posted on 14-Sep-2001 2:04:43 PM
Title: ABSOLUTION
Category: Everyone-CC
Rating: Um? I suck at these. PG-13 I guess
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary: This is a post departure story, (one of thousands I know) Everyone is dealing with the aftermath of the gerduck’s betrayal. M&M are closer than ever, Isabel is running away, Kyle has a new love interest, M&L are having a rough time of it. There is a new alien in town as well.

There are a lot of flashbacks in this so pay close attention to the dates.

Hope you enjoy—

**************************

ABSOLUTION

*Prologue*



June 02, 2001 3:20a.m.

El Capitan Mountains, deep in the Lincoln National Forest
85 miles West of Roswell, NM


*****

The Brilliant white light, faintly tinged with blue, burned a path through the moonless, starless night with a fury, ending in a final blinding explosion.

For the briefest of moments, a fraction of a second…

Night became day.

Animals of the dark, startled by this sudden invasion of serenity, scattered and scurried into the safety of the dense foliage.

A charred branch from a towering pine fluttered freely through the air. Down and down it tumbled until it came to rest gently near the naked form nestled deeply in the freshly seared grass of the forest.

The figure lay curled in the fetal position, seemingly asleep as ash floated and danced, raining down on bare flesh.

Peaceful eyelids flew violently open revealing intense gray eyes, flooded with panic.

With muscles taut, breath withheld, the eyes scanned for movement, for danger.

Using inescapable, completely inhuman speed, a silhouette fled swiftly through the forest.

A blur, a shadow, a ghost…..


*******
ABSOULUTION

PART 1

June 30th, 2001 Roswell, NM


His voice, rough and jagged, cut through the air and pierced her heart, halting her climb up the stairs.

“Liz wait…please.”

She stopped and closed her eyes, willing herself not to turn around, not to look into those tortured eyes. Eyes that so long ago shined with life, shined with love; but were now so fraught with guilt and pain, so dead, that they haunted her dreams. She held her breath and gripped tightly to the railing, her knuckles turning white.

“We’re never going to get beyond this are we?” he asked.

A single tear escaped her firmly shut eyes.

“Liz, I…I didn’t want it to be this way. Can’t we just…I miss you Liz. I miss us.”

Her jaw clenched involuntarily and the familiar anger she tried desperately to contain boiled quickly to the surface. Hardened eyes turned on him.

“I guess that thought should have crossed your mind before you SLEPT with the mind warping, manipulative BITCH that MURDERED my best friend!” she shrieked.

Her words were icy daggers ripping through his soul.

She fled up the remaining stairs so she wouldn’t see his face wince as if she’d struck him physically, so she wouldn’t see his shoulders slump in defeat, so she wouldn’t see her broken heart mirrored in his lifeless eyes.


~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

“Yeah this place is great, but since it is on FIRE and all, we should probably go.”

Liz blinked as the memory of the last time she saw Max faded and the face of Sean DeLuca came slowly into focus.

“Did you say something Sean?”

“Nah, I didn’t say anything, but what’s up with you Parker?” he asked, already knowing what the cause of her distraction was.

She gave him a confused look. “What do you mean?”

“Nothing really, its just that you’ve been somewhere else all night” he pointed out.

“Oh.”

Sean sighed inwardly at her response and mentally kicked himself for ever thinking that he had a chance.

“Why don’t we just get outta here,” he said curtly.

“Yeah, O.K.”

He reached for his wallet, pulled out two twenties, and dropped them on the table to pay for the meal. He grabbed Liz’s hand and they made their way to his old VW parked out front.

The deafening silence inside his car was overwhelming as he drove them back to the Crashdown.

He pulled up in front of the café and killed the engine. Gripping tightly to the steering wheel, the seconds ticked by at an agonizing snails pace as he attempted to steel himself for what he knew he had to say. When he finally turned to look at her he found her staring at him, eyes brimming with unshed tears threatening to fall.

“I’m sorry Sean,” she blurted out before he had the chance to start the speech he’d been rehearsing for days.

No longer threatening, the tears raced down her cheeks in rivulets, falling silently onto her lap.

‘Damn,’ he knew if she cried he’d never be able to do it. With a gentle touch he brushed the dampness away and soothed her softly.

“Shhhh, it’s o.k. Liz, it’s o.k. Don’t cry, don’t cry.”

