posted on 6-Sep-2001 11:37:46 PM
TITLE: Family
AUTHOR: Abbimorgan
RATING: PG - a little bit of swearing.
DISCLAIMER: A lot of people own Roswell but I'm not one of them.
CATEGORY: Primarily a Max and Liz love story though this story will involve everyone.
SUMMARY: AU - my first in fact. The pod squad meet up with the humans and that's all I’m gonna tell you.
AUTHOR'S NOTES: Please leave lots and lots of feedback, it makes me write faster.

PART ONE:

"We're leaving at the end of the week so I suggest you get busy packing your things."

"What!?" A chorus of confusion mixed with protest rung through the four teenagers who stood in a large and spacious living room staring at the older man in front of them.

"I told you we couldn't stay in this town forever." The older man replied, seemingly void of any emotion.

"But this is our home." Isabel noted, hoping to make him, the man she knew as her protector understand why they didn't want to leave. Tears had already began to form in her soft blue eyes.

Her protector met her pleading eyes only to give her a familiar cold stare in return. "No, this isn't your home, your home is 2 million light years away, earth is just merely a place to hide the four of you until you're ready to return." He said pointedly.

Isabel shook her head in defiance to what he was saying. "But we don't even remember Antar, Phoenix is all we've ever known."

"Isabel in time you will remember your life on Antar and where we are going will help you achieve that."

"Where are we going Nasedo?" Max asked, speaking up for the first time since their protector had revealed the life-altering plan.

"To the place you were reborn. Roswell, New Mexico." Nasedo replied, this time his face held a hint of a smile. "Now I have to run some errands, I'll be back at sundown." Nasedo picked up his briefcase off the coffee table and left the house leaving behind four very confused alien teenagers behind.

Isabel wiped the tears from her cheeks and faced her brother. "Max, you can't let him take us away from here." Isabel pleaded. "Talk to him please." Urgency and desperation fueled her words.

"His mind is made up Isabel. He won't listen to me." Max said, his tone even and soft.

"Yes he will, you're his King, he has to obey you."

"I may be his King, but he's our protector. I have to respect that he knows what's best for us." Max sighed heavily upon seeing his sister cry softly in front of him. He didn't want to see her hurting but Max knew he couldn’t stop it. He placed a hand on her shoulder to comfort her.

"Isabel, I don't want to leave here either but it's time we learn more about who we are and where we've come from. If I'm supposed to be King of Antar I need answers. We're gonna be okay as long as the four of us our together." Max looked from his sister, to Michael, then Tess, needing to see understanding from them over what he was saying.
Tess moved towards Max and Isabel. "Max is right Isabel, it's time we know everything and we'll learn it together. I'm going to miss Phoenix too, but Nasedo is right, Phoenix has never been our home."

Isabel's head snapped around to look at Tess, taken aback by what she had just said. "How can you say that Tess? This is where we've grown up, everyone we know lives here."

"I'm not trying to be insensitive Isabel, but we've graduated from high school now, everyone is moving on and besides we may have had friends but we're not really close to anybody but each other. Phoenix is not our home, Antar is."

"She's right Isabel." Michael spoke for the first time since Nasedo had made his announcement.

"I should have know you would agree with her." Isabel spat.

"And what's that supposed to mean?" Michael's asked, his angered tone matching Isabel's.

"Oh, c'mon Michael! All your life, you have wanted to and I quote you, "get the hell off this planet", so I'm surprised your not doing a little happy dance here in the living room, knowing this move will bring you closer to that!" Isabel's tall frame stood rigid with anger and frustration.

"And what is wrong with that? There is nothing for us here on earth anyway. Our family is waiting for us on Antar; the only thing waiting for us here on earth is extermination if anyone found out who we really are. I personally don't want to go down that way and I don't think you do either, so just accept the move and go on! I don't want to have to hear you whining about it for the next six months!" Michael arms flew around him the ways they always seemed to when he fought with Isabel.

"Michael…"

"Guys stop!" Isabel's words were cut off my Max's plea. Isabel closed her mouth though she continued to glare at Michael. Silently she cursed him for being, in her words, 'such an insensitive asshole', but she would not ignore Max's request. Her brother was the one voice of reason, the one person that she would listen to and do anything for. He was the only person out of the group that understood her and sometimes it felt like he was the only one who seemed to care for her as well.

"It's not going to make this any easier if we fight about this. We're all we have and if we can't get along than we have nothing." Max ran his hand through his hair, trying to find a solution to it all that would make everyone at least civil. Max looked at Isabel. "Isabel everything will be fine. I can't stop the move but maybe Roswell won't be that bad. I'll talk to Nasedo and see if he will let us take some college classes and maybe get jobs." Isabel nodded in agreement to what Max's was proposing.

"Thank you Max" Isabel wrapped her arms around herself and relaxed her stance.

"You're welcome." Max turned his attention to Michael. "And Michael I understand how badly you want to go back to Antar, but until that time comes, no matter what Nasedo says, Earth is our home. We owe it ourselves to enjoy our life here. "

Michael let out a small snort. "That's great Maxwell, when we get to Roswell we'll invite the whole town over to our new place and put on a little alien freak show. We'll be a big hit. I'm sure that will win us lots of friends." Michael said sarcastically before falling back onto the couch, shaking his head.

"That's not what I'm saying and you know it. But I do think we can still make some friends without revealing who we really are." Max sighed, closed his eyes and moved his hand through his hair again. He hated it when they fought and he needed to bring some kind of peace to this situation. Max sat next to Michael on the couch. "Michael, I know that someday we will return to Antar, when that time comes I will go, willingly, but until then we need to make the best of our time here."

"Why build a life Max when you know it's not going to last?" Tess asked.

"Why not?" Isabel asked in return. "Don't you want to really be a part of this world Tess?"

"No, because this world will never accept us for who we really are." Tess replied. "When we move to Roswell it will just be a place to sleep, once we have learned all that Nasedo wants us to we're leaving."

Isabel shook her head, confused over how Tess and Michael could detach themselves from everything on earth. They had always been this way, for the past twelve years, ever since they were born. Tess and Michael were in so many ways like Nasedo. The three of them wanted as little as possible to do with Earth and the humans that inhabited it. Tess and Michael always viewed themselves as entirely alien, never letting their human appearance or nature take any type of precedence. They refused to get emotionally attached to anyone or anything while Max and her was the opposite. They both desperately wanted to be a part of this world they lived in. They knew that they had a mother waiting for them on Antar however they still longed for a family here, longed to make real friends, possibly even find love.

Isabel knew that the idea of finding human love here on earth was forbidden by Nasedo. For as long as she could remember, Nasedo had told them that she was destined to be with Michael and Max was to be with Tess. That was how they were designed based upon their past lives, the ones they had lived on Antar. A life that Isabel barely remembered. The truth for Isabel was that she never wanted to be with Michael in any sort of romantic fashion and Max had voiced the same stance in private in regards to Tess. They loved them like a brother and sister but there was never a desire to become couples no matter how hard Nasedo pushed them.

Isabel knew that Tess and Michael felt the same way though they kept silent over the issue. The fact was that they pretty much kept silent over any issue concerning their destinies. Nasedo was the voice of authority for them until Max took over as King, and whatever decisions Nasedo made in the meantime concerning their life they accepted, something Isabel refused to do, just like she refused to believe what Tess was saying.

"No Tess, I don't believe that. I refuse to believe that every human on this planet is incapable of acceptance."

Michael rose from the couch in a fury upon hearing Isabel's words. "Stop being so damn naïve Isabel! You and Max always want to believe the good in these humans but you seem to forget what they did to everyone on our ship and what they would have done to Nasedo if he hadn't escaped! Stop living in your little fantasy world and start focusing on the mission! We were sent here to save our home planet, not this one. The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can go home." Michael stared coldly at Isabel; he was tired of having this argument with her. Isabel was always trying to be like them; those humans and it irritated him.

Isabel stood and stared at Michael. His words and the way that he looked at her were just like Nasedo. Hard and uncaring. They didn't understand her or her need to be human. She always knew Nasedo never would because there was nothing about him that was human but Michael was supposed to be different. He was like her, least physically anyway but as Isabel stood and looked at Michael she wondered if there was anything human about him. Isabel felt the tears begin to come again and this time she would be damned if she let Michael or Tess see her cry. She turned from the group and ran off to the sanctuary of her bedroom.

Max watched with sympathy as his sister ran out of the room. He wanted to run after her, make sure she was all right but Max knew it was best to let her have this time alone. Max could feel the anger rise inside of him. Max looked up at Michael.

"Why do you have to be such an ass Michael?"

"Why do you have to be such a human Maxwell?" Michael retorted before storming out of the room, not waiting to hear Max's response. He grabbed his keys and left the house.

Max looked up to Tess, wondering if she was going to leave the room as well. When she didn't Max got up and left the living room and went into his bedroom leaving Tess alone.


Part Two:


Isabel stood over her bed, her eyes narrowed, staring intently at the pairs of socks before her. After a few moments of thinking she had come to a decision and began to carry it through. Quickly she lined up the pairs of socks, by color; lightest to darkest, from white sport socks down the line to black dress socks. After the pairs were all in a neat row, organized to her specifications, she moved the tip of her finger over each one, giving each pair a number, counting up as her finger pressed into the material. The last pair of the socks was number twenty-one and as soon as she called it out, her finger moved back to the beginning of the line and she counted again. The second time Isabel achieved the same number when she reached the end and then once again she repeated the act, two more times.

After the deed of meticulously counting the socks, Isabel placed them carefully in the bottom of the empty suitcase that lay on the head of the bed. The appearance of the socks mimicked that of how they laid on the bed just a few minutes before. After a few quick and minor adjustments of position, Isabel felt comfortable with their placement and organization and moved to her next task at hand - the organization and packing of her underwear.

~*~*~

Max zipped up his suitcase and looked around his bare room, though it didn't look much different than it had an hour ago. He had lived in this room for twelve years and over the years Max had done little to contribute to personalizing it. So much of the room had remained exactly how he had first discovered it when Nasedo had brought them here twelve years ago.

Nasedo had been waiting for him and the others when he came out of his incubation pod. Through the confusion of being born, or reborn as Nasedo had always called it, Max understood very little those first few days. The only thing that seemed familiar was the light brown haired girl that held tightly onto his hand as they traveled from the pod chamber to Phoenix. The other two children that had shared the same strange entrance into this world kept silent as well on their trip in the car. The only sounds that were made came from Nasedo, though Max and none of the other three were only barely beginning to understand what he was saying.

When they had arrived in Phoenix, at the home they still lived in today, Max was apprehensive to go inside. The house was large as well as the grounds that surrounded it. Max stared at the opening of the house, the door was open and Nasedo was waiting for Max to step inside. He couldn't move, the fear he felt prevented him from doing so. Somehow Max understood that stepping inside was almost the same as going back inside his pod. It felt small; limiting and almost trapping which was a stark contrast to the openness and the actual physical size of house. Max felt the urge to run though he had no idea where to. This world was strange and unfamiliar.

Max felt the hand that had been clasped to his for the past two days tug at his at that moment. He looked up to see the girl, her eyes wide and wet. Max could feel her fear like his but hers was mixed with something else, something that Max would understand later as hope. She wanted to go inside, hoping to find comfort, peace, understanding and most of all home. Max knew he couldn't run, and somehow he knew that she wouldn't go inside without him. Instead, for her, Max pushed down his fear and let her lead him inside.

Nasedo led the four small children through the house, noting each room and the purpose it served. After the tour of the downstairs was complete he took them upstairs, to where their bedrooms were. At the top of the stairway there was a hallway to the right and one to the left. Nasedo led them down the hallway that was to the right of the stairs. He lifted up his hand and with a swish of movement the four doors, two on either side of them opened. The four children peeked inside each room, curious to see what was inside. Each room was similar in its contents. There was a large bed, nightstand, dresser, desk with chair, and bookshelf lined with books. The only difference in the rooms was the color of the walls. Two of the rooms were yellow and two were blue.

Nasedo leaned down and joined the hands of the four children together with his own and began a connection within the five of them. Max jerked when the connection first opened. The emotions of everyone around him pelted him at first causing his breathing to become ragged. After a few moments the muddle of emotions started to clear and understanding started to wash over him, something he had desperately wanted for days. Through the connection Nasedo explained to them who they were, aliens who sent here to earth to be kept safe. Nasedo then gave each one of them a name; Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess. He told them of their royal status, Max once being a great king of a planet called Antar and that Max and the others had lived before. The four of them had perished in a war that enslaved their planet and by the wishes of the Queen they had been recreated mere hours after their original death to be able to live again, this time in a human body. Nasedo also informed them that he was their protector and over the next years that they spent on the planet Earth he would raise them, guide them and teach them. He then noted the severity that their true alien identity must always be kept a secret, how human beings would eliminate them if they ever found out that they were not from this world. Nasedo told them that during the course of their stay on this planet they would live in this house, sleep in these rooms, exist in this world like any other human family. Outside of this house the world must never see them beyond their physical appearance and the mental powers that they possessed must never be seen by any human being. Fortunately the walls of this house would be their sanctuaries, the place where they could explore their powers and grow to be their destinies.

As Nasedo continued on, he filled their minds with knowledge and within minutes the world around them had became clearer for Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess. Words had meanings and their identities had been sealed. They opened their eyes and nodded at Nasedo, telling him they understood. He gave them a smile and directed them into their rooms.

Max held onto his suitcase and looked over his room as he had done twelve years ago. It was just like he had first found it. The few pictures he had of Isabel, Michael and Tess were packed away. His science projects had been thrown out, and only the only books he took with him were the ones that he had purchased on his own. All of the books that Nasedo had given him remained on the shelves. He had read each one like Nasedo had instructed and remembered the information with complete accuracy. Max had found the task interesting but often times not too overly enjoyable or invoking. They were merely books that contained information and once he had processed it there was no longer any use for them. It wasn't until he was nine that Max realized the impact that some books had; that books could be more than knowledge, more than words. The revelation came from the book Huckleberry Finn. Max had stumbled upon it in the school library when he was working on a project for class. The book's cover had caught his eye and Max opened it up and began reading. Two hours later, Max closed the book, having read through it entirely. He became aware of his surroundings and suddenly grew worried because during those two hours Max had forgotten everything but the story he was reading. Max looked around the room wondering if anyone had seen him laugh or cry. Could anyone tell that while he read the story he was imagining himself as Tom and Michael as Huck? For a brief time he had forgotten all about his life and the worries that filled it. He had forgotten that he was an alien king and that one day he would have to return to his home planet and save it. During that time Max had found his sanctuary and over the years many more books would do the same.

It wasn't that Max hated his life, there were just things about it that were lacking and he wished for something more, something that in this life he had yet to find. Max wondered every day if he would ever be happy with the life he had been given a second chance to live. Would he be content with living out his destiny Nasedo had informed him of twelve years before?

No one outside the house had ever found out about Max and the others the entire time that they had lived in Phoenix, Arizona. Max knew that based on outward appearances he looked like any other teenage boy though his living arrangements were atypical. Not too many people he knew or saw on television grew up without parents and lived with their "uncle", sister and two "cousins". However no one really questioned his life which is what Max preferred. Whenever he met someone new, which wasn't very often, questions were eventually raised about his parents and what had happened to them. He would politely respond that his parent's had been killed in a car accident when he was six and he and his twin sister Isabel were being raised by their uncle Ed Harding. The only truth to that statement was that his sister really was Isabel. He had learned that fact the first time Nasedo had connected with them. In their past life, Max and Isabel Harding were Xan and Vilandra Puline, twins born under the third moon, members of the most important family on Antar. They had been brought to this planet with Ava, Xan's wife and Rath Ludar, his trusted second in command and also Ava's brother. To everyone on this planet they were his cousins, Tess and Michael Harding; children of Ed and no one saw them as royalty, only four teenagers living a cushy existence.

Max knew very little about Xan Puline. He knew the facts; l family history, military and diplomatic accomplishments, important dates, like his marriage to Ava and the date of his death but Max didn't remember any of it. He didn't remember what he or anyone looked liked, he didn't remember Antar or being married to Tess, he didn't even remember the day that he died. To Max, Xan was like a character out of a book, someone real but not tangible. Nasedo promised that their time in Roswell would lead to his awakening. That soon he would remember everything about who he was and who he was destined to be. Nasedo had also told him that his mental powers would become fully developed and soon he would be ready to return to Antar and take over once again his role of King with billions of beings at his command.

Max hated the way Nasedo had always made Max's position of king sound. Max didn't want to be the most powerful being on Antar and he certainly didn't want billions of people adoring him. Nasedo seemed to light up when he would speak of the wealth and privilege that awaited them. For the past twelve years Nasedo never hid the fact that most people on an Antar and especially this planet were beneath them. Sometimes Max wondered if Nasedo held any compassion at all. He never showed any type of affection towards them or any humans and Nasedo had never once told them he loved them. The relationship that Nasedo had with Max and the others was sterile and Max found it difficult to show any affection towards Nasedo. Over the years Max grew to accept that Nasedo would always be this way towards them and there was nothing to be done to change it.

Nasedo's actions or lack thereof had made a significant impression on everyone in the house. Most times Michael was as distant as Nasedo, though there were a few moments that Michael showed compassion. Michael usually wore three expressions on his face, dislike, boredom, or solemness. Max missed the closeness they had when they were younger, the times when Michael laughed and opened up with his feelings. The last few years had brought a change in Michael. He became distant, only ever wanting to talk about the alien aspects of their life. He spent the rest of his time going for rides on his motorcycle, watching hockey on television or fighting with Isabel. The later seemed to be his new favorite hobby these days. Isabel and Michael were always fighting, no matter what the issue. Max remembered back to last month when they had went two whole weeks of not speaking because Isabel had refused to do any more memory retrieval sessions with Michael or just yesterday morning when Isabel had used the last of the Tabasco sauce on her Cocoa Puffs. Whenever the two were in the same room harsh words ended up being spoken and Isabel would retreat to her room and Michael off on his motorcycle. It was a pattern that had developed that Max had been unable to break and the strife only continued to grow.

Isabel was the opposite of Michael when it came to opening up however she tended to only share her most personal feelings with Max. He was the only one she felt comfortable with seeing her cry. The tears she shed in front of everyone earlier this week had been something he knew she regretted but Max understood her inability to hold them back. Leaving Phoenix was especially hard on Isabel. This was her home and that was the most important thing to her. From the very beginning Isabel craved stability and family. She had tried to make this large house somewhat of home for them, insisting on celebrating Christmas and birthday's. Every year she made each one of them a cake for the day that their made up birth certificate stated that they were born. Nasedo always dismissed Isabel's actions, calling them silly and human but agreed it was a good tradition to continue seeing that it would keep the humans from being suspicious about them.

Max knew how much it bothered Isabel not to have a mother or a father. Though Nasedo filled in as the father role, the only paternal instinct he had was protecting the four of them. Isabel needed more, and to be truthful so did Max. She longed for the families the kids at their school had or even the ones on they saw on television. Isabel never wanted to return to Antar just to be a princess or to rule with Max, the only reason she wanted to go back was to be with their mother and be a family again. Until then Isabel had done her best to make this house a home for her Max, Michael and Tess. She always did the grocery shopping and cooking, put fresh flowers in the entrance way and living room, insisted on taking pictures and displaying them around the house and so much more despite the lack of appreciation. Her actions were not lost on Max and he was grateful for everything she had done. Max didn't know what he would do without Isabel and the connection they shared. Max understood that leaving here to go to Roswell meant leaving behind the small sense of family she had created in this house. He knew that he needed to do what he could to help Isabel adjust to the move. Max was grateful that Nasedo had agreed to them enrolling in college and obtaining jobs once they were in Roswell, and his agreement had calmed Isabel. Of course Nasedo was unable to see the personal benefits of doing both, only that by doing so would help the four of them blend into their new surroundings.

Max couldn't believe that this was the last night he would spend in this room. Tomorrow he was beginning the transformation of boy to King. Tess's laughter filtered into his room causing Max to look across the hallway into her room. She was on the phone, again, while she was lazily packing her bags. She had complained all week about having to do it, not understanding why they couldn't hire movers. She was even more upset when she found out they were leaving all of the furniture and most of the artwork behind. Tess had been very popular in school and it was all based on the illusion that Ed Harding was a successful and wealthy investor.

Their house was nice. Tastefully decorated in the right kind of neighborhood keeping up with the illusion that they were the perfect all-American family. But all of it was superficial just like Tess's friendships. She was always going out with kids from school though she kept them all at a distance. Tess would invite them over for show and Nasedo would put on a production of the doting father, laughing and telling stories of Tess' charmed childhood. Tess' friends would all speak of how much they envied her and how great a friend she was and Tess in return would be the picture of humility. Max knew the truth and he knew that Tess didn't care one way or the other about their friendships. They filled her time while she was on earth and when it was time to go she would easily be able to leave them behind.
Possessions on the other hand were different for Tess. Unlike Isabel Tess didn't get attached to things for sentimental reasons rather because the status they held and the way they made Tess look to others. Tess was very much like Nasedo in that regard. She enjoyed the finer things Earth had to offer.

Her superficiality wasn't all that made Tess tick, but Max found it hard to find anything more and this confused him. In that other life she was his wife, they were in love. Max knew he should feel connected to her like he did with Isabel but he didn't. Max understood that one-day Tess and him would marry again and he hoped the feelings they shared in that other life would be rekindled but for now Max felt only compassion and commonality with and for Tess.

Max looked from Tess's open door to Isabel's closed one. He needed to check on her, see if she needed to talk or a shoulder to cry on. Max sat his suitcase near the door of his room, walked across the hall and knocked softly on Isabel's door.

"Come in." He heard her say.

Max stepped inside and was greeted with the sight of Isabel frantically shuffling through her pants. She was moving folded jeans and slacks from one pile to another, her brows furrowed as she worked. Max knew immediately what she was doing. When you lived with someone for twelve years you tended to pick up certain things, certain behavior and the meanings behind it. Isabel always reorganized things when she was nervous or felt out of control.

"So how are you doing?" Max asked, wondering if she would open up to him.

Isabel placed the jeans into her suitcase. "Fine Max, just finishing up." She said in a rush, not bothering to look at him.

"Do you need any help?" Max asked.

"No, this is the last of it."

"Okay then" He paused, not knowing what to say next. He looked around her room, so much different than his own. Isabel had pictures on the walls, plants on the windowsills, her dollhouse displayed on a table, stuffed animals sitting in a chair. Max's head cocked when he realized how full the room still was. "What about the rest of your stuff?" Max asked, confused over why she hadn't packed any of it.

Isabel looked at Max for the first time since he hand entered her room. "I'm not taking the rest." She said as non-chalantly as she could muster. The truth was that she had mourned the decision to leave it behind all week long.

Max was bewildered by her answer. "Why, what about your dollhouse?" He asked, hoping to find some clarification.

"It's staying here."

Max's eyes grew wide over his sister's answer and her coldness to it all. "Isabel, you love that thing. There will be room in the U-Haul for it."

"I'm not taking it besides, I'm not a little girl anymore." She brushed past him on her way to her dresser. Max watched in silence as she gathered a few toiletries off the top of the dresser and then hurriedly packed them away.

Max understood the dollhouse was more than just a toy for Isabel, it always had been and her willingness to leave it behind confused him. Max remembered back to how Isabel used to stare in the window of the toy store at it on their way home from school that first year. They were the physical size of eight-year-olds, though they had only been alive for a couple of years. Nasedo had decided it was time for them to attend private school. Every day Isabel would stop in front of the window as they passed by the toy store. Michael and Tess would always complain about her holding them up but Isabel wouldn't budge. Her fingers would gingerly touch the glass as she studied each room of the house. It was far simpler than the house they lived in but Max understood through their connection that this house held more meaning. In this house there was a mom and a dad, a brother and sister, a baby in the bassinet and a dog in the living room. In that house was Isabel's dream of a family and only her and Max knew of that dream.

One day Max had decided that Isabel needed to have the dollhouse for her own. If she couldn't have the real thing then at least she could have the closest thing to it. None of them had a lot of toys, Nasedo had dismissed them as something human's used to pass the time, a waste of their brain he had always said. For weeks Max pleaded with Nasedo for the money. It was the first real communication they had between the two of them. Everything prior consisted of lessons on how to live as a human being. They were shown how to communicate, eat, to read, write, use the restroom, wear clothes, and use manners; strictly teacher/student dialogue. Max pleaded his case over and over, explaining how happy Isabel would be to have it, however Nasedo was not sympathetic.


"Max, a princess has more important things to be doing with her time than playing with dolls." Nasedo had told him.

Max saw the logic in what he was saying however Max couldn't let it go. "Well then I think a princess should be allowed to have something is she wants it and as her brother and King I think she should have it." Max said in a commanding tone. It was the first and few times he had spoke to Nasedo that way.

"So be it." Nasedo said in response and smiled at Max before reaching into his wallet and taking out a few hundred dollars, handing them to Max.

"Thank you Nasedo", Max took the money and waited for Nasedo to leave the room before he let himself smile.

Max talked Michael and Tess into going to the toy store to buy it with them and together they presented the dollhouse. Max remembered the look on Isabel's face when she saw it. Immediately she began to cry and then flung her arms around Max, then Tess and Michael. It was the first embrace they had all shared and though uncomfortable at first all four welcomed it. It was one of the few times they allowed themselves to be affectionate with one another.

Everyday Isabel played with her dollhouse, spending hours in her room. Occasionally Tess and Max would play along with her, but most of the time Isabel spent it alone, enjoying every moment. Now that she was older Max knew that she played with it less but what it represented had not diminished.

"It's not a matter of your age Isabel, that dollhouse is one of your prized possessions." Max replied, trying to get his sister to change her mind.

"Well I can't take it back to Antar with me so I might as well let go of it now."

"We'll still be on earth a little while longer, please don't leave it behind." Max pleaded and Isabel shook her head upon hearing him.

"My mind is made up Max." Isabel said with determination. She took the jeans out of her suitcase and began refolding them.

Max placed his hand over Isabel's forearm, halting her actions. "Stop. Talk to me. Please." Max's words were soft and caring.

Isabel looked at Max, her defenses down and Max could clearly see as well as feel the conflicting emotions of fear and sadness that were overwhelming her.

"I don't want to go Max." Isabel whispered.

Max nodded his head. "I know Is, but Roswell won't be that bad."

"No Max, it's not Roswell. I don't want to go to Antar." Isabel jerked her arm out of Max's hand and began to pace around her bedroom.

Max stood confused, wondering why Isabel didn't want to go back to their home planet where their mother waited for them. "Why, because of the war? Because of the arrangement with Michael?"

"That's what I used to think but now it's something different." Isabel said, still pacing. Silence filled the room. Max knew that if he waited she would elaborate. He sat down on her bed and rested his hands on his knees. He saw Isabel looking at him out of the corner of her eye and finally she spoke.

"I'm scared of meeting our mother." Her words were barely a whisper, though Max heard every word.

"Why? That's what you have always wanted."

"I used to do and part of me still does but I'm afraid of what she'll be like."

"You mean her appearance."

"No, I know that she will be beautiful. In what little memories I have she is always beautiful. It's not what she will look like on the outside that I am worried about, it's what that is on the inside. I'm afraid she will be like him. Like Nasedo." Isabel stopped her pacing and sat down on the floor in front of Max. Her fingers began picking at the carpet fibers.

"All my life I have wanted to meet her Max, imagined how my life would be with her in it. I've seen mothers and daughters all around me and I've envied them. Angry because I didn't have a mother to do all the things that mothers and daughters do. I kept thinking that one day will be together and we will make up for the lost time but the closer that one day has came the more scared I've become. I know that soon I will see her and I wonder what if she is different than I have imagined her. What if she is like Nasedo, cold and distant? What if she doesn't hug me when she sees me or tell me she loves me. I would die if she was like him." Isabel choked out the last few words, tears spilling down her cheeks.

Max was at a loss for words at first over Isabel's heartfelt words. He had no idea she had felt this way and it pained him now to know that she was. "Isabel she won't be like him. We're not like him so why would she?"

"We're part human, she's completely Antarian just like Nasedo. What if Antarians are incapable of love? What if the reason we feel things more deeply is because were human?"

Max shook his head. "You can't think that way Isabel. I've always believed that Nasedo is the way he is because it's his job to protect us. He has to keep a certain amount of distance in order to keep a clear head. Our mother wouldn't have given us life again if she didn't love us. I know that."

"I hope your right Max." Isabel wiped the tears away from her face and the twins sat quiet, both lost in their own thoughts. They both jumped when they heard a knock at the door.

"Come in" Isabel called, trying to regain some composure.

The door opened and the siblings looked up and saw Nasedo standing in Isabel's doorway. "I need you both downstairs. There are some arrangements I need to go over with the four of you."

Isabel and Max nodded their heads in agreement and quietly followed Nasedo down the stairs into living room. All the while Max threw questioning looks at his sister, trying to see if she was all right. When they arrived in the living room Michael and Tess were already there, sitting on the couch. Isabel and Max took their seats and looked to Nasedo, awaiting his words.

"I'm not going to be able to go to Roswell with the four of you tomorrow. I need to head to Washington D.C. for a few weeks."

"Why?" Max asked.

"I have reason to believe that a skin is serving as a Congresswoman in D.C and is aggressively pushing for the Special Unit of the FBI to began investigating the New Mexico area for signs of alien life."

"Why would she do that?" Tess asked. They had learned of the skins a few years back. They were an alien race also from Antar and working under the orders of the current ruler, Khivar, some of them had come to earth to destroy them. They had arrived on Earth a few years after they had back in 1947 and Nasedo believed their numbers to be somewhere in the hundreds however he had no idea where they were. Nasedo had called them skins because of their physical appearance. Their alien bodies were unable to sustain life on Earth; the atmosphere had proved toxic in past visits. In order to exist on earth they were forced to live in a protective husk, one that resembled a human body. Unfortunately for them the husks only could last about fifty years before the entire husk deteriorated. As time had passed for them over the years the top layer of skin on the husk would shed, which was why Nasedo called them skins. The hope had been in the past that the skins' husk would deteriorate and their alien bodies would die before they had the chance to find the Royal Four and carry out Khivar's orders to kill them.

"Because my dear child, she is using the Special Unit to flush the four of you out. Once the Special Unit has discovered there are aliens among them the skins will know exactly who the royal four are and we can't have that happen now can we?" Nasedo continued on, not waiting for a response from the four of them. "The four of you will move to Roswell on your own and I will join you at the end of the month. " Nasedo opened up his briefcase and handed a large manila envelope to Max.

"Inside you will find a map, cash, credit cards and the address of where you will be staying. I have already spoken to a Liz Parker, she manages the apartment you will be staying at."

"We're staying in an apartment?" Tess was horrified by thought of moving from a large house to a small apartment.

"Yes, it's important that we do little to attract a lot of attention while in Roswell. A large house in a small town would only make the four of you stand out more. From my visit there last week the apartment is above a restaurant and the entrance is in the alleyway which will make going in and out more discreet. The place is furnished and the rent has already been paid up for the next six months. When I return we will begin the transformation. Now if you will excuse me I have a cab arriving in five minutes. I will call you when I arrive. Remember the rules and you will stay safe during my absence. Goodbye." Nasedo picked up his briefcase and suitcase and exited the house.

The four aliens couldn’t believe he had left for the next few weeks. Nasedo had never left them alone for that long before, his absences were usually only a few days. Most times he always had to know where they were. For the first time the four faced three weeks of separation from the only person that had taken care of them these past twelve years.

Max knew that with Nasedo out of their lives for awhile it would be his job to take charge of the situation and of them. "Well I guess we better get a good night's sleep, we'll leave at six, okay" Max said and after they all had agreed the four aliens left to spend their last night of sleep in Phoenix. Tomorrow morning they were leaving for Roswell, New Mexico and little did they know how much their life was about to change.


Part Three:


Early Saturday Morning, the black Dodge Durango pulled out of the driveway of the only home that Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess Harding had ever known. Max focused on the road as he steered the car away from the house. In the front passenger seat, Isabel sat, her head turned sideways watching the house become farther and farther away as silent tears ran down her face. Behind her Tess lounged in the backseat, her eyes closed, sighing heavily as she tried to get comfortable. Michael was behind them on his motorcycle, following closely behind the U-Haul that was hitched to the large sport utility vehicle. Like Max, his eyes never left the road that was laid out in front of him.

After fourteen hours of traveling the two vehicles passed the sign that read - 'Welcome to Roswell, New Mexico - population 46,000'. Tess groaned as she read the sign. "Can this town be any smaller?"

"It doesn't look too bad." Max answered, his eyes constantly surveying each new building and street as they passed them. "Hey look, they got a Krispy Kreme, Michael's gonna be happy. Remember last time when he ate a whole dozen and then got sick. I swear he looked green there for awhile." He looked over his shoulder and shared a smile with Isabel. It was one of the few she had given all day. She had stopped crying when they left Phoenix, but her somber mood had continued most of the trip. Even the stop at IHOP's, her absolute favorite place to eat, had failed to lift her spirits. Of course the fight with Michael over his rude behavior towards the waitress hadn't helped any.

"Oh, look Is, there's the mall." Tess lifted up her index finger off the steering wheel and pointed it towards the large building to the left of her. "I bet they don't even have a Banana Republic." She complained.

"It looks kind of big, maybe." Isabel spoke softly as she leaned closer to the window. The sun was disappearing behind the Roswell Shopping Mall and the sky was filled with streaks of warm orange, grays and blues. Isabel rested her head against the glass and stared at the sky. "Wow, the sunset is really beautiful here." She said in awe. Max and Tess both took a moment to look at the sky and silently agreed with Isabel that the sunset in Roswell was beautiful.

"Tess, take a right here." Max instructed. Tess steered the Durango onto Main Street and then glanced in the rear view mirror, checking to see if Michael was still following behind. The reflection of the street lamps bounced off his shiny, black helmet. After a few more minutes of driving they arrived at the address of their new home.

"You have got to be kidding me." Tess let out a sarcastic sounding laugh as she pushed shut the driver's side door. She pointed to the large, metal spaceship that hung out from the front of the tall, two story brick building. The row of light's across the mid-section of the mock ship flashed on and off. A large sign hung directly below it, reading - "The Crashdown Café". Isabel and Max climbed out of the vehicle and looked up at ship.

"From what I've been reading, that's pretty much the theme in this town. Everything centers around the crash and aliens." Max said, he had been reading up as much as he could about Roswell ever since Nasedo had informed them of the move. He wanted to be prepared for the change. When their spaceship crashed outside of Roswell in 1947 and all though the government deemed the occurrence as nothing more than a weather balloon, the whole town began capitalizing on the "supposed" incident. The main source of income for the town over the years came from influx of tourists that passed through each year hoping to see a "real" alien artifact or to meet someone who had been there for the historic event. Some of the articles that Max had read had quotes from Roswell citizens who claimed to see the ship fall from the sky that night. And though most people discredited those accounts Max believed because he was one of the occupants of the ship that had crashed that night.

"Well I guess since we don't look like those…" Tess pointed at the green alien heads with large, almond shaped eyes painted on the café windows, "then our cover won't be blown."

"Great, We just entered Roswell Freakin' Mayberry", Michael sneered, his helmet tucked under his arm.

"Michael it doesn't look that bad. C'mon, let's go inside." Max said trying to deflect Michael and Tess already negative attitude towards the place. In order for Isabel to be happy about being here Max needed Michael and Tess' support.

"Lead the way Opie." Michael jeered, sporting a half-smile. Max rolled his eyes at Michael as the four made their way towards the restaurant.

"Oh look, there's Sheriff Andy now." Michael mocked under his breath. Just a few feet away from them was a middle-aged man in a tan sheriff's uniform.

"Good evening folks" Sheriff Jim Valenti tipped his hat towards them. "Beautiful night tonight."

"Yeah, it is." Max reluctantly returned the invitation to conversation. As soon as he saw the Sheriff his body tensed and he could feel the tension in Isabel as well. Standing right before them was Nasedo's version of the boogey man. His bedtime stories always placed anyone who worked in law or the government as the villain and never to be trusted. They had spent the past twelve years avoiding police and government officials. It wasn't very often that they found themselves standing just a few feet from a police officer or making polite conversation like they did now.

