posted on 8-Sep-2001 9:06:16 AM
Homecoming, section 1: the instrument
Author: Chris Kenworthy
Email: Chris_Kenworthy⊕
Disclaimer: No, I don't own any of the Roswell characters. I don't plan to steal them and lock them up in white rooms either. ;-) I just let them out to play from time to time and see what happens.
Distribution: Distribute anywhere you like, based at Roswell stories:
Feedback: YES PLEASE!
Category: Alternate timeline epic. Conventional couples angst leading up to UC in later parts - you have been warned!
Rating: PG-13, for now
Summary: Alien mysteries lead to an interesting year...
Spoilers: Up to 'Ask not'
Notes: This is the beginning of an alternate future fic that flips back and forth between Homecoming night 2001 and flashbacks of the events that have led up to that point. The storyline diverges as of the end of 'Ask Not' so anything about Whittaker being revealed as a skin, the Harvest, Future Max, the Dupes, Christmas, the Granolith, and the Gandarium are all irrelevant lol.


Alex Whitman smoothed out his sleeves, and then stared critically into the mirror, attempting to determine if his tie was straight. Hmmm. Seemed close enough.

Alex had to admit he looked good in this outfit, despite the fact that he had had nothing to do with its selection. His girlfriend had picked out the charcoal gray tux, and as offended as Alex had been at the time that she showed no confidence in his taste, he now had to confess to himself it was probably for the best.

His girlfriend. Alex broke into a wide grin at the very thought.

"Hey! Boy!!" The voice was calling up the stairs from the living area of the Whitman house. "Get down here. Your 'ride' is here."

There was a definite emphasis of surprise on the word 'ride' in his father's voice, and Alex smiled to himself as he hurried down the stairs and out the door.

A white stretch limo was parked in front of his house, the driver standing with imperturbabe respectfulness next to it, and Alex couldn't help but strut a bit, as if he were walking down the red carpet at the Grammys. Wait - that was *leaving* a limo, wasn't it? Oh well. Now, how would a Grammy nominee walk when getting INTO his limo on the way to the show??

Alex settled for a brisk and confident stride and let the driver open the rear door for him. No-one else was inside the passenger compartment, of course.

"6025 Murray lane next, sir?" the driver asked as he entered the limo himself, sliding behind the wheel.

"Hmm?" Alex grunted in momentary confusion. "Oh, yes, definitely. That's our next stop, sure enough."

The driver pulled out into the street without another word, and Alex Whitman was left alone with his thoughts. Without conscious awareness of his own actions, he pulled on the fine silver chain that hung, as always, around his neck under his shirt. He hadn't taken the thing off for months. Okay, except to shower. And sometimes when he was trying to sleep and just *couldn't* get comfortable with the darn thing. And there was that one time...

Alex cut off his rambling thoughts and pulled the chain up to take one more look at the makeshift pendent it carried. The thing didn't look like much - a flat disk of some sort of smooth metal, with a perfectly circular hole in the center, and finely textured starburst patterns of ridges and grooves on each face, the two sides differing only slightly in the size of the pattern's grain.

To think that this little gizmo had put them all through so much...

* * * *

It had been early October the year before. Skin hysteria was rising among Roswell's 'Aliens among us' club and the new owner of the UFO centre, Brody Davis, had just missed becoming a victim of the paranoia. In a fatal way. Like having his molecules rearranged into a chair or something by a very frightened Isabel-and-Michael team. Not nice.

Alex had wandered cautiously into the UFO center the day everything had gone down, motivated by curiousity as much as anything else. Curiousity about this alien abductee Brody and what Max had said about his Dot-com millions. (Who wouldn't be?) And curious about the strange device that Davis had brought with him, that had reacted to Michael with such devastating force (but not Max?) and had also reacted on May 14th, the day that Isabel and the others killed Pierce and got the message from her mother.

The UFO center was undergoing a transformation at the hands of a few determined men and women. Alex noticed that displays on 'Foo fighters' (apparently not the band,) and the hollow earth society were being taken down. What was being put up in their place was considerably less clear.

"Hey, you!!" Alex took a second to realize that the exclamation was probably being directed at him, and he half turned towards the speaker. "Scram," his voice continued relentlessly. "We're not open to the public any more."

It was a voice full of British character, and from that fact alone, Alex could guess who was talking at him. "Mister Davis?" he said without thinking as he turned to face the thirtyish man with short, curly bronze hair. "I'm sorry, I didn't know you were closed."

Davis looked Alex over with suspicion. "How did you know who I was?" he asked narrowly.

Caught by surprise, Alex sifted through several possible responses before realizing that the relatively straight truth would do. "I'm friends with Max Evans. He said a very little about you."

Davis softened about thirty percent. "You another alien nut?"

It took Alex a few seconds to realize that meant not 'Are you a crazy alien like Max' but 'Are you crazy about aliens like Max'. Especially since Alex wouldn't normally have described Max as crazy about aliens, or crazy at all. "I've been known to follow the encounter circles," he said cautiously, wondering how Davis would react to that.

Davis didn't react to that. He didn't really have a chance, considering that his attention was distracted by something else he noticed while Alex had been talking. "No, no!!" he called out to one of his assistants across the room. "Exhibits two, six, and nine go into the analysis area with-- Hey! Listen to me when I talk to you, please - you won't get another warning. Well, then, why did you tear that picture down..." His voice faded somewhat as Brody Davis walked calmly towards his erring minion.

Alex was left behind alone, and he noticed that Davis had left something behind on a nearby table-top. It was a reasonably large piece of white paper board, perhaps sixteen inches by twelve, with a variety of items taped to it. Most were slips of paper with notes on them - some written, some typed. Near the center of the board was a small metal disk with a hole in the center, taped down in three places, but not completely covered by the tape.

Alex couldn't help but edge near it and start reading the notes: "Alien washer?? ??"

"Supposedly taken from the special FBI warehouse of crash-related artifacts hidden near Roswell."

"Inert for years, but reacted to the May 14th pulse with a stunning static charge."

"Others have reported a varying static effect upon touching it, since May 14th, but only one time per person."

"I got a bit of a shock the first time I laid bare fingers upon it myself. Imagination or alien mechanisms?? How can it know when a particular person has already touched it? Analysis shows no electrical circuits inside as we understand them. Experiments with subjects unaware of the object's properties were completely inconclusive. BD"

That last note was a long handwritten scrawl, with the initials flourished - Davis signing off his own experiences and reactions to this particular artifact, Alex realized. The other notes were either typed, (most of them,) or hand-printed much more legibly, and related outside facts and myths relating to the object.

Alex looked around. Davis and his workers were all still busy, and none of them were paying attention to him. Alex couldn't push down the temptation to touch the disk himself. He edged a fingertip into contact with some of the uncovered metal, noticing its starburst texture pattern.

ZZZAAPP!! The feeling was overwhelming, like a channel of pure energy flooding up through Alex's finger, coursing up his arm, and then diverging, some of it overflowing to engulf his body while the most brilliant waves of current headed straight for his brain...

"Hey, hey there." The next thing Alex knew, Davis' voice was repeating itself at him. He turned slightly and realized that the UFO fanatic was now standing right next to him. He had been across the room when Alex had checked, which meant that he had lost time... "I'm sorry," he mumbled. "I was just..."

"Looking at one of my pieces?" Davis finished, gesturing to the whiteboard. "That's okay. This one is just a trinket I picked up because of its association with May 14th. Don't think it really has any significance." Alex stayed silent with an effort.

"Look," Davis continued. "I have to get back to work, but you can come by Monday at seven if you want to see more. Oh, and if you see Max Evans, tell him I might have some work for him tomorrow, if he's still interested." Brody smiled in a friendly fashion that left absolutely no doubt that he intended Alex to leave now.

"Okay," Alex said, still a little dazed by his experience with the 'trinket.' "Goodbye." He headed back out the door of the UFO center, noticing idly that one of Davis' workers was taking the sign down. It certainly seemed that Davis wanted to make the center less of a public business establishment than a... what?

Someone was sitting on one of the big stone blocks his mother had had put in the front lawn as Alex walked up towards his house. He recognized Isabel Evans a second before she shook the long golden hair out of her face.

A leap of joy threatened to burst out of Alex's heart as song, just that she was nearby, but he restrained himself with effort. No sense letting his hopes fly high at the slightest excuse. "What's up, Iz??"

Isabel's response came in one rushed string with hardly any punctuation. "Look I meant what I said that we can't be any more than friends and you've got to accept that but what kind of friends are we if we hardly ever hang out and never speak to each other so, bearing all that in mind do you want to see this video or not?" A plastic case, with a VHS tape barely visible through its clouded transparency, was thrust toward him.

Alex couldn't help but indulge a soft chuckle. Isabel had obviously been waiting for him, and thinking about what she was going to say, for considerably too long.

He looked at the video. 'The Princess Bride.' One of his favorite movies, an undisputed classic of modern cinema.

"Sure," he said, still wondering if there would be further surprises. "Come on inside. My dad has classes late tonight at the college, but Mom's off work so there may actually be dinner."

Isabel laughed softly at that. She was still keeping her guard mostly up, Alex could tell to his chagrin. But she was ready to open up at least enough to have a little fun, and Alex was glad of that.

"So, friend Alex," Isabel said with a little giggle as they stepped through the front doorway. "How's your day been?"

"Pretty boring," Alex admitted ruefully. "Dropped in at the UFO center to see this Brody Davis guy for myself. He's certainly intense about aliens." He paused for a second and a half. "You?"

"Also rather dull," Isabel reported. "Tess has been driving Michael and I crazy with questions about River Dog and stuff."

"River dog??" Alex repeated wonderingly. "Well, I guess that makes sense. After what happened..." He choked himself off too late, realizing that a reminder about recent events might not be too comfortable for Isabel.

But though Iz's perfect skin had paled with Alex's allusion, she continued the thought without pause. "After what happened to Nasedo, River dog is Tess's closest link to her own history, yeah." Isabel took the tape back from Alex, inserted the tape smoothly into its predestined slot, and sat down, not on the couch, but the plush chair set at right angles to the screen.

She'd have to crane her neck slightly to see the action from there, but the reasoning for her choice was clear. There would be no opportunities for physical contact between the two of them. At least, not without Alex sitting on the arm of the chair or Isabe's lap. Tempting though those possibilities were, (especially the second,) Alex definitely lacked the guts to try versus Isabel's negative signals.

So he settled down on the couch himself, near Iz but not too near. "Maybe Tess should go and see River Dog herself."

"She may *demand* just that," Isabel said with a peculiar emphasis. "Personally, I'm not sure it's a good idea. Tess is terminally blunt and River Dog is a bad guy to offend. Remember when he though Michael was lying to him??"

"That was a misunderstanding," Alex protested through a frown that he hoped Isabel couldn't read. As touching as Isabel's manic concern for Michael had been at the time he came down with a fatal alien equivalent to heatstroke, it was more than a little disturbing in hindsight as foreshadowing of the revelation that Iz and Michael had been romantically linked in their past alien lives. Still, Alex fought bravely on with his thought. "River Dog didn't mean any real harm to Michael - he just had him taken out of the camp. Once he realized Michael *was* sick, he came through well enough."