“Sean I—please don’t—I—I—I need you. Please don’t leave me.”

Her moist eyes pleaded with him, begged him not to say what they both knew he should.

The corners of his mouth attempted a smile and he moved his hands to tuck her silky hair behind her ears.

“I’m not going anywhere Parker,” he whispered.

She leaned in and gratefully captured his lips in an urgent kiss. All her kisses were like this, like she’s desperately trying to hang on to something, or trying to find something that was maybe never there in the first place.

Sean reluctantly pulled away and searched her dark eyes for some shred of hope, some sign that he was doing the right thing by not letting her go, but all he found was frustration and boundless pain.

Liz reached up and ran her fingers lightly over his cheek.

“I’ll see you tomorrow?” she asked.

“Yeah, tomorrow,” he nodded slightly.

She rewarded him with a small smile, but his momentary gratification was lynched when she abruptly reached for the door handle and escaped outside before he could say another word.

‘Damn it.’ He started his car, revved the engine, threw it into 1st gear and peeled off down the street.

Liz entered her room heading straight for the balcony. She grabbed a pen off her desk and made her way outside. Removing the loose brick from the wall, she extracted her leather bound journal. With book and pen in hand she settled into the lounge chair outside her window. Glancing briefly up at the night sky, eyes automatically seeking out the familiar V formation, her thoughts turned to Alex. Flipping through dozens of pages, she finally came upon the next available space and began writing.

It’s June 30th, 2001 and two months ago, Alex was murdered.


*********************************
ABSOLUTION

Part 2

July 01, 2001 Roswell, NM


“I want to do this,” Isabel said without turning around. She was standing at the edge of the ravine, the early morning breeze catching the soft brown curls of her new short hair, blowing them wistfully around her face.

“All right,” Max said. He was leaning against the side of the their mothers car, hands jammed in the pockets of his jeans.

She turned to him, face haggard. The past couple of months had been hard on her and right then she looked well beyond her 18 years. Raising a shaky hand, she pushed the wind blown locks off her face.

“I mean it, I’m serious.”

He crossed his arms over his chest. “I know you are,” he said, “and I’m saying all right. Sante Fe isn’t that far, so go.”

Her facial muscles sagged into something like relief, and with a monumental amount of regret, Max thought it made her look even older.

“When?”
“Why not today?” he asked.
“I can’t go today,” she said, “I’m not even packed.”

He shrugged, glancing down at the tiny rocks covering the ground.

“For the record, I don’t want you to go Iz,” he said not looking at her, “nothing will be right without you here.”

“Nothing is right now Max,” she said dryly.

“I know.” He looked at her; dull eyes glinting with unshed tears in the morning sun. “I’m sorry Isabel, for everything.”

She walked around him to the other side of the car and opened the door. Smiling weakly at him across the top she said, “ Let’s go home,” and climbed into the passenger seat.

*************************

June 03, 2001 10:00am

Highway 70, 65 miles west of Roswell, NM


Heading to Denver City, Texas to visit her grandparents, Melissa Preston roared down highway 70 in her brand new white Dodge Durango, admiring the familiar scenery. She loves this drive; it’s always so peaceful and serene. With the mountains and forests, it’s easily the most beautiful part of the state. She has taken this trip a thousand times, yet never tires of it. It gets even lovelier every time she passes through. What a contrast to downtown Albuquerque, where she currently hangs her hat.

65 miles to Roswell, the sign read as she sped by. Roswell. That’s another reason she loves taking this route. She just adores that quirky little alien extravaganza of a town.

Singing along softly with haunting voice wafting from the radio, she gradually increased her speed. At this rate she’d have time for a quick stop at the UFO museum and still make it to her grandparents before dinner.

“And I won’t go, I won’t sleep, and I can’t breathe until you’re resting here with me, and I won’t leave and I can’t hide, I cannot be until you’re resting here with me…”

Out of nowhere, a figure appeared in the middle of the road.

“SHIIITTT!!!”

Melissa slammed hard on the break peddle with both feet. Burning smoke billowed from the tires as they desperately tried to screech the truck to a stop.

The smell of burnt rubber assaulted her nostrils as the Durango careened on down the highway. Her eyes were clenched shut so tightly that she was seeing white light burst behind her lids like a lightning storm.