"Are you heading in?" The Sheriff asked, gesturing towards the doors of the restaurant.

"Yes." Max nodded his head, his body tightened with worry, making it hard to say the simple word. He forced himself to breathe; knowing how important it was for him to keep the worry inside. Nasedo had been their shield when they had encountered police in the past. He was always the one to speak. But tonight he wasn't here and Max, as the leader, had to step up and take his place.

Jim held the door open and stood back allowing Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess to go on inside. As they passed him everyone with the exception of Michael thanked the Sheriff. Once inside they gathered around each other, unsure of what to do next. Jim came up from behind them and noticed the hesitance. The people who lived in this town knew to take the open table or booth that you preferred; it was always the out of towners who waited to be seated.

"So I take it by your Arizona plates, this is your first time here?" Jim asked.

"Yes, we just moved here." Max replied.

"Well then a welcome is in order. I'm Sheriff Jim Valenti." Jim held out his hand to Max. Max stared for a moment at the hand before him and then apprehensively took it into his own and shook. Instantly Max made a light connection with the Sheriff and received a warm vibe from him allowing Max a bit of relief. Max smiled at him, knowing that a least tonight this man posed no immediate threat to them.

"Thank you. I'm Max Harding and this is my sister Isabel and our cousins, Michael and Tess." Max pointed to each one as he spoke. The Sheriff shook each of their hands, offering a 'nice to meet you' to each one. A note of recognition registered in his eyes after the introductions.

"You must be the college students renting the upstairs apartment." Michael raised his eyebrow at the Sheriff, curious to know why he knew about them already and his questioning look did not go unnoticed on Jim.

"Sorry, I'm not nosy, I'm just good friends with the owner." Jim explained. "She told me you were coming in this weekend."

"Hey Jim." The group looked to see a petite blond girl wearing a turquoise waitress dress walking over to them. "I didn't know you were working tonight."

"Hi Maria. We were a little short staff tonight. Came over for a break. I wouldn't suppose there's some Dutch apple pie left?" Jim asked, giving his step daughter Maria a wink.

"What about your diet?" Maria questioned teasingly.

"Your right, I suppose coffee will do." Jim said in a defeated tone.

Maria grinned widely over the disappointed look on his face. "Don't worry, I won't tell Mom. Why don't you have a seat at the counter and I'll get if for you in a minute? Do you want it ala mode?"

"Of course." Jim smiled at Maria and then turned his attention to Max and the others who were still standing next to him, watching the exchange. "Folks I'd like you to meet my step-daughter and one of my secret suppliers of pie, Maria DeLuca. Maria this is Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess Harding. They're moving into the apartment."

If possible, Maria's grin spread even wider on her face. "Oh, hey! Lizzie told me you were coming. It's nice to meet all of you." Her voice rose an octave higher when she spoke this time and she seemed to be bubbling with joy. Her eagerness to make their acquaintance was received with mixed emotions by the group. Michael immediately found her exuberance annoying and Tess silently wondered what drugs she was on. Isabel and Max were taken aback by her too however her grin seemed to be infectious and they both couldn't help but smile back at her.

"It's nice to meet you too. Is Liz Parker here?" Max asked.

"Yeah, she's in back, why don't you guys just have a seat at a booth and I'll get her for you."

"Thanks." Isabel offered needing to say something to the girl before she left. Maria's presence had given Isabel the first real sense that maybe things wouldn't be so bad in Roswell.

Maria turned and made her way through the quiet restaurant and disappeared through the double doors.

"Well it was nice to meet all of you and if you ever need anything just give the station a ring or you can ask Maria or Liz. See you around." Jim smiled one more time at the group and then made his way to the counter.

Max, Isabel, Michael and Tess sat down at the large booth to the right of them. Their eyes scanned the room, noticing all the alien paraphernalia. The walls were painted in southwestern colors of orange and turquoise and a few small murals of alien scenes. Also covering each wall were framed pictures of doctored alien photographs, paintings and newspaper clippings of the 1947 crash.

"Will you get a load of all this crap." Michael jeered, as he continued to look around the room. "And if you say it doesn't look that bad one more time Max, I'm gonna lose it right here in the restaurant." Michael warned not bothering to look at Max. Before Max could respond, Isabel interjected.

"Nice mood Michael."

"Well if you had to sit your ass for fourteen hours on a bike you'd be a little pissy too." Michael spat.

"Who said you had to bring that piece of crap anyway?" Isabel retorted. "And would it have killed you to be polite to the Sheriff. We don't need to be creating any type of suspicions."

Michael pointed his finger at Isabel. "Look, I told you already, I'm not here to make friends."

"Can you both just stop fighting for two minutes? Is that possible?" Max asked looking to Michael and Isabel, hoping to end their latest fight. It was late, and Max was tired and hungry. All he wanted was to meet this Liz Parker woman, get the keys for the apartment and go to bed. He didn't feel like listening to Isabel and Michael fight for the rest of the evening.

"Not a problem Maxwell. Heads up." Michael tilted his head to the left towards the woman that was approaching their booth.

Max whipped his head to the right and noticed the woman walking slowly towards them. Her shoulders were slumped and she drug her feet as she walked. It was evident by her actions that this woman had a strong desire not to be here in the restaurant. When she reached the table she sighed heavily, the force of her warm breath caused the hair on Max's head to move slightly. Her tired eyes focused on Max. Max looked up to her, wondering if this was the woman he was supposed to meet.

"Liz Parker?" Max asked.

TBC...

[ edited 3 time(s), last at 5-Dec-2001 11:59:16 AM ]
posted on 9-Sep-2001 2:24:13 PM
PART FOUR

"Liz Parker?" Max asked.

"Nope, sorry, I'm Agnes. What can I get you kids?" The older woman said as she took the pen off the top of her right ear, her left ear holding an unused cigarette.

"It's all right Agnes, I got it. Why don't you start cleaning the milkshake machine."

"Sure." Agnes said, rolling her eyes at Maria's request while she tucked the pen back in it's original spot. Everyone's eyes followed Agnes as she slowly made her way to the counter and took a seat at the far end. Agnes gave the shiny, metal milkshake machine a brief glance, sighed a deep sigh, and then began flipping though her latest edition of the National Enquirer. Maria gave out an exasperated groan upon seeing Agnes' latest display of laziness. She resisted the urge to march over to her co-worker and yell, knowing that after years of witnessing her poor work ethic, it would only be a waste of energy. She turned her attention back to her customers, Roswell's newest residents. She plastered on one of her patented Maria smiles.

"Agnes is well, Agnes, plus you'll be thirty by the time you get your order. Liz said she'll be out shortly, she's dealing with a little crisis in the back. So in the meantime can I get you guys something to drink or eat?"

"Okay." Max looks around to the rest of the group. "I don't know about you guys but I'm starving." Max states, reaching for the menu on the table.

"What's good?" Isabel asked.

"Pretty much everything except the Venus Meatloaf Platter. I don't think meatloaf can be edible no matter what planet it's from."

"Funny…" Michael said flatly, his lips turned down slightly. "Look just give me a burger, fries and a cherry coke."

"Do you want a Will Smith Burger or a Sigourney Weaver?"

"What the…? Nevermind, I just want a bun with some meat on it. I'm going to take a leak." Michael let himself out of the booth, ignoring everyone's stares and raised eyebrows. Max and Isabel were ashamed by Michael's rude behavior. Despite how many times in the past he had acted that way in public it still was an embarrassment. When they were out with Nasedo, Michael tended to tone down any blatant displays of ill mannerisms, but now that they were here without him, Michael didn't seem to care for pleasantries.

Isabel saw how taken aback Maria was by Michael's behavior and felt the need to apologize to her. "Sorry, you'll have to excuse my rude cousin. He seems to have left his manners in Phoenix."

"Are you sure he ever had any?" Maria asked.

"He's just tired from the trip. He'll be better tomorrow." Max added. "Can I have a Will Smith burger, um…some Saturn rings and a cherry coke, please." Max closed the menu and looked over to Isabel and Tess.

"Yeah, I'll have the same and could we get some Tabasco sauce." Tess ordered.

"Sure," Maria jotted down Tess' order. "What would you like?", looking to Isabel.

"What they're having sounds good."

"Gotcha, I'll be right back with your drinks." Maria leaves the table, passing by Michael on her way to the order window.

"Why do you have to be so rude Michael?" Isabel asked him after he sat down.

"Get off my back Isabel." Michael glared at Isabel, he couldn't help it. The past few months all he could he feel was anger towards her. When the fights had started happening more frequently he had tried to pinpoint the reason knowing that it was more than just her using the last of the shampoo or being upset about the move. Instead of finding one reason, he had found several; in fact it seemed to be everything. Her hair, her smile, the way she laughed at corny commercials, her insentient need for tidiness and order. All things that when they were younger annoyed him at times but never brought forth the feelings of animosity he was having now. Deep down he didn't want to hurt her. She was like a sister to him. They were all they had, as Max has always pointed out, but Michael couldn't control himself. Every time he suppressed the hurtful comment that he was thinking at the time, another one, with more venom, would come flying out of his mouth. He could clearly see how it hurt her, but he couldn't stop himself.

Michael didn't want to think about it right now and changed the subject. "So Maxwell, are you planning on contacting Nasedo tonight, let him know we made it."

"I told him I'd check in at midnight, our time."

"I wonder if he's found out anything about the skin?" Tess whispered.

"He's only been there a day, I'm sure it will probably take a least a few days. "

"Well let's hope he's not gone too long, I'm ready to start training." Michael added, unaware that Maria had returned.

"Training for what?" Maria inquired as she set four glasses of cherry coke on the table. Max shot Michael a warning look, letting him know he needed to tone down his behavior.

"Uh, running." Michael answered.

"Oh, cool. I'm into running as well. Roswell has a great exercise trail. If you want, I could show it to you?" She offered. Maria was trying very hard to brush off his previous behavior, hoping that he was just having a bad day. She tried to imagine how she would feel moving to a new town, especially a town like Roswell. Most days she didn't like living here and this was where she was born and raised. The people she loved most in the world lived in this town. Coming here, of your own free will, not knowing anybody had to be hard.

"Yeah, maybe. I'll get back to you." Michael looked over to Max, mouthing to him, "Thanks a lot Maxwell." Max, Isabel and Tess all grinned over the idea of Michael running. Michael didn't usually participate in sports; he was more of a spectator.

"Liz says you guys are from Phoenix?"

"Um yeah." Max answered.

"And you're going to ENMU?"

"Enmu?" Michael was confused.

"Ya, ya know, Eastern New Mexico University. We all call it Enmu." Maria's nose scrunched when she saw Tess began pouring Tabasco sauce into her cherry coke. She shook it off. After four years of waitressing she had seen some strange food rituals. "I gotta ask. Why would you leave Phoenix to come to Roswell? I mean ENMU isn't exactly the epicenter for higher learning?"

"My uncle decided to open up a business here, wanted us to come with him." Isabel answered, wincing slightly from the lies she has just told. Isabel took the bottle from Tess, pouring some sauce into her own glass.

"What does he do?"

"He's an investor." Isabel lied again.

"Cool, well I'm taking classes at the college too so I'll probably see you guys around."

"I hope so." This time, there was truth to what she was saying. Part of the reason she had held back from making friends in the past was because she didn't want to have to lie. Her life was made up of them. She didn't want friendships based on them as well. Isabel shook off the sadness that was starting to overtake her. She passed the bottle to Max.

Max lifted the bottle over his glass, letting the liquid drip into his drink. The door at the back of the restaurant opened and Max felt the pull to look up. When he did he saw a dark, brown haired woman come through the doors. Max, quickly scanned the length of her body. Starting with the top of silky, long hair, down her tiny body. Max's mouth fell open as he watched her walk over to the counter, to where the Sheriff sat. He took in every detail of her face. Her large, dark eyes, the creamy texture of her skin, her beautiful lips as they curved upward forming a smile. He heard her velvety laugh carry through the restaurant, over to where he was, falling over him like a blanket causing his stomach to tingle. Max sat there, motionless, watching her as the Tabasco continued to drip into his glass.

Standing just fifteen feet away from Max, was a woman who had unknowingly captured Max's Harding's heart and soul. Max had never believed in love at first sight even though he had read about the silly notion in a few books. The idea seemed too preposterous - how could you love someone you have only just seen? Someone whose name and everything about them is a mystery. In all of his thirteen years on this planet of never believing in such a concept, at this very moment he was a believer. He felt drawn to her like no other and he could almost feel his soul stir, like it was waking up.

After a few moments of talking with the Sheriff she left the counter and began walking towards the booth where Max sat. When it finally registered with Max that she was walking to where he was, his nerves went on hyper-drive. His stomach twisted, his palms started to sweat and his mouth felt dry, like cotton. The bottle slipped slightly in his hands and he sat it down, the bottle wobbling slightly. The once nearly full bottle of sauce stood empty. Most of its contents were in Max's glass.

"Hey Lizzie" Maria said. "Liz these are the Hardings. Let me see if I got all your names right." Maria pointed at Michael. "Michael, Tess, Isabel and Max" Her finger ending up in front of Max.

"It's nice to meet all of you. I'm sorry I took so long. Do you want to do take a look at the place?" Liz asked warmly as she looked around the table.

Max couldn't take his eyes off of her. He could feel the warmth in his face, feel his chest tighten when her heard her speak. She was even more beautiful up close. Max felt the urge to touch her to see if she was real. Somewhere, beyond the state of awe that he was experiencing, his could hear his sister calling him.

"Max, Max!"

Max blinked his eyes and shook his head. Reluctantly he turned his head to look at his sister. His brows furrowed, trying to concentrate on what she was saying.

"Do you want to go look at place?"

Max opened his mouth to speak; the dryness prevented him from making words. He absentmindedly lowered his head over the straw in his glass and sucked hard, needing the liquid to moisten his mouth. After a few swigs, his throat started to constrict. The heat from the liquid was intense and he could do nothing but let his body take over. Max inhaled deeply and then began to cough. The last of the coke that was in his mouth came spewing out over the table and the people around it.

Michael and Tess gasped in disgust, wiping droplets of cherry coke from their face. Max, breathed sharply, trying to get himself under control. He could feel the heat in his face and he was utterly embarrassed over what had just happened. He turned his head up sharply when he felt a soothing hand on his shoulder.

"Are you okay?" Liz asked, her voice and face full of concern. Beside her Maria was biting back the laughter over what she has just witnessed.

Max nodded, unable to say anything.

"Did you put Tabasco in your coke?" Liz asked, puzzled to why he would do such a thing.

"Um yeah, I uh, must have um put in too much. Sorry."

"That's just gross Maxwell. C'mon, lets go look at the apartment."

Out of the corner of his eye Max saw Liz looking at him, her brows creased.

Maria and Liz stepped back, allowing the four the get up from the booth. Max kept his head down slightly, unable to look at Liz. Liz led the way through the back doors, to the upstairs apartment.



PART FIVE

Saturday had been a long day for Liz Parker. It had started at 5 a.m. and never seemed to slow down. The restaurant had been busy all day, which meant business was good however the day still wasn't without its share of headaches. Today was one of those days when she wondered how her parents had made running this restaurant look so easy. Her dad had always seemed to keep his patience when a waitress wouldn't show up for work or when Jose set off another small kitchen fire. He would manage them with ease and then go about his day. Liz wondered if she would ever get the handle on running things the way her parents had.

Liz had been owning and managing the restaurant for a year and a half now, and though some things had gotten easier, the burden to keep the Crashdown a success still weighed heavily on her. Liz felt like she owed it to her parents to keep what they had created alive. After all, they had entrusted the restaurant to her and she didn't ever want to let them down.

Liz rubbed her temples with the tips of her fingers. She squinted to read the clock on the wall in the backroom. It read 8:45 p.m. Liz sighed heavily upon the realization that she had been at work for over fourteen hours. Her body screamed that it was time to go home and her heart ached for what was waiting for her there. 'I just have to take care of this last thing' she told herself. She smiled over the thought that tomorrow was Sunday. The one day of the week that was special for her and her family.

Liz pushed open the door that led into the café. Immediately she saw Jim sitting at the counter, a look of pleasure on his face as he ate his pie. Liz couldn't help but smile upon seeing him and the thought of what his wife would do if she saw him partaking in his evening ritual. Amy had put Jim on a diet six months ago when she had decided that he needed to start eating healthy. Sugars, dairy, and most types of meat were now off limits to him. He had put his foot down on the issue of giving up his coffee, arguing that coffee was vital in his role in protecting the citizens of Roswell. A Sheriff must always be alert, he stated and Amy gave in. About a week after the diet had started he had came into the Crashdown towards closing time. Maria and Liz had enjoyed watching him try to be so coy about his real intentions from being there at such a late hour. He babbled about the weather and the big sale going on at the mall, all the while eyeing the desert items in the display case. After about a half an hour Liz couldn't stand to see him in such agony and placed a piece of chocolate coconut pie on the counter for him. The girls each gave him a wink and headed in the back to finish closing up. When Liz had returned about ten minutes later, she saw the plate on the counter without a morsel of pie remaining on it. From then on, whenever he was working late, he would stop by the café for his sweet tooth fix and a good ribbing from either Liz or Maria. It remained their little secret, even after Amy had called them on it. The three of them denied it, though they suspected Amy really knew the truth. Amy didn't press the matter and so the sneaking of pie continued on.

"How's the pie?" Liz asked and then laughed, unable to hold it in.

"Best pie in town." Jim answered as he licked his fork.

"It should be, your wife made it. So how's it going?" Liz leaned up against the counter, her arm resting on the countertop.

"Good, it's a quiet night. You look tired."

"I am, I'm ready to go home."

"I see your new renters are here." Jim nodded his head in the direction of the booth where they sat.

Liz took a quick peak out of the corner of her eye to where Maria was with the new renters. "Did you get a chance to meet them?"

"Ya, they were walking in when I got here." Jim took a sip of his coffee.

"And?" Liz asked with raised eyebrows.

"They seem nice enough kids."

"Let's hope. I'm just so nervous about renting out the apartment. I did the right thing, didn't I?"

Jim placed his hand over Liz's and squeezed lightly. "Yes, I do and besides the extra money could come in handy."

"You're right." Liz nodded. "Well I'm gonna go meet them. I'll see you tomorrow afternoon."

"Goodnight sweetie."

"Night Jim." Liz brushed her hand along his arm before leaving the counter. She focused her attention on the booth where Maria and her new tenants were. Liz glanced over each one briefly. They seemed normal enough, she noted. Liz wondered which one of the two men was the rude one she had heard Maria grumbling about in back before. For a moment Liz let her gaze linger over the man with the dark hair. She noticed he was looking right at her and Liz felt her stomach flutter as their gazes looped into each other. The closer she got to the table, the clearer his features became, growing more attractive with each step. He was the most beautiful man Liz had ever seen.


Maria's greeting shook Liz out of her trance. 'Focus Parker, focus' she told herself. Liz reached up and brushed back her long hair over her shoulder, took a deep breath and smiled. She stood next to Maria while Maria made the introductions. As Maria said each name Liz repeated each one in her head in an attempt to remember. Her parents had always stressed the importance of remembering a person's name, noting how it made a person feel special. However it was more than that this time. Liz needed to know the name of the raven-haired man.

When Maria had rounded the table to Max, Liz breathed out his name, "Max."

Liz could feel everyone's eyes on her, waiting for her to speak. She forced herself out her haze again and remembered the reason why she was here.

"It's nice to meet all of you. I'm sorry I took so long. Do you want to do take a look at the place?" It took all of Liz's concentration to get those words out. Her mind wanted to go other places, wanted to focus on the man that was only a couple of feet away from her.

A chorus of 'sure's' was heard around the table with the exception of Max. Everyone noticed Max's silence and they all turned their attention to him, waiting for his answer.

For a moment Liz wondered what was wrong with him, wondered why he wasn't responding. He continued to stare at her and Liz began to feel self-conscious. Various questions of personal appearance tumbled through her brain, hoping that there was something so hideous about her that it had rendered Max speechless.

Liz looked over at the long, blond haired woman that sat next to Max. 'Isabel', Liz noted, remembering her name. Isabel was calling out to Max though he didn't seem to hear her.

Liz reverted her eyes back to Max, waiting for an answer. She couldn't help but study his face. His entrancing amber eyes, the length of his lashes as he blinked. His golden skin, his rigid jaw. Liz focused on his mouth. The whiteness of his teeth, his full lips forming around the straw as he sipped his coke, the panic look that came over his face as he took in a sharp breath. Liz eyes widened at this last observation and then coke exploded from Max's nose and mouth.

While everyone else seemed to be disgusted or amused by Max's action, Liz could feel nothing but concern. "Are you okay?" She asked, placing her hand on his shoulder, immediately feeling the muscles through his shirt and the warmth radiating off of him. It was intoxicating.

Liz noticed the empty bottle of Tabasco sauce next to his glass. She peered into his glass and observed the coke seemed to have a burnt, reddish tint to it. She breathed in and the aroma of Tabasco sauce assaulted her sense of smell. Liz was baffled to why anyone would do such a thing. "Did you put Tabasco in your coke?"

"Um yeah, I uh, must have um put in too much. Sorry." He answered her, his voice deep and then he turned away from her. Liz continued to look at him unable to shed the confusion of his previous actions.

"That's just gross Maxwell. C'mon, lets go look at the apartment." Michael said.

Liz stepped back along with Maria, allowing the four to get up from the booth. Her head moved upwards as he stood, now standing a half a foot taller than her. Maria gave Liz a little nudge.

"It's this way." Liz informed them and then led the way through the back doors, to the upstairs apartment.

TBC…


"Sometimes fate really sucks" - Liz
posted on 17-Sep-2001 10:55:09 PM
PART SIX:

One by one, the group led by Liz, made their way up the long, wooden stairs. Their footsteps created a chorus of creaks and thuds.

"I can't believe we are going to be living above a restaurant. I bet the whole place smells like grease." Tess whispered to Isabel. They were the last two to climb the stairs. Isabel looked straight ahead, ignoring Tess' comment. For the first time since Nasedo had announced that they were moving, Isabel was actually at peace with being in Roswell. Despite Michael's rude behavior, Tess' snootiness and Max's public display of grossness, she was happy. She couldn't explain exactly why, though she did know that it had a lot to do with Liz and Maria. They both gave off this aura about them giving Isabel the feeling that was a mixture of fun, closeness and safety all rolled into one. Something about them made Isabel feel for the first time like she wanted to be friends with someone, that she could trust them. Isabel knew it was crazy to think that way. They had been raised to never trust a human, that in the end they would only betray you. Nasedo had also told them from the beginning that forming emotional attachments to humans was futile. Their life on this planet was to be short lived. Beyond the stars held a life that was waiting for them. But Isabel didn't know that life and the closer it came to returning to it, the more reluctant she felt. Her heart told her that Earth was where she belonged despite the fact that she had no friends or someone to love. Tonight opened the possibility that she just might get her hearts desire.

Isabel knew it would sound silly to Michael and Tess to hear her thinking like this, however she wondered what Max would think. Before they had left the booth Isabel had received a vibe from Max. Though she couldn't read him clearly since they were not physical touching, she did feel something that could be interpreted as desire. When she saw him staring at Liz, Isabel wondered if her brother was attracted to Liz. In the thirteen years that they had been alive, Max had never been attracted to a girl, including Tess. Also, Max had never made such a seen like he did with his coke. Max was the calmest out of the four of them. He never acted irrational, never tripped or did anything to draw attention to himself. Isabel would tease him about that ability, letting him know on several occasions that his interpretation of a wall was coming along quite nicely. Max's blunders only meant that something was going on with him and Isabel would bet money that their new landlord had something to do with it.

****

Liz waited for everyone to come into the living room before going over the apartment. Michael, Max, Isabel and Tess stepped through the doorway and gathered around Liz. They each looked around the room, taking in their new surroundings. It was a large room with tall ceilings and exposed red brick on the two outer walls. The other two walls were painted in a dark cream that complimented the brick color nicely. There was an olive green sofa and a burgundy loveseat. In front of the sofa was a coffee table and on either side of the sofa were two end tables. Along one inner wall was an empty television stand. The other inner wall opened up into an eat-in kitchen and between the two was the beginning of a hallway. Though the room was void of any personal mementos the colors of the walls and furniture mixed with the lighting made the room feel warm and inviting.

"As you can see this is the living room. I hope the furnishings are okay, I know it's not fancy but the furniture's comfortable. Oh and the cable is hooked up, your uncle said you wanted it." Liz noted all the while trying to interpret their reactions to the room. She hoped they would like it and want to make it their home. Liz was also nervous about renting it out. This had been the home she had shared with parents. A place that she had felt safe and loved for seventeen years. Each room held so many memories for her, causing her to feel a spectrum of emotions. She could feel the tightness of her chest as she breathed in the scent of the room. After eighteen months it still smelled the same, the mixture of vanilla and cinnamon. A scent that was both soothing and saddening at the same time. Liz pushed the memories back at looked at the group. No one had said anything about the room but they didn't seem displeased with it so Liz moved on.

"In here is the kitchen." Liz led them into the connecting room. "There are some dishes and utensils in the cupboard. All the appliances work."

"It's so small." Tess observed.

"I like it, it's cozy. Besides you never cook anyway Tess." Isabel said. She stepped around the room, trying to get a lay of the room. The kitchen was always Isabel's favorite room of her old house and where she spent most of her time when she wasn't in her bedroom. This kitchen was a lot smaller than the other one, but it seemed more personal. Isabel let her fingers slide over the countertops, feeling the smooth tile underneath them. She envisioned where everything would go and designated which spaces she would use for food preparation. She smiled at the thought of being in here cooking. It just seemed right.



Liz peaked over at Max. Ever since they had left to come up to the apartment she had tried not to look at him for fear of making her attraction known. However the pull to watch him was strong. As they walked up the stairs she could feel him behind her, making her legs feel weak as she took the stairs. Once inside she felt her stomach flip, seeing him in her old home, knowing that for a least a little while he would be a part of her life. Now he stood in the kitchen, his eyes watching Isabel walk around the room. He shifted his weight slightly from one foot to the other and Liz wondered if he was uncomfortable with the apartment.

"Are the bedrooms down here." Michael pointed down the hallway, his voice sounding a bit impatient.

"Um yeah." Liz answered, making her way out of the kitchen, brushing by Max.

* ~ * ~

As Liz walked past him in the kitchen, he could feel a small breeze from her passing carrying her scent to him. Max breathed it in, making his stomach rumble. Her smell was the sweetest thing he had ever smelled. He tried to decipher the scent, thinking it was probably strawberries. Whatever it was, Max wanted to breathe it in again and again.

He watched her as she led them into each of the bedrooms, her delicate hands pointing out the particular features for each room. There were three rooms, each having their own bathrooms. The bedroom on the right hand side of the hall was the largest. The one at the end was the smallest, and the bedroom to the left was mid-sized with a window that led out to a balcony. When Max walked into that room he knew right away that Liz used to live here. Her scent was everywhere in the room. He knew at that moment that he had to have this room.

After handing them the keys to the apartment and going over a few more details Liz made her way into the living room, the other four right behind her. "Well that's everything. I hope you like the apartment."

"We do." Max spoke, his head bobbing as he spoke. As soon as he heard himself speak he knew he sounded ridiculous. Max wondered what was happening to himself. He never got excited or anxious about anything. But meeting Liz, being around her made Max feel like he was losing control and he liked it.

"Thanks. Oh, I almost forgot, Maria and I put together this little welcome to Roswell booklet for you. There's a map of the town, where we think the best places to eat are, what to do around town, things like that. Also if you ever need help find anything or have any questions you can call me at home or reach me downstairs. I work Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, all day." Liz handed the folder to Isabel, glancing over to Max as she did.

"Thank you Liz. For this…" Isabel gestured to the folder. "And for making us feel welcome."

"It's my pleasure." Liz said, looking from Max to Isabel then to Max again. "Look if you guys don't have any plans for tomorrow night I would really like it if the four of you came to dinner at my house. It's casual, just family, friends and me. Maria will be there."

"Well we're kind of busy with unpacking, you understand. Thanks anyway." Michael interjected before anyone else could respond.

"We don't have that much Michael." Isabel protested. She shot Michael an annoyed glance and then looked to Liz. "We'll come Liz. Should we bring something?"

"Oh no, just yourselves and an appetite." Liz smiled, glad that Isabel had accepted.

"Okay. What time?" Isabel asked.

"Five. The directions to my house are already in the folder. If you have any questions just give me a call. I'll be home all day tomorrow." Liz began to make her way to the front door. She was hesitant about leaving but she knew it was late and they needed to get unpacked. "Well I have to get home. Enjoy your first night here. See you tomorrow." Liz brought her right hand in the air and gave a small wave.

"Bye Liz." Max and Isabel said almost in unison while Tess made her way to the sofa to sit. After the door closed Michael turned to Isabel, visibly angry.

"Why did you agree to dinner?" Michael asked, shaking his head.

"Cause she invited us Michael." Isabel answered pointedly.

"Well then you're gonna march your butt down there and tell her we're not going!" Michael ordered, his arm raised, index finger pointing at the front door.

"No, I'm not, and you can't tell me what to do Michael!"

"I sure and the hell can. I'm going to be your husband!"

"Don't even pull that husband card on me Michael! We weren't married in our past lifetime and we not married this one either!" Isabel shouted back at him.

"Yet." Michael stated.

"Fine. Well if you're gonna pull rank try this out for size. I'm a princess and whether we are on Antar or Earth I outrank you. I'm going to dinner at Liz's house tomorrow night and you can't stop me."

"I'm not going." Michael shook his head in defiance.

"That's great. The evening is starting to look even better." Isabel said with a smile and stomped past Michael, opening the door that led downstairs. Michael, Max and Tess stood listening to the sound of her footsteps fading down the stairs.

"I can't believe you just stood there and said nothing!" Michael said to Max.

"Michael calm down. I don't see what the problem is about going to dinner at Liz's."

"Yeah, you wouldn't." Michael snorted.

"What's that supposed to mean?" Though Max already knew the answer to the question. He worried that Michael had already figured out his attraction to Liz and he wondered if Isabel and Tess had as well.

"You are a smart guy Maxwell, you figure out." Michael said, glaring at Max.

"What are guys taking about?" Tess asked, shaking her head, then a sense of understanding washed over her face. "Wait, Max are you interested in Liz?" Tess asked, afraid to hear what the answer would be. Even though Max had shown no romantic interest in her, he hadn't shown it towards any other girl either. Tess felt jealous over the possibility that her Max liked Liz.

"I don't even know her." Max said, unwilling to lie but too afraid to tell the truth.

"And you're not going to. You know the rules." Michael stated.

"Let's just drop it. It's late, let's just go downstairs and finish are supper so we can unpack the U-Haul." Max walked out of the room, not waiting for them to agree.

Michael grumbled as he followed Max, while Tess held back. The emotions that she was feeling were somewhat new to her. She had never thought for once that Max would want to be with anyone other than her. After all it was their destiny to be together. In their previous life they had been married and as soon as they returned to Antar they would be married again. Max belonged to her, but for the first time her position in Max's life felt threatened. Tess knew one thing for sure. She was going to that dinner tomorrow night and she would be watching Max.


Part Seven:

After dinner, Michael and Max unloaded the U-Haul, while Isabel and Tess began carrying boxes and luggage to their designated rooms. Everyone kept silent as they worked lost in their own thoughts.

Max was grateful for the silence. The last thing he wanted right now was a fight with Michael or Tess. There was so much he needed to sort through before he could even begin to explain or defend what he was feeling. Something had happened tonight when he laid his eyes on Liz Parker. He could almost feel his soul stir and his heart beat in a new and different rhythm. He felt captivated by her, which was exciting and worrisome at the same time. Never in his life had he been affected so greatly by another person. There was no denying that he had found other woman attractive over the years, after all he was still a teenage male, but what he felt for Liz was more than typical attraction. He couldn't quite put his finger on exactly what it was about her, but Max felt the urge to find out.

Max could feel Michael's stares as they worked. His constant watch forced Max to pay attention to his actions, careful not to smile or give any indication of what meeting Liz had done to him.

By eleven p.m. the restaurant was closed and empty and the U-Haul was nearly unloaded, only one large box remained. Michael had joined the girls upstairs to unpack leaving Max in the alley behind the café. Max stood there for a few moments and debated on what to do with the box, knowing exactly what the contents were. He knew that he couldn't bring it upstairs where his sister would see it. Isabel's mood had softened considerably but he didn't know how she would receive the box and Max didn't want to find out. Max decided that he needed to find a place to store the box until he was ready to bring it up to the apartment.

Max stepped back inside the building, the backroom of the restaurant illuminated with red light from the exit sign that hung above the door. Max started investigating the room, hoping to find a door that led to a basement. The first door he opened was a closet, filled with brooms, paper products and cleaning supplies. The second door he opened led to a long narrow stairway that went downward. Max reached for the light switch on the wall and flipped it upwards. Light filled the basement, spilling up the stairs to where Max stood. After quick examination of the room, Max found a suitable place for the box in a far corner of the room. A few minutes later the box was placed in its temporary home and Max retreated upstairs to his new home.

Once upstairs Max found Isabel and Tess unpacking their things in the large bedroom. It had been decided over dinner that the girls would share the large room, while Michael stayed in the room at the end of the hall and Max would have the room with the balcony. Michael protested Max's decision, stating that as his second in command it would be safer for Max to have the middle room. The balcony would leave Max too vulnerable. After a few minutes of arguing the decision was made final. Max would stay in that room until Nasedo returned and then he would move in with Michael, giving the room to Nasedo. Max let Isabel and Tess know that everything was unpacked and bid them goodnight.

Max looked to Michael's new bedroom. His door was closed, a light shining through at the bottom of the doorway. Max contemplated talking to Michael about Liz and the dinner tomorrow night but he knew that the only thing Michael wanted to hear about any of it was if Max made the decision not to go and that he had no feelings for Liz. Michael wouldn't want to hear about what Max was really feeling so Max decided to let it be for now. He would talk to Michael later.

The scent of Liz enveloped Max when he entered his new room causing his body to tingle. He looked over the room again trying to imagine what the room must have looked like when Liz lived there. The truth was that Max knew nothing about her, only her name and that she was his landlord. Question after question popped into his head about her. How old was she? Why didn't she live here anymore? What did she like? Did she feel the same about him? Or did she already have someone in her life? Why did she have such an impact on him? Questions that Max needed answers to and hoped tomorrow night would give them to him.

The thought of seeing her tomorrow set his pulse racing. To be able to be in her presence again was all he wanted right now. Max groaned in frustration over this last thought and he let himself fall onto the bed. 'What was happening to him?' He asked himself again. The Max Harding he knew just a few hours ago wouldn't be lying on a bed, thinking romantic thoughts about a girl. It just wasn't like him. And then there was the issue of what everyone would think if they knew his thoughts, even though he already had a pretty good idea that they would not be happy. Nasedo would not be pleased; Max knew that for sure. All Max's life, Nasedo had stressed on numerous occasions that attachments to humans were not allowed and for thirteen years he had dutifully obeyed that request. He never dated, never did things with classmates outside of school and absolutely never shared his feelings with anyone who wasn't an alien. Though the lack on interaction left him lonely at times he filled the void with books and words of self-preservation, both emotionally and physically.

As Max lay on the bed more questions continued to be posed upon him. Why was he feeling the desire to be with a human now, after thirteen years of strong resolve? Why was Liz Parker, a girl he had just met and barely said two words to, tempting him to go against Nasedo's warnings? And if he did, what good could the outcome possibly be? She was human, he was alien. A simple statement with a complex and disastrous definition. One that gave reason to Nasedo's requests and forced Max now to make a decision, a decision he didn't like but must adhere to. He would not allow himself to desire a relationship with Liz no matter how strong the pull to. He would keep his distance from her and dinner tomorrow night would be no more than that and in the future he would avoid her. This was the plan Max knew he had to carry through for the sake of himself and Michael, Isabel, Tess and Nasedo.

