posted on 15-Nov-2001 9:37:36 AM
Title: Dreamer Holiday Series: Thanksgiving

Author: Carol (spacemom)

Rating: All over the place, including NC17

Setting: 6 years after the end of Epiphanies 3 (but that's barely relevant)

Disclaimer: I own everything related to Roswell. I bought it this morning. That includes rights to the fictional characters (esp. Max) as well as to Jason Behr's wonderful body. I might be willing to rent out the others from time to time, but don't even ASK about JB. Meanwhile, I have fired ALL the writers and am now taking applications from this board for staff writers. Several of you already have a definite leg up!
(Okay, for legal reasons, I should admit that the above is a lie, and I don't own anything, but this is a FIC board, right?)

Author's note: This is really a stand-alone story, but there are vague references to a couple of EPIPHANIES 3 names, for those who wanted a peek into the future after E3. First, Max's planet's name is VOYA (because we didn't know the name when I started the story!). Also, you will see minor references to Zeval (Michael's sister who came from Voya), Jasar (her friend and the only hybrid raised on Voya), and Josh (another hybrid who arrived on Earth on a separate craft from the royal four). Everything else will be completely familiar.
ALSO, I'm posting this in two consecutive posts in deference to our delicate board. The story is 13 pages, so I'll post two halves.

Thanksgiving

Max took his eyes off the road to glance at Liz. She had been so quiet since they left Albuquerque an hour ago, and he knew she was brooding again. She was trying to block him, knowing that he would just make another vain attempt to console her, but it did no good. She was as much a part of him after all these years as the heart that beat within him. Never in their two years of tumultuous courtship or 6 years of marriage had she been more open to him, and he ached to reassure her. But his words had fallen on her wounded heart like salt in an open wound. Every attempt to pull her close had only served to push her away.

“Liz, honey, are you hungry? We won’t be there for another two hours.”

Liz roused herself from her dark thoughts and smiled weakly. “No, not really, but go ahead and stop if you want something. I brought the Tabasco.” She opened the straw basket at her feet and pulled out a bottle of his favorite condiment, working hard at a teasing tone. “Even Pepe’s Mexican pizza will be edible if you use enough of this.”

Max smiled back, recognizing with a pang how hard she was working just to make casual conversation.

“I don’t need anything yet,” he told her, and his heart sank as he watched her drift once again into the depths of her private thoughts. He could only hope that this Thanksgiving vacation would give her the break she needed from her self-imposed pressure. As soon as they had finished college, she had eagerly embraced the idea of a family. She said the greatest thing she could do for Max was give him children, and that their children would be a blessing to them and to the planet. But over two years had gone by, and even the fertility counseling available through the network of hybrids they had discovered had not brought them a child. Nothing Max did or said could convince Liz that she was enough for him, that she was his reason for living, his purpose for being on Earth.

They were headed first for the Mescalero reservation. It had become almost a tradition for them to take Thanksgiving week off and head for home. Their first year back, they had indulged a whim and stopped at the reservation to visit the cave where their first clue as to Max’s identity had been revealed. It had beckoned to Max since the first time he’d seen it, and now he found comfort in its familiar message, long since decoded with the help of Zeval and Jasar. Seeing his family tree and bits of Voyan history carved into stone in an ancient language centered him and filled him with a peace he usually only found in Liz’s arms—a sense of belonging, a sense of balance.

During that first visit, River Dog had surprised them in the cave, and the dialogue that began that day had evolved into a deep and trusting friendship. Now they both saw River Dog as a link between an Anasazi/alien ancestry and their duplicitous lives on Earth, where Max taught political science in his earthly identity and led the Voyan alliance in their evolution toward Democracy in his hidden alien life. Liz’s work toward her doctorate in microbiology had become secondary to her quest to bear a child, and Max had felt their tender, loving moments take on a sense of urgency as the months passed. It was eating away at his beautiful wife, and Max felt every heartbreaking moment of it.

Now, driving toward the solace of three peaceful days with River Dog, Eddie and his wife Carmella, and the isolation of the reservation, Max prayed that Liz could relax and find herself again. Somehow she had taken on all the responsibility for their failure to conceive, and in her effort to spare him, she had become withdrawn and quiet. He missed her desperately.

Reaching out to stroke her cheek, he cringed when she jumped at his touch. Her eyes turned immediately apologetic.

