posted on 7-Dec-2002 10:59:38 AM
Title: “Here Between Us”

Summary: Liz becomes pregnant at 17 and leaves her intractable father and unhappy childhood behind. But unlikely circumstances, six years later, drag her back to her home to New Mexico.

Disclaimer: Contrary to what I wish, I do not own anything from Roswell. (God knows the characters would have been in much healthier hands had that wishful thinking been a reality.) Nor do I own the lyrics by U2, Goo Goo Dolls (awesome bands by the way), or Jewel. I DO however, own Alyssa, and the plot.

Rating/ Pairings: Up to and no further than R. AU M/L for sure with a possible hint of CC

Author's Note: In this fic, because of he is not related to Maria in any shape or form, Sean Deluca's name is Sean Robinson. When I started writing this, I was blowing off a bit of steam about how angry I was with his character S2. *grin*

And love is not the easy thing
The only baggage you can bring…
And love is not the easy thing…
The only baggage you can bring
Is all that you can’t leave behind

And if the darkness is to keep us apart
And if the daylight feels like it’s a long way off
And if your glass heart should crack
And for a second you turn back
Oh, no be strong

Walk on, walk on
What you got they can’t steal it
No they can’t even feel it
Walk on, walk on…
Stay safe tonight

You’re packing a suitcase for a place none of us has been
A place that has to be believed to be seen
You could have flown away
A singing bird in an open cage
Who will only fly, only fly for freedom

And I know it aches
And how your heart it breaks
And you can only take so much
Walk on, walk on

Home…hard to know what it is if you’ve never had one
Home…I cant say where it is but I know I’m going home
That’s where the hurt is

Walk On - U2


“No, Oh No.” That was all Liz Parker could think, over and over, repetitious and truly completely petrifying. She slumped to the damp tile floor of her bathroom, clutching the tiny slip to her chest. Who would have guessed that a pink cross could install so much terror and helplessness into a usually strong and confident person? And yet there it was. Staring her straight in the face.

Liz buried her face in her hands, her brown hair forming a dark veil, and moaned as she watched her future go down the toilet. What was she going to do? Her father was going to freak. Her mother was going to freak. Maria was going to freak; Sean was DEFINITLY going to freak. Hell SHE was going freak out and run screaming into the street if she kept on this train of thought.

Liz took a deep breath and tried to think. Should she tell her parents now? They were probably going to find out sooner or later, seeing how they weren’t blind or anything. This was NOT going to help her and her father’s rapidly deteriorating non-existent relationship.

It had been rocky between them since as long as she could remember. Her earliest memories had been ones about feeling distant, uneasy and aloof towards her father. Her childhood (and her present teenage years) had been full of memories of tearful fights and painful accusations. He wanted her to be someone she was not. He wanted her to be compliant, sweet, and willing to bend over backwards just because daddy said so. Unfortunately, Liz was none of these things. She was opinionated, confidant, and challenged people when they were wrong and stood up for what she believed in (with which he confused with being disrespectful). Her mother had tried and failed to mediate between them, but Liz could always count on Nancy, something that she could never feel with her father.

They had always gotten along like oil and water, him being the oil layer on top, crushing her down and suffocating, and she was the water being smothered, longing for escape through the bottom of the glass, and her unwanted life. Liz couldn’t remember the last time they had talked for more than five minutes without erupting into tainted interpretations and screaming matches. Which was sad. Liz hated the fact that she hated him. Well, maybe HATE was too strong of a word. She, of course, loved him, but it was the unconditional yea I-love-him-because-he’s-my-father-but-that-is-pretty-much-it- kind of love. She loved yet hated him. Did that make any sense?

Liz shook her head and tried to make her brain cooperate with her and to rid herself of painful remembrances of the past.

How could she be pregnant? It was just that one time with Sean. Liz cursed her stupidity. She KNEW would be a mistake to go through with it. But Sean had kept PUSHING it and she had finally relented. It had been after another huge nasty verbal skirmish between her and her father and it had been a particularly bad one. She had run crying into her boyfriend’s arms and he comforted her the only way he knew how: by giving her a beer and kissing her senseless when all she wanted was someone to LISTEN to her for once and just hold her.

Granted that Sean wasn’t the perfect boyfriend, but he meant well, or so Liz thought. He may have a bad reputation and a “wild” side, but she loved him. She NEEDED a guy in her life, seeing how her father wasn’t exactly a prime shining example of male influence. But, then again neither was Sean. Part of the reason he was so appealing to her was because her father despised him.

Liz couldn’t remember really what the fight that night had been about. She never did. After it happened she always tucked away the horrible instances deep into the dark recesses of her mind with all the rest of her not quite so fond memories of her father. But the hideous feelings that accompanied those memories stayed with her, hardening her heart and making it quasi numb. The feelings would flare up at her father whenever he decided make her life difficult. He had never hit her or anything (well except for the occasional sharp blows to her head for letting out an exasperated sigh in his presence; a sign of “disrespect” in his eyes) but the awful names and bitter diatribes they exchanged were almost worse than the beating of the flesh, because they would tear Liz’s heart to shreds.

It was impossible to talk to him. She had long ago given up hope that she would ever get through to him to show him who she really was, and that who she was, just because it wasn’t who he wanted her to be, didn’t make her a bad person. She was on her way to being Valedictorian. She was athletic, had her Varsity letter in Track and Volleyball and was running for President of her senior class. Anyone glancing briefly at Liz’s life would have mistakenly thought that she had it made.

Put a big red X through that little thought and better luck next time. WRONG. The little pink cross proved it. Her dad proved it. Her life was far from perfection. She had dreamed of going to Stanford and becoming a writer or something along those lines. Her father INSISTED that she was going to go to Harvard and study pre-med, or law.

ENOUGH with the reminiscing bullshit, Liz, she scolded her self. She knew she was just stalling, wanting to stay in this bathroom and never come out.

According to her calculations, she was two months along. She had to tell everyone. She knew deep down that it would be worse if she dragged it all out. She hauled her protesting body up and glanced in the mirror.

“This is it Liz! Say goodbye to anything resembling normal in your life,” Liz quietly told herself. And with that, she squared her shoulders and made her way out the door to face the inexorable.


Hot, dry sobs tore though Liz’s slight body. How could I have been so UNBELIEVEABLY stupid and dense? she asked herself for hundredth time that day. Her anguish obstinately chocked her throat and made its way up to abscond out the corners of her eyes in the form of scalding tears that streaked her face. She buried her head deeper into the soft pillows of Maria’s bedspread.

Maria wrapped her arms around Liz after hearing what a jerk Sean was, trying desperately but failing miserably to absorb some of Liz’s pain. Liz noticed that her usually bubbly best friend, who always had some thing to say even if it didn’t make sense, was silent.

Liz wayward thoughts drifted to Sean’s reaction to her “news.” He had angrily lashed out at her, shoving all the blame on her already trembling shoulders. He had, Liz noticed ironically, acted exactly like her father. She couldn’t believe that she hadn’t seen it before. The same “I’m always right-you wrong” piggish attitude was now blaring out at her, the blatancy making her wonder why she never spotted the similarities.

Sean had refused to take any part of HIS baby’s life, telling Liz that she had better fix this. He had suggested abortion, but Liz immediately squashed that idea. She would not murder her baby, which she was already beginning to love, despite herself. Sean had told her she was being ridiculous and had done just about every thing short of shoving her in his car and FORCING her to get one. After Liz had pointed out how he had kept pushing her, even after she said she wasn’t ready, Sean had given her a venomous look and strode away, muttering profanities directed towards Liz as he went.

Liz had stumbled towards Maria’s house, the only place that before now had never failed to comfort her, tears blurring her vision as she told Maria what had happened.

And here they sat, while Maria tried frantically to think of something, anything that would calm Liz down and help her through this. Nothing she thought up even came close.

Maria had always known that this Sean guy was trouble. Why didn’t she try harder to warn her about him? Her anger boiled and seethed.

“Chica, here’s an idea. Why don’t I go and punch Sean to a bloody pulp and slice of his non-existent manhood for you to put on a mantle on the wall?” Maria failed to hit a lighthearted tone.

Liz managed to give a semi-enthusiastic snort of laughter and stopped sobbing profusely. “Thanks Maria.” She sighed. “I’m sorry to burden you with my stupid life.”

Maria scoffed. “Nonsense. You can always come to me with ANYTHING.” She then turned serious. “Liz, sweetie, what are you going to do next? Are you going to tell your dad?” She asked, knowing all too well how, um, STABLE their relationship was.

Liz bit her lip anxiously. “I was going to, but now I’m not so sure. I thought Sean would support me on this,” she ended sadly. He wasn’t the person she had thought he was, he never had been. Why hadn’t she seen it?

Note to self: Beat the shit out of the worthless bastard later today for what he did to Liz, Maria thought bitterly. “Maybe it won’t be so bad. Maybe he’ll help you with things, ya know? With a doctor and stuff? And I’m sure your mom will be reasonable” Maria said, trying to make the situation seem less hopeless, and also knowing Liz’s firm animosity towards abortion.

Liz’s heart swelled in hope. Maybe Maria’s right. Her father wasn’t COMPLETELY impossible. They just had a communication problem. If she presented what happened calmly and rationally, then perhaps he would understand. Perhaps they could mend their tattered and frayed relationship and move forward, not backwards.

Liz sighed. “I hope to God you’re right Maria.” Liz tried to muster up her familiar confidence and poise. “I’ll tell them later tonight.” Liz swallowed hard with a nagging intuition that everything would not be all right, and wouldn’t ever be again.


Liz had gotten through the usual family dinner with apprehension eating at her insides and zapping away her appetite. As Nancy rose to clear the dishes, Liz knew she should act now.


Nancy made her way to the kitchen.

Any minute now.

Come on Liz! Un-stick your throat and GO!

“Wait! Mom, I need to talk to you and Dad for a minute, please,” Liz suddenly blurted out, causing her father to look up from his paper in alarm.

Nancy turned back the plates still in her hands. “Yes? Liz, honey what is it?” Nancy said after an uncomfortable silence.

Liz took a deep breath. “Umm… you see… Umm…,” Spit it out! she screamed internally to herself.

Jeff was growing annoyed. “If you don’t have anything to say, Elizabeth, then may I please get back to the paper?” He asked, his irked tone contradicting his polite choice of words. He was the only person to call her by her real name, which just proved how little he actually knew about his own daughter.

Liz felt momentarily irritated and thought about retorting when she remembered her resolve to present her self calmly and rationally.

“No, dad. Let me finish. Please. Umm, I umm I sort of…” Liz’s mouth was incredibly dry and she never remembered sweating this much before, not even after a running a race. She decided just to blurt it out. Being subtle was never one of her traits. “Don’t hate me. I’m two months pregnant.” She breathed deeply and awaited their reaction.


The plates in Nancy’s hands plummeted to the hardwood floor, causing Liz to jump in surprise as she took in her mother’s horrified expression.

Jeff eyes widened in shock but quickly narrowed in anger. “What did you just say? I don’t think I heard you correctly,” he said in a dangerously low voice. “I don’t think that MY daughter would do something as STUPID as that.”

Liz pressed her lips together nervously, and suddenly became fascinated with the floor. “It’s true,” she whispered hoarsely.

Jeff rose from the table, his narrowed eyes piercing Liz with such a malicious glare that she had to look away.

“You’d damn well better look at me when I am talking to you young lady!” his voice rising. “It was Sean wasn’t it?”

Liz winced at the mention of that painful name.

“Answer me, God damnit!!” Jeff roared.

Liz’s eyes fluttered shut and she nodded briefly.

Jeff made his way over the phone, his furious steps snapping her eyes open.

“What are you doing?!” Liz cried.

“I’m calling up the Son of bitch that got my daughter pregnant! I’d like to share a couple choice words with him,” Jeff answered while dialing the phone.

Liz raced over and yanked the phone away. “Dad, please don’t! You don’t know how he acted today. I do NOT want to see him right now. Please don’t do this!”

Jeff wrenched Liz’s arm back and she cried out in pain. “I’d suggest that you go sit down on the coach and wait for Sean and his parents to get over here,” he snarled before snatching back the phone and pushing Liz toward the coach.

Liz rubbed her arm for a second before trying again. “Dad, please, you don’t understand, Sean…”

“ENOUGH! Elizabeth! I don’t particularly care what you want right now. Your selfishness is what got you into this mess in the first place. Only thinking about yourself, as always. Go sit down NOW!”

It was always the way. He wouldn’t even let her explain, he just assumed it was all her fault as usual and never thought different. He just put words in her mouth and presumed facts that were untrue. Liz anxiously looked at her mother, who still hadn’t said anything. “Mom! Please don’t let him do this! Let’s discuss it first! Mom!”

Nancy looked at her daughter coldly. “Stop it, Elizabeth,” when her mother used her full name, Liz’s heart sank. “Go sit down and for once, for ONCE just LISTEN to us!”

Liz’s heart shattered. Her parents were anything but receptive or supportive. Well what did you expect? she asked herself. She couldn’t help but think that Maria had been WAY OFF.

Ten minutes of hard silence later, Sean and his deadbeat dad arrived. Liz refused to look at Sean and instead focused on her parents, which actually not that much of a better choice.

Jeff explained the situation to Sean’s father, who raised his eyebrows at Sean but said nothing and gave no other reaction to the news that his only son was about to become a teenage father.

“So why did you call us over here, Jeff?” Sean’s father asked.

Jeff was momentarily taken back by his indifferent tone, but recovered. “I think that the best way to start resolving this is for the kids to get married.”

Liz gasped. “WHAT!?” she asked incredulously.

Sean just scoffed. His father smirked as if the idea was funny. “Why would they do that?” he asked.

Jeff looked as if the answer was obvious. “It is the right thing to do, of course! I refuse to have Elizabeth give birth to a baby out of wedlock! It would be a disgrace.”

“But Mr. Parker, sir,” Sean said in an oily voice that seemed to mock, “Why would I marry someone I don’t love?”

A strangled sound escaped out Liz’s throat, feeling like a knife. She as surprised she wasn’t bleeding; she was in that much agony. She realized that he had never actually said the words but she had assumed he still felt it.

Jeff was perplexed. “Then why did you…” he seemed unable to voice aloud what Liz and Sean had done.

Sean glanced at Liz’s stricken face, before replaying with a cold smile. “She was such a goodie goodie. Ms. Valedictorian. She seemed like a challenge.”

Liz felt as though she had been punched in the stomach. There is no way this could be any worse. Tears burned her nose in her effort to hold them inside. She would be damned before she let Sean know how much his hurtful words affected her.

Jeff stiffened in anger, but before he could say anything, Sean’s father interjected.

“I don’t see any reason why Sean’s life should be thrown away just because of this girl’s inability to say no.”

Liz’s shock was turning into anger at everyone’s presumption that it was all HER fault. She was still rendered speechless, however, by Sean’s cruelty.

“THAT”S IT! Get out of this house IMMEDIATELY!” Jeff fumed, stalking towards them with a menacing expression on his face. He slammed the door behind them. Liz’s heart rose a bit in hopes that her father was now on her side but Jeff quickly stomped it down.

“How could you have been so FOOLISH? Elizabeth, you were always one to put yourself first, tripping anytime it gets rough and taking the easy way out! You irresponsible, good for nothing…”

Tears blurred Liz’s eyes and she heard nothing else. Her father, she realized, didn’t know her at all. Maria was always telling her to lighten up and not be so hard on herself. If Liz ever received less than A on anything in school, she would berate her self for days, coming down hard and upbraiding herself. Her perfectionist manner always kept her striving to be better. She was never satisfied with her accomplishments and neither, ironically, was her father. Easy way out her ass! She was never good enough for him and she was sick of it.

“Why won’t you at least hear my side of it?! Why do you just assume it is my fault? Sean was…”

“I don’t care what Sean did. Why are YOU always making excuses, Elizabeth? Take some responsibility for once. Now you listen to me, you are going to give this baby up for adoption and that will be the end of it. You’ll graduate and go to Harvard as planned.”

“I will NOT give my baby up for adoption! Why wont you talk to me instead of ordering me around and-”

“Elizabeth! Stop talking back and being disrespectful!” Jeff yelled.

Liz sighed, exasperated at the fact that whenever she tried to explain herself, she was told she was being discourteous. He wouldn’t LISTEN. Never had, never will.

“DON’T sigh as if I am unconvincing you! You have no right to be angry with me! YOU’RE the one who’s screwed up your life and now your mother and I have to clean up your mess! Don’t give me your attitude right now! Do you have any idea the humiliation your mother and I are going to go through? How will this reflect on us as parents?”

Liz was infuriated. “So its all about you now. Don’t you think that this is hard for me!? That I am so scared about what’s going to happen that I cant breathe!? I was hoping for my parents support to help me through this but if its too EMBARASSING for you then just say so! Oh, and by the way, this DOES reflect on you as a parent. As in maybe if you would listen to me once in a while and establish some communication instead of dictating my life for me, this could have turned out differently!”

“I cannot believe you are now trying to blame YOUR mistake on me! This is so typical of you, Elizabeth. I am ashamed to call you my daughter. You are a disgrace to this family and I can bear to look at you right now! Get out of my sight!” Jeff screamed.

Liz’s heart plummeted to the floor and shattered into useless shards. She looked at her mother, pleading for support. Nancy just shook her head sadly. “How could you, Lizzie? You had your whole future-”

Liz had had enough. She stumbled out of the room, and went upstairs, not bothering to let her mother finish. She felt…betrayed. Everything was so screwed up. And if she spent one more millisecond in this degrading household, she would suffocate. She had to get out. Leave all the painful memories behind and start over. Clean slate. She haphazardly packed precious belongings in two small suitcases and dumped out all of her savings, which had accumulated over the years. It was something but not much. She would stay with Maria, finish what was left of her senior year, and then she was gone. Liz snuck out of her window with her bags and made her way out into the world. She took one last glance behind her shoulder at her house and felt a pain of regret for what could have, and should have, been. She hugged her still tiny waist, trying to forget all the awful things that were said tonight.

