posted on 1-Sep-2001 6:32:12 PM
Title: Stranger In This Town
Author: Me (Kippy1932⊕
Summary: In short: AU fic, mainly M/L, Max and Isabelle live on a cattle ranch outside of Roswell. I'll leave it at that.
Disclaimer: Not mine. Title is taken from Bush's "Letting the Cables Sleep"
Author's Note: I know a lot of you have been after me for a repost for a while now - not to mention a new part. I've been swamped with work for the past month or so, hopefully in February with ALL my applications out and midterms over I will be able to write.

Stranger In This Town

The streets of Roswell were emptying as the sun dipped towards the horizon and casted tall shadows on the sidewalk. Liz Parker walked down the street, the grocery list her father had given her in her hand. The air had a slight chill to it and Liz shivered slightly. A gust of wind suddenly blew by and she turned her head, pushing a strand of hair behind her ear. And she couldn't help the catch in her breath when her eyes rested on Max Evans walking down the other side of the street.

Max rarely came into the town of Roswell. He made an appearance about once a month, same black stetson on his head - mysteriously covering his eyes - and always the same small, spotted cattle dog trailing at his heels. The dog was there now, obediently trailing behind Max. Liz's eyes followed him. Max Evans was a mystery. He and his sister, Isabelle had been found on the side of the road - some said the middle of the desert - ten years ago. They lived out on the Evans cattle ranch, were home schooled, frequented the Mesaliko Indian Reservation and
were hardly ever seen in town.

Max saw Liz Parker from across the street and he smiled slightly when he did. She was the entire reason he had come into town. When his mother had suggested pizza for the night he had jumped at the suggestion and offered to pick it up. He had only seen her for a brief moment from across the street, but it was enough for him.

Liz didn't know how her father had expected her to carry all the groceries. Not only were they heavy - but they were incredibly bulky and awkward to carry and she could barely see the sidewalk she was walking down. She could make out Max however, walking out of the local pizza parlor, a pizza box in his hand. The funny looking spotted dog was waiting obediently outside for him and Max walked over to his aged red pickup truck, placing the pizza in the
passenger side and opening up the bed of the pickup and letting the dog in. Liz continued struggling down the sidewalk and soon the giant box of salt in front of her head lost Max from her peripheral vision.

"Hey," a voice suddenly called and Liz almost dropped all the groceries, she was so startled by it. And then a hand was effortlessly lifting off the ten pound bag of flour and the box of salt. "Let me give you a hand." And it was Max. Liz was flushed slightly and she hoped maybe he would just think it was because she was startled.

"Thanks," she mumbled

"You shouldn't have to carry all that," he shrugged, beginning to walk down the street with her. "So where're we going?" he inquired and something about the statement seemed to catch Liz off guard.

"Just the uh - the Crashdown, it's right up -"

"I know where it is," and the way he said it made Liz look at him quizzically. The rest of the short walk down the block was in silence. She had no idea what to talk about with him and he seemed just as uncomfortable. They lived two such different lives.

The powerful chestnut horse thundered beneath Max, rapidly eating up the ground to the Mesaliko Indian Reservation. It was a good ten miles to the reservation from the ranch, but Max had discovered that at a good gallop with only a few stops the horse underneath him, Aldo, could make it there in under an hour. He visited the reservation once a week; sometimes twice. It was his second home. River Dog, the old Indian he visited, his second father. It was River Dog who had found him and Isabelle in the desert that night. He had taken them to the orphanage where
they had been taken in by the Evans. River Dog said that there had been another. That after he had given Max and Isabelle to the orphanage he had driven back out to the desert and looked and looked and looked. And he had found him. It was a boy, scared and huddled behind a rock and though it had taken some coercing - he had gotten the frightened child into his car and back to the orphanage. By the time he had returned, Max and Isabelle had found a home.

Max always asked questions about the boy. What he had looked like, what his name had been and River Dog didn't have many answers. The boy had disappeared after only two weeks. He had been at the orphanage with them for the first few days, but Isabelle and Max remembered nothing. And so every time he came to visit River Dog, Max asked about the boy and he asked questions about himself and about Isabelle. About who they were. River Dog knew about them. He had known since he had first picked the two up. He knew they were different, that there was something special about them. He had shown them the cave, he had told them about Nasedo. They still were no closer to discovering anything about themselves
then they'd ever been. But they could talk to River Dog and they did and any sort of questions they had he would try to answer.

The reservation was always a bustling place, with people of all ages, dogs and horses all over it. Max rode in atop the sweating chestnut horse, greeted all around by smiling faces and nods of the head.

"Hello Max," a weathered looking man tipped his hat to Max and Max just smiled and nodded his head. "Where's your sister today?" the man inquired, Isabelle usually accompanying Max when he came to the Reservation.

"Uh - she's up with my dad bringing a herd down from Heatherford," Max explained, hopping off of the horse.

"Whatcha got up in Heatherford?" the man inquired, having no knowledge of any Evans livestock pastured up at Heatherford, nor of any livestock they'd be interested in up in Heatherford.

"Wild mustangs," Max answered, "they're kinda a pest problem up there..."

"Mustangs? Whyn't your dad take you up?" Max's way with animals was known by most of the ranchers around the area and the man seemed perplexed by the statement. Max was especially good with wild and injured animals. More than once he'd helped to remove a wild coyote from the property of someone in town. Max just shrugged.

"Isabelle wanted to go," he responded quietly, tying Aldo's reins to a tree and beginning his search for the old Indian.

River Dog was mysterious and always hard to find. He was an outsider on the reservation and that suited Max just fine. The fact that he came to visit the enigmatic old man didn't hinder his popularity on the reservation though and as he looked around and walked down the dusty road in search for his friend, the greetings from everyone continued. He was offered to join a game of baseball among a group of teens, or questioned if he wanted to visit the new colt that had just been born in the far pasture. Max declined to all the invites however and promised another day as his eyes continued to scan the area. Finding River Dog was always a challenge and Max was lucky he spotted Eddie, his real only link to River Dog, when he did - over by a corral coursing an Appaloosa over with a brush.

"Hey Eddie," Max called, stepping towards the tall, lanky and equally mysterious man. And Eddie glanced to him briefly.

"He's by the creek," Eddie responded shorty and Max immediately headed that way.

The summer season was always the busiest for the Crashdown Cafe. Liz's parents were crazed, the cooks were crazed, the customers were crazed and most of all so was she. It was the summer, more importantly now it was the end of the summer, and the more customers that flooded in, the more she wanted to go out and enjoy it. Kyle Valenti, the sheriffs son and West Roswell athletic superstar, had - as of late -been expressing interest in her as more than a summer fling and he had begun to drop by the Crashdown more often than normal.

A customer seated at one of the booths began bellowing for his Will Smith Burger and Liz ran her hands through her hair quickly, biting her tongue and mumbling to herself, as she walked briskly back into the kitchen.

"I'm going to kill someone," her best friend, Maria Deluca brushed by with two plates in hand, echoing Liz's thoughts exactly. "I'm telling you, LIz I cannot take this - I cannot take one more day of these.." Maria looked out and her eyes rested on a twenty-something seated at the counter with spiky green hair and a black shirt that read I BELIEVE. Maria stared at him as he sipped his fountain drink. "Actually," she looked to the alien enthusiast a moment longer and a smile formed on her lips. "He's kinda cute if you look at him the right way." And Liz just grinned at her friend's antics.

"Maria," she shook her head and Maria looked into the shiny medal stove and ran her finger over her teeth quickly, preparing to go back out and talk to the green-haired customer.

"Speaking of cute.." Maria smiled widely as she eyed Kyle Valenti step through the doors and take a seat at the nearest table.

"What?" Liz looked outside as well and her face reddened immediately when she saw him.

"So what are you two like - are you actually a couple now?" Maria interrogated.

"I don't - I don't know..he asked me to this party at Tommy's tomorrow night," Liz admitted and at the news Maria became ecstatic.

"And you didn't tell me??"

"He just asked me yesterday," Liz shrugged .

"But it's like - it's formal, it's like official 'cos his friends are all gonna be there," Maria pointed out and Liz smiled and began to walk outside towards Kyle, who had just dismissed a waitress and merely sat there in his blue and gold varsity jacket, waiting for her.

The small herd of five horses had given Max's father and sister more than enough trouble on the day's drive down, but the trouble they stirred up back on the Evans ranch was even greater. The minute they were herded into the corrall, Mr. Evans ran for his son.

Max, Aldo and the spotted dog, Cotter - his eternal companion - had just barely returned from an afternoon ride and when he saw his father's horse, Flint, tethered to a fence post he immedietly hopped off Aldo to greet Isabelle and his father. He had barely taken five steps before his father ran up to him breathlessly.

"We're havin' some trouble with the herd," he downplayed the situation as Max could already hear a loud commotion and what sounded like horses screaming. Max didn't need much of an explanation. Rather calmly, he jogged around to the corrall where all the noise was coming from.

They were scraggly, small horses, who resembled ponies more than anything, and Max could see how they had been pests up in Heatherford. These small bands of horses were typical in the southwest, and more often than not ended up with fates much worse than the five in the Evans corrall. They were all dark bay and brown horses, except for one - whose white coat was difficult to make out beneath all the dirt and mud. Max whistled for Cotter and slowly ducked
underneath the fence rail, entering the corrall with the five wild horses.

"Max, be careful," his mother called worriedly, though by now she should be used to it.
Max did things like this all the time, but her heart couldn't help but skip a beat everytime he stepped near the wild and dangerous animals. The horses were nervous and frantic, and the largest one of them all, a dark bay with a wild flash in his eye and a jagged stripe down his nose, seemed to be herding the four others into the corner. Max characterized him immedietly as the leader, knowing it was he who he had to befriend first.

"Cotter, split," he ordered quietly to the happy-go-lucky canine, whose tongue at the moment was lolling out of his mouth. "Split," he said again, snapping his fingers and motioning to the large dark bay and the dog immedietly went to work. None of the horses took to the knee-high dog yapping out at them, most of all not the large bay, and Cotter was quick underfoot beneath the thrashing hooves. Both Mr. and Mrs. Evans and Isabelle looked on in amazement. Henry, the Mr. Fix-It of the Evans household, had just finished fixing the kitchen sink and was on his way out to his truck, when he stopped midstride and turned to watch as well.

You couldn't help but watch Max. It was difficult to get more than five words out of the boy on a good day, he was so quiet and unassuming. And still inside the corrall with the mustangs he was quiet and unassuming - but watching him and the cattle dog work silently together in the ring you couldn't help but realize that there he was in his natural element. Cotter successfully cut the large bay away from the four others, and keeping himself as a barrier
between them, the stallion was forced towards Max.

Max had no rope, he had no whistle, the only piece of equipment - if it could be called that - in the ring with him was Cotter. But Cotter's function was served, he was keeping the stallion away from his tiny herd and the rest was all Max. The rage in the wild horse's eye was evident and holding up his hand as if it had some sort of power over him, Max looked directly into it's eye. No one else would ever dare do such a thing to a wild animal - not even to a
domesticated dog, but with Max it was different. Isabelle was never quite sure if Max used his powers, if it had something to do with the fact that they were not quite human. She couldn't do it. She couldn't even come close.

The horse pawed the ground nervously and Max gently moved his hand onto it's neck. Isabelle looked closely for a faint glow to emerge from his hand, anything to indicate that her brother's gift was supernatural - but she could find nothing. And then slowly Max was leaning his body over the horses back. Mrs. Evans closed her eyes and her breath caught - the sight of seeing her son attempting to climb aboard a wild stallion was just the slightest bit discomforting. The horse's ears pricked back and forth inquisitively and it sidestepped only for a moment before Max swung his legs over and gripped the tangled mane. He was sitting astride the mustang.
Henry was leaning against the fencerail and he just shook his head in amazement.

"Wow.." was all that came out of his mouth as Max began guiding the dark bay stallion around the ring. It took most grown men weeks to achieve what Max had just achieved in five minutes. The four other horses were giving Cotter trouble and the aggressive male underneath Max began to grow agitated.

"Iz," he motioned to the corrall gate and Isabelle immedietly opened it up as Max rode out astride the horse, removing it from its still wild counterparts. The corrall offered some sense of protection for Max, but now the horse could bolt at any moment in any direction and send Max flying off.

Urging it into a larger open pasture, once inside Max slid off it's back. His group of admirers, which now included the lone ranch hand and right-hand man of Mr. Evans, Kirk Stephens, followed after and they watched with wide eyes as Max walked around the open pasture, the horse close on his heels. Max began to jog and so did the horse. He stopped and
so did the horse.

"You're one lucky man," Henry suddenly turned to Mr. Evans and they both just watched as the horse followed Max around in a circle. "That's gonna be one hell of a cow horse." And Mr. Evans knew exactly what Henry meant in that statement. The belligerent dark bay would make a spectacular cow horse. That was what Max did. That was how he'd gotten Aldo - he'd rescued
the horse as a terrified yearling on his way to the slaughter house. Now three years later, Aldo was one of the best horses Mr. Evans had ever seen -cutting horse, cow horse, trail horse - he did it all. And he knew it was due to the time Max simply spent with the horse, playing with it. He spent as much time off Aldo playing with him as he did riding him. And Max had done it with other horses. A good cow horse was difficult to come by, it took years to train. Max could make perfect cow horses out of wild and frightened animals in a matter of weeks. That was what Max did. "You are lucky," Henry repeated, Max know was simply stroking the horse's forehead.
"Your boy sure is special."

After begging her father for a day off, Liz found herself wandering around the streets of Roswell with Maria and Alex Tuesday afternoon. They weren't going anywhere, they just walked and talked and Liz seemed frustrated by it.

"Come on, you guys we have to do something!" she pleaded as both her friends seemed perfectly fine with simply walking the familiar streets of the town. "I begged my father for this day off, we have to do something! Let's - let's go to a movie!" she suggested excitedly and both Maria and Alex glanced up to the movie theatre across the street.


They both shook their heads and even Liz had some trouble making an argument for any of the movies.

"We could go to make fun of them," she suggested.

"I'm not paying five dollars to see that annoying girl in Blair Witch again," Alex stated
firmly and Maria seemed to second his opinion.

"What about - what about, Maria you love Janine Garafaolo!" Liz looked to her friend, "and Ben Stiller - you love Ben Stiller."

"I like them in good movies," Maria stated flatly. "That," she looked to the movie theatre,
"is not a good movie."

"Give me a break guys, what are we just going to walk around for the entire day?" Liz wailed and suddenly, what looked like a coyote or a wolf even, bolted out of the alley, in front of them, and scurried across the road. As quickly as it had appeared, it was quickly gone and the three just stood on the sidewalk and Alex said what they were all thinking.

"What was that?"

An hour and a half later, Liz, Maria and Alex were walking down the street, they had ice cream in their hands, but except for that had done nothing but walk around the town. Liz seemed okay with the fact that they hadn't done anything. They never really did. That was how their life was. It was the same, year after year after year. Nothing had changed much in the past three years. Not in the town, not in their lives. They had their drivers license's and they thought would brighten up the otherwise dull life in Roswell but it didn't do much. And just as Liz opened up her mouth, about to say how they needed to do something different, how they needed something to
brighten up their otherwise plain and simple life, something did.

There was a large commotion down one of the side streets and Liz heard people yelling and some women screaming. Not one of the three friends said anything, but they immedietly began running towards it. The crowd was gathered around something and Liz couldn't make out what it was they were looking at. She, Alex and Maria shoved their way to the front and they saw it. It was the wild dog, the wolf, the coyote, whatever it had been that scampered in front of them an hour ago. It had a laceration on it's hind leg, but that didn't seem to concern any of the townsfolk, they were too concerned with the wolf's presence in the town. From the conversation Liz could hear, apparently it had attacked Billy Shumway and made a lunge for Mrs. Grover. She looked down to the frightened and cornered animal. The fear in it's eyes was evident as it was in most of the crowd's. Mr. Delgado, the owner of the town hardware store, was standing in front of the crowd, holding people back from coming near the animal and he called out over the loud din, "Get the Evans kid, get the Evans boy!" Liz didn't even process that he was yelling for Max, until
Maria elbowed her in the side.

"Hey, look - Max Evans is here," she whispered as Max began edging his way through the crowd. He was dressed in a worn pair of blue jeans and a khaki button down, of course the black stetson on his head. Maria's interest was piqued by his arrival, as was Liz's.

"Thank God, you're here, Max - it's already attacked two people and -" Mr. Delgado blathered on but Max didn't seem to hear any of it. He crouched down next to the animal and the crowd gasped at the gesture. The animal's teeth were bared and it was snarling and growling, and Max outstretched his hand and looked into it's eyes. Then suddenly his hand was coursing over it's coat and he opened up it's mouth, examining the sharp teeth. Liz watched it all with
wide eyes, and a sense of amazement and her eyes were fixed on him. She didn't even hear Maria calling for her, joking if she had ever seen Max Evans around so many people before.

"It's not a wolf," Max said clearly and the crowd immedietly began murmuring. "It's not a wolf," Max stated again, looking up to Mr. Delgado. "It's a Sarloos Wolfound." And the statement did nothing to quiet all the converation flying through the crowd. Even Mr. Delgado, who knew Max better than anyone in the crowd. Usually when Max made his monthly trip into town, it was to the hardware store.

"Max, it's -" but before he could finish, Max opened the animal's mouth again.

"Those aren't a wolf's teeth," and the finality in the statement sent a hush over the crowd
quickly. Max didn't even seem to recognize the crowd though, he was here talking to Mr. Delgado and taking care of the dog. His hand ran over the rough coat again and he looked down to the injured hind leg. "It's a Dutch breed," Max stated, "originated as a cross-breed between German Sheperd and the European wolf," he continued to rattle off like a textbook and
Liz was enraptured by him. By the fact that he could calm this wild animal with the touch of his hand, by the fact that he knew what obscure breed of dog it was, that he could tell it by looking at his teeth, that from the way he ran his hand over it he seemed genuinely concerned with the animal's well-being.

"So what the hell do we do with it?" Mr. Delgado asked and Max got to his feet.

"It's a dog," he shrugged. "You get it to a vet first an' give it to someone." And
without a seconds hesitation Liz stepped forward.

She decided to name the dog Lucky. After all that's what it had all been. It had been luck. Really it had been fate but then what was she supposed to name it - Fatey? She still could hardly process everything. When she had stepped forward from the crowd and offered to take the dog, Maria and Alex had been shouting to her about her parents and about how they would never allow it. But Liz didn't care and so she found that Max Evans actually smiled at her when
she said that she would take the dog. She found herself walking down the streets of Roswell with him to the veterinarian, the dog seeming to be a weightless bundle in his strong arms. It hadn't really been much of a conversation. He talked about how they were excellent watch dogs, how they needed a large amount of excercise, how they were mainly a European breed and how he was perplexed as to why it was in New Mexico. He offered little chance for Liz to get a comment in, but when he finally inquired as to what she was going to call it and she responded
with Lucky, he turned to face her and again the smile appeared on his face.

"Reach into my back pocket," he suddenly said and Liz looked more than taken aback by the statement, yet she found herself following his command. There was a blue hankerchief hanging out of the pocket and she seemed confused as to why he had asked that she get it. "Tie that around his neck there," he motioned and Liz just nodded her head and tied it in a loose knot around the dog's neck. She laughed when she looked at the dog from afar. The animal that
everyone had mistaken for a wild and savage animal, now had a blue bandana around it's neck and had it's mouth open and tongue hanging out happily. "Now no one'll mistake him for a wolf," he stated simply, but she detected something more in the gesture. And when they entered the vet's office together, and Max was assuring that it was indeed a dog, Liz looked down to the blue hankerchief and smiled.

The wiry youth flung his arms around Max's waist and hauled him down onto the dusty ground. The other young Mesaliko men and boys laughed, but when the football remained firmly in Max's hands many of them groaned.

"No fumble!" One moaned loudly, shaking his head and Max just laughed. He got to his feet, not even bothering to dust off his pants.

"Nice tackle, Willie," he nodded to the boy who couldn't be over five foot three, but Willie
just rolled his eyes. Max rumpled the spiky black hair on the boys head and breathlessly tossed the ball to a boy, who appeared only a year younger than him. "Your call, Lance," Max looked to the boys face and the boy looked down at the seven other teammates, then back to Max and just nodded his head. The heavy-set twenty-something acting as the center called out the count and snapped the ball to Lance and Max immedietly raced forward. He was strides in front of the boy covering him and the ball easily sailed into his hands. The endzone, marked only by a tiny tree,
was twenty yards away and Max ran towards it with a half-dozen teens and preteens racing furiously after him to no avail.

"No!!" one of them wailed hopelessly. "Get Max! Get Max!" They all echoed and Max slowed down to a jog as he neared the tree, laughing the entire time. He had barely caught his breath when five of the kids came charging at him, flinging themselves onto him, grabbing his leg, trying to pull him down onto the ground. Max laughed as he struggled to keep himself afoot.

The sun was just barely beginning to set and suddenly Isabelle appeared and she called to her brother and motioned with her head to where their horses were tethered. Max just nodded his head and, though the boys were slow to release him from their grasps, he tossed the ball to Lance, the fifteen year old who had thrown him the perfecct pass.

"Nice pass, Lance," Max just acknowledged, nodding his head towards the boy and walking towards his sister. The boy just shrugged, though the grin on his face was huge. The football and basketball games Max played with the Mesaliko boys were fairly commonplace. Sometimes it was football, other times basketball and even baseball if they had enough people. Always Max and Lance ended up on the same team. The skilled young athlete was the closest
one to Max's age, it was either twelve or under or nineteen and over and Max sensed that the fifteen year old was always caught somewhere in the middle. He didn't talk to him much and so he couldn't really be classified as a friend. When they did talk it was only Max to inquire if Lance had tried out for the West Roswell football team and the answer was always the same - no. But Max enjoyed the boy's companionship, despite the fact that they didn't talk and they were beginning to make quite a good Quarterback/Wide Receiver team.

"No fair. Next time we get Max," one of the boys from the opposing team wailed, turning towards Lance and Isabelle looked to her brother and smiled. She had been over with the older tribal women setting up the tiny jewelry stand they ran while Max had been playing football with the group of boys. It was what they always ended up doing when River Dog wasn't there for as long as they could remember. The people of the Reservation enjoyed their company and it was safe to say that Max and Isabelle ejoyed theirs.

The two horses walked lazily across the wide expense of brush and Max and Isabelle seemed content to allow Cody and Aldo to take their time. Max had said more than once that this was his favorite time of day. Just after the sun had gone down, when it wasn't quite dark yet. The quiet was what Max enjoyed most about it. The peaceful quiet, interrupted only by the
sound of a coyote up on the cliffs or a bird overhead. He sat loosely, his mind someplace where
Isabelle couldn't even imagine.

He kept seeing her face. Everytime he closed his eyes he saw it and even when they were open. It had never been this bad before. Before Liz had just been a pretty face that he enjoyed seeing in town. He thought about her every now and then, but she didn't consume his thoughts like she was now. Walking back to the vet with her two days ago he had sensed something. Something about being with her. Something he hadn't sensed before because he had never been that close to her. He hadn't even talked to her before except for the time he had helped her with the groceries. And he didn't know what it was, but it was something that he hadn't been able to shake since that day. And he looked to the west, where the sun had just set, where the town of Roswell was and - though he tried to stop himself - he wondered what Liz was
doing now.

Mr. Parker took all but one look at Lucky, blue bandana and all, and shook his head firmly.

"No way," he announced when Liz proposed the pet to him, walking through the backdoor. "Lizzie, that's not even a dog it's a - "

"No, it is - it's a, it's a Sarloos Wolfhound," she said suddenly, and she couldn't help but think of Max. She almost wanted to fire off the facts Max had told her about how good a watchdog it was, how much care it needed, how much it didn't - but she didn't say anything. Her father threw every thing in the book at her: they didn't have enough room to have a dog, she couldn't handle the responsibility and to every response Liz had an answer. She promised to
assume full responsibility, it would sleep in her room and she would walk it three times a day. When she told him that she had already taken it to the vet and paid for it's examination, her father had no response and a smile began to creep onto Liz's face. He looked down to the smiling canine, then back up to his hopeful daughter.

"It sleeps in your room."

Walking with Lucky down the street attracted a large amont of attention as the dog looked to be nothing more than a wolf. Kyle seemed to enjoy it however and even asked Liz if he could take the leash once they bought it. She had seemed hesitant to say yes, but nodded her head.

"It's so cool that you have a wolf, Liz," Kyle said as they walked down the street to the pet supply store.

"It's not a wolf, Kyle," Liz corrected and he just shook his head.

"Whatever, that you have a dog like this," he looked down and couldn't help but notice that the dog hugged close to Liz as they walked down the street. His girlfriend owned a wolf, whatever she called it - a wolfhound - that was just cool in itself. Liz seemed to grow quiet when he asked her about how she had gotten it, and had grown ever more quiet when he had asked her about the blue bandana. But other than that he was loving everything about it. Digging the fact that she asked him to come get pet supplies with her. School started in only a few weeks and he was looking forward to the school year with Liz. She was so different than anyone he had ever dated before.

Kyle looked through the various colors and styles of collars and he laughed as he picked up a thick black collar covered with heavy studded spikes.

"Hey, what about this?" He smiled, looking to her and she just laughed, lifting a simple leather collar off the rack. They went through leashes and chew toys, food dishes and dog treats, all the while the dog stayed close on Liz's heels as she wandered around the store and though she didn't realize it, the reason she liked the dog so much was Max. Because she loved the blue bandana and when she would reach down to pet Lucky, she would run her hands over the rough coat and then for a moment take the soft fabric between her fingers. And her mind would drift. Away from Kyle and away from Roswell. To the place she had been when she was with Max.

It got to the point where Max would be out checking fences with his father, or moving a herd with Isabelle and he would think of Liz. Isabelle asked him how his visit to town had been earlier and he just responded that he had gotten rid of a coyote. He could never tell Isabelle about Liz. She already knew he had a bit of a crush on her, but that was all it was - a crush. It wasn't an obsession or an infatuation. It wasn't like he was in love with her.

He rode out with his sister, not really going anywhere just riding. If there was a fence down or a stray cow they would fix it, but they were just riding through the New Mexico backcountry. One couldn't guess that this was New Mexico. It was nothing like the desert, a crystal clear creek ran along the ground and the trees and shrubs weren't so sparsely populated

"Do you ever wish we went to school in Roswell?" Max suddenly asked as Aldo hopped across the creek to the other side. Isabelle followed atop her horse, Cody and she looked at her brother quizzically.

"No," she responded naturally, "not at all." And she looked around at her surroundings and then patted the bay horse underneath her on the neck. "Although..." she drew out the word, "when I went into town last month, I saw the sherriff's son - Kyle," she looked to her brother mischieviously. "Wouldn't mind going to school with him."

"Yeah, like that," Max looked to his sister and the way that he said it made her pick her head up. "You ever wish that we went to school with..other kids," Isabelle detected a bit of sadness in his eyes at the comment.

"Max, what's going on? Why are you...suddenly-"

"Nothing," he was quick to say. "I was just..thinking about it," he responded quietly.
Thinking about it more than she would ever know.

"Why??" Isabelle inquired. "I mean, Max - if we lived there we wouldn't..we wouldn't be able to do stuff like this," she pushed a branch away from her head as Cody picked a path up a hill.

"Yeah, but.."

"But what? Max - what's with all the buts?"

"But we'd also be able to do so much more," Max continued and he almost had a sense of desperation in his voice that troubled Isabelle. And she didn't say anything. She guided Cody further up the hill and continued on. When she looked behind her and down the hill, Max and Aldo were still by the river.

*People always take a step away from what is true. That's why I like you around. I want
you. You do, you do, you do, you make me want you. And I can't get enough* The lyrics of Stephan
Jenkins sounded throughout Max's room as he sat on his bed and looked out the window, where Isabelle was ot playing with her white American Eskimo Dog. It was a clear and beautiful day, a perfect day for a ride. He could see Aldo prancing around the corrall, obviously
unpleased at the fact that he was penned in and past him the small mustang herd was grazing in the pasture. Today was the perfect oppurtunity to take one of them out on a ride, maybe The Fonz, the big dark bay who was the leader of the clan.

But this was all he did now. He sat in his room and thought about Liz. Thought about the few minutes that he spent with her. About how seeing her once a month wasn't enough. About how he could sense something between them, as ridiculous as it sounded. Some sort of connection. He thought about what it would be like to be with her.

Isabelle had little to say to him. They hadn't gone out on a ride together since that day
and when he had tried to join her, she just looked at him. "Why don't you go hang out in town?" she had called into the wind, galloping away. It was ridiculous really, but this was what he did. All he could do was think of her. He didn't try to push the thoughts out of his head. Thinking about her gave him a peace of mind he rarely achieved. When he thought about her, he wasn't thinking about the secret that he and Isabelle had to keep. And then suddenly, as he looked to Isabelle playing fetch with Jonathan, he got to his feet. He grabbed the pickup keys off his
dresser and slowly walked down the stairs.

"Max, honey? Where you going?" His mother called as she heard his keys jingling, but Max didn't say anything, he simply jogged out the door. Isabelle only saw the dust rise as the pickup drove away and she held her hand to shield her eyes from the rising dirt as she watched it head towards town.

*And I can't get enough* the words of the song sounded in Max's head as he entered the
town of Roswell. He couldn't get enough of Liz. So much that he was making his third trip into town in the past month to see her. He wanted her more than he'd ever wanted anything in his life. More than discovering the truth about Isabelle and him. He closed his eyes and he saw her face and heard her voice.

Max picked the black stetson off his head and ran his hand through his hair briefly. What was he going to say to her? Just ask her out? Ask her if she wanted dinner? He had no money on him, he realized. Oh well, he would think of something. Just to be near her, to hear her voice... His heart skipped a beat just thinking about it. It was a feeling he had never had before, a feeling that completely consumed him. He parked the pickup and jogged across the street to the Crashdown. Cotter wasn't with him and it felt odd to be walking along the street without him, or to leave the pickup without him in the back. What if Liz wasn't even here? What if he walked in, looked around and she wasn't there? What if he'd made the ten minute trip into town for nothing? What if she didn't even remember him? What if he was just going to make a
fool of himself? What if...? The thoughts plagued Max, but he pulled open the door of the Crashdown and walked through the door. There was no turning around now.

He spotted Liz immedietly, seated at a booth on the right. She was facing him, laughing and smiling. And he smiled as he saw her. But then Max saw something he hadn't even thought about. Something he really hadn't factored in.

Kyle Valenti had his arm around her.

Max took one look and blinked twice. *Isabelle would be crushed* he thought as he
looked to the cozy couple in the booth. The strain on his heart then was huge, his chest tightened, it felt like he was being suffocated, like he couldn't breathe. He hadn't thought about the fact that maybe Liz was already with somebody. His feet began to backtrack towards the door. He had to get out of here now. And he pushed the door open and raced out.

"Max..." Liz mumbled softly as she spotted him walk through the doors. But Max didn't hear.

"What??" Kyle asked, utterly confused - not only by the name that she called but why she had.

"Max!" she called to him again louder as he turned and raced out the doors.

"Liz, what are you -" But Liz didn't offer an answer, she stood up from the booth and began to chase Max out the door. "Liz, what's going on??" Kyle grew a bit worried now at her behavior. All Liz saw was Max's pickup speed out of the town of Roswell and she watched him leave. Kyle joined her and he looked to her, her face looking a bit more upset at Max's absence
than he would have liked. He didn't even know who she was talking to. Max who?

"Max..." Liz whispered to herself as she watched the clouds of dust rise as the pickup got
further and further away.

"Liz, what the hell was that??" Kyle asked, a bit of hostility and suspicion in his voice at her behavior.

And Liz had no answer.

*Summertime and the wind is blowing. Outside in Lower Chelsea. And I don't know what I'm doing in this city. The sun is always in my eyes.*

Max's CD player was still playing when he walked back into his room and he moved to shut it off angrily. Slapping at it with his hand, he only ended up turning up the volume. Why had he even bothered to go into Roswell in the first place? He didn't belong there. It had just been a fantasy, a pipe dream. That he could actually be with Liz, popular, hometown,
All-American Liz. Whenever he even walked into the town of Roswell he just got stared at. Oh well, he wasn't going back again. Not after that. And as he sat down on the bed realized he was shaking.

*It crashes through the windows and I'm sleeping on the couch. When I came to visit you. That's when I knew. That I could never have you. I knew that before you did. Still I'm feeling stupid.*

He ran his hand through his hair and took a few shallow breaths. Just seeing Liz had gotten his heart racing. But that wasn't the reason that he was trembling. He had heard Liz call to him as he was running across the street and away from the Crashdown. He had seen her standing in the middle of the street, watching him go, in the rearview mirror. With Kyle. She had walked after him, run after him. She had called his name and acted as if she wanted to see him. But one look at her and Kyle and he knew that it could never happen. Besides that, even if she
wasn't going out with Kyle, even if she wanted to, it was impossible.

*And there's this burning. Like there's always been. I've never been so alone and I've never been so alive.*

But Max couldn't deny the fact that seeing her had done something to him. It had been painful, sure. It had made him feel more alone, and more lonely than he had ever been in his entire life. It had reminded him of the fact that he and Isabelle were such outsiders, that they were different and would never be normal in more ways than one. But it had also brought him to life. It had brought him out of the depressed and tortured state he had been in the past week. And despite the fact that the image of her and Kyle was still embedded in his mind, he got back
up on his feet. And he walked back out the door.

Beyond confused by Max's behavior and sudden exit, his family was even more surprised when he got back into the pickup and drove away again. Most of all Isabelle. Chances were that Kyle was probably still there with Liz, but Max didn't really care. He wanted to see her again and that was all he knew.

*Visions of you on a motorcycle drive by. The cigarette ash flies. And you don't mind. *

Max couldn't get her face out of his head. He couldn't get the memory of her going up to claim the Wolfhound in town the other day out of his head. How she really didn't seem to care what anyone else thought when she had stepped forward to claim the 'savage wolf' as Mr. Delgado had put it. How she had not seemed to be afraid of it, of him. People had this tendency to shy away from him and Isabelle. But Liz didn't.

She was sitting in the same booth with Kyle when Max walked through the door of the Crashdown. He looked to her only briefly and, taking the stetson off his head, took a seat across the room. Amd there, where Kyle couldn't see him, his eyes fixed on her. She could see him, she looked at him more than once with a look that almost made Max faint. He didn't hear the waitess come up to him and ask if she could take his order.

"Hey!!" the short-haired blonde almost yelled. "Can I get you something?" and Max suddenly jerked his head around. Max looked to her nametag, MARIA . He had seen her hanging out with Liz, she had just gone up to her and whispered something in her ear. And as tempted as Max was by the question 'Can I get you something -*someone*' he didn't say anything.

"A coke," he sputtered, looking over to Liz again and Maria saw it. "Please," he added politely.

"Anything else?" she inquired, a smile creeping up on her face as Max's eyes remained fixated on Liz. She couldn't help but be intrigued by him. Max had never come into the Crashdown before and all of a sudden he couldn't keep his eyes off of her best friend.

"No, I'm uh..I'm fine," he replied softly and Maria found herself looking at his eyes. She had never seen Max this close before. Really she had only seen him three times before in her life, and one of the times had been only days ago. His dark brown eyes were the most mysterious and entrancing things she had ever seen. And they were fixed on Liz.

Liz felt bad lying to Kyle, really she did. But at the moment all she wanted to do was go and be with Max. When he had driven away a half hour ago, she had prayed more than anything for him to come back. And when he had, the feeling she had gotten was one she had never had before. She had lied then and told Kyle she had to get back to work at four o'clock. And the entire time she was with Kyle, every five minutes she would glance down at her watch. Counting the mintes until four. And when she had gotten up and all but pushed Kyle out the door, she as
casually as possible, walked over to Max's booth.

*You smile. And say the world it doesn't fit with you. I don't believe you. You're so serene.*

Maria saw it all. She saw Liz shyly smile at Max and she saw the most incredible smile appear on his face as Liz sat down across from him. And the connection that Max had thought he had felt walking to the vet with her the other day returned. Their conversation was still strained and awkward, but it was there. He could sense it in the way that she looked at him.

"So how's Lucky?" he managed to ask and she smiled at the comment

"He's good, he's um - up in my room actually," she nodded her head and part of her wanted to ask if he wanted to come up to her room. But she stopped herself. She was going out with Kyle. She could hang out with Max, but that was all. She looked at him though and for some reason found herself talking to him and spilling her guts to him. About who she was in the town, how the town perceived her, how she found herself wishing to be something more than a small-town girl. They sat in the Crashdown until it closed, until they were the only customers there. The last time Maria saw them before she left Max had his hand on the counter, almost like he wanted to reach for Liz's hand, and was looking at her with a look Maria thought only existed in the movies. A look that said that Liz was, at that moment, the only thing that mattered to him.

*Careening through the universe your axis on a tilt. You're guiltless and free. I hope you take a
piece of me with you.*

The feeling Max had with her was unreal. Every moment he spent with her, every second that passed the only thing he could think about was how perfect she was. How she was more than anything he could have ever imagined. He was amazed at how everything that she said and everything that she admitted simply drew him to her more. The beauty was in all the flaws. That maybe she wasn't exactly perfect, but that was what made her so beautiful and so
attractive. That was what was making him fall in love with her each minute he spent. And each minute he spent, he wanted more than anything for her to be involved in his life. For him to be involved in hers. Somehow.

*And there's things I'd like to do that you don't believe in. I would like to build something. You know it's never going to happen.*

It was dark out when Max drove back to the ranch. He knew his parents were worried and suspicious, he knew his sister was upset. It was something she didn't understand though. She didn't understand the feeling that being with Liz gave him. And when he had told her that Liz was going to come over to the ranch tomorrow and go riding with him she had laughed. Max had been serious though, he had invited Liz, worried and fearful of her answer. Maybe she would say 'no, I'm going out with Kyle', or tell him that she had other plans. But she had smiled widely and replied 'I'd love to'.

He couldn't believe it, but suddenly it seemed his life was going somewhere. He was building a relationship with Liz Parker. Who knows what that relationship meant, or what it was, but it was a relationship. He tried to talk to Isabelle about it, tried to explain to her his feelings but she had refused to hear them. And when he had persisted in talking to her and insisting that this was something he needed and something that he had to do, she had simply dismissed it with a wave of her hand. "It won't work."

*And there's this burning. Like there's always been I've never been so alone. And I've never been so alive*

Max all but counted down the hours until Liz came to the ranch. He had wanted to come and pick her up himself, but she had immedietly declined to the suggestion. He knew why. Because Kyle couldn't see her getting into the car with him. Because no one could. Then the rumors would fly. Liz Parker and that strange Evans boy.

When she did come, Max's heart began to beat double-time. Isabelle gave him a less than thrilled look and she stared at Liz unwelcomely as she stepped out of the small car. Liz looked around the ranch.

"So do you have like cows and horses and chickens and stuff?" she asked, not meaning it as an insult, merely curious. Max just laughed.

"Well we don't have chickens," he smiled and he knew she was with Kyle, but he couldn't help himself and he reached out and took her hand in his. She looked down at his hand around hers, then back up to him as he led her to an open corrall. "So who do you want to ride?" Max inquired. "Sparky, Cowboy, Yellow, Jarvis, Blazer, Fortune?" she smiled as he rattled off the names and he paused for a moment. "Aldo," he added.

"Which one's Fortune?" she asked curiously and he pointed out to the black, grey and white Appaloosa. And he motioned to the Palamino, Yellow, and the two bay horses Cowboy and Jarvis. Both had jagged white markings and stripes running down their noses. Then their was the horse, that no matter how muh Max insisted was dark bay, looked black to Liz. She settled on the Appaloosa, Fortune, and watched completely enraptured as he crawled through the fence posts to gather the horses. It was like watching an old cowboy movie, with the black stetson on Max's head, the Wrangler jeans and the boots. Everything about him enraptured her, how he moved around the horses, how he was able to lead them back to the fence without a rope, simply his hands on their necks, one on each side of them. When he brought the horses to
her, he looked up to her and, for no particular reason, smiled. And it was then that she realized
that she was seeing a side of Max Evans that no one else ever saw.

Liz had never been horseback riding before and as she and Max headed out of the corrall and out onto the open range, her horse began trotting.

"Whoa..." Liz suddenly said, her voice shaky as she clung onto the saddle horn with her hands for dear life and squeezed the horses sides tightly with her legs. "Whoa, Fortune," she said again as the horse continued to bounce quickly down the road.

"Okay rule number one of horseback riding," Max laughed. "Don't squeeze him, it only makes him go faster..just relax," he trotted up alongside of her, and leaned over and slowed down the Appaloosa with a jerk on the reins. "He can tell how you feel," he explained.

"Well I feel.." Liz stuttered, "I feel scared."

"Don't be," Max shrugged smiling slightly. "He'll take care of you." And then he looked
over to her again. "Trust me."

*And there's this burning. Oh there is this burning. Yeah, yeah, yeah!*

Max and Liz rode all over the surrounding countryside. They rode up in the mountains and across the flat sagebrush covered desert. She grew more comfortable the more time she spent in the saddle. Part of it, she knew, had to do with the fact that Max was right beside her every step of the way, assuring her that Fortune was a good horse, carefully instructing her how to ride. By the time the sun began it's descent towards the horizon, one would think Liz was born in the saddle. He had shown her how to lope and she had liked the smooth and easy rocking gait.

"Want to go faster?" he asked again and she smiled, nodding her head eagerly. "Let's go," he grinned and the next thing she knew it felt like she was flying. They galloped all around, over to the outskirts of town and Max could tell that when she looked into it that she didn't want to go back. When she looked in at the buildings, her gaze quickly returned to him, sitting atop the horse.

*There's the soul I want to know. New York City's evil. The surface is everything. But I could never do that. Someone would see through that.*

He knew what she was thinking about when she looked into the town. She liked it out here with him. Where she didn't have to be anyone but herself. Because that was enough for him. It was why Max would never belong in the town of Roswell. Because he was different, and somewhere along the line someone would realize that. He would be discovered. And he really
wouldn't care. It was an almost frightening sensation that he had being with her. He knew he couldn't be with her, but deep down inside it was the only thing he could think about.

*And there's this burning like there's always been.
I've never been so alone And I've never been so alive.*

The sun had already ducked below the horizon, but Max couldn't help but take the long way back to the ranch. Looking at Liz, he knew that she didn't want the day to end either. It had been the most incredible day of Max's life. He had never felt more alive than he did right now. And yet being with her stung. It hurt, knowing that she was with someone else, knowing that they were both so different. It pained him to watch her get in the car, to watch her drive away. To watch the day - that had been such an incredible dream - slowly come to an end.

It was all Max could think about and he dreamed about Liz when he went to sleep that night. He dreamed of he and Liz together, with Kyle completely out of the picture, his non-human status not even a factor. But then of course he woke up. And he went on with life as normal.

And he was working in the small circular pen with Beau, the beautiful glistening bay that had come to the ranch as part of the small herd of five, putting him through his paces, when suddenly Liz showed up.

Isabelle of course stared her down, but she immedietly raced over to the pen where Max was.

"Hey!" she grinned widely. "You're not busy are you?" And Max all but dropped the longe line in his hand.

"Um - no, no," he stumbled.

"Good, cos...uh," a mischievious smile formed on her face. "I told my Dad I was going out with Maria - I thought maybe we could.."

"Yeah, yeah," Max nodded his head, almost a bit too eagerly.

"I had a lot of fun yesterday," she walked over to the corrall and leaned her head against the rail, looking up at him. Max smiled.

"Yeah, so did I."

And that was how the next few weeks would go by. Sometimes they would plan it, other times she would just show up. Always Isabelle would shoot her unwanted glares and give her brother wary looks. And more often than not Max would get in trouble. 'Did you check the fences on the north bluff?' his father would ask, 'you move that small herd across the highway?' And Max would shift his eyes around and reply 'no sir' as Isabelle's eyes would penetrate the
back of his skull. So he began taking Liz on the chores with him. And before long she could cut out cows and navigate her way through the back-country fairly well. Max was teaching her how to use a lasso and together he was convinced that the two of them could make a good calf-roping team.

It was hard to believe that this was the Liz who had never even been atop a horse weeks ago. This was a Liz, who on occasion rode with Max's black stetson flopped atop her head. Liz who, no matter how much Max insisted and tried to intervene, saddled and unsaddled Fortune herself.