“Please God, please God, please God, please God, please God,” she chanted out loud as her SUV finally came to a violent stop. With a grunt the momentum jerked her forward and her forehead bounced off the steering wheel.

She silently said a prayer for the inventor of the seatbelt and hoping she’d imagined the whole thing, she slowly opened her eyes. What she found were two very exotic and slightly frightened ones looking back at her.

Melissa rubbed her sore forehead where it had collided with the steering wheel as she took in the form in front of her truck. It had to be some kind of miracle that she didn’t hit this person who’s Mother obviously didn’t teach them to look both ways when they crossed the street. The eyes were mesmerizing; in fact they were down right surreal. She unbuckled her seat belt and reached for the door handle, stepping outside she walked deliberately to the front where the stranger still stood, watching her.

“Are you all right?” she asked. Not getting a response she continued on, “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you, it was like you appeared out of thin air or something.”

Nothing.

“Are you lost? Can I give you a ride somewhere?” she didn’t know what possessed her to say THAT, but there it was.

A smile.

I guess that’s progress Melissa thought. “Do you need some help or something?”

Another smile.

O.K. This is just really weird she thought. One more time, “What were….”

“Where are you headed?” the stranger asked.

It speaks. “I’m going to Denver City, Texas. Do you want a lift somewhere?”

“Are you going through Roswell?”

“As a matter of fact I am,” Melissa said, “can I drop you off there?”

A nod. “Thanks, I’d be very grateful.”

“It’s no problem, just hop in,” she said gesturing to the passenger side door.

This was bordering on lunacy. She always considered herself to be a pretty rational and logical person, but this decision was far removed from either of those adjectives. How many warnings had she received over the years about not picking up hitchhikers from the side of the road, and especially ones out in the middle of the desert? But here she was with a complete stranger in the car, who could possibly be some sort of homicidal maniac, sitting in her passenger seat. Completely insane, but the really crazy part was she knew, without a doubt, that she wasn’t in any danger. Something in her subconscious, since the moment she slammed on her brakes, tugged at her mind telling her she would be all right.

Melissa glanced at the stranger next to her. “So what’s your favorite Roswell tourist trap?”


*************************************
ABSOLUTION

Part 3

July 07, 2001 Roswell, NM Crashdown Café



“I think I’ve found the perfect woman,” Kyle stated as he slipped into the booth across from his new stepsister and her freshly spike-headed boyfriend. “By the way Michael, who finally convinced you to cut that mop you were trying to pass off as hair?

Michaels eyes narrowed in a silent warning, “I never got any complaints from the people that count,” he snaked an arm around the shoulders of his girlfriend, “right Maria?”

She pinched his cheek and kissed the tip of his nose, “that’s right space boy,” she said in the goofy voice she used when humoring him, “I love you just the way you are.”

Kyle snickered. “Yeah, but I bet you love him even more now that he doesn’t look like some mullet head reject from 1980.”

Maria mouthed “Oh Yeah!” with out Michael seeing, and Kyle quickly covered his mouth to hide a smile.

“Like you can talk Valenti, you look like someone…”

“Hold on, hold on,” Maria interrupted, “we need to get back to the ‘I’ve found the perfect woman comment.” She planted her elbows on the table and propping her chin in her hands, she looked at him expectantly, “Do tell.”

“Yeah Kyle, who is this chick, and don’t hold back on the good stuff,” Michael added completely forgetting about the insult he wanted to dole out.

Maria rolled her eyes at how much of a ‘guy’ he was sometimes, “C’mon Kyle, spill.”

He leaned back and stretched his arms across the back of the booth. “Well I don’t actually know her, not yet anyway. But I do know her name and that she is totally hot.”

“What more do you need to know?” asked Michael.

“MICHAEL!!”

“What?”

Maria glared at him before turning her attention back to Kyle.

“More details, more details. What’s her name? What does she look like? And please feel free to skip over any redeeming physical attributes that might turn ‘Overactive Hormone Boy’ here into ‘Disgusting Drool Boy’.”

Kyle stifled a laugh. “Her name is Casseia and she’s beautiful. You’ve probably seen her; she comes here a lot. She’s got this incredibly long brown hair, it’s about the same color as yours,” he said pointing at Michael, “and her eyes, her eyes are amazing! I’ve never seen eyes that color before. And her body, mmmmmmmmm…”

Michael perked up in his seat, “now that’s what I’m talking about.” This earned him a much deserved smack on the arm.

