|posted on 2-Sep-2001 9:16:22 PM|
|The Exchange Student|
Author: Shelly 2
Disclaimer: I don’t own Roswell or any of the characters. I have no affiliation with the WB television network or the author Melinda Metz.
Summary/Spoilers: After Destiny. Any resemblance to Roswell plots or spoilers after Destiny is a coincidence.
Author’s Note: This was a story I started over the summer. My mom thinks she’s a little psychic. Maybe I inherited some of her abilities and channeled some Roswell vibes. Lol! Anyway, I stopped writing it after I read spoilers for Meet the Dupes, but I still plan on finishing it someday.
Liz Parker laid on her bed and stared at the ceiling as strains of Billie Holiday filled the air. She didn’t really hear the music. She also didn’t hear the soft knock on her window or the sounds of someone entering her room, but she felt his hand touch her arm. “Liz.” That she heard. It was the sound of her favorite voice in the whole world whispering her name. Slowly, Liz sat up and looked over towards the voice. Max Evans was staring at her. His eyes were rimmed in red and she knew in that moment that he had matched her tear for tear. “Liz?” he said again. This time the word had become a question. Max looked into Liz’s eyes and tried to figure out what she was thinking. At first, he could only see the reflection of his own desperate face staring back him. He looked again. Max sighed in relief when he saw that she still loved him. He didn’t know what he’d do if Liz ever stopped loving him.
“Max, you shouldn’t be here,” she made herself reply.
“I want to be here. This is the only place in the world. . .in the universe. . .that I want to be, Liz. Right here with you. Please. Just let me stay with you.” He touched her cheek. She turned her face into his hand and gently kissed his palm. Max smiled, but his smile faded when Liz turned away from him.
“Max. . .” Max didn’t want to hear Liz tell him to leave. He searched for the words that would convince her that they were meant to be together. Only three words came to mind.
“I love you. I love you, Liz.” Liz felt the heartache begin to overwhelm her at his soft declaration. She couldn’t take much more of this. She had to be strong. Liz knew that Max wouldn’t let go of her. It was her job to let go of him.
“You should go, Max. Please. I really need for you to leave right now.” It was the honest plea in her voice that made Max turn and go.
Liz pointedly avoided Max for the remaining three weeks of school, then Max left Roswell. He decided to spend the summer with his grandparents in Florida. Liz obviously needed some time to think things through. Max’s constant attempts to see Liz only seemed to add to her emotional confusion and Max didn’t trust himself to stay away from her if they both remained in Roswell. He also wanted to get away from Tess. Max was tired of having to fend off her sexual advances.
Liz nursed a broken heart throughout June and July. Things started to improve slightly around August. That was when the exchange student arrived in Roswell.
They were at it again. Isabel Evans looked up from the glossy pages of Vogue to witness Michael Guerin arguing with Maria Deluca. Isabel rolled her eyes. Maria and Michael had spent the past few months bickering. Sometimes Isabel asked Michael why he didn’t just quit his job at the Crashdown Café. Michael claimed he didn’t think anyone else would hire him and he needed the money. Isabel knew the truth though. It was just a convenient excuse to hang around Maria. Every so often Isabel wondered why she herself continued to go to the Crashdown, but she knew that truth as well. The Crashdown reminded Isabel of a time when she felt relatively secure. It was a part of Roswell and Roswell was home. A yearning for stability had caused Isabel to stay in Roswell while her brother, Max, spent his summer with their grandparents. Isabel needed the comfort of the familiar. She had to admit that even Michael and Maria’s constant fighting was a part of that comfort. On the other hand, it was also damn annoying. “Look, you guys. You’re really not fooling anyone. If the two of you want to head out to the backroom for a heavy make-out session so that you can relieve some of the. . .uh. . .tension that’s been building up these past few months , you can go right ahead. Honestly, I don’t mind,” Isabel finally said in a tone of pseudo-sweetness.
Maria almost smiled at Isabel’s comment. She really was tempted to drag Michael to the backroom, but she would never let Michael know that.
“Are you kidding me? He’s your problem now. As far as I’m concerned, there are plenty of fish in the sea. As a matter of fact, Alex should be dropping by any minute with the dreamy new exchange student. I haven’t seen him, but rumor has it he’s a major hottie.” Maria did smile then. She was certain that her last comment really annoyed Michael.
“Great. Just what we need. Another stranger in Roswell,” Michael complained. For some reason, the whole idea really annoyed him.
“Yeah, anyone care to take bets on the hidden ulterior motive of the week?” asked Isabel. At that moment, Alex Whitmen entered the Crashdown Café and he wasn’t alone. Standing next to Alex was a striking teenage boy. He had to be the exchange student. Alex’s father taught World History at West Roswell High. Mr. Whitmen and the language teachers were sometimes called upon to host the rare exchange students that found themselves placed at West Roswell. Mrs. Ramirez and her family had hosted a Filipino girl five years ago. The Ellington family had taken in a French youth two years ago. Now it was the Whitmen’s turn.
“Well, I’ll handle any undercover work that may be necessary,” Maria volunteered as she eyed the newcomer and adjusted the plastic antennas that were part of her waitress uniform.
Nicholas Dimitriev looked around the diner. The cheesy alien pictures that lined the walls made him smile. He liked this place with its Formica tabletops and its smell of fried food. This was definitely the place he was meant to be at this very moment. Nicholas sensed it. Something important was about to happen. Nicholas followed Alex to the group of teenagers by the counter. The boy with the spiky hair was glaring at him for some reason. The girl in the waitress uniform was smiling at Nicholas seductively, but Nicholas had the impression that her smile was really for the benefit of the spiky-haired boy. The other blonde sitting at the counter was pretending not to look at Alex. This was a place of many secrets.
“Hey, guys. This is Nicholas Dimitriev. He’s the new exchange student from the Ukraine.” Alex had included Michael and Maria in the introduction, but his eyes were focused on Isabel. Seeing that Alex was mentally occupied, Maria decided to take over.