That's what she was doing now, moving to hoist the bulky Western saddle and damp sheepskin saddlepad off the sweaty Appaloosa's back.

"No, Liz," he protested, "let me." He tried to lift the bulky saddle out of her arms. She was resilient however and she trekked to the tack room with it. They both continued on in silent, now familiar routine, and Liz was sponging Fortune down when Isabelle walked by leading a large chestnut horse.

"Hey, Isabelle," Liz called in an attempt to be friendly, though she was used to the looks and silent stares from Isabelle. "You take Aldo out for a ride?" she asked and paused slightly, thinking about the fact that Isabelle had gone for a ride by herself. "You should come with us next time," she proposed and Isabelle just looked to her coldly, almost a look of disbelief, before answering her first question.

"Aldo is Max's horse, he doesn't let anyone ride him," Isabelle mumbled, loosening the cinch of the saddle. Liz didn't even think about the comment at first, and she just turned to look harder at the horse.

"Oh, it's Blazer," she noted the giant white blaze running down the horse's nose and only then did she think back to how many times Max had offered Aldo to her. Isabelle moved to pull the saddle off and Max stepped forward suddenly. And whatever statement or criticm Isabelle was about to make was silenced.

"Hey, Liz," Max glanced down at his watch - and the strength it took to say the next statement was not evident in the casual way he said it. "You want to stay for dinner?"

Liz sat in awkward silence across from Max, seated next to Isabelle. She had been hesitant to take the seat, but decided that she would rather sit next to Isabelle than look up and see her icy stare. Now she looked up, only to be met by Max's adoring eyes. She denied all the feelings she had for him, after all summer was coming to an end and once the school year started she would have more trouble coming up with excuses as to where she was heading. The
truth was Kyle was getting a bit curious as to where she went every other day, where she was for twelve hours. He was good about it though, he never questioned her. He wasn't the protective type. He wasn't the type of guy to question and interrogate her every move, to forbid her to go on a drive during the day. That was what she said she did when she was with Max. She went for a drive.

She looked across to Max's parents now, thinking about how her parents had no idea as to who Max even was. They probably didn't even know the Evans family. But as she looked up to Mrs. Evans, who was at the moment helping herself to a serving of green beans and talking with her husband about selling a tract of land and buying some new bulls, she thought about what a shame that was. They might not live on 14 Maple Drive, and Max might not be the football qarterback of the West Roswell Comets, but they were about as All-American as you could get.

It had been the Evans who had suggested - more like demanded - that Liz come to dinner. All that they had ever seen of Liz was the back of her head as she stepped out of her car, or as she galloped away with their son. Sometimes they caught a glimpse of her as she and Max untacked their horses and they had never seen their son look so happy.

"So Liz?" Mr. Evans suddenly said, looking up to her. "How'd you meet Max?" He inquired boldly.

"I met her in town," Max suddenly answered. "Last month, I met her in town." He answered for her. And it was a lie. Saying that he had just met her, it made it seem like she was a stranger. Made it seem like she had just appeared into his life. It made it seem like she was like him.

*And this is the last time we’ll be friends again. I’ll get over you. You won’t know who I am.*

The last day of summer hadn't really meant much to Max in the past. For him summer didn't end until the days officially grew shorter and his mother began assigning chapters for he and Isabelle to read at night. But this year was definitely different. This year the end of summer meant something else entirely. Liz seemed disheartened by the end of summer as well. He knew it wasn't so much because she had to journey to the halls of West Roswell tomorrow. She enjoyed school. She had told him that more than once. Not like she counted down the days until
school began and asked for more math homework. But she enjoyed learning new things and she enjoyed being challenged. She wasn't sad because school was beginning. She was sad because her life with Max was ending. And they both knew it.

*And there’s this burning. Just like there’s always been.*

He didn't want their last ride to come to an end. He wanted to keep riding with her, out with his stetson atop her head, out with her atop his horse. He was surprised at how good she looked atop of Aldo. He was a bulky horse, hard for even him to control but she did with a gracefulness and apparent ease. He shouldn't have been taken aback however, he wouldn't
expect anything less from Liz.

*I’ve never been so alone, alone - and I’ve, and I’ve - I’ve never been so alive.*

They were both slow to return back to the ranch and it seemed neither Liz nor he could even bring themselves to untack the horses for a final time. She didn't even remember that she still had Max's stetson atop her head and he said nothing, she just opened up the door and let Lucky hop into the passenger side and then climbed in herself.

*So alive.*

The sun had long since lowered from it's high position in the sky, but Max wasn't just shielding his eyes from the fiery orange sun as he watched Liz's car drive away from him and towards town.

*I go home to the coast. It starts to rain, I paddle out on the water. Alone. Taste the salt and taste the pain. I’m not thinking of you again.*

Isabelle stood in the barn and looked as her brother held his hand up to his eyes and watched the fading trail of dust drive off into the horizon. She knew how hard it was for Max to watch Liz pull away and she could sense how much he was hurting. And for the fist time she almost felt bad for her brother, she felt bad that Liz was leaving and that with her - so was part of his life. And Isabelle watched as Max put his foot into the stirrup and climbed aboard Aldo - Aldo who Liz had ridden today. She watched as he climbed atop the horse and immedietly Aldo took off. She saw her brother lean over the horse, trying to get as far away as quickly as he could. She watched as Aldo carried him away.

*Summer dies and swells rise. The sun goes down in my eyes. See this rolling wave. Darkly coming. To take me. Home.*

It was here that Max belonged, it was here that was his home. In the New Mexico hills and mountains, the trails that no one else knew. The huge chestnut horse ran as fast as he could go away from the ranch and away from the trails that he and Liz had traveled. He had never before known the horse to go so fast, he must have sensed something. But the flat ground only went so far and then it was up. And while Aldo worked and struggled up the hill Max's mind just whirled. He and Liz. It had been fun and brief. A summer thing. That's probably how Liz would think back and remember it years from now. That's how he had to think about it.

Aldo huffed and puffed his way to the top of the giant mountain - the largest one in the range outside Roswell. The vista stretched for miles and as Max reached the top and rested his weight up on the saddle horn the sun was dipping down below the horizon, casting an orange-ish, pink hue over everything. He could see the outskirts of town from this high up and he raised his hand to his eyes again. This time it wasn't even remotely blocked by the sun. He had to think of it as a summer thing. There was no way their two worlds could mesh. He looked to town. That was where she belonged. And this was where he belonged. Except Max couldn't
help but feel deep down inside that he belonged with her.

*And I've never been so alone. And I've never been so alive.*

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 6:36:45 PM
School went by slowly for Liz, walking around the same old halls with no new trails to
travel. The same old faces with the same old stories and then there was Kyle. Kyle who suddenly
just seemed to do nothing for her, who seemed so bland and boring. Who - though she tried as
hard as she could not to think it - was so far from Max. Max was everything that Kyle wasn't.

Liz began to look forward to her afternoons at the Crashdown. She suddenly enjoyed
seeing the characters that passed through the Crashdown and sat at the bar. She liked trying to
pick out which one had Max's stetson, to see if any of them liked to put tabasco sauce all over
their food. And then one day, one of them did.

He had a map spread out on the counter and had not even lifted up his head once since
he had gotten his food. He had been short to Maria when he had ordered it, even shorter when
she had given it to him and he had been quick to shoo her away. Liz would have ignored him
and passed him off as just another passerby. They got plenty of people like him, concerned only
with getting out of Roswell. It was when he had reached for the bottle of McIlhenny's tabasco
that Liz had snapped her head up. She had smiled at the action, her thoughts immedietly going
to Max and how he spicey he liked all his food.

"Cute isn't he?" Maria suddenly stepped up next to Liz and Liz realized that she had
been staring. "Wouldn't kill him to use a comb," Maria looked up to his tousled mop of sandy
blonde hair. "And those clothes.." she scanned the boys ragged looking clothing, "could
definitely use a spin in the washer - but cute." She walked over to him to see if he needed his
coffee refilled and he just shooed her away. She walked back towards Liz. "Too bad he's such a
jerk." Maria and Liz both looked over at the boy again who was intensely studying the map in
front of him. He looked to be about their age, but in so many ways he seemed so much older.
Like he had been through so much more than anyone she had ever met in her life. And then
suddenly he yelled, pounding his fist so hard against the table that it made coffee cups all the
way down at the other end rattle.

"Dammit, where the hell is 285 South?!"

Max's life quickly went back to the way that it had been before Liz. That's how he
referred to time now. Before Liz, After Liz. It was like two different lives. And he found it hard to
pretend like he had never met her and never gone out with her, never fallen in love with her.

Isabelle seemed to have softened up and no longer thrashed Max for moping around the
house and going on long rides atop of Aldo alone. He was trying to get better, he tried to focus
all his attention on something else. He was working on the small herd of five, attempting to turn
them all into high quality cow horses. He worked from sunup to sundown with them and when he
wasn't there he was at the Mesaliko Reservation. He sat quietly at the mouth of the cave with
River Dog. Not saying anything, just sitting there. He had in his hand the only connection he had
to his homeland, small amber colored crystals River Dog called healing stones. River Dog had
showed them to he and Isabelle only a year ago and he and Isabelle loved to just hold them in
their hands.

Max sat there, quietly staring off into the brush and moving the stones around in his
hand. He didn't know why he was here with River Dog, he could have done this much by himself
at the ranch. But for some reason being with the old man provided him some sense of peace, of

"What's her name?" River Dog suddenly asked and Max looked to him quickly, more
than caught off guard and River Dog just smiled.

"How did you know?" Max asked softly, turning his head back away towards the brush,
his mouth in a thin line.

"I may be old, Max...but I'm not dumb," he said slowly. "What's her name?" the old
Indian persisted. Max was quiet for a long time.

"Liz," he finally admitted, still staring blankly off into the desert brush. River Dog nodded
his head satisfied and got to his feet. And without saying a thing he walked away.

River Dog's simple inquisitivenes had Max's head spinning. He hadn't actually said her
name since that last day of summer when she had left. "Goodbye, Liz," he had said and that had
been it. Just saying her name out loud had made him confused. Part of him just wanted to turn
the car around and drive towards town. Just see her again. And then he saw him.

It wasn't anything out of the ordinary. There were hitchhikers outside of Roswell all the
time. Max never stopped to give them rides, he knew better than that. Something inside made
him pull the truck off to the side of the road though. The boy seemed surprised that someone had
pulled over to help him and at first he just sat there hugging his knees to his chest. Max looked
to him, the tousled hair, the ragged clothes. But then he looked deeper. And then he saw
flashes of something. Of something he didn't understand. Constellations in the sky, a rock
formation in the desert he had never seen before and then him and Isabelle. And the boy. And
he leaned over, opened up the door and the boy climbed in.

He wasn't much of a talker and hadn't even bothered to ask Max where he was going.
Max was actually glad by that however, he didn't want to drop him off or to let him go. He was
drawn to him. And he had to find out why.

"So where you headed?" Max suddenly inquired and the stranger in the passenger side
seemed startled by his attempt for conversation. He jerked his head quickly around to Max and
simply shrugged.

"Nowhere," he mumbled softly and it was then that Max saw the pendant. Tied around
his neck in black string, the small black and silver object sparked Max's attention more than
anything had. The same rush of images flashed through his head as when he had first seen the
boy except there were symbols now. More symbols, similar to the pendant that he wore.
"What?" the shadowy boy asked a bit gruffly and Max realized he had been staring.

"Where'd you get that?" Max questioned motioning to the necklace and the inquiry
seemed to catch the boy off guard.

"I found it," he said shortly, his hand wrapping around the pendant and Max simply
nodded his head, his eyes focused on the object resting around the boys neck. Before either
could say anything more Cotter, who was in the flatbed of the pickup, began barking loudly and
pressing his nose up against the glass behind the front seat. "That your dog?" the young man
asked suddenly, seeming to relax a bit and Max wondered if he had seen the flashes as well.
Max just nodded his head. "I had a dog once."

"Cool," was all Max could reply with.

"It ran away." He said turning his head out to face the New Mexico desert, not seeming
to be too bothered by it. And at the statement Max was tempted to ask if he was running away,
but he kept his mouth closed. "You live out here?" the boy motioned with his hand out to the
vast and boring expense of sagebrush and dirt.

"Yeah. I uh - live - out on a ranch with my family," Max was hoping to dig some
information out of the boy but he just remained staring out the window. Max didn't know how to
talk to the mysterious boy, he didn't know how to tell him that he wanted him to come back to the
ranch. He couldn't get more than a five word answer out of him. An idea quickly entered Max's
mind and he slowly pulled off to the side of the road.

"What's - what's going on?" the boy asked, a bit more worriedly than Max would have
expected, moving his hand to the door handle. Seemingly ready to bolt at a moment's notice.
Max stepped out of the truck and walked to the front of the pickup. Popping the hood open he
ran his hand over the engine sending smoke into the air and sparks flying.

"Damn," Max walked back around to the door. "It overheated," he lied.

"Oh," was all the boy said as he climbed out of the car and began walking down the
highway. "Thanks for the uh...I'll just find another ride."

"No," Max was quick to say, as he took a step after the elusive boy who had begun
walking along the side of the highway. "We can just walk to my house." The boy looked at him
strangely, but Max just shrugged. "It's not too far up the road - ten, fifteen miles." The boy didn't
say anything but as Cotter sudddenly came scampering up on Max's heels, he followed as well.
For reasons he couldn't explain. "I'm Max." Max turned to him and softly the enigmatic young
man introduced himself.


Max had a difficult time getting any type of information out of Michael on the walk to his
home. It didn't take much to guess that he was running away from something, that he didn't have
much in the way of a family and that he was connected to Max. Someway, somehow. Everything
about him was familiar.

Isabelle had much the same reaction to the wild-haired boy as Max had, she hadn't been
struck with flashes of any kind but she recognized him. She didn't know how she did, but she
recognized him in the same way that Max did.

"This is Michael," Max introduced and Michael didn't offer much in the way of a
handshake. He simply stood there and stared at Isabelle. Max left out the part about picking
him up along the highway and the three just stood there awkwardly looking down at the dirt,
scuffing their shoes in the dust.

"So are you gonna get your truck fixed?" Michael suddenly asked, looking up to Max and
Max just nodded his head.

"Yeah, yeah - I'll uh, I'll go use the phone." Max quickly jogged into the house, leaving
Michael alone with Isabelle.

"So Michael?" Isabelle looked over to the young man who seemed aged beyond his
years. "Where you from?" Michael was busily looking around the ranch and without a moments
hesitation replied.

"Up North."

"So do you have family in Roswell...or -"

"No," he responded quickly. "No, I don't have anyo-" anyone he was tempted to say, but
he stopped himself. "I'm just passing through."

"Well, why don't you um...why don't you stay here for a while?" she asked, hoping
beyond hope that he would.

"I don't think so," Michael was quick to say.

"No, you can stay here with my brother and I. We've got an extra room," she offered,
knowing that she was being overly forward but unable to let Michael just quietly slip away. Not
when there were so many unanswered questions about him that she and Max had to know.

Michael didn't know what to think of Max or his sister. There was something off with
them it seemed. Something about the way they had taken to him. He knew he had to be
cautious, he couldn't trust anybody. The last person he had trusted was now dead. But
something inside him told him to trust them. Something inside him made him want to. And he
shrugged his shoulders.


Max could hardly believe it when he stepped back outside and Isabelle told him the
news. Michael, with the same expressionless look on his face, simply shrugged.

"Could use a place to crash for the night."

Excusing themselves to go 'do chores' not long after Michael had agreed to stay with
them, Max and Isabelle quickly fled to the back barn while Michael wandered curiously around
the ranch.

"Who is he??" Isabelle said breathlessly while she and Max were still running to the far
side of the building.

"I don't know," Max finally stopped running and he looked to his sister. "Did you see
them too, Iz?" he questioned grabbing her arm. "Did you see them?"

"See what, Max?"

"The flashes - when you saw him, when you saw the pendant?" he asked excitedly and
Isabelle just shook her head.

"No, what flashes? What pendant?"

"Around his neck, he's wearing this - I don't know this symbol. It means something. I
know it. It has to mean something - He means something." Max gasped, his heart still racing.

"I know, I know - I mean when I saw him I just. I feel I -" Isabelle's head was
spinning and she couldn't even form words.

"Like you know him," Max finished his sister's sentence like he often did and she just
nodded her head.

"Where did you find him?" she interrogated.

"On the side of the highway, he was -"

"Did he say where he was going??" Isabelle cut off her brother and he shook his head.

"Iz, I think he's...I mean - the flashes, the pendant..I think he's -"

"Don't even say it Max," Isabelle shut her brother up, not allowing him to even fill either
of their heads with the slightest hope or possibility, but Max couldn't help it. He had to say what
he was thinking, what he knew Isabelle was thinking.

"I think he's our brother."

He didn't now why he had done it. Why he had said yes. He could put this entire family
in danger, just by being here. Michael had been tempted more than once to simply run while
Max and his sister - Isabelle was her name - were gone. To bolt out of here, to continue down
the highway. But then again no one would think to find him here.

He was wandering aimlessly around the ranch grounds, looking in through the windows
of the giant farmhouse when Isabelle and Max caught up to him again. They were both out of
breath and it seemed as if they had run to him.

"Want me to show you your room?" Isabelle inquired and Max was curious as to how she
could be so bold and so open with Michael. She began walking towards the house and Michael
stopped in his tracks.

"Wait - it's in the house?" Michael said, frozen to the ground.

"Yeah," Isabelle nodded her head. "We have an extra room - or you can stay in Max's
room if you want. He has two beds." Michael looked around wildly. At the WELCOME mat
beneath Isabelle's feet, the potted flowers on the front step. He didn't belong in a home like this.
Even for one night. This was all too...human.

"You know, I don't think -" he stuttered, beginning to back up and Isabelle and Max both
looked at each other not knowing what to do. Michael looked so - afraid - of stepping into their

"Please," Isabelle mumbled quietly, more to herself than to him. But Michael heard it.
And something about the way she and her brother were looking at him, something about the way
she said it made him take a step forward and walk into the house.

He opted to plop the one ragged and worn bag down on Max's other bed and not in the
spare room up on the the third floor where he had thought he would go. Something about being
in the same room as the boy made him feel safer, more secure. Michael still seemed unnerved
by everything and he stood nervously by the extra bed looking around Max's room. More than
anything Max just wanted him to relax, to be comfortable around him and Isabelle. Maybe so
they could talk to him. And Michael glanced over to Max, wanting more than anything to be able
to talk to him, but not knowing what to say.

"Hey, you had anything to eat today?" Max suddenly asked casually and Michael nodded
his head.

"Yeah, I stopped in that uh...that Cafe -" he began to say. The one that had creeped him
out. "That alien place -"

"The Crashdown," Max said it with some sadness. He felt tempted to ask him if he had
seen Liz - the beautiful, dark-haired waitress there. Before he could say anything else though, it
seemed as if Michael had read his mind.

"They got some cute waitresses there."

By the time dinner had rolled around Michael had seemed a little more at ease around
Max at least. Max was grateful however that both his parents were away for the night, attending
some agricultural convention over in Santa Rosa. He would have a tough time explaining
Michael to his parents, the stranger he had just picked up on the side of the road. He wasn't a
stranger though, Max kept saying to himself. Once Michael had seemed to have loosened up a
bit it felt like Max had known him his entire life. He still kept an edge to him though, not revealing
much about himself and still with a slight guard up.

Max had no idea how to confront him, how to ask him anything. And what exactly was he
planning on saying to him? Midway through dinner, with he and Michael sitting across from each
other, Max looked up briefly at the boy and suddenly his head began to spin. It began to spin
worse than the worst headache he had ever known. His head throbbed all around, pounding in
his ears, his temple, everywhere.

He rested his head in his hands and Isabelle grew more than worried, as did Michael.
Had he done something?? Max lifted his head back up to Michael but quickly clinched his eyes
shut. He couldn't even form words, the images were crashing through his head so quickly he
couldn't even make out what any of them were. And they continued, hundreds and hundreds of
images. Of symbols, of him, of Isabelle and of Michael, of places he didn't even know, people he
didn't even know. They crashed through his head in a giant montage, his head throbbing and his
eyes clinched shut in pain. And then suddenly at the end of all of it, as if to make it all stop there
was Liz.

Max wasn't sure when it ended, his head continued to throb long after and he sat there
with his head in his hands gasping for breath, sweat dripping down his face. The last image of
Liz was still vivid and it was that which had his head still spinning. Weeks had gone by since he
had seen Liz, almost a month. Michael's appearance had genuinely begun to take his mind off
of her for the first time, but her presence in the flash had him thinking about her more in the past
two minutes than he had in the past two weeks. What in the world could it have meant?

"Max, what's wrong?" Isabelle asked hysterically as minutes went by without her brother
speaking, the same terrified look remaining on his face. Max attempted to make out a few words,
all he could say was 'Liz' but it must have turned out sounding like 'Iz' because Isabelle didn't
catch it.

"What happened?" Michael was hovering around Max as well and when Max finally lifted
up his head and looked at Isabelle she knew. She didn't know what he had seen, but she knew
he had seen something.

"Migraines," Isabelle quickly said, "he gets really bad migraines sometimes." At the
comment Max jerked up his head.

"No -" he began to protest, wanting to tell Michael and not wanting to lie, wanting tell
Isabelle that Liz had been in his vision. That Michael had been.

"Come on," Isabelle suddenly hoisted Max to his feet, "you have to lay down." She
dragged him over to the couch as Max's legs might as well have been jelly.

"I'll get And some - some..Advil," Michael quickly rushed to the freezer to
help Max in any way he could and Isabelle mumbled a thanks as she helped Max to the couch.

"Iz, I have to tell him," Max whispered and Isabelle just shook her head.

"Not. Yet." She said firmly through clinched teeth just as Michael came running in with a
bag of ice that he handed to Max.

"You okay?" Michael asked, seeming to be genuinely concerned and Michael wondered
to himself where the concern came from for this complete stranger. "I get..." he began to say
something but hesitated, seeming to think on his better judgement not to. "I get stuff like that
too," he confessed, ignoring the voice in his head that told him not to. "Kinda knocks me off my
feet - it's..scary." Max just nodded his head as he leaned back on the couch and he shot Isabelle
a look.

"You should probably just get some rest," she suggested, not just to Max but to Michael
too. "It's been a busy day," she said in a motherly tone and Michael just nodded his head. He
thought back to the day's events and how he had gotten here in this house with two complete
strangers. How he was helping Max up to the room, that for now he shared with him.

Things in Max's head were anything but calm and Max knew he would have anything but
a peaceful sleep tonight. Not with Liz flying around his head mixed in with pictures of dead
bodies, glowing silver handprints, galaxies and stars, mysterious men in black suits and of
course him, Michael and Isabelle. His sleep would be anything but peaceful tonight. Max
glanced quickly to Michael for a moment, who was looking out the window, seeming to be
searching for something in the dark.

"What's up?" Max couldn't help but ask and Michael took one last look out the window.

"Nothin'," he dismissed pulling the shirt over his head and climbing into the extra bed. It
should have felt awkward, sharing a room with someone he had known for all of eight hours. But
for some reason it didn't. For some reason it felt right.

Her bio research paper remained untouched at her desk and the geometry notes she
had promised herself she would review still remained in her folder. Liz’s sophomore year so far
had been progressing slower than she would have liked. She knew it had something to do with
the way she had spent her summer, that alone had derailed her attempts at a 4.0 average. She
hadn’t even completed the summer assigment for her English course to start the year and now a
month into the school

Now she sat awake at night and instead of doing homework she simply sat and reflected.
She reflected about everything, not just Max, though that was often the case. She didn’t write
her thoughts down in her journal - no for fear that someone would read them. She just sat and
let the thoughts whir around her head. She knew the slump in her grades also had to do with the
fact that she didn’t just sit down and think at night. She would find her thoughts drifting in the
middle of English class when she was supposed to be thinking about the the rhetorical purpose
of Of Mice and Men. And tonight, tonight she couldn’t think of anything else but Max. She had
had the most haunting dreams last night. Dreams that she had no idea how to interpret. Dreams
of she and Max, and glowing handprints and dead bodies. What had it all meant? Her mind was
still awhirl. She had had dreams stranger than them before, and granted she had had plenty of
dreams of Max, but she had never had a dream that her gripped her so. It was a terrifying
experience, so real and so vivid. It was as if Max was right there in her dream. Her mind filled
with thoughts Liz didn’t even hear her father’s voice or his knock on the door.

“You okay?” he asked, his voice ringing with concern as he opened up the door and
looked to his daughter sitting their on the bed, a thoughtful and at the same time pained
expression on her face.

“What, dad?” she snapped her head up quickly to face him.

“I just wanted to come up and see if you were...y’know, okay after today. I know Maria
was a little shaken up.” Liz looked up to her father and grinned. There had been an argument in
the Crashdown today between two middle-aged men. One of them had pulled a gun, but no
shots were fired away and the men were whisked away by Sheriff Valenti before anyone could
comment on it. And sure Maria had been shaken up, but that was Maria and Liz just shook her
head and laughed at her father, always so protective. She knew he meant only for the best.

“I’m fine, dad,” she assured with a smile and her father just nodded his head, knowing
too well not to second-guess his daughter as it only got her flustered.

“Okay,” he nodded his head, “good night.” He edged back behind the confines of the
door, leaving Liz alone when suddenly something caught his eye. “Lizzie, what’s that?” Mr.
Parker suddenly asked as his eyes rested on Max’s black stetson sitting atop her dresser. Liz’s
thoughts had already started drifting back to Max and she lifted up her head quickly.


“This,” Mr. Parker stepped into Liz’s room and he lifted up the worn black hat and began
examining it. It wasn’t like any of the hats anyone here in town wore. It was used and faded,
wear showing on the edges, where the black had begun to turn a dull brown. This wasn’t some
novelty cowboy hat Kyle Valenti plopped on his head every other day. He flipped the hat over
and looked on the inside, all the while Liz’s heart in her throat, struggling to come up with
something to say. Mr. Parker investigated the inside of the hat carefully. The inside edges were
well-worn and he saw carved into the black material the initials M. E.

“That? I found that at school..” Liz suddenly sputtered. “In the quad - someone must
have left it in the quad and I was just...holding onto it - and I was going to bring it into school
tomorrow to see whose it was,” Liz babbled, hoping that her father would dismiss it and return to
his room.

“Okay,” he dismissed, more casually than Liz would have expected and began to set the
hat back on the dresser.

“Actually,” Liz sat up straighter and outstretched her arms, as if to say that she wanted
the hat. “I don’t want to forget..” she said softly and her father looked to her quizzically, “to bring
it to school,” Liz covered and her father hesitated only slightly before tossing her the hat.

“You sure, you’re okay, Lizzie?” he asked, his daughter’s behavior tonight striking him as
a little peculiar and she nodded her head vehemently before her father walked out.

She was now that she had Max’s stetson in her embrace.

Liz clutched the hat to her chest tightly and breathed in it’s scent deeply. She loved
holding the hat, smelling it. It smelled like Max. A combination of horses and leather, and
something else she couldn’t quite put her finger on. She thought maybe she detected a bit of
cologne, but quickly shook her head and dismissed the thought, laughing at her stupidity. Why
on earth would Max wear cologne to go on a horseback ride except to... No, that was ridiculous.
She wasn’t even going to think that. Max Evans. Quiet, mysterious, outdoorsy Max Evans would
never even think about her, Liz Parker, as anything more than a friend.

After all, she didn’t think of him as more than a friend. At least that’s what she had
continued to tell herself. The mere thought of she and Max Evans together made her laugh.
Fifteen minute trips to town just to see her, the fact that he didn’t even go to West Roswell. But
why then was she holding Max’s hat so tightly to her, trying so hard to remember every moment
of their time together - though it had been more than a month ago -, trying so desperately not to
forget anything. She inhaled deeply again, taking in the fragrance of the hat as they filled her
head: horses, leather, cologne, and the one mysterious thing she couldn’t quite pinpoint that was
Max Evans.

Michael had awoken several times in the middle of the night, confused as to where he
was and what he was doing here but when he looked over at Max's sleeping form he relaxed. It
didn't stop him from getting up out of the bed and wandering around the old farmhouse however.
He guessed it must be sometime in early morning, three or four o'clock maybe as he quietly crept
around the house. He walked through the house in amazement, just looking at the pictures of
Max, Isabelle and their parents. What must have been Max's first time atop of a horse, sitting in
the front of his father in the saddle, Isabelle proudly leading out a cow-spotted black and white
horse by a purple lead rope. Michael's mouth actually raised at the corners as he looked at the
happy pictures, but couldn't help but be struck with a pang of sadness. This was what he had
been missing his entire life. This was what he had been missing when he ran away from foster
home after foster home, when he hitchhiked all across the Southwestern U.S. At first it had just
been him, sick and tired of being bumped out of orphanages, but now it was for his survival. He
wondered what it must be like to live somewhere like here your entire life. With people who
genuinely cared for you.

"Hey," Max suddenly called from the doorway and Michael spun around quickly to face
him. Max was no longer in the sweatpants he had worn to sleep, but seemingly dressed for the
day. Michael glanced out the window, it was light outside and Isabelle was carrying a hose
through the stableyard. Michael was embarassed when he realized it must already be morning.

"I was just..." he fumbled for words, but Max just shook his head in dismissal.

"You're looking at our..future public embarassment," Max laughed as he looked at the
picture of he and Isabelle covered in mud from head to toe, the only thing visible and not coated
in mud their toothy grins. Michael smiled awkwardly and Max scratched his head. "You want
some coffee? or breakfast or something?" he asked.

"Yeah, I can, I can - lemme make it for you," Michael offered to do something for the first
time in his life and he was curious as to the change that was coming about him being with Max
and Isabelle.

"No, it's fine - I'm gettin' Iz a cup, so..." Max quietly slinked out of the room and Michael
remained in with all the pictures. Max was bustling around in the kitchen, grabbing coffee mugs
and rummaging through the cupboards for something for breakfast when Isabelle burst in, dusty
and dirty from the morning chores. "Hey, Iz - can you just throw somethin' on the skillet? I don't
know eggs or...?" Max asked and Isabelle shot him a look.

"Yes, sir- , make your breakfast for you, sir - anything else?" she mocked. "Make your
own breakfast, I'm not your wife," she laughed and they continued to bicker back and forth as
they often did when suddenly they heard a loud crash from the living room.

"Dammit!" Michael mumbled loudly to himself for the third time as he bent down to gather
the broken pieces of glass. He had just been looking at the pictures and admiring the piece of
pottery when he heard a horse cry out outside. Always on edge, he had spun around quickly and
both picture frames, the piece of pottery and the glass lamp went crashing to the floor. He
glanced into the kitchen quickly, hoping Max and Isabelle hadn't heard anything and were still in
making breakfast. He quickly moved his hand over the two picture frames and the glass frames
were as good as new. He ran his hand over the pottery, as well as the glass lamp, but when he
got up to place them back on the table, Max and Isabelle were both standing there looking down
at him. Neither said a thing, Isabelle looked to Max once - as if to say 'what do we do?' - but
neither moved. Michael didn't know what to do either and he just stood there like a deer in the
headlights. His hand was dripping with blood from where the sharp edge of the glass had cut
him and before he knew what was happening Max placed his hand over the cut. Michael
watched, frozen in fear as he saw a familiar faint glow emanate from Max's hand. When he lifted
his hand off the cut was gone.

Michael stood there with wide eyes, not knowing what to make of anything. Not knowing
what to do and Max and Isabelle seemed just as confused. Michael opened up his mouth to say

"I'm not..I mean -" he stuttered for words, not even sure of what he wanted to say.

"Michael it's okay," Max said softly but Michael seemed wary of him. "I knew it..." Max
said, shaking his head in disbelief. "I knew it when I saw you -"

"Max," Isabelle suddenly stepped up towards her brother, as if to say 'slow it down'. But
Max couldn't help it.

"Michael, it's me," he said earnestly, "it's us." Michael looked at him strangely, not
knowing what to think of him, not knowing if he was supposed to believe him. Max took a step
towards him, but Michael backed away.

"What's...what about -" Michael's eyes roamed rapidly through the house and the
pictures of the happy family.

"We're adopted...he found us in the desert," Max explained and Michael suddenly
snapped his head up. He. A memory flashed through his mind quickly, a memory he had tried so
hard to push out. A memory of him at six years old crouched behind a rock watching two
children, a boy and a girl, climbing into a car with an old and weathered man.

"Who?" he questioned warily, still keeping his distance from Max and Isabelle. But now
not so much out of fear, but in shock. The memory that he had tried so hard to block just kept
playing back through his head. The boy and girl who had climbed into the car were the same two
people standing in front of him.

"River Dog," was all Max said, "he came and found us in the desert and he always said
there was someone else...but I never thought..." Michael's muscles were no longer as tense and
he looked up at Max's hopeful face. "It's you."

Proof. That’s what Michael had demanded the neither Max nor Isabelle had expected.
They had thought he would be overjoyed and excited like they were. But Michael seemed
cautious and more than wary.

Healing the cut hadn’t been enough for Michael. He had been tricked one too many
times before by people more normal than Max and his sister. People who didn’t happen to
conveniently live off by themselves in the desert. And where were their parents? The more
Michael thought about it the more he began to edge to the door.

“Michael, don’t go,” Max called, the desperation in his voice clear. Michael’s legs
continued to backpedal towards the exit. “Don’t go!” Max cried again, his voice loud this time and
more commanding, but Michael just turned to spin out the screen door. Suddenly Max’s hand
moved down to the table next to him and in a split second he seized his mother’s china cup and
heaved it against the wall next to the door Michael was leaving through. Michael spun around
quickly at the loud noise and he looked to Max standing there with his hands at his sides.
Isabelle stood in the corner, shocked at her brother’s outburst but at the same time
understanding why he had done it. It was his last desperate effort to get Michael back. Michael
stood rooted to the ground as he watched Max walk over, collect the broken pieces of china and
with a wave of his hand piece them all back together. Michael’s eyes shifted about the room
cautiously and it was then that he noticed that Isabelle was no longer there.

“Wh - where -” before he could finish his question Isabelle returned breathlessly to the
room with four orange crystals in her hand. She quickly shoved them into Michael’s hands and
without even realizing it Michael took a step forward back into the house.

“You can come meet River Dog, he’ll explain everything,” Isabelle wheezed, “he’s the
one who gave us these.” And even though Michael knew now that Max nor Isabelle were out to
get him, he shook his head


Max had never been to the adoption agency before, and he was surprised at the flood of
memories that came when he entered through the doors. He was surprised that he even
remembered the name of it. The Bitter Lake Children’s Home. It had been Michael’s idea -
demand was more like it - to go there. To check the records himself. Isabelle told him that
neither she nor Max had any knowledge as to where it was, but Max immedietly spat out the
name. Isabelle had been shocked that her brother had known it. Frightened even, and even
moreso when he had driven the three straight to it.

Max knew it. He knew it from Riverdog’s stories and from the times his father had
pointed over a ridge and told him that ‘that was where he and Isabelle had found a home’. He
remembered the aging white van in the driveway and the white picket fence when they pulled up
the dusty road, how much it stood out from the dull brown New Mexico desert. He was struck
with a rush of images and he knew Michael and Isabelle were too. Funny, Max though. He had
spent years trying to forget his the three nights he had spent here, but the memories just kept
spilling over.

“Let’s make this quick,” he suddenly said and Isabelle and Michael nodded their heads
vigorously in agreement. Everwhere Max turned he was met by a memory. Where he and
Isabelle had sat with River Dog at first, cold and hungry and blanketed in oversized clothes. The
doorway that they had both first seen their parents. And then Max was struck with a memory of
an angry and at the same time frightened boy, huddled in the chair in the corner. Michael.

Max looked over to Michael now. He was looking at the same chair, Max knew thinking
the exact same thing. He wondered to himself why Michael seemed to be in such denial over
everything. Why he had demanded ‘proof’, why he was ordering that they go to this orphanage.
Michael and Isabelle simply stood there and finally Max stepped forward, leaned over the front
desk and began talking in hushed tones with the woman behind it. Both Michael and Isabelle
simply stood there, looking to each other nervously before eventually walking up behind Max.
Neither could make out what Max and the woman were talking about but the next thing they knew
they were being led to a backroom by an aging, grey-haired woman. Every step they took was a
memory, most often a painful one and in Michael’s case a frightening one.

“This is all in chronological order,” the woman explained. “We get a lot of people like
you - mostly parents, sometimes kids. You say - 1989?” She inquired and Max nodded his head.
“Well then you’ll be in the fourth file cabinet on the bottom.” She began to walk out the door and
suddenly stopped herself, looking back to the three youths. “I hope you find what you’re looking

The three simply stood there, waiting until the sound of the woman’s shoes had
completely vanished down the hall before diving into the file cabinet. Max ripped through the
giant manilla folders quickly, looking for one dated SUMMER 1989. When he located it, he
grabbed it and jerked it out so hard he almost tore the flimsy cardboard. Max didn’t even have to
search through the papers inside, both his, Michael and Isabelle’s hearts stopped beating in their
chests when they saw where the mass of papers immedietly opened up to. They all saw the
tattered and worn pages, they saw the dog ear in the upper right hand corner. Right above Max
and Isabelle’s name.

“Someone’s been here before,” Max said the words slowly and his voice cracked his
mouth was so dry. Isabelle and Michael were both silent, and Michael just scanned the page
quickly. He turned it over and examined the back carefully, he looked at the pages in front of it
and the pages in back. He wasn’t on here. Max and Isabelle were, it described everything clear
as anything. How they had been brought in by an old Indian, how they had been found naked in
the desert. But there was no trace of Michael and he just kept seaching franticly through the

“Those are ripped too,” Isabelle suddenly commented, looking at the pages in front and
in back of their dog-eared page. Michael suddenly stopped his frenzied search.

“They were looking for me,” he instantly said and at the words Max and Isabelle spun
their heads around.


“They were looking for me - look I’m not here, I’m not even on here. There’s
nothing....they took it,” Michael said and at his final words he sat down in the nearest chair,
seeming to be in shock - as if he needed to catch his breath.

“Wait, Michael - whose they?” Max immedietly asked. “I mean River Dog told us - he
wrote something different for you...he - he said he found you somewhere else, not in the
desert..he didn’t want to raise suspicion - so he -”

“Max, there’s nothing here!” Michael ripped out a handful of folders and Max realized
suddenly that it was the first time Michael had called him by his name. He realized now Michael
no longer was worried about whether or not he was their brother, there was something much
more important at stake now. Something urgent. “They took it..” he mumbled to himself again.

“Michael, just relax and -”

“Take me to this River Dog guy,” he demanded again and looking at the absolute terror
in his eyes, both Max and Isabelle simply nodded their heads. They quickly shoved the folders
back into the cabinet and raced back out towards the truck. Max suddenly stopped himself
halfway through the door and he grabbed Michael’s arm and brought him with him. Running
back towards the desk Max asked the same woman a question so compellingly she hadn’t even
hesitated to ask as to it’s suspicious nature.

“Did anyone else come in here looking for 1989 files?” he demanded breathessly. The
woman scratched her head and her casual nature seemed to bother Michael, who clinched his
fists so tightly his knuckles were turning white.

“Actually - two men came in here last week...said they were uncles or something?
Wanting to take a look at the files..we usually don’t let people go rummage through those - and
they seemed kinda...but - ”

Michael didn’t even need to hear another word. Before the woman could finish, he was
already out the door.

“I’m telling you, Maria - he’s like, he’s like the man from Snowy River!” Liz sputtered to
her best friend as she placed an order of Space Fries down on the table. She had given up her
effort to keep everything about Max a secret. One day it had just come out. She had been
talking with Maria about something completely unrelated and then it was ‘Oh yeah, when I was
with Max last month...’ She hadn’t planned on telling Maria and if she were to she would not
have done it like that. But she had slipped up and there was no use hiding it. So Maria had to
hear about Max every waking minute. At least recently she had to. “He’s know he’s so
incredible and - “

“So I don’t get it -” Maria suddenly interuppted before she lost Liz for good. There were
still twenty minutes left in their shift and she could tell by the look in her friend’s eye the feeling
that was coming over her. “Why are you suddenly so...I mean, are you still having those
dreams?” Maria questioned, referring to the dreams Liz had told her about. The dreams about

“Every night,” Liz replied, leaving out of course the details of the dreams. The symbols,
the handprints, the dead bodies and the FBI agents. She had been with Max at the Bitter Lake
Children’s Home in her dream last night. A place she had never been before so she had no idea
how she would know what it was like inside. But she walked hand-in-hand in with Max. And all
over the walls and the floor there were symbols. Symbols that looked like they had to be another
language. And then of course there were the flashes of children. Two scared children, a boy
and girl and then a third. And as much as she tried to shake the thought from her head, she
couldn’t help but think that the one boy had more than an uncanny resemblance to Max.

“And what happened in it?” Maria interrogated. As of lately her friend had been
distancing herself a little more and a little more. She complained of headaches more than once
and had even left a shift once or twice to go up to her room and rest. When Maria had gone up
to check on her she had been upstairs, laying on her bed and clutching Max’s steston tightly. It
was then that Maria began to sense that whatever was going on with Liz and Max was something
more than she could have ever imagined. Everyone was intrigued by Max Evans, including
herself, but the way Liz talked about him was completely different.

“Nothing...we were just - together,” Liz replied honestly, but her mind was somewhere

“Liz, you’re with Kyle - “

“I know,” Liz moaned and she plopped down on an empty stool and ran her hands
through her hair. “And it’s like I’m *with* Kyle and all I can think about is Max,” she confessed.

“You mean you’re like - with - him?” Maria implied and Liz just nodded her head.

“Well not like - with him that way, God no - but I’ll be like kissing him and the minute I
close my eyes...” Liz’s voice drifted and her eyes closed and Maria finished her friend’s
sentence, knowing she was going to that place.

“You’re kissing Max.”

“Exactly.” Liz sighed. “He’s...all I can think about,” she professed and Maria’s eyes didn’t
raise at the comment like Liz had thought they would.

“Then go see him,” Maria replied casually and Liz’s eyes widened.

“No way, I can’t - I mean -”

“Why not?” Maria held out her hands. “He came to you.”

“Yeah but...” Liz stumbled, unable to think of any real reasons that would shut down
Maria. Once she got an idea there was no use trying to stop it.

“You can say you’re bringing back his hat,” she suggested slyly and Liz’s face actually
seemed to frown at the comment, Maria just grinned widely. “You don’t want to give it back, do
you?” she teased and Liz just shoved her in the arm playfully. “I know you, you sleep with that
thing at night like a baby - and Lucky, God don’t even get me started on Lucky,” Maria rolled her
eyes. “I know the only reason you took that dog now.” Liz quickly wadded the apron up and
shoved it at her friend.

“Leaving now,” she began to walk out the door, pretending to be upset at her friend.
Truth was she was so grateful to have a friend like Maria. Keeping her feelings about Max all
bottled up inside of her was driving her insane and the fact that Maria was so patient listening to
her sort out everthing that she was feeling. She still kept things bottled up inside though. She
couldn’t tell Maria everything. And she was torn inside as to whether or not to tell Max about her
dreams. One thing was for sure. She ran upstairs and grabbed the black steston. She was
going to see Max.

The ride back from the Mesaliko Reservation was quiet. Michael sat in the back of the
pickup - his choice - and Max glanced up at the rearview mirror every now and then to check on
him. Nobody knew how to act after what had just happened with River Dog. After everything
had been revealed. Max and Isabelle especially. How could they? Michael had pretty much
spelled out for them everything, what he was running from - or more fittingly who. He explained
to them who ‘they’ actually was and Isabelle and Max had simply stood there in shock. And that
was how they remained.

River Dog had attempted to keep everything calm to no avail. Michael had exploded and
Max and Isabelle even grew a little angry at the old man for keeping things so secretive.

“I can’t believe he knew all along,” Max broke the deathly silence in the car and Isabelle
shot her head around to look at him. “I can’t believe he was hiding it from us.”

“Max, he was trying to keep us safe,” Isabelle said flatly, and it was clear even she had
some reserved feelings about the issue.

“He could have gotten us killed,” Max said, his jaw clinched tightly. Michael simply sat in
the back seat. He leaned back against one side, one leg up and one leg down as the wind
whipped at his hair. And the silence prevailed again.

