.”

“That’s funny,” Maria agreed. If there was anything she could understand it was a fierce competitive streak. And she began to see what Liz had been trying to tell her on the phone. Kyle was softening, just a bit around the edges, but he was softening. And it was all because of Mel.

“Oh, this is the best part!” Jeff announced, snickering. He might have been a bit apprehensive about his daughter living with Kyle Valenti, but after watching the video, he hadn’t been worried about anything inappropriate happening. “It was really Jim’s idea though. We set up the video camera on a timer in their room and didn’t tell them. I don’t think Jim believed Kyle when he said nothing romantic was happening between Kyle and Liz. Especially with them living together.”

“Oh?” Max spoke up for the first time, keeping an eye on the television. Liz was standing in the snow, the wind whipping her hair around her face as she laughed with her father. The image was so captivating, he almost missed what Jeff had said. Almost.

“They’re living together?”

“All three of them actually,” Maria joined in, then looked guilty. “She, uh, called me on Christmas,” she explained.

Max considered the information, rolled it around in his head. Liz was living with Kyle. The image of her in bed with her ex-boyfriend came to mind before he could stop it. But he brushed it aside just as quickly. He knew now the whole thing had been a set up. Liz hadn’t betrayed him, but he had betrayed her. But the image of that night was still burned into his memory.

Besides, even if she was involved with Kyle now, it wasn’t any of his business. Liz had left Roswell behind and hadn’t asked him to wait for her. In fact, he had encouraged him to move on and live his life. Just as she was now doing. And by the looks of it, whatever she was doing was making her ridiculously happy. And if Kyle, or this new girl, Mel gave her a reason to smile, then he hoped she stayed where she was and never set eyes on him again. Because no one deserved more happiness than she did.

The image on the screen blackened and Maria struggled to take in the surroundings. There was a rustling sound and though they couldn’t see anything, three voices carried through the video camera.

“Ow! Who was that?”

“Me, Mel. Now, quit moving, Kyle. I’m trying to get comfortable.”

“Well, I think you’d be a bit more comfortable if you’d stay off my side of the bed.”

“Well, mine’s all lumpy.”

“That could be because you’ve been lying on my arm all night.”

“Sorry, Liz. Here, let me-“

“Ow! Quit moving! You just hit me.”

“Okay, somebody needs to cut their toenails.”

“I think you broke my nose.”

“Quit being such a whining girl, Kyle.”

“You guys, I’m trying to sleep here. Can you knock it off?”

“It’s no use. I can’t get comfortable with the two of you suffocating me. I want out of the middle.”

“Forget it, Mel. You steal covers. At least in the middle, Liz and I have a chance of staying warm.”

“Warm? I’m dying.”

“Well, do you think you’re wearing enough clothes? What do you have on, like three layers?”

“I just wanted to make sure Slick here doesn’t have roaming hands.”

“Fat chance of that happening. I think the smell of your face cream is enough to knock me out if I come too close.”


There was a silence on the tape, then Liz’s voice rang out.

“Uh, Mel, that had better be your hand because if not, Kyle is going to have a hard time playing football this season.”

“Sorry, I thought you were the pillow.”

“I’m trying real hard not to take offense to that.”

“Wait, how did you think Liz was the pillow? Where was you hand anyway?”

“No place you’ll ever see.”


Maria was snorting with laughter as the conversation continued. Even through the pain of missing her two friends, she laughed with them. Maybe things had worked out for the best after all. It wasn’t an ideal situation, but they seemed to be getting along better then she could have imagined they could. Kyle might be an irritating ass, but she loved him like a brother. And when the chips were down, you could always count on him to be there. And that was something none of them had been able to do for her. It had been a painful journey to come to that conclusion, but it helped to know the truth. She smiled as the beginnings of a pillow fight rang out. Yes, it was looking like they might all be okay after all.




posted on 14-Dec-2001 12:32:29 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Two whole parts in two days? Is the world spinning off it's axis? Thanks for all your wonderful feedback. But I've got to eat lunch now. I starved myself for you people to get this out before lunchtime or it wouldn't happen. *happy* So, I hope you like it.

Finding Yourself
Part 56

“So, you gonna open that box or just stare at it till the end of time?” Mel threw herself on the living room couch, finishing the last of her sandwich.

Liz sighed, but continued to stare at the box. How could she explain that she was afraid to find out what was inside? Something inside of her was whispering, clawing to be known. And over and over again, Alex’s words chanted in her head, words spoken to a sobbing girl on the cemetery floor.

There is still a lot you don’t know about yourself, about who you are. Your next decision will determine if those truths stay hidden or if they surface.

Mel shrugged when Liz remained quiet. What could possibly be in the box that would be so bad? “Well, I’m off then. I’ve got the Rickman wedding in a few hours and I still have errands to run. You sure you don't want to come? They’re paying me twice what I would have asked for.

“Hmm? No, but thanks anyway.”

“Suit yourself.” Mel stood and retrieved her new coat from the closet. As always, she reveled in the feel of the soft leather and it gave her a quick thrill. No one had ever bought her a Christmas present before and the gesture more than the gift stirred places in her heart she’d never known.

Liz heard Mel slip out the door, but her attention remained focused on the box. Why had it mesmerized her from the start? What could her grandmother have kept hidden away the way her mother told her it had been? After Claudia’s death, Nancy had cleaned out her house and had discovered the items hidden in a safe they hadn’t even known she’d owned. But from her mother’s story, the items were nondescript, nothing that would warrant the precautions she’d taken.

“Mel already gone?”

“Yeah.”

Kyle paused, watching Liz. “You okay?”

“Uh huh.”

Having known her his whole life, Kyle knew when she wasn’t paying attention to him. “Okay, sure. So, do you want to have crazy monkey sex here on the couch?”

“Kay.”

“Have I ever told you that I’m really an evil alien bent of enslaving the planet and turning all the women into my love slaves?”

“Sure.”

“Want to hear the story about the Oscar I won last year?”

“Uh huh.”

“And how about the Grammy for the Country song I wrote?”

“That’s great.”

“Liz!”

Liz snapped out of her daze when Kyle snapped his fingers in front of her face. When had he come into the room? “What?” She’d almost reached the point where she could make sense of everything going on around her.

“You’re not listening to me.”

“Yes, I was. You were talking about…uh…wait a minute. I know this. It was either Mel or football, right?”

“Are you okay, really? You’ve been acting wiggy since we got back.” Kyle took a seat on the couch beside her.

Liz blew out a deep breath. “No. I’m just thinking to hard.” She reached up to rub at her temples, frustration seeping in. “Why? Did you need something?” Kyle had the same look on his face he’d been wearing for weeks now. He had something he wanted to say and she wasn’t sure if she was going to like it if he’d had to think about it for so long.

“Uh, no. Not really. Just looking for a hot babe to hang out with for the evening. You free?” He placed an arm around her shoulders and forced the words back. Now wasn’t the time to tell her. She was freaked out about something. “What’s up with you and the box? I thought you were opening it last night?”

“I don’t know, Kyle. I can’t explain it. There’s this huge secret my grandmother was keeping and I’m afraid the answers are in this box.”

“Okay, this is one of those occasions where I’ve missed a conversation or two. Since when did you grandmother keep big secrets?”

“Since she the day she brought me to my parents doorstep.” Liz raised her eyes to meet her friends’. She needed someone’s help on this. “Kyle, I was adopted.”

“Whoa.” Whatever Kyle had been expecting, it certainly hadn’t been that. “Since when? You never said anything before.”

“It was in Mom’s letter. They thought I’d found out and it was part of the reason why I ran away.” Liz dropped her head into her hands. She could at least be thankful that she had smoothed over the edges of guilt and uncertainty with her mother.

Kyle let the information sink in. And something began clicking in his brain. But now definitely wasn’t the time. “Are you okay?”

“I’m fine. The funny thing about this is that I haven’t broken down or had this blinding moment of clarity where I had to go on a quest to find my birth parents. Because I know somehow that I won’t find them.” And this sudden insight frightened her as well.

“So, how does your grandmother fit into this?” Kyle was trying to put the pieces together, and it was settling heavily in his stomach.

“She brought me to my parents’ doorstep, quite illegally I’ve been told. When Mom and Dad asked where I’d come from, she wouldn’t answer. She just said that I didn’t have any family to take care of me. So, they hired a lawyer to help them around the legal system to adopt me.”

Kyle nodded. “Okay, so what do you want to do? Because I know you, and you hate puzzles. You don’t want to find your birth parents, so what then?”

“I want to know why no one knows where I came from.” Liz forced her eyes to meet Kyle.

“You’re sure your parents don’t know anything else?” When Liz only nodded, he continued. “Then we start with the lawyer. He had to have some basic knowledge to pull off an illegal adoption. Surely they ran searches in hospitals and missing persons reports. Maybe we can get our hands on that and skip all the legwork. Did your mother tell you who their lawyer was?”

Liz turned a wry grin on him. “Phillip Evans.”

“No.” Kyle turned his blank stare to the wall. “Well, that certainly complicates things.”

“It’s kind of funny really.” The giggle came out of nowhere, but once it had started, she found that she couldn’t contain them.

Kyle glanced at her, sure she’d finally gone crazy. “Well, I always thought I’d be the one that pushed you over the edge. It’s kind of disappointing really.”

“I don’t know what to do, Kyle.” Liz laid her head against his arm. She felt better now that she’d told someone about it, and better still because she knew she could trust Kyle to help her.

“Do you want me to call Max’s dad for you? I can tell him what’s going on and see what he can send me.”

Liz considered it, knew it would be easier all around to let Kyle handle Phillip Evans for her. But she found herself shaking her head. “No. I need to call him. I’m not sure why, but I think I need to do this myself.”

“You know you’re not alone though, right?” He squeezed her shoulders tight.

“I know if I get in trouble, you’ll come slay the big, bad dragons for me.”

“So, you gonna open that box or what? The suspense is killing me now.”

“Yeah. I guess so.” She slipped off the couch and pulled the lid off. Slowly, she began pulling the items, dusty relics that were hidden away.

Kyle watched Liz pull an array of items from the box. There were several books Claudia had written and photographed on a variety of subjects ranging from the Egyptian pyramids to Stonehenge, to Indian reservations and their practices. Several of the items looked like they had been tools of some sort, but he had no way of guessing when. They could have been items from the days of dinosaurs and cavemen for all he knew.

The box seemed to be an endless stream of artifacts she had collected from her days of traveling the world. Liz was able to pinpoint the origin of some, recognizing the Egyptian markings on one in particular. A small wooden box lay on the bottom and she pulled it out carefully.

“She put a box in a box?”

“It’s a puzzle box. She bought me one when I was a little girl. She told me to keep my most valued and treasured things in it.” She shook the box lightly and was surprised when she heard a rattling. “There’s something inside.”

“So, open it.”

Liz turned the box every way, looking for a spring to open the nondescript box, but she couldn’t find anything. There didn’t seem to be any way to open it. “That’s strange. There must be some sort of trick to it.” She frowned, but put the box aside. She would figure out a way to open it. But for now, there were still items to be unpacked.

Liz reached inside and pulled out the final item protectively wrapped in paper. “It’s her journal.” She recognized the weight and feel of it anywhere. She could hardly believe it. Why hadn’t her mother told her there was a journal inside? She hastily began pulling the wrapping off.

“Wow, you two really were alike, weren’t you?” Kyle mused.

“She always used to write in this. And I would ask her what she wrote about. She would say they were tales of life and love and loss. I wanted one too, so I could be like her. And that next year she bought me my first journal. I kept it for years, not wanting to write in it. But after Max healed me, I knew it was why she had bought it for me. To write what I was feeling then.”

The paper came off and she was holding the old leather book in her hand. It was old and worn from use and exactly the way she remembered it. Nerves racing through her, she flipped it open expectantly. Then frowned in confusion. “It’s empty.”

“Well, that hardly seems like a prized possession.” Kyle was still picking through the items that had come out of the box. Claudia Parker had really gotten around the world.

Something was off with the journal, Liz could feel it. She flipped through the book quickly, but found nothing. Her grandmother used to tell Liz that she wrote in her journal whenever important events happened in her life. And yet, here was the very same journal Liz had seen her write in a hundred times, yet there was nothing there.

“Mom said that she couldn’t make sense of the items. I’m beginning to see why.”

“I’m sorry, Liz. I know you were hoping to find something in here. Maybe in the puzzle box?” He suggested hopefully. He hated to see the frustration in her eyes.

“Maybe,” she agreed. But the journal continued to draw her attention. She knew what she’d seen. And she’d seen her grandmother write in that book for hours at a time. There weren’t any ripped or torn pages. And another layer was added to the mystery that had become her life. She sighed, then placed the journal back in the paper that had protected it to carefully over the years.

“You want to order a pizza? I have a feeling we could be doing this forever.”

“I’m in.” Kyle let Liz order their dinner and he watched her carefully. He was beginning to form some theories, but he wanted to be sure of what he suspected before he brought them up to Liz. If any of what he suspected was correct, they were in for ever harder times than he thought.


posted on 17-Dec-2001 2:02:36 PM by Cookieman1234
Teresa, you're too funny. Don't worry. That time will come. One day they'll all figure out that secrets are bad and only bad things come from them. But it won't be any time soon.

Sorry, no update today. I spent the morning trying to redo Learning to Live. I had a big computer meltdown and I lost alot of stuff I'd been working on. Plus, I have a mutant cold that's been trying to knock me out all weekend. But I promise a part tomorrow morning. Sadly, the cold has moved into my brain and I don't even remember where I left off. How sad is that?

But I'm going to try to plug through this cold and see what I can get out for you. And unless I'm on my death bed, you should still get your updates. *wink*

See you guys in the morning!

~Stacey
posted on 18-Dec-2001 8:55:18 AM by Cookieman1234
quote:
jane originally wrote:
Maybe some of those cool cold medicines will help you transcend to a more spiritual plane where you will become SuperAuthor; writing pages and pages of fabulous fan-fic at the speed of light!!


Morning all! Okay, when I posted that note yesterday, I was in agony. I was stuck at work with none of the glorious drugs that were sitting at home on my shelf. But, Jane, you were correct when you said that the cold medicines would help me transcend to that spiritual plane. It's only 8:45 and here I am. And it's all thanks to Advil Cold and Flu. In fact, let's dedicate this next part to Advil Cold and Flu and all the goodness that it brings to the unfortunate this time of year.

Oh, funny side story. I left work and was hellbent on finishing my Christmas shopping, so by the time I got home, I was completely out of it. My hubby plied me with Nyquil so he could slip away to play XBox games with his buddies and I was so drugged, I forgot to take out my contacts when I went to bed. So, when I woke up and I could actually see, it was this amazing moment for me. Even if it did confuse me for a couple of minutes.

Okay, maybe that story was only funny to me. I'm on drugs! Give me a break today and just ignore the crazy sick person.
posted on 18-Dec-2001 8:56:58 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

I guess it would help if I attached the actual story to the post. *shakes head* I'm really having that bad of a day. Oh, this first part is dedicated to Kira. *wink* She's one of the few Seuss kindred souls I have out there.

Finding Yourself
Part 57

"I learned there are troubles of more than one kind. Some come from ahead and some come from behind... But I've bought a big bat. I'm all ready, you see. Now my troubles are going to have troubles with me!"

“Maria!” Ana squealed, her attention divided between Max’s story and Maria’s presence in the doorway.

“Sorry. I didn’t mean to interrupt.” She apologized to Max. They’d looked so cozy, snuggled in bed with a Dr. Seuss book hat she hadn’t had the heart to disturb them. But she turned a brilliant smile on Ana. “And how are you feeling today, baby?”

“Great! Guess what, Maria. Dr. Connely came today and he said I can go home soon.”

Maria glanced at Max, confirming the good news. “Really? Sweetie, that’s terrific! No, it’s better than terrific, it’s stupenderificarously fantastical.”

Ana giggled at Maria’s words, and Max grinned at the easy banter between the two girls.

“She’s in perfect health. The doctors are baffled.”

“I’ll bet they are.” Maria tilted her head at Max in question. They’d had suspicions that Max had been “helping” Ana’s recovery, but he had been careful so far and since no mysterious silver handprints had turned up, they'd left him alone.

With a sheepish grin, he shrugged his shoulders. Why bother to deny that what she already knew?

Maria let the admission pass with a wry grin that promised they would talk later. Instead, she wandered around Ana’s corner of the Children’s ward, her eyes lighting on the box of chocolates by the window.

Ana watched her pry the lid open with excitement. “They’re not the good kind.”

Maria wrinkled her nose in agreement after a glance. “So, where’s the good stuff?”

“She ran out of those yesterday,” Max supplied.

Maria glanced at Ana again. “Ana, girlfriend?”

“They’re in the bottom drawer,” she whispered, not wanting the other children to hear where her secret stash was hidden.

“Hey. You told me they were all gone,” Max protested, amazed he was being left out of the newly formed girl group.

“You see, Max,” Maria began, rifling through Ana’s drawer for a piece of candy. “Women need chocolate in a very special way that men can never understand. Isn’t that right?”

When Ana nodded, Max shook his head in disbelief. “You’re corrupting a whole new generation now, huh?”

“And my work here is done,” she announced proudly. “So, why aren’t you at home getting all dolled up for tonight?”

“I could ask you the same question.” He’d hoped against hope they would have forgotten about him. But he should have known better. Maria became his shadow lately, making sure he got out and breathed in fresh air on a regular basis. But there was no way he could explain to her that he wasn’t in the mood to celebrate New Years.

“You could, but then you’d be changing the subject. You’re not ditching on us, are you, Maxwell?”

“I think you and Michael are spending an unhealthy amount of time together,” he mumbled. “Besides, I told Ana I was going to spend the night here.” All he really wanted was some time alone. Maybe he would drive out to the pod chamber. He hadn’t been there in months, not since they’d been trying to hunt down the Granolith.

“No, you didn’t. Nurse Jennie said you weren’t allowed back in tonight and she was going to sleep outside the door if she had to,” Ana offered cheerfully.

When Max glared at Ana, Maria tried her hardest to look stern, but it ended in a laugh. “Using small children as your alibi? I’m shocked and appalled.”

“So eight o’ clock then?”

“You got it.”

“What’s at eight?” Sara appeared at Maria’s elbow, bearing gifts for Ana. She leaned down for a kiss before turning her attention back to the grown ups.

Maria grinned broadly at the girl. “Perfect. You’ve just saved me a stop. Sara, you’re coming out with us tonight. We’re all meeting up and going downtown for the big street party.”

“And fireworks!” Ana added. “Max told me I could go next year if I was feeling better.”

“You absolutely can,” Maria agreed. “So, you’re coming then? Great. We’re meeting up at eight. Max can pick you up.”

“Maria, can I talk to you for a second?”

“That’s okay, Maria. Thank you anyway, but I was planning on staying home.”

Maria rolled her eyes at the pair of them. Max was panicking as if she were trying to set them up on a blind date. And Sara had this glimmer of excitement in her eyes before Max opened his big mouth and made her feel like she wasn’t wanted.

“Look, you two. Let’s just settle this here and now. I’m not trying to set you two up. Sara, in case you don’t already know, Max has vowed, and rightfully so, never to date again since he’s in love with my best friend. Max, you could use a few normal friends. You know, get out and not talk shop all the time. So, this is not a date, and now Max won’t feel like a fifth wheel when I tell him Isabel is bringing Mark.”

“Whoa. Isabel is going out with Mark? The cop?” Max’s overprotective streak kicked in.

“Max, trust that Isabel knows what she’s doing. There was a time when your dating Liz caused a bit of disapproval. Remember how much fun that was?” When Max had no answer, Maria clapped her hands together. “Great. It’s settled then. I’m so glad you’re coming, Sara. And I’m out of here. I have tons more stuff to do before the night is over. Ana, my love, you get some sleep and I’ll see you tomorrow.” She blew the little girl a kiss, which she eagerly caught. Then she skipped out the room.

A grin on her face, she headed for the elevators. Why did people still resist her? Didn’t they know it was useless? Alex used to call it “Maria Logic” and it had secretly pleased her. It would be good for Max and Sara to get out. Max needed some time away from the hospital. She was sure he would have moved in by now if he could have gotten away with it. And Sara, the poor girl had no friends over the age of ten that she knew of. She didn’t know much about her, but Colleen had mentioned that she had been home schooled most of her life. She was roughly the same age they were, but it was hard to tell. And maybe she could help keep Max in check when Isabel brought Mark.

“Maria?”

Maria turned when she heard the familiar voice of Jim Valenti. “Sheriff. Hi.” She hugged him, genuinely glad to see him. “Where have you been hiding? We haven’t seen you around in awhile.”

“I’ve been around. Is everything okay?”

“Okay? Why wouldn’t it be-oh, you mean the hospital? We’re all fine. Just visiting a friend.”

“You have friends outside of the group?” Jim joked, but a bell was going off in his head.

“Very funny. So, how’s Kyle? The Parkers showed us the videos they filmed over Christmas,” she explained when he looked confused.

“Oh, well, he’s great. He’s got himself a job as an assistant coach at the middle school.” Jim grinned proudly just thinking about it. He’d been able to sit in on a few games when he’d visited at Thanksgiving.

“That sounds right up his alley.”

“So, who are you visiting? Anybody I know?”

Maria waved a hand in the air. “No, I don’t think so. Max has been volunteering at an orphanage and one of the little girls had a heart transplant right before Christmas.”

“Is she okay? That sounds serious.”

“She’s fine now. But between you and me and the wall, I think Max has been helping out in that department. Max is absolutely smitten with her. You should see them together,” she laughed. “I think they’re best of friends these days.”

Kyle’s words rang in Jim’s head. “You said she had the operation right before Christmas?”

Maria counted backwards. “Yeah, a couple of days before, I think.” She saw the expression on his face for the first time. “What’s up?”

“Nothing. Hey, let’s have lunch sometime this week. It’ll give us a chance to catch up. I’ve got to take a statement down the hall, so I don’t have a lot of time right now.”

“Go, official police business must be done. Tell Kyle and Liz I said hello next time you talk to them.”

“I will. And tell your mother I said hello.”

“I’m sure it would mean more if you told her yourself,” Maria couldn’t help herself. Making the Sheriff blush was far too easy.

“I’ll, uh, do that then.” Jim hurriedly escaped down the hall, automatically reaching for his cell phone. He punched in the numbers for Kyle’s apartment and listened to the phone ring. He swore when the answering machine picked up.

“Hi, you’ve reached Kyle, Liz and Mel.” Kyle’s rich voice traveled over the phone lines.

“We’re not in right now.” Liz’s voice informed him.

“This is so stupid. I’m not doing this.” Mel argued over the recording.

“Can you just for once do something as a team. Nobody has to know you’re not a lone wolf.”

“Well, at least I’m not a-“

A loud beep rang in Jim’s ear and he might have been amused if he wasn’t so concerned about what Kyle had told him over Christmas.

“Kyle, it’s your father. I need you to call me right away. It’s important.”

He hung up the phone and let his thoughts jumble together. Kyle had said Liz had dreamt of Max and it had seemed real. And in the dream, he had mentioned a sick friend. Somehow, Max had developed the ability to dreamwalk without knowing it. He didn’t believe for a minute that Max would visit Liz’s dreams on purpose. The boy really had changed these last few months, and if what Maria said was true, it had something to do with this orphanage.

But how would Liz react when she found out it really had been Max she had spoken to? She had left town to distance herself from Max and from his brief conversations with her, he was pretty sure she wasn’t quite ready to deal with him yet. Liz really was like a daughter to him and he didn’t want her to get hurt. But he couldn’t see how she could find out about this and not be.

With a glance at his watch, he wondered where they could possibly be.



posted on 19-Dec-2001 12:15:39 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author’s Note: This takes place after “Departure”. I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don’t know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker…

Hey, guys. I'm feeling loads better today. So, to celebrate, here's a new part. Thanks for all your kind feedback. I needed it yesterday. I was in a cranky, whiny mood and no one wanted to be near me. So, it was me and my fanfics all day. Not a bad way to spend a sick day, huh? Enjoy!

Finding Yourself
Part 58

Liz picked up the puzzle box that had become the bane of her existence since she had discovered it. The damn thing had no clasp, no trick spring, no hinges of any sort. It simply wasn’t possible to open it. Yet, somehow her grandmother had put something inside of it, something she was beginning to feel was of great importance to the older woman.

She and Kyle had settled down over pizza and had struggled to put all of the pieces they had together. Admittedly, it wasn’t a lot, but it wouldn’t be a mystery if the answers were merely lying around. She didn’t mind the work. She just hadn’t counted on it being so frustrating so fast.

Basically, all they knew was that Claudia had brought her to the Parkers, Phillip Evans had been asked to help them legalize the adoption but he had reservations. It hadn’t been until Claudia had spoken with him that he agreed. So, what had she said? Had she told Phillip where she was from? Was she some sort of illegitimate child, someone’s dirty secret? Maybe it was just her overactive imagination running wild, but some of Kyle’s more farfetched ideas didn’t seem so farfetched anymore. She knew he’d only been trying to inject his usual dose of humor into the situation, but it bothered her. Why didn’t anyone know she was adopted? Roswell wasn’t that big of a town.

Liz turned the puzzle box over in her hands again, absorbed in her own thoughts. She heard the phone ring and it took her a minute to remember she was the only one home. Biting back a swear, she jumped up and raced around the apartment for the phone. Kyle had used it that morning, but why he put things where he put them was something she had never figured out. She heard the machine pick up as she managed to trip over one of Kyle’s shoes.

“Kyle, it’s your father. I need you to call me right away. It’s important.”

The tone in Jim Valenti’s voice was one she knew well. She’d heard it dozens of times and it always meant trouble. Rubbing at her knee where it had struck a table, Liz spotted the phone peeking out from under Kyle’s bed. She made a grab for it and punched in Jim’s number.

“Valenti.”

“Jim? Hi, it’s Liz. Sorry I missed your call. What’s wrong?” Max immediately sprung to mind. Had something happened to him? Or maybe Maria? Hadn’t Alex told her Maria would need her help?

Jim paused, unsure how to handle the situation. “Liz. Hi. Is Kyle around?” He tried to keep his voice light. He was sure his message had sounded pretty dire, and he kicked himself for it.

“No, Mel roped him into going shopping with her. Is everything okay?” Why wouldn’t he answer her question?

“Yeah. Sorry to scare you. I just wanted to talk to Kyle about something. It’s, uh, about his favorite sports team I found out this morning.”

Liz frowned. “You’re sure?”

“Absolutely. So, what are you kids doing tonight? Nothing illegal, right?”

Despite herself, Liz smiled. “Well, first we were going to egg some houses, then maybe do a little light vandalizing. Then we were going to buy some street drugs and drink ourselves into a coma.”

“I think you’re spending too much time around Kyle.”

“You may be right. We’re going to a party. And don’t worry. I don’t think there’ll be any drinking, at least I know I won’t be.” Her last experience still left a bad taste in her mouth. “And I have a date.”

“Really?” Jim’s ears picked up and his paternal side kicked in again. “So soon? Are you sure you’re ready?”

“You know, you’re worse than Kyle is. Relax. It’s just a friendly thing. Kyle and Mel both have dates and I didn’t want to be the fifth wheel.”

“Well, just be careful. And if he tries anything funny-“

“I’ll give you a call.” And the fact that she could and he would come running to defend her honor gave her a warm feeling.

“Alright. I’ll let you go. Just have Kyle give me a call. But it can wait until tomorrow if you guys have to get going. Just be careful.”

“Yes, Dad,” she teased, then a thought hit her. “Oh, wait. Can I ask you a favor?”

“Anything.”

“Can you get me Phillip Evan’s office number?”

“Sure, but why? What’s this about?” His police instincts were kicking in and they were telling him trouble was coming.

“I just need to talk to him about something.” Liz hesitated to drag him into the middle of this, but knew she would be needing him if Phillip didn’t know anything. “I know it seems strange, but I need to talk to Mr. Evans first. I promise I’ll tell you everything that’s going on. I just need to figure it out myself first.”

“Okay, Liz.” He rattled off the number to her and waited for her to jot it down. Kyle would know what was going on and if it were important, Kyle would convince Liz to tell him. So, he would trust them for now.

“Thanks, Jim. I know you’re going on faith here, and I appreciate it.”

“I’ll talk to you next week then. Bye, Liz.”

“Bye, Jim.”

Liz hung up the phone and carried it back into the living room where it belonged. She stared at the piece of paper in her hand and weighed her options. She could call Phillip Evans and get it over with. Eventually, she would have to speak with him.

Shaking herself out of her daze, she reached for the phone. Why was she afraid to talk to him? Just because he was Max’s father? That was ludicrous. She needed information and he had it. She punched in the first few numbers, cursing herself for reverting back to a coward. She’d vowed to develop a backbone and then she goes spineless.

The phone began ringing. Liz tapped her pen against the table. After the third ring, she began to think he wasn’t there. The front door opened behind her and Mel and Kyle came in the room arguing.

“I was not flirting with that guy.” Mel tossed her keys on the coffee table, stripping off her leather jacket.

“I’m sorry. Don’t I have two eyes? I think I was there. You were all over him. It was pretty disgusting.” Kyle began the process of dumping the bags he had been juggling.

“What’s it to you anyway?” She turned to glare at Kyle.

“That guy was a dog. If you’re going to embarrass yourself by hanging all over some guy, at least let him be worth your time.” Kyle returned her glare.

“Embarrass myself? Have you been hit in the head one too many times? I wasn’t even flirting with him. Now, if it was just my natural charm oozing through, then I can hardly help that.”

Kyle snorted at her answer. “Natural charm? Are you joking?”

Liz hung up the phone to intercede before blood was shed. “Okay, guys. Can we just back off a second?” Why did it always feel like she was playing referee with them?

“Finally, a voice of reason. Hey, Liz. We picked up that dress you wanted.”

“Great. The blue one, right?”

“You got it. I think it’s in the red bag by Retard-Boy’s feet.”

“Hey!” Kyle was trying to decide if he was offended, but he caught the ghost of a smirk on Mel’s face. Instead, he turned to Liz. “We didn’t interrupt, did we?” He gestured towards the phone.

“No.” But Kyle’s attention had been drawn to the table where her scrap of paper still sat. She wondered why she had the sudden ridiculous urge to run and snatch it away.

Kyle had spied the sheet of paper and something about the phone number on it caught his eye. “This is…” He trailed off, looking at Liz.

“Yeah.” What more could she say?

Kyle continued to watch her. She’d tried to call Mr. Evans? “Well?”

“No answer.”

“Excuse me. Is this one of those conversations that doesn’t involve me in any way?” Mel glanced back and forth between the two of them, minor irritation showing on her face. When neither of them answered, she began picking up the closest bags to her. “Fine. I’ll just disappear and you two can discuss who really shot Kennedy and the other top secret things you don’t want me to know about.”

Liz watched Mel storm away, and she sighed. “Kyle, this is dumb. I’m so tired of lying.”

Kyle saw the sadness in her eyes and as much as he wanted to tell her to leave Mel out of it, he really didn’t have a good reason. All he had were his suspicions and he wasn’t ready to tell Liz yet. And if telling Mel about her adoption would ease some of the guilt from lying about everything else, then so be it.

“So, tell her.”

“What?” Liz shot a glance at Kyle. “Are you crazy?” she hissed.

“Not about that.” Kyle shook his head. “About you. If you want her help, tell her. Otherwise she’ll get over it. She’s not exactly an open book herself. She’s just ticked at me.”

Liz shook her head. “No, I don’t think so. I never thought about it, but I guess we do exclude her from a lot.” She stood. “I’m going to go talk to her.”

“Good luck,” Kyle mumbled. “Hey,” he yelled at Liz’s back. “Are you going to call him back?”

“Tomorrow. I don’t think he’s in the office today.”

Kyle nodded. “You’re not a coward, you know.”

Liz didn’t even bother to act surprised. Kyle was getting better and better at reading her mind. “It helps to hear it.”

She knocked on Mel’s door. “Mel? I know you’re in there. Can I talk to you for a second?”

Mel swung her door open. “Look,” she let out a breath. “I didn’t mean to throw a temper tantrum out there. I just spent an hour at the mall with Valenti. My nerves are a little frazzled.”

“No, it’s okay. I owe you an apology. Kyle and I, we’re just used to keeping things to ourselves. In Roswell, we had this pretty exclusive group and I think I’m out of practice when it comes to trusting people. And I do trust you.” Liz took a seat on Mel’s bed.

“You know that Kyle and I have kind of shady backgrounds.”

Mel took a seat beside her, amazed she might actually find out something first hand instead of through overheard conversations. “I gathered that.”

“Yeah. Well, we have secrets that aren’t ours to tell. And if they got out, people we love would be in danger. I’m sorry I can’t tell you more than that.”

“Is that why you left Roswell?”

“Yes. It just got to be too much.” Liz tucked a strand of hair behind her ear. “But that wasn’t what Kyle and I were talking about in the living room.” Liz picked up a screwdriver that was sitting on the bed beside her and began playing with it. “When Kyle came after me, my parents gave him a letter to give to me. It took me a long time to read it. But basically, they thought one of the reasons I left was because I was adopted.”

Mel waited for the rest that she was sure would come. “And?”

“And I didn’t know that.”

“Oh.” And then the last few weeks made a bit more sense. “So, they thought you knew and you really didn’t until you read the letter?” Mel thought about it. “Wow, that sucks.”

Liz chuckled. “I’ll say.”

“So, what was the thing in the living room about?”

“Basically, nobody knows where I came from. My grandmother brought me to my parents and she told something to the lawyer that I’m hoping can help me. I was trying to call him when you guys came home. I talked to my parents on Christmas and I didn’t even say anything to Kyle until last night. I didn’t mean to exclude you, but I guess it was just habit.”

“That and the boy knows how to pester you to death until you want to chew off your own arm to get away. I can see how you’d tell him.”

“Okay, that was a bit more graphic than I think was necessary, but it works.” Liz glanced at her friend. “So, we’re good?”

“We’re good. In fact, if you want my help, you’ve got it.”

“I was hoping you’d say that.” Liz smiled, feeling some of the burden lift off her shoulders. Maybe this wouldn’t be as hard as she’d feared. She would call Phillip Evans in the morning and in the meantime, they would go out tonight and have a good time. And she made a vow to herself that she would not mope or brood at all tonight. She would go out with Tag and have a perfectly normal evening if it killed her. For once, she would trust that everything would be fine.


posted on 21-Dec-2001 1:51:05 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Good afternoon! Okay, I bet you didn't think you were going to hear from me today, right? Well, long story short, my computer fritzed again and wouldn't let me open part 59 AGAIN. This happened with the part after Christmas too. So, after I swore and threw things at my computer for awhile, I remembered that the very lovely Abbi had a copy of most of this part that I'd e-mailed her yesterday. Unfortunately, I'm on the east coast and Abbi is not. So, after she was great enough to get it back to me, I finished it up and here you go. Wow, did I say that would be a short story? Sorry. Okay, I don't know when you're going to get your next part. You MAY see one Monday, but if it's not up by noon eastern time then it's not happening until Wednesday. So, if I don't speak to you guys again, have happy and safe holidays. Hugs to you all!

Finding Yourself
Part 59

"So, tell me more about yourself, Mark." Max ignored the death glare his sister had been sending him for the last hour. If she was going to be crazy enough to bring a cop as her date, did she really expect him not to interrogate the guy?

"Max-" Isabel warned. "I think Mark has already told you enough of his life story. Don't you?"

"Don't worry about it, Isabel. I have three sisters. I'd do the same thing." Mark smiled warmly at her.

Max tried not to choke on his water. Instead, he turned a plastic smile to the man who thought he wanted to date his sister. "Great. So, you don't mind if I ask if you have a criminal record."

"Max!" Isabel turned a dozen shades of red, each one darker than the last. She sunk back in her chair, mortified. She'd really hoped her brother would be on his best behavior, but it looked as though he was going to be difficult.

Maria chuckled from the other side of the table. Max seemed to have developed a deep-set mistrust in the entire human population, especially the ones that were interested in dating Isabel. But Maria actually liked Mark. He seemed genuine and had been quite friendly, despite the interrogation Max had been putting him through since their meeting.

She relaxed against Michael's arms, absorbing the warmth of his body. Michael had even been on his best behavior, even though she knew he was dying to interrogate Mark himself. And she loved him all the more for it. And poor Sara. The girl had been sitting, virtually silent the entire time
they'd been there. And she had no one to blame but herself for that. Maria had hoped Sara's presence would at least keep Max's line of questioning down to friendly. But now she sat, all but ignored.

And she could hardly blame Max for it. His heart hadn't been in celebrating New Years to begin with. And she understood his reluctance. If she knew her friend, he was in full brood mode and the thought of starting the year without Liz didn't make him want to jump through hoops. But he seemed to be taking that frustration out on Mark. And while it made for an entertaining dinner show, Isabel was going to blow her top soon.

With a sigh of contentment, she let her attention waver long enough to take in the busy restaurant. She was glad she had made the reservation last month. The place was filled beyond capacity, the bar reaping the rewards of the crowded evening. They'd opened the restaurant a few months ago with the hopes of it becoming a new hot spot and it looked as though it had worked.

Her gaze flickered around the room, smiling as she made the occasional eye contact with someone. Faces melted together in the sea of strangers. So, when she found herself looking into the long familiar face from her childhood, her eyes widened in shock.

"Jesse?" Maria whispered, then repeated again, a bit louder.

Michael heard his girlfriend's whisper and something about the tone sounded wistful. He turned to follow her gaze and found a tall, dark haired man grinned madly at Maria. He quickly wound his way through the crowd even as Maria was pushing to her feet. They met in the middle in a crushing bear hug that stopped all conversation around the table.

"Maria Deluca. I can't believe it's you. You're stunning."

Maria fluffed out her hair dramatically. "Well, naturally. Look at you. You're not so bad looking yourself. God, it's been like five years."

Michael cleared his throat loudly. He sized up the man that still held his girlfriend in his arms, and Michael decided that he could take him. He was tall, but a bit on the scrawny side. As strong as the urge to pummel this guy was, something in him whispered that he looked familiar.

Maria turned her attention back to the table. "Oh, sorry. Jesse, I want you to meet everyone. This is Isabel and her date Mark, Max and Sara, and my boyfriend, Michael."

Jesse wiggled his eyebrows at Maria and she giggled.

Something was strange about the gesture. He could have sworn he'd seen it before. Then it hit him like a ton of bricks. The reason why this guy's gestures were so familiar was because they were Alex's.

"Guys, I want you to meet Jesse Whitman. He's Alex's brother."

Maria watched as that piece of information settled in. She expected and saw the guilt that flashed over Max's face. Isabel registered only sadness and Michael, surprisingly enough was smiling.

"I didn't even know Alex had a brother." Michael held out a hand now, realizing that he was a childhood friend, and not a threat.

"Well, I don't think they talked about me much. I'm sort of the family secret."

"Sit and tell me everything. Where have you been? Last I heard, you took off for Europe somewhere when you got the research grant." Maria snagged a chair from a nearby table and pushed Jesse into it.

"Six months in Milan, then I moved around a bit more. I ended up settling in Switzerland. I found a lab that offered me a sackful of money for my research. The only problem was that I couldn't leave until the study was done." Jesse made himself comfortable. He knew if he was intruding, Maria would tell him. She always was a straight shooter.

"So, what exactly do you do?" Max found his voice. He had to find a way past the guilt of Alex's death.

"I've been working on cancer research mainly. I go where the money takes me." Jesse took another look at Maria, amazed by the confident woman she'd grown up to be. "I can't get over how great you look. The last time I saw you, you and Liz and Alex were trying to come up with enough money to take some summer camp thing."

Maria rolled her eyes. "I don't even want to think about that. We washed cars and walked dogs for months. But we were determined to get out of Roswell for the summer."

"Where is Liz? Is she meeting you here?" Automatically, Jesse began looking around the restaurant for signs of Liz.

The group turned silent, not knowing what to say.

"What? Did I say something wrong?"

"No, it's just that Liz isn't here. She left town about six months ago. Things got to be just a little too much."

"You mean Alex's death?" Jesse's eyes clouded over, all traces of humor gone. "You don't know what it did to me not to be able to come home for his funeral. I tried doing everything I could. But by the time I found out, it was too late for me to catch a plane."

Maria laid a hand over his. "It was lovely. I looked for you, but your dad explained it when I asked. I'm sorry you couldn't come."

"Yeah." He forced the guilt and sadness away. "So, is Liz okay now? I can't imagine what you guys went though. For as long as I've known you, you guys were inseparable."

Maria felt Michael's arms come around her and she was grateful for the comfort. "I talked to her at Christmas and she's doing better. It was just a shock. But I know she'd be happy to know you thought about her. You know, she always did have that crush on you."

Jesse grinned at the thought. "Yeah, I kind of knew. For a month she followed me around wherever I went. And I was too cool for that back then."

"You crushed her," Maria joked. She'd accepted that there would always be this sliver of pain whenever she thought about Alex. But she wanted to be able to talk about their years together without losing it.

"So, Jesse, are you in town for long?" Michael interrupted. He wanted Maria to have some time to reminisce with Alex's brother, but there were a few people at the table who had never met Alex before.

"I haven't decided yet. ENMU is considering my proposal, so I may be sticking around indefinitely. We'll just have to see."

Maria's brain began working and she shifted gears easily. "Well, the town has changed quite a bit since you've been gone. You probably won't even recognize it. In fact, you might want to take a few days to get reacquainted. And I know the perfect person to help you out. Sara here knows this town like the back of her hand."

Sara choked on her soda and Max patted her lightly on the back. A smile crept up on him as he saw what Maria was trying to do.

"Me? Oh, I'm actually a bit busy-"

"Sara and her mother run a foster home just outside of town." Maria gushed, leaning towards Jesse. She knew he was a sucker for charities. He had almost as soft a heart as Alex's.

"Oh, really? Which one? I used to help out at a couple of places before I left town." Jesse turned his attention to the quiet redhead in the corner.

"The, uh, Hudson House." What was wrong with her? She wasn't usually this tongue tied around men. She had even been confident at one point. But ten minutes in this guys' presence and she was stammering.

"I've heard of that place. In fact, I think I met your mother a few times. She's a wonderful lady."

Maria grinned wildly as they began a conversation of their own. Michael leaned over to plant a kiss on her cheek. "You do good work."

"I try."

Mark decided to take advantage of the lapse in the former interrogation and turned to Isabel. She'd been fidgety since this long lost friend had sat down and he wanted to make her comfortable again. "Would you like to dance?"

"I'd love to." She didn't question how he knew she wanted to get away from the table and from Jesse, but she simply went with him. She wanted time to compose her thoughts before she spoke with Alex's brother.

Maria and Michael watched as Mark led Isabel out onto the dance floor. Max had gone back to glaring at the couple, but it was a half-hearted effort now.

Max listened to Jesse and Sara interact, but his mind was elsewhere. Liz had told him stories about Alex's older brother and how close he had been with Alex. Alex had been six when he’d moved to Roswell and though Jesse was older by five years, they two had been inseparable. Then Alex had befriended Liz and Maria and Jesse had made friends his own age. Now that he knew who the man was, he could see that the resemblance was striking. And it made his heart ache for the needless pain Alex had suffered through before he died.

He had no idea how much time had passed as he sat at the table. Maria had been gracious enough to leave him to his brooding and had gone off to dance with Michael. And at some point, Sara had timidly asked if it was all right for her to dance with Jesse. He had mumbled something at the time and off they had gone.

Now, Max sat alone at their table. The people around him had been fluttering around quicker and he figured it had to be close to midnight. Their happy voices carried over to him and it suddenly became too much. He didn't belong here with these happy people. He didn't have any great hopes and dreams for the coming year. The only thing he had to hope for was seeing Liz again. But even that was a selfish hope. Because he'd been listening to the voice in the back of his head that told him Liz was better off wherever she was. The tape he'd seen of her playing in the snow, carefree and happy, reminded him of a time so long ago when words like destiny had just been words spoken in love stories. But they could never be that carefree again. And if he clung to the hope that they would be together again someday, he knew it would only happen if she were dragged back into his life. And that was what had destroyed her to begin with.

Max rose from the table, looking for the quickest exit out of the place. He grabbed his dinner jacket and headed against the crowd toward the fresh air. Michael and Maria would understand. Isabel and Mark would be glad to be rid of him and Sara was too busy with Jesse to really miss him. He jumped into his Jeep and sped out of the parking lot. All around him, couples walked
the street, laughing and counting down the time until they could ring in the New Year. And all Max knew was that he couldn't breath. Something was choking him, but he didn't know what.

He drove aimlessly, without purpose or direction. And when he pulled to a stop at a red light, he realized that he had arrived. Max swung the Jeep into the parking lot and set out across the damp earth. He was careful in his steps, stopping only when he saw the immortal words carved on the grave marker before him.

Alex Whitman

Beloved Son and Friend


Max sank to his knees in the grass and braced himself against the marker. The grass had grown high and there were several weeds that threatened to overtake the plot. Max made quick work of them, not satisfied until the Alex’s final resting place was once again tidy. It was only then that he allowed himself to sit back.

“Hey, Alex. I know I’m probably the last person you expected to see out here, and especially tonight, but I just had this feeling.” Max shrugged. “I’ve learned not to ignore gut instinct. If I’d done that, neither of us would be here right now.”

His gaze shifted to the edge of the plot where a hand gathered bouquet of wildflowers perched. “It looks like someone brought you flowers. And from the pink bow on them, I’d say it was Maria. She’s always doing goofy things the rest of us would never think of. I didn’t bring anything myself. But I will next time.”

Max paused, not sure what he wanted to say. “I don’t know where you are right now. I never believed in religion much before, but I’m beginning to wonder. Something tells me wherever you are, you’re watching us all. And I’m sure if you could have, you’d have kicked my ass over how I treated Liz. And I would have gladly let you. I guess what I’m saying, is if you can, keep an eye on Liz for me. I don’t know how I know, but I have this feeling that something’s coming. It’s this sense of anticipation I’ve been trying to ignore. But it’s getting stronger now. So, I don’t know what’s coming, but just watch out for her. And I’ll keep an eye on Maria for you.”

Weary, Max gave in to the emotion, dropping his head to his knee. The last few months had caught up with him and all he wanted to do now was crawl into bed and sleep for a week. Ana was going to be okay and with her health came a one way ticket out of Roswell. He’d tried to ignore that as well. But he knew the day was rapidly approaching.

“I miss her,” he whispered. “I just wish there was some way to tell her that. When she left, everything was so screwed up. I still thought the only way to save my son was to leave Earth. But now I know there never was a baby. And I wish I could tell her that I’m still here and whether or not she likes it, I’ll always love her. I may never see her again or if I do, she may not want anything to do with me. But between you and me, it’ll always be her. And if I ever get the chance, I’ll spend the rest of my life making it up to her. Because she deserves the best, even if it isn’t me.” Max scrubbed a hand over his head. “What am I doing? I’m sitting here talking to a grave marker. No offense, Alex. But I think I’ve finally lost it.”

Max rose from the ground, brushing off his pants. “I’ll come back, maybe plant some flowers in the spring. You could use a little bit of color around here and Maria’s thumb is far from green.” He thought of Liz again, wondered for the thousandth time where she was. “Just take care of her, Alex. She’s stubborn and she probably won’t let Kyle help her out. You know that better than I do.”

Max stuffed his hands in his pockets and set off slowly back towards the Jeep, wondering if he could indeed sneak into the hospital again.

Perched atop a grave marker, Alex let out a sigh. He hoped they were strong enough for the times that were coming. Liz at least had an idea. Max seemed to have a feeling, but the others were too hard to read. It seemed that he was going to have to keep a closer eye on everyone.

“You’re right, Max. Something is coming. But what will happen when it does?”






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 21-Dec-2001 1:52:11 PM ]
posted on 24-Dec-2001 8:11:10 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Morning, all! Okay, here I am posting for you on Christmas Eve. So, I want feedback from everyone on the board reading this. I only ask for it this one time of year. If I can write, you can leave me love notes. Well, I wasn't going to chop this part into two pieces, but I don't think I'm going to have time today to finish New Years Eve, so you get the first part of it. It's plenty long, but I hate cutting parts. Oh well. The second part will be out Wednesday morning for you. Want to hear a funny story that will probably only be funny to me? For like a week and a half, I couldn't get into the Christmas spirit, because in my head it was over and done with since I wrote that long Christmas part. So, when actual Christmas time came, it was like "oh, Christmas. Didn't we already do all that?" Okay, like I said, maybe it was only funny to me. Side note to that, since I'm writing New Years Eve parts, it feels like I should be getting ready to go party tonight to ring in the New Year. I'm weird that way. Happy holidays to everyone, and I'll see you Wednesday. *happy*

Finding Yourself
Part 60

“You are not wearing that out in public.” Kyle stood in Mel’s doorway, arms folded over his chest as he glared at her.

Mel glanced at the bathrobe she was wearing while she applied her makeup. “My bathrobe? You know, Slick, you say a lot of strange things, but I tend to agree with you on this one.”

“Not your bathrobe. I meant that…catsuit.” He pointed to where her newest clothing purchase hung on her closet door.

“First of all, don’t use your boy terms on any article of my clothing. Second, what business is it of yours?”

“I’ll tell you why it’s my business. If you go out tonight to an unchaparoned party with Greg, he’s going to get certain ideas in his head. And trust me, you don’t want to know what those ideas are.” He strode over to the closet and snatched the hanger off the door.

Fury lighting her steps, Mel followed him and snatched her outfit from his hand. “Maybe I already know what sort of ideas he has. And be assured that you will be the absolute last person I will come to for advice if I decide I don’t like Greg’s ideas.”

Kyle pulled at the hanger but Mel’s grip was too strong. “Maybe I’m just helping out a friend before she gets herself into trouble.”

Mel tugged on her end of the hanger, but Kyle held fast to his half. “Well, maybe I don’t want your help.”

“Maybe you need it.” Kyle gave one final tug with enough force behind it to pull Mel off balance. She stumbled forward, bracing herself against Kyle to prevent falling on her face.

Kyle reached out instinctively to grab her, but caught only a handful of her terrycloth robe. When Kyle saw her belt loosen, the logical part of his brain told him to look away. Instead, he found he could only stare as her robe parted and he was treated to an eyeful of Mel’s creamy skin. Horrified by the bold of blinding lust that sizzled in his body, he jumped back, dropping both Mel and her outfit to the floor.

Mel glared at him from the floor. “What the hell is wrong with you?” He pointed a shaky finger at her and when he continued to stare, open mouthed, she glanced down to find her robe open.

With a shake of her head, she stood up, careful to smooth down the wrinkles in her outfit. “What’s your deal, Tiger? You’ve never seen a bra before? Let me explain the basics to you then. I am a girl. I have girl parts, some of which I occasionally cover with this stretchy material us girls like to call a bra.” She snapped the bra snap of her leopard print bra, grateful tonight had been one of the rare occasions she’d chosen to actually wear one.

“Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have a date to get ready for. As do you, unless she came to her senses already.” Was that desire she saw gleaming in his eyes? God help her if she’d spent the last few months trying to convince him she wasn’t interested only to have him start anew after seeing no more skin than if she’d been wearing a bathing suit. That just wouldn’t do at all.

She dragged him to the open doorway to his bedroom and pushed him inside. “Goodbye.” And she slammed the door in his face.

Stunned speechless, Kyle continued to stand, slack jawed in the middle of his room a minute longer.

“Kyle? Is that you?” Liz popped her head into Kyle’s room from her doorway. “Great! I need your help.” Liz strode across the room and dragged him into hers.

“Okay, here’s the thing. I don’t know what to wear. Should I go with the blue or should I go with the black?”

Kyle shrugged, his senses slowly returning to him. “They both look the same to me. Just pick one.”

“Kyle! This is serious! I need to make a statement and how am I supposed to make a statement if I can’t even pick out a stupid dress?”

Kyle faced the fairly hysterical Liz that stood before him. “Okay, then wear the black.”

“What does the black dress say to you?” She held it up over her white bathrobe.

“Uh, it says ‘sophisticatedly sexy’. Actually, don’t wear that dress.”

“Kyle, I need you to not be a guy. I need you to be a girlfriend. Now, what does the blue dress say?”

He examined the dress thoughtfully. Both dresses were more than a bit more revealing than he would have chosen for her to wear, but both were decidedly less provocative than the catsuit Mel was planning to wear. “Well, that one, to me, says ‘Don’t touch me because I have an alien ex-boyfriend that can blast you with laser beam eyes’.”

“Kyle!” Liz protested, sinking to the bed in defeat. “I’m serious.”

Kyle took a seat beside her. “I know. Why? I thought tonight was supposed to be fun. Don’t you want to go?”

“Yes-No-I don’t know anymore.” She dropped her head in her hands. “Why do I feel like I’m betraying Max?”

This Kyle had been prepared for. He draped an arm around her shoulders. “Do you want to talk about it?”

“I know, logically, that Max and I aren’t together. But in my heart, Kyle…” she trailed off, tears pooling in her eyes.

“You know you can talk to me about Max, right? Just because I think he’s an egotistical bastard doesn’t mean you have to.”

Liz choked out a laugh, knowing it had been his intention. “I still love him, Kyle. There isn’t a day that I don’t think about him, and if he’s safe and healthy and happy. I feel this…pull towards him. And I know that no matter what I do with the rest of my life, it’ll all come back to him.”

“I thought you were still mad at him.” How could she not be?

“I am. But not the way I was. I’m angry that I could be forgotten so easily, that he could brush me aside. I’m angry that he believed that I would sleep with you and betray him, because deep down I didn’t ever think he would.”

“I don’t think I need to mention here that Max did sleep with Tess. Oh, look at that, I did mention it.”

Liz caught the bitterness in his voice and bled for Kyle. He had felt real emotions for Tess and she had convinced him that it was brotherly affection. It had been another mindwarp, another trick she had played on them. And her sleeping with Max had been a stake to the heart. “I know Max slept with Tess. And he’ll have a reminder of that everyday for the rest of his life.” Liz thought of the small child they had created, the child Max should be searching for still. And it made her want to cry for innocence lost. “But honestly, it’s not completely his fault.”

“Okay, you’re about to really piss me off, Liz. If the next words you were about to say were that their sleeping together is in someway your fault, then I don’t want to hear it.”

“I’m not saying it’s my fault. It’s something that was done. But I can’t lynch Max for it. Kyle, you saw his face when he found us in bed together. He was absolutely crushed. He was devastated. And whenever he looked at me after that, there was always a shadow in his mind. Even when he knew the truth, he still couldn’t get that image out of his mind. And honestly, if the situation had been reversed, if I had walked in on Max and Tess having sex, I don’t know what I would have done. But I don’t think I could have calmly walked away and tried to be friends later. Not back then. Not when we were so close to being together again.” Liz bowed her head. Just thinking about it made her want to crawl back into bed and simply give up. How could she ever be okay with it all? How could she ever go home again and not worry about her very presence making Max too weak to do what needed to be done?

“I’m angry about a lot of things.” Her voice was lower now, thick with unshed tears. “I’m angry he didn’t believe in me when your father wanted to say Alex killed himself. And I’m angry that despite it all, I still want to be with him.”

“Then why aren’t you?” Kyle watched her brush away angry tears. He didn’t pretend to know anything about her relationship with Max, but she was still hurting from everything that had happened.