"Yeah," Isabel said noncommitally. "On the other hand, what was he doing letting Michael stay in the sweatlodge, knowing that if he was a genuine 'visitor' it could kill him? Seemed like an awfully nasty 'test' to me."

Alex couldn't think of an answer to that, so he shut up and went back to watching the movie.

* * * *

A funeral of some kind. Enormously sad and lost people - (well, not quite people as he ordinarily thought of them...) grieving whoever were inside two silver caskets. Two more waited at the front of the (cathedral?) for their mates to join them.

A... - a laboratory? Some kind of experiment or procedure being conducted - with genetic diagrams posted up on every square foot of the walls. A book - a flash of pages bound together like an old spiral notebook. Letters and symbols unlike any Alex had ever seen before.

And a giant computer, with a small recess near its center, in which a small metal ring sat...

Alex kicked into a half-sitting position with a start. "Boy, that's definitely the weirdest dream I've ever had." And his finder was smarting.

* * * *

The next day, Alex went over to Max Evans' table in the cafeteria at lunch. He wasn't usually all alone, but Maria was apparently on a Liz day, Michael would be off who-knew-where Alex guessed, and Tess was apparently giving the poor boy some space. Isabel held court on the back lawn with the pretty and popular, of course.

Alex's video night with Is had been... nice. And thouroughly as 'just-friendly' as she had vowed. Alex sighed. It wasn't that he didn't understand how Isabel might feel, or that he thought she was obligated to feel for him as much as he felt for her. Alex was just tired of being everybody's best friend and nobody's special someone.

"Problem, Alex??" Max spoke without looking up from his mystery meat loaf, (which couldn't be *that* absorbing.) Alex suddenly realized that he had sighed a bit too loudly and probably given Max the impression that he had come over to unburden himself.

"No, not really," he hastily disclaimed. "Just came over here to hang out, see what's the what, you know?"

Max looked up to survey him at that point, and Alex almost gasped with the surprise. He had seen Max many times before, of course, but now it seemed that he had seen a face that was *not* Max's, yet LIKE Max's, very recently. Where?

A picture. A portrait or likeness... from the dream!! That was it. A visage not quit human, but with almost the same contours as Max's face. Ruddy skin with a hint of purple, midnight blue hair, and eyes that seemed to glow a yellowish green...

"What?" Max's voice broke into his reverie once again. "What is it... am I getting a zit or something man?" Max's fingers searched his cheek, trying to pinpoint the spot where Alex was staring.

Alex laughed. It was such a normal thing for any teenager to say that visions of alien lifeforms seemed too strange to even consider. (And it was in that roundabout way that Alex realized the significance of what he had seen - Max, not as a human teenager, but an alien king. Either that or he had imagined it.)

"What?" Max's voice broke into his reverie once again. "What is it... am I getting a zit or something man?" Max's fingers searched his cheek, trying to pinpoint the spot where Alex was staring.

Alex laughed. It was such a normal thing for any teenager to say that visions of alien lifeforms seemed too strange to even consider. (And it was in that roundabout way that Alex realized the significance of what he had seen - Max, not as a human teenager, but an alien king. Either that or he had imagined it.)

"I hate to say this, but I've gotta ask," Max rambled, a cautiously concerned look on his face. "What is *with* you today?"

Alex tried to calm down. The last thing he wanted to do was have to spill about the dream to Max - not before he had some idea what it meant himself. "Nothing, just a bit of a... sugar rush," he rationalized to the other guy, even though he hadn't had any lunch yet. "Or... what's the opposite of a sugar rush?? When the blood sugar to the brain dips too low and you start to get weird?"

Max shrugged slowly, the look of concern on his face not going away. Alex charged valiantly on. "Doesn't matter. By the way, I stopped into the UFO center yesterday and had a bit of a talk with Mister Davis."

"Who? Oh, Brody??" Alex didn't see any particular way in which Max was on a first name basis with 'Brody,' but he nodded.

"He says he wants you to work for him after all, if you're interested."

Max mulled that over a little. "Might as well, I suppose. Can always use gas money for the Jeep the way we have to go chasing to and fro all the time, and it was handy having access to Milton's files last year. Not to mention the premises." Max shuddered slightly, probably remembering the tense final conflict with Pierce. Alex knew *he* was.

"We'll have to be a lot more careful though," Max mused. "Brody may be obsessed, and a bit of a nut job, but he's a lot more on the ball than Milton was."

"Do you have any idea what he's *doing* to the center?" Alex asked curously. "When I was there, it looked like he was practically tearing the whole place down."

"I overheard one of his assistants talking, a lit..." Max broke off as a new figure came up next to Alex's chair.

Alex looked up to see who the newcomer was. Maria. Alex still hadn't gotten used to her long hair, but it was definitely Maria. (She had said the extensions were gorgeous on her and couldn't possibly be told from natural hair. True as far as that went, but it completely ignored the fact that anyone who had seen her pre-extension *had* to be able to figure it out. Hair just didn't grow that fast; it wasn't humanly possible. Hmm... maybe she was trying to distract attention from Michael and the *real* aliens...)

Maria smiled with slightly nervous impatience. "Hey, girlfriend," she said softly to Max. "What's up?"

What she wasn't saying was perfectly clear to Alex. "You guys want me to clear out so you can plot out how to get Max back with Liz," he announced just as quietly as Maria had spoken. "And maybe Maria back with Michael - I'm not sure about that one."

"It'll have to wait a bit longer," Maria sighed, sinking into a seat at the end of the table, next to both of them.

"You don't have to go, Alex," Max said, as the other guy began to stand up. "I mean, I don't mind at all if you stay, and I don't think Maria does." He shot a glance over at his co-conspirator, but her reaction was hard to read. "I mean, as far as that goes, you could... um, help out. If you're interested." He looked nervously over at Maria again.

Maria sighed. "Sure. The way things stand with you and Isabel, you're a candidate for project Girlfriend if anybody is, Alex." Something clicked in Alex's brain. The fact that Maria had been calling Max that wasn't an emasculating joke, (well, not entirely,) but also a reference to this little plot of theirs. 'Girlfriend.' What Max wanted to get Liz back as, and what Maria wanted to be to Michael again.

Alex slowly shoved his chair away from the table and stood up.

"Uh, thanks for thinking of me, but that's okay," he mumbled. "I'm disappointed by the way things have turned out between me and Iz, but trying to scheme my way back into her heart doesn't sound like the best of plans either." Lest two of his best friends think hard enough to take offense at that, he swiftly carried on. "I guess I'll go find Liz and occupy her while you hold your strategy mission. Wouldn't want her to tumble to the plan too early, would we?"

"Thanks, Alex. I think she said she'd be in the library all lunchhour," Maria called quietly as he left.

* * * *

The West Roswell High student library wasn't very big, but it still took nearly ten minutes for Alex to find Liz Parker. She was leaning with her back against one of the bookshelves, between the shelving area and the exterior wall. When Alex had quickly 'checked the stacks' for any side of his friend, he had simply walked down the rows of shelves and sighted along the corridor formed by each of them, missing his friend entirely because one of the shelves had blocked her from view.

Finally, after checking every other part of the tiny research center exhaustively, Alex began heading up and down the archive passageways and quickly caught sight of her. "Hey, Liz. Whatcha reading??"

Liz looked up, smiled briefly at Alex in recognition, and held the book up to briefly flash the cover at him. 'The high frontier: colonies in space'

"Read it," Alex said with a small smile. He had... he'd been interested in space travel and the like long before he'd known that alien hybrids were in the midst of the student body. In fact, an excess of book learning on the subject was probably the reason he'd had such a hard time accepting the big secret... but now was no time for extended reflection. "It was good," he commented, still about the book. "How are you doing, Liz-ster?"

Liz smiled again, in a bittersweet way that Alex would probably categorize as 'wan,' even though he didn't know exactly what that word meant. "I... I'm dealing, I guess. How about you?"

"Keeping it together," Alex assured her. "Isabel isn't avoiding me any longer, but she's still making it pretty clear that it's no more than friends." He sighed. "I can accept that, I think... but then we were never as... as anything as you and Max." Alex wondered belatedly in retrospect if he should have actually said the M word to Liz.

But Liz's smile grew a little warmer. "I can deal too... at least, I think I can." She said it as a confident declaration, but her voice trembled. "I have to - I won't be doing Max any favors by taking him back... trying to hold on to him, when his destiny is waiting."

"But..." Alex checked around carefully to make sure that there was nobody around to overhear their conversation, and that Liz seemed to be okay with further discussion on this topic. "How do you know that it's an either-or choice? Why can't we be part of that destiny, now? You've been part of Max's life, more than that, you've been his world, ever since that day when none of us had a clue what was going on. Do you really think you can change that just by staying away from him?"

Liz stared at him bitterly. "Max has Tess now."

"He doesn't want Tess!! I mean, yeah, he's accepted her as a friend and a part of the group, but he doesn't love her, not even close. Just because they were married... well, that says it all, doesn't it? 'Were.' This is a new lifetime for them all, and new lifetimes mean new choices..."

"Don't!!" Liz suddenly half-yelled at him. "Seriously, Alex, don't do this, okay? I already have Max and Maria double-teaming me about all this kind of stuff. I don't care if they put you up to this or not, I just can't take it from you too, okay?" Her voice was softer now, but an unmistakeable hard edge of emotion was still in it. "I've made my decision."

Alex eased up immediately. "Sorry," he said, reaching out for Liz's hand in a comforting gesture. "I didn't mean t-"

At that instant, Alex's fingers touched Liz's again, and once again he felt that odd static sensation, like he had felt touching that weird gizmo the day before. No, not quite. It wasn't the same feeling as before, of raw energy pouring into his body. This time it was, like... what? He couldn't be sure. Like something within him was... was reacting to Liz's touch? Not in a romantic way... in an alien energy kind of way. He was sure of that.

And Liz was looking at him strangely. "What? It's just static cling, Alex. You get it on the carpets here, don't you know?"

Alex shook it off, and tried to get back to the point hw was making. "Um, t-to debate you on the issue or anything. But just one more thing... if you've made your decision, do you expect to hold the rest of us to it? You've decided that Max and Tess belong together, how about Michael and Isabel? Because I can tell you that Maria isn't ready to give up on Michael yet. What if she gets him to take her back? Would you... would you hold that against her, or anything??"

Liz looked up at Alex, and he saw there was a hint of tears in her eyes. "Of course not, Alex!! Maria's been my bestest friend for ever and ever, if she's decided she wants to make it work with Michael, then I wish her the best. My choices are my own." She sighed, feeling the weight of worlds on her shoulders perhaps. "The same goes for you with Isabel, if you want to start pursuing her again."

"Somehow I don't think I'd stand much chance," Alex moaned. "But seriously, if Maria was with Michael, and I was with Isabel, and the end of the world didn't immediately come, how long do you think your willpower would last?" He grinned teasingly at her.

"Shut up!!" Liz chuckled merrily and tossed the book at Alex in a half-threatening gesture, but Alex caught it easy. Without saying anything, he nodded agreement to her imperative, and nodded his head towards the library's exit in friendly invitation.

"Hmm..." Liz considered. "Sure." She smiled at Alex and led the way out of the stacks. Alex quickly caught up, making soft inquiring noises and pointing to his firmly closed mouth.

"Naw, I don't think so," Liz said, giggling. Alex loved seeing her giggle, and he was willing to play the rules of this little game, but he wasn't about to let her win for too long.