“I’m Maria Deluca. That’s Isabel Evans and this is Michael Guerin. So how do you like Roswell so far?” Maria asked leaning over the counter in a way that seemed to emphasize her cleavage.
“I like it very much,” Nicholas replied with an extra warm smile. This girl amused him and Nicholas wanted to help her if he could.
“Wow! Your English is excellent.”
“Thank you. I studied. . .” Nicholas stopped mid-sentence. Whatever he was about to say was lost forever. His gaze had shifted to the left and seemed to settle on something near the milkshake machine. Maria looked in that general direction and saw Liz. Apparently, Liz had returned from the storage room and was now re-filling the sugar containers.
Isabel shivered as a sense of déjà vu swept over her.
Nicholas was trying his best to breathe again. She was the most beautiful thing he had ever seen in his life. In fact, Nicholas found himself cursing fate for not introducing him to such beauty sooner. He found himself cursing fate for a lot of things.
“Who is she?” Nicholas wondered out loud. He was enchanted.
“Ohh, sorry, Princess,” Michael whispered in Maria’s ear. Maria refused to look at Michael, but she could hear the smirk in his voice. “It looks like Boris has eyes for Liz.”
He stood in the middle of the Crashdown Café and watched as an angel re-filled the sugar containers. Her long, chestnut-colored hair was pulled back in a thick ponytail leaving her delicate face totally unprotected from those who would feed on its beauty. Brown seemed too plain a word to describe the liquid-velvet eyes he knew he could easily gaze into for the rest of his life. He longed to see those eyes tinged with laughter or desire instead of melancholy. His gaze caressed her soft cheek and touched upon her adorable nose before settling on her lips. He swallowed hard. Her lips made his heart beat faster. Deciding it was better not to linger there, he let his eyes wander down her slender throat. Belatedly, he understood that might not have been such a good idea. When had he stopped breathing? He felt like he was seeing her for the first time. Only now his thoughts weren’t exactly those of an innocent eight-year old. His palms itched to feel the softness of her milky skin. “Max, watch your rod, will ya? You’re about to lose it,” his grandfather warned.
“Huh?” Max looked around quickly and realized that he wasn’t in the Crashdown Cafe. He was on his grandfather’s boat off the coast of Florida. He steadied the fishing rod in his hands and tried to reel in whatever was tugging on the other end of the line, but eventually the line went slack. The prize was lost. “Uh. . .Sorry, Gramps.”
“Thinkin’ about your girl again?” Max turned deep red when he realized that his grandfather had caught him daydreaming about Liz. That made his grandfather laugh. “Well, at least you’re not moping around anymore. It must have been some daydream. I hope it was worth it because that fish looked mighty big.”
“She was re-filling sugar containers,” Max confessed with a slight smile. His grandfather shook his head and turned to get himself a beer from the cooler.
“It must be true love. That’s all I’ve got to say,” Max heard the old man mutter as he walked away. * It is true love * Max thought. Max’s life had been like a kaleidoscope for the past eleven months. The picture was constantly shifting and changing within days . . .hours . . .minutes. Max knew that his life would probably always be like that. There was very little that he could depend upon, but there was one thing that Max Evans knew for sure. Whatever happened, he would never let Liz Parker be the one that got away.
Re-filling the sugar containers was a good thing. It was useful. It was productive. Liz wished she could be back at the Crashdown lost in her own little world of saccharine and glass. Instead, she was sitting in a movie theater with a stranger and trying to make small talk. “ I wonder what’s taking them so long,,” Liz commented as she turned around to look for Alex and Maria.
“They’ve only been gone for two minutes. The line for popcorn looked pretty long. It should take them at least another . . .” Nicholas looked at his watch and pretended to ponder the matter. “ 3 minutes and 38 seconds.”
“Oh.” Liz glanced over at Nicholas. He was staring at her again. The way Nicholas looked at Liz made her a little nervous. His stare was so intent, almost passionate. It reminded her of. . .suddenly Liz needed to make Nicholas stop staring. “Do I have something on my face?”
“You keep staring at me.” Liz felt ashamed when Nicholas blushed and looked away. Liz knew that losing Max had changed her, but she couldn’t believe how rude she’d just been. She should try to make amends. Liz couldn’t think of anything witty to say so she settled for a standard question. “Is this your first time in the United States?”
“Yes. I’ve never been this far from the Ukraine before.” Nicholas risked a look back at the goddess sitting next to him. For the first time that evening Liz looked vaguely interested in what he had to say and it caused his pulse to race.
“Are you homesick yet?”
“No. Not really. I have so many responsibilities at home that it’s nice to get away for a little while. I do miss my sister, Katya, though. We are very close. Do you have any brothers or sisters?”
“Alex, Maria, and I are all only children. Maria always says that it must be something in the water.” Nicholas smiled at that and Liz saw that he had a rather nice smile. He was actually quite good-looking with his dark hair and deep blue eyes.
“What about Michael and Isabel?”
“Michael’s an orphan and Isabel has a brother our age named Max. He’s in Florida for the summer.” Now it was Liz’s turn to look away. Nicholas had returned to studying her face during their brief conversation and he continued to do so even after Liz had ended their talk. Nicholas couldn’t help himself. It all made sense. He knew the reason for the sadness in Liz’s eyes and around her mouth. Max Evans had broken her heart. As Nicholas took in Liz’s shiny brown hair and classic profile, he decided that Liz must have broken Max’s heart as well. When Maria and Alex returned from the concession stand neither of them seemed to notice the solemn mood that had claimed Liz and Nicholas. Maria and Alex were still debating the benefits and drawbacks of JuJu Fruits when the previews started. In the flickering light from the movie screen, Nicholas saw a single tear make its way down Liz’s cheek. Instinctively, he reached over and squeezed her hand. Liz stiffened then relaxed as she felt the sincere sympathy in his gesture. Suddenly, Liz knew that she and Nicholas would become good friends.