For awhile Max continued to lie on the bed, repeating his decision over and over in his mind. Minutes passed and soon it became time to phone Nasedo, informing him that they had made it to Roswell safely. The call lasted only mere minutes and then Max was left with his thoughts again until sleep finally overtook him.

*~*~

Mid Sunday morning Tess stood outside Max's bedroom door. Behind her, in her new bedroom that she shared with Isabel, Isabel was putting the finishing touches on her makeup. From the living room Tess heard the sounds of the television channels changing and Michael grumbling about nothing good being on. Their actions couldn't help but give Tess a sense of normalcy, almost a carbon copy of their behavior in their home in Phoenix. The triteness of the morning activity going on around her would have bored her two days ago, but now Tess couldn't help but find comfort out it. All was as it should be and nothing except a one way ticket home to Antar was going to change that.

Tess' resolve was instantly challenged again as her thoughts shifted to last night. Max's behavior had been strange, choking on his coke, stumbling over his words, staring intently at their new landlord. And then there was his own inadmission of his feelings toward her, though it didn't take Tess long to decipher what they were. Max was attracted to Liz and the attraction had changed him into a person she had never seen, causing Tess to worry. As she feel asleep last night she replayed the events of earlier in the evening hoping to find some sort of understanding to it all. Hoping to convince her ownself that Max wasn't interested in Liz and couldn't ever possibly be. Tess drifted off, doubt still among her.

When Tess woke this morning the doubt had receded considerably and Tess found herself humored by the possibility that Max liked Liz. He was betrothed to Tess and Max had never protested that fact unlike Isabel did with her betrothment to Michael. Max belonged to her. He cared for her and would grow to love her. Right? Of course, Tess told herself. Nothing was going to change their destinies and especially not a human. Even if Max had a silly crush on Liz he wouldn't turn his back on Antar or his commitment to Tess. Liz Parker was not going to be an obstacle. Tess decided that all she needed was to spend some time with Max, connect with him, and see that nothing had changed. Everything was going to be just fine.

Tess knocked on Max's bedroom door, stood and waited for Max's response.

"Come in."

Tess stepped confidently inside Max's room. Once inside she saw Max lying on his bed, one arm over his face, shielding him from the sunlight. He was dressed in the clothes he wore from the previous day and they were wrinkled from the night's sleep. He hadn't even taken off his shoes. The bed was still bare, not even a fitted sheet covering it. Tess felt another pang of doubt. Max never slept in his day clothes. Something was definitely off.

Tess brushed a strand of hair out her face and tried to ignore what could possibly be happening with Max. She focused on the normal.

"Hey sleepyhead, were' going down to breakfast in the restaurant. You coming?"

"What time is it?" Max asked as if rubbed his eyes.

"It's a little after nine. What time did you get to sleep?"

"I don't know, sometime after midnight. Why don't you guys go ahead and go down, I'm going to grab a shower first." Max through his legs over his bed and sat up in his bed.

"We can wait." Tess smiled at Max.

Max shook his head. "No, it's not necessary and besides I'm sure Michael's hungry. I'll be done in a little bit."

"Okay, do you want me to order for you?"

"Sure." Max said as he walked into the bathroom, closing the door behind him.

Tess stood alone in Max's new room for a moment, trying to get a sense of what was going on with Max. He had been so vague; of course that was how he always seemed to be with her. Tess wondered at that moment if they had ever had any conversations that lasted more than two minutes. Her and Max had never been ones to share things with each other and Tess knew that needed to change fast.

Max took his time showering, enjoying the warmth of the water and peace it seemed to give him this morning. He could just stand there, close his eyes and not think of anything but the feel of the warm streams of water flowing down his body. Eventually the water started to turn cold forcing Max out of the shower and back to real life. He dressed in a pair of faded blue jeans and white cotton T-shirt. After putting on his socks and shoes, Max headed out of the apartment to the restaurant downstairs.

As Max stepped down each stair, he felt the butterflies return. He could almost smell her among the smells of bacon and pancakes. The thought of seeing her again immediately brought up all the feelings he had spent the rest of last night trying to push down. When Max's foot fell onto the floor of the back room, he began looking for her. He was scanning the kitchen when he remembered she had said she was off on Sundays. Disappointment set in and then it was immediately replaced by hope. Maybe she had been called in, Max wondered. He continued to look around, finding no trace of her, so he then pushed open the doors into the café. He quickly scanned the area and again Liz was no where to seen. Max closed his eyes and tried to find the control he had just lost. He had let himself get lost in his feelings for Liz and he couldn't let that happen. When he opened his eyes again, his immediately set them on the booth where Michael, Isabel and Tess sat eating their breakfast. Max walked over the where they were and slid into the seat next to Tess.

"Everything okay Max?" Isabel asked as soon as he sat down.

"Yeah, why?" Max asked while he covered his eggs and bacon with Tabasco sauce.

"Well you never sleep in late and you took like thirty minutes getting ready. Everything go okay with Nasedo?"

"Yeah Is, everything is fine. He said he would get in touch with us in a few days."

"I suppose you failed to mention the little dinner invite?" Max looked up when Michael spoke. His brow still tensed with worry and frustration.

"I didn't think it was important and besides it's not a big deal." Max took a bite of his scrambled eggs.

"Fine. But we're eating and then leaving is that understood?" Michael pointed his fork at the rest of them while he spoke.

"I thought you said you weren't going?" Isabel asked. Frustrated that Michael had changed his mind. Isabel had been looking forward to the night without Michael.

"I changed my mind. 'Sides someone's got to make sure you all don't do something stupid."

"Jeez Michael were not six, we know the rules just as well as you do. It's just dinner so lighten up." Isabel waved her hand in the air, as if to brush off Michael and his sour attitude. "Max, I'm going to the grocery store. According to that map Liz gave us there's one about ten blocks away. I'm going to walk there after breakfast, you think you can pick me up?"

"Sure. I've got to drop the U-Haul off, I'll swing by after that."

"I'll come with you Max." Tess offered with eagerness in her voice and a large smile on her face.

"Okay." Max responded, taking another bite of his eggs, unaware in Tess's change in demeanor.

"Well I've been going through my recipes and I think I found the perfect thing to bring for tonight." Isabel said, unable to hold back the excitement in her voice. She had risen at five this morning and unpack the box that contained her cookbooks. After a couple of hours of filtering through recipes she decided on a dish that everyone might like but also display her ability to cook. Isabel couldn't wait to go to the grocery store and buy the ingredients she would need.

"Why you makin' something? The landlord said we didn't need to bring anything."

"I know she said we didn't need to bring anything Michael but I think it would be rude if we didn't. Of course I can't expect you to understand that."

"Whatever. Look, I'm outta here." Michael rose out of the booth. "I'm gonna take a ride around town, check things out. Later."

"If you're not back by 4:30 Michael we're leaving without you." Isabel called out to Michael. He lifted up his left hand and gave a brief wave before leaving the Crashdown.

"Ugh. Anyway, I'm off to the grocery store. I'll see you both in an hour."

Tess and Max both bid Isabel a goodbye. For the next ten minutes Tess tried to make conversation with Max, only to be unsuccessful. Max ate his breakfast lost in his thoughts and this only made Tess worry more.

TBC…


"Sometimes fate really sucks" - Liz
posted on 23-Sep-2001 9:36:27 AM

PART EIGHT:

"Liz!?" Maria called from the living room.

"I'm in my bedroom!"

"Hey chica, dinner smells great." Maria said as she entered Liz's bedroom.

"Thanks." Liz replied absentmindedly; her attention focused on her reflection in the mirror, her fingers shifting pieces of hair to various spots on her head. Maria raised her eyebrows in response to Liz's behavior. Liz wasn't one to spend a lot of time fussing with her personal appearance. Liz always kept it simple with her hair and makeup. The past year she tended to wear her hair back in a low ponytail and her makeup never consisted more than lip gloss and face powder. Despite the fact of how little make up she wore she still managed to look beautiful.

"Whatcha doin'?" Maria asked in singsong voice.

"Just get ready for dinner. Does my hair look okay?" Liz continued to stare at her reflection.

"Why are you worried about you hair?"

"No reason, just want to look nice."

Maria folded her arms across her chest. "Okay, then answer me this - why are wearing a skirt?"

"Same reason." Liz backed away from the mirror and headed out of her bedroom and down the hallway. Maria followed closely behind trying to hold back a smile.

"So you're not trying to fix yourself up for a certain dinner guest?"

"No." Liz said simply before she opened up the oven door and knelt down to look inside.

Maria hopped up on the kitchen counter. "Who is it, hairboy or spitter?"

"What?!" Liz's eyes grew wide.

"You know, Michael or Max."

"Who says it's either. They're new in town, I just wanted to make a good impression on all of them."

"I think its Max."

"Maria, you're delusional. Hand me the hot pads please."

Maria picked up the hot pads off the counter and handed them to Liz. "I saw the way you were looking at him last night."

Liz opened her mouth to respond when the doorbell rang. Liz looked frantically at the clock on the kitchen wall. "They're early." Liz began pacing in the kitchen. She was stopped by Maria's hands on her shoulders.

"Stop, you're making me dizzy. It's probably Mom and Jim. I'm going to get the door while you take a few deep breaths and try not to have a panic attack."

"Okay" Liz breathed out, trying to regain her composure. As Maria left the kitchen Liz shook her head. She was acting like a silly little schoolgirl. Liz knew if she kept acting like this everyone would know she had a crush on Max before they even sat down to eat.

Liz took another deep breath when she heard Jim and Amy's voices coming from the other room. She was relieved that Max hadn't arrived yet. There were still a few more things she needed to finish up with the dinner and Liz wanted everything to be perfect.

Liz walked back over to the oven and took out the roasted chicken. The skin was a golden brown and the juices in the bottom of the pan bubbled sending up a wonderful, warm aroma. Liz inhaled the tasty scent causing her stomach to rumble in hunger. Roasted chicken was her best dish, her mother had taught her how to make it four years ago. She always made it on special occasions and Liz hoped that tonight would be one of those.

The anticipation of it the evening had made it hard for Liz to fall asleep the night before. When she had arrived home from work the house was quiet though Liz hoped that it was the opposite. She needed a distraction to get her mind off of Max. She couldn't get the picture of his face out of her head. He was beautiful.

After her bath she sat outside on the porch steps and wrote about the experience in her journal. Liz somehow knew that her meeting with Max was something she would want to remember in detail. Five written pages later Liz was able to go inside and fall asleep.

On Sunday being with her family and preparing the dinner had kept her busy, allowing her little time to think about Max. But has the evening approached Liz had began to grow anxious and nervous. Soon Max would be in her house.

"Hey sweetie. You look pretty." Amy greeted Liz warmly, opening up her arms to embrace Liz. Liz eagerly returned the embrace, needing the soothing comfort that Amy seemed to always give.

Amy pulled away from Liz and turned to the top of the oven. "Mmm, dinner smells wonderful. Oh Jim look, she made your favorite, roasted chicken."

Jim stretched his head a bit to get a better look at what was in the pan. "Can't wait." Jim smiled tenderly at Liz and then walked over to her, giving her gentle hug.

"So Maria tells me were having dinner guests and one of them happens to be a handsome dark haired man who seems to have caught someone's eye." Amy winked at Liz.

"Thanks Maria." Liz said sarcastically.

"Anytime babe."

"Don't pay attention to your daughter. She's making up stories again. Kyle and Gracie are out back if you all want to join them. I just have a few things to finish up on."

"You sure you don't need any help." Amy asked.

"No, thanks anyway. Go spend time with Gracie, she's been looking forward to seeing you all day. I'll call you when everyone else gets here."

Amy and Jim walked hand in hand out the kitchen door and into the backyard. Maria stayed in the kitchen eyeing Liz playfully.

"GO." Liz ordered Maria as she pointed to the door.

"No way babe. They'll be here soon and I'm not missing their arrival. You are never like this and I want to have a front row seat."

"Will you stop! I do not have a crush on Max. Yes, he's mildly attractive but I barely know the guy. So just put a hose on your little soap opera fantasy and set the table."

"This isn't over Lizzie Parker. I know you better than you know yourself."

"Then you can tell me about myself after dinner." Liz placed a stack of plates in Maria's arms. "Here."

*~*~

Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess pulled up in front of 502 Mardell Street shortly before five p.m. The ride over had been quiet, each person lost in his or her own thoughts. Isabel fiddled with the covered dish on her lap, silently hoping that everyone at the dinner would enjoy it. Tess sat beside her in the back seat thinking over her day with Max. All day long she had tried to make conversation with him, only to find him mostly unresponsive which in turn left Tess extremely frustrated. Michael sat in the passenger seat, fiddling with the radio during the short ride here. And Max said nothing as he drove the Durango.


"What a cute house." Isabel observed as they made their way up the walkway. Flowers bloomed on either side of the brick walk as well as along the front of the house. The manicured lawn was a bright green and blades of grass glistened with droplets of water.

"I smell a dog." Tess crinkled her nose in disgust.

"Handy skill you got there Tess." Michael said.

"Shut up." Tess glared at Michael.

"Guys lets not fight for once." Max spoke for the first time since they left the apartment. All day long he had grown more nervous about the evening, afraid of what he would feel when he saw her again. He wanted to escape in his room and read the day away, unfortunately Tess had never given him a moment of peace. Her sudden desire to spend time with him made Max wonder what was going on with her. He wondered if she was still suspicious that he had feelings for Liz and that worried him. Max knew if Tess thought he was harboring any emotion for Liz, she would surely tell Nasedo when he returned home. Tess reported everything to him and this made Max feel sometimes uncomfortable under Tess' watchful eye.

"Max is right. I'm sure the last thing Liz and her family wants is to see us fighting." Isabel leaned her body through Max and Michael and reached out her finger to press the doorbell.

*~*~

Liz's back straightened when she heard the sound of her doorbell. She had been glancing at the clock every thirty seconds and she knew that it was almost five o'clock. Goosebumps started to form on her body from the realization that Max was here.

Liz looked towards Maria when she heard her giggle.

Maria looped her arm around Liz's. "C'mon chica, let's go greet our guests." Maria tugged on Liz's arm, causing Liz to jerk out of her stance. She nodded her head in agreement and focused on taking deep breaths as she walked with Maria to the front door.

Maria leaned forward and opened the front door. Before her and Liz stood Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess.

"Hey guys you made it!" Maria greeted enthusiastically. "Come on in." She waved her free arm, gesturing them inside.

One by one, they filtered into the living room. Liz tried to focus on anyone or anything except Max. She knew as soon as she looked at him she would blush.

Max's resolve crumbled as soon as he saw Liz. He had told himself that she was just a human girl the whole ride over but the minute he laid eyes on her again he knew that was a lie. Seeing her right now Max knew that she was more than any human girl he had ever seen. She looked even more beautiful tonight. Her long hair flowed over her shoulders and there was a slight wave to the dark brown strands. Max had no control over his eyes as they moved over her body. He gulped slightly when he saw her exposed skin. Last night her clothing had covered all but her hands, face and neck but tonight her shirt and skirt allowed her smooth skin of her arms and legs to be exposed. Max ached to touch her.

"Here Liz, I brought this." Isabel handed Liz a round covered dish. Liz gratefully accepted the dish and lifted up the lid, peeking inside. "I didn't have a lot of time bake. It's a Couscous Salad." Isabel noted nervously.

Liz inhaled its spicy scent. "Is this what Martha made two weeks ago?" Liz inquired smiling.

Isabel relaxed over Liz's observation, grateful that Liz knew what it was. "Yeah, it looked really good. I made mine a little more spicier, I hope you like it."

Liz nodded in approval.

"You watch Martha too?" Maria asked fearfully. Isabel nodded in agreement causing Maria to throw her hands in the air. "Oh good lord there's two of them now."

"Excuse me?" Isabel asked.

"Isabel, I'd like you to meet Liz, your fellow Martha nazi." Maria said, gesturing to Liz.

"C'mon Maria, I'm not that bad."

"Not that bad? Please Lizzie, not only do you tape her show everyday, but you subscribe to her magazine, visit her website and own anything she's ever published and don't get me started about the time you labeled every single shelf in our house."

"Isabel does that too." Liz looked over to Max as he spoke. It was the first time she had allowed herself to look at him. The sight of him made Liz chew on her bottom lip nervously. Their eyes lingered over one another as Maria and Isabel talked around them. Liz knew she needed to look away but she just couldn't. The sound of the slamming of the kitchen screen door brought Liz and Max out of their gazing. The six looked towards the kitchen. Around the corner came a small, auburn haired little girl running as fast as her chubby legs could carry her. A huge grin spread over her tiny, round face. Chasing behind her was a man with the same large grin on his face.

"I beech you! I beech you!" She called out through giggles. The little girl's eyes brightened when she saw Liz and she clumsily turned her body to run towards her.

Liz laughed at the sight and knelt down, scooping the little girl up in her arms.

"Did you beat Daddy?" Liz asked, her forehead falling forward till it touched the child's.

"Yes." She answered proudly with a tiny lisp.

"She's getting too fast for her ole' man."

"I'd say so." Liz became aware of the Max and the others looking at her, watching the scene before them. "Kyle these are the new tenants. This is Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess." Kyle walked over to the four and shook each of their hands.

"It's nice to meet you. How do you like Roswell so far?"

"It's seems nice." Isabel responded.

"Wait a couple weeks, I'm sure you'll change your mind." Maria said.

"And who's this?" Max asked, nodding towards Liz and the little girl. He was unable to hold back his curiosity any longer.

Liz shifted the little girl to face Max and the others. "This is Gracie, my daughter."

PART NINE:

"And who's this?" Max asked, nodding towards Liz and the little girl. He was unable to hold back his curiosity any longer.

Liz shifted the little girl to face Max and the others. "This is Gracie, my daughter."

Liz glanced at Max, nervous over what his reaction was to this news. It wasn't that Liz was embarrassed by Gracie, she could never feel that, but it was from experience that men her age usually didn't take the news that she was a teenage mother very well. From the way that Max stood staring at her, his mouth open, Liz sensed that he wasn't taking the news too well either. Liz hoped that wasn't the case.

Max stood there, his mouth slightly open, trying to process it all. The facts kept replaying in his mind. Liz was a mother, she had a daughter and this man standing next to her was the father of Liz's child. It felt like a giant weight had just landed in Max's stomach. The girl he fantasized and tried not to fantasize about for the past twenty-four hours was no longer available. There was already another man in her life and they had a family together. Max knew he was a fool to think that this beautiful creature wasn't already loved.

Max was at a loss over what to do next. The emotions he was feeling were so new and raw and Max felt like he had no control over anything right now. Jealously and frustration, sadness and longing all thrashed inside of him. It was all most too much for Max Harding to bear. The boy who had tried to keep his emotions under control all of his life was now drowning in them. Part of wanted to run out of the house, away from Liz and everything to do with her. After all, she had done this to him, he thought. But he couldn't leave; his legs wouldn't let him. All he could was stand in her living room and watch her with her daughter.

"You have a daughter?" Isabel asked.

"Yes." Liz nodded and then turned her attention towards Gracie, pushing away her thoughts about Max. Liz grinned sweetly at her little girl and immediately Gracie smiled back at her mother. Liz pointed her finger towards Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess. "Gracie say hi to our guests."

Gracie followed with her eyes the direction of Liz's finger and noticed the four strangers.

"Hi." In a soft voice she obeyed her mother's request before turning her head and burying into Liz's chest.

Liz nuzzled her lips into Gracie's neck. "Are you being shy?" Liz's question and the vibrations from her lips on Gracie's neck caused the little girl to giggle and squirm against Liz. Liz smiled against her and then kissed her neck.

The whole room stood silent as they watched the interaction between mother and daughter. Isabel was the first to move, taking small, tentative steps towards Liz and Gracie. Isabel, as well as her fellow aliens, had little experience with babies and toddlers. She had spent years watching them at the mall and at the market but she had never been given the opportunity to be close to one until now.

Isabel couldn't take her eyes off of Gracie. The tiny size of her features and the softness of her skin and hair fascinated Isabel. When they had came out of their incubation pods they were the physical size of six years olds. This fact left Isabel and the others with no memories and of course no photographs of what they would have looked like at Gracie's age or that of a baby.

"Gracie this is Isabel" The sound of Liz's voice brought Isabel out of her trance. Isabel looked to Liz who was smiling at her.

Gracie turned her face towards Isabel and let out another soft sounding greeting before letting her lashes fall downward and a blush creep over her face. Isabel found her bashfulness truly endearing. Isabel reached out her hand and lightly stroked Gracie on her exposed forearm.

"Hi Gracie. It's nice to meet you." As Isabel continued to brush her fingers over Gracie's skin a connection was formed allowing Gracie's pure and gentle nature to flow through Isabel. Isabel had never before received such feelings of innocence and honesty from a person and it brought tears to her eyes.

"Are you okay?" Liz asked, noting the tears in Isabel's blue eyes.

"Um, yeah, she's just really beautiful."

"Thank you."

"Well, I don't know about the rest of you but I'm starving. I'm gonna go get Dad and Amy." Kyle retreated through the kitchen and then out the door.

"C'mere squirt, let's go wash your hands." Maria lifted Gracie out of Liz's arms and into her own. Maria galloped down the hallway causing Gracie to bounce around loosely, giggling the whole way.

Liz and the others watched Maria and Gracie until they disappeared down the hallway. Liz looked back at the group that remained. Isabel was still smiling; her eyes focused on the hallway. Michael and Tess were shifting in place as they looked around the living room. Max stood still; his eyes still on Liz making Liz feel self-conscious. Liz nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear, unsure of what to say or do next. Thankfully Isabel took the pressure off.

"Dinner smells great Liz." Isabel noted.

"Thanks. It's roasted chicken, I hope you like it."

"I'm sure it tastes as good as it smells."

"You can sit anywhere you like." Liz offered, gesturing to the large dining room table that was set for ten people with a high chair at one end. Isabel was the first to sit down with Michael taking the seat next to her. Liz watched Max as he slowly made his way to the dinner table, eyeing the remaining seats. He slid into the other seat next to Isabel and Tess quickly sat next to Max.

"I'm just going to get the dinner." Liz gestured towards the kitchen, backing up slowly.

"Do you need any help?" Isabel asked.

"No thanks." Liz gave a quick smile before retreating into the kitchen.

Once Liz was out of the room Michael began fidgeting with the table settings, Tess rose from her seat and walked around, looking nosily over the room and Max stared straight ahead, seemingly unaware of everything. Isabel could feel the muddle of his emotions as soon as he had taken a seat next to her making her wonder what was going on with him.

"Max, what's up with you?" Isabel whispered as soon as Tess left the table.

"Nothing." Max answered, trying to sound casual about it. He knew by the way that Isabel was looking at him that she could tell that something was up with him. He wondered how he could even explain it to her when he didn't even understand everything he was feeling himself. "I'm just feeling a little weird about being here."

"But you wanted to come just as much as I did. What changed?" Her voice still quiet.

Max stared at his sister, unable to answer the question. He silently hoped that their special connection that they had shared would tell Isabel everything she wanted to know and then maybe she could explain it to him. When Isabel spoke next, it was if she had just answered his prayers.

"Is it Liz? Do you like her Max?" Understanding flickered in her eyes.

Max glanced quickly at Tess and then to Michael making sure they were not watching him and Isabel. Michael was picking at the floral centerpiece and Tess was looking at framed pictures that were displayed on the sofa table. Max was relieved that for once since last night their prying eyes were not on him.

"I don't know Is, I just know that I'm attracted to her but now…" Max's words trailed off, he looked towards the hallway where Gracie had retreated.

Isabel understood what Max was trying to say. "Because she has a daughter." Isabel stated.

"Yes and I guess a husband, boyfriend? I don't know." Max shook his head. "I don't know what I'm feeling, I just know she's already with someone else." His voice sounded defeated.

Isabel placed a hand over Max's, unsure of what to say to her brother. She had never seen him like this before. Their heads quickly turned to the kitchen doorway when they heard voices. They saw Kyle reenter the room along with the Sheriff they had met from last night and a dark haired woman with piercing blue eyes. The three of them were talking and laughing as the made their way to the table.

Almost simultaneously Michael, Tess and Isabel shot Max a worried glance when they recognized the sheriff. It was one thing to meet him in a restaurant but now they were going to have dinner with him and who knew what kind of questions he would ask or what kind of suspicions he would have about them once the evening was over.

Max, Michael and Isabel rose from their seats, as if they were preparing for what was about to come their way. Tess hurriedly made her way back to the table and stood next to Max.

"Hey, I'm glad you all could make it." Jim said cheerily, extending his hand to each of them. He smiled widely as he shook their hands. Again Max felt a warm vibe from the man, dispelling once again the evil picture that Nasedo had painted about men who worked for the law. Jim took a step back and gathered Amy next to him. "I'd like you all to meet my beautiful Amy."

"Hi. Welcome to Roswell. I'm happy that you could join us for dinner." Amy smiled almost matching the one that Jim was still wearing.

The group nodded their own version of thanks as Maria and Gracie came back into the room, grinning.

"All kean" Gracie said, holding her palms in the air for everyone to see.

Kyle took Gracie's hands and held them up to his nose and breathed in. "Mmm they smell so good I could eat them." He nipped at her hands causing Gracie to giggle again.

"Here daddy, take you daughter I'm just going to help Liz bring out the food." Maria handed Gracie to Kyle and headed into the kitchen.

"How's Miss Puppy Love doing?" Maria teased when she made her way into the kitchen.

"Stop Maria. Did you see the way Max was looking at me when he found out about Gracie? I was stupid to think anything at all about him." Liz cursed herself as she spooned the mashed potatoes into the serving bowl.

"Aw Liz, you don’t know that he doesn't like you. Granted, he's probably in a little shock. Most guys our age are over this kind of thing but give him a little time. You don't know what he's thinking or feeling?"

"That's right. I barely know the guy so I shouldn't even be letting myself get all worked up over this."

Maria watched her friend as she thrusts spoon after spoon of mashed potatoes into the bowl, each time a little bit harder. Maria placed her hand over Liz's stopping her from spooning in anymore.

"Wait till after dinner to form your opinion. Maybe the reason he got all weird cause he thinks you with Kyle."

Liz's eyes grew wide. "You think so?"

"Maybe. And if so we just need to let Max know that you are available. So stop hiding in the kitchen and lets get this wonderful dinner you made out there."

"Thanks Maria." Liz hugged her best friend.

"That's what I'm here for." Maria said, returning the hug. They pulled out of their embrace. Maria lifted up the bowl of mashed potatoes with one arm and with the other she held onto the basket of bread and boat filled with gravy. With both hands Liz carried the serving platter of chicken and the two friends left the kitchen.

*~*~*

Kyle tenderly placed his daughter in her high chair and then snapped the tray in place. Amy and Jim took their seats, Amy seating next to Tess's place and Jim next to Amy. Kyle took the seat between Michael and Gracie. Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess also sat down. Silence lingered for a moment around the table until Kyle spoke.

"Well everyone's here except Alex." Kyle stated as Liz and Maria reentered the room carrying dinner.

"Well we can't start without them." Liz placed the tray of chicken on the table.

"I don't see why not. We've been having these dinners for over a year now. He knows what time they start." Kyle eyed the food being sat down in front of him, licking his lips. His had reached out to grab a roll only to met with a slap from Maria.

"Hands off the rolls Valenti. We don’t eat until Alex gets here." Liz chuckled over the wounded and surprised look over Kyle's face. She stepped back into the kitchen to retrieve more food, the sounds of Maria and Kyle's playful bickering following her in. These were the moments that warmed Liz's heart. The people she cared about around her, the love and understanding they all shared. Despite what Max felt or didn't feel about her Liz knew that as long as she had her family everything would be okay. She picked up the bowl of corn and the vegetable tray and walked back into the other room.

Liz looked at Max watching the exchange between Maria and Kyle. He looked amused by their actions and words. His lips turned upward slightly and Liz felt the butterflies return over his beauty. The sound of the front door opening and closing caused Liz to jump and the whole room turned their attention to the sound. Alex appeared before them.

"You're late Whitman!" Kyle called out.

"I know, I know. Ran into some computer problems, modem went down, but I am happy to say all is fixed. Thank you." Alex held out his arms and nodded over his achievement.

"You're lying, you were in the chat room again weren't you? How is Kiki, or wait is it Bambi?" Kyle asked, eyebrow raised, shooting Alex a lopsided grin.

"Funny Valenti, I see you're stealing my jokes again." Alex walked around the table and gave Liz a hug "Hey Liz. How can you live with this guy?"

"It's hard. Alex, that reminds me. Can you look at my computer after dinner? It keeps crashing on me." Liz placed the large bowl of corn on the table.

"Sure, not a problem." Alex said noticing the new faces at the table. He looked over at Liz for introductions.

"Oh I'm sorry, Alex I would like you to meet Michael, Tess, Max and Isabel Harding. They're my new renters. And guys this Alex Whitman, my other very best friend." Once again, hands were shook and hellos were given. No one but Maria noticed the look of interest in Alex's eye when he met Isabel. She shook her head over what these new arrivals had done to her two very best friends.

"Well I'm starving, we can chit chat after we start eating." Kyle informed the room. Alex sat down next to Jim and across from Isabel. Maria sat down next to Michael and Liz sat between Maria and Gracie. With everyone in place the dinner began.

TBC…


"Sometimes fate really sucks" - Liz
posted on 1-Oct-2001 9:40:36 PM
PART TEN:

"So Liz tells us you're from Phoenix?" Amy asked while scooping mashed potatoes onto her plate.

"Yes." Max answered for his fellow aliens, mentally bracing himself for the onslaught of personal questions that were about to come his way.

"Have you always lived there?"

Max nodded to Amy's second question, trying his best to keep his focus on her and placing food onto his plate but he was finding the tasks difficult. Out of the corner of his eye he could see Liz, busy preparing two plates of food, one for Gracie and one for herself. She was whispering and smiling to her daughter, and Max wanted nothing more than to sit and stare at her for forever. Max was too distracted by Liz and was unaware of Amy's next question.

"It must be hard leaving after spending your entire life there?" Amy's voice and facial expressions were sympathetic. She looked to Max, then to Isabel and Michael, then over to Tess, waiting for one of them to say something. Isabel was finally the one to break the silence.

"It was." Isabel ran her fork through her potatoes nervously as she spoke.

"Yeah Phoenix is a great city." Alex chimed in.

"You've been there?" Isabel asked.

"Yeah, my dad and I been there a couple of times for computer software conventions. It's a cool city. I can understand why it would be tough to leave there and come to Roswell." The whole time Alex spoke he looked at Isabel, unable to take his eyes off of her since he met her just a few minutes before.

"Alex is our resident computer junkie. He knows everything and anything about computers." Maria said before taking a bite of her roll.

"So you're all going to ENMU?" Kyle's voice was warm and cheery as he spoke. Max had also been observing Kyle since the beginning of dinner. Pangs of jealously hit Max every time Kyle shared a smile with Liz or when he laughed with her over the way Gracie was holding her spoon, with her whole fist wrapped around it, yet still unsteady as she carried it to her mouth. They seemed happy and content; something Max had never had the chance to experience. For a few brief moments since meeting Liz, Max had felt the beginnings of happiness but now it was gone.

"Yeah." Tess spoke up for the first time. Since the beginning of dinner she had been busy watching everyone around her, nervous over what intentions they held. They all seemed nice, almost too nice for Tess. She was used to the superficial relationships she had back in Phoenix. Now she was surrounded by people who visibly seemed to care about one another and who also seemed happy that Tess and the others had joined them for dinner.

Despite the nervousness, Tess had also felt relieved. Liz was no longer a threat to her. The human already had a man in her life and they had a child together. Whatever suspicions Tess had felt about Liz's feelings for Max, she knew now they no longer held any truth to them. Max would forever belong to her, just as it should be.

"We all are too." Kyle informed them.

"What are you guys planning on majoring in?" Alex asked.

Max, Michael, Isabel and Tess looked around at each other, unsure how to answer the question. It was only a few days ago that Nasedo had agreed to letting them attend college and since then they hadn't given much thought to what they would be studying. Max and Isabel were just happy to able to go, while Tess and Michael didn't care one way or the other.

"I guess we haven't decided yet." Max answered, shrugging his shoulders.

"I'm in the same boat. I have no clue all though I do have it narrowed down to about seventeen choices." Maria said, waving her hand briskly in the air.

"Seventeen, that's down a lot from the thirty-two you were wrestling with last month." Alex teased. "Maybe by the time classes start in two months you'll have it down to five."

"Thank you Alex for your support. You know, we can't all be like you and Liz and know what we have wanted to do with our life since we were two."

"Now hey, I'm still tossing a couple of choices around."

"Oh that's right, it's between computer programming or computer information something, that's a real toss up." Maria rolled her eyes of Alex's pseudo dilemma.

"It's computer information systems and they are very different majors Ill have you know. One involves…,"

Before Alex could finish Maria cut him off. "Yeah, yeah, boring, boring, boring." Again swishing her hand in the air.

"So how about you Liz, what are you planning on majoring in?" Isabel asked.

"Molecular Biology." Liz replied as she helped Gracie put the last bits of corn onto her spoon.

"Wow, that's a pretty challenging major." Max observed, like he had done with everything that Liz had done since the evening started.

"Well if anyone can do it, it's our Lizzie. She's the Valedictorian of West Roswell's High class of 2002." Maria said, patting Liz on the back.

"Yep, Liz here is our little brainiac." Kyle added.

"You should see her SAT scores." Alex noted. All three were clearly proud of Liz's intelligence, which in turn only made Liz feel self-conscious. Liz had been comfortable with being single out for her academic success. Despite the numerous awards she had been given and honor rolls she made, Liz had remained humble through it all.

"Okay guys, you can stop now, you're embarrassing me." Liz said with a tint of red in her cheeks.

"Liz honey you shouldn't be embarrassed over your accomplishments. Not too many people can raise a daughter, manage a restaurant and still get straight A's. Your parents would be very proud." Amy gave Liz a reassuring glance.

"Thanks Amy." Liz looked over at Max and the others and saw the curious expressions on their faces. It had been a long time since Liz had encountered someone who didn't know her parents of what had happened to them. Before her were four people who were completely oblivious to her life and the events and people that made up it. She knew she needed to give an explanation to them.

"My parents died in a car accident a year and a half ago. They used to own the Crashdown." Liz said pointedly though hearing the words still brought sadness after all this time. Liz wondered if the wounds over her parent's death would ever heal.

"Oh I'm sorry." Max words were full of sincerity. His heart broke over hearing about Liz's loss. He could see the sadness in her eyes and he longed to hold her.

"Thank you." Liz looked at Max; he was looking at her with sympathy. Liz looked away. She knew that if she looked at Max any longer she would start to cry right there at the table for everyone to see.

Silence fell over the table; the only sounds to be heard were forks clinking onto plates, and the faint sounds of chewing.

"More peaze! Gracie held her blue plastic cup up to her mommy. Liz's eyes were wet with unshed tears only to fall when Liz laughed softly at her daughter. Gracie's face was covered with juice and potatoes and with her free hand she was filling her mouth with bites of chicken. Liz brushed the tears off of her cheek before refilling Gracie's glass with grape juice. After Liz sat the glass on Gracie's tray she leaned in and placed a soft kiss on the top of Gracie's head.

Alex began the conversation again. "So are you any of you looking for work?"

"We would like to, we just haven't had the chance to look yet. Do you know of any place that is hiring?" Isabel asked. The idea of working was exciting but also worrisome. She and the others had never had a job before. She didn't even know what she could do or if any place would hire her.

"Well the Piggly Wiggly is hiring but trust me you don't want to work there. They make all their employees wear these grandma smocks and the manager is a complete jerk. He's always hitting on the female employees."

"Aren't you looking for a cook Liz?" Kyle scooped a second helping of mashed potatoes onto his plate.

"Yes, I am. Would any of you be interested?"

Tess shook her head, disgusted over the idea of her working as a cook in a restaurant. "Not me and Max doesn't know how to cook so count us out."
Max looked abruptly at Tess, annoyed that she would answer for him.

"What about you Michael, do you cook?" Maria asked. Since he had arrived at Liz's house he hadn't said anything and had kept the same scowl of his face.