So, as they walked out of the library, Alex threw his hand around Liz's shoulder in what might have been too familiar a gesture for a platonic friend, But his fingers exerted pressure on Liz's far shoulder, just hard enough that she'd be able to feel it.

"Hey!!" Liz protested. "Okay, okay, you can talk again."

"Thanks," Alex said quickly, releasing his hold immediately. "So, did you hear about this mega party that Courtney Banks and her brother are throwing??"

Liz took a second to digest that. "Courtney Banks... the Courtney who's working at the crashdown now?"

"Yeah," Alex reported. "She's in our grade, and her brother's in the community college. No parents, at least that's what the grapevine has to say..."

* * * *

"Come on, Alex. What good is sitting around and waiting going to do you with Isabel?"

Alex sighed into the phone. "As if the only thing that mattered in my life was getting back with Isabel Evans." He took a breath. "But even if we do assume that matters... what good does it do me to wait? Let's see, well, it gives her some time to work through her issues and uncertainties without building up any more bad associations to myself in her mind."

"And what if she works through her issues with somebody else??" Maria DeLucca countered. "I saw the sparks that were flying with geology boy last week ago - Sornssen. I didn't want to throw that in your face, but..."

"Wai- wait a second," Alex interrupted. "Grant Sorenson? The one who dug up Pierce's bones?"

"The very son-of-a-bitch," Maria spat.

Alex shook off her venom as a byproduct of how Sorenson's discovery put Michael in jail and got back to the subject. "That's totally gross. He must be what, twenty-six? And Isabel's still a teenager."

"Sad, possibly illegal, but true," Maria insisted. "You think being mature and ruggedly handsome is a turn-off to girls? Why do you think Iz 'volunteered' to go and find out what the guy was up to?"

Alex sighed. This was fighting dirty, but it was working. "So what are you suggesting, I take a loudspeaker out under her window and sing 'Stand by me' until she runs down the stairs and jumps into my arms??" he asked, not without a trace of sarcasm.

"Now that you mention it... no, bad plan, if only because her parents might call the police," she decided. "Just do something to keep youself in the game. The smaller, the sweeter, the better. Send her a long-stemmed rose. No, think of something yourself. Something personal, meaningful." Maria sighed long-sufferinly. "The kind of thing Michael would never, ever do for me, you know?"

Alex smiled. "You never know. Goodnight, Maria."

"'Night, Alex." The line clicked as Maria rang off. Alex put his receiver back in its cradle and thought a second. Something personal, something meaningful. Something small and romantic.

His first thoughts were of sitting with Iz on the Frasier woods camping trip, explaining what little he knew about the stars to her. But what was he going to do, have a star named after her? That might work on television, but there was a corny edge to it in real life.

He ran over every significant incident they'd had in the past year, (not a particularly wide field,) eliminated all those with unpleasant assiciations like alien babies or jail visits, and tried to come up with insightful (and not frighteningly expensive) gift ideas from the rest.

Finally, he settled on potted azaleas, which had figured in this art flick he and Isabel had seen together, and she said they were pretty. Unfortunately, by the time he had settled on that, all the florists were closed. Ah well, he supposed countering Grant Sorenson could wait for a day.

Alex got ready for bed that night mechanically, anxious about his dreams of the previous nigth, and whether they would come back. As jumpy as he was feeling, he wondered if sleep would even come.

It didn't have to. As soon as he lay down in bed and closed his eyes, a new volley of images leapt into his mind. Aliem Max again, a holographic projection of him, rotating grandly about in the middle of a high-tech laboratory. Someone paging through the book he had seen in his first dream - a brown leather-like cover with designs on it that he couldn't quite make out. The pages were stiff, almost metal-like but not quite, and the 'letters' were cut entirely out, like stencils.

Again the 'disc computer' - a gigantic machine that seemed entirely focused on the disc... yes, it had to be the same metal slug that Alex had touched in the UFO center. A gigantic bank of equipment, that seemed to be essentially four globular compartments, each filled with goopy slime. A spaceship taking off into a yellow sky, broke by rays of blue sunshine.

With an effort of will, Alex forced his eyes open and immediately picked up the phone. He could hardly wait for the ringing to stop hefore he announced, "It's Alex. I need your help."

"Um, okay, Alex..." Max Evans said uncertainly.

"This above all, to thine own self be true."
"We make our own destinies."

[ edited 1 time(s), last at 17-Oct-2001 5:41:47 PM ]
posted on 8-Sep-2001 9:07:10 AM
Homecoming, section 2: the overture. Part a
Author: Chris Kenworthy
Email: Chris_Kenworthy⊕
Disclaimer: No, I don't own any of the Roswell characters. I don't plan to steal them and lock them up in white rooms either. ;-) I just let them out to play from time to time and see what happens.
Distribution: Distribute anywhere you like, based at Roswell stories:
Feedback: YES PLEASE!
Category: Alternate timeline epic. Conventional couples angst leading up to UC in later parts - you have been warned!
Rating: PG-13, for now
Summary: Alien mysteries lead to an interesting year...
Spoilers: Up to 'Ask not'


Alex only jogged back to an awareness of reality a few seconds after the limo had stopped. A quick look out the window confirmed that the car was stopped at a very familiar part of Murray Lane.

"Meter's still running, mac," the driver reminded him with friendly carelessness. Alex thought about that for a second and put a hand to his door handle - just in time to see through the open limo door as Maxwell Evans emerge from the Evans household.

When they met up, twenty-five seconds or so later on the curb next to the expensive rented chauffeurmobile, Max nodded at Alex. "Targazinzki melior tto quaree azhvar son keh milliap," he said offhandedly.

"Torgin vve keels," Alex replied politely in the same language. "What's the ETA on Isabel being dressed and ready to go?"

"Wrong guy to ask," Max admitted with a grin. "Is and Tess are all getting primped at Liz's place over the Crashdown." Max smiled in anticipation.

"Tess, Isabel, and Liz?" Alex repeated carefully. "Not Maria?!"

"Not Maria," Max confirmed. "My latest instructions are that she's to be picked up at her Mom's new house."

"As planned," Alex said as he got back into the stretch. "Well, we can cross Tess's studio off the itinerary. Driver? Cancel the stop on Roxdale."

The chauffeur met that news with a kind of stolid passivity. "Still 247 Elm next?"

"Yeah," Alex agreed. Max had gotten into the car by now, and closed the door, so Buddy put the motor in gear and pulled out into the street again. Alex's fingers brushed the disk again, and Max looked at him questioningly.

"I was remembering how we found out about the archive," Alex explained. "On the way over here."

"Ah," Max said, nodding. "Some crazy months we went through, huh? I'm glad things have calmed down a little..."

* * * *

"Okay," Max Evans said, pacing quietly across Alex's room. "Let's start at the beginning here. You touched this gizmo of Brody's at the UFO center."

"Mm-hm," Alex agreed, concentrating most of his attention on the drawing program on his computer.

"And you started having dreams about aliens?" Max continued doubtfully.

"*Last* night I had a deam," Alex maintained. "Tonight I had a flash." There was no uncertainty in his voice.

"And you think what you saw has a connection to us?" Max asked. He leaned over Alex's shoulder and peered at the computer screen. "If it looked like that, I hope it was just your imagination," he joked.

"Shut up," Alex groused grumpily. "It's not coming out right. I'm a musician, not a visual artist." But he continued to work at the picture, trying to refine the details that didn't match his memory.

"Okay, okay," Max said, resuming his pace. "Now, you said there were notes Brody was keeping about the gizmo. Can you remember any of them?"

"Um... it reacted to the may fourteenth pulse," Alex recounted. "To the signal the orbs sent out."

"We can't be sure of that connection," Max said. Alex turned around in his computer chair to stare doubtfully at the alien teenager. "Well, we already know Brody is obsessed with May 14th in particular. If someone else sold him this doodad, they could have known that too and made up a connection to that date, but go on."

Alex sighed and then did so. "Has been reported to shock other people, but nothing about creepy dreams. Oh, and supposedly it was taken from some FBI special warehouse of crash-related evidence."

"Wait a second," Max replied quickly. "The regular FBI or the special unit??"

"Brody's notes didn't say," Alex said pointedly. "The word 'unit' didn't appear, but the word 'special' did. That may be important."

"Okay," Max sighed. "Anything else in the notes?" Alex didn't answer aloud, which Max took as a pretty clear negative. "Well, it's weird, I'll grant you that, but I don't see that there's anything I can do. Take some of those goodnight pills and try to get plenty of r..." Max's voice was broken off in mid-word as he stared at the computer screen, which Alex was still working on with a frown.

Max stepped up beside Alex and drew his attention away from the screen with a gentle pressure on his shoulder. For Max's own part, he couldn't seem to keep his eyes of the cathode ray tube screen. "Alex, did Liz ever tell you about the... the secret chamber up near the Pullman ranch that Tess showed us last spring?" There was a dreadfully dark intensity in his voice.

"What, the pod chamber?" Alex asked, mystified. "Yeah, of course. I think you've even mentioned it a few times, Max."

Max scowled at the jibe. "Not just a name. Have you ever been told of anything that's inside?"

Alex was getting more confused by the second. "Well, yeah!! The pods that you guys incubated in until you emerged as little kids."

"Just that?" Max pressed. "You've never been told any more about what the pods looked like?"

Alex shook his head, mystified, and then suddenly followed Max's gaze back to his computer's screen. "You mean... he started, vaguely awed.

Max nodded grimly and pointed at one of the oval shapes in the bank of four machines that Alex had been doing his best to illustrate. "Did you see anythinh inside?? Shapes, or faces?"

"No," Alex had to admit. "Just some slopping goo."

"Which might mean it was before we were incubated," Max guessed. He turned, walked away from the computer, and sat himself down on the bed with a weary thud. "Maybe you'd better tell me as much of the rest as you can remember, Alex," he said softly. "Every detail."

He believed now, Alex realized. Before he saw the pods on Alex's computer screen, he had just been doing lip service to the idea that Max could have gotten ahold of some memories from his homeworld. Now... he wasn't completely convinced, but unable to truly disbelieve either. And the stress, of one crisis or mystery after another, was weighing on him.

"Well?" After a second's more hesitation, Alex started to haltingly retell what he could remember of the alien imagery. The ceremony, the genetic library, the computer, the holograph. The book.

"What??" Max called out, loudly enough that Alex was worried his parents would wake up.


"Like Tess's book? Why didn't you tell me about the book first, Alex??!"

"Uhh... Tess's what??" was all Alex could think of to say.

It took them a few minutes to get that sorted out. Alex had never heard of or seen the book - Liz had seen Tess take it out of the library wall using an alien handprint technique, and Michael and Isabel had both seen it, but Alex had had bigger things on his mind - like the general misconception that Tess was Nasedo and Isabel's conviction that she was somehow carrying Michael's baby.

"I'd like to see this book," Alex said. "Maybe - I'm not saying it's a sure thing, but I feel like I might be able to decipher some of those characters if I had access to them for a while."

"Sure, sure," Max agreed.

"Who keeping it safe?" Alex asked offhandedly. And Max froze.

"Oh, no," Alex muttered when he saw how Max was acting.