“Because it’s crazy and it’s pointless. Despite everything we’ve been through, he doesn’t belong to me. It still boils down to the basic conclusion I came to when I heard their mother’s message. Max is part of a destiny. He has an entire race of people that depend on him. And when I’m around him, things get muddled. So, if I’m ever going to go back to Roswell, I need to find a way to be strong enough not to melt in his arms. I need to find a way to stop the end of the world from coming just because I can’t say no.”

Kyle met Liz’s eyes and realized exactly the kind of dilemmas she thought she had to face everyday. More than once, he’s wondered what it would take to live with the knowledge Liz lived with. And the wisdom and strength he saw in her eyes were a glimpse of something stronger inside. She just didn’t know it was there yet.

“I already think you’re the strongest person alive.” Kyle squeezed her shoulders. He wanted to lighten the mood. She deserved to go out and have fun. She deserved a night or two off from constantly worrying about ending the world with her actions. “And when the time comes, you’ll be ready. Because you’re Liz Parker, the girl that brought two races of beings together and made a family out of them. And one day you’ll go back. And you’ll be so amazingly strong and confident they won’t even recognize you. Now, if you can tackle time travel and interplanetary wars, then I think I can at least pick out a dress.” He examined the two again. “Are you sure you don’t want to go with a nice turtleneck?” When Liz only pursed her lips, Kyle picked up the black dress. “Then go with this one.”

Liz sprang up from the bed and immediately stripped out of her bathrobe.

“Liz! I’m still here, you know.” Kyle quickly averted his eyes, thankful when she pulled the dress from his hands. What was it with women stripping in front of him today? And why didn’t it happen more often?

“Not that I don’t appreciate the free peep show, but you couldn’t have felt that comfortable in my presence when we were actually dating to strip down to your underwear?”

Liz rolled her eyes as she slipped the fabric over her head. “If I can trust you with the innermost workings of my heart and my soul, I think I can trust you to not attack me in my underwear.”

Kyle sighed. “I think my sex appeal is slipping.”



posted on 26-Dec-2001 2:17:16 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Good afternoon! Okay, I FINALLY finished this part. Somehow the parts with Mel and Kyle end up longer than anything else. But who's complaining? So, this part ended up being close to ten pages long by the time I was done with it. So, it's a good thing I did break it up earlier. Thank you all for the wonderful feedback you gave me. I love when I can pull people out of lurkdom just to say hi. Even if it is only for the holidays, I appreciate it. And I'm glad you're all enjoying the story. No shameless feedback begging on this one though, I don't think I'm going to need it - hehehe I'll just leave you with that thought now. Love you all!

Finding Yourself
Part 61

“Liz, you’ve got to help me.”

Liz and Mel had no sooner arrived at the New Years Eve party when Mel had grabbed Liz by the arm and dragged her into the bathroom.

“What’s wrong?” Liz asked when they were safely in the bathroom.

“This may come as a shock to you, but I don’t date much.”

Liz gave a sigh of relief that ended as a chuckle. That was her big dilemma?

“I’m glad this is fun for you,” Mel glared at Liz. This was serious.

“I’m sorry. But if it helps, I’m a bit nervous too.”

Mel waved away the implication. “I’m not nervous, I’m lost. And frankly, I wouldn’t mind being here alone.” After all, she was used to being alone. She’d spent her entire life just fine without feeling the need to date or keep a penpal in every state she’d lived in.

“So, why are you here with Greg then?”

Someone knocked on the bathroom door from the hallway and Mel threw her weight against it. “Go away!” She turned back to Liz. “Okay, well it’s this whole long story that I won’t bore you with. But basically, Kyle insinuated that I couldn’t get a date for tonight.”

“And naturally you had to prove him wrong.”

“Exactly. So, what I need you to do is help me out. What am I supposed to do on a date?”

“Oh, no. Trust me. I am absolutely the last person you want dating advice from.”

The pounding on the door became more insistent, but both girls ignored it. Mel continued to plead with her eyes and finally, Liz relented.

“Oh, all right. Just be yourself. I’m sure he’ll like the real you just fine.”

Mel twisted her lips into a wry grin. “Yeah, I’m sure he’ll be impressed to know that I can strip his car and put it back together again.”

“You can do that?” Liz asked, impressed.

“Let’s save that conversation for when we’re dating and I’m trying to impress you. For now, I need real help. I’m not looking for anything long term here. I just want him to not leave me before the night is over.”

Liz considered it. She knew somehow she would end up regretting her next advice, but she knew there was no way Mel was actually interested in Greg. He was one of the school’s biggest jock and completely opposite of Mel’s type, if she even had one. “Now, this is horrible, bad advice in any other situation, but I guess you should pretend to be interested in whatever he’s interested in.”

Mel thought about it. “Okay, he’s a complete moron, but I think I can suffer through a few hours of smiling and nodding as long as it wipes that all knowing smirk off his face.”

“That’s probably the most deranged thing I’ve ever heard you say. But I hope it works out for you. Can we go back to the party now?”

“Yeah, sure. How do I look?” Mel dashed to the mirror to fluff out her hair. She smoothed down the leather of the one piece pant suit. A catsuit Kyle had called it. It just showed what he knew. She’d worked hard to afford the outfit doing both photography and some mechanic work on the side. She didn’t mind it really. They were both things she loved. But she had treated herself and Kyle had the gall to insult it and by extension her.

With a smirk, she eyed the zipper that ran from her neck to her stomach. She pulled the zipper down a few inches, just enough to show a hint of the cleavage she usually didn’t give a second thought to. If Kyle wanted to glare at her all night, she might as well give him a reason to glare.

Liz watched Mel primp in front of the mirror and she grinned. Somehow, she didn’t think the extra effort was for the benefit of her date.

“He won’t know what hit him.” Liz stated, envisioning the look on Kyle’s face. All it would take for Kyle to snap Greg’s neck was one straying glance.

Together the two girls rejoined the party, locating their dates where they had left them.

“Hey,” Tag smiled when he saw Liz approach. “We were wondering if you two had gotten lost.”

“Almost. You didn’t tell me your parents’ house was so large.”

Tag shrugged. “It’s home. We just ran into Kyle and Chrissy. He said he was going to get drinks and they were coming right back.”

Mel grinned. “Really? Well then, let’s move on somewhere else.” If he thought he could issue demands, he had another thing coming. “Let’s dance,” she suggested to Greg.

“Sounds great.” Greg grabbed Mel by the arm and led her roughly to where the other couples were dancing on the makeshift dance floor.

“You want to join them?” Liz suggested. She couldn’t explain why, but there were butterflies in her stomach. Not to mention that sliver of guilt that was piercing her heart with every word.

“Anything you want.”

Tag smiled at her and she felt even guiltier. He really was trying to be nice and she felt like she was deceiving him as well. Kyle’s parting words before he’d left to pick up Chrissy ran through her head.

Just go out and have a good time. You don’t have to fall in love with the guy. The fate of the universe doesn’t have to sit on your shoulders all the time.

And she had realized Kyle had been right. She was still weighing her decisions in terms of global destruction. And it was time to stop. She was going to have fun if it killed her.

*~*~

Mel slowed her dancing to a stop when the last song faded out. A quick glance at her watch told her she’d been dancing for well over an hour. Liz and Tag had joined them and they’d been having a grand time until Kyle and his disapproving chaperone glare had invaded. He’d dragged Chrissy on the dance floor and hadn’t let either her or Liz out of his sight since.

The highlight so far had been when Greg’s hands had begun to roam just a bit further than she cared for. But instead of treating him to her right hook, she had moved out of his reach. He probably figured her for a tease, and the very thought of his hands on her was enough to make her sick. But she was determined to show Kyle she could keep a date interested. So, when the last song had ended, she’d figured it was as good a time as any to take a break and cool off.

“Let’s grab something to drink and talk for awhile,” she suggested.

“Great idea. I hear there are free rooms upstairs.”

Mel swallowed the urge to laugh. “I was thinking more along the lines of sitting outside on the deck.”

“Hey guys. Great music, huh? So, what are we up to? Taking a break? Good idea. Mind if Chrissy and I join you?” Kyle’s voice was cheerful, but behind it was rigid steel. It had taken every ounce of self control he possessed not to strangle the life out of Greg. How could Mel not see the way he’d been looking at her all night? And when he’d seen them take a break, he knew Mel would kill him for it later, but he wanted to make sure he didn’t try anything stupid. Nobody messed with his Mel and got away with it.

“Actually, we were wanting some alone time.” Greg stated, one hand on Mel’s arm.

“We’d love some company,” Mel announced cheerfully the same time Greg spoke. She wasn’t actually worried about not being able to handle this goon, but she more wanted to show Kyle that she could keep a date interested.

“So, I’ll go get us some drinks and meet you three outside.” Kyle all but pushed Chrissy towards the couple and headed towards the drinks.

Liz and Tag saw the other couples break apart and he nodded toward them. “You want to join them?”

Liz shook her head. Kyle and Mel would be trying to annoy each other all night and she got to see that every day. “No, I live with them. That’s enough.”

Tag caught a glimpse of a couple of early drunks making their way clumsily through the crowd and he reached out to pull Liz out of the way. Instinctively, Liz avoided his touch, then cursed herself for it when she saw the look in his eyes. She was so used to keeping her distance from people, she didn’t know how to let the wall back down.

“I’m going to get us something to drink,” Tag announced, moving away from the other dancers.

Liz reached out and grabbed his arm now. “Tag, wait.” When he turned around to face her, she let out a deep breath. “Can we talk somewhere? Private?”

“Yeah. Follow me.” He didn’t dare reach for her again and he led the way up the stairs and down the long hallway. Stopping in front of a door, he reached into his pocket for a set of keys. He unlocked the door quickly and opened the door wide for Liz to enter.

Liz walked into the bedroom and immediately recognized it as Tag’s. The room just gave off a vibe that was uniquely him. She watched as he crossed to the large oak desk and sat in the chair facing her. And she knew she had to tell him something.

“Okay. What’s up, Liz? If I’ve done something wrong, tell me what it is.”

“No, it’s not you, Tag. It’s just this complicated situation. You’re a great guy-“

“Why do I hear a ‘but’ coming?” There was a trace of sarcasm in his voice.

Liz began pacing the room. “The thing is…okay, there’s no really good way to say what I have to say, so I’m just going to say it. I mean, there’s no point in beating around the bush and avoiding the topic until I end up rambling on and on. So, I’m just going to say what I need to say and I would appreciate it if you wouldn’t interrupt me because I’m not used to doing this.”

Tag grinned now. She was babbling while she paced and he already had a pretty good idea of what she wanted to say. But there was no harm in having a bit of fun with her first. “Are you trying to tell me you’re gay?”

Liz stopped pacing and looked up, confused. “What? No.”

“Married then?”

“I’m only seventeen.”

“You’re not suffering from a terminal illness, are you?”

“You’re making fun of me.”

“Well, if it’s none of those things, I’m going to guess that somewhere along the line someone broke your heart and you’re a little afraid to get involved with me.”

Liz opened her mouth to deny it, then thought better of it and closed her mouth. She sat down on the bed. “Do I wear a sign on my back or something?”

“It’s okay, Liz. I understand. You just have this look in your eyes. My sister had the same look after her boyfriend broke things off with her last year.” He shrugged. “I figured it was something like that.”

Liz turned her gaze to her hands. “I’m not over him yet. I feel like I need to tell you that. I know you wanted us to go out, but I just want to be fair to you and let you know that I don’t know that I ever will be over him.”

“You’re still in love with him.”

“Yes.” Liz raised her eyes to meet Tag now.

Though there was quick flash of disappointment, he recovered quickly. “Okay. It’s good to know. But it doesn’t really change anything.”

“What do you mean?”

“Liz, when I first met you, the first thought I had, after wondering if I’d caused you any permanent brain damage, was that you had this look in your eye. I can’t exactly explain it, but I knew I’d found someone to do things with. I’m not looking for anything serious. I’m only nineteen years old. I don’t want forever yet. But I’m not looking for a one-night stand either. I want to see the world. I want to do a hundred things. And I want someone to see them with me, regardless of whether we actually date or not.”

Liz considered his words, thinking back to the initial reaction she’d had to him as well. She had seen the gleam in his eye, the hunger to explore. And something inside of her had recognized it. “I feel really bad about doing this.”

“I know. But I’m telling you that you don’t have to. Look, no pressure. You can take your time and figure out what you want. But why don’t we start out as friends?” He stood and held out his hand to her.

“Friends, huh?” The guilt in her heart lessened a bit. She stood with him. “I think I can do with another friend.” She accepted his hand and they shook heartily.

“And I appreciate the honesty. You want to tell me about him? I like to know who my competition is,” he joked.

“Someday. But not tonight. I heard there was this wild party going on downstairs. Maybe we should rejoin it before rumors start flying about us.”

Tag offered his arm to her and she accepted it with a smile. Friends were always good to have around. Now that she knew there wasn’t any pressure and she didn’t feel like she was leading him on, she knew she could relax.

“Let’s party. Oh, and Kyle warned me not to get you drunk again. Actually, he more threatened me.”

Liz rolled her eyes. “Who needs a father with Kyle around? I think I did pretty good last time. I made some money and a new friend. But since my stomach still quivers whenever I smell alcohol, I think I may stay away from it for the evening.”

“Probably a good idea. Besides, it’s always more fun when you can remember the party.”

*~*~

“That’s fascinating, Greg. Tell me more.” Mel had to force the smile onto her face. She couldn’t remember the last time she had been more bored in her life. They’d been sitting outside for what seemed like an eternity and she actually longed to go back to dancing, even with the roaming hands. At least then she wouldn’t have to listen to Greg’s annoying take on life. If he shared one more insight with her, she was going to throw herself off the balcony.

“Oh, Greg has been telling us about himself all night, Mel. I’m sure he’s tired of talking.” Please let him be tired of talking. Kyle had never had to suffer through a longer evening in his life. Not to mention that he had yet to actually have a conversation with Chrissy. He’d spent a week trying to convince her to go out with him tonight. But she’d decided to play hard to get and he’d played the part she’d expected, wooing her at every chance. But now that he had her here, he was virtually ignoring her and he would have to find a way to make it up to her. But that would come later. For now, he had to make sure that Mel got home safe and sound and without any grimy fingerprints on her.

Greg frowned when Kyle interrupted. “No, it’s okay. Mel asked me to explain the basics of football again.”

“Mel already knows everything she needs to know about football. I explained it to her already.” Kyle stated through gritted teeth.

“Well, maybe you didn’t explain it good enough.” Greg flashed a smile at Mel. “Do you want me to explain an offsides penalty?”

Mel forced a smile. Greg was holding her hand in his large, sweaty one and all she wanted to do was gnaw it off at this point and escape. But Kyle’s mocking face swam in her memory and she steeled up the courage to answer. “I’d love for you to explain it.”

Kyle watched Mel place a hand on Greg’s arm and his temper almost exploded then and there. What was her deal? They’d had an hour long discussion on the topic. He’d explained the basics to her and she could probably teach Greg a thing or two about the sport. Why was she being so complacent? It went completely against her nature. She usually avoided all contact and absolutely hated to be talked down to. Yet, Greg had been doing it all night and she simply batted her eyes at him.

Could she possibly be doing this for his benefit? Sure, he’d teased her a few weeks ago about her non-dating status. But she’d attacked him first, damn it. And then an awful idea formed in his head, a plan so devious it would probably work all too well. Greg might not know what Mel’s buttons were, but he knew them all too well. And he would rather see her as a spitfire hellcat than the meek mouse she had been all night.

Kyle sat back in his chair easily. “I guess you’re right, Greg. Mel isn’t the brightest girl in the school. But then, that’s how I prefer my women.”

Greg grinned widely. “I heard that.” Greg held out his hand for a high five and Kyle gladly slapped palms with him.

Mel felt her temper bubble precariously close to the surface, but she battled it back. She only had a few more hours to go. She could do this. All she had to do was keep her mouth shut.

Kyle saw the inner battle Mel was fighting and he knew he may well be smothered to death with a pillow later tonight, but he decided to take his chances. “I prefer my women to stay at home. I don’t understand why they bother with school at all. And college? Why would they waste their time? They should be barefoot and pregnant.”

“Oh, I agree. It’s not like women could ever be smarter than us anyway.”

Mel counted to ten in her head slowly. When that didn’t work, she tried twenty. Would she ever be able to count high enough to escape her own temper?

“They are the inferior of the species.” Was that steam he saw pouring from Mel’s ears? He wouldn’t have been surprised. She was about to pop and he decided to add insult to injury. He turned his attention to her and he winked.

And with that small gesture, Mel snapped. Date or no date, she was going to set them straight. She jerked her hand away from Greg’s grip and stood quickly. “What the hell is wrong with you two? Do you realize that there are two women at the table with you? Or are you stupid enough not to care? God, in case you’ve missed the last forty odd years, I’ll give you a highlight. Women have been liberated. We don’t need men and their Neanderthal behavior.” She whipped her gaze onto Kyle. “I know you’re just trying to piss me off and when I figure out why, you’re dead.” She narrowed her eyes on Greg. “And you…” She searched for the exact words she was looking for and found none that could be considered pleasant enough to say. “You know what? Forget it, this whole thing was a colossal waste of time.”

“So, you don’t think women should stay at home then.” Kyle couldn’t help himself. He knew he was a dead man. There was no denying it now. She would kill him with a smile on her face.

Mel threw her hands up in frustration and stormed back into the crowded house.

*~*~

Alone, Mel considered her options. She didn’t have a ride home and in her haste to get ready, she’d forgotten to bring any cash with her. She could always catch a ride home with Liz and Tag, but she knew for sure they would be staying all night and she wasn’t sure how much more of this party she could take.

She was far more level headed now than she had been when she’d stormed away from the date from hell. That had been over an hour ago and since then, she’d been hiding on the rooftop of Tag’s house, drowning her sorrows in the bottle of champagne she’d snagged on her way up.

After the rage had subsided, she realized that Kyle had been trying to set her up. He knew it would make her crazy to listen to his crazy talk and she had reacted predictably. That hurt the most. She hated being predictable and she’d let Kyle push all of her buttons. The fact that he knew what buttons to push made her uneasy.

And just looking back on some of the things she’d said throughout the night made her cringe. What had she been thinking? Liz had been right. Agreeing with everything Greg had said was the worst advice she could have been given. But she’d been so determined to prove to Kyle she could date if she wanted to, she’d gotten caught up in it. And knowing that he’d been right hurt even more. The fact that she could admit that, even to herself, meant she’d already had enough to drink. But she took another sip anyway.

“Is it safe to come up?” Kyle came up the stairs to the roof and was relieved to find Mel safe and sound. After she’d left, he’d tried to seek her out and apologize, but he hadn’t been able to find her anywhere. It had panicked him more than a little.

“Why the hell not. It’s not like I have any better offers coming my way.”

The loneliness in her voice sliced through Kyle. He hadn’t meant to hurt her. He’d only been looking out for her. Taking a chance, he approached her and cautiously sat on the cement beside her. Her gaze was focused on the night sky and he wondered what she saw out there. “I think I owe you an apology.”

Mel snorted. “You’re only saying that so I don’t push you off the roof.”

“There may be some truth to that. Hell, I was trying to push your buttons. I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

Mel forced steel back into her spine. Was the alcohol making her weak? “What makes you think you hurt me? Or that you ever could?”

Kyle pulled the bottle from her hand and took a swig. Yep, he’d guessed her defenses would be back up by now. He must have hurt her more than he thought. “I thought we were friends, Mel.”

“Friends? I guess it depends on your definition of the word. But then I wouldn’t know much about that anyway, would I? Poor, sad Mel doesn’t ever date and doesn’t have any friends.” She jerked the bottle back from Kyle’s hand and before she took another sip, she realized how cliché she was being yet again. She set the bottle down and turned her attention back to the sky.

“Look, I was out of line when I said you couldn’t get a date. I didn’t mean it. Look at yourself, Mel. You’re the sexiest woman I’ve ever known in my life. Why you don’t have a string of men following after you, I haven’t figured out yet. The best I can guess is that you don’t want them to. Because I’ve noticed that whatever it is you want, you go after it until it’s yours. So, if you don’t want to date, then it’s your business and I’ll leave you alone about it.” Kyle did a quick count back at how much he’d had to drink. He must be half drunk if he’d just told her she was sexy. No, not just sexy, but the sexiest woman he’d ever known. What the hell had he been thinking? Usually, Mel bristled when he was nice to her and gave her the most basic of compliments.

Mel turned over his words in her head, savoring them. Little sparks of excitement lit in her belly and she couldn’t contain them. How was it that words could make her feel that way? None before tonight ever had. “It’s not like I never date,” she grumbled. “I could if I wanted to.”

“I’m glad you don’t.” Kyle added before he could stop himself. Hell, if he was going to put his foot in his mouth as he seemed destined to do, he may as well get it all out in the open. “What I mean is, it’s hard enough keeping track of Liz. But I don’t have to worry about her half as much as I worry about you.”

He worried about her. It was sweet in a crazy kind of way. But she accepted it and the warm glow it brought her. “Isn’t Chrissy looking for you?” Just thinking about Kyle’s blonde date raised her defenses. What did he see in her anyway?

Kyle grinned. “She took off a few seconds after you did. Apparently, she didn’t think much of my opinions about women and their place in the home.”

Mel scoffed. “Go figure.” She sighed. She had to ask. “And Greg?”

“Oh, he’s gone.” Kyle couldn’t help the grin that spread wider when he thought about the scene he’d made downstairs while he was leaving.

Mel turned and caught the grin and found it spreading on her face before she could stop it. “So, I guess we were both dumped on New Years Eve then?”

“It looks that way.” It was the first New Years he’s spent dateless since he’d discovered girls, but sitting on the chilly roof with Mel was a more compelling prospect than anything else in the world.

“You realize how pathetic that makes us?”

“Not pathetic, just…well, okay I guess it is kind of pathetic. But I’d rather be pathetic with you than pathetic all by myself.”

“Thanks,” she said wryly.

“So, are we good here?”

“Oh no, I’m still going to exact revenge on you. I can however refrain from throwing you off the rooftop tonight.”

“I guess it’s a start.” He slid a glance at her and saw her shiver. He shrugged out of his coat and scooted closer to her on the concrete. “Here.”

Mel tried to bat his hands away, but he was persistent. “I don’t want your coat. It smells like…” Her brain struggled to find a proper insult to throw his way, but the only thing she could think of to say was that it smelled like him, the raw masculine scent that followed him everywhere he went. And she wanted to kill herself for even thinking of it.

“Oh, would you just take the stupid coat already?” He continued to struggle with her. “If you catch pneumonia, I’m not driving you to the hospital.” Why wouldn’t she just slip the stupid thing over her shoulders? Surely, he didn’t smell that bad.

“With the way you drive, I’d have more life threatening injuries to report after we got there anyway.” Why was he being such a persistent ass? It was becoming harder and harder to ignore him and those damned sparks that were making her very skin tingle from the pressure of his fingertips.

Not caring what she wanted anymore, Kyle forced her arms through the sleeves of his jacket. She stilled long enough for him to stuff her in the oversized jacket and he wanted to laugh at how huge it looked on her. But he figured he’d risked his life enough for one night. Instead, he reached down to zip it up and he felt her jolt back to awareness.

“I’ve got it.” She tried to bat his hands away again, but he continued to zip up his jacket.

“I don’t know what you’d do if I wasn’t around to take care of you,” he joked, satisfied now that she was nestled warmly inside of the jacket. But still his finger remained on the zipper. Mel’s cold hands came up to cover his and when he felt the familiar bolt of lust seize his body, he meant to laugh it off as a joke. He meant to pull away from her and do something ridiculously annoying until things were right between them again. He really meant to. Until he raised his eyes to meet Mel’s.

In his struggle to dress her, he hadn’t noticed how close they’d become. She’d tried to kick him earlier, but their legs had only become tangled together. He still held the fabric of his letterman jacket in his hands and now that their struggles were over, they were closer than any two friends should be. His mind screamed out to let her go, to put distance between them and salvage the situation. He could still walk away and they could pretend this moment never existed.

But it wasn’t his brain he was listening to when he pulled her those last few inches closer to him when he should have pushed her away. Because damn it, Mel was looking at him with raw passion in her eyes. And it was all for him.

He watched her part her lips in anticipation, her eyes steady and focused on his every move. His hands moved of their own accord, tangling in the large auburn curls. He’d pulled at them before during their fights, but he’d never noticed how soft they were. And he never could have imagined that they could gleam red in the moonlight.

Mel let go of her thoughts as Kyle pulled her closer. He was going to kiss her. There was no way around it. She could pull back, ease away slowly and throw a smart comment his way. But her mind had shut down the instant she’d felt his fingers curl in her hair. His thumb was making small circles at the base of her jawbone and the friction was delightful. She knew her guard was down, that he could see through her at the moment with those perceptive eyes that saw too much. But she didn’t care. Because all she knew was if Kyle Valenti didn’t kiss her in the next few seconds, she was going to explode.

Kyle continued to take his time, memorizing the feel of her skin beneath the pad of his thumb. Sexual tension had settled into a ball in his stomach. Never before had he had to force his hands not to touch. And never before had he had a stronger urge to touch. And not for the first time, he wondered who this creature was, that she could be so many different things and break through every one of the defenses he had built up inside.

The anticipation was all but making her ache now. Kyle continued to hold her eyes steady, trapped by his piercing stare. He seemed to be looking for an answer to a question she didn’t know how to ask. Damning the consequences, sure she would regret it in the morning when her head was clear and her heart was guarded, Mel closed the distance between them.

The soft pressure of Mel’s lips pressed against his was enough to stop Kyle’s heart. Never in a million years had he thought he would be here in this moment, with this particular girl in his arms. Yet here she was, doing things to his senses that he didn’t think possible. Her arms came up to circle his neck and he used his free hand to pull her closer still until their bodies were pressed together tightly.

Mel was sinking. It was the only way she could describe the sensations inside of her. Kyle was holding her so tight she couldn’t breathe, but if being able to breathe meant letting go, then the choice was already made. She slanted her mouth against his, seeking more from him. A moan vibrated up to her ears, but she wasn’t sure if it was hers or Kyle’s and it hardly mattered. She sunk her fingers into his hair and pulled him closer as desperation clawed inside of her.

Tenderness forgotten, Kyle clutched at Mel, holding on to her as the kiss deepened into something he was sure neither of them was ready for. But as long as she was pulling at him, he was powerless to break the kiss.

Fireworks exploded in the sky and as the sounds reached their ears, reality hit Mel. As the first few bars of singing hit her, she froze. It was midnight and she was all but rolling on the floor with Kyle Valenti. As she became aware of her surroundings again, she pushed at Kyle, desperate to escape from his embrace. She stumbled back on the concrete, her greedy lungs sucking in air. What had she been doing? Was she so pathetic now that she kissed Kyle in the middle of a bout of self-pity? She thought back to the events leading up the kiss and was horrified to realize that she had kissed him.

Kyle watched the emotions play across her face and pain slashed through him. He had expected her to push him away when she had regained her senses. Hell, he had tried to kiss her while she was half-drunk. But it still hurt. Dejected, he stuffed his hands in his pockets. He wanted nothing more than to escape, to flee into the night and lick his wounds. He wanted to figure out what all this meant. Because when he had been kissing Mel, he’d felt the stirrings of something deep and while it terrified him, it had exhilarated him as well. But with Mel? She was completely not his type, everything he didn’t look for in a woman. Yet he found himself fighting the urge to kiss her again.

“Do you want a ride home?” He had chased her date away after all. He owed her at least a ride.

Mel considered her options again. She could say no, wait for Liz and Tag, but it could still be hours yet. And if she said no, Kyle would know that something about that kiss had effected her, had rocked her to her very core. And that was something he would never know. Because nothing would ever come out of it. She just had to find a way to tell Kyle that. She didn’t believe in fairytale love and had only seen it get people in trouble. No, it was best to let things sit for the evening and talk it out in the safety of the daylight.

“Yeah. A ride home would be great.” Without meeting his eyes, she brushed past him and headed for the stairs.

Kyle watched her go, emotion warring within him. “Happy New Year, Mel,” he whispered more to himself than to her. As he followed her down the stairs, a single thought repeated in his brain.

What the hell was he going to do now?

posted on 27-Dec-2001 12:02:34 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Morning, all! Here is your next part, as promised. Okay, let's talk. It seems that somewhere along the line, I've confused myself. Somehow, someway, I made Claudia Nancy's mother and not Jeff's. How I did that, I'm not really sure. It's a big oops on me. So, I can either just sort of edit around it and fix it so that it keeps with the show, or we can just pretend. I hate it when I do things like that. But thanks to SciFiNut and Angela, who pointed it out to me. Sorry if I confused anyone. I just get mixed up in different worlds sometimes and I think I wrote another fic where Claudia was Nancy's mother. I also think I was sick the day I wrote that part. So, ignore me, guys. Enjoy and tomorrow you should have Mel and Kyle having a little talk.

Finding Yourself
Part 62

“Welcome home, Ana.” Max carried Ana into her bedroom in the Hudson house, careful not to jar her. The doctors had warned them of the dangers of pulling stitches and overexerting herself. And Max had been appropriately frightened. They had checked Ana out of the hospital earlier that afternoon and the movement from the journey combined with the drugs they had given her before she left had left Ana mostly asleep.

He settled her in bed, tucking the covers around her small body. She opened her eyes long enough to smile up at him sleepily. Max took a seat beside her, smoothing her hair back from her head gently.

“Can I get you anything? Water? Peanut Butter and Banana sandwich?”

Ana yawned as she shook her head. She started snuggling into her pillow, grateful to be away from the smell of the hospital. Then she realized she didn’t have her new best friend beside her.

“What is it?” Max was fairly alarmed to see her moving around on the bed. He knew he would have to get past the fear she would hurt herself every time she moved. But he could still take care of her for the next few days.

“Where’s my monkey?” She began looking around for the stuffed monkey dressed in a red scarf and a Santa hat. His parents had brought it for her when they’d come to the hospital for Christmas and he’d been overjoyed to have them all together. He had been able to tell that Ana had won them over as well, winding her way into their hearts as easily as she had taken over Max’s.

“You stay still. I’ll look.” Max pawed through all the bags they had brought back from the hospital. Ana might not have had any possessions before, but she was weighed down by them now. When his search didn’t produce the monkey, Max scratched his head in thought. She’d had it when they had left the hospital. “Maybe you left it in the car,” he suggested.

“Looking for something?” Sara poked her head into the room, the Christmas monkey in her hand. She crossed the room and placed it in Ana’s outstretched hand.

Ana took it sleepily, tucking it under her arm safely. She immediately settled back underneath the covers and closed her eyes.

Sara watched Max settle Ana more comfortably and it brought tears to her eyes. He loved her so much. Saying goodbye was going to kill him.

“She looks so peaceful when she’s sleeping. You can hardly tell she’s a whirlwind of energy when she’s awake.” Sara focused her attention out the window. She couldn’t meet Max’s eyes just yet. If she started crying now, she didn’t think she would ever stop.

Max placed one last kiss on Ana’s brow then stood up. “I still think the doctors released her too soon.”

“It’s been nine days, Max. Besides, she’s been healing remarkably quick. They think she’ll be just fine, better in fact if she can be around a normal environment.” Sara paused, not wanting to be the bearer of bad news. “Max, mom wanted to see you before you left.”

Max turned when he heard the tone of her voice. When Sara kept diverting her eyes, realization dawned on him hard and quick. He’d tried not to think about it, but it looked as though reality had caught up with him. He steeled his heart, guarding it against the pain that was already on it’s way. He nodded to Sara, glanced back at Ana’s sleeping form one last time and called on all the courage he had left.

He was going to need it.

*~*~

Max cut the engine to his Jeep and sat in silence. He’d been driving for so long that time no longer had any meaning. He hadn’t had a destination, just the need to run far away. He looked out the dust covered window and realized he was in the desert. More specifically, he was outside of the pod chamber. Even in his state of mind, he knew better than to go to the new Granolith Chamber. It was close, but well hidden to everyone but the four people that had moved it. He hadn’t even dared to write its location in his diary to Liz. If it ever came down to it, he would find a way to let her know.

His diary to Liz, it had been the only thing that had kept him going lately. Being able to write his thoughts and feelings down was therapeutic and for the first time, he really understood Liz’s need to document everything that had happened to her after he’d healed her all those years ago. And now, if he couldn’t have Liz in the flesh to talk this through with, he would take the next best thing and put everything he was feeling in his diary to her.

Reaching behind the passenger seat, he pulled the leather bound book from its hiding place under the seat. He leapt from the Jeep, automatically moving in the direction of the chamber. He wasn’t sure if his footsteps were guided by instinct or by habit, but he was able to find his way in the darkness without so much as tripping. There had always been something pulling him towards the desert, long before they knew the secrets it hid. He’d always assumed it had been because of the crash, because they had been found wandering there. But when they had discovered the pod chambers, that pull had made sense to him. But every so often, he still felt that pull, drawing him in a different direction. And he knew the desert had not bared all of her secrets to them yet.

There had always been a glow emitted inside of the chamber walls, so he brought no light with him. He settled himself against the far walls, facing the empty pods and he found himself simply sitting and staring. There were too many things on his mind to sort out. Max glanced down at the leather cover of the journal he had created for Liz. Inadvertently, his fingers grazed across the image he had raised. Two rings joined together, a sun hovering over them. The first time he had created it, pulled it from the dark recesses of his memory, he had thought it was the family crest. But it didn’t feel right. It had more personal meaning than that. He didn’t know how or why, but it did.

He opened the book to the page he had ear marked, the last page he had written in, and turned to the next clean page. Uncapping his pen, the words began to pour out.

Liz,

I don’t even know where to start today. There is so much going on I want to tell you about, so many things pulling at me, that I don’t know what to tell you first. I had that dream again last night. We met at that bar again and we danced. I don’t know why, but even in my dreams, I can’t tell you all the problems that face me in the light of day. Maybe it just feels like a safe haven, but when I want to tell you everything and have the chance to hold you one more time, something holds me back. So, I’m content to dance with you and to hold you in my arms for those few short minutes. I wanted to kiss you, to pull you close and never stop kissing you. But even there I knew it was wrong. You don’t belong to me even in my dreams. If I didn’t know better, I’d say they were real. I even asked Isabel about it. I didn’t give her the details, but just the basic facts. She thought I was losing my mind, but she told me she didn’t think it was possible for my dreams to be real. From what little we know, Antarian men don’t seem to have the ability to dreamwalk. And even if we could, the odds of being able to connect with someone over great distances isn’t likely.

I wanted to cry when she told me that. Because those two dreams I’ve had seem more real to me than most things that happen when I’m awake. I know it’s selfish of me to want them to be real, but I want to know that I’m not making up the look in your eyes or the smile on your face. I want to hope that you don’t hate me, that if we meet again on some far off day you won’t look at me with indifference in your eyes. Because that might kill me. And maybe I want those dreams to be real because in that world, you seem wiser and stronger than I ever gave you credit for. And I want to hope that you’ve found a place where you’re like that. I see you laughing and making new friends. I’m sure you’re giving Kyle hell. He always was a good friend to you, even when his actions were questionable. I’m glad he’s there.

I’m stalling now. Because I didn’t only dream of you last night. I dreamt about her again.

I know I’ve said a thousand times before that I hate telling you these things, but I promised to be brutally honest with you. And I know that if we’re ever going to have a chance again, that’s what it’ll take. I can practically hear you whispering in my ear. So, even though I know it will hurt, I’ll tell you about this one too.

We were at that lake again, the one I told you about? It was a lake, but not a lake. The water was thicker than here on Earth. And I was standing on the banks watching her in the water. It was dark, it’s always dark when we meet, and I had this feeling of…danger I guess you could call it. But I felt completely at peace. She was swimming away from me, calling for me to join her.

I didn’t want to leave that place, Liz. Even as I write these words, I want to go back to that night on the lake. I’ve only had one other night where I was as content, as complete. That was the night when we found the orbs and we fell asleep under the desert stars. I’ve never told anyone this before, but I’ve always had nightmares. Since the first night Mom and Dad found us and took us home, I’ve had dreams that I can’t remember when the sun rises. But they leave me shaken to the core. I’ve always felt like I was missing something, searching I guess you could call it. It’s hard to explain. But that night in the desert? It was the only night I never had those dreams. The small part of me that hasn’t been jaded and could still be called romantic wants to say that it’s because you were there, because I held you in my arms. Back then, I was just Max and you were just Liz. Destiny was still ours to make. But I guess I can just put that on the list of regrets I’ve created.

I’m still stalling. The real reason I’m here tonight is too fresh, too raw to actually talk about. I couldn’t call Maria or Michael yet. Isabel is out on another date with Mark tonight. Besides, it feels right telling you first.

Ana is leaving.

Not today or tomorrow, but soon. She was released from the hospital today and I didn’t think anything could burst that bubble. Her body hasn’t rejected the heart and she seems to be in excellent health. I know the others think I’ve been healing her, but the truth is, I haven’t had to. I only went to her that one night to see for myself that she was really okay and to give her body a little push in the right direction. She simply has a strong heart. She’s a survivor, Liz. Just like you. Life has thrown her curve ball after curve ball and she keeps taking it. Sometimes just seeing her smile despite everything that’s happened to her gives me hope that maybe I can be like that someday.

A foster home in Tucson called Colleen today. They want to move Ana over there as soon as she’s well enough to travel. She thinks they can stretch it out another month, maybe two, but it’s still not enough time. The couple that wants to adopt her live out there and they want some time to get to know her better before she moves in with them. When Colleen told me, my first thought was to grab her and run. I wanted to tell them they couldn’t have her. But how selfish is that? Ana has never had a real home in her entire life. She had a junkie for a mother that abandoned a six year old child with a heart condition for weeks at a time. It’s a good thing she’s disappeared, or I’m afraid of what I would do if I ever saw her. Now, she has this chance to start a new life. She has this strong heart beating in her chest now and a family that wants to make her a part of their home. How can I say that I don’t want her to go?

But I love her. The part of me that’s tired of losing people I love wants to hold tight to Ana, but I’ll only hurt her in the end. Maybe that’s another reason I didn’t talk to Maria or Isabel or Michael first. They would have told me I had to give her up and I would have said that I didn’t want to. This way, I know ahead of time that I have to say goodbye.

Colleen says that maybe I can go visit her. No one should have a problem with it and it would probably make the transition easier for her to deal with. And if I have to give her up on a day to day basis, then I want to at least keep her in some way. Even if it is only through Christmas cards and phone calls. And since she had the surgery here, the doctors will want to see her for checkups here for at least a year. So, it’s not like I’m losing her completely. But it’s tearing at my heart, Liz. I don’t want to lose her like I lost you. And that’s why I have to let her go.


Max set his pen down, rereading the words he had left for Liz. He had filled almost a hundred pages so far with similar notes to Liz. Some of them were so intensely personal he wasn’t sure if he would ever have the courage to give them to her. But if there was anyone in the world he could trust, it was Liz.

Satisfied that he had his thoughts down now, Max held his hand over the pages. He watched as the ink faded until it disappeared completely. It was a trick he had discovered and it was certainly a better way to keep the contents of his journal to Liz safe. He had already wiped the rest of the entries, so it looked as though it was nothing more than an empty book.

Max closed the journal with a snap and couldn’t resist the urge to run his fingers over the joined rings on the cover. What did it mean? And why was he drawn to it? Two more questions to add to the growing list. Maybe one day there would be answers. But he didn’t have time to think about them now. His days with Ana were numbered and he was going to make the absolute most of each one of them.


posted on 28-Dec-2001 11:06:17 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Good morning! Nothing clever to say this morning I'm afraid. I think I've gotten over the mutant virus in time to catch another one. And the drugs I took this morning, well I think they were the drowsy kind. In fact, I'm pretty sure of it. So, forgive me if this part doesn't make as much sense as it should. I have four days off , so I'm not really sure when I'm going to get your next part out. Hopefully Monday or Tuesday, but if not Wednesday for sure. If I don't see you guys before then, have a wonderful New Year and come back safe.

Finding Yourself
Part 63

Kyle carefully poured milk into his cereal bowl, forbidding his mind to wander. If eight hours of tossing and turning and pretending to sleep hadn’t given him anymore insight into what the hell had happened last night, then nothing would. He’d already ruined the toast he’d tried to make. And he didn’t even want to mention the poptart that resided in the trash can. He was going to make his breakfast this time and slip back into his room before Mel woke up. Maybe by then he’d have some clue what to say to her.

It was weak, it was childish, it was taking the cowards’ way out. But before he could deal with Mel, he needed to have some idea of what he was feeling himself. And whenever Mel was involved, things were confusing at best. Sure, okay, he’d been attracted to her the first time he’d seen her kicking and swearing at the school locker. Who wouldn’t be? But she wasn’t anything like the women he usually went out with. She was prickly and guarded. She didn’t like to let people in and the only times she ever made physical contact with him was usually to slap him around or wrestle him to the ground. She wasn’t the type to be charmed by poetry or flowers, and his charm had absolutely no effect on her.

But on those rare occasions when her infamous guard was dropped, what he saw inside was amazing. Hell, she was amazing, a walking contradiction. She could tear apart the engine of his car and manage to look sexy covered in grease. The very thought of those few occasions brought a grin to his face. Which led him back to his original problem.

He had figured out the problem around five that morning. He hadn’t been thinking last night, he’d been feeling, going on pure instinct. After Liz had left him for Max, he’d been hurt, but not crushed. He hadn’t sworn off women and become bitter. But when Tess came into town, for the first time, he had felt as though he’d connected with someone. If anything, she had been as much an outcast in their group as he had. Nobody had really wanted either of them around. Hell, she had slept in his bed. So, they had spent time together and bonded over their group reject status.

And somewhere along the line, he had developed real feelings for her. He remembered that now. In fact, the longer he was away from Roswell, the more he remembered. At first none of it had made sense. He had recovered memories that conflicted with each other. That was how he knew Tess had mindwarped him more than once. When his feelings had become a hitch in Tess’s plan, she had mindwarped him into thinking that it was nothing more than brotherly affection. He’d told Liz that much. But he thought that sharing anymore would be too much for her to hear. She didn’t need to know that Alex had begged for his life before Tess had ended it.

But after Tess’s betrayal was exposed and Kyle had time to reflect on his role in it all, he’d come to two conclusions. First, he’d decided that his mind had been too weak, too easily manipulated. And he had discovered Buddhism. And with it, a new determination to never be manipulated by aliens again. The second conclusion he had drawn had been that if you kept your distance with people, you couldn’t be played for a fool. He may have dated a lot of women, but he’d only let two of them see the real Kyle Valenti. Ironically, neither had really belonged to him and both had left him for another man.

Last night with Mel on the roof had been something he’d never experienced though. He’d never been so compelled to touch, never burned for anyone before her. And he knew he was in trouble. Where the hell had it even come from? He could safely say they were friends, they had established that at least. But he hardly had bonded with her the way he had with Liz since leaving Roswell. He was slowly chipping away at her defenses, but it was a far cry from the passion he’d felt last night. If those fireworks hadn’t gone off when they had…

Kyle groaned just thinking about that kiss. It had been more explosive than the fireworks erupting over their heads. For once, she hadn’t fought him or herself. She had let go just the same as he had. Of course, they both had been half drunk at the time. And for that, he wanted to kick himself. He’d hurt Mel’s pride, and that was something he knew would be a hard thing to make up for. If he understood anything, it was pride. But when he’d seen her drinking alone on the roof, he had decided to take his chances and apologize then and there. But that should have been enough. He’d taken advantage of her when she was vulnerable. Of course she wouldn’t look at him the way she had if she’d had her senses.

“Kyle, are you done with the milk?”

Liz’s voice jarred Kyle to attention. He glanced down at the bowl of cereal he’d been pouring and swore when he saw the puddle of milk overflowing from the bowl. He tossed the carton on the counter and began mopping up his mess.

Liz observed Kyle’s foul mood in silence. He really didn’t seem like he wanted to talk, so she held her tongue. Besides, just because she wanted to tell Kyle about the dream she’d had didn’t mean he wanted to hear about Max. She handed him a roll of paper towels as a peace offering and he took it apologetically.

“Sorry, Liz. I hope you didn’t want breakfast.”

“I think it’s lunch time anyway. So, what are you up to today?”

“Not a thing. I was hoping to sleep actually.”

Liz had seen the bags under his eyes, but she’d chalked them up to partying hard. “Yeah, I got in pretty late too.”

Kyle turned to glance at her. “Oh really? Anything I need to pay a visit to Tag about?”

Liz blushed, then smiled. “No. Of course not.”

“Well that seems a shame.” Mel entered the kitchen, already dressed for the day in her usual leather pants. Today she had thrown on a black top to match. She automatically went for the coffee pot, brushing past Kyle as if she hadn’t seen him.

“Actually, Tag and I had a nice talk. I told him I’m not ready to date yet and he says he’s cool with it.”

“So, you’re not going out with him anymore?” Kyle stirred at his cereal, leaning against the kitchen counter. His attention was only half on Liz, the other was watching every move Mel made. Did she even remember what had happened? The thought that she had been too drunk to remember anything crossed his mind, but he quickly dismissed it. Drunk or not, it would have been impossible to forget that kiss.

“Yes, Dad. We’re still going to go out, but as friends.”

Now Kyle turned his attention to Liz. “C’mon. Tell me you didn’t buy that ‘Let’s be friends’ line. I thought you were smarter than that.”

“It’s not like that.” She turned a smile to Kyle. “Really, it’s okay. He’s just looking for someone to do things with. We’re going to go skydiving sometime this month.” She could barely contain her excitement. They’d talked about it in length most of the night. He’d asked her what she wanted to do most and they’d settled on skydiving.

“You are, of course, kidding. Right?”

Mel knew how much Kyle’s approval meant to Liz, for whatever ridiculous reason, and she decided to step in before he ruined it for her. “I think it’s a great idea. Can I come?” She leaned one hip against the counter and concentrated on stirring her coffee. If Kyle stared any harder at her she was going explode.

“Sure!” Liz brightened. She glanced down at her watch, winced at the time. “I didn’t realize it was so late.”

“Got a hot date already?” Kyle still didn’t like the sound of Tag taking Liz skydiving, and if Mel was going, it looked as though he was now too.

“Actually, I was going to call Mr. Evans this morning before he left for lunch.” She swallowed the fear that leapt into her throat.

Concern filled Kyle’s eyes. He set the cereal bowl down. “Are you sure you don’t want me to do it?”

Liz shook her head. “No. I have to do this.”

“Who’s Mr. Evans?” Mel asked. Damn the sneaky bastard. Just when she’d convinced herself that he was just another guy, he went and got all soft and concerned when a friend was in need.

“He’s the lawyer my parents used to adopt me,” Liz explained. “Okay, so I’m going to do that now. Oh, I forgot to ask. How was your New Years last night? I didn’t see either of you after you took a break from dancing. Did everything go okay?”

Kyle choked on his own tongue, trying to spit out an answer.

When Liz looked at him strangly, Mel answered for them. “It was a disaster actually. That advice you gave me? It wasn’t so great.”

“I told you it was horrible advice. But I’m sorry it didn’t work out for you. How about you, Kyle?”

“Things with Chrissy were a no-go.” He went back to carefully eating his soggy cereal. Was there no end to this conversation?

“Well, I’m sorry to hear that. But it was probably for the best. You know what they say about New Years Eve after all.”

“If it’s anything other than ‘Better luck next year’, I’m not familiar with it.” Mel replied, still stirring her coffee.

“No, they say that wherever you are at midnight is where you’ll be for the rest of the year. Which makes sense, because I can’t see Kyle and Chrissy together just like I couldn’t see you and Greg together.” She thought about where she had been at midnight, and as much as she liked Tag, she just didn’t see herself with him forever. Now, if they were talking about New Years Eve in general, or even the early hours of New Years Day when she had been dreaming happily, maybe she could see the saying holding water. That had been the second dream she’d had of Max that had seemed too real. Yet the simple fact remained that it was impossible for them to be anything but dreams. And as much as she hated to admit it, she’d felt less lonely after waking from it than she’d felt before she went to sleep. “Okay, well, I’m going to lock myself in my bedroom for awhile and force myself to make that phone call.” Liz turned to look for the phone and missed the look that passed between Kyle and Mel.

Liz grabbed the phone from it’s hook and as she glanced at the blinking light on the answering machine, she remembered her phone conversation with Jim the night before. “Oh, Kyle! I almost forgot. Your dad called last night.”

Kyle frowned in thought. “Did he say what he wanted?”

“He just said he wanted to talk to you about sports or something. It didn’t sound too important.”

“I’ll give him a call back later then. He probably just called to remind me it’s illegal for minors to drink.”

“If I’m not out in an hour, come and get me. I may need someone to give me a swift kick to get me moving.”

Kyle saluted her, setting his breakfast down on the counter as she disappeared into her bedroom. He turned to face Mel. He may as well get this over with now. “Can we talk?”

“Actually, I’ve got a hundred things to do today. I don’t have time for the touchy feely thing right now.” She tried to push past him, but he blocked her path.

“Mel, please.”

The pleading look in his eyes weakened her for only a second, but it was enough. “Let’s not drag this out. Are you stressing over that…incident last night?”

Kyle tried not to grin, really he did. But his lips twisted of their own accord. “It was more of a kiss than an incident.”

Anger and annoyance flashed in Mel’s eyes. “Whatever you want to call it. If you really want to bring this up for a group discussion, let’s do it. Okay, we kissed. Big deal.” But it had been. As much as she hated to admit it, and she wouldn’t, that kiss had been more intense than she’d bargained for. She may have been drinking, but her head was as clear as glass when he’d pulled her close. It humiliated her to think about how easily she had melted in his arms. The simple truth was that Kyle Valenti was a player. She’d seen him pursue and win dozens of girl. And she had simply been the next on his long list of conquests.

“Mel, you can’t just brush this aside-“

“And why not? It wasn’t that big of a deal. It was just a kiss, Tiger. Haven’t you kissed women before?”

“Yeah, but I’ve never taken advantage of a friend.”

Mel bristled at the emotions his words caused to swirl inside her. “You didn’t take advantage of me. Look, it was just a mistake. That’s all. The stupid holidays got to us and we were both feeling a little sappy. It was just a New Years kiss. Everybody does it. It’s only natural to reach for the closest person and lay a big one on them.”

Kyle watched her, looking for a sign of any kind that she had been as affected by their kiss as he had been. Was it possible that she hadn’t felt the same things he’d felt? “So, it was just a drunken mistake then?”

There was something cold and hard in his tone, but she forced a smile onto her lips. “Absolutely.” Why was there this knot forming in her stomach?

Unable to return her smile, Kyle simply nodded. The pain slashing through him was too much to bear. He simply couldn’t sit in her presence knowing she hadn’t felt anything for him. “Then I’ll let you get back to your busy day.” He dumped the remains of his breakfast in the sink and headed across the living room for the safety of his room.

Mel watched him go, then let herself slump against the counter when she heard his door click shut. Not a slam, that would mean emotions were involved. Hadn’t she sworn years ago that she wasn’t going to let herself become involved with anyone? She’d seen what her father had to live with everyday because he’d given in to those stupid sappy urges with her mother. She was a constant reminder to him of his mistakes. And she’d be damned in she was going to end up pregnant and alone. Her father may have had to compromise and give up on his dreams, but she’d be damned if she were going to. Kyle would get over whatever disappointment he was feeling soon and things would return to an even keel. They would have to. He couldn’t hold a grudge forever, could he?

*~*~

Liz continued to stare at the phone, giving herself a pep talk. She could do this. It was nothing. It wasn’t as if Max were going to be working at his father’s office and answer his phone. She just had a couple of questions to ask and then she would thank him and let him go. Sure, she could do that.

She picked up the phone and the scrap of paper that sat beside it and she quickly punched in the numbers. Closing her eyes tight, she listened to it ring.

“Phillip Evans.”

Liz paused, recognizing the warm tone of Max’s fathers voice. “Mr. Evans? I need to speak your help.”

“Whom am I speaking to?”

She could all but hear his brain switching into lawyer mode. “Uh, actually, Mr. Evans, this is Liz Parker.”

“Liz? Max’s girlfriend? Are you okay?”

Liz gripped the phone tighter. “Yes. I’m not in that kind of trouble. I just needed to speak with you about something.”

“All right. I’m listening.”

“First of all, I know you’re my parent’s lawyer and I want to make sure that anything I speak with you about stays confidential. I can pay you if I need to.”

“I don’t think that’ll be necessary, Liz. And of course anything you tell me stays between us until you tell me otherwise. What can I do for you?”

Liz’s gaze drifted to the puzzle box on her dresser. “I know, Mr. Evans. My parents told me that I’m adopted. They also told me that you helped them.”

Phillip exhaled slowly. “Liz, I wish I could help you, but I simply don’t know much.”

“I just want to know what steps you took back then. I know my grandmother brought me to my parents and that nobody knows where I came from. So, I figured you must have ran searches, missing people and that sort of thing.”

“Liz-“

She heard the finality to his tone and knew she had to do something quick. “Mr. Evans, I’ve spoken with my parents about this and they are aware that I’m searching for my origins, I guess you could call it. I’m not looking for a reunion. I just want to know where I came from.” She gathered the rest of her courage and decided to use the ace up her sleeve. “I know you didn’t want to help them until my grandmother spoke to you. I need to know what she said to you, Mr. Evans. Did she tell you where she found me?”

There was a long pause on the other end of the phone and Liz wasn’t sure if he was still there. But finally, his voice came through. “I’m sorry, Liz, but I can’t tell you.”

Defeat weighed down Liz’s body. “Mr. Evans, you are the only person my grandmother would speak to about me. Whatever it is she told you, you’re the only person she told. Can’t you see that-“

“I’m afraid I don’t know where your grandmother found you, Liz. I can, however, see if I can find your file and see what’s in it. I don’t remember the details, but I’d be happy to send you whatever I find.”

He wasn’t going to tell her. The clipped finality in his voice crushed any hope she had that she could gain further information from him. “Anything you find, you can give to Jim Valenti. He knows how to contact me.”

“I really am sorry, Liz. I wish I could help you…” He broke off his sentence and as much as she wanted to think he was rethinking his decision, she knew better. It had been a long shot anyway. “Are you okay, really? Do you need anything? Money?”

Liz smiled, despite the weight on her heart. “No, I’m doing good. But I appreciate the offer.”

“Well, you know you can call me anytime you need something.”

“Actually, Mr. Evans, I do have a favor to ask you.”

“You don’t want me to say anything about this to anyone,” he guessed for her.

“Especially Max,” she agreed. “I know it can’t be easy and I apologize if it puts you in a weird place-“

“I understand, Liz. And you have my word that I won’t say anything to anyone but Jim.”

“Thank you. And if you think of anything at all that might help me out…” she suggested hopefully. It couldn’t hurt to ask one last time, give him one last opportunity to tell her whatever it was he knew that he wasn’t saying.

“I’m sorry, Liz.”