Dusk had fallen upon the New Mexico desert when the three arrived back at the Evans
Ranch. Michael hopped out of the flatbed, his face a mask of emotions and Max was unsure as
to what they all were.

“You can stay at the Reservation for now,” he suddenly said and Michael simply nodded
his head. “You know until...until all of this kind of cools off a little.”

“It doesn’t cool off,” Michael stated, looking Max in the eye. “It never cools off,” he
repeated, beginning to walk towards the house to collect his things. The air was thin all around
and Max just glanced to Isabelle again. She sighed loudly, seeming to be echoing all three’s

“I can’t believe this is happening,” Isabelle suddenly said and Max nodded his head as
they leaned against the truck. He hadn’t even realized the car in the dusty dirt driveway. And he
didn’t notice Liz until she was mere steps away from him.

“Hey, Max,” she called happily and his head snapped up suddenly.

“Oh my God, we don’t need this now,” Isabelle moaned loud enough so that both Liz and
Max could hear as she turned her head away.

“Hey,” was all Max said, though his voice didn’t have the usual lift it normally had to it.
Maybe this had all been a mistake, Liz thought to herself. Her just showing up here after over a
month of not seeing each other. “What’re you doing here?” he couldn’t help but ask, not
meaning to come across as rude, but genuinely curious as to why she had driven the fifteen
minutes out of town to see him. He stepped away from the truck now and took a step towards
her, his eyes gazing into hers. The tiny action sent shivers up Liz’s spine, this was why she had
come to see Max, and she stumbled over words.

“I just...I was just - I -” Liz’s tongue became a giant knot as Max’s eyes remained
transfixed on her. The events of the past afternoon were quickly receding into the back of his
mind and a new feeling began to wash over him. The feeling he always got when he was with

Michael came jogging out of the front door, his ratty duffle bag slung over his shoulder
and he jogged only a few feet out the door before he stopped in his tracks.

“Whose she??” he suddenly asked and Liz spun around quickly to look at Michael. Her
mind didn’t even register at first that it was the same boy who had been in the Crashdown the
other day. The one who had poured the Tabasco sauce all over his food. Instead, she just
began to back away from the three, who quickly almost seemed to be surrounding her.

“Maybe I - I came at a bad time...” she sputtered.

“No!” Max suddenly said and the tone in his voice made Isabelle glare at him.

“Max, we have to do that thing,” she indicated as neatly as she could, but Max didn’t
even seem to register anything. All that he saw right now and all that mattered was Liz. Isabelle
hated how he could get like this sometimes. It was how it had been all summer long. Now they
had serious issues to deal with, they had to get Michael back to the Reservation before their
parents came back and Max was too busy making puppy eyes at Liz.

“God, forget it - Michael, I’ll take you!” Isabelle jerked the keys out of Max’s hand and
stormed towards the jeep. Max spun around quickly, not even registering what was going on.

“Wait - what - Isabelle. What’re you doing?” he asked, his voice full of confusion.

“What you’re obviously not,” she snapped, turning the keys into the ignition while
Michael sat sullenly in the seat next to her.

“You know, Max - I think I should just...” Liz began to say again.

“Don’t go,” he nearly commanded to her, and Liz began to grow a bit nervous at
everything that was happening. At the tone of Max’s voice.

“Isabelle -” Max began to protest again, but the sound of the engine was beginning to
drown him out.

“Decide what’s more important to you Max!” she managed to yell out and at the comment
Max grew defensive.

“Don’t do that, Isabelle!!” he shouted, almost seeming to be scolding her. “Don’t do
that!” Max cried as Isabelle and his truck began to drive away. Liz simply stood there, holding
her arm across her chest, not knowing what to make of anything. She heard the crack in his
voice and couldn’t help but be worried about whatever was happening. Not to mention the fact
that she couldn’t shake the image of the boy in the truck with Isabelle. The boy that had asked
so rudely who she was.

And then it came to her. He was the one who had been in all her dreams. Had been in
all her dreams with Max. The more she thought about him the clearer and clearer his image
became in her head. And then she realized it was the same guy that had been in the
Crashdown. The one who Maria had taken a bit of a liking to.

“Max who was that?” She asked boldly and Max just stood there and watched the truck
drive off down the dusty dirt drive. He seemed more than saddened as he watched it get further
and further away and didn’t even stop to think about the words that came out of his mouth.

“My brother.”

“So who was that?” Michael asked as Isabelle sped down the highway to the Mesaliko
Indian Reservation. “She...she seemed kinda familiar,” Michael scratched his head. Isabelle
seemed more than bothered by everything that had just happened and she inhaled deeply.

“She works at the Crashdown,” Isabelle managed to say. “You know - that creepy alien
themed place in town,” she finally glanced over at Michael, who just nodded his head.

“So what’s the deal with him? He pretty much zoned out when she..”

“That’s the way Max is with Liz,” Isabelle explained, sounding none too pleased.

“What are they - are you guys like friends with humans?” Michael’s voice began to raise
at the thought.

“He is,” she stated flatly. “But Michael we have parents,” she softened up a bit. “I mean
if a situation like this it’s an asset.”

“Right, having him blank out like that - that’s an asset,” Michael responded dryly.

“He’s not like that all the time..” Isabelle found herself defending her brother. “It’s
just...he hasn’t....he hasn’t seen her for like a month and...”

“What are they together?”

“No, but -”

“But what? She’s a weakness,” Michael stated simply. “Why haven’t you done
anything?” he looked to Isabelle again and she ran her hands through her hair, beads of sweat
collecting on her face. Michael was so different from anything she and Max knew. He was
so..detached. Like he didn’t care about anyone or anything. He didn’t know anything about
human emotions. He thought with just a wave of her hand she could tear apart Max and Liz.

“It’s easier said than done.”

“Your brother??” Liz blinked her eyes in disbelief as she simply stared at Max. “Max, he’s
your brother?” She questioned again and this time he turned to face her, realizing what he had
just revealed.

“No, no - he’s -”

“I thought you said you were adopted?”

“No, he’s not my brother -”

“But Max, you just said -”

“He’s not -” Max began to raise his voice.

“But you said -” she began to question again, but Max cut her off again.

“Forget what I said, okay!” he actually yelled and no sooner had he done it then he
regretted it. She shrunk back a bit in fear and he slowly closed his eyes, realizing what he had
done. He had raised his voice to Liz. “Look, just...” Liz simply stood there biting her lip. God,
things couldn’t get any more hectic today, he held his head in his hands. “I just...”

“Max, are you okay?” She asked worriedly, having never seen him like this before.

“Yeah, I don’t know I just...” He hesitated for a moment. “I didn’t sleep well,” he
confessed honestly. Last night had been horrendous. He might as well have been an
insomniac, everytime he closed his eyes he had been met with a rush of images and had quickly
opened his lids again. When he finally did find peace it lasted only a short time before he drifted
off into a land of dreams. Or nightmares as the case may be. He didn’t know whether to tell Liz
about the dreams or not. The fact that she had been in them. Liz felt a chill go through her
body at his last words. That was what she had intended to talk to him about today, but she could
clearly tell that now was not the time. “Do you want to go for a ride or something?” he suddenly
asked and she didn’t know what to make of his question. All she wanted to do at that moment
was to hop on a horse and ride away with Max like they had so many times over the summer.
But for some reason she glanced down at her watch.

“I’m already a couple minutes late for my shift,” she began to walk back to the car and he
followed after her.

“Well when can I see you again?” he asked, then realizing how urgent and how
desperate he must sound he stopped himself. “I mean - do you want to come by tomorrow?” Liz
nearly broke out in an ear-to-ear smile but she contained herself.

“I um..I have school tomorrow,” she was kicking herself.

“,” Max nodded his head.

“And then - I’m working from 4- 9,” she hated the fact that she was a waitress at this
moment, no matter how much money she made in tips.

“Oh - okay,” Max nodded his head, trying to appear less disheartened than he was.

“I just...I just came by to give back your hat,” she told him honestly and Max didn’t even
seem to register what she was saying. He simply gazed at her. “I should go,” she suddenly
ducked into the car, not really knowing why. She put the keys into the ignition and realized Max
was still leaning up against the car. Max seemed to realize it too and his ears turned a shade of
pink as he stepped away. Liz simply waved out the window as she turned around and drove
back towards town. Away from Max. And as she looked back to him one last time out the
window she glanced to the back seat quickly. She still had his hat.

Seeing all the students spill out from the main door of West Roswell at three o’clock,
Max couldn’t help but be struck with a pang of sadness. Sadness at everything that he was
missing not going to school here. There were the cheerleaders, there were the football players
in their blue and gold Varsity jackets some with footballs under their arms. There were the
people walking out by themselves, the category he would most likely fit into. And there was Liz.

She didn’t see him at first, she was laughing and talking with that blonde-haired waitress
from the cafe. But his eyes immedietly locked on her as he leaned up against his pickup. He
knew this was risky, coming into town like this, waiting outside of the school for her. Where
everyone could see him. And her. In more ways than one it was. But he had to see her again
and her eyes met his halfway down the steps and without so much as a word to the girl next to
her she began walking towards him.

“Liz??” the girl called out and Liz just held out her hand.

“I’ll talk to you later, Maria,” she dismissed softly, as she walked across the sidewalk and
across the street to Max. She knew there were probably tons of eyes on her right now, but right
now the only pair of eyes that she saw were Max’s, fixed intently on her. “Hi,” she said shyly,
stepping up towards him.

“I wanted to apologize,” Max quickly said, before she even had a chance to ask. “For
yesterday - I really just - I want to apologize -”

“Max, it’s okay,” Liz assured with a shake of her head.

“No, I mean - I had some...some family stuff going on,” Liz was quiet at the comment
although she was tempted to ask about it. “And I’m...I’m sorry,” he said softly, almost seeming to
be ashamed of his behavior yesterday as his eys were suddenly focused on the tops of his

“It’s okay,” Liz nodded her head again and Max picked up his head.

“Thanks,” he said it with more emotion than Liz would have expected from just a simple
thank you.

“So...” she suddenly said awkwardly.

“So,” Max smiled and Liz actually laughed at the awkwardness that had suddenly
developed around them. Before either could make a comment though, Maria came bounding up
beside Liz.

“Hey, Liz - just wanted to remind you that I’ve got your shift today, so you don’t have to
come work,” she smiled and Liz opened up her mouth to protest, but Maria had already begun to
walk away. “I’ll talk to you later tonight,” she dismissed with a wave of her hand and continued
on. Maria had seen Max and Liz from the top of the steps - along with the rest of West Roswell
High. She had seen the quiet interaction between them, the way they both sometimes averted
their eyes so they weren’t looking at each other and the way Max smiled at her, the way she
smiled at him. God, they were both completely gone. She wasn’t going to let her friend duck out
again today with the excuse that she had to work and she turned her head back around to the
bottom of the steps where Liz was now climbing into Max’s truck. And a smile appeared on
Maria’s face.

Liz was amazed at how right it all felt. Seeing Max right after school. Driving down the
highway in Max’s truck. Being with Max. She could get used to this. In fact she would love to be
able to get used to this.

“Max, there’s a football game this weekend,” Liz suddenly said, not sure as to why. Max
didn’t seem to understand what she had meant by the statement either.

“Oh,” was all he said.

“Well, you know - I was just wondering..I mean if you’re not busy know, if maybe
you wanted to..” Max heard all the words she was saying, he heard them all loud and clear but
he just didn’t believe it. If you boiled it all down and cut out all the ‘umms’ and the hesitations,
Liz Parker was asking him out. And she continued to stumble and stutter and Max just stared out
the windshield in disbelief.

“Yeah,” he suddenly said, his voice no louder than a whisper.

“What?” Liz asked, the last thing out of her mouth not exactly a yes or no question.

“Yeah, I’d uh...” Max took a deep breath. “I’d love to,” he managed to say. He felt a
pang of guilt in his chest, a pang of guilt that he was here discussing weekend plans with Liz,
while everything with Michael and Isabelle was going on, but the feeling quickly subsided. And
he was amazed at how right it all felt. Forget that Liz was *with* Kyle, whatever that meant,
forget that he and Liz weren’t even the same species. Forget that he lived a completely different
lifestyle. Right now she didn’t seem to care, and at that moment neither did he.

Of all the days for an Orthodontists Convention to come to Roswell, it was the day that
Maria had decided to be the wonderful, sacrificing friend that she was. Holding down Liz’s shift
and her shift was harder than she would have ever imagined, but each time she found herself
about to snap at a customer, or about to storm out all together she kept seeing Liz smiling with
Max by his truck or Max helping her into the passenger side. And she would continue on.

Plopping two milkshakes onto the counter, going back to refill three cups of coffee and
running back to the kitchen to pick up four more orders, Maria was in such a hurry she bumped
directly into Mr. Parker, who was having trouble containing the smile creeping on his face at her
frenzied state.

“Y’okay there, Maria?” he laughed and Maria ran her hands through her hair and
exhaled loudly.

“Yeah,” she managed to say, continuing back to the order counter.

“Hey - wasn’t Lizzie supposed to work now?” Mr. Parker suddenly asked a bit worriedly
and Maria quickly spun around.

“Yeah, but she had some things to do at schol,” she spit out, hoping she didn’t sound as
obvious as she thought, and Mr. Parker simply nodded his head and continued on. Maria sighed
loudly and picked up the four awaiting plates. Liz was going to be paying her back for a long

Max had just barely escaped a thrashing from Isabelle yesterday after Liz had come.
She had come storming out of the truck to yell and scold him when she stopped herself, seeing
that their parents were back. Max had counted his blessings there, but he knew that if Isabelle
were to come back now and see him and Liz there was no way he could avoid her. They weren’t
going for a ride, oddly enough they were simply walking around the inside of his house. Simply
talking while she looked at all the pictures around the house. She had only been in his house
once before, that day at the end of the summer she had stayed for dinner, and she hadn’t really
been able to look around the house. Now she was carefully looking at all the photographs that
his mother had displayed, a smile on her face the entire time.

“Oh my God, is that you??” she suddenly asked, picking up the same picture Michael
had been looking at. The picture of him at the age of six on his first horse, smiling a wide and
toothy grin.

“Yeah,” he mumbled sheepishly, bowing his head, his ears quickly turning that shade of
pink she saw more and more.

“You’re so cute!” she laughed, shoving his shoulder playfully as she looked at the
oversized black hat on his head then. “Was that your first horse?” she questioned and Max
simply nodded his head. “What was his name??” she looked closely at the black and white
spotted horse.

“Gonzo,” Max admitted quietly and Liz had to laugh.

“Gonzo??” she asked incredulously. “That is too cute.” Max just stood there and looked
to her, at how carefully she was looking at the picture. She finally placed it down, but picked up
the picture of Isabelle leading out what looked to be the same black and white horse. “Is that the
same horse?” she asked quietly and Max just nodded his head.

“We shared Gonzo,” he said and the look on her face was one Max couldn’t quite read.

“Beautiful horse,” she murmured more to herself than to him. Finally snapping out of her
daze, she put the picture back down. “Gonzo,” she laughed again and Max just shook his head.

“I was six,” he laughed himself and Liz, wasn’t sure why she did it, but at that moment it
just felt right, so she wrapped both her arms around his and leaning against his shoulder, she
walked out of the room with him like that. It just felt right, it felt cozy. Leaning into Max like that,
her head resting against his broad shoulder, smelling the scent that she loved so much, just how
warm and secure he made her feel.

Max had all but died when she had linked her arms around his. Was she even aware of
what she was doing? What she was doing to him? It didn’t even seem that she was. Could she
feel his heart racing through his sweater? Could she feel his blood absolutely boiling all over?
She sighed loudly.

“I don’t want to go home,” she said softly and when Max turned his head down to look at
her it was her turn to turn pink. “I said that out loud, didn’t I?” she blushed and Max just nodded
his head slowly.

“What’s so bad at home?” he inquired boldly and she shrugged, inching closer to him. If
he looked down he could see his shirt vibrating ever so slightly from the beating of his heart.

“Nothing’s’s just - school, work,” she paused for a moment and looked
out to the corrall where it looked like Aldo was galloping about. “Everything’s just..” her voice
drifted off as she and Max began to walk into the open hall and she didn’t get to finish whatever
she was about to say as they both ran headlong into Max’s parents.

“Oh,” was all his mother could say at the sight and she simply stared. Neither Max nor
Liz were quick to break apart and she simply looked to her husband for help.

“Hello Liz,” he offered and she just smiled. She looked up to Max and both their eyes
said the same thing.

“I should get going,” she said softly, finally removing her arms from his and stepping

“Yeah,” he whispered, “yeah, I’ll drive you home.” And both parents simply stood there
as they watched Max and Liz walk out the door together and towards his truck.

“Well...” Mrs. Evans’ mouth turned up at the corners excitedly and her husband raised
his eyebrows as they watched Max’s careful actions as he helped Liz into the truck.

“Wonder what Max isn’t telling us?” Mr. Evans commented as it seemed neither him nor
his wife could shake the image they had just seen of Max and Liz. Together.

The atmosphere at the Crashdown had finally quieted down, but it didn’t mean that Maria
was having any less stressful a time. The gruff spiky-haired boy she had thought had been in
such a hurry to get out of Roswell was back and sitting at the same spot on the counter. Except
this time he wasn’t analyzing a map, he was analyzing what looked like a paper tracing. She
couldn’t make out what the paper-tracing was of, but he was deep in thought over it and she
couldn’t help but peer over his shoulder a bit at it.

“What - do - you - want??” he drew out the words slowly and enunciated clearly so
much that the anger in his voice sent Maria back.

“Relax, I was just seeing if you wanted more coffee,” she covered quickly, holding up the
coffee pot in her hands and showing him.

“I don’t have any coffee, why would I want some more?” he returned his eyes to the
paper-tracing, trying not to stare as hard as he was at the blonde-haired girl.

“Exactly - you sit at the counter, you have to order something, and you’ve been here
for...” Maria glanced down at her watch. “A good ten minutes and haven’t ordered a thing.”

“I can’t just sit here?” he asked, picking his head up to face her again.

“No, you can’t.”

“Well, I don’t see how you can make me leave,” he challenged.

“Order something now, buddy - or I’ll go get the owner,” she met his challenge and he
raised his eyebrows slightly.

“Cherry Coke, now beat it.”

“God are you always this rude??” she asked.

“Are you always this annoying?” he shot back and before another insult could be
exchanged between the two Liz came popping up behind Maria.

“Hey, Maria - what’s up??” she asked happily and Maria slowly turned her head away
from the rude customer who, for some strange reason, she was attracted to.

“Hey - how was Max?” she asked casually and at the comment Michael spun his head
around to face Liz.

“Michael!?” she jumped back in surprise to see that he was the person who Maria had
been bickering with.

“Michael?” Maria looked to Michael and then back to Liz. “You know him, Liz?”

“Where’s Max?” Michael asked urgently.

“I’m right here, what’s going on?” Max suddenly stepped behind Liz and her knees
actually buckled as she felt his breath inadvertently come down on the back of her neck. She
wasn’t sure why Max had come inside, but just having him that close to her had her head
spinning. She was so close to leaning her head back against his chest and just resting it there,
but she turned her head up to face him.

“What’re you doing here, Max?” she asked, a sense of playfulness in her voice as she
looked up at him, her face mere inches away from his. Maria could hardly believe it. Liz had
somehow gotten through to Max Evans, and somehow she had gotten so she was more familiar
around him than Maria had ever seen her with Kyle. Or anybody. The way her face had lit up at
the mere sound of his voice was incredible.

“You left your bag in the car,” he lifted up the familiar black backpack, not even
attempting to formulate a cover story in front of Michael. “Michael, what’s going on?”

“Funny, I was about to ask you,” Michael glared at Liz, and his cold stare sent shivers up
her spine. Max moved the tiniest bit closer to her, moving his hand to the small of her back in an
almost defensive maneuver and she quickly felt shivers up her spine for an entirely different

“Wa - wa - wa - wait a second!!” Maria suddenly threw up her hands before the
conversation could continue. She looked to the three faces, who seemed so comfortable around
one another. Even Michael’s hateful glance to Liz proved a prior meeting between the two. “You
all know each other?” Max shifted his eyes around the room quickly and his eyes rested on the
paper in front of Michael.

“We have to go,” he suddenly said, removing his hand from Liz’s back and instead
grabbing Michael by the arm. Michael looked to Max quickly and got up from the bench.

“Scratch that cherry coke,” he smirked to Maria and then turned to stare down Liz one
last time as he turned to walk out the door. Maria simply stood there and she looked to Liz, then
back to the two boys leaving the Crashdown.

“You have got some explaining to do,” she ordered, her tone half-joking and half-serious
and Liz just looked to her. She had seen the way she had been looking at Michael, the way
Michael had been looking at her.

“As do you.”

Liz laid outstretched on her bed, her arms and legs spread out and her entire head
spinning as she thought about the past days events. Thought about Max. About how nice it had
felt leaning into his shoulder, about how she had asked him to the football game and what his
response had been, about how he had moved his hand to her back earlier in the Crashdown.
More importantly, what that simple maneuver had done for her. The images she had seen
because of it. It was supposed to be their traditional girl talk and ice cream session but it was
only Maria who was ejoying the ice cream, seated at the head of the bed on top of Liz’s pillow.

“So you know the entire school is going to be talking?” Maria said to Liz, who seemed to
be off in her own world. “I mean everyone saw you get in a car with this tall, dark, handsome
guy...I mean Kyle, Liz? - Kyle could have seen it.” Liz made a disgusted face.

“Could you not talk about Kyle,” she requested.

“Your boyfriend Kyle?” Maria reminded her and at the comment Liz’s mood turned sour.
“You have to do something - I mean you can’t keep leading him. He’s a *nice* guy, Liz.” Maria

“He’s a nice guy, I know and I feel bad..but he’s not..”

“He’s not Max,” Maria finished. “I know, I know. Look Liz - is there something really
going on between you two?” Liz was quiet and didn’t even seem to be paying attention anymore.
Max’s - still unreturned - black stetson had made it’s way into her hands. “Liz?”


“Is there something going on with you and Max?” Maria couldn’t believe that she was
even saying the words, the mere possibility of it was incredible. It was two people from
completely different worlds that she never in a million years would have thought could end up

“Is there something going on with you and Michael?” Liz changed the subject and Maria
just laughed.

“Who is Michael?!?” she exclaimed throwing her hands into the air. “Look, don’t change
the subject on me here.”

“Maria, there’s nothing...” Liz began to dismiss her friend, but found herself unable to
finish the sentence. That there was nothing going on between her and Max. Because she
wished there was. More than anything right now she wished there was and she hated thinking
about Kyle. Kyle who had been so good all summer about letting her go off and letting things
happen that he had no idea about. “I asked him to the football game,” Liz suddenly confessed
and Maria’s eyes widened.

“You what??”

“I don’t know..I just - “ As excited as Maria was for Liz’s developments she couldn’t help

“Are you insane???” she exclaimed, but Liz simply held the black stetson closer. And
back at the Evans house, the mood was much the same.

“I just wanted to apologize to her,” Max attempted to explain to Isabelle why he had gone
into town in the first place today, nevertheless why he had brought Liz back to the house.

“Apologize for what??” she cried.

“You,” Max stated simply and at the sharp comment Isabelle stepped back. “Michael.”
Isabelle just looked at him, her look right now one so angry it almost frightened Max. “Myself,”
he added.

“Yeah? why don’t you apologize to US, Max!” she berated him. “This whole you and Liz
thing..” Isabelle rolled her eyes and clinched her jaw shut, clearly biting her tongue. “There
shouldn’t even be a you and Liz thing. I mean this summer - fine. But Max...” Isabelle walked
over and closed the door, lowering her voice. “With all that’s going you want to put Liz in

“I’m not putting her in danger,” Max suddenly shot back to his sister, angry at her for
attempting to manipulate him where she knew he was weakest. “Don’t do that,” he warned.

“Do what? Tell the truth.”

“She’s not in danger, she doesn’t even know,” Max told Isabelle what he knew she was
probably all too suspicious about, but was careful to leave out anything indicating the dreams
that he had had lately about him and Liz. Even Liz couldn’t know about those.

“Why don’t you talk to Michael,” Isabelle suddenly snapped and Max jerked his head up
at the comment.

“What does Michael have to do with me and Liz?” he defended but Isabelle replied with
only a four-word answer.

“Ask him about Tess.”

Max rarely visited the Mesaliko Reservation at night and he suddenly realized how eery
it could appear in the darkness. There was a mysterious chant coming from the opposite side of
the area and from where Max was standing, it was just a faint unnerving noise that surrounded
him. He found it hard to imagine that a place he had grown up so familiar with, a place he
considered his second home, he was suddenly equating with the word ‘unsettling’. Maybe it was
Isabelle’s last four words that had Max on edge. *Ask him about Tess*. The words rang in his
ear and the fact that Isabelle had said nothing else on the matter, simply that command only
made him more nervous.

He quietly crept his way around the Reservation, not sure where exactly he was going to
find Michael. He was looking carefully all around for signs of River Dog and wasn’t even
watching where he was going as he ran headlong into the reason he was here.

“Michael, what’re you doing?” he whispered.

“What am I doing? this is my home now, remember?” he said loudly and Max found it
odd that he was already calling the Reservation ‘home’ even if he had used it sarcastically.
“What the hell are you doing here?” Max looked around nervously.

“Let’s get outta here,” he suddenly said and Michael looked at Max strangely before
following him towards the jeep.

Max had come right out with it. The minute they had gotten into the jeep he had
immedietly asked Michael about her and at his words Michael had frozen up. Max couldn’t
imagine what could be so bad that it made Michael go into a paralysis like he was, and so he
asked again.

“What is it, Michael? Who’s Tess?” he inquired boldly and Michael was silent for a long
time. Max simply stood there, his eyes nearly boring holes into Michael’s skull before Michael
offered any sort of an explanation.

“Tess is dead.”

Max sat rooted to the seat the entire fifty-seven minutes it took Michael to tell him all
about Tess. Max didn’t say one thing throughout any of it. He just sat and listened. He listened
to Michael telling him about how Tess had been one of them. How she had been more
advanced with her powers than he or Isabelle could ever imagine. How she had been raised by
another like them and was about as removed from society and humanity as you could get.
Hearing this come from Michael, Max found hard to believe, and he found it disturbing to imagine
what the girl must have been like. He listened as Michael told him about her short blonde curls
and piercing blue eyes. About how together the two had grown to trust each other and in their
own peculiar alien way they had formed a bond. He explained to Max how he had been alone
his entire life, he explained how he traveled from place to place and never got too attached, but
with Tess he couldn’t help it. There had been a connection with her from the start because they
had both been the same. They didn’t know anything human.

Max listened to it all intently. How Michael and Tess had begun unlocking secrets to
their past. How they began to learn things. And more importantly how the more things they
knew, the greater trouble they got into. Max listened carefully as Michael explained how the FBI
became involved and how he and Tess had spent four months running from them. And then, as
his throat grew drier and a crack developed in his voice, Michael told Max how Tess’ life had
ended. Max sat rooted to the spot as Michael told him about the day. About how he and Tess
had been in Marathon, Texas and how they had been so close to discovering something huge
about themselves. And then how there had been gunshots. How Michael had grabbed Tess’s
hand and started running, but somewhere along the line her hand had slipped out of his. He was
ahead of her, but he glanced behind every now and then to see that she was still there. He
cursed himself for not holding onto her hand the entire time. For caring more about his own
survival, and dodging the bullets himself than keeping with her. And then he looked back one
time and she wasn’t there. She was crumpled on the ground, with a large pool of blood forming
around her. Michael had stopped in his tracks, the gunshots still coming and he had gotten hit
twice in the arm just standing there. The force of the bullets had sent him reeling backwards, but
he had managed to stay on his feet. And the van drew closer and closer. Bleeding profusely
from his left arm, Michael took four steps towards Tess before realizing he was too late. And as
the van drew nearer and the bullets became more accurate he ran.

And that was the last he ever saw Tess. They probably stopped chasing after him once
they had come across her body. Probably had brought her in for an alien autopsy. Michael
didn’t know. He hadn’t looked back. Just talking about it, Max could see disturbed him and he
could detect a moistness in Michael’s eyes that he wouldn’t have expected.

“There’s so many things I could have done...” Michael said, looking blankly out to the
New Mexico desert. “Could have held her hand, I could have...I could have - turned around
sooner...maybe then..” Michael looked up to the starry sky and Max was silent, at a complete
loss for words. He had no idea how to react to a story like that and could see why Isabelle had
said *Ask him about Tess* the way she had. “You know she talked about you,” Michael suddenly
said and the statement caught Max off guard.

“What are you talking about?”

“Before her dad - well that’s what she called him: her dad, he told me to call him Nacedo
- before he, before he died -”

“Wait - who died?” Max was beyond confused and Michael seemed to be growing

“Tess hatched out of the pods alone - after us - and Nacedo was waiting there for her.
He was one of us too...older, probably one of the original survivors of the Crash,” the mere words
sent chills up Max’s spine. A survivor of the Crash. “He could do everything, he could
shapeshift and - and walk through walls,” Michael said it all with a sort of hero worship in his
voice. “At least that’s what Tess told me,” he added. “She lived with him for three years and he
taught her so much..and then he died,” Michael said shortly.

“Was it...” Max’s voice drifted, and Michael knew what he was implying.

“I’m pretty sure it was the same people who killed her dad that killed her - anyway when I
found Tess..she thought I was you. She was almost positive that I was. And she told me how
Nacedo had said he was here to protect us all...and I never knew what she meant by *all*...I
always thought she was delusional..” Michael blinked his eyes shut and Max could see the
faintest trickle of a tear run down his face. “Finding you was what she lived for,” Michael said
and he looked towards Max for the first time. “You were probably the last thing she thought
about before she -”

“Don’t say it,” Max warned.

“Before she - “

“Don’t say it, Michael,” an edge began to develop in Max’s voice at what Michael was

“Why?? Why can’t you hear it -” Michael raised his voice in anger.

“I’m with Liz,” Max suddenly stated, not knowing what he meant by it and not knowing
what he thought Michael would think of it, but just knowing at that moment that was what he was
feeling. He couldn’t hear stories about another girl who lived her life for him. He lived his life for
Liz. A story couldn’t change that. Michael just raised his eyebrows.

“So you are with her? You had your sister lying pretty good she told me that you were
just friends,” he laughed and rolled his eyes.

“We are just friends,” Max said flatly, though the statement itself sounded awkward. He
and Liz were more than friends, yet somehow less than anything else.

“So what do you mean you’re *with* her?? What is she just like a friend with benefits??”
Michael looked to Max with a smirk and if they hadn’t been sitting in a car Max’s fist would have
met Michael’s face.

“You shutup!” Max snapped and he seized Michael by the collar, amazed at how the boy
who had moments ago had a tear trickle down his face was now being so hateful. “You don’t
even know her - you don’t know me! You think you can just show up here and pretend like you
know my life - like you know anything about me -“

“I’ll make a bet I know you a lot better than she knows you,” Michael stared Max in the
eye and Max loosened his grip.

“She knows me in a way that you never will,” was his quiet response to Michael’s
challenge. “You don’t care about anyone or anything and you keep it up...” Max hesitated, he felt
bad saying these next few words but he had to say them. For Michael’s sake, for him Michael
and Isabelle and the family he was confident that they could form. “You’re gonna end up just like

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 6:50:48 PM

Edited by - kayarra on 09/02/2001 19:02:03
posted on 1-Sep-2001 7:05:22 PM
Wise men say. Only fools rush in. The soft ballad blared from the radio in the kitchen where Mrs.
Evans hustled about, putting a pumpkin pie into the oven. The month of October didn't differ too much climatically from September and there was nothing to indicate that it was the fall season and Halloween and Thanksgiving were around the corner, but it didn't stop Mrs. Evans from baking her traditional pumpkin pies and cobblers. Outside the kitchen at the dinner table sat Max and Liz. They both had textbooks open, and Max was attempting to help Liz with the project
she had in Government, but more often than not they both would look up from their books and papers and smile. Foolish was what Michael and Isabelle had called it. But Max had seemed to all but block out Michael's emotional story about Tess and when Liz had shown up on Tuesday, Max hadn't pushed her away.

"Sorry," he mumbled quietly and she looked up at him quizzically.

"About what?" she smiled.

"My mom..she just - always plays music really loud when she's in the kitchen," Max offered an apology to the lyrics they both heard, but Liz simply shrugged.

"I like this song."

But I can't help falling in love with you. He could hear his mother humming along in the
kitchen and she glanced in at the two with a broad smile. Max reached across for the highlighter
at one end of the table at the same time that Liz did and their hands met briefly. They both looked up at each other, almost embarassed and pulled away quickly. *Kyle, Kyle, Kyle* Liz continued to repeat in her head - incredibly understanding, loyal, steady Kyle who hadn't questioned her about the tall and handsome stranger she had met with after school. But all she had to do was look up at Max's face. *Max, Max, Max*

Shall I stay? Would it be a sin, if I can't help falling in love with you. She and Max both
had things going on in their lives. Things that simply screamed it was wrong. But Liz stayed later and later each night, drawing more and more suspicions from her parents, but she didn't seem to care. She was falling and falling fast. And she knew it. She had her parents suspicions, Maria's constant scolding and Max had Michael and Isabelle on his back every
minute. But both continued to fall.

As a river flowing, gently to the sea. Darling so it goes. Somethings were meant to be.
Their horses loped perfectly in stride and the shy smiles on their faces echoed the exact same sentiments. Each day that flew by, both just looked more forward to the next and to what it had in store. What it held for them. Whether it was racing horses across the New Mexico desert, having Max help her up a giant rock formation her hand in his or having him simply lean over her shoulder to help her with her history report, breathing lightly into her neck - each tiny action just helped to cement the bond (haha! I used the word cement before "End of the World" even aired! ) that had already developed between them. And as Isabelle and Michael grew closer and closer, Max couldn't help but feel the bond between him and Liz deepen. Take my hand. Take my whole life too. For I can't help falling in love with

Friday night quickly approached and from the moment the sun's first rays lit up the Evans ranch Isabelle was gone. She had done her chores and vanished. Max hadn't even seen her, but her dark bay, Cody, was gone and he knew she was off with Michael. He was actually grateful for that, he didn't need Isabelle's hateful glance the entire day. He was grateful for the daylong ride that he spent out checking fences too, anything to occupy his time. But when six thirty rolled around a knot began to form in his stomach. He tore his closet apart, realizing whatever he wore probably wouldn't fit in at all with the student body of West Roswell. His closet was all out on the floor of his bedroom and his drawers were open, with clothing strewn all about. And then he remembered Liz. Liz who liked him for exactly who he was. And he flopped the white stetson on his head and splashed on some cologne before walking out.

"Max, honey - what time will you be back?" his mother suddenly called as he moved his hand to the door, her voice more curious than wary. She couldn't believe that Max was going out on a date. Or whatever it was, he had insisted that it wasn't a date, that he was just going out with Liz. But Mrs. Evans had seen her son and Liz, this entire week she had watched them from the background. The way their eyes would suddenly meet and the way his face lit up when she
showed up at the back door. She saw the way he helped her atop of the horse, even though by now they both knew she didn't need it. He could insist it wasn't a date as much as he wanted, but for his sake Mrs. Evans hoped beyond hope that it was.

Max's face flushed slightly as he confessed to his mother that he wasn't entirely sure when he would arrive home. "Okay," Mrs. Evans simply shrugged, not seeming too bothered by it. Her son was responsible. "Just be careful," Max wasn't sure what his mother meant by it, but he just nodded his head. "Have a good time, sweetheart." She drew Max to her and kissed him on the cheek lightly as he stepped out the door.

He was a mixture of emotions the entire ride there. A little bit of fear, a little bit of excitement and more than anything he felt the exact same way he had when he went into town to see Liz for the first time over two months ago and 'What ifs?' kept racing through his head. What if Liz was there with a big group of friends? What if Kyle's friends saw him with her? He saw the cars lined up along the street and heard the PA system long before he reached the school. The knot in his stomach grew larger and a lump developed in his throat as he parked his truck and
took a step forward. WELCOME TO HOMECOMING ‘99. *Homecoming* Max thought to himself. *How ironic*

Liz's eyes scanned the crowd desperately. She had said that she would meet him here, but she cursed herself for not being more specific, or having him pick her up. Here. Geez, could she have been more vague? The bleachers were packed as it was West Roswell's one and only Homecoming. God, Max must be so lost. The opening kickoff was moments away and as the first play of the game developed the crowd immedietly got to their feet, cheering wildly. Liz
craned her neck harder to look for Max and when people finally began to settle down, getting over Kyle’s one bone-crunching tackle on the opening kickoff, she spotted him. She nearly didn't recognize him with the white stetson and she could see his eyes desperately searching the crowd for her. Just like she had been for him.

All he saw was a mass of blue and gold. Everywhere he looked he saw girls in oversized varsity jackets draped over their shoulders or young boys in giant blue and gold jerseys down to their knees and he looked for a blue and gold jacket around Liz.

"Max!" he suddenly heard her voice sound and he looked up to see her, waving her arm in the air in attempt to flag her down. Her face lit up when she saw him and he quickly made his way up the bleachers. "I thought maybe you changed your mind," she smiled as he stepped up next to her. - I've been waiting for this for a long time - he wanted to tell her, but for some reason he didn't.

"It took me forever to find a parking spot," he said instead.

"You know I almost didn't recognize you with that hat," she motioned to the dusty white hat on his head, embarassed that she still had his other one.

"Oh...yeah - I haven't worn this in forever.." he mumbled and without even registering what she was about to say Liz responded.

"I like you in black." The back of Max's neck turned hot and his ears turned that familiar shade of pink, not knowing how to respond. He was wearing black right now. He fidgetingly took the hat off his head and plopped it down on the bleacher.

"DOWN IN FRONT!" an angry voice suddenly called and embarassed, Max and Liz took their seats.

"You look nice," he said awkwardly, more at the fact that she wasn't wearing Kyle's jacket like he had thought she would be than anything. She was dressed simply in the clothes she always wore, but Max detected a bit more makeup on her face and a radiant shine in her eyes and her smile that swept over his entire body. The awkwardness between them at that
moment was incredible and they just smiled shyly at each other. Was it a date or wasn't it? Max wondered to himself. She had asked him to the game, he had come and told her she looked nice and now, he suddenly realized, everyone was looking at them. They were looking at Liz and the tall, dark and handsome stranger they couldn't quite recognize. With the hat no longer on, Max just looked like any other teenage boy out on a date with their girlfriend. Except the girl at his side, everyone in the stands happened to know, was already taken.

Liz blushed a bit at Max's comment and quickly turned her head back down to the field, Max followed suit. He already had the majority of the stands staring down at him, they didn't need to see him staring at Liz. It was hard not to though, not to put his hand in hers and say that she was his. And then his mind and his heart would be ripped in two because she wasn't. As much as he wished she was.

Max was barely paying attention to the game, but as he focused his eyes on the sideline, searching warily for Kyle, he saw a familiar face. Number six, the quarterback who had just come off the field, who all the stands had been cheering for. The moment he took his helmet off, Max left Liz and ran down to the front of the bleachers, he leaned over the chain link fence and outstretched his hand.

"Lance!!!" he yelled enthusiasticly and the lanky fifteen year old jerked up his head quickly. He threw the water bottle down on the ground and immedietly jogged over to Max.

"Max - what’re you doing here??" He asked enthusiastically, his face lit up from ear to ear.

"I'm uh..." Max glanced back up to the stands to where Liz was standing by herself now. He saw that two girls had already approached her, no doubt asking about him. "I'm kinda here with someone," Max admitted and Lance's eyebrows raised at the comment.

"With as in..." the tan-skinned boy suggested and Max laughed.

"With as in I have no's um - it's Liz Parker," he confessed, knowing what that would mean to Lance.

"Kyle Valenti's Liz Parker?" And at the comment, Max grew angry. That was probably how everyone in the school thought of Liz. Kyle's Liz. Like she was his posssession. She was his and that was understood by everyone in the school.

"Yeah," he said shortly and he turned around again to look at Liz, still in conversation with the other girls. "So what about you - what're you doing here? You never told me you -"

"Like I've seen you in the past month, man," Lance laughed, there was no hostility in his voice however. He knew why now. He knew just from watching the way Max turned around every moment to look up at Liz. "Nah - their Senior quarterback went down first game of the year...and - I don't know...I just kept thinking about what you kept saying..." His voice drifted and he turned back to the game on the field, third down and long, they would be getting the ball back soon. "I gotta...get back in the game," Lance began to back up and excuse himself and Max smiled at the mere words. At the fact that Lance had finally taken his step forward. Lance stopped short suddenly and walked back towards the fence. "Good luck with it, man," he offered out his hand and Max knew what he meant by the statement as Lance was looking back in the
bleachers to where Liz was sitting. Max grinned. Lance had taken a huge step forward and now so was he.

He walked slowly up the bleachers to where Liz was sitting, building confidence with each step up. When he reacher her she gave him an exhausted look as she looked to the three girls she had just sent away. Her look quickly changed to a curious one however, but Max answered her question before she had a chance to ask it.

"He's from the Reservation," he quickly said. "I - I know him from the Reservation."

" go there a lot don't you?" She asked inquisitively and Max nodded, realizing that the Mesaliko Reservation had not once come up in their conversations. In fact he had never mentioned it to her. But it was common knowledge that he and his sister visited the Reservation.

"Yeah, I'll uh - I'll take you there sometime," he suddenly said with a smile and Liz's
mouth turned up at the corners as well. Both were quiet and they slowly leaned towards each other, seeming to block everything out - the loud raucous surrounding them - the band, the cheerleaders, the PA and the screaming fans. "But uh - Lance is - is - is uh..I well, I hang out with him sometimes.." Max suddenly said, breaking up the moment. Liz sighed louder than she probably should have.

"Yeah he seems like a nice kid.." she said absentmindedly. "Kinda quiet..." she paused for a moment. "Kinda reminds me of somebody I know.." she said playfully, bumping up against him. He smiled wider than she had ever seen him smile and Liz heard voices all around her. Pointing at them, talking about them. She wondered if Kyle could see them down on the field. Somehow though, despite all that was going on. Despite the fact that her entire grade, her entire school could see them together, Kyle was the last thing on her mind.

Kyle saw Liz from the field and his stomach was churning watching her. Watching her smile and laugh like he had never seen. With that stranger. That tall, dark and mysterious stranger that everyone had claimed she had gone away with after school on Monday. He hadn't seen it, so he hadn't actually believed it. Or he hadn't wanted to. Liz wasn't like that. She wasn't the type of person to - to lie and - God, he couldn't even think it - to cheat on him. But his mind would drift back to all the 'drives' that she had gone on this summer and how many times he had come back to see her at the Crashdown after practice only to hear from her father that she was going for a 'drive' or off with Maria - which was never true because he called Maria. He wondered if her father even knew. Knew that Liz clearly had some secret liaison going on with this..this stranger. He just wondered how long it had been going on. All summer? Last year? His eyes would lose interest from the game and drift up to where Liz was sitting with the stranger. All they did was laugh and talk and smile at each other. But he could see in their eyes so much
more. He could see the way Liz's eyes lit up in a way he had never seen before. And his mind was working. On the field and on the sidelines his mind was working. He had to talk to her.

The Homecoming crowd was wild and the fact that it had begun to rain in the second quarter didn't dampen anyone's spirits. Max cursed himself as umbrellas began to appear all around them. Everyone else had thought to bring an umbrella, the sky was grey and overcast, why hadn't he thought of that. Liz didn't seem to mind though, she simply laughed as the rain began to fall harder and harder. The crowd didn't waver one bit and remained in their seats, but
people began to run to their cars to retrieve umbrellas and before long Max and Liz were the only
two without one, huddled closely together in a sea of brightly colored circles. Liz liked it, she was glad they didn't have one because it gave her an excuse to get closer to Max. He had offered her his wide-brimmed hat more than once, but she had refused and finally he had just forced it onto her head. The cheerleaders continued to cheer, the band continued to play and the crowd continued to cheer as the rain came down harder and harder and eventually Liz couldn't take seeing Max sit there while she wore his hat and she attempted to give it back to him, but he pushed it back towards her and they laughed and wrestled with each other, each selflessly trying to give the other the hat as rain dripped off their faces. The hat eventually ended up on the floor and they both suffered in the rain. It wasn't really suffering at all though, it was more like a reward as the two leaned in closely to each other. It was the closest they had gotten all night and drew many raised eyebrows from the people around them. After the
first group of girls that had approached her at the start of the game, Liz's mind hadn't once thought about what anyone thought, or how she probably looked. As was always the case when she was with Max, he was all that mattered.