"No."

Maria and Alex exchanged a look over his answer.

"Well no pressure, if any of you are interested you can let me know." Liz offered. The conversation continued on with Maria giving her valuable two cents on every place that was hiring around town.

Everyone's heads shot up when Tess spoke. "So how long have you two been married?" Tess inquired looking towards Liz and Kyle.

"Us?" Kyle wagged his finger between himself and Liz.

"Yeah." Tess answered, taken aback over the confusion of her seemingly obvious and simple question. Max inhaled, holding his breath, waiting for the answer to the question

"Um, we're not married." Kyle said matter-of-factly.

"Oh, I'm sorry. How long have you been living together then?"

"Oh Kyle and I aren't a couple, we just share the house together." Liz spoke up quickly wanting the new arrivals; especially Max to know that her and Kyle were not together.

It felt like Max's heart leapt when he heard Liz's words. She wasn't with Kyle. Yes, she had a daughter with him and that the facts surrounding that confused him but she wasn't involved with Kyle. The reasoning part of Max tried to tell his heart not to get excited about Liz, that he could never be with her, but Max's heart didn't care. It swelled with the possibilities.

"Sorry, I just assumed, well because you have a daughter that the two of you we're together." Tess could feel the worry begin to creep its way back inside of her. She lay her fork on her plate, suddenly feeling no longer hungry.

"It's okay. We get that a lot. No, Kyle and I live in the same house, different bedrooms. We used to date, of course but we broke awhile ago. We're just really good friends, raising Gracie together." Liz felt uncomfortable over what else to say. Liz looked to Max and saw him smiling at her. Liz smiled bashfully in return.

"And you two are doing a great job." Jim said, holding up a fork full of chicken as if to toast them.

And with that the conversation shifted again. During the rest of dinner stories were told about Roswell, the good and the weird, tales of high school experiences, the annual crash festival and the strange tourists that inhabited the town from time to time. Max and Isabel found themselves laughing over the tales, while Tess sat in silence, constantly watching Max watch Liz.

Michael listened to the tales but never spoke or laughed. He wouldn't let himself despite the urge to a couple of times. He glanced over at Isabel and Max every now and then, jealous and angry over how they were enjoying themselves. They were acting like they didn't have a care in the world and Michael wondered if they had even forgotten that they were aliens and that they didn't belong with these humans. He knew the answer to that and he also knew that Nasedo would be pissed if he discovered what was going on. Michael felt helpless over what to do. He could argue with them again but Max and Isabel wouldn't care about his concerns, they never had - why would they start know?

A few times Michael had let himself focus on Maria. He watched her full, pink lips as the passed over her fork when she ate. He noticed how slender and dainty her fingers were when she brushed her blond hair away from her face. It was when she laughed that his reaction to her scared him. The sound of it seemed to dissolve the tenseness he was feeling towards everything else. It was soothing to him in a way that very few things had soothed Michael over his lifetime. A part of Michael wanted to enjoy the felling but who he was wouldn't let him. He had to protect Max and others, not let himself get carried away with silly human emotions. He shook it off and focused on the anger.

Dinner lasted about hour with the conservation continuing after all the food was eaten. Everyone had begun to clean up their area only to have Liz shoo them away to the living room. Amy lifted her granddaughter out of her high chair and took her into the bathroom to clean the dinner off of her face. Kyle and Jim took their usual places on the living room couch urging Michael, Tess, Max and Isabel to join them. Michael looked to Max, speaking through his expression that he was ready to go home.

"Michael, it would be rude to leave right after dinner. We can stay awhile." Max whispered to him.

"Fine." Michael grumbled and then walked over to the love seat, falling into the cushions. Tess took a seat next to Kyle who was flipping through the television channels and Max and Isabel lingered back unsure of where to sit or what to do. Both were watching Liz and Maria gathering up dirty dishes while Alex cleaned up the table. Liz and Maria with their arms full of dishes disappeared into the kitchen.

Amy and Gracie came back into the living and settled onto the floor next to a large, plastic box of toys.

"Would you like to join us Isabel?" Amy asked. Isabel nodded and walked over and took a seat on the floor next to them.

"Here ya go." Gracie said, handing Isabel her Jessie doll.

Isabel was taken aback by the gesture. She tenderly took the doll from Gracie. "Thank you Gracie."

"Well I can tell that Gracie likes you Isabel. Jessie is her favorite toy."

Gracie held out her Woody doll in front of Jessie. "Hi Jessie." Gracie said, speaking for Woody.

"Hi Woody" Isabel replied. Amy picked up Buzz and the three of them began to play.


PART ELEVEN:

"Dinner went well, don't you think?" Liz asked as she turned on the kitchen faucet.

"Yeah I do. You did a great job on the dinner. I think it's your best chicken ever." Maria bent over and opened the door to the dishwasher. When she stood back up she saw Liz, running the dirty plates under the water, lost in thought. There was a small smile on her lips and Maria had a good idea why her best friend was smiling. "So, um I noticed you doing an awful lot of looking at a certain someone during dinner." Maria said as she took a plate from Liz and loaded on to the dishwasher rack.

Liz stopped rinsing a plate and turned to face Maria. "Was I that obvious?"

"A little, but don't worry you weren't obsessive about it."

"I don't know what's wrong with me, ever since I met him yesterday I can't stop thinking about him." Maria smiled at her friend as she placed a hand on her shoulder. When they both heard the sound of the kitchen door opening Liz and Maria looked up to see Alex come through door. He was carrying a stack of dirty dishes.

"So what are you ladies talking about in here?" Alex asked as he placed the dishes on the kitchen counter next to the sink.

"We were just talking about Lizzie's crush." Maria informed him. Liz shook her head at her friend, knowing it was useless to try and stop her. Besides, she was telling Alex and Liz and Maria always told Alex everything. They had all been best friends for eight years and over that time they had shared all their secrets and endured everything together. They were there for each other when Doug Sohn broke Maria's heart in the eighth grade, Liz and Maria stood by Alex during seventh grade when he had bad acne and braces and was teased by other classmates mercifully for it. Maria and Alex were there for Liz when she decided to break up with Kyle and during her whole pregnancy with Gracie. Liz and Alex kept Maria calm during her mother's wedding to Jim and Alex and Maria held Liz while she mourned her parents' death. Through the little and the big crisis's that had made up the last eight years of their life they were there for each other and Liz couldn't imagine her life without them.

"What? Who's she got a crush on?" Alex asked, completely unaware of Liz's newfound feelings for Max.

"Like you didn't notice." Maria shook her head, throwing her hands in the air. "Ugh! Men can be so utterly clueless. It's Max."

"Oh, he's seems nice. He's Isabel's brother right? She seems nice don't you think?" Alex started loading some dishes in the dishwasher.

"Oh yeah?" Maria asked as she raised her right eyebrow, deciding to have a little fun with him. Liz stood in front of sink, smiling at Alex who in turn had no idea what Maria had in store for him.

"Yeah." Alex replied absentmindedly.

"So whatcha think of dinner Alex?"

"It was nice." Nodding as he spoke.

"And Michael, whatcha think of him?" Maria asked, pursing her lips, trying to keep herself as serious as possible. Her eyes told a different story. They held a playful sparkle.

"He seems nice." Nodding again. Alex walked over to the kitchen door, opening it slightly, peeking through the slit. Maria and Liz exchanged smiles.

"And you think Isabel's nice?"

"Hmm umm." Alex craned his neck, his head moving around as if to get a better view of what he was looking at out in the living room.

Maria began to pace slowly around the kitchen. "So let me get this straight. Max is nice, Isabel's nice, dinner was nice, Michael's nice, and Isabel's breasts are nice. "

"Yeah, No, What?" Alex mouth dropped open after he realized what Maria was saying. Liz and Maria erupted into laughter.

"Nice try DeLuca." Alex closed the kitchen door while rolling his eyes.

"Are you trying to tell us, your two best friends, that you're not interested in Isabel."

Alex folded his arms over his chest. "Yes." Alex stated.

"Hmm, well that's too bad then cause she was totally checking you out you out during dinner." Maria said nonchalantly as she walked back over to the dishwasher.

"Really?" Alex voiced raised over the idea.

"I thought you said you weren't interested." Maria pointed out.

Alex shook his head, understanding completely what Maria was trying to do. "Okay, I'm now going into the other room to fix Liz's computer and leave you here with you're sick little mind."

"You know it's one of things you love about me." Maria called out as Alex walked out of the kitchen.

"Poor Alex." Liz said shaking her head sympathetically. "Maria why do you torture him like that?"

Once again Maria waved her hand in the air. "Eh, he'll be fine. Okay, back to the subject of…Max! Hi!"

Liz whipped herself around and saw Max standing in her kitchen. He looked almost lost with his hands tucked into his front jeans pockets and his head lowered slightly.

"Um, I just wanted to see if you needed any help." His words were quiet and there was a little shake in his voice.

Liz's eyes swam as she looked at him, taking in everything she could about his appearance. She noticed the way the overhead light in the kitchen made his dark hair shine, the redness of his ears, the contrast of the white shirt against his tanned forearms and neck. All of it was beautiful to her.

Max stood in Liz's kitchen, his stomach a bundle of nerves. Before he had entered the kitchen, he stood in the dining room, mentally preparing himself to go inside. Max had never been so nervous to talk to someone as he was this moment with Liz. He shifted in place, never taking his eyes off of Liz.

Maria looked from her best friend to Max, both standing in the kitchen, looking at one another, seemingly oblivious to everything but each other. 'Oh yeah, these two like each other', Maria thought. She knew if she didn't say something the two of them were likely to spend the rest of the evening staring at each other. "Thanks Max, that's sweet. Do you dry?"

"Excuse me?" Max asked. Maria's question had rattled him out of his haze but he had no idea what she had said.

"Dishes, how are you at drying dishes?"

"Fine I guess." Max looked from Maria back to Liz.

"Well then here ya go" Maria tossed Max a green and white checkered dishtowel. "I'm just going to see if Alex needs any help with the computer, er thing. Bye!" Maria waved at the two of them and left the kitchen, leaving Max and Liz to be alone.

Maria was grinning to herself when she bumped into Tess in the dining room.

"Oh, sorry Tess, I didn't see you."

"Yeah, I noticed." Tess replied coolly before taking a step towards the kitchen.

Maria lightly took hold of Tess' arm, forcing her to stop in her tracks. "Where you going?"

"To the kitchen to talk to Max." Tess annoyingly moved her arm out of Maria's grasp.

Maria knew that she couldn’t let Tess go in the kitchen and interrupt Liz and Max. "Well he's busy drying dishes."

"So, I still need to talk to him." Tess took another step towards the kitchen only to be stopped again by Maria's hand.

"You can talk to him later. I wanna chat with you." Maria plastered a smile on her face.

"What about?" Tess asked skeptically.

Maria's eyes swam as she tried to quickly think of something to say. "Um, your hair."

"My hair?"

"Yeah. Is it natural curly or do you have to curl it yourself?"

"It's natural curly. Now if you don’t mind I need to talk to Max." Tess said gesturing towards the kitchen.

Maria continued on as if she ignored Tess' last sentence. "Uh, not mine. I have to spend hours on my hair if I want it to look like yours." Maria looped her arm around Tess' arm and pulled her into the living room, away from the kitchen, as she went on informing Tess of her personal hair horror stories.

*~*~*
Max stood in the kitchen, holding the dishtowel, staring at the kitchen door. Liz noticed the look of bewilderment on his face over Maria's actions.

"Don't mind Maria. She's been sniffing a little too much anise oil." Liz tucked a strand of hair nervously behind her ear.

"Oh, what's that do?" Max asked as he fidgeted with the dishtowel in his hand.

"It's aroma therapy. You know, scented oils, incense, that kind of thing."

"And she sniffs it?"

"Different oils are supposed to do different things like anise oil makes you cheery, cedar oil calms your nerves, lavender oil helps you sleep and so on. Maria's really into it. In fact she's into all things healthy except ice cream. It's her one weakness."

"Oh" Max's head bobbed up and down in understanding. Unsure of what to say next, Liz turned back around to face the kitchen sink.

"Here, let me help you." Max eagerly made his way across the room and stood next to Liz. His movement sent of rush air towards her. Goosebumps formed all over her skin almost immediately as she breathed in his musky scent. His scent mixed with his close physical presence made Liz's head spin and her knees feel weak. Liz steadied herself against the kitchen sink.

"Thanks." Liz replied shyly, trying to focus.

"You're welcome." Max said as he exhaled. He too, was overcome with the physical sensations of being next to her. Max closed his eyes briefly, trying to get himself under control but it was almost impossible. It felt like Liz Parker was literally melting him from the inside out. Max opened his eyes when he felt a wet dish touch his hand. Gently he took the dish from Liz and began drying.

For a few minutes they worked in silence, unable to form words, lost in the feelings that they were unknowingly giving to each other. The stack of dirty dishes began to dwindle and Liz knew she needed to say something before they were finished.

"So everything's okay with the apartment?" Liz asked.

"Fine." Max nodded. "I'm staying in the room with the balcony."

Liz's head shot up. "That's used to be my room." She was surprised and happy that Max was living in her old room.

"Yeah, I know." Max said eagerly with a large grin spread across his face. Max was immediately embarrassed by how he must have just sounded and looked to Liz. "I mean, I could tell. It still smells like you." Once again Max was embarrassed by his words.

"Is that a good thing or a bad thing?" Liz asked, her forehead wrinkled with worry.

"Good. You have a nice smell, I mean, okay I'm just gonna stop talking now before I embarrass myself anymore."

"No, it's okay. You're fine." Liz smiled sweetly at him.

"Thanks." They went back to task of washing the dishes and soon everything was clean and put away. Unsure of what to do next, Max began looking around the kitchen. He stopped when he noticed the refrigerator.

Max walked over to the refrigerator, looking the door over carefully. It was covered with photos of Gracie, some alone and some with Liz and the others. A few pieces of Gracie's artwork hung on the door as well. As Max inspected each item, his eyes kept drifting back to a picture on the freezer door. The picture was of Liz and Gracie, sitting on a lawn. By the size of Gracie, Max guessed that it had been taken not too long ago. The two of them were looking at each other with the same large chocolate colored eyes. Their foreheads were touching and they both were smiling. The sun shone down brightly bringing out the red in Gracie's hair. Max lightly placed his fingers over the picture and immediately received an impression. Images of Liz and Gracie playing in the lawn, chasing and tickling each other. Max heard the laughter that came from the both of them. The strongest impression he received was the feeling of love from that day. He could feel how deeply Liz and Gracie loved each other. Max had never felt anything like it. It warmed his heart and soul for a few moments that he stood there and then it was gone. Max suddenly felt very empty and he longed for the feeling back.

"That picture was taken in May on Gracie's birthday." Liz said, moving to stand next to Max. When he had moved away from her just a few minutes before, the air around her had suddenly gotten colder and Liz shivered from the feeling. Now that she was standing next to him again, the heat from his body made the air feel warmer and Liz as well.

"You two look very happy." Max noted, grateful to have Liz next to him again.

"It was a good day. Gracie was so excited to have the party and to turn two. And Kyle went all out, I swore he must have bought every balloon in Roswell."

The mention of Kyle's name brought a question that Max had been anxious to know the answer to. Normally he wasn't one to ask someone a lot of questions. Back in Phoenix he knew very little about anyone outside his small circle and in return, the people that he had been around during his thirteen years there knew very little about him. When they had pulled out of the driveway yesterday morning, Max wondered if anyone would even realize he had gone. Max knew that no one would. This fact should have saddened him, but Max had accepted that fact as part of his life. No emotional attachments to humans, Nasedo's main rule that he forced them to live by all of Max' life. But right now Nasedo's words were the farthest thing from Max's mind. Liz occupied his thoughts now and Max had to know the answer to his question.

"Liz, if you don't mind me asking, how come the two of you aren't a couple?"

Liz chewed on her bottom lip, while she contemplated how to answer Max's question. How did she explain that despite the fact that she loved Kyle, it was only platonic and it would never be anything more than that? That she longed to spend her life with someone who would be her soulmate and she knew that Kyle wasn't that to her. That Kyle never made her knees go weak, or feel dizzy or make her heart tighten in her chest. No one had ever made Liz feel that way until now and Liz found herself wanting to tell Max that the reason she broke up with Kyle because he wasn't Max. She knew that sounded silly to anyone else but right now it made perfect sense to Liz. Liz only hoped that Max was feeling the same way. "Well…" Liz began only to be interrupted by Kyle's voice shouting from the living room.

"Liz get in here - it's starting! We need you!" Liz rolled her eyes in frustration. She didn't want her moment alone with Max to end.

"What's going on?" Max asked, clearly confused.

Liz let out an exasperated sigh. "Who Wants To Be A Millionaire - it's another one of our Sunday night traditions. Do you watch it?"

"Sometimes."

"Well Kyle turns it into this big competition, you know to see who can get the most answers right. So if we don't join them soon, Kyle will come in here and drag us out." Liz untied her apron from around her waist and laid it on the counter. Max followed Liz out of the kitchen, both wishing they could stay in the room all night.

TBC...


"Sometimes fate really sucks" - Liz
posted on 21-Oct-2001 11:36:33 AM
PART TWELVE:

Liz awoke early Monday morning happy. As she made her way through her morning rituals of getting ready for the day she found herself smiling throughout. Every once in a while she would catch herself doing it, suddenly embarrassed by what she must look like. She was thankful that Kyle and Gracie were still asleep. Gracie of course wouldn't think twice of her mother's abundant good mood but she knew that Kyle would. He had lived with her long enough to know how badly Liz detested Monday mornings. Liz had come to suspect awhile ago that he purposely stayed in his room late on Mondays just to avoid her and her usually sour mood.

Today was a different story and Liz knew that nothing right now could take away the way she was feeling. Even the fact that she was running late for work. She had taken extra time this morning getting ready. She applied a little more makeup than usual, styled her hair instead of throwing it back in a ponytail, and wore earrings and perfume. Liz laughed as she took a final look at herself in her bedroom mirror. She knew that Maria would notice the change in appearance as surely as she would know the reason for it. But Liz didn't mind, in fact she was looking forward to having a conversation with her about Max. She wanted, more so needed to talk about Max.

As she got ready, Liz kept replaying last night's events in her mind, trying to keep the memories as fresh as possible. Last night had become one of her most memorable Sunday evenings yet. Though nothing monumental had happened, it was all the little things with Max being there that made it memorable. When they had left the kitchen to rejoin the others they had ended up sitting next to each other on the living room floor. Every time their legs or hands would brush up against each other, shivers would rush through Liz's body and she wondered if Max felt the same way. Just thinking about it the next morning was causing a similar reaction in Liz. Liz knew she needed to get herself under control but she didn't care.

As Liz sat in her quiet kitchen eating her breakfast she remembered the game. She smiled when she thought back to how excited Kyle was for the competition. He had been waiting for that moment all week long. She could still see him standing in front of the group pacing with his hands cupped together and large grin spread over his face.

He had gone over the rules in explicit detail, even going as far as dragging out his official game rules notebook that he had written up last summer when he became obsessed with the show. Last night and just like every Sunday night his competitive nature took over and despite the fact that he had only won two games in the last ten months, he refused to give up. Liz knew that Kyle believed whole-heartedly that one day he would win again. Liz had won that last twelve times they had played but last night winning was the last thing on her mind.

Kyle's usual enthusiasm for the traditional Sunday night event seemed to be infecting everyone. The whole room with the exception of Michael were laughing and engaging in good-natured competitive jeering. Every time Max smiled or laughed Liz found herself doing the same. His laugh was soothing, making her feel more content every time he did so. Liz found it difficult to pay attention to the television show and missed questions because of it. When Liz had missed the obvious correct answer to the five hundred-dollar question, she blushed from embarrassment. Maria, Alex, Kyle, Jim and Amy all eyed her skeptically, wondering the reason for her error. Amy and Maria almost simultaneously winked at her, clearly understanding the situation. Kyle only protested, demanding her to not let him win. He was going to beat her fair and square.

Liz tried to concentrate on the game but Max's musky scent made everything fuzzy. Even this morning Liz felt the urge to nuzzle her face into the nape of his neck and just breathe him in.

Liz smiled again when she remembered when Gracie climbed off of her lap on to Max's. The act shocked Liz because she knew how timid Gracie usually was around strange men but Gracie showed no reserve last night. The necklace that Max was wearing intrigued her, with the shininess of the silver and the sparkle and color of the stone. Her chubby little fingers played clumsily with the piece of jewelry, smiling as she did so.

When Gracie had first climbed on Max's lap Liz saw his uneasiness. His body stiffened only to relax when Gracie touched his neck and smiled. Max returned the smile and the two began a conversation. Liz loved how soft and warm the sound of his voice was as he talked to Gracie. After Gracie had lost interest in the necklace she stayed on his lap playing with his hands and touching his long, curly eyelashes with the tips of her fingers. Max seemed to be enchanted by her innocent actions and Liz found herself wishing that she could be Gracie and have the freedom to touch Max.

Soon the evening was over and Max and his family was gone. Liz felt emptiness over his leaving but also an anxiousness of the prospect of what tomorrow would bring. She wondered if something wonderful was about to happen between her and Max.

Tomorrow was here and Liz sang loudly in her car the entire drive to work. When Liz walked into the Crashdown, excitement filled her. Liz looked up towards the ceiling, beaming over who was above her. Max Harding was just a few footsteps away. She knew that thought was going to drive her pleasantly insane for the rest of the day.

Liz began preparing the restaurant for the day as she sang the words to the last song that was on her radio before she entered work. When Jose had entered she reduced her singing to humming, a smile still on her face.

Shortly before six Maria entered the back door of the restaurant. Her eyes appeared to be almost half closed; her usual bright face was heavy with tiredness. Liz's face was a stark contrast to her best friend's, still humming as she retrieved a box of paper napkins off a shelf.

"Morning Maria" Liz said in a sing-sung voice.

"Not yet. Not until I get my coffee." Maria slowly passed through the double doors into the restaurant. Her body fell onto a stool at the counter. Liz hurriedly made her way around her friend, behind the long counter.

"Here, I'll get it for you. Do you want a muffin? Fruit? I could make you some eggs." Liz offered enthusiastically.

Maria was too tired to even raise an eyebrow at her friend. "You are just too damn chipper this for this early. All I want is my coffee."

"I'm sorry, I can't help it." Liz poured a cup for her friend, her head playfully swaying back and forth as she continued to hum. She sat the cup in front of Maria and placed her elbows on the counter, looking at Maria expectedly. Maria shook her head as she lowered it to her cup and sipped her coffee.

Liz looked over to the front of the restaurant when she heard tapping on the glass. Standing outside was Alex, the morning paper tucked under his arm. Liz made her way over to the door and unlocked it, allowing Alex to enter.

"Good Morning Ladies. And how are my two best friends on this lovely Monday morning?" Alex greeted them with a bright, cheery tone in his voice. His smile was almost an exact copy of Liz's. Maria stared at the both of them and groaned slightly.

"Oh no, not you too."

Liz and Alex made their way back to the counter where Maria was.

"What?" Alex asked.

"You, the two of you." Maria pointed lazily to Liz and Alex. "You've both been infected by the love bug and it's making you cheery during times of the day when it almost physically impossible to be, so knock it off cause you're wiggin' me out." Maria took another long sip of her coffee.

"I thought you were happy for me. Last night that's all you seemed to want to talk about." Liz said.

"I am chica, but it's 6 am on a Monday morning. I'm running on four hours of sleep with only a few sips of caffeine in my system. Give me another hour and three more cups and then you can gush about Max for the rest of the day. Deal?"

"Deal." Liz turned to face Alex and the two began talking about last night's dinner, the conversation continuing to focus on Max and Isabel. Maria hung her head low over her cup, silently wishing she could just go back to bed.


PART THIRTEEN:

By seven-thirty in the morning the restaurant was full of customers and Maria was on her fourth cup of coffee. Her mood was considerably more upbeat and the first sounds of her morning laughter could be heard throughout the restaurant. Maria was busy shuffling from table to table, taking and delivering breakfast orders of Moon Crater Omelets and Flying Saucer Flapjacks. There was only one other waitress working and with the usual heavy customer attendance on Monday morning, Maria was keeping busy, though not too busy to notice Liz and her frequent trips to the back room. After the third trip back Maria started timing them, discovering that they were occurring about every five minutes. Liz would disappear through the double doors only to return a couple of minutes later with napkins or sugar packets. No matter what the items were Maria knew they were not needed. One of the rules of the restaurant was that the café was always stocked with the necessary items during closing time the night before. The café had only been opened since 6:30 and Maria knew that the napkin dispensers were not empty all ready. Maria understood immediately the reason behind Liz's frequent trips. In the back room was the staircase that led to Max Harding's apartment.

Maria shook her head and laughed about it. She had never seen Liz act like this before. All the boys who had crossed paths with Liz Parker had never been able to stir her like this. In the past three years Kyle was really the only boy that Liz had taken an interest in and even then she never acted like she was acting now. She was giddy, greeting every one who entered with an enthusiastic 'Good Morning.' There was also the matter of Liz's personal appearance. This morning and last night she had worn makeup, something that Liz only did on special occasions. The truth was that Liz never needed makeup. With her dark features and sweet face she was simply beautiful, though Liz was the last one to believe that. Maria had tried to convince her but Liz refused to see herself more than a plain-jane bookworm and mommy of Gracie. Liz humbleness only made her more attractive and Maria wasn't the only one who noticed.

After the boys of West Roswell High got over the shock of Liz Parker having a baby they began "sniffing around" again, as Maria always put it. Gracie was a few months old when Keith Willis had asked her out but Liz had politely turned him down, like she did with most boys who asked her out after that. Maria was sure she could count on one hand the number of dates that Liz had been on in the past two years and none of those dates had any affect on her. Max Harding was definitely special.

~*~*~

For the past hour Liz found every excuse she could to give her reason to be in the back room. Normally, she spent her time in the restaurant during meal times, but what was in the back was far more appealing to her. Each time she laid eyes on the stairs she hoped to see Max walking down them only to be disappointed. She began to wonder if she was even going to see him at all today.

~*~*~

Alex sat at the end of the counter that was closest to the pick up window. The latest edition of the Roswell Gazette was spread out on the counter before him. He munched on his scrambled eggs and toast as he read, stopping occasionally to talk to Liz and Maria whenever they came near.

Maria brushed past Liz who was standing at the head of the counter. As Maria placed two order slips on the order wheel, she eyed Liz who in turn was looking at the back door.

"You know you could just go on upstairs and say good morning." Maria offered startling Liz out her staring match with the door.

"What?"

"C'mon Liz, it's obvious you want to see him. " Maria looked at Liz sympathetically.

"Maybe so, but I can't just go up there and say hi."

"You could invite him to breakfast." Alex suggested, secretly hoping that if she did and Max accepted that Isabel would join him. Alex had been taking time eating his breakfast, hoping to get a glimpse of her before he had to go to work.
He too had been taking discreet glimpses at the back door, hoping that any second she would walk through the door.

Liz shook her head. "I can't. I don’t want to seem like a pest."

"You could never be a pest Liz." Liz, Maria and Alex looked over to see Diane Evans taking a seat on the stool next to Alex. She was dressed in a blue business suit and her blond hair was swept up in a twist. The three teens smiled at her, happy to see her.

"Good morning Diane and thank you. Do you want the usual?" Liz asked.

"'Morning Liz, Maria, Alex and yes please." Liz took a few seconds to write down Diane's order and placed it on the order wheel. Diane usually came into the café about three times a week for breakfast and tended to always order the same breakfast - toast, grapefruit and tea. Every once and awhile her husband Phillip would join her, but most mornings he was already at the office, working on cases. Liz suspected the reason Diane came so frequently was not for the food but for the company. Diane and Phillip had been married for over twenty years but had been unable to have any children. Diane had commented more than once how no children made for a very quiet house. Coming into the Crashdown gave Diane the opportunity to be around teenagers, particularly Liz, Maria and Alex. She had grown especially found of them over the years, even more after Liz's parents had died. Diane and Phillip were good friends with Jeff and Nancy Parker and their death was difficult for them. They were also the lawyers in charge of their estate and served as a great help to Liz as she assumed being the manager of the Crashdown and adjusting to life without her parents. Diane's heart broke for Liz, seeing her mourn her parent's loss. She was too young to have to endure that kind of pain and Diane wished she could take it away for her. All she could do was be there for her, an act that Liz greatly appreciated. The two women formed a caring friendship and Diane's presence in the Crashdown was always a welcomed sight.

"Alex, I'll warn you now, Phillip has quiet a workload set up for you today." Diane said before taking a sip of her tea.

"Better settle me up with one more glass of orange soda then." Alex lifted up his glass towards Maria.

"The practice is getting really busy?" Liz asked.

"Yes, ever since we decided to take on the lawsuit against Quinlin Petro we're getting more clients every day wanting to join the suit. You would not believe how many people were abused by the company's underhanded shenanigans. Phillip and I discussed this weekend about having to hire another staff person just to help type up depositions."

Alex signed in relief. "Finally some help."

"I know Alex, I'm sorry to have to work so hard this summer. I just want you to know that you have been such a big help to Phillip and I." Diane patted Alex on his back.

"Well I really like working for you both."

"Well I'm glad. I'm going over to the Roswell Gazette after breakfast to put in the want ad."

Diane's statement gave Liz an idea. "Diane what if I told you I had someone who might be interested in the job."

"Who?"

"Well she just moved here this weekend. She's one of my new tenants." Liz said.

"So they've arrived then." Diane was aware that Liz was expecting new tenants for the apartment. She had suggested the idea to Liz a few months ago, noting that the extra money would be helpful to her and Gracie. Ever since Diane had made the suggestion she worried how Liz would handle it. By renting out the apartment, Liz would be giving up the home she had shared with her parents. She hoped for Liz's sake that whoever rented the apartment would be a nice family and somehow give comfort to Liz, knowing that another family was enjoying the place.

"Yes and one of the girls, Isabel, well she's looking for a job. I admit I don't know a lot about her but from spending a few hours with her, she seems really nice and bright."

"Yeah, she won all three rounds of last night's millionaire game." Maria added.

Diane sat her teacup on the saucer and nodded. "Well Liz I trust you're instincts. I'll hold off putting in the ad until I meet her. You think she could come by today?"

"I could go upstairs right now and ask her. I'll be back in a little bit." Liz said enthusiastically and went into the back room. She bounded up the stairs to the apartment temporarily forgetting all about Max and that she was going to where he was. Liz knocked on the front door and shortly it opened and Isabel came into view.

"Liz, Hi!" Isabel said, pleasantly surprised to see her.

"I'm sorry to bother you this morning." Liz said, noticing that Isabel was wearing her pajamas.

"Oh, no you're not a bother. C'mon on in."

"Thanks" Liz entered the apartment and immediately took in a rich, warm scent. "Mmm, what smells so good."

"I'm made some sweet rolls. Would you like some?"

"Maybe later. I actually need to talk to you."

"Sit down." The two women took a seat on the couch.

"Well I may have found you a job if you're interested."

"What is it?" Isabel asked, excited and nervous over the idea of actually working.

"It's working in a law office, I'm not exactly sure what your job description would be but I do know it is a lot of secretarial type work. The law office is taking on this big case and they need someone to help type depositions."

Isabel started to fidget with the hem of her pajama top as the feeling of worry started to creep its way inside of her. "I don't know, the job sounds good it's just that I've never worked anywhere before. It sounds like an important job, I don't know if I would be any good at it."

"Can you type?"

"Yeah."

"Then you'll be just fine. Diane and Phillip Evans, they're the lawyers; well they are really nice people. I've practically known them all my life. I'm sure they will be very patient with you while you learn the job, plus Alex works for them and I know he would be willing to give you any help you need."

"Okay." Isabel breathed out.

Liz smiled and stood up. "Great. C'mon I'll introduce you. She downstairs."

"Now?" Isabel asked, panic in her voice.

"Yeah she's in the café having breakfast."

Isabel shook her head. "I can't, I look a mess."

"You're kidding, right?"

Isabel rose from the couch and began nervously running her hands over her hair and body. "I don't have any makeup on and haven't done anything to my hair."

"Well Isabel your still beautiful. You have nothing to worry about." Liz could see that Isabel was still nervous over the idea of meeting Diane. Liz placed her hand on Isabel's shoulder. "Don't worry. She's gonna like you."

"Okay. I'll be down in a minute."

"Good, do you want me to wait for you?"

"No you don't need to."

"I'll just go down and tell Diane you are on your way."

"Bye Liz and thanks."

"Not a problem." Liz added before leaving the apartment, shutting the door behind her. Mere seconds after the door clicked shut; a disheveled Max stumbled down the hallway into the living room where Isabel was pacing.

"Who was that? And what's going on?" Max asking, knowing that something must have happened to stir Isabel up like this.

"It was Liz. She came up to tell me about a job. Look I need to go down and meet the lady I would be working for if I get this job." Max nodded in agreement, still trying to process everything that Isabel had just said. The only things he heard was 'Liz was here' and 'job', everything between that was fuzzy. Funny how Liz had a way of doing that to him. Max scratched his a head over it all and could do nothing more that watch Isabel as she waved a hand over her body, changing her clothes, hair and makeup.

"How do I look?"

"Um, okay."

"Good, wish me luck."

"Good luck Isabel."

~*~*~

"Is she coming" Alex asked eagerly when Liz returned to the café.

"Yep, she'll be down in a minute."

"Maria and Alex were telling me that there are four of them and they are all related?" Diane asked.

"Yes, Isabel and Max are brother and sister and their cousins Michael and Tess are brother and sister."

For the next few minutes Liz, Alex, Diane and Maria talked about Roswell's newest residents before one of them made their appearance in the restaurant.

Alex mouth dropped open when he first saw Isabel. He decided that it was definitely worth this morning's wait to see her, though he silently wished he hadn't drank so many orange sodas in the meantime. Nature was calling and Alex didn't want to answer.

"Diane this is Isabel Harding."

"It's nice to meet you Isabel."

"You too."

"Well why don't we go over to a booth and we can talk for a bit."

"All right."

Diane picked up her cup of tea and the two ladies sat at an empty booth immediately engaging in conversation. Alex turned his stool around so that he was directly facing Isabel and Diane. Maria rolled her eyes and moved to stand directly in front of Alex. She placed both hands on his shoulders and pushed causing the stool to turn and his body to face the other direction.

"Alex you need to give them some privacy and by the way, you got a little drool on your chin."

Immediately Alex brought his hand to his chin, intending to wipe away the drool. He became aware that his skin was dry and let his hand drop, embarrassed by it all.

"I'm going to the restroom." Alex stated before leaving Maria and Liz.

"Did you talk to Max?" Maria asked.

"No, I didn't see him. I think he was still asleep."

"Well if you don't see him today why don't you give him a call after work."

"And what exactly do you suggest I say to him."

"I don't know, how 'bout, 'Hi. How are you?"

"Yeah, and then he say's hi, I'm and fine and you? And then I say I'm fine and then nothing. Conversation over. I need more that simple pleasantries as the main text of my plan if I going to call him."

"Okay, then ask how he likes Roswell, ask how he likes the apartment?"

"Again, questions that can be answered in simple responses and with no real reason for follow-up."

"Ugh, you can be so difficult. Okay, let's try this. Start out with pleasantries and then directly segway into asking if he would like a guided tour around Roswell. It's time spent together in a non-threatening environment. You can talk about the scenery, the crash, all that stuff and then maybe the talk will progress into personal things."

"But what if personal leads to me finding out he doesn't like me, then I'll be embarrassed."

"Liz, don't worry. I've seen the way the boy looks at you. He's one smitten kitten so do it." Maria backed up towards the pick up window when she heard the sound of the bell, signaling that her order was up.

"Okay, I'll give him a call tonight. I can't do it now. Oh, I saw you talking to Michael last night, what's he like?" Liz walked to the window as well, both girls pickup up plates of hot food.

"Oh, yeah, he's a real conversationalist." The two girls began walking to the deliver the orders. "Okay, last night before the game started I tried talking to him, ya know usual stuff, how do you like Roswell, do you like the show, what do you for fun, that kind of stuff. The boy literally grunted out his answers. I just got this impression that he didn't want to be there last night." Maria and Liz placed the plates of food on the table.