"It was a really crazy time," Max murmured. "Tess... Tess and I were discussing Isabel and Michael's alien dreams in the park... I think I had the book with me then. We went back to the Crashdown, and found out from Maria that a different Max had taken Liz on a romantic drive. Nasedo." He sighed. "That's the last point I remember having the book with me." He looked mortified.

"Well, let's look over the cases," Alex suggested. "Either you put it down and Tess or Isabel or one of the others picked it up. If you had kept it with you..." Alex stopped that line of thought as soon as he saw where it was leading. If Max had still had the book on his person when he got to the country fair, chasing after Liz, then Agent Pierce would have gotten his hands on it. And there was no telling where a psycho government alien hunter might have taken a thing like that.

"Alternatively, if I had left it in the Crashdown and one of us didn't notice it," Max sighed, "then anyone could have picked it up!"

"Yeah," Alex agreed morosely. "Probably nobody would think it was too unusual, in there - just another piece of 'fake' alien memerobilia. Still..."

A loud knocking sounded on Alex's door suddenly. "Allie, honey, you still up?" his mother called out, using the nickname he despised. "Come on, lights out sweetie. It's a school day tomorrow."

"Of course, Mom," Alex called out, getting up to switch off the ceiling light, leaving only the small desk lamp on to attempt to illuminate his room. "Sorry," he whispered to Max, or, rather, the place where Max had last been. There was now no sign of him - he must have jumped for the window as soon as Alex's mom knocked. Just as well, Alex supposed. It would have been pretty embarassing if his mother caught him with another guy in his bedroom, late at night.

After all of the commotion, surprisingly, Alex didn't have any more trouble getting to sleep that night. He had a vague memory of dreaming alien dreams again that night, but couldn't remember the details.

* * * *

The next day, Max had too much to deal with to really get into the issue of the Book's current whereabouts. The thing was, Liz had caught Michael breaking into Congresswoman Whittaker's office and looking through her files. While trying to hurry him out of the office, Liz had mentioned that Whittaker had shredded some files in her presence the day before, and Michael started telling her off for 'allowing that to happen.'

Liz shouted back that she was just a receptionist, she really couldn't tell the Congresswoman what not to do, and it evolved into a full yelling and screaming argument from there. Which is exactly when Whittaker herself walked in, wondering who on earth Michael was and why he and Liz were raising a din that could raise the dead. To defer suspicion, Liz had to spin a whole spiel that Michael was her boyfriend, that he had come by to pick her up, and that a friendly discussion of movie selections while Liz packed up to leave had turned into an unpleasant argument.

Whittaker bought the story, apparently, but she'd invited Liz, Michael, and Liz's parents to dinner at her place on Sunday night, and Liz didn't see any way to get them out of it.

Liz was furious at Michael for having put her in that position. Michael was ticked off that nobody seemed to understand how important what he had been doing was. Isabel was out of patience with the whole merry go round, Maria just stared at Michael and shook her head, and everybody seemed to expect Max to wave a magic wand (or an alien hand,) and solve everything in an instant. Max didn't have a magic wand, and all he was sure of was that, as with Maria, the thought of Michael and Liz as a couple made him feel knotted up inside.

Steering clear of all this, Tess badgered Alex about directions to see River Dog. He claimed vagueness of memory, (which was quite true, since he had only been up there once and that was when Michael had been dying,) and told her to talk to Max about it. He didn't want to upset Isabel by giving Tess the information she needed to go see River Dog herself.

It was after school the next day when Max finally brought up the subject of the Book, and to give him credit he did it pretty discretely, given all the discord that was going around.

He had gathered Isabel, Liz, Tess, and Michael around a table of Bugeye sodas at the Crashdown. Alex and Maria were drinking milkshakes at the corner, but Alex was just close enough to hear what was being said.

"Say, you remember that book?" Max started softly. "With the funky stencil cutouts and the lettering that none of us could read?" There was a very quiet pause. "Umm... does anyone here know what happened to it, by any chance?"

Tess reacted first, and very dramatically. Rising from her chair, she yelled at him "You LOST my BOOK? Max Evans, you *BASTARD!!*" And with that, she turned and stormed out of the cafe. A large percentage of the Crashdown clientelle looked at the group they left behind, and then with a few dozen small shrugs they returned to their own business.

The four remaining exchanged bemused glances. "Abandonment issues?" Michael guessed.

Isabel shook that issue off and returned to the subject at hand in a fierce whisper. "If you don't know where the book is, Max, and Tess doesn't know, none of us have it. You had it last, when you went off to talk to her about... dreams."

"None of you have seen it since then?" Max countered, in a voice that was even more whispery. Three heads shook quickly. "Well then, here's the thing. I remember carrying the book with me when I came back from that talk with Tess," he told them. "That's when I arrived here at the Crashdown, asked Maria about Liz, and found out she had left." Max didn't say what he hoped they all remembered - that Liz had been taken hostage by the shapechanging Nasedo, assuming Max's form as he led the FBI special unit on a deadly game of cat and mouse that had ended with Max a prisoner of Daniel Pierce.

"Oh, my god," Michael moaned. "You mean you had it on you when the special unit caught you?" Michael groaned. "It's probably been destroyed by now. Thank you Ed Harding, covering our tracks so well WE can't even find them."

"No, no," Max broke in once Michael finally came to a conversational full stop. "I'm pretty sure I didn't have it when I got to the carnival. I remember thinking about it when we were in the Jeep, that I didn't feel it in my jacket and maybe I should go back to the Crashdown looking for it. Before I could make up my mind, along sped Valenti and that was that."

"The... Crasdown?" Isabel repeated slowly. "Are you saying you left it... here, Max? In public??"

"I'm not sure," Max sighed. "I wouldn't have thought so, but I can't think where else if none of you remember me giving it to you. Plus... I think I *might* remember putting it down on the counter." Max gestured.

"This is just great," Michael growled. "You left it out in public, where anyone could find it. Valenti. One of the FBI boys."

"I don't think so," Isabel said pragmatically. "*They* were all pretty busy at the time too. So..." All of a sudden, it came together.

"Chances are, it was picked up by someone who doesn't know anything..." Max began. "Just a regular cafe customer."

"Who wouldn't have any good reason to suspect that it was real," Isabel continued. "I mean... it's an alien-looking book, and this is an alien theme restaurant. Our ordinary customer would think it was a souvenir or a piece of the ambience."

"But most good customers just don't help themselves to pieces of the ambience," Michael pointed out. "So either whoever took the book out of the cafe is klepto, or..."

"They paid for it to someone associated with the cafe," Max continued. "The Parkers, one of the waitresses, anyone. In any event..." He turned to look square at Liz.

"I know, I know," Liz groaned. "I'm your best shot for getting this darn thing back, whatever it is. Maybe your only shot." She sighed. "I'll see what I can do."

Max nodded gravely. "Thank you," Isabel told her with a fair amount of sincerity.

"By the way, why the sudden concern about the B right now, Maxwell?" Michael asked. "I mean, I know it's a problem that it's gone missing, but why did you just realize it now? I haven't thought about the thing in months, I know."

"It just... occurred to me," Max covered. "No particular reason."

* * * *

"Parker residence?"

"Hi Liz," Alex said into his telephone. "It's Alex."

"Hi Alex," Liz replied. "No, I haven't figured out what happened to the book yet."

"Book?" Alex said in as innocent a voice as he could manage. If Max wasn't telling Michael and Isabel the real story about the book and the dreams, Alex wasn't going to breathe a word about his part in the situation.

"Oh, don't use that 'who, me?' voice on... well, me, Alex," Liz said. "I noticed you paying careful attention in the Crashdown day before yesterday when Max was telling us about it. And that's okay. I don't keep secrets from you any more."

Alex smiled. "Thanks. I really didn't call to bug you about the book, though I'm interested. I rang to ask you how you were doing, especially in the 'dealing with all this' category."

"Oh, *that* category, huh?" Liz giggled. "Quite a general definition, isn't it?" Alex chuckled, but didn't answer aloud. "Well, I'm feeling a little stressed out, I'll admit it," Liz said after a moment. "All this pressure from so many sides at once..."

"I know what you mean," Alex said. "In fact... do you have any plans for tonight, Liz? The Banks' party perhaps?"

"Um... no, no plans as such," Liz told him. "In fact, I'd forgotten about the party until just now."

"Why don't we go together?" Alex asked. There was an awkward silence. "As friends, of course. You know, party, plutonic good time, take our minds off our troubles, that kind of thing."

Liz laughed. "I'd love to. Meet me at... where do the Banks live again?"

"Up on Redwood," Alex told her. "We can rendezvous next to that science knicknack store on Grovenor."

"I'll be there in half an hour," Liz assured him.

"Half an hour," Alex agreed, and the line went dead as Liz hung up. Alex placed his phone in its cradle too.

It was after Alex had taken a superspeed shower and put most of his party duds on that the phone rang again. Alex picked the receiver up and immediately said "No, Liz, you cannot back out, because you'd just sit in your room in the dark and mope about Max all night. We're going."

"Actually..." Alex flushed in mortification as he recognized the voice on the other end of the line, "...this *is* Max. Just where are you and Liz going?"

"Max, hi!" Alex exclaimed, avoiding the question. "To what do I owe the pleasure?"

Max paused a second. "Well, I was calling to suggest that we go up to the pod chamber sometime soon. To see if it brings back anything from your dreams. Did you have any last night by the way?"

"No," Alex admitted, "they've faded out. Maybe whatever that dingus did to me has worn off." Hint hint. "As far as you taking me up to the MacCready farm, sure, and thanks."

"Mm-hmm." Max's voice became probing. "How's tonight for you?"

Alex gasped out his frustration. "Well, if you must know, Liz and I are going to Courtney's party. As friends. I really have to go now, actually." For a brief second, Alex wondered if Max would ask Alex to back off so that Liz could be his date at the party, and what Alex should say if Max *did*. He didn't think Liz would be wild about the idea.

For better or worse, Max didn't bring it up. "I see," he muttered, his voice hardly more than a whisper across the telephone line. "Well, tell Liz I may see you guys there, then?"

Alex wondered how to take that for a second, then chose 'at face value.' "Will do."

* * * *

When Alex arrived at the corner, Liz was waiting for him. "What kept you? I thought I was being 'stood up.'"

Alex just smiled at his old friend. "Threads this good don't just pick themselves," he deadpanned, gesturing at his gold-tone collar shirt. A second's thought had decided him against mentioning the phone call from Max. "Been waiting long?"

"Nah, just a few minutes." Liz fell in beside him and pointed down the street, a small scrap of paper in her hand with a miniature map scrawled on it. Alex knew in which direction they were going, but set off in step with Liz without commenting on the fact.

"By the way, you look very nice," Liz mentioned after they had been walking for about twenty seconds.

"Oh, yeah, th- thanks," Alex stuttered. "And you look..."

Alex hadn't really looked at Liz when he met up with her at the corner. He didn't tend to really look at her, actually. Liz was just someone who was there. Reliably, comfortingly there... except when he percieved that she wasn't. But Alex would never have thought of paying attention to something like the clothes Liz was wearing to a party.

"You look great!!" It was an understatement. Oh, Liz's clothes may have been far from 'cool stylish threads' in the opinion of the most fashion-conscious of their peers. Just a mid-length dark red skirt, matched with a slightly brighter sweater in the same tone, along with low-heely-type shoes. But she looked just perfect somehow. Perfect for a party. I wonder if this is how Max sees her? The thought running through his mind surprised and disturbed Alex. How Max - the soulmate - saw Liz Parker was not how Alex, the best friend, should be looking at her!