“I’m sorry, Max. I was lost in thought. Do you want me to drive for a while?”

“No, love, I want you to talk to me. Tell me what you’re thinking. The silence is killing me.”

“Sure, we can talk. I was thinking we should take the twins something, don’t you think? What about those wooden toys Eddie’s cousin sells at the reservation? Maria always likes those Native American crafts. Maybe dreamcatchers for over their cribs.”

Babies. Suddenly that’s all there was in her world. The birth of Michael’s and Maria’s twins had only added to Liz’s sense of desperation about having a baby. “Sounds fine, Liz. We’ll see what’s available when we get there.” More silence. “Hey, did you finish that chapter of your dissertation you’ve been working on?”

“No, not yet. I can’t seem to focus on it. Somehow the mutation of that one virus isn’t holding my interest.” Silence. “Mind if I take a nap?”

Max suppressed a sigh. “Of course not. Here, use my lap.” At least he could touch her that way. Maybe he could calm her through sheer force of will. She snuggled down on the seat, resting her head on his powerful thigh. He slid his hand through her hair and moved down her arm in long, slow, soothing strokes. Soon her breathing evened out, and Max bit back tears as he absorbed her pain.

********

The curvy road leading to Eddie’s home woke Liz, and she straightened up to look out the window. Her eyes lit up at the beautiful scenery, and she turned to Max with a genuine smile. That smile drove straight into Max’s heart, and he returned it with one of his own. Liz’s sleepy eyes, mussed hair, and rosy cheeks, combined with the best smile he’d seen in weeks lightened Max’s mood, and he almost laughed out loud. Instead, he pulled off the road, and when Liz turned a questioning look to him, he swept her into a spontaneous hug. Feeding off of his lightheartedness, she returned the hug, and threw in a nibble on his ear for good measure. He countered by sucking gently at her neck and soon they were wrapped up in each other, struggling to maneuver in the confines of the small car.

Laughing, they pulled apart. “We don’t seem to bend quite as easily as we used to,” Max chuckled.

“Speak for yourself,” Liz huffed, a sparkle in her eye. “My body hasn’t changed since I was in high school!” Then the mood disappeared. All the ways she wished her body had changed came barreling back at her, and she shifted into the passenger seat once again. “We’d better get going. Eddie and Carmella are waiting for us.”

The weight settled back on Max’s heart and he put the car in gear. Within minutes, Eddie’s new home was visible on a bluff overlooking a small valley. They could see his old pick-up sitting beside Carmella’s new Saturn and knew their old friends were watching for them. They were never sure how much Eddie knew about Max. River Dog knew, of course. In fact, they had learned over the years that he knew quite a bit more than he had let on at first. But Eddie never asked questions, so either River Dog had never told him or he was willing to let Max decide how much to share. In any case, he had always made them feel more than welcome, and they had learned to value his friendship.

As they pulled into the long dirt driveway, Eddie walked through the front door, waving a welcome. Max and Liz stretched their muscles and headed toward him with a smile.

“It’s about time!” Eddie complained. “Carmella has made lunch. I hope you haven’t eaten.”

“Nope, and I’m starved,” Max grinned and wrapped his friend into a quick hug.

Then Eddie turned his attention to Liz. She looked tired, her eyes dull. With a quick glance at Max, he swept her into a bear hug, lifting her feet off the ground and twirling her in circles. “Carmella can’t wait to see you. She says she needs a woman to talk to sometimes, and I just don’t qualify.”

He was gratified to see a sincere smile grace Liz’s face, and the three chatted easily as they walked into the house.

“Carmella’s in the kitchen, Liz. She’s getting the drinks on the table. I’m supposed to grab a couple extra chairs. Go on in.”

Liz walked to the back of the house where the kitchen overlooked the valley. Sun streamed through the windows and lifted Liz’s spirits once again.

“Carmella?” she called. She saw her friend bending over the dishwasher.

“Liz!” she cried happily, and turned to greet her friend. Her smile turned to laughter, though, when she saw Liz’s face. Liz was staring in shock at Carmella, or rather, at Carmella’s abdomen, which was distended by what looked to be a pregnancy of seven or eight months.

“Surprise!” Carmella beamed. “I wouldn’t let Eddie tell you. I wanted to surprise you! Meet Jeremy. He’s due to arrive in about six weeks! I’ve been dying for you to get here. I want you to see what we have planned for the nursery, and you have to settle a color dispute we’re having. We can’t decide . . .”