“It’s just you and me now, baby. Just you and me.”

Part One Six Years Later ~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~

Liz gazed contemplatively at her hometown. It had been so long…

Thousands of emotions raged within her.

A deep desolation.

A growing apprehension.

An unfathomable love.

A burning hatred.

An endless anger.

But above all it was deep sorrowful regret.

She clutched Alyssa’s hand and smiled down at her. Her baby. The one light in the darkness. She would be able to do this. For Alyssa’s sake. It wasn’t fair that she didn’t have a father OR grandparents. Liz hoped that this would make it up to her precious daughter. A certain fury still coursed through Liz when she thought of Sean’s complete absence in Alyssa’s life.

Liz sighed and got back in the car to drive the rest of the short way to her childhood home. Liz had never thought that she would be back, and certainly not under such circumstances as these.

Here goes nothing, Liz thought dryly. Back to where it all began…

Where one life ended and another began.

[ edited 2 time(s), last at 21-Jan-2003 6:14:50 PM ]
posted on 7-Dec-2002 11:00:54 AM
~*~Part Two~*~

Liz sat motionless in the drivers seat, staring transfixed at the massive elaborate house that she had grown up in. The house hadn’t changed much, a few repairs yes, but other that that it still maintained its usually coldness and severity.

Alyssa chattered about nothing to herself in the back seat as Liz tried to muster up her courage to go back into the house. She reached a hand out for the door handle but immediately snatched it back. Liz sighed. She did not want to do this.

Liz absently fiddled with the radio as she tapped her foot sporadically. Admit it. Your stalling, she chided herself.

As if she could read her thoughts, Alyssa chirped up from the back. “Mommy? Why are we just sitting here? Can I get out?”

Liz sighed. Better get this over with. “Yeah honey, just a second. Mommy will help you.” She reluctantly got out and went around to help Alyssa out. She inhaled the fresh air outside deeply, knowing that once she got into that house, the air would thin and she would suffocate.

Liz’s eyes fluttered shut for a moment as they reached the glass paned front door. Her steel resolves up, she reached out and punched the doorbell. She then clenched her jaw, readying herself for what was coming next.

Shuffling was heard from the inside and moments later, the door opened, revealing the resigned face of Jeff Parker. He seemed to have lost his usual severity, weathered down by the weary years and Liz’s mothers’ condition. Maybe…

“Elizabeth,” Jeff nodded curtly before swinging the door open and striding down the hall, obviously not caring whether Liz came in or sat on the porch.

Never mind, then Liz thought irritatingly. He didn’t even bother to acknowledge his grandchild. A familiar bubbling anger raged within Liz. How dare he. Liz had long since gotten over the fact that she and her father would never have a relationship, but Alyssa didn’t DO anything. She was innocent and Liz would be damned if she let Jeff ignore her daughter.

Remember why you’re here, Liz reminded herself. She tugged in Alyssa’s hand; gently guiding her off in the direction that Jeff had gone. Alyssa was in awe of her surroundings, her head swiveling around in order to take in as much as possible. Liz’s former salaries had never allowed them to live in this type of luxury.

“This place is gimongous!” Alyssa explained, her brown eyes wide like saucers. Liz chuckled her daughters attempt to mix the words “humongous” and “gigantic” together.

Liz caught up with Jeff. He was standing stiffly in the family room, staring at nothing.

Hello to you too! I’ve been fine thanks, how about you? Liz sardonically made the small talk that she knew wasn’t going to happen in her head.

Jeff still wouldn’t look at her or Alyssa. Liz sighed. If this was any indication of how things were going to be…

Well it sure beat a screaming match, that’s for sure. But this silence, it was unnerving and extremely taut.

“You came,” Jeff stated simply, a note of shock in his voice. Liz had to bite in tongue to control herself.

“Of course I came!” Liz answered, hurt that he thought that she wouldn’t come after hearing about her mother. What kind of person did he think she was?

The room lapsed into an uneasy silence once more. Liz sighed and sliced through the quiet. “Where is she?” she finally asked.

Jeff looked up abruptly and pierced her with a calculating gaze with which Liz met head on, her chin jutting out slightly. He finally jerked his head towards the upstairs. “In her room,” he answered, his expression unreasonable.

Liz nodded and made her way upstairs. As she passed her old room a pang of compunction slammed her heart. Memories flitted through her for an instant, which she pushed aside irritated. Now was not the time.

Liz inched down the hallway to her Nancy’s room. Alyssa solemnly followed her, seeming to sense the conflicting emotions battling within her mother. Liz glanced down at her, meeting the somber doe eyes that mirrored her own. She quirked a small grin at Alyssa. She had already explained to her that she was going to meet her grandparents for the first time in her six-year-old life. Alyssa had been somewhat excited and Liz hoped she wouldn’t be too disappointed.

The rickety familiar creak of the door greeted Liz as she tentatively pushed her way inside. The sight that greeted her brought tears to her eyes.

Nancy Parker’s pale sunken face lay in contrast to the dark sheets of her pillow. Her eyes struggled to open at the sound of Liz’s entrance. A wave of pain twisted Nancy’s face and Liz felt her heart constrict. She momentarily flashed back to the heartrending phone call she had received a few days prior. The call that had changed Liz’s life in an instant.

She had gotten home a bit tardy after a long day at work and was running late for picking Alyssa up from her last day of kindergarten. The answering machine was beeping gallingly and Liz flicked the play button with a flourish while trying to simultaneously scour the room to locate her keys.

The voice on the answering machine was one that stopped her cold and rehashed several sore memories.

The flat voice of Jeffery Parker shortly and curtly informed her of her mother’s condition.

“Your mother just returned from the hospital. The doctors say she has cancer. Thought you ought to know.”


And just like that, Liz’s carefully balanced life was thrown into a nasty concoction of horror, anger and bad childhood reminiscences.

Horror about learning that her mother had cancer.

Anger about her father’s terseness, and the fact that he didn’t bother to leave any details. What kind of cancer? How bad was it? Would she ever get better? What kind of treatment is involved? How much longer did she have left…?

And of course, all the memories that accompanied even the mere thought of Jeff and the life she’d left behind.

With these questions reeling in her brain, Liz had packed everything of importance that she and Alyssa owned, picked her daughter up, took a leave of absence from her semi-well paying job in California and was on the road to Albuquerque, a town which she had sworn to herself she would never step foot in again.

And here she stood, in front of her mother for the first time in six years.

Nancy struggled to sit up and Liz noticed with a pang that Nancy’s strength seemed to have left her. “Liz,” Nancy croaked out.

Liz closed her eyes for a moment at the emotion that threatened to take over. “Hey Mom,” she said in reply.

“My baby girl. Look at you all grown up!” A poignant smile graced Nancy face as tears glittered in her eyes.

At this Alyssa peered out from behind Liz’s legs shyly, her fingers in her mouth. Liz smiled down at her daughter’s introversion.

“Now who is this little angel!?” Nancy exclaimed, delighted yet saddened by the sight of the beautiful granddaughter whose life she had had absolutely no part in.

“This is Alyssa. Alyssa this is your grandmother.” Liz introduced them to each other, thinking to herself that this was in no way how she imagined her life to be. How had it come to this? How had the first meeting between the generation gap occurred under such circumstances? How the hell did Nancy contract cancer?

“Hi,” Alyssa said softly.

“Come give me a hug honey bear,” Nancy gasped out the pet name of Liz’s childhood - a childhood that seemed like a spec in the far off night sky. Alyssa looked up at Liz with wide eyes that implored the course of action that should be taken. Liz nodded her approval and Alyssa stepped cautiously to the side of the bed and into her grandmothers trembling embrace.

It was bittersweet to watch her mother and her daughter’s first interaction and Liz felt herself getting chocked up, trying in vain to remember the last time she and Nancy had shared such a hug.

For a fleeting instant, Nancy’s face seemed to turn back the clocks of time and Liz recognized the vibrant women that her mother used to be. But all too soon age and weariness passed over Nancy’s features as Alyssa stepped away. Alyssa returned to her mother’s side and her small soft hand sought out Liz’s older more calloused one.

“She’s beautiful. Just like her mother,” Nancy whispered, her strength obviously weaning. Liz made a mental note to beseech later of the type and extent of the cancer.

“Thank you.” At her mother’s kind words, Liz’s heart softened. Granted it wasn’t an apology for the way Liz’s childhood played out or immediate acceptance of Liz’s disappearance but it was a start. Maybe -

Before her thoughts could progress any further, Jeff banged into the room and at the sight of Nancy’s tear streaked face became immediately upset. He sighed loudly and threw Liz a pointed look.

“Now Nancy you are all worked up. I knew this was a bad idea.”

Liz stiffened. It was a bad idea to come visit her sick mother of whom she had not seen in years? Well, that would at least explain the welcome wagon that had greeted her when she and Alyssa had arrived. It was becoming painfully apparent that Jeff wanted as little to do with Liz and Alyssa as possible and it obviously had not been his idea to call her. Never mind that Liz herself had thought it to be a bad idea to come, this particular realization was like a kick in the gut.

What did you expect? Liz berated herself. That everything would be all happy and dandy simply because you come back?

“Perhaps you should leave,” Jeff said, not leaving any room for anything stating otherwise. Liz looked away in resignation, ready to go.

“No Jeff. I NEED this,” Nancy insisted. She turned to Liz. “I’m very glad that you came, Liz and that you brought Alyssa,” Nancy beamed down at Alyssa who smiled back shyly. Jeff scowled at the mention of Alyssa, which didn’t go unnoticed by Liz who struggled to resist her bristling anger. She instead focused on her mother.

“I came as soon as I heard,” Liz said softly. She hesitated, wondering how to bring up the subject.

Nancy nodding, seeming to know where Liz was going. “You want to know the details.”

Liz bit her lip. “Yes actually. My informer was sort of, BRIEF,” she answered looking right at Jeff before meeting her mother’s steady gaze.

Nancy sighed before continuing. Jeff however interrupted. “Nancy you’re tired. This can wait.”

Liz read the message loud and clear. Her father didn’t want her in the house. Well, it wouldn’t bet the first time.

Nancy waved him off. “Of course this cant wait! I’m finally seeing my daughter after six years! What is the matter with you Jeff?”

To answer that you would have to dig up Freud himself. Liz thought.

Jeff glowered but surprisingly didn’t push it. He clenched his jaw and refused to look anywhere in Liz’s general vicinity.

“I have a rare form of leukemia. I am currently on chemo right now, which by the way is a Bi -,” Nancy stopped and grinned wryly at Alyssa before censoring herself. “a BIG nuisance on my body.

Despite Nancy’s light tone, each of her words was like a knife to Liz’s chest. She swallowed before asking the question that she was dreading the answer to. “What did the doctors say, umm, about the prospect of the drugs working? Is remission umm possible?” God to say those words sounded like a bad episode of ER or something. But it was a lot more personal when you were inquiring about how much longer your own MOTHER had left to live.

“The doctors say it was detected a bit late. The drugs are basically just buying time. There is hope for remission, but it’s a slim chance. I could go years from now, weeks from now…” Nancy drifted off.

It could be tomorrow, Liz finished the unspoken thought that hung nastily in the air. Tears welled up once more. “Mom,” Liz’s voice cracked. “I am so sorry - ”

Nancy waved her off. “Nonsense. You didn’t do this to me.”

That wasn’t what Liz meant but she let go as such. She was going to say sorry for all the missed opportunities, the memories unshared and the time wasted during those six years.

“I just have to live each day to the fullest with no regrets,” Nancy was saying. “Which was why I was wondering… I know you have your own lives, but would it be possible for you and Alyssa to visit more often? Perhaps on the weekends for dinner or something?” The hopeful pleading look was too much for Liz, and her fruitless attempt to hold back burning tears.

She would have to suck up her pride where her father was concerned and do this for her mother. God knows, Nancy only had precious little time left on this earth and Liz would be damned before she let past wounds to prevent her and her daughter from being apart of Nancy’s life.

“I would like that Mom. I looked up Maria earlier for a place to stay. She’s living in Roswell now,” Liz replied, biting back a sigh. It looked like she would be staying in New Mexico for a long while yet. There was no way she was going to live thousands of miles away while her mother was dying.

Nancy seemed to visibly glow. “That would be wonderful, Liz! Would you like to come over for dinner this Saturday night? I can’t wait to catch up with you and Alyssa.”

“That should be good. I’ll call you if anything changes.” Liz made a few steps towards the door. “I’d better go. I told Maria I’d be in Roswell a ten minutes ago, and I still have a bit of a drive ahead of me.” Liz paused, biting her lip. “It was great to see you Mom.”

Nancy nodded in understanding. “Send Maria my love.”

Liz nodded back reassuringly before hesitating at the door. She threw one more tearful look at her mother, wishing with all her heart that things turned out differently. If only she hadn’t gone to Sean that night. If only she and her father had established a better relationship from the start. If only her parents had given her support when it was discovered that Liz was pregnant. If only Nancy hadn’t contracted cancer…

If only…

Nancy seemed to sense Liz’s emotions for they were the same as the way she herself was thinking. If only…

“Bye Liz. Bye Alyssa! I can’t wait to see you guys on Saturday.” Nancy smiled slightly, the warm action contrasting with her poignant eyes.

“Bye gran’ma,” Alyssa said sweetly, the title and tone causing Nancy’s eyes glow once more with vitality.

“Well be there,” Liz promised. She went to go and let herself out but was surprised when her father followed her and Alyssa downstairs to the front foyer. Liz opened the heavy glass paned door and then looked back warily. She doubted he wanted to say goodbye.

“Thanks for having us,” Liz said stiffly. Might as well TRY to be civil, although she still hadn’t forgiven him, and she doubted she ever would. She wondered briefly if she would feel more lenient if HE was the one at knocking at death’s door.

“Don’t think that you’re fooling me Elizabeth,” Jeff snapped.

What? Fooling him? What the heck was he talking about? Liz raised her eyebrow in confusion.

“Don’t give me that innocent look. Don’t think that I don’t know that if she wasn’t sick you wouldn’t even bother being here. You think that everything is just resolved now don’t you. It’s in your CONVENIENCE for things to better now, so things will automatically resolve themselves. You think those SIX years of your unexcused and angst-ridden disappearance will just go away now? Think again Elizabeth! I see you haven’t changed one bit,” he sneered at her shocked and appalled face.

Nancy’s voice broke the moment. “Jeff...?”

“Coming sweetheart!” And just like that he was pleasant and kind. No residue of his previous attitude or hurtful accusations remained on his face. That was, until he turned back towards Liz, whose mouth was slightly open in astonishment. She drew herself up as to spew angry diatribes at him but he smoothly interrupted.

“I have to go. I trust that you’ll see yourself out.”

The door slammed shut in Liz’s face as did the door in her mind that held any hope of Alyssa having any sort of relationship with the awful man she called her father.

posted on 7-Dec-2002 11:01:55 AM
~*~Part Three~*~

Liz sat in the front seat for what felt like an eternity, gazing up at the neon flashing sign. Crashdown. How strangely appropriate. That’s what her carefully orientated life was doing right now. Crashing down. She had made the best of the circumstances just to have them shot down with ease. Wonderful. Unbelievably perfect. She knew that she was late, and Maria, being Maria, was most likely freaking out right now.

Maria had long since moved to Roswell after graduating from college to live with her boyfriend, Mickey, or something like that. Liz was still confused about the history of their relationship, but she couldn’t really blame Maria since the last two years of Liz’s life had been very busy with Alyssa beginning school and Liz’s job becoming more demanding. They had somewhat lost touch for a while, calling once every other month for a quick phone call that more often than not was cut shorter than was intended due to some emergency or event popping up at the last moment. Liz was glad that she was going to see Maria finally. Alyssa and her had really hit it off the few times they’d met, and Liz regretted that there hadn’t been more of those times. And honestly, Liz had truly missed her zany friend – someone who had known her, and stayed by her, through some of her darkest moments in life.

Liz sighed, exhaling all of her frustrations in one long breath.

Alyssa had been quiet for the ride to Roswell, which hadn’t seemed entirely all that atypical, seeing how Alyssa was usually an introverted person, at least around strangers. But now Alyssa spoke, disquiet reflecting in her voice. “Mama?”

Liz threw a look over her shoulder. “Yeah, sweetie?”

Alyssa bit her lip. “Why was everyone so sad when we were at gran’ma’s? Why was gran’pa so mean ta us?”

Liz closed her eyes briefly. How in the world was she supposed to inform her six year old that grandma was dying? That her own grandfather didn’t want anything to do with her? That the family tension had been around since before she had even lived?

Liz swallowed. “Grandma is very . . . sick . . . and that is making everyone upset,” she said, choosing her words carefully.

Alyssa tilted her head in a naïve way. “When will she get better?”

“We don’t know,” Liz answered quietly, hoping to God that Alyssa would leave it alone for now, the pain that came with that particular statement still far too fresh and palpable, lingering just past the surface, struggling to burst out at the slightest provocation.

“Oh,” Alyssa complied with her mother’s silent wishes and sat in pensive silence for a while. Then she spoke again. “Mama, where are we again?”

Liz turned around and looked at her daughter fully. “Don’t you remember? I told you we are staying with Auntie Maria for a while in Roswell. for a long, long while, Liz added silently.

At this Alyssa’s face brightened. “We’re going to see Maria?” she squealed in excitement.

Liz laughed. “Yep. She’s waiting for us right now actually.” Liz gestured to the quaint looking café in front of them where Maria had informed her that she worked while waiting for her musical career to take off.

Alyssa hastily began to pluck at her seat belt. “C’mon, Mom! Let’s go!”

Liz smiled and opened her door, going around to help her daughter. Alyssa impatiently shrugged off her mother’s attempted administrations and hopped out, began to tug on her Liz’s hand. “Come on Mom! Maria’s waiting!” Alyssa dragged her mother forward.

Liz let herself be pushed through the front doors of the restaurant and then stepped tentatively inside, scouring the area for her blonde friend. After doing so relentlessly for a few moments, Liz discovered that her efforts were fruitless. Maria was nowhere to be found. Liz frowned. They weren’t THAT late. And Liz was sure that Maria would have waited, even if her shift had ended.