Meanwhile, Liz was speaking again, her words breaking apart Alex's introspection. "So... I've been thinking lately," she said in a confessional voice.

"Why does that not surprise me??" Alex joked at her. "And would you like to share the subkect matter of your thoughts, Miss Parker?"

"Sure," Liz agreed, smiling, and then looked back and forth, craning her neck to stare behind them, making sure that no-one else was in earshot. "It's about the Skins."

Alex nodded solemnly. "What about them??"

"Well, everyone is being so melodramatic about the situation. Like any moment these alien bogeymen might pop up from around the corner and try to kill Max and Isabel, or whatever. But work it out. The skins have probably been here in Roswell for what, two or three weeks now? And they haven't attacked, haven't revealed themselves..."

"They killed Nasedo... or one of them did," Alex pointed out softly.

"Yes they did," Liz agreed... "Or so Nasedo implied to Max before he died, anyway. But aside from that... nothing. Or at least nothing obvious."

"And what does your finely analytical and deductive brain conclude from this, Sherlock??" Alex asked her playfully.

"That they're not about to face Max... or any of the four... directly, any time soon," Liz told him confidently. "If they were, they'd have been smart to do it immediately, before Max and Michael tumbled to the risk." She paused a moment. "I've been thinking about Michael's arrest, though."

"You think the skins might be behind that??" Alex asked cautiously.

"Why not? If he'd been exposed as an alien and a murderer, the skins might not have needed to do anything more to get rid of him. But they wouldn't be risking themselves in the same way as a frontal assault. For all we know, they were watching. Trying to figure out how Max and Isabel handled themselves in a crisis."

"Hmm... I think it's a good thought," Alex admitted. "Max may have realized it already, actually. He's been pretty Nazi-like lately about the head down thing. Nothing suspicious in public, etcetera."

"Oh, darn," Liz mumbled, pouting cutely in disappointment at the idea of her thunder being stolen. "Sshh," Alex and Liz whispered to each other in unison as another partygoer crossed the street and started walking right in front of them. Not surprising - the Banks house was right up ahead.

* * * *

The party was, on first sighting, incredible. The Banks' place wasn't fancy, in fact the house looked slightly run-down, but it was large and no cheap expense had been spared in decorating it for the festivities. Dozens of people were circulating in the first few rooms that Alex could see into immediately upon entering the building, some high-school age, some older through what looked like older twenties and 'thirty-ish.' No farther. Most of the partyers were carrying beverages, some obviously soft drinks, some probably not, (and there was no obvious correlation between how old an individual looked and how alcoholic their drink seemed.) Alex was reminded of his big rant to sheriff Valenti late the night of the heatwave party, last year, and wondered what he would do if somebody offered him booze. At least there wasn't likely to be pressure, the number of people around who were drinking Cokes and Pepsis.

"Umm... hi there!" A tall, buff-looking guy in his mid-twenties put down a huge package of styrofoam cups and waved hello to Alex and Liz. "Not meaning to be rude, but who are you?"

Liz fielded the questions. "Umm... we're, that is, we're kinda friends of Courtney's."

The guy ran a hand though his short blond hair and grinned. "From which class?"

"From the Crashdown," Alex offered. "I'm a terminal regular and Liz," he pointed to her with the over-the-shoulder gesture of a thumb, "is the owners' daughter."

"Oh, okay. Hi there, I'm Steve Banks, Courtney's brother and your host for the evening. Sorry for being snarky, but this was supposed to be a mid-size housewarming, not a huge rave bash. Most of the high school seems to be here."

"No," Alex corrected. "The senior party crowd wouldn't dream of showing up before nine. Wouldn't look 'cool.'"

"Thanks for the warning... I think," Steve told him dubiously. "Well, let's see. Pool's in the basement, computer games are down the hall on your left, drinks and dance floor upstairs. Aside from that, just wander around and have fun!" Steve waved at them again, picked up his burden, and headed to the staircase that led up from the front hall of the house.

Liz turned towards Alex, smiling, evidently having been as affected by the charm of Courtney's brother as he had. "Check out these computer games?" she suggested.

"Unless you want to go for a dip in the pool," Alex replied with a wide grin.

"Don't think so." Liz led him down the hallway Steve Banks had indicated and into a room with more than its fair share of people per square foot, even for this party.

The computer setup was pretty cool, Alex had to admit. Someone, presumably Steve, had linked together a modern server tower, a few-years-old desktop, a workstation that seemed to be little more than a screen keyboard and builtin trackball, and a little laptop. All four were interfacing to run an old-fashioned video game, with each station controlling a spaceship out to explore the galaxy, find energy and weapons, and destroy the competition. Alex and Liz took a turn together, but got blasted out of the galaxy pretty early when a better-armed starfighter ambushed them. By the rules of precedence that were being enforced, they had to go back to the end of the line, which had grown even longer.

"So..." Alex mumbled, as he held the black magic marker and looked up at the nine entries ahead of them. "So, Liz, do you *want* to wait for another go?"

Liz shrugged carelessly. "I could go either way, I guess. You?"

"Maybe we'll leave it for later," he decided, putting the marker down and walking back over to Liz. "Thanks for coming with me, by the way. A party was just what I needed."

"I know what you mean," Liz agreed, as they left the computer room. "And - thank you for asking me, Alex."

"Oh, you're very welcome," Alex replied. Somewhat to Alex's surprise, he reached out an arm and wrapped it around Liz's shoulders. What the heck was that? Well, it could be considered a friendly gesture. Liz didn't seem to be worried about it...

"So, where to next?" Liz mumbled softly, as they stood at a junction od rooms.

"Oh, hey guys! Liz!!" They turned around in the direction of the voice, and Alex blinked in shock. There before him stood Maria DeLuca and Max Evans... holding hands. What was going on here?

"Hey," Alex said slowly.

"Hello." That was Max. Maria's voice had been the one hailing them down.

Liz was the one to figure it out first. "What is this... are you two trying to make me jealous or something?"

"No, of co-" Max started.

"That depends," Maria quipped, letting go of Max's hand, stepping closer to the teenaged alien, and wrapping her arm around his back so that her hand ended up at the other side of Max's waist. "Is it working?!"

"No!!" Liz burst out. "No, it isn't 'working,' and quite frankly I'm disappointed in both of you for pulling such a cheap stunt..."

"Oh, and bringing Alex was what, a brilliant stratagem?" Maria taunted back. The two guys, Max and Alex were just staring wordless at the bitch-off by this point. "We're just followin' your lead, sister."

"Alex and me coming here was not a stratagem," Liz replied heatedly. "We're just two friends going to a party together." Belatedly, Alex whipped his arm off of Liz's shoulders.

"Yeah, right. And did you even think about how it would look to Max? How he might feel about your little friendship date?"

"'Max' is damn well gonna have to get used to it!!" Liz shouted.

Alex turned to Max to see how he was dealing with this, but remarkably young Mister Evans didn't even seem to be paying attention to Liz and Maria's argument. He was staring at something behind Alex and he whispered softly "Oh, no." Alex turned around to see what was up.

Isabel had just walked into the room. With Grant Sorenson right next to her.

Alex shot a glance back over his shoulder. Liz and Maria had apparently put the squab fight on hold in the face of the new diversion. Maria, who probably couldn't see Isabel or recognize Grant from where she was standing because Alex was between them, was looking from Liz to Max, trying to figure out what was going on. Liz, who could see Isabel and Grant, was looking up at Alex with silent support and commiseration. And Isabel had recognized her friends and was bringing Grant over.

"I'll be a minute, okay?" Alex murmured to Liz, and stepped forward to meet his ex-girlfriend and her new fling. Or, perhaps more precisely, to say "Pardon me," to Grant and drag Isabel back towards the doorway before he could react. "What are you doing?" he hissed. For god's sake, if his life was going to suddenly become a Melrose Place episode, he might as well act the part.

"I'm... having fun at a party," Is spluttered. "Or I was until ten seconds ago. What did it look like I was doing, Alex?"

Alex ignored that question. "And what's Grant doing here with you? Are you on a date with him!?"

Isabel smirked a little, and Alex worried that he'd made a mistake, asking her straight out like that. "What about you and Liz? Are you two 'here on a date?"

Alex groaned. Why did everyone seem to think that he and Liz were the next hot couple or something? "No, we're just here as friends."

"Then Grant and I are friends too," Isabel declared, energetically but not really convincingly.

Alex wasn't buying it for a second. "Isabel..."

"Okay, try this: I fail to see how Grant and I are any of your business anymore, Alex. By the way, have you ever *thought* about asking Liz out? The two of you are really cute together." Isabel's decision to change the subject was obvious... and effective. "Is! If your love life is none of my business, then you certainly have no right to come and tell me something like..."

"Chill," she advised him. "It was just a friendly observation, nothing more. Even though it would solve a lot of problems if you two got together..."

Alex gave up and turned away, trying to determine if Liz was still back where he had left her. A knot of other partyers was in the way.

"Or Maria... is Maria attractive to you at all??" Isabel asked him as he walked away.

He found Liz talking with Max and Maria a little further across the room. "We've declared pax," Liz advised him. "How'd things go with Isabel?"

"Not nearly so good," Alex admitted, and turned to greet his friends in the new post-armistice context. "Hey, Maria, glad you came out."

"Looking sharp, bassman."

"Nice to see ya here, Max. Now that the surprise wore off."

Max laughed. "I know what you mean."

The four of them stood there, clustered in a tight knot for several seconds. "So... what else is there to do at this shindig?" Maria asked just after the silence became awkward.

Liz laughed. "Well, Courtney's brother said something about beverages and music upstairs."

"Sounds good to me," Max decided. "What's this brother like?" he asked conversationally as the foursome began to maneuver back to the front hall.

Alex shot Liz a glance, but she shrugged slightly in response as if to say 'your turn.' "Um... he seemed pretty cool. Older, a little frenzied with the party stuff, but really friendly."

"I heard that he's the new director of news for KROZ radio," Maria commented. That line proved a conversation stopper as each of the four of them remembered the angst of the Blind Date concert KROZ had run that winter.

Things loosened up once the foursome got upstairs and were provided with sodas by a guy Alex recognized from being on the football team with Kyle Valenti. Still, the conversation stayed pretty much the smallest of small talk for a while - classes, CDs, who was dating who out of the people none of them knew well.

Suddenly, something was causing a minor commotion across the room. "Whoo, baby!!" some guy called out.

Maria turned around to see what the kaffuffle was all about. "Oh, god," she whispered.

Tess had just shown up.

She was dressed up to the nines, (or possibly the tens?) in a navy blue dress that was short on the legs, low-cut over the cleavage, tight and stretchy all over. Plus high-heeled leather boots, earrings, and a bracelet. Her blonde hair was down in a mass of curls, the ouftit looked like it belonged on the cover of a 'Maxim,' but all the guys were staring at her as if with a single hormone. Including, unfortunately, Max.

Alex tore himself away from the sight, (which took a little effort, even though Tess really wasn't his type,) and turned to Liz, who hadn't yet realized what was going on. "Dance with me," he mumbled to her, dragging Liz away from Tess's direction, away from Max, towards an empty section of the dance floor. He didn't have any plan in mind beyond trying to distract Liz, but he felt a need to do whatever he could to shelter Liz from any more painful angst.