She nodded. “Thanks anyway.” She hung up the phone and forced herself to lay it gently on the bed. She flopped backwards on the bed until she was looking up at the ceiling. Phillip Evans knew something, but he wasn’t talking. She was back to square one until she was able to get her hands on whatever musty files he was able to dig out of storage. She couldn’t see her grandmother’s belongings from where she lay, but somehow she knew that the key to her past remained locked inside a puzzle box and an empty journal.



posted on 29-Dec-2001 9:30:10 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Okay, I just want to take the time here to give you a perfect example of feedback inspiring me to write. Here I was with some free time on my hands for a change. The hubby decided to go off to play video games with his friends and I was going to catch up on some of the stories I've been neglecting to read. So, when this story popped up on the first page and I started reading the WONDERFUL feedback you guys left me, it made me all gushy inside. And I dropped what I was doing and sat down and typed up this next part all for you. Isn't that a nice story? I completely wasn't in the mood to write and had no intentions of doing it, but here I am. So, thank you for all the feedback and here is your next part. I know I'm driving you all crazy with the not knowing what's going on, so here are some answers for you. I promise we're going to get to Liz and the puzzle box and everything else soon. And try not to hate Mel too much. C'mon, this is me. Do you really think I'd throw together these two perfectly made for each other characters and NOT put them together? Where's the fun if there's no angst? Besides, Kyle is very quickly becoming my favorite character. And I state again, that this story will definately have a happy ending. Just in case you think I'm going to drag you on forever and have you unsatisfied with the ending. Happy ending promises for everyone. Love you guys and I'll see what I can do about another part this long weekend.

Finding Yourself
Part 64

Michael drummed his fingers against the arm of his Lazyboy. Isabel was still rambling on and on about something or another and it was really starting to get on his nerves. Ever since she’d started dating this new guy, she’d been bubblier than usual. It reminded him in a way of when Max had started dating Liz, and how annoyingly happy they’d been. He checked his watch for the tenth time in as many minutes. If Maria didn’t get there soon, he was simply going to have to take drastic measures with Isabel.

Max was still sitting on his couch, staring uncomprehendingly at the television as he’d been doing since he’d arrived. Michael knew his friend well enough to know that he wished he were still with Ana. Since he’d informed them of Ana’s impending departure, Max had been spending every spare minute over the last few weeks with the little girl. Michael knew Isabel was worried about her brother and she had called a secret meeting the week before to discuss Max. They’d decided to keep a close eye on him and not let him revert back into his usual shell after Ana left. The doctors wanted to keep her close for another week or two yet, so Max still had a bit of time.

But Isabel had insisted that Max take some time off and spend an evening with grown-ups, so they had made plans to take in a late movie. And if Maria ever showed up, they would be able to make it.

A knock at the door roused Michael from his thoughts and he jumped up to answer it. He put on an automatic smile when he saw Maria and he bent down to kiss her. Behind her, a storm raged on. Rain poured from the sky in torrents and a bolt of lightening lit up the sky. He ushered Maria into his apartment and out of the rain.

“You’re drenched. What did you do, walk here?” He joked, trying to peel her out of her jacket. When he received no response from her, he tipped her head up to meet her eyes. “What’s wrong?” Her eyes were glazed over and empty, and she kept turning them to his floor.

“Maria? What is it?” Had he ever seen her like this before? He couldn’t remember a time, and it worried him.

“Can we talk?” She glanced quickly at Isabel and Max, still sitting on the couch. “Privately?”

His decision made, Michael strode over to the television and shut it off. “Sorry guys, Maria and I aren’t going to make the movie tonight. So, go home.”

“What? Michael, we’ve been planning this all week,” Isabel protested.

“Something came up. We’ll do it another time.” Michael grabbed Isabel by the arm and pulled her off the couch. He knew she was confused and her feelings were more than a bit hurt, but he could deal with that later. Maria needed him tonight and that was all that mattered. He pushed Isabel toward the door and pulled her coat off the rack by his door, thrusting it in her hands. Max had followed behind them.

“Is everything okay?”

Despite himself, Michael glanced back at Maria. She had lowered herself to one of his barstools and was staring blankly at the wall. “I’m not sure yet. Can I get back with you on that?”

Max nodded, throwing a glance at Maria. He understood completely. “Yeah. Go take care of her. I’ll call you tomorrow.”

“Thanks, Maxwell.” Michael ushered his two friends out the door and turned his attention back to Maria.

“They’re gone.”

Maria continued to stare at the wall. How could she tell him what she’d discovered? This had the potential to kill them in a heartbeat. But she’d decided somewhere on the long drive she’d taken to just spit it out quickly. There was no use pulling the band-aid off slowly. “I’m late.”

Michael frowned, glancing at his watch again. “Not too late. It’s only seven thirty.”

Maria laughed, despite the situation. She should have known he wouldn’t understand. “No, Michael. I was sitting in my room getting ready to come over here and I found a letter my doctor had sent me telling me it was time for my checkup. Well, it seemed a bit early, so I flipped through my day timer to see when I’d made my last appointment. And that was when I realized that I was late.” She glanced up at him now, owing him her full attention. “With everything that’s been going on, I didn’t even think about it.”

Realization sunk in as Maria’s words hit him hard. “Oh.” He knew it was lame, but it was the best he could manage. Slowly, he sunk down onto a barstool next to her.

Maria watched the emotions flicker across his face. She understood completely how he was feeling. Hadn’t she had the very same reaction? She resumed staring at the wall. It was easier that way.

“I didn’t know what to do, so I just kind of drove around for awhile. I was going to go get one of those pregnancy tests, but I couldn’t bring myself to buy one.” She let out a shaky sigh, trying to hold back the tears that had been threatening to flow all evening. What the hell was she going to do if she was pregnant? Could she expect Michael to stick around? It had taken her three years to get him to come around to just accepting being her boyfriend.

Michael placed his hand over hers, frowning when he felt how chilly it was. He took both of her hands in his and began rubbing them gently, giving her heat. “I’ll go to the store. That is, if you want me to do it tonight.”

Maria’s eyes flew up to meet Michael’s and when she found concern swirling in his depths, she wanted to weep all the more. Quickly, she nodded. “You wouldn’t mind? I just can’t…” God, how much more of a coward could she be?

“Do you want me to go now?” He didn’t want to leave her by herself, but the store wasn’t far. It wouldn’t take him more than ten minutes tops.

“Yeah. We might as well get it over with.”

“You’ll be okay till I get back? I’ll only be gone a few minutes.” He was already reaching for his jacket.

“Just hurry.”

“Why don’t you change into something dry?” Michael snatched his keys from the counter beside her and paused briefly to place a kiss on her lips. “I love you.”

Maria smiled sadly. It had been just what she wanted to hear. “I love you too, Spaceboy. Don’t worry about me.”

“I’ll be back in a minute.”

Maria watched him dash out the door into the storm she’d just come in from. She heard her car roar to life and peel away from the curb and she let out a shaky sigh. Okay, she just had to take this one step at a time. First, she needed to change. She was sopping wet from the rain and more than a bit chilly. But she figured some of that had more to do with the fear that coursed through her body.

She slipped off the barstool and moved into Michael’s room, immediately heading for the dresser drawer that held his sweatpants. The scent of fabric softener hit her and she had to sink down to the bed. She held the fabric up to her nose and breathed in the scent. She’d dragged him over to her house to do laundry just that last weekend. They’d had an argument over his definition of clean and she’d forced him to clean. He’d grumbled when she’d introduced him to the finer points of detergent and fabric softener, claiming it to be too girly smelling for him. But he’d done it to make her happy.

She sniffled once before rising to slip out of her wet clothes. She pulled on the sweatpants and a clean t-shirt and decided to shut her brain down. There was no use worrying about what-ifs until they knew for sure what they were dealing with. So, she would use the blow dryer she had stashed in Michael’s bathroom to dry out her hair and then she would wait for Michael to return. It would be okay, she just knew it. It had to be a false alarm. It wasn’t as if the past few months had been stress free. Hell, the last three years hadn’t been stress free. It just caught up with her. That was all.

Maria set herself to the task of drying her hair, taking special care to get it right. When each lock was dried and styled, she had no choice but to return to Michael’s bed to sit. How long could it possibly take to run to the store?

As if on cue, she heard the door open and Michael calling out for her. “Maria?”

She jumped off the bed and moved to stand in the doorway. “In here.”

Michael froze when he caught sight of her. He’d been half afraid she would have run off, even though he’d taken her car. She had changed and she looked warmer, but panic still held her body rigid. He understood and strode across the room to meet her. He dumped the contents of the bag out on the bed.

“I didn’t know which one to buy, so I sort of bought them all,” he explained sheepishly. How could he explain how inadequate he’d felt standing in that aisle, glancing at the row of pregnancy tests? “I just wanted to be sure.”

Maria smiled, her heart filling with love for this man. She wanted to laugh, but it bubbled in her throat. Maybe later. First, she wanted to get this out of the way. She scooped them up in her arms and carried them to the bathroom with her.

Michael sunk down on his bed and waited. There were too many emotions running through him to decipher any single one. But the only thing he knew for sure right now was that his Maria needed him. She was scared witless and she had come to him for help. He’d never thought that he’d welcome the dependency, but knowing that she trusted him enough to come to him and not hide her fears, it filled him with an indescribable feeling.

Maria came out of the bathroom and sat beside him on the bed.

“How long?”

“Five minutes.”

They fell into silence, not knowing what to say. Needing the contact, Michael reached over and placed his hand over Maria’s. Relief flowed through him when she gripped it tight. There wasn’t anything to say yet. And at the moment, time was their enemy.

A thousand thoughts ran through Michael’s head. What would they do if the tests came up positive? It was strange and certainly new, but he couldn’t ever see himself leaving Maria, but would she still want him? Ever since he’d had to make the decision whether or not to leave Earth behind and had chosen to stay, things had been different between them. Sure, he still screwed up, but he was pretty sure that was bound to happen for the rest of his life. He’d simply spent too much of his life distancing himself from humans. He’d been jaded and cynical when he’d met Maria, and while he still felt as though the world was out to get him from time to time, as long as he had Maria by his side, there was the chance that it would be okay.

But a baby? That was something he’d never in a hundred years expected. He remembered what Max had gone through when he’d thought Tess was pregnant, and he had a new respect for what his friend had been feeling. But he knew this was an entirely different situation. He loved Maria. As long as he lived, he didn’t imagine ever meeting someone on any planet that could take her place in his heart. And he knew she loved him. Hell, she had to in order to put up with him. But would a baby be okay? Tess had pretended to be sick to get them to leave with her, and she hadn’t even really been pregnant anyway. So, he really didn’t have anything to go on. What would happen if Maria got sick? Or if she couldn’t handle the pregnancy? There were so many uncertainties, it was impossible to even think of them all yet.

The watch on Maria’s wrist began to beep. She stared at it for a second, letting the noise fill the silence of the room. Had it really been five minutes already?

“It’s time.” She knew she had to get up, but her feel seemed to be stuck to the floor.

“Do you want me…”

“No. I can do this.” She rose slowly and made her way to the bathroom. A line of pregnancy tests stood on the counter and she picked up the first one for the results. She glanced at it, then at the box, then back to the little stick. Frowning, she put it down and picked up the next one. She repeated her actions until she had gone down the row.

A laugh bubbled up in her throat. She tried to contain it, but it was impossible. She knew Michael was going to think she was crazy, but she couldn’t help herself. God, why wasn’t anything in her life ever simple?

“Maria? Is everything okay?” Michael stood in the doorway, watching her laugh uncontrollably. Was this good or bad?

She wiped at a stray tear and held the stick up to Michael. He took it cautiously and frowned at the purple line. “What does purple mean?”

“Hell if I know. It’s supposed to be pink for yes and blue for no.” If this wasn’t the funniest thing she’d ever experienced, she didn’t know what was.

“What about the others?” Michael moved to check the other sticks that were lined up in a row.

“The plus and minus one has some sort of squiggle on it that I can’t make out and the one with the one line versus the two lines? It has three. The rest are all the same.” Why couldn’t she stop laughing? “I’m sorry, it’s really not funny.”

Michael glanced at all the pregnancy tests and realized Maria was right. Not a single one had an accurate result. And Maria herself was laughing hysterically. He wasn’t sure what to do, so he ran a hand through his hair.

Maria sniffled one last time, swatting at her hysterical tears. She turned to face Michael. “What do we do now?” She sunk down to the toilet and considered her options. Could she go to a doctor? It wouldn’t be the safest thing to do, and there wasn’t even any guarantee that their tests would be able to tell her anything anyway. These home pregnancy things were supposed to be ninety eight percent accurate anyway.

Michael crouched down in front of her. “I’m not really sure. I’m sort of new at this.” But a thought had occurred to him. “There is something I could try. I’m not really sure if it would work or not.”

“I’m willing to try anything at this point here.”

“I could connect with you and see…” What exactly he was expecting to see he wasn’t sure. But it was all he had at the moment.

Maria considered the option. “Are you sure you’d want to?” Since the time they’d first made love and Michael had broken down and told her he wanted to share himself with her, they hadn’t really pushed any sort of connection. She had learned all she needed in those few hours. And she knew how hard it was for Michael to open himself up.

“I’m game if you are.”

She nodded. “Where?”

“On the bed,” he suggested. Now that he had voiced his thought, he was flying blind. He’d never really tried anything like this before. His powers were more destructive than anything. And if she was pregnant, would he hurt the baby?

Maria seemed to be able to read this thoughts and she placed a hand on his arm. “Michael, I trust you. If you’re okay with this, then so am I.” She smiled at him weakly before moving to lie down on the bed. She struggled to get comfortable, not knowing how long this would take.

Michael decided to lie down beside her. He propped his head on his hand and laid one hand on her stomach lightly. His hand was so large resting on her waist. He never really appreciated how small she was sometimes, how fragile. She always seemed so competent, so in charge, it was easy to forget that she could be scared and hurt too.

He closed his eyes and concentrated. He thought about Maria, letting her face fill his mind. He let his defenses lower, opening himself to her the way he’d done so many months ago. She would see every stupid thought he had rolling around in his brain, but he didn’t let himself think about that. When the first waves of emotion hit him, he realized he was in.

Through Maria’s eyes, he saw her actions that evening, how scared and uncertain she’d felt when she had forced herself to drive to his apartment. He tried to push past her thoughts and emotions, trying to see if he could find any life stirring inside of her. How did Max do it? He’d once explained how he forced his energy into a person’s bloodstream and sort of travel through the body. So, Michael tried to envision what he thought Maria’s bloodstream would look like.

He wasn’t sure at what point his image turned into reality, but without questioning it, he knew he was racing through Maria’s body. Michael could feel the steady thump of her heart, could feel her very essence all around him. It was an amazing feeling, empowering, but he forced himself to search for something that didn’t belong.

It was like tunneling through the dark, so when a light flashed before him, it was blinding. But the light beckoned him. It faded down to a light purple, adjusting itself for Michael to see better. Curiosity getting the better of him, he followed it, moving as close as he dared. It seemed to be darting this way and that, moving just out of his reach. And he had the strangest feeling that the light was mocking him, that it would be laughing if it could. A giddy feeling surrounded him and there was nothing but peace all around him.

Could it be? Again, he reached out to touch the light, and again it eluded him. The ball of light continued to hover just out of his reach. It was playing with him. And that was when he realized without any shadow of a doubt just what was before him. With an awe overtaking him, the little ball pulsed a darker shade of purple and he knew it was acknowledging what he had silently asked.

With a promise in his heart, Michael reluctantly moved back the way he had come. He had the answer that he needed and Maria would be anxiously waiting. He broke the connection with a small gasp for breath and Maria’s face hovered before him. Overwhelmed with emotion, he dropped his head back on the pillow.

“Well? Did you see anything?” Michael had been doing whatever sort of hocus pocus aliens did to connect for well over an hour. She’d been able to see his thoughts and had been grateful beyond belief when she hadn’t seen or felt any sort of resentment or regret.

Michael glanced up at Maria’s concerned face and he smiled what he thought was the first real smile he’d ever known. “We’re having a baby.”

Michael’s words sunk in and she let out a small breath. She’d known. Somehow, she’d already known. Was it motherly intuition already kicking in? Or was it something alien? Whatever it was, it had whispered to her all night. She sunk down on the bed beside Michael, curling her head into the crook of his neck. “You’re sure?”

With a laugh, Michael nodded his head. “Yeah. It was amazing. It’s this little ball of light and I swear it was playing a game with me. Every time I tried to touch it, it moved away. It was kind of irritating. So, it must get that from you.”

Maria found herself smiling. She could worry herself to death tomorrow. There were a thousand things they had to talk about and sort through. But she wouldn’t let them in just yet. “So you think I’m the irritating one, huh? What if she gets that from you?”

“She? You sound pretty sure of yourself there.” It would be okay. Sure, Max and Isabel would probably kill him, and he didn’t even want to think about Maria’s mother. But it would all work out okay. It just had to.

Maria smiled against Michael’s chest. “Uh huh. And we’d better hope she gets my hair or else she’s doomed for life.”



posted on 30-Dec-2001 2:19:05 PM by Cookieman1234
quote:
forever dreamer originally wrote:

first of all, thank you for posting this part when ypu weren't gonna. our plan has succeeded, hahahahaha!!!!!

anyway, this part was great. MARIA IS PREGNANT! wow, shes really gonna need a friend, her best friend even. maybe liz could come back to roswell, maybe even when ana is gonna leave and max is really upset. wow, you never know, stranger things have happened. Is there any chance of this happening?

please? pretty please with naked kyle on top?


Okay, Rach, your reply cracked me up so much, I absolutely had to reply. Usually, any sort of request with a naked Kyle on top, I'll grant. But I'm not so sure about this one. It will happen all in due time. What would be the fun if I didn't draw out the suspense just a little bit longer? And yes, your evil feedback scheme seemed to work. Not only did I write up the Michael and Maria part last night, but I'm almost done with the next Flat Creek part as well.

I hate that I usually forget to answer specific questions you guys throw my way. So, I'm going to go off memory - god help us all. Flat Creek is in Arizona, as is Tucson, however it really was just a big giant coincidence that I didn't even notice until someone pointed it out. I'm not sure yet if I'm going to play with that or not. I haven't actually given Sara an age, but I'd put her more or less about a year or so older than our pod squad. Jesse, I believe, is five years older. Someone tell me if I remember that right?

I'll let you in on a little secret. I make this stuff up as I go along, so sometimes I forget that I royally screw things up or introduce a new twist. And I know I've done some real stupid things in the last week or so as Angela and SciFiNut keep pointing out to me. Thanks, guys. My only defense is that I've been pretty off and on sick lately. So, I'm remembering things weird. If I keep screwing things up, please let me know.

I know I'm missing other questions, but I have to go return Christmas presents now. Who knows how long that will take, so I've got to run before everything closes. I'll try to answer more tomorrow when I post.

As I told katmckn (sorry, I know that's spelled wrong) earlier, we're just getting into the good stuff now. I should be able to take a few minutes and finish up that next part today. So, you probably will have it up tomorrow morning sometime. Unless I'm absolutely swamped under by feedback. *wink*

Love you guys and I'll see you tomorrow.
~Stacey
posted on 31-Dec-2001 8:24:09 PM by Cookieman1234
Hey guys. Yep, it's me again. And look at this, no part to post. Pretty soon, you guys are going to think I'm making up my computer trouble. Ready for this one? I have the next part typed up, but my A drive is broken and I literally can't get the disk inside the drive. I'm going to have my hubby look at it tomorrow. Hopefully, his inner computer genius will kick in and he'll get it up and running. Otherwise, I'll have to sit down and finish the part after that and post that and then post the Flat Creek part on Wednesday. Did any of that make sense?

On a completely seperate note, Wow. I am literally blown away by all the wonderfully kind feedback you guys have been giving me in the last day or so. I'm really starting to feel like I know what I'm doing here instead of making it up as I go along. And so many new faces are popping up and trying to catch up with us. Welcome, guys. I'm glad you're all liking it so far. I think Kath had the most questions of anyone that's ever asked me questions. LOL

To try to answer some of them. No, my comment about getting into the good stuff here is more in terms of secrets coming to light. Kath, I know you're not caught up yet, so I won't ruin anything. And Ana? Nothing to worry about there. She's no threat to Liz. Sadly, this story still has about a zillion more parts to go. Remember a few months ago when I asked if you guys would prefer if I broke this up into two stories? Well, the overwhelming response was to keep it one story. So, I won't be at all surprised when this hits a hundred parts. And that kind of scares me, but the story is just telling itself now.

Kath, I'm glad you enjoyed Do What You Have To Do. The sequel has maybe another twenty parts to go. That one is really at the end stages, but I haven't been inspired to pick it up lately. I swear I'm going to though. I just know it's going to kill me to finish writing it, there is just pure angst and extreme suffering coming up for them, and I'm avoiding because I know it'll be hard to write. So, if you want to save it up, it's your call. I promise that I will finish it though. *happy*

SciFiNut and Angela, I reread my last post and I think I came off a little bit snippy and I apologize for that. Really, you guys are helping me out. I just hate it when I'm not consistent with the show and it's one of those little things that makes me absolutely crazy and I can't believe I made them. I just have to find a way to fix them now. So, please, continue to nudge me when I mix something up in the future, and if anyone else notices any inconsistencies, let me know. I'm not offended, just annoyed with myself.

So, sorry again for no part today. I'll get the hubby on it tomorrow and see what I can do for you lovely people. Worse case scenario, you'll get two parts on Wednesday. How's that?

Happy New Year to all of you and I hope you're all safe and sound.

~Stacey
posted on 1-Jan-2002 3:39:36 PM by Cookieman1234
Well, guys, it's official. My A drive is broken. :(

I know, I know. It just sucks. So, no update today either. But on a plus side, I will be able to post from work first thing in the bloody morning at 4:30 am. Don't ask what I'll be doing there that early. I don't even want to think about it. But when all the normal people get up for work, you should have a new part. Who knows, you may even get two. Stranger things have happened.

I hope all of you had safe and wonderful evenings last night. And I'll see you in the morning. Again, thanks for all the wonderful feedback. I just love you guys so much. *happy*

~Stacey
posted on 2-Jan-2002 4:30:45 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Lookie here, a new part. Finally, I know. It's like four in the morning, so I have nothing to say right now. Enjoy, and I may see you later today. It depends on whether or not I fall asleep at my desk.

Finding Yourself
Part 65

Kyle slammed his way through the front door, tossing his keys on the small table near the door. He didn’t so much as pause when he saw the two girls sitting on the couch, but headed straight for his room, closing the door firmly behind him.

Mel sighed, frustration coursing through her. It had been like that for three weeks now. She’d have thought that Kyle would be done moping about the conversation they’d had by now. But so far, they’d had yet to have a more meaningful conversation other than ‘Pass the butter’. She knew she’d been a bit harsh on him, but she hadn’t expected him to react the way he’d been reacting. Okay, she’d expected a few days of awkward silences, but she’d thought they could at least fall back on their usual banter by now. And damn it, she missed fighting with him.

What the hell was wrong with her that she was sitting home on a Friday night wondering what she could do to get Kyle riled up at her? She was cracking up. It was hopeless. And damn it, she didn’t want to admit it to herself, but he’d gotten under her skin. It was why she had been so harsh with him. Frankly, the things he made her feel were downright scary. In her whole life, she’d never thought she could want something as much as she wanted Kyle to kiss her again. She had a feeling that if he did, she might not want him to stop. And this was new territory for her. Just seeing him now made her shaky and weak and it always brought memories of that kiss.

“Okay, I give. What’s wrong with Kyle? He’s been weird lately.”

“He’s always weird,” Mel replied. How could she tell Liz that the reason her friend was avoiding them was because she had screwed up royally?

“So, you don’t think Kyle is acting strange at all?” Liz hadn’t mentioned it, wanting to give them time to come to her if they needed help. But something had obviously happened between the two of them. Every time Mel entered the room, Kyle disappeared. And whenever Kyle was in the room, Mel started acting jittery.

“Nope.” Mel picked up the remote and began flipping channels randomly. She wasn’t paying the slightest bit of attention to the screen before her, her mind filled with doubts and uncertainties. Finally, she gave in and flipped the television off. She turned to Liz beside her and bit the bullet.

“Okay, I need to ask you a completely hypothetical question.”

Liz nodded. “I’m all ears.”

Mel tucked her hair behind her ears, nerves getting the better of her. “Say, hypothetically, that there was this guy, and this girl…you know what? The story really isn’t that important here. I just need some advice.”

Intrigued, Liz crossed her legs Indian style and considered the question. “You need guy advice? Real advice this time? Not the bad kind?”

“Liz, I could pretend it was advice for a friend, but we both know I don’t have any. Don’t make me lie here. I just need advice.”

“Well, what’s the situation?”

Mel considered it, then shook her head. “I can’t tell you.” If she even hinted to Liz that she’d kissed Kyle, Liz would be all over them playing Cupid. She just seemed the type.

“So, you want me to give you advice, but you won’t tell me what kind of advice you need?”

“Exactly.”

Liz nodded slowly. “Okay, I’ll just shoot out some advice and you let me know if any of it helps. How about ‘The early bird gets the worm’?”

“Uh, no. Try again.”

“Tomorrow is another day?”

“Still nothing helpful, Scarlett.”

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again?”

“You know, I thought you would be good at this advice thing.”

Liz crossed her arms over her chest, hurt. “Well, I usually have some sort of clue as to what I’m dealing with. Can’t you give me some sort of hint?”

“I already told you its guy stuff. And we both know from my vast dating experience that I suck at this sort of thing. So, if you have something useful to add, I’m all ears.” Mel listened to her own words and closed her eyes when she realized how she sounded. “God, I am so lame. Here I was, just fine with the way things were turning out with my life, and then wham, I get blindsided by this…whole new set of complications.”

There was something about the frustration in her tone that set off bells in Liz’s head. There was only one person she’d ever seen that could inspire actual emotions from her friend. And he was currently sulking in his room about something. Or maybe he was sulking about someone. And then the last three weeks made more sense. Something had happened between the two of them and they were freaking out over it.

With a smile, Liz watched Mel all but huff in frustration. And she decided to take pity on her and pretend she didn’t know what was going on. “A very wise woman once told me that if a relationship wasn’t complicated, then he probably isn't your soul mate.” Liz smiled, remembering her grandmother’s words of wisdom.

“Whoa! Who said anything about a soul mate? I was just talking general guy advice here.”

“Okay then, why don’t I tell you what works for me when I don’t know what to do? When I have too many emotions running around and everything in my life is turned upside down, I sit down and I write in my journal.”

“You want me to write in a journal?” Mel smirked at her. “Me? C’mon, can you really see that helping?”

“Fine, scoff if you want. You’re the one that asked me for advice.” Liz picked up the remote and turned the television on again.

Mel sighed and snatched the remote from Liz, shutting it off. “Okay, I’m listening. A journal?”

Liz turned her attention back to Mel with a knowing grin. “Well, I’ve found that it helps to write down everything you’re thinking and feeling. It helps to put things in perspective and you’d be surprised what sort of things you end up writing down.”

Mel considered the advice with a frown. It still seemed kind of lame to her, but if it was the best advice Liz could offer, then she’d take what she could get. “I’ll think about it.”

The phone rang and Mel stretched behind her to pick it up. “Hello…Jackie?…No, I did not tell you to publish those pictures…no, they weren’t ready yet…hold on, let me get the note from my room.”

Mel hurried out of the room and Liz sat back and thought about what could have possibly happened between Mel and Kyle. On a good day, they were both a bit on the weird side, but they’d been acting off since New Years. Something had happened that night and though it didn’t surprise her, it was surprising how they were acting around each other. Her inner-Maria wanted to take over and start match making, but she knew that had the potential to backfire on her. Mel was generally a closed off person and Kyle had been hurt too recently to place his faith in someone new. She would have to wait this one out and see what happened. And if things didn’t get better soon, then she would have to take drastic measures and lock them in a closet until they talked to each other again.

*~*~

Safely tucked away inside of his room, Kyle lay on his bed, throwing a baseball in the air and catching it. How had life gotten to be so screwy? One minute, he was on top of the world, no real problems to weigh him down. He’d escaped from the alien soap opera that had become their lives. He had normal problems like finding a job and having a date on Friday night. And with one stupid dream, he had been thrust back into the alien abyss that sucked them all down sooner or later.

For the last three weeks, the conversation he’d had with his father had been rolling around in his head. There had indeed been someone that was sick in Roswell. A little girl had been put in the hospital for heart surgery. And she was Max’s new best friend. How convenient was that? He’d done some calculations with some snooping from his father. Liz had dreamt of Max two days before Christmas early in the morning. And according to the hospital records his father had dug up, little Ana Cole had been admitted into the hospital in the afternoon that very same day. The Max Liz had dreamt of had told her a friend was sick. And then a new friend of his is admitted into Roswell General.

And of course, the kick in the pants had been how much happier Liz had seemed since she’d had the dream. He couldn’t escape the feeling that just having those few dream minutes with Max had filled some sort of hole in her. He knew she missed him. But he also knew she thought that dream was just a dream. So, what happened when he told her he thought it wasn’t? Would she flip out because Max was dream walking her? The whole thing was enough to give him a headache.

Was he a better friend for telling her the truth and taking away the one thing that brought her a bit of peace? Or should he tell her the truth and watch that horrible look fill her eyes? And so far, he’d said nothing. He’d asked his father and he’d been absolutely no help. His father had said that it was a mess and it was a decision he would have to make all by himself. He knew he should tell her the truth, and he hadn’t yet told her about her new healing powers.

Kyle continued to toss the ball high in the air. To tell or not to tell? That was the question. So, he’d taken the cowards way out and had avoided both Liz and Mel since New Years day. Mel. Her very name alone now brought something akin to a frustrated desire to his body. What the hell was he supposed to do about that? He could agree with her and pretend everything was fine. He could pretend that whenever he saw her now, he didn’t think about what it would be like to just grab her and kiss her. What would she do, he wondered? Would she haul off and smack the hell out of him or would she kiss him back? From the way she’d been acting around him since their talk, he assumed he’d walk away from that scenario with a bloodied nose if he were lucky.

More than once, he’d considered asking Liz for advice, but something was telling him to keep this new development quiet. He wasn’t ready to share it just yet. And Liz would only ask him how he felt about her. Truthfully, he had no idea. She was annoying and frustrating and the sexiest woman he’d ever known. She was making him feel all sorts of uncomfortable things and he wasn’t sure if he really wanted to pursue it or not. He really respected her and if anything went wrong between them, he knew he would lose her friendship in a heartbeat. She would probably move out and then he would have disappointed Liz too.

But maybe he could ask Liz for advice and not really tell her what was going on. Yeah, that would work. With a renewed sense of hope, Kyle jumped off the bed and tossed the baseball on the floor. He swung open his bedroom door and was relieved to find Liz sitting alone on the couch.

“Liz, great. I need to talk to you for a second.”

“Uh huh.” Liz flipped off the television. It looked as though she was destined not to watch bad sitcoms tonight.

“Okay, I have this friend who’s having girl troubles.” Kyle frowned when Liz simply grinned at him like a damned Cheshire Cat.

“Really? How interesting. What’s his story?”

“Well, actually, I feel kind of funny telling you the details of the whole thing. You understand, I don’t want to…break a confidence.”

Liz sighed. She was never going to get a real story out of the two of them. “Kyle, just follow your heart.” She decided to cut to the chase and maybe give the two of them a gentle nudge. “It’ll probably lead you into strange, uncomfortable places and you’ll wish you’d chosen the cowards way out, but do it just the same.”

“Geez, Liz. You make it sound so appealing. I’m going to pass that advice on right away.”

Liz wrapped an arm around Kyle’s shoulder. These two were so alike it was scary. “Kyle, how does your friend feel about journals?”

posted on 3-Jan-2002 10:48:31 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 66

“Jump over the lake!”

“Watch out for the mutant spider in the tree!”

“No, the other tree!”

“Man, you are so dead.”

As the television played the annoying death tones Max had become accustomed to over the last hour, he set down the video game controller and glanced at the two kids on either side of him. “Thanks, guys. That was real fun.”

Janie laughed at him. “You weren’t kidding when you said you never played video games before.”

“Yeah, well, I did productive things with my time when I was your age.”

“Oh, yeah, like what?” Andy smirked at him knowingly.

“I read a lot and when I was about your age, my parents got me this really cool science kit. I think I put everything in the house under a microscope.” Max paused when he saw the looks on the kids faces.

“So, you were a nerd then.” Andy announced with a smile, jumping to safety when he saw Max make a grab for him. “Max is a nerd!” He danced around the living room, chanting good-naturedly as he went.

“You read? Books?” Janie crinkled up her nose at the thought.

“It’s not that foreign of a concept, guys.” Max laughed with them. Okay, so he’d been a large nerd when he’d been a kid. It had brought him one step closer to Liz, so he didn’t regret his years of being hidden in the shadows. Nevertheless, he felt that he had to defend his good name or the kids would ridicule the hell out of him.

So, it was pride that gave him no choice but to hunt Andy down. The boy may have had Max by a few years, but he was no match for Max. In no time, Max was dangling him upside down, tickling him mercilessly.

“Oh, good! You caught him, Max. Now, let’s tie him up and roast him for dinner.”

“Sara, help!” Andy pleaded between peals of laughter.

Sara peeled off her gloves and smiled at the trio. “Well, it all depends on what started all this.”

“We were playing ‘Mutant Spiders from Outer Space’ and Max died even though we tried to tell him about the secret extra life behind the banana tree and then Andy called him a nerd and then they started wrestling and then Max caught him,” Janie tattled.

“A nerd, huh?” Sara asked.

Max shrugged, dropping Andy on the couch. “I prefer to think that I was ahead of my time.”

Sara grinned at him, but decided not to reply. Instead, she turned to the kids. “Mom wanted me to ask you guys to help her with the groceries. And she told me to tell you that there might be fudgesicles for anyone who helps without complaining.”

Both children pasted smiles on their faces before scurring out the door. Max rose to follow, but Sara put a hand on his shoulder to stop him. “Wait, I actually wanted to talk to you for a second, Max.”

Max turned back and saw that a shy smile had graced her face. “Oh, really? And what would you want to talk about?” He couldn’t help but tease her.

She slapped at him playfully. “I should have known you were going to make this hard on me. Maybe I should just wait for Maria.” And she had been for a week now, but Maria hadn’t been anywhere to be found.

“No, no I’m sorry. Talk to me. I assume this has something to do with Jesse.”

The shy smile blossomed into a larger one. “Am I that obvious?”

“You wouldn’t be if you hadn’t gone out with him everyday this week. So, tell me about him.” Max turned into girlfriend mode. He had years of practice with Maria to guide him now.

Sara took a seat beside Max on the couch. This had been why she’d really wanted to talk to Max and not Maria. Maria knew Jesse and would probably give advice of the matchmaking sort. “He’s perfect, Max,” she blurted out. When Max only laughed at her, she continued. “He’s sweet and funny and a hopeless romantic. We went to the lake today and he brought us a picnic lunch and then we rented a paddle boat and explored the lake.”

“It sounds like you had fun.” Max smiled when her eyes glazed over in memory and a dreamy smile curled her lips. But a sliver of guilt still found its way into his heart. It sounded like the sort of thing Alex might have done.

“I’ve never met anyone like him before, Max. I know you don’t really know him, but he said you were friends with his brother. I know he died, but I didn’t want to ask him how.”

“Car accident,” Max choked out. It still burned his throat to tell the lie. But they had decided there was no other choice. “He died last year.”

“I’m sorry, Max. I never knew. Were you close?” Her eyes softened and she laid a comforting hand over his.

“No, not as close as we should have been. But he was Liz and Maria’s best friend.

“Liz? I’ve heard that name before.” But it had always been whispered instead of outright spoken.

Max sighed. How had they gotten on this topic? “Maria, Liz and Alex grew up together. They were the best of friends and a trio of troublemakers I hear. Alex’s death was hard on them.” Only, he hadn’t seen how hard until it had been too late.

“Where is Liz now?” There was something in his tone of voice that spoke volumes.

“She left town a few months ago.” Had it really been gone that short length of time? It seemed like years already since he’d seen her last.

As the pieces began to fit together, Sara realized now what had put the haunted look in Max’s eyes. She’d seen it the first time she’d met him and at the time, had hoped to be able to help him. But Ana had beaten to her it and had filled the hole Max Evans had lived with. He loved her still. And it made her want to cry for him.

Before Sara could try to comfort Max further, the front door opened again and they caught a glimpse of a red coat speeding down the hall.

“Maria?” Max called out.

Maria froze in her tracks, cursing herself for not paying attention to who was in the house before she came in. She really wasn’t in the mood to see the concern in her friend’s eyes. She had virtually disappeared this past week and she wasn’t ready to tell anyone else yet.

“Hey, Max.” She tried to flash him a smile as she unwound her scarf from her neck.

Max rose from the couch. “Are you okay? I haven’t seen you all week. Did something happen between you and Michael?”

Maria wanted to laugh at the absurdity of the question. Indeed, she had to choke back the first chuckle that bubbled up in her throat. “I’m fine, Max. I’ve just been really busy this week, that’s all. But I promised Ana I’d come by today and see her.” And if she’d been a few seconds quicker, she could have escaped upstairs unnoticed.

Unconvinced, Max frowned. “Maria-“

“Max, I’m fine. I just wanted to go see Ana before I have to leave for work. If you’re still worried about me, you can follow me there and watch me all night.”

“Don’t think I won’t too.”

Despite everything that had been threatening to push her deep into despair, she smiled at Max. “I can always count on you to lurk.” She squeezed his arm as she passed by, throwing a quick wave at Sara before she bounded up the stairs.

“Maria!” Ana squealed when her favorite girlfriend came into the room. “I haven’t seen you in forever and ever. You were supposedta come play Candy Land with me.”

“I know. I’m sorry, munchkin. I’ve just been super duper busy this week.” Maria examined the frown on her face. “Hey, what’s with the long face?”

“I hafta go soon.”

Maria’s heart threatened to break. She eased herself on Ana’s bed and pulled the small girl in her arms. “I know, baby.”

“I don’t want a new family. I want to stay here. I’m scared,” she confessed softly.

“It happens to the best of us,” Maria stroked Ana’s soft hair as thoughts of the new life growing inside of her surfaced.

“You’ve been scared before?” Ana asked, skeptical of her answer. How could someone like Maria be scared?

“I’ve been terrified, baby.” Maria was overcome with the sudden urge to simply tell someone about her life changing news. She’d kept it a secret all week, had kept her distance from Michael even at her own insistence. Everything between them had become so intense so suddenly that it had scared her down the bone. One minute they had been this ordinary couple and the next, they were having to worry about the possibility of creating a child that might or might not even be able to live on their planet. Plus, there had been how unexpectedly perfect Michael had become. In the space of a heartbeat, he’d become this responsible father and she was worried that he would regret having been thrust into this new role. So, she’d told him to take a step back and think while they still had time.

But now, with this incredible little girl in her arms, Maria wanted to talk about her baby. “Ana, do you know where babies come from?”

Ana nodded against Maria’s chest. “Colleen said that when a mommy and a daddy love each other so much they run out of room for all the love and so they put it in a baby.”

Tears welled in Maria’s eyes and she wanted to find Colleen and hug her. Was there ever a more apt description of her relationship with Michael? She loved him so much sometimes it could have filled her and the person standing beside her. “That’s absolutely right, Ana. Can I tell you a secret?”

Ana pulled away from Maria’s embrace to stare up solemnly at her friend. “Of course, Maria.”

Maria smiled, her hand unconsciously moving to her flat waist. “I’m going to have a baby.”

Ana’s eyes widened as they moved from Maria’s face to her stomach. “When?”

Chuckling, Maria swiped at a tear. “I’d say in about eight months, give or take. But no one knows about this yet. You have to keep it a secret.”

“Cross my heart and hope to die,” Ana promised sacredly.

Maria turned a serious gaze on her younger friend. “Care to give it the secret best friend handshake on that?”

Ana nodded as they began the motions of their secret handshake. Secrecy sworn, Ana threw herself gently into Maria’s arms again, wrapping her small arms around Maria’s waist.

“You’re gonna be the bestest mommy ever,” Ana proclaimed.

Maria felt the tears well in her eyes, but she left them where they were. She knew Michael was in the room even before he made his presence known to her. Was it her connection to him, or their child telling her daddy was near? She didn’t know and it didn’t matter anymore. It had been a week since she’d seen Michael and it had been too long since she’d let him hold her.

Michael hadn’t wanted to interrupt the moment Maria had been having with Ana. But he needed to see her, to make sure she was okay and that she knew he missed her. So, when he stepped into the light, he was surprised to find that she was already watching him.

“Maria,” he began, without fully knowing what he intended to say.

Maria’s lips curved into a smile. “Ana, I have to talk to Michael for a second.” She spoke to the little girl softly, never breaking eye contact with Michael.

“Is Michael gonna be a daddy?”

“Yeah, sweetie, he is.” Why had she thought time would change that? In hindsight, she knew it had been fear that had forced her to run. But no matter where she went, Michael would find her. Because when push came to shove, she really believed that he wanted to be a father.

Maria moved off the bed slowly towards Michael. She found that she was nervous suddenly. Would he be upset that she’d kept her distance from him for this long?

“She’s right, you know.” Michael’s eyes, intense and piercing, bore into her. “You’re going to be the best mom ever.”

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, then gave in and threw herself into Michael’s arms. His came around her without reservation and relief coursed through her.

“I don’t need anymore time to think, Maria. I know it’s going to be difficult to say the least. I don’t know what to expect, and I’m terrified something might happen to you. If by some miracle we pull this off and your mother doesn’t kill us, I don’t even know what kind of father I’ll be. I don’t exactly have a lot of experience there. And I’ll probably screw up.”

“You wouldn’t be human if you didn’t.”

Michael’s eyes softened. “I know what I want, Maria. I want you. I told you before that you are my family, and I meant it.”

Maria felt herself being drawn towards Michael by the attraction that had pulled them together from the start. Somehow, she’d always known that Michael would be it for her. “I love you, Spaceboy.”

“Eww. Are you two going to kiss now?” Ana asked from the bed.

Maria grinned at Michael before turning back to Ana. “You sure know how to ruin a mood, don’t you?” Fingers linked with Michael, they walked back to the bed.

“Now, I hear I missed a pretty rough game of Candy Land this week and I play a mean game. I don’t lose like Max does. How about a match?”

“Yeah!” Ana exclaimed with a grin.

Michael frowned. “Candy Land? What’s that?”

Maria laughed, placing a kiss on Michael’s lips. “You are in for quite the education.”





posted on 4-Jan-2002 11:33:05 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Morning everyone! Looky here. Another part just for you. I did something kind of evil here for you guys, and I know you'll leave me some feedback for it when you read it. It's something I sort of glazed over for awhile now, and I know a lot of you have been asking questions that I haven't answered about Mel. So, here you go. And I know you guys are missing Max and Liz, but you have to bear with me for awhile here. I swear we're getting there. Just be patient. To cheer you up, how about if I tell you the next part deals with getting the puzzle box open? Well, not the next part, but the next Liz part. Does that cheer you up any? Have faith, guys. I would never steer you wrong. And I loved, by the way, that I was able to pull some people out of lurkdom. And CCDreamgirl, I love your rambling posts.

Finding Yourself
Part 67

Journal entry number one of one, because I'm never planning on doing something as stupid and time consuming as this again.

I am not going to write ‘Dear Diary’ at the top of this page, no matter how therapeutic it’s supposed to be. If you ask me, this whole thing is a lesson in craziness to begin with. But I’ve obviously reached the end of my rope and I’m out of ideas. So, this stupid journal thing will have to do. That said, I guess I should figure out the best place to start.

I guess I’ll start with Liz herself, the matriarch of this whole thing. She’s a safe enough topic to start with. I’ve never met anyone like Liz before. She’s strong and confident and graceful without knowing she’s any of those things. She seems dependable and stubborn, and while I can’t ever be confused with the first, I can relate to the second. But when I first met her, I knew I’d seen a wilder side. It might have been buried deep, but I can recognize a kindred spirit when I see one. I think that’s what drew me to her in the first place. Usually, I come and go through towns so fast, no one ever has time to notice I was even there to begin with. And I’ve certainly never bothered trying to make friends. But somehow I knew I could trust Liz. And she hasn’t let me down yet. I know it goes against the lone wolf philosophy of life I adopted a few years ago, but I have a gut feeling about this one.

We went skydiving last week. Well, not by ourselves really. We jumped while being strapped to trained instructors, jumping tangent. Mine was called Pierre. He was sexy and he knew it. Another quality I respect. Kyle glared at him the entire time. But I’ve learned to ignore that by now.

Where was I? Skydiving. Liz.

I saw something in her come alive last week, or maybe it just reawakened. I don’t know enough about Roswell Liz to say for sure. And yes, I call her Roswell Liz in my mind when I wonder about her life before Flat Creek, Arizona. And lately that’s been a lot. I get the feeling she used to be a different person before she came here. God, something must have driven her into this hick town. No sane person should willingly come here. Yet, two did.

I’m not sure, but I think Liz is dating Tag now. It’s a subtle change, but it’s there. It’s not like they’re all over each other or anything, or that I’ve even seen them so much as kiss, but she doesn’t shy away from his touch like I’ve seen her do with everyone else. Tag is a good guy. I like him. But is he right for Liz? No. Not that anyone would ever confide anything with me, but I don’t think she’s looking to fall in love. And Liz seems like the forever love type. If you believe in that sort of thing. Of which I certainly do not. But hey, some people will believe in anything.

I saw the same change in Kyle, not the love thing, but coming alive again. Not that I was watching too closely or anything. But I get the feeling they’ve both been shut down for too long or something. I mean, they’re both great friends and good people, but it’s like they’ve forgotten how to have fun. They’re just lucky they have me around.

Although Liz and Kyle are pretty funny together. The two of them are almost as opposite as you can get. I can’t imagine them ever dating. It must have been the most mismatched pair in all of New Mexico. But they make good friends. Just this morning, they got into another argument about where they were going for college. There was a lot of glaring and they stopped what they were saying a time or two when they remembered I was there. But I think Kyle is trying to take care of Liz again, trying to push her to go to the best college. They have this bond that’s hard to describe. I liken it to war buddies that survive and become lifelong friends for it. Which is an odd comparison, I know. But it seems apt.

Hell, I give up. I guess I should write something about Kyle. It is the reason I’m doing this stupid exercise in the first place. Kyle is…unique. No, that word alone doesn’t do him justice. He’s an irritating gigolo who spent his first few months in this town trying to use what I’m sure he considers to be the infamous Valenti charm on me. He’s seduced and charmed half the population already. I know. I’ve seen it daily at school. And then at home, I get to take the scores of giggly phone messages for him. Of course, there was this one time this chick really rubbed me wrong on the phone. So, I made out like Kyle and I had something going on and she shouldn’t waste her time. And I’ll take that secret to the grave. Besides, it’s not like she was right for Kyle anyway.

He has this annoying affinity for blondes and I have no idea why. I’ve turned it over in my brain a bit and it still doesn’t make sense. He seems to pick these girls that are completely wrong for him. But I guess that makes them easier to dispose of. If they treated him halfway decently it would be one thing. It’s almost like he’s punishing himself. But for what I don’t have the first clue.

The thing about Kyle Valenti though, is that, yes, he can be the most pompous ass you’ve ever met in your life. And it’s pretty easy to dismiss him. But it’s those times when he thinks that nobody is looking that make him hard to ignore. Before we jumped last weekend, he insisted on checking our packs. Not his. Just mine and Liz’s. What he was looking for, I’m still not sure, because he doesn’t know the first thing about parachutes. But he checked. Because he’s Kyle. He performs these random, seemingly innocent acts of kindness. At first, I could convince myself that it was all part of some larger performance. But the longer I watched, the more certain I became that it wasn’t.

He makes me soft and I hate that. If he were just another jock, it would be a different story. I don’t have all the details, but I think he left his home behind to follow Liz here. And I think that says a lot. He tries to take care of her, be a father and a best friend all wrapped up in a gooey ball. Not that he hasn’t tried with me. But he knows I won’t let him take care of me. I don’t need it. I’ve been essentially alone my whole life. Why would I need nurturing now? But I think he’s scared of me too. Which is altogether not a bad thing. But it means that he just tries to hide his nurturing tendencies better.

If I hadn’t grown up with stories of the sham otherwise known as falling in love, then I may just be inclined to believe in it now. Because lately, I’ve been feeling…things. And since I have no professional journal writing experience, that’s the best description I can come up with. Things.

Hell, if I let him, he could turn me into mush with just a look. And don’t think he hasn’t. He’s gotten more out of me than most people do. I just hate to see that defeated look in his eye. It’s something that should never be there. He’s too strong for it. But for some reason, he tries to carry the weight of the world on his shoulders. Liz does the same, but I think Kyle believes that if he worries more, Liz won’t have to. Screwy, backwards logic, but try telling him that.

He’s been chipping away at me for awhile. I see that now. Snippets of conversation stick out in my mind. But I think the first time I really felt it was in Colorado. The night Liz was off with her parents and we were alone in that bed. The most amazing thing happened that night. For the first time that I can ever remember, someone actually held me in their arms. I think when I was eight and I fell out of a tree, I tried to cuddle with my father. But he didn’t know how. So, I stopped trying. How pathetic does this sound? So, Kyle reached out and held me. Big deal, right? But it was. As much as I hate to admit it, it was a big deal. And I can’t forget it. I think that’s what drives me the craziest. It was probably another night for him. He was looking for a warm body to curl up with and I was there.

Somehow, I found a way to put things back where they were before. I found a way not to have dreamy thoughts whenever he came in the room. Until that damn kiss. Because the truth is, I can’t forget that kiss no matter how hard I try. It was electrifying and terrifying all at once. And I wanted more. I still want more. So, why did I push him away? It’s the question I’ve been asking myself ever since it happened. Maybe I thought things would be better off if we just stayed friends. They’d certainly be easier. But things haven’t been easier since New Years. They’ve been worse. And now, I think I’ve not only lost the possibility of…well, whatever could have been, but I think I’ve lost a friend as well. And to date, I’ve only got two.

We don’t even trade barbs anymore. Aside from last weekend, he usually leaves the room whenever he sees me. And that means I’ve taken to being gone myself. It isn’t fair to him to be left alone all the time. I’m not sure how things got to be this broken, but I don’t know how to fix them either. That’s what this stupid journal was supposed to help, but I don’t see how it’s going to fix a thing. All I’ve done now is put my problems down on paper so I can look at them later and read how pathetic I am instead of merely thinking about it. I’m not going to wake up tomorrow and be all girly cute and try to win Kyle’s affections. And frankly, what would Kyle even do with someone like me? Maybe he does belong with the blondes after all.

I guess something will come up and make it all better. I try not to dwell on it too much, but obviously that’s been working out well for me. I think that the hardest part of all is knowing that if it doesn’t get fixed and we can’t continue to live together, I’m going to be the one that has to go. Liz and Kyle have that bond forged by the secrets they struggle to keep from me. But frankly, they don’t do as good a job as they think they do. They’re both bad liars.

Aside from that, they forget that I’m around entirely too often these days. They can still catch themselves most of the time. But I already know more than they’d want me to.

I know Liz was in love and something crushed her. I know they lost a friend to death, and it probably explains a good bit of the sadness, but not all of it. I’ve heard tales of fairy tale kings and castles in the stars. But those stories are nothing compared to what I’ve overheard. I know things I’m not supposed to know. But there are words that stick out in my mind, words that don’t make any sense. Unless Liz and Kyle have some secret fascination with Czechoslovakia, I’m pretty sure it’s a code word for something else. Something that involves fear and danger, something that put Kyle into a full panic when Liz went missing the night of the rave.

Liz herself told me that her Max had found his destiny and it hadn’t been with her. But who believed in things like destiny? Surely someone as rational and steeped in logic as Liz wouldn’t believe in such archaic concepts. But then I consider love to be ridiculously archaic.

I’ve heard words that just confuse everything I know even more. Strange words like ‘powers’ and ‘mindwarping’ have peppered Liz and Kyle’s conversations. I haven’t said anything to them yet, because I’m not really sure what to say. How to do you ask someone if they’ve been the victim of mindcontrol? You don’t. Because if you do, people lock you away in the funny farm. Plus, I’m not even sure they would answer me if I did ask. They would just look at each other in that way they have where they silently try to figure out how best to deal with me, and then they’d ask where I heard it from.

Kyle already told me once that where they’d come from, shady people he called ‘them’ had been after them. I know their lives were probably in danger, which all goes back to my war buddy friendship theory. But I can’t for the life of me make sense of it all on my own. I’ve heard a handful of conversations between them where they either thought I was sleeping or not in the room. And each one brought more information that clashed with reality as I used to know it.

Because the strangest thing of it all is a single word I heard Kyle utter in the car on that long road trip to Colorado. I’ve pretended all along that nothing is amiss, but I’m not sure how much longer I can do it for. The questions are simply eating me alive. I’ve replayed the conversation over in my head a thousand times at night, but I can never find another meaning for what I heard. I mean, how many ways can you interpret the word ‘alien’? And what kind of person throws it into normal conversation? Crazy people, that’s who. So, I’m either living with two certifiable nut cases, or…you know what? I can’t even come up with anything else.

So, I’ll continue to sit quietly and hope that something they say makes sense for once. Otherwise, I might be inclined to start believing in little green men. And we can all share a room in the funny farm together.



[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Jan-2002 12:42:35 PM ]
posted on 7-Jan-2002 9:32:24 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Morning all. I actually had this part ready to go for Saturday morning, if you can believe it, but I got an e-mail that asked us not to post over the weekend while they were trying to update and fix everything. So, here we are with your next part. And I apologize in advance for making you cry. Try not to hate me too much. I'm simply telling a story.

Finding Yourself
Part 68

“And you’re going to make so many new friends, you won’t know what to do with them all.” Max carefully finished tying Ana’s left sneaker. Her right foot still dangled untied, her leg nervously swinging. He had been chattering about inane, cheerful things all morning. And he was afraid of what would happen when he finally ran out of thing to say. Because then it would be time and Ana would be gone. And what would he do then?

“I’ll be up to see you in two weeks to make sure you’re all settled in. And you can show me around and tell me all about the new things you’ve seen and the new people you’ve met.” He sat back and examined the bow he’d just tied and decided it didn’t look right at all. It was too crooked. It would untie itself in five minutes. So, he began tying it anew.

“Max?”

It was the first thing she’d said to him all morning and the soft plea in her voice threatened to undo him.

“What is it, sweetie?”

Ana bit her lip. “What if they don’t like me?”

“What? How could anyone not like you? You’re the cutest girl ever and you’re smart and funny and everyone is going to be absolutely crazy about you.” He moved closer to her, settling one arm on each side of the bed around her. “Where is this crazy talk coming from?”

Ana shrugged. “I don’t know. I had this dream.”

“Oh really? And what was it about?”

“Everyone was laughing at me because I was different.”

“Because of this?” Max laid his hand gently on the highest point of the long incision that ran down her chest. The doctors had told them to expect her to be shy about it, especially given her age. It was healing nicely, but the doctor had assured them that no amount of healing would erase the long scar that would form after time. Usually, it wasn’t visible, but it depended on how high the collar of her shirt was. And she had refused to wear anything lately that wasn’t high.

When she stayed quiet, Max couldn’t resist pulling her into his arms. “Ana, if anyone makes fun of you because you’re different, then they’re not people you want to be around anyway. You are a very special girl and you got this wonderful miracle. I know you’ve been sick your whole life, so you don’t really know what it’s like to be able to just go outside and play. But you have a chance to do that now. The doctors said you were doing so wonderful, they’re amazed and you can do all sorts of things now that you never could before. You’ve got this whole new life ahead of you now. And if a couple of people are stupid enough not to see that, then you come tell me and I’ll jump in my car and come up there and beat them up for you. How about that?”

Ana sniffled, but nodded her head. “You’re gonna come see me, right?”

Max nodded. She might have been in the orphanage surrounded by loving people for the last few months, but it would take a lifetime to erase the fear of abandonment her mother had instilled in her. “You bet. Wild monkeys couldn’t keep me away.”

“And we’ll go to the zoo?” She asked hopefully.