Liz swept her gaze over the area once more. It wasn’t very large: a few tables were by the window and booths were scattered sporadically along the walls. The bar lay off to the left, where a few truckers slumped, guzzling a bit of alcohol before their return to the dusty highway.

“Where is she Mama?” Alyssa whined. “I don’t see her.”

Liz was about to answer her daughter when she was interrupted by a deep masculine voice.

“May I help you, Ms.?” A man with dark hair asked. He was dressed in normal attire, so Liz didn’t automatically assume that he was hired help. But then again this WAS a diner. She didn’t expect uniforms to be a requirement. She turned to look at him and found herself trapped by two warm amber eyes. The most liquid brown color she had ever seen. They looked . . . unearthly beautiful.

Liz blinked to clear her head and mentally berated herself for being so foolish. “Yes, actually. I’m looking for Maria Deluca. Is she still here?” she inquired.

The man raised his eyebrow in interest. “Oh, so you’re the one Maria was talking about.” He stated simply, his tone carefully concealing a smile.

Liz flushed. Good God, what had Maria been saying about her? She had only been her five minutes and already, gossip was flying around. “What exactly has she told you?” she asked, dreading the answer.

The attractive young man quirked a slight grin at her, to which Liz felt a shiver crawl along her skin. “Not much. Just that we had to be unbelievably nice to you or she’d hunt us down.” He cocked his head to one side and his grin widened. “You know. The usual.”

Liz gave a small smile, which the man returned tenfold. The moment stretched out along the creveces of time, the two simply taking the other in. Then he seemed to snap out of a daze. “Oh, sorry. I’m Max Evans, owner of this humble café.” He stuck out his hand.

Oh, so it was Maria’s boss. Liz took his hand. “Nice to meet you,” she said cordially with a smile, trying not to be affected by the warmth that was currently seeping into her veins.

A tugging on her arm interrupted them. Max and Liz looked down at Alyssa’s pleading face, which was begging for attention. Liz laughed, then hastily introduced her pride and joy. “This is Alyssa. Alyssa say hello to Max, here.”

“Hi. Its nice to meet you,” Alyssa said in an inhibited voice. Her lips curved upward as Max answered her.

“Likewise,” Max gave another half grin, and Liz noted that it look rather nice on his brooding face. “Maria’s in the back, getting changed. That or uh, doing stuff with Michael again,” Max gestured towards the back, grinning knowingly, shying away from anything crude, least it fall on Alyssa’s innocent ears.

Liz shot him an alarmed look, sure that that sort of thing would be frowned upon in his diner but to her surprise, Max looked as if he had just finished telling a good joke.

Max glanced at her and took in her surprised look. Clarifying, he answered her unspoken question. “Maria’s a good friend of mine. Michael and I met her in college.”

Liz understood now. “Oh. Yeah, Maria was my best friend in middle school and high school up in Albuquerque.”

Max nodded, then gestured towards the back room again. “I could go get her if you’d like,” Max offered. “That way you wont have to walk in on something that might scar your lovely young daughter there.”

Liz laughed. “Yeah, that’d be great. Thanks.”

Max started for the door but turned back after two steps. “You can go ahead and sit down at that table behind you. It has some menus in case you’re hungry and want to order.”

Liz titled her head at him. “Why do I get the feeling that you just want some more business before you close?”

Max chuckled. “Okay, you caught me. I’ll be back with Maria, and maybe Michael as well.”

Liz smiled and let Alyssa to the table. What am I doing? she wondered suddenly.

Was she FLIRTING with Max? She barely even knew the guy! She reminded herself instantly of how she had sworn off guys for good. She couldn’t handle another repeat of Sean. She had Alyssa to think about now, and that would ALWAYS be her top priority. Gone were the days where Liz casually dated. If she became too attached to the guy, Alyssa would end up getting too attached. And then, since Liz would never find a guy who could commit to her long term – or more specifically, one that SHE could commit to full term – she would break it off, and everyone would be hurt. Especially Alyssa. And that was NOT to happen. Solitude was better than the pain . . .wasn’t it?

But even after her self-lecture, Liz couldn’t help but look back at Max as he disappeared through the back door.


posted on 7-Dec-2002 11:03:38 AM
~*~Part Four~*~

Liz sat at the tiny booth, while Alyssa colored on the napkin with a few lone crayons that were lying upon the table in front of them. She perused the menu, not finding anything that enticed her taste buds. She sighed and pushed it away. Right now, she didn’t think any type of food would make her hungry. She was still upset about how Jeff acted and she desperately needed to tell someone about it. Namely, Maria. She missed her and her friends gab fests that they used to have. They hadn’t properly talked since the day Liz found out she was pregnant.

Almost as if on cue, the swinging door creaked forward and there was Maria, followed by Max and the guy Liz assumed to be Michael by the looks of his rumpled, disheveled clothing. Liz tried not to smirk, but also felt a pang of jealousy. She would never have that again.

At the sight of Liz and Alyssa, Maria squealed. “Lizzie! Lyssa! My two best girls! Finally!!” She rushed over and swooped Alyssa out of the booth, twirling the small girl around. Alyssa chocolate stands spun out behind her and danced in the air as she and Maria simultaneously shrieked in delight.

Liz smiled at Maria’s behavior. Now, excuse me, who is the six year old here? Nevertheless, Liz still felt a warm glow at the sight of her studious daughter giggling with her “aunt.” Alyssa need more of levity in her life, and Liz hoped Roswell would be the place to give it to her.

“What, no hug for me?” Liz finally broke in, grinning. Maria’s head snapped up, causing her golden mane to fly everywhere. Maria gave an irritated swipe to smooth it once more before dragging Alyssa by the hand to gather her and Liz into a group hug. Liz was laughing and out of breath by the time Maria was done, and she stepped away slightly to notice Michael standing awkwardly in the back round.

Liz cleared her throat and cast a meaningful glance towards Michael. Maria swung around, entirely confused by the action. “What?” she implored.

Liz just raised her eyebrow at Maria, trying to communicate silently to have her friend remember her manners.

Liz saw Michael roll his eyes and sigh in exasperation. Then to her astonishment, the rugged looking guy broke out into a lopsided grin and stepped forward, his hand outstretched.

“Since Maria has gone off on a tangent, not for the first or last time, I’ll introduce myself,” he said grinning. “Michael Guerin, the fiancé.”

Liz tried not to giggle, but the outraged look on Maria’s face was just too much.

“Liz Parker,” Liz managed to get out between gasps of laughter. “the best friend.”

Maria huffed indignantly. “Honestly, Michael! I didn’t forget my manners, I just remembered them too late. If you had given me a CHANCE, spaceboy…” Maria continued on.

Space boy? What an odd nickname. Must be an inside joke or something. Liz decided to cut Maria’s rant off short and quickly interjected, “Before Mount Maria really explodes, I’d like you to meet my daughter Alyssa,” Liz looked down at Alyssa, who was clutching Liz’s shirt nervously at the abrupt abundance of new people.

Michael smirked. “I have a feeling this is the start of a beautiful friendship,” he said. “I could really use some damage control where Maria’s concerned,” he joked while putting his arms around his bride to be.

Maria pouted, yet settled nicely in Michael’s arms. “I resent that.”

Michael smiled down at Alyssa, effectively ignoring his girlfriend’s dark mutterings. “Nice to meet you,” he said simply.

Liz nudged her and Alyssa responded automatically, “Nice to meet you too,” Liz noticed the small smile she bestowed upon Michael.

Maria all of sudden became serious. “So Liz, did you just get back from your parents? Is that why you were a bit late?”

Liz shot her a “not here” look and gestured towards Alyssa and Michael. Maria nodded in understanding and turned to Michael.

“Michael. Take Alyssa to get a milkshake, on the house at the bar. Those things are the best,” she added for Liz’s benefit.

Liz furrowed her eyebrows in uncertainty. “I don’t know Maria. It’s getting kind of late, and I don’t need to deal with an Alyssa sugar high, not to mention YOU at the same time.”

Maria rolled her eyes at Liz’s pointed statement and shrugged it off. “They don’t have THAT much sugar, and besides, how else are we going to talk?”

“Uh, at your house once Alyssa is asleep?” Liz suggested.

Michael let go of Maria and held up his hands as a signal of a truce. “Hey, how about I take her for a glass of milk? It’s slightly healthier and it’ll give you guys a chance to do a little catching up.”

Liz shot him a grateful look and nodded. “Alyssa, can you go with Michael over there to get a glass of milk so I can talk with auntie Maria? I’ll be right over here,” she reassured.

Alyssa pondered about the situation for an instant, her brown doe eyes growing pensive in a way that was completely adorable and rather unusual to see in a six year old. Finally, she slowly nodded her head, with one request before she went. “Can it be chocolate milk?”

Liz gave a faint smile. “Sure,” she answered.

Alyssa was satisfied. “Good,” she said before letting go of her mother and following Michael to the tiny bar stools.

Once they were gone, Liz sighed and sank into the booth in a heap. At this, Maria raised her eyebrow in concern. “Whoa. How bad was it? Is your mother okay?” Maria had been particularly affected by the news of Nancy’s illness, as she had considered Nancy her second mother while growing up.

Liz’s poignant eyes bore into Maria’s own green ones with a tumultuous intensity. “She has a rare form of leukemia. The doctors say it’s a slim chance for remission.” She kept it short and to the point, but the words still felt like lead, absconding out of Liz’s throat.

Maria whistled lowly. “Oh my god.”

Liz let her eyes flutter shut briefly, trying to effectively shut out the emotions that were brimming. “Yeah.”

Liz’s eyes snapped open once more, and the fresh hurt and rage that existed there to cloud and distort Liz’s usually placid russet hued stare startled Maria. “That’s not all of it though,” Liz stated bitterly.

Maria stiffened. There were only two people in this world that evoked this tone out of Liz. Maria was betting that she could guess which of the two it was. “What did he do now?” Maria asked darkly.

Liz bit back a scream of rage. “He wouldn’t even look at Alyssa. His own granddaughter whom he’s never seen and he wouldn’t even acknowledge her presence! Ugh, I could kill him!” Her eyes flashed as her jaw clenched furiously.

Maria’s eyes widened in shock. “No! I didn’t think he would stoop so low! Lyssa hasn’t done anything! What the hell is his problem?”

Liz blew out a frustrated breath of air. “Also, before I left, he followed me to the door and informed me that he knew why I was ‘really there.’ He said that I was only there because the time was right for me and that I was being inconsiderate again and that I shouldn’t expect everything in the past to be forgotten just because I was back.”

Maria gasped. “I cannot believe he said that! You came back because HE called, with the bomb shell of a pronouncement that your mother’s dying!”

Liz flinched at her last statement and Maria slapped her hand over her mouth. “God, Sorry Liz, you know what I meant.” She placed a comforting hand on her friend’s arm. “Here’s the order, think than speak,” she reprimanded herself out loud.

Liz gave a halfhearted snort and looked away. “I just…I can’t talk about this now. Talk to me about something else.”

For the next twenty minutes, Maria filled Liz in with town gossip and little anecdotes about her and Michael. Liz noticed curiously that not much was said about Michaels past and how they met. I’ll get it out of her later.

Liz only half listened to Maria’s fast paced one-sided conversation. She just revealed in the sound of Maria’s voice, which tuned out all of Liz’s nasty thoughts about the previous encounter with her parents. However, one word grabbed her attention and led her crashing back down to earth.

“…told Max all about you; you guys would really hit it off…I also told a couple of other guy friends about you…some are real interested…”

Liz shook her head to clear it. “Wait, what were the last things you said?” She asked, suddenly suspicious. She remembered all too well Maria’s other attempts at matchmaking and most definitely did not want a repeat.

Maria’s eyes widened innocuously. “What do you mean?”

Liz’s eyes narrowed. “What exactly did you tell Max and all your friends?” she inquired, a quote resounding in her mind even as she spoke.

‘“Oh, so you’re the one Maria was talking about…”’

Maria sighed. “Okay, so you’ve caught me. But listen before you write it off, okay?” She glanced expectantly towards Liz, who rolled her eyes yet still gave off the impression that she would indeed listen. Not that she would agree with whatever Maria had to say, but she would listen. And promptly tell Maria how insane she was later.

“I know a couple of men, and you have a lot in common with all of them. I really think you should try going out once or twice. It’d be great for you. I won’t tell you everything about them right off, as getting to know the person is half the fun . . .”

Liz interrupted, “Maria, how many times do I have to tell you, I do NOT need, nor want you to set me up. In fact, I despise it. I don’t need a guy right now. Alyssa and I are fine the way we are.”

Maria opened her mouth, “But . . .”

Liz shook her head firmly. “No. No buts. I don’t need another repeat of Sean. In fact, after my last disaster of a romance, I think I’m going to swear off all guys from now on.”

Maria growled in frustration. “Liz, the reason it didn’t work out in your last relationship, is because YOU didn’t want it to. You sabotaged it. Mark was willing to try. You weren’t. In fact, you NEVER have been. Why are you so afraid to let someone in, Liz? You need it. I know you do. Don’t tell me you never get lonely or jealous of other sappy couples and happy families.”

Liz hesitated, her wayward mind wandering back towards the prior moment where she had felt a telltale pang of jealous wrench her heart.

For Maria, that hesitation was all the proof she needed. She had a feeling about Max and Liz and she knew they had to at least TRY. Liz could help Max as much as Max could help Liz. It would be tiny step towards recovery, but at least it would be in the right direction. Not like the way Liz was heading lately, which was backwards.

“You see? You know what I’m saying is true,” Maria said softly, knowing what a touchy subject this was for Liz. And she didn’t blame her, with the whole Sean adversity. But the past was the past. It was time for Liz to heal, and Maria would be damned if she didn’t help her friend along the way.

Liz wavered for an instant, and for a triumphant second, Maria actually thought that she had gotten through to her.

That thought was shattered the instant it formulated. Liz’s face molded from one of uncertainty to one of firm resolve.

“NO! Maria, I’m warning you. Stay out of my love life, or lack thereof. Please. If you don’t, I can always find some cheap motel to stay at instead.”

With the finality of Liz’s threat, Maria hastily retreated, and moved their talk to less intense matters. Okay, so pushing Liz isn’t going to work. She’d have to find another road to take. She’d leave it alone, for now.

Maria had to hide a devious grin as her last thought resounded through her mind.

For now

posted on 7-Dec-2002 11:05:28 AM
~*~Part Five~*~

Max Evans peered across the near empty diner and watched as Liz’s face lit up as Maria enveloped her in a warm hug to which she returned earnestly. Despite himself, a smile broke across his face.

He had only met Elizabeth Parker for about two minutes, and spoken only mere pleasantries with her, and yet, all ready he was captivated. There was just something about her. Something irrepressibly . . . unique and -

Max mentally shook himself. Don’t go there, Evans, he chastised himself. He was in no condition for a relationship, not now, not ever. He didn’t think he would even CONSIDER getting involved with someone else after Tess. And yet, here he was.

To distract himself from his wayward thoughts, Max set himself to the task of cleaning the bar countertop meticulously. He smiled, enjoying his work. Michael often called him insane for loving his work at the diner, telling Max that he could be so much more with his talents, but Max truly loved the Crashdown. The little alien tourist trap had been a splurge, one of the only ones Max had allowed himself in the span of the last few years, but it was well worth it. Max took pleasure in being his own boss, and he never failed to get a kick out of the quirky alien theme. Obsessive tourists amused him as well as the regular, yet equally eccentric locals.

His thoughts were instantly diverted by the tinkling sound of Liz’s musical laughter. Max froze, straining his ears to try and hear more of it. The urge to invoke such a gift out of her and to hear her laughter from now until the day he parted from this world crashed into him like a punch in the gut.

Where was this coming from? He didn’t even know the girl.

However, that wasn’t exactly true. Maria had told him a lot about Liz, more than he had actually wanted to know. Despite his bubbly friend’s attempts at being discreet, Max had smelled a set up from the moment Maria had opened her mouth. Her all too casual, ‘Oh you have so much in common, you’d hit it off right away,’ comments were a dead give away – well, that and the fact that Maria always flipped her blonde locks when she was being devious. And despite the fact that it had been amusing, to say the least, to watch Maria ramble on and on about how great her friend was, Max hadn’t known how to tell her that he wasn’t interested, that he COULDN’T be interested. He didn’t know why Maria even wanted to get Liz involved in their mess in the first place. Maria had been there in college when the whole adversity with Tess went down. She knew first hand how dangerous it was. Why she wanted to get another person involved in their crazy web was beyond his realm of knowing.

Max jerked back to reality at the sight of Michael leading Liz’s daughter to the bar. Alyssa.

Max watched Alyssa stop short for a minute and cast a look towards her mother. Cute kid, Max mused. Apparently something that was passed down by generation

His eyes bulged in surprise to where his thoughts were leading him and then he sighed resignedly. I thought we were staying AWAY from anything pertaining to Liz Parker he admonished himself silently.

Alyssa turned back to Michael and allowed him to lead her to a stool. Max felt some strange pull towards the small child, some odd urge to protect her. WHY he felt this way, he couldn’t put his finger on it. The Parker women must be giving off some weird pheromones or something/ For what other reason was there to explain how he was feeling in such a short amount of time? Children usually made Max want to fade inconspicuously into the background, but as Alyssa flashed him a nervous smile, he felt his heart instinctively melt.

Max nodded at Michael in a salutation and then noticed that Alyssa’s dark eyes were boring into his with impeccable scrutiny for a kid. He stared back, smiling faintly.

Another thing to wonder about. Max Evans NEVER smiled. Ever. Not since the beginning of college, when everything seemed safe. Normal. SANE. Too bad everything went to hell in a hand basket afterwards, with the discovery of what Tess really was and the knowledge of what she had done to Kyle. Lies, all of it lies.

And yet, today he had smiled, not once, but TWICE. Stop the presses, Max cogitated dryly.