Her voice trailed off when she realized Liz’s shock hadn’t transformed into the excited response she’d been expecting.

“Liz? Is everything okay? I didn’t think you’d be this surprised.”

Liz shook herself. “No, no! It’s wonderful, Carmella. You must be so happy.” She offered Carmella a quick hug.

“Could I use your bathroom?” She took off like a shot, leaving a confused Carmella in the middle of the kitchen rubbing her belly.

********
Lunch was awkward and the conversation was strained. Eddie and Carmella couldn’t quite keep the confusion off their faces, and Max was working too hard to keep the light banter going. Liz was smiling in all the right places and offering brief comments when appropriate, but it was obvious something was wrong. As soon as they’d finished eating, she excused herself to lie down.

Eddie, Max, and Carmella went to sit on the back porch with its beautiful view. After a moment of silence, Max sighed heavily.

“I guess you’re wondering what’s wrong.”

“Did I do something, Max?” Carmella asked tentatively.

“No, no!” Max assured her. “It’s just that . . .”

A noise from the side of the house caught their attention, and River Dog came around the corner. Max rose to embrace his old friend.

“It’s good to see you, Max,” River Dog rasped, his aging voice matching his aging body.

“You, too,” Max smiled. “Come sit.”

River Dog lowered himself into a chair, took a long look at Max, and asked, “So, what’s wrong?”

Max’s mouth dropped open and Eddie snickered. “You don’t miss a trick, old man.”

“That’s right,” River Dog affirmed calmly. “Now tell me what’s going on.”

Suddenly Max needed to talk. Here in this quiet, beautiful setting among friends who knew him well, Max unburdened himself. He told them how their desire to have children had turned into a pressure-filled quest that was taking a toll on their mental state, their marriage, and, he feared, Liz’s health.

“I love her so much,” he choked out tearfully, “but I can’t help her.”

Carmella was stunned. “Oh my god, Max. I’m so sorry. The last thing in the world she needed was to see me pregnant and excited and asking for her advice. I’m so sorry!”

“Don’t be silly, Carmella. You should be happy and excited. And you had no way of knowing what Liz was going through. I just wish I knew what to do.”

“Well, there will be no more talk of babies while you’re here, I promise,” Eddie told him. “Although we can’t very well hide Carmella’s condition.”

“Nor should you,” Max countered firmly. “Liz and I are both very happy for you. It’s just the timing . . .”

River Dog had sat very still, listening to Max’s grief pour from him.

“When are you going out to the cave, Max?”

Max turned, surprised. It was a rather abrupt change of subject. “Tomorrow, I guess, if Liz is up to it.”

“Yes, make it tomorrow, Max. I’ll meet you there mid-afternoon, if you don’t mind.”

“No, that’s fine,” Max answered, still perplexed by the impression that River Dog felt this was important. “If you don’t mind, I’m going to go check on Liz.” He rose and disappeared into the house.

Eddie eyed River Dog warily. “What was that about?”

River Dog rose. “I’m sorry Carmella. I’ll have to skip dinner, I’m afraid. I have an important errand to run. Oh, and don’t count on Max and Liz for dinner tomorrow night. They . . . have another engagement.”

With that, he descended the stairs and left. Eddie and Carmella looked at each other. “I’ll never understand that crazy old man,” Carmella said, shaking her head. “But for some reason, I trust him.”

Eddie rose to help her up from her chair. “As well you should,” he mumbled under his breath.

********

“You suck!” Michael yelled at the television set as the Arizona Cardinals fumbled the football.

“Michael!” Maria hissed. “You’ll wake Brittany.”

Michael threw her a glare. “Brittany could play football better than that guy,” he complained. But when Maria grinned at him with raised eyebrows, his face relaxed and he walked across the room to take his daughter from her mother. Who would have thought he’d have girls? He always expected sons because, well . . . just because. When his daughters had been born, though, he lost his heart in an instant, and he doted on them to a ridiculous degree. He knew they would hate him when they were teens, because he knew what teen guys were about, and they weren’t coming near his girls.

“I’ll start dinner,” Maria said, smiling at the sight of Michael worshipping his daughter. “Listen for Laura.”

As soon as she left the room, there was a knock at the front door. With one eye on the game, Michael reached to open it, shocked into full attention by the unexpected visitor.

“River Dog!”