“You’re going to burn that one,” Maria said as she looked over Michael’s shoulder and pointed to a rather well-done hamburger patty.
“Look, I think I know how to flip a burger by now,” Michael answered abruptly. The hamburger was ready to come off the grill, but Michael waited an extra five seconds before depositing it onto Maria’s paper plate. “There. Perfect.” Maria looked into Michael’s eyes, smiled and walked away. Why did he always feel as if she could see right through him? Michael shook his head. And what was he doing flipping burgers on his day off? The things he would do to be near her. Michael let his eyes wander over to Maria who was now sitting with Isabel, Alex, Liz and Nicholas at the Whitmen’s picnic table. Summer was leaving and the Whitmen’s had suggested that Alex invite his friends over for a farewell barbecue. At the beginning of the summer Michael would have been surprised to be included in such a gathering, but things had subtlety changed over the past few weeks. If Michael had to put his finger on a specific turning point, he probably would have picked the night the exchange student had asked Michael and Isabel to join them for The Perfect Storm. Good old Boris loved American films and he was constantly dragging Alex, Maria and Liz to the local Cineplex. One evening, after Michael had spent an hour watching Maria and Boris flirt at the Crashdown, Boris had invited Michael to join them for the movie. Michael knew that the flirtation was just an act. It was pretty obvious that Boris was hopelessly infatuated with Liz. Nevertheless, Michael decided to go along. Michael had heard the special effects were pretty good. At least, that was what he said. He made sure to sit between Maria and Boris during the movie. Isabel had agreed to go to the movie as well. Since that night, the six of them had spent quite a bit of time together. Things were still awkward, but Michael liked seeing Maria outside of the Crashdown again. He could also admit to himself that he liked participating in his very first backyard barbecue.
Nicholas, a.k.a. Boris, was enjoying his first backyard barbecue as well. How could he not enjoy it? It gave him the opportunity to look at Liz Parker as she put the finishing touches on the strawberry pies she’d brought for dessert. Nicholas adored the look of deep concentration that stole over her face as she applied the Ready Whip to the top of each pie. Liz was such a perfectionist. He liked that about her. He also liked the way she seemed so determined to be prepared for any situation. Liz was always armed with her cell phone for emergency calls. She kept a pen and a piece of paper in her purse. Liz had even brought an extra can of whipped cream when one would have been enough.
“Two cans of whipped cream,” Nicholas teased in his thickest accent. “You decadent Americans and your excess.”
“Well, you know . . . this isn’t all for the strawberry pies,” Liz said with suggestive look in her eyes.
“It’s not?” Nicholas leaned in closer. He knew in his heart that Liz only thought of him as a friend, but he loved flirting with her. So he flirted. He flirted and pretended. Nicholas pretended that he was a normal teenager. He pretended that Liz was over Max Evans. Nicholas would pretend now and count the cost later.
“No,” Liz answered. She was the picture of innocence. “It’s also for this.” Liz quickly pointed the Ready Whip spout close to Nicholas’ nose, foamed him and dashed. Nicholas grabbed the other can and took off in hot pursuit. Liz didn’t get very far. Soon Nicholas was grabbing her waist from behind and spraying her with whipped cream. Liz shrieked and they both laughed like children. Nicholas had never been so happy before in his life. He was holding Liz Parker in his arms and she was laughing. She was smiling. He wanted to record this moment forever.
“Alex, take a picture.” With his Ready Whip hand, Nicholas gestured to the camera on the picnic table.
“No! No!” Liz gasped between giggles.
Max woke up in a cold sweat. He was shaking. * Deep breaths * he thought to himself. * Deep breaths. * Max felt panicked. It wasn’t the first dream he’d had about Liz. It wasn’t even the first dream he’d had about Liz involving whipped cream. Why did he feel scared? Max had been happy in the dream. He and Liz were together. Liz was decorating strawberry pies. He adored the look of deep concentration that stole over her face as she applied the Ready Whip to the top of each pie. Liz was such a perfectionist. He loved that about her. They had gotten into a whipped cream fight. Max would have smiled if it weren’t for the adrenaline that was still pumping through his veins. He picked up the phone near his bed and started to dial Liz’s number. He stopped when he noticed the time on the alarm clock. It was the middle of the night. Max took another deep breath and felt his anxiety begin to subside. He could wait until tomorrow. Tomorrow he was going home.
Unfortunately, Max Evans didn’t quite receive the welcome home he had anticipated.
“It’s too bad we can’t spend more time together, but I totally understand. You must have lot to do. After all, tomorrow’s the first day of school. That doesn’t give you much time to get settled. I’m just glad I got the chance to welcome you home. I really missed you, Max,” Tess chirped from the rear of the Jeep. Isabel was glad to be driving. Tess couldn’t see Isabel’s face from the backseat. A blonde ponytail blowing in the wind would never reveal that Isabel was choking down laughter. Max, on the other hand, was sitting in the front passenger seat.
“Thanks a lot,” Max replied as he threw a meaningful glance at his sister. Isabel silently answered her brother with an exasperated look of apology. Poor Max. Isabel really shouldn’t have agreed to let Tess come to the airport. There just didn’t seem to be any other choice. Mr. and Mrs. Evans were attending a christening, Michael was working and for some reason Isabel didn’t want to face Max alone. Actually, Isabel knew the reason. She felt guilty. Although she loved her brother dearly, Isabel hadn’t missed him much during the past few weeks. She’d been having too much fun with Alex, Liz, Maria, Michael and Nicholas. There had been no talk of orbs, shape shifting aliens or impossibly weighty destinies. They were just six friends. Once in awhile, Isabel had even caught herself feeling something close to happiness. At those moments, Isabel had reminded herself that it wouldn’t last. Sooner or later fate would catch up with them. Occasionally, Isabel had forced herself to hang out with Tess, but spending time with Tess now left Isabel feeling vaguely tired. Isabel pulled into the Harding driveway and waited for Tess to get out of the car.