Dripping wet and soaked to the bone, Max and Liz walked slowly back to his truck, which was parked further away than Max remembered and the walk there seemed to never end. Truth was, neither wanted it to end. Though their jeans were stiff and plastered to their bodies and they were both shivering as the air had suddenly turned chilly, they both would have walked all the way back to the Evans ranch if they had to. Neither said anything and suddenly as Max's
eyes, and Liz's as well, rested on Max's truck Liz spoke up.

"Do you want to do something?" She asked hopefully. "I -" Max's eyes lit up.
What was she suggesting?

"Like..go - out to eat - or something?" he stumbled and that was all the answer she needed as she grinned widely. Happily walking to his truck, Max glanced over at her. "Do you mind if we just go somewhere in town? I'm not too uh...excited about driving that much in wet jeans."

"We can just go to the Crashdown if you want?" she shrugged, the night turning out better than she would have ever imagined. Then suddenly a voice rang out for her from across the parking lot. She turned around only to be met by a hot, sweaty and still in uniform Kyle. Liz turned back around to Max, as if to say 'give me a minute' and Max quietly slinked into the truck. Liz began to walk away with Kyle and Max’s heart dropped. As fun as tonight had been, Kyle was a necessary part of it too. A reminder that Liz was unattainable.

"Look, Kyle - " Liz began to say before Kyle could even say anything. She knew he had to have seen her and Max and she had to explain herself.

"No, Liz -" Kyle interuppted calmly, but Liz protested again.

"Kyle - look it's not what you think..." Liz began to say, which was the truth really. Max, as of right now, was her friend. But she had never felt like such a liar and looking at Kyle she knew she couldn't keep doing this.

"Liz..." he said her name softly and was calmer than she would have ever imagined considering the circumstances. "I like you...a lot and - and I really...really wish that - that this could have turned out better -"

"Kyle -"

"Lemme talk," Kyle requested quietly. "Just...just let me..let me do this." Liz nodded her head solemnly and stood there, awaiting whatever it was Kyle had to say.

"Okay," she responded softly.

"I don't - I don't know...who - that was or...*what* you are," he said the words with less
hostility than she could have imagined. "Or if he's who you've been seeing when you go on..go on a drive or whatever," Liz finally detected a bit of anger in his eyes and she really couldn't blame him. She had lied to him all summer and she had gone to *his* football game with someone else. Kyle was handling himself better than she knew she would had the roles been reversed. But she probably shouldn't have expected to receive a thrashing from Kyle. He was
too good a friend for that. Over the past few months that's what Liz had come to realize. Kyle was nothing more than a friend. That's all she felt when she was with him. Friendship, trust. But nothing like the feelings she had when she was with Max. "But I've never seen you that happy," Kyle suddenly said and Liz's head suddenly snapped up at the words. "With
him...tonight," Kyle seemed disheartened at the thought - the image of Liz and that dark-haired
stranger. "And you know it's not fair to," Kyle paused for a moment. "To not let you have

"Kyle are you..." *he’s breaking up with me* Liz thought unbelievingly and she fought the urge to turn around and look to Max.

"I'm saying what we both knew...a long time ago -"

"Kyle, I'm sorry..." Liz was surprised at how upset she felt right now. Upset for Kyle - at the fact that she hadn't dealt with this sooner, that she had led him on.

"You know it's..." his voice drifted and Liz never found out what he was about to say as his eyes fixed on the red pickup behind them and more importantly on the driver.

"His name's Max," she said, not sure as to why. Kyle just nodded his head, looked to Liz
one last time and slowly walked away.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 7:09:05 PM
Max didn't ask what happened with Kyle - he didn't inquire as to what went on in their conversation and he couldn't pick anything up from the look on her face. Part of her seemed upset, but then part of her seemed excited. The short car ride to the Crashdown was quiet, when they entered though and slid comfortably into a booth her face lit up. At how close they were.

The diner was closed for the night, and was dark and deserted though the air conditioning was on high. That and the combination of their wet clothes made them both shiver. Neither even made a move for a menu and the only sound was Max's chattering teeth.

"This is ridiculous," Liz finally stood up from the booth and took Max's hand, leading him
through the backdoor behind the counter. Max wasn't entirely sure what she was doing, but he just followed after her. She continued to lead him up the stairs in the back and of all places he found himself up in her bedroom. Before he could turn around to ask her what he was doing up here she was gone. Max's head began to spin. Why exactly had she brought him up here? To
her bedroom. Could it be that after months of - of awkward conversations and longing looks, of embarassing moments when their hands would touch briefly and yet so intimately that Liz was...Liz was...

Liz was handing him a towel.

"Here - you can start drying off," Max was slow to take the towel from and she wasn't quite sure what to make of the look that he was giving her. "Take your shirt off," she surprised herself at how calmly she had given the command.

"What?" Max's mind was still someplace else.

"You can wear one of my dad's shirts - take that off," she said again.

"I'm not - I'm not gonna wear your dad's shirt."

"You can wear one of mine if you want, but I really don't think pink is your color," she laughed.

"Liz, I'm fine," he insisted, intent on keeping his clothes on.

"Max, you're shivering!" Liz protested and she began to reach for the buttons on the black button down herself. Max simply stood there while she unfastened the top few buttons of his shirt for him. "I'll just put it in the dryer and you can have some coffee or something.." she continued persistantly. Max stood there in disbelief while she talked. She was taking his shirt off.

"I'm not going to walk around your house without a shirt on," Max said it with a bit of a
chuckle in his voice.

"Why not? No one's home," she shrugged, slipping the button down off his shoulders. She turned around quickly pretending to be fixing something on her drawer, so he couldn't see
her breath catch.

"What about you?" Max suddenly asked, standing there in a plain white t-shirt that was plastered onto his body and highlighting every single muscle and curve on him. "You're shivering too." *That’s for an entirely different reason* Liz thought to herself, but she simply nodded her head and grinned mishieviously, walking towards the bathroom.

"You be a gentleman," she teased, looking at him standing there, wet and bedraggled and completely and totally stupefied. She smiled one last time, peeking her head outside the door and he just laughed and fell back onto the bed.

Millions of thoughts raced through Liz's head as she dried her wet hair with a towel. Should she tell Max that Kyle had broken up with her? Should she really have brought him back up to her room? The air right now between them was so comfortable, so familiar. She was tempted to peek through the door and see what Max was doing in her room, but resisted the
temptation until she was done changing and drying off. She wasn't sure what had sparked the sudden change in her mood, maybe it was having the guilt of lying to Kyle on her that suddenly had her behaving so playfully with him, but it seemed to be rubbing off on him too. She had detected it in the tiny laugh he had given her as she stepped behind the door. She loved seeing Max step out of his element. Not so serious and grave for once. He always seemed to have something else on his mind, something plaguing him way in the back of his mind. Tonight she didn't see that.

She stepped out of the bathroom, fully changed and relatively dry only to see a shirtless Max with a bouncing and smiling Lucky. He was pulling the dog around by a rubber chew toy, hoisting him into the air as the dog fastened firmly onto it with his strong jaws. That's exactly what he had been doing, lifting the dog into the air with his arm muscles fully flexed, when Liz stepped out of the bathroom.

"Oh.." He quickly lowered Lucky to the ground. "I - I didn't think you were going to be
out...for a while," he stumbled and Liz smiled at his awkwardness. No doubt she felt awkward too, she just managed to be a little better at hiding it than Max was. What she couldn't hide was the fact that her eyes kept drifting to Max's chest and incredibly well-defined body. Who knew you could get such a workout from riding horses?

"I see you found Lucky..." she managed to say.

"Yeah," he responded quickly. "You keep your dog out on the balcony?" he looked out the window to where he had seen Lucky. Or rather, Lucky had seen him. The dog had pressed his nose up against the window and begun whining to be let into the house.

"Yeah, I - um - I go out there a's kind of like," her voice crackled a bit, "kind of like
an extension to my room."

"That's cool," Max nodded his head, wishing more than anything that the dryer would go off so he could put his shirt back on. He couldn't take just standing here with Liz while this awkwardnes enveloped him. "You ever look at the stars?" he asked and Liz simply nodded her head. "You know the constellations at all?" she shrugged.

"Little bit." Max looked out the window at the cloudy night sky.

"If the sky were clearer I'd show you some," at the simple comment Liz just smiled and the two were quiet, that wonderful silence they both knew so well creeping up and their eyes locking on each other. "Your shirts probably not done," Liz suddenly spoke, taking a step back. "But, I guess you could - you could wear an employee shirt from the Crashdown or something.." she suggested and he just nodded his head.

"O - okay."

"You want to go downstairs and have some hot chocolate or coffee or -"

"Sure," he nodded his head with a smile before she could even finish. “Yeah, let’s do that,” he smiled again, causing Liz to grin as well. And, a still shirtless, Max followed Liz out the door and down the stairs.

It was the most vivid dream she had had yet. There were no symbols, no weird stars or constellations. It didn't make her spring to her feet or jump out of bed and she didn't awake in a cold sweat either. But when Liz slowly opened up her eyes, the dream remained fresh in her mind.

The clock inside the car had read four thirty but it seemed darker than that. It wasn't overcast or cloudy, but everything just seemed darker. Liz was six years old. She had been coming back from who knows where, somewhere north of town. The only thing she remembered was a green sign on the side of the road that read BOTTOMLESS LAKES 13 MILES. For some
reason that stuck out. And then a car approached from the opposite direction and like Liz always used to when she was little, she curiously looked to see who the passengers were. Except this time there was someone in the backseat looking back at her. A six year old boy, with short dark hair, his eyes wide as he gazed at Liz. And time seemed to slow down as the two cars passed each other. One going into town and one going out.

Lying awake in bed, Liz remembered every detail of the dream. She knew it wasn't a dream, it was a memory. It was the first time Max had seen her.

Max awoke with beads of perspiration dripping down his forehead. He gasped for breath. The nightmare had seemed to choke off his oxygen supply, to choke him. It was the same scene Michael had described to Max about him and Tess. Except it hadn't been Michael, it had been Max and it hadn't been Tess it had been Liz. Max had turned around and it had been
Liz's blood collecting in a large pool around her. He was in Marathon, Texas - he had never been there before in his life but he knew it was Marathon. There had been a large white dome and he and Liz had both had a strange attraction to whatever was inside it. And everything about the dream had been so vivid and so realistic. Yet at the same time it had been fake. It had been like somebody else was controlling him, someone else was making his legs run forward when all he wanted to do was stop. The dream was fake.

He would never let go of Liz's hand.

What sparked the idea into Max's head, he wasn't exactly sure. What made him venture downstairs to the basement of his house at two thirty in the morning was beyond him. It was simply a feeling he had had inside, a feeling that had made him swing his legs over the side of the bed and walk down. He wanted to do something for Liz. Something that she would absolutely love, something that she would adore, something to give to her all that she had given him these past few months, something to make up for the sketchy way he had been behaving at times. She hadn't asked questions about Michael, or about his behavior towards her. Max knew he was going to have to tell her soon. At the rate they were both moving he had to tell her because there was no other way. She was getting close to him. Too close Isabelle would say.
Not close enough was all he could think.

So he found himself up on his bed at three thirty in the morning leafing through old copies of PAINT HORSE JOURNAL. He had been lying in his bed, only able to think about that horrible and terrifying dream when his mind quickly switched to a happier memory. A smiling Liz looking through his family pictures and the way her smile always seemed to broaden and her eyes always seemed transfixed at the pictures of Gonzo, the black and white paint from Max and Isabelle’s childhood. His eyes scanned over all the picture adds of horses. Chestnut Overo
Mare, Gray Overo Stallion - there was the one he was looking for Black Homozygous Tobiano Stallion. A black and white pinto. Max quickly dog-eared the page and continued to search. Sunlight had begun to stream through his window but he continued searching and dog-earing pages, making special notes and writing down numbers. Fifteen thousand dollars here, twenty
thousand there, an occassional thirty five thousand dollar horse somewhere in between. That was how Max's nights went for the next three days, making phone calls and inquiries as he highlighted the horses he was most interested in for Liz. He had yet to tell his proposition to his parents. He had narrowed his search down to two horses. Both were twenty thousand dollars and both would require the implementation of the plan Max had been pondering for over three days.

Dinner had been relatively quiet. Both Mr. and Mrs. Evans were beginning to realize that both their son and daughter were beginning to stray from them more than they would have ever thought. Max and Liz were, as of right now, the least of their worries, as Isabelle had been disappearing more and more often to the Reservation and was gone longer and longer each
time. She had brought up more than once the name 'Michael' in heated discussions with Max and it had both parents the slightest bit wary.

"You ever thought of going into the breeding business?" Max suddenly inquired at the silent dinner table.

"What?" Max's father looked at his son with confusion. "Breeding bulls?"

"Breeding horses," Max responded quietly. "You know, sell off the small herd, invest
some money into one really good stallion and -"

"Wait - wait, Max? What're you talking about - sell off the small herd?" His father put his fork down and looked to his son's serious eyes. "That's your herd."

"We didn't pay anything for 'em and they're good solid horses now - you could get good
money for Beau, Selena and The Fonz."

"You wanna sell them?" His father looked at his son skeptically. "After you've put in two
months of work with them you want to sell them?"

"We could get up to $5000 for each of "em if we market them right."

"Son, they're wild mustangs - they have no bloodlines. You can’t get $5000 for them, you
can't get $1000 for them."

"You market them right you can," Max replied quickly, " - Fonz has a strong neck, Selena's got a soft mouth, Beau can turn on a dime -" Max's father interuppted him before he could elaborate.

"And you're the one who made him so he can turn on a sure you want to do this?" His father looked Max in the eye and Max simply nodded and reaching into his pocket he pulled out the ad that he had pinpointed. The horse he wanted for Liz.

1998 Black Overo Stallion. Spectacular true black! Loud and beautiful. He has it all - outstanding conformation, attractive head, well muscled, good bone and exceptional disposition. Polaris is capable of going to the top with his 'can do' personality. Let him take you there!

Mr. Evans read over the ad carefully while Isabelle and his wife peered over his shoulder. Isabelle's mind began to work with the thought that Max had something else in mind with the purchase, but she kept her mouth shut.

"Twenty thousand dollars is a lot of money," Mr. Evans said the words slowly like Max was six years old.

"I know, but he's.." perfect for her is what Max wanted to say. "I could sell Aldo," Max suddenly said and he could hear the crack in his own voice. Everyone jerked their head up at his words. Aldo was Max's pride and joy. For so long he had been what got Max out of bed in the morning. Now they were slowly realizing that someone else did that for him. "I mean...if there was no way to.."

"Max, what's going on?" Mrs. Evans suddenly asked what was on everyone's mind. "This horse," she looked down to the ad and the picture of the majestic black and white stallion. "Is not *that* important. You don't have to go to such extreme measures."

"But -"

"People around here know Aldo. They know what he looks like, they know how he performs and they know he belongs to you." Max was silent. "No one would buy him from you, Max." He knew his mother was right, besides the fact that Aldo had a tendency to be a bit
unpredictable with any rider other than Max, everyone knew how Max had saved him from slaughter and they knew the bond that existed between the two. "You could breed him though. You could breed him around the area to get the extra money you needed." He lifted his head up to look at his mother. She was supporting him. For whatever reason, she was supporting him.

"I've already taken on four jobs in the area breaking in some yearlings. Four hundred dollars a session."

"Max that's -" Robbery was what Mr. Evans wanted to say. Not at the fact that it was such an outrageous price, there were men in the area who charged twice as much as that and used crueler tactics than Max and did ten times worse a job. No, it was robbery because Mr. Evans knew how quickly it would take for Max to break in those yearlings. And the men would find that they had spent four hundred dollars for a ten minute session. Mr. Evans simply smiled.
"Sounds like you've got this all planned out," he grinned and Max simply shrugged.

"I've already made some calls."

It was dark when Isabelle arrived at the Reservation. She had begun driving to the Reservation more and more now, rather than riding over on Cody. She found the urge to see Michael much stronger and an two hour ride on horseback was much too long for her. Michael was the only person she could talk to now. Now that Max was completely gone. Now that he was completely entranced by someone - something - that could threaten their very existence. She sat at the entrance of the cave next to Michael, fidgeting her hands and tapping her feet. Michael watched it all with raised eyebrows - amusement yes, but also a large amount of concern.

"Michael, I'm telling you - he's buying it for her...he's going to spend twenty *thousand* dollars for her.." Isabelle looked over to him, her eyes darting all around the cave and the surrounding area. "I don't know what's going on, but it almost seems like it's a...a gift," Isabelle paused momentarily, " - a shutup and don't tell anyone gift." She raised her eyes to his and Michael knew what she was proposing.

"You think she knows?" He said the words slowly. "About me being your brother or about all of us being..." his eyes drifted to the symols on the inside of the cave.

"I don't know..." Isabelle’s lip was trembling. "I don't know - maybe both..maybe, maybe
he's going to tell her and this is...this is..." Isabelle couldn't explain what had her on edge tonight. After Max's declaration at the dinner table she had driven straight to the Reservation to see
Michael. Maybe it had something to do with her dream last night. The way that suddenly out of nowhere, Liz had entered it. How it had been her, Michael and Max and then suddenly Liz had walked in and ripped Max away from her. Away from her and Michael. "God, Michael what if she already knows?" Isabelle suddenly buried her face in her hands. Michael's arms were suddenly around her and he pulled her to her feet where she just collapsed against him. For so long it had been Max who had been the person she cried to whenever something in her life went askew. Now it was Michael. "What if she already knows??" Isabelle mumbled again and Michael just smoothed down her hair. He had thought adapting to the 'brother role' would be difficult. He wasn't the caring sensitive type of person, but this was all so different. It was different than he would have ever thought.

"Think - when could he have told her," Michael attempted to reason. "When was the last time they were alone together?"

"The last time they were..." Isabelle's voice drifted. "Friday night - Friday night he didn't come back until, until like Midnight and he.."

"Did he seem any different to you?" Michael inquired, surprised at how steady his voice sounded considering what Isabelle was proposing.

"He seemed..." Isabelle's mind drifted back to that Friday night. That night that had seemed so long. She had waited up for him. Past ten o'clock and past eleven o'clock she layed awake on the couch waiting for her brother to walk through the door. And she couldn't forget the look on his face when he had no matter how much she wanted to. "He seemed so happy."

The guilt was off her shoulders now. Or at least part of it was. So when Liz told her parents she was going for a drive Wednesday afternoon she wasn't accompanied with the giant weight on her shoulders that she had had in the past. She was no longer cheating on Kyle. * It wasn't cheating.* Liz shook her head. * You never did anything that would qualify as cheating. * She was lying, of course, but the lies seemed to help her a bit. After all, she was still lying to her parents. They didn't even know Max existed. Liz rolled down the windows and ran her hand
through her hair. Forget about that. Forget that Alex didn't even know. Alex, her best friend along with Maria, didn't even know about someone who had become such an important part of her life.

How had that happened? Liz thought to herself. How had Max become such a huge part of her life, when she still knew so little about him. When he still clammed up everytime she directed a question about his past. Was Michael his brother or not? She was leaning towards the former, based solely on the way that he behaved when she brought him up - which hadn't been that often. What about his adoption? She knew being adopted was a sensitive topic with most people, but she had shared things with Max that she never imagined she would share with anybody. And he always seemed so relaxed and so at ease with her, an element she knew many people never got to see with him. But mention the slightest thing about his past and he would become the reserved, reticent person everyone knew him as. She just had to break down
that barrier. All she had to do was find out what in his past was so haunting. Why he couldn't open up to her. She wanted to be honest with him, and she wanted more than anything for him to be honest with her.

As she pulled up the familiar bumpy and dusty dirt driveway to the Evans, avoiding the giant potholes and the ruts along the side that she now had memorized, for the first time she was met by a vehicle traveling down the driveway out to the highway. It was a giant horse trailer, an expensive looking one too with the words J AND R RANCH emblazoned on the side. The driver tipped his hat towards her and Liz simply stared in curiousity. She saw Mr. and Mrs. Evans, along with Isabelle and a man she recognized only as Mr. Evans’ hired hand head into the house
and watched for Max. She had no sooner stepped out of her car than Max was next to her.

"Come here, I have something to show you," he said breathlesly, an eager smile on his face Liz had never seen before. She didn't know what to make of it, but before she had time to react he took her hand in his and led her back behind the stable.

"Max, what's -" she began to question but before she could continue she saw him. Tall, sleek and handsome, it was a black and white paint horse, his neck arched, his muscles rippling and his mane glistening and swaying delicately back and forth as he paced about the pasture. Liz gasped.

"You like him?" Max asked with a smile, though he knew he didn't need any more of an answer. Liz nodded her head slowly as she stepped closer to the fence and climbed up on the railing to get a better look at the exquisite animal.

"Max he's..." she was unable to come up with words to describe it's beauty and Max knew what she was feeling. It was like trying to describe how beautiful she was to someone who just could never understand. Max wasn't sure why Liz was so entranced with black and white paint horses, but he knew he had hit something - hit a nerve almost - when he discovered her love for them. It wasn't too hard to see it in her eyes when she looked at the pictures, he almost detected a touch of sadness in them when she looked at a picture of Gonzo. But now there was
anything but sadness in her eyes. He simply watched the stallion pace gracefully past Liz, each time he passed it drew another gasp from Liz. "What's his name?" She managed to ask. Max took a deep breath.

"What do you want it to be?" he asked casually and Liz immedietly shot her head over to him, her eyes wide.

"What are you talking about?" she asked slowly, her eyes shifting from Max to the exquisite animal, then back to Max.

"What do you want to call him?" Max inquired again and he summoned the confidence inside him that he knew was there. "He's yours."

"Max, you didn' didn't buy me...I mean-" Liz shruggled with the concept and stepped off the fence rail, holding onto it for support now as she began to grow dizzy at the idea.

"No," he said quickly. Too quickly probably. "I wanted to..well, I wanted to maybe start a breeding business and - I mean I knew you liked paints -"

"How??" she suddenly asked, knowing full well she had never actually told him that. Her love for the horse was something Max didn't know. He didn't know that her Grandma Claudia had once owned a farm and had owned a black and white horse. Not quite equaling the beauty of this one, but it was the same horse nonetheless.

"I could just.."

"You didn't - you didn't like spend..I mean, Max - you didn't spend a lot of money on him, right?" She struggled with the notion. She knew how much horses cost, she wasn't an idiot.

"No." It was the first time Max had out and out lied to Liz. It really wasn't so much of a lie
though. The owners had taken fifteen hundred dollars off the price when they discovered that it was Max Evans who was interested in buying their stallion. Max Evans, who had nearly saved their daughters life last year when he had helped to calm and re-train her horse that had been struck by lightning. To tell the truth, Max didn't remember. He had a lot of cases like those, people had referred him to other people. He simply nodded his head and smiled, saying that he remembered and thanked them for the generous deduction.

Liz looked to Max, not knowing whether to believe him or not.

"I mean...I - I sold the herd and - and I'll be in...a - a little bit of debt for a while but -"

"Wait - did you buy it or did your parents buy it?" Liz asked, and the intensity and worry in her voice was more than Max would have expected. *You bought it* he wanted to say. After all he had the horse registered in her name without his parents knowing. They had left all the paperwork to him. It had been his idea, and to his knowledge it was his horse.

"I didn't - I mean it was -" Max found he had dug himself into a huge hole and he wasn't the greatest liar to begin with. "I bought it," he confessed. *I bought it for you* he wanted to tell
her then. He wanted to grab her and he wanted to kiss her. He wanted to take a ride with her then, back to the mountain and the trails that only he knew about. To disappear for a while. "I bought it for.." his voice drifted again and he cut himself off. "I knew you liked paints," he repeated and she looked at him and finally broke a smile.

"You better have not spent a lot of money on him, Max Evans," Liz slapped him playfully and Max let out a loud breath. "So what is his name?" she inquired again.

"Well, his registered name is Polaris," Max told her, and for the first time the irony of the
name struck him. Polaris. The North Star. "But.." his voice drifted, "I mean you can change it -"

"Polaris.." Liz said softly, watching the horse inside the corrall. "I like it....Polaris," she
repeated again and she looked to Max again and grinned. He smiled sheepishly and scuffed his boot into the ground. He found himself stuck. He could remain silent and let her go on her way, back to town. Or he could build up the courage to say something to her. He could do what his heart wanted right now. He lifted his head up and looked up to her. He took one step forward and she released her hold on the fence. Their faces began to drift ever so slowly towards each other.

"Do you wanna go for a ride?" Max suddenly asked and he realized that Liz had closed her eyes in anticipation of something Max could only dream about. He knew Isabelle was probably watching everything from the kitchen window. And indeed she was.

Her eyes had drifted momentarily out the window to where Max and Liz were moving dangerously close together. Mrs. Evans suddenly grabbed Isabelle's arm.

"Honey, don't spy on them," she scolded admonishingly. Isabelle glared at her mother and stole one more look back out at the two before turning around to face her parents again.

"You don't think it's the slightest bit odd that he was about to go run and call Liz right after he came," she said the word 'he' with more anger than Mrs. Evans would have imagined towards a horse.

"I think he wanted to call his best friend to show her what he just bought," Mrs. Evans said slowly and Isabelle could tell that her mother didn't buy the 'best friend' line anymore than she did.

"Isabelle, he made this transaction all on his own. This is a big step for him if he's going
to run this business one day.." Mr. Evans indicated to Isabelle what had made him give the go ahead to his son with the matter. "If this is his way of saying that he would rather breed and raise horses than cattle - so be it." Isabelle looked towards her father in disbelief.

"But he was about to go call her!!" Isabelle brought both parents back to the matter at hand that was disconcerting her. That he had just spent twenty -no wait, eighteen thousand five hundred dollars - on a girl. She suddenly realized how strange it was that Max had gone to call Liz at the moment that Liz had arrived in the driveway.

"He's very proud right now. He just bought a world class horse," Mr. Evans responded with a shrug.

"For her! Do you realize that he bought the horse for her!" Isabelle finally said what was
plaguing her. "Doesn't that bother you just the slightest bit??"

"Isabelle -"

"Mom, don't tell me you believe that best friend stuff - you've SEEN the way he looks at her!" Mrs. Evans shifted her eyes around the room, to her husband, back to Isabelle, then back out the window. To where she could see Max and Liz drifting close together. "He bought her a horse, okay? You have to come to terms with this. You - you are both in denial!" Isabelle folded her arms across her chest and both parents just laughed at her behavior.

"Isabelle, come on now - you're being silly," her mother patted her on the arm, but Mrs. Evans could see this was something that was genuinely troubling her daughter as she edged away from her mother.

"Mom, this is..this is..." Serious. But then that would be stating the obvious. Both parents had to already know that whatever was going on with Max and Liz was serious. "Jewelry and flowers is one thing,, he bought her a horse," Isabelle repeated and Mrs. Evans glanced over at her husband from the corner of their eye. Isabelle wasn't going to give this up anytime soon. They could both sense that. And then suddenly, almost like an epiphany, they
both realized what the horse was. A giant metaphor for the entire Max/Liz relationship. A reminder about how much larger and how much more serious it all really was. This wasn't Max's best friend, or a mere crush Max had on a girl. They all could sense, and they knew Isabelle could too, that Max wasn't just in love. That this was all on a much grander level than they could even imagine. Flowers and chocolates just wouldn't do. And they all looked out the window just
in time to see Max and Liz galloping away towards the horizon, as dusk began to claim the desert.

Max's favorite time of day had passed and it was darker now than it had ever been when Liz and Max had gone out. Liz was getting accustomed to everything about Polaris. He was a spirited horse, much moreso than any horse she had ever ridden before other than Aldo. He was prone to sidestepping and balking and she had to keep a short rein on him, but Max could see she was enjoying every minute of it. Max knew she would. Liz was always up for a challenge. He had a bouncy, jolting trot that Liz knew would take her a long time to get used to,
his gallop and lope were to die for however and she found for the first time in the past three
months she could keep up with Max when they galloped. Maybe she would even challenge him to a race one day.

But everything about the horse seemed to haunt her. Why Max had gotten her. She had heard his story about wanting to get started in the breeding business. She hadn't bought it for a second and she was struggling with the notion of whether or not to tell him. God, she was all for interrogating Max about skeletons in his closet when she had so many herself. She hadn't even told him about the dreams. She hadn't even told him that she and Kyle were no more, and sure that wasn't so much a deep dark secret, but it was something that was plaguing her. Why hadn't
she told him??

"So why'd you get the horse, Max?" Liz suddenly broke the silence as they quietly rode across the brush. The only sound for the past ten minutes had been the horses hooves hitting the ground and the branches breaking underfoot.

"Huh?" he jerked his head up.

"What was it? I mean guilt? Was it some way to - make me choose you over Kyle?" Liz wasn't sure why the words came out so angry and they surprised her as much as they did Max.

"Liz - what?"

"I'm not even with Kyle anymore Max, I'm...I'm..." Waiting for you. This really had to stop, this whole not saying what was on your mind thing. That was what was driving her insane, that
was what had caused her to speak like this to Max. Because they were for once the truth.

"I got him because I thought you'd like him," Max said honestly and the simple honest way he said it made Liz feel guilty. "It was something I thought about doing last year..I just never went through with it," he confessed. "And I never..never thought about getting a paint - I never really gave any of it much thought." Liz's eyes quickly darted down to the horses neck and mane as she knew Max was looking at her. She couldn't look at him now, not when she felt so guilty
and not when she knew he was purposely going to avoid what she had thrown in about Kyle. "When I'm with's like..” Max's voice drifted. This conversation could go places he wasn't ready to go. Places he wasn't supposed to. "It's like I feel a way...I never feel," she finally lifted up her head to meet his. Their eyes locked. "And I'm not the same person..I mean I am.." he stuttered, "but it's a person..I never get to be and it's like I do things that I would - I would never do..."

"You make it sound like it's a bad thing," Liz questioned softly and they both unknowingly slowed their horses to a walk. Polaris suddenly began to sidestep away and Liz's annoyance was evident on her face. Max cleared his voice.

"It is," he mumbled unknowingly, but Liz had heard it.


"What?" Max asked and Liz had to laugh at how comical he looked with his ears sticking out from under his white stetson and a confused expression on his face. He really didn't realize he had said that out loud and she simply laughed. The silence quickly resumed however. Max spurred Aldo along with the blunt, round spurs he had on the heel of his boots and they continued to walk along, the only sound a coyote up on the hill every now and then. "Liz?" he suddenly said her name softly and almost like a proposition.

"Hmmm?" she lifted up her head as she continued to run her hand along Polaris' sleek neck. Max took a deep breath and Liz could hear it across on her horse so she picked her head up and looked at him. He was definitely working up the confidence to tell her something.

"Things might be...a little crazy the next few weeks," he warned her and his voice almost had a depressed tone to it. "If Isabelle..or Michael - or even...even me..."

"Max??" His words now began to unnerve her. He was throwing Michael's name around in conversation and she still had no idea who he was. He still hadn't told her.

"They might say some things to you that sound...that sound a little drastic or.."

"Max, what are you talking about?" Liz had to finally ask and his face looked so torn then that Liz's heart went out to him. It looked as if he was torn between the most life-and-death matter.

"Things might get a little crazy..I'm just telling you because they can both get kind of..."

"Mean," Liz filled in for him and he nodded his head.

"Has she said something to you?" he asked protectively and she shook her head.

"She's know, stared at me."

"They don't really like that I'm...friends with you," Max confessed and the question 'why?'
was on the tip of Liz's tongue.

"Oh," was all she said. "Yeah I kinda got that feeling." Why?? Liz wanted to know. Every cell in her body screamed it. Why did they not like her, why was Max warning her like this? Max simply sighed loudly.

"I'm sorry for them, you know - they're just...they're just not too big on letting people in.."
Liz nodded her head in understanding, she was beginning to understand now why each step she took with Max was a huge one. Why driving to town that first time for him must have been so hard.

"He is your brother, isn't he?" Liz asked, unsure as to what Max's response would be. Max's jaw began to tremble the slightest bit and his eyes ocused straight ahead. She detected a moistness in them and he swallowed a cry she knew was arising in his throat. All he could do was nod his head and keep his eyes focused ahead. Liz was silent, she didn't ask anymore questions and at the moment all she wanted to do was get off the horses and put her arms around Max. Their were unresolved issues there. Deep-seeded and unresolved issues Liz could see festering inside him. She remained quiet however and they rode on in silence. Things would move slow with Max. She knew that by now. But as they quietly rode along in the
darkness she also knew that she was too large a part of Max's life for her not to know everything. That was why he had warned her out of the blue. She smiled as she thought about it, about all the subtle little things that Max did for her. And then her face broke into a grin as she looked down at the horse beneath her. And then there were those not-so-subtle things.

The whispers abounded in the halls at school every time Liz walked by. Every time she would walk one way and Kyle would walk the other and all they would do was give a polite smile or a nod of the head, people would point and stare. They would say things about her and the mysterious stranger that no one could quite recognize. Liz wondered if Kyle was one of the people saying things. She was pleasant to Kyle, as he was to her. There were no vicious attacks or accusations. But she hadn't really spoken to him since that night in the parking lot and it was awkward. She knew things between them would never go back to the way they were. The sadness she felt at the mere thought surprised her. But then all that she had to was see Lance - who now gave her a smile and a wave when he saw her in the hallway, or someone wearing a jacket like the one Max had and a new feeling would overcome her. And Maria didn't even have to see what it was her friend was looking at to know what she was thinking about or where her mind was.

"So you going to see Max after school today?" Maria suddenly asked while Liz stared outside at a red Chevy pickup parked outside in the school lot. It was the same truck as Max's, but Liz shook her head at the thought. There was no way Max would show up here in the middle of the school day.

"What?" Liz whirled around to meet her friend.

"Are you going to hang out with Max today after school?" Maria said the words slower and Liz smiled shyly and began to walk down the hall, tearing her gaze away from the parking lot.

"I - I don't know," Liz stuttered. "Look, Maria -" she suddenly said, seeming to snap out of the daze she was in. "I - I'm gonna need you to cover for me the next couple of..." Liz paused as her mind spun. Days? Weeks? Months? How long could she keep this up. Keep hiding from her parents, keep hiding Max from everybody.

"Liz, I've been covering for you the past two months! What else can I - "

"I know, Maria - I know and you have been so great about everything, but.."

"But what? Liz what are you not telling me about you and Max? Have you guys.."

"No," Liz said immedietly, "no, we haven't..but I mean..he kind of - " Liz's thoughts
wandered back to the last day - or night rather - she had spent with Max on horseback. The horse that now belonged to her. "Did something." Maria's interest was piqued at the two words and she stopped in her tracks and looked towards Liz.

"To you?"

"For me," Liz knew what Maria was thinking . "He did something for me...something
really big."

"Details, Liz, details," Maria commanded as she and Liz paused by the locker. "You need to quit with the vagueness and start filling me in." Liz could detect the slightest bit of frustration in her voice and as the bell rang and students scattered, Maria and Liz remained where they were standing. Liz took a deep breath.

"You have to promise me that you will not tell anyone," Liz looked solemnly to her friend and Maria nodded her head. "Okay..." Liz paused again and Maria gave her an impatient look. "He kind of bought me a horse," Liz finally spat out and Maria's eyes widened.

"Kidding," she said, although it didn't sound much like a question.

"Not kidding," Liz replied. "It's this big beautiful black and white horse like Grandma Claudia used to have, and it's.."

"He bought you a horse," again Maria's comment sounded nothing like a question.

"Yeah, I know..." Liz ran her hand through her hair and sighed loudly. "And it's not like I don't like it, 'cos I do..I mean, I love it - but..."

"Did he...did he - say why or anything? I mean Liz, this is huge - this is..."

"I know, and I really...I mean - I'm going to talk with him more about it, but look Maria - I
just..I need you to really cover for me. Say I'm doing a project for science research..say I'm - I'm
doing a hypothesis about -" Liz sputtered and Maria interuppted her before she could continue.

"I'll make something up, it’s fine," she dismissed calmly, but her eyes said just the opposite. "Liz," Maria began to say and this time it was Liz who interuppted.

"I know, I know - " she held up her hand. "I'm going to -"

"Tell the truth," Maria stated, her voice more serious than Liz had ever known it to be and Liz snapped her head up at the advice. "Don't hide things from him. Please."

"Maria, what makes you think I'm hiding anything from him?" Liz attempted to laugh, but she knew better than to try and hide anything from her best friend.

"Because if neither of you were lying to each other you wouldn't even be in this situation." And with the statement Maria left.

Liz stood there in amazement. At what Maria had said to her. At how true it all was. She stood there rooted to the spot, unable to go to class, to go to her locker. To move at all. Her gaze drifted back out to the parking lot and the red truck. And fumbling for keys in his back pocket, in the familiar faded barn jacket and white cowboy hat was Max. She barely recognized him at first. He had an odd, fringed pair of chaps on that reached just below his knees that she had never before seen him in and his face was caked in dust. The legs that had been unable to move moments before quickly traveled out the back exit to the parking lot.

"Max!" she called his name urgently as he had already climbed into the car. *Please don't drive away.* Liz thought to herself. *Please don't drive away*. Upon seeing her Max immedietly pulled the keys out of the ignition and climbed out of the cab of the truck.

"Hey," he seemed embarassed at his attire for some reason and her eyes just traveled up and down him. He had never looked so appealing before.

"What - what're you doing here?" Liz looked back to the school and the students who had this period free wandering about the campus.

"I dropped off your Spanish book," he responded quickly. "Remember how you - you lost
it last week? It was - it was in the barn, from..that day...when we.." His voice drifted off at the memory and it seemed so did Liz's mind. Searching for someplace quiet to study, Max had taken Liz into the barn where they had sat on bales of hay and reviewed. A smile appeared on her face at the memory. "Anyway, I found it while I was working and I just - I wanted to get it to you," he attempted to formulate an excuse for his appearance. Liz nodded her head slowly.

"Thanks," she smiled and Max just nodded his head.

"No problem." Here it goes, Liz thought to herself. That wonderful awkwardness and
silence they were so used to by now. "So - what - what do you have now?" he asked curiously and there was no way that Liz could have told the truth to him right then, the way that he was looking at her, what he was suggesting in his gaze. And so she lied.


There were only five more periods of school left anyway. She wasn't missing *that* much. Geometry, Spanish, Government, Gym. No biggie. Maria would cover for her. Alex would lend her his notes. She would be okay.

Liz glanced over at Max, speeding down the highway while the wind whipped at both their faces. She would be okay as long as she could make it through this car ride.

"That too much wind for you?" he suddenly asked, glancing over at her and she shook her head.

"It's fine."


"Good." Liz choked back a laugh at their pitiful attempt for conversation. She was almost
glad that the wind was so loud, it gave an excuse for them not to talk. She simply gazed at Max, knowing full well that he could detect her eyes on him, but not really seeming to care. With the hat, and the chaps, and the dust-coated face he was every much the handsome cowboy that dreams were made of. The cowboy who sweeps you up off your feet and carries you away into the sunset. God, how she wanted him.

Max kept his head focused straight ahead. His eyes remained directly on the road in front of him. Don't let her know that you know she's looking at you. Don't let her know that it was taking all the strength inside of him not to turn his head. Don't let her know that you've had dreams about her every night for the past week.

"So, you're really not missing that much school?" He suddenly broke the silence and Liz finally shifted her eyes away from him. They now focused on the tops of her shoes.

"No, nothing I can't make up," she shrugged. That wasn't too much of a lie.

"Good, 'cos I just - I was working with Polaris before - you don't mind do you?" he questioned, looking for her approval and Liz shook with laughter at the idea.

"Max, don't do that, okay? I mean - he's yours, I - I appreciate it and I - I *really* appreciate it and it's not that I don't like him, but I can't.."

"Liz -"

"I can't take him," she spat out.

"Yeah, you can," Max slowed the truck down and looked over at her. "Liz.." his voice drifted. "Please, just..."

"Max, why is it so important?" Liz was surprised she was able to get the question out.

"I don’t know!" there was desperation in his voice now that Liz hadn't expected. "I have no idea - I just...I just - I thought...I thought that - " Liz's head spun. She had thought things were going to be okay between her and Max. She had thought that his confession to her, his warning meant something. But Maria's words kept coming back to haunt her and she couldn't help the words that flew out of her mouth.

"You can't just buy me a horse out of the blue and think that it'll..that it'll make things right between us," she didn't mean to attack him like this, but she couldn't help it. He simply stared out the windshield and tightened his jaw.

"When were things ever wrong?" He asked softly and the hurt in his eyes as he spoke the words was almost too much for her. She knew if they were ever going to talk. To really talk, like Maria had told her, that now was the time. Here on the side of the road.

Right next to a familiar green sign that read BOTTOMLESS LAKES 13 MILES.

Liz didn't even realize that Max had stopped the car. She didn't even notice that Max was no longer looking at her, that he was looking the opposite way out the window. Her eyes welled up with tears at the thought. At the thought that Max was turning his back to her. She turned her head out the window and sighed loudly, staring at the large green sign. And then it happened.

They all came so fast that she was blown back against the seat by the force of them. She held her head between her hands as they pounded through her mind in rapid and furious succession. Her dream came back to haunt her, her and Max at six years old driving past each other in opposite directions, past this very same BOTTOMLESS LAKES sign; Max walking down
the streets of Roswell, clinging to his mother’s hand while he watched her from afar; gazing out the back of a truck at her as they drove out of town, his one hand pressed up against the glass. And then came more recent images; Max walking by the Crashdown with a handful of supplies, stopping for a moment just to gaze in at her; Max riding to the edge of town atop of Aldo and simply staring; Max atop of a mountain, looking into town with a familiar longing and a burning in his eyes. Liz knew when that was, it was the last day of summer, it was the day neither of them
had wanted to end. And she could feel it, she could feel everything that he was feeling in every one of the scenes running through her head. Then the scenes turned darker. And they flew by even faster, causing Liz to let out a weak cry as she gripped her head tighter.

Max didn't notice. Because on the other side of the car, they were flashing through his mind just as fast. But in each of the scenes it wasn't his feelings, it was Liz's. Her feelings were different from his - curiousity mostly, mixed with fascination and wonder. Max could hardly believe it and he would have smiled had the images not been crashing through his head so quickly, had his head not been pounding. Had his nightmares not been interspersed with the
images. Not only his nightmares, Liz's nightmares, Isabelle's nightmares, even Michael's nightmares. And their fear accompanied each one. Their fear was so great that it made Max shake, it made Liz tremble.

And then suddenly, as abruptly as they had started, they came to an end. Max was left there shaking in his seat, sweat collecting on his brow and Liz was trembling against the window, attempting to comprehend all that had just happened. Max knew she had felt them too and as he managed to turn his head and look over the seat to her, his instincts took over. He wasn't thinking with his head right now, he wasn't thinking about what Michael or Isabelle thought, what they would think. All he could see was a terrified Liz in the seat across from him. Her face
frozen in fear, he knew probably from that last nightmare - it had to have been Michael's. Isabelle wasn't capable of dreaming of something like *that*. Or maybe it had been his dream, his nightmare. And maybe she had known it was his.

Liz hadn't even picked her head up yet, her face remained transfixed out the window and before she knew what was happening Max suddenly reached across the seat and pulled her towards him. Gently pressing her head against his chest with one hand and holding her trembling body against him with the other, he wasn't thinking about anything else at that moment
but Liz. She let out a tiny sob and it only made him hold her closer, and he instinctively layed a soft kiss on top of her head. Her body shook against his and he knew she was choking back more sobs threatening to rise in her throat.

"It's okay," he soothed softly and the mere sound of his voice seemed to calm her. He kissed her softly atop the head again and her breathing finally seemed to steady slightly.

"Max, what - " He stroked her hair with his hand as she spoke into his chest. "What was-?"

"Forget about it," Max whispered in an attempt to calm Liz down, but the comment made her break away from his embrace. Something she never imagined she would do. He saw her face for the first time now as she looked at him. Saw the tears that had run down it.

"Forget about it, Max?" she managed to laugh and Max immedietly shifted his eyes nervously about the cab, which suddenly now seemed smaller than it ever had before. "Forget about - about you dreaming I was dead?"