River Dog took in the incongruous sight of Michael cradling his tiny daughter with the football game raging in the background and smiled. He had seen the good heart of this man when he was just a boy. He was probably less surprised than anyone when Michael had married his high school sweetheart and settled into family life like a veteran. In truth, it was what he had always wanted—someone to love and care for, a family of his own.

Michael realized they were just standing there staring at each other. “Uh . . . come in,” he offered.

River Dog stepped through the door just as another demanding voice was heard from down the hall. “Sorry,” Michael smiled. “Looks like the other one is ready to get up. What can I do for you?”

“If you don’t mind, may I come with you to see the other baby?”

“Sure, if you want,” Michael shrugged.

He led River Dog down the hall into the nursery, packed solid with two cribs, two small dressers, a rocking chair, and a changing table. Laying Brittany down, Michael reached for Laura and carried her to the changing table. Immediately, Brittany began to cry. Looking exasperated, Michael crooned, “In a minute, Brittany. Your sister needs changing.”

“May I?” asked River Dog, indicating Brittany.

Again, Michael was surprised, and a little guarded. “Have you ever held a baby, River Dog?”

At this, River Dog laughed out loud. “Michael, have you forgotten? I’m the shaman, and the most medically trained person on the reservation. I’ve cared for hundreds of babies.”

Michael looked chagrined. He had forgotten that about River Dog. “Sure, give it a shot.”

As soon as River Dog lifted Brittany from the crib, she quieted, reaching to pull his long gray hair and babbling. Michael smiled. “I guess you do have a way with kids.”

“And a great deal more. Michael, I need the healing stones.”

Michael froze. “What?”

“I need the healing stones and I know you have them.”

“What do you need them for?”

“It’s a private matter, but I promise you, you would approve.”

Michael’s eyes narrowed. “Is someone hurt?”

“No, not in the usual sense.”

“You can’t even use them alone, River Dog. You need an alien.”

“Please trust me, Michael. I have what I need. I will return them to you in two days. Only good will come of it.”

Michael watched Brittany slapping randomly at River Dog’s face. She never let anyone hold her but Maria and Michael, yet she was perfectly at ease with this man. He had shown them where to start their search for their past, and had never failed to help them when he could.

Laying Laura down in her crib again, he crouched next to the diaper pail. Tipping it slightly, he reached under it and pulled a small pouch out from what must have been a false bottom. At the amused look on River Dog’s face, Michael shrugged. “Can you think of anyone who would try to take a diaper pail?”

River Dog laughed, a sound Michael had never heard in all the years he had known him. He couldn’t help but laugh, too, as they returned to the living room, each carrying a baby. Returning Brittany to her father’s empty arm, River Dog stopped briefly.

“You’re doing a good thing, Michael. I’ll have them back in 48 hours.”

Michael nodded, allowing himself to trust for a change.

posted on 15-Nov-2001 9:38:27 AM
********

In spite of what many might have believed, River Dog was among the most progressive people in the community. He believed in many of the old ways and remedies, but he also respected modern medicine, and he had long been aware of the presence of aliens and knew of their powers. He believed that these were all pieces in the great puzzle of life, and he was happy to embrace any and all solutions to problems.

He had grown so fond of Max and Liz over the eight years he’d known them. Suspicious at first, he had been stingy with what he shared with Max. His first strange encounter with aliens had been both good and bad, and he wasn’t sure what to expect from these young aliens. But as he had grown to know Max, he had seen into his heart, had observed the love and devotion he had earned from his young girlfriend, and had come to trust and care for them both. It pained him to see what they were suffering through, and he resolved to do what he could to help them.

As soon as he had returned from Michael’s house, he began his preparations. He brewed an unusual concoction over his campfire, he meditated, and he examined the healing stones. He was pulling out all the stops.

The next afternoon, he arrived at the cave. He’d seen Max’s car down the road and knew that he and Liz were inside.

“Hello?” he shouted into the cave, not wanting to startle them.

“Come in, River Dog,” Max shouted back.

River Dog made his way into the cave to find Max and Liz sitting cross-legged on an open sleeping bag, looking at the symbols on the wall.

“It seems more familiar every time I see it,” Max said out of the blue, “but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to speak or write it as I should. It’s so complicated.”

“Most things worthwhile are,” River Dog told him, and Liz looked up, smiling.

“That’s what my grandmother always said,” she remembered.