How could it be possible to want to laugh and cry at the same time? “All day if you want. And you can introduce me to your new family too.”

Ana nodded, but she wasn’t buying Max’s cheerful act. Her corners of her mouth drooped again. “I don’t want to go. I want to stay here with you and Maria and Michael and Isabel and Colleen and Sara."

Max’s heart broke anew when he saw the first sign of tears in her eyes. How was he ever going to make it through this day without breaking down? Ana was leaving and what was left of his heart was going with her. “I know you want to stay, but you can’t. Believe me, I’d love nothing more than for you to stay here with all of us. But you have this wonderful family that wants to make you a part of their home. Don’t you want that?”

Ana shrugged, hanging her head low. “I guess. But what if I want to tell you something and I can’t find you?”

Max decided he had to try a different tactic. He grabbed at the stuffed dog on the bed beside her. “Okay, how about this? You see this scruffy looking dog I bought you? Well, he’ll go with you and every time you look at him, you can just pretend it’s me. If there’s something you want to tell me, you can just tell Spot here. And when I come to see you, Spot can tell me everything you told him. That way you’re never alone and you have something to remember me by all the time.”

Ana considered it, then reached out a hand to take her beloved Spot from Max’s outstretched hand. “Well, what will you have to remember me by?”

“Ana, you’ve given me more than you’ll ever know.”

A girl on a mission, her eyes darted around the small room she’d called home. Her brand new pink book bag was sitting on a small chair by the window and she could see her dolls inside. “Can you hand me my book bag, please?”

Confused, Max obliged, reaching behind him to grab the bag. He remembered how her eyes had grown huge when Isabel had given it to her for Christmas. Careful not to jar her, he set it gently on the bed beside her. He watched as she rummaged through its contents and proudly retrieved one of her Barbie dolls.

“Here.” She thrust it into his hands. “You can keep Barbie and you can think of me whenever you see her. And if you wanna bring her with you when you come to see me, then we can play.”

Max let his gaze drop to the doll in his hands. Her blonde hair had been pulled from the stylish upsweep she had come with and there was something that looked suspiciously like purple glitter glue on the left side of her head. But he knew he would never have a more prized possession. The tears threatened to flow again and he knew he had to hold it together for just a few more minutes or she really wouldn’t want to leave. Because the simple truth was that she had a family waiting for her. She might not want to leave now, but she would be okay once she got there. She had a second chance to live and for once in his life, he was not going to be selfish with someone he loved.

“Hey, is this a private party, or can anyone join in?” Maria called out softly from the doorway. She hadn’t wanted to interrupt the moment, but the social worker had arrived downstairs and they had wanted to say goodbye.

“Hi, Maria.” Ana tried to force a smile.

“Hey, kiddo. How are you doing?” Maria crossed into the room, Michael on her heels.

“Okay.”

“We just wanted to come in and say goodbye before you had to leave.” Maria produced a small, purple tote bag from behind her. “I brought you this. It’s got all sorts of crafty stuff in it I put lots of glitter and glue and some crayons and coloring books inside for the trip. Just promise not to open anything gooey until you get there, or they’ll call and yell at me.”

“Kay.”

“And I baked some cookies for you too,” Michael chimed in. “I know it’s a long car ride, so I didn’t want you to get hungry.” But somehow it just hadn’t seemed enough. “And you don’t have to share if you don’t want to.”

When Maria hit Michael in the chest, Ana managed a giggle. “Sharing is good,” she explained to him.

“What? You think I sweated in a kitchen for some stranger? You eat those cookies all by yourself, Ana.”

“Don’t worry. I’ll share.” She looked at Maria and smiled. Unable to resist any longer, Maria moved forward and pulled Ana into her arms.

“You take care of yourself, sweetie, and Michael and I will come see you sometime. You have my address, right?” Maria had safely tucked away all of their addresses for the new foster home to mail any letters or pictures she wanted to send to them.

“Right.” Ana dropped her voice to a whisper. “And Michael says to tell you to drink lots of milk.” She looked up at Michael, who was hovering close by. “Was that okay?” She asked him.

Michael grinned sheepishly. “Yeah. Thanks, kiddo.”

Maria smiled at Ana. “Just because you said so, okay.”

“Quit hogging, I want a hug too.” Michael playfully pushed Maria aside to hug Ana. “We’re gonna miss you. Now, don’t forget your promise. You’re gonna draw us that picture and send it to us, right?”

“I’ll start it in the car.”

“Knock, knock.” Isabel came into the room. She faced first Ana, then her brother. “It’s time to go.”

As Michael and Maria moved out of the way, Max knelt by Ana’s bedside again. He made quick work of her shoelaces, not caring what they looked like anymore. How was he supposed to see through the sudden tears that had sprung up when he tried to tie her shoes. She would be lucky not to have giant knots in them later. Ana threw herself into his chest, tightening her arms around his neck.

“I love you.”

“I love you too, sweetie.” He could do this. All he had to do was make it downstairs and get her in that car, then he could let it all go. “How about a piggy back ride?”

Max moved into the now familiar position and Ana scrambled onto his back. She had far more strength now than she’d had when they’d first attempted this. And by the time he saw her again, she would have even more. Everyday, she got stronger, more like the child she never had the chance to be. Still careful not to jostle her, Max carried her downstairs and met with Colleen in the foyer.

Colleen smiled at Ana and the procession that had followed her down the hall. “Hey, Ana. I want you to meet Linsey. She’s your new social worker and she’s going to be the one that drives you to your new foster home. Linsey, this is Ana.”

Max had met Linsey earlier that morning, and while he couldn’t find any outward faults with her, she would forever be the woman who took Ana away. “Where’s Sara?”

“She couldn’t say goodbye this morning,” Colleen confided. “I think she said her goodbyes last night.”

Linsey moved behind Max to smile at Ana. “Hi, Ana. I’m happy to finally meet you. I’ve heard such wonderful things about you. Are you feeling okay enough to take a drive today?”

Ana nodded, but buried her face in Max’s neck.

“She’s a little apprehensive about leaving,” Max admitted. He didn’t want to let her go either, but he had to keep reminding himself that she had a family waiting for her.

“Well, that’s normal. But I promise you’ll like the house you’re going to. They have a pool in the backyard. Isn’t that nice?”

“I don’t know how to swim,” she confessed softly.

Max was again reminded of just how many things she’d never had the chance to do. He forced cheer into his voice. All that was going to change. “Well, it’s easy. When I come up to visit, I’ll bet you’ll be swimming like a fish.” He turned to Linsey. “All of her medicine is in the blue bag. Maria wrote up a list of all of them and when she has to take them. Some of the pills have to be taken every couple of hours. So, it’s important for you to take a look at it so she doesn’t miss anything. I wrote up what she’s already taken this morning, so that should help.” He knew he was babbling. The time had come now.

Linsey was nodding. “I’ll take a look at it now and you can settle her in the car.”

Max carried Ana outside slowly, prolonging each step as long as he dared. He knew he would be seeing her in just a few weeks, fourteen days to be precise, but it just wouldn’t be the same. He set her down on the truck of the car. “Now, you have the phone numbers I gave you, right? Do you remember how I showed you to call me if you need something?”

Ana nodded, tears pooling in her eyes again. She had nothing left to say.

“Well, let’s get you settled in then and Maria can bring you those coloring books and cookies.” He was careful to buckle her into the car, maneuvering the seat belt into the special clip the doctors had given them so that it didn’t cross her chest. He handed Spot to her, noting how she clutched him as though he were the last lifeline she had left.

“You be good, Ana and I’ll call you tomorrow to make sure everything is okay.”

“Here’s your bag.” Maria stepped out of Michael’s arms and placed the purple bag on the seat beside her. “You take care, girlfriend, and we’ll see you soon.”

Ana waved at Michael and Isabel and when Maria blew her a kiss, Ana returned the gesture. Linsey was coming out of the house with Ana’s blue medicine bag and she settled herself in the front seat of the car. “I’ll take care of her, Max. Don’t worry.”

Max nodded. “Bye, Ana. I love you.” He closed the door softly, his heart sinking with each move he made now. He continued his mantra that she would be happy with a family. It was the only thing stopping him from throwing himself in front of the car to stop it from leaving.

He watched as her small head swiveled to watch them from the back window as the car roared to life. Colleen and Isabel had stepped out of the doorway to join them. He knew Isabel was at his elbow, ready to hold him back if necessary. But he knew it wasn’t. She would be safe and happy where she was going. And he could never deny her that experience. As much as his heart bled in that moment, as long as she was okay, he knew he would be too. So, when she raised a small hand to wave, he found himself waving back.

The car lurched forward and gained speed as it moved down the street. Still, he continued to wave until finally the car rounded a corner and disappeared out of sight. He sagged against his sister’s side and she wrapped an arm around him.

“C’mon, Max. Let’s go inside. Michael promised to make waffles this morning.” Isabel knew he didn’t give a damn about eating waffles, but they’d made a pact not to let him wither away like he’d done when he’d lost Liz. So, if they had to, they would force him into some kind of normal pattern again. And that included eating. But she hoped that her brother had grown enough in the last few months not to fall apart over Ana’s absence.

He felt Maria’s presence on his other side and he let them half drag him inside. They dumped him on the couch and he was reminded of the first time he’d carried Ana down those stairs to make her peanut butter and banana sandwiches and watch cartoons. And it made him smile. No, it didn’t seem like he would crumble after all. Because as much as he already missed the little girl that had captured his heart, he knew that it would all be okay.


posted on 7-Jan-2002 1:19:11 PM by Cookieman1234
Well, my deed here is done. The driving force behind this entire fic has been to make SciFiNut feel sorry for Max. I guess I can just stop writing now, for I can not top that compliment. *happy*

Edited to reassure everyone once again that we will have a fluffy dreamer ending. Someone asked over the weekend. So, fluffy promises for everyone.

It's me. C'mon. Do you really expect anything less? Oh, and for the hell of it and because he's my new favorite character, Kyle will get a happy ending too. Now, don't you feel better about reading my little saga?

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Jan-2002 1:41:43 PM ]
posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:55:27 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 69

“So, are you going to let me crack that thing open or what?” Mel turned the puzzle box over in her hands. The possibilities were endless.

Liz snatched it from her hands and she frowned at Mel. “Absolutely not. It was my grandmothers. I’m not just going to let you hammer it open.”

“Actually I was thinking more of drilling a few holes in it, but a hammer could work too.” Mel threw herself down on Liz’s bed. “C’mon, Liz. It’s been like six weeks. Just let me open it already. What’s the point in having an arsenal of power tools if you don’t ever let me use them?”

“I hate to interrupt, but I think Mel may have a point.” Kyle hovered in Liz’s doorway, careful to keep his gaze on Liz.

Surprised at so suddenly hearing Kyle’s voice, Mel sat up on the bed and gave him her full attention. “See? How can you argue with both of us?” What was wrong with her that she couldn’t come up with a witty comeback? There had been a time when they fell from her tongue easily. Now, things seemed awkward and strained. What would it take to put things on an even keel again?

Liz turned to Kyle. “Do you really think I should?”

“It’s your call. I know it was Claudia’s and you don’t want to damage it, but you’ve been looking for answers this whole time without any luck. Dad still hasn’t tracked down any more information than we had on where you could have come from. Her journal is even more of a question than anything. Maybe it’s time to give the puzzle box a try. We know there’s something inside of it. I can hear it rattling. It could be the key to everything you’re looking for.”

Liz examined the box in her hands. Her grandmother had taken great pains to keep whatever was inside safe and sound. They’d gone to Jim for help weeks ago, telling him what they knew about Liz’s adoption and her grandmothers’ roll in it. Phillip Evans had come through for them, producing old documents and presenting them to Jim. Jim had in turn agreed to run some discrete searches and they had so far produced nothing. All they knew was that no missing babies had been reported in any New Mexico town in the two weeks surrounding Liz’s supposed birth date. Jim was expanding the search, but it didn’t exactly look hopeful.

Maybe the puzzle box was her only option.

“Fine. Open it however you can. But can you try the least damaging power tools first?”

Mel squealed in delight. “You got it. I’ve got just the thing. Hold on a minute and I’ll get my drill.”

Kyle waited until Mel had bounded off to her room before he entered Liz’s. “Are you sure about this? She’s been wanting to take a crack at that thing for weeks now.”

“Yeah. I need to know. And something is telling me that something important is inside.” Drawn to it as usual, Liz frowned. Sometimes, and she had told no one for fear of ridicule, the box had almost seemed warm to the touch. It never happened when anyone else was in the room, and usually when she wasn’t really paying attention to it. But the thing simply warmed up.

Kyle watched her turn it over in her hands. Maybe it was time for the truth. “Liz, there’s something I should have told you a long time ago.”

Liz looked at him quizzically. “What?”

“I found it!” Mel ran back into the room and all but threw herself on the floor. She went about plugging in the armful of tools she had brought with her, because you just never know which tool you might need.

Liz continued to look at Kyle, but he had turned his gaze away from her. Whatever he had been about to tell her wasn’t going to happen with Mel in the room. Maybe one of them was finally going to tell her what had happened. With a sigh, she handed the box to Mel.

“Be gentle.”

“Oh, you know I will.” She couldn’t remember when she’d been this excited over something. She braced the box tightly in a grip and flipped her drill on. With a wicked gleam in her eye, she lowered the drill bit to the box.

The awful screeching sound of the metal grinding against the wooden box made Liz cover her ears. She closed her eyes for good measure, not wanting to witness the destruction. It had seemed like a good idea at the time, but now she was having second thoughts.

“Well, that’s odd.”

Liz opened her eyes to find Mel frowning at the box. Then she looked at the box itself. It was still intact.

“It broke my drill bit.” Irritation mixed with awe in her voice. “What kind of wood is this made of?”

Kyle approached Mel and the box slowly, a matching frown on his face. “It looks normal to me.”

“Alright, stand back. I am going to get this puppy open if it’s the last thing I do.” Mel placed the drill aside and picked up a hammer and chisel. She examined the box for any apparent weak spots and began hammering away at the first one she came across. After several minutes of frustrated hammering, she moved to another spot and repeated the process.

Liz settled herself on the bed and Kyle took a seat beside her. They watched Mel attack the box as if her pride were at stake if she couldn’t open it.

“Alright, I give. Did your grandmother work for some top secret organization that worked on strengthening wood?” Mel sat back and examined the box. She had been hammering away at it for a good twenty minutes and there wasn’t even so much as a dent. She considered the possibilities, mentally flipping through her inventory of tools to figure out which to use next.

“I think the saw would work. I lent it to the guy on the second floor. I’ll be right back.” And she hopped up and all but flew out the door.

Liz couldn’t pull her gaze from the box. “Kyle, what the hell is going on? That box should have buckled by now. Why can’t Mel open it?”

Kyle lowered his eyes, though Liz wasn’t even looking his way. “Liz, about that thing I wanted to tell you earlier.” He had her full attention now. Her eyes were wide with a hundred questions and she was looking at him as if he possessed the key to them all.

Kyle rose from the bed and began to pace the room. “Okay, this isn’t going to be easy, so I’m just going to tell you. And I want to apologize first of all, because I should have told you sooner.”

“Kyle,” Liz rose from the bed, not liking the way this whole thing was sounding.

“Well, it’s just that…okay, remember the night of the rave? Well, no, you don’t do you?”

“Kyle Valenti, spit it out already.”

“Like you already know, Mel and I were pretty frantic when we couldn’t find you that night.”

“Yeah,” she refused to still feel guilty about that night.

“Somewhere along the line that night, I must have cut my arm. I don’t even remember doing it, but I was bleeding.”

The guilt wanted to come now, but she forced it back. There was something bigger going on. “I’m listening.”

“Tag brought you home and I helped you over to the couch while Mel talked to Tag.” He paused, knowing he was drawing this out but unable to help himself. He really should have told her this sooner. Why hadn’t he told her sooner? “You healed me, Liz.”

“What?” Confusion fogged her brain. Was the world spinning off its axis? “No, Kyle That’s impossible. And it’s-“

“Crazy? Believe me, I know how you feel.”

“Wait. Let’s back up here a minute. You’re saying that I healed a cut on your arm. But you don’t remember hurting yourself. Maybe it was someone else’s blood and when I touched your arm, I just wiped it away,” she suggested hopefully. It was a hell of a lot more plausible than thinking she’d healed Kyle.

Kyle nodded. “Sure, maybe. Except there was this matter of the glowing.”

Liz dropped back down to the bed, hiding her face in her hands. “Why didn’t you say something?” She couldn’t help the anger that slipped into her tone. She wasn’t disputing that it had happened anymore. It just seemed right, like it made sense somehow.

“I was afraid to, Liz. I didn’t want you to get hurt.”

“Looking out for my best interests? Let me guess, you didn’t think I could handle alien stuff, right? That I’d crack up if you mentioned it.” Her fury bubbled to the surface. When were people going to see that she was stronger now than anyone gave her credit for?

Kyle accepted the anger, knew she had the right to it. He would have been pissed as hell if someone did the same. But he’d had her best interests at heart. And though he tried to stop it, his own anger lashed out, the tension of the last few weeks finding release. “Yeah, because you used to handle it all so well, with the running away.”

He saw the defeated sag of her shoulders and a wave of guilt struck him. Repentant, he sat beside her and carefully placed an arm around her shoulder. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that. You have every right to be angry with me, so you have my permission.”

Liz managed a chuckle. “That kind of defeats the purpose, but thanks.” She gave into the comfort he offered and felt her anger dissipate. She wasn’t really angry with him anyway. Laying her head on his shoulder, she took a deep breath.

“Something isn’t right here, Kyle. Ava told me Max changed me when he healed me. But I healed you? Max is the only one that can do that. And now, all this about being adopted. And this damn box.” She gave it a solid kick, no longer worried about damaging it. Things were all starting to make a sick sort of sense, or as much sense as something like this could make.

“Kyle, do you think it’s possible that maybe-“

“I’ve got the saw. Let’s see if we can get inside now.” Mel came back into the room and saw the look of sheer shock on Liz’s face. It looked as though she had walked in on another one of those conversations.
The possibilities ran rampant throughout Liz’s mind. She hadn’t had the chance to speak her question aloud, but the look on Kyle’s face told her what she needed to know. He did think it was possible. Even now, she still couldn’t wrap her brain around the ramifications of the thought that played at the edges of her mind. Could this box of her grandmothers be protected by some sort of…alien powers?

Mel caught the look of horror on Liz’s face. Was it because of the size of her saw? She quickly backpeddled. “If this is about the saw, I think I can keep the damage minimal.”

Dazed and dizzy by the onslaught of new questions forming in her head, Liz raised her eyes to meet Mel. “No. Saw the hell out of it. Throw it off the roof if you want. Do whatever you have to do to get that thing open.” If you can. And somehow, she didn’t think it was possible.

*~*~

“Kyle, I’m not so sure about this,” Liz whispered. Her room was dark except for the soft glow of the flashlight Kyle had brought with him. They had been trying not to wake a very worn out and frustrated Mel.

“Liz, if you have any better suggestions, please let me know.”

“Well, I don’t know why Mel couldn’t open the box.” Open wasn’t quite a strong enough word. Mel had tried every tool she owned to try to make a scratch on the box’s smooth surface. But after two hours, all they had to show for their trouble was a headache. Now, Kyle sat in front of her on her bed, the puzzle box between them.

“What? Are you seriously going to tell me that this is a case of ‘they don’t make wood today like they used to?’”

Liz crossed her arms over her chest, suddenly feeling cold. She had already wrapped herself in a sweater, but it wasn’t enough. She couldn’t deny that the box had drawn her from the moment she’d seen it. But she felt as though she was standing on the edge of a ledge now. The next decision she made would change things and it made her uneasy.

“And how about the journal that you told me you’d seen your grandmother write in dozens of times? It’s blank, Liz. And unless you’re going to convince me that she either wrote in invisible ink or she was senile enough to write with an inkless pen, there’s definitely something funny going on here.”

“No, grandma definitely wasn’t senile. But that doesn’t automatically equal…alien.” She hissed out the last word, frustration getting the better of her.

“Fine, so what do you think is up with the box? Was it just sealed, stuck in storage so long that it’s vacuum packed? Yeah, sure, that’s believable.”

“You’re mocking me now.”

Kyle sighed. “No, Liz. I’m not. But you’re ignoring the obvious here.”

“And that’s what? That my grandmother had some kind of association with aliens? That they sealed her puzzle box for her and did who knows what to her journal? You’re right, that’s pretty believable.”

“Just try it. That’s all I’m saying. It can’t hurt and you’ve been able to do a few things before.”

Liz thought back to the afternoon she had spent with Isabel trying to contact Max in New York. Max had told her she had been able to project an image of herself to him, warning him of the danger behind him. But she’d only been able to do that because Isabel had been feeding her powers. Right?

“I didn’t take you for a chicken, Parker.”

Liz stuck out her tongue at him. “Fine. I’ll give it a try. But if it doesn’t work, you have to leave me alone.”

“Agreed.” But he didn’t think he would have to live up to that end of the bargain. He’d had months to think about it now. And what he’d seen tonight and everything that had come from Claudia’s box, he was now more certain than ever of what he suspected.

Liz closed her eyes and laid her hand atop the box. She took a deep breath and tried to relax. How had she connected with Max before? It was the only way she knew of to do anything remotely alien. So, when the thoughts of Max filled her mind, she let them in.

As the images flashed through her head, she let the emotions wash over her. She could feel the secret thrill of catching Max watching her from the shadows, even as she told Maria it wasn’t possible. She relived the exhilaration of those first few months after she’d been shot, when she’d spent every waking moment thinking about Max and how his touch made her skin tingle. He’d loved her then, above everything else. There hadn’t been destiny or Tess or anything other than their own fear to keep them apart. She hadn’t ever lied to him, hadn’t had to watch that look harden his eyes against her whenever she came into the room after the Future Max debacle.

And without warning, she began to see other images, scenes she knew she had never lived out, yet were familiar to her still. She saw a lake, virtually impossible to find in the dark, but she knew the path through the thick forest. She remembered music, something grand sounding, and the dizziness of knowing that someone waited for her beyond the garden door. She knew the thrill of stolen kisses in darkened corners. And she felt a love so deep, it threatened to bring her to her knees and consume her.

Kyle watched quietly as Liz had struggled to concentrate. She’d been still for so long, he wouldn’t have been surprised to find her sleeping. Just when he was beginning to doubt his own suspicions, a low glow slowly lit up the room. His eyes widened as he saw beams of light struggling to break free from inside the small box. She was doing it. Whatever she was doing, it was working. The box was opening. Slowly, inch by inch, the traces of wooden blocks could be seen. They separated from each other until the light was able to freely light up the room.

As quickly as the images started, they stopped. Liz couldn’t help but be left with a feeling of loss and she let it swim its way into her veins before she opened her eyes. She couldn’t be sure why, but she felt as though it should be there. With a smile and an apology on her lips, Liz meant to break the news gently to Kyle. But when she saw the look of absolute shock on his face, she followed his gaze.

The lid to the puzzle box was open.

A soft glow was still coming from the box, but it was nothing like the near dazzling light show he’d witnessed a minute ago. Kyle watched Liz reach her hand into the box and she almost seemed like she was in a hypnotic trance. “Liz, I’m not sure that’s the best idea you’ve ever had.”

But his words didn’t matter anymore, because Liz could see inside the box now. And what she saw sent a chill down her spine. It was a pendant, rough looking in appearance, but the markings would be smooth to the touch. She didn’t question how she knew, she simply did. Clearly, she could see the cuts into the stone, two rings joined together with some sort of sun above them. It was familiar, yet strange at the same time. But she knew she had to feel it against her skin. Ignoring Kyle’s words of protest, she reached inside the box and pulled the pendant out by the course looking string it hung from.

The instant the stone came into contact with the skin of her palm, it warmed as if in recognition. Before Liz had a chance to marvel at the sudden heat, it sent a shock through her body. With a small yell, she dropped it to the bed and began shaking the jolt from her fingertips.

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah. I’m fine. It must have just been static electricity or something.” But she was still eyeing the pendant with a scientific mind now. It was almost identical to the one Isabel had found, except this one was whole. But that didn’t make the markings any less alien in origin.

“What’s with all the noise in here? Don’t you two ever sleep?” Mel leaned against Liz’s door jamb, rubbing sleep from her eyes. When she saw the open box before them, she snapped awake. “Hey, you got it open. What did you do?”

Liz met Kyle’s eyes over the box. “I don’t know. I guess there was a secret trigger after all. Maybe you loosened it up earlier.”

“Maybe,” Mel agreed. She spied the pendant now and she automatically reached for it.

“No!”

“Don’t!”

Mel had already picked up the pendant and now she was eyeing her two roommates oddly. “What’s wrong with you two? Is this what was in the box?” She examined it. It was pretty. Rough looking, but pretty. “Is it Native American?”

“I, uh, don’t know. It must be.”

Mel turned it over in her hand. “Strange. It doesn’t look like any markings I’ve seen before.”

“You’re an expert on Native Americans?” Kyle asked skeptically.

“I did spend a summer living on a reservation while my dad worked on one of his books.” She frowned. “Wait. This is what was in your grandmother’s big secret box? Why on earth would she put something like this in there? Sure, it looks old, but it couldn’t have been that important.”

Liz struggled to stay quiet. Because she had the feeling that not only was it important, but that it had merely been waiting for her to find it.




posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:55:50 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 70

Mel sat on her bedroom floor, her broken drill bit in one hand. She’d been examining it, looking to find a sign that it had been damaged before she’d used it on the box. It was the only thing that made any sense. Wood simply wasn’t that hard. At least, normal wood wasn’t.

With a sigh, she tossed it back on the floor beside her drill. It was just another puzzle to add to the ever growing pile. Truth be told, she was beginning to expect the odd occurrences that had followed Liz and Kyle.

The moon was already waning and she guessed it would be light soon. Pulling her bare legs up to her chest, she dropped her chin to her knees. And another sleepless night passed They’d been becoming more frequent and she couldn’t even pretend not to know why. She was still avoiding the question of what she wanted to do with her life.

Liz and Kyle had been talking about life after High School non-stop these last few weeks. And every time they brought it up, Liz would inevitably ask what her plans were. And the bitch of it was that she didn’t know. It wasn’t like she was dumb or anything. She had pretty decent grades…more or less. And when she bothered to show up, she learned a lot.

But she wasn’t like Liz, who had applied to Harvard and Brown and two dozen other colleges that had already sent fat acceptance letters. Liz had confessed to applying to them all well over a year ago. That blew Mel’s mind. To be that focused on the future was crazy to her. Her approach to life had always been to simply take it one day at a time and see where you ended up.

And she wasn’t even like Kyle, who had been offered partial athletic scholarships to a dozen schools. She’d swear the boy could pick up any sport and play it professionally if he wanted. And while she was happy for her two friends, she was more than a bit envious as well. Unlike her, they both seemed to have some goal in mind.

She’d toyed with the idea once of just graduating and hitting the open road, just seeing where life dropped her. She’d never been afraid of being by herself. She thought she made rather good company. But that had been before she’d met Liz and Kyle. And suddenly being alone didn’t sound so appealing. It was kind of nice to have people around that cared.

But where would the three of them actually end up? Liz could run off to any school she wanted. Kyle would probably follow Liz, just to keep an eye on things. And Liz would know that and end up picking a school they’d both been accepted to. They were predictable that way. But when the time came to leave Flat Creek, would they want her hanging around still?

Life was entirely too complicated.

A soft sob perked up her ears and she cocked her head as she carefully listened. Just when she’d convinced herself it was sleep deprivation making her crazy, she heard it again.

“Liz?” It had to be. She couldn’t imagine Kyle sobbing in his bed. Mel rose from the floor and walked to the closed connecting door to Liz’s room. Knocking lightly, Mel laid an ear against the wood to listen closer.

“What are you doing?”

Mel jumped when she heard Kyle’s voice. He’d been the last person she’d expected to see. “What are you doing up?” she hissed.

Kyle shrugged, acutely aware of the fact that Mel was wearing a tube top and a pair of his boxers. She was wearing his underwear. How the hell was he supposed to overlook that long mile of exposed leg? He simply couldn’t. He was only human after all.

The truth was, he hadn’t slept a wink all night. Between Liz’s newfound powers and Mel’s restlessness, Kyle had been tossing and turning. He hadn’t heard Mel do any of the things that had become her nighttime ritual. So, he simply hadn’t been able to rest. He knew she’d been having trouble sleeping lately and he knew something was troubling her. And it hurt more than he thought it could to know that if he tried to offer help, she’d push him away. They couldn’t even pretend to have a conversation over so much as the weather. So, why should he expect her to tell him why she couldn’t sleep?

“Well? Are you just going to stare at me like that?” Why was he staring at her? God, she must look hideously overtired. And there he was standing in her doorway in nothing but a pair of boxers. The man was just irresistibly sexy. She’d never had the chance to appreciate it, but the long years of sports must have hardened his muscles. And she wanted nothing more than to touch.

“Why don’t you put some clothes on and help me,” she snapped at him, grabbing her own robe and tugging it on.

“What’s wrong?” He had pulled a shirt over his head, more than a bit sorry to see those legs covered. But at least he could concentrate a bit better.

“I think Liz is crying.”

“Why is Liz crying?” That didn’t sound right. Should he have stayed with her instead of leaving her alone? It had been a pretty long day and she’d discovered quite a few new things about herself.

“Hell if I know. You’re the one she tells those things to.” Mel could hear the sobs a bit louder now that she was standing closer to the door. She tugged on the door and swore when it stayed put. “They didn’t come to fix the door today, I see.”

“Use the connecting door in my room.” But Kyle was already on his way. He crossed the length of his room and pulled open the door. They never locked them, just in case, but they had always respected each other’s privacy before.

Kyle strode over to Liz’s bed, laying a hand on her shoulder to get her attention. “Liz?” Her back was to them and when he didn’t receive an answer, he shook her lightly. “Liz? Are you okay?”

“I think she’s asleep.” Mel finally joined him in Liz’s bedroom. “She’s just having a nightmare, that’s all.” She felt more than a bit foolish now.

But Kyle was still trying to shake Liz awake. He could see that Mel was right. Liz was having a nightmare. “Liz, come on, its time to wake up now. Nothings going to hurt you here.”

But her tears were coming faster now, and the sobs began to wrack her small body. She turned her head on the pillow. “No.” She began chanting the one word over and over again.

“Is she okay?” Mel asked taking a step closer to the bed.

“I don’t know. Liz!” He raised his voice this time, hoping to draw her from whatever dream had claimed her. She had twisted onto her back now, and she was still chanting, repeating the one word.

Without warning, the “no’s” became one long scream. She was sobbing so hard she couldn’t catch her breath, and it was coming in hitches. Choking on a sob as she struggled to draw air into her lungs, she started screaming anew.

“Do something!” Mel commanded. Liz was kicking at Kyle, who had moved to push her arms down on the bed in an attempt to hold her steady.

“I’m trying. You wanna help a bit here? I think she’s bruised my thigh enough already.”

Mel made a grab for Liz’s feet and only got kicked in the shoulder for her trouble. Rubbing at the pain, determination lit her eyes. “Man, is she dead when she wakes up.” She made another dive and caught Liz’s left foot. Deciding the best course of action was to simply sit on her, Mel tried to do just that.

Kyle trusted Mel to help hold Liz down. Whatever she was seeing, it had to be pretty extreme. He hadn’t even known Liz possessed that much strength. Yet, here the two of them were trying to keep her from injuring not only herself but them as well. “Liz! C’mon, I need you to wake up. It’s just a dream, Liz.” If only he could get her to stop screaming, it would be progress.

Without warning, Liz sat straight up in bed, throwing Kyle to the floor with the sheer force of the movement. Her eyes opened wide and she sucked in a deep, shuddering breath. One hand moved to cover her stomach protectively and she hunched over, as if in pain. She kicked Mel off of her and slid to the far corner of her bed, against the wall. There, she curled up in a ball, bringing her knees up to her chest. And she began sobbing anew.

Kyle looked on, confused, from the floor. He was sure to have a few whopper bruises, but he wasn’t concerned with that yet. Mel too had picked herself up from the floor, and was keeping her mumbled complaints to a minimum. He sat on the bed and reached out a hand to Liz. She shrunk away from his touch and when she cried all the harder for it, he retracted his hand.

“Liz, it’s me, Kyle. Everything is okay. You’re here in your bedroom and nothing can hurt you. Are you awake yet?” Why was she clutching her side like that?

“Liz, it was just a dream. It’s time to wake up.” Mel was sure that Liz had kicked a few places on her hard enough to cause some serious damage, and this nightmare stuff was getting old. If it wasn’t bad enough that she hadn’t gotten any sleep yet, now she was sure the neighbors hadn’t either. They were sure to get a complaint call in the morning.

Kyle watched Liz slowly come out of the nightmare. Her breathing was returning to normal and she turned her face up to them. “What’s…Kyle? What are you doing in here?” Kyle’s face was the first she saw and it confused her. What time was it?

“Are you okay, Liz? You were having a pretty bad nightmare.”

“A nightmare?” She forced the tension out of her body, slowly uncurling her legs. But she couldn’t bring herself to remove her hand from the side of her stomach.

“Yeah, you woke up half the building and I think I have a bruise on my arm that should match your footprint.”

“What?” Liz thought back, but her brain was still muddled from sleep. She had been dreaming, but she couldn’t remember what about. With the last few seconds before consciousness claimed her, she struggled to remember why she felt so alone and scared. But the emotion was fleeting even now.

“Do you want to tell us about it?” Kyle pushed a few strands of hair from out of Liz’s face.

“I…I don’t remember any of it.”

“Figures,” Mel snorted. “Well, as much fun as this has been, I’m going to actually try to get some sleep now.”

Mel retreated back to her bedroom but Kyle remained on Liz’s bed. “Are you okay now?”

Certain that she was not, she nodded her head anyway. “Yeah. It must have just been a nightmare like you said. I’m sorry if I woke you up.”

“It’s not a problem. I’m just glad you’re okay. It was kind of scary there for a minute. We couldn’t wake you up.” He eyed her skeptically. “You sure you’re okay?”

“Positive. Go back to bed. I’ll see you in the morning.”

“Okay. Try to get some more sleep and I’ll see if I can get Mel to make her famous frozen waffles for breakfast.”

“Sounds good.” The words sounded false even to her ears, but Kyle left her alone, shutting the door behind him as he went. Only when she was alone did she allow herself to relax a bit more. The aching in her side had died down and it was bearable now. But why was she in pain? It didn’t make sense. Dreams couldn’t hurt you. Could they? Then why did she expect to see blood when she finally pulled her hand away? Of course, there wasn’t any. But it wouldn’t have surprised her to have seen it.

She knew she wouldn’t sleep anymore that night, so she stayed sitting where she was. From her vantage point, she could see her grandmother’s pendant on the bedside table where she had left it. And for a moment, it almost seemed to have gleamed in the moonlight. But surely that was just her imagination working overtime.

*~*~

“Is that bacon I smell?” Mel dragged herself out of her bedroom, rubbing her eyes. She’d tried for a bit more rest, but the smell of sizzling port had been the only thing that could have made her get up.

“Waffles are in the microwave and there’s coffee in the pot. I can do eggs, but I wanted to see who would wake up.”

Mel froze mid-stretch. “You cooked?”

“Well, the waffles were frozen and the coffee is pretty easy enough. I just thought we could all use some food before school today.”

Despite the tension that had existed between them for the last few weeks, Mel found a grin spreading across her face. Kyle was standing in the middle of the kitchen, dressed to his usual perfection, with an apron carefully tied around his waist. It was kind of cute and oddly sexy at the same time.

“I’ll take mine extra cheesy.” She moved to take a seat at the table and found herself watching him work.

Kyle reached for another frying pan and went about cracking the eggs. He’d been trying to figure out what to say to Mel all morning and he still didn’t have anything particularly witty or clever. All he knew was that they had to put things back to the way they were.

“Mel, can we talk a minute?”

“Aren’t we doing that now?”

Kyle struggled not to sigh. So, it was going to be difficult then. “I mean really talk, Mel. This thing between us-“

“Whoa! There’s no thing between us.”

“Okay, fine. Whatever you want to call it. Things are not okay with us and I want to know what it’ll take for them to be again.”

Mel considered it. He seemed to be making a genuine effort. “Fine, let’s just say that things have been a bit weird since…New Years.” She began playing with the tassels on the tablecloth Liz had insisted on buying. Why people needed such frilly things around she didn’t understand though.

“I’m tired of feeling like I have to leave the room because things are weird between us. If I apologize and promise to never even so much as think about touching you again, can we just go back to the way it was before?” As soon as he’d said the words, he wanted to retract them. How could he promise something like that? But if it was the only way to keep Mel in his life, then so be it. He just wouldn’t think about ever kissing those lips again. And those long legs? He could ignore them. And then there were her-

“Okay, friends,” Mel agreed with a forced smile. This was easy enough to do. Kyle wasn’t that good looking. Okay, he was. But it didn’t mean she had to act on those impulses that were getting harder and harder to control. She knew he was staring at her and she raised her own eyes to meet his.

“Friends,” Kyle repeated. Why were her eyes always so unreadable? He wished he knew what she was thinking. Then maybe he could get a handle on her.

“Do I smell eggs burning?”

“Damn it,” Kyle broke out of his trance long enough to snatch the frying pan from the stove. “Sit down, Liz. Believe it or not, I have breakfast under control.”

Mel snorted at him. “It’s not the breakfast of champions, but it might do you some good.”

Liz’s stomach quivered at the very thought of food. “No, thanks. I’m just going to head over to school now.”

“Well, wait a minute and I’ll take you.” Kyle began untying his apron.

“No, stay. Eat breakfast. I think I need the fresh air.”

“You’re sure you’re okay?”

“Positive.” She pulled on her jacket and grabbed her keys. “I’ll see you guys later.” And she dashed out the door before either or them had a chance to stop her.

The thing that had made last night so absolutely weird was that she couldn’t remember anything. After five hours of pretending to take notes, she’d found that she was merely trying to figure out what had happened. So, she’d had a nightmare. No big deal. After Max had been taken to the White Room, she’d had dozens of them. But not a single one of them had left her with physical side effects when she woke up. Her side was still tender and sore and it was beginning to bother her. She hadn’t yet mentioned it to Kyle or Mel and she didn’t know if she even would. Who ever heard of such a thing? She’d probably just hurt herself with all the thrashing around she’d done. That was all.

She’d managed to avoid Mel and Kyle all day so far and had even escaped them at lunch. Mel probably thought she was crazy and Kyle would just worry. So, she’d hid in the library. Neither one of them probably even knew where the library was. So, she’d figured she would be safe. After dragging herself to another class, she decided she simply couldn’t do it anymore. She was physically and mentally exhausted. There was only one more class left to the day and there was a substitute.

With the kind of backward glances born from years of sneaking around, she snuck out of the school with surprising ease. She guessed Flat Creek teachers weren’t used to their kids hiding out in the shadows until the coast was clear. Ah, the things she had learned in High School.

Alone at last, Liz tossed her bookbag on the floor by the door and flopped down on the couch. She hated to admit it, but she really was drained. The whole thing last night with the puzzle box and discovering that she did indeed have some kind of strange powers, it took a lot out of her. Kyle had been great, trying to be there for her after she had opened the box. But he hadn’t been who she had really wanted to talk to about it. Maybe that had been why she’d had the nightmare. It had to be. She’d just discovered that she had alien powers and she’d fallen asleep thinking about Max and if she would ever have the chance to tell him about it.

And if you coupled that with the new questions about why her grandmother had a box locked with alien powers, it made for a headache. And she could probably pass the whole thing off as stress, if it wasn’t for those damn pains. Instead of going away, they seemed to be getting stronger as the day had progressed. She’d tried taking aspirin, but nothing had worked. Maybe a nap would do the trick though.

Curling up on the couch, she pulled a blanket tight around her body. She would just rest her eyes for a few minutes and maybe she’d start dinner for Mel and Kyle. She didn’t really think she’d feel much for eating herself, but they deserved something for what she’d put them through last night. Closing her eyes, she gave in to the exhaustion that had wanted her all day.

The next thing she knew, she was being shaken awake roughly. She clawed, fighting the cold fingers on her shoulder. She heard the sound of bone connecting with bone and she was jarred awake by the new pain in her hand.

Struggling to focus, she was able to make out Mel’s face swimming in front of her.

“I think she’s waking up. Liz? Can you hear me?”

“What…” But she was having trouble forming a coherent thoughts. What was it on the tip of her memory that she was so very close to remembering?

“I think she broke my nose.”

“Quit being a baby. Liz, it’s just a nightmare. Wake up.”

Liz recognized Mel’s voice and she shook her head to clear it. Closing her eyes against their wondering stares, she leaned back against the couch. And that was when the dull ache in her side began to throb with a renewed urgency.

posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:56:12 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 71

“So, you’re sure you’re not mad?” Liz stopped walking and took a seat on the park bench. She hated to admit it, but even the short walk outside had tired her out. It was becoming harder and harder to convince herself she was merely catching a cold.

“For the tenth time, it’s fine. I’m not going to force you to go rock climbing when you have the flu.” Tag sat beside her on the bench, frowning when he saw how pale she looked. She’d cancelled three times on him in the last week and every time he saw her, she looked sicker. “Have you seen a doctor yet?”

Liz shook her head and few strands of hair escaped from the tight ponytail she’d attempted that morning. She was dismayed to find them stringy and flat. But she smiled anyway. “I’ll be fine. But I want you to go. I know how much you were looking forward to this.”

“Are you sure you don’t want me to take care of you? I could make you some soup.”

Liz knew he was just trying to be helpful, but the very thought of food still made her sick. “I want you to go. Have fun and you can tell me all about it later. And when I’m feeling better, we can go back.” She saw that he wasn’t convinced, so she faked a yawn. “You know, I think I could use some rest.”

“You’re trying to get rid of me,” he accused her with a smile.

“You noticed?”

“Alright, I can take a hint. I’ll go. And you really should rest. You look like hell.”

“You know, I’m really glad we’re familiar enough with each other to be brutally honest.” She rose with Tag’s help and together they headed across the street and back towards the apartment.

At her door, Tag raised her chin to look at her closely. “Have you eaten anything today?”

“Kyle and Mel banded together and force fed me breakfast. So, yes.” And when they’d been done, she had even managed to keep some of it in her stomach. For some reason, she hadn’t been able to eat much of anything the past few days.

The front door swung open and Kyle’s worried face frowned when it lit on the couple. “Where did you disappear to? Mel and I were worried. I thought you were just going outside for a minute.”

Liz smiled at Tag. “And some people are worried that I don’t live with any parental guidance.”

“And you, get back to bed and sleep right now.” Kyle latched onto Liz’s arm and pulled her inside. He wagged a finger at Tag. “She’s sick and you kept her outside that long?”

“We were gone ten minutes and it’s seventy five degrees outside.” He’d gotten used to Kyle’s sometimes over the top protectiveness with his two girls. So, he no longer took offense. “What happened to your nose?”

Kyle narrowed his eyes. “I don’t think you need to worry about my health. It’s Liz you just endangered. Go home, Tag. And don’t bother calling later. Liz will be resting.” And Kyle stepped inside, closing the door in Tag’s face.

“Kyle, that was more than a bit rude,” Liz protested as she sank down to the couch. Her legs simply couldn’t hold her any longer.

“Liz, you are sick. You don’t eat, so don’t bother pretending you do. And every time you’ve tried to sleep, you’ve woken up with that nightmare. You don’t need to be gallivanting around outside.”

Liz tried her hardest to glare at Kyle, but she was too tired to put much effort into it. “I’ll be fine, Kyle.”

“Will you, Liz?” He strode across the living room and pulled her to her feet swiftly. He tugged her shirt above the waistband of her jeans, despite her angry protests. Her jeans sagged and bunched, held up only by the belt she’d wound tightly. “How much weight have you lost? Do you even know? I’d say at least ten pounds, and you didn’t weigh that much to begin with.”

Liz fought with him to pull her shirt down just as Mel walked out of her bedroom with a book in her hand.

“Oh, good, I’m just in time for the show.”

“Mel, don’t tell me you’re in on this too.”

“Afraid so. At first, I was annoyed at being woken up every night, sometimes three or four times. Now, I’ve moved on to worried. Do you have any idea what it takes to worry me? It takes a lot.” She turned her attention to Kyle. “Did you tell her yet?”

Kyle let Liz tug her clothes back into place. “No, I was just getting to that.”

“What now? You’re plotting against me? I think I liked it better when you two weren’t talking.” Liz sunk back down on the couch and hugged herself.

Kyle took a seat opposite Liz while Mel chose to stay standing. He leaned closer, resting his elbows on his knees. “Listen, Liz. I think – we think that this dream you’ve been having is why you’ve been sick.”

“Brilliant deduction. So, you think that because when I fall asleep, I have grisly nightmares, and that’s the reason I’m tired and sick?” Liz asked defensively. She wished they’d all just go away and leave her alone. If she could just think straight, she could figure this whole thing out.

“We’re just trying to help,” Mel stated.

“Well, I don’t need it. I’m fine.”

Kyle threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “You’re not fine. You’re wasting away. How long will it be before you pass out and we have to rush you to the hospital so they can make you eat? Because we will have to take you to the hospital. And when you’re there, they’ll draw blood and do all sorts of tests to find out what’s wrong with you.” His point made, he sat back in the armchair. “Unless you know any magic healers you want to ask for help.”

Liz met Kyle’s eyes, and for one long, tense minute, they matched wills. Finally, Liz lowered her eyes in defeat. Kyle was right. She couldn’t go to a hospital. She wasn’t sure what they would find in her blood. And she’d be damned if she would run home and ask Max for help.

“Fine. I’ll listen.”

Mel let out a relieved breath. She wasn’t entirely sure what had happened, but at least Kyle had won.

“Here’s what I was thinking. If we can figure out what this dream is about, then you should be fine. It’s just the anxiety of not knowing that’s probably making you sick. So, we’ll take you to a therapist who specializes in memory recovery techniques and-“

“No. Forget it,” Liz tried to rise from the couch, but Kyle pushed her back down.

“It’s not that bad really. All they do is put you under hypnosis and they’ll walk you through the dream.”

“I’m not letting some stranger walk around inside of my head.” She couldn’t. She knew too many things about too many people. She could hardly just let someone into her memories. There would be no telling what they might find out.

Mel pursed her lips. “Kyle said you’d react like that.” So, they’d move on to plan B.

“Is that the only idea you two have?” Now that she realized that she did indeed have to do something, she had been hoping they had a viable solution.

Kyle met eyes with Mel briefly before turning back to Liz. “There is another option. But it’s the only one we have left.”

“And it is?”

“Mel can hypnotize you.”

Liz turned to Mel. “You know how to hypnotize someone?”

Shrugging, Mel finally took a seat next to Liz. “My dad had some strange friends. I learned a lot from them.”

Liz turned it over in her brain. There was something her dreams were trying to tell her and she didn’t know of any way to figure out what it was. Every time she had one of those dreams, she woke up knowing she was close to remembering. But she never did. And the desire to know was burning brightly.

On the other hand, if she let Mel hypnotize her, what else would Mel find out? Letting Mel into her head was a far better option than a total stranger who might or might not sell them out to a tabloid, or worse. It was a bad situation to be placed in and she didn’t have the first clue how to get herself out of it.

“It’s your call, Liz,” Kyle said softly. He knew the struggle she was going through and he wished he had answers for her. A part of him hoped she would let Mel do it, but he wasn’t sure how he felt about Mel knowing what they knew. Would she freak? Something in him told him no, but it was a hard thing to judge.

“I know this is about your big secrets. And I just want you to know that you don’t have to worry. Kyle will be here the whole time. You won’t be able to hear him, but he’ll be right next to you. If we get to something you don’t want me to know, he can stop me.”

Slowly, Liz nodded. She really didn’t have any other choice. “Okay. Let’s do it.”

“Great.” She began looking around the room. “Kyle, hit those lights. Let’s make it as dark in here as we can.”

“Wait, we’re doing it now?”

“Well, it is your health we’re talking about. Did you want to wait until it failed a bit more? I didn’t think so.” Mel opened the book on her lap and flipped through it quickly.

“What is that? Oh my god, does that say ‘Hypnosis for Dummies’? I thought you said you knew how to do this.”

Mel struggled to keep the book away from Liz. “I do. It’s just been awhile. I’m brushing up on the finer points. Don’t worry. How much damage can I do?” Her joke fell flat and she shrugged. “You really need to relax. You’ll live longer that way.”

“Unlike you, who I will kill if you delete things like the first grade.”

“Just lay back and relax.” Mel waited until Kyle had settled himself nervously back in the armchair. Liz stretched out on the couch and closed her eyes.

“I want you to take deep breaths, in and out. Think of a happy place, the happiest memory you can remember. Don’t forget to breathe.”

Mel had lowered the tone of her voice and Kyle had to admit that he was impressed. She was settling Liz down, and that was no small act. He knew Liz was afraid to reveal any of the alien’s secrets. But as he watched Mel slowly put Liz under, he couldn’t escape the nagging feeling that Liz might just have a few alien secrets of her own.



posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:56:32 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 72

“Alright, Liz, are you in your happy place?” Mel had never been more nervous in her life. When she’d proposed the idea, she really hadn’t thought they would go through with it. But Liz had agreed and while she’d seen it done a dozen times, she’d really only hypnotized one other person. And that had been mre of a lark than anything.

But now, she was fairly certain Liz was under and everything rested on her shoulders now.

“Where are you, Liz?”

“I’m on my balcony. Max is with me and…” she paused, smiling a dazzling smile Mel had never seen before. “He wrote our initials on my wall. I know he needs to erase them before Kyle sees, but I wish they could stay up there forever.”

Mel glanced at Kyle and he merely smiled. Liz was remembering the time he’d gotten Max drunk and they’d raided her room. He’d heard the full story of it all later from Maria. He wiggled his eyebrows at Mel , but said nothing.

“Okay, good. This is your safe place. Whenever you’re here, nothing can hurt you. Got it?”

“Yes.”

“Now, Liz, I want to visit your dreams. There’s one in particular we need to get to. You’ve been having it every night now. Do you know which one I’m talking about?”

“Yes.”

“Good. Can you take us there?”

“No,” Liz furrowed her brows. “I don’t want to go there. It hurts.”

“What hurts, Liz?”

“My side hurts,” Liz’s hands moved to cover the place below her ribs that had ached for so long. “My stomach,” she placed her hands on her stomach, letting her fingers linger. “And my heart,” she covered her left breast now, emotion clogging her voice.

“Why, Liz? Can you tell me why they hurt?”

Liz nodded. “Yes, but you won’t believe me.”

“Why would you think that?”

Liz’s smile was secretive and a bit sly. “It’s a long story.”

“I’m not going anywhere. This is your dream. Just tell me what you see. Where are you?”

“I’m in the forest, hiding.”

“Are you in danger?”

She smiled again. “No, I’m just trying to get out of lessons with my cousin. They don’t follow me into the woods. They’re afraid of them.”

“But you’re not?”

“No. I’ve always played there. They just don’t know it.”

“Who are ‘they’?”

“My family. They don’t understand me. They want me to be more…well, like my cousin.”

Classic parental struggles for approval. Was Liz having nightmares because of her parents? Things had seemed pretty good at Christmas, but maybe that was part of the reason why she left Roswell. “Why? What’s wrong with you?”

“They say I’ll never find someone to be joined with if I don’t settle down. But I don’t want one. My keeper used to tell me that our people believe in Chiaras, soul mates that had a love so pure and binding that it transcended every other belief. My parents didn’t believe in it though and so Lia told me in secret.”

“And you’re hiding from your parents?”

“Yes.”

“So you don’t have to take lessons on being more…proper?”

Liz considered it a minute. “I guess you could call it that.”

She had the distinct impression that Liz was making fun of her and she made a mental note to harass her about it when she was feeling better. “Does something happen in the woods? What are you doing right now?”

“I’m going to the lake. I found it a long time ago and it’s where I go to escape.”

“Why is the lake so important?”

“It’s where I first met him.”

“Who?”

“My Chiara.” Liz smiled a dreamy smile. “I don’t know how he found it, but he did. Maybe it was meant to be. How else could two people meet the way we did? That’s what I always liked to think anyway.”

Liz’s use of the past tense didn’t go unnoticed by Mel. But she didn’t know what to make of that yet. In all the hypnosis sessions she’d seen, the patient had talked in the present tense about the things they were seeing. It was just another reason why she really shouldn’t be doing this. But if it helped Liz, then that was something. “He met you at the lake? Were you friends?”

Liz laughed at the seeming absurdity of the question. “No. The complete opposite. I couldn’t stand him. I knew who he was, how could I not? He was everything that made me crazy, arrogant and proud. I know it was how he was brought up, but it wasn’t an excuse I bought. The first time we met, I was swimming in the lake. I had left my clothes on the bank and when he found me swimming, he wouldn’t turn his back so I could get dressed. In fact, he picked my clothes up and held them further away. He was so smug, so unbearably irritating I wanted to kill him.” Liz’s lips twisted at the scene behind her eyelids that played itself out. “So, I climbed out of the lake and calmly took my clothes from his hands. He was so shocked, he left. I thought that I’d never see him again, but he came back the next day. And he swam with me.

Mel found herself caught up in the tale Liz was weaving. It seemed like such a wonderful dream. So, where did the nightmares come in? And why couldn’t she have more dreams like this? Maybe her life was lacking more than she’d known.

“We met in secret. I think at first, he didn’t understand someone like me. I wasn’t like the women he was used to. He said it was hisforest and he could swim wherever he liked. And it irritated me at the time, but it’s easier to see things when you look back on them. No matter how hard I pushed him away, he came right back. I still don’t know what he saw in me. I wasn’t his type and he wasn’t mine. But after awhile, we started talking and he made me laugh. He became…softer. It was a subtle change, but you could see it. He made me feel like I wasn’t so strange after all for not wanting the life everyone expected of me. Because he started to see that he didn’t have to be like his father was. For the first time, I wasn’t so alone anymore.” Liz raised her fingers to her lips tenderly.

“I still remember the first time he kissed me. I had been running from him, teaching him a game he’d never played as a child. And when he caught me, our lips just met, almost as if they belonged together.”

“Ask her what his name is.” Kyle couldn’t sit quietly anymore. He’d listened to Liz’s story and from the first mention of a soul mate, he’d had the sinking feeling that it was Zan that Liz was talking about.

Mel frowned, unsure why Kyle would want to know the name of Liz’s dream guy. “Liz, what is his name?”

“My name isn’t Liz,” she stated.

Mel rolled her eyes. Liz was starting to take this dream too seriously. “Fine. But what’s the name of your guy?”

“Zanis. But he always said that was his father’s name. He asked me to call him Zan.”

Mel saw Kyle sink back against the chair and she wondered what the expression on his face was about. He looked almost weary.

“Ask her what her name is.”

“Why would I-“

“Just do it, Mel!” Kyle didn’t mean to snap, but he couldn’t help it. He felt as though everything was riding on her answer. ‘Zan’ could conceivably be a part of a dream. She knew the name better than anyone. But she had no way of knowing the other name.

Agitated, Mel turned back to Liz. “Liz-“

“I told you, my name isn’t Liz.”

Struggling not to growl in frustration, she gritted her teeth. “Then what should I call you?”

“Ellissia. But you can call me Elise.”