It seemed to be working. "What's this about, Alex," Liz asked as she started to dance with him.

"Just... just a whim," Alex said unconvincingly.

"Is... is there something you're not telling me?" Liz asked.

"Yes. And believe me, you don't want me to."

Liz considered that for a moment. "Okay... I guess."

* * * *

Alex carefully picked his way around the wet patches on the stairs down from the Banks' front hall. Liz looked a little less than ready to follow him. "You sure you want to do this?"

Liz considered only a moment. "Yeah. That guy told us Michael was down here somewhere, and I'd like to find him and say hi."

"Sure." Alex led the way again, and Liz followed. As he had suspected, the pool room was right at the bottom of the stairs. It was good-sized for an indoor pool, and a lot of partyers (most of them twenty-something or under,) were swimming, laughing, and playing in and around the water in bathing suits. A few piles of spare suits were laying around.

Alex looked around, but he couldn't see Michael around the pool. There was a door at the far end of the pool room, so Alex waved Liz along. They started to cross the room. A guy was heading in their direction, carrying a tray of drinks. He moved closer to the wall, so Liz and Alex nudged a little closer to the pool to let him pass.

It was not meant to be. As they were walking past each other, the waiter-guy slipped on a wet patch and lost his balance. He dropped the tray, sending cans of beer and soda pop rolling every which way, and a single glass tumbling, spilling yet more liquid on the floor, and clattering against the hard surface. Waiter guy's momentum sent him stumbling straight into Liz, which knocked her straight - into - the - pool.

"Oh, god, are you okay??" Someone was hurrying over from the stairs - it was Courtney Banks, from the Crashdown, (and their host's sister who had invited West Roswell High to the party.) She gave Liz a helping hand out of the pool while Alex steadied the waiter guy up to his feet.

"Yeah, yeah, just a little wet," Liz said as she got out. Not just wet, she was dripping, her sweater, the rest of her clothes, and her hair soaked from her brief dip in the pool.

"Oh, you're drenched, you poor thing," Courtney said solicitously. "Come on, I'll get you upstairs, you can put on some of my things and I'll get these clothes washed and dry."

"Um, okay..." Liz said, turning to Alex. "You just hang out, enjoy the party, okay Alex? I'll find you once I'm put together again."

"Okay," Alex said, waving goodbye to Liz as Courtney led her up the stairs. None of them noticed Courtney's brother Steve watching with interest from the living room.

"The game is afoot," he whispered softly.


To be continued...

"This above all, to thine own self be true."
"We make our own destinies."
posted on 17-Oct-2001 5:43:17 PM
Homecoming, section 2: the overture. Part b
Author: Chris Kenworthy
Email: Chris_Kenworthy⊕
Disclaimer: No, I don't own any of the Roswell characters. I don't plan to steal them and lock them up in white rooms either. ;-) I just let them out to play from time to time and see what happens.
Distribution: Distribute anywhere you like, based at Roswell stories:
Feedback: YES PLEASE!
Category: Alternate timeline epic. Conventional couples angst leading up to UC in later parts - you have been warned!
Rating: PG-13, for now
Summary: Alien mysteries lead to an interesting year...
Spoilers: Up to 'Ask not'


Alex noticed that Max was staring at him, as if wondering what he was lost in thought about now.

"The Banks party," Alex stated simply.

"Oooh," Max's face contorted into a brief grimace. "That son of a bitch."


* * * *

Alex was up in the Banks' living room, sitting on a couch and listening to the soft pop music, when someone surreptitiously took the seat next to him. "Mission successful, agent double-o eight?"

Alex jumped a little in surprise. "Maria! Where's Max? *What* mission??"

"I left Max playing star raiders," Maria admitted. "He should be occupied for a few minutes. Did Liz see what had happened with T-E-S-bitch?"

Alex stifled a chuckle and shook his head at Maria's joke. He could understand why Maria wasn't the president of the Tess Harding fan club, but did she have to keep taking potshots at the girl? "No, I don't think she *wanted* to know," he told Maria.

"Good enough. I slapped the boy hard for staring, at her of all possible girls. Umm..." Maria was looking around in belated curiosity. "Where did you get rid of Liz to, anyway?"

"I didn't," Alex informed her. "She got knocked in the pool and Courtney took her upsairs to dry off."

"Oooh," Maria groaned. Alex shot her a look. "I'm sorry, I don't trust that girl. I've seen the way she looks at Michael."

"The same way you do," Alex teased her.

"Yeah, but I've got history," Maria said in her defense.

"Okay," Alex replied. "Um. So..." An awkward silence surrounded the pair.

"Hey, losers." Alex looked up to realize that Kyle was waving at Maria and him from across the room.

"Hi, jock," he replied with an artificially sunny smile, waving back.

"Cut it," Maria said, nudging Alex with an elbow.

"I'm just being sociable. And since when do you care one millimeter about Kyle Valenti??" Alex asked doubtfully.

"I don't, it's just..."

"Just what?" Max asked, dropping onto the couch on the other side of Maria.

"Umm... never mind," Maria finally said. "Would take too long to explain. How'd you do?"

"You are looking at a 'Gold captain,'" Max quoted with a trace of bemused pride.

"Ah, and who killed the gold captain off?" Alex asked with a big grin.

"The other three starfighters teamed up to destroy me," Max groused. "So... now what?"

"I could do with hunting down some snacks, gold captain," Maria laughed. "Alex, you wanna stick with us until Liz comes back."

"Liz??" Max repeated, trying, (and failing,) to keep his tone casual.

Maria's eyes brightened. "Liz got all wet," she teased Max as they got up from the couch. "Someone knocked her into the pool. She's probably changing her clothes right now..."

"Stop it!!" Max exclaimed, swatting Maria playfully on the shoulder.

"Getting out of her soaking wet things... Alex, was she dripping when she got out of the water??"

Alex just sighed and went along with his friends.

* * * *

Inside Courtney's room upstairs, Liz shivered a little, wrapping the huge, fluffy towel that Courtney had given her a little tighter around her body and rubbing a little more of the damp away. A knock sounded on the door. "Liz?"

Liz moved over towards the door. "Courtney?"

"Yeah. How're you doing?" the waitress' voice answered her.

"Um... as okay as possible under the circumstances... don't come in!" Now why had she said that? Courtney was another girl after all, and this towel made her more decent than some of the outfits at this party... but try telling that to her inhibitions.

"Um, okay... your stuff is in the wash, it'll be all dry by midnight. Let's see... all of my stuff is in the dresser to the right of the door. I'm sorry, there won't be much to choose from - most of *my* clothes need to go in the laundry."

"That's okay," Liz heard herself saying. "You've been so great about this already."

"Yeah, I have, huh?!" Courtney giggled through the door. "Well, I've got party rounds to do... you gonna be okay from here?"

"I'm... sure," Liz said as she opened the top drawer of the dresser her hostess had indicated. Was this a case of a difference in taste, what was left in Courtney's wardrobe after the girl had made her own picks, or some of each?

Everything seemed small, thin, or both. Belly shirts, silk shorts, miniskirts, halter tops... "Courtney?" Liz called out half-heartedly, not knowing what she would say next. The girl had already apologized for the fashion selection, hadn't she?

There was no answer from Courtney. So much for that.

After staring for a long minute, Liz told herself not to be so uptight, as usual. It was a party, for cripes' sake, and slightly more revealing clothing than usual was okay at a party. Determinedly, Liz chose the items that seemed most like something she'd always wanted to wear but had never had the nerve. Skin was no object.

So it was that Liz Parker opened the bedroom door several minutes later, wearing denim cutoffs, a green spandex tank top, and her hair still damp. She had dried off her heels as well as she could, and was wearing them.

Liz could hear the sounds of partying from most of the rooms around her as she stood in the hallway. She hadn't paid much attention when Courtney brought her up here, but she thought the dance room where she and Alex had met up with Maria and Max was that one at the end of the hall. She was pretty sure the stairs downstairs were right around the corner from there.

She set off down the corridor, no further thought in her mind than to meet up with Alex as she had said she would do. Liz wasn't halfway to the dance room when a large person stumbled out of a door right in front of her. Liz shrieked slightly in reflexive fright, then choked it off.

The new person was a twentyish male, muscular... not unhandsome, but certainly not what Liz thought of as her type. For one thing, his hair was on the light side and fell nearly to his shoulders. For another, his breath smelled like beer and whisky. He grinned lopsidedly at Liz.

She fought down her nervousness. It's gonna be okay. "Uh, hey there," she told the guy.

"You're... hott!!" the guy declared as if it were something monumental.

"Um... thanks, thanks a lot," Liz said nervously. "Now, I'm sorry, but I need to get back to my friend." She tried to circle around the drunk.

He lurched to the side, blocking the center of the whole hallway off. "Can't I be your friend, babycakes??" he drawled out, and then burped.

Liz froze. How should she respond to this? For the first time her nervousness began to spike into fear. If she shot this dope down, and it actually got through his liquor-soaked brain, he could get angry, which might be very dangerous to Liz. If she encouraged him, it could be almost as bad...

Well, nothing for it but to walk the line as best she could. "Sure, we can be friends," Liz said, as positively as she could. "I'd like that. But still I... I really do need to go downstairs. Ya wanna come downstairs with me, buddy?" Sunny smile, and...

"Don't you talk down to me, bitch!" The drunk suddenly cuffed Liz on the cheek with a clenched fist, and she knocked back in pain. "I don't wanna go downstairs. I wanna stay right here with you. Whatcha think about that, you little tease?" He swung Liz up against the wall, crowding close to her.

Liz realized that she had made a mistake. The only drunk young person she was used to dealing with was Kyle, who tended to get friendly, mellow, suggestible, and pliant when he'd been boozing. This drunk was definitely on the moody side.

She tried to struggle away, but it was no use, as Booze-hound gripped her upper arm firmly with one hand, mauling her chest vaguely with the other and leaning his hips towards hers.

"Help!!" Liz called out, hating how helpless she was seeming.

* * * *

"Oh, hey," a vaguely familiar voice called as Alex, Max and Maria approached the snack foods table. "You're... Liz's friend. Sorry, I didn't catch your name." It was Steve Banks.

"Alex," Alex said. "Alex Whitman. Maria, Max, this is our host, Steve Banks." They all shook hands over pringles and peanuts.

"You're Courtney's sister?" another high-school teenager nearby said to Steve. "Nice to meet you man, and you throw a killer housewarming."

"Thank you very much." Steve said solemnly.

"So... why did you guys move to Roswell?" someone else asked Steve.

"Oh, hey!" Alex spotted a very familiar face across the room and tapped Maria on the shoulder. "Guess who."

The look of pure joy crossing over Maria's face when she recognized Michael was priceless. If short-lived. "Who's that he's t-- Courtney?! It's not enough he lets her flirt with him at work, now he's making time with her at a party!?"

"She's the one who invited us all, Maria," Max pointed out. "Maybe he's just being polite."

"When, in all your life, have you known Michael to be polite?" Maria countered. While Max was thinking about that, Maria headed off to give Michael a piece of her mind.

Alex shot a glance at Max. "Should we go with?"