“She was wise.” He reached into his pack. “I knew it would be chilly in here,” he continued. “I’ve brought you a hot drink that is a favorite among my people. I don’t think you’ve ever had it before; it takes hours to brew, but I just happened to make some and thought you might enjoy it.”

He offered the large thermos to the couple, and they accepted with warm appreciation.

“Thank you, River Dog,” Liz said gratefully. “I was already feeling the chill. This will help, I know.”

They spent a few minutes talking, and then River Dog made a move to leave. “Do you have to go already?” Max asked, surprised that their usually long visit in the cave was cut short.

“Yes, for now,” River Dog nodded, “but I will see you at dinner tonight.”

“Alright,” Max agreed, disappointed. “See you then.”

Liz reached for the thermos as the late afternoon sun weakened, diminishing the scattered rays that found their way around the curved walls of the cave. Pouring steaming cups for each of them, Liz handed Max a cup, and they sipped in silence.

Outside the cave, River Dog smiled. Reaching into his pack again, he pulled out the pouch of healing stones. One by one, he laid them on the ground, spanning the cave entrance in the “V” formation. Then he knelt, said a blessing over them, and left. His work was done.

********

“This is delicious,” Liz murmured appreciatively, feeling all the tensions leave her body.

“Mmm-hmmm,” Max agreed, enjoying the soothing heat that trickled down his throat. He, too, felt relaxed for the first time in too long. He whipped his head toward Liz when he felt her hand stroking his thigh. His breath froze in his lungs when he saw the look in her eyes, raw desire that had been missing for too long.

“Liz.” It was a prayer on his lips. He was looking at his Liz, the one who he had loved his whole life, the one who had been with him through the best and worst of times, the one who loved him beyond all reason and let him know it every day of his life. This look—it wasn’t about conceiving, it was about loving and wanting and just plain sex, and it sent his heart racing in his chest.

He melted into her lips and felt her respond immediately. Her hands began to wander over his shoulders, his back, his chest, and in their wake a trail of small explosions shook him. His hands began their own search, seeking out all those places that would make her shudder with pleasure and moan his name. Tonight, though, that seemed to be everywhere he touched. It was as if their need for each other had been building behind this dam, and once the floodgates were opened, it rushed forward in an uncontrollable surge of passion.

Max’s hand found the bottom of Liz’s sweater and inched upwards, rotating in small circles toward Liz’s aching breast. She was concentrating on his every move, waiting breathlessly for that hand, those fingers to reach their goal. Her impatience won out and she moved to push his hand up over her breast, where she thrust into it, desperately needing to feel the sensation of his intimate touch. Max needed no further encouragement. He pushed the sweater up as far as he could, and tugged hard until the bra cup released her hard nipple. He sucked it into his mouth, relishing the feel and flavor of her, basking in the realization that she was pushing deeper, deeper into him. Her want was riding as high as his.

The warmth and erotic sensation of Max’s mouth kept her fully focused on that one peak of her body for what seemed like minutes, but gradually, Liz surfaced enough to know that she wanted to offer more to her lover. With practiced ease, she unbuckled his belt and began to work on the button to his jeans. When her hand grazed the straining heat that lay just beneath the cloth, he released her breast in a startled gasp and lay down, eyes squeezed shut, and let the sensation of her touch flow over him.

Liz made quick work of the zipper, pushed aside the boxers, and firmly took him into her hand, already stroking him with an insistent rhythm. His moan was all the response she needed. Speeding up her rhythm, she leaned forward to lick the small strip of skin that peeked out from under his shirt.

It was too much. They hadn’t felt such abandon in their lovemaking in so long that the sensations were overwhelming them. By unspoken mutual consent, they set about getting each other out of their clothes. Laying down on the sleeping bag, Liz reached for her magnificent husband, spread her legs in invitation, and said, “Make love to me, Max. I need you.”

With a whimper, Max fell to his knees, slid up her body, stopping to suck on each rosy peak, and took her mouth as he slid into her. Subtlety would wait. Their bodies were screaming for each other and the pace they set was furious. Liz met his pounding thrusts with wanton abandon, their hearts and minds merging freely as they always had until recently. When their hearts touched, their bodies followed suit, and their coming together was as spiritual and it was sensual.

As soon as Max could think at all, he raised himself slightly on his arms so that Liz could breathe deeply. When he moved, though, she squeezed her inner walls around him, as if to keep him close.