When he saw a bit of uncertainty cross Alyssa’s brown eyes and he jerked to attention. “Can I get you something?” he asked kindly.

Alyssa nodded her head enthusiastically. “Uh huh. I would like a chocolate milk.” She stated. Then after a beat she added. “Please.”

Max smiled (again! What was going on? And yet, in looking at Alyssa’s totally serious yet sweet face, would wouldn’t?). “Sure thing, I’ll go get that for you right away.” He turned back into the kitchen and returned a moment later with chocolate milk, filled almost to the brim, extra chocolate placed carefully on the bottom. He set it down deftly in front of Alyssa. “There you go.”

Alyssa happily picked up the straw Max had set down with the glass and began to rip the top of the wrapping off. An expression of deviance crossed her features and not long afterwards, she blew profusely through the straw, causing the white wrapper to jet across the diner. Alyssa giggled appreciatively. Max felt another grin tugging at the corners of his mouth. He remembered when he used to do the same thing; only he aimed for his target to be at his sister Isabel or Michael. Come to think of it, it wasn’t that long ago. Max used to pull stuff like that while he was still in high school.

Michael watched as Alyssa laughed at her antics, and he quirked a lopsided grin. “Oh yeah?” He asked. Alyssa’s head snapped up towards him and he smiled before replying. “What?” She inquired excitedly, her dark eyes sparkling.

Michael reached for another straw and quickly tore at the top of the wrapper. He grinned slyly, and before he could react, Max was smacked in the nose by a flying wrapper. “Hey!” He protested loudly. He couldn’t get too angry, as Alyssa’s shrieking laughter caused the corners of his lips to twitch. Instead, he picked up the stray wrapper and chucked it at Michael’s head. Michael ducked too late, and wound up with it in his unruly hair. Max chuckled good-naturedly, and quickly took away the rest of the straws before Michael could retaliate. Things could get ugly fast. Even without the use of powers.

After they were calmed down a bit, the trio lapsed into a comfortable silence, broken sporadically by the satisfying slurping noises coming from Alyssa. She finished rapidly for a girl her size, and Max was impressed.

Setting the now empty glass on the bar, a panicked look beginning to form on her face. Max started, immediately concerned. “Hey, what’s wrong?” He asked anxiously.

Alyssa bit her lip. “I don’t have any money to pay for the milk,” She said worriedly, while throwing a fretful look towards her mother. Max relaxed. Nothing he couldn’t fix.

“Don’t worry about it,” Max reassured her. “It’s always on the house for pretty girls,” he winked. He was rewarded by a glowing smile from Alyssa and a snort from Michael.

“Aw, I bet you say that to all the girls, Maxwell,” Michael said in high falsetto, batting his eyelashes in a failed attempt to look cute. Max rolled his eyes. “Nah, just the special ones, right Alyssa?”

Alyssa nodded her head at Max, smiling shyly. “Yeah,” She agreed in an adorable attempt to sound tough. “Max is right,” she stated vehemently, narrowing her eyes in mock authority at Michael.

Michael threw up his hands. “All right, all right! Jeez, you just had to gang up on me didn’t you.” He smiled despite his words.

For the next few minutes, Max steered the conversation to basic topics, trying to learn more about Alyssa and where she came from. Alyssa chattered away happily, enthralled by the attention she was receiving from these two men. The group was fast retreating from the term “strangers.”

After a while, though, Alyssa tossed a concerned look at her mother and Maria, their loud voices attracting their attention. Max wrinkled his face in perplexity as he took in the scene before him. Maria’s countenance was pleading, and Liz - Liz looked furiously irritated.

A couple beats later, Max watched as Maria began talking again and Liz’s face smoothed once more. A few topics later and both women rose from the booth, ready to leave, when the bell situated atop the front door rang out cheerfully, signifying that someone was entering the diner.

Alex Whitman, Max’s brother in-law, and his wife, Isabel, burst through the door, excitement written entirely all over their faces. Maria spotted them and waved them over to her and Liz. Michael looked questioningly at Max, and he nodded in response. Making his way from behind the counter, Max gestured towards Alyssa. “Let’s go see your mom now.”

Michael held out a hand to help her down and the trio walked over to the table. Max caught the ending of the introductions as they came up behind them.

“…is her husband, Alex Whitman. We all met in college, and let me tell you, Alex is the FUNNIEST guy you will ever meet, and a talented guitarist too. He’s the one that got me interested in music in the first place,” Maria was finishing up.

Liz smiled and held out her hand. “It’s nice to me you,” she said sweetly.

Alex grasped her hand and grinned before bringing it to his lips. “Pleasure is all mine, milady!” He said quirkily. Liz laughed at his antics before reclaiming her hand.

Max was hit with a peculiar burning sensation in his stomach at the sight of Alex kissing Liz’s hand. He shook his head to clear his thoughts. Alex was happily married to his sister and simply joking around in his usual manner. Get a grip Max! Not for the first time, he had to wonder what the hell was wrong with him. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he missed his sister’s introduction of herself, not that he hadn’t heard it a million times before. However, it was the next introduction that interested him more.

Max tuned in just in time to hear Liz’s next words. “…my daughter, Alyssa Parker,” she gestured towards Alyssa, who had made her way to her mother’s side. Alex repeated the same actions with Alyssa as he had done with Liz, causing a shrill giggle to abscond out Alyssa’s throat and float about the room.

Finally, unable to take the suspense anymore, Michael cut through the pleasantries. “So what has you two all keyed up tonight?” He broke in bluntly.

Maria smacked him lightly. “Honestly, Michael, could you be anymore rude? They just got here!”

Michael rolled his eyes, “I could try,” he shot back.

“Whoa there, wrong place wrong time for your little lover’s spats.” Alex interjected.

Isabel smirked. “Yea, back to your corners you two,” She joked.

Max smirked as well before turning back to Isabel. “You were saying?” He started, eager to know what got Isabel “The Ice Queen” Whitman flushed with excitement.

But really, that nickname wasn’t fair. Alex had rubbed away all traces of the cool façade Isabel put up through high school and a portion of college. He had relentlessly pursued her all through high school, always being there for her when she needed and seeing right past all her frigid walls to the core of Isabel; to who she REALLY was - although she was often too afraid to show it. Fear had always been a part of Isabel, because of her heritage, and when Isabel finally took a chance on Alex, he changed all that.

Isabel continued. “Oh yes, well, as you might have guessed, Alex and I have some exciting news…”

Alex frantically waved his arms and jumped up and down. “No, no!! Isabel, we AGREED that I would tell it!” He interrupted anxiously. Isabel sighed in annoyance yet smiled and motioned for her husband to go on.

“Good,” Alex said. “Now, as you all know, I have having some job problems lately…”

Maria whispered to the side for Liz’s benefit, “At the computer company where he works,” she said.

Alex whipped around angrily. “Hey, I’m telling it!” He protested, with the whine one would expect from Alyssa, not a near grown man.

Maria held up her hands in retreat, while Liz stifled a snicker. She couldn’t help it. Alex was just too damn funny. Liz pressed her lips together to suppress her growing laughter, and then smoothed them over with her tongue.

Max forced himself to tear his gaze away from those lips, wondering bewilderedly at the sudden loss of air in his lungs and the stab that clenched his stomach, causing it to somersault.

Alex continued. “Well, I finally found a solution to all my problems. It’s a clever solution really. I don’t know why I didn’t think of it before. It’s really quite simple and…”

“Oh for God’s sake,” Maria burst out, irritated at Alex’s rambling. She turned to Isabel. “Help us out here.”

Isabel smirked again and decided just to blurt it all out. She’d deal with Alex later. “Alex decided to open up his own music shop in town,” She said. “He bought the little glass trinket shop down the street,”

Michael wrinkled his brow. “I’ve always wondered exactly WHAT the purpose of that store was.”

Max nodded his agreement. “Especially when they didn’t even sell anything that had to do with glass.”

Maria rolled her eyes at them. “NOW you’re wondering about the odd idiosyncrasies of this town?”

Alex gasped in mock outrage at the fact that his lovely wife had just ruined his shining moment. “ISABEL!” He yelled. “I wanted to tell it!” he cried, pouting.

Isabel crossed her eyes irritated. “Well, you took too long,” she said.

Alex huffed and crossed his arms.

Meanwhile, Maria shrieked, the statement finally sinking in. “Oh My God!! Alex! That’s a GREAT idea! Do you think I could play there from time to time, to get my reputation up?” She asked pleadingly.

Liz thought for a minute as Isabel negotiated with Maria. This was a perfect opportunity. She didn’t want to have to rely on her friend for her entire stay in Roswell, so she might as well.

Everyone was congratulating a slightly miffed Alex about his decision and asking a million questions at once, the fusion of everyone’s words blurring together so that overall the sound was quite incomprehensible.

Liz cleared her throat to make herself known. “Uhm, I know that this is sudden, and I just met you, but I was wondering,” She cleared her throat again, this time out of nervousness. “If you were in need of any help, I’m kind of in need of a job right now. I’m experienced with the register and financing, or I could just do odd jobs and…” Liz rambled quickly, trying hard not to sound incompetent.

Alex broke in, a ghost of his usual grin breaking out across his face. “I can’t say this officially yet, as we haven’t even opened yet or anything, but,” His grin grew larger. “You’re hired.”

Liz blew a breath of relief. “Thank you,” she responded gratefully.

“Why don’t we call you tomorrow once we get everything settled,” Isabel offered.

Liz nodded her head. “That would be great. I’m staying with Maria tonight, so you can reach me there.”

Isabel nodded and then looked at the time, before returning her gaze to Alex. “It’s getting late. We should be getting back home,” She said. Alex made a face and nodded. “Big day tomorrow!! Gotta get the shop ready.” He turned back to Isabel. “Don’t think you’re off the hook just yet missy,” He said severely.

Isabel rolled her eyes. “Oh, please. You know you couldn’t stay mad at me for more than an hour anyway, so why drag it out?” She threw over her shoulder, while making her way out of the diner.

Alex grinned through the laughter coming from his friends and followed his wife out the door.

“What’s even sadder, is that fact that he know that statements truer than life itself,” Michael quipped, earning more chuckles from the rest. He stretched and looked at Maria. “Ria, we should get going too. We still have to set up the guest room for Alyssa and Liz,” He said.

Maria sighed in exasperation. “I thought I told you to have that done five hours ago! Michael!” She wound herself up for another rant. Michael waved his hands, signaling her to halt. “Better hold up before you tire yourself up, ‘cause you need to know that I didn’t do the dishes either . . .” He ducked her blow and chuckled before moving towards the door. “See ya Maxwell,” he threw over her shoulder.

Liz turned to Max and extended her hand. “It was nice to meet you,” she said sincerely. Max swallowed while feeling her warm soft hand in his own larger more calloused one. Definitely sparks, He thought to himself. “Come back anytime,” he said. “I look forward to seeing you and Alyssa again soon,” he added winking at Alyssa, who beamed back.

Liz smiled back and took Alyssa by the hand. She turned to Maria. “You coming?” she asked.

Maria shook her head. “Nah, you catch up with Michael. I’ll just be a minute, I have to help Max close up.” Max raised his eyebrow at her, but said nothing when he caught a glimpse of her pointed expression.

Liz gave Maria a warning look, which Max found peculiar, and followed Michael out of the diner. Alyssa looked back, and waved at Max before departing out the door. Max smiled and waved back before turning back to Maria.

“Okay, what was that all about? I’m already closed, you don’t need to do anything else,” he said.

Maria lugged him roughly over to a table by the arm before answering. “I know that. I just wanted to talk to you for a second,” she said innocuously.

Max didn’t buy it. He narrowed his eyes at her until she relented. “Okay, okay! I wanted to know what you thought of Liz,” She finally replied.

Completely riveting, Max thought uncontrollably

“She seemed nice.” He answered lamely.

Maria stared at him. “Nice? Come on Max. I saw you boring holes through her head when you thought she wasn’t watching. Give it up. So are you going to ask her out?”

Max hesitated. His heart was screaming at him to say yes, but rationale kicked in.

“I don’t know Maria. I don’t think that would be a good idea,” He finally said.

“Why not?!” Maria exclaimed. “She’s really great! I can’t believe you don’t think she would be fun to go out with, I mean . . .”

Max hastily interjected. “No, no that’s not it at all, BELIEVE me,” He stated vehemently.

Maria’s olive eyes twinkled deviously. “HA! SO you DO like her!” She said triumphantly.

Max sighed. “What I don’t understand is why you want to get her involved in ‘this’” He said motioning to himself with his hands. “It’s dangerous. We PROMISED we would allow anyone back in after what happened with Kyle . . .”

Maria sighed, frustrated, her eyes darkening in pain at the mention of her dead friend. “God Max, that was five years ago. Nothing’s happened like that since! Its over, everything’s okay now.”

“That’s EXACTLY what Kyle used to say, once the whole deal with the FBI cooled off after high school. Then look what happened to him. His brain got mind warped to a crisp by that B - ” He cut himself off breathing hard. For that wasn’t even the worst part. The worst part was that he had CARED for that evil blonde wench. Even sworn that he might have LOVED her. Revulsion crept through him at the thought of all the intimate moments he had shared with Tess, only to have her betray them all in the cruelest of ways.

He shoved these painful memories back to the dark recesses of his mind. He didn’t want to think about this. At all. Never again.

Maria was still going. “You know what I think, Max?” She asked.

Max sighed. “No, but I have a feeling that I’m going to find out,” He muttered.

Maria ignored him. “You’re scared. You’re scared to let anyone in again, scared to feel. You need to move on. Tess was awful, yes, but she’s in the past. You need to look to NOW and the FUTURE. That’s what matters. And that’s what’s going to get you through each day. Don’t tell me that you ENJOY your life as a loner.”

At this Max interjected. “What’s wrong with being a loner?” he asked.

“You tell me,” Maria retorted. “Do you really want to wake up, old and alone, with nothing to sustain you but a whirlpool of regrets? Oh, ‘whirlpool of regrets,’ that’s really good,” Maria broke off to herself, hurriedly rummaging through her purse for a handy pad of paper and a pen. “I gotta write that down for my next song, excuse me.”

But Max didn’t pay attention to her. He was lost in his own thoughts, Maria’s song worthy statement hitting him hard.

No, he didn’t want to wake up with nothing but regrets. He didn’t want a repeat of Tess, where he had spent hours after she’d gone, analyzing everything he should have done differently, wishing with every fiber of his being that he had taken a different path and followed his heart.

He wanted to wake up next to someone he loved. He wanted to be happy, for once. He wanted a daughter, like Alyssa. He wanted . . . Liz. He wanted to know her, to hold her, and if he was being completely honest with himself, to kiss her . . .

His thoughts shocked and pleased him at the same time. He barely knew the girl, and yet, it felt so right. From the minute her wide eyes looked into his and he was meet with her sweet smile, he had simply known.

Hope bubbled wildly within the very core of him. He was going to do it. He was going to jump in blindly, and take whatever life had to offer him head on. He was going to go after what he wanted and pray for the best. He could only pray that Liz didn’t shoot him down.

posted on 7-Dec-2002 11:07:13 AM
Excerpts from the Goo Goo Dolls Here is Gone

You and I got something
But it’s all and then it’s nothing to me
And I got my defenses when it comes to your intentions for me
And we wake up in the breakdown
Of the things we thought we could be

I’m not the one who broke you
I’m not the one you should fear

And I want to get free talk to me
I can feel you falling
And I wanted to be all you need
Somehow here is gone

And I don’t need the fallout of all the past
That’s here between us.

~*~Part Six~*~

Liz Parker shoved the food on her delicate china plate listlessly around, entreating desperately for this night to end. Her attention was not entirely focused on her daughter and her mother, both of which were conversing eagerly with the other about some happening that had occurred previously in the Crashdown. If Liz was not mistaken, then Alyssa was recounting how she had helped Max fix a wayward milkshake machine, getting splattered with the cold beverage in the process. Liz hid a smile, as she had heard the story before this. Twice.

Shaking her head softly, grateful for the distraction from the cold severity of her father’s penetrating stare, Liz tuned more fully into the story at hand, her countenance softening at the look of utter concentration that was currently chiseled upon Nancy’s drawn features. Her mother was clearly engrossed in Alyssa’s story, and the barely concealed joy that shone on her face helped lessen the painful twinge that panged Liz’s heart whenever she gazed upon her mother’s deteriorating health.

It was hard to believe that it had been merely a month since Liz had first set foot back into this house, into this life. It felt like years. Long, poignant, drawn out years that involved helplessly watching her mother slip away bit by bit, and feeling her father’s frigid indifference. Although Liz would be the first to admit that his indifference was much preferred to his nasty irritation and anger. However, a part of her could not deny the tiny voice inside her mind that screamed that this agreement of weekly family dinners was a horrible idea.

Liz immediately clamped down upon such a thought. The reason for these get-togethers was staring her in the face. For no amount of past differences could possibly prompt Liz to take away from her daughter that type of relationship that rapidly developing between her and her grandmother. And Liz had to admit that Nancy herself was benefiting from these meetings, as her complexion never looked as bright and healthy as it did when she was talking animatedly with her granddaughter – like it was now.

Liz was shook out of her musings when Nancy turned towards her suddenly, a mischievous eyebrow upturned. “Liz, my dear, it seems as if you and Alyssa are going to put this poor Mr. Evans out of business soon, with all the free goods he is giving away to you.”

Ignoring the lurch of her stomach at the mention of the now very familiar name, Liz could only gaze at her mother with perplexity until it clicked in her mind what exactly Nancy was hinting at. “Oh! You mean how he let Alyssa have a milkshake on the house after she helped him?” When Nancy nodded in affirmation, Liz chuckled. “That was a one time thing, Mom. Believe me. We eat enough at that place to send him to early retirement.”

Nancy’s mirth increased. “Oh you do, do you?” Her interest in the man that had occasionally made his way into small conversations in the house was entirely palpable – as was her habit of jumping to the completely wrong conclusion.