"Better to give those two some space," Max advised. "Espcially considering Michael finding out Maria came with another guy, ie me, might hurt the whole righteous indignation thing she's got going."

"Ah." Alex filed that away. He had been wondering if Max and Maria had shown up here together to make *Michael* jealous too, especially in light of the whole Liz-Michael-Whittaker-dinner thing, but...

"You wanna come too, Max?" Steve asked, breaking Alex out of his thoughts.

"Huh?" Max asked, echoing Alex's thoughts. "Come where?"

"Up to my room, I was gonna show you guys-"

"Sure," Max agreed pre-emptively, surprising Alex. "Let's go."

Alex followed as Steve, Max, and a few other high school students, two guys and a girl, climbed up the stairs and turned around the corner.

Alex and Max had passed the others before Alex realized that Steve had stopped, stock still. Then he realized why. Liz was pinned up the wall, being gripped and groped by some college freshman (or he looked around that age, anyways.) "Stop it, you're hurting me," Liz whimpered in a tone of the purest desperation.

Alex shot a quick glance over at Max, sure that with the boiling anger he himself felt, the guy who called himself Liz Parker's soulmate had to be taking it even worse. Sure enough, Max's face was a mask of contorted fury. If I had his alien powers, that guy would be flying through three walls by now, Alex thought. Probably he will be, in about three seconds...

Something struck Alex funny about that. Steve and three other witnesses were right here. Max couldn't afford to use his powers right at the moment. Would he recognize that in the flush of hot anger? Very vaguely, Alex remembered what he'd talked with Liz about the skins trying to expose or indirectly attack the royal four. Had their sinister alien hand been setting up this scene?!

All of these thoughts flashed through Alex's mind in a fraction of a second. He had to act, and he had to act now. Stepping forward towards Liz and the goonball, he made himself trip and crash into Max, who was even more furious now, his eyes narrowed and fingers trembling. As the two of them stumbled together, he whispered so softly that only Max could hear him, "Be careful, your majesty."

Max looked up at Alex, and it was clear that the message had gotten through. Together the two of them hurried over to seperate Liz from her attacker. Alex held the freshman back while Max hugged Liz and made sure she was alright. "Sorry, buddy," Alex cracked, feeling a little awkward about the situation. "This ain't a kissing booth."

"You're sure you're okay?" Alex heard Max say to Liz.

"Yeah, yeah, I'm fine, thanks to you. I'm just so glad you were here..." She choked off, looking up into Max's eyes. "I'm so sorry, Max, I... I have so much I..."

"Yeh." Max kissed Liz quickly on the cheek, and held her close for a moment. "We'll talk later, okay??"

"Yeah." Liz nodded attentively.

"What... what's going on here??" the drunk bellowed.

Max whirled on him, making sure that Liz was safe behind him. "That's my friend that you were assaulting!!"

"Huh??" the drunk drawled. "Uh, so??"

"So?" Max grinned tightly. "So, that means I kick your ass right now. Alex, let him go."

Alex paused a second, and then let the drunk guy's arms go. He staggered towards Max, who took one swing and laid the guy out on the hallway floor.

"Get back up so I can do it again, loser," he growled.

"Max, that's enough," Liz said, hurrying over to him. "He's just drunk, and he didn't hurt me."

"Who didn't hurt who??" The voice indicated that someone new had arrived on the scene - Courtney Banks. "Liz, are you okay??"

"Why does everyone keep asking me that?" Liz joked. "Yeah, Courtney, I'm fine, thanks."

"What's going on here??" Courtney continued. "Steve? Alex??"

"Well, um..." Alex spluttered, surprised at being called upon. "We were coming up here to... umm... well, I'm not sure why, exactly," he muttered. "We found out that, well... it seems that this guy," he nudged chuggy with his toe delicately, "had had a little too much to drink, and he was... attacking Liz. In a frat guy kinda way."

"What??!" Courtney spun towards Steve. "Steve, do you know who invited this guy here? I don't think he was brought by me or anyone at the high school..." She paused dramatically. "You know, don't you??"

Steve flinched a little bit. "He's... he's a friend of a friend, okay Court?? Don't make a big deal ab-"

"Well, you can tell your friend that neither he, nor his friend, are welcome in my house ever again!!" Alex blinked in surprise, but Steve seemed to take this at face value. Courtney's house??

"Come on, guys," Max said to Liz and Alex. "Let's blow this popsicle stand."

* * * *

"I can't believe Liz was attacked," Maria repeated for the sixth time. "Like... like *that*." She shuddered expressively. "Do you think she's okay?"

"Hmm... she spent the whole ride here assuring you that she's fine," Michael said slowly. "You know, there's a slight chance that she's doing alright."

"Hmph." Maria ignored Michael expressively and turned to Alex. "And I can't believe that I missed it all."

The five of them, Alex, Maria, Michael, Liz, and Max, had driven back from the Banks' place to the Crashdown in Max's jeep, (a pretty cramped ride,) and Max and Liz were having their 'private talk' out on the balcony.

The two of them had been acting very... close, ever since the incident at the party. Not quite like they were back together yet, but... back when they were in one of their 'off again' phases before all this Destiny crap got in the way. A reconciliation might be on the way.

Alex wasn't quite sure what he felt about it all. He loved Liz like a best friend and wanted her to be happy, and he'd never seen her as happy as when she'd been a couple with Max last year. On the other hand, for her to be looking up at Max with those doe eyes like he was her big hero... Alex had come to the rescue too, hadn't he? In fact, Alex had a sneaking suspicion that if it hadn't been for his quick thinking, all of them would be in much deeper trouble right now.

The sequence of events ran through Alex's mind on its own. Steve Banks, news director that he was, would run with the story. High school junior uses telekinetic powers in 'difference of opinion' at local housewarming. Everything that happened last year with Max and Liz would get dragged out again. The shooting, the fire with Max's mother, the carnival incident. There had to be people who would still remember. Congresswoman Vanessa Whittaker, for example.

They'd have to go on the run again. Max and Liz at least. Take off for the Mexico border, where the FBI would have a harder time chasing them. Maybe Michael and Isabel too...

"Oh my god, I came as soon as I heard." Isabel had just walked through the front door of the crashdown, taking off her leather jacket. No-one else was in the dining room except for an old man in the far corner -- Liz had asked him if he wanted anything before she disappeared, and he had just shaken his head and gone back half to sleep.

Isabel tucked the hem of her dress under as she slid into the table next to Maria, across from Alex. "So, what's the deal? You all just take off from the party without telling me?"

"I looked for you," Alex told Isabel pointedly. "Max wanted to go, and we couldn't find you."

"So, was Liz really..." Isabel started.

"Oh, look." Alex looked up to see Kyle Valenti strutting towards them. "If it isn't the Roswell nuts club having a quorum meeting."

"It's invitation only, Valenti," Michael told him dryly. "What are you doing here?"

"Chill, okay?" Isabel told him. "When I found out Liz was... um, attacked, you know..." She dropped her voice to a whisper for the last phrase. "I wanted to go right away, Grant didn't want to leave the party right then, and Kyle nicely offered to give me a ride."

"It doesn't count as nice when you dig your nails into my wrist, Evans," Kyle told her dryly.

"Hey, everybody." This was Max, standing on the stairs, with Liz.

"It's getting a little late, isn't it?" Liz giggled, obviously trying hard not to look at Max.

"Yeah, can you guys do drive home duty?" Max asked Isabel and Michael, tossing the Jeep keys onto the table. "I wanna take a walk, get some air. Umm... Alex, your place is about the right distance. You up for it?"

Alex could tell that this wasn't a casual request from Max. "Okay." He waved bye to everybody, and followed Max out the front door. He didn't miss the smouldering stare that Max sent back towards the stairs.

Towards Liz.

"So, umm..." Max said, when they were a block away from the cafe. "We still on for tomorrow morning? The Macready ranch??"

"Hmm??" With all that had gone on, Alex had nearly forgotten. He looked around to make sure that no-one was within hearing range on the street. "The pod chamber? Yeah."

"Okay, I'll swing by and pick you up... around nine thirty?" Alex nodded. "Cool."

There was another awkward silence. "So," Alex said in turn. "Did you... and Liz..."

"Did we..." Max trailed off and looked over at Alex, a serious look on his face breaking into a grin. "Are we back together? Yes."

"Ah," Alex said, smiling and nodding politely. "That's nice."

"It's weird how it happened," Max related quietly as they walked. "From the moment I rescued her from that guy, it was BOOM! Flash. And I'm looking at her, trying to figure out if she had a flash, and she smiled at me, and I knew everything was gonna be okay. Up on the balcony, she told me that she was sorry for pulling away from me, and that if I wanted to try to make a new destiny for a new life with her, she'd go down the road with me as far as it would lead." Max sighed happily. "Or something like that... I'm so giddy right now I might have totally missed everything but the truly central point. We're back."

"Okay," Alex agreed.

"Oh, I think I was the one who brought up the stuff about the new life," Max suddenly remembered. "Like 'I might have a destiny, but this is a new life, and I can make new choices if I want to.' Of course, I had to tell her that we needed to keep the whole thing low profile for now, especially from Tess, and I could tell she was a little hurt by that." The young alien was basically rambling now. "But what could I do? Tess isn't my dream girl, but she's a part of my life now, and I can't alienate her. Pun not intended..."

"Max?" Alex broke in. "I've got one more question. When we were... at the party, when we just came upon Liz and that goon. If I hadn't reminded you, do you think you would have used your powers on him??"

Max had to think about that for a bit. "It's quite possible," he admitted. "I was so mad in that moment that I didn't care that Steve and the others were around. So thank you, Alex. I owe you another one now."

"Just treat Liz right, okay?" Alex asked him. "And... be carefuly. I had the wild notion that the whole Liz thing might have been staged. Like by a skin - trying to make you expose yourself."

"Yeah, it's a possibility," Max agreed. Neither of them broke the silence the rest of the way to Alex's house. But Max cleared his throat as Alex stepped onto the first of the porch stairs.

"Yeah, man?" Alex asked, turning back to him.

"I can tell that something's bugging you man, and I think I know what it is," Max told him.

Oh, really? "Yeah?"

"Don't worry. I'll put in a word with Isabel for you, man."

Alex forced a smile and went up into his house.

* * * *

Max was up early the next morning, making some instant pancakes and waiting until the time came to go pick up Alex. He heard footsteps and looked up. Isabel, still wearing her silk pj's, had come into the kitchen.

"Want some?" Max asked, gesturing to the pancakes.

"Sure." Isabel sat down at the kitchen table and closed her eyes, breathing deeply and perhaps listening to the birds chirp through the open window.

Max dumped some more batter down on the frying pan, and turned to his sister. "Is?" He checked to make sure their parents hadn't followed her down, but there was no sign of them. They often slept in on Saturdays.

"Yeah?" She didn't open her eyes, but her voice was clear and alert.

"I... Liz and I... last night we..."

"You're back together," Isabel filled in.

"It's that obvious?" Max blinked in surprise.

Now Isabel opened her eyes, and turned towards Max. "Let's put it this way. I don't think Michael or Kyle clued in last night."

Max grinned sheepishly. "I get the picture."

"I'm happy for the two of you, Max, I really am."

Max cleared his throat as he offered Is a pair of pancakes on a plate. She stood up and headed over to the cupboard. "What else, brother Max?"