“ . . Anyway, Max, I sense that you’re still not ready to accept our destiny. That’ s okay. I can give you all the time you need because I know that eventually you’ll realize that we were meant to be together . . .” Max continued to tune Tess out until suddenly she said something that caught his attention. “Even Liz has moved on.” Max felt his heart freeze and the coldness of it seemed to spread to the pit of his stomach.
“Liz is dating?” Max spit out the words the same way a boxer might spit out blood after receiving a particularly nasty punch. The question was clearly directed at Isabel. He trusted his sister to respond honestly.
“No. Not exactly.” Isabel answered while turning to glare at Tess. “We’ll see you tomorrow, Tess.”
“Okay. See you later, Max.” Tess hopped out of the car. She couldn’t help grinning as she watched Max and Isabel drive away. Tess didn’t particularly like the new exchange student, but she was very grateful to him.
* * * * *
“Max, I’m sorry about that. I never should have let Tess--”
“What do you mean ‘ not exactly’? ” Max interrupted. “Is she . . . is she seeing someone?” He couldn’t believe it. The thought had never crossed his mind that Liz might find someone else while he was gone. They shared the same quiet soul and Max knew that he wouldn’t be able to live without her indefinitely.
“The Whitmen’s have this exchange student from the Ukraine. His name is Nicholas. They’ve been spending a lot of time together. We’ve all been spending a lot of time together. You know, just hanging out. It’s not a big deal.” Isabel glanced at her brother. Max’s jaw was clenched. This was not going to be pretty.
“I go away for a few months and you guys start living it up with some stranger?” Isabel wasn’t offended. She understood that this remark wasn’t really meant for her. She could almost see the jealousy pulsing through her brother’s veins and it scared her.
“I would hardly call a few movies and a barbecue ‘living it up.’” When Max didn’t respond, Isabel added, “Nicholas and Liz are just friends. She’s still in love with you, Max.” Max’s jaw relaxed slightly at his sister’s reassurance, but he still needed to see Liz. He needed to look into her eyes. He needed to touch her.
“Drop me off at the Crashdown, Is.”
“I have to see her.” Isabel might have been able to argue against the words, but the tone of his voice left no room for debate. Isabel made a left turn and started heading toward the Crashdown Café.
Things were pretty quiet at the Crashdown Cafe. The lunch rush had ended about an hour ago and the few people who had trickled in afterwards were now gone. Michael Guerin finally had a moment to think and he was using that moment to contemplate his undeniable attraction to Maria Deluca. He watched Maria as she put away menus, bused tables and wiped down the counter. Michael was beginning to feel a little like Max or Nicholas when all of sudden, Maria threw down her wash rag and looked straight into his eyes. “What? Are you like…mentally constipated or something?” she asked.
“Talk about a mood breaker.” Michael quipped. Maria’s reply was cut short by a third voice.
“Hey, guys, is Liz around?” Max Evans had just entered the Crashdown and he looked like a man on a mission. Welcome homes would definitely have to wait. Max immediately walked towards the rear of the restaurant when Maria indicated that Liz was in the back room.
“Yeah, nice seeing you again too, Maxwell!” Michael called after him. Michael turned to Maria as Max disappeared through the door that led to the back. “So… do you think we should have warned her?” Maria shook her head slowly.
“Trust me. She’s been preparing for this day ever since Max left for Florida.”
* * * * *
Max walked through the door to the backroom and suddenly she was there. Liz had been putting something in her locker. He’d obviously startled her. Max heard her whisper his name and now they were just looking at each other. What should he say? Max had spent most of the summer thinking about Liz and what he would say to her when he saw her again. Unfortunately, all of his practiced speeches had completely left his head and all he could do was stare. She was so beautiful. She was even more beautiful than he remembered. He took in all the little changes that had taken place during his absence and committed them to his memory. Her hair was about an inch shorter, her skin was golden from the summer sun, she had lost a little weight…and yet, she was still perfect. Every incarnation of Liz was perfect to Max. The eight year old Liz in her blue dress, Liz at twelve—her chin length hair in tight perm curls, fourteen year old Liz with her braces…He remembered them all and they were all perfect. He supposed it was because the thing that he loved most about her always stayed the same. Her soul never changed. “Hey,” he said finally.
“Hey” Liz replied. Liz was staring and she knew it, but she couldn’t make herself look away. She had almost forgotten how handsome he was. She had almost forgotten how much she loved him. Liz had convinced herself that she was getting over him. Liz had gone out with her friends, she had laughed and she had smiled. It was remarkable really. Her friendship with Nicholas had eased the profound loneliness that Liz had felt ever since she’d heard the message from the orb. Liz had started to believe that she could get back to the Liz Parker that existed before the day of the shooting. Seeing Max again reminded her that the pre-shooting Liz Parker hadn’t really been alive. Liz had started living the first time she looked into Max Evan’s soul. Now Liz was only truly alive when she was in Max’s presence. It was a blessing and a curse. Liz prayed that at least a little piece of herself would survive this.
“I missed you, Liz,” he started again. Max took a step toward her. Liz took a step back. His heart began to ache with disappointment.
“Nothing’s changed, Max.” Liz looked away from Max for the first time since he entered the room.
“Your right. Nothing’s changed. I still love you. I’ll always love you, Liz.” When Liz turned back to face Max, she found that he was much closer to her. If she reached out, she’d be able to touch him. Liz folded her arms. She needed protection from Max. She needed protection from herself. Max could tell from Liz’s body language that she was ready to do battle. So be it. Max took a deep breath and readied himself for the first round.