Liz narrowed her eyes at her suggestive tone. “Yes.” She answered determinedly, closing all room for debate on her ulterior motives for dining at the Crashdown.

Alyssa turned anxious eyes upon her mother. “Mommy? Am I weally gonna put Max outta business if I keep getting fwree food?”

Liz smiled despite herself at Max’s innate generosity and his ability to elicit genuine concern out of her daughter in such a minute spread of time. Her smile lessened however, at Nancy’s snort, and comment of, “Just a one time thing, huh?” Liz simply threw her mother an exasperated look, and assuaged Lyssa’s worries quietly.

Nancy let it go, for now, her eyes still twinkling as she changed the subject. “So Liz, how’s your job going? What is the place called again?”

At this, Jeff looked up from his newspaper, piercing Liz with a disgruntled look. “You got a job?”

Liz ruffled indignantly at the comment, all previous warm feelings from her mother’s playful teasing, and a certain dark haired man extinguished without any further preamble. “Of course I got a job! I’m not leaving any time soon,” She bit this out pointedly, feeling a bit stung when he flinched at her statement. “I’m not going to continue to live with Maria forever, and Alyssa will be starting school in a few weeks.” She sighed exasperatedly, eliciting an annoyed look from Jeff.

Nancy frowned, and prodded Jeff with her finger. “Jeff dear. Liz told us this last week. Don’t you remember?”

Jeff continued to look utterly unconcerned with this reminder, and chose to turn back to his paper after half-heartedly asking, “Oh yes. So what was this dive called again?”

Through clenched teeth, Liz answered tersely. “Martian Melodies.” Deciding to ignore Jeff’s snort of disgust, Liz focused instead upon her mother, the initiator of this particular topic. “Anyways, it’s going very well, actually. Alex and Isabel finally got the store the way they wanted, and we opened last Monday.” Upon seeing her mother’s nod of encouragement, Liz went on. “Business was slow for the first few days, but that was to be expected. Yesterday it picked up quite a bit, but that might have something to do with the fact that Maria was playing in order to grab customers’ attention.” Liz smiled in memory. “It’s nice. I’m actually really loving it there.”

Jeff smacked his paper down forcefully down upon the table, murmuring tones of aversion under his breath.

Liz had finally had enough of Jeff’s antipathy. Her eyes flashed with a perilous fire, blazing with a scorching heat that he in turn combated with a chilling aloofness. “All right,” she hissed. “What is with you tonight? I come here for our regular attempts at a civil sit down dinner, and I get nothing but disgruntled sighs and nasty snubs.” Jeff’s own eyes began to dance furiously, but he said nothing.

Nancy seemed to sense that another row was brewing, and she rubbed her forehead wearily. “Please you two. Not now. Not here.”

Liz however, was on a frightful roll, and nothing would stop her now. “No. I would like to know why I’m getting treated so. What the hell did I do now?”

Alyssa began to tremble at her mother’s raised tone. “Mommy?”

Quick as a wink, Liz’s feature smoothed over reassuringly as she regarded her daughter. “Lyssa, honey? Would you go wait in the living room while I finish talking with your grandfather?” Liz waited until she nodded before languidly proceeding out of the room, glad for sure to be exempted from finishing her icky vegetables, and then rounded once more on her father. “So?”

The emotions coursing through Jeff’s eyes passed from anger to dejectedness so quickly that Liz was slightly taken aback. His next words, however, fueled her rage again, along with an emotion so strong, that tears pricked her vision.

“You could have done so much more with your life, Elizabeth.” Pure regret and sorrow flitted through his eyes, and for an instant, Liz almost felt a pang of sentimentality reach out towards him. However, that was before his eyes hardened once again with the knowledge of the past and he added on, “Instead here you are. Wasting away your time at a small town dump.”

Anger made Liz swell like a bullfrog, quashing any of her previous sympathies. “I’ll have you know that before I came back here, I was well on my way to making a name for myself in California! And you know what? I did it entirely on my own, with a child no less! No special favors, no charity from anyone, no, just my own blood, sweat and tears!” She paused here, taking in his surprisingly interested expression. “But yes, here I am. I came back. Do you know why?” Tears caused her vision to blur and her words to come out choked. “DO YOU?” An unnamable emotion swirled through Jeff’s eyes, causing Liz to momentarily falter. After regaining something of her composure back, she continued. “Because I still care too damn much. And that’s obviously more than can be said for you.” Liz stared hard at him for a moment, before the lump in her throat forced her to look away. “Excuse me.”

She pushed her chair back forcefully, stopping only at the door to bid her sorrow stricken mother good-bye. Pushing through the hallway leading to the family room (Ha! Now there was an oxymoron), Liz found Lyssa engrossed in the television set before her. She exhaled loudly before entering the room fully, and then forged on through.

“Alyssa, honey, its time to leave.”

Lyssa turned fully, pouty lips towards her mother, a whine creeping into her voice. “But the show’s almost over! Can’t I wait until it ends?”

Liz sighed, rubbing her temple. “Honey, you’ve barely even sat down to watch. We’re going now.”

Alyssa’s pout became more pronounced. “Pwease?”

Entirely too tired for another fight, Liz relented after looking at her watch. “Fine. We’ll leave in five minutes, not a second later. You hear me?” When Lyssa nodded in consent, Liz swept her gaze across the spacious room, an object in the corner grabbing her attention. Tilting her head, Liz cautiously made her way to it, a wave of nostalgia hitting as she walked. Upon reaching it, she placed herself carefully atop the bench, resting her hands on the ivory keys. Closing her eyes, she was hit with a memory of an earlier occurrence today, one that had, ironically, promoted her to call to mind the very piano that was before her this instant.

”Liz! Liz, come here and look what Alex just got in today!”

Maria’s excited shout drew Liz away from the spending sheet in front of her, luring her to the back of the newly furnished store. Laughter became evident in Liz’s voice as she heard Maria’s excited shrieks and as she called out. “Maria! What is it?”

“Come see, come see! Ooo, Lizzie, you’re going to love it!”

In the dusty, back storage room was where Liz found her friend, who was dragging behind her a cushiony-topped bench. Liz’s heart stopped cold when she noticed to what the bench was being dragged towards. A medium-sized, antiquely furnished, wooden sided piano. Liz’s feet took up root where they were standing, digging determinedly through the cement floor.

Maria turned a flushed-filled face upon her, a wide grin breaking out as she lunged forward. “Isn’t it great! Alex and I will have you playing for us in no time.” Maria’s bright green eyes widened in realization. “No! I know! We can have you and I play to attract customers! That’s sure to perk up business, right Alex?”

Alex shoved a box of newly shipped music books atop the shelf located near the doorway, wiping his brow as he finished the task. “Maria, just remember that I never actually said in full guarantee that I would let you play.” His eyebrows quirked up playfully, and he laughed as Maria stuck her tongue out at him. Subsequently, he turned to Liz, not noticing her stiffened form. “Liz, you didn’t tell me you could play the piano.”

Maria immediately forgot Alex’s earlier teasing, and launched into gushing details from the past. “Oh my God! Liz is amazing! She used to play all the time when we were kids, even through high school, putting on recitals at school, wowing her teachers . . .” She broke off, giggling. “Remember the duets we used to do, with me on the guitar? How we dressed in those mortifying ‘costumes?’” She nudged Liz good-naturedly in the ribs, only then noticing the grim expression etched upon Liz’s features. “Liz?” She asked uncertainly. “What’s wrong?”

Liz had to close her eyes at the onslaught of memories that racked through her body. Her father’s stern reprimand that she hadn’t practiced sufficiently. The recital where she had lost her place half way through, and been entirely mortified. But most of all, it was the memory of locking away her music sheets and books after crying over Sean’s reaction to discovering that he was going to be a father that sliced her soul . . .

”I don’t play,” Liz answered through clenched teeth.

Maria’s eyes widened in surprise. “What? Yes you do! Quite well, actually.”

Liz shook her head. “Not anymore.”

“Why not?”

“I just don’t.”

Perhaps it was Liz’s expression, or maybe it was the finality in her tone, but for whatever reason, Maria hastily retreated. “Okay.” She shrugged; regret scrunching up her pert nose. “It’s our loss, though, I tell you Alex. Because Liz was fantastic . . .”

Liz was startled out of his reverie by the sensation of a hand being placed upon her shoulder. Jerking forward, Liz turned and found herself face to face with her mother. Nancy’s eyes sparkled softly as she glanced down at the elegant baby grand before them, reaching out to graze the smooth black side with the back of her pale, shaky hands. She smiled warmly, the action causing Liz herself to relax, some of the tension building behind her shoulders lessening to a degree.

“Do you remember when you used to play?”

The question immediately flooded Liz’s mind with a myriad amount of sundry memories, each more painful than the last. “Yes,” she answered wryly after a moment, choosing a less harsh one to recount. “I also remember dad nagging at me to practice ten times a day.”

Nancy shrugged. “He loved to hear you play.” She paused, letting this sink in. “We both did.”

Compunction gripped Liz’s abdomen like a vice as she recalled how the piano had been a form of escape for her. The keys before her were ones that had been pounded mercilessly in fits of fury and pain, keys that had been lightly caressed in moments of contentment, and also ones that had been slowly pushed to bring about tones of melancholy sentiments as rain pattered the roof and slide down the panes. For a long, long while, music had been Liz Parker’s only solace. That is, until she thought she found it in Sean Robinson. Cold rage narrowed her brown eyes.

Nancy, however, shook her head, her thin voice cutting through Liz’s reverie once more. “That’s not what I meant, though.” Liz perked at this. “I was talking about before you had lessons – when you were about Alyssa’s age actually, perhaps younger . . .” Nancy broke off, a smile evident in her tone. “Do you remember what you used to say? When you used to clamor atop the bench and strain your arms out so you could reach the keys in order to plunk out a few notes?”

Liz’s brow furrowed in her attempt at recollecting this, the image clear in her mind, but the following component of the memory lost to her mind. Finally looking up at Nancy, Liz had to shake her head in negativity. “No. I don’t,” her tone was apologetic yet curious. “What did I say?”

Nancy’s smile grew so it overtook her entire face. “You used to run up to me and say, ‘Mommy! Look! When I tickle the keys the piano laughs! Listen!’” Laughter coursed through both women, and Liz’s eyes rounded in amused shock.

“I said that?”

“You did.” Nancy loved the memory, that much was palpable. Liz laughed again, her cheeks widening with her quiet smile.

Nancy’s expression faded from the warm levity. “Liz, about what happened in there just now - ”

Liz’s hand flew up, effectively cutting her off. “I’d rather not talk about it, Mom.”

Nancy pursed her lips, then continued anyways. “I know you would. But you should know that despite what you think, you’re father does love you.”

Liz snorted dramatically. “He sure has a funny way of showing it.”

Nancy blew out some frustrated air, causing a stray strand of auburn hair to fly back out of her eyes. “Liz, you just don’t understand, your father’s - ”

Dark orbs narrowing in confusion, Liz stepped closer. “Yes?”

Nancy bit her tongue forcefully, not allowing herself to reveal everything just yet. She switched topics so rapidly that it took Liz a minute to process the question. “Liz, have you ever played the piano since you’ve . . . since you’ve left?” The last statement caused a sliver of dulled pain flicker through her eyes, making the motion of blinking back stinging tears a necessity for her daughter.

“No,” came the quiet, almost whispered answer. “I haven’t.”


Liz swiped back an errant lock of hair behind her, her eyes suddenly itching to move about the room, to rest anywhere but on the woman in front of her. “I just,” She stopped; scouring her mind for the words to put into tangibility her tangled emotions. “I haven’t felt moved to do so. Not for a long time.”

Nancy’s forehead crinkled in sorrowful concern, and she shook her head sadly. “Playing was always a source of outlet for you, Lizzie. A way for you to feel comforted, energetic, and soothed all at the same time.” Liz was taken aback at how well her mother put into her words how she had regarding playing, and it caused her to lock gazes with her mother, a newfound awe and respect flowing from her eyes. Nancy smiled again, this time the usually warm action was laced with a certain poignancy.

“All I want for you is for you to find that peace again, Liz.” She reached for her daughter’s hand, which was given readily, and Nancy squeezed it lightly. “That’s all I want.”

Without even realizing it, Liz nodded her head, unconsciously taking in her mother’s last request.

And quite suddenly, she knew exactly where she wanted to be in order find it.


Max Evans carefully shifted the ketchup bottle so it lined evenly with the mustard container adjacent to it. After doing so, he wiped down the top of the bar counter for the fifth time that minute, simultaneously pondering as to whether or not the sugar bowls needed refilling.

Yes, he was stalling. However, the ketchup and other such condiments were doing little in successfully diverting his attention from a certain dark haired mystification.

Knock it off Evans Max berated himself. The type of adolescent behavior he was sporting lately was getting to be too much. Far too much. All together, he was becoming rapidly quite disgusted with himself. Taking a moment to rub furiously at his pounding temple, Max continued on his trek down self-aversion lane and tried to focus on his tasks at hand.

He was effectively startled out of his self-contempt when someone poked him rather forcefully square in the back. Whirling around with an air of indignity, Max grumbled upon discovering who it was. He sighed with resignation.

“What do you want?”

Maria huffed at such a greeting. “Now there’s a way to warm a gal’s heart.”

Max rolled his eyes at Maria’s sarcastic quip, responding more to himself rather than to her. “Well, then it’s a good thing that warming your heart is of little consequence to me.”

Smirking at this perfect setup, Maria lost no time on acting upon it. “Oh, that’s right. I forgot that I am sadly not the object of your intense affection. Silly me.” Pausing for dramatic effect, her smirk widened when she saw Max’s ears tinge with crimson at her pointed tone. “How is Liz, anyways?”

Max was well aware of the fact that Maria had little knowledge of how sore this subject was to him, yet the acknowledgement did nothing for his temper. Breathing fiercely out through his flared nostrils, Max clenched his jaw. “Why don’t you go over and ask her yourself?”

Turning her blonde head so it looked over her shoulder, Maria noticed then, that Liz was sitting over at a window side booth, Alyssa seated across from her; the latter chattering happily and swinging her feet jovially so that they occasionally kicked the bottom side of the seat. The former gazed forlornly out of the glass pane beside her.

Understanding immediately swept through her. Focusing her attention back upon her brooding friend, she speculated carefully, attempting for the nth time to gather information as to what had occurred between him and Liz over the past month – and also what had made him drop his resolve to pursue her faster than a hot potato. “Ah, so Liz is here. Well, it explains your moodiness anyhow.” Her tone was well suited for baiting, baiting which Max swallowed unwittingly whole, hook, line and sinker. Maria had to hide a smile at his reaction.

Jerking his head up quickly, Max pierced her with a look that he hoped was perceived as mildly indignant. “Why would I be moody in Liz’s presence?” His tone rose and fell with appropriate innocence, but Maria was far too acquainted Max to be fooled.

Snorting loudly, all notions of ladylike behavior by far forgone, Maria arched an eyebrow at him. “You tell me.”

Max had no answer for this, just a long drawn out sigh.

Sensing that he was faltering, Maria seized her chance. “Seriously Max. What happened to you? Just weeks ago, you were all pumped up for trying to get to know Liz better, and taking a chance with her. I know you were,” she added as he opened his mouth as to protest. She smiled slightly. “Don’t even try and pull a fast one on ole Maria.”

Continuing, Maria became gravely serious, her heart aching for her two friends, both of which were trying desperately to deny what was transpiring between them. “Max. Come on. Tell me. What happened to make you just give up? Because the Max Evans I know isn’t a quitter.” She paused, wondering whether or not to add her next thought. “He was a go-getter . . . a leader.” She finished softly upon deciding to go through with it.

The reaction was instantaneous. Golden fire flashed precariously in Max’s eyes, fiery fury causing his normally placid features to be drowned in anger. “Don’t,” he hissed forcefully. “Don’t even go there. I am NOT that person anymore. I never will be. Not after what happened. Not after how I failed - ” He broke off, breathing hard.

Maria hastily retreated, but only after one last thought. “Max, you can’t change who you are, who you were born to be. Not even as hard as you try.” She shook her head sadly, “And I know, Max, everyone knows that none of what happened was your fault.” Upon seeing him swell up for another round, she held out her hands in a peace offering. “Sorry, I know it’s not my place, and that you won’t believe me no matter how much I say it. I’m just saying.”

Max softened, knowing that he had overreacted and uncharacteristically so. His countenance became apologetic, and he gestured towards her. “Maria, I - ”

She shook her head vehemently. “It’s okay Max. Really. I understand.” Pain flashed momentarily through her olive eyes. “More than you know.”

Regret and guilt sliced through Max’s gut mercilessly, and his throat worked overtime in an effect to control his surging emotions. Before he could say anything to voice his compunction, Maria cut him off.

“But I know how you can make up for it!” A devious smile coursed through her face, immediately putting Max with an amused wariness.

“What’s that?”

The conniving grin deepened. “Full disclosure chicky bean. Details, and I mean DETAILS.”

Max’s eyebrows rose innocuously. “On the newest shipment?”

Maria rolled her eyes. “Cute, Max. That’s real cute.” She mock glared at him for a few more seconds before growing serious once more. “I mean it though, Max. What happened? You can only avoid me for so long you know.”

At Maria’s inquiries, Max was unwillingly drawn back to that fateful day some weeks prior.

One month earlier . . .

Max paused outside Michael and Maria’s apartment, his heart thundering in his chest. Nervously, he raked his fingers through his already tousled inky black mane, his bangs falling haphazardly across his brow. He lugged in a large breath of air, held it, then expelled it forcefully out before him. Subsequently, he rolled his eyes at himself, and his sudden development of foolishness.

What the hell was wrong with him?

iWell, that would be the question of the day, Max thought to himself wryly.

But honestly. Ever since Liz Parker had waltzed into his life last week, his emotions remained to be something he could not call his own. For if they truly were his possession, they would be his to control, and quite frankly, that was no longer the case. Control was rapidly becoming a foreign notion, and Max wasn’t sure he if liked that one bit. Control was also something he prided himself on, held dear to his very being. Not even the horrors that had been experienced those years ago came even a smidgeon close to the total lack of hegemony he had been feeling lately. However, despite himself, Max grinned at the memory of Liz’s smile, and what it did to him.