Kyle leapt from his chair, unable to contain his nerves any longer. He began to pace the floor, knowing that Mel had no idea what his problem was and probably thought he was as nuts as Liz. But it had all come together in his head. Max had let the name ‘Elise’ slip before he’d left Roswell. It was all true. All the sneaking suspicions, all the clues added up to the one simple, yet impossible revelation. Liz was Elise. Liz was Antarian. Liz was Max’s love in not only one lifetime, but two.

Liz kept talking, clueless to the tension around her. “Zan was so arrogant, I almost didn’t see past it. But he was good inside. He changed after we met. I’m sure he would say I did too. That’s what happens when two people meet. They affect how the other sees the world.”

Mel was listening to Liz with half an ear. Kyle was pacing like a caged tiger. He was running his fingers through his hair and muttering something that sounded like “I should have known”. But what the hell was he talking about? Liz was still trying to describe her dream guy to them and Mel could tell she was getting frustrated by her inaccurate description.

“Why can’t I describe him? He’s so amazing. Can I show you?”

“What? Sure, Liz-er, Elise. Show me whatever you want.” Mel turned her back on Liz and gave her full attention to Kyle. Abruptly, he stopped pacing and stood rigidly still. His eyes were as wide as saucers and before he had a chance to say anything, Mel turned and found herself faced with the most amazing sight.

A hologram was playing itself out on the floor. As she watched, two figures came into focus. The female had long, black hair and she was being cheerfully chased by a man. She slowed her run every so slightly and he caught her up in his arms, locking her in a heated kiss.

Mel rose from her chair and approached the 3D hologram. It wasn’t any higher than her thigh and the colors were so vividly bold, it was amazing to see. She circled it slowly, trying to find the gadget that had set it off. “What the hell is this?” She turned to Kyle. “Is this some kind of joke?”

Kyle opened his mouth, but no sound came out. That was a new power on him. The image flickered and he could see the girls’ face. It was plain and she really didn’t look like Liz at all. Until she caught sight of her Zan and her eyes sprang to life. And then Kyle knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that they were one and the same. His eyes were rivoted to the images from another time that Liz was showing them. Zan didn’t look a thing like the Max he knew, yet he saw the same spark in Zan’s eyes that he’d seen in Max’s a thousand times. He’d pretended not to see it when he was still dating Liz, but he’d known it was there. And when Max Evans had laid his hands on Liz Parker for the first time, something had awoken between them.

“Where’s the machine? Because I am impressed.”

“What machine?” Liz frowned, searching her memory for a machine. On the floor, the hologram cycled through a million images and came up empty.

Mel eyed Liz carefully. Was all this a part of some sick joke they’d conjured up? If so, what was the punch line? She was sure Kyle didn’t have the brain power to create a hologram machine. Liz just might. But why would she? There was simply no good reason. And that was when the thought started forming in her mind. It was a crazy thought, certainly. Insane, really. But she had to know.

“Liz-Elise, can you show me the forest?”

The image changed, shifted until Mel could see the odd looking forest. The tree trunks were made up of purple spines and the leaves, or what was supposed to be the leaves, were a dark crimson and they looked almost leathery.

Mel stumbled backward, tripping over the legs of the chair and falling to the floor. Kyle was at her side immediately, offering a hand to help her up. But the ground wasn’t as wobbly when she was sitting on it, so she stayed where she was. Pointing a finger at the hologram, she struggled to form a string of coherent words. “That’s…that’s real.”

“I know.” Kyle crouched on the floor beside her. Leaving the shocked stage was a hard step.

Mel turned an angry glare on him. “What do you mean you know?” She shoved at him, knocking him to the ground beside her. “How do you know? How can you possibly know? What do you know?”

“It’s not as bad as it seems really.” He’d decided there was no way around this now. If he’d been able to form a thought quick enough, he might have found a way to stop Mel from seeing the hologram. But Liz couldn’t hear him anyway. But now it was too late. He knew that look in her eyes. Hadn’t he gone through that same shock himself? Mel knew too much. He would either have to kill her or tell her the truth.

Behind them, Liz was trying to ask Mel what she was talking about, only hearing one side of the conversation. But Kyle and Mel had locked eyes.

“Tell her to give you a minute,” Kyle instructed.

“Elise, stay where you are a minute and ignore me until you hear me say the phrase…” she fumbled for a phrase, any phrase at all. What was wrong with her brain? But still her gaze remained on Kyle. “Insane Lunatic”.

“Okay.” The images changed to still more moments that had passed between the couple.

“Talk and make it good.”

Weary with the knowledge he was about to potentially put lives in danger, Kyle scrubbed his face with his hands. “Mel-“ Was there a way he could get out of this after all?

“None of your bullshit excuses. I don’t want to hear that other people’s secrets excuse. I want the truth and I want it now.”

He took a deep breath. “There are real aliens in Roswell and they’re our friends. Well, they’re more irritating than friendly, but you get the point. They’re not the evil, brain eating variety on TV.”

“And you expect me to believe that? You can’t come up with a better story?”

“Hell, believe it, don’t believe it. It’s your choice. You asked. We discovered that aliens were living among us and Liz fell in love with their leader…king, whatever.”

“Aliens?” Mel repeated, some of her senses returning to her. “And how many of these aliens are here? Is there a colony of them?”

At least her sense of humor had returned. “Four. Well, that’s not including the Skins. Or the guardians, but I think they’re all dead. But then with them you never really know for sure. Oh, and there is the second set of the Royal Four they created. But they live in the New York sewers, so you probably don’t have to worry about them.” He managed a wry grin, knowing how all this sounded. “I think that’s all, but I’ve been away for awhile.”

“And this whole thing? This is an alien device?” She gestured behind her.

“Actually, no. It looks like I forgot to add an alien to the list.” It was strange to think about, much less say aloud. But there was no doubt in his mind now. Liz was an alien.

“So, you’re telling me that she’s…that Liz is…” It was the craziest thing she’d ever heard before.

“It’s news to me. And no, I don’t think Liz knew either. Though, how she didn’t know is a puzzle to me too.”

“So this is…” she couldn’t even finish sentences now.

“It looks like she’s projecting these images from her mind. Put simply, think of it as a past life experience.” When he saw that she still wasn’t following, he knew he was going to have to launch into the story. And he sighed. “There was a civil war of some kind on Antar-“

“Antar?” she asked.

“Their planet. Anyway, the royal family was killed when some guy tried to take control. But they were somehow able to clone them or whatever it is they did and send them to Earth with their spouses as a sort of hybrid. My guess is that this…” he nodded towards the image of Zan and Elise kissing. “Is part of Zan’s life before he was killed. And it looks as though some things never change.” Was it possible for them to ever be together and not be all over each other?

“So, you’re telling me that Liz is this alien wife?” She was amazing herself with the calm that had taken over her body. She was sitting on the floor, discussing aliens as though it were a normal occurrence. Of course, she didn’t really believe it. How could any of this be true?

“Actually, no. That would be Tess. She didn’t grow up with the others. She was raised by their guardian, this nasty character that got himself killed. She put a wedge between Liz and Max though. Things were never the same after she showed up.”

Her head was spinning. “So, then what is this about behind us?”

Kyle shook his head. “I wish I knew. Liz is one of them. And from the looks of it, Ava and Zan weren’t as in love as Tess claimed they were.”

Mel rubbed her temples. “Okay, you’re going to have to take this slow with me. I take it I’m missing quite a bit.”

“The gist of it is that Liz was shot and Max saved her life. He has healing powers. He told her the truth about himself and the others like him. Then Maria found out, Alex was next. My dad tried to hunt them down and expose them and when I was following them around to find out what was going on, I ended up getting shot as well. Max healed me too.” And it still burned him to feel like he was indebted to Max over it. “Then there was this whole time travel thing where Max went back in time and told Liz that their love brought the end of the world, yadda yadda yadda. So, she pretended to sleep with me to push Max away so he would be with Tess. But Tess had been mindwarping Alex into helping her decode the Destiny books and his brain just couldn’t handle the pressure. She killed him and made it look like an accident.” He pushed back the guilt when the memories of loading Alex’s body into the car surfaced. “She slept with Max and got herself pregnant as part of some plot to deliver Max and the others back to their enemies on Antar. She blasted away in some spaceship thing and Max vowed to find his son. Liz couldn’t take it, so she skipped town. I followed soon after. And that brings us up to date. Well, there was of course quite a bit more that happened, but you have the basic idea.”

“Right.” A dozen conversations replayed themselves in Mel’s head. The words she’d overheard made sense now, even if the entire story didn’t.

Her lack of response was starting to worry him. He knew the angry Mel that had shoved him to the floor. It was the quiet Mel that he was unfamiliar with. Did she even believe him? “Mel, I know it’s a little jarring to find all this out, but I understand. And I swear to you that it’s all true.”

“Well,” she cleared her throat and pushed to her feet. “We should get back to Liz now.”

“Mel-“

“Obviously, something happened and it’s giving her nightmares. So, we need to find out what. I can deal with all of this later. Right now, I need to focus on helping Liz. Okay?”

She was asking him not to push it just yet. He nodded, hoping she could find a way past it all later. But he had little choice until then. Liz really did need her. “Okay.”

“Great.” She took a seat on her chair again, faced Liz.

posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:56:53 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Part 73

Mel settled herself on the same chair she had occupied only minutes before. Yet so much had happened in those few minutes that she saw the world differently now. She felt the beginnings of a panic attack and she battled it back. There would be all the time in the world for that later.

“Elise – er, wait. What was that password again?” She couldn’t think straight, too many new pieces of information were floating around in her brain. The facts had been there all along. Yet, they were still hard to take in.

“Insane Lunatic?” Kyle offered. He knew Mel had been rattled by his admissions. How could she not be?

“Right.” Of course. She remembered now. “Insane Lunatic. Elise, can you hear me?”

“Yes.”

“Finish telling me your story.” It was a story now, not a dream any longer. And it still left her shaky. “What happened with Zan? Was there trouble between you?” Something had to have happened. Liz was having nightmares about her time on this other planet and according to Kyle, Zan had married some other chick.

“Trouble between us? Never. But his parents, they were demanding in that Zan should have a mate. It was an old Antarian law that an heir cannot take the throne until he has a mate. And his father was very ill. It was also why my cousin had come to stay with us.”

“Your cousin? The one your parents wanted you to be more like?”

“Yes. I had two cousins though. The youngest had mated with Zan’s sister the cycle before and it always made me angry. He didn’t love her, but he was quickly becoming the highest in command of the Antarian armies. So, he was considered an asset to the Royal family. He could have done so much better.”

The image on the hologram shifted to reveal a young soldier. He stood tall and proud, his chest decorated in what looked to be the highest of honors.

“I’ll be damned.” Kyle had reclaimed his chair and he sat grinning now. “This gets better and better. I feel like I should make a bowl of popcorn and just sit back to watch the show.”

“What are you talking about now?” Mel asked him. She was really getting tired of being out of the loop, but at this point, she wasn’t sure if she really wanted to know.

“Ask her if Rath was her younger cousin.”

Why bother to ask why any longer? “Elise, is your cousins’ name Rath?”

Liz cocked her head. “How did you know?”

“Apparently, it was a small world on your planet too. So, Rath married – mated with Zan’s sister. Were you two close?”

“No. We used to be growing up. But his parents said I was a bad influence on him. We were always going off on adventures in the woods together. I think we spent a quarter of our lives traipsing in them. But when they sent him off to military school, he wasn’t allowed to see me anymore. I missed him for a long time after that. He was the only one that understood me. And by the time he moved into the palace, he was too busy to see me very often.”

Mel had seen the image of two children playing in the dangerous looking forest. What sort of life had her friend led before? She must have been courageous beyond comprehension not to have been afraid of those woods. “And your older cousin never married?”

Liz smirked at the question. “No. And it killed her that her younger brother married into the palace. Her father was killed defending the King and her mother fell ill soon after that. So, it was left to her to care for her. They thought her death would be quick, but Ava was left taking care of her for almost a dozen cycles. By the time she came to live with us, she was bitter and angry all the time. She would always be talking about mating with someone of wealth and power to save her from the life of servitude she had lived.”

Kyle was outright laughing at the image. Oh yes, he could see Tess’s Antarian version seething at having to take care of someone. It must have killed her to have missed out on all those prime breeding years. And a weight lifted from his heart, making the load a bit lighter to carry. He could think about her and laugh a bit. Sure, it might be at her expense, but it was a sight more than he’d been able to do before. “Oh, ask her to show us the image. I need to see the look on her face.”

Mel ignored Kyle, sure he was laughing over something else he’d neglected to tell her. “Why didn’t Zan just mate with you? You said he loved you, right?”

Liz frowned. “Yes, he did. From the first time we talked, he told me that he didn’t want to mate with anyone. And I always thought it was because he didn’t want to drag anyone into his life. It was almost dismal, and it was no wonder he kept coming back to the lake to see me, even when I was horrible to him. He spent his days in training to become the next King. He wasn’t allowed any friends other than his sister and her cousin. Rath and Zan grew close and I was glad he had someone I knew he could depend on. But Zan couldn’t confide in his sister anymore. He told me she had been acting strangely. Almost as if he didn’t know who she was anymore. She would sneak out of the palace for long periods of time. Zan and Rath covered for her. I think Rath loved her, but she wasn’t his Chiara. It hurt him when she wouldn’t tell him what she was up to. I think he thought she was sneaking off to meet someone. And it made him feel inadequate. So, he poured himself into his training. A rebellion had been mounting and with the King being ill, more and more was falling on his shoulders.”

“So, when did the trouble start?”

The images shifted and they were transported into the palace itself. The ballroom was filled with hundreds of people, all milling about with a grace and ease that Mel figured must be inbred. The women wore elaborate dresses with headpieces to match. She was filled with the sudden image of a peacock showing off its feathers and she smirked at the thought. A family entered the room and she recognized Elise at once. But Mel frowned to see her friend forced to the back of the family unit. The girl that must have been her cousin, Ava, was proudly at the front, wearing one of the most elaborate gowns of them all. And it made her angry to see Elise standing behind her, hidden from view.

“It started the night of the ball. The Queen had called it in order to find a suitable mate for Zan. He’d lamented over it for weeks, but in the end, the event had still happened. I remember looking for him when we first came in, but I was careful not to look too anxious. If my parents thought that Zan preferred me over Ava, or if they knew we had been meeting in secret, they would have ended it. So, I tried to stay hidden behind Ava. I didn’t think anyone would see me anyway, and my parents had been forced to bring me if Ava was to attend. I didn’t think Zan would even know I was there. But he did.”

She smiled at the memory and the image changed. The crowd almost seemed to part before them and Zan came into view. They were seeing through Elise’s eyes now, and Zan’s smile grew wide and slow when he saw past Ava and rested on Elise. They could see Ava’s excited movements, thinking she had caught the Prince’s eye as he started moving toward them. Before he had the chance to move to Elise, Ava had curtsied deep and blocked Elise from view altogether.

“He was coming to talk to me. He told me later that he’d forgotten that he wasn’t supposed to. But he hadn’t thought I was coming and I surprised him. My parents took over from there and kept putting the two of them together all night. They would suggest dances or walks in the garden. It hurt to see my cousin trying to claw her way into his pockets, and I tried to stay as far away from the whole thing as I could. But it was impossible. We ate dinner together, if you can believe that. And he tried to make small talk with Ava the whole time. But I saw the glances he kept sliding my way. After dinner, I escaped. I couldn’t watch Ava put her hands on him one more time. So, I went to the gardens and into the dark. He found me there. I don’t know how he did it, but he always knew where I was. We hid behind a bush when Ava came out looking for him and when we were all alone, we danced with only the dying strains of the music to guide us.”

Kyle had to blink at the sudden moisture that filled his eyes when the scene played itself out before them. He hadn’t counted on having to relive the love story of Zan and Elise. And he hated to admit that it was getting to him. Watching the events unfold, knowing how they turned out in the end, it was one of the hardest things he’d had to do.

“After that night, the palace was abuzz with gossip that the Prince had found a mate. His mother expected him to spend time with Ava and he only did it because he could see me. We still met at the lake, but it was getting harder and harder. There were long stretches of time that went by where I never saw him. Ava had figured out that something wasn’t right with the way he looked at me, and she started suggesting that they leave the house when he came. He came to me one afternoon and told me that his mother had asked what was keeping his attention. She had heard rumors that he had been sneaking out of the palace and demanded to know where he had been and why. He told me that he couldn’t meet me during the day any longer. I could see his heart breaking and I knew he wouldn’t have said it if he didn’t have to. So, I suggested that we meet at night. He wasn’t happy with it at first, but I’d told him that I knew the forests well. Still, he insisted that something could happen to me and it would be his fault. I was too stubborn to listen so he took the royal seal from his coat and he melded the metal, changed it’s shape and handed it to me.”

Kyle and Mel could clearly see Zan using his powers to create the pendant that Claudia had carefully hidden inside of her puzzle box. The image of intertwining rings with what they now knew was the moon hovering above them.

“He said he had poured all of his love into it and it would keep me safe when he couldn’t be there to guide me. And he said that if I ever had any reason to doubt his love for me, that all I would have to do is hold it in my hands and it would remind me.”

Mel wiped at a stray tear, not caring that Kyle was in the room. She knew that she didn’t know the full story, that there had to be large gaps, but it still tore at her heart to actually witness the heartfelt exchange. She didn’t want to interrupt with questions. She had a feeling that Elise would tell her of the hard times that were quickly coming.

“We met at night after that. Lia covered for me. I had told her that I’d found my Chiara, but not who he was. Rath discovered us soon after that. He had been worried about Zan and when he found us together at the lake, he was a bit shocked. He pulled this older brother routine for awhile, but in the end, he agreed to keep our secret. He loved us both enough. It wasn’t long after that when rumors started seeping out of the palace that an announcement would be made soon as to Zan’s future mate. He hadn’t taken it seriously enough and he fought with his mother when she told him she planned to announce the mating. That was when he told her he was in love with me. He didn’t want Ava and he couldn’t image being with anyone but me. She wouldn’t listen to him, thought he was nervous about what the mating meant to his future, and she brushed his concerns aside. He came to me a few nights after that. He told me he’d been trying to reason with her, but Ava came from a more prominent family than mine and the match was more sound for the monarchy.”

Elise held a weeping Zan, while he professed what had to be his apologies to his love. There was only an image, no sound to accompany the memories and Kyle wondered if that was because Liz’s powers were just uncovering themselves. But he was thankful he at least didn’t have to listen to the broken words of a desperate man.

“He apologized for not making it clear right off that he wanted me. But he hadn’t wanted to drag me into the politics of his world. And that was when I knew I had to give him up. He would never be mine, always Ava’s. And the longer I held on, the worse it would be for everyone when he was bound as her mate. I tried to push him away that night, to tell him he had to leave and never come back. And when the first of the suns started to rise, he finally left for the palace. I wept all that day. Lia tried to comfort me, but there was nothing she could say. Ava was glowing. They had announced that morning that she had been chosen as Zan’s mate. I don’t know why I went back to the lake that night, but it was the only thing that gave me any peace.”

The moon was high in the sky, casting a glow on the open clearing as Elise came to the lake.

“Zan was already there and waiting for me. At first, my heart leapt to see him one last time, but then I remembered that he didn’t belong to me any longer.” Tears slipped down Liz’s cheeks even as she smiled. “Rath was there, as was his family’s spiritual leader. He came to me and he took me in his arms and he told me that he would not be mated with another. If his mother would not accept that he loved only me and cancel his mating with Ava, then he would simply have to mate with me before Ava had the chance. And I knew I could never let him go. Rath had brought me one of Volandra’s dresses, a simple white one, because he knew I would want something special. And Zan and I were mated under a large tree, with the moon as our only light. Rath took the holy man back home and left us. We made love for the first time on the shore of the lake where we had first met. And I’d never been happier in my life.”

The image of the forbidden ceremony was more than Mel could bear. Did anyone else ever know of their marriage? Kyle had told her that everyone thought Tess was his wife. So, what had happened?

Liz’s words were faster now, her breathing becoming more erratic. “Rath came back before the rays of the first sun had even colored the sky. Zan’s father had died during the night and Volandra had been cast out of the palace, identified as a spy for the leader of the rebellion being waged against the palace. Zan apologized to me, said he had to take me home for a bit. He needed to go home and speak to his mother before he told her about our mating. At my door, with the last of the darkness dying, he kissed me goodnight. He told me that he loved me and we would have a lifetime to spend together. I watched him leave with my cousin and the next thing I knew, someone had grabbed me from behind. I woke up in this cold, dark room of stone. I didn’t recognize it, but there were no windows, no light of any kind. There was food on a small table, but I was too sick to eat any of it. I tried to find a way out, but the door wouldn’t open. I yelled until I didn’t have a voice anymore. But no one came. I don’t know how long I was down there alone in the dark before I finally heard footsteps. I yelled again, knowing that Zan had found me at last. But when the door opened, it was someone I didn’t recognize.”

Kyle glared at the image before him. A scared and sick Elise lay huddled on the stone floor still wearing her wedding dress, begging for freedom from her captive. And when the stranger turned his cold, lifeless eyes on her, the stab of recognition was quick and unexpected. “Nasedo,” he hissed out. “I should have known that bastard would have a role in this story.”

“He told me he worked for Kivar, the leader of the rebellion. They’d known about my meetings with Zan, they’d kept track of us through his sister, Volandra. And they knew of our mating in secret. I told him Zan would find me, that he would pay for keeping me locked away and that the only ransom that would be paid for me would be their blood. He laughed at me, this cold laugh and I knew then that I wasn’t being held for a ransom. He informed me that while I’d been locked away, Zan had married Ava and had taken the throne. I told him Zan would never do that, that he loved me and he would never choose my cousin. And he explained that Zan had done just that, and it had been surprisingly easy when Zan had seen my home explode with his very own eyes. They had faked my death, arranged it so that Zan had seen it happen, and had been powerless to try to help. He had been forced to mate with Ava in order to take the throne and stop the rebellion against his kingdom. I asked him why and he wouldn’t answer me. He just left.”

Mel could feel Liz’s frustration, could see the rapid rise and fall of her chest and she was sure her friend was reliving those days in the dark cellar.

”He came back periodically, just to make sure I was there I guess. I always asked him why at first, desperate to know if they planned to kill me, or perhaps use me as some sort of weapon in their war. Finally, I stopped asking. And he was surprised. He asked if I didn’t want to know why I was being held. I told him it didn’t matter anymore. They could kill me if they wanted. He said they would no doubt do just that when they had what they wanted from me. I think he was proud of himself, for knowing more than he should. He wouldn’t just leave me that day to rot alone. He pulled up a chair and spoke to me of a prophecy. Kivar’s people had found an ancient scroll that spoke of the ender of all wars. A man that would be strong enough to unite the people, to create peace, and to put an end to tyranny that Kivar had spent countless cycles trying to create. Unfortunately, he hadn’t been born yet by their calculations. But he would be the true heir to King Zanis’ throne.”

“You were pregnant,” Mel announced, the knowledge coming to her suddenly. “They knew you were his true mate and the heir could only come from you and not your cousin.” It all was beginning to make a certain kind of sense.

Liz nodded. “I didn’t know until he said those words. And it was as if a light clicked on. He left after that and I spent all my time trying to connect with my child. I could feel its presence now that I knew what it was I had been feeling. And somehow they knew too. I think our child had been smart enough to hide itself until I knew. Because after that, he started growing so quickly it scared me. I hadn’t been prepared for this and I didn’t know what to do. I longed for Zan, or even Lia to be there to help me. But I was alone. I tried to keep strong, knowing there wouldn’t be any way I would let them have my baby. I became used to the dark, knowing it might be the only weapon I might have to make an escape. And the next time the door opened, I was ready for a fight. But it wasn’t the man that faced me.”

“Volandra, I presume.” Only Isabel’s alien half would adorn herself in jewels while visiting a prisoner. Kyle shook his head, vowing to beat Isabel senseless the next time he saw her. His fists had been curling and uncurling in rage since the whole thing had started. He longed to jump in and help Elise fight her way out of her jail. But he knew it was pointless. The events he was watching had happened long ago on another planet. Nothing could be changed now.

“Zan’s sister came into the room, and at first I was filled with rage. She begged me to hear her out. She said she hadn’t known who Kivar’s prisoner was. All she’d known was that I was to be kept under tight lock and key. She’d overheard the story, that Zan and I had mated and that he thought I was dead. And she knew she had to come to me at once. She said she didn’t have the time to explain yet, but if I would follow her she would help me back to Zan and explain it all. I didn’t have much of a choice, so I went with her, followed her through tunnels and a maze of corridors. I wasn’t able to move very quickly, so she helped me when I needed it. I hadn’t moved in so long, it was a hard trek, but we finally escaped out into the sunlight. I remember how blinding it was the first time I’d seen it again. I couldn’t move. She had to drag me blindly to this cabin. When we got there, I was too tired to do anything but sleep for a full day. When I woke up, she launched into the story that had led us both to where we were.”

Liz’s voice was growing weary and Mel was worried for her health. “Elise, if you want to take a break, we can.”

“No. I want to finish. She had been the one to bring news of the first stirrings of a rebellion to her father. They were close, much closer than Zan was with either of their parents. And the King trusted Volandra’s quick mind. They knew a force was being mounted against them, so they had devised a plan for her to discretely slip inside information to Kivar. They kept it between themselves, for fear of her life if she was discovered. And the plan worked well for awhile. Until Ava had discovered Volandra sneaking information from Rath’s journals. Before anyone could stop her, she had declared Volandra a fraud. A war was mounting, so Volandra had left her home in order to continue getting information for her family. Unfortunately, her father had died that same evening and no one could confirm her story. She had stayed, collecting information in Kivar’s camp. When she heard that I was being kept prisoner and that I was pregnant, she’d decided it was time to break her cover. She’d figured if she could get me inside the palace and back to Zan, that they would listen to her.”

Despite the way Kyle had departed Roswell and Isabel, he felt his heart go out to her. They had once been friends and he knew that she believed herself to be a traitor to her family. The news that she hadn’t in fact been one at all would go a long way towards lifting a weight from her shoulders.

“We waited until just before sunrise. I hadn’t been feeling well all through the night, and I was beginning to fear for the life of my child. He hadn’t been moving as much and I swore to him that the best doctors would take care of him if he could only hold on until we got to his father. I led Volandra through the woods until the sun rose. She’d informed me that assassins had been hired to take out the royal family. Ava was seen as the Queen and they no longer needed Zan or the others who were loyal to him. We were careful, slowly picking our way through the tangle of trees until we saw the palace before us. Volandra knew of a secret entrance that led to the courtyard, but before we could enter, she was grabbed from behind. We were ready for a fight, but it was only Rath. At first, he was infuriated to see Volandra, convinced she was there to cause trouble. But then he saw me and he just looked at me for a minute as if he couldn’t decide if I were real or not. Volandra quickly explained what happened and he agreed to help us find Zan. He apologized a hundred times to me. He told me he’d had to hold Zan back from the wreckage of my home when it had exploded. Zan would have rushed into the fire itself if he could have. Rath told me Zan had all but died with me, he’d mated with Ava because he had no other choice. He had to do something to protect his people, but he was just a shell without me.”

The memories were coming faster now, more vivid and Liz’s face contorted in pain. “We made it half way into the courtyard before we met with the first of the assassins. He came out of nowhere and Rath was hit before we knew they were even there. We tried to help him, but he made us go. I knew he was dying, but he told me to find Zan. He apologized to Volandra for not believing in her and before we could stop him, he had run out to give us a chance to escape. Volandra didn’t want to move on. She blamed herself for Rath’s death, and I had to push her onward. She saw the next of the assassins before I did and she asked me to tell everyone that she wasn’t a traitor to her family and she pushed me into the final corridor before they could kill me.”

Volandra’s final screams echoed in Liz’s brain. She hadn’t been able to help her family live. They had given their lives for her. “The pain in my stomach was almost unbearable and I could barely move. I was so tired, and every step hurt more, but I kept moving because I knew Zan was just beyond those last walls. The narrow corridor opened up to the courtyard and it was in chaos by the time I got there. Everyone was running around, screaming. I tripped over the body of some soldier and I wanted to give up, standing on that last step. Until I turned my head and saw Zan across the courtyard. He was fighting someone, trying to help as many people escape as he could. I tried to move towards him, the pain ripped through my stomach. I knew there was something wrong with the baby, but there was nothing I could do without Zan’s help. I called out to him and I don’t know how he heard me, but he turned and the look on his face when he saw me…I can’t describe it. He was in disbelief. Then I saw so many emotions in those beautiful eyes I loved so much. He rushed towards me, calling out my name, but I felt something hit me hard in my side. I fell to the ground and I couldn’t move. There was pain everywhere. But I looked up into one of the guard turrets and I met the eyes of the man that I knew had just killed me. He just looked at me for a minute and then he smiled before he raced down the stairs.”

Kyle fought back the seething hatred for the man in Elise’s memory. He could clearly see his face, knew it would be forever burned into his memory. His eyes were cold and hard. On his neck, he bore a symbol, what looked to be a series of X marks crisscrossing each other.

“I saw Zan’s face hovering over me and he was crying. He pulled me into his arms and I wished I could feel him holding me close. But I was losing feeling in my body. He was whispering to me, telling me to hang on and that someone would come help us. But I knew it was going to be too late. I apologized to him for not being stronger and told him I would love him until the end of time itself and I would wait for him. It was getting hard to see his face, but I could still hear his voice, whispering that his soul would never be complete without me. And that he would find a way back to me, no matter what it took. And then everything went black and there was just cold silence again.”

Mel sat still a moment, trying to stop the flow of tears. It had been no wonder Liz had woken with nightmares every time she slept. She had dreamt of her death and that of everyone she loved. Every time she had closed her eyes, she had seen blood and cold darkness. “Nobody knows you’re an alien here, Elise. They know you as Liz Parker.”

“I know. Zan said he would find a way and I guess he did. Look.”

Mel turned back to the hologram and a whole new set of images flashed in rapid succession. She saw Liz as a child, growing up while being drawn to Max. She saw the day Liz had been shot and caught her first glimpse of Max as he closed the hole in Liz’s stomach. A thousand images that she didn’t understand replaced that moment and she saw the same faces over and over. Players in the same game, forced to live their lives a second time in hopes of trying to get it right.

Kyle watched Liz show Mel all that had happened to lead them to this point. There were more questions than ever now. Had Zan been the one to send his loved ones to Earth? And if so, why had they sent Ava? And it still didn’t answer the question of how Liz had been adopted and why she had been an infant while the others had remained in their pods until they were seven. If Nasedo had been a part of Kivar’s plan, he would have known about Elise. And how did Claudia fit in? Who was she in the broad plan? A sudden thought occurred to him and he leapt from his chair so quickly it almost overturned. He scoured Liz’s room until he found what he was looking for in her dresser drawer. With a renewed sense of purpose, he handed Claudia’s empty journal to Mel.

“Ask her if she can unlock it, or do something to make it readable.”

Mel nodded and took the journal. “Elise, I need to ask you a question. I have a journal in my hands and we can’t read it. It’s important that we know what it says. Can you help us?”

“I can try.”

Mel placed it in Liz’s hands and watched as her brow furrowed in concentration.

“It’s been wiped clean. I recognize this energy.” She smiled. “Lia. Lia locked this.”

“Can you unlock it?”

“Sure. That’s a kids trick.” She wiped her hand across the battered leather surface and a soft blue glow surrounded the book. “Here you go.” She handed it back to Mel.

Kyle snatched it from Liz’s hand and quickly flipped the journal open. Page after page of handwritten notes lay before him. “She did it.”

“Elise, I’m going to end this session in a minute by counting backward from three. When you hear me count down, you are going to fall into a deep sleep until morning. You will not dream, but only rest. And when you awaken, you will remember everything you’ve me today.”

“Okay.”

Mel looked to Kyle for approval. He merely nodded his head in agreement. Liz was going to need all the rest she could get before she was able to handle everything she was about to learn.

“Three…two…one.”

Liz’s head relaxed against the pillow, a contented smile played across her lips. Kyle stared down in disbelief a moment. “I’m going to put her to bed.”

Dumbly, Mel nodded. Weariness was creeping into her body and she wished she could succumb to sleep as easily as Liz had. She watched as Kyle gently picked Liz from the couch and carried her to her room. She followed them in time to catch Kyle carefully tuck the blanket around Liz’s body. He lingered a minute before turning, surprised to find Mel hovering in the doorway.

“Mel-“

Mel held a hand up to stop him. “I’m really not up for any more talking tonight. I don’t think I can wrap my brain around any more revelations. I don’t want to know anything else. I know you want to talk about this and that’s fine. Can we just do it tomorrow though?”

Kyle nodded. He really didn’t have much choice. Besides, there wasn’t much left to say after watching a lifetime of love and loss unfold before your very eyes. Tomorrow would come soon enough. He watched Mel leave with a heavy heart though. It would be a tough time for her to accept all this. Tonight had challenged her every belief and she needed time to think it all over. He only wished he could be there to help her.

Instead, he clutched Claudia’s journal in his hands and retreated to his own bedroom. Sleep wouldn’t come for him tonight. He had answers to find and he finally had a place to start.


[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Feb-2002 6:32:24 PM ]
posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:57:42 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 74

“Hi, welcome to the Crashdown Café. I’m your server Cindy. Would you like to hear today’s specials?”

Max and Isabel slid into their usual booth and eyed the blonde waitress suspiciously. What was she doing covering Maria’s section?

“Isn’t this Maria’s section?” Isabel asked, barely able to contain her contempt for the bubble gum popping waitress.

“Yeah, but she’s lying down in the back. Today’s special is Black Lagoon Tuna with-“

“Is she okay?” Max asked, ignoring what had to be Amy’s influence on the menu item names.

“She looked fine to me, but Michael’s back there keeping an eye on her.” She blew another bubble, chomping loudly. “Now, what can I get you?”

Isabel continued to eye the girl distastefully. Not bothering to pick up a menu, she spared a glance at the younger girl. “Two cherry cokes and a chili cheese fry. Can you tell Maria we’re out here?”

“Sure thing.” Not bothering to jot down the order, she sauntered back to the kitchen.

“I still can’t believe Liz’s dad hired her. She’s the rudest person I’ve ever met.” Isabel drummed her fingers, sure that Max of all people would agree with her, but Max was staring off into space again.

“Hello? Earth to Max?” When that didn’t get results, she threw her waded up napkin at him.

“What?” Max snapped back to attention, focusing on his sister.

“Welcome back.”

“Sorry,” Max grinned sheepishly at her. “I’ve just been feeling weird all week.” He’d been having trouble concentrating. It was strange. It almost felt as though he were being pulled somewhere else.

“Still having trouble sleeping?” When Max looked at her questioningly, she shrugged. “Thin walls. I know you’ve been having nightmares. Wanna share?”

Max shrugged, playing with the napkin Isabel had thrown at him. “I don’t know, Is. They’re just weird.”

“Max, I know Ana leaving was hard on you, but I just wanted to tell you I though you’ve been doing an amazing job. I know you didn’t want to let her go, but you did the right thing by not making it harder on her in the end. And it’s understandable that you’ve been having bad dreams since she left.”

“Thanks,” he smiled at her in acknowledgement. “But that’s what’s so weird about them. They’re not about Ana, or even Liz.” He paused. He really hadn’t wanted to talk about it until he knew more, but maybe it would help to get another perspective on them. “I think…” he leaned in closer to his sister. “I think I’ve been remembering.”

Isabel frowned, confused by what he was saying. “Remembering what?”

“Zan’s life.”

“What? Why didn’t you say something sooner? What have you remembered?” She sat forward, eagerly listening.

He shook his head, sorry he didn’t have the answers he knew she longed to hear. “I don’t know. They’re kind of strange, disjointed. There are some things I remember so clearly, and others that are so vague I can’t make sense of them. I remember a lake. How’s that for vague? And I remember someone…a girl.” But even that description seemed like too little. He couldn’t get a clear image of her face, but only of the feelings she evoked in him. All he really knew was a name dredged from his memory in the midst of an argument with Kyle Valenti. Elise. “I think we met at the lake, but I don’t know for sure.”

“Ava?” A part of her hoped that it wasn’t Ava he’d used to meet. She liked to think her brother could do better than a lying murderess.

Max shook his head. “No. I know it wasn’t Ava. Though Tess did try to get me to remember a lake when we did our memory sessions. I think she was trying to convince me then that we used to meet there, because the lake is the same.”

Isabel flashed him a knowing smile. “Did you have a secret crush on someone? Come on, tell me everything.”

Max smiled with her, knowing she was only teasing him. It was a good sign that they could slip back into their old roles. He hadn’t crumbled when Ana had left, and Isabel had eased off him a bit more. But even as he laughed with her, he knew with a certainty he couldn’t explain that it had been more than a simple crush. “I guess so.”

Cindy returned then with their drinks, pausing only long enough to send an admiring glance at Max before returning to her duties. Isabel shook her head in disbelief. “What is it with you and the waitresses in this place?” When Max’s cheeks colored, she went about her routine of adding tabasco to her drink. “So, what else did you remember?”

“Emotions more than anything concrete. There was crushing despair, anger like I’ve never known, hopelessness, then I wake up with this tremendous feeling of guilt.” He shrugged, waiting for his sister’s analysis.

“Hmm, I’m thinking the despair and anger could be from Kivar. We know he led the rebellion on Antar. We had to have been losing, otherwise, I’m thinking we wouldn’t be here right now. So, those two could be related.” She tapped a manicured finger against her teeth in thought. “Hopelessness again probably has to do with the rebellion. Times had to be tough, and the guilt? We don’t really know who died first or how. All we know is that I was somehow responsible for it.” A fact that continued to eat her alive. But she wasn’t looking for her brother’s pity, so she moved on before he could comment. “Maybe you were one of the last alive. The guilt could be over our deaths.”

“Maybe.” But he wasn’t convinced. He’d woken up every morning that week so far with those emotions churning inside of him. But they quickly faded with the dreams, leaving him with dozens of new questions.

“Brooding over it already? It wasn’t your fault, Max. But it does sound like the brother I know and love.”

Max shook off the mood, knowing she was right. There was no reason to brood without knowing why. If the dreams kept up much longer, he was going to try some memory retrieval tricks. He’d already ordered a book from the bookstore that was supposed to be a decent guide to past life regression. At least that’s what the clerk had assured him of.

The door to the break room swung open and Maria came storming through, Michael hot on her heels.

“-and I’m telling you you’re driving me crazy. Get off my back already.”

“I won’t. You’re just being stubborn. Can’t you just listen to me for once in your life?”

“I would if you were making any sort of sense.” Maria caught a glimpse of Max and Isabel staring at them in confusion and she cursed herself, then Michael for good measure. She lowered her voice. “I don’t want to talk about this now.”

She escaped behind the counter and began pouring drinks. Michael followed behind, pulling the drinks from her hands.

“Well I do. After your shift isn’t the time to talk about you working too hard.”

Maria had given up on the drinks, leaving Michael to finish pouring them as she headed for the kitchen window. After a cursory glance at the tickets, she began her usual routine of balancing the plates when Michael appeared at her elbow again.

“Maria, you shouldn’t be carrying these things around all day.” Michael made a grab for the plate, but she side-stepped him.

“Michael, please, they weigh all of two pounds each.” She spun, moving out of his reach before he could lunge for the plate. But he was quicker than she gave him credit for and he managed a grip on the plate.

“Would you just let go of the plate already?” He tugged on it and she tugged right back.

“No! Would you just go home and let me work?”

“Don’t you mean work yourself to death?” They continued their tugging match over the plate, not caring that the few patrons of the café had turned to watch with interest.

“Well, you wouldn’t know anything about that, would you? Now, let me get back to work. You know, the place that pays me so I can save money for unexpected future events?”

“You don’t need to be working in your condition!”

Immediately aware of the eyes that were on them, Maria narrowed her eyes at Michael. “I hardly think that a touch of the flu is cause for this kind of overprotectiveness. Don’t you?”

“I’m not being overprotective. I’m just worried. Now give me the damn plate before I throttle you.”

He made one last attempt to retrieve the plate, but he missed the gleam in Maria’s eye. She released her grip on the plate and when Michael pulled, he staggered backward a step, struggling to stay on his feet. By some force of sheer luck, he balanced the plate before he dropped it on himself.

“You meant to do that,” he accused her. And he couldn’t resist shooting her a look of satisfaction. “I guess I’m quicker than you are though.”

Anger and frustration guiding her, Maria’s only thought was to wipe the smug look from his face. In one swift move, she picked the plate of chili cheese fries from his hand and upended it on his head. Large globs of chili mixed with the melted cheese as it dripped down the sides of Michael’s face.

“Apparently, you’re not quick enough. If you want my shift, take it. I’m going home.” She untied her apron and tied it around Michael’s waist. The large, silver alien head gleamed against Michael’s stomach as he stared at her in frozen disbelief. Without another word, she retreated through the front door.

“Well, there goes lunch,” Isabel muttered. Michael swore under his breath as he disappeared behind the break room doors.

“You serve the plates and I’ll take Michael.”

“Wait, that hardly seems fair.” But Max had already slid out of the booth to follow after Michael. “Damn men. Why do they assume that just because I’m female I should be serving the food?” But she rose from the booth and headed behind the counter. She’d done this once before. Granted, it had been a few years ago, but if Maria and even Michael could do it, so could she.

Cautiously, she eyed the line of food tickets. Now, which table was table number one?

“Michael?” Max peered his head into the restroom where he was sure he could hear Michael muttering.

“Go away, Maxwell. I’m not in the mood.” He hadn’t meant to fight with Maria. Really. He had only been concerned that she was working too many hours.

“So, you and Maria having some trouble?”

“No, I always wear chili on my head. Why won’t this damn stuff come off?” He had a feeling he would be picking small chunks of chili meat out of his hair all afternoon.

“Want some help?” Max offered. If Michael didn’t want to share, he wouldn’t. It was as simple as that, but the fight hadn’t seemed any more serious than their usual run of the mill variety, so he wasn’t worried about them.

Michael sighed in defeat. “Yeah. That would be great.” Michael waited as Max used his powers to wipe what was left of the chili from his clothing. Then he watched in irritation as Max changed his shirt from black to blue. “Hey, that’s my favorite shirt.”

“You need to look like you changed clothes,” Max explained.

“Look, I didn’t mean to snap at you. I just…I’m a little annoyed at the moment.”

Michael was apologizing? He would have to mark this day on his calendar. “I see. Is there anything I can do to help?”

“No. Maria and I are just…sorting through some stuff. We’ll be fine.”

“Okay. Just let me know.”

“Hell, I forgot about Maria’s stupid customers.” He swore under his breath again. When he’d pushed Maria to get off her feet, he hadn’t thought about the consequences it would bring.

“Well, I have Isabel out there helping at the moment.”

A wide grin broke out across Michael’s face. “Isabel’s serving food?”

“I know, it seems like a monumental occasion. But I doubt she’d look as good in that apron as you do.”

Michael glanced down at the horrid alien head that adorned his waist. “I’m going to kill her for that.”

“Well, you were a bit overbearing.” Max clasped a hand on Michael’s shoulder. “C’mon, we’ll help out. How hard can it be?”





posted on 22-Jan-2002 1:58:02 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 75

Mel awoke from a fitful sleep and stretched slowly, letting each muscle loosen on it’s own. She’d been having the strangest dream. She’d been in this huge castle, floating high in the sky on a large fluffy cloud. She’d been wearing this long black ball gown and Kyle had shown up in a tuxedo and asked her to dance. But when the band had started playing, they’d turned into the Cantina Band from Star Wars. Kyle had tried to waltz, but the music was too fast.

Everywhere she had looked, the faces of people she knew had morphed into the aliens from every horror movie she’d ever seen. She recognized the Predator talking to a small group of the fuzzy aliens from Critters. And in one corner, Chewbacca had been leading another group in doing the Electric Slide.

When she’d looked out the large window, she’d seen dozens of flying saucers hovering in the air. And then she’d woken up.

How weird was that? She hadn’t been scared by the dream, simply confused. She couldn’t remember eating anything funny before she’d gone to bed, but she evidently had. Either that or she should lay off the sci fi for awhile. She yawned loudly, checking her clock to see if she still had time to fall back asleep or if she should get up for school.

The red dial read 7:02. With a sigh of regret, she decided it was better to just get up and get it over with. Maybe she could smooth talk Kyle into making her an omelet. Her mouth watering already with the spicy taste of a Mexican omelet, she pulled herself out of bed.

Pulling her auburn tresses into a pony tail rather than try to brush the knots out yet, she hummed to herself as she headed for the bathroom. Half way across the room, she hooked her foot on something hidden under her bed and she swore in pain. Hopping on one foot, she turned a viscous glare to the floor and frowned when she saw her drill lying on the ground.

When her eyes lit on the broken drill bit casually tossed aside, the sleep induced fog cleared from her brain. Memories of last night came rushing back to her so quickly, she sunk to the floor.

She remembered now. How could she have forgotten? She’d put Liz under hypnosis, and they’d found the answers to the questions they’d been looking for. Hell, they’d found answers to questions they hadn’t even known existed.

Liz was an alien, or half of one. Did it even matter what the percentage was? There were others out there like her. But aliens existed. There was no denying the truth of it. Maybe if she hadn’t seen whole lives played out in front of her eyes, if she hadn’t seen Liz work her mojo and make words and a blue light appear where there had been neither, maybe then she could pass the whole thing off as a bad dream or a prank.

As it was, she desperately wanted to crawl back under the covers, pull them tight over her head and go back to Chewbacca and the Electric Slide. But that was the coward’s way and she’d never taken that route in her life.

So, there were aliens living in Roswell, and the New York sewers, which was something she thought more than a bit bizarre even by the new standards they’d set the night before. But just remembering the look on Liz’s face was enough to send even her strongest panic attacks back. The life Liz had lived before was appalling at best. Only horrible monsters could do what they’d done. Which made Liz one of the good guys.

She’d put Liz into a dreamless sleep, but she would be waking up soon. And she would need her friends. These days, just like herself, Liz’s list was down to two.

Was this a part of friendship? This give and take? She’d been trusted with the gift of knowledge, trusted with the secrets that could kill the ones she loved. Liz might not have known the depths of what Mel might have uncovered last night, but she’d known there was more than a chance of the alien secret coming out. And she’d still said yes.

Her mind made up, she rose to her feet. Friends stuck by each other no matter what. Or at least they did in her mind. So Liz had lived a past life that happened to be on a different planet. Big deal. Who cares? What did it change really? Okay, maybe a lot on a cosmic scale. But on a smaller one? Not so big of a change.

Except for one not so small thing. For the first time in her life, someone was going to need her.

She immediately went for the door to Liz’s room, but remembered the lock was sticking still. She would have to go through Kyle’s room. But she’d be damned if she were going to do it in nothing but her underwear.

She dressed quickly, donning one of her usual outfit, leather pants and a tank top. Kyle used to tease her that all she owed was leather. And while it wasn’t far from the truth, she’d always considered it more of a suit of armor than a trendy fashion statement.

Moving quietly to the door to Kyle’s bedroom, she knocked twice. When she didn’t receive an answer, she opened the connecting door slowly.

“Valenti?” She poked her head in, taking in the mess that was his room. Papers were strewn everywhere. Crinkled balls of paper overflowed from his trashcan onto the floor. Hadn’t he slept at all? He looked as though he’d gone through a whole tablet of paper. Then she turned and found the man himself, half buried beneath a stack of books and even more papers.

She stepped closer, wanting to read his familiar chicken scratch handwriting. Maybe it was the early hour, but what she was reading didn’t make much sense. It looked as though he had mapped out timelines and what looked to be maps. But of what she couldn’t be certain. She wondered if he’d tell her if she woke him up. It would be interesting to see how things would change now that they didn’t have to constantly tip toe around her.

Kyle was still dressed in his jeans and the t-shirt he’d worn yesterday. Across his chest, Liz’s grandmother’s journal lay open. Carefully, she picked it up and examined the page he’d fallen asleep reading.

I’m sorry, Liz, for that pain and heartache my deceptions will cause you once you discover them. And I’m sorrier still that it’s looking more and more likely that I won’t be there to help you undergo your transformation. But even greater is my sorrow that this body won’t live long enough to see you realize the potential that lives inside of you. You will bring about great things, I know, no matter which planet you choose to do them on.

Mel closed the journal. She’d heard enough sad tales to last her a lifetime. Besides, it seemed only right that Liz read the words first. Adjusting the journal so that it lay closed on Kyle’s desk, she watched him sleep a minute. He was so boyishly goofy it brought a smile to her face. There was nothing in particular, except for the way his hair stuck up at all angles. She could all but see him running his fingers through his hair in frustration all night. And she was sorry that she hadn’t thought to ask if he wanted help. She would have to work on that too.

Asleep, he looked at peace, without the weight of the world resting on his shoulders. And she couldn’t help but wonder if he’d always been like that. It was hard to imagine a carefree Kyle Valenti with no guilt or selfless desires to guard those around him. And when the all too familiar stirrings of emotion surfaced, Mel decided it was best to ease herself off the bed slowly and check on Liz.

Mel crossed the door to Liz’s bedroom and pulled it open. She resisted the urge to look back at Kyle. There was no reason to. Things finally had a chance to go back to the way they were between them and she wasn’t about to screw that up with untimely feelings.

She turned her gaze to Liz’s bed and froze dead in her tracks. “Oh my god,” she managed though her throat was constricted with fear. Running back to Kyle’s bed, she latched on to his arm and began violently shaking him.

“Wake up, damn you!”

“I’m up,” Kyle managed groggily, blinking his eyes to focus. “Why are you shaking me?”

“There’s something wrong with Liz.”

Kyle yawned, trying to force his eyes to remain open. He’d calculated sometime during the sleepless night that he hadn’t slept more than ten hours total in the last week. “You mean the web thing, right?”

Mel sat back on the bed and blinked hard. “You know about that? Is that…normal? Because if she’s gonna like shed her skin or something-“

“No, no. It’s nothing like that.” Kyle sat up, pushing the stacks of papers aside. He was trying hard not to care that Mel was kneeling on his bed beside him. Oh, the fantasies his mind would produce on that later. He cleared his throat before he managed to sound like an oversexed idiot. “I don’t suppose I could get you to not ask questions about it?” He asked hopefully. He’d spent a good bit of time trying to figure out a way to convince Mel not to get involved in any of this, but he doubted anything he could say would convince her. And while she glared at him now, he knew he’d been right..

“It’s part of a transformation. Look, it’s this whole long story. I read through most of the journal and Claudia talked about a transformation Liz would have to undergo before her alien powers emerged.”

“But she was using alien powers last night.”

“No – well, technically, yes. But those were Max’s.” He could tell she was still confused. “When Max healed Liz, it did change her. They formed that connection thingy they have and she sort of borrowed some of his energy.” He sighed. This was the hardest thing to explain. “I suck at this.” He tried another approach. “Liz always seemed human because really, she was. She didn’t stay in her pod long enough do anything but form a human body.” Oh, yeah, that sounded far less confusing. He was just going to have to suck it up and explain the whole long involved story to her. But he knew she was worried for her friend. “The bottom is that she’s gonna stay in that cocoon thing until her alien side comes out to play.”

“And that’s how long?”

“Well, I did some calculations and based on the numbers I came up with, it should be May of 2344. But I failed math last year, so I wouldn’t place any stock in those numbers. The webs already seem to be deteriorating, so maybe a day?”

Mel examined her closely. “You’re really calm about this for the mother hen you usually are.”

“Oh, there’s no denying I screamed like a girl when I first saw it. But according to the journals, she should be okay.” And that had been the only thing that had kept him from picking up the phone and calling Roswell for help.

His stomach rumbled and he was reminded of how little he’d eaten. “Say, I’m starving. You up for some blueberry waffles? They’re the frozen kind, but they’ll do in a pinch.”

“Waffles? You want to eat? While Liz is baking inside an alien cocoon?”

“We prefer to use the term Czechoslovakian. And yes, if there’s one thing I’ve learned from my experiences with them it’s that if there is time in the midst of a crisis to eat, then you eat. Bad things don’t end up being single events. Sure, it may look like only one person is out to kill you, but soon it’s a dozen. And then you’re hiding for a week or trapped in a cave with evil crystals. So, if there’s down time, eat.” He hopped off the bed and poked his head into Liz’s room. Yep, still covered in webbing. He’d decided earlier that there was no use being freaked or worried just yet. He’d accepted his fate shortly before the sun had risen. And it just involved aliens. He turned back to Mel. “C’mon, I’ll even make you fatty pork products.”

“You have a weird life, you know.” But she rose from the bed and followed him.

“Nah, weird is the suburbs and never knowing the thrill of running from the FBI.” He slung his arm around her companionably. “And it’s not just my life anymore either. Welcome to the alien abyss, Mel. You might want to hang on, because it’s always a bumpy ride.”



posted on 23-Jan-2002 7:50:31 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

I had to cut this part somewhere, it was already longer than I planned on posting. But here you are. I took a mini-vacation and I'm planning to post something for LtL this week as well as posting regularly again for FY. So, enjoy and I'll see you tomorrow.

Finding Yourself
Part 76

“You didn’t!” Mel exclaimed between peals of laughter.

“Oh, I certainly did. It wasn’t exactly the proudest moments of my life, but it was pretty entertaining.” Kyle sat back in the kitchen chair and watched as Mel threw her head back and laughed at his story. He had the sudden ridiculous urge to grab her and pull her close. He knew he could wipe the grin from her face in an instant, but they had finally settled back into the friendship groove. And in light of everything she had just discovered about the existence of aliens, she didn’t need him trying to attack her in the kitchen.

After breakfast, they’d talked for most of the day. At her insistence, Kyle had told her what he knew of the alien stories. Though, he’d confessed that most of his knowledge was second hand and even then, he’d been resentful of the entire situation while the events had played themselves out. So, he’d started out with some light hearted information and slowed worked into the life and death. She’d heard the story of their friend’s death and all of the heart wrenching occurrences that had happened both before and after it. And it made sense as to why two kids would leave their hometown behind to start over.

But then, in a calculated move, Kyle had moved onto the more humorous side of their adventures. .Mel tried to quash the laughter at the image of Kyle’s drunken antics with Liz’s boyfriend. Kyle had just finished telling her about the radio contest Liz had won and how the two men had practically stalked her throughout the night. Now, she was picturing Kyle on stage with Liz, her date and Max.

“That’s not even the funny part. I’m up there, competing for Liz, and the guy asks me to give one reason why she should pick me.”

“I’m afraid to ask. What did you say?”

“That I was happy just to be nominated.”

Mel’s peals of laughter couldn’t be contained. She wiped at a stray tear on her cheek. “God, that’s funny. What did Max say?”

Kyle scowled. “Well, of course he just leans in and lays this smacking kiss on her. If I hadn’t been drunk I probably would have decked him for the hell of it.”

“Poor baby. You lost the competition,” Mel laid a sympathetic hand on Kyle’s arm even as she mocked him.

“Yeah, well it looks as though it never really was a competition after all.” He felt the tension in the room thicken and he regretted it. He hadn’t meant to kill the mood quite so effectively.

“Well, it’s her loss I say.” Mel wasn’t sure why she felt the need to smooth over hurt feelings that shouldn’t exist, but she did. For some reason, Kyle was still harboring ill feelings over losing Liz to Max even though anyone could see that Kyle and Liz did not in any way belong together. “I mean, what girl wouldn’t want a macho jock with a sharp sense of humor?”

“A crazy one, no doubt,” he agreed with an easy grin. Finally things had gone back to the normal they had created before the infamous New Years kiss. And he was willing to do whatever it took to keep things there. Even if it meant having to pretend her very existence didn’t effect him the way no one else ever had.