"Thanks." Liz offered to the customers then turned her attention back to Maria "Well maybe we were a bit overwhelming for him."

"Maybe, he's just, well I don't know yet but he's something."

"Give him some time. Let him get adjusted to being in Roswell and I bet he will come out of his shell."

"We'll see."

TBC...*big*
posted on 26-Oct-2001 1:36:06 AM
PART FOURTEEN:

"Well Isabel you seem like a very kind and intelligent young lady and I think you would be a nice addition to the practice. I would like you to meet Phillip first before we make the final decision. Do you have time this morning to walk over and meet him?" Diane asked.

For the past fifteen minutes the two ladies talked while Diane ate her breakfast. Diane told her about the practice, the case that was taking so much of her and husband's time, how much she enjoyed living in Roswell. In turn Isabel talked about her grades in school, her love of cooking, her ability to keep things very organized. The conversation seemed to flow nicely until Diane asked Isabel about her parents. It was then when Isabel became quiet and stated simply that her parents were dead. Diane's heart went out to Isabel when she heard that. She had seen first hand the pain that Liz had gone through over it, it was hard to think that this young girl had to endure the same kind of pain. Diane's mothering nature took over and she knew that she wanted Isabel to work for her.

"Yes, I don't have any plans for today." Isabel answered, grateful that Diane wanted her to work at the practice.

"Great and if Phillip gives his approval which I'm sure he will we can get you started today if that's all right?"

"I would like that." Isabel smiled at her.

"Well let me just settle up the check and we'll be off. I'll be right back." Isabel watched Diane leave the booth and walk towards the cash register at the front of the restaurant. Her view was obstructed when a lean body passed before her eyes.

"So what did she say?" Alex asked while sliding into the side of the booth that Diane had just occupied.

Isabel looked at Alex, noticing the way his mouth had formed a half smile. She quickly remembered that Alex worked for Diane as well. "Oh, she said she liked me and wants me to work for her but she wants to run it by her husband first."

"You got it then. If Diane likes you then Phillip will too. He's a great guy. Really smart but humble too." The words tumbled fast out of Alex's mouth, excited that he was going to be spending his days with Isabel. Suddenly life had gotten really good for Alex Charles Whitman.

"Well I look forward to meeting him. Diane said that you have been working for them for about a year now?"

"Yeah, I started last summer, helped the upgrade their computers and then they realized I was pretty good at typing and dealing with research so I stayed on. During the school year I just worked after school but now that I've graduated I'm working for them full time." With every breath Alex tried to calm himself down. The last thing Alex wanted was to let the geek within shine at this particular moment.

"This would be my first job." Isabel grabbed the container that held the sugar packets and began to rearrange them, putting all the real sugar packets first, then the sweet n low. Her stomach had been doing flip-flops ever since Liz had told her about the job. Isabel knew she needed to calm herself down and rearranging things always seemed to help. And since she had no access to her closet or her makeup drawer, the sugar packets would have to do for now.

"Well I used to work at the Flying Pepperoni before this job. Let me tell you after one night of delivering pizzas will definitely set you on the road to college. I lasted six months before I couldn't stand the smell of pepperoni and anchovies in my car anymore. Plus Liz and Maria kept teasing me about the hat they made me wear."

"Why, what was it?"

"A giant plastic pepperoni." Alex said, holding up his hands around his head in an attempt to give Isabel a visual of the actual size of the pepperoni.

"You're kidding, right?" Isabel asked, trying to hold back the laughter. In her mind she could picture a large, red pepperoni on the top of his head. The mental image conjured up thoughts that he probably looked ridiculous in the thing but at the same time Isabel thought he must have looked pretty cute in it as well.

Ales shook his head. "Nope, that's Roswell for you though. Home of the cruel and embarrassing work uniforms." His hands now gesturing towards Maria who was standing near the counter. Her silver, sparkly antennas bouncing around as she talked to a customer. Isabel looked over at Maria and laughed at the sight. She was suddenly grateful that she was going to be working in a law office and by the looks of how normal Diane and Alex were dressed, she guessed that she wouldn't have to endure the same cruel dress code Maria did. Isabel and Alex were still looking at Maria when Diane returned to the booth.

"Are you two ready to go?" Diane asked.

"Yeah." Alex and Isabel said together before getting up from the booth. Diane, Alex and Isabel said their good-byes to Maria and Liz before leaving the Crashdown. Through the large, front window Alex looked inside to see Maria and Liz giving him each two big thumbs up. He discreetly held both of his thumbs up, smiling widely, before disappearing from their view.

~*~*~

Max Harding sat in his new kitchen still wearing his pajama bottoms, eating a sweet roll covered in Tabasco sauce. The apartment was pleasantly quiet; the only sound was Max chewing his breakfast. As he licked frosting and sauce off his finger he silently thanked Isabel for being such a great cook. Her sweet rolls were one of Max's favorite things to eat and she never made them nearly enough. Isabel tended to only make them when she was happy and Max knew that last night at Liz's had brought her happiness. The evening had had the same affect on him.

He wasn't planning on himself feeling this way. All day yesterday he had coached himself into not having feelings or thoughts about Liz. He tried telling himself that she was just a girl and that dinner was merely dinner, nothing more. But all of that went out the window when he saw her again. For the rest of the evening is was unable to think about anything but her and it took every ounce of strength in him not to spend every moment staring at her.

The evening ended up being one the best nights of his life. Max couldn't recall a time when he enjoyed himself as much as he did last night. Liz and her friends and family had made Max and the others feel welcome. They allowed them into their home, shared their food and their jokes with them and wanted nothing in return for it. They were kind to them but what Max noticed most was their kindness for each other. When they spoke, whether they were teasing or offering a compliment Max could sense the love they felt for each other. With the exception of his relationship with Isabel, those feelings were hard to find in the house he grew up in.

Michael and Max rarely teased each other the way Kyle and Alex had done. Isabel and Tess didn't whisper into each other's ears like Liz and Maria. Nasedo never embraced him the way Jim did his son Kyle. And they never had anyone mother over them the way Amy seemed to do with everyone. All the endearing and quirky family things that he had seen families do on television he had witnessed first-hand last night. This fact left Max longing for more.

The biggest surprise of the night for Max wasn't finding out that Liz had a daughter but when her daughter climbed onto his lap. Max wasn't expecting it though he had silently wished to hold her, just to know what it would feel like to hold someone that small. Gracie had given him that chance. She innocently and with a certain amount of curiosity climbed onto his outstretched legs, bringing Max face to face with her. At first her actions alarmed him. Was it okay for him to have her sitting on his lap? Would he unknowingly do something to make her cry or upset with him? Did he know what to say or do with a person this young?
His concerns were put to rest by Gracie, who took the lead. She fiddled with his necklace and his eyelashes. She giggled over the feel of the beginnings of stubble on his face. She asked him simple questions and Max gave simple answers. The moments they spent to together brought forth answers to questions and feelings that were new to him. Max had never let himself picture himself as a father; after all he was going to the King of an entire planet. He had responsibilities and obligations that he didn't even fully understand yet. But last night made Max forget about those, much like how books had done for him the past. Last night opened up a new world for Max and for the first time in Max Harding's life he felt torn between duty and desire.

Max was polishing off his third sweet roll when he heard the sound of padding feet coming down the hall. Max looked up and saw Tess round the corner into the kitchen. She was dressed in a long nightshirt, a large portion of her tan legs were exposed. Her usual perfectly placed platinum blonde hair was now scattered around her head. She mumbled something that Max interpreted to be a hello while she filled a cup full of coffee.

"Isabel made sweet rolls." Max informed her as he reached around to the back of his chair and grabbed his T-shirt. Quickly Max put on his shirt not wanting Tess to see him half-naked.

"Oh" Tess began opening cupboards until she found the small plates, taking one off the shelf. She sat her plate and coffee on the table and then took a seat next to Max. She took a sweet roll off of the tray in the center of the table and then applied a liberal dose of Tabasco sauce on top of vanilla icing all the while eyeing Max out of the corner of her eye. Tess wondered what he was thinking about, however Tess suspected it was Liz.

She had never seen him so outgoing as he was last night. He was laughing and carrying on conversations and he seemed like he was having the time of his life. And then there were his reactions to Liz. All night long she saw Max looking at Liz. His eyes followed her every movement. They had sat next to each other during that game they were all forced to play. Tess could have sworn their bodies were getting closer to each other as the game went on. And then there was Liz's reaction to Max. Tess didn't need to know a lot about Liz to see that she liked Max. Tess scoffed over the fact that she was practically drooling over him. And that there was the matter of Liz having a child. Couldn't Max see that she was a tramp? Couldn't he see what he was to her? That he was just another notch on her belt. Maybe she knew that since Max had money she could get a baby out of him and then be set for life. Tess was never going to let that happen. She would make Max see the kind of girl Liz Parker really was and make him question what he even saw in her. Tess would make Max see that she was the only woman for him.

"So Max, what do you want to do today?" Tess asked sweetly before popping a bite of sweet roll in her mouth.

"Well I was planning on reading."

"Awe C'mon Max, that's all you do. We could go to the mall." Tess suggested and then tried to pull off a smile that said "innocence".

Max shook his head, unaffected by her attempt. "I don't think so Tess, I'm kind of tired today."

"It'll be fun Max, I'll even let you go to the bookstore."

"No thanks Tess." Max said as he rose from his chair and walked over the kitchen sink carrying his dishes. He turned on the faucet and began cleaning his plate and glass.

Tess let out a frustrated breath. "Where's Isabel?" She asked curtly.

"She's at a job interview." Max answered over his shoulder.

"What!?" Michael shouted out as he entered the kitchen. He was dressed a pair of boxers and a gray T-shirt.

Max shut off the faucet and turned to face Michael who was wearing his usual scowl. "Calm down Michael. Liz came up this morning and told her about a job. Isabel left about twenty minutes ago to meet the woman she would be working for."

"What's the job?" Tess asked, taking another bite of her roll.

"I don't know." Max answered.

"When's she coming back?" Michael asked, still visibly perturbed over all of this.

"I don't know that either. We'll just have to wait till she comes back and when she does I'm sure she will tell us all about it. I'm gonna go take a shower." Max started to walk out of the kitchen, as he brushed past Michael, Michael grabbed hold of his arm.

"That's it?" Michael asked. Max moved his arm out of Michael's grasp.

"What do you want Michael? Do you want me to go down to the restaurant and ask Liz where she is? And then when I do find her do you want me to dray her back her, telling her she's not allowed to have a job or even leave this apartment."

"It would be a start."

"Look Michael. I don't know what you problem is. Why you constantly feel the need to walk around acting like an ass but I'm tired of it. You don't control Isabel and don't control me. If Isabel wants to have a job or make friends she should be allowed to without you giving her the third degree about it. She's not stupid Michael, she's not going to tell anyone what who we really are. So just stop the bullying and the fighting, that's an order." Max said it all through clenched teeth, looking Michael straight in the eyes. He through Tess a brief look before walking out of the kitchen.

Michael stood there, his lips tightly closed. After a few moments he released his stance and looked around the kitchen as if he had forgotten where he was. He became aware of Tess sitting at the table, wearing a surprised look on her face.

Michael angrily moved around the kitchen, his actions rigid as he poured himself a cup of coffee and retrieved a roll for himself. He sat at the table, chewing his roll as if it was an incredible strain.

Tired of the silence Tess got up from the table. "I don't know what Isabel's problem is but I'm not working." Tess said. The idea of such a thing was preposterous to her. Michael said nothing in return, only chewing and staring into space. He didn't seem to notice when Tess left the room.

~*~*~

Isabel entered the apartment late in the afternoon. Her first sight was of Michael and Tess on the couch. Tess appeared to be asleep and Michael was staring at the television.

"Did you get the job?" Michael asked, his eyes still on the television."

"Yes I did." Isabel answered, unsure of why he was asking.

"Congratulations." He offered, this time looking at her.

Isabel could have sworn there was a hint of sincerity in his words. "Thank you Michael." She offered, grateful that she wasn't fighting with him about it. "Is Max here?"

"He's in his room reading."

"Okay, thanks. Later" Isabel walked through the rest of the living room, down the hallway. Isabel didn't want to take the time to knock, she was too excited. Instead she opened his door and stepped inside.

"Max. Max!" Isabel called out as she looked around for Max.

"I'm out here!" Max called from out on the balcony.

Isabel made her way across his bedroom to an open window that led to the balcony. Carefully she maneuvered her tall frame through the opening onto the balcony. She took a moment to take in the new surroundings. It was a fairly large space, almost the same size as Max's bedroom. There were a few potted plants on a gardener's rack against the outside bedroom wall and two lawn chairs, with Max sitting in one of them, a book in his hand. The air around her was slightly warm and about a dozen aromas floated around her. She could smell the scent of onion rings and burgers from the downstairs restaurant, the faint smell of exhaust fumes from the traveling cars on the street below and the distinct dry aroma from the desert.

Isabel looked beyond the balcony. From where she was standing she could see Main Street from both directions and a few streets beyond that. She smiled when she saw the Evan's Law Office and quickly remembered what she want to talk to Max about. She took a seat, her smiling growing wider when she looked at her brother.

"Oh Max I had the best day!"

"I take it you got the job." Max said, closing his book.

"Yes, and it is so great, Phillip and Diane are so great. They are really busy working on this big case but they took the time to show me everything and they gave me my own cubicle. My own cubicle Max! I never thought I would have a cubicle. And then they took us out for lunch at this really great Chinese place, Senor Chow's. Oh, and Alex works there too. He went to lunch with us. He is so funny Max, so different then the guys at our high school. Anyway after lunch they had me get started on this research project with Alex. They want me to work at least three days a week, possibly more. Isn't that great?"

"It is Iz, I'm very happy for you." Max said with sincerity.

"Thank you Max. I knew you would be. I can't believe how great everything is working out. I mean the people we've met have been really nice and now this job … it's almost perfect." Isabel's last few words came out in a whisper; her once exuberant expression was now replaced with a somber one. Her eyes were focused on the cellphone that was on the plastic stand next to Max.

"What's wrong Isabel?" Max asked before turning to see what she was looking at.

"Have you talked to him today?"

"No." Max answered, knowing which "him" she meant. "I don’t think he'll call today."

Isabel nodded.

"Talk to me Iz."

"I don't want him to come to Roswell Max. He's going to ruin everything. I mean for the first time in my life I feel like things are good. I know that sounds crazy, I mean we have only been if for two days but ever since I walked into the restaurant on Saturday I got this feeling like this was where I was supposed to be. And the people we've met Max; Liz, Maria, Alex, Diane - I trust them Max. I trust them in a way that I have never trusted any human before. Does that sound crazy?"

"No it doesn't 'cause I've been feeling the same way. I try not to but I can't seem to stop."

Isabel eyed her brother knowing there was a hidden meaning in his words. "And how does Liz fit it to all of this? I know that you like her Max."

"I know that I shouldn't Isabel but there is just something about her. When I saw her Saturday night, it was like the whole world faded away and she was the only thing that existed. Then last night at her house I just found myself liking her even more. I know it's wrong, I know I'm not supposed to have feelings for a human but Liz is different. I feel different."

"She is really nice. I get a good vibe from her." Isabel's mouth stayed open, though no other words came out of her mouth.

"I'm sensing a 'but' in there."

Reluctantly Isabel continued on. "But what about Tess?"

"I don't know. I do know that I have never felt anything for her like what I'm feeling about Liz." Max stood up from the lawn chair and began pacing around the balcony "What does that say Iz? I mean I've known Tess my entire life, we were married in our previous life but in this one I feel nothing. I known Liz for two days and I feel like I want to be with her the rest of my life when I know that can't ever be. But I still can't stop thinking about her." His voice grew frustrated.

"I don't know what to tell you Max. I'm happy for you but at the same time I can't stop thinking about what Nasedo, Michael and Tess will think about this once the find out."

"Michael already suspects and I think Tess does too." Max stopped his pacing and leaned forward, his hands and legs pressed against the half wall over looking the town.

"Did they say something?"

"Yeah."

"Let me guess, Michael wasn't too happy about it."

"Yeah and I'm worried he'll say something to Nasedo once he gets the chance to talk to him. That's why I have to stay away from Liz."

Isabel stood up and walked over to her brother. "What? So you're to going to spend the next few months avoiding her?"

"Well I can't be in the same room with her because every time I do my resolve crumbles. Do you know that it took me an hour to read one page today?" Max pointed to his book on the chair. "I couldn’t stop thinking about her. Imagine what I would be like if I really got to know her. I have this feeling that I wouldn't be able to stay away and I have to stay away."

"Why Max? I mean who says we are destined to live the same life? Does anybody even ask us what we want? No. It's all predestined no matter what we think or feel. I know that I don't want to marry Michael and I know deep down you don't want to marry Tess. So then why can't we change things Max?"

"It's not that simple Isabel, you know that."

Isabel stiffened her body straighter. "I'm making it that simple Max. I refuse to live my life anymore for some other world or people that I know nothing of. I can't do it anymore. For the past thirteen years it has felt like I'm dying and now, for the first time I want to live."

"You day was that good, huh?" Max asked, smiling slightly. Inside he admired Isabel's stance to all of this.

"Yeah and that is why I think that you shouldn't avoid Liz. If you like her Max than you should be with her." Isabel said firmly.

"And what about when Nasedo comes here?"

Isabel shook her head. "We'll deal with that when the time comes Max but for now we're going to enjoy our lives. Are you with me?"

"Yeah." The twins smiled at each other before falling into an embrace. At that moment Max Harding felt that everything was going to be all right.

PART FIFTEEN:


Liz pulled in her driveway shortly after six o'clock Monday night. Her shoulders were tight from the day's tension of running the restaurant, her feet ached from standing on them most of the day and her body smelled of the grease fire that Jose had started this afternoon which Liz of course put out. She was sweaty, smelly and tired but that wasn't the worst of it. The worst part of her day was the fact that she hadn't seen Max all day long. She knew it was silly to be upset of it but she couldn't deny how she felt. Hours were spent today hoping to catch a glimpse of him only to wind up disappointed. A couple of times she had started up the staircase that led to the apartment. She had even made it as far as the sixth step from the bottom before she turned around and headed back. Liz knew that it was one thing to go up there for a specific reason, like Isabel's new job, but it was another to go upstairs just to say hi to Max. She just couldn’t do that. Liz couldn't let herself be so casual about it. That was one of the things that Liz admired most about Maria, she was never afraid to talk to someone. Whether it be a boy she liked or to tell someone off, Maria did it with a confidence and style that was all her own.

Maria tried coaching her today, even gave her a few pushes up the stairs but Liz crumbled under the pressure. She decided she couldn't do it face to face. Tonight, after Gracie was in bed she would call him. Invite him to spend tomorrow with her and Gracie for a casual tour around Roswell.

Liz picked up the full takeout sacks from the passenger seat that she had brought home from the Crashdown per Kyle's request. He had called Liz around four, clearly excited about something, asking if she could bring home some burgers and fries for supper. A simple request seeing that she managed a restaurant where their main selling items were burgers and fries. Liz asked him about the reason behind his exuberant mood only to have Kyle say that he would tell her all about it when she got home.

"Hey, I'm home!" Liz called out when she walked through the front door of her home. She sat the sacks of food on the end table.

"Mommy, Mommy, Mommy!" Gracie's voice grew louder and louder as she bounded down the hallway, calling out her mother's name even after Liz had scooped her up into her arms.

Liz planted soft kisses all over Gracie's face. "Hey pookie!" *kiss* "I missed you" *kiss* "so much."

"Miss you!" Gracie gave Liz a big, wet kiss on the lips. As always, mother and daughter's foreheads titled towards each other until they touched.

"Did you have a good day with Daddy?"

"Yes. Go park." Gracie answered excitedly.

"Daddy took you and the other kids to the park?" Liz asked, trying to sound as impressed as possible. She knew that was one of Gracie's favorite places to go and whenever she got to go it was always a big deal.

"Yes."

"Wow, did you go down the slide?"

"Hmm-Mmm." Gracie nodded triumphantly.

"What about the swings, did you go on them?"

"Daddy push high." Her eyes big and she spoke this time.

"I bet he did. Where is Daddy anyway? Can you show me where Daddy is?" Gracie slid down Liz's body until she was standing on her own. She reached up for her mommy's hand, took it and tugged. Liz followed Gracie, hand in hand, down the hallway into Kyle's bedroom.

Liz was a few feet away from Kyle's open bedroom door when she smelled the scent of his cologne. Liz took a few more steps, stopping in to stand in his doorway. From where she was standing she could see Kyle staring at himself in the mirror. He was running his hands through his sandy blonde hair, trying to get each of the strands to lay down perfectly. Kyle's head jerked up slightly when he noticed Liz's reflection in the mirror.

"Hey, you're home." Kyle observed, still fidgeting with his hair.

"What's up with you?" Liz asked as Gracie tugged on her hand, pulling her towards the direction of Kyle's made bed. Liz plopped down on Kyle's bed, relieved to be sitting on something soft. Gracie had climbed up on the next to bed, sitting close to Liz, while she began playing with a few of her toys that were already left on the bed.

Kyle turned to face Liz. "I have a date." Kyle said triumphantly, as if he just secured world peace.

"With who?" Liz asked with raised eyebrows and a playful look about her.

"Betsy Brower." Kyle stated proudly.

Liz's eyes grew wide over Kyle's revelation. "No! The Betsy Brower. The girl who could be deemed goddess like status at any moment, the most popular girl of the Class of 2001, the one that ignored you most of high school, that Betsy Brower?"

"One in the same, except she's not ignoring me any more." Kyle walked over to his closet and pulled out his black cowboy boots, carrying them over to his desk chair. He sat down in the chair letting the boots fall flatly on the floor between his legs.

"How did you get her to go out with you?" The tone in her voice held a touch of skepticism.

Kyle held his hands in the air. "I didn't do anything, she asked me

"No way!" Liz exclaimed, still willing to believe what Kyle was telling her.

"She most certainly did."

"Why?"

"You have to ask. Liz, she thinks I'm sexy." Kyle wagged his eyebrows up and down before bending over to hold his left boot so his white-socked foot could slip inside of it.

"I doubt that, seriously, how did you manage to get her to ask you out?"

"Well you know she's been working at the center. A couple of weeks ago Mrs. Henner moved Betsy into my class so we've been spending all day together. We've been talking, I've been making her laugh, she thinks Gracie's adorable, that I'm a terrific father and this morning she asked me out for tonight." Kyle finished putting on his right boot and stood up.

"Wow, I'm impressed. So what time do you have to pick her up?"

"See that's the bonus Liz, she's picking me up and she's paying for the dinner."

"I'm now doubly impressed."

"As you should be." Kyle turned towards his dresser. His eyes scanned the top of it until he located his wallet. His picked it up and put it into his back jean pocket.

"So why then have me bring home burgers if you're going out for dinner?" Liz began running her fingers through Gracie's soft locks.

"Cause I knew I wouldn't have time to make supper and I didn't want you to have to."

"That's sweet Kyle."

"Hey, I'm a sweet guy." Kyle said gesturing to himself, definitely proud of his latest achievement of scoring a date with Betsy.

"You're really sure of yourself tonight Mr. Valenti. Is this what I'm going to have to put up with while your dating your dream girl?"

"For a few weeks anyway. So, how do I look?"

Liz looked Kyle up and down, taking in the appearance of his hair and clothes. She paused briefly when she noticed the light blue western shirt he was wearing. How could she tell him that she hated that shirt and the last thing he should do is wear it on his date? Instead Liz opted for a little white lie. "Good."

"What's wrong?"

"Nothing." Liz said shaking her head.

"C'mon Liz, I know you and I can tell when you don't like something and your too nice not to say anything. Now c'mon, what's wrong with the way I look?"

Liz began biting her lip, grimacing over the fact that she was about to tell him the truth. "Well, it's the shirt." Liz winced, cowering her body slightly to prepare for Kyle's reaction.

"What?" Kyle quickly flipped himself around to get a good look at himself in the mirror. "What's wrong with the shirt? This is my favorite shirt. I look great in the shirt." Kyle looked back at Liz "Don’t I?" He asked sounding a bit wounded.

"Yeah you do but I'm not sure it's the fashion statement you want to be making on your first date with Betsy. From what I remember about her the girl keeps up on the fashion trends, I'm guessing a shirt with silver snaps is not going to wow her over."

Kyle looked back at himself in the mirror focusing on his shirt and the row of silver snaps that ran down the middle and one on each of the two front pockets. "You're right. What am I going to wear? I've gotta hurry cause she's going to be her at 6:30 and…" Kyle paused in mid sentence when her heard the doorbell ring. The cool and confident Kyle that stood in front of Liz just mere minutes ago now looked panic stricken. "Oh no she's early!" Kyle began pacing around his room; unclear of the direction or action he wanted to take next. Gracie sat on the bed, smiling at the sight of her Daddy. Liz couldn't help but too the same thing. She wanted to laugh at it all but decided to take pity on the poor boy and help him out instead.

Liz placed a kiss on the top of Gracie's head then calmly rose off the bed. Sidestepping the still pacing Kyle, she made her way over to his closet. Her fingers flipped through his shirts until she found one that would work. Liz took the shirt off the rack and handed it to Kyle. "Here, I've always liked you in this one."

Kyle took the shirt, staring at it as if it were a foreign object. Liz walked back over to the bed and lifted Gracie up into her arms. "I'm going to go answer the door while you change."

Kyle nodded in agreement. Liz paused one last time before leaving his room. "Oh and Kyle, loose the belt." And with that, Liz and Gracie walked down the hallway. After a moment it began to register with what Liz had just said and he quickly glanced down at the item mentioned. A brown leather belt, with a large silver belt buckle and his name stitched in navy blue on the back. Kyle shook his head over his clothing choices and quickly began to change.

~*~*~
"Betsy!" Gracie called out when she saw her. She bounce up and down in Liz's arms, excited to see someone she knew and liked.

"Hi Gracie!" Betsy said with enthusiasm. Betsy reached forward, giving Gracie a gentle poke in the stomach causing the little girl to giggle. Still smiling Betsy looked for Gracie to Liz. "Hi Liz! It's so good to see you!", her words genuine.

"You too Betsy." Liz smiled warmly at her, feeling slightly intimated by being in Betsy's presence. She was even prettier now that she was in high school. Her long, golden hair hung loosely down her back. Liz noticed the brightness of her eyes and her perfect teeth when she smiled at her. Everything about her seemed to be perfect and Liz recalled how she always thought Betsy reminded her of Barbie, without the plastic skin of course. No wonder Kyle and every other boy at West Roswell High was in love with her, it was inevitable. Fortunately there was more to Betsy than how she looked or her perfectly charmed life. She was a nice person - a personality trait that the high school rich and the beautiful usually lacked. Liz remembered how Betsy was one of the few girls who didn't talk bad about her when the whole school found out she was pregnant her sophomore year. She had befriended Liz when most classmates looked and treated Liz like she had had some highly contagious pregnancy disease, that if a girl too close she was doomed to be next. Liz had always been grateful to Betsy for not being like everyone else. Inside Betsy Brower was a kind person and Liz was happy for her and for Kyle.

"Kyle will be right out, he's just changing his shirt."

"Good thanks. So how have you been? Oh, congratulations on being Valedictorian!"

"Thank you."

"So have you decided where you're going to college?"

"Enmu."

"Oh. Enmu's a good school." Betsy replied hesitantly.

Liz picked up on it immediately since it was the typical reaction that most people had when they found out she was going to Enmu and not some Ivy League School. 'Liz Parker is too smart to be going to Enmu," she would overhear them say, 'That girl should be going to Harvard or one of those other schools.' Burt Johnson had said pointedly last week at the restaurant loud enough for everyone to hear. But they didn't understand that it just wasn't that simple. That just because Liz had graduated high school with straight A's and scored the highest SAT score in the history of West Roswell High, it didn't mean she would be going to Harvard or Yale or even…

"How's Berkley?"

"Amazing!" Betsy's face seemed to light up. "I love the diversity of it all and the professors are wonderful. And San Francisco is one of the most incredible cities to live in. Don't get me wrong, I missed Roswell, it's just that San Francisco has so much more to do than her." Liz nodded in agreement, slightly wishing that she could know what it would feel like to miss Roswell. To be able to see another part of the world.

"Hi Betsy! You look beautiful!" Kyle said as he walked into the living room. He was far more composed than he was just a little while ago and was now wearing a dark green, cotton v-neck shirt. You could see a hint of his white T-shirt showing through the top of his shirt. The color of the shirt complimented his hair color and made his skin look even more golden.

Betsy looked over to Kyle, her eyes traveling over his athletic physique. "Thanks Kyle, you look mighty handsome yourself. I like your shirt."

Kyle chuckled and then looked at Liz. "Thank you but the compliment should go to Liz. She picked it out."

"It was nothing," Liz replied with a wave of her hand.

"Well I'm ready if you are Betsy."

"Good, let's go. Liz it was great seeing you and hopefully I will be seeing you again soon."

"I hope so too."

"I'll see you tomorrow Gracie. Bye!" Betsy said waving.

"Bye -bye." Gracie gave Betsy an open-palm wave in return.

Kyle kissed Gracie on the cheek and then told her he loved her. After saying good-bye to Liz, Kyle led Betsy out of the house, his hand resting on the small of her back. Liz carried Gracie over to the open doorway, both girls waving and calling out good-byes. Before he sat in the car, Kyle gave one last look at the door of his house and waved good-bye to the two most important women in his life.

~*~*~

By nine o'clock, Gracie was fast asleep. Liz sat on the floor next to where Gracie lay on her small toddler bed. Liz ran her fingers through Gracie's newly washed hair, the smell of baby shampoo still filled the air. As Gracie slept, her thumb hung loosely from her lips; her cheeks flushed from the onset of sleep.

After a few more moments of watching her daughter sleep Liz rose from the floor, her legs stiff from sitting. She walked around the house picking up the clutter from the day, enjoying the silence. Liz picked up the blanket off the couch, revealing the white cordless phone lying on the cushion. Immediately Liz thought of what she was planning on doing tonight.

Liz picked up the phone and walked down the hallway, into her bedroom. She sat down on her bed, her eyes never leaving the phone. Liz felt intimidated by the small device, knowing it held the power to make her incredibly happy or painfully miserable.

Minutes passed by and Liz tried on several occasions to place the phone call, unable to follow through. Liz sighed and began talking to herself. "I can do this, I can do this. Right? Right, I mean is just a phone call. All I have to do is dial and then talk. Simple. Ugh!" Liz threw herself back onto her bed. She lay there, frustrated with herself over not being able to do the seemingly simple task of calling a guy. After a few moments Liz rolled onto her side and picked up the phone and dialed a familiar number.

"Maria, help, I can't do it!" Liz said in desperation.

"I'm assuming the "it" is calling Max?" Maria responded calmly, sounding the exact opposite of Liz.

"Yes. I mean I've tried but every time I start dialing the number I freeze. Help me! Give me some of that best friend advice of yours."

Maria took a deep breath before answering. "Liz, you're a great gal; beautiful, smart, funny, independent and about 100 other things that I'm envious of so you have no reason to be nervous. He's gonna say yes."

"What if he says no?"

"You'll never know until you try."

"I hate that saying, what else you got?" Liz asked and began chewing on her bottom lip.

"You got give a little to get a little."

"Nope, that one too."

"It takes a winner to be a winner." Maria said, doing her best interpretation of some motivational speaker.

"Okay, now you're sounding like Alex."

"How 'bout if you don't call Max I'm going to come over to your house, kick your butt and then call Max myself where in turn I will be forced to reveal to him all the embarrassing stories of your childhood. I think I'll start with the time when you peed your pants in the first grade.

"You wouldn't."

"You know I would, now are you going to call him?"

"Yes."

"Good luck."

"Thanks. Love you 'Ria."

"Love you too babe - now call him!"

Liz hung up her phone; her conversation with Maria had given her the confidence she needed to call Max. With slight trepidation she picked the receiver back up and held it to her ear. Her fingers pushed on the seven numbers, slowly and deliberately. When she heard the sound of ringing Liz's body tightened again, her stomach twisting in knots. After three rings she heard a feminine voice say hello.

"Hi, this is Liz."

PART SIXTEEN:

Tess rolled her head back when she heard the sound of Liz Parker's voice on the other end of the phone call. 'Why is she calling?' Tess asked her herself, annoyed and angry about that fact. Tess was tempted to hang up the phone and then use her powers to prevent the phone from working, but Tess knew she couldn't do it. She knew that somehow Max or Isabel would find out Liz had called and that she had hung up on her. From the way Max had been staring at the fast food princess last night he would surely by upset with Tess over it. Tess understood she couldn't afford to have Max angry with her right now. She had to be the model of sweetness, no matter how much it nauseated her.

"Hi Liz, its Tess, how are you?" Tess asked with all the sincerity she could muster; though it still sounded false.

"Oh hi Tess, I'm good." Liz replied. Tess cocked her head after she detected the tremble in Liz's voice and she determined that Liz was nervous about something.

"Is Max there?"

'Of course, I should have seen that one coming.' Tess thought to herself. Her first instinct was to lie, let Liz know that Max was unavailable and would be for the rest of evening. Anything to keep Liz from calling back. If only she could let the girl know that she was destined to be with Max, that she was to be his Queen. Tess revealed in the thought of the look on Liz's face when she heard that one. Disappointment set in over the truth that Tess would probably never have the opportunity to do so. While they were on earth they had to stick to their cover story that they were just cousins, no one could ever know anything differently and if Liz suspected that Tess was jealous of her than questions would surely arise.

"Who's on the phone?" 'Dammit!', Tess cursed silently when she heard Max's voice. There was nothing Tess could do now to rectify the situation. She looked over towards Max who was walking down the hallway towards her.

"It's Liz for you." Tess replied flatly, feeling defeated. Reluctantly she handed the phone over to Max. He appeared non-chalant as he took the phone, but Tess could see by the smile in his eyes how happy he was over that fact that Liz was calling him. Tess knew it was going to be harder than she thought to keep Max and Liz from entering a relationship. 'If only Nasedo was here', Tess thought to herself, knowing that he had the power to denounce any kind of potential relationship between Max and Liz.

Tess watched Max walk into the dark kitchen, telling Liz hello. When he glanced back at Tess, she quickly looked away not wanting him to think that she was planning on eavesdropping the entire conversation, an action that held no choice to it. There was no way that Tess would be kept in the dark about anything concerning the two of them.

Tess took a seat on the loveseat, picking up a magazine off of the end table. Absentmindedly she flipped through the pages giving off the appearance that she was reading it. However her attention stayed on Max as she strained to hear everything Max was saying.

~*~*~

Max couldn't believe it when Tess had told him that Liz was calling for him. Ever since his talk with Isabel earlier he kept thinking about what the two of them had agreed on - living their lives for themselves. Max couldn't believe he was going to do it, that he was going to follow his heart. He kept asking himself the same question - was he really going to pursue a relationship with Liz despite his destiny and what Nasedo, Michael and Tess would think about? His answer to himself was always yes.

Max kept thinking about what their reaction would be when they found out. Michael would be extremely angry and feel that it was a personal attack on him and the mission. He would never understand the reasons why Max felt the way he did about Liz. Max assumed Tess would be angry as well and possibly hurt. They weren't in love with each other but there had always been the faint memories of their past life together and the promise that they would be married one day. Max would be changing Tess's future also and he wondered if he should discuss all of this with her. Max knew he should, he owed her at least that much. The question now was when. Should he tell her now, let her know what he was planning on doing or should he wait until something actually developed between him and Liz? Max decided on the later, wondering the what ifs of Liz's feelings; what if she didn't feel the same way about him, what if a relationship would never even existed between the two of them? And then Max reverted back to doubting it all. Who was he to jeopardize everything for a girl he barely knew? All the problems that Max would cause with Michael, Tess and Nasedo would be for nothing. What kind of king would he be if he followed the desires of a foolish heart? He would surely bring Antar to its final end.