This past week, it had gradually become a routine for Liz and Alyssa to pop in for lunch, and at times even dinner, at the Crashdown. They liked to come, Max noticed, as often as possible when the tiny diner was sparsely populated. It seemed like those precious hours in which they were together and eating were ones that the Parker girls liked to use to wind down after the day, or merely take a break from life’s hectic curve balls.

Boy, Max knew what that was like. Did he ever.

And so Max had taken to using that time to stop and converse with the two, getting to know better the enchanting creature that had so abruptly breezed in through the door, tagging along a charming dark haired little imp along for the ride. What had surprised, and if he was completely candid with himself, delighted him as well, was just how warm Liz was. Despite everything, which in turn wasn’t all that much, that Maria had told him about Liz’s painful past, she still managed to hold a sparkle about her that was catchy to anyone who came into contact with her.

*Infinitely lovely, inside and out, that she was, without a doubt. *

Breaking out of his reverie, Max shook his head. Again, what was
wrong with him?

He sighed loudly. It seemed that he was loosing his mind. Yet, a small part of him couldn’t help but feel that in reality, he was
finding it.

So here he was. Finally working up the nerve and growing the balls to take Maria’s forceful advice and try and see if maybe the sparks that were flying around between him and Liz could ignite into the most potent fires of passion. There were a million reasons not to do it. And there was merely one reason to do it. But oh, that one reason made it all seem worth it all.

So why the hell was he so scared?

Immediately, Max scoffed at such a term. He wasn’t scared! No, he was simply . . . cautious. Apprehensive. Careful.

Yeah, just keep telling yourself that Maxwell.

His musings were interrupted bluntly as the door in front of him leaped out to nearly bash him smack in the face. Jumping back with alarm, Max eyed the perpetrator, irritation flashing in his hazel eyes.

“Jesus Michael! You about jammed my nose up into my brain!”

Michael smirked and leaned against the doorway. “Sorry about that,” he said, not sounding in the least a bit apologetic. He straightened and cocked his head to one side. “So you going to come in or continue standing here until the walls come down?”

Making a face at his friend, Max gave a half-hearted laugh. “Yeah, yeah, you’re hilarious, you know that?”

Michael’s smirk widened. “I try.”

Pushing past him, Max stepped inside. Biting back the urge to inhale deeply once more, Max squared his shoulders, forcing his feet to propel him down the familiar hallway. He was so wrapped up in his thoughts that he barely registered Michael’s movement back towards the TV. Each step Max took led him closer and closer to the door that he knew held within it the very object of his so-called mission, and with each step, more of his thoughts were lost to him. His mind went terrifyingly blank for a moment as he realized that the door was indeed wide open. Almost as if pulled to do so by some greater force, Max inched softly forward, peering around the frame to gaze inside.

The sight purloined his breath and stopped his heart.

Liz was sitting cross-legged on her daughter’s bed; her backside glaring at the door, a sheen of smooth ebony cascading down her shoulders. Alyssa was curled up in her lap, seemingly sound asleep, her dark curls resting against her mother’s smooth arm. It took a minute for Max to register the fact that Liz’s sweet tones were gracing the air, and his ears strained to pick up the sounds.

“Shh, go back to sleep sweetie. We all have nightmares sometimes. Even Mommy. But don’t worry, okay? I wont let anything bad happen to you, I promise.” The words ripped at Max’s heart, their meanings and promises ringing in his ear. Meanings and promises that he too had uttered at one time. Meanings and promises that were now irrevocably lost.

Alyssa’s sleepy voice brought Max’s attention back to the tender moment at hand. “But Mommy, the monsters . . . they were so real! They sneaked up behinds ya, and got ya! Before you even knowed it!”

Liz’s smile was palpable, even with her back turned towards Max. “Sweetie, it’ll be okay. See? I’m right here. Nothing bad’s going to happen when I’m right here. I promise.”

Alyssa shifted slightly in Liz’s lap, tilting her dark head so that her features were visible to Max. “But how’da ya know that it’ll be okay? How’da ya know?”

The question, although not intended for him, made Max stagger backwards with the blow. Slowly, he crept away, not wanting to intrude on the precious moment between Mother and daughter anymore so. Alyssa’s adorable voice still echoed in his ears.

*How do you know, Max? How do you know that it’ll be okay?*

The truth was, that he didn’t. How could it be okay, how could it be safe for him to try and involve Liz in the mess that was his life? How could it, when he didn’t even know for sure whether or not the craziness was over? Whether or not it ever would be over. Because, despite Maria, Michael, Isabel and Alex’s definite resolve that it had all concluded with Tess’s death, Max still felt a shiver of apprehension every once in a while that everyone else had written off as an old habit of paranoia.

And the real truth of the matter was that Liz deserved more. Alyssa sure as hell deserved more. And Max wasn’t convinced that he was the person to give it to them. How could he be, with the past actions against him? When his hands were stained with blood? It wasn’t fair. It wasn’t fair at all for him to drag them into this simply because he wanted to. Inherently, he knew that he would rather die than to cause Liz’s eyes to burn with more pain, for Alyssa to grow up contently fearing the monster’s that would surely follow her wherever she went.

It was better this way. For everyone.

A heavy heart and dejected soul caused his shoes to feel like lead, dragging his feet and scraping them back towards the trek home to his empty apartment. Home to his empty bed. However, that wasn’t entirely true. For Max wasn’t even sure if there ever was a time when he felt truly ‘home.’ A wave of longing swept through his stomach, swooping down to curl his toes. He fought it down relentlessly. He needed to face it. He needed to face the fact that he was basically poison to those whose lives he touched. It was time to start treating it as so, time to quarantine himself off from those who could fall subject to the sink hole that was his life.

He passed Michael on his way out, the latter jerking his spiky head towards his friend. “Hey, did you get what you came for?”

Max stopped in his tracks, perplexity diverting his facial muscles from their current position in poignancy. “What?”

Michael shrugged. “Maria said you were stopping by to get something. So, did you get what you needed?”

Max smiled deprecatingly, his eyes seeking out a fixation point off in the distance that wasn’t visible to Michael.

“Yeah, Michael. I guess you could say that.”

Max blinked as the present snapped into focus, along with Maria’s fingers waving in front of his face.

“Hello? Maxie poo?” Maria peered up at his face, her eyebrows raised in expectancy. “Ah, I see life! Welcome back Max, you sort of spaced out there for a moment.” She paused, then grew persistent once more. “So, are you really **not** going to tell me what happened?”

Max shook his head, his surroundings still disoriented. After clearing his head somewhat, he shrugged at his quirky blond friend. “No, I’m not.” He answered quietly, his tone not at all offensive nor annoyed. He was merely . . . resigned.

Maria huffed and crossed her slender arms in front her. “Fine! God, I swear, you and Liz really are two of a kind. What a waste,” she mumbled as she floated off towards the back kitchen area, probably going to scour the fridge for leftover food to take home, as she usually did. Max rolled his eyes at the thought, before his gaze drifted across the diner.

Lyssa was nursing a nearly empty glass of lemonade, her expression open with complete complacency. A small smile arced Max’s lips, and his mirth grew at the remembrance of how Lyssa’s dark eyes had shone with delight as she had helped him around the diner earlier today. Her enthusiasm and enchantment had given him an irrational urge to break the milkshake machine over and over again, just to see her eyes light up and face brighten with joy as she aided in the repair, pleased entirely with the final outcome and the fact that she had had a part in it.

Involuntarily, and inevitably, Max’s glance shifted over to come to rest upon Liz, and her solemn, contemplative expression. Max was beginning to pick up on the fact that these little poignant trances that Liz seemed to waft through every once and a while had something to do with her parent’s, and her mother’s condition. Or, as Max had a nasty speculation, had something to do with Alyssa’s father. Unconsciously, Max’s fingers clenched into fists and animosity caused his jaw to tighten. He didn’t know much about that bastard, but the little he did know was enough for Max to be glad for his alien powers. For if he ever laid eyes on the son of a bitch, it would his pleasure to zap the guy one.

Sighing, Max turned to back to his menial tasks, not knowing that his chance to do just that might present itself in the near future.

Friends He thought silently. Just friends. That’s what he and Liz Parker would be. No matter how hard he wished differently.

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 7-Dec-2002 11:07:40 AM ]
posted on 4-Jan-2003 11:37:38 AM
~*~Part Seven~*~

Liz Parker stared relentlessly out of the comfortingly dusty windowpane. It seemed as if everything in this small town had some sort of worn in look about it, one that was infinitely warm and inviting. The sun had long since departed from this side of the world, but even with the blanket of darkness, Main Street looked irrevocably quaint.

It was nothing like she was used to. Absolutely nothing like her childhood.

Sighing deeply Liz tore her gaze away from the outside world and in turn directed it towards her half empty cup of coffee, trying, searching for anything to divert her thoughts. Why couldn’t everything just be different? Good for once? Normal? Because really, whose father’s treated them like this? And moreover, how many people had the chance to actually find their mother again, to really form an inherent connection, only to have it ripped away one torturous minute at a time? Liz bit her lip fiercely at the thought of her mother. Nancy’s pale face swam through her vision once more, her bright eyes warm and motherly. A lump crept up to choke her languidly, and Liz had to clap her hand around her mouth to keep from crying out. It simply wasn’t FAIR damn it. It just -

Out of nowhere, a strong hand reached out to caress her bare arm. The mere sensation sent an electric current tumbling through her nerves, and sparks to fly up and down her arm. “Hey,” Liz looked up, suddenly pined back by two wide, tawny, concerned eyes. “Liz, are you all right?”

She drew in a ragged breath, her lungs suddenly feeling shallow and inadequate. “I’m fine, Max.” She answered flatly, nodding for emphasis.

Max was silent for so long that at last she was forced to look up at him. She realized her mistake instantly when she began to drown in the yellowish brown pools. How could one categorize those eyes? She mused offhandedly, despite the fact that the very question had been one to keep her up late at night on more than one occasion. Her grip tightened around her coffee mug, and she was blazed with sudden triumph. That’s it! Coffee. His eyes were like dark, freshly brewed coffee at times, lightening with a swirl of milky cream. The two shades of brown jumbled together so effortlessly that eventually they became indistinguishable. Mesmerizing …

Her face flushed lightly as she realized what she was doing. Obsessing about those gorgeous eyes. Stupid, stupid. She forced herself to drag her gaze away, blindly reaching for the sugar so she could sweeten the lukewarm liquid in front of her.

“Liz,” he finally said. Why, oh why did he have to say her name like that? So gently, so heartfelt that she couldn’t help but to allow her heart to skip a beat. “You’re putting salt in your coffee. That’s got to be a little bit worse than just fine.”

Startled, Liz glanced down at her suspended hand which was positioned above her cup. Good God, he was right. The saltshaker was gripped loosely in her hand and it mocked mercilessly at her, reinforcing that she was indeed loosing her mind. She let out a hollow laugh, feeling that if she did anything else, she would start to cry. “Wow. I-I … I’m sorry, I just - ”

Why was she even here anyway? She and Alyssa had already eaten at her parent’s house. And even if she hadn’t, her appetite would have been lost regardless with the way things had gone. All she had known was that she couldn’t go back to Maria’s apartment. Not when it felt like anything but home to her. No matter how grateful she was to Maria for giving her a place for her and Alyssa to stay, it just felt – awkward. She itching for the day when she would have enough money saved up to buy herself a place. Or in the very least, rent one. But if Nancy kept deteriorating the way she was, then Liz wouldn’t have to worry about any of those things. She would be able to return to California, back to her semi-old life. But then again, California had never really seemed like home either.

What if Nancy were to die tomorrow? Would Liz really be left alone in this world, with her only living relative Jeff? The man who, if not for DNA tests and birth certificates, she would not be able to believe him to be her father?

Liz shifted her gaze across the booth, staring hard at her daughter.

No, that wasn’t true. No matter what happened, Liz would always have Alyssa. Always. And that would be enough. She smiled as she watched a tiny hint of a frown wrinkle Lyssa’s forehead, the result of the breaking of the red crayon her daughter was currently using to beautify her napkin. Lyssa however, was not fazed any more than that, and she promptly switched to a yellow one, humming softly and contentedly as she worked.

“Liz,” Max’s low voice sliced through her broken thoughts, and she turned back to him, grateful for the distraction. “You know, if you ever want to talk, I’m here whenever you need me.” He shifted uncertainly, yet his gaze was locked on, unwavering from hers. A shudder rippled through her as tears burned at her nose and pricked at her vision. Never had anything sounded so pure, so beautiful. When was the last time someone had offered her this type of reassurance? Whenever you need me. This type of security, the chance for her to break down a while, the chance for her to be something other than the strong, single mother? A ball knotted up in the back of her throat, it’s contants full of aching sadness just bursting to be free.

He was instantly alarmed at her reaction and inched closer to her, his order pad and pen falling from grace to clatter vociferously onto the tile floor. “Hey, hey,” he spoke softly, soothingly, his expression concerned. For her. “That was supposed to have the opposite effect.” His quip elected a laugh out of her, but in her state it came out as some sort of mutant half laugh, half wrenching sob.

Alyssa was suddenly staring at them both, her work of art before her dismissed. “Mommy? Are you alwight?”

Liz swung an alarmed look in Max’s direction, pleading with him silently. Alyssa could NOT see her lose it. Watching your parent break down had to be one of the scariest things for a child, especially for one of such a young age. And the fearful widening of her daughter’s brown eyes caused Liz’s heart to break once more. But try as she might, she simply could not stop her tears from gathering together in the corner of her eye like some horrible tea party gone wrong.

Max seemed to snap to attention, and Liz could only watch in astonished awe as he calmly called Maria over and smoothly instructed her to allow Alyssa to help with the closing of the diner. Her breath hitched as Alyssa’s eyes sparkled with delight, and her daughter promptly bounded out of their booth and began tugging on Maria’s apron relentlessly.

“I can help? Rweally, rweally?” Her tiny yet exuberant voice rang through the empty room. “Can I wear an apron? Just like you Auntie Maria? Huh? Can I?”

Maria looked as if she were about to protest Max on the whole idea, her tired green eyes rimmed with exhaustion, but one look at Liz seemed to silence her on the subject. Liz quickly and quietly mouthed her thanks, and Maria regarded it with a simple smile and a mock glare for Max.

“Sure thing Alyssa. In fact, you can wear mine.” Maria busied herself with the task of removing the shiny, silvery cloth from around her body and wrapping it around Lyssa’s small frame. The overall effect was amusing, as she practically swam in the ten-sizes-too-big apron, and also because the string had to be tied three times just to keep the cloth from sliding down to her knees. Liz didn’t know whether or not to giggle or start bawling.

For some reason, Max seemed especially in tune with her emotions tonight. Or had he always been this way? Liz looked up at his face strangely while he propelled her efficiently towards the break room located in the back of the tiny tourist trap. He had been incredibly distant lately, not like he had been originally for the first week she had met him. God, was that a mere month or so ago? It seemed like ages, and at the same time, like seconds.

When the door had closed soundly behind them, and he had gently yet firmly sat her down upon the well worn in couch that was pushed against the wall, she allowed herself to close her eyes tightly and the tears to fall. The wetness silently streaked her face, feeling like warm summer rain. Except nothing about what she was feeling was anything like summer. Inside she was cold, and tired. Oh, so tired. Thank God she hadn’t lost it completely in front of Alyssa. What would she have done without –

Max. Where was Max? An acute panic squeezed her stomach as her lids quivered open. The sight that greeted her was a puzzling one indeed. Max was standing a few feet in front of her, fidgeting restlessly as if engaging in a private battle of the heart. Unconsciously, her head tilted to one side as her eyes narrowed in her attempt to figure him out.

It was almost as if he felt her gaze from head to toe with the way he suddenly started. Swiveling his head so he could lock his eyes onto her, his gaze became apologetic. His stance straightened as he seemed to make a decision, and the next thing she knew, he was sitting right next to her, his fingers catching her pain as it fell unfailingly. Her lips quivered with the sensation, and she leaned into his touch, momentarily closing her eyes. When she opened them seconds later, her view was filled with the sight of his lips. Warmth exploded within her abdomen as the movement of his hand on her face stilled. For one soul shocking instant she lifted her eyes up to meet his. The moment reached out to kick her breath away from her lungs, and if she had the air in her, she would have gasped in awed surprise. She didn’t think she had ever felt so vulnerable, so intrigued as she stared deep into the soul filled eyes of Max Evans. The experience was one that was entirely new to her. Never had she felt as cherished, as naked, as safe in her whole existence.

Safety was a foreign occurrence for her. She had always felt watched, burdened with the incessant need to be perfect ever since she could remember. But here? Here, lost in the glimmering pools some would deem to call eyes that belonged to Max Evans, it all drifted away. She inched unknowingly closer, feeling the warmth of his breath on her cheek as it dried the onslaught of her tears.

Here, she could simply be.

Liz blinked suddenly, effectively ruining the moment. She struggled to get a hold of herself, pretty sure that in another minute her mouth would be hanging wide open, if not already. Tearing herself away from the golden brown muddy puddles of his eyes, her gaze slid down his face, taking him his chiseled features and forcing herself to swallow. God, he really was a handsome man. Sinfully handsome. Liz felt herself flush once more for where her thoughts were leading her, especially at this time and place. Yet she could not fully force herself away.

Her eyes trailed down his nose, taking in the movement of his Adam’s apple bobbed up and down. The movement startled her. Was she affecting him in the same way that he was affecting her? The thought puzzled, warned and delighted her. Pushing all thought out of her mind was altogether far too easy a thing to do when she continued her perusal of his face and her view swam with the spectacle of his mouth. His tongue suddenly darted out to wet his parched lips, and she was instantly hit with the musing of what such a sensation would feel like upon her own lips.