“So,” Mel tossed her mane of hair over her shoulder, more than a bit uncomfortable when she realized that her hand still rested on Kyle’s arm. She pulled it back slowly, trying desperately to revive the mood of only a moment ago. “Any other embarrassing stories about yourself you want to share?”

“Oh, no. It’s not that easy. If you want to know, you’re going to have to share some of your own. Embarrassment is a give and take thing.”

“But your stories are so much worse than any of mine. It seems that trouble just finds you.”

“Speaking of trouble,” Kyle glanced at his watch, surprised to find that it was so late in the evening. He had spent just over twelve hours with Mel and they had been more comfortable than any other in recent memory. “What do you say we check in on Liz again and they you can tell me all the embarrassing secrets of your life. I think two for every one of mine sounds reasonable.”

Mel frowned at the mention of Liz’s name. “Do you really think she’s okay in there? I hate just leaving her.” She knew Kyle had been trying to keep her distracted all day and he’d done a good job.

“The last time we checked on her, the webs were almost gone. You saw for yourself, she looked absolutely fine.” And he could only pray that she was indeed okay. He was forcing himself not to freak out and instead of sitting by her bed waiting, he had decided to keep Mel company. She had more of a right to freak out than he did and so far she had disappointed him. She hadn’t had a single hysterical moment yet. How was he supposed to comfort her if she didn’t need it?

“Well, I still don’t like it. It feels like we’re deserting her. Maybe we should move back in there for when she wakes up?” Mel suggested hopefully.

“No need. I’m already up.”

Mel and Kyle spun, shocked when Liz’s voice carried across the room. She was leaning against the doorjamb, bent slightly at the waist, one hand still clutching her side.

Kyle rose to hi s feet, stumbling in his haste to make it to his friend. “Are you okay?” He draped an arm around her shoulder and led her into the living room. She sunk gratefully into the couch and closed her eyes, gathering strength.

“Yeah, I’m fine.” She managed a chuckle. “Well, fine may be too strong of a word, but I will be.” She leaned her head back against the cushion, willing the roaring headache to subside.

“Can I get you anything, Liz? Water?” Mel hovered just behind Liz, unsure as to whether or not Liz remembered everything they had uncovered. Would they have to retell the story?

“Water. That would be great.” She listened as Mel moved around the kitchen.

“You’re in pain still,” Kyle observed. She was still holding a hand to her side as he’d seen her do for days now. He’d only just put it together with the memories she’d uncovered. She’d been hurting from that damn blast that had killed Elise and hadn’t said a word. “Damn it, Liz. You should have said something.”

“Why?” She didn’t bother pretending not to know what he was talking about. It took too much energy and she didn’t have much to spare at the moment. “There’s nothing you can do about it. Not then and not now. It’s not really all that bad anyway,” she lied.

Deciding to let it drop for the moment, Kyle crouched in front of Liz. “Liz,” he began tentatively. How did one go about starting this conversation?

“It’s okay, Kyle. I remember.” She opened her eyes now, meeting Kyle’s eyes squarely. And within their depths Kyle saw something he’d never seen before, a spark that seemed to glow. But as quickly as it flared, it receded again. “I remember everything,” she repeated, but her voice had dropped to a whispered hush.

“Do you want to talk about it?” Kyle offered.

Liz shook her head vigorously. “No. I can’t yet.” She closed her eyes again, determined not to cry. Truthfully, she’d been awake for close to an hour. From the first second when she had opened her eyes, she had remembered and she had known who she was. There had still been a lingering pain, but whether it had been from reliving the painful experience of her own death or from the transformations her body had underwent, she couldn’t say. And she could feel the changes. It was as if a low hum of energy settled just beneath her skin now. And a part of her was afraid to see what happened if she reached for it. But the part of her brain that always got her into trouble yearned to see precisely what would happen. And as she had lain in bed, listening for the changes inside of her, she had heard warm laughter from the kitchen. And she had wanted nothing more than to join them.

Kyle sighed, not sure if he should push her or not. “Liz, this is pretty major. We need to talk about what this means. If you don’t want to talk about what happened on Antar-“

“I don’t,” Liz snapped. As soon as the words were out, she regretted the tone. She opened her eyes and offered Kyle a smile. “I’m sorry. I’m a little edgy right now. It’s just too soon, Kyle. It’s all fresh in my mind, like it happened yesterday.” If she let herself, she could actually remember what it felt like to be locked in that stale prison. And it made her want to reach for the light and open all the doors and windows.

Kyle visibly relaxed when he saw a glimmer of his old friend at last. “You gave us quite a scare there.”

“I know, sorry about that.”

“Here’s your water, Liz.” Mel perched on the arm of the couch and offered Liz a smile.

Realization dawned hard and fast and Liz’s eyes opened wide. “Mel…” But she didn’t have a clue what to say to her friend.

“It’s okay, Valenti filled me in.”

Liz turned to Kyle for confirmation. He nodded his head. “I told her everything.” When he saw the panic beginning to form in Liz’s eyes, he tried to soothe her fears. “She damn near knew it all to begin with though. Apparently, we’re slipping in our old age.”

Trying not to let the panic take a hold of her, she battled it back. It wouldn’t happen again. She wouldn’t let it. “You don’t understand. God, Kyle, do you have any idea what this means?” She turned to Mel now. “It means your life is in danger now too. It means that you’ll never have a normal life. I won’t let it happen again.”

Kyle tried to sense where this latest panic attack was stemming from but he came up blank. “Liz, calm down. No one’s in any danger.”

“Of course we are! Kyle, I just found out that I am an alien! And I’ve been everyone’s dirty little secret for eighteen years. Obviously I’ve been hidden for a reason. That means someone is looking. And if someone comes looking for me, they won’t think twice about going through the two of you to get to me.” Images of Alex sitting, trapped in an adjoining jail cell sifted through her brain. That had been the night she had told him the truth. Granted, he hadn’t really believed her, but it had been the night she had sentenced him to death. “I won’t let anyone else die.”

As Liz’s words sunk in, he realized where she was coming from finally. “Is that what you’re worried about? Liz, you can’t keep blaming yourself for Alex’s death.”

“No? Well, how about Vilandra or Rath? I managed to get them killed too. Don’t you see? Whenever people around me know the truth, they end up dead, or wishing they were. I should go.”

When Liz tried to rise from the couch, Kyle’s temper snapped. He gripped her arm and forced her down on the couch. Fury lit his eyes and he didn’t care. “You listen to me. You are not running again. Enough is enough, Liz. Vilandra and Rath died trying to save their kingdom and the rulers that wanted to make it a better place for their people. They died because Khivar was a blood thirsty madman.” He gentled his voice. “And Alex died because Tess was a power hungry bitch that was willing to stomp anyone into the ground that got in her way to the throne. He’s not dead because of you. And as for the rest of us, I can’t speak for Mel, but I’m a big boy. I know what the consequences are and I’m willing to take them. If you go around making decisions for other people, what does that make you?”

Mel watched as Liz hung her head low. Slowly, she eased off the arm and down onto the couch beside Liz. In unfamiliar territory, she put an arm around Liz’s shoulders. “I don’t scare easily.”

Liz raised her head to meet Mel’s eyes and for a brief instant, she felt the uncertainty that had plagued Max and the others all their lives. Would her friends see her differently now? But she found only concern in Mel’s eyes. And relief filled her.

Kyle took hold of Liz’s hands and regained her attention. “We’re in this together now. You need us, babe.”

Mel snorted, despite the situation. “Yeah, between your math skills and the way I’m ever so useful, she’ll believe that. Liz, truthfully, you don’t need us. But we want to be here to help you. This has got to be weird and at the very least, Kyle is good to have around for a good laugh. And I’ll bet he could double as a punching bag in a pinch too.”

Liz chuckled. “Okay, I get the point. You’re not going anywhere. I don’t like it, but I guess there’s nothing much I can do.” Except watch them closer than she’d ever watched anything before. She knew the two of them were stubborn enough to follow her if she left, so she wouldn’t bother. But she would make absolutely sure that nothing happened to them. She turned to face Kyle, gathering her courage. “You have my grandmother’s journal. I remember unlocking it last night.” When Kyle nodded reluctantly, she understood his hesitation. “It’s okay. I know you read it. What did you find?” She would read it later, when she was sure the words wouldn’t tear the fresh wound wide open again.

“Quite a bit. I didn’t read it all. I left some of the more personal stuff for you to read. But overall, it explained a lot. Basically, it filled in what happened after Elise’s first supposed death. Lia moved into the palace at the insistence of Rath. Zan was…defeated.” He really didn’t want to think about the haunting words that had described Zan’s state of mind after he had seen his new wife’s home go up in flames. “Rath told the Queen the truth and when she saw what Elise’s death had done to Zan, she realized that she had been wrong. They didn’t tell anyone the truth, because they feared it would usurp your position as the next ruler, since the King had just died. The rebellion, Khivar, was nipping at their heels and they both convinced Zan to mate with Ava so that he could take the throne. Khivar had been killing time and they couldn’t figure out why he didn’t just attack them. But we know it was because he was waiting to see if Elise was pregnant.”

“And once he knew for sure, he put the plans into motion to have the royal family executed. Because he already had the legitimate heir to the throne.” The pieces began falling into place as large chunks of her memory began returning to her.

“After everyone was killed, Zan lived another…cycle? Which I assume is the equivalent of a year. But according to Lia, he was bitter and a tad suicidal. He started acting more rash, was quicker to jump into battle.”

“He had nothing to lose,” Mel mumbled, remembering the emotions she had seen the couple express.

Liz forced herself not to think about it. She couldn’t or she would lose it right there. “So they had plenty of time to come up with the technology to send the royal family to Earth.”

“Yes. Apparently, Lia and the Queen became close and that’s how Lia was chosen to go to Earth with the pods.”

“Okay, here’s the part I don’t understand. We know that Vilandra was a spy for the King, but they didn’t know. Yet, they sent her to Earth too. And what about this Ava chick? She seems evil enough. But she gets to make the long voyage too.”

Liz thought about Mel’s questions. “Well, I can understand about Ava. The planet was in the middle of a revolution. If they didn’t send her, it would have made the monarchy seem weaker. Plus, I don’t think they knew she was working with Khivar. And Khivar didn’t need her anymore, so she was included in the hit he put out on the rest of the family. Vilandra? All I can guess is that they still loved her. I don’t think they wanted to believe that she was capable of selling them out. Maybe it was their way of giving her one last chance. Remember, the reason Tess turned out the way she did was because she spent her time with Nasedo.”

“Which brings me to my confusing point,” Liz volunteered. “What the hell was Nasedo doing on the ship? He was definitely working with Khivar.”

“Oh, I know that one.” Kyle gave up his position and settled more comfortably on the floor. “Nasedo is a shapeshifter. Khivar had to have found out about their mission to revive the royal family and so he put one of his men on the ship in secret. According to Lia, she thought something was off with the soldier that was supposed to have been the real guardian. But she didn’t know for sure until after the crash.”

“What about me? Who knew I was there as well?”

Kyle faltered. It wasn’t exactly easy to tell your best friend that she had been hidden with industrial equipment to conceal her presence. “Only Lia and the Queen. She was supposed to take you and hide you until you were ready to come out of your pod. After the crash, she couldn’t find anyone else and managed to hide the pods. She kept an eye on all of you for years,” Kyle explained.

“So, what? I came out early?”

“Uh, no. Your pod was designed in secret and they didn’t want you using any powers or anything. No one was supposed to know you were there. So, they only kept you in the pod long enough for your body to live on it’s own. The others were kept in theirs longer so that their powers had time to grow. That’s why you appeared human your whole life. Essentially, you were.”

“Until Max healed me.” She couldn’t explain how she knew, but she did. When Max Evans had touched her in the most intimate of ways, it had awakened something inside of her.

“My head hurts,” Mel confessed.

“I have sent with you your young bride,” Liz whispered.

“What?” Kyle asked. Why did that sound familiar?

“It’s what the message from the Queen said. “I have sent with you your young bride. We only assumed she was talking about Tess. But Ava was older than Zan. She was talking about me. She was giving them a hint, telling Max that I was there on Earth too.” And it made her grin, despite it all. That would have just pissed off Tess if she’d known she wasn’t considered to be a young bride.

“What about the pain you’re still in?” Mel asked, putting words to a concern she knew Kyle had been feeling.

“I’m not sure. I think last week was just about the memories trying to escape. As soon as I touched that pendant, it started.” The pendant Zan had given to Elise to protect her and remind her of his love. “I think I’m not feeling good today because of everything I had to go through. I’m sure I’ll be fine.”

“Liz, I hate to say it-“

“Then don’t, Kyle. I’m not calling Max.”

“Look, I’m the last person who would ever recommend you call Max if you don’t want to. But this is serious. Plus, you’re going to need help. We should tell someone.”

Liz shook her head. “No. Absolutely not. Nothing has changed.”

“Uh, am I the only one that thinks that things have sort of changed?” Mel asked, wanting to diffuse the potentially volatile situation.

“All that’s changed is that I know the truth now. Zan and Elise are dead. And whenever Max and I do this dance, someone ends up dead. Plus, I’m not going to tell Max that I’m his long lost wife. I refuse to let this past life thing make my decisions for me. If I go back to Roswell, I want to be strong enough to say no to Max if that’s what’s best. And right now, I would crumble into his arms. The memories are just too fresh.” Memories of her first kiss with Zan mingled with the passionate embraces she used to share with Max. Two lives were being melded into one and it was confusing her.

“How about a compromise then?” Mel suggested, sensing that neither one was going to back down. “What if she tells your father? Then in case everyone in Roswell really needs help, he can call us.” She glanced at the two stubborn fools she lived with. “I think it’s a pretty fair deal. We can invite Jim for the weekend and you can fill him in on what we know.”

“Fine,” Kyle agreed. He had promised his father he would let him in on important events, and this qualified as pretty damn important.

“Fine,” Liz relented, crossing her arms over her chest.

“Great.” Mel rolled her eyes at the pair of them. It was bound to be an interesting weekend.


posted on 23-Jan-2002 8:03:37 AM by Cookieman1234
Hey, who wants to hear a funny story? Okay, it's not so much funny as kind of sad. I've been having migraine attacks the last three days and if any of you know what that's like, you'll know that trying to think through one of those puppies is like swimming through the infamous Jello Lakes of Antar. And when I tried to repost the entire story on the old board, I realized that my computer disk had corrupted again.

Which, on a completely separate side note, does anyone know why this keeps happening? I am saving and retrieving from the same computer and only one or two files are irretrievable. So, I ripped my hair out all day trying to open this stupid file and it wasn't until this morning that I realized I had posted it on the old board and I could simply retrieve it there. Talk about feeling like a moron.

Man, those headaches are rough. But thanks to SciFiNut, I have my whole story complete now. Woo Hoo! Thanks for being patient with me and I'm going to see about getting your new part out today for you.

I'm feeling better today and I think I may be able to actually form intelligent (or at least semi-intelligent) thoughts and even string them together into a sentence or two. Ah, the miracles of modern day drugs. Anything that knocks you out for ten hours is okay in my book.

Be back in a bit guys!

~Stacey
posted on 23-Jan-2002 10:31:27 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Looky here, a new part. I seem to be feeling a bit better than I thought. Now, I'm actually going to see about doing something with LtL today. Enjoy, guys!

Finding Yourself
Part 77

“Maria, are you in here?” Isabel carefully poked her head inside Maria’s doorway, frowning when all she heard were noises from her bathroom.

Maria heard Isabel’s voice from her bedroom and she swore to herself. The last thing she had wanted today was questions.

“I’ll be right out!” She called to Isabel, trying to force a bit of cheer into her voice. Realistically, she knew the best she could hope for was not sounding like she was on her death bed, but she would take it.

Slowly, Maria rose from her spot on the cool bathroom tile and flushed the toilet. So much for the lunch Michael had insisted she eat. Outside, she could hear Isabel flipping through a magazine. Catching a glimpse of her pale reflection in the mirror above the small sink, she was surprised to look so obviously sick. And with Isabel outside, there wasn’t enough time to do a decent cover up job with makeup.

Splashing water over her face, Maria decided it was the best she was going to be able to do. Plus, she was sure if she moved around much more, she was going to be sick again. Whoever had named this morning sickness obviously had never been pregnant. The nausea in her stomach was absolutely not confined to the morning hours. It must have been a man that coined that phrase and he was surely dead by the hand of some hormonal female by now.

Moving carefully, she left the sanctuary of the bathroom and trudged her way to the bed.

“Maria, are you okay?” Isabel couldn’t help but be worried for her friend. She had very little experience with sick people and while Ana had taught her a great deal, it still made her uneasy.

“Is Mom still here?” Maria curled on her side, grateful not to have to move anymore. If her mother was finally gone, she could stop pretending to be okay. Amy Deluca had a razor sharp mind and it wouldn’t take her long to figure out her teenage daughter was pregnant.

“No, she let me in on her way out. You’re avoiding my question.”

“No, I’m not. Really, I’m fine, Isabel. I just have a touch of the flu,” she lied easily even as her hands settled protectively over her stomach. She hated lying, but she had agreed with Michael about waiting to tell everyone about the baby. They wanted to monitor the baby’s growth for a bit so they could see if the pregnancy would be normal. They were both fairly terrified and until they had something solid to tell Max and Isabel, the last thing they needed was an argument. And then there was the question of what if anything they were going to tell her mother. Amy Deluca was going to prove to be a problem. Plus, it was kind of nice just keeping it a secret for a short bit.

“And this is normal?” Isabel clarified, taking in Maria’s still form.

“Completely. So, what brings you here?”

“Does Michael know you’re this sick? Or your mother? She didn’t say anything when she left.”

“Isabel, I’m a big girl. Did you want something or not?” Maria hated the shortness in her tone, but she really only wanted to curl up under the covers before she had to start her shift.

Isabel frowned, but she let it drop. “Yeah, I did.” She took a seat beside Maria. She’d done a good bit of internal wrestling before she’d come to Maria’s. “I’m worried about Max,” she confessed.

“I was worried about him for awhile too, but I think he’s taken Ana’s departure so much better than we were afraid he would. I mean, he didn’t shut down and he even still goes over to the House to help out with the other kids. He’s so much stronger now, I hardly recognize him as the same Max that used to drag us through the desert in the middle of the night if he had a dream.”

“He does seem stronger,” Isabel agreed, remembering those days not too long ago when they had feared he would crack from everything.

“Seems stronger? Don’t you remember what he was like after Liz left?”

Something about Maria’s tone caught Isabel’s attention, a wistful note that Isabel didn’t usually hear. Was that because she didn’t listen for it or because Maria kept it hidden? Isabel had been so wrapped up in worrying about what Liz’s absence meant to Max that she hadn’t considered what it had done to Maria. “You still miss her.” Isabel wasn’t sure why it didn’t occur to her more often that Maria was really alone in a lot of ways. She’d lost her two best friends and all she claimed these days were aliens. “I’m sorry, that was a stupid thing to say. Of course you miss her.”

More and more as the days flew by, but it didn’t surprise Maria when the ache still burned inside. When she’d found out about the baby, her first thought had been to call Liz. But she had dismissed the idea almost immediately. Liz had left Roswell to escape all the alien crap that had spun her world out of control. The last thing she needed was to be pulled back in. And Maria had no doubt that Liz would come back to Roswell if she found out. Her friend was selfless like that. But it wouldn’t happen. This time, Maria was determined to put Liz first and if that meant not telling her about the baby, then so be it.

“She’s happy wherever she is. I could hear it in her voice at Christmas. And that’s all that matters. Liz deserves to be happy for awhile.”

Isabel inwardly cringed when she thought back to how she had treated Liz before she’d left and her thoughts strayed to Kyle. He’d been the only friend she had and she’d blown him off as if he were nothing. She’d attacked him when he’d merely tried to offer her advice. And then he’d left without saying so much as a goodbye. Not that she blamed him. She hadn’t tried to talk to him either. It was just another regret in her short life.

“I know you didn’t come over here to talk about Liz, and I get the feeling there’s something else,” Maria prompted, her natural curiosity kicking in.

“Yeah. It’s just that Max has been having these…dreams at night.”

“Nightmares?” Maria asked, crinkling her forehead in thought.

“No. I don’t think so. At least not all the time. But he usually wakes me up somehow and I hear bits and pieces of words he’s saying.”

“Okay, are you being vague on purpose here or what?”

Isabel lowered her head. She felt as though she were betraying her brother, but she wanted to help if she could. “Look, Max didn’t want me to say anything, but I’m a little worried.”

“Your secret is safe with me. I love Max too. Have you dreamwalked him to find out what’s going on yet?”

“No. I asked him a few days ago if he wanted me to help him and he was pretty insistent that I don’t.”

“So, you’re looking for my opinion on whether you should listen to him or not?”

That was absolutely what she was doing. “Sounds pretty bad, huh?”

“Not really. Listen, Isabel. I know he’s your brother, but you’ve got to give him a little breathing room. If he says he’s okay then you have to believe him.”

“I know, it’s just that…” Isabel paused, biting down on her lip before she voiced her thoughts. “Hell, he told me he’s been remembering Zan’s life. And if he finds out you know that, I’m dead.”

“Really?” Maria’s curiosity was piqued now. She tried to sit up, and was happy to find that the nausea had subsided enough for her to do so. “What kinds of things?”

“That’s just it. He won’t tell me. I think there was a girl.”

“How do you know that?”

Isabel shot her a knowing look. “Trust me on that one. There was either a girl, or he’s got an active fantasy dream world.”

“Oh,” Maria couldn’t smother the smile on her face. She could only imagine what Isabel was going through night after night listening to her brother’s nightly dalliances with dream women. “Ava?” She suggested, though she couldn’t imagine Max having those kind of dreams about her.

“No, at least that’s not the name he calls out.”

Maria’s giggles filled the room and Isabel had no choice but to crack a smile. “I’m sorry, it’s not funny.”

“Maria! I came to you for help and you’re laughing at me. Are you going to help me or not?”

Trying her hardest to contain the laughter, Maria nodded her head even as more giggles erupted.

“Okay,” Isabel glared at Maria before continuing. “Now, I have to admit that the idea of walking in on alien sex inside of my brother’s head isn’t the most appealing thought in the world, but I don’t know if he is actually remembering anything he’s dreaming about.”

“So you think he’s remembering his life as Zan but he can’t remember it when he wakes up?”

“Exactly. And I can’t help but think that he might be remembering things that could be useful to us.”

Maria considered it a minute. “Hmm, interesting dilemma.”

“What is?” Michael hopped into Maria’s room through her window, surprised to find Isabel chatting with his girlfriend.

“Nothing,” Isabel lied, jumping to her feet.

Michael turned his glare to Maria. He knew they were keeping something from him and he hated it. “Maria?”

Maria sighed, but caved in. It wasn’t fair for Michael to be the only one that didn’t know. “Max has been remembering things in his dreams”

“Maria! What happened to it being a secret?”

“Look, it’s not like I shouted it from the rooftop. Why wouldn’t Michael know?”

“Max is remembering things?” Michael frowned as he threw himself on Maria’s bed. “Why didn’t he say anything?”

“He did, to me.” Isabel glared at Maria one last time. “And I’m going to let that go since you’re not feeling good.”

“You’re not feeling good?” Michael instantly turned his attention to Maria. He placed a hand on her forehead while the other checked the steady beat of her pulse. “Why didn’t you say anything?”

Maria batted away his hands. “Because it’s just a touch of the flu. I’m fine, Michael.”

“The hell you are. You need…soup,” he decided. “I’ll make it.”

“Michael, wait!” Maria called after his retreating back, but if he heard her he didn’t turn around. Alone with Isabel, Maria sighed. The last thing she needed was more food. It would simply give her something new to throw up in a few minutes.

“What’s his deal? You’d think you’d never been sick before.” Isabel rose, grabbing her purse from Maria’s desk. With Michael here, she wouldn’t be able to talk to Maria and she wasn’t up for witnessing the battle over the soup that would surely erupt shortly.

“He’s just worried about me.” Maria picked at the comforter. She had tried hard not to let his overreacting annoy the hell out of her, but she always did have a short fuse.

“But you’re fine, right?”

Maria tightened her grip on her stomach, ignoring the quivers the mention of food had caused. I hope so.

“Yeah, I’ll be fine.” She pasted a smile on her face. When Isabel turned to leave, she called out again. “Isabel?’

“Yeah?”

“What are you going to do about Max?”

Shrugging her shoulders, Isabel rolled her eyes. “Now that Michael knows, I won’t have to do a thing. Michael isn’t going to let that one sit quietly. If you weren’t sick, I imagine he’d be kicking Max’s door in right now.” She would let Michael handle it. Max would be upset that she had told them, but he would get over it. And maybe she could get a full night’s sleep without once hearing the name Elise escape her brother’s lips.


posted on 24-Jan-2002 8:20:20 PM by Cookieman1234
Hey guys! Okay, quick update...

I'm feeling soooo much better. Thanks for all your kind thoughts. I think it's a food allergy and once it's in my system, it takes a few days to get out.

You may have noticed that I didn't update today. No kidding, right? Well, due to my co-worker getting on my computer yesterday and downloading some stuff she shouldn't have, my boss decided to jump on it next and delete it all out again. In the process, one of them screwed up my internet access and I spent all morning with the computer guy trying to fix it. And we tried everything. So, hopefully tomorrow he'll just wipe my computer and reinstall everything.

My boss deleted shared files and I can't get much of anything to work. But I have the first six pages of the next part written, I just don't have time to type it up right now. Hopefully tomorrow, but I just wanted to let you know where I was. If I don't post in the morning, it'll be late tomorrow evening, but I will post. And I think I can even finish that LTL chapter too.

Woo Hoo! I'm on a roll.

Leaving now...dinner is burning.

~Stacey
posted on 28-Jan-2002 6:20:52 AM by Cookieman1234
Okay, quickie update.

Sorry for going AWOL on you guys, but it's been a rough couple of days. I was going to post that last part this weekend, but I worked on it at work Friday and saved it to my A drive. Well, my A drive is still broken at home. Smart, huh? I went to buy one Saturday, but their credit card machines were broken and I didn't have my checkbook with me. Don't you love this story so far?

The problem at work, is that they can't find the back up copy of one of my programs and until they do, they can't reinstall everything on my computer to fix whatever they did to it. So, I can get on the internet, but I can't get into any pages that ask for a user name or an ID. Don't ask me what they did. I've never heard of it happening either.

So, long story short (too late), I'm going to finish up this part this morning and I'll post it later today. Until they can fix this whole mess, I'll try to post when I get home at night. So, you can hopefully still look for updates, but they'll just come a bit later.

I'm glad to know you guys miss me when I'm gone. But I'm still alive and well, just busy and laden with computer trouble. But on top of it all, I spent the weekend trying to find a new apartment. And of course I found it Saturday, but after the 12 month lease is up, the rent will go up by $140 a month. Which is a bit on the unacceptable side, but oh, how I loved this apartment. So, I was a bit bummed this weekend. I did see Lord of the Rings again, though. And yes, I do know I'm babbling. Must get to work now. I'll see you guys later tonight, I promise. *happy*

~Stacey
posted on 28-Jan-2002 6:56:56 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Finding Yourself
Part 78

“Hey, I’m home. What was up with the emergency page I got to pick up coconut milk?” Mel threw her keys on the small table by the door as she entered. “Did I mis-schedule the Pina Colada party in my daytimer? I thought tonight was Rum Runner Friday,” she jokes as she walked into the living room. When she saw Kyle and Jim looking at her, she could only smile. “How wonderful. You’re early. I’m so glad someone told me.” Mel glared at Kyle before throwing another smile to Jim. “I was, of course, kidding.”

“Yeah,” Kyle piped up, ridiculously attracted to the faint hint of embarrassment in her voice. “We usually do vodka shots until we pass out on Fridays. Of course, that’s only when we run out of hard drugs to do first.”

“I don’t think I need to know what you kids do in your free time.” Jim rose from the couch to pull Mel into a bear hug. With a smile, he noted that she hesitated far less before she returned his embrace than she had at Christmas. He’d met Mel’s father in the few hours the man had actually been there and Jim had seen how nervously the two had interacted. And he considered it his personal obligation to show her that families could love openly. After all, she was just as much his daughter now as Liz and Maria.

Liz rushing into the living room, frantically wiping her hands on a towel. “I heard voices. Is Mel here yet?” When her eyes settled on the bag in Mel’s hand, she lunged for it.

“It’s about time,” she snapped before turning and heading back to the kitchen.

Mel looked on in disbelief. “What’s her deal? It’s not like I was busy working or anything. I mean – oh, god!” Mel stopped mid-sentence, her mind putting the pieces together. Liz’s short temper, the emergency calls for crazy food items. It all made a sick sort of sense. She turned wide, terror filled eyes on Kyle. Clutching his arm, she’d never feared an answer more in her life. “She’s not…cooking. Is she?”

Kyle nodded his head dramatically. “I’m afraid so. I tried to talk her out of it, but she was insistent. She’s…oh, it’s too horrible for words.” Kyle placed a palm to his forehead, feigning illness. “Mel, she’s cooking us dinner.”

Jim chuckled at their exchange, though memories of Thanksgiving dinner still came to mind. “She’s learning. Give her a break.”

“She’s a crazy person, I tell you. She’s been ‘prepping’ for dinner since Homeroom. I didn’t even think you could prep a meal without being in a kitchen, or near a kitchen, or at least surrounded by food.”

Mel flopped down on the couch beside Jim. “Is she going for the perfect ‘normal’ sit down meal thing again?”

“I’m afraid so.”

Mel groaned. “I thought she got that out of her system after Thanksgiving.”

“Yeah, any meal where I’m forced to sit down at a table in nice looking clothes and pretend to have good table manners, well, it’s just wrong. Unless I’m getting something out of it later.”

“What would you get out of that?” Mel asked, but when she saw Kyle’s wide grin, she was sorry she’d asked. “That’s sick. I don’t want to hear how you con women into going out with you a second time.” But for all her bickering with Kyle, Mel knew where this sudden bout of maternal cooking had sprung from. Liz was supposed to reveal the details of her life as Elise to Jim and she was nervous. Which was understandable, but there was no reason for all of them to spend the evening at the hospital having their stomachs pumped.

“I’m ashamed of both of you,” Jim announced. “She’s in there trying her hardest to cook us a warm meal.” He struggled to remember the last real meal he’d had. If it weren’t for Amy and Maria, he would probably still subsist on macaroni and cheese and frozen dinners. But then he had a lot to be grateful for when it came to the two of them anyway. They were his family as surely as Kyle was, and he had secretly been glad to have been asked to visit for the weekend. It would give him a chance to talk to Kyle about Amy. “The least you could do is be appreciative. In fact, I’ll bet whatever she’s making will be delicious. Do you know what that is?”

“Meatloaf,” Kyle answered with a grimace.

Jim scratched his head in thought. “Then why did she need coconut milk?”

“Trust me, I’m sure we don’t want to know.” Mel explained, crossing her arms over her chest. “But if you’re smart, you’ll stay away from anything that isn’t store bought.”

“Now, Mel, I’m sure Dad is right.” Kyle sat on Mel’s side, draping his arms behind her on the couch.

“Thank you, Kyle.”

Mel scowled at Kyle’s complete 180 degree turnaround. “Since when are you such a suck up? Didn’t we suffer through the Big Tuna Casserole Catastrophe together? I thought we made a pact never to let her in the kitchen again.”

“We should give her a chance, I say.”

“I’m proud of you, son.” Jim clapped a hand on Kyle’s back, beaming. “In fact, I think I’ll see if she needs any of the old Valenti magic in her kitchen.

“Good idea, Dad. I think it’s time she was let in on the secret,” Kyle encouraged, smiling until his father was on his way to the kitchen and out of ear shot.

“Suck up,” Mel taunted.

Kyle turned to her swiftly. “We don’t have much time, so listen up. Dad’s version of kitchen magic is adding chili powder to sloppy joes.” He dug into the pocket of his jeans and unearthed a crumpled piece of paper.

“What’s this?”

“Take out menu from the Bejing Duck.”

“The Chinese place across the street?” Mel confirmed.

“You got it. I already circled my order in red. I also took the liberty of ordering for Dad and Liz. All I need is your order. I’ve spoken with the delivery boy and gave him a hefty sum of money. At precisely eight o’clock, which is…” he checked his watch, “forty four minutes from now, they will make an accidental delivery.” Kyle emphasized the word ‘accidental’ by forming quotation marks with his fingers. “We just need to make sure that one of us is strategically placed to intercept the door when they come knocking. This is a serious mission. Are you in or out?”

“Oh, I’m in,” Mel answered, impressed.

“Great. Then Operation Dinner Bell begins now. You order the food and I’ll distract them with my clever antics.”

“You have clever antics? I mean, no offense, but I’ve seen your antics, and I’d call them more shenanigans than anything.”

“Mel, you’re stepping on my pride here.”

“Okay, supposing you do manage to scrape up an antic or two, I hardly think they’ll be clever and even if you do, that’ll only give me a minute. Why don’t you go spill something?” she suggested with a fake smile.

“You know we just lost a minute?”

“Okay, okay. I’m ordering. Go away.” Mel waited until she heard Kyle’s voice in the kitchen, then picked up the phone to order dinner. The evening just might be salvageable after all.

*~*~

Liz stood in the middle of the kitchen, staring at the remains of her dinner. She picked up one pan, charred black from her attempts and she threw it distastefully in the trash.

“Liz! Your sweet and sour chicken is getting cold.” Kyle came into the kitchen in time to witness the death of yet another set of pots and pans at Liz’s hands.

Liz shrugged her shoulders, her eyes tearing up from the sight of the kitchen. Why couldn’t she just do something as simple as cook a meal and not screw it up? If she couldn’t even do this right, how was she going to be able to deal with any of the new things being thrown at her? But she was determined not to cry and she sniffed the tears back. “I just wanted to clean up a bit first.”

Kyle laid his hands on her shoulders. She’d been battling back a low depression the last few days and while she was still winning out over it, he was afraid it was only a matter of time before she broke down. “C’mon, sweet and sour chicken,” he said with a sing song voice. “It’s your favorite. Okay, I know you haven’t eaten much in the last day or two and I think I’ve got that one covered too. I asked them to put some tabasco sauce in the sweet and sour chicken and they said they would. No questions asked. Now, who do you love? Huh?” He’d been worried about her lack of appetite and then he’d remembered how Tess had put the vial stuff on everything imaginable.

Liz turned to face Kyle, indignation in her eyes. “I thought you said they delivered to the wrong address.”

Kyle froze, caught in the spider web of his own lies. “I didn’t mean to say that. What I meant to say was that, uh…well, when I asked the guy what was in the bag, you know, after he was so insistent that I take it, was that-“

“Save it, Kyle. I’m on to you. While part of me wants to kick you for ordering dinner behind my back, the other part is intrigued by the tabasco covered chicken.” It was true she hadn’t eaten much in the last few days, but nothing had held any real appeal. She’d attributed it to the side effects from the transformation she’d undergone. But somehow, it had never occurred to her that she might be plagued by the same problem Max had faced his whole life. Human food was simply too bland now.

“See? I only had your best interests at heart. Isn’t that at least worth something?” He sighed when she simply continued to glare at him. Squeezing her shoulders, he took the first step. “Just tell him. He loves you and he won’t freak. Hell, he already knows about the existence of aliens. He’s halfway there already.”

Liz nodded. “You’re right.” She was being a coward and it was time for that to stop. “I should just get it over with.”

“Just do it quick.”

“Like ripping off a band aid.”

“Exactly.”

Liz sighed. “What about this mess?”

“Oh, I think enough damage has been done in this room for one day. Let’s move on and forget about this for now. In fact, if you want, we don’t ever have to go in here again. We can block off the door and just live on take out forever.”

“Your father will be so proud.”

Together, they made their way back into the dining room where an elaborate banquet of Chinese food had been laid out for them.

“There you two are!” Jim proclaimed. “We thought we were going to have to send out a search party to find you.”

“By ‘we’, he means he was worried. I was enjoying the peace and quiet of the dining room,” Mel explained.

“We were just laying some pans to rest,” Kyle explained, ignoring Mel’s barb as he reclaimed his chair.

“Yeah, sorry about that. I honestly thought that it would cook quicker if I turned the temperature up.” She pulled the carton of tabasco laced sweet and sour chicken closer and sniffed at it. Surprisingly, the spicy aroma made her mouth water.

“Well, you live and learn. Besides, Fate dropped dinner in our laps anyway.” Jim cheerfully piled his plate with Lo Mein Noodles. He was simply happy to be near his kids again. He’d tried to distance himself from them, give them a chance to do things without an old man hanging over their shoulders, but he still missed the group.

“Yeah, Fate,” Liz muttered, sliding a glance across the table to Kyle and the innocent act he was trying to maintain.

“Well, before you guys lay your big news on me, I have a surprise for you all.” Jim proudly reached into his pocket and pulled out a long envelope. “Now, I just wanted to let you three know what a wonderful job I think you’re doing. I know you’re on your own and you still manage to be responsible. And I just wanted to show you guys how proud of you I am.” Jim slid the envelope across the table and they could only look at it. “Go on, open it.”

Kyle took the envelope uneasily. “Dad, what is this?”

“Consider it an early graduation present.”

Kyle carefully pulled the seal on the plain envelope and opened it. One look at the contents inside had him shoving them back in. “No, we can’t accept these.”

“What’s in there?” Liz asked, curiosity growing.

“It doesn’t matter. I don’t know what you were thinking, but you can’t afford this.”

“They’re plane tickets for spring break to Rome,” Jim informed the two girls.

“Oh,” Mel replied.

“There are three of them,” Kyle declared. “Three tickets to Rome. Do you know how expensive that is? I have no idea, but I know it’s a lot.”

“Kyle’s right,” Liz agreed. “We can’t accept those.”

“Liz, your parents pitched in and helped. They wanted you to have something from them to show you how proud they were. And I landed myself a part time job that brings in a bit of money. What do I have to spend it on these days? And all three of you have to go. That’s the rule. They’re non-refundable tickets. You can’t back out.”

“Dad-“

“Kyle, just say thank you.”

Kyle sighed. His father was too excited to give in. And truthfully, he was beginning to get a bit excited over the idea. “Thank you. But we have to have a talk later.”

“Fine,” Jim agreed cheerfully. “So, what’s the big news?” Jim asked. He’d been more than a bit curious when Kyle had asked him to come for the weekend. When dead silence filled the room, his radar went off. “What?”

“Um, well…” Liz tried to begin, but she only found herself stuttering, still holding the carton of chicken.

“Are you guys in trouble?” What kind of trouble could they possibly be in? “Did something happen? Kyle?”

Kyle raised his eyes to meet his father. “Well, nothing bad has happened. At least, not recently.”

“And by that you mean?”

Wanting to ignore his father’s prompt, but not knowing how, Kyle found himself stuttering now. “Well, time is a pretty meaningless concept, isn’t it? I mean, how do you even really measure it?”

Jim turned his gaze onto Liz. “Liz? Is everything okay?”

Mutely, Liz nodded. Now that the time had come, she couldn’t find her voice. She still hadn’t fully grasped the consequences of this yet, how could she explain it to someone else?

With a sigh, Jim turned his head towards Mel now. Liz had turned as white as a ghost and he was hoping he could pry something out of Mel. “How about you, Mel?”

“Me?” She glanced around the table and frowned. “Oh, great. Now, I have to tell him? Me, the least qualified of the three of us!”

“Tell me what, Mel? What’s going on with you guys? You’re scaring me.”

“I’m an alien.”

Whatever Jim had been expecting to hear, that hadn’t been it. Liz watched as his head turned slowly in her direction. She didn’t know precisely what had possessed her to actually form the words much less toss them out the way she had. But when Jim’s eyes met hers, instead of the loathing or fear she’d half expected, all she found was confusion and a touch of humor.

“Excuse me? Can you run that by me again?”

Liz took a deep breath, but the second time wasn’t nearly as difficult as the first. “I’m an alien.”

“You’re an alien,” he repeated, not sure if they were pulling some sort of joke on him or not. Subconsciously, his eyes floated in Mel’s direction.

Mel remained oblivious to the tension and she continued to eat from the carton of pepper steak. When she discovered Jim’s eyes on her, she realized that she wasn’t supposed to know about those things. “Oh! Yeah, I know all about that stuff already,” she explained with a wave of her chop sticks.

“What stuff would that be?” Jim couldn’t figure out why exactly he was out of the loop.

“The aliens,” she clarified. “I know all about them.”

Jim turned to Kyle and Liz. “You told her? What the hell were you thinking? I thought you two were more responsible than that.”

“Uh, Dad, I think you’re missing the bigger revelation here. Did you hear what Liz said?”

“Don’t avoid the question. What possessed you to tell Mel about this? Have you given any thought to what this means?”

“Well, it was sort of hard to not tell her what with the shimmering 3D projection in the middle of the living room.”

“Hello? I am still in the room here. I can speak for myself.”

“What projection? What are you talking about?”

Liz listened as the questions whizzed around the table. Jim and Kyle were arguing and Mel was trying to jump in, but neither man was listening to her. And the entire situation struck her as funny. Jim simply didn’t believe it, so he was ignoring her outburst. So, she would simply have to show him. The only problem was that she didn’t have the first clue how to do that. She’d been more than a bit afraid to try to tap into her powers. Plus, she’d just finally begun to feel better. The constant ache in her side had dulled down until it was almost impossible to feel unless she moved too quickly. And with the revelations the dreams had uncovered out in the open, she no longer had the dreams any more. Or she didn’t remember them anyway, and it was enough for now. Reliving death night after night wasn’t something she would miss.

But for now, she had to convince Jim that she was indeed an alien. Closing her eyes, she tried to concentrate on her hand. She imagined the shape and texture of it, the bumpy ridges of her fingerprints. Slowly, she felt a tingle build in her fingertips, pushing upward, trying to escape. Wanting to see what was happening , she opened her eyes and found her hand glowing a light gold color. It was amazing to her and she turned her hand over to examine it further. But with the movement, she lost her concentration and she felt the sheer force of the energy being sucked back into her body. With a small gasp, she shook her hand a few times. It was cold to the touch and she wondered if it was from the absence of the energy. Her mind clicked into scientist mode and she longed to do more tests to see if she could find a way to prove it. And then she wanted to laugh at her own thoughts. She found out she was an alien, and the first thing she wanted to do was perform experiments on herself.

“What…was that?” Jim’s full attention had been transfixed on Liz’s hand.

“That was damn cool. Can you do it again?” Mel asked. She had set the pepper steak down and had switched it out for the closest container.

Liz met Jim’s eyes. “I’ve been having nightmares every night for the last week. I wasn’t eating, I wasn’t sleeping. And I was in pain. Here.” She held a hand to her side, the spot of the ache that had only just faded. “Mel hypnotized me, and it was like a flip was turned on. I remembered everything as clearly as if it had happened yesterday. My name was Elise and I was Ava and Rath’s cousin.” As much as she hated to sum it up in a few choice sentences, she knew she had to. “I was Zan’s Queen, not Ava. But nobody knew I was sent to Earth. I’m one of them.”

Jim listened to what Liz was saying, and a thousand questions sprang to mind. But he curbed them for the time being. Suddenly, Liz’s odd behavior of the last few hours made sense. She’d been worried over his reaction. His own questions could wait. Now that he was looking, she did look a bit thin. He laid a hand over Liz’s and squeezed. “Are you okay now?”

Liz nodded, smiling at the concern he was showing her. “Yeah. I’m fine now.”

“You want to tell me all about it?”

“You know, I think I’d like that.”

Jim nodded. “So would I. But for now, let’s get to this dinner.”

“Where is the sweet and sour chicken?” Liz asked, glancing around the table.

“Oh my god!” Mel screamed from her side of the table. She dropped the carton of food and the chopsticks and clapped one hand over her mouth while the other frantically searched for something to take the burning sensation from her mouth.

“Mel? Are you okay?” Jim asked, concerned that her face was rapidly turning the brightest shade of red.

“Let me guess, you ate the sweet and sour chicken?” Kyle asked as she groped for a glass of water. He turned to his father to explain when Liz burst out laughing. “It was laced with tabasco sauce.”

“Oh, I see.” Jim handed Mel his glass of water when she’d drained her own.

“Oh, it burns! What the hell did you do to the chicken?”

Liz wiped at the tears on her face and reached across the table for the chicken. After inhaling the spicy scent, she dug into the carton with a pair of chop sticks. Her eyes rolled back in her head and a dreamy smile passed her lips. “This is the best food I’ve ever had.”

“Just an interesting bit of information for you, Mel. Tabasco sauce is about to become a regular staple around this place. If I were you, I’d check before I pick something up and eat it.”

“Believe me, I will.” Mel eyed Liz and the carton of chicken distastefully. She wasn’t only eating it, she was inhaling it. “How can you eat that?” Her own breathing was returning to normal, but the burning sensation would remain for days she was sure.

But Liz could only roll her eyes as she shoveled the food into her mouth. Her self-induced starvation of the last few days had caught up with her and she attacked the chicken with a renewed hunger.

Jim simply sat back and watched his small family eat, and with an eye on Liz, he vowed to help her. Whatever it took.

*~*~

“Can I come in?”

Liz looked up from her bed to see Jim hovering in her doorway. Automatically, she brightened. “Absolutely.”

“I’m not disturbing anything?” He eyed the stack of books by her bed.

“No, I’m just doing a bit of light reading.”

Jim entered the room and picked up the closest book. “Advanced Physics? You call this light reading? I’d hate to see your hard classes.”

Liz shrugged. She really hadn’t been doing homework, but research on a more personal level. It was amazing how your perspective on the so-called facts of science and nature could change when you discovered you were from another planet. “Actually, I picked up that one after Future Max’s visit. I thought it might help me understand how his visit was possible.”

“Did it help?” Jim took a seat beside her on the bed.

“Some, but since time travel is theoretically impossible, I didn’t have much to go on.”

“So is life on other planets, but we know better.” Jim watched as her eyes returned to their downcast position. They had spent all weekend talking. Even Kyle had understood that Liz needed time alone with him and he was glad they had turned to him. So, they had talked for days. She had filled him in on everything she remembered from her previous life and he had listened. And he’d seen an incredible strength that he envied.

“Are you leaving now?”

“In a minute. Roswell would be lost without me to guide them,” he joked, knowing it would fall flat. “So, what’s on your mind now?”

“Nothing. I just…I’m confused,” she confessed.

“About Max,” he guessed.

“About everything. I don’t know what to do. Should I go back? I know it’s not fair to any of them to keep the information I know a secret. They’ve been searching for answers their whole lives and I know so much of their past. Is it wrong not to tell them?”

“Alright, we could make a list of pros and cons, or we could just jump right into it. Why didn’t you pick up the phone immediately and tell Max who you were to him?”

Liz considered the question and decided to answer honestly. “Because I was afraid.”

Jim nodded. “That’s a good start. Of what? Who you are?”

“No, of what it means. Max and I were married-no, that’s not right. Zan and Elise were married. Max and I broke up because every time we drift closer together, the end of the world looms before us.”

“Do you know that for sure?”

“No, I don’t, but how can I risk it? I know that if I hadn’t pretended to sleep with Kyle that night, then Alex would be alive today and I would have finally been happy. We would have eloped. Did I ever tell you that? I would have pushed Max to elope when we were nineteen. That’s less than a year from now. I think about what that world could have been like and I want it. I want to be blissfully ignorant of the death and destruction that’s coming.”

“You don’t know for sure it’s still coming.”

“Without Tess, they will be weak when the wars begin.”

Jim pushed a strand of hair behind Liz’s ear. He knew she had a stubborn streak a mile wide, but he couldn’t resist giving her the smallest of pushes. “Did you ever stop to think that maybe it wasn’t Tess that was missing?”

Liz crinkled her brow in thought. “Huh?”

“If you and Max had eloped, you wouldn’t be where you are now and your parents wouldn’t have uncovered those old boxes of your grandmothers’.” He fingered the pendant that now lay flat against Liz’s chest. “You wouldn’t have ever found this again, and your memories wouldn’t have surfaced. You would have lived your whole life thinking you were second best to Tess, and you wouldn’t have known who you really were. Because it sounds like you and Max are linked together in a way that Tess or Ava could never touch. So, when the wars began and they were down a group member, could it have been because you didn’t know you were it? At least now, if the wars still happen, they’ll be stronger because they’ll have you.”

Liz considered the idea. It did make a certain kind of sense. They would have assumed they were weak because of Tess’s absence. But maybe not. “You think I should go back.”

“No, I have no opinion. I think you should do whatever you feel is right. But I do think that you’re going to have to eventually tell them the truth. If you want to put that off for a bit, then no one is going to stone you for it.”

“I’m scared, Jim. I left because being with Max was killing me. He had all these duties and obligations and I was always just standing in the way. I loved him more than I ever thought it was possible to love someone, but we kept lying and hurting each other. And then when Alex died…when I realized it was my fault, I couldn’t tell Max. I let him push me away. If I’d been half the person I was when he healed me, I wouldn’t have let him get that far. I would have stopped him and set him straight. I would have fought for us. But I couldn’t. And I know I’m at least partially to blame for everything that happened between us. But the question that keeps running through my mind from the second I found out about all this, is whether or not being with Max is a good thing. I know I could pack up my bags and go back to Roswell with you. I could tell them the truth and I’d probably fall right back into his arms. Because just being in his presence, it’s hypnotic. I feel like I can’t concentrate on anything until he touches me, but one touch is never enough.” She blushed. “Sorry, that was probably more than you wanted to hear.”

“Just a bit, but I’m a big boy. I can handle it if you can.”

“If I gave in and Max and I gave it another chance, would anything change? Would we still endanger everyone around us just by being together? Because in our past life, everyone around us died. And now, we’ve already lost Alex. I can’t help but wonder who’s next.”

Jim pulled Liz into a hug and she wrapped her arms easily around his lanky frame. He stroked her hair, not knowing what to say to her fears. How could he tell her it would be okay when he had no idea if it really would be? So, he said nothing, offering her his strength and hoping that the universe wouldn’t be so cruel as to reunite two lovers that were destined not to love.

“Knock, knock.” Kyle appeared in the door way. “Your cab is here. I still don’t know why you called one, but it’s ready when you are.”

Jim stood and Liz rose with him. “You’re staying,” he guessed.

“For now. I need to stay here for awhile. Make sense of some of this first.”

Jim nodded. “If you guys need anything-“

“We’ll call,” Liz promised. She threw herself in his arms again, glad Kyle had talked her into telling him the truth.

“And I’ll send you Tess’ journals.”

That was a sore spot with the group. Kyle had discovered that Tess had kept some journals of the things Nasedo had taught her to do, different ways to control her powers. They weren’t of any use to the other aliens, so no one had claimed them. Liz didn’t want to touch anything that had Tess’ fingerprints on it, but if it was the only way to figure out how to use any of her powers, she would give it a try.

The group hugged and said their goodbyes and before Jim was ushered out the door, he turned back to Liz one last time. “You’re a lot stronger than you think. Just trust yourself to make the right decisions when the time comes and you’ll be fine.”

Liz smiled, wishing she could take his words to heart. But the simple fact was, whenever Max Evans was involved, she wasn’t sure what was the right decision and what was the wrong one.




posted on 29-Jan-2002 7:42:21 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a computer, some college debts and a vivid imagination
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

This one is a little on the Candy side, but I promise to make up for it tomorrow. Love you guys!

Finding Yourself
Part 79

“And you’re sure everything’s ready?”

“For the one thousandth time, yes.” Used to Michael’s endless questions, Isabel ignored the barrage of new questions he’d been throwing at her for the last five minutes. But she’d been ignoring them all day, so she was getting good at it. Pulling the cover from one of the many dishes lined up on Michael’s counter, she was surprised to find heart shaped sugar cookies. “Where have you been hiding these?”

“No touching!” Michael smacked at Isabel’s hand, but not before she snagged a Valentine’s Day cookie.

Taking a bite, she heaved a contented sigh. “These are delicious. What did you put in them?”

“It’s a secret,” Michael grumbled, then relented just a bit when curiosity got the better of him. “So, they’re okay?”

“Okay? Whatever it is you screwed up to go to these lengths for Maria, I want to know so I can blackmail you into baking for me.”

“I didn’t screw anything up. But thanks for the vote of confidence.” He snatched the cover from her hand and securely sealed the plate again.

Isabel shrugged, continuing to peek at the other dishes lying around. Had he been cooking all day? The next plate revealed plain cookies and they seemed too plain compared to everything else Michael had done. “What are you going to do to these?”

Despite the fact that Isabel would surely mock him, Michael couldn’t help the excitement that flowed through him when he thought of his brilliant stroke of genius. “Oh! Well, I’m waiting for them to cool completely so they don’t melt the icing of course.”

“Of course,” Isabel agreed cheerfully.

Ignoring her, Michael continued. “Then I was going to take some of the left over pink icing I had from the cupcakes-“

“You made cupcakes?” Isabel asked hopefully.

“Forget it. They’re for the kids at the House. Anyway, I was going to outline the cookies in pink icing and maybe some red…oh, and a bit of black for the arrow that goes through the center of the heart? That should give it enough color, right?”

“Definitely. So, what’s with the M & M’s?” Isabel asked, popping a few before Michael could stop her.

“Well, I was going to put two on the cookies.”

It took a few seconds for Michael’s words to sink in and when they did, she couldn’t help the laughter that bubbled up. “No! Tell me you’re not going to put one M for Michael and one M for Maria. You are, aren’t you?” The look of embarrassment on his face was enough for her to live off for years. Who’d have ever thought she’d live to see the day when Michael Guerin became a genuine softie.

Michael reconsidered the idea and grimaced. “Oh, god. It’s lame, isn’t it?”

“No, no. I’m sorry.” And she was when she saw how his face fell. “I didn’t mean to laugh. I know she’ll love it. Especially the way she’s been eating sugar the last few days. She’s going to blow up if she’s not careful.” Isabel examined Michael’s prototype cookie on the counter. He had indeed put on the red and pink icing with a thick black arrow piercing the heart that held the M & M’s. But it was the single pink candy heart that sat between the two M & M’s that softened her a bit. Still, it was her obligation as the closest thing to a sister Michael had to tease him endlessly.

“What’s with the pink heart? Let me guess, it signifies your unending love for each other,” she teased, pleased when red tinged his cheeks. She had no idea Michael could even blush.

“Something like that.” Michael hastily covered the cookies. He’d thought Maria would like the small heart. She was so damn insistent that their baby was a girl, he thought it was only fitting. And Isabel hadn’t been lying when she’d said Maria had been craving sugar. He couldn’t keep enough in his apartment to satisfy her. And he didn’t even want to mention the run she’d made him take at midnight to find donuts. But not just any donut would do. She’d had to have a raspberry filled donut. It was amazing the places that were open that time of night.

So, when he’d wanted to do something for Valentine’s Day, he’d immediately thought of baking for her. Sure, he’d planned on cooking a real meal as well, but he doubted she would want it once she caught scent of the many sugary confections he’d made for her.

Isabel was still poking around his kitchen though and if he didn’t find a way to distract her, there wouldn’t be much to surprise Maria with. Isabel had been great about helping him with Maria’s surprise, keeping her busy while he had prepared everything, but he could tell she had something on her mind. But he knew Isabel and you had to ease into these things or she’d snap at you.

“Have you heard from Max yet?”

“This morning. He made it to Phoenix without any trouble. He thinks he’s just going to stay the weekend.” Just hearing the enthusiasm in her brother’s voice had been a treat. He missed Ana more than he let on to them.