“OUCH!!”

Kyle shook his head at their antics. Some things never change. “Anyway, as I was saying, she’s got this killer body,” he continued, “I’d say she’s about 5’ 5”, 5’ 6”, and man is she cut! The woman knows how to take care of herself.”

“Wait, wait,” Maria butted in, “I think I have seen her. She is always wearing black right? Kind of looks like a Lara Croft wannabe?”

“Lara Croft! Yeah! I never thought of it that way, but yeah! And I’d let her raid my tomb anytime,” he cocked his eyebrow mischievously, “if you know what I mean!”

“I guess that means she’s got some big….”

“Don’t even go there Michael,” Maria said shaking her finger at him. “I can see where this conversation is doomed to go so I’m gonna get ready for my shift.” She ceremoniously exited the booth and started for the back.

“Maria,” Michael called after her.

She turned around and came back, standing at the edge of the table, knowing what he wanted.

He looked up at her. “Well??”

“I just want you to know that you sooo don’t deserve this right now Michael,” she said as she leaned down to kiss him. They had made sort of a silent pact between the two of them never to leave each other with out a kiss, even if they were just going to the bathroom there had to be a kiss. Her soft lips touched his and he reached a hand up to run his fingers through her hair. Breaking away he stared into her eyes and whispered, “I love you,” so only she could hear. She smiled at him, forgetting for a moment what a pig he was being.

“I’ll see you later tonight,” she said and quickly kissed him again. She headed for the back again but spun around with an after thought.

“By the way Kyle, I think Miss perfect just decided to grace you with her presence.” She smirked at the expression of his face and happily went to change into her uniform.

Kyle’s head whipped around and time began to run in slow motion. The object of his recently reoccurring fantasy dream was walking towards the counter. Hips clad in skin tight, low riding black leather pants swayed their way to a stool. A sleeveless black shirt showed off her well-defined arms and her long brown hair, tied back in a tight ponytail, dangled almost down to her waist. Her tongue flicked out to wet her perfect pink lips and Kyle and Michael gaped openly at the vision before them.

Casseia sat down at the counter, picked up a menu and placed a to-go order with the waitress. She was aware of the eyes on her. She had seen him around quite a bit, she even smiled at him a few times in attempts to start some harmless flirting, but he still hadn’t got the hint. So today, she was just gonna ask him out.

“You better shut your mouths boys, I think some one let a fly in. Wouldn’t want either of you to swallow it inadvertently.” Maria said a she breezed by Kyle and Michaels booth.

Both jaws snapped shut simultaneously, the sound echoing in their ears. Maria’s laughter could be heard across the café.

“Wow,” Michael said glancing across the table at Kyle.

“Yeah, I know.” Kyle answered.

“When are you gonna make your move dude?”

“I don’t know man, with my luck she’s probably some psychotic evil alien who only wants to use me to help dispose of the bodies of all the people she kills.”

Michael looked down at his hands, “hmm, yeah.”

It was meant to be in jest, but neither of them was laughing. Tess’ betrayal still weighed heavily on all of them. Kyle and his Dad, perhaps taking it the hardest, having accepted her into their family. They loved her and she’d lied and used them, Especially Kyle. He was still having difficulty dealing with the fact that he had been an unwilling accomplice to Alex’s murder. Even Buddha wasn’t much help with that one.

“Sorry, I guess I’m still pretty bitter.”
“Me too Kyle, me too.”
“Hey man, don’t look now, but the love of your dreams is headed this way.”

Kyle’s eyes grew wide, “you mean in this general direction, or right for us?”

“The latter dude.”

She stopped at the head of their table. “Hi,” she smiled, “I’m Casseia,” she said holding out her hand.

Although Kyle’s lungs didn’t want to work, he managed to introduce himself. “Kyle,” he swallowed, “Valenti. Kyle Valenti.”

She shook hands with him. Her fingers felt so wonderfully smooth that Kyle didn’t want to release her hand.

“Um, hehmm.” Michael cleared his throat.

“Oh, yeah. This is Michael.” Kyle said not taking his eyes off her.

The woman was gorgeous. Her porcelain skin glowed with health and her beautiful eyes glinted with intelligence, and something else that was hard to define, something appealingly ethereal. She had a symmetrical fact that was a perfect combination of a sculpted jaw, high cheekbones and a models forehead. Her smile was radiant.