Strangely enough, this time the thought didn’t embarrass or bother her. On the contrary, she simply tilted her chin up until it remained a feathers touch away from his and she was sucker punched with the urge to feel his lips against hers. The delightful sensation of their heavy breaths meeting and mingling in the little air remaining between them thrilled her in a way that mystified and enraptured her.

His hand still cupped her cheek, and slowly, softly he ran his fingertips across her skin, sending ticklish shivers to jolt her from her head to culminate in her toes, which were curling with sudden anticipation. Her eyes closed against the sensitivity, marveling at the texture of his touch.

“Do you want to talk about it?” The sharp words brought her crashing back down to the present. Oh God. Her mother. Her father. All of it, just came back to bombard her and slice her chest with fierce precision. She worked her throat uncertainly. What was it about him that made her forget?

Un sticking her tongue from her unusually dry mouth, Liz shrugged. “I don’t want to put you out, I mean, you’re busy right now with closing and every - ”

Max’s other hand darted up to press firmly against her mouth. She had to bit back a sigh as his fingers lingered there briefly before skidding back to tuck an errant strand of dark hair behind her ear. “Maria’s handling it,” he promised, smiling softly.

Liz bit her lip again, barely noticing his sharp intake of breath at such a motion. After a slight stretch of silence, she dared a look up at him, carefully steeling herself away from his dangerously compelling eyes. Her own eyes watered as the thoughts came once more unbidden from the crevices of her soul. Could she really let go completely? Could she really spill her thoughts, her inner most feelings to him?

The answer was instantaneous, and somehow not all together surprising.

Yes. She could.

Liz looked away, inhaling in as much shaky air as her lungs could take before expelling it out with more force than was necessary. “It’s just - ” She paused, sniffing slightly. “Everything’s so out of control. And I’m close to just loosing it completely. I mean, have you ever felt like screaming at the world at one minute and then like cowering in a corner to sob the next?” Was she even making any sense? Max looked startled beyond belief, but she was instantly reassured when he nodded solemnly, his eyes saying so much more than the simply gesture. It was all she needed to start again.

“I just … Ever since I received that phone call from my father, I guess I’ve had the insane notion that this might have been it. This might have been our chance to actually be a family again. If we ever were such a thing.” She snorted, feeling anything but humorous. “But ever since I got here, nothing’s been going right.” She sniffed again, feeling herself becoming dangerously close to succumbing to tears again. “My father doesn’t even want me here, and my mother …. My mother drifts farther and farther away each day, and every time I see her, there’s this horribly wonderful thought that maybe, maybe we’re close to forging a bond between us.” The tears were burning so fiercely that her nose was starting to tingle, and Liz had to swallow before she could continue. She smiled poignantly as Max continued his ministrations on her face, his gaze understanding and his heart visibly breaking for her. “But it’s all a tease. A terrible hope that fate is dangling in my face since it knows. It knows that she’s going to be gone before the bond can really take hold.”

The tears were flowing freely this time, and her shoulders began shaking violently with all the suppressed emotion she had been carrying, like far too heavy baggages under her arm. Her voice broke and she could barely get out her next words as they tumbled like razor blades from her throat. “And I’m so scared. I’m just so scared Max, and I -" She had to stop. She HAD to, or otherwise she would be outright sobbing in a minute, and she was embarrassed enough as it was.

However, once she had started, she had innately known that there was no going back. She had kept this bottled up for far too long, even brushing away Maria’s gentle cajoling. Finally, the tragic dam had broke. Her shoulders were heaving now, and her sobs were coming out as hiccups. There was nothing –

Liz stopped mid-hiccup as Max’s arms slide down and around her back, soothingly massaging her shoulder as he absorbed her tears. Gratefully, she buried her tear-streaked face into his chest, breathing in the delectable scent that was inherently him. The bundles of stress and hysteria dissipated in her back as she let her shoulders relax. Tentatively, her arms snaked up to gather themselves around his neck, and she distracted herself by playing indolently with the hairs at the nape. Eventually, her sobs dissolved into the occasional hiccup and Liz concentrated on regulating her breathing to calm herself.

Max tightened his arms around her as she whispered her meager words of thanks, trying to convey in her tone just how infinitely grateful she was to what he had done for her. To what he had done for her and Alyssa since they had first stepped foot into this town. Pure, unadulterated and genuine caring aid. Who was he, and why had she never known until now that such a person did indeed exist?

She pushed her thoughts away and instead concentrated on the feeling of his embrace. Liz leaned into his arms, needing to be held in a way that she had never needed before. Or possibly, in a way that she had always needed in all her days. It was a sensation she couldn’t possibly tire of – that of being comforted by the best means. No words needed. Just … being.

And for the first time in her very existence, Liz Parker knew that she had finally come home.



From: T
To: S
Subject: Warning

Certain elements of your past possibly may have been unearthed and if so, they will be eventually passed on to our superior. It was thought that you should be notified immediately. Please advise, for the situation looks extremely dire.

From: S
To: T
Subject: Re: Warning

Possibly? May have been? My dear, the next time you so precariously decide to contact me might I suggest that you have some actual proof for such preposterous accusations before rising my suspicion and doubt? Have no doubt of this though – the next time you do so, and I may be forced to cut you out of our little deal. For good.


She sat seething in her desk chair, staring hard at the return message and biting her lip in sudden anger. That bastard! After all she had done for him and the cause, after all she’d sacrificed! He wouldn’t dare leave her behind on their deal … would he? She suddenly shivered. She had absolutely no reason to doubt him whatsoever. Her previous dealings with him had proved as much. So much for brotherly love.

Nonetheless, she had inherently known that she had to at least TRY and warn him. Despite what he might think, this was grave news indeed. And while her informant had been somewhat … inadequate she had reason to doubt the heady Intel anymore than she had to doubt him. And so she had resorted to electronically means of contacting him, despite his previous caution against such communication. One could never be too careful, even though Khivar’s paranoia and intense surveillance had lessened a bit, ever since his plan in destroying the Royal Four had gone under without much of hitch. Which was why she had decided to be so impeccably brief in her notes. It would not do if someone were to intercept them. No, if Khivar had any idea whatsoever of what his top advisors were planning behind his back …

She could barely suppress a smile at the thought. Soon. Soon Khivar would pay for all he’d done, and soon she’d be reunited with the one she loved – even if he thought the worst of her. Soon it would all be straightened out.

A frown shadowed all signs of premature triumph. None of that could happen, of course, unless they preceded from here on out without any more missteps. Nicholas especially would not be pleased if this pertinent information fell into Khivar’s lap. Not after all they had done to prevent her stupid brother’s mistake from reaching public eyes. But if her idiotic sibling wanted to blow her off, fine. FINE. However, the mess would not be connected with her. Not if she could help it. She had climbed far too high to let that happen. So it was with renewed fervor and added frustration that she pounded again at the keyboard, finishing the fruitless conversation.

“From here on, you’re on your own,” She whispered to the bright screen, pursing her full red lips. The problem was, though, that she had no idea whether or not she was speaking to ill-fated brother or to herself. Despite this, she knew the problem would be fixed. They had both come too far, worked too hard for it to end with this. Everything would work itself out. Yes.

Even if she had to go to Roswell to finish it herself.


From: T
To: S
Subject: Message received, loud and clear

Fine. Don’t say I didn’t warn you when the time comes. And remember, I had nothing to do with it.

posted on 21-Jan-2003 6:11:32 PM
Make me a witness
take me out
out of darkness
out of doubt

I won't weigh you down
with good intention
won't make fire out of clay
or other inventions

will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come
while we're waiting

everyone is waiting

and when we're done
soul searching
as we carried the weight
and died for the cause
is misery
made beautiful
right before our eyes
will mercy be revealed
or blind us where we stand

will we burn in heaven
like we do down here
will the change come while we're waiting
everyone is waiting

Witness – Sarah McLachlan

~*~Part Eight~*~

Two weeks later …

Liz Parker closed the door behind her, leaned against it and sighed. Her eyes fluttered shut for a few blissful moments, and the current headache she was sporting eased a bit. What a day. The NERVE of some people . . . Breathing deeply, she drew herself up and pushed off from the door, depositing her purse on her way into the tiny kitchenette. Calling out to Maria to let her know that she was home, Liz reached into the refrigerator and pulled out a carton of cranberry juice. Smiling guiltily, she uncapped it and raised it to her lips – an old childhood habit – and took a long, satisfying swig. She had always done this, even after the myriad amount of times that she was caught and yelled at for it. By Jeff. Her smile darkened and she swatted away the memories of her past. This was not the time. It would never be the time. For quite honestly, she would rather the past would simply STAY in the past.

The measures she had taken in her attempts to make that wish a reality were tallying up. First, she had sought out comfort in the arms of a person who didn’t deserve her. Then, she ran from home, never looking back. And now? Now she was taking to catty means. She bit her lip as she recalled the way she had blown her mother and father off the past two weeks, making up sloppy excuses about working late and Alyssa having school projects so that she wouldn’t have to face them. It wasn’t fair to her mother or Alyssa for her to do this. However, every time Liz thought about returning to that house and becoming the subject of Jeff’s penetrating stare …well, it was enough to prompt her sorry fibs.

Liz suddenly frowned as she realized the house had been quiet for quite some time. Making her way to Alyssa’s room, she paused when the sound of soft pleading tones strained against her ear. Apprehension mounted within Liz’s core, and her breath hitched. Picking up the pace, she reached the dimly lit sparse hallway and discovered Maria crouched at Alyssa’s closed door, apparently trying to peer into the keyhole.

Sighing, Maria continued with her beseeching, completely oblivious to Liz’s presence. “Lyssa. Come on hon. Please let me in.”

Panic laced with motherly concern shot Liz’s next words out of her mouth with the speed and accuracy of a bullet. “Maria, what’s wrong?”

Jumping upright, Maria spun around, clutching her chest. “Jesus Liz! You scared me.”

Liz’s dark eyebrow flew up. “And you’re scaring me. What’s going on with Alyssa? Is she okay?”

Maria sighed heavily and shrugged with the air of one who had been horribly defeated. “That’s the thing. I have no idea. She came home from school and sniffled straight to her room. Somehow she figured out how to use that lock, and she’s been in there ever since.” Maria sighed and rubbed her temple profusely. Dropping her hands to her side in an overly frustrated manner, Maria sighed once more. “And no amount of cajoling outta me helped.”

Worry knitted Liz’s brow together and trepidation rounded her eyes. “Oh God. This day just keeps on getting better and better, doesn’t it.” She reached over automatically and tried the doorknob, despite Maria’s earlier admission that it was locked. And indeed it was. Somehow Liz just had to make sure.

Maria’s head cocked to one side at Liz’s aggravated tone. “Lizzie? Are YOU all right? What happened today to get you all riled up?”

Biting back a scream of irritation, Liz rolled her darkening eyes. “Oh, it was nothing. It was just … But it doesn’t matter. Just inane people who cant… but I’m over it. Everything’s fine.”

Pursing her lips, Maria said nothing, yet completely doubted that last statement for all it was worth.

Liz tucked an errant strand of hair behind her ear and stepped closer to the door. “Let me try.”

Maria nodded and jerked her thumb towards the end of the hallway. “I’m going to head out to the Crashdown for my shift. See you later?”

Liz nodded and watched Maria’s retreating form, listening for the telltale sign of the keys jingling and the front door snapping shut.

Biting her lip, Liz knocked softly on the door in front of her, uncertainty marring her usually placid features. Oh God. What was she supposed to do? Lyssa rarely ran off and sulked, and when she did, it was a passing thing. Liz had no idea how to approach the situation, and it made matters worse since she didn’t even know what the situation entailed. Not for the first time, a wave of longing unfurled in her gut. It would be so much easier if she had someone else, someone to help her with Alyssa, to be a father that would compliment her as a mother –

Stop right there Parker. Liz vehemently scolded herself, forcing the appealing image of a tall, dark and handsome young café owner out of her mind. And just like that, her feelings, wants and desires floated away like a cloud in the sky, wisping off towards the horizon, gathering there to wait, to wait and then to plague her a time later when she was alone at night, alone in her bed, staring up at the ceiling. For now, she was simply Mommy. And right now, her daughter needed her.

Steeling herself for what was imminent, Liz called out softly. “Lyssa, honey? It’s Mommy.”

Silence greeted her statement.

Sighing softly, Liz tried again. “Alyssa, can you please let me in? You don’t have to tell me what’s wrong, just unlock the door.” Wryly, Liz cursed the fact that she had such an observant and intelligent six year old.

The sound of feet padding along the carpet perked up Liz’s ears just as she was about to give up hope, and she unconsciously held her breath. When the movement inside the next room ceased, Liz could practically feel her daughter hesitate just shy of the doorknob. Liz immediately pictured the scene that surely had to be on the other side of the door: Alyssa biting her tiny rosy lips, her dark eyes pondering on whether or not she would be in trouble.

A moment later, the door creaked languidly open, and Alyssa’s raven colored head peered through. A brilliant smile enhanced Liz’s countenance, and she straightened herself up and walked into the room. Alyssa dragged her feet towards the tiny purple beanbag in the corner and perched herself atop it, gazing forlornly at the cream colored walls. The sadness in her eyes was enough to break Liz’s heart.

Instinctively knowing not to pry, yet aching to know what aliment plagued her daughter’s innocent young soul, Liz plopped herself down on Alyssa’s bed, fingering the soft quilt that adorned it. Letting the smooth material cascade through her fingers, Liz’s mind momentarily flew back to the time when she had received the blanket – a gift from Maria’s own loving hands, celebrating the birth of the very same dark eyed beautiful little girl that sat before her.

Silence solidified between the two, and Liz suddenly was struck with an idea.

“Sweetie, did you have a bad day?” Not waiting her daughter to reply, Liz forged ahead. “Mommy did too.” She watched as Alyssa’s head perked up and turned to look at her. Alyssa’s bottom lip pushed outward slightly, her brow wrinkling with curiosity and concern.

“You did?”

Alyssa’s voice warbled, and it caused the heart-wrenching realization that her daughter had been crying to twist Liz’s stomach. “Yeah,” she admitted softly. “I did. And I was wondering if you wouldn’t mind giving me a hug to make it better.” Hiding a smile when she watched Lyssa ponder this a moment, then start towards her, Liz stretched out her arms and welcomed her daughter into her embrace. Folding her limbs around Alyssa, Liz inched the two of them backwards so she could rest her back against the pillows at the head of the bed. She rocked Alyssa idly, kissing the top of her head gently when she began to sniffle sporadically.

After a moment, Alyssa pushed her mother back slightly so that she could peer up into the eyes so mirrored her own. “Mama? Why did you haff a bad day?”

Liz smiled and ran her fingers lightly through Alyssa’s silky strands, marveling momentarily at the baby softness. “Oh, some people at work just made Mommy very, very frustrated.” Liz paused, wondering how to word some of the customer’s rude audacity. “They weren’t very nice.”

Alyssa absorbed this.

“Oh.” Then, she snuggled closer to Liz, burying her tear stained face into her mother’s soft shirt. “They shouldn’t tof been mean ta ya.”

Another lapse of silence ensued as Liz automatically continued to run her fingers through Alyssa’s hair, both girls simultaneously drawing comfort from the inherently calming gesture.

Finally, Alyssa gripped her mother tighter. “Mommy? Do you still wanna know why I’s sad?” Her voice was small, unsure.

Liz impulsively ducked her head to bestow a tender kiss upon her daughter’s hairline. “Yeah, sweetie. I still want to know if you would like to tell me.” Again, her heart twisted in her chest as a rush of love so great, so overwhelming blocked out any other residual stresses or sentiments of the past day. Her Alyssa. Her precious, precious Alyssa.

Stubbornly, Alyssa shook her head. “But I’s don’t wanna make you sad too!”

Liz’s face softened at her daughter’s beautiful words, and then her head gave it’s own shake. “Sweetie, that’s what love’s all about. You share your hurt so that those you love can help you carry it, and so it’s not so big anymore, not so painful and overwhelming. That way you can move on and be happy again.” Ignoring the tiny pang in her chest that whispered a reminder of how she had done so not too long ago in the Crashdown with Max, she moved to a different tactic. “Remember how just a bit ago, I shared with you what made me upset?” When Alyssa nodded in affirmation, Liz continued. “It made me feel better. And I don’t think it hurt you too much, did it?”

Alyssa paused to think about this, and then tilted her head up at Liz. “No. It just made me want ta hug ya.”

Liz smile widened, and she poked her daughter in her most ticklish spot – right below the rib cage. She was rewarded with the shrieking shrill of Lyssa’s giggles.

“Okay,” Alyssa said after gasping delightedly for breath. The lighthearted moment quickly fell away. “I was just sad because there’s going to be a dance at school, and I can’t go.”

Liz’s eyes clouded with confusion. “A dance? But honey, I didn’t hear anything about that. Are you sure?” Liz wondered briefly what kind of dance could possibly be held for first graders.

Alyssa nodded her head fervently, her eyes widening in her attempt to get Liz to believe her. “Uh huh! Tammy said so. She told me and Lindsey aaallllll bout it, and it sounded like lotsa fun! But then we found out that I can’t go, just Lindsey and Tammy can. Tammy said so.” At this last pronouncement, a pout tugged at her pink lips.

Surprise drew together Liz’s eyebrows. “Why did Tammy say you can’t you go?” Silently, Liz tried to picture the tiny girl that had so cruelly informed her daughter that she wasn’t allowed to attend such an appealing event as a dance. Now was Tammy the one with short blonde hair? Or median length light brown?

“I can’t go cuz I don’t have a daddy.”

Liz sucked in a sharp, razor edged breath at Alyssa’s simple answer. “What?”

Alyssa blew out an exasperated breath. “If I go, I hafta have a daddy. And I don’t got one.” The poignancy of that statement winded Liz, and she felt her jaw clench, holding back a torrent of emotions.

“What kind of dance is this now?” The question came out harsher than she intended.

Alyssa’s brow furrowed and she pursed her lips while she pondered. “Uhm, I don’t r’member.” After another instance, triumph resounded in her eyes, and she gleefully shouted out. “Oh! I know! Tammy said it was called a Daddy and a Daughter Dance.”