"You knew that was my dream..." he stated the words so flatly, Liz wondered if he was even talking to her. His eyes locked with hers though and she heard the crack in his voice. "It wasn't a dream, it was a nightmare."

"And how did I see your nightmare, Max? How have I been seeing them, dreaming them, for the past *three* months??" Liz's voice bordered on hysterical, and at her words Max's head shot up.

"Three months?" He asked, his eyes full of fear - but at this moment Liz couldn't tell who
they were fearful for, him or her.

"Three months I've been seeing those...those handprints and those - and those men in the suits, and - Michael, and you and Isabelle, and dead bodies and silver handprints -" tears dripped from her face now as she began spilling everything out to Max and instead of being angry like she had thought she would be she just collapsed against his chest and cried.
"And me," she confessed, burying her head further into the folds of his jacket and shirt. "What does it
mean, Max?" she asked desperately, her words muffled against him. "What does it all mean?"

Max simply sat there in shock as Liz burrowed her head in the crook of his neck, seeming to think that being there - where she only dreamed about - would bring her some solace from the events unfolding. Max remained in the seat, and his hand moved to the back of her neck as she shifted her position against him. He tried to make sense of it all. Of the fact that Liz had had dreams about him and Michael and Isabelle. About all the things that he had dreamed about. "What do I have to do with any of this??" she asked, and he knew that was what was striking such fear into her. What did she have to do with dead bodies, and FBI agents. And three aliens. Max's mind whirled.

"I don't know," he responded honestly, and his voice was so dry that it came out more like a whisper. "I wish I could tell you, but I've been trying to figure out the same thing..."

"You - you've had them too??" she lifted her head, and she couldn't believe how close they were. She was mere centimeters below his chin and she could feel his breath on the back of her neck. "All this time - you've been having dr-dreams?" she stuttered and Max looked down at the ground once, before looking back up to Liz and nodding his head. "And you didn't tell me?"

"Did you?" Max responded and Liz knew he hadn't meant it as a challenge, but more as a meeting ground for the two of them. More of a way to tell her that the past three months he had been going through exactly what she had. That he was just as scared as she was. She put her head back down against the crevice of his neck and let out another choked sob. "Liz?" he asked worriedly, tilting her head face up to meet his, but he could see now that they were tears of happiness.

As terrified she was about the dreams and the visions, what all of it meant, and what place she had in any of it, the feeling of complete relief and joy she had knowing that she was no longer keeping anything from Max overwhelmed her. And Max had been truthful to her. She wanted to throw her arms around his neck and just laugh. Laugh away all the things she had kept bottled up inside of her. All the things she was free of. That hopefully Max was free of.
They could figure out what it all meant later. Right now she threw herself against Max again, where she felt so at home, and his arms enveloped her. She let out a few relieved sighs, her breath warm against his neck, and his hand remained tangled up in her silk hair.

And that was how they remained.

So this is how it was going to be. He criticized Max every waking moment for being friends with Liz and going into town, yet he found himself here at the Crashdown Cafe ordering Blood-of-Alien Smoothies and Hot Fudge Blast Offs and staring at the blonde haired waitress every other day. Maria. He looked at her through dark eyes, that were no longer so empty. Coming to this place, as creepy as it was, was something he now looked forward to. And it had
gotten to the point now where he wasn’t so much worried about the men who had taken his files from the adoption agency, as he was with seeing Maria.

He didn't know how it had happened. The Crashdown was the one place in Roswell where he could get a Cherry Coke for $1.25 and he guessed it would be the last place anyone would search to find him. But the more and more he saw her, the more his motives for visiting changed. His sharp tongue remained, and the two continued to bicker back and forth, but he would find himself disheartened and his day not complete if another waitress came to serve him.

Michael had nothing in front of him today. No paper tracings or maps to study, he simply sat there with a Cherry Coke in front of him, calmly sipping it and waiting for Maria to show her face. He glanced down at his watch 3:31, she should be here any minute her shift had already started. Michael waited impatiently and suddenly he dropped his head into his hands. God, this wasn't supposed to happen. Here he was waiting for her like a groveling dog. Like Max. He ran his hands backwards through his mussed hair. How had this happened? How had a...a high school waitress have gotten to him so much.

Before he could scrutinize over his pitiful situation some more, Liz suddenly walked through the Crashdown from the front doors.

"Hey - where's Maria?" Michael suddenly asked, not realizing how pathetic he probably sounded. Not to mention the fact that he hardly spoke to Liz to begin with. Liz stopped short in her tracks as she registered what Michael had just asked her. Sure, Maria had told her that Michael had frequented the Crashdown more and more lately, but maybe it was Liz's turn to turn the tables on Maria. What was her friend not telling her?

"I don't...she - she should be coming," Liz stuttered and Michael looked at her mysteriously.

"Where'd you come from? Don't you guys usually come in together?" he interrogated and Liz's eyes widened a bit at his inquisitive question.

"I just - I - I came from..." Michael could tell by her face where she had been.

"Max," he lowered his head to take another sip of cherry coke. She got the same look in her eye that Max did whenever he and Isabelle would interrogate as to his whereabouts. Liz lowered her eyes, not sure as to what Michael would say to her, but sure it would be some sort of criticism. She began to walk towards the back, to begin her shift, but she faltered. Glancing
back at Michael, she quickly hopped into the booth across from him.

"So have you - have you guys figured out what those dreams are? What all those visions mean?" she suddenly asked quietly and Michael stared at her blankly.

"What're you talking about?" He suddenly jerked his head up and she saw the familiar wariness and nervousness that she always saw accompanying Michael return to him. It wasn't the same person who had moments ago, so cheerfully asked for Maria.

"What - Max didn't, he didn't tell you about the dreams-"

"What the hell are you..." his eyes narrowed. "Who are you?" Michael suddenly began
to edge towards the aisle.

"Michael, I'm - what're *you* talking about?" she actually laughed, "I was just wondering if you - if you had figured out -"

"What the hell are you talking about? How do you have any idea -"

"Lizzie!" a voice suddenly bellowed from the kitchen and she knew it was her father, beckoning for her to begin her shift finally.

"Look, I just - I didn't, I didn' to Max," she stumbled, backing into the kitchen realizing, by the look on Michael's face, what she had just done. With a scowl on his face, Michael was about to slap a dollar twenty five onto the table and storm out to go talk to Max when Maria suddenly walked into the room. She was fixing the antennaes on top of her head, and tucking her short blonde hair behind her ears, as Michael's eyes immedietly transfixed on her. Whatever thoughts that had been previously plaguing him vanished and the only thing he did was follow Maria around the diner with his eyes. He hated this. How she could distract him so much. How she could make him forget all the things he never should forget.

"You're late," Michael suddenly said, glancing up at Maria, then back down at his watch as she neared him. She shot him a look.

"Yeah, I was attending schoo-ool," she drew out the words. "S - C - H -O - O -L." She gave him a demeaning look, obviously in question as to why he wasn't enrolled in West Roswell and Michael was quiet. She had meant the comment only in keeping with their usual banter, but it had silenced him. Coming into the Crashdown every other day and seeing Liz and Maria giggle behind the counter, seeing students piling in with their bookbags and textbooks triggered
a pang in his chest. A pang like he was missing out on something. Maria sensed that she had hit a sensitive spot with him, something she had never expected to do. Hell, she'd never even heard him call her name before. But indeed here he was, staring down at the nearly empty glass in front of him. "Let me get you a refill," she suddenly said softly and Michael quickly picked up his head.

"Who said I wanted a refill?" he suddenly shot and Maria looked over to him. That was short-lived. He reached over to take the glass from her.

"Just let me give you a refill," Maria tightened her hold on the glass and attempted to pull
it away.

"I don't want anymore!" Michael said through clinched teeth, yanking the glass towards him.

"Oh grow up, Michael! Give me the glass," she tugged back and Liz just rolled her eyes from behind the counter at the two. No better than first-graders those two. She lifted out a giant aluminum tray of dirty dishes from behind the counter and then suddenly Michael released his grip on the glass, sending the small amount of cherry coke left in the glass splattering onto Maria. In the reflection on the aluminum tray Michael could see them. Two men, in black suits, and sunglasses - not at all looking conspicuos in the small town diner. "Michael, I can't believe you!!" Maria shouted and Michael quickly sprung to his feet and covered her mouth with his
hand, silencing her before she could say his name again. Grabbing her hand in his, he quickly ran to the back of the Crashdown, her body covering and hiding his. She was struggling and yelling beneath his hand the entire time, but she only needed to glance at his face in the back of the Crashdown once he removed it, before she was immedietly silenced. Their were beads of sweat collecting on his face as he stood there in shock and he ran his hand over his face.

"Oh God, they followed me..." he murmured to himself, as he paced back and forth.

"Michael - what are you like a criminal or something??" she asked naively, and Michael held his head in his hands. "What's - what -" she stuttered but before she could say another word, Liz burst through the back door.

"Michael, they're here - they're here..." Liz stammered franticly and Michael's eyes flashed upward to meet Liz's. She seemed just as frightened by their presence as he was. All Liz could see in her mind were the images that had raced through it earlier that afternoon. Those same men out in the Crashdown. Doing things to Michael, to Max. Shooting at her and
Max. Tracking them, following them. Hunting them.

"How do you know?" Michael whispered to her.

"I just know..." Liz's voice waivered as Maria just stood their in confusion.

"Liz, what's - what are you guys not telling me? Liz, how do you know him??" Maria looked towards Michael. "And who the heck are *they*???" she demanded and Liz peered through the circular window in the door.

"They're not lookin' for you, they're lookin' for me.." Michael ignored Maria as his eyes met Liz's and Liz could see the absolute terror in them. So could Maria.

"Maria," Liz suddenly turned to her friend and the sound of her voice was so grave it made Maria straighten up - almost like she was being ordered upon. "You have to stand here and make sure no one goes through that door..." Liz ordered and the tone of her voice surprised Michael even. Maria nodded her head solemnly, not knowing why, or understanding any of this, but knowing that it was important. And Liz grabbed Michael's hand and raced up the stairs with

Michael followed Liz as she led him into her room, absolutely silent, the only sound their shallow breathing. They stood in the corner of her room, attempting to catch their breath when suddenly they both stopped their breathing. It was Maria.

"Excuse me, this is employees only!" they heard her yell loudly. "I'm changing back here, excuse me," she said again and Liz couldn't help but grin. *Good old, Maria* She had no idea what was going on, but she was trying. She was trying so hard to help them.

"There's no way she can hold them," Michael gasped. "They're gonna come up and find me..." Liz could hear the terror in his voice and she grabbed Michael's face in her hands. This was Max's brother.

"Michael, listen..they're not going to find you - I won't let them," she stated calmly and Michael looked intently into her assuring eyes.

Suddenly, breaking the silence, they both heard a loud clamor below them and the next voice sent shivers up both their spines. It was Maria again, screaming through the restaurant. "Mr. Parker!!"

Liz immedietly ran to the window and fumbled with the locks on it as she hoisted it open.

"Go!!" She yelled to Michael impatiently as he just froze and looked into her eyes again. He was no longer questioning her motives or her involvement at all. He could see right now, that all she wanted to do was help him. And Michael dove through the window. Hearing loud foosteps coming from the hallway, Liz quickly crawled out behind him and immedietly ran to the fire escape. "Go first!" she motioned to the ladder down and Michael looked down hesitantly one
last time. "Michael, please - go now!!" she pleaded and Michael suddenly looked down to the ground. Maria was standing below on the sidewalk.

And he didn't question how she had known to run there, or why she was so intent on helping him too, but he quickly began to climb down the fire escape, Liz right behind him. Liz could hear them in her room and Michael caught her as she jumped the rest of the way down to the pavement. Maria stood there in confusion and Liz looked to her once franticly, then back up the fire escape. She could hear them in her room. God, she'd forgotten to close the window.

"Tell my father, I had to go!!" Liz whispered to Maria, and she wrapped her arms around her friend tightly, not sure as to why - but somehow knowing that the events unfolding in front of her were going to change her life forever. And probably Maria's too.

Michael gazed at Maria with a look she never would have expected from the sour and moody boy who had so mysteriously become a part of her life. He wanted to kiss her then, in case anything should happen to him while he and Liz were fleeing for their lives. He wanted to kiss her, like he had wanted to since he had first seen her. But he just stared at her and began to back away with Liz. The voices above became louder now and Maria scrambled back into the
Crashdown and Michael and Liz ran off down the street.

She knew the twists and turns of Roswell bettter than he did and so Michael simply followed her as they turned down one alley, then through the back of one building onto another street and around into another alley. Somewhere along the way he realized however that Liz had no idea where she was leading him. Sure she knew what streets they were on and which
ones they were heading towards, but she had no idea where they were supposed to go. Where they were supposed to hide. And somewhere along the way Michael took her hand in his. He wasn't going to let what happened to Tess happen to Liz. Not Liz who meant so much to Max. Not Liz who was sticking her neck out for him.

Neither were sure if the two men were still following them, but they continued to race through alley after alley. Both were thinking the same thing. Both just wanted Max there. Max somehow had the ability to make everything right. And then suddenly, as if answering their prayers his pickup came speeding down the street. Michael and Liz darted out of the alley andjumped into the flatbed, Michael first, and then Liz. They ducked their heads down as the red Chevy pickup raced by the Crashdown and into the oustkirst of town. And he and Liz remained
like that. Even out on the open desert when there was no other vehicle around. They remained huddled in the back of the pickup. And for the second time that day, Liz was trembling.

Michael and Liz were slow to remove themselves from the truck and Michael just looked towards Max with inquisitive eyes.

"How did you know?" he asked, in reference to the fact that Max - who so rarely went into town to begin with - just happened to be speeding by them.

"Maria called me," Max dismissed and Michael raised his eyebrows at the comment.

"That quick?"

"You'd be surprised how fast a pickup can go if the situation demands it," Max shrugged and Michael managed to laugh slightly.

"That might come in handy for us considering..." he said dryly, his voice drifting off as he began to walk towards the barn where Isabelle was pacing back and forth franticly.

Liz was still slowly edging her way out of the flatbed and Max walked to the edge and just looked up to her with imploring eyes. Her face said it all. She had been so strong with Michael, ordering Maria to do one thing, leading Michael to do another. But now the reality of it all sunk in and she collapsed against Max's chest again, where she knew she would find comfort. She had thought they could figure out what the visions meant later. She thought that after they had told each other the truth in the truck that everything would be okay. That maybe now they would go away. She didn't know why, but she just hoped against hope that she would be able to sleep at night again.

Max had no idea what had happened. A frantic Maria had called him and told him to come quick, that Michael and Liz had gotten 'weirded out’ by two men in suits. And that was all he had to hear. He had hung up the phone and driven faster than he had ever before in his life. Terrified for Liz's life and for Michael's life and he stood there as Liz cried into his shirt.

Michael and Isabelle were right. Liz was in danger. But they weren't entirely right. The only reason she was in danger was because she was in the dark about everything. Liz suddenly picked her head up and wiped away the tears with the back of her hand, attempting to regain her composure and control.

"God, I'm sorry.." Liz almost seemed embarassed by her behavior and Max was struggling with the notion as to why.

"Don't be sorry," he was quick to say. "I were being chased - "

"By who, Max?" she asked the words slowly and Max immedietly detected a change in her mood. She wasn't going to crumble against him again and sob anymore. She wanted answers.

"I don't - I don't know," he confessed honestly.

"What do you mean you don't - how could you..." Liz struggled with the concept and her
voice grew stronger.

"I don't know!" Max responded truthfully, "I have no idea who they are or - or what they
want! They came into the adoption agency and they took files about Michael..they're after *him*..I don't - I don't know what they want with you!" His voice was raised now too and he hesitated for a moment, realizing that he had just raised his voice to Liz. He took a calming breath and Liz's eyes met his.

"Michael knows," she suddenly said and his eyes flicked nervously around the area.

"What do you mean he knows??" Max asked quietly.

"The visions, Max - I thought - I thought that you would have told him about them, I thought that you -"

"You told him about the visions?" Max's voice began to raise again and he wished more than anything that it wouldn't, but as he looked over to Michael in the middle of a heated discussion with Isabelle, he couldn't help himself. Michael knew. Michael now knew that Max had been keeping things from him and Isabelle. "I can't believe that"

"I thought you would have told him," Liz repeated, and her strength was quickly fading
from her as she saw the way Max was now looking at her. *No, no, no* Liz shook her head. *Don't make him mad at me, please*. "I didn't mention anything specific, I just thought.."

"How could you do that? You had no right to tell -"

"I have a right, Max!" Liz had never remembered crying so much in one day. "I have a
right because I'm involved with you! and I'm involved with him," she pointed to Michael. "And
with your sister - whether you want to believe it or not!!" she suddenly thundered and Michael and Isabelle heard it. They heard Liz's breath grow shallow, and the sobs begin to shake her body. They quickly left the barn and jogged over. "I don't know how - and I have no idea why, but we're connected!" She continued to tell him between sobs, while Max just stood there
ashamed, looking down at the ground. "You - and - I - are...connected..somehow, someway...And I'm sorry that you can't tell them that- and you can't tell me..what's going on in your life, but - they have to know..." Liz bit her lip. "And I have to know," she added softly. Michael and Isabelle stood there and just watched. "I can't help you next time those men from Michael's nightmares show up..."

"What the..." Michael suddenly murmured, as he looked to Liz and then to Max, realizing Liz knew more about him than he had thought. That she really was connected. Liz just nodded her head. Max's eyes remained transfixed on the ground and he found himself unable to look at Liz. Not after what he had said to her, after he had yelled at her, accused her.

"Max..." Liz whispered to him, wanting more than anything for him to pick up his head. "Please.." she pleaded and he finally lifted his head to see her tear-stained face and puffy eyes. Her voice was shaky even with the one syllable word. "Max, please..." she repeated, looking to him with desperate eyes. He looked to Michael and to Isabelle and, to his surprise, it was Michael who nodded his head.

"I trust her," Michael suddenly said. "I trust her because I know that you do..." he confessed. Liz barely heard Michael's words, she was too busy concentrating on Max's face, trying to comprehend what he was feeling. "Max, she's connected.." he looked to Max in the same manner Liz was, an attempt to find out what he was feeling, what he was thinking behind the wall that was his face.

*Connected to you* a voice in the back of Max's head sounded. Max looked to Liz and again averted his eyes to the ground. He thought back to three months ago. When he had looked at Liz, and only wished that she would someday know about him. And now here was his oppurtunity, here was Michael encouraging him to do it, and here he was unable to even open
up his mouth.

"Please," Liz begged again and at her shaky request, Michael grabbed Isabelle's arm and led her away, leaving Max and Liz alone.

"Michael - what are you talking about? What do you mean she's.." Max could hear Isabelle protesting and questioning Michael about everything as he dragged her away, but all he could see right now was Liz. The world was black around him and she was the only source of light. Without even realizing, he reached out and took a lock of hair between his fingers. Liz drew in a deep breath as he gently rubbed the side of her face with his thumb.

"You had uh..."

"Dirt...thanks," she replied softly

"Sure," he nodded his head, his other hand still was gently toying with her hair and she tilted her head to rub her cheek up against the side of his hand. She slowly closed her eyes as all the incidents of the day slowly faded away. The world darkened around her, just as it had with Max. He was suddenly all she could see - her light.

"Don't keep hiding, Max," she said softly. "Please, stop hiding from me."

"I was never hiding from you," he shook his head. "These past three months have been...anything but hiding," he confessed to her.

"So then why..."

"Because - because it's not safe," he told her. "For you," his hand remained up by her face. "And if you...if'll be in danger," his voice shook with fear and he wasn't even able to complete his sentences. "You'll be in danger like all of get involved and who knows what could happen..." he looked to her with such concern that his eyes said all the things he couldn't manage to. "And this is.." Liz's eyes sought an explanation from his. "This is something that could...could change the way you see me," Max confessed his darkest fear.

"Nothing could change the way I see you," Liz shook her head immedietly and Max bit his lip.

"Don't say that..." he shook his head. "There's things you don't know."

"Then tell me, Max..look, I want to be in your life!" she resorted to pleading again, she didn't care how desperate she sounded. "I don't care what.." Max looked up at her. *What you are* She was about to say it, she already knew! Maybe she had figured it out already, maybe he wouldn't have to tell her after all! His heart lifted at the thought. But her voice drifted off and she seemed unable to finish her thought. This was the hardest thing he had ever had to do in his life. He had thought about it so many times, played it over in his mind. But Liz had never been so desperate to know and it had never been like this before. This was harder than he could have
ever imagined.

"I'm not who you think I am." Max came one step closer to revealing his identity to her.

"I don't care," Liz shook her head and Max moved his hand to her cheek again, slowing down the shaking movement of her head, as if to make her stop. "Max...whatever *you* are, *whoever* you are...I don't - I don't care.."

Max's chest tightened and he felt his throat constrict. God, carrying this secret was killing him. He looked over to Liz's desperate face, his mind drifting back to all that she had gone through today. Or it was going to kill her.

He slowly traced her jawline with his thumb and her eyes followed the motion. He was immedietly hit with flashes of the day. Of the two men in the Crashdown, she and Michael climbing through the window, racing through the fire escape and running down the street. And their fear accompanied each image, it swept through his entire body and he stood there with his eyes closed as the feeling overcame him. And yet after all that, Liz still wanted to be with him. She still insisted that she didn't care and that nothing would change. He opened up his eyes to
look at her and took in a breath, slowly letting the air fill his lungs. How exactly was he going to go about telling her this. That was now the question.

"I haven't...been here for sixteen years," Max said slowly and the vagueness of his words surprised Liz.

"You were - you were adopted, I know.." Liz's voice drifted, thousands of thoughts racing through her head.

"I haven't been on *earth* for sixteen years," Max said with more confidence and strength than he would have expected and his eyes never once left Liz's. He didn't even blink.

And neither did she.

"What are you saying, Max?" she creaked. "You’re..”

"We came out of these...these 1989.." he quickly took in another breath, suddenly it felt like there was no more air in the room. "And we looked like six year olds..." He looked to her and she could see that there were tears in his eyes. "We don't know where we're from...we don't know why we're here," he continued. He finally closed his eyes and a single tear dripped down his left cheek. "And I wanted to tell you.." his voice shook with emotion. "Every day I wanted to tell you." Liz's eyes took in every feature of his pained expression, thinking back to all the images she had just seen in the car that day with him. Of him seeing her as a child. And suddenly the longing she felt in each of the flashes was heightened, and she wanted to weep for Max and the secret he had been hiding for so long.

"I'm sorry.." he choked back a sob and another tear slid down his cheek. "I'm so sorry," he wasn't sure why he was apologizing but the words tumbled out, over and over. When he apologized a third time tears began to collect in Liz's eyes as she suddenly pulled him towards her. It was her turn to comfort him. "I'm sorry," his words were muffled against her shoulder and his entire body began to shudder. She moved her hand to the back of his head as she held him
tighter than she thought she could hold anything or anyone. She should be running away from him, away from him, Michael and Isabelle. Running away from what they were. But all she could do was stand there and hug him. And all Max could do was stand there and cry.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 7:17:09 PM
The Evans weren't all that sure how to explain the two dinner guests they had at the table that night. There was an awkwardness around the four, a tension almost, but also a sense of familiarity between them. It ran through everything they said and everything they did, each look and glance, and it had both Mr. and Mrs. Evans puzzled. Last time they had checked Isabelle hadn't been overly enthusiastic about Liz being friends with her brother and this Michael
character simply had them baffled. All this time it had been Isabelle who talked about Michael, but tonight Max was talking with him as if they had been friends all their lives. Even Liz spoke to Michael with a sense of acquaintance, as they laughed about an occurrence earlier in the day. Maria's name even came up and drew laughter from Max, and a smile from Isabelle.

Max could grow to like this, he knew he would. Enjoying the connection that the four of
them had. Having Michael laugh and talk with Liz and having Isabelle be civil to her, though she was still much in the dark about everything. But he was still having trouble grasping everything. Grasping everything that had happened in the past two hours. And Liz would look over to him in the middle of the meal and notice that his hand was shaking when he brought his fork up to his mouth, or even when his hands were in his lap. His face was taut and his eyes still had the appearance and the pain they had earlier. Liz suddenly reached over and beneath the table, moved her hand over his. He turned his head quickly to look at her and her eyes gave him the
forgiveness and the encouragement that he was seeking. He was still distraught over todays events, for reasons Liz wasn't even sure of. She was having trouble, not with Max's revelation, but with his breakdown in front of her. He had practically died in her arms there, sobbing just like she had so many times. Except Max's sobs made her shudder, they sent chills up and down her body.

Mr. Evans suddenly made an inquiry as to how Max's days work with Polaris had gone and Max turned his head away from Liz to answer him. It still looked as if Max was going to break down at any moment. Every time he so much as glanced at her, his entire face said the same thing: I'm sorry. And for the life of her Liz could not understand why he was so apologetic. If he somehow thought that he had ruined her life in telling her, she had to let him know that it was just the opposite. And her hand secured its grip around his, awaiting a response from him.
Something to tell her that he was going to be okay. That when she left him at the end of the night he would be okay. Max's hand suddenly tightened around hers and she smiled at the tiny maneuver. She felt every muscle in his hand grip hers harder and his mouth tightened even more. Isabelle and Michael simply looked at them from across the table, knowing something was going on beneath the table with them, but not all that eager to discover what. Isabelle turned the topic of conversation quickly, directing her parents stares away from Max and Liz. Max, who she
wasn't sure was going to hold up for the entire night.

She and Michael had seen him. They had heard him. Apologizing over and over, his head buried into her shoulder as Liz simply held him. Isabelle had never in her life seen Max cry like that. She had never seen him show such raw emotion and her heart broke seeing him now as it had then. Neither she, nor Michael, nor even Liz could even begin to grasp why telling Liz had been so troubling to him. Liz hadn't flinched once the entire time and had never even
hesitated to do anything. She accepted him into her arms, who he was - what he was - but Max still couldn't feel that he had wrecked her life in telling her. He couldn't help but apologize for the months of lying to her, of keeping things from her. He apologized for putting her at danger, for putting this tremendous burden on her. All that he could do was utter those two words though and he realized that he was apologizing for being who he was. And he couldn't stop.

Isabelle looked over at Max, with the look of a concerned parent. Liz was helping him, she knew that. He seemed to be gaining strength merely from her presence. He squeezed her hand again, as if to tell her that he was trying. She squeezed it back.

Max and Isabelle proposed a midnight ride after dinner to discuss the day's events, forgetting that Liz had school and a family to go home to. She felt at home here though, next to Max, with Michael and Isabelle and was slow to drag her feet over to the truck. Truth was, so was Max. He seemed hesitant to drive her home, not wanting her to leave and Isabelle and Michael both looked at each other warily. Isabelle didn't have to say anything, in one fluid
movement, Michael jogged over to the back of the pickup and hopped into the flatbed. Max didn't question the action, he slowly put the key into the ignition and started up the truck. They drove over in silence the entire time, but Max's hand was stretched across the seat and resting on her lower thigh. For support.

Liz couldn't say anything, she couldn't do anything. Having Max's hand there was doing things to her. Things that she couldn't even begin to think about right now. God, Max was a completely different life form. The reality of it all actually began to sink in for her and she looked over at Max. He had the same clothes on he had when he had driven to the school to drop off her Spanish textbook, the same knee-length chaps, and dusty white shirt. The stetson was gone from his head and his short dark hair fell down haphazardly across his forehead. He was an alien. This was the only Max she knew, sweet and vulnerable Max, innocent and harmless. He was an alien. The car suddenly jolted to a stop and so did all Liz's thoughts. Max quickly removed his hand from her leg, seeming to be a bit embarassed that it had been there in the first place. The glowing saucer outside the Crashdown suddenly seemed so imposing as they both
sat there in silence, the neon lights intruding into the car. It was Liz's turn to be embarassed and
she slowly moved her hand to the door handle.

He couldn't even mumble a goodnight to her and she was about to slip away in silence when she moved back and edged over the seat. She instinctively rested her hand on one side of his face and placed a soft kiss on his cheek. The same shell-shocked look remained on Max's face but when Liz moved to open up the door, he reached across the seat and popped it open for her.

"Night, Liz," he finally murmured and her mouth turned up at the corners.

"Goodnight, Max," she whispered back to him and crawled around the front of the truck to the Crashdown, the glowing UFO brightly lighting up the sidewalk. She looked back to him one last time before she went inside. Alien or not, this was the only Max she knew.

Max stood in front of the mirror and moved his hand up to the spot on his cheek where her lips had graced his skin. For all that had happened today, he couldn't get past what had happened in the cab of his truck. Who knows if Michael had seen it, he knew the whole reason Michael had been in the back anyway - to make sure nothing happened between him and Liz and to make sure he was okay. He hadn't been at the start of the car ride. But he was okay now. Except for the fact that his heart was beating double-time, he was okay. He walked back over to his bed and collapsed against it, his fingers still resting on his cheek as he tried to remember everything. He had had his hand on her leg and then suddenly her lips had brushed
against the side of his face. It was meant as a gesture of friendship, he knew that. He also knew
that their friendship was changing. After everything that had happened in the past day, it was no longer the innocent friendship it had once been. It could never be that anymore because now she knew things. About him and Michael and Isabelle and their enemies. About how dangerous it was now. How he and Liz couldn't do anything, not with Michael and Isabelle spying on them every five seconds. He thought about how it would be now. How life was going to unfold now
that the one thing he had wanted in the world was true. Liz knew.

And his hand stayed on his cheek.

Liz wasn't quite sure how she was supposed to make it through the school day. She wasn't even sure if she could. Not after everything that had happened the day before. Every person she saw in school in dark clothes and sunglasses made her jump back in surprise, made her want to run to Max; every statement by her government teacher about 'illegal aliens' made
her head spin and her mind drift to Max. Biology with Ms. Hardy, her favorite class of the day just seemed to drag on and all that she could think about was Max. Lunchtime with Maria and Alex moved along slowly and she barely said two words to either one of them. They both eyed her curiously, but wisely chose to leave well enough alone. Liz would tell them if anything was amiss in her life, and the look on her face now was completely the opposite. It was a look of
bliss, not one of anxiety or fear, a look of sheer contentment. Maria had only one idea as to what could cause such a reaction in her friend and she meant to steal Liz away after the bell rang at the end of the day to ask her what had happened with her and Max. Not to mention the fact that her mind was still awhirl from yesterday's events, but Liz was already gone by the time it rang.

Max was there at the Crashdown waiting for her and she didn't even have to say a word as he opened up the truck door for her and they quickly sped away. It hadn't been planned, Max being there. They hadn't hinted at it last night or made any indications that he would be there for her after school, but she barely had to look at his face to know where they were going.
And more importantly why. The four of them had to go on that midnight ride that didn't occur last night. They had to talk about all of this. Max, Liz, Michael and Isabelle.

For now, however, for the fifteen minute ride to the Evans' ranch it was just Max and Liz.

Max hadn't thought about this. About how the morning after was going to go exactly. She wasn't looking at him any differently, wasn't acting any differently. Then again they hadn't said anything yet.

"So, was school?" Max asked and Liz couldn't help but grin at the innocent question. He sounded like her parents when she walked into the Crashdown at 3:15, inquiring about her school day.

"Good," her smile grew wider. "It was good...
what'd you do?"

"Worked with Polaris a little, you don't -" Liz gave him an admonishing look and he was quiet. "Right," he corrected quietly, almost like a scolded puppy. "Anyway - he's uh...he's doing really good - you should come work with him more...he's not - he's not responding as well to me as he did with you.." Max confessed and Liz's face lit up at the invitation and she nodded her head vigorously. Both simply sat there smiling, as the awkwardness eventually enveloped them and the radio played softly in the background.

*Would you look at her. She looks at me. She's got me thinking about her constantly. But she don't know how I feel. And as she carries on without a doubt. I wonder if she'll figure out. I'm crazy for this girl*

"Oh, I love this song!" Liz suddenly said happily, reaching down to turn it up at the same
time that Max did. Their fingers met briefly and lingered longer than necessary by the dial and
Max quickly drew his hand away embarassed.

*She was the one to hold me the night the sky fell down. And what was I thinking when the world
didn't end. Why didn't I know what I know now*

The song played on and the lyrics eerily matched Max's feelings the night before. And his feelings now when he was beginning to realize that a whole new world was open to him now that Liz knew. She hadn't run from him, she had embraced him and everything that he was. He wished he could somehow make her understand that the lyrics playing on and the song she loved so much was his life. His feelings.

And when he glanced over at her as the chorus came around again, he realized that they were listening to it together. A smile came across her face and Max knew that nothing could ever match the feeling he had right at this moment. When everything was so right, so carefree. Who would have thought that Liz had been running for her life twenty-four hours ago, that Max had collapsed into her arms and sobbed. Right now...right now he knew this was how he wanted to spend the rest of his life. He wanted to feel like this all the time.

*And right now, face to face, all my fears pushed aside. And right now I'm ready to spend the rest of
my life with you*

Max's heart began to beat double time like it had last night when she had kissed him on the cheek. Because he could see it in her eyes and he knew that she could see it in his. What they both wanted. What they both had for so long. The truck pulled up the dusty and bumpy driveway to the Evans' and Max slowed the truck. No one hit the volume, but the song seemed
to drift away and so did the Evans ranch. Right now...right now Liz's face was inches from his.

A loud whinny suddenly broke the two apart and they bolted upright in their seats and looked straight out the dashboard. Michael and Isabelle stood there with, none too thrilled looks upon their faces as they both held a saddled horse by the reins in each hand. Michael was the first to break the silence.

"Are we gonnna do this or not?"

The four horses looked almost picture perfect tethered to the fence rail, each waiting for their designated rider to fill the saddle on their backs. Aldo's chesnut coat gleamed in the sunlight next to Polaris' exquisite black and white pattern and the dark bay giant Isabelle and Max had picked out for Michael, Lightning, dwarfed Isabelle's own dark bay, Cody.

Aldo tilted his head and began scratching and rubbing the back of his head against Polaris' solid neck. Polaris' ears were happily pointed forward, enjoying the companionship of the chestnut stallion. Their friendship was peculiar. Two stallions, both around the age of five - wild and unruly under any other circumstances. There was no logical explanation for the connection between them. It shouldn't be. But the mere sight of the two horses out at pasture together was a sight of pure contenment. Standing head to toe, Polaris would scratch Aldo's back while Aldo scratched his and they would gallop and frolic around the corral together like they were yearlings. They were the perfect picture of happiness.

The stallion's ears would pin back only when Cody would turn aggressively towards him. Cody, the normally passive gelding, was threatened by Polaris' intrusion on the Evans ranch. Or at least he felt that
way. He was suddenly a step down on the equine pecking order and Aldo turned towards the paint for camaraderie more often than he did to Cody. So Cody pinned his ears back and in the line of horses, Polaris was sandwhiched between two horses who were both fighting for him.

And then there was Lightning. Lightning, who might as well be a draft horse pulling a plow he was so huge. He had soup bowls for hooves and his shaggy head was too large for most bridles. He was a loner, an ex-police horse who had been through more than the scars on his body could ever show. He was a calm and placid horse, a gentle giant really, who sought companionship only from a strange tabby cat who lived in the barn. Volatile would not be the word Max or Isabelle would choose to characterize the tranquil horse, but the massive horse could turn into an obvious threatening and dangerous presence if he felt endangered in any way. Only one person had ever experienced the horse's rage head-on and that had been Max.

"Come on, old boy," Max shoved his weight against the animal's shoulder and Lightning slowly lifted his front forefoot off the leather rein he was stepping on. Max flipped the reins over Lightning's head for Michael and he stood there, prepared to help Michael but Michael just seized the reins from him.

"I can do it!" He thrust his chest out and Max raised his eyebrows, curious as to when Michael had ever been on a horse, but continued on and walked over to help Liz.

The four of them had been silent the entire time and Max and Liz were simply sharing soft glances with one another as Max helped tighten her cinch and fix her stirrups. Isabelle waited impatiently atop Cody, and once Michael managed to make his way atop the giant horse the two just sat there and waited. Liz was able to adjust the stirrups on her saddle herself, and they didn't even require adjusting in the first place, but Max ran his hand along the back of her
calf anyway, making sure they weren't too long or too tight. She slowly lowered her head and looked down at him, her eyes mischieviously telling him that she knew what he was doing. Max's hand lingered on her lower leg a bit longer as his eyes locked on Liz's and only when Isabelle finally cleared her throat did he remove it.

"So where're we going?" Max attempted to act casually and hide the grin on his face, as was Liz. He jerked on the quick-release knot that tied Aldo to the railing and the chestnut immedietly stopped itching his head against Polaris and began itching against Max's shoulder. "Hey!" he called playfully, as Aldo's powerful head knocked him back a few feet. "You got an itch, huh? You got an itch, buddy?" Max began to itch the horse behind the ears himself,
laughing slightly. Liz couldn't help but smile herself. She rarely saw Max so relaxed, or so playful and she knew looking at him and Aldo that the bond there was stronger than most.

"Max, we don't have all day.." Isabelle called impatiently and Max muscled Aldo's head forward and glared at Isabelle as he effortlessly climbed into the saddle.

"Relax, Iz - I'm just playing with him.." He mumbled as he rode by Isabelle.

"Yeah, that's not all you're playing with," she hissed back, looking back to Liz. Max's
impish grin suddenly faded and at the comment he pulled back on Aldo's reins, waiting for Isabelle to fall in stride with him.

"What's that supposed to mean??"

"You know what it means, Max," Isabelle indicated and Max's mouth tightened into a line and he halted the horse underneath him to a complete stop, allowing Isabelle to pass him and allowing Liz to catch up.

The group dynamic that Max had enjoyed seeing so much last night at their family dinner table was absent now. Michael and Isabelle didn't make conversation with Liz, in fact they rode a good twenty feet ahead of her and Max, who trailed quietly on their mounts. Max had forgotten how much he enjoyed riding with Liz. It had been almost a week since their last ride, and he had missed it more than he could say. He thought back to this summer, and the time she had spent going out for the day with him - helping him move herds and check fences. He glanced over at her now, sitting comfortably atop the frisky horse, she was still the same Liz Parker that he had
fallen in love with, yet so different.

A rodent suddenly scurried across the trail in front of Polaris and the fractious horse reared up onto his hind legs. Liz tightened her grip on him and leaned forward in an atttempt to stay in the saddle as Polaris continued to act up. Max hauled back on the already short rope rein that he kept Aldo on and franticly reached to grab the reins and stop his antics. Liz seemed to be regaining a bit of control, as she turned a few tight circles on him, but Polaris continued to crowhop and blaze off on his own trail, seeming to be shying away from an evil apparent only to him. Max followed in close pursuit of the two, his eyes ablaze with concern.

"Whoa, whoa, whoa!!" he called loudly, as he reached over in an attempt to grab the horse's reins. Michael and Isabelle were so far ahead they didn't even hear Max, nor did they notice that the two weren't even on the trail anymore. Max eventually managed to grab hold of the reins and he jerked hard twice, making the black and white beauty take a few strides forward with Aldo and away from whatever was troubling him.

"It's okay, Max - I got it," Liz laughed slightly, stroking her hand along the nervous
horse's neck. Polaris' reins were still clinched tightly in Max's hand. "You didn't have to.." her
voice drifted off and she averted her eyes from Max's intense and worried gaze.

"Yeah I - "

"Max, you don't need to - "

"I worry about you," he blurted out and at the honest words Liz bit her lip and glanced up at him. The same worried expression remained on his face and she quickly looked back down at Polaris' mane.

"But you don't have to.”

"But I do," his voice cracked ever-so-slightly with emotion and she immedietly snapped her head up to look at him again.

Michael and Isabelle drifted further and further away as Max and Liz remained sitting there atop their - for the most part - motionless horses. Isabelle turned around in her saddle, and upon the absence of Max and Liz groaned loudly.

"Hold it, Michael," she called to Michael, who was blindly leading them to who-knows where. Michael hauled back on the reins and spun around and a groan escaped his mouth as well, discovering Max and Liz were nowhere to be seen.

"What did they go off on their own ride??" Michael asked exasperatedly.

"That's one name for it..." Isabelle mumbled, and Michael looked at her questionably.

"You think they're..." he raised his eyebrows suggestively.

"I don't know," she sighed loudly as the sound of galloping hoofbeats came closer and closer and Max and Liz appeared around a corner. They were both out of breath and Michael and Isabelle simply gave them questioning stares.

"Poley kinda flipped out," Max broke the silence as he offered an explanation to the two.
"So Michael, where you leading us?" Max asked with a grin, but Michael didn't crack a smile.

"I have no idea, this stupid horse won't move - why are you breathing so hard?" he quickly changed the subject and asked boldly and Liz and Max looked to each other, both seeming a bit flustered by his forward question.

"We just..galloped to catch up - what, what do you think.." Max began to laugh and didn't even finish his thought. What did Michael and Isabelle think was going on with him and Liz?

"We just - you guys can't like..I mean, we don't even - " Michael stuttered, unable to say what he had thought would be so easy. Isabelle's words from weeks ago began to ring in his head. The words she had said to him when he had criticized her for not breaking apart Max and Liz sooner. *Easier said than done* she had cracked and looking to the innocent looks on the two's faces Michael was beginning to see why. It was clear merely from the looks on their faces
what being in each other's company did to them. And his mind quickly strayed to Maria. "You can’t...” he found himself unable to complete the statement.

"You guys just can't be together," Isabelle completed it for him and Michael even turned to look at her, surprised that she had been able to say it.

"Iz we weren't.." Max was unsure as to why his voice sounded so shaky. "Really, Polaris was acting up." He was unsure as to why he was explaining himself to her in the first place. He glanced over at Liz, who wasn't looking as embarassed as he would have earlier expected her to be.

"Isabelle we weren't - " Liz began to attempt to explain as well, but Isabelle cut her off before she could continue.

"Look whether you were or not - the point is you can't," she commanded and Max's eyebrows sloped into a frown.

"Why"” he immedietly shot back and Liz tried to hide the smile that appeared on her face at Max's actions. He was standing up. Standing up for her, for them - whatever they were.

"Because Max, because we have no idea what's going on or...or why or how she's.." Isabelle looked to Michael for support, but found none. He was instead concentrating on the dirt that had accumulated underneath his fingernails, or the sticks that had accumulated in Lightning's mane. Isabelle turned back to Max and Liz, looked like she was going to have to do
this on her own. "Max, she could be your sister," she finally sputtered and Max looked to her in confusion.


"She could be - I mean we have no idea how to explain this..this connection - how else could she be..." Isabelle's voice drifted off, but she immedietly began talking before Max and Liz's minds could stray anymore. "We don't know, Max - and until then..."

"Until when?"

"Until we find out," she said impatiently.

"Find out what?"

"Find out she's..." Isabelle could see that Max wasn't going to give in any time soon. "Max, point is - we don't know. She could be your sister, look at Michael."

"I felt a connection with him, Iz - a different kind of connection," he attempted to explain
as subtley as possible. "This isn't just me being connected to her, this is me..." *This is me being
in love with her* Max stopped himself from saying anything more as he remembered Liz was right next to him. "It's different, that's all I'm saying."

"But Max, we don't know,” she asserted again. And Max continued to persist.

"Then how do we find out?"

Liz trailed further and further behind the trio as the talked delved deeper and deeper into
things that could only fly over her head. Talk about Marathon, Texas and a man named River Dog, someone named Nasedo, about the location of the pod chamber, a place called Puhlman Ranch and something important Michael referred to as 'a communicator'.

Liz could only ride behind them in silence, hearing all that they were saying, but understanding nothing. They spoke in desperate tones, most desperate among them was Max. And though he continued to bring up her name, Liz continued to trail further and further behind. The words rang in her head - survivors of the 1947 Crash, a special unit of the FBI, alien autopsies - and all of a sudden all the dreams over the past three months began to take shape.
The men in sunglasses, the special unit; the odd rock formation in the desert, the location of the
pod chamber they spoke so desperately of. A soft breeze blew by, but that wasn't what caused Liz to shiver. She was linked to Max, to them. She didn't know why she knew that rock formation was the pod chamber, but she did. The pod chamber that Michael said could hold all the answers - where they were from, why they were here. How they could get back. And Liz dropped further and further behind.

The only lights on back at the ranch by the time the four got back were the barn lights, and the light in the living room where Mrs. Evans was looking on at the four curiously through the front window. Michael stood by himself, staring up at the stars and Isabelle was leaning against the barn watching Max help Liz into the truck. That's what Mrs. Evans found her eyes rested on.