“I’m sorry, Max,” she whispered, as tears escaped the corners of her eyes.

“Don’t be sorry, Liz. God, I’ve missed you so much! Don’t leave me like that again, Liz. Promise me. Everything that happens, happens to both of us, right?”

“You’re my life, Max. How could I have forgotten that, even for a little while?”

Max gazed at her, love shining from his eyes. “You are absolutely luminescent,” Max breathed in awe. Ever since their wedding, when the passion-induced glow that so often surrounded them withdrew into their bodies and made them glow, they had enjoyed this different, more innately alien side-effect to their lovemaking. Max always thought Liz was at her most beautiful when they were making love.

Liz sighed happily. “I will never understand how I got to be so lucky, but I thank God every day for you, Max.”

He started to speak when he noticed her eyes turn dark again, and an impish smile flickered across her face. She raised her torso just far enough so she could reach out with her tongue and lick at his nipples. “Maybe I should thank you again, too.”

Max felt himself harden inside her again. She looked up at him, a knowing smile on her face.

“Apparently, you’re not opposed to that idea.”

“When have I ever been?” he teased.

Less urgent now, the young lovers began to shower each other with loving attention, reacquainting themselves with the other’s sensitive spots and favorite touches.

“Roll onto your stomach,” Liz instructed Max. His surprised look made her giggle. “Do as I say, Max. I won’t bite.”

At his snicker, she laughed, too. “Well, maybe a little.”

He did as he was told and she straddled him. “Relax, love,” she whispered. Her hands began to rub his broad shoulders, his incredibly defined back muscles, and each indentation in his spine. She could feel him almost purring beneath her and realized she couldn’t afford to have him too relaxed. Scooting down toward his calves, she began to massage his beautifully molded tush, and she grinned broadly when that brought his head straight up.

“Liz?”

“Hmmm?”

“What are you doing?”

“Just making sure all your muscles get fair treatment,” she replied, sliding down still further to rub against his thighs, dipping down to include the tender skin between his legs. His whole body jerked at this last touch, and he attempted to turn over.

“Not yet,” she insisted with a sultry voice.

“Oooohh, god,” Max groaned as her fingers continued their exploration.

After a few minutes, Liz lifted off of him, only to trace her tongue across the back of each knee. She was contemplating what to do next when he suddenly flipped over, grabbed her shoulders, and brought her mouth to his with fierce intensity. His tongue dove into her mouth, exploring and reaching as deeply as he could, a foreshadowing of things to come.

“There are only so many muscles you can tease before you have to attend to this one,” he mumbled against her mouth.” His hand found hers, and he guided it to his throbbing erection, slick with his juices. They both encircled it and shared a moan at the sensation.

Liz pushed Max back against the sleeping bag, but slipped through his hands as he reached to pull her down with him. Intent on attending to his immediate needs, Liz began to stroke him and then heard him gasp as she took him into her mouth, picking up the rhythm her hand had set.

Max felt all the air rush from his lungs. It had been forever since Liz had done this, always afraid to “waste” his precious seed that might otherwise give them the child they wanted. Now she was only intent on giving him pleasure, and his heart burst with the knowledge of her sacrifice. Ironically, it made him want her all the more, but inside.

He felt himself tightening and pulled out. “Liz, I want . . .”

He rolled her beneath him, slid down her body, kissing, nipping, sucking, until he felt the dark, silken curls meet his face. Gently nudging her legs wider, he sank into the hot, moist recesses of her body and began to lave her folds, alternately plunging into that place where her juices and his mingled together, then teasing her taut bundle of nerves that caused ripples of pleasure to shoot through her body.

She grabbed at his hair and pushed against his mouth, gasping, sighing his name, almost a cry in her voice. Feeling the intensity of her arousal was straining Max’s own control to the breaking point. Just as he felt her begin to come against him, he drew himself up to take her mouth and slid into her orgasm as it crashed around him. He burst inside her immediately, thrilled at this new experience. He came and came, astounding himself and Liz with the ferocity and duration of his climax. His whole body was trembling as his sense of reality returned, and Liz pulled him down into her waiting arms, crooning soothing words of love. She was only now beginning to understand the depths of his despair and loneliness over the last few months. What had she done to this gentle soul?

They held each other for a long time, lost in a communal world of gratitude and love. They were finding each other again. They already had more than anyone could ask for. Nothing else could be as important as this.