“So, Ana’s doing good?”

“Better than good. She’s still healing, but he says she’s walking around some now.”

“That’s great news. But is he going to be okay when he has to leave?”

“I hope so. He insisted on going alone.” But Isabel had understood his desire to get out of Roswell. He hadn’t wanted to spend Valentine’s Day in the presence of his friends when they were all happily involved with someone. Even Sara had been going out with Alex’s brother more and more frequently. So, he had followed his heart the only place he knew to go to…Arizona.

“So, you got any big plans for tonight?”

Isabel paused in her search for cupcakes and a dreamy smile graced her lips. “Mark is taking me out. He’s promised me dinner and dancing.”

Michael frowned. “Aren’t you seeing a lot of this guy?”

“Yeah, so what?” Her defenses raised and the smile vanished.

“So, he’s a cop, Isabel.”

“Really? I hadn’t noticed. Thank god I have you and Max around to point these glaringly obvious things out to me.”

“Hey, don’t take it out on me. You know as well as I do that Max doesn’t trust him.”

“You think I care? Max doesn’t trust him because he’s new. He’s afraid someone else will discover our deep dark secret and we’ll all be screwed.”

“And you aren’t?”

Isabel sighed, tracing a finger across the clean surface of Michael’s countertop. “Yes and no. Michael…” she paused, knowing he wasn’t going to like what she had to say, but he was a better springboard than Max. “I want to tell him.”

“What?! Have you lost your mind? Isabel, you’ve known this guy for like what? A month?”

“Longer than that,” Isabel countered, though she knew it really hadn’t been much longer. She might have met him at Thanksgiving, but they hadn’t started seriously dating until January. “There’s something different about him though. I think we can trust him.”

“You think we can trust him? Are you listening to yourself? I don’t care how nice he seems, bottom line, he’s a cop. Don’t forget that, Isabel.” His own anger calmed a degree when he saw the defeated look on Isabel’s face. “Hey, I know it doesn’t seem fair but it’s necessary.” His own thoughts turned to Maria. He knew she wanted to tell her mother about the baby and Michael’s otherworldly status. But after turning it over in his head a thousand times, he couldn’t possibly see a good way for that to end. Because no matter how he rationalized it, he had put Maria in danger time and again and being pregnant with a half alien baby was hardly the way to earn him potential son-in-law points.

Michael froze at the turn his own thoughts had taken. There was that phrase again. Son-in-law. It was the kind of phrase that brought on a whole new arena of doubt. He and Maria hadn’t even discussed the possibility of getting married. Would she say yes if he asked? Or would she want her own independence still? Not that he was planning it out at the very moment, but he could possibly, maybe, potentially see them getting married. Just not tomorrow or anything. Okay, definitely scary territory and best explored at a later date and time.

“You’re right. I know you’re right. But I can’t help it, Michael. He makes me feel things I’ve never felt before. I really think we can trust him.”

“Do you love him?”

Isabel sagged against the counter. “I don’t know. I think maybe, but I’m not sure. How did you know you were in love with Maria?” Was she really standing here asking for relationship advice from Michael?

“Well, with Maria I think it was a little bit different. We weren’t all ‘look into my eyes’ like Max and Liz used to be. I think it started that time I kidnapped her and her car.”

“When you were trying to find Atherton’s ranch? That was a long time ago.”

“Yeah, I know. I tried to steal her car and she insisted on coming and I’m not going to lie, I wanted to kill her. She was the most annoying person I’d ever known and she wouldn’t shut up for anything. But somewhere on that long road trip, I started looking forward to her smart ass remarks whenever I said something equally smart ass.”

“You guys have a weird relationship,” Isabel surmised.

“You have no idea. Look, you just know. Okay? Just promise me that you won’t say anything to Mark until you talk to Max and I first.”

“You mean the way Max consulted us before he told Liz the truth?” When Michael only glared at her, she sighed. “Fine. Whatever. It’s not like I was going to tell him tonight or anything.”

Crisis averted for now, Michael slung an arm around Isabel’s shoulders and dug his fingers into her ticklish ribs. “Now there’s the Ice Princess I know and love.”

“Shut up,” she laughed, pushing at him.

“Tell you what, if you help me carry some of this stuff over to the House, I just might let you have a cupcake.”

Isabel crinkled her nose. “No thanks, plain cupcakes are too sweet. There’s just not enough spice for me.”

“There might be an extra special tabasco cupcake with your name on it,” he teased.

“When you put it that way, I’m in.”

“Great.” Michael checked his watch. “Maria gets off her shift in exactly three hours, so we have to hurry. I still have to cook dinner and finish the cookies. Oh, and then there’s the brownies too. Damn, I’m going to need more eggs.”

Isabel watched as Michael pulled out a sheet of paper and began making a grocery list. She shook her head in amazement. Michael had undergone a complete transformation from the solitary boy he’d always insisted on being to this man before her now. And it brought a smile to her face.

*~*~

“Okay, here’s your check and thank you for dining with us today.” Maria turned from her last customers and headed for the counter. She slumped down in a seat and rested her head against the cool countertop. She had never been more tired in her life. She was still suffering from the morning sickness that lasted all day but she was quickly getting used to that. And she had become pretty adept at hiding it from everyone. Well, except for Michael. But she was done trying to hide it from him.

But ever since yesterday when she’d woken up, she had barely been able to keep her eyes open. She wasn’t stretching herself any thinner than she always had, so it had to be the pregnancy. According to their best guess, she wasn’t more than six weeks or so along. And the days were seemingly endless ahead of her. Just the simple act of getting up and putting on clothes seemed to take twice as long.

“Maria, why don’t you go ahead and go home? I’ll wait for them to leave and clean up the table,” Jeff Parker suggested. He felt a twinge of guilt at seeing how tired his young charge was. He would have released her hours ago if Michael hadn’t specifically requested that he make sure she stay at work so he could plan some big Valentine’s Day surprise.

“Are you sure,” Maria couldn’t help the hopefulness that crept into her voice. She could go home?

“Absolutely. Go get some sleep and take some vitamins. That should get rid of that cold.”

Maria flashed him a smile born of guilt. She hated lying to him, but there wasn’t any other choice. He’d caught her in the midst of a nasty round of morning sickness last week. “Thanks. I’m leaving before you change your mind.”

“Tell Michael I said hello,” Jeff called from the counter as Maria dashed out the door with the last bit of energy she possessed.

She waved over her shoulder and climbed into her car. Michael had asked her to come straight over to his apartment after her shift, so she steered her car in that direction. Besides, her mother was going out with Jim and that meant she could have all the time in the world to spend with Michael. Her mother had become accustomed to sleeping over at the Valenti household, much to her horror. Parents simply shouldn’t expect to have a sex life. But then she thought of herself and Michael being parents and the thought of never being with him again was so ridiculously crazy, it made her giggle.

With each passing mile, her fatigue returned with a vengeance. She didn’t think she’d even been this tired the time Alex had convinced her and Liz to stay up for forty eight hours straight just to see what would happen. By the time she pulled to a stop in front of Michael’s building, she had to sit in the car for a minute to gather her strength. She had a present in the backseat for Michael, but she didn’t have the strength to carry it up the stairs. Maybe she would just come back for it later.

On a sigh, she lifted her aching body out of the Jetta and trudged up the stairs. After what seemed like an eternity, she reached her destination and she wanted to cry from the effort. But she forced a smile onto her face. It was Valentines’ Day. Michael deserved to have her attention for a little bit of time. Especially since she knew he had been planning something special for her. She knocked once, hoping Michael would hear it. She usually didn’t bother with the formality, but he had asked her to so she wouldn’t ruin anything. She wasn’t disappointed when he swung the door open a minute later, a wide smile on his face.

“Hey, you’re early, but that’s okay. I’m almost done here.” He leaned in and placed a kiss on her lips. “Do you want something to drink?” He asked, ushering her inside.

“Sure,” she replied, knowing he would bring her a glass of milk. She settled at his kitchen table and watched at he moved around the kitchen with a energy level that made her jealous.

“You look tired. Are you feeling okay?” He asked, setting a tall glass of milk in front of her.

She tried to brighten. “I’m feeling fabulous. So, tell me what you did today. Did you go by the House?”

Michael’s grin returned. “Yeah. Isabel went with me. I made cupcakes for the kids and Isabel organized this project to make valentines.”

Despite the fatigue that made her want to drop her head on the table, she smiled at him. “So, how many did you get?”

“Three.” He shrugged. “What can I say? I’m a catch. You’d better watch out. Little Jessica makes a mean valentine. I just may leave you for her in a few years.”

“Well, I’d be worried if she wasn’t ten. Of course she fell for you. You’re the older, tall, dark and mysterious guy. What girl wouldn’t fall for that?”

Michael crouched beside her. “Mysterious, huh?”

“Of course, you’re also arrogant and impulsive and annoying, but I love you anyway.” She sniffed the air around her and she found herself torn between her desire to sleep and the desire to consume sugar. “What’s that I smell?”

“That would be dinner. But I figured you would want the cookies first, so I made them this morning.”

“You baked me cookies?” Tears filled her eyes at the thought of him lovingly baking for her.

Oh, shit. Was she crying? Michael searched his memory for something he had potentially done wrong. But he came up empty. “Uh, yes. Are you hungry?”

“I could take one of those cupcakes if you have one lying around.”

“I might be able to dig one up for you. Wait right here first though.”

Happy to have averted a potential crisis, Michael placed a kiss on Maria’s forehead and rose from the floor. He headed into the bedroom to retrieve the gift Isabel had helped him pick out. They had agonized long and hard over what would constitute the perfect gift. After all, he did have several years worth of occasions to make up for. He pulled it from it’s hiding spot in his closet and hefted the large box back to the kitchen.

“Okay, I wanted to give you your present now. If you don’t like it, you can just take it back and get something else. It won't hurt my-“ Michael stopped talking when he walked into the kitchen. Maria’s head was resting on the dark wood of his table and she was softly snoring. He set the box down and watched her sleep for a second. He’d seen the fatigue the moment she’d walked in the door but he hadn’t realized how well she had been hiding it all day. He saw his elaborate plans to give Maria the best Valentine’s Day ever crumbling before his eyes, but it didn’t matter. She needed sleep for now. He could ply her with sugar later.

Carefully, he picked her up, cradling her in his arms, and carried her to his bedroom. He set her down gently on the bed and covered her with the ridiculously fluffy comforter she’d insisted on buying. She nestled her head into the pillow and he couldn’t resist the urge to curl up with her. Knowing she slept like the dead, he wasn’t worried about waking her when he crawled under the covers with her. Seeking his body heat, Maria moved until she was lying across his chest.

As Michael settled in bed, he remembered a time when he had fought against growing roots on Earth. Maria had tried for years to work her way into his life, but he had resisted. He had pushed away everyone but Max and Isabel and he had always been the most insistent on finding their home. But as Michael let his arm curl over Maria’s waist to settle on her stomach where such a tiny life now grew, he realized that sometimes home was closer than you thought.

posted on 30-Jan-2002 7:25:38 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a piece of crap computer that occasionally saves my files and alternately eats them, some college debts and a vivid imagination. You know what? Take the damn computer. You can have the debts too, but Mel and Ana and the imagination are all mine!
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Okay, I broke the "don't post over ten pages" rule, but I won't tell anyone if you don't. I know most of you were looking for Max in the last part and thanks for bearing with me. I know it was a bit M/M heavy, but I knew this part was going to be nice and long. Just as an FYI, I really am trying to get everyone together in the same town again. They just keep doing whatever they want instead of what I tell them to do. Point in case, I never intended to write this part right here. I didn't want to do it. Yet when I sat down to type, guess where we ended up? Oh, yeah. You don't know yet. *snicker* I guess you'll have to read on. Enjoy. I don't know if I'll have a part for you tomorrow yet or not. Frankly, I don't have a clue what's going to happen next. So, I may try to do another part to LtL since I'm trying to wrap it up. Enough rambling. Read away...

Finding Yourself
Part 80

“I suck.” Liz threw herself dramatically on Kyle’s bed and rolled onto her back. She stared up at the ceiling, mentally kicking herself for the evening’s events.

Mel eyed her friend from Kyle’s bed where she had happily been munching her way through a bowl of popcorn. She raised an eyebrow at Liz’s melodramatic antics. “Rough day?”

“I’m a horrible person, the lowest of the low. If there were an award for suckiest human being, it would be mine.”

“Well, actually, no. Technically, you’re not human. At least, not completely. So, I don’t think you could be a contender. But if you wanted to go for suckiest intergalactic being, I’m sure they’d be happy to have you.”

“Thanks, Mel. That cheered me right up.”

Mel laughed at Liz’s sarcasm. “I’m sorry. You were looking for supportive. Right room, wrong roommate.”

“Where is Kyle then? Maybe he’ll take pity on me and listen to my horrible day.”

“Breakfast date with Julie. No, wait, I think her name is Jackie.” She shrugged, her eyes never wavering from the television. “He’s out wooing some blonde bimbo. So, you’re stuck with me. You may as well just tell me what’s wrong.”

“I broke up with Tag.”

“Okay, you have my full attention now. I didn’t even know you two were officially dating.”

“We weren’t, but we were…if that makes any sense.”

Mel nodded. “It doesn’t, but go on.” She popped another handful of popcorn into her mouth.

“I just can’t concentrate on anything new right now. All this past life stuff and my feelings for Max, they’re a bit much. And now there’s this whole other alien aspect to everything. Just being with him feels like a lie on a dozen levels. And I don’t…What are you watching?” Liz’s attention was finally drawn to the noises from Kyle’s television. She sat up in bed and watched in shock.

“Did you know Kyle gets cable in here? He must have spliced someone’s line. Frankly, I’m impressed. You can’t get the guy to so much as hand me a screwdriver when the garbage disposal breaks, but free cable motivates him to use power tools.”

“Mel, are you watching porn?”

Mel scoffed at Liz’s question. “This,” she gestured to the television. “Is hardly porn. Well, I think it’s technically porn, but it’s lame porn.”

“I thought Kyle was spending a lot of time in his room lately.” Liz cocked her head to the side as she watched the ministrations of the actors. “Wait. Are they both guys?”

Mel watched a minute longer, trying to determine the gender of some of the body parts. Then she jerked back suddenly. “No. That one is definitely a girl. Anyway, you were saying? Wait, hold on. You broke up with Tag on Valentine’s Day? You do suck.”

“I didn’t mean to. We were talking about making plans this weekend and he asked if I was free and I just blurted out that I wanted to break up.” Liz had only had her mind on the story and the other half on the television. She sat up against Kyle’s headboard next to Mel and Mel adjusted the popcorn bowl to share.

“What did he say?”

“Well, he wasn’t exactly surprised. What is that guy doing to – Oh. Is that a real position?”

“Only in the land of porn. Why wasn’t he surprised?”

“Mainly because no one even knew we were dating. We kissed, but it was never anything more than that. And it wasn’t electric. He didn’t make my toes curl and my skin tingle.”

“Is that even possible?”

Liz sighed in memory. “Oh, yeah. Whenever Max touched me, it was like an explosion.”

“No, I meant the porn.”

“Oh. Uh, I’m not sure I want to know this much about sex.”

Mel resumed eating. “Tell me more about Max making you explode. And are we talking literally or figuratively?”

Liz blushed at the question. “I think that’s a bit private.”

“Please, we’re watching porn together. I think we’ve transcended the bounds of privacy.” She was curious to hear something about Max. Liz either avoided his name or Kyle was cursing his existence. Either way, he was an elusive mystery.

“Being with Max was like nothing else. After our first kiss, everything seemed brighter somehow, more alive. And when he held me in his arms, I knew I would never find a safer place. I fell in love with him and no matter what happens, I know he’ll always be it for me. I knew it before I found out who I am.”

“Will you ever be able to get past what he did?”

“You mean sleeping with Tess? Yeah. It still hurts, especially knowing they have a child out there, but he wasn’t completely to blame for that. I did push him towards her. That’s not why I’m here. We just keep hurting each other every time. And I know if I went back and we started again and we both got hurt, it would be too much.”

“So, you’re not even going to give it a chance?” Mel asked, incredulous. Here Liz was being told she had this person that loved her so much, he was willing to transcend time and space for her.

Liz sighed. Mel didn’t understand. No one did. But it was okay. She was used to it by now. “Do you realize how pathetic we are? You didn’t have a date, I blew mine off and here we are watching porn together in Kyle’s bed while he’s off on a real date.”

“At least my solitude is intentional. I choose to be alone. Lest we forget the catastrophe called New Years.”

“You know I didn’t even get any flowers.”

“Tag didn’t buy you any? He seems like the flowers kind.”

“No, I told him I didn’t want any. But now that I’m here without any flowers, I think it was a mistake.”

“Of your own making. And I don’t think it’s pathetic at all. I think it’s smart. Who needs flowers and candy? If anyone bought me those, he obviously doesn’t know me very well. I wouldn’t know what to do with them if I had them.”

“Ever think that may be why you’re single?” Liz teased.

“It’s intentional, I say! Who needs men? They’re just annoying and they hold you back anyway. I say good riddance to the whole lot of them.”

“Mel? Liz?” Kyle called from the living room.

“In here!” Both girls chanted together, their gaze riveted on the television as a third person entered the screen.

Kyle appeared in the doorway, a frown of confusion on his face. “What are you two doing in here?” A loud chorus of pants drew his attention and he blushed furiously when he saw them watching the television. He moved quickly to turn it off.

“Hey! What are you doing?” Mel asked.

“Kyle, move. You’re in the way.” Liz added.

When Kyle stood frozen in confusion still, Liz threw a pillow at him while Mel pelted him with popcorn. Obliging them, he stepped out of the way. “What is this strange place I’ve walked into? I have two beautiful women in my bed watching porn. I don’t know what cosmic twist of fate has brought these things together, but I just want to savor this moment and burn it into my memory.”

“So, cable, huh? You’ve been holding out on us, Tiger.”

Kyle shrugged. “As if there’s a good way to bring up the fact that I tapped into free porn. It’s not exactly a conversation starter. Hey, aren’t you supposed to be out with Tag?”

“I thought you were out with Jennie,” Mel supplied.

“It’s Jackie and I cancelled. She was too…I don’t know. Blonde.” Kyle shrugged off his jacket and crawled into bed between the two girls. He wrapped an arm around each of their shoulders and dug into the popcorn bowl. “So…Tag?” He prompted.

Liz sighed. “I broke up with him.”

“You were dating? When did I miss that?”

“I think the bigger picture here, Slick, is that she did it today of all days.”

“Whoa,” Kyle agreed. “That’s like a cardinal sin of dating. You either break it off long before Valentine’s Day so they have time to take your gift back or at least find someone else to give it to. Or you wait until afterwards. But never on Valentine’s Day.”

“Thanks, Kyle. I wasn’t aware of the rules. They would have been helpful, oh, say yesterday. God, this is depressing. How did we all end up here?”

“I’m here by choice,” Mel repeated. “It’s you two that are the losers.”

Kyle tightened his grip on Mel’s shoulders, pulling her closer for a sloppy kiss to the forehead. “That’s what I love most about her. It’s that never ending well of compassion for her friends.” Mel batted him away, but it was with a grin that he caught.

“But as crude as she is, the girl does have a point. So, let’s do something about it.”

“Like what? This isn’t going to turn into a bonding session again, is it? Because I know enough about the two of you to last me at least another month or two.”

“Let’s get out of here. We can all get out and do something.” When both girls groaned, he forced even more cheer into his voice. “Come on. Since when are you both old maids? Let’s go have some wholesome family fun for the afternoon. No worrying about trying to master alien powers and…well, no worrying about whatever it is you worry about, Mel.”

“That would be group hugging. The threat of it keeps me up at night.”

“It’s not that we don’t like the idea, Kyle-“

“No, that’s it for me. I was content to watch bad porn all day.”

“Alright, that settles it. We’re all going out. We are going to have fun if I have to hold a gun to your head. So, both of you up and get dressed.” Kyle began pushing them off the bed, one by one.

Standing on her own two feet, Mel glared down at Kyle. “What about you?”

“Oh, well, I’m going to finish watching this classic piece of film until you girls are ready.”

“Like hell you are,” Mel snorted. “If I can’t watch porn, then nobody can!” She lunged across the bed for the remote, but Kyle moved just as quick to shield the remote with his body.

Liz shook her head as the two of them wrestled on the bed. Maybe Mel would distract Kyle from his mission of making them go out. She crept quietly into the living room and gasped softly when she saw the vase of yellow roses on the kitchen table. Unable to resist, Liz buried her nose in them and breathed in the scent.

“Now look what you’ve done, Mel! You ruined my surprise.”

Liz turned to see Kyle standing in the doorway. “Your surprise?” She asked.

Kyle crossed the room and gave her a peck on the cheek. “Happy Valentine’s Day, Liz.”

“Oh! These are for me? Kyle, you shouldn’t have.”

“Well, the guy at the flower shop said yellow roses were for friendship, and I didn’t know what kind of flowers you liked anyway. So, I went with his recommendation.”

“They’re perfect. Thank you. I’m going to put them in my room so I can look at them.” As she picked up the vase, her mind wandered back to a simpler time when a white bouquet of roses had been tossed up to her. White roses might be her favorite, but they would forever remind her of Max and how intimate the gesture of changing the color of her roses was. And that memory alone stood out in her memory above all others. It had been the night she had stood on the edge of a precipice. Max had serenaded her, all the love and hope in the world shining in his eyes that night. But another voice had whispered in her ear of death and suffering. And she’d had to choose the course of her future that night. And she had. She’d turned away from her Max, still innocent and full of countless hopes and dreams then. And she had turned to face those same eyes, but beaten and dulled by years of age and violence.

And her treacherous heart yearned for Max. She wanted to hear his voice, to ask how he was doing, to find out if he still loved her. But she was afraid of the answers and of the questions he would ask her in turn.

So, she would take Kyle’s flowers and stuff the desire to call Max away. And if the desire only grew stronger day by day, then her resolve would simply have to grow as well. It was as simple as that.

“That was a nice thing you did there, Slick. Liz was pining for flowers earlier.” She couldn’t explain why, but there had been a sharp twist of jealousy in her heart when she’d seen that Kyle had only bought Liz flowers. It wasn’t as if he was obligated to buy her anything. She hadn’t bought him anything. But the gesture of friendship had left her feeling cold and bitter.

Kyle caught the flash of jealousy and was thankful he had enough foresight to pick them both up something. “I’m glad you feel that way. Liz is just a flower kind of girl. They make her all weepy and weak. But a girl like you doesn’t need trappings like that. That’s what I like about you, Mel.”

“Damn right. I think this whole holiday is a sham anyway. Why do we have to celebrate couples just being themselves? I think single people should have a day all to themselves and Hallmark can sell cards about bitterness and old women with a hundred cats.” Mel smoothed down her leather pants and began searching for her keys.

“So, I guess you don’t want your gift?”

Mel froze in place. “My gift?”

“Yep.” Kyle pulled a box from his backpack and walked across the room to hand it to Mel.

Mel took it from Kyle and let the heavy weight settle on her palm. Nobody had ever bought her a Valentine’s Day present before and she was dangerously weepy and weak. “It’s heavy.”

Kyle laughed. “It should be. Open it,” he prompted.

With a glee born of receiving unexpected presents, Mel ripped into the paper. When she pulled out a drill bit set, she could only stare at it a minute.

“I thought you could use another one. The ones you used to try to open the puzzle box were kind of old and I know you ruined at least one.” Suddenly his brilliant idea seemed not so brilliant. “I just thought it would be nice.”

Mel heard the uncertainty in his voice and she rushed to assure him. Her eyes flew up to meet his and she was surprised to find him standing so close. Less than a foot of space separated them and she found herself caught in the dark brilliance of his eyes. “I love them. Thank you.” Her tongue felt thick and she had to force the words out. What was wrong with her? Was it her imagination or was Kyle moving closer and closer to her? The air felt as if it had been sucked out of the room and she felt dizzy. Gold flecks of desire colored Kyle’s eyes and she knew he was as completely turned on as she was. She’d managed to keep the emotions at bay so far, but standing this close was too much for her senses. He was going to kiss her. She knew it without any shadow of a doubt. But what surprised her was that she had been holding her breath in anticipation.

Kyle had never wanted anything more in his life than to close the distance between them in that moment. It hadn’t been his intention to trick her when he’d bought her the gift. But he was afraid that if he gave in to the moment, she would hold it against him later when her emotions had settled. He wanted to kiss her. But he wouldn’t. He’d vowed to himself and promised her he would keep his distance. But he absolutely had to feel her skin. So, instead of tasting her lips again as he’d done in a hundred dreams since New Years, he pressed his lips against the smooth skin of her forehead.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Mel.” He pulled back from her suddenly, keenly aware of the loss of her body heat. “I’m going to see if Liz is ready to go.” He didn’t dare to meet her eyes, was afraid to be drawn back into the circle of her arms. So, he left quickly.

Mel stood in the middle of the living room, her new drill bits resting in her hand. What had just happened? One minute she had been sure Kyle had been about to kiss her and he had left instead. Had she read the situation wrong? Things were becoming more confusing when it came to Kyle Valenti and the feelings she had hoped would go away had risen with a vengeance. And it terrified her.

Alone, Mel tried to pinpoint why exactly a deep sense of disappointment was coursing through her body. She hadn’t wanted Kyle to kiss her really, had she?

*~*~

“And then Rachel called Jack a doo doo head and he got mad and told Miss Connie. And Rachel had to apologize to Jack in front of everyone.” Ana finished recounting her tale to Max, sure to emphasize the last part.

Max’s grin was ear to ear as he drove them down the Arizona highway. “So, Miss Connie is nice?”

Ana shook her head emphatically. “Oh yeah. She makes cookies for everyone. They’re not good like Michael’s cookies and they’re not in funny shapes like his are, but they’re yummy.”

Max couldn’t believe the difference a few weeks could make. He’d hardly recognized Ana when he’d pulled to a stop in front of the Foster home she was staying in. She was able to move around now, which was amazing to see. It still wasn’t a lot and she tired quickly, but it was progress. Coming to see her for Valentine’s Day had been the best idea he’d had.

Liz’s face still swam in his mind, but it came with the price of guilt. He’d wished there had been some way he could have let her know he was thinking about her. But it didn’t seem fair to her. Six months was a long time. So, he’d distanced himself from his friends and had come to see the only other girl in his life.

“We’re here,” he announced, pulling the Jeep to a stop.

Ana bounced in excitement in her chair. “And you promised we could go see the monkeys and the Lions and the Bears.”

Max chuckled at her enthusiasm. “Yes, yes and yes. We can see everything. But you remember the deal.”

Lowering her eyes to the floor, she sulked. “I don’t see why I have to get a dumb old wheelchair. I can walk just fine.”

“They’re my rules. You may have a lot of energy now, but if you want to see everything, then you have to save your strength.”

“Fine. But can I have an ice cream cone?”

Max knew he was being taken for a sucker, but he didn’t care. He’d missed those pleading eyes so much, he would have given her the car to drive home if she wanted to. “Okay, but you have to eat lunch too.” When had he started sounding like his parents?

“Fine. But I get sprinkles too.”

“Deal.” Max waited until Ana peeked out at him from under her eyelashes and giggled again.

“Can we go already? I’m dying to see the elephants.”

“That’ll be pretty funny…a monkey watching the elephants,” he joked.

Max…” she protested.

“Alright, alright, I give up. Elephants it is.”

*~*~

“The zoo?” Mel scoffed. “This is your idea of a non-lame place to spend Valentine’s Day?”

“What’s wrong with the zoo? Dad used to take me to the zoo all the time when I was little.” Kyle looped his arms around Liz’s waist, trying to shake her into having fun.

“The zoo is fun when you’re five. After that it’s just lame. And…are those zebras?” Mel turned in the direction of the striped creatures, interest on her face.

Kyle shook Liz again. “What’s wrong?”

“I’m not sure. I just have this weird feeling.” The hairs on the back of her neck had been standing up for the last few minutes and she had the strangest feeling she was being watched. It was a familiar feeling and not at all sinister. If she didn’t know better, she’d say it was the feeling she used to get when Max was watching her from across the Crashdown. But that was absurd. Max was nowhere near here. So, she struggled to shake off the feeling.

“Well, quit it. You’re ruining my day of fun. I have big plans, you know. Look what I brought with me.” Kyle held up the strap of her camera and dangled it teasingly in front of her. “You haven’t picked it up in weeks. Why don’t you give it a go, see if you forgot where the button is.”

With a quick grin, Liz snatched the camera from Kyle. A quick glance told her it was loaded with fresh film. “I don’t suppose you would mind posing for me.”

“I think I can manage one or two. But only because I love you. Now, come on. I think if we time it right, you can get a great shot of me trying to toss Mel into the Zebra pen.”

*~*~

“What next?” Max asked Ana.

They’d been to a dozen areas of the zoo already, but there was still more to go. He’d stopped whenever Ana had seen something that caught her eye. At one point, they had passed a botanical garden and Ana had begged to go inside. They’d played inside the butterfly garden and he’d bought a small cup of nectar so Ana could feed the butterflies. She’d had the time of her life.

On the way out, a patch of wildflowers had caught his eye. They were larger than he’d seen ordinary wildflowers grow to, but he suspected that the zoo had excellent fertilizer. He couldn’t say what possessed him to stop and pick a few, but Ana loved the exotic colors. Ever since then, she had been trying to string them together into a headpiece the way Sara had taught her to do. But he had kept one to the side, a particular flower with a dozen different colors streaked together. It was beautiful and it didn’t belong with the others. So, he had picked it and held it aside from Ana’s poor attempts to make something from the flowers.

“How about the panda bears?”

“Panda bears it is.”

He pushed Ana down the path, glad beyond belief he’d insisted on bringing the wheelchair. He was exhausted, so he could only imagine what shape Ana would be in if she had tried walking. He let her get up every so often to see something, but on the whole, she remained seated.

As they traveled past the zebra fences, Max experienced the same jolt in his body that he’d been experiencing all day. It was almost as if something warm and familiar was beckoning to him, pulling him in different directions. And it left him more confused than anything.

“Oh! Max! Wait!” Ana squealed as they passed an ice cream vendor. “Can we have some ice cream, please?”

“Sure thing.” Max backtracked and wheeled Ana up in front of the cart. “What kinds do you have?”

The man smiled at Ana and began asking her what sort of ice cream she liked. But their voices faded until they were a dull whisper in Max’s ear. That tug was back again and it was pulling on him stronger than ever. Giving in, he turned, scanning the crowd for anything out of the ordinary.

The panda bear exhibit was directly across from them. A large crowd was scattered near the entrance and exit. Nothing unusual there. A mother was buying a balloon for her son. A security officer was patrolling. A group of teenagers were taking pictures. A small child was wailing from its stroller. Everything was as it should be on a sunny day at the zoo. But the tug persisted.

Irritated by it now, Max looked closer. What was it telling him? He was trying to spend a normal day with Ana and his damn alien side had to rear itself. There was absolutely nothing interesting going on by the panda exhibit. The baby was still crying while its parents ignored it to have a conversation. The officer was still just strolling aimlessly. The little boy was happily walking away with his red balloon. Some guy in a letterman jacket was hamming it up with a redhead in front of a camera. But he had to admit that there was something familiar about the guy. He couldn’t make him out very well from that distance, but his movements tugged at a memory. The redhead wasn’t at all familiar. She looked as though she would rather be anywhere but there and she had to be forced to pose. Max swung his gaze to the photographer. She was a girl, definitely. But her hair was piled underneath a baseball cap, so he was unable to make out any of her features.

Frustrated that nothing was making any sense yet, Max found himself watching the teenagers. Tired of the redhead, the boy charged at the photographer, snatching the cap from her head and holding it out of her reach. When short brown hair tumbled down her back, she turned to chase the boy and Max found himself looking into Liz’s familiar face. He froze, shock stunning him senseless. That had been the pull he’d felt all day? Liz was here? In Phoenix? She hadn’t seen him and he was torn between running up to her and crushing her in his arms or hiding behind a bush.

He recognized Kyle now. The arrogance he carried with him was visible from even that far away. He continued to taunt Liz, holding her baseball cap just out of reach. But she was laughing, a rich honey that erupted from deep inside. And another twinge of guilt surfaced and kept him from running towards her. She was happy, safe in her own world she had created. The redhead joined them and kicked Kyle in the shin once. He dropped the hat to the ground as he hopped up and down on one leg in pain. She scooped it up and dropped it on Liz’s head. Liz raised the camera she had been holding and snapped off a few shots while her friend laughed.

Max felt his heart twist and he didn’t know what to do. Should he leave them alone? Pretend he didn’t see them and let them be? Could he do that? What would happen if he walked over there right now and just let her see him? Would she be happy? Disappointed? Upset? There was no way to gauge her reactions anymore. He was too far removed from her life to determine how she would react to anything.

Kyle stopped hopping and angrily pointed at the panda exhibit. Liz snapped one last shot of his face before she looped the camera strap around her neck. She waved Kyle and the redhead forward as she bent to pick up a small pile of souvenir bags he recognized from the gift shop.

Panic filled Max as he saw his only opportunity to touch Liz slipping away. He hadn’t even decided if he should say something to her or not and she was leaving. Who knew when it would be before he could see her again?

“Max?” Ana’s soft voice pulled him from his daze. The sounds around him came rushing back and he glanced down at Ana before looking back across the paved pathway.

“What is it, sweetie?”

“I’m not feeling good. Can we go home now?”

A large group of people were lingering on the path, blocking his view of Liz. “I thought you wanted to see the pandas.”

Ana shook her head. “Nuh uh. I just wanna go home.”

The group cleared and while Max frantically craned his neck to catch another glimpse of Liz, his heart sunk when there was no sight of her. But a small white bag was sitting abandoned against the wall and he knew she had dropped it in her haste. Maybe he could still catch up with her and return it.

“Max?” Ana’s voice was pleading now.

Max snapped his full attention back to the little girl and he wanted to kick himself hard. She was sick and he was all but ignoring her. He crouched down in front of her. “What’s wrong?”

“My head hurts.” Her lower lip trembled and tears danced in her eyes.

“Okay. You just wanna go home?” He saw his hopes of catching up with Liz slipping away, but he forced his attention back to Ana. He placed his hand against her forehead, gauging her temperature. “You don’t feel hot. Maybe it’s just all this sun.”

She nodded, biting her lower lip. “I don’t wanna ride in this anymore.”

Max had spent enough time around children lately to know that once they started whining, they were either too tired or too sick to do much else. “Do you want me to carry you?” He could feel the tug of Liz’s presence pulling him forward and he struggled to ignore it. Ana needed him. Liz didn’t.

Again, she nodded.

“Okay. Let’s go home.” He turned to the ice cream vendor. “Where can I leave this wheelchair to have it picked up?” He didn’t want to have to wait in a line to return it. They could keep his deposit.

“Just leave it over with the other strollers near the panda exhibit. They’ll pick it up later tonight.” He turned to Ana. “You feel better, little one.”

Max thanked the man then leaned down and pulled Ana into his arms. She immediately buried her head in his shoulder. He picked up the last of their belongings from the wheelchair and wheeled it across the path. He secured it in the stroller space and his eye was once again caught by Liz’s small white bag. She was deep inside the exhibit by now. He could have waited until she came out, but Ana was sick and even if she wasn’t, he doubted it was the best thing for Liz to see him waiting for her.

Making a snap decision he hoped he wouldn’t regret later, Max quickly picked up the small bag. He carried it over to the security officer.

“Excuse me, sir. A girl dropped this bag a few minutes ago. She’s inside the panda exhibit with two friends, a guy in a letterman jacket and a redhead. Could you please make sure she gets it when she comes out?”

“Sure thing.”

Max moved to hand the bag over, when a thought occurred to him. He grabbed the wildflower he had picked earlier and dropped it inside the bag. With a sigh of regret, he handed the bag to the officer. “Thank you.”

He turned to Ana, forcing all thoughts of Liz from his mind. At least he knew now that she was safe and happy. And it was all he could have asked for. “You want something to drink before we head back?”

“Coke.”

“One coke coming up.” He shifted her weight and headed back towards the front gate. With each step, he could feel his connection with Liz straining, tearing until it settled back to the low hum in the back of his mind that he was used to. He forced himself to start the Jeep’s engine. But as he pulled out of the parking lot, he was sure that he was leaving his heart behind, safely nestled inside a plastic bag.

*~*~


"Okay, from now on, Liz is on a diet. No more cheeseburgers for you. You weigh a ton at least." Kyle let Liz slide off his back and onto the ground. He rubbed at his lower back. "I think I pulled something."

Liz stuck her tongue out at him playfully. "You're just turning into an old man on us." She adjusted her bags and went about putting her camera in its bag. "Pretty soon we'll have to mush up your bananas for you."

"You know, I hate to admit it, but those pandas are kind of cute," Mel confessed.

"What is this I hear? Did you just admit in public that you thought something was cute?" Kyle taunted. "I didn't even think you knew the meaning of the word."

"Just because I never called you cute doesn't mean I don't think other things are."

“You don’t think I’m cute? What about my boyish charm and my rugged good looks?” Kyle deadpanned.

“If you said ‘annoying and ego centric’, I’d be with you. But ‘boyishly charming and ruggedly good looking? I don’t think so.”

Kyle staggered backwards, his hand clutched over his heart. "Oh, the pain of being put in my place by Mel." He straightened up. "You know, I don't think I've harassed you about your real name in quite awhile. I must be slipping. So, tell me. Is Mel short for Melany?"

"When are you going to get tired of this game?"

"The day you tell me your real name. How about Melody? That's a pretty name."

"I'm going to get some ice cream. Do you want some, Liz?"

"Sure. Hey, guys. Did I have five bags or six?" Liz frowned as she rifled through the contents of her bags to determine if anything was missing.

"I counted seven," Kyle offered.

"I didn't even see you buy anything."

"Great. You guys are a load of help. I think I'm missing a bag. I thought I bought the stuffed zebra, but I can't find it anywhere."

"Excuse me, Miss."

Liz looked up to see a security guard. "Yes? Can I help you?"

"Did you drop something earlier?" He offered her the white bag.

"Yes! Thank you. Where did you find it?" She took the bag gratefully, reaching inside to search for her zebra.

"A young man saw you drop it and asked me to give it to you."

"Thank you, officer." Kyle stepped in.

"No problem. You kids have a good day."

"How is it that no matter how old you are, you're always a kid to old people?" Mel inquired. "I hardly think I would qualify as a kid."

"Especially in those pants," Kyle agreed.

Mel eyed him evenly. "What are you trying to say?"

Liz listened to her friends argue with half an ear. Something wasn't right. The stuffed zebra was where she last saw it. But that wasn't all that was in the bag.

A single white rose lay nestled safe and sound on the bottom.

A frown marred her forehead as she considered the possible ways a rose had ended up in her bag. The security guard? No, he was old enough to be her grandfather. She eyed Kyle briefly, but the gesture was simply too romantic for him to have thought of. She picked up the rose and breathed in its scent. There was something intoxicating about it and it brought a secret smile to her face. And it was a white rose, her favorite flower. Maybe she had a secret admirer. The thought made her grin widen and she was quick to hide it before Kyle and Mel turned back to her. Some things were more romantic when they were mysterious.






posted on 31-Jan-2002 12:10:57 PM by Cookieman1234
Yikes. I think that was the kindest fb I've gotten yet. I must be doing something right.

But look at the time on this post...11:57am. And I'm at work. Do you know what that means, kiddos? It means my computer is still broken at work, but my computer buddy showed me a way to sneak around it and get online. So, I'm back!!

You have no idea how out of touch I've felt this last week or so. Especially with all the rumors and everything else floating around about the show. But this is my note to you (because I forgot to do it last night) to let you know that regardless of what happens with the show, I will finish every one of my stories however long it takes. And yes, that does include the third story to my DWYHTD/LTL trilogy that I haven't even started yet. So, I'll be online for quite awhile yet.

Now that I've said that, let's move on to the no-posting thing I swore today. I wasn't going to post because frankly, I had no freaking idea of what I wanted to happen next. I know where everyone is eventually going to go, but immediately, no clue. So, I was going to take advantage of the voices quieting down in my head and work on LtL. But then I get online and BAM, three pages of feedback. How can I resist that? See? I told you I'm a sucker for it. And my note was in no way a disguised plea for fb. I only do that on holidays and when I'm sick. I really wasn't going to post, but you guys have convinced me to sit down and work something out. So, it'll probably be later this afternoon, but I'll see what I can do for you. Just because you love me so much.

And the Valentine's Day meeting that never was? Another example of this story writing itself. The reason you didn't see it coming was because I never meant for it to happen. Damn characters! But since Valentine's Day is my birthday, I thought it would be horribly sweet for Max to give something to Liz. As for her finding out if Max was there or not...you'll just have to wait and see. *evil snicker* I freely admit to being evil. In fact, I encourage it.

Okay, I'm going now. I was just so jazzed about being online again, I had to come share. Although not being online has made me write longer parts...I suppose there's a trade off somewhere in there.

I absolutely adore you guys and since you asked (and pleaded and begged and threatened), you shall receive.

~Stacey
posted on 31-Jan-2002 10:30:09 PM by Cookieman1234
Okay, apparently I lied. The need for clean clothes outweighed sitting down and typing the next part for FY. But I do have most of it written already. So, the good news is that it should be up bright and early in the morning. I'd say by nine? That sounds do able.

Sorry, guys. I tried for you, but when my bosses went out of town for the week, I ended up talking to them more than when they were actually in the office. And I actually did work at work! What a concept.

It's getting late and I think I'm going to be crashing soon here. But I'll see you in the morning. *happy*

~Stacey
posted on 1-Feb-2002 7:49:21 AM by Cookieman1234
quote:
Rookie originally wrote:
I love to eavesdrop on the dialogue you have going with your readers. It is very exciting to participate, in some small way, in the creative process of a wonderful writer like you. And it is especially rewarding when we get feedback so often and it is good and long and exciting.


So, you actually like my long, rambling notes? That's funny. Sometimes I think all I do is incoherantly babble about stuff nobody in their right mind cares about. If you like these notes, you should see what we've been talking about on the Writers Thread. They can't kick me off that one. But hey, if you like the babble, then I'll give it to you in spades. And yes, you guys do shape this story in some way or another. Dare I risk bringing up Tag's name? Better not. And I've got people that e and b mail me with requests or questions all the time. But be warned, once you get me talking, I don't shut up.

quote:
I know I sound like a broken record, and I am really trying for patience because I love all the sections you are writing, but....I just can't wait to get Max and Liz back together. They break my heart when they are apart and trying to take care of each other by staying away. Sigh. Good things come to those who wait, right? Please!


Okay, let's talk a minute about Max and Liz. We all know they will eventually get to be in the same town at the same time and actually *gasp* have a conversation. But where would the fun be if I just jumped in and did it? There wouldn't be any fun. Plus, I freely admit to being evil. And I swear I'm trying to get them there. They just don't want to yet.

Oh, Anne, I forgot to comment on the Writers Thread about what you said on this story being so long. When I said it was 200 pages, it was a guess. Apparently, I was underestimating. Anyone have this saved as a word file? Maybe they can tell us what it's up to so far. I keep each part save individually for when people ask for specific parts.

I need to type now. I'll be back in a bit.

~Stacey

posted on 1-Feb-2002 10:50:36 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a piece of crap computer that occasionally saves my files and alternately eats them, some college debts and a vivid imagination. You know what? Take the damn computer. You can have the debts too, but Mel and Ana and the imagination are all mine!
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Lookie at what I have for you. A brand spanking new part. You'll probably get a new part tomorrow. I have this kick ass scene mapped out. I just need to find the time to sit down and write it. So, you'll get one at some point this weekend. Until then, enjoy!

Finding Yourself
Part 81

“Hold on! I’m coming!” Maria hastily wiped her wet hands on her jeans and set the rest of Michael’s dirty dishes to the side. The man might be an excellent cook, but he just sucked at the whole cleaning up process. She made her way to the door and pulled it open.

Max stood on the other side, a mile wide grin on his face. He held up a bag for her to see. “I got the pictures back.”

“They finally found them?” Maria squealed with delight. “Lemme see!”

Max relinquished the bag to her and he and Isabel followed her inside.

“So, where did they end up anyway?”

“Utah,” he answered with a chuckle. “There was some sort of mix up with the delivery addresses.”

“Took them long enough,” Isabel agreed. “Three weeks and a dozen angry phone calls later, we have pictures.”

The film developers Max had taken his Arizona film to had lost the rolls taken during his visit to Ana. Isabel had declared herself his representative and had made numerous phone calls to track them down. After his trip to Arizona, Max had seemed a bit down. Isabel supposed he missed Ana more than he had let on, but he’d seemed to have snapped out of it a few days after his return.

Maria sunk to the couch and immediately began flipping through the rolls. She gasped, a smile lighting her face when she saw one shot of Ana sitting on Max’s lap. He had his arms around her and both of them were sporting matching grins.

“She looks so healthy.” Maria couldn’t deny that she’d fallen in love with the little girl in the short time she’d known her. She’d wanted to go with Max to see her, but understood that Max probably wanted some alone time with her. Especially since she knew he’d been missing Liz with the approach of Valentines’ Day.

Max’s spirit lightened dramatically. “She’s amazing, Maria. You’d hardly recognize her now. She still gets tired easily and she’s not altogether healed, but she’s doing great.” It was hard to remember that the others had met Ana after her heart had begun to totally give out. At least in those first few weeks he’d known her, she had been more lively and able to do more.

“Michael!” Maria called out. “You’ve got to come see these!”

“Yeah, I’m coming.” Michael came into the living room, running his fingers through his still damp hair. “Is the pizza here yet?” He saw Max and Isabel and nodded in their direction. “Hey.”

“No pizza, but look.” She thrust the pictures of Ana in his face.

Michael dropped to the couch beside her. “Oh, wow. She looks better.”

Maria rolled her eyes at the understatement. Together, they flipped through the pictures, with Max occasionally telling them where they had been or what they had been doing. He’d already run through them with Isabel on the ride over to Michael’s, so she sat back and listened.

When there was a knock at the door, she jumped up first. “No, you guys stay. I’ve got it.”

“There’s money on the table, Isabel.” Maria informed her.

Isabel opened the door to the mouthwatering aroma of pizza and she flashed the delivery guy a smile. She exchanged money for food and thanked him before carrying dinner inside. Settling the boxes down, she began pulling sodas from the fridge. “What does everyone want?”

“Snapple.”

“Cherry Coke.”

“Lemonade.”

“Uh, no. Maria will have milk.”

Maria glared at Michael. “If I wanted milk, I would have asked for it. I’ll have lemonade,” she repeated to Isabel.

Isabel looked back and forth between the couple. They seemed to be having some sort of battle of the wills. They argued over the strangest things.

“You had lemonade with lunch. So, you get milk with dinner.” Michael answered through gritted teeth. What was wrong with her? Didn’t she want to take care of herself?

“Uh, Michael, I’m not sure milk and pizza go best together,” Max supplied, afraid to break in.

“Maria needs to eat healthier. So, she gets milk.”

“Well, I had a very healthy breakfast this morning that included milk.”

“I hardly think that cocoa puffs are a healthy breakfast. You really wanna argue?”

Maria folded her arms over her chest and glared at him another minute, meeting his steady gaze. The man just wouldn’t give up. It was her own fault really. She’d been the one to pick out books on pregnancy for him to read. “Fine. One glass of milk and you leave me the hell alone about everything else.”

“Agreed. As long as you take your vitamins with it.”

Maria threw up her arms in agitation. “I already took vitamins this morning.”

“Yes, those were your morning vitamins,” Michael patiently explained as if it were the most simple concept in the world. “Don’t you want to be healthy and strong, Maria?”

“Fine. Whatever. Bring me another batch of vitamins.”

Isabel poured Maria a glass of milk and brought her the tray of vitamins she found on Michael’s fridge. “Maybe it’s not such a bad idea. You have been pretty sick lately.”

Maria felt guilty enough about lying to take the glass and the vitamins without any further complaints. In a way, it was nice to know he was looking out for her, especially since she could hardly go to a doctor. But his smothering had to stop or she was going to go insane and smother him with a pillow.

“Why don’t we dish out some pizza,” Max suggested.

“I’ll take the pepperoni and pineapple,” Maria announced, licking her lips in anticipation. She was just glad to be out of the spotlight.

Michael handed her the slice that was loaded with toppings as a peace offering and she accepted it with a smile. As had become her habit over the last few days, Maria automatically reached for the tabasco sauce and heavily doused her slice of pizza. With a barely concealed moan of pleasure, she bit into it.

“Uh, Maria, isn’t that a bit spicy for you?”

Maria realized her mistake when she saw the looks of horror and confusion on Max and Isabel’s faces. What could she say? It wasn’t her fault the baby just craved the stuff. And they all hadn’t just gotten together to hang out since Max had returned from Arizona.

“It’s…uh, not that bad actually.”

“Didn’t you once say that tabasco sauce was the most vile substance known to man?” Isabel questioned. Something wasn’t right here. She just couldn’t put her finger on it yet.

Maria shrugged, trying to see nonplussed. “Well, I got used to it. After tasting it on Michael for so long, I guess I just developed an immunity.” Damn. She was going to have to be more careful. Isabel had that look in her eye, as if she was trying to pick her brain. A subject change was in order. “So, Max, did you meet Ana’s new family?”

Max frowned. “No. I didn’t see them all weekend. It was strange. Connie, the woman that runs the foster home said they were still wading through paperwork. But I don’t know.”

“You think they’re backing out?” Maria asked.

“No, not exactly. It’s just a weird vibe. It’s probably nothing.” But he made a mental note to have Colleen check into it.

“So, while we’re all together, there’s something I’ve been meaning to ask you, Max.”

Max tried not to sigh. He hadn’t been prepared for an inquisition. “What, Michael?”

“Isabel says you’ve been having dreams. What’s up with that?”

Max glared at Isabel. “So much for keeping a secret.”

“And I would have if I hadn’t been subjected to your nightly dream sexcapades. Our walls are only so thin.”

Max blushed scarlett. “I haven’t been…” he paused, considering it. Really, he didn’t remember much about his dreams except that a girl was involved. Conceivably, he could have been having sex dreams. “Now isn’t exactly the best time to talk about this.”

“Oh. Okay. When is good for you then? Maxwell, if you’re remembering something, we may need to know.”

Isabel grimaced. “Actually, I’m not so sure what Max is remembering is something we should share. I’m not keen on walking into some of these dreams. They sound a bit…uh, intimate.”

“Is there anything you do remember, Max?”

Max tried to answer Michael’s question without further embarrassing himself, but he didn’t really think it was possible. And then there was Maria, sitting patiently, waiting for an answer that she wouldn’t like. “I remember a girl.”

“That’s nice and vague. Care to expound on that? Is it Ava?”

Max shook his head. “No. I remember…” He ran his hands through his hair. “This isn’t exactly easy here, so bear with me. I know she’s not Ava, but I think…I know I was in love with her.”

“Oh, so you cheated on Ava too? It’s good to know you were consistent at least.” Maria couldn’t help her sudden outburst. Max had come a long way. She knew that. But she knew the information would kill Liz. It was one thing to know that Zan had been involved with Ava, but to know that he had actually loved someone, it might prove to be too much for Liz to handle.

Max lowered his head. “I know this doesn’t exactly look good, and I don’t know why these dreams have started up all of a sudden. And I know if I ever have the chance to tell Liz, it’ll hurt her all over again.”

“Maybe it should qualify as need to know information,” Michael suggested.

Max shook his head. “No. I love Liz. I screwed things up with her before and we had all this stuff that came between us because we weren’t honest with each other. If I ever get the chance to start again with her, it has to be with complete honesty. I won’t lie to her, not even about this.”

Maria regretted the harsh tone to her earlier words, but she was still concerned for Liz. She could only hope that Liz could return with some sort of inner peace that would help her out, because she was going to need it. Conversation continued around her while they tried to figure out if they should try to dreamwalk Max to find out more. Currently, Isabel was winning the argument, declaring that she was absolutely not walking into one of her brother’s sex dreams.

Her emotions shifting again, Maria sat back on the couch with another slice of pizza. The morning sickness wasn’t quite so bad anymore, but she still had her days when she was lucky to keep anything down. Hopefully, today would be a better one. The pizza was simply too good to waste. She glanced longingly at the glass of milk in her hand. God, she wanted lemonade, had been craving the sour tang all day for some reason. She was pretty sure it was an alien urge and she wondered how strange her eating habits were about to become. They had been relatively normal so far, but normal pregnant women craved odd food concoctions according to the books she had been reading. It would be kind of a kick to see what she could convince Michael to go get her in the middle of the night.

With a frown, she continued to study the milk. What the hell was so good about it anyway? It was loaded with fat and she would already be blowing up like a balloon soon enough. Now, if it were lemonade, that would be a different story. Sure, it had sugar in it, but not much the way she had insisted on making it. She sighed and stuffed another bite of pizza into her mouth, chewing thoughtfully. Maybe if she just closed her eyes and pretended it was lemonade, she would be able to finish it off quicker. It was worth a try. Didn’t Kyle always use to talk about mind over matter? Raising the glass to her lips, she was about to take a sip when she heard Isabel’s startled gasp.

Curious, Maria opened her eyes to find everyone staring at her. “What?”

Isabel pointed at the glass in her hand and Maria was shocked to find a light yellow liquid instead of the milky white it had been.

“Alright, what the hell is going on? I know I poured milk into that glass and nobody has gotten up since then.” Isabel glared at Maria, then at Michael. “You two have been acting crazy lately. What’s going on?”

Michael glanced at Maria and she shrugged at him. They knew they were going to have to tell them eventually. Now seemed as good a time as any. As Michael stuttered his way through an opening sentence, Maria decided to cut to the chase.

“I’m pregnant.”

Stunned silence followed her announcement and she felt the sudden need to fill it. They hadn’t really thought about what Max and Isabel’s reactions would be. They’d figured on them being upset at first for not being told, but what if they didn’t accept it at all? It wasn’t like when they thought Tess had been pregnant. At least it had been conceived by two hybrid aliens. “We, uh. Just found out a couple of weeks ago. We wanted to tell you, but-“

“No, we didn’t want to tell you,” Michael interrupted when neither Max or Isabel said anything. His anger was growing. When Tess had declared herself pregnant, Max and Isabel had been willing to drag him back to Antar to save the supposed baby. The least he could expect from them now was a bit of support. “We didn’t say anything because we didn’t have to. It was between Maria and I.”

“Between you and Maria?” Isabel finally managed. “Michael, you didn’t think this was important enough to mention? What are you going to do? It’s not like you can take Maria to the doctor to see if they’re okay.”

“I’ve been monitoring both of them,” Michael stated.

“Monitoring them? How?” Isabel inquired. Max was being strangely quiet, but she couldn’t worry about him now.

“I connected with the baby when Maria thought she might be pregnant. So far, she’s growing in sync with what a normal human baby should grow. And aside from morning sickness and tabasco sauce cravings, Maria has been just fine.”

Isabel sniffed in disbelief. “Right. And the milk to lemonade thing was what? Normal?”

Michael rubbed a hand over his face. “Isabel, I’m not going to argue with you. There’s no point. Maria is pregnant. There’s nothing to be done about that. And even if I could, I’m not sure I would.”

“Maria, are you okay?” Max spoke for the first time. Memories came to him of a long ago time when Tess had uttered those life-altering words to him. But those had all been lies to deliver them to Khivar. Maria was really pregnant and he had no idea what that meant for her.