"You know, we've never met her parents, Phillip," Mrs. Evans suddenly stated as she
watched her son look to Liz adoringly.

"Don't spy on them, honey." Was her husbands only response.

"She's become such a big part of his life." Mrs. Evans found it hard to tear her face away from the window. "Should we ask him..." she looked back out to the two and the wanting that even she could read in the glances that they shared.

"They're only friends," Mr. Evans said absentmindedly, not picking his head up from where he was engrossed in bills and paperwork.

"Phillip, you know it's - "

"Yes, I know it's more than that, but right now it's not." He finally picked his head up. "And I don't want to...embarass him, or make him feel like we're pushing him - like we're assuming -"

"We won't be assuming, I would just like to -"

"You'll embarass him," Mr. Evans insisted, lowering his head again and Mrs. Evans just looked back out the window.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 7:20:22 PM
The keys remained in Max's hand and he seemed to sense the numbness that still surrounded Liz. Part of him wanted to put his hand on her leg, like he had last night. But then part of him knew that he shouldn't. Last night the air in the cab had been similar. Awkward, confused and so electrically charged that each tiny nuance sent chills up her spine.

"So do you want to go back?" Liz suddenly broke the silence.


"What Michael was talking about, about the communicator and...your planet," she struggled to get the word out. "Do you want to go back?" Max's mind raced. Did he want to go back? Did he want to leave Roswell, the only home he had ever known, the only family he had ever known? Did he want to leave his life here, Aldo, the ranch?


"No," he whispered softly, and he wasn't even looking at Liz when he said it.

"You don’t??" Liz asked in disbelief and when Max turned his head to look at her she could see that his jaw was trembling.

"It wouldn't be going back for me.." his voice was still a whisper. "Because I wouldn't be going back to anything...I don't - I mean..." Max took a calming breath. "This is who I am." He looked out at Michael, who was gazing up at the stars. "I can't...Michael, he's - he's grown up running from the FBI and - and searching for clues...but this is who I am," he said again, and the shaking of his jaw continued. And at that moment Liz had the overwhelming urge to put her hand on his face. He was feeling guilty for being who he was again, but this time it wasn't the fact that he was alien. It was the fact that he was human.

"Max, you - "

"I can't tell Michael that, but I mean what if...what if we do find something and.." His voice trailed, and before he could even complete his thought he put the keys in the ignition, making the engine roar. "How are we even supposed to find anything out?" The frustration in his voice became clear. "How are we supposed to discover all these answers, River Dog can't tell us everything!"

"I know where the pod chamber is," Liz suddenly stated, not sure as to why she was helping him unlock the key that could get them home. At the comment his head snapped up.


"I know where it is..." she repeated. "Well not where exactly it's located, but.."

"Liz, what're you talking about?" He took the keys out of the ignition and the hum of the engine stopped.

"Max," she reached across the seat and put her hands on the keys. On his hands. "I'll tell you on the way to town." There was a playful smile on her face for the first time since he had picked her up outside the Crashdown that afternoon. "My parents are going to kill me if I come home past ten," her eyes drifted down to the clock and Max actually managed to smile. Liz could always make him smile. No matter how dire the discussion was. The enamored smile remained on his face as he started up the car for a second time and his eyes didn't leave her.

"Don't want to get you in trouble," he grinned and she smiled back.

"So - um the visions, that's how I know," she brought him back down to reality, back down to the matter at hand. "Last night, when you...when you were touching me," she said softly, averting her eyes from his at the memory. Max seemed to blush over in the driver's seat and he began fidgeting his hands on the wheel. "It know, just trust me on this - it's this rock formation...I don't - I don't know where the rock formation is, but I'll uh - I'll find it..and then maybe." She hesitated slightly. "Maybe we can go...see it...together." The awkward silence she was expecting didn't occur, and instead she heard Max take a deep breath as he turned to face her.

"Yeah, maybe this weekend." His voice sounded much more stable than he had expected it to be. Liz nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear as she nodded her head in agreement. Not quite dinner and a movie, but a date nonetheles.

"Yeah, okay.." she managed to say and he nodded his head, forgetting that moments ago they had been talking about him returning to his planet.

"This weekend great," He stumbled and Liz was about to comment with another completely inane and useless comment to fill the air, when something hit her. Something else she had planned for this weekend. Something more along the lines of dinner and a movie.

"You know what, I forgot that...that this weekend is uh..." She took a soothing breath. This was going to be much more difficult. "Is the State Fair," at the words Max's eyes shot wide open. Unnerved, by his actions Liz managed to continue. "And I was just...I was going to go with Maria, but she can't go," Liz wondered to herself where she had come up with that last part. That hadn't been a part of the speech she had planned earlier up in her room. Why did she suddenly feel the need to formulate excuses for being with him? "I was curious if..if you wanted to come?" She didn’t like how she had left that last sentence. "I mean go." She paused again. "I mean with me." More silence. "I mean come with me." Max couldn't help the giant toothy grin that spread onto his face at her words and Liz simply looked at him, unsure as to what the smile

"I actually..." Max stopped to chuckle quietly to himself at the hilarity of the situation. "I'm
already going with someone."

"Oh," Liz quickly sputtered. "With who?" She was curious if Isabelle was accompanying him, or maybe Michael. Or maybe someone else that her jealous mind had somehow managed to create.

"Aldo," Max laughed and Liz looked at him quizzically. "My dad kinda makes me enter the horse race every year," he explained. "He thinks it's good publicity, and you know especially now since I'm uh - I need more money."

"Have you ever won?" she questioned curiously, piqued by the thought of Max as a jockey, but he shook his head.

"Fourth twice." He didn't appear too distraught over the matter. "There's a family lives
outside of Farmington who brings a thoroughbred down every year. They win every's a real racehorse."

"Are you serious?" Liz asked incredulously.

"Yeah, they have silks, blinders, the whole bit."

"You're not serious??" She questioned the absurd notion again. "It's like a county fair,
why would they bother -"

"Scout's honor," Max lifted his right hand off the steering wheel and glanced over at her with a solemn look on his face. She laughed to herself and looked over at Max.

"That's crazy..." she shook her head in disbelief. "But if you finish fourth to them, that's
really good." Max simply shrugged, and the solemn conversation that had begun the truck ride in the Evans' driveway now turned to one more like the lighthearted and carefree one they had shared that afternoon. She was sad to see the glowing lights of the Crashdown appear in the distance, as was he. As she moved her hand to the doorhandle, he wanted more than anything to do for her what she had done for him at the end of last night. Kiss her on the cheek, tell her that it was going to be okay. That all the 'alien talk' that had dominated today's ride would soon fade. That things would go back to normal. But deep in the recesses of his mind he knew those things weren't true. He knew that there was more to come. So he softly bid good-night to her and he watched her walk away.

"So, Chica." Maria was sprawled out across Liz's bed flipping through a magazine while Liz was sitting on the floor attempting Biology homework. "This weekend - you and me, state
fairing it? Watch Alex, play some Whack-A-Mole, stuff ourselves with Cotton Candy and throw up on the Gravitron?" Maria proposed their yearly ritual at the Eastern New Mexico State Fair that was held outside of Roswell every year. Liz frowned at Maria's comment however and she dropped her pencil to look up at her friend.

"I'm uh..I'm actually going with Max," she managed to say confidently, brushing a strand of hair behind her ear, and the magazine immedietly dropped from Maria's hand.

"What like on a date??" Liz gave a shy smile and Maria's eyes widened. "Tell me, tell me!" She demanded and Liz smiled, forever grateful that she had a friend like Maria, who wasn't at all upset that Liz was bailing on her this weekend, but simply desperate to know the details of her love life.

"Well, I'm not..I'm not sure," Liz's face turned a shade of scarlet and Maria's smile just
grew larger. "I mean - "

"Have you guys, you know...has he -"

"No," Liz shook her head. "No, we um, we haven't - he hasn't..."

"You two haven't done anything? It's been - what like three months?!" Maria laughed.

"I mean, he um - he'll hold my hand and stuff..and he'll - he'll," Liz's mind drifted at the
particular memory she was thinking of. “He’ll like touch me."

"Where exactly does he touch you?" Maria's voice lowered and she dropped her head. Liz craned her head outside to the hallway, to make sure that her parents weren't anywhere nearby. Not like it was anything bad, but her parents didn't even know that Max existed.

"My back, my leg - I don't know, my neck, my arm - "

"So pretty much - "

"And I, um - I kissed him on the cheek," Liz cut off Maria, making sure to feed her every single detail.

"So you two are pretty much just...dancing around the obvious here, huh?" Maria shrugged her shoulders and Liz looked down at her unfinished biology homework.

"Yeah, pretty much.." Liz replied softly, her voice barely audible. Before she could say anything more, Maria quickly lept to her feet and walked over to Liz's CD player, fiddling through her disc collection. Liz looked at her friend curiously.

"Maria, what are you doing?" she asked, puzzled beyond belief at her actions.

"I'm finding a song..." Maria found whatever CD she was looking for. "For you to play for Max," she smiled mischieviously, placing the CD into the player and pressing play. Liz recognized the song immedietly and rolled her eyes at Maria. "Come on, Maria - " She let out a short embarassed laugh, but Maria ignored her.

"Kiss me," Maria serenaded into the imaginary microphone in her hand, ignoring Liz and singing along to the Six Pence None the Richer song. "Beneath the milky twightlight," she continued to sing along, a broad smile on her face, obviously amused at her friend's predicament.

Liz got to her feet, before Maria was even a minute into the song, and she had to fight her way to the CD player, playfully struggling against Maria, who continued to sing long after the song had been shut off.

"Do you want me to sing a song for him?" Maria asked dramatically, fumbling through the CDs again.

"Right now, I don't even want you to talk to him," Liz giggled, and Maria turned around to give her a look of feigned hurt, her mouth wide open as if in shock. "Maria..."

"You wanna do the singing?" Maria continued to flip through CDs, all the while Liz tugging at her. "You could sing some Top Gun," Maria picked up the "Top Gun"/b] soundtrack. "Take my breath away - ay," she sung dramatically, her eyes closed and her head tilted back.

"Maria - stop!" Liz wrestled the CD away from her friend, but Maria just went on to find more CDs and songs. It was evident that Liz wasn't annoyed at Maria's actions, but simply embarassed by them - which was indicated by the bright pink color her face had turned.

Maria's face seemed to light up suddenly and she squealed as she grabbed the disc that had her so delighted out of the case before Liz could say anything.

"Maria..." her voice droned on, in weak protest.

"Sh!" Maria quickly skipped to the song she wanted and Liz's head was tilted quizzically at her friend at the first few notes. Maria just looked to Liz with a triumphant look, as if she had found the perfect song and Liz sat back on her hands, curious as to what song she had selected.

Maria's hand grasped around the imaginary microphone she had held earlier as she settled herself in front of the CD player. "There you see her," Maria sang softly, her eyes closed in mock concentration. She had memorized the lyrics to this song over six years ago. "Sitting there across the way..."

"Oh my God!" Liz fell backwards onto the floor in laughter. "Maria - stop!" she tossed a pillow at her friend's legs, and the solemn look on Maria's face vanished momentarily as she choked back a laugh and continued singing.

"Yes, you want her. Look at her, you know you do. Possible she wants you too, there is one way to ask her. It don't take a word, not a single word - go on and kiss the girl!"

"Maria - stop!" Liz continued to protest amidst her laughter.

"I'm gonna sing it to him," Maria laughed as tears welled in her eyes. "Sing with me now!!" she grabbed Liz's hand as the chorus came around and she belted it out loudly, swelling out her chest and closing her eyes. "Sha la la la la la My oh my, look like the boy too shy - Ain't gonna kiss the girl!" Maria had a hard time getting the rest of the words she was laughing too hard. "Whoa, whoa!" was all that she could make out of the song now, that and a few random syllables and suddenly amid their hysterics a loud voice suddenly sounded from
outside the room.

"Lizzie, what the hell is going on in here?" Mr. Parker suddenly stormed into the room, where the Disney song was blaring and the two girls were giggling and laughing hysterically on the floor.

"Nothing, dad.." Liz sighed loudly and her father just shook his head in confusion.

"Well can you turn it down?" He glanced over to the speakers that were loudly blaring Disney tunes. " 'Cos the customers can hear it," he looked at Maria. "And you." The comment only made the girls laugh harder and with a shake of his head, Mr. Parker turned around and walked back out the door.

The song finally came to an end, and the two girls finally quieted down.

"I can't believe you," Liz laughed, glancing over at her friend. "You are so crazy - I haven't heard that song in about six years."

"Who knew it would be the story of your life.." Maria mumbled softly and Liz just rolled
her eyes.

"Give it up already!" She shoved Maria in the arm playfully.

"Oh, I'm so singing it to him - to Max, from Liz. I'll get up on stage with Alex and belt it out."

"You do and ten years of friendship will go down the drain," Liz responded with a laugh and Maria's face finally lost it's playfulness. Not so much at Liz's last comment but all the ones before it.

"Liz - the boy is waay too shy!" Maria was serious. "He - he - who proposed the fair thing
this weekend, you or him? Who - who -"

"Maria, just quit meddling!" Liz snapped suddenly. "Okay? This is my life!"
"Quit meddling?" Maria quickly got to her feet. "Liz, the past three months I have done anything but meddle!" Liz hoisted herself onto the bed, so that she wasn't looking up at Maria so much. "Okay, you go this summer and - and completely abandon Alex and I, and - and fall in love with this tall, dark and handsome complete stranger!" The words rung in Liz's ears, especially that last one. Stranger. "And then, and then - you break up with your boyfriend, you - you lie to your parents," Maria's voice was growing shaky. "Now you're suddenly involved with this other completely random guy - who by the way was *mine*! -"

"Maria, I'm not involved with Michael that way," Liz's heart went out to her friend, if she
thought she was stealing Michael from her. Maria ignored Liz's comment.

"Okay, and I saved your ass. The both of you, whatever you were running from, and I - I didn't even ask why, or question you!" Liz looked down at the floor, knowing Maria was right. She hadn't asked any questions about the peculiar situation that Liz was involved in. About why she and Michael had fled for their lives the other day. "And I can deal with you not telling me - it hurts, but I can deal - but when you say that I'm meddling.." Maria took a calming breath. "When you say I'm meddling when all I want to do is know - what's happening with you and Max.." Maria's voice trailed and she was unable to finish her sentence.

Liz’s mouth shook. She wanted to tell Maria *everything* that was going on with her and Max. And Michael and Isabelle. She wanted to tell her every detail of the past two days. But it wasn't her secret to tell. Max had nearly died in her arms, when he had told her.

"Maria, I..." She paused and carefully sought the right words. "You're not meddling, I'm sorry..I just.." Just what? What exactly could she say to Maria to make up for the past three months. "I really confused sometimes when it comes to Max...and - and my relationship with him."

"That's a load of crap," Maria fired, looking straight through Liz with a disgusted look on her face. "I may not know everything, but I know that - that you want to be with him.." Maria walked towards the door, and looked to Liz one last time before walking out. "I mean, isn't that all you need to know?"

For a cloudy and overcast day, Liz's face was shining as she walked around the fairgrounds hand in hand with Max. There had been rain earlier that morning and at first Liz had been unsure as to whether or not Max was even going to show up. But sure enough at eleven o'clock in the morning, with windshield wipers flying and a broad smile on his face, he had
honked the horn and Liz had come flying out the door. Her parents had looked out the front window in confusion - at Liz running to a stranger's truck.

She was getting the same kinds of looks now walking around with Max. Everytime she spotted somebody from her school, she knew that their eyes were on her and Max, on her hand locked around his, at times his arm snaked around her waist. They had run into Maria several times as they walked through the game booths, as Max won her stuffed bears and oversized
plush animals. She bumped into Maria for the third time that afternoon right after he had won her a live goldfish at the basketball booth.

"Hi..Maria," Liz greeted her somewhat awkwardly. She and Max were both grinning like idiots from ear to ear, but at least he didn't have his hand in hers like the last time they had run into her by the 4-H pens.

"Hey, Liz..Max," Maria nodded her head with a smile.

"Do you want a fish?" Liz suddenly sputtered, handing Maria the fish Max had moments ago won for her.

"...sure," Maria took the bag from her friend's outstretched hand, not really understanding the gesture. "Hey um, Alex goes on at three o’clock just to tell you - what time is your race, Max?" She suddenly inquired and Max looked at Maria a bit suprised that she had known about his race. Liz must have told her.

"Oh, uh five o'clock," he replied absentmindedly.

"Well uh - good luck," Maria began to back away. "And uh...thanks for the fish," she held
up the plastic baggie and then disappeared into the crowd. Max stood there for a moment and he slowly turned his head to Liz.

"Why'd you give her the fish?" he asked, a chuckle in his voice, but also something to
indicate that he was serious.

"Because Max, I couldn't carry anything else!" she pretended to be mad at him and he simply grinned. "Besides, you already got me a pet.." As she said the words Lucky strained at the leash and spun her around. Max laughed as he took the leash from her, and the enormous Winnie-the-Pooh bear that he had won at another station. "Seriously Max - no more games.." Liz wailed pathetically as Max wound Lucky's leash more firmly around his hand.

"You're the one who wanted them!" he laughed and Liz bit her lip, attempting to ignore him. " 'Oh Max, I want the Winnie-the-Pooh, oh Max, I want the goldfish, I want the puppy -' " he mocked, his voice crackling with laughter at the end and Liz just slapped him playfully on the arm, finding it hard to believe that this was the same Max. This Max who had just impersonated her was the same Max who five days ago had cried into her arm.

"Fine, no more games," Liz pronounced, marching away from Max and from behind the Cotton Candy machine, Maria squealed with delight, Alex crouched down and joined at her side.

"Alex, would you look at that? They are so flirting!!" Maria cried, louder than she probably should have as Alex looked on in confusion.

"So, what's his name again?" Alex questioned and Maria shot him a look.

"It's Max Evans, Alex," she groaned as she watched Max and Liz hand off the giant Winnie-the-Pooh bear off to a random boy walking by, the grin on Max's face larger than Maria had ever seen, and the laughter coming out of his mouth at the boy's bewilderment completely foreign. "Hey, I would have taken that bear.." Maria grumbled to herself as she watched Max and Liz laugh together and argue about where they wanted to go next. Maria strained to hear where
they were going and Alex simply rolled his eyes.

"Maria, could we not follow them around day.." Alex whined and Maria turned around to glare at him.

"Alex.." she raised her finger warningly and began walking in the general direction of Max and Liz and Alex silently lowered his shoulders and followed.

Now with only the one stuffed bear in her arms, the one with the heart emblazoned on it's chest, and Lucky under Max’s control, Liz was able to walk more comfortably around the grounds. They both looked around, searching for something new to do when suddenly Liz spotted the ferris wheel. She looked to the ride once, then back to him hopefully.

"No," he immedietly said, vehemently shaking his head.

"What? Max, come on the ferris wheel with me, please?" She walked over toward the giant wheel.

"No, I'm not, I'm not - no." Max stayed firm to his decision and her lower lip began to pout

"I'm gonna go on it alone.." She said pitifully, hoping to strike some guilt into him.

"I'm not - not a big fan of heights," Max told her truthfully, though he was finding his will breaking as Liz got closer and closer to the front of the line.

"Fine, I'll..I'll go alone,” she shrugged, plopping the one stuffed bear down onto the ground and getting into the car.

"Come on, buddy - ya gonna let your girl go up alone?" The man running the ferris wheel shouted to Max with a laugh. And though Max felt a little awkward at the man’s words, at him referring to Liz as 'his girl' he sighed loudly and tied Lucky to the railing, as he walked over to join Liz. "Alright!" the man laughed happily as he buckled the two into the car and Liz looked over at him.

"Thank you," she smiled and he managed to give her a weak smile as suddenly the wheel began to turn and they were lifted upwards. His hands tightened around the bar in front of them and Liz fought back the urge to giggle at the action. "You really don't like heights do you?"

"Well I can..I can deal with a mountain or..or a canyon." Max glanced down at the ground below them. "But I - I uh - I don't like ferris wheels..." Liz looked over at him, seeing that he was clearly unnerved by the ride.

"Well we can do what you want to next," she smiled. "How 'bout that?"

"Alright," Max glanced over at her. "Can we go check out the livestock?" His eyebrows raised hopefully and suddenly seeming to think he sounded like a loser, he finally seemed to relax, lifting up his hand to scratch the back of his head. "I'm not a dork, I just..I just have grown up with.."

"Max, it's fine," Liz grinned and Max actually smiled.

"I kinda want to see what horses they have at halter - I'm telling you, you would have won if you had shown Polaris..."

"I wasn't going to show him, that would be too weird."

"It wouldn't be weird, he's yours," Max shrugged and Liz shoved him in the arm playfully.

"No, he's not - quit saying that!"

"He's you-rs," Max teased with a grin. And the other hand came off the railing.

From the ground below them, Maria watched, nearly bursting with happiness.

"Alex, I want my camera - that is too cute," Maria watched as the laughing couple went around and around. Again Alex just rolled his eyes.

"Look, Maria - as uh..enjoyable as this afternoon has been..." he sought for the right word. " - stalking Max and Liz - I have to go set up now." Maria tore her gaze away from Max and Liz for a moment and looked over at Alex.

"Aw, Alex - I’m gonna come with you to help you set up," she laughed and Alex looked to her in bewilderment.

"You mean you're not going to stay and watch them get *off* the ferris wheel?" Alex mocked and
Maria shrugged nonchalantly.

"Eh - give 'em some time alone.." Maria looked back at the two one last time and began walking away with Alex.

"Fantastic," he raised his eyebrows and marched away with Maria, his head full of questions for her about Max and MaxAndLiz.

"So he's the guy who came into town and gave Liz that wild coyote this summer, right?"

From the top of the ferris wheel the view of the enormous fairgrounds was incredible. They could see the racetrack that Max would soon race around, the livestock pens and all the animals in them that they were going to visit next, the game booths that they had spent most of the day frequenting and the stage where Liz could make out the forms of Alex and Maria setting up on stage.

"It's a...pretty cool view," Max admitted, letting out a laugh.

"You glad you came on?" she asked with a smile and Max simply nodded his head, continuing to gaze at the vista.

"You see that fence over there?" he suddenly pointed past the racetrack and across the highway, way off to a tiny fence in the distance.


"That's the edge of our property," Max told her and he pointed across her to something else. "And that rock over there - that's part of the Reservation," Liz nodded her head when suddenly she spotted something and suddenly she felt the slightest pain in her temple. A quick flash of pain and then it was gone, but then everything went white for a moment.

"Max..." she whispered to him, reaching for his hand.

"Liz?" he questioned, his voice full of worry as he took her hand. One more flash hit her quickly and then it was gone and she straightened back up.

"Oh my God, Max - that's it," she gasped.

"That's what? Who?" he looked around worriedly, causing the car they were in to begin
to sway. He no longer noticed that though. "Liz, what's wrong??"

"Max, that's the.." she pointed across to the rock formation to the right of the rock he had
just pointed out. "That's the pod chamber."

"The pod chamber is on the Reservation??"

"No, Max - next to it, that one that...that's it," she whispered, looking up to him.

"That's it," he mumbled to himself in amazement and he looked to her, his face a mixture of shock and confusion. Liz didn't see in his face, the elation she had expected though. She looked into his face and was met only by a tormented gaze. "Is this how your life's going to be now?" he asked softly.


"Everytime you..." Max looked to the rock and then down at his feet. "Are you gonna get these headaches - these visions." He refused to pick his head up to look at Liz. He really had messed up her life. "God, I'm sorry..." he mumbled, but before Liz could say anything in response to his saddened remark the car suddenly began to move downward.

The ride was coming to an end.

"The Whits" attracted the largest crowd of the day to the small stage. It had started off
as a small gathering, but the more they played, the more people stopped walking to wherever they were going to listen. Alex could see Max and Liz standing off to the side watching. Liz was standing in front of him, her head resting against his chest and his arms were wrapped comfortably around her. *And yet they haven’t kissed.* Alex looked at the two in disbelief. Shy was one thing, but this was something else entirely.

"I haven't been this scared, in a long time. And I'm so unprepared, so here's your Valentine." Alex whined into the microphone, trying his best to emulate the vocals of Blink182, as he looked across at Max and Liz. "Bouquet of clumsy words, a simple melody. This world's an ugly place - " He began to eye the rest of the crowd and suddenly his eyes rested on someone that nearly made him drop the pick in his hands and the bass. "But you're so...beau...tiful," he was barely able to get the words out and the crowd whooped and cheered, but Alex simply stood ther. He didn't know what her name was, or even who she was. What he did know was that she was a goddess. A perfect being, with soft blonde curls that swept down her back. Oh God, she was clapping for him. She was walking towards the stage. She was walking towards him. She was walking towards Max Evans. She put her hand on his wrist.

What was the deal with Max? Did he have every woman in Roswell? Then again Alex didn't even know if this beauty was from Roswell. This fair attracted people from all over New Mexico. But she put her hand on Max's wrist, jerking his hands away from where they were entwined with Liz. Alex watched it all from the stage.

Was Max two-timing Liz? Was this goddess his girlfriend, annoyed at the closeness she had viewed with Liz. Liz looked intimidated by the girl, who was already much larger than his best friend to begin with.

"Alex!" Maria yelled to Alex from offstage, but Alex's eyes were glued on the scene playing out in front of him. The soap-opera he had created in his mind. "Alex, you did awesome! Come here!" Maria called excitedly, but Alex heard nothing. He saw Liz shrink back as the blonde girl continued to talk to Max angrily. Oh geez, cat-fight. And suddenly Alex bolted off the stage. Maria watched in confusion as he ripped the bass over his head and dropped it onto the
stage and ran to Max and Liz.

"Look, you leave her alone!" Alex grabbed Isabelle's arm and the three just looked at him bewilderedly.

"-and I got...the saddle ready.." Isabelle slowly finished what she had been telling Max as she stared at the gawky boy.

"Alex, what?" Liz laughed, just as confused at Alex's actions as Max and Isabelle.

"What? I - I..I," Alex’s tongue tied in his mouth. Why had he run over here, again? Right,
to save Liz. "I was, I thought.."

"We were just talking about the race that Max has to get to," Liz laughed. "Oh, by the way, Max this is Alex," Liz suddenly introduced the two most important men in her life to each other. Excluding her father that is, and at the moment Max's name meant as much to Mr. Parker as the king of Morocco did. "Alex, this is Max - and um," Liz turned to Isabelle. "This is his sister, Isabelle."

"Sister.." Alex mumbled to himself and Isabelle just smiled at the odd boy. Alex looked
looked back and forth to Max and Isabelle. "Wow, you two look nothing alike," he laughed as if it were the funniest joke he had ever heard. Max, Liz and Isabelle simply stood there.

"Anyway, Max - so they have a jockey!" Isabelle spoke the words so angrily Liz jumped back in surprise. Max had lied, this race did mean something. Or else Isabelle wouldn't be getting so hyped up about it. "They hired a professional jockey to ride their stupid racehorse."

"Professional, huh?" Max laughed, and his hand returned to where it had rested before, around Liz's waist, entwined with her hand. "Well thanks to you, Iz - we have a professional saddle," he grinned and Isabelle just rolled her eyes.

"You think a saddle's going to make a difference," she wailed. "Now it's just a waste of
money, I really thought we had a shot this year." Alex simply stood there and listened to the conversation playing out in front of him, but he couldn't tear his eyes away from Isabelle. And up on stage Maria couldn't tear her eyes away from the slumped figure who was standing in the shade of the ticket booth. Michael was here.

"Iz, we still got a shot," Max shrugged. "It's not over 'til it's over."

"We would have had a shot if you had entered Polaris," she complained like a child, but Max just shook his head.

"Doesn't have the endurance," he stated firmly.

"Does too," Liz rubbed up against Max slightly and Alex's eyes nearly came out of his head. He may have been staring at Isabelle, but he saw that. He heard that. And so did Isabelle.

"Is that a challenge?" Max raised his eyebrows and Liz turned her head up towards him, the two seeming to be completely oblivious to Alex and Isabelle and the rest of the entire fair at that. Their faces were mere centimeters away, and Liz's lips were parted ever so slightly, her mouth turned up at the corners, as was Max's.

Isabelle simply stood there. So much for not being together. That conversation had gone in one ear and out the other. Alex looked over to Isabelle, and seemed to give her a sympathetic look.

"So, we're going to go get something to eat!" Isabelle suddenly shouted out loud and Alex stood there in shock, wondering if she could possibly have meant the two of them. Max and Liz quickly broke apart.

"Huh?" he asked bewilderedly.

"Me and Alvin -"

"Uh, Al - Alex," Alex stuttered.

"Alex are going to go get something to eat!" Isabelle pronounced, turning on her heel and walking to the food tent, Alex following behind like Lucky followed Liz.

"Where you going?" Michael asked from his post in the shade as Isabelle stormed by.

"Anywhere." Was all she said, and though a bit perplexed by her answer, and by the lanky dark-haired boy following after her, he followed after her as well.

And from up on the stage, Maria quickly leapt the four feet to the ground and chased off after Michael.

Forty-five minutes. Liz glanced nervously down at her watch as she stood outside Aldo's stall with Max. Forty-five minutes until Max's race. She was more nervous than he was. Max was crouched down in Aldo's stall, unwrapping the blue traveling bandages that he had wrapped around the horse's legs, and she was nervously pacing around eyeing all the other race entries. There was one gray horse, two other chestnuts, one Appaloosa, two pintos and the rest were dark bays. Most of them were smaller than Aldo. Not smaller height-wise, but they had spindly little legs and were thinner than Liz thought looked normal.

"They're thoroughbreds," Max dismissed when she had inquired as to their appearance.

"All of them?" Max lifted his head up.

"Yeah, most of them," he responded casually. Then suddenly he got to his feet. He took Aldo's head in his hand, rubbing his hand up and down the wide white stripe that ran down his nose. "Gimme your tongue," Max ordered to the horse, moving his hand down by his mouth. "You give me that tongue," he ordered again, and Liz had to laugh at the tone of his voice. It sounded like he was talking to a child. She couldn't make out what exactly Aldo was doing, as Max's hand was in front of his mouth, but the next thing she saw Max had the horse's thick pink tongue in his hand. "That's a boy, gimme the tongue.." he cooed and Liz could only stand there and watch. She was beginning to understand that until she came into the picture, Aldo was the only friend Max had ever had. "Pre-race ritual," Max suddenly dismissed professionally, letting Aldo alone and reaching down to rinse his hands off with a hose. "You see that guy over there," he suddenly pointed to a chestnut and white paint horse with a woven rope bridle on his head. "That’s the Mesaliko horse."

"From the Reservation?"

"Yeah, they enter one every year. Last year, they nipped me for third by..." Max showed Liz with his thumb and forefinger how much he had missed it. "That much." He looked over at the horse again. "Here," he took Liz's hand in his, leaving Aldo unattended for the time being. "I wanna show you something." Max walked across the busy area to the paint, and peeked his head around. "Hey, uh - you mind if I just show her the -" the groom who had been
attending to the horse suddenly turned around and Max began to laugh. It was Lance. "Oh no, don't tell me I'm gonna have to whip your ass!" Lance laughed, looking to Liz and nodding his head in greeting.

"Nice to see you too, Max," he grinned.

"So, you're gonna ride him? You're kidding me?" Max asked eagerly and Lance just shook his head.

"Nah...he is." The boy motioned over his shoulder to a man even leaner and more wiry than him with a solemn expression on his face.

"Oh," Max's playful mood suddenly vanished. "You uh - you think he'll mind if I uh...I
wanted to show Liz the hackamore." Lance nodded his head.

"Yeah, it's fine,” he shrugged, "come on over." And as Liz and Max passed him hand-in-hand he just grinned at Max and poked him in the ribs. Max grinned back and he carefully stepped around the bandages, brushes and boxes on the straw-covered ground with Liz. He held out his hand as the horse alertly pricked his ears forward and blew into Max's hand.
"Hey, buddy - it's okay," Max said softly to the horse and he moved his hand to the beautiful woven bridle around his head. "See this."

"It's beautiful," Liz nodded her head.

"It's called a hackamore, notice anything weird about it?" He carefully turned the horse's
head to the side.

"It's got no bit, it's just like a halter," she looked to Max for an explanation and he just
nodded his head.

"They control him just by pressure on his nose, cool, huh?"

"That's really cool.." Liz moved her hand to the rope hackamore. "He's a beautiful horse.." she murmured and Max suddenly moved his hand over hers.

"Not as beautiful as Polaris," he breathed into her ear and Lance quickly averted his eyes and walked over to the other side of the horse. A chill traveled down Liz's spine and Max closed his eyes, leaning closer to her, his breath now warm on her neck.

"Attention entries in the Ninety-Sixth Annual Lapham Derby," the loudspeaker suddenly
sounded and Liz snapped her head up.

"Lapham Derby??"

"Yeah, it's a fancy name for the race - you win the Lapham Cup, they call it the Lapham
Derby," Max shrugged his shoulders.

"Post time is now thirty minutes away. We ask that all riders and their mounts enter the saddling paddock at two forty five. Again, we ask that all riders and their mounts enter the saddling paddock at two forty five. Thank you." Liz gave Max a troubled look.

"Geez, this is a bigger deal than I thought," she gave him an uncomfortable look and Max merely shrugged again.

"Not that big a deal, still just a state fair." He finally stepped away from the paint. "Come
on, we should saddle him up." Liz nodded her head as she reached for Max's hand and Lance smiled

Max didn't see it at first. He didn't see the stranger crowded by Aldo’s stall. His eyes were too focused on Liz, but when they rested on the strange man, and he heard Aldo's frightened squeal, everything inside of him snapped.

"Hey, hey!!" he yelled loudly, racing over to the stall. "Get the hell away from him, get the *hell* away from him!" Max seized the man by the collar and threw him against the wall. Aldo's ears rapidly flicked back and forth and he nervously pranced about the tiny stall. Liz smoothed her hand over the animal's neck, in an attempt to calm him down. He was scheduled to run in less than thirty minutes, the last thing Max needed was to have him all riled up. Continuing to soothe the frantic horse, Liz craned her neck to see what was going on outside the

"What do you think you're doing? What the hell were you doing to him??" Max demanded, tightening his grip on the collar.

"Nothin', nothin' - I was just lookin' at 'em," the man laughed with a deep Southwestern
drawl. The anger brewing inside Max at the man and his weak apology was dangerously close to exploding and as he looked to his hand, pressed against the man's chest he quickly removed it. Michael had warned him about things like that. When you let your emotions completely take hold of you. He had killed a man once like that.

"Max.." Liz joined Max's side, a cautious tone in her voice, a warning. Max's hand had already begun to loosen it's grip on his collar and he slowly dropped his hand to his side.

"Get out of here." Was all he said, his back turned to him, but the man remained and he looked Liz up and down several times.

"Hey-lo, little lady," he whistled and Liz gave him a disgusted look, instead turning her
attention to Max. "Y'ever thought about bein' with an older-" And suddenly Max's fist met his jaw. Liz
jumped back in surprise at the maneuver, and even Max seemed taken aback at his own actions. Had he just done that? Had he just hit a man?

The man held his hand to his jaw, where Max had hit him, and stumbled to his feet. A bit of a crowd had gathered around them and Liz held onto Max's arm as he protectively stood in front of her, glaring at the man with a challening stare. *Try it* the look said and the strange man, seemed to see something in Max's face. Maybe it was the color his eyes had suddenly turned - like the ocean during a storm, but he took two steps backwards and slowly slinked away.
Max remained there, his feet rooted to the spot.

"Come on, Max - we have to get him ready.." Liz spoke softly as she tugged on his arm and he slowly turned around. This was most definitely the last thing Max needed. To have him distracted and bothered before the race. Max's eyes remained on the exit the stranger had vanished through and murmured his response quietly to Liz.

"Yeah, yeah...let's get him saddled up."

The one thing that Max never understood about the fairgrounds here was why they had the horses entered in the race on one side of the grounds and the racetrack and saddling paddock on the other. It made for one long walk over there. It was a beautiful parade of horses though, that Liz had enjoyed watch go by in years past. She wondered how she had never
before noticed Max and Aldo.

The people standing watching the horses go by now were nothing more than a nuisance though. Yet another thing to agitate the horses. There were children yelling, babies crying, dogs barking, music playing. Liz now understood why Max had made her attach a second lead rope to Aldo so they could hold onto him from both sides. The noise had Aldo's ears pricking back and forth and he rolled his eyes around nervously.

"It's okay, buddy," Max stroked the horse's head with his free hand as they made the long trek over to the saddling paddock, that was so improperly named. Everyone had already saddled their horses, the saddling paddock was merely where they were assigned their post positions and the riders mounted up. Liz looked over to Max, unsure as to whether he was over the incident back by the stall yet or not.

"Max, y'okay?" she inquired, reading nothing in his expression.

"Yeah," he lifted his head up and she looked to him worriedly, wondering if his response was genuine. "Yeah, I'm fine really - that just shook me up a little."

"Okay," Liz nodded her head.

"You okay?" it was his turn to ask, as he looked to her protectively. "That guy was..."

"Woo-hoo, Max!! Alright Max!!" Voices suddenly shouted and Aldo balked at the sudden noise.

"Shhh, shhh, shhh," Liz smoothed her hand across his neck, bringing him back down to the ground, as Max did the same. The horses ears pointed nervously to the left and as both Max and Liz glanced over they saw Maria and Alex standing there waving eagerly.

"We're gonna go get a spot on the rail!" Maria told them excitedly. "Good luck!!"

"Is - Isabelle's in the saddling ring!" Alex shouted out to them. "With your parents! And
Michael's gonna be down on the rail with us!" He added as he and Maria made a mad dash for the track. Max just laughed to himself, shaking his head.

"How does Alex know Michael?" Liz looked to Max with an amused grin and they both just looked to each other in disbelief. She glanced down at her watch, seventeen minutes away. "You nervous?"

"Not really," he shrugged. "I don't know, I never really get nervous for it - it's just fun,
you know? How many times do I get to race...twenty other horses for a mile and a half?" Liz smiled at his response.

"That's a good way to look at it." She turned around to look at the fifteen or so other horses trailing after them. She looked at the other chestnut horses and for the first time realized something peculiar about Aldo. She had thought that all chestnuts had the same color mane and tail that he did, but now suddenly she was realizing that he was unique.

"What?" Max asked with a grin, as he noticed her staring at Aldo especially hard.

"His mane...I just realized.."

"He's a blonde? Yeah - he's special," Max ran his hands through the horse's creamy colored mane.

"I always thought..."

"Nope, he's unique," Max said happily, a grin on his face.

"Kinda like his owner?” her lips curved into a delicate smile and he just held his finger up to her lips.

"Shhhh..." he hushed playfully as they made the turn into the tiny saddling ring where everyone was gathered. He spotted Isabelle first and then both his parents waiting for him.

"Hey," he led Aldo over to where his support group was waiting and Liz couldn't help but feel awkward. "Liz was uh - helpin' me out with Aldo," he offered an explanation to both his parents and Isabelle, and the latter looked none too pleased, though she didn't look as annoyed as he would have expected.

"It's fine, Liz glad you could be a part of this - it's always...exciting," Mrs. Evans smiled as
she looked over at Max. "Max, honey - you should go get your post number." She motioned with her head to the desk where all the riders were gathered. Liz could spot the 'professional jockey' that Isabelle had been speaking of earlier. In fact, most of the riders were quite a bit smaller than Max. He waited on the slow-moving line, his eyes locked on Liz's while Isabelle and his parents talked in the background. 'Ten minutes' Liz mouthed to him and Max just laughed.

"Go get his tongue!" Max laughed, motioning to Aldo and Liz smiled widely. There wasn't much that could ruin this day for her. She had seen an entirely new side to Max that she had never seen before. Playful and mischievious, happy-go-lucky and carefree. There had been that moment on the top of the ferris wheel. That moment where she had seen the pod chamber and he had apologized to her, but that had been all. And except for the incident back by Aldo's
stall, not even Isabelle had interfered much with her and Max. What had happened with Alex, Maria, Michael and Isabelle? She had seen them all trailing off after each other and it had been an amusing sight, but had something actually happened?

"Hey," Max suddenly joined her side. "Help me out?" He held up the number and safety pins he had been given.

"Sure," Liz nodded her head as Max plopped the contents in his hand into hers and turned around so she could pin it onto his back.

"Oh, Phillip," Mrs. Evans suddenly sighed at the two from her viewpoint behind Aldo. They were talking and laughing with each other as she pinned the number onto his back. Her husband just chuckled to himself and shook his head as he tightened up Aldo's cinch and cleaned out the bit one final time.

"Hey, Max what post you get?" Isabelle ran over and interuppted the two, and by the tone of her voice Liz couldn't tell if she had meant to do just that or if she was genuinely curious as to Max's number.

"Seventeen," Max answered happily as if it were the best position he could have gotten.

"Out of how many?" Isabelle groaned

"Seventeen," Max smiled as he walked over to Aldo. A bell suddenly sounded and the ring began to stir with activity as riders mounted up and began to get last-minute words of instruction.

"Max, you have to get out early then and get out quick," Isabelle followed after him.

"Iz, I'll be fine," Max dismissed, checking the cinch himself and giving Aldo the once-over.

"Don't tell me you're going to.." She looked to Max's impish grin and already knew the answer. "Max, you can't do it again - look, that coming from behind stuff doesn't work. Not with throughbreds in the race." Max just gave her a warning look and Isabelle crossed her arms, almost seeming to pout. "Tucking behind the lead horses is the way to go." Was all she said and Max shook his head and laughed.

Liz stood there awkwardly, between his parents wanting to wish him good luck and her wanting to wish him good luck.

"You gonna stand with Isabelle and Michael on the rail?" he asked quietly.

"And Maria and Alex?" Liz laughed. "Yeah." Max smiled.

"Good..I'll be looking for you," he smiled, tilting his head down to hers.

"You just look at the finish line," she kidded with a smile and before she could say anything more Max moved each of his hands to either side of her face and he captured her lips in his. It was sweet and innocent moreso than anything else, but time simply seemed to slow down. It almost seemed to stop. Max Evans was kissing her.


He knew his parents were watching them, he knew Isabelle was probably steps away from tearing them apart, but at that moment he couldn't not kiss her. He couldn't hold it in any longer. Not after today. And so with his parents standing there watching them, along with everyone else in the ring, he held her face in his hands and did what he had wanted to for so long. After so many hits-and-misses, after so many near oppurtunities only to be broken apart by Isabelle or Michael, or his own brain telling him no. All those scenes played out in front of him as
he kissed her softly. And his heart nearly exploded out of his chest when he felt her kiss him back.

The other riders were all mounted up and ready to walk out to the track, but Max remained there with Liz's face in his hands.

And Isabelle stood there, her hand covering her face, her emotions hidden from view, and the Evans' watched with elated expressions on their face. Mr. Evans looked over to his wife.

"I told you - just give him time," he chuckled to himself, referring to the comment his wife had made a few days prior about Max's shy nature.

The sound of horses hooves walking out to the pavement finally made Max slowly break away from her. His lips were slow to leave hers however, and when he opened up his eyes to look at her he saw that she was much slower opening hers up.

"Good luck," she whispered softly, gently rubbing her hand up and down his arm as he finally walked over to Aldo. Isabelle and her parents simply stood there, not knowing how to behave after witnessing such a tender moment between the two. After standing there and watching them.

"Max, you sure you want to ride with this...pathetic excuse of a saddle?" Mr. Evans
suddenly poked the nearly weightless saddle that rested on Aldo's back.

"Yeah dad, Iz worked hard to get it," Max looked to his sister, the gratitude in his eyes evident, but Isabelle simply stood there with her eyes focused on the ground.

"It's gonna be like riding with nothin' underneath you," Mr. Evans left the saddle alone
and flipped the reins over Aldo's head for his son.

"That's the whole point," Max mumbled as his father gave him a leg up into the saddle. He could feel Aldo's muscles tighten as his weight came down in the saddle and he grinned. "He knows what's coming..." The horse jerked his head forward, as if to say 'let’s go' and for the first time in her life Liz could really understand the term 'chomping at the bit'. Max ran his hand through the horse's flaxen mane once and Aldo suddenly began to trot away after the other horses, leaving the four people standing there. He could hear his family wishing him good luck,
Isabelle shouting out last minute words of instruction, but he could hear one voice shout out
above them all.