A Daddy/Daughter Dance. Liz’s eyes fluttered shut as she struggled to suppress her anger and distract her breaking heart. Never. Never would Alyssa know the joys of having a father. Of joyfully rushing to the front door to greet him after a long day at work. Of crying out in the night and having him lull her back to sleep. Of being swept up into his strong arms after she hit her first home run at pee-wee softball. Never would she giggle with glee as she prepared for a glamorous night of dancing on the tops of her father’s feet. Never And it was all HIS fault.

Hot animosity burned Liz’s veins, pricking at her vision with scalding tears. Alyssa’s next query almost brought that moistness raining down upon her cheeks.

“Mommy? Why don’t I have a daddy?”

Liz really should have expected such a question. It had been far too easy so far, as Alyssa had always just accepted that her father’s absence, simply inherently knowing that it always had been, and always would be just her and her mother. And yet Liz was still sucker-punched with the blow.

How? How was she supposed to tell her sweet, loving little girl that daddy didn’t even bother to come see her birth? Hadn’t bothered with any contact over the years. Hadn’t loved his daughter. Hadn’t loved her

“Daddy…” Liz bit her lip hard, not surprised when she tasted blood. “Daddy went away even before you were born, sweetie.”

“Is he ever comin back?”

Liz inhaled deeply, deciding quickly to go with her gut and be honest with Alyssa – completely and bluntly honest. “I don’t know Lyssa. I don’t think so.”

Tears coated Alyssa’s wide eyes, misery marring her innocuous expression. Liz immediately mentally kicked herself for putting them there. Tightening her hold on her daughter, on her only lifeline, her sole purpose in life, her one true joy, Liz said the only words she could think of that could possibly heal this moment. “I love you so much, you know that sweetie?”

Alyssa rubbed her pert nose against the sleeve of Liz’s shirt, her runny nose smearing against the fabric. Liz found that she couldn’t care less, and this conviction was only furthered when she heard Alyssa’s next rejoinder. “I wuv you too Mommy.”

Her heart swelled, and it was enough, for now, enough to banish all the demons of the past – the demons that insisted on creeping up to mangle the present.

Suddenly, Liz knew exactly what the both of them needed right now. Each other, that was for sure, and also, a splurge on a nice, frothy, cold milkshake.

“Hey Lyssa? How about we go to the Crashdown and get a yummy tall chocolate milkshake?”

Almost as if she smelled the setup, and the obvious attempt at changing the subject, Alyssa wrinkled her nose. “But it’s almost dinner time. You never let me have milkshakes ‘fore dinner time. You say it ruins my ahppetite.”

Liz ruffled Lyssa’s hair. “Yeah. I do say that. But how about,” she leaned closer, feigning the act of imparting a classified secret onto her daughter. “How about if we just forego the usual rules – just for today, since we both had pretty rotten ones. What do you say?”

Alyssa nodded, and a small smile lightened her features.

However, no smile could wipe away the miserable shadow that loomed in the depths of her wide innocent eyes.


Max Evans slammed shut the cashier with an unnecessary brute force. Cursing underneath his breath when the obstinate drawer jumped back out of its slot instead of fitting in nicely, he paused to take a deep breath of air. The action, which was done with the intention of calming himself down, did not do as such. Rather, it made the boiling levels of frustration rise with a fervent determination.

Quite frankly, he was beginning to think that he was loosing his mind.

Gritting his teeth, he made the painstaking effort of making sure his motions were smooth and cautious as he pushed in the money drawer safely back into the machine. This time it worked. He sighed in relief and turned back to check on Maria, making sure that her so-called ‘break’ only lasted the required ten minutes. Once that was affirmed, his eyes darted haphazardly about the room. There had to be something else he could do. Anything to get his mind off of the two gorgeous girls sitting over across the diner, in what Max was now referring to as their ‘usual’ booth.

He had been dreaming about her.

Late at night, they came, and nothing he could do would stop them. The dreams, they were tantalizing. Beautiful. Compelling. And absolutely forbidden. Just like her.

It was pure torture. It was one of the best parts of his day. And in some cases, the worst as well. They were like some horrible tease, taunting him. And it made seeing her in person all the more difficult. Yet at the same time all the more worthwhile.

Things were getting progressively worse by the day. Ever since he had held her in his arms, since he’d brushed away her tears, the protests in him were growing weak. His firm resolve to keep her at arms length was crumbling. Slowly, things were getting to the point where the days that went by without the sight of her were terribly slow and sluggish. He couldn’t need her this way. It was bad enough that he wanted her. But when that want slowly morphed into need with each passing day, hour, second, that’s when he realized that he was in Big Trouble. Capital B, capital T.

It certainly wasn’t helping matters any that she had been slowly becoming a more permanent, regular part of life. Every weekday morning at exactly 8:10, she would saunter through the doors of the Crashdown straight towards the bar to order a cup of coffee before work. With sugar and cream. She always made an emphasis on the milky cream for some reason. Some days, she would take her lunch break with him, the two of them laughing about Maria’s frantic planning for the upcoming wedding and Michael’s love of unfurling those plans to watch her frustrated screams. Saturday nights she and Alyssa would eat breakfast, and the afternoons found Lyssa traipsing about the diner with a pair of antennae perched atop her dark little head. The flash of Liz’s grateful smile for his comfort those two weeks ago was an image forever seared in his brain. And Sundays –

“Max,” Michael’s gruff voice sliced through his memories and the images that they conjured. “What the heck are you so happy about, smiley?”

He started, taken aback at his query. “I was smiling?”

Michael rolled his eyes. “Like the cat that captured the canary. What’s up?”

Max breathed heavily through his nose, and the sound came out like a suppressed groan. “Nothing.”

Michael raised a dubious brow. “Uh huh. Sure.” He paused, following Max’s line of sight. “You know Max, absolutely nothing is stopping you from starting something with Liz other then your own stubborn self.”

Max whirled around and pierced his friend with a withering glare. “What else has Maria told you?” He gritted out angrily.

Michael held up his hands. “Nothing! Maria has her own arms full with all this wedding stuff.” He smiled lightly, his eyes seeking out his finance before turning back to Max. “Jeez, Max. I may not be the brightest of the group, but I’m not blind.”

Max’s shoulders slumped wearily. Was he truly that obvious? Biting back a helpless groan, he straightened. “Shouldn’t you be back at the UFO Center?” He asked, referring to Michael’s job as the manager.

Michael chortled. “Yeah, yeah. I get it, I’ll leave you alone.” He started towards the door, punching Max lightly on the shoulder as he departed.

Max watched him go, Michael’s words resonating inside his mind. Nothing is stopping you except your own stubborn self. He sighed. No one understood it. Dragging Liz into the hell hole that was his life was not worth any of the mind blowing feelings he knew he would feel. And honestly, who was to say that she even wanted the same things he did? She had been hurt too many times before. Max refused to let him add onto that list. This was the right thing to do in order to keep everyone safe. He knew that.

So then why did he feel that he was starting to not understand it himself?

Something out of the corner of his eye captured his attention. A sheen of velvety black hair glimmered underneath the cheery lightening. Liz. Despite himself and his firm resolve, he turned so that he could take her in fully. Her expression immediately snagged his focus; as did the glimmer of unshed tears sparkling in her eye. Instinctively, he started towards her, his feet taking on an accord of their own. When he got closer, Liz turned her poignant gaze upon him, locking eyes with him with such a force that he felt his knees quake. What had happened now? He wondered anxiously, keeping his eyes locked on her face.

“Oh good, Max!” Maria’s voice shocked him out of his staring contest with Liz, and his head snapped in her direction. Ruefully, he pondered the fact that her presence had been entirely unknown to him until this moment. “I’m going to need to take a longer break, okay? Liz and I are,” Maria gestured haphazardly with her hands.

Max nodded, interrupting at once. “Sure thing. It’s not that busy yet anyways so just stay until,” He dared another look at Liz, his insides tightening painfully at the dull look of hurt in her face. “Until you’re done.”

“Max,” Liz called out suddenly as he started to walk away. He stopped instantly at the sound, glancing back earnestly. She hesitated, biting her lip. “Could you check on Alyssa for me? Just …I don’t know, make sure she’s okay, or if she needs something?” Her eyes trailed back to where her daughter still sat, and Max followed them, his brow furrowing as he took in Lyssa’s similar melancholy countenance.

He nodded his accord, locking eyes with Liz once more. Forcing himself to tear away from her, he moved carefully across the wood floor, marveling at how Liz had trusted him with the welfare of her daughter, however minutely.

Upon reaching her table, Max cleared his throat. “You all right there, Princess? Need another milkshake?” The dark haired little imp before him shook her head dully, the halfhearted motion sending her brown strands swaying across her back.

“No thank you.”

Max stood silent for a minute, racking his brain for what to do. He had never been spectacular with children. Or adults for that matter. The fact had never really bothered him until now. He scratched his head uncertainly, a vague remembrance of Isabel saying something about the importance of listening echoing through his head. “Do – Do you want to tell me what’s wrong?”

Alyssa gave a small, unhappy sigh and peered pensively at the opposite end of the booth. “No.” She hesitated, and then, “Yes.” Reaching up, her tiny hands grabbed the tail of Max’s shirt and she tugged him determinedly down. Helpless against such an attack, Max slid into the booth next to her, smiling reassuringly.

“So which is it?” He teased, sensing a need to add levity to the situation. His hand darted out to tickle her neck and she squirmed, giggling softly. “Yes or no?”

Gasping for breath after his ticklish ministrations, she answered him definitely. “Yes. Mommy says that if you share your hurt with the ones you love, it makes the hurt go bye-bye.”

Max felt the air rush out of his lungs with one whoosh and his heart skipped a beat. “And you …? You love,” He cleared his throat, blinking to make sure he hadn’t hallucinated. “Me?”

Lyssa nodded. “Uh huh. You’s always so nice to me and Mommy and ya give me yummy milkshakes and let me help out at the dinner.” Max’s eyes closed briefly as a swell of emotions choked his throat and warmed his chest. When he opened them he saw a fearful, uncertainty flashing through her wide eyes. “Is that a bad thing that I wuv you?” She asked suddenly, worried.

Max gave a crooked grin, ignoring the pin pricks of tears at such an innocent admission. Oh to be a child, to be so free and safe to love again. “Not at all Princess. In fact, I think that’s the best news I’ve heard all day.” He tweaked her nose affectionately, the next words out of his mouth feeling so freeing, so natural. “And you know what? I love you too.”

Alyssa beamed shyly up at him, and leaned forward to rest her small head on his arm. Her own arms snaked up to cling around his, and she snuggled up against him, burying her face into his shirt. Max stared down at her, swallowing back the lump in his throat as he stroked her soft hair, his heart swelling.

Not releasing her firm hold on his arm, her contemplative face poked up at him. “Hey Max? Do you still wanna hear why’s I’m sad?”

Max smiled down at her. “Yeah, Squirt. Go ahead.”

Alyssa frowned momentarily. “Hey, I’m not a squirt!”

Max raised a teasing eyebrow. “No?”

She shook her head stubbornly. “Uh uh! I’m a princess,” She stated matter-of-factly. “Just like you said.”

Max chuckled at the gleam in her eye, and a part of him could do nothing but believe every word out of her mouth. “Okay, Princess. So, are you going to tell me?”

Alyssa bit her lip, and Max was struck with the resemblance to her mother. “Well, I rweally, rweally, RWEALLY wanna go to this dance at school, but I can’t go cuz it’s a daddy/daughter dance. And I’s don’t got a daddy.” She finished sadly.

Ah, of course. The annual Roswell Elementary School Daddy/Daughter Dance on Labor Day weekend. Max felt his heart drop to his toes. No wonder Liz had looked so upset. The reminder of how that bastard had –

Max took a deep breath, forcing himself to focus on the quiet, sad little girl next to him. “Oh,” he said, scouring his brain for something, anything to say or do that would make her feel better. “Well, lots of girls don’t have daddys, and they still go to the dance.”

Alyssa’s round eyes peered up at him, filled with hope. “Other girls don’t have daddys? Just like me?”

Max smiled, brushing the hair off of her forehead and completely understanding her fear of being ‘different.’ “Yeah. There are lots of little girls out there just like you, who only have a mommy. And then there are some who only have a daddy, and no mommy.”

Alyssa’s dark eyes sought out her mother instantly. “No mommies? That’s sad.” A thought occurred to her. “But if other’s don’t have daddys, then how do they get to go to the dance?”

Max shrugged. “Well, they get a family friend to take them, or an uncle, or a grandfather …” He trailed off, the unlikely image of Jeff Parker taking his granddaughter to a dance running through his mind. He brushed it aside. From what he had heard, he knew better than to raise Alyssa’s hopes that way. He opened his mouth to continue but was stopped by the delighted sparkle racing through her eyes.

“Max!” She said excitedly. “Max, what if YOU took me?”

He literally stopped breathing at the insinuation that he fill in for one of the most important roles in a young girls life. A father. The very notion cause a tumult of emotions to surge in his gut, disbelief that Alyssa would ask, raw happiness and elation that she did, and the heart dropping realization that he just couldn’t do what she asked. It wouldn’t be right, on so many levels, no matter how tempting…

“Alyssa,” He began regretfully. “I don’t think …” He broke off as her upturned hopeful expression tore at his heart. How could he say no to such a face? How could he break that tentative anticipation glowing in her eyes? Giving a tiny sigh of defeat, he grinned at her.

“I’d love to take you.” Hastily, he added. “As long as it’s okay with your Mom.”

A shrill squeal of joy bounced from wall to wall as Alyssa leaped into his arms. Her scrawny arms choked his neck, but he found he could care less as he squeezed her back, loosing himself in the comfort and power that rested in such a tiny person. To her, he was just Max, and she loved him because of it. The very thought made his head spin.

“Yayaya! I gotta go tell Mommy!” Lyssa shouted exuberantly and hopped down. Her happy giggles turned the heads of many a neglected customer and put a smile irrevocably on Max’s face. He watched her skip across to Liz and tug on her mother’s skirt (the action causing his gaze to drop lower than it should in appreciation) and subsequently, he forced himself to attend to some abandoned, dirty tables. Scooping up a large pile of soiled dishes, Max ambled back to the kitchen area to deposit them in the sink, a small smile still lighting up his face. He stared at them tentatively for a while, before deciding that the mess could wait a few more moments. When he turned around, he found himself face to face with the very person he’d been trying (and failing) to banish from his thoughts.

Liz. His heart constricted in a way that wasn’t all together that painful.

“Max,” Liz stared hard at him, a swirl of disbelief and awe enhancing her gaze. Her voice was breathy, almost as if she couldn’t believe him to be real, and it sent a shiver down his spine. “You don’t have to do this.”

He ducked his head. “Yeah, I know. I uh, I want to.” Anything to see her face light up like that.

Her full lips parted and her expression drew him in completely. Was that…was that adoration he was seeing? Max swallowed hard. Hoo boy. He wondered briefly if she had any idea of the effect she had upon him. How just the mere proximity of her was making his head swim. How his gaze keep drifting down to watch her lips…

Almost as if she sensed his thought, her tongue darted out to swipe the object of his perusal. An alarm sounded fuzzily in his mind. Danger Will Robinson, Danger! Yet he couldn’t pull away. For better or worse, he was falling, and falling fast.

“Thank you,” She whispered, her eyes shimmering beautifully with a mixture of emotions. Gratitude was by far the most prominent. She inched closer, her gaze never wavering from his face. His eyes met hers, widening faintly when she continued to move ever so slightly towards him. The air in the room seemed thin, and his heart was either dead stopped or beating double time, he couldn’t tell. The temperature spiked several degrees, and for one totally shocking moment, he thought she was going to kiss him.

Then she did. On the cheek. Her soft lips grazed the side of his face, perilously close to his mouth, sending a shock of electricity to course through him and a burst of heat to explode deep inside his abdomen.

It was over entirely too quickly. She pulled back immediately, while he could only gape in shock. Did that really just happen? Was this all but another horribly wonderful dream?

“Thank you,” she repeated, her words charged with pure sentiment, her voice breaking.

And with that, she was gone. Leaving Max to stare dumbly after the place she had just stood, a ghost of a smile inching across his face. His hand languidly drifted up, coming to rest on the place where she had just kissed him.

One thing was absolutely certain.

Things were getting progressively better by the day.


Somewhere across the state, a telephone rang and was answered tersely.

“Hello.” The salutation was bitten out not even remotely interrogative, for the speaker had a nasty inclination of to who was on the other line.

“Interesting findings today. Very interesting indeed. It’s seems as if your past is not as inert as you have led me to believe.”

The man gripped the phone tighter and gritted his teeth silently, his speculations confirmed. It was his king - and unfortunately too, for Khivar sounded most furious, in a quiet, cold and calculating sort of way.

He blew air out through his flared nostrils in an attempt to keep his emotions in check. “What do you mean?” He asked, holding his breath in hopes that he would receive the answer he needed.

“Oh, I think you know,” was the only reply.

The man winced, as that statement was truer than he cared to think. It seemed as if his sister’s earlier admonition was proving to be certifiable. Of course, had he known to take such a warning from his utterly incompetent sibling into perspective, he would have taken the necessary precautions. But now, since he unwittingly failed to do so, he was left without even the most outlandish of cover stories for his blunder. Catching on to the fact that his lord would not care to be left waiting, he decided to blurt out a portion of the truth, not even trying to deny the accusation.

“I’m working on it now even as we speak.”

“Good,” the cold voice spat out. “For another discovery like this one would do little to help your rapidly depleting status. I do not take kindly to betrayal of any sort, as you yourself have witnessed first hand.”

Sean Robinson gulped nervously, praying that his shakiness would not betray him in his voice. “I – I understand.”

“Marvelous. Now. Either you take care of this,” the voice paused, and he could practically feel his sneer in the tone. “Problem, or,” Again, there was a pause, and a shudder coursed through Sean’s form at the implicate message. “Or I will take care of you.”