Max's self-doubting led him to think about Nasedo and the part he would play in all of this. Max couldn't even begin to imagine Nasedo's reaction. Though Nasedo had never yelled at them growing up there was always the feeling that he could at any moment and this might be the one to bring him to that point. Everyday was about judging his moods, wondering if he was happy or irritated about something they did or said. His unpredictable emotional state was one of the reasons why he and the others had formed their own retreats, Max had his books, Isabel her dollhouse when she was younger, cooking as she got older, Michael had his motorcycle and his hockey and Tess had her plethora of superficial friendships.

Max had gotten used to the relationship with Nasedo and somehow he made sense of it all - to feel the need to keep his distance from the shapeshifter and also the need to be protected by him. To go along with what he said because he knew what was best for them. The past couple of days and for the first time, Max began questioning if Nasedo really did know what was best and when would Max ever be able to make those decisions for himself. Tonight he had made the decision to pursue a relationship with Liz but would Nasedo accept that decision? Max knew that he wouldn't. Nasedo's whole life had been spent protecting them and to one day bring them back to Antar. Max's newfound feelings would alter the plan and Nasedo would be upset. Max didn't want to see the justification in Nasedo's anger but he couldn't help but too see it, after all Max was about to change everything.

After a few hours of questions, doubts and a few fantasies about Liz he heard the phone ring. It was the first time it had rung since they moved in and the sound startled him. Immediately Max thought that is was Nasedo calling them but then Max wondered why Nasedo didn't use the cellphone. Max walked over to the phone that was sitting in the charger, and checked to see if it was on; it was. Thinking nothing more of it, Max made his way down the hallway to see who was on the phone.

Max couldn't believe that it was Liz. Inside he was elated, he could feel his heart pumping in his chest and it felt like his whole body was filling up with excitement and anticipation, so much so that it felt like he would burst. Max could sense Tess's questioning eyes on him forcing Max to keep his feelings inside. She couldn't know yet.

Max took the phone from Tess, still unsure that it was actually Liz. "Hello Liz." Max greeted as he walked into the kitchen, trying to get some distance between him and Tess.

"Hi Max" He heard he sweet voice say. The sound made him weak in his knees, causing him to stumble slightly as he walked. Max glanced back at Tess to see if she had noticed. He was relieved to see that she wasn't even looking at him.

"How are you?" Max asked, his voice cracking as he spoke. Max closed his eyes, feeling embarrassed by how he sounded. He swallowed in an attempt to moisten his vocal chords, hoping that the next time he said anything he wouldn't sound like a pubescent boy.

"I'm good and you?"

"Good, I'm good." The tone of his was voice was more even and deep.

"I hope I wasn't bothering you? You weren't in bed were you?"

"No, I was just reading."

"Oh, what are you reading?"

Max quickly thought about the book he had attempted to read today. His eyes swam as he tried to remember the title. "The House of the Seven Gables."

"That's one of my favorite books. I think I have read it at least five times. I've always wanted to go to Salem and see the house. How far have you gotten?"

"Um, chapter one. I just started it." 'Yeah, twelve hours ago and I'm only on page nine.' Max thought to himself.

"I hope you like it. Uh, we could discuss it when your finished, I mean if you would like to. It's just that, well Maria doesn't read, I mean she can read, really well actually she just doesn't read a lot and Kyle, well Kyle only reads about sports and Alex likes to read things that have the word computer or technology in the title so I don’t get the chance to talk to other people about books." Max smiled when he heard the sound of her taking a deep breath. He wondered if she was just as nervous as he was. Did Liz have feelings for him?"

"I would like that." 'More than you know Liz'.

"Good, that’s good. Well the reason I am calling Max is because tomorrow I have the day off and if you would like, Gracie and I would like to show you around Roswell. Would you be interested?"

Max couldn't believe was he was hearing. Liz had just asked him to spend the day with her. "That would be great." Max answered eagerly. "What time do you want to meet."

"I was thinking eight o'clock. Is that okay with you?"

Max looked up at the kitchen clock, noticing that he still had ten and half-hours till he could see her. "Eight is great." Max winced as soon as he heard the how corny what he had just said sounded.

"Good. So we'll meeting downstairs, in the restaurant at eight."

"I look forward to it."

"Me too. Um, well I should probably let you go, it's late. I see you in the morning. Bye Max."

"Bye Liz." Max continued to hold the phone up to his ear long after the Liz had hung up yet. He replayed the conversation over in his head, pausing on the part when she had asked him to spend the day with her. Max had never had the urge before to jump up in elation but right now he wanted to. He concentrated on keeping he feet firmly on the ground. Max placed the phone on the table. He needed to go tell Isabel.

Max turned around and began walking around the kitchen when Tess stopped him with her question.

"So what did Liz want?"

"She offered to show me around Roswell tomorrow with her daughter." Max said casually, still not wanting to make Tess suspicious.

"That was nice of her. Can I come too?"

"I don't know." Max said instead of the firm 'no' that he had thought in his mind.

"Why not. It's not a date is it?"

"Of course it's not a date, she's just showing me around town with her daughter." Max knew for sure that is wasn't a date per se. A date was when a couple went out to dinner or to the movies, at least that's what he heard when the other at school would talk about their dates.

"Than I don't see the problem of me tagging along Max, besides it will give me the chance to get to know Liz a little better and that cute little girl of hers, Tracy."

"It's Gracie." Max corrected her.

"Oh, well I still want to come along. So what time are we leaving tomorrow?"

Max knew there was know way to prevent Tess from coming and he unwilling gave her the answer she was searching for. "Eight a.m., downstairs in the restaurant."

"Ill be ready, thanks Max. See you in the morning." Max watched Tess walk down the hall. His elation over tomorrow was gone, Tess had taken inadvertently taken it away.

~*~*~

"Okay sweetie, we're going inside to meet Max and then we're going to show him around Roswell. Are you ready cause Mommy's not. Oh Gracie I am so nervous. He's just a boy right. Just a guy like half the population of Roswell residents that I see everyday. Nothing special. I mean we live with one, we know what their like. They always leave the toilet seat up, always put empty milk cartons back in the refrigerator, and then there's the whole openly passing gas issue. Max is just like them. Then why do I feel the way I do? Why does Max give me Goosebumps when no other guy does? You got any idea why pookie?"

"Mommy silly." Gracie said and then laughed. She had been watching her mother and smiling for the past few minutes. After Liz had parked the car in front of the restaurant she had turned around to face Gracie, sitting patiently in her car seat. Liz hoped a good ramble to her daughter would help ease the nervousness that she was feeling. Gracie's simple statement followed by the sweet sound of her laughter lulled Liz long enough to get the two of them out of the car and into the restaurant.

Liz opened the front door of the restaurant and shifted Gracie higher on her hip as she walked in side. Quickly Liz scanned the restaurant looking for Max. She found him sitting in the far back booth talking to a head of blond hair. Liz recognized it was Tess sitting next to him. 'Was she coming with them?' Liz wondered as she walked to the booth. She was halfway across the room when her eyes met Max's, the both of them smiling instantly.

"Hi Liz." Max greeted as he rose from the booth. "Hi Gracie."

"Hi Max." Liz looked down at Tess who was smiling at her widely. "Hi Tess. How are you?"

"Good, I'm really looking forward to spending the day with you today. I hope it's all right that I invited myself along for the tour?"

"Um sure." Liz tried not to convey that the idea bothered her, but inside Liz was disappointed. All the thoughts she had had about how the day would go were just eliminated. 'At least I get to spend the day with him.' Liz told herself.

Tess rose from the booth. "Great, let's go."

TBC…

posted on 5-Dec-2001 11:45:45 AM
PART SEVENTEEN:

At six o'clock Wednesday morning, Maria DeLuca pulled her red four door Jetta into a parking space behind the Crashdown and climbed out of her car. The sun was still low in the eastern sky but the air around her held a sticky, hot heat and Maria knew that as the sun rose the day would only get hotter. Beads of sweat already started to form on her brow and upper lip and Maria was thankful she would be spending the day inside with air conditioning, away from the summer New Mexico heat.

Maria opened the back door of the restaurant and stepped into an empty back room. She could hear the sounds of Jose singing in the kitchen, and she smiled when the aroma of cinnamon rolls filled her nostrils. She placed her bag into her locker and then made her way into the restaurant, anxious to talk to Liz. Immediately she saw her best friend sitting at the cash register at the front of the restaurant. Her head hung over the open drawer as she passed paper money from one hand to the other. From the intense look on her face, Maria knew Liz was off in work mode and it was best to let her finish before trying to talk to her. Instead Maria poured herself a cup of coffee and sipped it, waiting for her friend to finish her work and acknowledge her presence.

After a few minutes Liz closed the cash register and looked up and around the restaurant, sighing.

"Hey chica." Maria called out when Liz had noticed her standing behind the counter.

"Hi, when did you get her?" Liz asked while walking up to the counter to join her friend.

"About five minutes ago."

"Sorry, I didn't hear you." Liz apologized, gesturing back towards the cash register.

Maria waved off her apology. "No biggie." Liz threw her friend a smile before returning to the morning tasks of opening the restaurant. Maria watched Liz fill the creamers with cream. She studied her expressions, trying to figure out how yesterday went with Max. The last time Maria had talked to Liz was Monday night, when Liz had called her for the second time that evening, this time with good news. Liz was clearly excited over the fact that Max had agreed to join her and Gracie for a tour of Roswell. For the next hour the two friends discussed where Liz should take him and what she should wear.

Maria was overjoyed for Liz. It had been a long time since Liz had been excited over something. Since her parents' death Liz had experienced happiness with her family and friends but she never let herself be too happy or too excited. There was a level of reserve to her personality now; because of her parent's death but also due to the amount of responsibility that Liz now undertook. Not only did Liz have to take care of Gracie; she also owned and managed the restaurant. Maria understood Liz's desire and struggle to keep the restaurant a success. When her parents first died vendors, employees and fellow town businessmen had a hard time taking Liz seriously. They felt that a young girl would be incapable of keeping the Crashdown in business. Several people had made offers to buy the restaurant from her; all were way under what the place was actually worth. She was patronized and scrutinized constantly for the first six months but Liz proved all of her skeptics wrong. Liz kept everything running smoothly and managed to increase business by ten percent. She had earned people's respect and kept her parent's dream and memory alive.

Despite the wonderful way that Liz had been taking care of everything and everyone, Maria could see the sadness in Liz. She knew that there was more out of life that Liz wanted. Before all of the events of the past three years had happened Liz had often shared with Maria how she wanted her life to turn out. Her dreams of going to Harvard, of becoming a molecular biologist, traveling the world, possibly finding the cure to some disease. A life that took her far away from Roswell. After Gracie was born Liz still spoke of going to Harvard someday. When her parent's died, so did the talk of going to Harvard or of ever leaving Roswell. Every time Maria tried to bring the subject of Harvard up Liz quickly dismissed it, saying once that life never turns out like you expect it and that her life belonged in Roswell now. Maria understood her friend's position, respecting the fact that she was sacrificing so much for Gracie and the restaurant. However Maria couldn't help but want more for her friend. She wanted Liz to be selfish for once, to think about her own wants and desires. She wanted Liz to be happy; really happy, almost to the point of being blissful. Maria knew that Liz deserved that much.

The reaction the Max had caused in Liz this past weekend was like an answer to Maria's prayer. Liz had taken an immediate interest in Max, more that she had ever done with any guy. Liz's jovial actions these past couple of days were reminiscent of much younger Liz that Maria had known. By the way Maria had seen Max looking at Liz she knew the feeling was mutual. Maria hoped that she was witnessing the start of something wonderful between the two of them. Could Max be the one to bring Lizzie happiness?

After Liz filled the creamers, she moved on to placing the syrup bottles onto a serving tray. Liz seemed oblivious to the fact that Maria was staring at her. It wasn't until Liz heard Maria grunt that she turned her attention towards her.

"What?"

"Well I have been waiting for you to bring it up but you're not and I'm dying to know. How did yesterday go with Max?"

Liz lifted the full tray of syrup and began walking around café. After placing the first bottle down on a table she looked over at Maria, who was anxious awaiting her response. "It didn't." Liz stated, her voice held a hint of frustration.

"You mean he bailed on you?" Maria asked, hurriedly walking over to her best friend.

"No, we spent together it's just that his cousin Tess came with us." Liz said, placing another bottle on another table.

"Did Max invite her?"

"No, she invited herself."

"Why would she do that?" Maria scrunched her face slightly, trying to understand the meaning behind Tess' self-invitation.

"I don’t know."

"Well at least you got to spend some time with him, right? What's he like?"

"He's nice but we really didn't get a chance to talk a lot. During the car ride around town Tess sat in the front seat and Max sat in back with Gracie. Tess did most of the talking. She had a lot of questions about Roswell. Anyway, then I took them to the UFO Center and Tess wanted to go on the tour so Max and I didn't have much of a chance to talk then either." Liz placed the last of the bottles on the table and tucked the tray under her arm. "Then I took them to the taco stand on 285 and there was an incident and they had to go home after lunch." Liz winced and her body cowered slightly when she said the word incident, causing Maria to raise her right eyebrow and look expectantly at her best friend.

"What kind of incident?" Maria asked slowly, afraid and also curious to know what happened.

Liz sat down at a table, Maria mirroring her actions. "Gracie threw up all over Tess."

"What!?"

Liz began shaking her head. "I don't know why it happened. I mean Gracie seemed fine all morning and then Tess tried to hold her during lunch and Gracie got all upset and the next thing I know, BLAH" Liz threw her hands from her mouth, out to her side, mimicking the scene from the day before. "It went all over Tess, her hair, her face, her clothes, I even think some of it got in her mouth."

"Oh, gross."

"I know and it didn't help that Grace had just drank a blue coconut slushy and had eaten a taco."

"Oh Lizzie," Maria tried to hold back the laughter in respect for what had happened to Tess, but a few giggles escaped. "What did Tess do?"

"She screamed and I thought she was going to get sick next. After she came back from the bathroom she seemed mad."

"What did Max do?"

"He look horrified at first and then I could have sworn he was smiling. I kept apologizing but he seemed more concerned that Gracie was okay."

"Wow. Is Gracie okay?"

"Yeah, she seems fine, no fever and she didn't throw up for the rest of the day. I'm thinking that she just got too hot and then when she got upset it caused her to throw up."

"Poor kid."

"Well then I took them home. Tess barely said two words on the way home and when she got out of the car she didn't even say goodbye. You think I should go upstairs to apologize again or maybe send her flowers?"

"I wouldn't worry about it Liz, these things happen. Next time you see her tell you're sorry but there's need to go out of your way."

"Okay." Liz nodded in agreement over Maria's advice.

"Liz?" Liz looked up to see Frank, her meat vendor leaning against the open back door.

"Talk to you later." Liz rose from her chair and joined Frank over by the door. Maria watched her walk away, waiting till her friend was out of ear shot before letting the laughter of the incident with Tess and the vomit take over.

*~*~*~*

"You know what gets me?" Maria asked as she scooped cereal into a bowl.

"What?" Liz was amused by the perturbed tone in her friend's voice. Liz always got a kick out of good Maria rant.

"Ordering dry cereal at a restaurant. Why do people do that? I mean are they just too lazy to pour it in a bowl at their own house or do they honestly think our Captain Crunch tastes better here."

"I guess it's one of those mysteries that we will never solve." Liz nodded her head, a smile on her face.

"Are you mocking me?"

"A little." Liz handed a glass of orange juice to Mr. Peters, who was sitting at the counter reading his latest copy of Newsweek. After exchanging a few pleasantries with him Liz turned her attention back to Maria when she returned back to the counter.

"You know I tried and tried to call you after nine o'clock last night but your phone was busy."

"Kyle was on the phone with Betsy."

"It still blows my mind that she asked him out. He came over yesterday after work and went on and on about their date Monday night. So are they going out this weekend?"

Liz leaned closer towards Maria not wanting the customers to hear her. "Kyle and Gracie are going to Albuquerque. His mom called last night, saying that she was flying into Albuquerque this Friday and wanted to know if they would join her at her hotel. They're leaving Friday afternoon after Kyle gets off work."

"I can't believe after all this time she still doesn't want to come back to Roswell." Maria leaned in as well, whispering as she spoke. The whole town knew about Kyle's mother. The rumors went around for years about how she went crazy in the Piggly Wiggly, throwing produce around the store like a mad woman. How two days later she left Roswell leaving Sheriff Valenti alone to raise a seven year old Kyle all by himself. The truth was she had only thrown one banana and after a long talk with the Jim she decided she needed to leave Roswell. She had explained that being a wife and a mother wasn't what she wanted and she wanted to find out where she belonged. For years, the only way Kyle communicated with his mother was through letters. She refused to return, stating Roswell held too many bad memories. Two years ago she had asked Kyle to meet her in Albuquerque, which he did. After an emotional reunion, mother and son began repairing their relationship and now, every couple of months they would meet in Albuquerque and spend a couple of days together. For the past year Gracie joined in on the family gathering.

"I guess it is still to hard for her. Least she is having a relationship with Kyle again and I'm glad Gracie is going to spend time with her grandmother."

"So that means you'll have the house to yourself this weekend. Any plans?" Maria asked, a thought forming in her mind.

"Well I was thinking about going through Gracie's things, you know box up all the stuff she doesn't wear or play with anymore." Liz said casually before looking at Maria who in turn was looking at her, rolling her eyes. "What? I know I'm boring."

Maria placed her arm around her friends' shoulder. "It's not that your boring Liz, you're responsible, and that's a good thing but here's your chance to cut loose a little."

"We could rent some movies Friday night."

"Okay, we could, but you're missing the point here. Do you really want to spend your Friday night with me and Alex when you have a whole night without Gracie and Kyle, with that whole house to yourself?"

"What do you suggest I do?" Liz asked skeptically removing herself from Maria's embrace.

"You could invite Max over."

"No." Liz quickly shook her head.

"Why not?"

"Because I would be pushy."

"No you wouldn't." Maria shook her head, dismissing any such notion that Liz could be that way.

"Yes I would, Maria I already asked him out once and he brought his cousin with him, clearly signaling to me that he doesn't want to be alone with me."

"No, that is not true. You said that Tess invited herself."

"And if he liked me he could have asked her not to come."

"Maybe he was just being polite which just means he's a nice guy."

"Max is a nice guy and I like him, I do but I'm not going to make any more first moves. I'm just gonna wait and see what happens and in the meantime I want to spend my free Friday night with my two best friends. I'm going to call Alex and tell him about it."

Maria watched her friend pick up the phone and dial Alex's number at work. She smiled to herself thinking over the plan that was now floating around in her head. If her plan worked, Friday night would be a great night for Liz Parker.

PART EIGHTEEN:

"Isabel, how's it going?"

Isabel looked up from her computer screen to see Diane Evans smiling at her, Diane's arm resting on the top of Isabel's cubicle wall. "Good Mrs. Evans, I'm almost finished typing up Mrs. Donner's deposition."

Diane's mouth opened in astonishment. "That was fast and I thought I told you to call me Diane." Diane scolded while giving Isabel a playful wink.

"Uh, sorry." Isabel said, blushing slightly as she apologized.

"It's okay dear. So is everything else going all right? Are you adjusting to life in Roswell?"

"I've been enjoying myself so far, thank you."

"And your family?"

"Uh they seem to be liking it. Liz took Max and Tess on a tour of Roswell yesterday."

"Oh did they have a good time?"

Isabel bit her lip in an effort to hold back the laughter. She still found it amusing when she thought back to what had happened on their day out. The look on Tess' face, not to mention her matted hair and the blue stains on her clothes when she came storming through the apartment yesterday was priceless. Isabel had asked her what happened only to have Tess respond in a high pitched shriek, her arms flailing in the air. After Tess had left the room Isabel turned to Max for answers. When Max had told her about Gracie throwing up all over Tess Isabel busted out in a fit of laughter. "Serves her right for intruding on your day with Liz." Isabel told Max before returning to another round of giggles.

Isabel blinked away her thoughts. "Max did, but I'm not too sure about Tess. I think she misses Phoenix." Though Tess had never stated that she missed Phoenix, Isabel assumed by Tess statement's last night that she just might. "I don't why in the hell we had to come to this stupid little town." Tess said fuming every time she had taken another shower.

Diane gave Isabel a sympathetic look. "Well that's understandable, leaving your home is never easy. I hope that soon Roswell will feel like home for all of you."

"Thank you, I hope so too." The two women smiled at one another, both woman grateful to have met each other.

"Diane, here's the files you wanted." Alex said as he stepped up behind Diane. As he handed the files to her his eyes wavered towards Isabel who was sitting at her desk chair. Though their desks were only fifteen feet away from each other the cubicle walls that surrounded each of their desks kept them out of view from each other most of the day. Whenever he got the chance to see her he couldn't stop himself from staring or push down the butterflies that swarmed in his stomach from the sight of her. Being with her at work at been pleasure and torture all at the same time. He was able to spend all day with her in the same space, to her voice and every now and then her laughter. To be able to breathe in her scent as she walked past his desk sent Alex Charles Whitman's head spinning. And to feel her hair brush lightly over his shoulder as she leaned over him whenever he needed to show her something on the computer was enough to render him a big pile of goo. Alex silently began to wonder if he was going to make it through the summer alive because he had the feeling Isabel Harding would be the death of him.

"Thank you Alex. I'll look over these tonight. Why I have both of you here I wanted to ask you something." Diane took a few steps inside of Isabel's work area allowing Alex to step inside as well.

"Sure." Alex said.

"Well Phillip and I were talking last night and we decided to have a pool party for the Fourth of July. We were wondering if the two of you would like to come. Alex I'm planning on inviting Liz, Kyle and Maria and Isabel your family is more than welcome to come as well."

"That's sounds great!" Alex said enthusiastically.

"Um yeah, it does. I don't know about my cousins but I'm sure Max would like to come." Isabel offered. She knew for sure that Max would want to be there as long as Liz was. Isabel also knew that she didn't want to invite Michael or Tess. First off, Michael would hate the idea and complain about it before, during and after the whole event. It seemed that Michael was incapable of doing anything else these days. Secondly, Isabel didn't want them to come because for the first time she felt she had something of her own. Michael and Tess knew nothing about Phillip and Diane Evans and vice versa. She was able to have a relationship with them without Michael and Tess' prying eyes or Michael's scolding words. Even though Isabel's relationship with the Evan's was in the beginning stages, it still was something that Isabel held dear and she didn't want anything to ruin it. She would do what she could to make sure that Michael and Tess didn't come to the pool party.

"Well great then. Just let me know by Monday. I figured we start things next Thursday around noon. Well I have a conference call in five minutes, I'll let you two get back to work." Diane gave Isabel and Alex each a gentle pat on the back before leaving Isabel's cubicle. After she was out of sight Isabel and Alex nervously looked at each other, both searching for something to say. After a few moments Alex broke the silence.

"The 4th should be fun. The Evan's have a great place. Their pools underground plus they have this huge backyard. Do you like to swim?" Alex asked, his words tumbling rapidly out of his mouth.

Isabel smiled slightly as she spoke, as she tended to every time he spoke. His question however sent a shiver of panic through her. "Uh, I've never been swimming." Isabel said hesitantly.

"Never?" Alex asked with raised eyebrows.

"No." Isabel shook her head, feeling embarrassed and also frustrated. Swimming was one of the many things that Isabel had never experienced in her life.

Her admission sparked excitement inside Alex. "Well your in luck little lady, I was on the Roswell swim team all four years of high school and I guarantee I will have you swimming like a fish by the end of the day." Alex crossed his arms in resolution.

"You sound pretty sure of yourself." Isabel said, smiling even brighter over the sight of him.

Her smile caused Alex to blush and his confidence began to crumble. "Uh, yeah well, I just have a feeling you're a fast learner."

Suddenly an image of Isabel in her swimsuit, ample of amounts of exposed flesh that was glistening with drops of water flashed before his eyes. Alex could feel himself began to stir and he knew he needed to retreat to the safety of his cubicle immediately. Alex clumsily sidestepped his way out of her office space, constantly stumbling with his words. "I, uh should get back to um, um you know work, research. Lots of research. Um bye." Alex hurriedly made his way back to his desk not stopping to acknowledge Isabel's last words to him.

"Bye Alex." Isabel said, utterly confused over what had just happened.

~*~*~
Max absentmindedly turned the page of his book, unsure of what he had just read. All day long his thoughts had been drifting to yesterday with Liz. All though their time together was only a few hours Max was just happy to be in her presence. He clung on to every word she spoke, found himself smiling when she smiled, and felt his feelings for her grow even more. She was unlike any other person he had ever been around and Max had began to forget about his life when there wasn't a Liz Parker to occupy his thoughts. Being around her seemed to make all his realities disappear. He forgot that he was alien or a King. He forgot about Michael or Nasedo and sometimes even forgot that Tess had joined them. When he was around Liz he felt like a lovesick eighteen-year-old boy.

As she showed them around Roswell Max listened intently as she pointed out various spots of interest. Max was amazed about how much factual information she knew about the town and it's history. She spoke with a humbled eloquence only adding to the list of her endearing traits that Max had made.

Max also couldn't help but stare at her hair. He had sat behind her in the car ride around town, studying the details of it. It's dark brown color, how each straight strand seemed to glisten in the morning sun; the soft rustling sound it made as her head moved from side to side. A few times Max had purposely leaned forward in the car, his hands resting on the front seat just so he could feel her hair brush over his hands. It took every ounce of his strength not to curl his fingers in her hair or lift some strands up to his nose so he could inhale her sweet scent. Though no matter if he was a few inches away from her or resting against the back seat, all morning long the close proximity to Liz had left him with the constant fight of keeping his manhood under control. No other woman had stirred the sexual feelings inside of Max like Liz was unknowingly doing. He knew that if constant stares towards Liz Parker didn't give away his feelings about her, his throbbing erection definitely would.

Throughout the morning Max watched Liz as she interacted with Gracie. Her actions were gentle, her words playful and tender. Liz seemed to embody everything Max had envisioned that a mother would. Max was also amazed by the concern she continued to show towards him and Tess. Frequently she would ask if they were okay, if they were thirsty or hungry, if there was something they wanted to see. She was kind to them even during the times when Tess interrupted her or ignored what she was saying. Liz would smile and act like Tess' actions didn't bother her, though Max could see in Liz's eyes that Tess' behavior was starting to bother her as the morning progressed.

Max felt anger towards Tess over the way she was treating her, however subtle her actions were. Tess was treating Liz like she treated every human, like they were less than she was. That no matter who they were or what they said it would always fail to impress her. Humans were Tess' playthings - a fact Max doubted would ever change. She treated every one that way and at lunch she had tried it with Gracie as well. The one thing Max learned from Gracie about children Sunday night was their innate sense of people and whom they could trust. Max knew Tess wasn't a bad person and he did trust her to some degree but only because he knew her. Gracie didn't and she let Tess know that she didn't loud and clear and when her wails didn't work she converted to a surefire tactic.

The vomit was everywhere. Max thought he saw some of it even go into Tess' mouth. If it wasn't for his quick reflexes Gracie would have fallen onto the ground after Tess had let go of her. Max was torn between concern for Gracie and Tess and wanting to laugh over what had happened. Liz had insisted with Tess to hand Gracie back to her but Tess refused. She thought she could get the child to calm down but she couldn't. Gracie couldn't help herself and everything that Gracie had just ingested, along with what she had for breakfast went all over Tess. Tess looked horrified and disgusted but it was Liz's expressions that Max felt more concern for. He could see the worry she felt for Gracie, wondering if she was okay. He saw Liz's sympathy for Tess and listened to her profusely apologize over what had just happened. Max didn't want Liz to feel bad about this. He wanted her to know that Tess had brought this upon herself. When Tess had left for the bathroom he shared a look with Liz, trying to convey all of this to her. They shared a long, warm smile with each other before returning their attention to Gracie who was now smiling and content, sitting in her mother's lap.

Max hated to have to end their day after lunch but Tess wanted to go and she insisted that Liz took the both of them home. Max wished at that moment for some backbone. He wondered why it was so hard for him to stand up for what he wanted. And he wanted Liz. Wanted to spend the rest of the day with her. Max had made the pact with Isabel to start living his life but he was finding it hard to take that first step. Would he ever get the courage?

Liz dropped them off at the back of the restaurant. He was grateful that Tess had gotten so quickly out of the car giving him a few moments alone with Liz. He apologized for Tess only to have Liz apologize again for what had happened. It was then when Max took a small step forward and said something he wanted to say. He told her it was one of the best times he had ever had. Truth resonating loudly in his statement. The smile she gave after he said that made is chest swell with joy and he gave her one of his rare wide smiles, his teeth and his dimples showing.

Reluctantly Max climbed out of the car and soon all he was left with was the impression of her face in his mind. Something he couldn't let go of even after reality set in when he saw Michael upstairs and talked to Nasedo later that night. Max couldn’t let go of his thoughts about Liz and he didn't want to.

"How was work today?" Max asked, looking up from his book. Isabel had made another beeline for his room when she had returned home late this afternoon.

"It's really great. I got to sit in on two depositions today. I'm finding the whole legal process really fascinating." Isabel paced around the room as she filled Max in on all the details of her day, telling him everything except Diane's invitation. She wanted to wait until they were someplace else where Michael and Tess weren't. She felt guilty for feeling this way but the mental image of Michael going off when he heard about it quickly dismissed that guilt.

"I'm happy for you Is." Max said after Isabel had finished with her exuberantly told account of her day.

"So what did you do today brother. Another book?" Isabel questioned, eyeing the novel lying on the bed next to his leg.

"Force of habit."

Isabel took a seat at the edge of Max's bed. "Well least you got out a little bit yesterday. By the way is Tess still complaining about the whole thing?"

"Yeah." Max said, shaking his head. Max rose off of his bed and walked over to the window, looking downward towards the street below, however his was only thinking about one thing. The same one thing that had been occupying his thoughts all day - Liz.

It didn’t take Isabel long to figure out where her brother's mind was at this moment.

"You know Liz is still working, why don't we grab supper down in the restaurant tonight."

"I don't know." Max glanced over at his bedroom door, Isabel turning her head to see what he was looking at.

"C'mon, we'll sneak out before Michael and Tess can catch us." Isabel offered.

"You sound like we're their prisoners." Max said, sounding a bit surprised by his sister's remark.

"Well sometimes I feel like I am. Especially now with Nasedo being gone. Like this whole time they're documenting are every single move so as soon as Nasedo returns they can fill him in on how we've spent our time since he has been away." Isabel began to smooth out the bedspread in front of her as she awaited her brother's response to what she had just said.

Max watched his sister's hands rub over the fabric as he thought about what she had said. There was truth to everything she was saying. Michael and Tess had been watching them and Tess had been everywhere Max was these past few days. Every time he stepped out of his bedroom Tess seemed to be right on his heels, following him wherever he went. It hadn't taken him long to figure out why, in fact the way she kept between him and Liz yesterday was a clear sign that she knew that Max had feelings for Liz. The question now that plagued Max was how to handle things with Tess while still trying to comprehend his growing feelings for Liz. Somehow, in a matter of days Max's complicated life had become even more complicated.

"Max it's going to be okay. This is all going to work out, I know it will." Isabel said after she noticed how the worried look that had come over her brother's face. Max only nodded in response to her words silently hoping that what she was saying was true.

"You know Alex tells me they have something downstairs called a 'rocket chili dog', you in?" Isabel slapped the top of her thighs before rising from the bed.

"Let's go." Max gave his sister a smile.

"Great, let me just see if the cost is clear." Isabel walked over to Max's bedroom door, her head peering out first before her body followed. She quietly stepped over to Michael's door listening for sounds of life inside his room. Isabel could hear the sounds of Metallica playing in his room signifying that Michael was inside. Next Isabel walked into her bedroom she shared with Tess. Once inside Isabel saw the light filtering out underneath the bathroom door and she heard the sound of water running. Isabel let out a soft giggle over the realization of why Tess was taking another shower.

"Psst, they're in their rooms." Isabel whispered to her brother as she stood just outside his door. As quietly as possible the twins make their way out of the apartment, the only sound they made was the sounds of their laughter after they closed the door to their apartment.

They hurriedly bound down the stairs, feeling a sense of freedom to be away from Michael and Tess. Max knew it was strange and childish to feel this way but for a brief moment he didn't care. The only thing he wanted to think of was the fact that as soon as he walked through those double doors he would be seeing Liz.

TBC...
posted on 5-Dec-2001 11:47:12 AM
PART NINETEEN:

The anticipation to see Liz grew with each step Max took. All day the thought of her being downstairs had made it hard for him to concentrate and now that he was just one door away from seeing her face he forgot about everything else, including how to walk.

"Oomph!" Was the only word out of Max's mouth as he tripped over his feet, falling forward through the double doors, his body producing a slapping sound as he landed on the floor inside the restaurant. All of a sudden Max became aware of everything around him; the cool tile floors of the restaurant against his left cheek, the palm of his right hand resting in a puddle of spilt chili, and the sound of forks clinking on plates followed by complete silence. Max didn't have to look up to know that the entire restaurant had stopped their conversations and their eating in order to see him lying like a fool on the restaurant floor.

"Oh my gosh Max! Are you okay?" Max closed his eyes and groaned when he heard his favorite voice calling out for him.

"Of course," Max grumbled before lifting himself onto to all fours, his eyes still focused on the floor. 'Why, oh why did Liz have to see him make a complete fool of himself?' Max was rustled out of his thoughts of wishing he could just disappear by the feel of a hand on his right bicep. With wide eyes Max looked over to see Liz kneeling beside him, her face full of worry and Max wondered if it would be okay if right now he could just curl up in her arms.

"I'm okay, just embarrassed." Max said softly as he stood up, completely aware of Liz's hand still on his arm. Through his longs lashes his eyes met hers again and he offered Liz a shy smile, grateful when she smiled back at him.

"What a way to make an entrance Max, you've been working on that one long?" Isabel quipped and Max was perfectly aware of his sister's lack of sympathy for him at this particular moment. Max threw her an annoyed look and then winced when he met about twenty-five pairs of eyes staring at him. Max looked around the room, faces just thirty seconds ago he didn't know and they didn't know him. 'How quickly life changes', Max thought to himself, knowing that by their peering eyes, pointed fingers and whispering words they were likely not to forget Max anytime soon.

"Are you sure you're okay Max, you fell kind of hard?" Liz asked, lightly brushing away a few crumbs off his chest. Her concern for him had motivated her actions but after a couple of swipes across his shirt Liz suddenly became aware of the hard muscles that the lie beneath the fabric. Liz's fingers lingered for a bit before she quickly took her hand away and held it to the base of her neck, her sudden feelings of embarrassment were beginning to rival Max's. Nervously she tucked a stray strand of hair behind her ear not knowing what to do or say next.

"Max if you wanted the special I could have brought it to you." Maria called out from behind the counter, motioning to chili on his hand. Max held up his hand and observed the bits of beans, meat and sauce that covered it. The color of the sauce almost matched the redness of his face.

"Oh, can I have…"

"Here." Liz handed Max the dishtowel that she had had tucked in her pocket. Max wiped off some of the remains and then excused himself into the bathroom, thankful for a place to retreat to. Once he shut the bathroom door Max leaned against it, closed his eyes and shook his head.

~*~*~

"Don't worry Liz, he's fine, just his pride is a little wounded that's all." Isabel placed a gentle hand over Liz's trying to take away the worried look that she still wore on her face. Liz nodded in agreement continuing to look at the closed bathroom door.

"Do you mind if we sit at that booth?" Isabel asked Liz while pointing at the booth that was closest to the back room.

Liz looked at Isabel and smiled. "Sure, do you want something to drink?"

"Yes please, two cherry cokes."

~*~*~

After several head bangs against the wall and a few curses over his own clumsiness Max stood in the bathroom attempting to clean himself up. He had cleaned all the chili off of his hand but a few stains still remained on his gray T-shirt. Instead of rinsing them off Max swiped his hand over his shirt, his mind changing the molecules on the fabric causing the stains to disappear. He looked down over his clean shirt and then braced the sides of the bathroom sink, leaning forward to stare at his reflection in the mirror. "Way to go Max. Way to impress the only girl you have ever liked."