“I know you believe that now, but we’re only seventeen. We still have a lot to learn about ourselves…”
“Now you sound like our parents,” Max said lightly. He looked into her eyes and used a half-smile to punctuate his comment. *No. Not the half-smile, * Liz thought to herself. Liz took a deep breath as well before using her worst fears for fortification. Max was just starting to congratulate himself on the softening in Liz’s eyes, when suddenly he noticed her countenance darken. He had seriously miscalculated.
“Go ahead and laugh, Max, but we both know that there’s a whole side of you that you’ve barely begun to explore…and you have no idea where it may lead you…” Max looked into her eyes and guessed at her thoughts.
“And you think it’s going to lead me to Tess.” Max’s jaw tightened. Didn’t she understand how much he loved her? He’d never choose anyone or anything over Liz.
“Maybe.” Just the thought of Max and Tess together made Liz feel sick. She fought the tears that began to prick at her eyes. The time for tears was past. Liz had to be strong now. She had to be honest with both herself and Max. She had to say the things that neither of them wanted to hear out loud.
“Max, you were married to her. Tess was your bride. We both have to face that and we better face it now before…”
“We’ve both been terrified of your alien side, Max. Ever since Tess came to town...ever since you kissed her” Liz saw that Max was going to interrupt. “I know. I know. It was mind control, but still…Max, I was so scared…You know, after we heard the message from your mother…there was a moment when I thought you were going to choose Tess and I just…I felt like I was dying. I wasn’t being totally unselfish when I walked away from you, Max. A part of me needed to walk away from you before you walked away from me. I was so scared that the more you started to learn about your alien past, the more drawn you’d be to Tess. I couldn’t stand it, Max.” Max saw the truth in her eyes and began to tremble. *A part of me needed to walk away from you before you walked away from me. * He knew exactly how Liz had felt. He had once walked away from her for the very same reason. Max had to reassure her.
“Liz, I would never walk away from you again. I’d give it all up for you if you asked me to. I…I don’t want to find out more about my alien side if it means I can’t be with you.” Liz sighed as she stepped closer to Max.
“But, Max, don’t you see…that’s part of my point. You NEED to find out about your alien side. There could be people—other aliens—out there who want to hurt you, Max. You have to protect yourself. You have to find out more about your powers…and you can’t be worried about how it’s going to affect our relationship. I want you to have that freedom, Max.” Max couldn’t stop himself from gripping Liz’s upper arms.
“Liz, I can learn more about my powers, I can work to free my people, but I CAN’T GIVE YOU UP! Don’t you understand that?” It took all of Liz’s strength to get her next words out.
“Max, we can’t be together.” Max felt desperate. He was losing her again and there seemed to be nothing he could say to stop it. He thought back to the years that he had spent watching Liz from a distance and Max knew that he could never go back to loving her from afar. He had learned too much in the past year. Max knew how it felt to hold her now. He knew how it felt to kiss her. Max knew that Liz Parker loved him in return and he knew that she wanted him. There no was turning back. He’d fight dirty if he had to….
“Liz…” Liz felt her heartbeat accelerate at the huskiness in his voice. The look in his eyes made her swallow hard. Max pulled Liz into his arms and kissed her with all the hunger in his soul. He willed her to feel all of the desire that they had never had the chance to completely fulfill. Liz felt everything that Max wanted her to feel and she was lost. Her mouth opened under his, her arms twined around his neck and she kissed him back. Max felt her response and it drove him wild. One of his hands rushed up and down her back bringing her body closer to his. His other hand came up to stroke the back of her neck. Max felt euphoric at the feel of her. His Liz. His Liz. The words continued to run through his mind and his heart filled with tenderness for her. Max softened the kiss. He loved her so much. Max wanted Liz to choose him more out of love than desire. He wanted her to choose faith over fear. Damn! He’d have to let her go, at least for now. He’d use desire to get Liz back if it came down to that, but he wanted to at least give her the opportunity to choose him out of love. Max reluctantly pulled away. “ I just wanted you to remember.” Max whispered gently. He pressed his mouth against hers again. This time their lips met in the briefest hint of a kiss that somehow communicated a wealth of love and longing. “We’re not over yet, Liz. We’ll never be over.” Max stepped away from her and turned to leave. He was gone by the time Liz’s brain was functioning well enough to form a denial.
* * * * * * * *
Later that evening….
“ Take care of yourself, Katya. Better yet. Tell that husband of yours to take care of you or else I’ll kick his butt when I get home. . . Yeah, give my regards to the others. . . I love you too,” the young man said in Russian before hanging up the pay phone. He glanced around quickly, then crossed the street to make his way back to the Whitmen house. It was a nice night for a walk.
Nicholas Dimitriev looked up at the clear sky and wished on a star. He had to laugh at himself a moment later. When had he become so whimsical? Nicholas immediately knew the answer. It was the moment he’d first seen Liz Parker. Nicholas sighed. What would Katya say if she knew about Liz? * Katya would definitely be worried, * Nicholas decided. Nicholas could picture Katya telling him that it was wrong to get so involved. After all, Nicholas would be leaving Roswell to go home someday. He could imagine his brother-in-law agreeing wholeheartedly. Little did they know it was too late. Nicholas had already let Liz fill that lonely part of his soul that no one else knew about. Nicholas had wished that this golden summer could go on forever. In reality, it was already over. Tomorrow was the first day of school and Max Evans was back in Roswell.
“It’s the first day of school and already the rumor mills are running. So tell me, Liz. How does it feel to once again be a hot topic of conversation at West Roswell High?” Liz Parker closed her locker door and turned to her best friend in disbelief.
“Ugh! Please don’t tell me that people are still speculating about the Parker-Evans break-up.” Maria sighed and shook her head as the two of them proceeded to walk down the hallway.