"Hey Max!" Liz’s voice sounded and he turned around in the saddle, a broad smile on his face as he continued to trot away. She didn't even have to say anything.

"I'll see you in the winner’s circle!"

The countdown that had begun at eleven o'clock that morning when Max had come to pick her up, was now only a matter of seconds away. Two-hundred and forty seconds. It was strange to see Max aboard Aldo without the stetson on his head and in that tiny flimsy saddle, with the stirrups shortened so much that Liz could only imagine how uncomfortable it must be for Max. She and Isabelle stood there, with their hands clinched so tightly together that their knuckles were both turning white. Liz looked over to Isabelle, just as nervous as she was, and smiled as she looked back over to Max and Aldo, trying to tell her that they had one thing in common.

“We're waiting for Winsome Lass, Nuttella and...Aldo!" the race announcer sounded, drawing out Aldo's name and when he did he was met by a loud cheering from a certain spot on the rail.

"Max didn't tell me there were starting gates.." Liz mumbled to no one in particular as she
watched Max and Aldo wait to be put into the number seventeen position.

Isabelle looked over to her. "This is only the second year they've had it.." She explained
in an unexpected gesture of friendship. "Too many people started complaining about how the straight line starts were unfair."

"Isn't this unfair to horses who have never broken from a gate?" Liz asked curiously, her eyes not once leaving Max.

"Aldo breaks well, don't worry," Isabelle assured and Liz smiled.

She found herself saying a quick prayer as Max and Aldo finally entered the starting gate after a bit of hesitation. Something about the idea of Max racing around a track at top speed with sixteen other horses made her a bit nervous. She wondered how his parents could watch. Horse racing had always seemed so dangerous to her.

"They're in the gate.." Her eyes focused intently on Max and Aldo. "And they're off!" The
gates clanged open and no sooner did they open then Liz's heart leapt into her throat. Aldo's
face was in the dirt. Something had happened and he hadn't broke well like Isabelle had said. He had gone down onto his knees.

"Oh my God.." Liz suddenly found herself grabbing onto Isabelle. It had been a split second. He was down and then he was back up, but Isabelle had seen Max lurch to the side, Liz had seen him nearly fall off, and a gasp had gone through the crowd.

"Oh and Aldo off to a horrible start, went down to his knees there - oh boy that could have been a disaster! What an awful break for him!" The announcer blared and Liz could hear Isabelle cussing the man out beneath her breath, as was she. Max and Aldo had reacted quickly though. The horse had crawled along on his knees for a few feet, instead of going down, before Max could bring him back up. The mishap didn't set Max and Aldo too far behind. No further
than he had intended on being, he had caught right back up to the group in fact, and it had been Max who pulled him back. But to Liz it looked bad.

"He's so far behind, Isabelle.." she moaned as she could see Max's black shirt far behind the sixteen other horses.

"Don't worry, they're not even around the first turn yet," she dismissed, though Isabelle had to agree with Liz. Max was more than ten lengths behind the rest of the field. Even if he wanted to come from out of the clouds like he always did, this was much too large a gap to make up. Not with the way this horse from the Mesaliko was running up front. "Come on, Max," she mumbled to herself, her hands balled into fists.

"Then a few lengths off of Bird of Paradise is Big Blue Bear and it's a gap of...twelve back
to Max Evans and Aldo after that terrible start." Liz found herself glaring at the speaker that the
announcer's voice was sounding out of, wishing that somehow she could just make him shutup.

"Man, he's suckin’," Michael suddenly stated bluntly and Maria slapped him in the arm. "What? It's true! He's in dead last!" Michael replied defensively and Liz did her best to ignore him. But was there anyway Max could possibly make up that much ground in half a mile? And suddenly a memory triggered in her mind. She had been riding Jarvis, the spirited and speedy dark bay Max had told her he had rode in the race last year after Aldo had thrown a shoe. They had been racing around 'the bend' that they always raced around except this time had been different than any other. She had been leading. In fact she had been beating Max by a large margin. And then suddenly, just as she had been enjoying the moment, enjoying the lead she had on Max - it vanished. It had happened so quickly she didn't even hear the hoofbeats approaching, he and Aldo just breezed past them in a chestnut flash. The only thing she could make out was the blonde tail whipping in front of her.

And Liz looked back up to the race. They were entering the far turn, whose similarity Liz was beginning to see to 'the bend', and the Mesaliko horse and the spindly-legged thoroughbred with the hot pink blinders were dueling it out in front. But ever so slightly, Liz could see Aldo begin to move. It wasn't too dramatic a move and the obnoxious announcer didn't even comment on it, but Isabelle could see it too. She could see Max's black shirt, and the blonde tail streaming out behind Aldo as the twelve length gap slowly began to decrease.

"Isabelle..." Liz mumbled, knowing that she saw it and this time Isabelle reached over and grabbed Liz's arm. Out of excitement however.

Suddenly Aldo was no longer in last. The Appaloosa horse who had been in front of him the entire time was now trailing the pack and sweeping to the outside, Aldo quickly began to eat up ground.

"Winsome Lass is tucked behind in tenth position, then it's two back to Big Blue Bear, Magic Moment is being called on for more and Aldo is beginning to make his move!" The excitement in the announcer's voice raised. Max crept up on horse after horse, passing each one in his very own, silent and cryptic way. From the railing it didn't appear to be any giant sweeping move, he just very slowly picked off horse after horse making his way to the lead. The
smile on Liz's face grew as she watched him pass the horse, whose jockey had professional racing silks on. *It’s not over 'til it's over* She heard Max's voice sound in her head. But, with nine horses still to beat as they were hitting the home stretch she felt her heart constrict.

The Mesaliko horse had begun to slowly drop off, and Liz was saddened to see the beautiful chestnut paint fade into the middle pack. But it was a blistering pace, and she knew that the horse in front now must be the one that Max had referred to earlier in the week. He must be owned by the family from Farmington who brought down a racehorse every year. Who won every year. The jockey aboard began to take out the whip as a grey horse began to charge up
on his flank and they turned for home. It was hard to see anything from her view down by the finish line and as they turned for home all she could see was charging hooves and the flash of whips. "And here comes Aldo!!" For once Liz was happy to hear the announcer's voice and as she craned her neck over the rail along with Isabelle she saw the giant chestnut charging up on the outside. He was flying now. After almost a mile and a half, he looked as if he were running a completely different race compared to the sixteen other horses.

He passed the other horses so quickly the crowd began buzzing. This was the same horse who had gone down at the start, the same horse whose rider was only seventeen years old. "Two hundred yards from the wire, Big Blue Bear and Haeli's Comet are battling it out, but Aldo is charging fast!"

"Come on, Max!!" Liz suddenly yelled loudly. "You can do it Max, come on Aldo!!" Isabelle quickly joined in, as did Maria and Alex.

Liz's heart leapt into her throat now, an entirely different reason though from when she had earlier. From when Aldo had gone onto his knees and Max had almost been thrown down beneath the thrashing hooves. No, now her heart leapt in her throat as Max and Aldo thundered past them and Max turned his head for a split second to look at her like he had said. And she grinned widely. The announcer screamed wildly and everyone was up on their feet, craning
their heads for a better view. Aldo ate up the ground with huge strides and Liz knew at that moment there wasn't a person in the stands who didn’t want him and Max to win. "He's got two horses to beat!" the nnouncer yelled into the microphone as Aldo stormed past the third and fourth horses. The finish line was mere strides away and Aldo must have been flying, for he made up more ground in those last few strides than seemed physically possible as he roared past the two dueling horses. "And Roswell's own has won it!!!" The grounds erupted and Isabelle did something Liz would never have guessed she would do. She threw her arms around Liz and hugged her.

"He did it, Liz!! He did it, he did it!!" she babbled, jumping up and down as even Michael cracked a smile. Liz stood there in shock while chaos ensued around her. Max had won. *I'll see you in the winner’s circle.* His last words to her echoed in her head. She should have known by those words alone that he wouldn't allow himself to lose.

"Come on," Liz grabbed Isabelle's hand as the two raced to the winner's circle to greet Max. He had already turned around Aldo and was jogging back with a giant grin on his face.

"I knew you could do it, buddy.." Max continued to repeat to the horse, patting his neck
and weaving his hands through his unique flaxen mane.

"Hey Evans, good race," the jockey with the blue and gold silks called to him as he jogged by atop his horse. The one Max had just passed at the wire.

"Thanks," Max replied breathlessly, still in shock over everything. His face lit up as he saw Liz making her way into the winner's circle. Ahead of Isabelle, ahead of his parents she stood there waiting for him. Someone tossed a wreath of flowers around Aldo's neck and the young stallion reared back in surprise, causing laughter to erupt from the crowd. Max even grinned, as he brought him back down under control and walked into the winner's circle where
the flashes from the camera began to overwhelm him and Aldo. His muscles ached and screamed, but part of him didn't want to dismount. Part of him wanted to live this moment forever. Then he looked down to Liz's face again and he slid his weary mud-covered body off
the horse and collapsed in her arms. More cameras flashed as he hugged her tightly. "I won," he laughed, his voice muffled into her neck and she laughed also, breaking away so he could see her euphoric face. Isabelle charged forward next and Max wrapped his arms around her.

"You did it, Max..." she laughed and there were tears of happiness in her face for him.
Liz still wondered to herself what was so important about this race. It was, after all, just a horse
race. Nothing was at stake except a hundred dollar entry fee. His parents entered the winner's
circle next and it was their turn to hug the jubilant boy. No one was even holding onto Aldo's reins and the horse simply stood there, his ears inquisitively pricked forward as cameras sought to capture the humorous moment on film. Liz finally grabbed hold of his reins, patting his mud-splattered head proudly as reporters thronged around Max and the rejoicing family. She stood there just taking in everything that had happened today. This moment just capped it all off. Max walked over to her and Aldo again and his face said it all. This moment was theirs. Nothing
could take it away.

"Max..." Liz suddenly called warningly over the din as she spotted a familiar face among the throngs of people. Dark sunglasses and a black suit. And then he was gone.

Max's favorite time of day crept over the fairgrounds and a much cleaner him, walked through the stable area with an also much cleaner Aldo. They had just gone to the trophy presentation up by the main tent, after enjoying a well-deserved rest and makeshift shower with a hose. Liz had given the mud-caked Aldo a quick bath, washing the dirt out of his coat and she was wondering how Max was going to get the same giant clods of mud out of his dirty hair. They had eaten dust for the majority of the race, and his dirt-coated face and Aldo's dusty coat were part of what gave the pictures the photographers had taken appeal they did. That and Max's youthful smiling face.

He was out of the dirty black shirt and jeans now however, and with his head still wet he
walked peacefully with Aldo and Liz down to the stall. This area of the fairgrounds was deserted,
as all the commotion now was underneath the many tents on the opposite side. It was tranquil though. The moon had just begun to rise in the sky and it wasn't quite dark yet. That short period between night and day, not quite evening. He was refreshed and clean now and Aldo's coat was glistening even though the sun was no longer out. Neither he nor Liz said anything,
they simply walked in silence, still soaking in the day's events: the discovery of the pod chamber, the kiss they'd shared, the dramatic race that had come to a close only a few hours ago. He gave a blissful sigh and she looked over to him, her eyes echoing the sentiment.

"You know parents were going to take me out to dinner - maybe you could -"

"I'd love to," she responded softly before he could even finish and he just smiled shyly. Since he had kissed her in the saddling ring there had been a shy akwardness between them again. This one different though, more like he was afraid to kiss her again. Afraid of what her reaction would be.

"Did you see me look over at you in the stretch?" he suddenly asked, a mischievious grin
on his face and Liz just laughed and nodded her head.

"Yes, I thought you were going to get yourself killed!" she lightly smacked him on the arm.

"I said I was gonna - " But Max’s sentence was cut-off midway through as the sound of screeching tires caused both him and Liz to spin around. (Just want to say here that I was listening to K's Choice "Not An Addict" while I was putting this part in and I actually got chills from my own writing. Creepy song and just a creepy image in my mind. Okay, I'll let you get back to reading) An eery black town car with tinted windows had parked itself in the middle of the stable grounds and Max and Liz looked back to it once, and continued walking though their gait was a little brisker. Liz felt something in the bottom of her stomach. Something that said she had seen the person in the driver’s seat once already today. "Don't turn around," Max suddenly ordered to her softly. And the desolation of the stable ground was no longer so comforting. They both fought the urge not to turn around and look at them and continued walking quickly along, the only sound the sound of Aldo's shoes clapping against the stones in the dirt. Max halted his stride however and they both slowly
glanced over their shoulders in hopes that the car was gone.

Liz began to tremble as she saw the two men in suits walking towards them and she felt Max's hand quickly move around hers. The men's stride began to quicken and Max only had to look back once before he began running. Fiercely holding onto Liz’s hand and grasping Aldo's lead rope in the other, he couldn’t keep pace with the long-striding horse and Liz and as he glanced behind one more time to see one of the men draw a gun from his jacket pocket he looked to her.

"You have to get on Aldo!" he called to her breathlessly.

"Not without you!" She glanced behind again, hearing the sound of a gun being loaded as the men chased after them.

"Get on!!!" Max yelled desperately as he held out his hand to give her a leg up while they were running.

"I can't do it, Max - not while we're running!" she gasped and before she could protest
anymore he grabbed her legs out from underneath her and hoisted her onto Aldo's bare back. Max anticipated the shot being fired and he swerved to the left as the bullet came mere inches away from Liz. She only had to call to him once as he skipped twice for a running start and hoisted himself aboard the chestnut horse. Liz's arms wrapped around his torso and she fiercely clutched the horse's sides with her legs as Max wove his fingers into the flaxen mane. He could hear one of the men curse loudly as Aldo swiftly began to carry them away, and he glanced behind to see them both running to their car. He could feel Liz's fingernails dig into his skin as she clung tightly to him.

Something told him they were going to be running for a while.

Thousands of questions had raced through Max's mind as Liz gripped him tightly and Aldo galloped across the open desert to who-knows-where. Who the men were, how they had figured him out, how they had known to target him and Liz, what they even wanted with her in the first place? All the questions whipped by him in a blur as he leaned forward into Aldo, urging the already tired horse to push himself past his limits. "Come on buddy, just a little bit more," he had pushed the horse on, willing him towards his intended destination. Damn the fairgrounds for
being as in the middle of nowhere as they could be. Damn New Mexico for having such wide open spaces. More than once he had thought that they had finally lost the black town car only to see it appear in the distance, driving down the highway stalking them. But the tree coverage he had been searching for had finally appeared. He didn't know the area at all, didn't know his way around, whose property it was. He knew it was up by Bitter Lake somewhere and he knew that it would have the rougher terrain and the larger bushes and trees that could provide him and Liz
some protection. But that was all.

He had unwoven one of his hands from Aldo's mane then and turned around to Liz. She had not changed her position at all since they had galloped away from the fairgrounds. Her hands were fiercely linked around his body and she clung desperately to him, though keeping on at a bareback gallop was now old hat for her. The entire time her body was pressed tightly against his and he thought at times that he could feel a shudder run through it, but he didn't turn
around to ask her if she was okay. She wasn't. She shouldn't be. But when the car hadn't made an appearance for over ten minutes and the brush he was looking for appeared in the distance, he massaged her arm tenderly.

"We're gonna be okay," he had assured, moving his hand down to where hers were locked around his waist. "We're gonna be okay."

And now here they were in the dark, in unfamiliar woods, with no fire blazing and threatening storm clouds overhead. Max sat on a rock with Aldo's lead rope dangling loosely in his left hand and Liz seated between his legs. They hadn't said much. Max had found a relatively safe spot to tuck away and they had just settled down. He hadn't indicated how long
he expected to stay here and Liz had just taken the seat between his legs.

She had forgotten how cold it could get at night in the desert. She and Max sat there in
silence as he rubbed his hands up and down her bare arms, attempting to warm her up as much as he could. She cursed herself for only wearing a tanktop.

"Any better?" He asked, and she gave the faintest nod of her head.

"A little...thanks." Max took her hands in his and rubbed them together, massaging her hands with his. She smiled at the gesture, at him trying so hard to accomodate her while he sat there in a t-shirt.

"Max, you don't have to -"

"You're shivering," he insisted as he leaned over her, blocking her back from the gust of wind that blew by, covering her arms with his. "We'll be okay,” he repeated again, though his voice had lost that confidence that it once had. The temperature was dropping fast.

As the crowds began to thin out in the tents and night slowly began to fall on Roswell, the Evans began to search for their son. They knew he had gone off with Liz, they had opted not to ask specifics, but now as it really began to grow dark, they began to worry. When Mrs. Evans had mentioned it to Isabelle, she had offered to go look by the stables with Michael, and Maria and Alex had trailed along. They had been cheerful and lighthearted at first, confident that they would find Max and Liz making out in a corner, or cuddling in some secluded alcove. But the
eerily quiet stable yards made Isabelle’s hair stand on end.

"I'm sure they just took a walk.." her voice drifted as they looked in empty stalls and behind hay bales. Michael's face was doubtful however and suddenly something seemed to catch his eye.

"Isabelle," his voice called to her flatlyand Isabelle looked down to the ground. To the tire tracks.

"Oh my God..." she mumbled as Maria and Alex just stood there. And her legs quickly moved to search the rest of the area. There were a few horses resting quietly in their stalls, but that was all. "Aldo's gone," Isabelle's voice sounded hysterically as she ran out to where Michael was standing with a bewildered Alex and Isabelle, whom Isabelle was sure would not tolerate being the dark much longer.

"We gotta follow these tracks," Michael commanded.

"Michael, you think..."

"Had to be," he stated definitely, in answer to her quietsion. "We'll tell your parents they
went for a ride."

"Michael it's almost seven o'clock," Isabelle looked down to her watch then around to the dark sky. "Her parents are going to start worrying."

"Well then they'll worry," Michael shrugged as he began to walk away, leaving Alex and Maria standing there with gaping mouths. "We gotta find Max."

Max had attempted to talk at first. He talked about the race today, how the entire time all he could think about was the times he had raced her on Aldo, he talked about how it had been the most incredible feeling. How it had felt like he was flying. He talked about how he had gotten Aldo three years ago and what the unruly and wild horse had been like at first, he talked about his dog Cotter, he talked about the races the past three years. Anything away from what was on both their minds.

The conversation had slowly faded though and silence soon prevailed. They stayed in the same position, his body shielding hers as much as he could from the breezes that blew by and from the constant chill. But there were always goose-bumps on her arms and he could always feel her shivering.

"Max, I'm so cold," she had finally said weakly and the comment was so out of character
for her that Max wondered if it hadn't been his imagination. Liz wasn't the type to complain. But
for the first time all night she tucked her hands and legs close to her body, turned around and curled up next to him. "I'm so cold," she said again, and without even hesitating Max quickly stripped his t-shirt over his head.

"Here," he moved to put the shirt over her head, but she held up her arms in protest.

"Max, no -"

"I can raise my own body temperature if it gets that bad." Max told her quietly, almost as
if he were ashamed. "I don't... know how to raise yours," he confessed and she just gazed at him and the pained expression on his face as he slipped the t-shirt over her head.

"What do you mean you can raise your body temperature - you mean like..." her voice trailed off and he just nodded his head, knowing what she meant. "What else can you do?" She asked boldly.

"Michael can do more than Isabelle and I can - we don't really know..." Max paused. "...the extent - of our powers."

"Powers.." Liz repeated to herself, seeming to be absorbing everything.

"I don't - I don't know how help you," Max agonized over his inability to help her as his hand traveled up and down her arm again and at his touch she closed her eyes and leaned her head against his - now bare - chest. He looked down at her, his angel cuddled up against him in search of comfort, wishing only that she could drift off to a blissful sleep. And he saw the goose bumps on her arm dissappear.

She slept relatively peacefully, her body resting against his while he fought to stay awake. He had to be alert. But he would do so much as lower his head to look at her and the only thing he could think about was laying down and curling up beside her. Then a noise would sound, a branch breaking, leaves rustling and he would be brought back to reality. To the entire reason they were out here to begin with and he carefully stepped away from her and layed her down on the ground. He thought about making Aldo lay down and resting her next to him for warmth, but decided on his better judgement not to. He needed Aldo awake and alert, acting as a second watchman. That horse would sense something within a ten foot radius of her much
sooner than Max could.

"I'll be back," he whispered to her sleeping form as he patrolled around the area, investigating every place he heard the slightest sound. And then he returned to Liz. That was how much of the night went for him. He sat over Liz, watching her sleep peacefully, then stood up to patrol the area. Over and over he did, until he glanced up at the moon that was now directly overhead. There were storm clouds. Rain clouds. He knew those types of rain clouds,
he had been stuck in them once before. Max glanced back to Liz again and Aldo's lead rope resting loosely in her hand and as much as he hated to wake her, he kneeled down and whispered her name softly. Once, twice, three times in an effort to wake her. The third time she shifted slightly.

"Liz, I'm gonna go look for shelter," he knew she couldn't hear him, but he said it anyway. "You shout for me.." he told the resting body. "If anything happens." Then he looked up to Aldo, taking the horse's head in his hands. "You take care of her," he pressed his foreheard against the broad spot between Aldo's eyes. "Kay, buddy? You take care of her?" Max's voice cracked, as he wondered to himself why he was leaving Liz alone like this. Seeming to answer him, Aldo took a few small steps towards Liz and bent his head down to breathe softly onto her face. Max
looked back up to the moon and the storm clouds that now blocked it from view. He had to move fast.

The inside of the pickup was freezing cold, but as Maria and Alex peered outside they couldn't help but be thankful that they weren't out in that. Out where, they just prayed, Max and Liz weren't. The rain was coming down hard now, what had started as a light drizzle had turned into a full-fledged desert storm. Storms like these came along once every year or so, usually the only weather problems that plagued Roswell were heat waves and lightning storms. But the rain was pelting the ground and coming down furiously. Why were either of them even here, she had
to wonder. She and Alex clearly had nothing to do with this. Glancing over at poor Alex, she realized that she at least knew more than he did. She knew from the things she had picked up from Michael and Isabelle's comments to each other that these were the same people who had chased Michael and her best friend once before. God, what did they want with Liz? She was
unable to shake the desperate way that Michael had said those last words back at the fairground - we gotta find Max. What did they want with any of them? Both she and Alex looked outside to where Isabelle and Michael were standing in the middle of the downpour, looking down at the ground and screaming to each other.

"They're gone, Michael!" Isabelle shouted, looking down to where the hoof prints and tire tracks they had once been following had vanished in the muddy mess at their feet.

"They can't be gone!" he barked back back, franticly looking around the area for something, but knowing that in this weather any hope they had of tracking the two was gone. He kept the thoughts out of his mind that they had been taken. He didn't dare say anything like that to Isabelle, but the scene seemed unnervingly familiar. Being chased by a car.

"So what do we do??" Isabelle shouted back and Michael marched back to the car.

"We keep going."

Max had nearly gotten lost in the unfamiliar terrain, but he managed to find his way back to Liz. It was like he had some sort of homing device. His feet just carried him back to her. Liz was curled up in much the same position she had been when he left her and Aldo was hovering over her protectively, his lead rope still resting in her hand. A soft clap of thunder sounded in the distance and a few fat raindrops splattered onto Max's head. He bent down and for a moment just gazed at Liz sleeping peacefully in his shirt and he brushed a stray lock of hair out of her face before he scooped her into his arms and began to walk away. The lead rope dropped out of
Liz's hands, but Aldo obediently followed.

"Max..." Liz mumbled softly turning into his chest.

"Don't worry, baby, we'll be okay now," he whispered to her, kissing her atop the head as
the raindrops started to fall harder, and he was surprised at how natural the word baby had come
out of his mouth. Max checked behind several times to make sure Aldo was still with him and that no one else was, and although the walk seemed longer than he remembered Liz felt like a weightless bundle in his arms. He couldn't believe how right it felt, holding her in his arms like this, how perfectly she fit against his chest. And when he finally arrived at the small rocky alcove, part of him didn't want to release her from his arms. He gently lowered her down onto the cold stone surface however, only this time he layed down behind her. Draping his arm over her body he nestled his face into her neck and allowed himself for the first time in months, despite the pelting rain and the storm raging around them, to fall into a peaceful sleep.

Silence had prevailed for most of the night. Maria and Alex sat nervously in the backseat, and Michael and Isabelle pretended to know that they had any idea what to do. And after a while they just parked the pickup on the side of the road and sat there as the storm continued on. Isabelle seemed in shock as she sat there with her head resting in her hands and Michael simply stared out at the desert, desperately trying to figure out what to do next. He
never thought this day would come. He thought being friends with Max and Isabelle, hanging out in Roswell, they would go away. He thought they would always come for him.

"So...why," Isabelle suddenly spoke. "Why would they go after Max and Liz...why?" her voice sounded weak and tired.

"They're very good at connecting the dots." Was all Michael said, and holding his head in his hands he repeated it. "They're just..very good at connecting the dots."

"Who's they?" Maria's demanding voice suddenly broke the quiet peace that had existed in the truck. Isabelle glanced to Michael out of the corner of his eye, wondering how they were going to get out of this, wondering to herself why they had even allowed Maria and Alex to come along with them. She would be dumb to think they wouldn't be suspicious. She could see Alex's concerned face in the rearview mirror and she thought for a moment she saw his eyes meet hers. Today had been so much fun. A day she really never thought she would get. Sure Alex was no Kyle Valenti, but just having someone she could actually call her friend. Someone who wasn't an alien. She liked it. She liked him.

"Doesn't concern you," Michael attempted to give Maria the brush off, but he should have known that that wouldn't work.

“Doesn’t concern me?” Maria’s voice raised. "If Liz is in any kind of danger, then it does
concern me."

"Me too," Alex replied softly, but the words 'Liz' and 'danger' in the same sentence
seemed too much for him. Not here. Not in Roswell, New Mexico. Nothing ever happened in Roswell.

"She's not in danger," Michael ran his hands through his thick hair and stared out the windshield at the pelting rain.

"She's not in danger," Maria nodded her and actually smiled. "That's why - that's why we've
been driving around like complete idiots for the past three hours in the rain looking for them!!"

Isabelle winced back at Maria's words. She was trying to push all the thoughts creeping into her mind away. Max wasn't really in danger. He had escaped, he and Aldo and Liz were safe. Who knows where they were, but they were safe. They had to be. But something was nagging at her, digging at the back of her mind. Max and Liz were in danger. And if she knew anything about her brother's relationship with Liz, she knew this. Max would die before he let
anything, or anyone, hurt her. That's what was scaring her.

"Liz'll be okay, trust me," Isabelle turned around and looked the two concerned friends in
the eye. "It's Max I'm worried about."

The sound of an out of tune trumpet and an off-key clarinet sounded in Max's mind. The sight playing out in his subconscious was in the middle school band room of West Roswell, although he had never been in the band room, never even seen it before. A younger version of Liz sat upright in a chair, with a flute lying across her lap. A far off look was in her eyes though, like she was someplace else. Then suddenly the scene changed. A younger Max, with ears protruding widely from his oversized black hat, walking down the sidewalk, stringing a tiny peculiar-looking puppy along behind him. Cotter. It had been the day he had gotten Cotter. And from down the block, though his back was to her, Liz's gaze fell on him.

"Ms. Parker, care to join us?" They were back in the band room suddenly.

"What?" this eighth-grade Liz had quickly raised her head.

"G Minor scale," the music teacher looked to Liz's face and laughed. "Who were you thinking about?"

Perhaps it was the events of yesterdays fair that triggered the image in Liz's head. The parade of horses before the race, the long trek across the grounds to the saddling ring she had just recently made with Max. In this memory, this dream he walked through this time with a sleek dark bay and with Isabelle joined at his side. Max kept looking over his shoulder to the Merry-Go-Round where two girls stood. Her and Maria. Isabelle turned and glared at him.

"Would you relax, Max - she doesn't even notice you."

The lights in the Crashdown stayed on all night, as did the lights back at the Evans ranch. Diane Evans had finally thought to call the Parkers and ask if they had any clue as to their daughter's whereabouts, but they had gotten no answer. The Parkers stayed in the dining room of the Crashdown all night, waiting for Liz to come through the door. They didn't hear the phone ring.

And so the Parkers, with no knowledge of who Liz had even been with desperately called the Whitmans and Delucas only to hear that Alex and Maria were still out. Still out in this horrible weather. They had called though, to say that they would be out later. Liz Parker, the perfect, responsible daughter, hadn't so much as called to say who she was with. And the Parkers waited and waited and waited.

It was the sound of the rain falling that finally woke Liz up, not nightmares, or horrible
flashes and visions of some foreboding evil. No, it was the best night of sleep in her life. Out there on a rock in the middle of the desert. She opened her eyes to feel Max breathing softly into her neck, his arm draped over her body. Somehow over the course of the night Max's hand had slid underneath both the t-shirt and the tanktop and it rested on her stomach. Liz simply grinned as she looked down at the hand underneath her clothing. So Max Evans was human.

She turned her head to look over to him. His face was still buried into the crevice of her neck, hidden by the folds of her hair. He was still asleep. As she moved slightly beneath him though she felt his arm tighten around her and his hand slide up her rib cage. Her head spun at his unconscious manuever, but it also made her chuckle slightly. They had to be chased for their lives before he actually made a move on her. God, she wished she could feel like this all the time. To have his hand on her body, to feel every breath he took against her neck, his mouth resting inadvertently (or was it?) on the smooth skin of her neck. She almost forgot why they were sleeping out here. She simply layed there and reveled at his touch and at the memories of yesterday. And she waited for him to wake up.

The Parkers were awake as the sun rose and the paper arrived on the front door step. Mr. Parker groggily stepped outside to pick up the local paper. Local Boy Wins Lapham Cup the caption read and Mr. Parker's eyes perked up in interest as he opened up the paper to read the article. A picture of Max and Aldo flying across the finish wire was plastered across the front page along with a picture of his jubilant and muddy face. It was the face in the background however that made his jaw drop open in shock.

"Nancy.." he called to his wife as he stepped through the door and flipped to page A13 where coverage of the race and the fair continued. Good Luck Kiss? one of the captions read and Mr. Parker flashed back to the front to make sure the girl in the picture was who he thought it was. The girl kissing Max Evans amidst the hustle and bustle pictured in the paddock was his daughter. Perhaps it was this last-minute kiss in the paddock from girlfriend, Liz Parker, that helped propell Max Evans to the Winner's Circle. "What?"


"Who's Max Evans?" They spread the paper out onto the counter and urgently scanned the page for any details to explain the captions and pictures. Parker was the first person into the Winner's Circle to congratulate young Mr. Evans on his spectacular come-from-behind victory yesterday. "That can't be right..." Mr. Parker mumbled to himself and before his wife could say anything else he ran back out the door.

"Jeff, where're you going?" she called as she watched him run down the block and without turning back around he called back to her.

"To get more papers."

Max slowly opened up his eyes, the flashes and dreams of the night fresh in his mind and the day's event - why they were sleeping together on a rock - quickly fading. His arm tightened briefly around her waist and he thought he heard her murmur. At first he thought maybe she was just mumbling in her sleep, but when he realized she was awake he seemed embarassed at the position he was in. Where his hand was. For some reason he couldn't draw it away though.

"You're awake.." he mumbled and she simply nodded her head as she turned around to look at him. She couldn't help the shiver that went through her body as Max finally lifted his face off of her neck, and the warmth that his breath had provided vanished.

"Yeah," her voice creaked and Max slowly got to his feet, then bent down to help her up.

"You ready to go home?" he asked as she straightened up and collapsed against his chest.

"Yeah," she replied again with a sigh, even though everything in her body was screaming no. No, she wasn't ready to leave this place where she slept in Max's arms, where she slept peacefully for the first time in months, where she slept with Max's lips against her neck. Yes, she wouldn't miss sitting fearfully in the cold, waiting to be attacked, nor would she miss sleeping on a rock. But part of her wished she could stay out her longer with him.

Taking her hand, Max helped Liz down to the ground as he walked to find his horse. "Aldo..." Max's voice drifted off as the large chestnut horse was nowhere to be seen. "Aldo," his voice was shaky now as he looked franticly around the area. Aldo was always good about staying put when Max went on camp-outs. He hardly ever had to be tied up. A wave of fear coursed through Max's body. Maybe they hadn't been as safe as he had thought. "If they hurt
him..." Max didn't finish his sentence and his hand tightened around Liz's. She knew he was talking about her too.

Liz could see more clearly now where Max had taken her. They must be somewhere near Frazier Woods, because there weren't many other places around Roswell with this many trees. He had found a safe spot, a tiny cave among some large rocks, tucked away behind some shrubs. Holding her hand tightly, Max pulled down some branches as he walked further into the
brush. "Aldo.." he called yet again and the sound of branches breaking put Max on edge. He tucked Liz behind him as he stood there awaiting whatever danger lurked behind the trees. His hand constricted so tightly around hers that she saw the skin surrounding where his hand wrapped around hers turn white. "Stay behind me," Max whispered to her, just as Aldo's
inquisitive head appeared in front of them. Liz couldn't help but laugh and even Max cracked a smile as he loosened his grip on her hand. Aldo nickered softly and Max took his head in his hands and began looking over every inch of the horse's muscular body. He ran his hands over his neck, his shoulders, his legs, his hocks, his hooves.

"Max, I think he's okay," Liz walked over and put her hands on the horse as well. He turned to face her.

"Yeah, I guess," he mumbled.

"Just wandered away," she assured, moving her hand over his. Max grabbed Aldo's dangling lead rope that had served as the reins during yesterday's escape.

"Alright then," Max finally smiled. "Now you ready to go home?"

"Max..." Liz's voice had a slight giggle to it as she reached to pull off the white cotton shirt Max had given to her late last night, suddenly realizing Max didn't even have a shirt on . That he hadn't all night. "Take your.."

"Right.." Max slowly moved to take the shirt from her. He had forgotten that he had inisted Liz take his shirt last night in those desperate circumstances. Truth was, even she had forgotten until just now. It was funny to think back and imagine the situation only two weeks ago. They would have been awkward and stumbling, avoiding each others stares. Now he kept his hand on the small of her back as he gave her a leg up. Now she comfortably wrapped her arms around his waist as he climbed aboard Aldo. Not out of fear, but simply because she liked being
that close to him, feeling him that close to her.

"We'll get back home, have a nice big breakast," Max smiled as Aldo lazily made his way
out of the brush and into the open desert. Their feet hung loosely down as they enjoyed the early morning bareback ride. "Pancakes," Max proposed. "A big stack of pancakes." Liz gave a soft murmur, seeming in agreement as she moved her hands up to hug his shoulders and rested her chin on his left shoulder.

"No - waffles," she changed her mind. "Belgian waffles," she mumbled softly into his ear with a smile.

"With maple syrup," Max agreed and Liz nuzzled her face into his shoulder and neck.

"Ice cream," she disagreed again, her words muffled against him. "A big scoop of vanilla ice cream." Although he couldn't see her face, Max could just picture Liz licking her lips thinking about their imaginary meal.

"How 'bout some strawberries on top?"

"Yeah, I love strawberries," Liz was quick to respond and the way she said it made Max turn his heard around to face her, slowing Aldo down in the process.

"Are you really hungry?" he asked softly, worry in his voice as he moved his face so close to hers. And Liz simply shrugged, not wanting to say anything to ruin the moment. She could feel Max's breath on her mouth. He was that close. All she wanted was to feel his lips brush against hers again.
"We'll be back soon," Max gave Aldo a slight nudge and turned back around. Liz gave a loud sigh as she laughed to herself, leaning back and hugging Max. He had kissed her yesterday, but was he ever going to duplicate that? They had been alone for almost fifteen hours since and he had slept next to her, slepth with his mouth resting on her neck, he had had his shirt off the entire time. But he seemed afraid to kiss her again. Liz laughed again as she hugged his body to her. This was Max.

"What time do you think we'll get back?" she asked.

"Well it's not nine yet."

"How do you know?" Liz inquired, not seeing a watch on his wrist.

"See those two rocks over there," Max pointed to two pointy peaks in the distance. "The
sun doesn't get over those until well after nine...I'd say we've got a good...fifteen miles to town."

"Fifteen miles?" Liz asked as Aldo slowly picked his way across the open plain, making it clear that he was in no rush to get back. And then Liz echoed what was on both their minds. Nothing about the men from yesterday, if they were still out there, not if it was safe for the two of them to be walking through the wide open spaces.

"God, my parents must be so worried."

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau
posted on 1-Sep-2001 7:24:57 PM
A comfortable silence hung in the air as Max and Liz journeyed on, the sun rising higher into the sky with each of Aldo's plodding steps. The ride seemed so much longer than Liz remembered, each bluff they passed she was sure was the one right before the Evans ranch, but each time it only led to another wide stretch of desert before the next one. Her arms hung rested comfortably around his waist and she suddenly moved her hands up his arms and rested her chin on his shoulder.

"I always noticed you," she mumbled softly to him.

"What?" he asked in confusion to the first words spoken in almost an hour.

"Before...before that day in town - before everything - I always noticed you." She replied
delicately and the words were hauntingly familiar to Max.

"How did you..." he turned around to face her as Aldo marched on. How did she know that that was the question that for so long kept him up at nights.

"I just - just.." And he knew. She knew for the same reasons he knew she had been looking at him the day he had gotten Cotter, that she had been thinking about him one day back in the eighth grade band room. She had dreamed, had seen things from his past, from his mind. A smile crept onto his lips and he turned back around to the trail. So the connection really did go the other way.

"You used to play the flute, huh?" he laughed.

"How did you -" she tugged him backwards to her. The smile was broad across his face now, but he didn't turn to face her. He simply raised his hand to meet her hand that was resting on his chest and rubbed the back of it lightly. And he echoed her reply.

"I just."

The newspapers were spead about across the counter of the Crashdown. Not just The Roswell Daily Record but every local paper Mr. Evans could get his hands on. All were opened to the sports section, the local sports, to Max riding to victory aboard Aldo, smiling in the
Winner's Circle, hugging Liz in the Winner's Circle - that was the one that appeared the most. Then there was the one of Liz, and apparently Mr. and Mrs. Evans and their daughter, Isabelle watching the race - their faces full of apprehension. Max Evans' supporters - including his parents, sister Isabelle, and girlfriend Liz Parker - watch intently as he charges from over twenty lengths off the pace to victory in one of the most dramatic Lapham Derby victories ever.

"He seems like a nice boy," Mrs. Parker suddenly spoke, looking to Max's radiant and beaming face atop Aldo. She didn't see in that wide grin and mud-splattered face what she knew her husband did.

"He's such a nice boy that she had to lie to us about him."

"Jeff, you don't know that," she tried to be reasonable.

"Put the pieces together, Nancy. It says right here - " he stamped his finger down onto the article in front of him. "Says - Evans and his family live and raise cattle on a 500 acre ranch fifteen miles outside the town of Roswell where they own ten horses ..." Mr. Parker's voice tapered off at the end of the sentence that he didn’t really care about. "Fifteen miles out of town, now where do you think Lizzie's been going when she says she's going for a drive."

"I'm just saying let's not lose our heads over -"

"Not lose our heads, she's been lying to us for months!" he fumed.

"Now she was with Kyle for two months-"

"Well then she was lying to Kyle too!" he persisted. "And now she spent the entire night with this character...Max," he glanced down to the paper.

"She might be with Maria, have you called Amy this morning to see if she's heard from them?" Mr. Parker shook his head, not sure if his wife was genuinely defending Liz, or if she was in denial over their daughter's irresponsible actions. He again glanced down to the picture that had first caught his attention, the one where Liz's smiling face was in the background behind Max. Truth was he was really starting to worry about where she was.

"I just wish she'd come home."

The thought of riding bareback had always seemed so romantic to Liz. Especially riding bareback with someone like she was with Max now. This seemed so natural, so right. No saddle, no bridle - except for the halter, just her and Max atop the horse.

"So the plan is.." Liz's arms moved up Max's chest as she hugged her body close against his.

"The plan is you were with Maria, right?" he asked. "We ride to my house - hopefully with my parents not home and try to get a hold of Maria to work our stories out."

"That's banking on a lot of things.." Liz mumbled, leaning into his neck, knowing full well the hopeless predicament they were in, and fearing it more the closer they got to Max's home.

"It's all we've got," Max actually laughed and no sooner had he said it than a familar bundle of fur came flying at them. It was Cotter. And a wave of emotion washed over Liz with the realization that they were close to home; relief, sadness, fear. She knew the same feelings
were passing through Max.

"How close are we?" she asked quietly. Her hands slid up his chest and rested on his shoulders now.

"We're in the North pasture," he told her and he felt her fingers comb through the hair at the back of his head. God, these past twenty-four hours had been a watershed in their relationship. She was doing things to him that days ago he had only dreamed of. Cotter suddenly sprung forward at Max and Aldo, who he hadn't seen all day, and Aldo jumped back in surprise. Liz, who had been sitting loosely atop him for hours was jarred off the horse's back. She slipped to the right and in slow motion saw herself falling to the hard earth below. And then Max's hand yanked around her waist and he pulled her up in an almost cat-like reflex before she could even take in a breath.

"I got you," he assured and she was sitting back astride the horse. Her arms were back around his waist like they had been all morning and they continued on as if the incident had never happened. And the Evans ranch was drawing nearer.

Michael had pushed and pushed and pushed them all on to keep searching for Max and Liz until night actually ended and the dim light of the morning began to show. They could only drive around for so long though and Michael's strong will even began to fade. Isabelle refused to give up, refused to believe that the FBI had really taken her brother, or whoever those men were, but sleep was overtaking her. Her eyes had been open too long and being out in the storm had taken over. Michael's eyelids were even beginning to close as they rested against the car in the Evans driveway. Strangely enough it was the two who had no idea who the men were and just what type of danger their best friend was in who remained wide awake. Maria and Alex clung to each other, trying to make sense of the night’s events. Yesterday everything had been so carefree, they had followed Max and Liz around the fairgrounds and the two had been so happy and so in love. Now whether or not they would even see the two again was seeming to be

A dog's bark suddenly sounded and it made Michael jerk his head up and Isabelle's eyes flash open. There were tons of dogs on the ranch though and the noise meant as much to them as the peculiar cattle dog that appeared in the distance did to Maria. Isabelle saw Cotter out in
the distance, but her expression didn't change as the dog bounded towards them. She had turned Max's faithful companion out over an hour ago in hopes that maybe the dog could lead them all to his owner, but it appeared Cotter had just gone off on a romp through the desert like he often did. He yapped happily about though and instead of jogging back towards Isabelle, turned around and raced back from where he came from.

Alex saw them first and he straightened up. "Who's that?" he had asked listlessly and as the horse and rider - or riders - drew closer Isabelle sprang to her feet. Max and Liz appeared in no rush, nor did they appear too worse for the wear. Their feet hung comfortably from Aldo's sides and Liz's arms were fastened cozily around Max's waist. Aldo continued his slow plodding walk towards the four gathered in the Evans driveway and Max made no effort to spur him along. The horse had run his heart out yesterday - not so much during the race, but afterwards when he had carried them away. And as Max looked to Maria standing in the driveway he turned around to Liz and grinned.

"What was that plan again?"

How exactly Max was supposed to just drop Liz off at the corner after all that they had been through in twenty-four hours Max wasn't sure. He popped open the door of the pickup and Liz didn't budge. Back to the real world, back to their parents. These twenty-four hours together had been like a little holiday, like a retreat and she wasn’t ready to go back. She could see the Crashdown lights down the block and she sighed loudly.

"I'll call you," she smiled slightly. "Tell you how the plan works out." Max just nodded his head slightly and as she turned to slide out of the cab of the truck he knew he just couldn't let her walk out and he grabbed her arm and spun her around to face him. He did it so aggressively it took the breath right out of her, but then Max's mouth was on hers and she had her face in his
hands again. She knew she could never get sick of this, sick of Max kissing her and holding her face in his strong, but so delicate hands. He was kissing her with a fervor, one that hadn't been present in the saddling paddock, almost like he couldn't get enough. Almost like he knew
something bad was about to happen and he wanted to make sure he remembered what her lips felt like on his. He kept his one hand cradled behind her head and unbuckled his seatbelt with the other, edging across the seat. "Max.." Liz mumbled, moving her face away and his mouth came down on her neck. Her eyes closed and she forgot the thought that had just been on the tip of her tongue. God, was this really the same Max Evans who months ago had been hesitant to even ask her to stay at his home for dinner. This Max who right now was kissing her neck. "Max, I'll see you tomorrow," she broke away from him and rested a hand on
his chest.