Maria caught the softness in Max’s eyes and she smiled at him in reassurance. “Yeah. The morning sickness has been pretty rough, but according to the books I have, that’s pretty normal. The sweet and sour cravings have been a bit more bizarre though.”

“Have you been able to do anything else besides change the milk?”

Maria thought for a second before shaking her head. “No. This was definitely the first time. Look, I know this whole thing seems impossible right now, but I really think this can work.”

Isabel folded her arms over her chest. “So, what then? You two will run off and get married and buy a little house somewhere with a white picket fence? Am I the only one here that sees the potential for danger? God, Michael, what happens when our enemies find out about this? Do you have any idea how much danger we’ll be in then?”

Michael wrapped an arm around Maria, wanting to protect her from Isabel’s words. He knew she meant well, but if she didn’t shut up soon, he would have to simply kill her. “What Maria and I choose to do or not do is our business. So, back off.”

Max leaned back in his chair. “Let’s hold on a second. Isabel has a good point, Michael. Some of our enemies might see this as leverage against us.”

“See?” Isabel threw him a haughty glare.

“Is, you do need to back off though. Michael is right too. We just need to know the possible dangers so everyone can stay safe and sound. Sniping at each other isn’t going to help a thing.” He waited until they settled down before continuing. “Okay, I think we’re safe for awhile. The baby isn’t heir to the throne or anything, so that takes out a lot of danger right there.”

“Thank god for that too. No offense, but that’s a whole can of troubled worms that I definitely don’t need.”

“Er, right. We still need to be on guard. I don’t think Khivar would try anything, but Nicholas is always a wild card. And since most of what Tess told us is a lie, there’s no reason to believe that your baby shouldn’t be okay.” He paused, meeting each of their eyes. “We’re a family here. It’s easy to stray from that and forget, but we need to pull together now more than ever. It’s going to take all of us to make sure nobody gets hurt.” Maria and Michael nodded and Max watched as Maria curled against Michael’s body. He met eyes with his sister. “Is?”

Isabel sighed, crossing her arms over her chest and looking away from the group. “Whatever. You know you can count on me. I’m just not happy about it.”

If it was the best he could get for now, he would take it. Nothing would happen to Maria or her baby if he could help it. They would have to find a way to make sure of that.

posted on 1-Feb-2002 2:13:36 PM by Cookieman1234
quote:
Rookie originally wrote:
I appreciate all the suspence you are developing and I know you have said that Max and Liz will get together. What I should have said is that I hope that there is still a lot of story to tell after they finally get back together.


Oh, I'm with you now, Rookie. That is why I shouldn't post messages first thing in the morning. Okay, don't worry about this story ending any time soon. I'm already up to 81 chapters and the main characters have only had like, what? Fifteen or twenty of them together.

I know some of you are worried about Liz and Max seeing each other again and falling into each other's arms immediately. Do you think I would simply make it that easy? Ho, no! Rest assured there is plenty more angst to come. And as for Ana? Hmm, I wonder what's going on with her? I guess you'll just have to wait and see, wontcha?

Ignore the writer, she's in a funny mood. I completely blame Rosdeidre for my mood today. She's been trying to get me to spread false rumors all afternoon. *wink* Which is ordinarily a good thing, except she's trying to get me to spread them about the only person who I've confided the plot of this story to. And I hear she's ready to sell my secrets to the highest bidder. *happy*

I'm going to leave before I get anyone else into trouble. I know I'm not making a lick of sense to anyone. But it's Friday and I'm on my thread and I can do all these things.

~Stacey
posted on 2-Feb-2002 6:35:30 PM by Cookieman1234
Eek! I'm really sorry guys. Somehow, part 73 wasn't on either of my threads. I think I posted it on the old board and had it saved on my computer at home. But look, I'm at home and I've now put it up on the board. It's on page 27, for anyone that missed it. I know I picked up a few new people in the last few days and I really apologize for the mix up. I usually post at work and I didn't have it when this board was fixed. And it's like the most important part ever! But it's up now and I'm off to make sure it's on the repost board as well. Thanks for pointing it out to me.

I'm working on this next part tonight, and I may have it up in a few hours, but it's giving me a bit of trouble. For some reason, Kyle won't let me into his head. But I'm going to have a nice dinner and try again in a bit.

~Stacey

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 2-Feb-2002 6:36:38 PM ]
posted on 4-Feb-2002 10:03:20 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a piece of crap computer that occasionally saves my files and alternately eats them, some college debts and a vivid imagination. You know what? Take the damn computer. You can have the debts too, but Mel and Ana and the imagination are all mine!
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Okay, guys, sorry about this weekend. I know I promised you a part, but let me tell you what happened. I sat down Saturday night with every intention to get this kickass part out and as Cookie can back me up on this one, everything I wrote just sucked. Ever have one of those days? I literally sat there for three and a half hours trying to not suck, but alas, it didn't happen. I was so frustrated, I couldn't do anything even mildly productive. So, I had to go back and scrap the whole thing and start from scratch. Which I have now finished. Yea, me.

Sarah - (oh, man, that was your name, right?) I just wanted to thank you for taking the time to let me know what you thought about my little story. And yes, I love hearing from everyone, not just those people that think I'm doing a good job. Not everyone likes the Mi/M story, belive me. And I hear your concerns that the storyline will drown out the other ones. So, I promise to make a conscious effort to make sure that everyone gets their fair share of the spotlight, with the understanding that Max and Liz just may get a bigger slice than the rest. I just love all of my characters and I don't want any of them to be left out. Have faith.

Thanks to the rest of you guys too. I love hearing from you guys in any way you want to talk. But I'm leaving because I see that both Rosdeidre and Kath posted while I was writing. It must be an inspiring morning!

Finding Yourself
Part 82

“Okay, I’ve officially reached the limits of learning. My brain is too full to learn anything else.” Liz closed her textbook with a snap. She had been lying on the floor, supposedly reading for the last hour, but she finally admitted to herself that her mind was too crammed with other things.

“About time,” Kyle piped up from where he was sprawled on the couch. “I think I reached my limit two years ago. I’ve just been coasting since then.”

“That’s a shock.”

“So says the girl flipping through a magazine.”

Mel shrugged, but continued flipping through her magazine. “Hey, some of us aren’t exactly in the running for valedictorian.”

Kyle closed his book as well, more interested in conversation than the history he’d supposedly been reading. “Yeah, I can just see myself giving that speech. Except in reality, it would involve me holding the real valedictorian hostage first.”

“You’re too down on yourself, you know?” Liz asked. “Your grades have gotten a lot better lately.”

Kyle scoffed. “Well, I think that has more to do with you breathing over my shoulder every time you find out about an exam. And when you add Dad’s sudden interest in anything remotely school related, I’d either have to get better grades or snap and kill you all.”

“Is he still acting weird?” Liz rolled over onto her side, propping her head up on her arm.

“He’s giving weird a new definition. I don’t know what’s up though. Every time I ask him about it, he sidesteps the question. He may be Sheriff, but I didn’t grow up a Sheriff’s son without being about to pick up on when someone’s not telling me something.”

“Maybe he’s just happy. I hear not having a teenager underfoot can do that to a grown adult.”

“You stay out of this,” he pointed a finger at Mel. “How could he not miss having me around all the time? I’m a great guy to have around.”

“Personally, I wish you were around more than you are now. I mean, I just never see you anymore,” Mel agreed, flipping another page and scanning it simply because she knew it would annoy Kyle.

“Ha ha. Okay, you made your point. Perhaps there is a vague possibility that he might be enjoying the swinging bachelor life again.” He turned to Liz, a look of horror on his face. “Oh, that’s disturbing. Do you really think he’s a swinging bachelor when I’m not there? That’s too much of an image for me to handle.”

Liz grinned. “I don’t know, he is kind of sexy,” she added just to get a reaction from Kyle.

“Gross, Liz. You know you’re talking about my father, don’t you? The man that puts Cheese Wiz on everything? Cheese Wiz is not sexy.”

“He does have that whole uniform, man of the law thing going in his favor,” Mel agreed, trying vainly to hide the smile that was forming.

“And the hat, don’t forget the hat.” Liz added with an exaggerated dreamy sigh.

“Oh, well obviously the hat. Doesn’t it just make your toes curl?”

“Enough! Please tell me you’re kidding. Otherwise, I just may be sick.”

“Fine, we’re teasing.” Liz conceded. “I’m sure whatever he’s up to will be fine. If it’s important, he’ll tell you. He’s probably just distracted.”

Kyle considered it. “Maybe you’re right. So, are you done with this crazy studying thing too?”

“Completely. Why?”

“I don’t know. I was wondering if you wanted to finally practice some of your new powers.” Kyle suggested nonchalantly.

Liz rose from the floor. “I thought we already talked about that, Kyle.” She headed for the kitchen, needing something to do.

“What? Did I miss a conversation?” Mel closed her magazine, finally having found something better to do.

“Yeah, you missed the one where Liz decided she was going to ignore the fact that she’s an alien.” Kyle watched Liz’s jerky movements in the kitchen. He was trying to get a rise out of her, trying to get her to admit that she was scared about something.

“I’m not ignoring it,” Liz denied, opening the refrigerator door and peering inside for nothing in particular.

“Uh huh. So, when you had me put all of your grandmother’s things away, that was your way of embracing all things alien?”

“You put everything away? Why?” Mel asked.

Liz sighed, closing the refrigerator door and leaning back against it. “That’s the last time I ask you for a favor.” She closed her eyes and pressed her palms against them. “Look, I just don’t want to get into it right now.”

“Sure. You go back to ignoring it until the end of time and Mel and I will just sit back and let you do it. That’s healthy.”

“And so very like us,” Mel added.

“Kyle, you don’t understand-“

“You’ve been blocking your powers.” Kyle shrugged, understanding completely. When Liz turned her head to look at him curiously, he met her gaze. “I lived with Tess, remember? She liked to talk.”

“Okay, so I’ve been blocking my powers,” Liz confessed softly.

“Why?” Mel inquired. Why would Liz ignore her new abilities? She didn’t know much about them except the few things Kyle had told her, but they seemed pretty handy.

“It’s kind of complicated.”

“She’s afraid,” Kyle told Mel. “Our very own Liz is a yellow bellied chicken in disguise.”

“No, I’m not.” Liz pushed away from the fridge, angry. “I’m not afraid. When Max told me who he was, I may have been freaked for a minute or two, but I got over it. And I never thought bad about him for it. Sure, sometimes he pissed me off when he used it as an excuse, but I was never afraid of him. And I’m not afraid now that I know I share the same history. I remember thousands of things they might not ever remember. So, it’s even more real to me, because I remember what it was like to live and die there.” She paced the small kitchen, trying to pinpoint the precise reason for her sudden anger, and if she was willing to admit it to herself, the fear that was underlying it all.

“Okay, so you’re not afraid to be half alien. That’s a good start, and one that I don’t think I would be able to make quite so easily. So, why haven’t you tried to use your powers yet? Do you not know how? Are you afraid you’ll have Michael’s control issues?”

How could she explain to them that there were things she simply knew now? Inherent knowledge that should have been there her whole life and now felt as though it had indeed been. “I’m not afraid I won’t be able to control them the way Michael wasn’t able to. I can feel it now, like fire burning just under my skin and I don’t know how I never noticed it before. It seems obvious now, like there was never a time when I didn’t know how to just think of something and have it happen.”

Kyle and Mel waited for her to struggle to find the words to explain to them what she was feeling.

“There are times when I can feel a flash coming on just from touching something, like when I was with Max. Whenever he touched me, I felt things from him. And I always thought it was our connection, but now I’m not so sure. Because I can just go through the motions of day to day life and I feel that pull.” She risked a glance at them and could see that they didn’t understand. It wasn’t really surprising though. She didn’t understand it herself. So, she would have to explain and hope it didn’t change the way they looked at her.

“Like the glass of orange juice you had this morning, Kyle. You drank it and put it back on the counter. I came into the kitchen after you had left, and I went to wash it out. I wasn’t paying attention and my guard was down. When I picked up that glass, I knew exactly what you had been feeling when you put it down. I could see you pouring it and drinking it down quickly when you remembered that you hadn’t finished your math homework. That’s why you rushed out of the kitchen so quick.” She watched as the shock filled his face and she sighed. “I didn’t mean to do it, but it just happened. So, if I can pull something like that out of simple contact, imagine what I could do if I really tried.”

Realization dawned in Mel’s eyes. “Oh, I see what this is about now. You’re afraid to use your powers because of the whole ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely’ concept.”

“You’re not Tess,” Kyle spoke up, meeting Liz’s eyes. He knew he had just voiced one of her biggest fears.

“I know that.”

“Do you?” Kyle rose from the couch now, walking to meet his friend. A new anger began to build inside of him. This is the reason why Liz had been afraid? If he’d known, he would have beat some sense into her weeks ago. But she had refused to talk about it before. “Liz, what Tess did to all of us was unspeakably wrong. She used her powers to try to convince Max that he wanted her when they first met. She used them to convince me that what I felt for her was brotherly affection when I know damn well it wasn’t. And she used them to kill Alex,” he lowered his voice when her head dropped. “You are not Tess. Using your powers does not make you like her and it never will.”

Mel’s stored the information Kyle had let slip. She was finding new reasons to hate this chick. She had done something to Kyle to convince him that he didn’t have feelings for her? No wonder he was screwed up when it came to women. But she would press for details later. She rose from her armchair now and joined her friends in the kitchen. “I’m with Slick on this one. I know I haven’t known you as long as he has, but you’re not the evil type. You don’t exactly go around torturing kittens in your spare time. So, I hardly think you’ll go over to the dark side of the force if you want to find out more about yourself.”

Liz found herself grinning at Mel’s assessment of the situation. She wrapped her arms around herself. “Maybe you’re right. I have been kind of silly about it.”

“Not silly, crazy and slightly stupid maybe. But not silly.”

“Alright. I get the point. Man, you two are a force to be reckoned with when you get together.”

“Yeah, well you should be happy that we only use our master gifts of persuasion for good and not evil. Or the world could be ours,” Mel quipped. She rubbed her hands together. “So, how about a demonstration of your first power?”

The phone rang in the living room and Kyle sighed. “I’ll get it, but don’t think you’re off the hook, missy.”

Liz nodded, though she had something waiting for her attention in her bedroom she was dying to get to first. She turned to Mel. “Tell you what, give me one second and when I come back, you can come up with a list of parlor tricks you want to see me try out.”

“Okay, but I should warn you that I’m coming up with the perfect practical joke already that involves turning everything in Kyle’s room pink.”

“We’ll work on it,” Liz promised. She could hear Kyle talking to his father and she was grateful the distraction would give her the minute she needed. For some reason she couldn’t explain, she wanted her first test of her new powers to be special. And she had the perfect item to test them on.

She slipped away from her friends and made her way into her bedroom before they had a chance to question her. Behind closed doors, Liz reached under her bed and pulled out a flat box. She took a seat on the floor and opened the lid with a hesitant hand. When she had told Mel and Kyle that she was afraid of what she would become if she used her powers, it had only been half of her fear. She still couldn’t bring herself to voice the other question that had taken shape in her mind. The only way to confirm her thoughts were to use her powers, and she had been too afraid of the answers she might find.

Moving aside the antique breakables and keepsakes of her childhood, carefully packed away after Kyle’s last episode of “living room football”, her fingers brushed the tissue wrapped item she sought. Unwrapping it slowly, the same doubts and concerns plagued her as when she had wrapped it up a week ago. What she had been thinking was simply impossible. Added to that, it didn’t make sense. But then, neither did her life anymore. Surely, she would open it now and discover that she had just been overreacting for the last few weeks. So, why was she so afraid?

Open now, her eyes fell on the familiar rose petals, eternally white and pristine. But more importantly was the fact that it had not aged a day since its sudden appearance. From the second she had discovered the white rose in her bag at the zoo, she had felt the all too familiar tug deep inside of her. At the time, she had dismissed it just as she had done every other time she made contact with an object. But as the days had passed, she had been drawn more and more to the flower. In fact, she had forced herself to put it away, refusing to acknowledge or question why the flower had not wilted. But now the desire to know where it had come from was too strong to resist. She simply had to know, even though she feared that her heart already knew the answer. The tug reached out to her very soul and beckoned her in a way that only one other source of energy ever had.

Closing her eyes, she gave in to the pull and let her fingers graze the petals. Instantly, she was sucked into a vortex of emotions too conflicting to stand. She felt shock, a world of it that seeped into his very bones at the sight of her, and the fear that she was an illusion, a dream conjured up from the very depths of his imagination. Then desire was torn in two. He wanted to run to her, touch her in a way he had taken for granted every time he had been allowed the pleasure. But fear stopped him, fear that she would look upon him with cold eyes. Then a deep responsibility had consumed him, coupled with the love for a child that depended on him. He had almost gone to her then, but had stopped, deciding to leave his final gift to her with an officer. It had been irresistible and harmless he thought when he decided to leave the flower. It was her favorite after all, maybe it would bring a smile to her face. Then he was filled with sadness that he wouldn’t be there to see it. He had forced himself to leave, to turn his back on her, and she felt the pain slash through him anew with each footstep.

“Liz!”

Liz opened her eyes, breaking the connection she had formed with the flower. When she saw Kyle looking at her with a funny look, she knew she was going to have to explain it to him. But not right now. The emotions were too fresh in her mind, squeezing her heart like a vise.

“Sorry, I’m okay.”

“Sure you are. What’s up with the flower? Were you just-“

“Yeah. I was,” she finished for him. With careful movements borne of deep thought, Liz rewrapped the flower and safely set it back in the box that had housed it. Emotions still coursed through her and she wondered how long it would be before they faded to the back of her mind. There was no doubt now where the flower had come from. She had known the same way she always did whenever he was involved.

“What did you dad want?”

Letting the strange behavior go for now, Kyle twisted his face. “You remember how we were talking about Dad acting strange? Well, I know why now.”

Liz rose from the floor. “What’s going on?”

“He was just calling from Vegas to let me know he eloped with Amy.”

Liz’s face dropped in surprise, momentarily forgetting the flower and Max. “What? You’re kidding!”

“Oh, believe me, I’m not. Apparently, he proposed to her last week and she accepted. They were going to plan this little get together, but at the last minute, they just up and drove to Vegas.”

“I bet he’s the happiest man alive,” Liz predicted, her own grin forming. She remembered watching them at the Crashdown when they hadn’t thought anyone knew they were dating. It had been kind of cute to watch.

“I could hear the grin over the phone. Well, that and the slot machines. I can’t believe it. Do you know what this means?”

“I’m sure you’ll tell me.”

“It means Maria Deluca is my sister now.”

“Family reunions just became a hundred times more interesting.” Her thoughts flashed to Maria. She was probably taking the news about the same as Kyle. Despite the fact that the couple had been dating for almost two years now, they probably hadn’t expected anything so seemingly sudden. And she made a mental note to call her friend. She would probably need to vent over the whole thing. So far, she had avoided calling Maria since Christmas, not wanting to lie to her friend about everything she had discovered, and omission of the truth was a lie in her book. But she would have to live with her secret for awhile still. She wasn’t ready to tell Max who she was just yet.

“I think I need to lie down for awhile.” Kyle wandered out of Liz’s room in the same daze he had entered in.

Alone, Liz forced herself not to think about the emotions she had felt from that flower. But it was hard to shake the overwhelming sense of responsibility she had felt through him for the child he had held in his arms so lovingly. It looked as though Max had found what he had been looking for. Finally, she had found the proof she had needed to know that her decision to leave had been the right one. Max had found his son and he loved him with everything he had. She’d always known he would make a good father, but to be confronted by the emotions was something she hadn’t counted on. Pride mixed with the sorrow that she would never be the first to give him that.

And when faced with the choice of staying and facing Liz or leaving with his son, he had left. Despite the overpowering ocean of love she had still felt from him when he saw her, despite the fact that she knew he had poured every ounce of that love into the eternally perfect flower for her, he had done the responsible thing and had turned his back on her. And with that knowledge came a new hope. Maybe they could find a way to exist in the same space after all. Maybe being in Roswell didn’t mean that they automatically had to be together. Max had been able to put his son first, even though it had cost him emotionally. He was acting like the leader and the father she’d always known he could be. Was it possible that she could go home?






[ edited 1 time(s), last at 4-Feb-2002 10:59:59 AM ]
posted on 5-Feb-2002 11:56:53 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a piece of crap computer that occasionally saves my files and alternately eats them, some college debts and a vivid imagination. You know what? Take the damn computer. You can have the debts too, but Mel and Ana and the imagination are all mine!
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

This part is a little choppy, I'm afraid. I'm trying something new here, so work with me. Enjoy!

Finding Yourself
Part 83

“I’m home,” Maria announced as she walked through the door. She’d had the day to beat all days. Between work and school, she’d barely made it. Snippy customers and hormonal pregnancies did not mix well. And then the Jenkins family had decided to eat out and had chosen to sit in her section. Typical. Their ten year old son was the town menace. She’d babysat the monster once, and only once. And by the end of the meal, he’d managed to “spill” his soda twice and “accidentally” knocked his bowl of chili onto her. And if that hadn’t been enough, on the way home, she’d had a flat tire. All she wanted to do now was curl up and rant to her mother. She was one of the few that actually listened.

“Is anybody home?”

“In here, dear.”

Maria followed her mothers voice into the living room and immediately regretted doing so. Her mother was sprawled on Jim’s chest while both of them watched television. Although, she had a sneaking suspicion they hadn’t exactly been watching television when she’d walked in. Those cheeks were a bit too flushed, their smiles a bit too bright.

“Hi,” she managed skeptically. Oh god, were they going to try to bond again? Her mother had been threatening to start “family nights”, and she had no idea what sort of horrors that would entail.

“Rough day, sweetie?”

Maria considered it a second. She loved Jim, she really did, but it was just strange to come home and find her mother making out on the couch with her new husband. The only plus side to their sudden elopement had been the few days of freedom it had given her. She and Michael had taken advantage of the time alone and it had been just what she needed. Unfortunately, he was out with Max tonight. Maybe she would sneak a bowl of tabasco covered ice cream into her room and call it a night. “No rougher than usual.”

“Why don’t you join us,” Jim offered. He started to move so that they could squeeze her onto the couch.

“No, that’s okay. I was going to take a shower and try to make my way through homework. You guys stay where you are.” She headed for her bedroom and closed the door behind her. She’d been half-afraid they would have returned to their make-out session by the time she’d turned around. Tossing her books on the floor, she collapsed on the bed. It looked as though she wasn’t getting any sympathy from her mother. Michael and Max were off doing god only knew what. Isabel? She quickly dismissed the idea of calling her. She was still a bit miffed about not being told about the baby, or whatever it was Isabel was in a snit about. She would snap out of it eventually. Until then, it looked as if she was alone.

The smell of dried chili was the only thing that forced Maria from her bed. She peeled off her clothes and headed for the small shower. While she waited for the bathtub to fill, she tied her long hair up. There was no way she had the patience to deal with wet hair tonight. She had no sooner slipped into the warm water than she heard a knock on the bathroom door.

Biting back a groan, she slid deeper into the bathtub. “Come in.” Only her mother would choose the most inopportune time possible to need something.

“Maria, I have-oh, god!” Jim had started into the bathroom and had quickly turned his head when he saw that Maria was in the bathtub. “I…uh…”

Amused by the interruption and the blush on Jim’s face, she decided to take pity on him. “Did you need something?”

“Phone,” he managed to squeak out, thrusting it in her general direction.

Maria took it from him and watched as he hurried away as quickly as he could. With a grin, Maria turned to the phone. “Hello?”

“Maria?”

“Liz?” Any traces of her earlier foul temper melted away when she heard her friend’s voice. “Thank god. You wouldn’t believe the day I’ve had. It’s crazy in this house.” She cradled the phone to her ear, clutching it with one soapy hand like a lifeline.

“I heard. Vegas, huh?”

“Don’t even get me started. I suppose Jim called Kyle. At least you haven’t been subjected to the longest slide show known to man. Do you know how many pictures they took? And I didn’t even know they still worked with technology that old.”

“Oh yeah. It’s a simple process if you have the right tools.” Liz paused. “Sorry, shop talk. I’ve been learning a lot about photography lately.”

“So I heard.”

“Tell me more. I figured you’d need to vent.”

“Do I ever?” Maria rolled her eyes. “They were actually married by Elvis, Liz. Elvis.”

“Which one?”

“Does it really matter? I don’t think any version of him could make the story better.”

“Well, young Elvis is better than the older Elvis.”

“True, but not much better. Want to hear the best part? Jim is moving in here.”

“Well, I hear married people like to live together sometimes.”

“You know, you’ve become sarcastic, chica. I blame Kyle for that.” But it was nice to hear the laughter in Liz’s voice again.

Liz laughed. “Maybe. Kyle told me his dad was packing some stuff up. He wants Kyle to come pack up his own stuff. But he said it wasn’t a rush. He hasn’t even put his house on the market yet.”

“Oh, so you haven’t heard the latest then. Allow me to be the bearer of news. You’ll love the irony of this. Your parents are going to rent it from him.”

My parents?”

“The one and only. They came by yesterday and talked to Jim. So, Kyle may have to make the trip pretty soon. I guess you haven’t talked to your parents since then?”

“No, not since Christmas,” Liz confessed.

Maria caught the tone in Liz’s voice. You didn’t spend your whole life with someone and not know when something was wrong. “What’s up? And don’t bother saying nothing.”

Liz sighed. “Just stuff. There’s just been a lot going on.”

“Yeah, I know what you mean.” One hand made its way to her stomach. “Max stuff? And if you don’t want to answer, you don’t have to.”

“Isn’t it always? Listen to me, I sound depressing. I swear my life isn’t that bad. It’s just been a rough couple of weeks.”

“Wanna trade secrets?”

Liz chuckled. “You’re holding back on me too?”

“A girl’s got to keep life interesting,” Maria quipped. She’d been toying with the idea of telling Liz about the baby, but hadn’t been able to make up her mind. Now, it looked as though she’d been given a sign.

“Well, spill. I want to hear all about it. As long as it’s not…you know…”

“Yeah, I got it.” Maria could hear the uncertainty in Liz’s voice and she knew what Liz was asking. She didn’t want to be told anything that would suck her back to Roswell. Maria took a deep breath. How could she tell her now? Liz was too responsible, too good of a friend not to come back to Roswell if she knew the truth. Before she had to struggle to find a way off the hook, Maria heard scuffling sounds over the phone.

“What the-Kyle! Give me the phone! If you want to talk to her, call her on your own time.”

Maria smiled when she heard Kyle’s short, biting answer to Liz. It was muffled, but she got the idea. Then his voice traveled the lines.

“Hey, blondie. Tell me they’re not as bad as I think they are.”

“Worse,” Maria admitted. “I think they were making out on the couch when I got home.”

“Ouch. I can’t say I’m sorry to miss those days. But I think I walked in on them actually having sex once. There were sounds coming from the kitchen that no kitchen should know.”

“Did Jim tell you anything about the ceremony?”

“He said he was sending pictures, but I haven’t seen them yet.”

“Mom walked down the aisle in a red cocktail dress to the romantic stylings of ‘Viva Las Vegas’.”

Kyle groaned. “Have they lost their minds or what? They were the adults last time I checked. Shouldn’t they be a tad more responsible? Hold on a minute, Maria. Cut it out, Liz. Can’t you see I’m on the phone? What were you saying, Maria?”

Maria grinned, just imagining Liz and Kyle living together. It had to be the most entertaining thing ever. “I think we were talking about how they’ve lost their minds.”

“Right. It’s like I was telling Mel the other day-Damn it, Liz! What did you do that for?”

“What’s she doing?” Maria asked, one hand holding the phone, the other soaping up her leg.

“She pinched me. Hard.” Kyle clarified. “I don’t think most people realize how violent she is.”

“Yeah, Liz is a regular bouncer.” Maria could feel her mood improving dramatically. It was amazing what a simple phone call could do to lift her spirits. She hadn’t felt this carefree in a long time.

There were more scuffling sounds and then Liz’s soft voice could be heard. “Sorry about that. Kyle is super annoying today, as opposed to his plain old regularly annoying self.”

“How did you get rid of him so quick? It used to take me far longer.”

“Practice, and I gave Mel the keys to Kyle’s car. It always gets him moving pretty quick.”

“Mel…I remember you telling me about her. She’s doing good then?” Maria forced the words out. She would not be jealous. She had given herself a pep talk after Christmas about that.

“She’s as good as she ever is. So, are we done with the small talk? What’s on your mind? You sounded sad when I called.”

It was Maria’s turn to sigh. It looked as though it was decision time. To tell or not to tell? “Liz, the thing is…yeah, there’s a lot of Czech stuff going on.”

“Oh,” came Liz’s soft reply.

“I know you don’t want to hear about any of it, so I don’t want to say anything.”

There was a long pause before Liz answered. “But you need a friend, don’t you?”

“Am I that obviously pathetic sounding? Liz, I totally get why you left. I know that all this was too much. I’m just sorry I kept you here as long as I did.”

“You didn’t keep me in Roswell, Maria.” There was genuine surprise in Liz’s voice.

“Yes I did. I remember you coming to me and telling me that you wanted to leave and I begged you not to go. I didn’t help you when you needed me. And I’m sorry for that. And that’s why I wasn’t going to tell you anything that was going on now. It didn’t seem right.”

“Maria, if there’s something you need to tell me, I’m here for you. I know things have been kind of weird between us, but you’re still my oldest and best friend.”

Maria paused, weighing her options. “There is this thing that popped up between Michael and I-”

“Oh, no! You two aren’t fighting again, are you? I thought you said things were better?”

“Oh, we’re doing both. We still fight, but things are better. We haven’t broken up or anything like that. Kind of the opposite, actually.” Maria paused, steeling her courage to confess her biggest secret to her friend. “Liz, the thing is…I’m pregnant.”

“You’re what?! Are you serious? Maria-“

“Yeah, I know.” Maria had been expecting the shock. “Believe me, I know. It’s not exactly like this was planned, you know?”

“Are you okay? Really? God, this is unbelievable.”

“Yes, I’m fine. Well, other than some screwy pregnancy stuff I’m fine.”

“What kind of screwy pregnancy stuff?” Liz asked wearily.

“The usual, I’m tired all the time, I crave tabasco sauce on everything and if you can believe it, my temper’s been a little shorter than usual.”

“But you’re okay? How far along are you?”

Maria knew she was thinking of Tess and the fake pregnancy. Only, Liz didn’t know about that. Was it her place to tell her? Probably not. It had to come from Max. “I swear I’m fine. No otherworldly problems whatsoever. And I’m right at three months. So, Michael and I are expecting a September baby.”

“Michael…how is he taking the whole thing?”

“Liz, that’s the best part. You wouldn’t believe how amazing he’s been. Okay, he’s been frustrating and annoying as well, but on the whole, he’s been great.”

“What does this mean for you two?”

“Honestly, we haven’t talked about it yet. We just told Max and Isabel yesterday, so it’s still kind of new.”

“Wow. A baby.” Liz’s voice was filled with awe now. “How do you feel about all this?”

“I’m still in shock. It hasn’t really kicked in yet, you know? For the longest time, we were worried about how safe it would be and if it would still be a normal nine months of pregnancy. I just haven’t had time to sit and think yet.”

“Do you need me to come to Roswell?”

There it was, the question she had been waiting for. Maria closed her eyes. “Liz, I don’t want you to take this the wrong way, but I don’t want to see your face around here.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“No really. I am not going to be the reason you come back here before you’re ready. I just wanted to tell you because I love you and I want you to be my little girls’ godmother. But we don’t need you for awhile yet, so just hang on to the offer.”

“Little girl? You already know that?” Liz squealed.

“Call it more of a feeling.”

“I still can’t believe it. Remember when we were little and we used to play with all those dolls my mom bought us?”

“She just wanted us out of the restaurant. I swear, you play hide and seek in a crowded restaurant one time and you pay for it the rest of your life.”

“You’re going to be a mom. This is so great.”

“You really think so?” It was unbelievably wonderful to hear someone say it. Michael was biased, Isabel was still upset, and Max had just shifted into the role of protector again.

Before Liz could answer, Maria could hear Kyle’s voice clear through the phone lines.

“She’s what?!”

Maria waited while Kyle and Liz struggled over possession of the phone again. This was just what she needed. Now she was going to have to find a way to keep this news from Jim. Because the absolute last thing she was ready to do was let her mother know yet. That trouble would come later. For now, it looked as though she had an overprotective brother to deal with. And the feeling was kind of nice.


posted on 5-Feb-2002 1:25:18 PM by Cookieman1234
Quick note for Anne: No, sweetie, you stick to being the Board Czar. I'll be the False Prophet. Although it really wasn't that funny of a joke, nobody picked up on it. *sigh* Why do all of my evil schemes fall flat?

For everyone that didn't ever see my attempt to screw with your minds, I posted this little note on another thread that said how sad it was going to be when I killed Liz off in a few chapters. But, alas, no one saw my evil note and it was only funny to a few people. But to clarify: I am not going to kill off Liz. Did everyone get that? I don't want to get hate mail now. *happy*

~Stacey
posted on 6-Feb-2002 8:59:36 AM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a piece of crap computer that occasionally saves my files and alternately eats them, some college debts and a vivid imagination. You know what? Take the damn computer. You can have the debts too, but Mel and Ana and the imagination are all mine!
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Ack! Okay, I was sitting here writing this part while I was watching last night's ep and I was positively yelling at my television. Hello? FY anyone? That ep is my story! All the show needs is Kyle pretending to be a girl and going to live at the boarding school and we have a party. But I can't even begin to tell you guys how much I loved last night's ep. Kyle actually had lines! How exciting! And Max cried such sad tears. Yeah, I know some of you still aren't on the Max bandwagon, but bear with me while I gush for a minute. I still love Max. And I adore Kyle and when he gets to do something, I'm a happy camper. But anywho, here is your next part. I know you'll like it. I was in a good mood when I wrote it. Enjoy!

Finding Yourself
Part 84

Liz sat on the swing, digging the toes of her tennis shoes into the white sand. Her camera lay on her lab as she grinned at the group of children playing Duck Duck Goose. Their screams turned into peals of laughter and they carried through the park.

She’d been there all afternoon and had photographed everything from Kyle’s little league kids to the ducks in the nearby pond. There was a serenity in the air that made her want to sit back and just enjoy the little things around her.

Ever since her conversation with Maria a few weeks ago, Liz had been seeing things differently. The events of the last few months had pulled emotions from her that she hadn’t thought possible. Yet, she was calmer now that she’d ever recalled being in her life. Of course, the beginnings of a decision were being made.

Kyle spotted Liz on the swings and headed her way. What was it about her that he couldn’t put his finger on? She seemed different in some undefinable way.

“I’ve been looking all over for you.”

Liz turned and flashed him a brilliant smile. “You found me.”

Kyle took the swing beside her and wrapped his fingers around the chains. “I should have known I’d find you over here. Did you catch the end of the game? I lost track of you.”

“Yep. Another victory courtesy of Mr. Kyle Valenti. Those kids adore you.”

“With good reason. I’m adorable.” He sighed dramatically. “You just don’t see it because you’re immune to my charms.”

“I hate to break it to you, but I never thought you were charming.”

“What, are you taking insult classes from Mel these days?”

“Where is she, by the way? I haven’t seen her for hours.”

“Last I saw, she was trying to teach some of the kids how to make the perfect spitball.”

“Charming.”

“Hey, some girls have it and some don’t. Hey, while I have you here, let me ask you a question.”

“Shoot.”

“You wouldn’t happen to have any idea why all of my socks and boxer shorts are pink, do you?”

Liz barely suppressed the giggle. Clearing her throat, she tried to force her lips not to curve. It had taken her and Mel almost an hour to round up all of his white items so that Liz could turn them fuschia pink. Apparently, he hadn’t found his t-shirts yet. “No, I have no idea. Maybe you should sort your laundry more carefully?”

“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind. So, did you get any of the food yet? I hear coach grills a mean burger.”

“Nay, I’ll get something in a bit. Besides, I’m not really hungry.”

“Not hungry or you forgot to bring tabasco sauce?”

Liz grinned sheepishly. “So, I’m still adjusting.”

Kyle dug into his back pocket and produced a miniture bottle. “Well, lucky for you I come prepared.” He tossed it at her and she caught it easily.

“My here.” She batted her eyelashes at him playfully.

Silence settled comfortably around them as they watched the kids play. Liz had been thinking about Maria and what things would be like for her now. “Kyle, can I talk to you? Seriously?”

“Of course. But to clarify, by seriously you mean no tasteful belching of the alphabet?”

“Yes.”

“Sure.”

Liz settled her gaze out towards the horizon. “Do you ever think about going home?”

“Yeah, sometimes,” he confessed. “There were little things I didn’t think I’d miss, like Dad snoring at two in the morning or the wacky tourists that roam the place looking for the definitive UFO picture.” He shrugged, turning his gaze out to the same point on the horizon as Liz. “Little things. Why?”

“I got an acceptance letter in the mail a few days ago.”

Kyle snorted. “So is that the seventy fourth or seventy fifth? Who’s left? I thought you’d already been accepted everywhere.”

“ENMU.”

“Oh.” And suddenly Kyle understood the mood swings he’d seen in her.

“I applied there so long ago, before…everything.”

“So…what are you going to do?”

“That’s the question, isn’t it? Do I go home where my family and friends are waiting? Or do I start over again? Roswell is filled with emotions. I know if I go back, it’ll be the hardest thing I’ll ever have to do. But if I leave again, it feels more like running away than when I left the first time.”

Kyle remained silent, knowing that this was her decision to make. And no matter what he thought, he would let her make it. “Are you ready to go back? To see Max again?”

“Do you mean will I crumble at his feet, fall into his arms as if nothing were wrong or standing between us? I don’t think so. I still don’t know that us being together is for the best. But that doesn’t mean I don’t ever want to be a part of his life. He found his son,” she confessed.

“How do you know?” Kyle asked with genuine shock.

Liz turned to meet his eyes, but she said nothing. Instead, she merely tilted her head towards him, amusement lighting her eyes as if it were the most obvious question in the world.

“Oh, right. So, is that a pro or con for going back?”

She returned her gaze to the horizon. She didn’t know how to answer that yet. “And then there’s Maria. I miss her and we both know this isn’t going to be easy on her, on any of them.”

“Forget everyone else for a minute. Just pretend for a second that no one in the world needs you. What do you want? Don’t hesitate, don’t think. Liz, what do you want to do?”

“Home,” she answered without hesitation, pulling the single word from her subconscious. Surprised that the answer came so easily, she turned back to Kyle. “I want to go home.”

Kyle grinned at her. “It sounds like we have a plan then.”

Realization dawned fast and Liz gripped Kyle’s arm. Would she lose two of her friends if she did this? “Wait, what about you and Mel?”

“You think I’m going to miss the looks on their faces when you tell them who you are? Besides, ENMU is one of the few colleges that actually wants me. But are you sure you don’t want to take one of those more prestigious offers? I saw the Harvard envelope.”

“I thought I wanted Harvard my whole life. It seemed fresh and new and this unattainably exotic place. Now? I just want to go home. I’ve seen what I needed to see. What do you think Mel will do?”

“Mel? Are you kidding me? She’s jazzed about this alien thing. Plus, I think she’s succumbing to my charms. I wear them all down eventually,” he quipped with a satisfied smirk even as his heart bled just a bit just thinking about the opportunities lost.

“You’re a good friend, Kyle. I don’t know what I would have done this last year without you.”

“The charm’s working on you too I see. Maybe we should keep our distance. I’d hate for you to throw yourself at me next. Once the urges start, they’re unstoppable.”

She watched him from under her lashes for a second. He was embarrassed. And she found it cute. Without thinking, she launched herself out of her swing and into Kyle’s arms.

“Liz, please.” Kyle tried to untangle her arms from his neck.

“Am I embarrassing you?”

“No, but there are some hot chicks around here. I’d hate for them to think I wasn’t available. Did you mess up my hair?”

Liz loosened her grip on his neck and ruffled his hair with a laugh. “I’m going to see if I can find Mel.” She took a few steps away, a spring lighting her step that felt unfamiliar from misuse.

“Liz?”

She stopped, turned back to Kyle. “Yeah?”

“I don’t know what I would have done without you either.”

*~*~

Liz reached another fork in the hiking trail and she huffed in frustration. This was the third such fork she’d come to and there was simply no pretending anymore. She was lost. After her conversation with Kyle, she’d gone in search of Mel. Someone had pointed her in the direction of the nature trails and an hour later, here she was. But the worst of it was that she’d seen the dark storm clouds rolling in earlier. The last thing she needed was to get caught in the rain in the woods.

“Right or left? Come on, Parker. What would Alex do in this situation?” She laughed to herself as she realized that he would more than likely try to imitate some sort of McGuyver trick that would get them in even more trouble. “I don’t even have a coin to flip. And now I’m talking to myself. Great.”

The left trail ran further into the woods and the right seemed to head towards the stream. On a whim, she headed right. At least she wouldn’t die of dehydration.

She carefully picked her way over rocks, following the sounds of flowing water. It grew colder as she approached the water and she wrapped her arms around herself to keep warm. How long would it be before Kyle and Mel knew she was missing? She’s like to think they knew already. But god help her if they got involved in some sort of competition. It could be days.

Scurrying her way on top of a large rock, Liz scanned the area. “Trees, trees and more trees. I didn’t even know Phoenix had this many trees!”

The soft crunching of gravel from behind her had her spinning around swiftly, thoughts of bears and mountain lions filling her head. But instead of claws and teeth, she found herself looking into the saddest pair of wide eyes she’d ever seen. A small girl was sitting on a rock, her legs pulled up to her chin. Dark brown hair had been pulled back by a clip, but long tendrils had escaped, falling in her face. She couldn’t have been more than five or six and she looked cold and terrified.

Liz scanned the area again, looking for any sign of life. Finding none, she turned back to the girl, trying to look welcoming.

“Hi. My name is Liz. Are you all alone?” There was something about this small child that seemed familiar, though she couldn’t place why. She’d never seen her before in her life, but it was as if she already knew her.

The girl said nothing, just continued to stare.

“Did you get lost? This place is pretty big.” Liz slid from the rock to the ground slowly. “I’ll bet your parents are worried sick about you. Do you have a name?”

“I’m not supposed to talk to strangers.”

Liz smiled. “That’s excellent advice. Your mommy and daddy taught you well. Are you okay? You’re not hurt anywhere?” When the girl didn’t answer, Liz stopped moving. “I’ll tell you what. I won’t come any closer and we’ll talk from here. Okay?”

The girl nodded, wrapping her small arms around her legs. She shivered again, but said nothing more.

“My name is Liz. I won’t hurt you, but you’re smart not to just believe me.”

The child examined her, sizing up how to react to this strange girl. Finding nothing menacing, she answered finally. “Ana.”

“Ana. That’s a pretty name. Are you hurt anywhere, Ana?”

Ana shook her head no.

“Okay, that’s a good start.”

“Are you lost too?” Ana asked, finding her voice again.

“I’m afraid so. I was looking for a friend, but it looks like I found you instead. How long have you been here?”

Ana shrugged.

“Well, I’m sure your parents are already looking for you. So, if you don’t mind, I may just stick with you.”

“I don’t have any.”

“Any what?”

“Parents.”

“Oh.” It broke Liz’s heart to see the sorrow etched on Ana’s small face. She knew what it was like to feel utterly alone in the world, but a child so small shouldn’t. “Well, someone had to bring you.”

“Connie brought me.”

“Well then, I’m sure she’s looking for you.” Liz watched as the wind picked up and pulled more hair from Ana’s clip. “Here, if you’ll let me, I can put your hair back up for you.”

Biting her lip in thought, Ana nodded.

“Great.” Liz closed the rest of the distance between the two of them and moved to sit behind Ana on the rock. She released the long, tangled hair from it’s clip and threaded her fingers through it in an attempt to comb it out. Above them, the sky lit with lightning and Ana instinctively curled closer to Liz. Automatically, Liz wrapped her arms around Ana’s small frame, shocked to find how thin the little girl was. She was six? She was barely anything but skin and bone. When Ana pressed her head into Liz’s chest, Liz found herself soothing the child’s fears.

“It’s okay, sweetie. It’s just a storm. It’s nothing to be afraid of.” But Liz checked her watch anyway. Nightfall was rapidly approaching and with it would come the cold. Cold she could handle. But rain on top of it? She had to get them to some kind of shelter before Ana caught pneumonia. Even though everything in her told her to stay put so they could be found, she knew the storm was going to hit before they were rescued. “Ana, we’re going to have to find a place to stay warm and dry, okay?”

Ana nodded, shrinking again when a clap of thunder shook the ground beneath their feet.

Liz unzipped her jacket and shrugged it off, thankful she’d had the foresight to at least wear a warm coat before she’d left the apartment that morning. She pushed Ana into it and zipped it up quickly. At least the down lining would keep the little girl warm and a bit dryer if it started raining before they found shelter. Besides, it wasn’t as if she were going to catch a cold now. It was just another plus side to being an alien.

“Liz?”

“Yeah, sweetie?”

“I don’t know how far I can walk.”

“Why? I thought you said you were okay? Did you hurt something?”

Ana shook her head. “No. But it’s hard to walk for a long time. It hurts here.” She moved one of the long jacket arms up to her chest.

Liz met Ana’s wide eyes and shook her head. She didn’t quite understand, but it appeared that Ana was sick. “Okay. Then we’ll see how far you can walk and when it starts to hurt, you let me know and I’ll carry you. But we need to go now.”

Together, they rose to their feet and returned to the path. “I think I saw a cave or something a little bit back this way. Let’s go see what we can find.”

Hand in hand, they set off on the path.

“So, tell me what you were doing out here all by yourself.” Liz asked, trying to distract Ana from the fear she could feel coming from her.

“I wanted to see the water. I’ve never seen it before and Connie was too busy with Greg and Mark to take me.”

She’d never seen the water before? Liz thought it was odd, but she didn’t push. “Well, it wasn’t very smart to go off on your own. What if I hadn’t come along?”

Ana fell silent again and they continued walking. After a minute, the first of the drops began to fall from the sky. Liz was pretty sure she could make out the cave from where they were. Making a snap decision, she picked up Ana and took off running. They made it inside a second before the sky opened up and began dumping buckets of rain on them.

Liz set Ana down and slid down the length of the cave wall. She glanced around to make sure no other creatures had claimed the cave first and was satisfied to find that it looked empty. Ana immediately curled up in Liz’s lap, pressing her face in Liz’s shoulder as the storm waged around them.

“Shh, it’s okay. We’ll be perfectly safe in here for a little while and before you know it, Connie and my friends will come looking for us.”

“I’m hungry.”

“I think I have a couple of candy bars in my pocket.” Liz began digging around in her jacket pocket and produced a chocolate bar. “Here you go.”

“Wanna share?” Ana asked, offering her a bite.

“Thank you for the offer, but you eat up. I’ll be fine.” She thought longingly of the food she had turned down earlier and she kicked herself now. She had a few more candy bars left, courtesy of Kyle’s sweet tooth, so at least Ana would be okay for awhile. “Are you warm?”

Ana nodded her head as she continued to munch happily on the chocolate. Liz ran her hands down the length of Ana’s hair, watching the rain fall heavily. Soon, Ana’s weight began to lean more heavily against her and her eyelids began to droop. “You sleep, and when you wake up someone will be here to take us back.”

“Kay,” she murmured sleepily.

Time passed slowly as the rain fell in sheets. The lightning had stopped at least, so she guessed the worst of the storm was over. An hour passed and the rain had almost lulled Liz to sleep when she heard the first sounds of life outside the cave. Her eyes flew open and she listened more carefully. It was definitely a voice. She roused Ana from her nap.

“Ana, wake up. I think someone is outside looking for us.”

Sitting up groggily, Ana wiped at the sleep in her eyes and yawned. “We’re saved?”

Liz grinned. “It looks that way. Can you stand up for a second? I’m going to see if I can let them know where we are.”

With Ana safely standing against one of the walls, Liz crept to the edge of the cave and peered out. The rain wasn’t showing any signs of letting up, so she would have to go out and find their rescuers. “Ana, I need you to stay here for one minute, okay?”

“Where are you going?” Ana rushed forward to grip Liz’s arm. “Don’t go.”

Liz crouched down to Ana’s level. “I’m just going outside for a second to tell them where we are. I’ll be right back. I promise.”

Reluctantly, Ana nodded. “You’ll come back?”

“Cross my heart and hope to die. You just stay warm and dry, okay? I’ll be right back.”

With one last reassuring smile for Ana, Liz rushed out into the storm. Instantly, she was drenched, but she kept going. She’d heard a voice off to the right, so she followed it, always careful not to lose sight of the cave. The cold wind whipped around her, chilling her to the bone but she pressed on. After what felt like forever, she saw the familiar colors of a jacket. She rushed forward, deliriously happy when she recognized Kyle.

He saw her at the same time, rushing towards her.

“Liz! Are you alright?” Kyle had to shout over the wind and rain.

“I’m fine,” she shouted back.

“We have a dozen people out here looking for you and a sick little girl. You’re not hurt? Where’s your jacket?”

“I found the little girl. I left her in a cave. Come on!” She tugged on him and together they ran in the direction she’d come from.

Liz could see Ana’s face as they returned to the cave, peering out from the darkness of the opening. She moved back as she saw them running towards her. Safe inside, Kyle shook off the water clinging to his jacket and pulled Liz into a hug.

“You okay? You scared us. We’ve been looking forever.”

“Yeah, sorry about that. I was trying to find Mel and I got lost. But I made a new friend. Ana, this is my very good friend, Kyle. Kyle, this is Ana.”

Kyle turned to the small child. She wasn’t staring up at him with frightened eyes, but curious ones. “Hi, Ana.”

“Hi.”

Kyle turned back to Liz. “But you’re both okay?”

“We’re fine. We met up by the creek before it started raining. And we made it in here just in time too.”

“Liz, you’re freezing. Here, take my jacket.” He began shrugging it off, but she stopped him.

“No, I’m fine. You’ll need it more than I will.” She refused his offer.

“Quit being stubborn. The last thing I need is for you to catch pneumonia and die.”

“Uh, Kyle? I hardly think that’s going to happen. Not with Czech blood in me.”

“Oh, right. Well, humor me anyway.”

“How about we share then?”

“Let me check in first and let them know you’re safe.” He pulled a small walkie-talkie off his belt and clicked the button. “This is Kyle Valenti. I’ve found both of them safe and sound.”

Liz listened with half an ear as Kyle spoke to the rest of the searchers. She turned a smile to Ana. “See? I told you we would be just fine.”

“They told us to stay put until the rain stops and they’ll come get us.” He ran his hands through his dripping wet hair. “So, anybody got anything to eat?”

Liz rolled her eyes. “I think we can offer you something.”

“We have candy,” Ana announced, having completely bounced back from being alone in the woods.

“Now you’re talking.” Kyle sat on the ground next to the two of them and scooted closer to Liz. He pulled one arm out of his jacket and wrapped Liz partially in it.

As Ana divided the candy in her pockets, Kyle turned to Liz. “How did you get lost?”

“Hey, those paths twist and turn and branch off a lot,” she defended.

“Uh, you do know that they’re color coded, don’t you?”

“Color coded?”

“Yeah. All you have to do is follow the colors for the different paths.”

“I didn’t see any markings.”

“They’re on the tree trunks.”

“Oh.”

Kyle chuckled at her. “You’d think you grew up in a big city without any trees in sight.”

“I’ll have you know that my camping buddies were Maria and Alex,” she defended herself, snuggling closer to his warmth. She might not get sick, but she never had like the cold. “Maria’s idea of roughing it is one bathroom and Alex thought he was Mr. Wilderness and used to get us lost on purpose just to see if he could find his way back.”

“Hmm, I can see now why you might have trouble in the woods. But from now on, whenever you leave my sight, you’re wearing a bell.”






posted on 7-Feb-2002 1:13:29 PM by Cookieman1234
Finding Yourself
Author: Cookieman aka Stacey
Email: [email] Cookieman123⊕go.com
Category: M/L , but strong friendship themes with others L/K
Rating: PG 13 to R for language mostly
Disclaimer: I own nothing but a piece of crap computer that occasionally saves my files and alternately eats them, some college debts and a vivid imagination. You know what? Take the damn computer. You can have the debts too, but Mel and Ana and the imagination are all mine!
Author's Note: This takes place after "Departure". I know, I know, another Departure fic, right? Well, give me a try. The first few parts are trying to wrap up the mess left to us, so it might take me a few parts to get into it. In case you don't know yet, feedback makes me post far quicker.

Good afternoon. I had a bit of trouble, but here I am for you guys. We may stick around in Roswell for awhile after this part. I think there are a few things that need to be discussed. Don't you? Enjoy.


Finding Yourself
Part 85

“I have arrived. The party can now begin,” Kyle announced, arms spread wide. A quick glance around the Crashdown told him that nothing had changed, but it was about to. With Amy’s part ownership in the restaurant, she had decided to make a few renovations. No one had disagreed with her and there they were. He’d heard about a few of them, and so far they sounded great.

“Kyle!” Maria squealed from her seat at the counter. She hopped off the stool and ran towards him with a laugh. Throwing her arms around his neck, she whispered in his ear. “Thank god you’re here.”

Kyle chuckled. “That bad?”

“Worse.”

“Hey, Michael.”

Michael nodded in Kyle’s direction then returned to his sanding job.

“Kyle! I’m so happy to see you!” Amy spotted her new stepson and she began picking her way through the rubble to him.

“Careful, they’re trying to make us one big happy family,” Maria warned.

Kyle groaned, but turned it into a smile when Amy pulled him into a hug. “I’m so glad you could make it.”

“I wanted to get some of my things,” he shrugged. But one disapproving look from Amy had him revising his story. “And I wanted to hear all about the wedding of the year. Maria’s been gushing about all the wonderful pictures.” He leaned in closer to Amy. “She really wants to see them all again but she’s afraid to seem too overly interested.” He grinned. “Teenagers, huh?”

Amy’s smile widened. “Of course we’ll go through them again. Oh, honey, why didn’t you just say something?” She asked Maria.

“Whatever would I do without you, Kyle?” she asked through gritted teeth.

“I’d hate for you to ever have to find out, little sis.” Kyle dropped an arm over Maria’s shoulders, causing Amy to all but bounce with happiness.

“I just knew you two would get along great!” She gushed. “Kyle, you’ll be around, right? I’m making us all a special dinner tonight.”

“Wouldn’t miss it,” he promised.

Maria waited until her mother hurried back to oversee the renovations before she elbowed Kyle in the stomach. “Suck up,” she proclaimed.

“It was irresistible,” he apologized. “Besides, if I have to sit in on the photos, I’d wouldn’t want anyone but my new little sister beside me.”

“You’re only a month older than me,”

“But it’s a month chock full of wisdom and worldly experience. How are you doing, really?”

“I’m good. I swear, nothing funny has happened at all. Well, except for Michael. He seems to have picked up a few of my…habits.”

Kyle frowned in thought. “What does that mean?”

“Oh, you’ll see. How’s Liz?”

“Wonderful as usual. She’s at home trying to finish up some paper or something. She swears she lost valuable research time with the trip to Paris over spring break. I swear, that girl has some loopy priorities.”

Maria’s eyes took on a dreamy quality just thinking about Paris. “So, you guys had fun? I’ll bet it was great.”

Kyle and Maria moved over to a booth and took opposite sides. “Yeah, it was pretty amazing.