“No, sweetie. You and Max are the only ones still obsessing over that one.” Liz blushed slightly. Her one-track mind was definitely showing. Liz felt even more fixated on Max than usual. She couldn’t stop thinking about him and their kiss…*Don’t go there, Liz. Focus. Maria was saying something. What was it? Gossip. Right. *
“Well, then…What are people talking about?” Liz asked.
“Do the words tall, dark and Ukrainian mean anything to you?”
“You’ve got to be kidding. Things must be pretty slow in Roswell if that’s all people have to talk about these days. I mean, it should be obvious…Nicholas and I are just friends.” Maria glanced at Liz. Self-deception was never good.
“Okay. I’m just going to wait here until you get back from the land of denial.” Maria said as she stopped walking to emphasize her point. “Liz, the only thing obvious about you and Nicholas is that he’s got a major crush on you. He could melt all the ice in Siberia with the looks he’s been sending your way.” Liz smiled.
“You’ve got it all wrong, Maria. I mean, yeah. I used to think he stared at me a little, but I think it’s just a Ukrainian thing. You know. Like a cultural difference.” Liz knew that she was reaching, but she didn’t care. She needed Nicholas as a friend. Something about him was so comforting and Liz knew that she needed all the support she could get. Liz started to walk down the hall again leaving Maria to stare after her.
“A Ukrainian thing?”
Max Evans was in a good mood. After the sensational kiss he had shared with Liz the other day, Max had every reason to believe that he’d be able to win her back. He would be persistent and charming and sooner or later—hopefully sooner—Liz would be his once more. First period had been uneventful, but Max felt a slight rush of adrenaline as he made his way to his next class. Second period he had Chemistry with Liz Parker.
Liz Parker was conflicted. She was simultaneously anticipating and dreading her second period class. Liz knew that Max would be taking Chemistry with Mr. Cooper as well. Half of Liz’s heart couldn’t wait to see Max. The other half was afraid of being broken all over again.
Nicholas Dimitriev felt prepared. He had second period Chemistry with both Liz Parker and Max Evans. Nicholas only hoped that Liz wouldn’t prove too distracting. It was time to focus on the mission. Nicholas sighed. Who was he kidding? Things were about to get interesting.
“Hey, Max, is this seat taken?” Before Max could protest, Tess Harding sat down at his lab table.
“Well…Actually, Tess, I was kind of hoping to be Liz’s lab partner this year. So if you don’t mind…”
“It looks like Liz already has a partner to me.” Tess said. Max looked up to see Liz standing in the doorway with a slightly stunned expression on her face. A tall, dark-haired boy stood just behind her.
* So that’s Max Evans, * Nicholas thought to himself as he watched the dark-haired boy stare at Liz. Nicholas studied Max closely. *And he loves her too. * Nicholas stepped closer to Liz and his jaw tightened when he saw the way she was staring back at Max. However, his initial pang of jealousy was tempered by the hurt he saw in Liz’ s face. Nicholas gently tapped Liz on the shoulder and led her to a nearby lab table.
Liz felt as if the wind had been knocked out of her. Seeing Max and Tess together felt like a kick in the stomach. * Well. . .what did you expect? You left him so that he could be with Tess, didn’t you? * Liz took a deep breath. This was definitely not the time for tears. At that moment Liz felt a large warm hand settle over her small cold hand and it gave her strength. Liz glanced over at Nicholas and smiled at him in gratitude.
Max couldn’t believe what he had just witnessed. His Liz had smiled at someone else and that someone was now holding her hand. Who was this guy? Max had to put an end to this right now. He stood up.
“Yes, Mr. Evans…” Max turned to the front of the room and found Mr. Cooper addressing him. Max had been so focused on Liz that he hadn’t even noticed that the class had begun.
“Ummm…Can I get a bathroom pass?” Max asked. The teacher nodded and held out the pass to Max. Before Max left the room he took one last look at Liz and the boy who sat next to her. A brief flash of Max and Liz sitting in a movie theater filled Max’s mind. A shiver ran down Max Evans’ spine as he walked out the door.
Max Evans sat in the empty classroom and tried to sort out his thoughts. Max liked to be in control. Unfortunately, he felt hopelessly out of control at the moment and he wasn’t sure what to do about it. Max was caught up in an emotional cyclone that revolved around Liz Parker and the exchange student known as Nicholas Dimitriev. He had watched them both throughout second period Chemisty and what he saw alarmed him. There was a bond between Liz and Nicholas. Max wanted to deny it with every fiber of his being, but he couldn’t. He’d seen it with his own eyes. Max knew Liz better than he knew himself. He had spent his entire life watching her. He could see that she felt close to Nicholas and he shuddered to think where those feelings might lead. It was ironic. Liz was terrified that Max would develop such strong feelings for Tess that he would eventually choose Tess over Liz, yet Max knew in his soul that he would never feel even a tenth of the tenderness for Tess that Liz felt for Nicholas. Now Max was terrified as well. *Liz loves me and I love her, * Max tried to reassure himself, but he couldn’t stop another thought from sneaking through his mind. * He loves her too. * Max needed to talk to Liz. He had tried to catch Liz after class, but she had bolted out of the room as soon as the bell had rung. By the time Max had pushed his way through the other students to get out the door, Liz had disappeared down the hallway. No doubt Nicholas had been trailing after her. Nicholas. Max grimaced. Who was he? It bothered Max that Liz and the others, had befriended Nicholas so easily. What did they really know about him? Max thought about his flash. Could it have had something to do with Nicholas? Max had sensed a weird energy in the room, but he had been so focused on Liz…
“Max, I’ve been looking all over for you.” The high-pitched voice jarred Max out of his thoughts. Max looked up to find Tess Harding walking towards him. She had a predatory gleam in her eye that made Max shake his head in irritation. He didn’t really want to deal with this right now. Max felt a tug in his mind and his irritation quickly developed into anger.
“Stop it, Tess. You know that doesn’t work anymore.” There was a deadly calmness in Max’s voice. Further mind manipulations would not be tolerated. Tess sighed in frustration.