"Right," he mumbled, his voice dry and raspy. He averted his eyes to the ground, almost seeming embarassed by his behavior and Liz leaned over and kissed him one last time before sliding out the door. The truck was slow to sputter away.

Liz had the speech all worked out in her mind, the speech she and Max had made up this morning. She had been with Maria and Alex all night and had tried to call home on the cellular but had not been able to get through because of the weather. Maria and Alex had been hesitant to help her in her lies, still so in the dark about everything and Liz felt bad lying to them and telling them that her and Max had just gotten caught out in the rain, but she barely knew all the facts herself. Besides the fact that she knew her friends wouldn't buy her pathetic story for very long. God she hated lying to them. She took a deep breath as she approached the Crashdown, her parents had to buy this story though. They had to. Liz ran her hands through her hair quickly. She had been lying to them for the past three months, what was one more.

She shouldn't have been surprised to see her parent's waiting for her as soon as she walked through the door, what did surprise her was their reaction however. There were no demands as to where she had been, they didn't immediately attack her, in fact she took several awkward steps towards them and they didn't even mutter a word.

"I was -" Liz began to say, but suddenly her father reached behind him and plopped a familiar worn black stetson onto the counter in front of Liz.

"Max Evans," he raised his eyebrows and the story she and Max had come up with about where they had been quickly went out the window.

"I -" she faltered again and she knew she probably should have kept her mouth shut. Now her parents knew she was guilty.

"It is his, isn't it? M.E?" Mr. Parker tossed a newspaper in front of Liz and upon first glance at the picture of Max aboard Aldo a smile slowly appeared on her face. It quickly vanished however as she spotted her face behind his, and then she saw all the papers. All the pictures. She ignored her parents for a moment and walked down the counter, looking at every single picture and article, her mouth agape. When she came upon the picture of her and Max in the saddling paddock with lips locked she gave a disgusted snort.

"They took a picture of us??"

"How long that been going on?" Her father interrogated and Liz drew her eyes away from the picture. She found herself backed up against the counter, both her parents eyes boring holes into her head.

"Dad, it's not...I was with Maria last - "

"Funny, 'cos Maria called her mother," Mr. Parker laughed.

"I tried to call, but - but the weather," Liz tried to keep to the story she and Max had formulated as much as possible. She couldn't let her parents know that she had been with Max last night. Then that would be the end of it. Of the incredible dream she was suddenly living. "I
couldn't get through, the cellular wouldn't.." Liz's voice drifted off as she saw her father staring at the picture she had just been looking at.

"You didn't answer my question, how long that been going on?" he pointed to the picture of her and Max in the saddling paddock. Liz's head spun - about eighteen hours.

"He's just a friend, dad," Liz stumbled, knowing that if not for that stupid picture snapped of the two that that excuse might have gotten her off the hook.

"How long has that been going on?" Mr. Parker demanded this time, raising his voice as he stamped his hand down on the picture of the two. Liz shrunk back against the counter, she had never before seen her father so angry. Even her mother seemed taken aback by the
outburst. Liz knew it was too late. Too late for lies, for cover-ups - she was caught.

"Since the summer," she replied meekly, her head down looking at the tops of her dust-covered shoes.

"For three month, Lizzie? Three months that you've been..." Mr. Parked stopped for a moment and took a calming breath. "What's wrong with him?" he inquired bluntly and the statement made Liz look up at her father with confusion. "What's so bad about him that you had to lie?"

"He's just different." The words tumbled out of Liz's mouth and she felt a pang in her chest at how true those words were. "He's just different and I knew you wouldn't understand."

"Like hell I don't understand."

"Jeff," Mrs. Parker touched her hand to her husband's arm but he continued.

"What's going on with you, Lizzie? Lying and sneaking around -"

"I wasn't sneaking around," she shook her head, wiping away the tears she knew were threatening to spill over, amazed at how such a wonderful day could so suddenly be turned upside down. Mr. Parker waved his hand.

"Keep lying, Liz," he turned his back on his daughter disgustedly and walked out the door. Liz opened up her mouth to say something in protest to her father, but nothing came out and he was already gone.

"Lizzie, if you had just told the truth," her mother came over and put a hand on Liz's shoulder, but Liz waved it off.

"Mom, just leave me alone," she mumbled and she looked down at the smiling picture of her and Max, wondering how it was she had gotten her father so angry at her. She thought back to every time she had skipped out of a shift, or snuck off on a drive, lied to her parents face
about where she had been. "Just leave me alone," Liz repeated and she took Max's stetson in her hands. She had brought this on herself.

Aldo munched happily on the well-deserved alfalfa Max had just tossed to the ground and Michael and Isabelle simply stood leaning on the fence rail, waiting for a further explanation than the weak one he had delivered back by the car. The pathetic excuse he had delivered to
his parents about getting stuck out in the storm. Max seemed all too occupied with Aldo though. He simply watched the horse and ran his hand along his neck thankfully. Yesterday he had run for almost an entire hour straight. Past what was physically possible, well past his limits.

"Max," Isabelle raised her voice in question and Max continued to rub the horse's neck.

"You keep eat all you want."

"Max, what happened? How did you get rid of them?"

"He just kept running," Max responded quietly.

"You lost them?" Michael inquired and Max just nodded his head.

"Yeah," he responded shortly. "Yeah, they were following us from the highway and I zigzag a little, crossed Spread Creek a coupla times an’ lost 'em."

"So what'd you do last night then? I mean - if you lost them.."

"Well, we stayed out - in the woods...I - I wanted to be safe," he stumbled.

"So you spent the night with her," Michael crossed his arms.

"Well, not - not like that," Max finally looked up from Aldo and he ducked his head embarassedly.

"But you - you stayed out there, I mean you slept with her."

"Michael, not like that," Max insisted.

"But you're with her now," Isabelle spoke up. "I mean - can you honestly say that nothing happened between you two last night?"

"I don't think that's exactly vital to the situation," Max dismissed shortly, ducking underneath the fence rail. His mind couldn't help but drift back to last night though, to Liz curled up against his chest, how he had fallen asleep next to her, the fact that he hadn't even been wearing a shirt the entire time. Michael shook his head with a laugh. "Look, they're still out there," Max ignored him. "And right now..."

"Right now mom and dad are a little less than thrilled with you," Isabelle cut Max off, looking up to the window where Mr. and Mrs. Evans were both standing.

"I can't worry about mom and dad right now -"

"Max -"

"Isabelle, you know you're the only one who doesn't know what it's like to run for your life," Max's voice turned angry now. "So you can worry about mom and dad being mad at me all you want, but I'm going to worry about all of us not getting chased again."

"Well, I thought you'd want to know that they're thinking about not letting you see Liz anymore," Isabelle shot back and Max's head jerked up.

"What?" His focus quickly switched from one topic to the other and Isabelle laughed at how easily distracted Max was. She really was a weakness, Michael had been right.

"Yeah, thought that might interest you," she smirked.

"I told them - I told them we went for a ride and got stuck in the storm, why would they.."

"They think you need to slow it down," Isabelle continued and Michael could see that now the FBI and the people who had chased him down and shot at him and Liz were suddenly the last things on his mind. "They also um - yeah, they want you to stop buying her horses and
to -"

"Shutup, Isabelle," Max snapped quickly. He found it hard to believe that the last time he had seen Isabelle he was jumping around jubilantly with her and hugging her. He thought she had gotten over this, it had been over three months. "Would you grow up already -"

"Grow up? You're the one who goes out and -"

"Hey, hey -" Michael suddenly stepped between the two siblings and for the first time it hit him that he was a sibling too. "Look, Max - you were right we have to focus right now. They're all still out there." Max and Isabelle both bit their tongues and quieted down. Who
would have guessed weeks ago that Michael would be the one keeping the peace between them. "And I'd be worrying about your parents," he glanced to the window and Max and Isabelle
both quickly dropped their attitudes.

"You mean..." Isabelle's voice drifted.

"They know it's you now, you ran away from them. They'll go after anyone," he spoke from experience.

"We have to get Liz, we have to warn her," Max's voice shook with emotion as he began to run towards his truck.

"Max -" Michael reached out for him, but Max shook him away.

"No, Michael - she has no idea how serious it is."

"She was chased for her life, I think she knows," Isabelle responded shortly.

"What if they go after her?" Max's eyes were ablaze with fear. "And - and I can't help her because mom and dad think.." Max kicked at the dusty ground with his boot. This all seemed unreal and Max was beginning to realize how serious everything really was. What danger everyone was in. He looked to Aldo worriedly, beginning to wonder if that man who had been stirring up trouble with him and Liz before the race was at all related to the men who had chased
him. A rain drop splattered onto Max's arm and he angrily looked up to the sky to see that it was growing dark before midday, eerily resembling the stormy sky last night. "She knows things," Max suddenly told the two. "She knows where the pod chamber.." Max paused before letting the next words come off his tongue. "She has all the answers." A strong gust of wind suddenly sent dust flying into their eyes. Max moved his hand up to shield his eyes. "I don't know how, but she does," he bellowed, fighting against the noisy wind. Michael and Isabelle looked to each other, not knowing what to think of the revelation. "I've got my reasons for wanting to protect her, and now you have yours!" He shouted, knowing that Michael had been searching his entire life for the pod chamber. Michael's face seemed to freeze and suddenly he grabbed Max's arm and walked towards the truck.

"He's right, we have to talk to her," Michael declared as the two backed up towards the truck, glancing up at the ugly sky, and Max backed right into his father.

"Ugly day," Mr. Evans looked up to the sky as well and Max looked at his father. He had his spurs attached to his boots and there was a pair of pliers stuffed into his back pocket and a lasso in his right hand. He was about to go for a ride. "If it storms like it did last night, we gotta move half the herd up to the bluff -"

"But dad," Max looked pressingly to Michael and he tried to wriggle away from his father, who had thrown his arm around him. "Can't Kirk-"

"Kirk's movin' the small herd out of the calf pasture."

"Dad, I'll go with you," Isabelle volunteered and he knew Isabelle's jealousy and her anger with Max had passed. Mr. Evans shook his head.

"Nah, Max an' I gotta have a talk anyway." Max's stomach turned as he had more than slight notion what the talk was going to be about. Mr. Evans glanced over at Max.

"Go on, get your chinks and your spurs on," he ordered, laughing at his son's hesitancy. "Just 'cos you won that gosh darn race doesn't mean you don't hafta do any work," he chuckled and Max silently retreated to the barn were his chaps were hanging. "Oh an' bring your duster,
'cos I got more than a hunch we'll get stuck out in the rain." Max didn't even wave his hand in acknowledgment of his father and he angrily pulled the heavy black coat off the rack and yanked his chinks down from the wall. Isabelle looked to Michael then to Max's truck, suggesting that the two of them head into town to talk to Liz. "Izzy, I don't think your mother wants you driving with this weather threatening again. She was worried to death enough last night with you and Max both out in it."

"Dad -"

"An' you should be gettin' home, son," he looked to Michael and the two just stood there in frustration.

"Come on, dad -"

"Isabelle," he gave her a warning glance and her shoulders slumped in defeat. There was no arguing with her father.

"Dad, Michael has to get back," Isabelle protested one last time. "I - I have to drive him back."

"Michael'll have to stay here until this blows over. You're not driving out with this weather coming," he stated firmly, walking to the barn to bring out his horse, Flint. Max had already heaved the saddle on top of Sparky, the hardy black gelding, in place of Aldo, who was enjoying his rest. Mr. Evans looked humorously over at Max who was saddling up the little horse with his eyebrows sloped into a frown and a scowl on his face. "Come on now, Max don't pout," Mr. Evans chuckled, but Max's face didn't lift at all. He tossed the lasso over the saddle horn and climbed into the saddle.

"Let's get this done," he grumbled, digging his blunt spurs into Sparky's side, and the little gelding quickly jumped out of the barn. Max loped way out ahead of his father, searching to get the job done as quickly as possible as the clouds rapidly covered the sky. Mr. Evans just laughed. He had more than one thing to talk about with his son.

Normally moving the herd up to the bluffs would have been an enjoyable task for Max. It was pretty country, a place he had planned to take Liz riding in the future, but the cattle were being more stubborn than usual and Max was sure it had something to do with the pelting rain. It rained this hard about twice every decade, why they were suddenly getting slammed with a wet storm was beyond Max. It wasn't even the season for storms.

The dusty white hat stood out on Max's head, as he was cloaked in a heavy black duster and he sat astride an inky black horse. Try as they might, neither Max nor his father was having much success getting the cows up the bank. They slipped and slided in the mud that had
accumulated beneath their hooves, creating a muck the horses were even having trouble navigating in. Luckily, the rain and the wind had prevented much conversation between Max and his father, but Mr. Evans had still gotten a few comments in. Comments about Liz, and about what Isabelle had told him. About how he and his mother were worried about him and how quickly they were moving, how frightened they had been last night and how much it unnerved
them not to know where he was. Max had pointed out that he had been caught in worse weather before, but Mr. Evans told him that that wasn't it. It was the fact that he was with Liz. In fact he had just started to question Max about his activity last night when three or four cattle suddenly
made a break for the brush off in the distance, thankfully cutting short the conversation.

Max's mind was a million different places as he worked to keep the bullheaded steers under control. There was last night, he was unable to get the memories of last night out of his head, and then there was the memory of the men drawing the gun on him and Liz, of being chased and hunted across the desert, and Michael's words continued to sound in his head - They'll go after anyone. Why did his father have to be so difficult? Why did -

Before Max could continue his thought one of the steers fell to his knees and slipped down the muddy embankment falling into Sparky. The stocky little horse fought to keep his balance, but Max went tumbling off into the mud. He rolled down the muddy slope like a rag doll
and from the top of the hill his father instantaneously leapt off of Flint and slid down the hill after him. The cows all stopped their stubborn movement for a moment and watched along with Mr. Evans as Max stopped rolling and got to his feet. Grabbing his hat, that now looked black from
the muck, he raised his hand.

"I'm alright," he stated flatly, seeming none too worse for the wear and in the same sour mood he had been in at the start of the ride, except now he was covered in mud. His father stopped mid-slide and peered down at him.

"You're sure? You 'bout scared me to death," he called and Max nodded his head.

"I'm alright," he grumbled, clambering his way back up the slippery incline. He bellowed for his rope and his father scrambled back up and tossed it down to Max who immediately began working with it to get the cows up the hill. He was wasting no time. Forget that he had just fallen down the hill, forget the sharp pain he actually felt in his ribs, get this job done now and get back

The rain had not let up one bit since it began and as Max and his father made their way back to the ranch, Mr. Evans couldn't fathom why Max was in such a rush to get back. Max spurred Sparky along and the little black horse's jolty trot continued to pass Flint and Mr. Evans.

"What's the rush, Max?" he asked good-naturedly as Max jumped the little horse over a ditch.

"Call me crazy, dad but I don't exactly enjoy being out in the rain," Max replied dryly and his father raised his eyebrows.

"Don't be fresh with me," he trotted up alongside his son. "Bet you enjoyed being in the rain last night with Liz?" he teased.

"Dad - " Max spurred Sparky along some more, and again his father followed after him a grin on his face, knowing exactly what to do to get his already annoyed son riled up.

"You probably had her parents worried sick," Mr. Evans shook his head and Max glared over at him.

"It wasn't my fault." There was a sense of desperation in his voice his father hadn't expected, for the most part he was kidding around with his son. "Look, we got caught - "

"-caught in the rain, I know, I know - I believe you." He lowered his head. "I trust you," he paused for a moment, his voice growing more serious. It was this that he wanted to talk to his son about, this was the reason he had dragged him out on the ride. "I trust that you would never do anything that would...endanger her -"

"We didn't do anything last night, we camped out and -" Max was quick to defend.

"I'm not suggesting anything, Max - I'm just saying that I trust you. And your mother trusts you," he licked his lips. "Saying that you care for her would be...a gigantic understatement, we realize that." Max was fidgeting in his saddle. All he could think about right
now was the bullet yesterday whizzing by mere inches away from Liz. "And we trust that when we say you *need* to slow it down, and you need to take a step back that you'll understand -"

"Dad, I can't," Max immediately jumped in and his firm declaration surprised Mr. Evans. "I can't," he shook his head vigorously, sending rain drops splattering onto Mr. Evans' face.

"Max, look I know that"

"I love her," Max's heart barely skipped a beat as he said the words that slipped so naturally off his tongue. Getting Max to reveal any of the thoughts that buzzed around his head, and getting him to open up at all was usually a difficult task, and Mr. Evans was taken aback at how Max had just come out with it. It wasn't like he had poked or prodded.

"I know," he nodded his head as the ranch came into view. "Yeah, I know you do." There was an awkward silence between the two, and Mr. Evans knew it was hard for Max to talk about these types of things with him. Usually their conversations never even stretched past discussions
about the horses, or the herd. Max spurred Sparky along and as the ranch grew closer and came a little more into focus, he could see Isabelle and Michael standing out in the rain waving urgently to him. And the rain stung at his face as he galloped straight into it, heading to them as
fast as he could. Mr. Evans loped after his son, confused as to why he had suddenly taken off.

Max quickly dismounted Sparky and ran to his truck as Michael and Isabelle's words came to him in fragments. He could barely absorb them all.

"...came for River Dog...wouldn't talk...attacked Eddie...coming for us," Isabelle gasped and the engine had already roared to a start.

"Max! Max, stop!" Mr. Evans bellowed to his son as he loped to where Isabelle and Michael were standing and watching him go, frightened looks on both their faces. Mr. Evans looked to them, to Sparky who his son had just been on, and then to the tire tracks that the pickup had left. And to no one in particular he pulled off his stetson and let the rain fall onto his head in confusion. "What the hell is going on?"

Liz was surprised her father had let her work today. He hadn't so much as spoken to her, nevertheless discussed a punishment and for that Liz was grateful. She didn't want to know what her punishment was, didn’t want to hear that she couldn't see Max again. She already ached for him. She had been away for only four hours, but after spending twenty-four together this was too much time apart. Not to mention the fact that she was on edge the entire time. Each customer that walked through the door made her jump back behind the counter, fearful for
who it might be. She needed to know more, Max had to tell her - who they were, what they wanted?

"Some weather, huh?" a man at one of the tables looked outside to the pounding rain on the sidewalk and Liz remembered the sound of the rain falling last night. Remembered that she had been out in it. Customers were slow to open their umbrellas and brave the driving rain and
just as a family scurried out the door, a tall young man dressed in black, with spurs on his boots and a worn white stetson on his head stormed through the door. Rain dripped down from his hat and the heavy black duster he wore. The customers stared at the young man, who appeared to
them something out of an old-western movie.

"Max," Liz whispered his name in disbelief, dropping the washcloth she was wiping down the counter with as her legs carried her to him.

"That's Max??" Mr. Evans nearly dropped the stack of dishes in his hand as he looked to the mysterious young man now standing close to his daughter, whispering things to her.

Liz had been delighted at Max's presence in the Cafe, but his face was solemn and he seemed to be discussing something urgent with her as her smile quickly faded. The customers eyed the two, mumbling things about what Liz Parker was doing with such a person. And they
kept shooting looks back to Jeff Parker to gauge his reaction. His wife walked out then and no sooner had she stepped out then her husband grabbed her by the wrist.

"That's Max," he told her, his eyes transfixed on the young man in black in their dining room drawing all the attention of the customers.

"Liz's Max?" Mr. Parker's face looked none to happy at the words, but he nodded his head.

"Yes..Liz's Max." Nancy Parker eyed the boy, his knee length chaps, the heavy black coat that stretched down below his knees, the white cowboy hat, even the spurs on his cowboy boots.

"No," she shook her head in disbelief. "Lizzie wouldn't even let Kyle wear that hat of his to school."

"Nancy," Mr. Parker just gave his wife a look that said look at them. Look at the way that they were looking at each other, look at how close together they stood, look at how Liz put her hand in Max's. "Hey.." Jeff suddenly mumbled. Look at how Max was leading her out the door.

Liz was wet from the short run to the truck and Max offered her a towel from the back as they made their way out of the town of Roswell. She was drying her hair with it, not even talking to Max when they spotted her. They hadn't spoken since this morning and even then their
conversation had been strained. Right now Maria and Alex weren't sure what to think of the change that had suddenly come over their friend, but both seemed to know one thing. They raced towards Maria's Jetta, quickly started the car and sped off after the pickup. They were going to follow her and they were going to find out.

Liz and Max didn't talk, they simply drove down the highway in silence their faces saying it all. Both were clinched in fear, and Liz had a feeling that Max was just about as clueless as she was when it came to the situation. The only sound was the driving rain and the music playing in the background. We call them fools who have to dance within the flame, who chance the sorrow and the shame. That always comes with getting burned. Liz wasn't much for country music, and living in Roswell she had to deal with a fair share of it, but these lyrics seemed to speak to her. Seemed to speak to her and Max. It was risky, being together and by now they both knew that that was true for more than one reason. Their obvious differences made it dangerous enough, putting up with Michael and Isabelle made it trying enough, both their
parents were making it more difficult than it should be, but they were both "up for the challenge" as Maria would say. But you've got to be tough when consumed by desire. 'Cos it's not enough just to stand outside the fire! The heartfelt lyrics pounded and Max actually smiled slightly. He had always liked this Garth Brooks song and he glanced over at Liz and reached for her hand.
Liz smiled at the gentle action and she knew what Max was trying to tell her. That they were going to be okay. Not just right now, escaping this imminent danger, but forever.

She didn't even know where they were going, and when they returned to the Evans ranch she was surprised at first, but before he even pulled into the driveway Michael and Isabelle came tearing out of the house to the truck. Liz moved so that they could crawl into the miniscule backseat and Max sped away as both his parents bewildered faces appeared in the doorway, watching their son and daughter drive away. We call them strong those who can face this world alone, who seem to get by on their own. Those who will never take the fall. The song continued on and as confused and panicked as they all were at the moment, with Max's hand in Liz's he knew that he was better off than the two in the backseat were. They both seemed
bothered by the music playing. With looks on their faces that said now was most definitely not the time for Max and Liz to go all...MaxAndLiz. Looks of disgust at the closeness the two shared, looks of disgust at the two period. We call them weak who are unable to resist the slightest chance love might exist. And for that forsake it all. Stupid, foolish, dangerous and risky on top of
all things Michael and Isabelle had called his relationship with Liz a number of things, but as the two sat nervously in the backseat Max knew that he had the upper hand now. And he and Liz were the 'weak' ones. He just grinned to himself, in the face of everything so far he and Liz had
triumphed. They're so hell bent on giving, walking a wire. Convinced it's not living if you stand outside the fire!

"Max, what are we doing?" Michael suddenly demanded and tearing himself away from the music that had almost put him into a trance, he looked to Michael in the rearview mirror. Michael thought he didn't have a plan, he thought he had no idea what he was doing. "You know, now's not the time for you to be making puppy eyes, okay?" Max glared at Michael in the rearview mirror.

"We're going to the Reservation, to talk to Eddie, River Dog -"

"We already talked to Eddie!" Michael said exasperatedly in defiance of Max.

"Well, we're going to talk to him again," Max stated firmly, for the first time acting like their superior. Like the leader of the four. Isabelle opened up her mouth in protest, but Max continued and they could both see that he was drawing his strength from Liz. "Besides the pod chamber's close to the Reservation," he added, knowing that it would shut the two up. "Right?" he asked quietly turning to Liz and she nodded her head, feeling like the strange outsider that she had been on that horseback ride with the four the other day. She had yet to get used to the fact that she was linked to the four of them, that the obvious connection she shared with Max
wasn’t just her. He reached over and took her hand again, seeming to sense her nervousness at the situation. "I know what I'm doing," Max assured the two in the back and a nervous Liz. "We'll be okay."

The rain was actually beginning to lessen and for that they were all thankful. Liz had never been to the Reservation and her hand stayed in Max’s and she hugged close to his body as they searched around for either the wounded Eddie or River Dog. Isabelle knew as they
walked along - Max and Liz together and her and Michael - that this was the way it was going to be now. That the four of them were a unit, and whatever came their way they were going to deal with together. Liz was a part of the unit, and Max was right, for one reason or another she held
the answers. Some of them at least.

Isabelle spotted Eddie first, he was slumped against a wooden shed and treating the cuts on his face with a washcloth and some sort of concoction in an earthen dish. Alone. There was no one there to help him and Isabelle’s heart went out to him. Eddie had never been
extremely personable to her or Max, but he had stood up to the same men who had chased Michael and Max and Liz, the same men who were hunting them at this very moment. He had
refused to tell the men their whereabouts or River Dog's and had gotten beaten as a result. She had always wondered if Eddie knew about her and Max. Really knew. Now she didn't even have to know, he could know as much as River Dog, or as little as their parents, one thing was for
sure. He was on their side. Shouting his name, Max immediately ran over to the injured young man.

"What are you guys doing here? You should be hiding out," Eddie managed to laugh, but the words didn’t trigger so much as a smile out of anybody.

"Eddie, are you alright?" Isabelle knelt down next to him as if she had been best friends with him her entire life.

"Yeah, yeah - I'm fine," he nodded his head, though the look on his face said something different. He glanced to the four's worried and confused faces, carefully examining Liz's whose pretty face though unfamiliar looked as scared as the other three. He wondered if she was one
of them too. "There were three of them," he suddenly told them all what he knew they wanted to know. "Black suits, black sunglasses...real strong," he touched his hand to his cheek where they had obviously hit him.

"Eddie, how did they know to go to you?" Isabelle asked and the young man just shrugged.

"I guess they're good at putting the pieces together." Michael's words in the truck last night when Isabelle had asked the same question about Max and Liz came back to haunt the two and a chill ran down both their spines.

"They know I live here, they've probably seen me talking to him," Michael mumbled. "Man, I'm sorry," he wasn't sure why he apologized to Eddie but looking at his battered face he couldn't help but feel it was his fault.

"Why wouldn't they go after River Dog? Why wouldn't -" Max suddenly began to question.

"He was hiding out, doing what you guys should be doing," Eddie laughed again, in disbelief that the four were just standing out in the open like this. Again they ignored his comment.

"Where's he hiding?” Max asked urgently.

"I don't know," Eddie told them honestly. "Where he did last time."

"Last time??" Liz suddenly spoke up.

"Yeah," Eddie winced as he shifted positions. They must have cracked his ribs, Max thought feeling the same type of pain in his side from when he had slipped down the muddy embankment this afternoon. Poor Eddie. "He told me it's happened before..about thirty years ago. I don't know everything...he wouldn't tell everything - just that they came for Nacedo and he went and hid...I don"t - I don't know where it is."

"You know about Nacedo?" Michael cut in. "All this time??" Eddie just nodded his head and suddenly a weathered and leathery old hand came down on Max's shoulder.

"You shouldn't be here," a familiar voice spoke and a loud sigh of relief came from Isabelle and Max's mouths. River Dog was alright. "They're coming for you," he told them with worried eyes. "You shouldn't be out like this-"

"Where are we supposed to go?" Max raised his voice in frustration after hearing it from River Dog as well. Maybe he didn't have things as in control as he wanted to.

"Yeah, what about our parents?" Liz found herself holding onto Max a little tighter at the thought, asking the question that was on both Max and Isabelle's minds as well.

"They attacked Eddie, what's to say they won't go after -" Isabelle began to question also, but River Dog shook his head before she could finish.

"They won't. They don't want to draw attention to themselves," he said slowly. "They've been here all along. You've known they have." He spoke slowly and at the words Liz looked to Max in fear. This sounded like something out of a horror movie.

"Yeah," Michael murmured when no one else spoke. River Dog was right, they had gone through the files in the adoption agency. They had been here for weeks. Hunting them.

"Why did they come into the Crashdown?" Liz asked again and it was safe to say that even Max was surprised at the fact that she was taking a part in their questioning. "You say they don't want to draw attention, then why did they walk into a crowded restaurant and chase
Michael and I through my house?"

"Then they've already drawn attention," River Dog said with a smile of all things. "They won't do it again." His words were all making sense and the fact that he was implying that they were going to be stalked for another month and preyed upon, attacked when they least expected made them all wish that they didn't. Part of them all wished that the men would just come for them now. Liz couldn't take what this afternoon alone had been like, jumping back in fear with every person that stepped around the corner.

"What are we supposed to do?" Max asked, fully aware of just how desperate their situation was and the hopelesness in his voice was evident. Liz squeezed his hand, trying to give him some of the strength she knew he needed but he just looked to her with the same desperate face he was giving River Dog. One that almost looked like he was sorry. Everyone's face peered over at Max and Liz, with the realization that River Dog didn't hold the answers

"I don't know everything, Max. I'm sorry," Max's face looked as if he had just been stabbed in the back by his best friend. "I wish I had the answers you want, but I don't."

"But you - you know stuff!" Max cried in despair. "You gave us the stones, you showed us the cave!"

"But I'm not one of you," he said as gently as possible.

"Neither is she!" Max cried, looking to Liz. And his words hung in the air, echoing over and over in his mind and he was hit with the memory of all the flashes he and Liz had shared, of all the dreams he had had with Liz in them, the dreams Liz told him she had had.

She wasn't one of them, she couldn't be.

"You have to find the answers," River Dog finally said, breaking up the troubling silence. Max's last words were still hanging in the air above everyone’s heads. "You have to find the answers in yourself." A look of anguish crossed Max's face at River Dog’s cryptic remark, but the
old man said nothing more. Why was this all on him? Why was River Dog looking directly at him when he had said that last statement.

"Come on, Max," Michael put his hand on his brother's shoulder and Liz tightened her hand around his.

"Max, let's find the pod chamber," she suggested softly to, what seemed to be a shell-shocked Max and though she didn't know her way around the Reservation and had never
been there before, she was the one who led Max away. Michael and Isabelle followed and from their crouched position behind a tree, Alex and Maria looked to each other.

"Where's she taking them??" Alex whispered in question to Maria and, just as confused as Alex by the events playing out in front of them, she trailed along after the four.

Liz led the four of them, and consequently Alex and Maria, blindly through the reservation, hoping that she would see something that would strike a familiar chord in her from her dreams. Hoping that she would find something that would help Michael and Isabelle to realize that she was as much a part of this as they were. She just got herself more turned around however, and was surprised when they came to a fork in the road and it was Max who
tugged on her arm, gently pulling her to the left.

"It's this way," he mumbled softly, leading them away from the reservation and into the desert.

"Max, I don't think this is..." a good idea was what Michael meant to say, but Max was leading them all so confidantly he closed his mouth. For close to thirty minutes they trekked through the rough and course scrub of the desert, sticks scratching at their arms, dust caking on
their sweat-coated faces and just as Isabelle stopped for a breath and, resting her hands on her legs, asked where exactly he was leading them they came to a clearing.

"Here." Four pairs of eyes looked up to the giant rock formations that stood before them.

"That's it, Max...that's it," Liz gasped in disbelief, the image from her vision right there in front of her, and hand-in-hand the two immediately stepped forward to climb it. Michael and Isabelle looked to each other in confusion. How were Max and Liz so familiar with this place? Why didn't she and Michael recognize it? Michael glanced to Isabelle, then back to Max and Liz who were already halfway up the giant formation. He shrugged his shoulders, stepped forward, then stopped and held out his hand for Isabelle. They would scale this together.

More than a little out of breath from their hurried rush up the side of the giant rock formation, Max now stood before a smooth and flat wall of rock as large as his garage door. He helplessly pressed his hands against the wall and looked to Liz desperately.

"This is it.." he murmured. "I know this is's behind this wall, I just can't.." he clambered up the side of the wall, looking in the corner for some sort of entryway. "I know it's here," he looked to Liz, seeming to be assuring her. She just nodded her head though. Max was on his own here. Liz recognized the place itself from the visions she had gotten with Max, but anything further and she was just as amiss as Michael and Isabelle. His voice edged in frustration, Max pounded the wall angrily and as he did a small stone - about the size of his fist -
tumbled down to his feet. He jerked his head up quickly and looked to where the stone had fallen. The upper corner of the wall, the top right corner. Moving his hand up towards it in the darkness, two more rocks fell at his and Liz's feet. Here was a wall he could take down.
"Michael!!" he called jubilantly, with the realization that all they had to do was take down this pile of rocks in the corner. "Isabelle!!" he sounded for his sister and the two came running as they looked curiously to see what it was Max was digging so furiously at. Stones of all shapes and
sizes came flying down from where Max was precariously perched five feet in the air and struggling to take down what was left of this wall as fast as possible.

He didn't think he would be this excited to find the pod chamber, but as he ripped down the stones and tossed them down in a frenzy even a bewildered Alex and Maria could see that whatever lay behind that wall was important to Max. By the looks on Michael and Isabelle's
faces it was important to them too. And the thing that shook them up most, they could see that it was important to Liz.

The stones didn't come down nearly fast enough for Max and it seemed to take an eternity before a large hole about two feet wide appeared in the corner of the wall. He looked to Michael and Isabelle with a look of giddiness almost, one that seemed overwhelmed with delight at the prospect of going into the hole. Into the unknown.

"You go first," Isabelle motioned to the hole and Max looked at the dark entryway, slowly climbing towards it. The rocks had been precariously positioned and wedged so that the hole was as much an entryway from above as it was from the side. Liz swallowed the lump rising in
her throat as she watched Max step cautiously towards it. He peered into it, and seeing nothing, gave a shrug of his shoulders and a lopsided grin and carefully hoisted his way into it.

"Max," Liz's voice trailed off as she watched his legs dip into it, then his torso, then his shoulders and finally his head. The hearts of the three outside stopped in their chests for only a moment as they heard the sound of Max landing on the stone on the other side of the wall.
Michael's heart raced with the realization that the rock was hollow inside. There was something in there. He immediately scrambled up the wall and dissappeared into it as well, his dissappearance promptly followed by the sound of his feet landing. Isabelle scurried up and Max and Michael's hands reached up to help her down. Liz stood down at the bottom, her feet frozen, and unable to make their way up to the hole. Maria and Alex watched with trepidation as their friend stood there, caught between two different worlds. Max's voice suddenly sounded for
her from the other side of the wall and from the hole and she slowly made her way up.

Isabelle had created a soft glowing light from her hands and as Max's hands helped guide Liz down through the hole and to the floor she saw that Michael and Isabelle had already begun exploring the curiously empty cave. Max created the same light with his hands and Liz jumped back in fright at first by the action. It was the first time she had seen him use his powers.

"Sorry," he mumbled an apology, embarassed at how caught up he had gotten, not even realizing what he was doing, but Liz just dismissed him with a shake of her head as she stepped towards him and peered in at the glow emerging from his cupped hands. He dropped one hand
to move into hers and they continued to explore the cave.

"There has to be something here," Isabelle mumbled as she searched for another passage, for anything.

"I tell you if Max has to rip down another wall.." Michael grumbled and no sooner had he said it then Max's breath quickly caught in his throat. Liz saw them too and for some reason her hand wrapped a little tighter around Max's hand when she did. Four oval shaped pods, hollow
and appearing to Liz and the two curious faces peering down the hole, like something out of a bad sci-fi movie.

"Michael," Max murmured his name as he just stared at the four pods. The four pods they had been born from. There were four, God, there were four. Liz's head spun. There was no way it could be. She had parents, she had baby pictures, she was human. She wasn't one of them.

"There's four," she creaked and the three didn't have the same response that she did.

"Tess," Michael dismissed, his eyes not once leaving the four pods fixed into the rock above them. The things he had been searching for his entire life.

"Tess??" The name was alien to Liz's ears.

"She was...she was one of us - that Michael knew..." Isabelle stumbled. "She's dead, but...but she was one of us." Saying the words out loud sent a chill up Isabelle's spine. What would it have been like to have four of them? To have a sister? But then there was that thing that Michael had said. About Max and Tess, how they had been destined for each other. Isabelle glanced to Max and Liz, standing close together, hands joined as they marveled at the pods in wonder. There was one prophecy that had gone wrong.

Minutes went by and the four just stared up at the pods, and as Michael finally drew his gaze away and looked around the rest of the empty cavern he asked what the other three were all thinking.

"That's all?" He was surprised at his own dissatisfaction with the pod chamber, but somehow he expected more. He knew there had to be more. These were the pods they had been born - or rather hatched - from, this was the place where they had been carefully stored
and tucked away for for who knows how long. There had to be more. Isabelle turned around, looking back to the two foot opening they had entered through, prompting Maria and Alex to quickly jerk their heads away. She desperately searched around the empty hollow.

"Michael's right there has to be more," she stated matter-of-factly and as Max and Liz just stood there, hand-in-hand, glancing around, searching for something as well, both Michael and Isabelle's eyes fell on them. Like they expected something from them.

"What?" Max asked nervously, unnerved by the look they were giving him and Liz.

"Kiss her," Michael stated calmly, his words somewhere between a command and a request.

"What?" Max's ears quickly grew hot at Michael's words and Michael just raised his eyebrows as if the action would be an obvious answer to their questions. Max looked to his sister, only to see that her look held the same thing.

"I'm not gonna..." Max declined, shaking his head at the awkward suggestion.

"Look, just kiss her," Michael folded his arms in frustration and Max looked to Liz, whose eyes almost seemed to be laughing at their situation. She shrugged her shoulders and Max's eyes flicked about nervously from Michael to Isabelle, whose eyes were boring holes into his
head. Into Liz's head. How did they expect him to do this? To just kiss her while they watched the two of them like some science experiment. He hesitantly lowered his head to her and ever so slowly inched towards her. So slowly it made Michael groan impatiently and Isabelle sigh
loudly. Liz tilted her head towards him as his lips ever-so-softly brushed against hers.

"Max, kiss her for real, come on!" Michael demanded restlessly. They had gotten this far, discovered this much because of the visions Max and Liz shared and he could tell that Isabelle was confidant as well that if they were to learn anything more it would be through them.

It was Liz, not Max, who moved to deepen the kiss, eventually slipping her hand behind his head. Max's mouth was slack though and it took him longer to get past the two pairs of eyes staring at him. When he finally kissed her back though the response was instantaneous. Symbols and strange letters and words danced across Liz’s mind, a peculiar book that appeared to be engraved with the same letters and symbols made of some curious combination between
stone and metal. Michael and Isabelle looked on hopefully as they saw something almost seem to pass through Liz; Maria and Alex peered on in astonishment at Max and Liz and they weren't sure whether or not the moan that escaped from Liz's lips was one of pleasure or pain.

"There's a book," Liz gasped breaking apart from Max who was just beginning to enjoy himself. It was after all, only the third kiss they had shared in their fledgling relationship.

"A book?" Michael demanded stepping towards her and taking a hold of her arm. Liz nodded her head. "Where?"

"Somewhere..." Liz whispered, still recovering from the kiss moreso than the images. "It's here," she assured. "It's here somewhere," she laced her hand in Max's and as Michael and Isabelle spun around to hunt for the mysterious book, Liz looked to Max with a look that said she wanted to finish the kiss that had just been broken up. An impish smile appeared on his face and Liz laughed, playfully brushing the hair that had fallen down across his forehead and edging towards him. No sooner had she done it than the loud thump of a body hitting stone sounded behind them. The four spun around only to see Maria DeLuca sprawled on the ground beneath the tiny two foot opening and Alex's worried head peeking down.

No one said anything for a moment. Nearly a minute passed as Maria remained there on her back with Max, Michael, Isabelle and even Liz staring down at her. Michael bellowed loudly, demanding an explanation and she could tell by Max's irked face that even he was angry. She
looked to Max, Michael and Isabelle then down to Maria. She might be connected to them somehow, but Maria was still her friend and she walked over to help her best friend to her feet. Maria seemed as surprised by the gesture as Michael and Isabelle, Max however just smiled. That was Liz.

"What the hell is this?" Michael shouted again.
"What are you doing here??"

"Liz, what're you doing here?" Maria ignored Michael and looked to Liz.

"Maria, are you okay?" Liz in turn ignored her friend. She wanted to avoid a direct interrogation by Maria for as long as possible. She knew now that she had at most two minutes and her mind searched wildly for an explanation for all of this. For this summer and the past few months, why she was hear in a cave with Max, Michael and Isabelle. Maria just nodded her head.

"I'm fine, I just...fell on my butt," she dismissed. "What are you doing here, Liz?" Maria
looked around to Michael, standing there with his arms crossed, to Isabelle doing the same, to Max who now stood behind Liz. Liz opened up her mouth, but before even a syllable could come out, Alex, who was all but forgotten up above the hole, suddenly spoke.

"Hey, hey guys..." his voice sounded nervously, but no one chose to pay attention to him. "There's a...a bl-black car -" And he didn't get a chance to finish his sentence.

"Dammit!" Michael's hands quickly went from being folded in front of him to running through his thick head of hair.

"Get in here now!" Isabelle instinctively ran past Maria, Liz and Max to help Alex down from his perch.

"What - why?"

"Just get in now!" Max ran to help out his sister, but it was Liz Alex looked to for assurance at what he was about to do. Her eyes held the same fear as Isabelle and Max's and he carefully slid through the two foot passage to the hard rock below.

"What's going on?" Alex asked in bewilderment, but no one answered his question.

"How do we seal it up?" Max immediately looked towards Michael, whose powers were far more advanced than his and Isabelle's combined.

"Wait - what -" Alex continued to try for an explanation to no avail.

"You are not sealing it up!" Maria charged into the conversation.looking around the tiny cave. They couldn't be possible about sealing up there only entyway. Not to mention exit.

"Fine," Michael shrugged, his eyes staring hard at Maria and denying the dismissiveness his tone suggested.
"Go back out there. See what they do to you."

"See what - who?" Maria slurred, taken aback by his words and looking to Max and Liz's petrified faces, she quickly slumped against the wall. This was real, whatever was happening. Whatever had them so frightened that was in the black car. She had never seen her friend so worried, never seen Max look so determined. Michael brushed past Alex and walked beneath the entryway. He knew what he was about to do was going to let both Maria and Alex in on their
secret. But by now he knew they might as well already be. Outstretching his hand he focused all his energy over the wide opening. He had never done anything like this before. Footsteps and voices sounded from the bottom of the enormous formation. He hoped sound traveled quickly here, they couldn't be that close.

His face clinched in effort, Michael's hand began to shake with the vigorous exertion, but the hole remained.

"Michael," Isabelle's voice sounded fearfully to him as the voices grew louder.

"I know," he murmured, tiny beads of sweat had begun to form on his temple. "I know, I've never done something like this before...made something out of nothing."

Max's hand began to shake in Liz's and she could hear the footsteps rapidly ascending the rock formation. She knew what he was so scared of. A memory quickly triggered in her memory. The memory of the two of them turning around in the deserted fairgrounds to see the
same black Lincoln Town Car, watching them draw out a gun, feeling the bullet whirring inches by her. She smoothed her thumb against his hand, like he had so often done to her and immediately something in her mind clicked. With Max's hand still in hers she searched along the
ground for a slab of stone.

"What if you had something, Michael?" Liz seized as many thick stone tablets from the ground as she could. And then it clicked in Max's mind and he lifted them from her arms and ran over to Michael. With Liz and Isabelle's help they held the pieces of rock up by the opening. There were still large gaps, and the rock covered at best half of the opening, but Michael hoped it would be enough. Concentrating on the small two foot opening again and the rocks that Max, Liz and Isabelle were holding up a faint glow suddenly appeared around the opening and before
Alex could even blink his eyes the hole had disappeared. He couldn't even figure out where it had been. Letting out a loud sigh of relief, Max turned to Michael.

"You'll be able to..take it down, right?" he asked, but Michael just shrugged.

"Let's hope so.." He glanced around the tiny cave the six of them were stuck in for now. If you were claustrophobic, this wasn’t the place to be. "Otherwise we're screwed."

"But we're safe for now," Isabelle's words were somewhere between a statement and a question, but before anyone could answer her, Max immediately held up his hand.

"Shhh, Isabelle," he whispered sternly and again the trembling returned to Max's hand. The voices were right outside, even Liz could hear it. Maria and Alex were slumped against the wall, frozen with fear and Michael and Isabelle, Liz and Max stood in front of the rock wall, the
only thing standing between them and the men outside. Liz squeezed Max's hand and the trembling suddenly stopped. His shoulders raised and his chest puffed out ever so slightly. If this wall somehow came down, he would be ready to meet whatever came through. He would be
ready to face them.

"Man is born free and everywhere he is in chains"

-Jean Jaques Rousseau