Max looked over himself one more time before opening up the bathroom door and stepping out into the restaurant. He noticed a few people staring at him though most had returned their attention back to dinners.

"Isabel's over there." Maria nodded her head towards the booth where Isabel was sitting. She held a large glass of cherry coke in each hand, her sparkly alien antennas swaying back and forth as she walked passed Max and towards Isabel. Max gulped when he saw Liz sitting at booth with Isabel, the two girls engaged in a conversation and Max observed that they appeared to be laughing. 'Wait, are they laughing about me?' Max questioned. First the scene with the Tabasco sauce and now with falling on his face, Max wondered if Liz didn't think he was a complete moron by now.

Max closed his eyes for a moment to regain his full attention to the task at hand; walking over to the booth. Max concentrated on each step he took making sure his feet fell firmly on the ground. He breathed a sigh of relief when he slipped into the booth next to Isabel.

Maria had already sat the two glasses on the table and was sitting across from him next to Liz.

"You look better." Isabel observed.

"You sure you're okay?" Liz asked.

Max glanced briefly at his sister and then at Liz, giving them each a weak smile before letting his gaze fall downward towards his glass of soda.

"Don't sweat it Max. You're looking at the clumsiest person in Roswell. My butt has been on this floor so many times you'd think I was a mop." Maria said, her index finger moving back and forth as she spoke. Her words brought forth a smile in Max, easing the tension he still felt about what had happened. Max knew he had to focus on the here and now. He was sitting with Liz and Max would fall flat on his face a thousand times just to get the chance to do that.

"So are you guys going to go to the Evans 4th of July party?" Maria asked, taking off her antennas.

"What party?" Max wondered.

"I was going to tell you about tonight. Diane and Phillip are having a pool party at their house next Thursday. She invited us to come." Isabel looked at Max expectantly, hoping he would want to go just as badly as she did.

"It should be a lot of fun though Max with your little dance number back there I would take caution about running on the pool deck - you just might break something." Maria winked at Max.

Liz shook her head over Maria giving Max a good ribbing and decided she should change the subject in order to give Max a break. "Diane says you are doing a great job Isabel."

"Thanks for helping me get the job Liz, if there is anything I could ever do to repay you…"

"Don't worry about, I'm just glad that it's working out. Diane really likes having you around."

"She's been great. So they don't have any kids?" Isabel questioned feeling slightly uncomfortable for asking a personal question, something she rarely did in the past. She had never gotten the chance to really know anyone or had the chance to care for anyone except her family. Isabel found herself growing fond of Diane and Phillip as well as Liz and the others. She wanted to know more about their lives not because she was being nosey but because she cared.

Liz shook her head. "No, there's something wrong medically, I'm not quite sure what."

"They did try to adopt once didn't they Liz?" Maria asked.

"Yeah but it didn't work out. The birth mom wanted the baby back after about six months. I was only seven but I remember Diane took it really hard and I think that's why they never tried to adopt again."

"That's too bad." Isabel offered, saddened my Diane's past loss. Isabel could only imagine how hard it must have been for her to be given a child and then to have had it taken back. Isabel knew she wouldn't be able to stand it if she was given a mother, only to have her out of her life shortly after. At that moment Isabel felt even more of a connection to Diane after hearing what Liz had just said. They were both two women who had missed out on the opportunity to have a real family.

"Diane would be such a great mom. She makes the most amazing cookies and she always has the best candy at Halloween." Maria informed them.

"Diane and Phillip like having parties just to have the kids around, they're really great people." Liz said.

"All right, it's getting to be that time. You guys know what you want cause you two are my last table and then I'm out of here." Maria stood up, pulling out her order pad from the alien eye pocket of her apron.

"Alex recommend the rocket chili dog so I'll have that with some fries." Isabel ordered and then looked over at Max.

"I'll have the same."

Maria jotted down both orders on the order slip. "Got it. Now Max do you want your chili on your hot dog or would you rather I throw it on the floor and let you dive for it?" Maria asked, her lips pursed, a smile waiting to bust forth. Isabel and Liz started laughing, while Max shook his head and smiled in defeat.

"On the hot dog please, thank you." Max rolled his eyes.

"I'll be right back."

Max watched Maria walk away and then returned his attention back to Liz and Isabel. Max smiled again over what was happening. He was sitting at a booth, talking and joking; something Max had never really had the chance to do before. Everything had always been so serious with Nasedo, Michael and Tess and he never hung out with the kids from his high school. This was a brand new experience for Max and he wanted to enjoy every moment of it.

"So what time is this pool party?" Max asked, his eyes focused on Liz.

~*~*~

Maria placed the slip of paper on the order wheel and spun it around.

"Order up!" She called out. Maria walked over to the coffee maker, lifting up the pot from the warmer. She walked down the counter and around the restaurant, pouring coffee into the cups of the patrons that had requested it. As she worked, Maria kept a watchful eye on Liz, Max and Isabel. They were laughing and talking, obviously enjoying themselves. Maria smiled as she watched Max and Liz steal longing glances at one another when they knew they other one wasn't looking. Maria would bet money that Max had just a big of crush on Liz and she did on him, they just needed some time alone and Friday night was going to bring the opportunity for that to happen. All day long she had been working out the details on just how she was going to get the two of them alone. She had thought about letting Alex in on her little plan but decided against for fear that he would somehow botch it up. No, if this were going to happen it would take the work of one crafty woman working solo.

"Hey Maria, were out of the green alien head straws, do you know where I can find them?" Maria's coworker Lisa asked when Maria had returned to the counter.

"Yeah, there's some more in the back room. I'll go get them for you."

"Thanks Maria."

Maria sat the pot of coffee back on the warmer and walked back in the backroom. As she walked she softly sang one of many tunes that played in her brain each and every day.

You spend all your time waiting
For that second chance
For a break that will make it okay.

Her voice grew louder when she entered the solace of the backroom, no one to hear her but the couch and bottles of ketchup.

~*~*~

Michael stepped out of his apartment; a man on a mission. He had come out of his room five minutes earlier in search of Max only to come up empty handed. The only one in the apartment was Tess and she was in the shower. 'How many was that today?' Michael wondered. He had to admit that later in his room he had a pretty good laugh over the story of Gracie's throwing up on Tess, but he would never let them know it. Stoicism had been his mask these past years and he was not about to take it off now, for anything or anyone.

After searching Max's room and the rest of the apartment, he discovered that the Durango keys were still in the apartment meaning that Max was somewhere within walking distance. Michael had a pretty good idea of where he was and whom he was with. It didn't take a fool to figure out that Max had a crush on that Liz Parker. Admittedly, she was beautiful and nice, but she was still a human, which meant she would always be a danger to them. Michael knew it could never work out for Max and Liz even if they weren't leaving back for their home planet in a few months. Being an alien was something that Max could never change and Max was stupid to think that Liz could accept that about him, that any human could accept that.

Michael closed the apartment door and began walking down the stairs when he heard someone singing. He stopped his descent and listened to the voice. Whoever was singing sounded beautiful, better than most of the voices he had heard on the radio. The voice was deep and smooth, easily changing from note to note as she sang. As the voice continued to make its way to Michael he could feel his body start to tingle, and he felt the longing to know who the voice belonged to.

He timidly took a few more steps down the stairs, seeing first a pair of tan legs, then a turquoise skirt that covered a well-shaped behind. Another step and he saw her back and then with another step her blond hair that was swept up into a bun. A few tendrils fell along the back of her neck, causing Michael to shiver. The voice and now the body were calling to him in a way no woman ever had. Totally enraptured by her Michael absentmindedly lowered his foot again, this time missing the step, causing him to land on the next one, creating a loud thud as it landed.

The voice of his mystery girl stopped as she turned towards him in search of the source of the sound. His body stiffened as her face was revealed to him, and for a second he entertained the thought that her beautiful face matched the body and the voice perfectly.

"Hey Michael, how's it going?" Maria asked, her arms holding a small box.

He looked at her, confused over what was happening to him. He was losing control. He was letting himself feel. Michael jaw went rigid trying to stop this voyage into this new territory. "Fine." Michael said coolly, acting as if nothing was wrong.

"If you're looking for Max and Isabel there in the restaurant." Maria offered, her voice gentle, causing Michael to feel again.

Michael shot her an annoyed glance, angry with her for what she was doing to him. He walked over to the backdoor and opened it up slightly. Before he even saw Max and Isabel he heard them. They were laughing. Michael caught sight of them sitting with Liz. Max kept his gaze on Liz, a smile never leaving his face.

"Damn them," Michael cursed under his breath. Every impulse told him to storm out into the restaurant and stop them but he knew it would be the wrong thing to do. The only purpose it would serve would be to make him look like a complete ass and Michael was getting tired of filling that role. Instead Michael backed away from the door, still pissed over what he had seen.

"You're not going out there?"

"No." Michael said through gritted teeth before walking out the backdoor of the restaurant into the alleyway.

"Whatever dude." Maria said, rolling her eyes over what she had just witnessed.

Maria went back into the restaurant giving the straws to Lisa and delivered Max and Isabel's food order.

"Here ya go. Two Rocket Dogs, with chili on the dog just for you Max. So you guys need anything else?"

"Nope, we're good." Max offered.

"Well here's your slip, you can pay Lisa when you're ready." Maria laid the receipt on the table. "Liz babe, I hate to say it but it's almost six. You ready to go?"

Liz looked up at the neon clock on the wall, sighing. "Yeah." She wasn’t ready to leave Max and Isabel, enjoying the opportunity to talk to them, especially Max. However, there was a little girl who held Liz's heart waiting for her to come home. Liz rose from the booth. "I'll see you guys later." Liz looked at Isabel then at Max, their eyes holding onto the sight of each other. Liz knew she could get lost in those amber eyes.

"Bye Liz." Max breathed out, trying to take in every part of her face. He watched her leave the room, Maria gently tugging on her arm. He smiled when she turned to look at him one last time and then she was gone, his eyes still looking in the same direction where she was even though she was no more.

Isabel watched her brother smiling, as he looked at the back door, oblivious to everything around him. Isabel smiled affectionately at her brother deciding to let him have his moment. Isabel picked up a fry and began eating in silence, knowing that Max would join her when he was ready.

TBC...
posted on 5-Dec-2001 11:48:49 AM
PART TWENTY:

"What is all this?" Maria asked after Liz had set a large cardboard box on the table in front of her.

"A bunch of Gracie's old toys." Liz informed her as Maria began riffling through the contents. Most of the items were old baby toys that only had served the purpose of giving Gracie something to drool on when she was a baby. Near the top of box was a doll, dressed in a paisley print dress. Its hair was a platinum blonde color; most of it was matted at the base of the head. It's eyes were a clear blue, the only lovely thing about it. It's skin was powdery white with a red circle painted on each of it's cheeks. The doll's expression was a smile, but it was so large across it's face that it made the doll look anything but happy.

Maria shuddered at the sight of it. "Ugh this is one ugly doll! Is this the one that freaks her out?" Maria asked as she turned the doll's face towards Liz causing Liz to scrunch up her face in disgust.

"Yeah. I didn't want to throw the poor thing away so I've kept it hidden. A couple of days ago Gracie found it. It took Kyle and I a half-hour to calm her down. So I thought it was best to just get it out of the house."

Maria shook in her head in agreement. "Where did she get this thing?"

"Pam Troy." Liz said, her upper lip curled up, expressing her utter contempt for the girl.

"Figures." Maria rolled her eyes and then tossed the doll down on the table. "So now that I know what this stuff is why is it here?"

"Well I got a head start on my cleaning, these are all the ones I'm giving away." Liz pulled out the masking tap from her pocket and pulled a long strip away form the roll as she continued to talk. "Mrs. Johnson from hospital day care is going to drop by later and pick them up."

Maria watched her friend meticulously lay the strip over the top of the closed flaps. Liz smoothed down the tape over the box, making sure there wasn't any bubbles between the tape and the cardboard. "You need professional help, you know that right?" Maria gestured towards the box.

"Maria stop!" Liz exclaimed with a smile on her face, refusing to take Maria playful warning to heart.

"Liz I'm serious." Maria's eyes grew wide and her hands began to shuffle in the air. "Look at this, you are getting a weekend to yourself and you're doing spring-cleaning! What eighteen year old does spring cleaning, especially when it's the end of June?"

Liz pointed to herself. "This eighteen year old and I'm not a total dweeb, I mean you and Alex are coming over for movies tonight. A typical teenage behavior I might add." Liz said, nodding her head.

Maria leaned towards her friend, placing a hand on each one of Liz's shoulders. "I thought we talked about inviting Max over tonight. You know I don't think he has any plans."

"Maria you talked about it and I told you I didn't want to." Liz's tone changed from a light-hearted one to more serious.

"But that was before Wednesday." Maria noted, smiling.

"Nothing happened Wednesday. We talked. We as in you, Max Isabel and me. End of story." Liz stepped back forcing Maria to let go of her grasp on Liz. She picked up her clipboard off a nearby chair while Maria went on to argue with her.

"No, it was the beginning of the story. Liz I saw they way the two of you were looking at each other. If I weren't so happy for you I would have been grossed out by all the cuteness. You like him, he likes you so ask the boy over for dinner tonight." Maria said, her words insistent.

"No." Liz took another step back from Maria and then walked around her towards the cash register at the front of the store.

Liz resolution over this confused Maria, making her wonder why Liz was having a change of heart, though Maria had an idea of why. She followed her friend over to the register, refusing to let the conversation end. "Liz, why not? What are you afraid of?"

"Nothing." Liz shook her head in response, keeping her eyes off of her friend. Liz knew that Maria knew her too well. If Maria got one look at her face she was sure to figure her out.

Maria leaned against the counter, closing in the distance between her and Liz. Her voice was determined yet held the compassion that was defined by fifteen years of friendship. "C'mon Liz, gimme a little credit. I can tell something is bothering you. Please talk to me."

"I like Max." Liz breathed out. She lifted her head up, her eyes meeting Maria's.

"Tell me something I don't know."

Liz let her body fall into the chair behind her. "No Maria, I really, like, Max. I mean he is all I've thought about all week long. I dream about him, my stomach gets twisted in knots the mornings I have to work, wondering if I'm going to see him that day. The things I feel when I see him, they're powerful Maria."

"What's wrong with that?" Maria asked, still trying to understand why Liz was having a problem with her feelings for Max.

Liz's voice grew louder. "What's wrong is that I barely know the guy. I haven't even known him a week. We've never really even had a conversation together. I mean we talked when I called him Monday night but still it was only a few minutes and sure we talked Wednesday but it wasn't really personal and yes we talked in the kitchen Sunday but…"

"Liz, stop!" Maria exclaimed, interrupting her friend. "You're babbling and we agreed that I was the only one is this friendship that was allowed to do that." Once again Maria place a hand on Liz's shoulder, this time in attempt to calm her down and to focus on what she was about to say to her. "Liz, listen to me. Love isn't practical. It doesn’t have a reason or an agenda. It just is what it is. Beautiful, natural, spontaneous." Her last words spoken as if they were the three most incredible words ever spoken. She smiled at her friend hoping Liz would get swept away in the romanticism of it all of what was happening between her and Max.

But Liz refused to believe what she was saying, crossing her arms as a visible act of defiance. "But Maria it's only been a week, I can't be in love."

Maria threw her hands in the air. "Why not? Why does there have to be a time table? Where is it written that you have to know someone a certain amount of time before you can fall in love or even admit to yourself that you are in love? You knew Kyle for years before the two of you started dating and there wasn’t any head over heels love thing going on between the two of you. You never looked at Kyle the way I've seen you look at Max. You need to just let go Liz. I know that is hard for you to do that, but it will be okay if you do. Let this thing with Max happen and don't rationalize it. Just feel it."

Liz thought for a brief moment over what her friend was saying, wanting to do as she said. Immediately Liz thought of the consequences that might occur causing the sadness and doubt to overtake her, tears filling her large, dark brown eyes. Liz looked to her friend needing to know the answers to her questions. "What if it ends badly? What if I fall in love with Max only to have my heart broken?" Liz chewed on her lips and closed her eyes, trying to stop the tears from falling.

Maria dropped to the floor, kneeling in front of Liz. She took Liz's hands in her own, looking up at her sympathetically. Liz looked down at Maria, knowing that she could tell her anything. "I feel like my life is finally good, you know. Gracie is amazing. Kyle and I are really comfortable with each other. The restaurant is doing great. And I've just finally gotten to the point where I can get through a day without crying over my parents. I feel like this could be really something with Max but then sometimes I worry that's its not going to work out like in my dreams. I'm not ready to be hurt again Maria. At the same time I don't know how to stop what I'm feeling."

"Then don't."

"Easier said than done." Liz said, sniffling.

Maria rubbed her hands over Liz, trying to comfort her more. Tenderly she spoke to her friend. "You've already done the hard part Liz. You've let yourself feel, let yourself think about the what ifs and might be's and now you just have to go with the flow. You can't let yourself get caught up in thinking about all the bad things that could happen. Yes, this could end badly but it could also end up being one of the best things that has ever happened. You can't live you life in fear or it's not a life worth living. Life involves taking risks, big or little, no matter what kind of pain they may bring; it's part of it. You have had some bad things happen in your life but there have also been a lot of wonderful things too. A little redhead that we both know and love is at that the top of that list. You didn't plan her Liz. She came from one night where you didn't plan things, when you didn't think things through. It all worked out with Gracie and I have a feeling it is all going to work out with Max but you have to be willing to let it happen."

Liz gave Maria a half smile, her eyes squinting slightly as she looked at her. "So how did you get to be so wise?"

Maria stood up, pulling Liz up as well and into an embrace.

"From years of listening to my mom." Her voice muffled slightly from Liz hair. She pulled back, her arms still locked around Liz. "Besides if Max does break your heart you know I'll kick his ass for you."

Liz laughed softly. "Thanks Maria. I'll ask Max out again, just give me a couple of more days to build up some courage. Okay."

Maria nodded. She watched Liz pull away and then walk over to the box on the table. She picked it up and carried it into the back room. Maria walked over to the same table and picked up the doll

"I'm sorry babe but I just can't do that."
Maria picks up the doll, smiling over the idea that has just entered her mind. She places the doll under the counter and places a few towels over it.

PART TWENTY-ONE:

"Well I'm outta here." Liz said to Maria as she leaned against the open back door.

"Give the squirt a kiss goodbye for me."

Liz nodded. "Sure, see you around six?"

"Yeah, six." Maria smiled at her friend hoping to mask the lie she had just told. Liz smiled in return before turning to leave the restaurant. Once the door was closed Maria sighed in relief, knowing that she had managed to spend the whole day with Liz without giving away any clues that she was planning something. All day long Maria's mind swam, trying to figure out the logistics of her plan. This task had left her continually unaware of the world around her. Customers who needed their orders, dropping things here and there, she was even oblivious to college guy who was trying to flirt with her at lunch. Maria couldn't be bothered with anything else; she had more important matters to deal with. Getting Liz and Max together and all alone tonight.

Maria looked at the watch on her wrist. "Okay 3:35. That means I still have an hour and a half until Gracie and Kyle leaves so I can't make the phone call until five." Maria ran her fingers through her hair, her fingers interlocking and holding onto the base of her head. She closed her eyes and hoped that she was doing the right thing.

~*~*~

Max sat on the lawn chair on his balcony, enjoying the hot summer sun. The heat and the sweat it caused on his body made him feel alive. Something he had been feeling all week, each morning a little more so than the day before. There was a change occurring inside Max Harding. A change he couldn't quite define or explain but he knew it was happening and he knew who was at the root of the change. Liz.

She was all around him now, even though he wasn't in the same room with her most of the time. He could hear her laugh inside his head whenever he read or saw something amusing. When he ate Max imagined Liz sitting across from him, the two of them engaging in conversation. At night he lay in his bed, breathing in her scent that still lived in his bedroom even after all this time. In his mind he saw her walking around the dark moonlit room. Her chocolate tresses falling softly down her back, her creamy skin illuminated by the moon making her look like an angel. So often his vision of her seemed so real that Max found himself reaching out to touch her only to be met with the disappointing reality that it was only a dream.

Even though Isabel knew of his strong feelings for Liz, Max kept his thoughts and fantasies about Liz to himself. And of course Max still hadn't spoken a word to Michael or Tess. It was too soon, he didn't even know if Liz felt the same way about him. Was she spending her nights and days dreaming about him? It was a question Max had been asking himself frequently and he hoped the answer was yes.

Part of Max wanted to share what was going on inside him with Michael and Tess. In fact sometimes he felt like shouting to the whole world that he liked Liz Parker. Instead, Max kept his emotions and fantasies inside though every once and awhile a smile would spread across his face when there was no visible reason to do so, leaving Michael and Tess staring at him with questioning looks upon their faces. Their expressions left Max startled and confused, forgetting that they didn't see or hear Liz like he did. Wasn't she just sitting beside him, her fingers tracing the outline of his face, whispering words of love? Maybe someday soon.

Max stood up and started walking around the balcony. He had been outside for hours, not wanting to go back in. Max knew that as soon as he came back inside he would come across either Michael or Tess. Michael hadn't been so hard to avoid this past week but Tess at times had been almost impossible. She was knocking at his door several times throughout the day, asking to come in and hang out. At dinner and when they all sat in the living room watching television, she had sat next to him, sometimes too close, her leg against his, her hand on his arm.

The Hardings had never been a family that was overly affectionate or physical with each other. Max couldn't remember the last time he had even hugged Tess, well that was until last night. It felt like they had touched more these past few days than they had in years. Of course Max felt nothing when they did touch. Yes, Max cared for her, but in the same way he cared for Isabel and Michael. Her touch felt nothing like Liz's did. When Tess touched him, Max felt her skin. When Liz touched him Max felt a rumble in his stomach, his skin tingle, his heart swell, his body ache. When Liz touched him he saw the possibilities of what could be between them. When Tess touched him he saw her hand on his arm. When Tess hugged him he felt her arms around him and the invasion of his personal space. When Max saw Liz he yearned to be held in her arms.

The blatant differences in how Max felt over the two of them still confused him. Why did he feel nothing for someone whom had been married to in that other lifetime? Someone who knew all the secrets that he had spent his life trying to keep hidden. Someone who was right along side him, trying to hide hers as well. Someone he had seen every day for the past twelve and a half years.

So then why did a girl he had known for five days, nineteen hours and twenty-three minutes stir-up so many feelings? Why did knowing her make the food taste better, the sky look bluer, make him want to leave the confines of his protected life and want to turn his back on his destiny in order to be with her? Why did knowing Liz make Max want to tell her his secrets? The secrets that he had never told a single human soul and if he ever did, the consequences could be dire. But Liz was different. Seeing her for the first time Saturday night had made Max aware of that fact. The voice inside his head told him that Liz Parker could be trusted.

Max, felt a pang of hunger in his stomach. He remembered that he had spent most of the day outside, hence he didn't eat any lunch. He was going to have to go back inside and right now the physical hunger pains were strong enough to make him endure anything that awaited him in there.

Max climbed through the window, assaulted with the cold, air-conditioned air that filled his room. Max shivered slightly. His sweaty T-shirt now felt heavy and sticky against his skin. Max reached back, his hand lifting the material that was clinging to the base of his neck and pulled the shirt over his head. After he took his shirt off Max decided it would be best to take a shower before grabbing something to eat. And maybe after he was finished he would have that supper down in the restaurant. Max smiled to himself over the thought of seeing Liz. Hurriedly he took off the rest of his clothes and made his way into the shower, smiling all the way.

~*~*~

"Now be a good girl for daddy and gramma." Liz instructed, trying to fight back the tears. If Gracie saw her get upset then it would upset Gracie and Liz didn't want her to feel bad. She was going on a trip with her daddy and Liz wanted that to be special for Gracie.

"Okay mommy." Gracie replied dutifully, nodding her head.

"I'll miss you."

"Miss you." Liz swept Gracie up into a another hug. She had been doing that almost every minute for the past hour. The thought of going two whole days without being able to see her was heart breaking for Liz. This was only the third time in Gracie's life that they were going to spend a night away from each other. Liz didn't know what she would do without her.

Gracie wrapped her chubby arms around Liz, squeezing as tightly as her two-year-old little muscles would let her. After a few moments and a look from Kyle that said it was time to go, Liz lowered Gracie on the floor and knelt in front of her, smoothing out her auburn locks. Liz looked her over one last time, taking in the sight of her daughter. She was dressed in a pink floral tank top and jean shorts. White sandals adorned her feet, showing off her painted pink toenails. Liz smiled at the sight of them and of Kyle's handiwork. Every week Kyle would sit with Gracie and diligently paint the tiny nails. It warmed Liz's heart to see his hand delicately brush on the color and blow on each toenail when he was finished, Gracie giggling from the sensation.

Liz stood and looked at Kyle.

"I'll call you when we get there." Kyle brushed his hand along Liz's arm, trying to let her know it was going to be okay. That soon they would be back.

"Okay. You sure we got everything." Liz looked nervously around the room.

"You double checked the car three times Liz. We are good to go. Are you ready to go munchkin?" Kyle asked his daughter. Gracie answered by placing her hand into Kyle's and then reaching up and taking Liz's.

Liz and Kyle shared a smile, their heart melting over Gracie's actions. They walked in silence out to the car. Liz carefully placed Gracie in her car seat, showering her with kisses after she was all settled in.

Kyle placed a hand on Liz's back. "She's gonna be fine."

Liz straightened her back, turning her body to look at Kyle. "I know, but I'm just going to miss her and you." Liz sighed. She had forgotten how to live her life without the two of them. Now she would have to spend two whole days sadly remembering.

"We'll be back before you know it." Kyle placed a finger under her chin, lifting it up slightly. He lowered his gaze, his expression soft. "Promise me you will enjoy yourself this weekend. I don't want to come home and find the living room rearranged again. You deserve to have a little fun."

Liz smiled slightly over the memory. The last time they were gone Liz rearranged the furniture five different times before deciding on an arrangement that had worked best for her. She had even gone as far as moving pictures on the wall and cleaning the carpets. When Kyle had come home he stood in the living room for the longest time, noting everything that had been moved, wondering how in the world her tiny little body had moved the massive entertainment center.

"I'll try. Maria and Alex will be over in a little while. We'll have a good time."

"Good." Kyle brought Liz's into a bear hug, Liz holding on tightly in return.

"I better let you guys go, it looks like a storm is coming." Liz said, pulling away from Kyle.

Kyle looked up, observing the dark clouds that were rolling in from the west.

"Yeah." Kyle gave her one last smile before climbing into the driver's seat. He started up the car and slowly backed out of the driveway.

"Bye mommy!" Gracie called out, her tiny hand swaying up and down vigorously.

Liz eagerly waved back. "Bye baby! I love you."

"Love you!"

Kyle beeped the car horn and waved at Liz who stood alone in their driveway. She stayed in the driveway, watching Kyle's car pass down the street until she could see it no more. Liz wiped away the tears from her face and went inside the lonely and quiet house.

~*~*~

Maria strummed her fingers nervously against the counter watching the minutes of the clock pass. She knew that Kyle and Gracie would be off on their trip by now and it was almost time to for Maria to make her phone call.

Maria jumped when she heard the sound of the back door being pushed open. She looked up to see Michael coming through the doors and into the restaurant. Maria eyed him suspiciously as he walked through the café and out the front doors. 'Wasn't this the fourth time he came through the restaurant today', Maria wondered. Each time he had walked through, never stopping to eat or even to greet her or Liz. Maria shook her head over his strange behavior. She didn't have time to worry about Michael right now; she had more important things on her mind.

~*~*~

Max finished dressing, his body clothed in a blue v-neck shirt and khaki pants. He looked himself over in his mirror one more time before grabbing his wallet and his keys off of his dresser. As he walked out of the apartment he eyed Tess in the kitchen, peering inside an open refrigerator. Max had heard the front door close moments earlier, and now upon see Tess, he assumed that it was Michael who had left. Quietly Max opened the door and slipped through it, pulling it closed slowly until he heard a soft click and headed down the stairs. He looked up when he heard the phone ring, tempted to climb back up the stairs to answer it. Instead Max continued his descent down the stairs, anxious to see Liz.

~*~*~

Tess slammed the refrigerator door shut when she heard the front door close. She was angry that Max was sneaking out and even angrier over why he was sneaking out and whom he was going to go see. She had hoped his crush with Liz was ending. He hadn't seen her since Tuesday and had made no plans to see her again. That was until now. When she had passed by his room a few minutes earlier she had smelled the faint aroma of his cologne and she heard the radio playing and she could have sworn Max was singing along. Tess was tempted to go inside, ask him to go out with her tonight but she couldn't bring herself to do it. She had been forcing herself on him all week and they didn't seem to be getting closer. If anything, Max acted like he didn't want her around. Tess couldn’t understand why. Why he would want to go see Liz right now and not spend time with her?

Tess stood in the kitchen, huffing when the phone rang. She eyed it angrily, wishing for the first time that such a device never existed. Since they still hadn't made any other friends besides Liz and her friends, Tess suspected that it was Liz who was calling. She grunted loudly before storming out of the kitchen and into her room, slamming the door behind her.

~*~*~

{BRING!}

"pleaseanswerMaxpleaseanswerMaxpleasean…"

{BRING!}

"pleaseanswerMaxpleaseanswerMaxpleasean…"

{BRING!}

"C'mon, answer the phone, answer the phone…"

{BRING!}

"Somebody…"

{BRING!}

"Dammit!" Maria slammed the phone back on its base. "Where the hell are you Max?"

"I'm right here."

Maria abruptly looked up and saw Max staring at her.

"Max. Hey! I was trying to call you." Maria breathed out a sigh of relief.

"I heard. Is everything okay?" Max asked, unsure of why Maria wanted to get a hold of him. Out of the corner of his eye he looked for Liz.

"Yeah. I just needed a favor."

"Sure, what is it?"

"This."

Max's head jerked back slightly when Maria held up something in front of his face. After a moment it registered with him what he was looking at. It was a doll. A very ugly doll.

"This doll is Gracie's and she left here this afternoon and you see it's her favorite and you know how kids get when the loose their favorite toy. Hysterical. And that's probably what she is right now. You know crying and stuff."

Max mouthed an 'O' while Maria continued on.

"So she needs it, the doll and I'm swamped here, lots of, er, um, stuff to do. Waitressing stuff, very busy so the reason why I was calling was to ask you if you could bring the doll over to Liz's tonight. Right now."

Maria bolted around the corner of the counter to where Max was standing.

"Um, yeah sure." Max barely got the words out before Maria thrust the doll against his chest and into his arms.

"Thanks Max, you're a peach." Maria placed her arm around Max and started leading him out of the restaurant. She gave him a gentle nudge through the front door. "Oh and Max can you give Liz this note." Maria said as she took the letter out her silver alien head apron and handed it to Max.

Max took it, still bewildered over how he got to be standing outside, in front of the restaurant, an ugly doll in one hand, a note for Liz in the other.

Maria gave him a wave before the front door closed leaving Max to stand-alone. He shook his head and then smiled when he realized where he was about to go. Max hurriedly made his way to his Durango and sped off to Liz's house.



TBC...
posted on 5-Dec-2001 11:50:30 AM
PART TWENTY-TWO

Maria stood at the counter, watching out the window until she saw Max drive away. After he was out of sight she glanced back at the clock on the wall, noting the time.
It was 5:40. In five minutes he would be at Liz's house and hopefully Maria wouldn't see the two them for a long time. She knew they just needed a few hours alone together so that they would open up to each other and move forward into a relationship. Right?

Once again, Maria silently prayed, asking that she was doing the right thing. Liz had made her feelings clear this morning about needing some more time and Maria understood that but she just couldn't accept it. She hoped Liz wouldn't fight it when Max arrived. That Liz would invite him to stay, that they would talk and laugh and maybe kiss. Maria licked her lips over the last thought, wishing that she could be kissing someone too. Wishing that some man would come along into her life and put the look in her eyes like the one Liz got when she looked at Max.

It wasn't that Maria had a shortage of men in her life. For the past few years she had spent very few Saturday nights at home, watching Touched By An Angel and eating popcorn like half the other girls at West Roswell High. Maria was popular in high school, the girl who talked to everyone and knew everything that was going on. Boys flocked to her, finding her fascinating, wanting to date her. She often obliged and sometimes she found herself interested in one of her admirers however, most times they were no more than an opportunity to a free dinner and a movie. And usually she didn't even kiss them when the date was over. Maria DeLuca was not the kind of girl to swap spit with just anyone. There had to be something special about him. Something to make her want to see what he tasted like. So far there was only a few times that Maria had felt that way and none of those ever turned into anything special. Maybe Mr. Right wasn't even in Roswell, Maria often wondered. Maybe he was out there in another town or another state waiting for her to walk into his life. To embrace her, to kiss her, to love her the way her heart and mind imagined what true love would be like. Someday.

The bell over the door chimed, its sound bringing Maria out of her thoughts and back to the world around her. Maria looked over towards the door and saw Alex walking through the restaurant carrying a plastic bag.

He smiled as he approached her and lifted the plastic bag in the air. "I come bearing movies. Get ready for an all night vid fest. I thought we would start out with the two greatest movies ever made. Matrix One and The Matrix Two."

"Guy movies. You got guy movies." Maria said disgusted as she peered into the plastic bag that was now lying on the counter.

Alex sat down on his usual stool at the far end of the counter. 'Well Maria I am a guy though thanks to your cousin calling me Alice all those years in junior high my gender has been called in to question a few times." Alex rolled his eyes over the memories of the many times Maria's cousin, Sean DeLuca, had tormented him during his awkward middle school years. The day Sean was sent off to Juvenile Detention four years ago was one of the happiest days in Alex's life. And Alex was relieved that Sean had decided not to return to Roswell when he was released last spring. Since then Alex had made a habit of watching America's Most Wanted, just waiting to catch a glimpse of Sean's mug on the television screen. The boy was destined for a life of crime, Alex just knew it.

"There is also the fact that your two best friends are girls." Maria stated, bringing Alex out of his unpleasant trip down memory lane.

Alex smiled over the fact. Alex had been teased throughout school as well for having two close friends that were girls. People assumed that Alex must be gay to want to hang around Maria and Liz so much. But Alex Whitman wasn't gay. The dreams he had been having about Isabel all week disproved that. The truth was that Maria and Liz were the two best friends a guy could have. He wanted to be around them because he could laugh with them, tell them anything and vice versa. They stood up for each other, supported each other when needed. Liz and Maria were like sisters to Alex. Truth be told they felt more like family to him than his own parents or brothers did.

Alex couldn't imagine his life without them in it everyday so when he had the option to go to MIT he easily turned it down. Alex didn't want to go to a college that Liz and Maria didn't go to. His parents couldn't understand why he wanted to stay in Roswell and probably two years ago Alex would have left to go to college, but after Liz's parents died Alex's perspective changed. Their sudden and tragic death brought the reality to Alex that life was precious and that you never know how long you are going to have with the people you care about. Alex didn't want to go away and possibly never see Liz or Maria again. He didn't want them to be two people he knew in high school; people that you called on the phone once a year to catch up and remember old times. Alex didn't want their relationship to turn out like that and neither did they. So Alex was willing to give up MIT or any other more prestigious college than ENMU just to stay with Maria and Liz. And though some may argue that he was throwing away his future, Alex couldn't see a future worth enjoying that didn't have Maria or Liz in it.

"Don't worry I got a couple of sappy chick flicks. Liz said she wanted to see Sleepless in Seattle and I also got Pretty Woman cause I know it's your favorite. So are you ready to head over to Liz's cause it looks like it's going to storm soon."

Suddenly Maria remembered her plan. The one that involved Liz and Max and not another living soul. The plan that Alex knew nothing of and was going on ruin if the two of them went over to Liz's right now. "What?!" Maria shook her head. "No. We can't."

Alex eyed her carefully; wondering why Maria had all of sudden looked panic stricken. "No you're not ready to leave or no were not watching movies at Liz's?" Alex asked confused over what Maria was trying to say.

"Uh, the last one." Maria said, while her foot began tapping nervously on the floor. She knew Alex was almost impossible to get anything past.