Max felt Liz suppress a little shiver. “Are you cold?” he asked, concerned that he’d been so lost in his happiness, he’d forgotten how quickly Liz’s small body reacted to the cold.

“A little,” she confessed.

“Here.” He pulled the sleeping bag over her and reached for the thermos. “This should still be hot.”

He poured them both another cup of River Dog’s delicious brew and settled into the sleeping bag.

“I love you, Liz. With all my heart.”

“I know that, Max. I’m sorry I shut you out. We’re one. I can’t believe I forgot that.” She raised herself up on one arm and let her arm slide across his chest. As she leaned forward, her breast grazed his and they both sucked in their breath.

“Max,” she sighed, lowering herself to his mouth.

********

The sun was high in the sky when Liz moved languidly against Max’s warm body and opened her eyes. Reality dawned slowly, but when it came into focus, she sat straight up.

“Max!”

Max bolted upright next to her. “What? What?”

“Max, we were here all night! Eddie and Carmella must be frantic! How did we lose track of time like that?”

Max fell back against the sleeping bag. “Man, I have no idea. We should get back. When they find out we’re okay, they’ll be mad as hell.”

Liz snuggled against him. “I can hardly move,” she giggled. “What got into us?”

“I don’t know,” Max smiled, kissing her head, “but I hope it happens again sometime.”

Liz looked up at her husband, her lover, her best friend, and felt more at peace than she ever had.

“It will,” she promised. “I’ve been an idiot, Max. You are everything to me, and whether we have children or not, my life couldn’t be happier or more complete than to share it with you. I love you so much.” She gazed intently into his eyes, willing him to accept that she meant what she said. With his answering smile, she bent to kiss him. Suddenly, a strong presence imposed itself on their kiss, and they pulled away, staring at each other.

“What was that?” Liz asked.

“I don’t know,” Max puzzled. “I feel you so strongly when we kiss, but this time, it was like there was someone else there, too.”

Liz didn’t do it intentionally; she just reacted. Her hand slid to her abdomen and rubbed gently. Max followed her movement, and placed his hand over hers. There was an immediate jolt, a warmth, and the presence pressed against their connection once again.

Liz’s eyes were huge . . . and hopeful. Max looked again at the faintly glowing hands. Then he closed his eyes, and instead of repelling the presence, he sought it out. Pulling Liz closer to him, he began to grin. Liz followed his lead and searched her mind for it. There he was. Their son. As surely as they knew each other, they knew this new life.

Max opened his eyes to meet Liz’s, tears of joy running down her cheeks.

“Oh, Max!” They threw their arms around each other and held on tight, overwhelmed with love, relief, anticipation. It didn’t matter that they didn’t understand what had happened this night. Whatever power had seen fit to answer their prayers, they would accept its gift with full hearts.

********

Two days later on Thanksgiving morning, they pulled into the Evans’s driveway. They knew everyone would be here: the Parkers, Amy and Jim Valenti, Alex and (a pregnant) Isabel Whitman, Josh and Jasar, Michael and Maria with their twins, and even an engaged (finally!) Tess and Kyle. Liz had been secretly dreading the reunion. Too many happy couples, happy families. Now she knew that even without their wonderful news, she would have been content. Max was her home, her family, come what may. The fact that their son was on the way just deepened the joy she felt. She smiled happily at Max and reached for his hand. He took it and squeezed it gently.

“Are we ready?”

“We are so ready!” she beamed, leaning in for one last private kiss before the onslaught of well-wishers.

They opened the door to the Evans home and entered almost unnoticed. The noise, the smells, the happy chatter filled the house with a sense of family and love. And they belonged to it. So what if it was fraught with secrets and messiness and trials; it was theirs, and they wouldn’t trade it for another family in the world.

“Look who’s here!” cried Maria, hurling herself through the living room toward Liz.

A chorus of greetings and smiles came their way as they merged into the welcoming arms of family and friends. Philip made his way toward Max and Liz, handing each of them a glass of Chablis. Liz began to take a sip, then suddenly changed her mind and set the glass down. “None for me just now,” she said casually.

Philip raised his glass. “Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!”

“Yes, it is,” Liz agreed, a huge smile on her face.

“My, my. There’s a story behind that smile,” Nancy Parker speculated. “What is it?”

Their hands found each other, and they felt their son join their connection. “Oh, we might have a bit of news or two,” Max grinned.