"About you... and Grant Sorenson..."

Isabel took the box of icing sugar and a bottle of Tabasco back to her place at the table. "I'm interested in Grant, and I think he likes me, but we're just friends. Is that what you wanted to hear?"

"And Alex??" Isabel's silence was expressive. "Okay, Is, I know I have no right to tell you who to date or not to date, but I'm curious. You were really into Alex, back this spring, before everything happened. A few weeks ago you were telling him you weren't ready to be with any guy. And now you're 'interested' in Grant."

"So... are you dancing around in circles because you don't want to tell me straight out you think I'm a hypocrite??" Isabel snapped.

"No! I'm just... wondering what's going on in your head."

"Too bad you can't dreamwalk me," Isabel mumbled under her breath.

Max ignored that. "I know Alex, I like Alex, and I like the thought of the two of you being together. You don't have to explain the why or why not to me if you don't want to, Isabel. Just think about it for yourself, okay??"

Isabel mulled that over while she finished her pancakes.

* * * *

"So..." Max murmurred as Alex walked around. "Do you recognize anything, man?"

"Hmm..." Alex thought about that. "The pods, yeah. They're definitely the same ones I saw in my dream."

"Anything else?"

Alex chuckled. "Max, don't take this the wrong way, but there isn't much else." Aside from the four huge (and now empty,) pods, the passageway back outside, (which was pretty cool, Alex had to admit, with Max using the handprint to make the stone wall slide away,) the chamber was pretty spartan. Here and there a touch of alienesque architecture decorated the walls, and there was a slightly raised slab on the floor... where, Alex presumed, the royal four had ince used healing stones to bring Nasedo back to life. And failed to repeat the feat, just a handful of days ago.

"Haha, very funny," Max drawled.

"Nothing else is familiar to me," Alex said in a more serious tone. "The space, the layout, nothing. Well... maybe a bit of the doodads there." He pointed at the intricately carved supports that supported the vaulted chamber ceilling. "I might just be imagining that though."

"So, that's that I guess," Max sighed. "Well, it was worth a try."

"Yeah." Alex reached up and tentatively touched the supportive shelf that seperated two of the empty pods. "How did you find this place, anyways??"

"Tess showed me," Max said, after a moment. "Though I guess Michael had figured out something was here before that, using the alien map."

Alex stood stock still for a moment. Not again, he thought to himself. "Max, what alien map??"

Max froze for a second himself, then shook it out. "You know, Alex, you were there. I know you were there for this one. After we healed Michael at the cave on the reservation, he found out that this alien writing on the cave wall was a map..."

"I remember," Alex said. He did, now, and even realized that he had taken Isabel to the UFO center to show her similar inscriptions from somewhere in South America or something. "I wasn't informed that Michael had actually *found* anything on the map, though."

"I'll get a copy of it to you," Max promised. "We'll see if you can make anything more of it, now that you've been... zapped by that alien ring."

"Okay. I guess we'd better go," Alex decided. With Max, he headed out of the chamber, and the doorway was sealed back tight behind them. As they headed down the slope to where Max had parked the Jeep, Alex suddenly blurted out, "Max, why don't you want to tell the rest of the gang about this?"

Max stopped short, almost slipped on a rock, and turned to Alex, blinking in surprise. "Why don't I want... Alex, I'm just following *your* lead here!"

Alex felt like he was missing something obvious. "My... my lead??"

"Yeah," Max agreed. "I mean... you could have brought Liz or Isabel... Michael, Maria, whoever, into this at the very beginning. But you didn't. You came to me, Alex. And I guess I didn't want to take it over and bring it to the gang in your place. That's your privilege, Alex."

Alex found himself laughing. "And here I was stewing because I thought I needed your permission to bring my friends in on the whole thing. Well, okay, I think it's time we let everybody know."

"Everybody??" Max echoed. They had finished the climb down now and the Jeep was only a short distance away.

"Well, you know," Alex mumbled. "The usual suspects."

"Boy, that's gonna be weird," Max muttered softly. "Getting everybody together, in the same place, with all that's been going on, without it looking suspicious."

"Don't worry," Alex told him. "I know just how to handle it."

* * * *

"You are hereby invited to the next meeting of the Roswell parlour games club. Saturday, October 21st, 2001 ⊕ 7:30 pm. 275 White palm south."
Michael looked at the printed card Alex had just handed him. "What the hell is this?"

"Just be there, Michael."

* * * *

Alex looked around his parents' rec room, filled with his friends. "Okay, thanks for coming everybody... the card isn't quite full yet, so as soon as the stragglers arrive we'll start playing..."

"The stragglers?" Maria piped up. "But everybody's he..." She broke off, looking around the room. Alex, Max, Liz, Michael, and Isabel. With Maria herself, that made six... "Oh god, Alex, you didn't..."

Alex was about to ask Maria what she meant, when the doorbell rang. "That's probably our missing players now," he said unneccesarily, and sprinted up the basement stairs to the front door.

He got there a little after his mother. "Hi, Kyle... Sherriff!! Is... is there something wrong, sir?"

"Not at all, Mrs. Whitman." Valenti tipped his hat slightly, then took it off. "I'm here for the club."

Alex's mother's expression of surprise was eloquent. Alex chimed in. "The sherriff plays a mean hand of tyzicha, mom. We needed a sixth one day over at Kyle and Tess'..."

"Tess?" Carol Whitman seized on this, and connected it up with the girl standing in front of her. "Tess?" Tess nodded slightly at the mention of her name, and Alex's mother shook the blonde's hand enthusiastically. "So nice to meet you, Tess."

"Mom?" Alex fixed her with a look. "We should be getting started."

She dropped the shake immediately with a trace of embarassment. "Of course." She stood aside in an overt gesture of allowing the extended Valenti household to pass on into the basement.

Sherrif Valenti nodded again as he passed through, and Kyle and Tess nervously followed suit. Alex smiled a silent goodbye to his mother as he brought up the rear.

While he was gone, Max had consulted the seating charts Alex had made and started to arrange the gang in their seats for the first game. Alex was at the same table as Michael and Isabel, while sherrif Valenti went over to Max and Maria and Liz had to deal with Tess and Kyle.

"Okay," Alex whispered softly but clearly as he shuffled the short pack of cards. He had managed to put together a makeshift bug sweeper, and Max had done his best to 'sense' for alien equivalents, so the room was as safe from eavesdropping as possible - but no sense in taking chances. "We're not here to play cards, of course. What could be less suspicious of alien secrets than a loose collection of acquaintances getting together to play indoor games every week?" As Alex finished, the only sound he could hear over the dealing cards was fragments of Max and Liz going over the same spiel at their own tables.

Alex picked up his cards -- two red kings and three aces. "Your bid first," he softly prompted Michael.

* * * *

Isabel bid Tyzicha somewhat naively, Alex thought, but she was having enough luck tonight to win despite that, and was making a serious drive for the 501 point game Alex had stipulated. Michael played cards the same way he apparently approached everything in his life - with an overconfident, full-barrel run, heedless of the consequences. He was in the hole for a hundred thirty five, leaving Alex with no more likely fate than to end up in between them.

Of course, none of them were really paying all their attention to the game. Alex told the others about the gizmo he had touched and the dreams and flashes he had had. Isabel lent supportive attention, while Mchael was obviously holding back a doubtful scoff - though that was exchanged for a serious look when Alex explained how he had drawn the incubation pods from his memory flash, sight unseen. Alex finished up by asking Michael if he still had a copy of River dog's map, and if he could repeat what he had done to line it up with real Roswell.

"Sure, I guess," Michael replied, throwing out an ace lead and getting soundly trumped by Isabel. "I'm pretty sure I could do it again. Where there's a copy of the map is harder, but I'm sure one of us has it."

"That's what we thought about the book," Isabel muttered forebodingly, but didn't press the issue. Over the next deal, as the queen of hearts drove home her victory, Alex shared the hypothesis that the mysterious 'Skins' might be behind the assault on Liz at the party, with intent to force Max to expose himself for payback. (It took a little effort to avoid blowing his own horn over preventing that, but Alex didn't even mention it. Let Max take the credit.)

"Wouldn't be surprised," Michael muttered while surrendering the ten of spades to Isabel's offensive. "Better be on the watch for something more overt. Pretty soon they're gonna decide that these subtle ploys aren't getting the job done."

Before Alex could answer, Isabel raked in the last trick and turned her captured cards over, counting them at a glance. "That makes five-ten. What now?"

From across the room Max launched into the pre-arranged spiel. "Tables two and three, last hand. Once this deal is over, we switch tables. Winners together, losers together, in-betweeners together. Alright?"

So after a few minutes, Alex drew up a chair at the middle table, with fellow 'in-betweeners' Maria and Kyle. "So, any questions?" he asked as the sherriff's son dealt the cards. This could take a while.

* * * *

Later on that night, a procession made its disordely way up the Whitman steps, and... (more or less,) out the door.

"May I offer you a ride home, Miss Parker?" Max offered, half-bowing gallantly at her.

"Why certainly, Mister Evans. What a generous offer for you to make!" Liz couldn't hide her smile as she let Max lead her off to the driveway.

Maria and Michael made a big production of getting their jackets put on, neither of them able to look each other in the eye. They stepped towards the door at the same moment, each backed off and waved the other through with the same motion, and blurted out in unison, "We need to talk."

There was a tense pause. "Okay, we'll talk. Where and when?" Maria asked.

"Um... tommorow won't be much good, with the stupid Whittaker thing," Michael decided. "How about Monday? You can come over to my place after school."

"Monday?!" Obviously, this wasn't sitting particularly well with Maria. "Whatever." She stormed off, leaving Michael to shrug his usual 'What did I do now?' shrugs and stroll out the door himself, going the opposite way from Maria and wandering down to the driveway.

Jim valenti checked his watch. "I'm gonna need to swing by the station to take care of something," he announced out loud. "Tess, Kyle, can I drop you off at home first?"

"I'm taking a walk," Kyle groused, suiting action to word.

"Me too," Tess declared, storming off right after Kyle. The sherriff shrugged and headed down to his truck.

That left Isabel and Alex. "I should probably... go with Michael," Isabel muttered. "He's waiting down at my car."

Alex laughed softly. "Yeah, that's okay."

Is looked up into his eyes. "Alex, do you wanna... meet me for lunch tomorrow? Just to spend a little time together, maybe talk about things??"

Alex's smile grew even wider. "Yeah, Isabel, I'd like that."

Isabel smiled back. "Okay, I'll call you." She shook Alex's hand formally, and then in a rush of impulse, leaned forward to kiss him on the cheek. Then she was gone. Alex leaned out the door to watch the girl of his dreams running down to her car, letting Michael in, and driving away. He stayed out there a little while, just enjoying the moment.

He didn't notice the person lost in shadow on the other side of his street, the one who had been carefully watching that door ever since Max Evans and Liz Parker had come up the stairs. Now he faded back into greater darkness, the purposes to his observation complete. He knew what the next move would be, and where, and when.

It wasn't until he had passed through a long alleyway all alone that the mysterious eavesdropper stepped into streetlight bright enough to reveal his face - a face that the human world knew as 'Steven Banks.'

Steve wasted no time as he got into his '98 Viper and drove away.


To be continued...

Send feedback.

Go back to the Roswell stories main page.