"When did the plans change?"

"Earlier today. Liz is busy tonight." Maria tossed her answer out casually hoping Alex would buy it and move on.

Alex shook his head. "That's impossible. I just talked to her five minutes ago on the phone. She wants us to bring over some ice cream."

"Shit" Maria muttered under her breath.

Alex leaned over the counter towards Maria, looking at her with suspicion. "Maria what are you up to?"

"Nothing." Maria said shaking her head, her eyes never quite meeting Alex's.

"No, no you're up to something. I can tell."

"It's nothing…" Maria's eyes met Alex's skeptic stare and Maria knew instantly that Alex wasn't believing a word she was saying.

"It's harmless, really." Maria said nonchalantly, waving her hand in the air.

Alex's eyes kept tight on her, waiting for Maria to crack under the pressure. A few seconds later Maria threw her hands up in the air, a confession spilling out of her mouth.

"Okay, Okay. I sent Max over to Liz's house and she doesn’t know he's coming and I don’t know how she is going to react when he gets there. There, are you happy now?"

"So you're playing matchmaker again. Wasn’t the disaster the was Peter Gulia and Sharon Smith not enough to deter you from doing this ever again."

"Hey, she finally dropped the restraining order and besides I highly doubt that Max has any stalker tendencies or that he likes to wear woman's underwear."

"That's not the point." Alex said hoping for Maria to understand the error over what she had done.

"But…" Maria began to defend her actions only to have Alex cut her off.

"Nope."

"Li…"

Alex placed his hands over hers. "Maria, stop. Close your mouth and listen to what I'm about to say you to. You can't go around interfering in people love lives - you have to let whatever is going to happen naturally."

"Bu…."

"Stop!" Alex took a deep breath and gave Maria an affectionate smile before continuing. "I know you have the best intentions at heart and that you want to help out Liz but Liz is different. She' s not some girl who can't score a date a Friday night. With everything that has happened you have to let Liz be the one to make the moves. Let her be the one take control over the situation. She needs that now. So much of her life lately has been out her hands; she doesn't need us forcing things on her. I know she likes him and he probably likes her but it is up to them to become involved. You can't push Max and Liz together."

"I'm not pushing." Maria said.

"You pushed." Alex stated.

"I nudged." Maria said lightly, shrugging her shoulders.

"You interfered."

"I merely aided a friend."

"What if it backfires?" Alex questioned.

"It won't." Maria answered confidently. Alex sat across from her silent, his eyes never leaving hers. "It's not going to." Maria answered again, this time a twinge of doubt creeping through her words. "I think it'll work." Maria said with little confidence. "Won't it?"

Alex shrugged his shoulders.

"Oh man, Liz is going to kill me."

~*~*~

Liz was looping her hair into a loose bun when she heard the doorbell ring. She smiled over the sound, happy that her two best friends were here to spend the evening with her. If anyone could make Liz feel happy it was Maria and Alex.

Liz threw open the front door. "Hey guys, I hope you brought vanilla…Max! Hi. What are you doing here?" Liz was taken aback by the sight of Max standing on her front porch. Immediately Liz felt her body start to tremble the way it only seemed to do whenever she was near him. Subconsciously Liz lifted her hand over her hair, mentally observing what she looked like right now and she cringed.

The twenty different ways Max had practiced greeting Liz on the drive over here had now escaped him. The moment he saw her Max was rendered speechless. She was breathtaking in her cut-off jean shorts and red tank top. He followed a few tendrils of hair as they flowed down her neck to the top of her chest; one of the many places where he saw exposed flesh. His eyes darted all over her body, to her bare shoulders to her lean and toned thighs. There was even a slither of skin peeking out between the bottom of her tank top and the top of her shorts.

Max knew he should be saying something right now instead of staring but he couldn't. He didn't even remember the reason for why he was here, he was just thankful that he was.

"Max?" He heard Liz ask him. Max blinked, trying to regain focus.

"Maria. Doll."

"What?"

Max shook his head feeling embarrassed over his behavior, wishing just once he didn't sound or act like an idiot when he was with her. He swore he was always much cooler in his fantasies of when they were together. "Er, I mean Maria asked me to bring over Gracie's doll. Here." Max handed Liz the doll, realizing again the significance it held for Gracie. "She hasn't left yet has she?"

Liz took the doll from Max, confused over why Max was bringing it to her. "Um, yeah. They left about an hour ago."

"Oh, I'm sorry. I hope she wasn’t too upset about not having her favorite doll."

"Favorite? Oh it's …" Liz stopped, understanding staring to set in. Maria. Liz knew that she was behind Max standing at her door, utterly clueless of his part in all of this. Liz was left with no choice than to play along. "She was fine, she took her Jesse doll with her instead." Liz said nodding.

"Well that's good." Max sighed in relief and then remembered the letter for her in his back pocket. Max reached behind him and slipped the letter out, handing it to Liz. "Maria wanted me to give you this."

"Oh."

Max watched her tiny hand take the letter from his, noticing how close her fingers came to touching his skin.

Liz opened the letter immediately, curious to know what Maria wrote.

Dear Lizzie,

I took a chance in hopes that tonight will be wonderful for you. Please don't be afraid of what could be. Take a chance. We will do movie night another time. I love you.

'Ria

Liz folded the letter unsure of whether to be mad or happy over Maria's interference. Maria had deliberately gone against her wishes of wanting a few more days before approaching Max again. Maria had taken upon herself to put her and Max together.

Liz knew she should be angry but she couldn't feel that towards Maria. She knew that Maria only had her best interest at heart and Liz knew that it was now up to her to take the next step.

"Well, I don't want to bother you. Bye Liz."

Liz's head shot up when she heard Max utter a good-bye to her. "Max wait."

Max immediately stopped in his tracks and turned to face Liz, eagerly anticipating her next few words to him.

"Maria and Alex had to cancel on me tonight. Would you like to stay for supper?"

A smile played over Max's lips. "Yes Liz, I'd like that."

Liz shyly smiled back as Max made his way into her living room to spend a Friday night, just the two of them.

~*~*~

"What was I thinking?" Maria asked.

"Here." Alex handed Maria an ice pack. She nodded a note of thanks to him before placing the cold pouch on her red forehead. She winced slightly from the burning cold.

"You know I think you dented the counter with you forehead."

"That's the least of my worries. I mean how could I go behind Liz's back like this? How could I go against her wishes? Totally disregard what she was saying. I'm an awful, horrible friend." Maria closed her eyes.

"Hmm-Mmm."

"I should be shot."

"Hmm-Mmm."

"Alex, are you listening to me?"

"Hmm-Mmm."

Maria opened her eyes and lowered the icepack from her forehead. She instantly noticed that Alex's attention was no longer focused on her but on a beautiful blonde woman who was steadily making her way to them. Maria rolled her eyes over Alex instant ignorance of the world around him, except for Isabel. The boy was almost as far-gone as Liz and Max.

"Hi guys." Isabel greeted them cheerily.

"Hi Isabel." Maria returned the greeting and then look expectantly at Alex. After a few moments of Alex not saying anything Maria spoke again. "Alex, say hi to Isabel."

"Oh, hi." Alex breathed out, embarrassed by the fact that he had been staring.

"So what are the two of you doing tonight?"

"Well we were going to watch movies but something"; Alex glanced over at Maria, "came up at Liz's so now we don't have anywhere to go."

"Oh, Why don't we watch them upstairs. I'm sure Michael, Max and Tess won't mind." Isabel offered. Maria and Alex nodded in agreement. "What movies did you get?"

Alex eagerly took the four brown movie cases out of the bag, offering them to Isabel.

"Oh, Sleepless in Seattle, that's my favorite movie." Isabel beamed.

"Really, mine too." Alex said causing Maria to once again roll her eyes over his behavior. She grabbed her purse from under the counter, threw the ice pack on the counter and followed Alex and Isabel up the stairs to the apartment to spend and evening watching movies. She silently hoped that everything was working out with Max and Liz. She would surely know later on tonight.

TBC…


PART TWENTY-THREE -

"Max! Michael, Tess! We have company!" Isabel called out as soon as she entered the apartment. She threw her keys on top of the entertainment center and encouraged Alex and Maria to enter the apartment.

"Man this feels strange." Alex said while looking around the apartment observing the differences. The few knick-knacks that were displayed weren't the same ones Alex fidgeted with whenever he was visiting Liz when she lived here. The blanket that was draped over the couch wasn't the same one that he, Maria and Liz had used to make a tent in the living room when they were kids. There was Top 40 music playing on the radio instead of Nancy Parker's favorite, Elvis Costello. And Liz wasn't on her balcony writing in her journal or her parents laughing in the kitchen as they made the evening supper. It was a very different now.

Alex looked down at Maria when she grabbed hold of his arm. They both looked at each other with expression of sadness, understanding the feelings of nostalgia and loss that they both were feeling.

Isabel knelt down to turn off the stereo. "That's right. When's the last time you two were up here?" Isabel asked, instantly feeling bad for how casual her question sounded. When she stood up and saw the cloud of sadness that was over Alex and Maria and how Maria sought Alex out for comfort, she felt even worse. She could easily see that being here was painful for them as well and Isabel mentally kicked herself for not foreseeing it. These were the times when she wished she had more experience relating with humans on a personal level and she would know the right thing to say now. Instead she stood there waiting for someone to break the silence.

"Well we both we were up here a couple of weeks ago helping Liz get the apartment ready but coming up here, knowing that people other than the Parkers live here takes a bit of adjusting." Alex said, wrapping his arm around Maria. Alex understood that Maria's silence meant that she was having a hard time. She had cried the last time when they were up here. Liz had remained stoic throughout, maintaining the stronghold she always seemed to possess whenever someone she cared about was hurting. Instead she held Maria and let her cry. Soothed Maria's tears away with her words of promise that everything will be okay. She had made it through that day, determined to prepare the apartment for renters, refusing to get lost in the memories that were in every step she took while here. Alex knew that the tears would come for Liz later. When everyone and everything was taken care of.

"I'm sorry, I didn't even think. We can go and watch movies someplace else."

Maria held up her hand to stop Isabel from grabbing her purse. "No Isabel it's okay. Jeff, Nancy and Liz would want us to make some happy memories in this apartment again." Maria smiled at Isabel, easing her worries. "We'll have fun. You can help me make fun of Alex when he cries during Sleepless in Seattle." Maria winked at Isabel before Alex removed his arm from around Maria. Isabel couldn't help but laugh over the sight of horrified astonishment that Alex displayed on his face.

"I do not cry." Alex protested.

"Oh yes you do." Maria said laughing.

"When?" Alex demanded.

Maria pursed her lips before continuing. "Let's see, there's the beginning scene when the mom dies, and then when they move to Seattle, during the first phone call to the shrink, the first time the lay eyes on each other, then during…"

Alex threw his hands in the air, his eyes begging Maria to stop. "Okay you can stop now." He blushed from embarrassment upon seeing Maria and Isabel laughing at him. He made a mental note of talking to Maria later about not humiliating him again in front of the girl of his dreams.

Isabel brought her hand over her mouth, trying to hide her laughter. She could clearly see how embarrassed Alex was and she didn't want to make him feel that way. She liked him and she wanted him to like her, even if it was only as friends. Isabel felt comfortable around Alex, which had surprised her. The only other man that Isabel felt that way around was Max. Alex was clearly somebody special and Isabel was eager to find out more about him.

"It's okay Alex, I think it's good when a man cries, it show's he's not afraid to express his feelings. I wish more men were like you." Images of Michael and Nasedo filled her thoughts as she said her last words. Alex Whitman was definitely different than the two of them.

"Thank you Isabel." The two shared a smile before Isabel lowered her gaze, feeling suddenly bashful over the way his eyes seemed to look right into hers. She wondered if she let him look long enough, would he be able to know what she was feeling? That Alex was stirring up the same type of feelings that Max was experiencing with Liz. Isabel looked back up at Alex; his eyes still on her.

"Well I'm gonna sit down cause my feet are killing me from standing all day." Maria starting walking over towards the couch, looking between Alex and Isabel, waiting for them to acknowledge her. They were lost in their on little world, similar to how Liz and Max got.

"You know cause I had to work at six this morning." Again, neither Alex nor Isabel flinched. "And I'm also really hungry so ordering a pizza would be really good right now. So how 'bout it?" Again Maria got nothing.

Maria plopped down on the couch, letting out an exasperated breath as she fell. She closed her eyes, silently thanking the gods that she hadn't been reduced to the big pile of goo that her friends had been ever since the Hardings blew into town. Maria opened her eyes when she heard the sound of footfalls down the hall. She saw Tess enter the living room. "Oh hey Tess."

"Yeah hi." Tess replied flippantly. She looked briefly at Maria before turning her attention to Isabel. "Isabel where's Max?"

Isabel frowned when she heard Tess speak. She had just ruined a perfectly good moment, demanding to know where Max was. Isabel looked over her shoulder at Tess, annoyed with Tess' actions. "I don't know. I'm not my brother's keeper." Her tone level but firm. Isabel turned back round to Alex and Maria, a smile quickly replacing her frown. "So do you guys want to order pizza?"

Before Maria or Alex could respond Tess continued on, this time turning her attention towards Maria, though not before glaring at Isabel one last time. "Maria didn't Max go downstairs to the restaurant?" After her question Tess forced herself to smile though it was the last thing she wanted to do. Max had been gone for a half-hour, probably with Liz and now here was Isabel bringing people up to the apartment. Tess figured as long as they were here she would get some information out of them.

Maria hesitated, unsure of how to answer Tess. It was obvious to Maria that Tess had every intention of finding out where Max was and she couldn't let that happen. Maria had hoped that since he wasn't back by now maybe he was still with Liz. She knew she had to make sure that no one, including Tess interrupted them. "Oh well he was there but then he left."

"Did he leave with Liz?" Tess asked taking a few steps closer towards Maria.

"Uh no, he didn't leave with her." Maria responded truthfully.

"Did he say where he was going?"

"He said he had to run an errand, that's all I know." Maria explained, holding her gaze steady with Tess. There was something about Tess that Maria didn't quite trust. She didn't know why, it was just a feeling she had gotten since the first time she met her. And Maria was one to be known to be able to accurately read people, trusting her instincts. Tess Harding was someone worthy of Maria's watchful eye.

"Tess lay off the third degree." Isabel ordered. "Max probably went for a drive, he'll be back later."

Tess began to open her mouth in protest when Michael came through the front door.

"What's going on?" Michael asked, immediately looking over the inhabitants of the room. His paused briefly when he got sight of Maria lounging on the couch.

"Um, Alex and Maria came up to watch movies." Isabel explained, her tone a bit more soft towards Michael. She didn't want him to get into one of his moods right now and ruin everything.

"We don't have any movies." Michael replied a little more curtly than he intended. He felt guilty when he saw Maria frown over his behavior.

Without any words Alex lifted up the plastic bag, shaking it lightly.

"Why don't you guys make yourself comfortable I'm going to go change." Isabel glared at Michael and then at Tess, nodding her head in the direction of the hallway. Her steps were heavy as she made her way into her bedroom, not bothering to look back to see if Michael and Tess were following her. When she stepped inside her room she turned to face the doorway, her arms crossed, waiting for them. As soon as they entered the room Isabel raised her right hand; palm opened and flicked her wrist slightly. In her mind she had channeled her energy through her hand, causing an invisible force to leave her palm, pushing the bedroom door closed.

"Why do you have to do that?" Isabel demanded, her question directed at Michael.

"Do what?"

Isabel shook her head in disbelief. "Like you don't know. Rude Michael, you were being rude."

"How was I being rude?" Michael asked, though he knew she was right. His pride refused to let him admit it to her.

"Oh I don't know, maybe it was the fact that you didn't say hi to them or that you looked at them like they had no right being in this apartment or maybe it was the pissy tone that you only seem to speak in these days!"

Once again Michael knew everything she was saying was correct. He was being rude but the truth was he didn't know how to be any other way anymore. Michael closed his eyes and took a deep breath. He didn't want to fight. Not now. Not with all these new feelings making themselves known this past week. He didn't know what he was capable of saying or admitting if he went off right now. " Isabel I wasn't trying be pissy, I just…"

"What? You were just what? Look I know that you don't want them here but I don't care! I like them and I want to hang out with them and you can spend the rest of your night in your room for all I care!"

Michael looked down at the floor, unsure of what to do.

"Don't you think it's a little bit dangerous having them in our apartment?"

Isabel shook her head over Tess' question. "Tess what are you talking about? You had kids from school over at our house all the time. Why is suddenly dangerous for me to have people over now?"

Tess took a step towards Isabel, her voice low, her lips tight. "Because everything is different now. As soon as Nasedo returns we are going to start training and the last thing we need is 90210 rejects here hanging out all the time. What if they see us use our powers?"

"Then don't use your powers and there won't be any problems." Isabel said casually only making Tess more livid.

"The more they are around us the more likely they are to suspect something!"

"If they are going to suspect us for anything it'll be because the two of you are the ones freaking out here. I mean, what's with you pumping Maria for answers over Max's whereabouts? Why would she know or even care?"

"Because I saw Max head downstairs earlier." Tess stated.

"And?" Isabel stood firm awaiting Tess' explanation.

"Well what if he's with Liz?" Tess asked, seemingly worried over the fact that he may very well be.

"So what if he is? It's Max's life, he can make his own decisions on how he wants to spend his Friday night." Isabel said, defending her brother.

"He's not supposed to be with her, he supposed to me."

Isabel rolled her eyes and sighed before taking a few more steps towards Tess, closing in on the distance between them. She stood next to her, her frame a good six inches taller, her eyes peering down at Tess. "Before we came to Roswell you never cared about what Max was doing or thinking or even feeling and now that he's taken an interest in a girl you're getting all possessive."

"I have every right to be, I'm his wife." Tess clung to that fact, waving it like a banner but Isabel refused to let Tess use it to define her actions.

"No Tess, you were his wife. Not now and maybe not even someday. Leave. Max. Alone. Let him be happy, he deserves that much. I deserve that much and you know what, so do the two of you." Isabel backed away from Tess. "Now I'm going to change my clothes and watch movies with my new friends. Don't come out there if you the two of you can't be nice. I won't let you treat them the way you treat everyone else."

"Nasedo's not going to be happy." Tess warned.

"Yeah, well he's just going to have to deal with it." Isabel said and then grabbed a change of clothes out her dresser drawer and went into the bathroom. When the door was closed Tess turned to Michael.

"Can you believe her?" Tess asked incredulously, expecting Michael to back her up. Instead Michael stared at her for a moment and then left the room and into his own.

Tess stood alone in the room, trying to hold back the tears that were already starting to sting her eyes. She bit in her lip and ran out of the room and into Max's. Once inside she let her tears fall over the fact that she had somehow lost control over everything and because of it her whole life was changing before her eyes. Tess leaned her back against the door of Max's room and let her body fall to floor, silently sobbing, wishing for someone to hold her.

TBC…

posted on 5-Dec-2001 11:52:22 AM
PART TWENTY-FOUR

"Well I guess I won't be turning in my application at the Flying Pepperoni. I can't believe he has to wear that thing." Max called out as he closed the front door, a pizza box in his hand. He looked through the window one more time at the pizza delivery boy climbing into his tiny Ford Festiva. Pellets of rain falling down all around him.

"Least he is staying dry in the rain." Liz remarked as she stepped back into the living room carrying a tray of two glasses of soda, napkins, plates and a bottle a Tabasco sauce, per Max's request.

"It definitely could double as an umbrella." Max smiled when he took in the sight of her again. He still couldn't believe he was alone with Liz and they were about to have dinner together. He sat the pizza on the coffee table as Liz placed the tray next to it. She knelt down beside the table, handed Max a plate and then opened the box. The warm, rich aroma of sauce and pepperoni filled the air causing both Max and Liz to smile in delight.

After they both had settled in on the couch with their plates of pizza and soda the conversation continued.

"So have you started putting in applications?" Liz asked.

"No, I'm still not sure where I want to work. I've never had a job before."

Liz raised her eyebrows over Max's remark. "Really?" She asked finding it hard to believe that he hadn't had a job yet. Roswell wasn't a community filled with families who had a lot of money. This was a working class town and most of the teenagers she went to school with had jobs. "I've been working at the café since I was fourteen. It was sort of inevitable. How come you've never worked before?"

Max was unsure how to answer that. The truth was that Nasedo had never permitted them to take jobs before, afraid that they would somehow expose themselves. Max was still finding it hard to believe that Nasedo was allowing it now. He suspected it was due to the fact that he finally trusted them to keep their secret from being told.

"My uncle didn't want us working in high school so we could focus on our grades." Max cringed inside as he told the lie. Liz was the last person in the world he wanted to lie to but there were some things he just couldn't tell her, not yet anyway.

"So will he be coming to Roswell soon?" Liz asked before taking another bit of her slice of pizza.

"In a few weeks." Max answered quickly, not wanting to continue on with the topic, afraid of having to lie again.

"I bet you miss him." Liz said with sympathy. She was curious to know more about the man that had raised Max but she didn't want to pry. Liz had been on the receiving end of prying eyes and questions too many times and she knew how uncomfortable it could feel.

"Yeah." Max answered, unsure of what he was feeling towards Nasedo. He knew that he didn't miss him, not really. In fact numerous times this week he had caught himself wishing that Nasedo wouldn't come to Roswell and then guilt would soon follow that he would even think such a thing. Nasedo had devoted his life to them and Max knew Nasedo at least deserved his respect.

Max popped the last bit of crust in his mouth before changing the subject. "So where did Kyle and Gracie go this weekend?"

"To visit his mom in Albuquerque."

"Oh. Does he get to visit her a lot?"

"About every other month. She flies into Albuquerque for the weekend just to visit him and Gracie." Liz answered casually while reaching into the box for another slice. Her every move was being memorized by Max.

"So she doesn’t live there?" Max asked again. A part of him felt strange for asking questions, but when it came to Liz he wanted to know everything.

"No." Liz mumbled out, her hand instantly moved over her mouth trying to hide the sight of her chewing a bite of pizza. Liz giggled from embarrassment and then Max joined in, both sharing their first laughter of the night.

As Max sat next to her he couldn't help but not look at her and observe her little thing about her. He noticed the bit of cheese and sauce that still lay on her lips and watched as Liz licked it away with her tongue. Everything thing she did from eating to the way she sat, with her legs tucked under her to the way her seemed to maneuver her face into a dozen different facial expressions as she spoke. All of it Max found truly endearing.

After Liz's laughter had died down the room grew silent, both unsure of what to say next at the same time enjoying the fact that they were alone together. The only sounds were the music playing in the background and the rain falling hard on the roof.

Liz and Max were sharing another lingering stare when the sound of the sharp crackle of lightning filled the air, shaking the windows slightly. The unexpected sound caused Liz to jump in her place and then they both abruptly turned to face the window. Almost simultaneously Max and Liz rose from the couch and walked over towards the front door. Liz pulled back the curtain so they both could look outside at the storm. They were both so preoccupied with the storm that neither realized how close their bodies were to each other, a fact that just a minute ago neither would have been able to ignore.

The rain was coming down in heavy sheets as lightning continued to pulse in various places in the sky. Once again a loud boom came over the house, signaling that the storm was far from over.

"Man it's really coming down hard now." Max noted, a touch a worry in his voice.

"Yeah, it's hasn't rained this hard in Roswell in a long time. I'm going to turn on the television news, maybe they'll have some type of weather report." Liz walked over to the entertainment center and turned off the CD and turned on the t.v.

They watched and listened intently as the weatherman told the local and immediate forecast of the severe thunderstorms that were due to plague the Roswell area for the rest of the evening and into the morning. Liz studied carefully the radar screen, noting the colors and what each of them meant.

"I sure hope Kyle and Gracie missed the storm." Liz said, grateful that the storm was passing through Roswell before Albuquerque. "They got a good head start."

"I'm sure they are okay." Max said, trying to reassure her. He could see the worry on her face and he wanted to take it away.

"You're right. I'm going to get some candles and flashlights just in case we loose power."

"Okay." Max watched Liz walked into the kitchen. He was turning his attention back to the television set when the bookshelf caught his eye. He had noticed it Sunday and then earlier tonight but until he had not taken the time to look at the books. Max eagerly made his way over to the large bookshelf and hungrily eyed the books that abundantly filled each shelf.

He let his fingers pass over the binders of each book, noting the titles as he passed from left to right. There were a large variety of books, from fiction to biographies, science texts and books of poetry. He smiled when he observed that they were organized by category and then alphabetically using the author's last name; something Max did himself. He pulled out a large Molecular Biology text and opened it. He flipped through page after page, observing the numerous times that Liz had underlined sentences and had written on the pages. From what he could tell it looked like Liz had read the entire thing and studied it as well. He was amazed by it all, including Liz's intelligence.

"So do you like Molecular Biology?" Liz asked bringing a startled Max out of his thoughts.

"I haven't really studied it a lot but I think it's interesting."

"Well you can borrow the book sometime if you would like." Liz said as she sat the candles on pieces of furniture throughout the living room.

Max watched her for a moment before turning his attention back to the bookshelf, thinking about the impressive collection she had which in turn brought a question to Max's mind. He turned back around to her, taken aback by the sight of her lighting candles, the soft glow illuminating her skin the way it always was in his dreams. Max knew he could definitely get used to being here with her.

"Liz can I ask you a question?"

"Sure Max, you can ask me anything." Liz said giving Max a warm smile.

"Why ENMU?" He asked timidly.

"What?" Liz asked as she sat back down on the couch, the entire room lit with candles.

Max walked over to the couch to join her. "Well I mean, you're so smart Liz, why not go to a better school? I'm sure you could get in to a lot more prestigious ones?"

Liz lowered her gaze, staring at the cushion of the couch, torn between the desire to tell Max all her feelings and the fear of revealing parts of her life she had kept hidden from everyone for so long. But Liz trusted Max, she couldn't explain why she felt so certain about that fact, but she did. She looked back up at Max.

"Because it's not that simple. It's not just me I have to think about."

"You don't want to take Gracie away from Kyle?" Max asked, all though he already knew the answer to his question.

"And her grandparents and Maria and Alex. They're my family Max, they're a part of my life, a part of Gracie's life and I want her to grow up having them around her."

Max nodded his head. "I understand. And I think you're wonderful, er with her, Gracie. You are a great mom Liz." Max smiled at her and Liz had no idea how little he had smiled before he met her.

Liz smiled in return. "Thanks Max, for saying that." Liz nervously tucked a strand of hair behind her ear and once again tucked her legs under herself. "I question myself a lot. You know am I doing a good job, would I be better at it if I was older? That kind of stuff."

Max nodded in understanding while Liz continued on.

"My mom used to tell me when Gracie was first born that no parent does a perfect job right away, no matter what their age. That to be a good mom takes lots of love and understanding and lots of practice. She was so great during those first few months. I would obsess over every little thing, like if Gracie's feet were too cold or if she was eating enough and the child never sat in wet diaper more than a few seconds. I definitely should have bought stock in pampers those first few weeks. Anyway my mom could always manage to calm me down and help me to learn how to trust my instincts and to trust Gracie. Mom said Gracie would let me know what she needed. And she was right." Liz thoughts lingered over those last few words. A rush of nostalgia had overtaken her, leaving her a bit unsettled and filled with sadness. She missed her parents so much. Liz closed her eyes trying to suppress the tears that had already started to form. She didn't want to cry, not here with Max when everything was going so well.

Max immediately felt his heart grow heavy from the sadness that was written all over Liz's beautiful face. To see her that way, a tear streaming down her cheek, her chin quivering slightly, it tore him up inside. He never wanted to see Liz unhappy but the truth was Liz had endured pain far more than Max understood. He had no idea what she had really gone through these past two years, losing her parents. His parents were off on another planet and Max knew nothing about them a fact that had made the separation bearable. Max had no memories of them, no idea what he was missing but Liz had spent seventeen years with hers and now they were gone. There were years of memories, stories, to know what it felt like to be held in their arms and to never have that feeling again. Max would one day see his parents but Liz never would.

Max watched another tear roll down her face and instinctively Max reached his hand to Liz's face, his thumb tenderly brushing away the tear. As his thumb brushed over her cheek again Max became very aware of where his hand was and so had Liz.

When Liz had first felt Max's palm against her cheek it only felt natural to lean into to it. It was so soft and warm and comforting. Feelings Liz had longed to feel and even more so since she had laid eyes on Max. She opened her eyes slowly; afraid if she did Max would take his hand away. But as she looked into his inviting amber eyes, Liz sighed when he didn't. The two held onto each other's gazes, neither one speaking though so much was being said through Max's touch.

Max's eyes lowered to Liz's lips. They were parted slightly, the tip of her tongue resting just behind her lips and Max felt his own instinctively passing through his parted teeth, wanted to touch hers with his own. With each breath Max felt himself becoming more light-heated, the thought of kissing her driving him pleasantly insane. But should he? She was upset and if he kissed her Max worried that he would be taking advantage of the situation. Max never wanted to do that to Liz and that desire kept him at a distance, almost like an invisible wall was preventing him from getting any closer.

Instead Max focused on her face, reveling in the knowledge of finally knowing what it was like to touch her like he had imagined all week long. Max let his thumb begin to explore her. Timidly he moved his thumb along her cheek towards her full, pink lips. He had to touch them, to feel them. Were they as soft as he had envisioned?

Max halted his actions, afraid to go any further, afraid that once his did, would he be able to stop? Max had never touched a woman like this before. He had never wanted to until Liz and Max somehow knew that he never wanted to touch anyone else but Liz from now on.

Liz could feel every bit of his touch on her skin. His touch was unlike anything she had ever felt before. No one had made her body awaken like this, make her feel things that were as new as they were exciting. She breathed deeply, her chest feeling heavy, an overwhelming urge to press herself against him, to be closer to him.

When Liz felt Max's gentle touch brush over her cheek towards her lips, she parted her lips even more in anticipation and turned her face to meet him. She shivered when she felt him brush across her lips and Liz felt the desire to taste him. Liz let her tongue slide past her lips, lightly touching his skin, immediately registering that she tasted Max and now she was forever hungry for more.

Max closed his eyes when he felt Liz's warm, wet lips and her tongue on his skin. He felt his manhood harden even more, almost to the point of pain. His ache for her was almost insatiable.

Max let the pads of his fingers explore the rest of her face, his thumb never quite leaving her lips. The tips of Liz's lashes danced upon his fingertips before he lowered his index finger down the bridge of her delicate nose, taking in the little nuances that was Liz. Her skin felt like velvet to him as stroked along her cheek again and then to her chin. He could feel her warm breath on him, her sweet smell filling his nostrils.

Liz's head was spinning. The feel of Max's delicate fingers tracing her face was sending Liz out of control. She couldn't stop herself, couldn't stop the pull to be next to him. Liz slowly leaned her body towards Max; with each inch she could feel the warmth from off of his body grow.

Liz focused on his lips. Those inviting, kissable lips. She licked her lips once more in anticipation, shivering when she felt Max's skin, his thumb still lightly touching her lips. Liz wanted to kiss him, she yearned to kiss him and any fear or reservation she was having would not, could not win out right now. Maria's words from this morning played briefly in her mind.

"Love isn't practical. It doesn’t have a reason or an agenda. It just is what it is. Beautiful, natural, spontaneous."

And with that last thought Liz brought her lips to Max's.

Max breathed in when he first felt Liz's lips on his own. He had never felt anything as soft in his entire life and nothing had ever felt this good. Liz's lips pressed gently against his at first and Max was unsure of what to do next. He had never kissed a girl. Max tried to think back to what he saw on television when other people did it. How did they move their lips? Would Liz think he was a bad kisser?

Before he could let any other questions surface, Liz broke away slightly before immediately returning, taking his top lip between her own. Max instinctively brought his lower lip under hers, pressing tenderly. And with that the dance began, lips on lips, pulling, pressing and sucking, each time tasting a little bit more of each other which only made them hungry for more.

Liz brought her hands up to Max's face, her palms resting on his cheeks while Max's hands slid through her hair, enjoying the feel of it between his fingers. The pace of their kisses began to quicken their desire for each other being made known. Max couldn't get enough and neither could Liz.

When their tongues touched for the first time, it was like a jolt of electricity had shot through Max and he groaned from the sheer pleasure of it. He had been unable to hold himself back, letting his tongue past Liz's parted lips and Liz had met him eagerly, her own tongue swirling around his. Their mouths were engaged in an intimate and erotic battle and no matter how close their mouths got it seemed to be never enough. A kiss only brought an even stronger want for another one and another one and another one.

Everything around them seemed to disappear for Max and Liz. The lightning and thunder continued all around the house, the rain was falling even harder, and Liz's sadness had been replaced by her feelings of attraction, affection and desire for Max. Their kisses continued, saying so much more than they could ever admit with words right now. Their kisses told the story of how much two people wanted each other. Told of how perfectly their bodies seemed to fit together as if they were specifically made for each other. And all the while their hearts swelled with emotion of what only could be described as the beginnings of two people falling in love.

Liz and Max's hands began to explore beyond their hair and faces. With trepidation Max let his hand slide down Liz's neck and he was about to slide across her nearly bare shoulder when the phone rang.

After a few rings and a few more kisses Liz reluctantly tore her lips away from Max's. With their foreheads resting against each other as they gasped for breath, Liz spoke.

"I, have, to get, the phone. It's probably, Kyle." Liz said through ragged breaths and a smile that she couldn't hold back.

"Okay" Max breathed out, his eyes closed and even larger grin spread across his face.

The air around him instantly felt cool the moment Liz pulled away to answer the phone. His head was still spinning from it all, unable to register what Liz was saying into the phone. He caught a few words, like "Kyle" "Gracie" and "you made it" and after that everything was a blur. Max had more important things to focus on like getting himself under control both physically and mentally. Towards the end of their kissing session Max had felt the connection with Liz start to open a little. The entire time he had been kissing her he had felt and seen things about her. Her attraction to him, the love she felt for certain people in her life, the vision of the day Liz gave birth to Gracie, her laughing with Maria and Alex, Liz as a little girl. All of it was heartwarming and only made Max's feelings for Liz even stronger. He had been given the chance to see inside her heart, soul and mind. It was beautiful. Liz was beautiful, inside and out.

But then something had happened. It was almost as if the connection, the one that he had only received from humans had somehow started to loop itself back as if Liz would have the ability to see inside of him. 'Was that possible?' Max wondered, scared and hopeful all at the same time.

"Kyle and Gracie made it okay. It hasn't even started to rain there yet."

"Good, I'm glad." Was all that Max was able to say. Max hadn't quite come down from the high that Liz had just given him. The two shared an embarrassed smile, though their eyes were still dark with want. Both ached to be right back where they were just five minutes earlier.

A touch of clarity registered with Liz forcing her to fight back the urge to climb next to Max again. The kiss, though incredibly amazing and had stirred new and raw feelings inside of her, Liz knew that if she wasn’t careful this thing with Max could easily get out of control. Even though she had no idea how far her and Max would have gone if Kyle hadn't unknowingly interrupted them, it was the fear of not knowing. Liz knew one thing, that when it came to Max Harding, she was a woman who desired to know more of him, both physically and mentally. Liz cursed the responsibility that now claimed her for she knew what she had to do before it was too late.

"First off Max, I want to say, "Wow", I have wanted to kiss you all week."

"Really, me too." Max eyes widened.

Liz breathed out in relief. "Good, I'm glad, I was worried that you didn't like me."

Max shook his head eagerly. "Oh no Liz, it's just the opposite." Max said inching himself closer to her. He needed to touch her again.

As if she sensed his need, Liz reached out her hand, their fingers interwoven and Max began to draw small circles in the palm of her hand with his thumb.

"And even though I don't want to stop, I'm afraid of what will happen if we don't right now. I just can't seem to control myself when I'm with you Max."

"I know the feeling." Max stopped himself from getting too close. If the past twelve years had taught him anything it was self-control and right now he needed to use it. "How about we just sit and talk for awhile, get to know each other better."

"That sounds really good. Maybe we can play a game? How are you at Backgammon?"
Liz asked, both of their eyes sparking with the new and wonderful feelings they were experiencing and happy that their night together was not over yet.

TBC...