“It would if you would just open yourself up to it. It’s our destiny, Max. Why don’t you just let yourself feel all of the things you’re supposed to feel?”
“Because those aren’t the things I’m supposed to feel, Tess. In fact, feelings aren’t involved at all. You try to plant these images in my head…you try to make me touch you because you think I’ll feel something for you…It’s not going to work, Tess. I don’t feel anything for you. I’m meant to be with, Liz. I’m in love with Liz.”
“Look, Max. I’ll admit that I forced visions on you in the past and that I used my powers to make you kiss me. I’ll even admit that I gave Isabel a flash about Michael, but you know the dreams that they were having? Those dreams were real, Max. I had nothing to do with them. Michael and Isabel had those dreams because they were destined to be together. Just like you and I are destined to be together. I’ve tried to be patient. I thought I could wait, but now…” Tess thought about the way Max had spent all of second period staring at Liz Parker. “Liz has let it go. Why can’t you? It’s time for you to accept the truth, Max.” Tess’ allusion to Liz and Nicholas only fueled Max’s anger.
“No, it’s time for you to accept the truth, Tess. You and I are NEVER going to be together!” Tess looked into Max’s eyes and saw that he meant it. In that instant, Tess also saw all of her plans for the future crumble. “I’m sorry, Tess.” Max said in a softer voice. “I just want you to know where I stand.” Max picked up his books and left the room. Tess looked as if she could use some time to herself and Max had bigger fish to fry.
“ …..so anyway, I think that there’s something going on with this…this exchange student,” Max said. Michael and Isabel exchanged a look at Max’s comment. They both knew that Max would be jealous of Nicholas because of Nicholas’ friendship with Liz, but neither of them suspected that Max’s jealousy would transform into paranoia.
“Okay, look, Maxwell. . . I know that you don’t like the idea of another guy lighting Liz’s Bunsen burner, but that doesn’t mean that Nicholas is out to get us.” Michael replied while Isabel took another bite from her pizza.
“I got a flash when I left the room.” Max stated. He needed Michael and Isabel to take this conversation seriously.
“What? Why didn’t you say something sooner? What did you see?” Max hesitated.
“Max, what did you see?” Isabel repeated Michael’s question and looked at her brother expectantly. Max sighed. Somehow he didn’t think this was going to help his case.
“I saw Liz and I sitting in a movie theater.” Max felt ridiculous saying it out loud.
“You and Liz sitting in a movie theater….” Michael repeated. Isabel refrained from commenting and simply rolled her eyes. Max was so in love with Liz it was embarrassing sometimes.
“Yeah, that’s what I said.”
“Well, yeah, but it was very weird. I mean…After I had the vision I felt very weird…like something about the vision wasn’t right.”
“Like what? No Milk Duds?” Michael’s remark made Isabel smile and Max frown.
“This is serious, Michael--” Isabel decided it was time to play peacemaker.
“Max, we don’t mean to give you a hard time. It’s just that…Michael and I have spent the past few weeks hanging out with Nicholas and it’s hard for us to believe that he’s dangerous. We know that you’re upset about the whole Liz thing, but—“
“What’s wrong with you guys? Listen to yourselves. You’ve known Nicholas for a few weeks and all of the sudden he’s above reproach. Whatever happened to ‘trust no one.’? Think about it.” Max got up from the table. As he started to walk away from his sister and his best friend, Max had the uncomfortable feeling Nicholas had invaded his life in more ways than one.
Mrs. Healy was letting them go fifteen minutes early. Liz Parker thanked God that teachers tended to be lenient on the first day of school. After second period, Liz had drifted from class to class barely hearing a word that any of her teachers had said. All of her thoughts had been centered on one person. Max Evans. Every moment of their relationship played over and over in her mind like an endlessly repeating film. Liz was surprised when the incarnation of her thoughts materialized before her as she stepped out into the hallway.
“Max?” Max blushed slightly at Liz’s stunned expression. Max had grilled Maria for Liz’s schedule, then he had skipped his last class so that he could wait outside Mrs. Healy’s room for Liz. His lunchtime discussion with Isabel and Michael had left Max feeling like a jealous lunatic. Now he felt like a stalker.
“I have to talk to you, Liz.”
“I don’t think that’s such a—“
“Please,” Max interrupted. Liz looked up into Max’s face and his earnest expression weakened her resolve.
“Okay.” Max sighed in relief and led Liz down the hall.
“Let’s go in there.” Max motioned to a door on the right. Liz hesitated for a moment before reluctantly following Max into the Eraser Room. Max locked the door behind them, then turned to Liz. He had honestly brought Liz here so that they could talk in private, but as he looked at her now the only thing he wanted to do was hold her. He just wanted to hold her. Max shook his head to clear it. He needed to get this right. Max needed to make her understand. More than anything he needed for Liz to come back to him. “I’ve been thinking a lot about what you said…” Liz felt her heart begin to sink as she thought about seeing Max and Tess in Chemistry.
“Umm…You really don’t have to discuss this with me. I think it’s great that you’ve finally decided to follow your destiny,” Liz lied. It wasn’t great. It was awful. The world was ending. It didn’t matter that she’d brought it on herself. People with broken hearts were allowed to be irrational.
“What?” After a moment, Max realized that Liz thought that he had decided to be with Tess. “No. . .no, Liz. I’m not with her. She just sat down…Look, I spoke with her after second period. I told her that I could never love anyone but you. I’ve told her that before but I think she really believes me now. I think she finally understands that she and I will never be together. And we won’t, Liz. I could never be with anyone but you.” Liz couldn’t stop the rush of joy that filled her heart at his words. Then, the logical voice in her head began to stifle her happiness. *Nothing’s changed * it said. *He could still be drawn to her in the future. * Max stepped closer to her. “It’s scary you know . . .to love someone as much as I love you. I mean. . .there aren’t any guarantees. You left me once and you could do it again. You could get scared and decide you want a normal life. Even so, I want to try, Liz. I need to try because loving you is the most important thing I’ve ever done in my life.” Liz looked into Max’s eyes and felt mesmerized. Max reached up to gently caress her cheek. “Have some faith, Liz.” Maybe Max was right. No relationship was guaranteed to work out. Max and Liz were in love and that had to count for something. Liz was about to give in when the logical voice came back.
“But you’re the leader of your people. I would only get in the way.”
“I’m no good to anyone without you, Liz. I can’t think straight. All I can concentrate on is how much I miss you. . .” Max’s hand moved down Liz’s cheek and came rest on the back of her neck. Liz’s breathe seemed to leave her body as Max moved in closer. “and how it would kill me if you fell in love with someone else,” Max whispered. The vision of Liz and Nicholas holding hands still haunted him. Liz knew immediately that Max was thinking of Nicholas and it made her heart ache. She usually enjoyed signs of Max’s jealous streak, but she couldn’t rejoice in his possessiveness when he sounded so scared. His vulnerability reminded Liz too much of her own insecurities. Liz didn’t want Max to feel threatened in that way. She loved him too much. Liz was about to deny that she felt anything for Nicholas, but she stopped herself when she realized that that wasn’t entirely true. Nicholas was her friend and he had become dear to her over the past few weeks. Liz looked up at Max and said the one thing that she knew WAS true.
“Whatever happens… I just want you to know that…I could never love anyone the way that I love you.” Hope spread throughout Max’s soul and he did what he’d been longing to do all day. Max took the girl that he loved into his arms and kissed her gently on the lips. Her mouth was so soft and sweet that he knew he would have to kiss her again. And he did.
One kiss drifted into another and he was content. He loved just holding her in his arms while his mouth played against hers. He liked pulling back to look deeply into her eyes before their mouths met once again for another round of slow, lazy kisses. She had the most beautiful eyes in the world and her lips . . .
The final bell brought Nicholas Dimitriev out of his daydream. Class was over and he’d made it through his first day at West Roswell High. True. He had spent most of his day thinking about Liz rather than Max Evans, but who could blame him? Hmmm…How to get back to his locker from here? Maybe if he took the hallway to the left it would lead him to the south corridor. Suddenly, Nicholas was overwhelmed with a sense of déjà vu. In his daydream, Nicholas had walked down this very hall with Liz. Then, Nicholas saw it. It was the door that led to the room where he had been kissing Liz in his dream. Had it been a premonition? The Teachers had said that he may have been gifted with that power. His heart did a little dance at the thought of kissing Liz in reality. What was this room? Would it look the same inside as it did in his dream? Nicholas tried the doorknob. It was locked. He looked up and down the hallway. No one was around. Nicholas unlocked the door and opened it.
Andre Yurichenko crept quietly into his room and changed into his pajama bottoms. It had been a long day of training. He silently got into bed. In the moonlight he could see could see his beautiful, young wife sleeping peacefully. Her brow was smooth, her eyes were closed and her lips were slightly turned up at the ends. . .
“Faker.” Andre said sternly. “You should be sleeping, Katya. It’s after midnight.”
“I wanted to kiss you goodnight.” Katya replied as she leaned up to give her husband a quick kiss. Despite her playful attitude, Andre could sense the underlying tension in Katya’s body.
“You are worried about Nikolai, aren’t you?” Andre took his wife in his arms and stroked her long, dark hair. He loved to feel her small ear pressed against his bare chest. He wondered if she could hear his heart beating for her.
“What if it’s a trap?” she whispered.
“Nikolai is a big boy. He can take care of himself. Besides, it doesn’t seem like a trap. The last time I spoke to Nikolai he sounded as if he thought he’d found them.”
“But it might not be them. After all. . .Nikolai thinks that Michael is in love with a human. A human! Can you imagine?” Katya leaned back slightly and stared up at her husband. She tried to read his eyes in the darkness. Could he imagine such a thing? Andre could see where this was leading and he decided to put an end to it right away.
“I can’t speak for Michael, but I know that I could never love anyone but you.” Andre held his wife closer to him and kissed the top of her head to emphasize his point. Katya and their unborn child were his life. Katya smiled because she could hear the truth in Andre’s voice. They were very lucky to have fallen in love. She knew that her brother had not been as fortunate. Nikolai hadn’t asked about Elena once in the month that he’d been in America. In fact, Katya suspected that Nikolai was relieved to get away from his betrothed. Katya hoped that Nikolai and Elena would grow closer after their marriage, but secretly she worried that Nikolai would never know what it was like to be in love. She would have worried even more had she known the truth. Nikolai was very much in love. He was in love with a human named Liz Parker.
Preview of Part Nine
“I love you, Liz Parker,” Max whispered just before his lips began to wander aimlessly about Liz’s face. She was so warm and smooth. He could spend hours just rubbing his lips against her skin. God, he wanted that. He wanted her. Forever.
Liz pressed her body closer to Max. He felt so solid and warm and his lips were driving her crazy. Max’s lips were soft yet firm. They were traveling across her face and down her neck. She wanted him. Liz was about to give in completely when suddenly light from the hallway flooded into the Eraser Room. Max and Liz pulled away from each other hurriedly. Liz looked over and saw Nicholas standing in the doorway with his mouth gaping.
Nicholas wasn’t sure what he would find when he opened this door, but he certainly didn’t expect to see Max Evans living out Nicholas’ very own daydream.
Max’s jaw tightened when he saw the identity of the intruder. His arms automatically encircled Liz and pulled her to him.
“Nicholas…” Liz didn’t quite know what to say. Hearing Liz’s voice brought Nicholas back to the reality and awkwardness of the situation.
“Sorry.” It was all that Nicholas could say. It was all that Nicholas could think before his mind started racing. He backed away from the door and took off down the hallway.