Casseia turned briefly to address Michael. “Hi there,” her voice was deep and resonant.

“Hey,” Michael replied.

“So Kyle,” she said returning her attention to him, “I was wondering if you’d go out with me, say tomorrow night?”

Kyle felt as if a spark had struck him. He tried not to show a reaction, but failed miserably. Michael would have given anything for a polaroid camera just then.

“You uh, you’re uh, you uh, you’re asking me out? On a date?” Kyle stuttered out incredulously.

She laughed lightly. “Well, yeah. Is that…oh, do you have a girlfriend or something?”

“NO!!” He yelled, “I mean, no, I don’t have a girlfriend.”
“Oh good, is tomorrow night okay then? We could make it another night, you know, if you already have plans.”
“No, I don’t have plans, tomorrows good, that’s good. Should I um, should I call you? Or um, pick you up, or um…”
“Why don’t we just meet here, around 7:30?”
“Yeah, 7:30, that’s…that’s great.”
“All right, I’ll see you tomorrow then,” she said smiling her radiant smile. “Oh, bye Michael” she added over her shoulder as she headed back to the counter to pick up her order.

Michael and Kyle watched dumbfounded as she picked up her lunch and left the café.

“That was the coolest thing I’ve ever seen,” Michael said in awe.

Kyle could only stare at him, mouth agape.
***************
June 30th, 2001 Roswell, NM


It’s June 30th, 2001 and two months ago Alex was murdered. Ever since then, my life has been spiraling madly out of control. I guess I should be perfectly honest with myself; it began long before that. A lifetime ago. Way back when a girl named Tess came waltzing into town with her platinum hair and her innocent face and her ‘DESTINY’, all wrapped up with a perfect little bow. The truth is, I never trusted her, not for a single second. Did I think she was a murderer? No. But did I always suspect she was up to something sinister, something evil? Absolutely. I don’t think I’ve ever been more right.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about murder, about secrets, about betrayal, about lies. About Tess. She’s gone you know. She took a one-way rocket ride right out of the atmosphere. At least that’s what it looked like, but can anything seen concerning Tess be trusted? That’s the million-dollar question.

I’ve been searching for an answer since she blasted off in the granolith, but all I find are more questions. Was she messing with all of our minds? Was she more powerful than she let on, or was there someone helping her? What exactly happened to her in New York, and where did Lonnie and Rath go? Did she kill them too? And how could the granolith be just a one-time use rocket? It makes everything Future Max said to me not make any sense. Was he just a memory she implanted in MY brain? I’ve been going nuts over that one. So many questions my mind feels like a jumbled mess. Half the time I can’t even form coherent sentences. It’s turning me into someone I hardly recognize. I’ve become mean and cruel and vengeful. I say things I would never say under normal circumstances. Case in point, the last time Max and I had, what barely passed as a conversation, I said some hateful, anger driven things. They cut him deeply. Do you know what the part that scared me the most was? I felt gratified. It felt good to know I hurt him as much as he hurt me. I thought he deserved every ounce of it. That’s not the person I am, or I guess it’s not the person I was. I don’t know who I am anymore. I haven’t been working, I don’t remember the last time I slept through the night, and I’ve been avoiding everyone, well, everyone except Sean.

Sean. He has been so amazing, so understanding. Sometimes he takes me to a place inside my self where everything is normal and safe and good. We have fun, we laugh, and I’m just a girl out having a good time with a boy. But this isn’t fair to him, and I need to let him go. I’m not ready to open my heart to anyone and he deserves that. Deserves to get as much as he so openly gives. He was going to say something to me to that effect tonight, I could tell, and I don’t know why I stopped him. I don’t know why I do a lot of things these days.

Here is what I do know. I need answers, and I need them soon.

********************

ABSOULUTION

Part 4

July 13, 2001 Roswell, NM



Maria’s naked silhouette framed the doorway; light from the muted television bounced and danced off her skin.

“On?” she asked lightly, “or off?”

In the darkness, Michael smiled. “Off.”

Clicking off the TV, Maria walked to the bed, pulling down the cool sheet she slid in close to him so that her nipples grazed his chest and the slim line of her body touched his. Michael closed his eyes. Until the night they had become lovers, he hadn’t known it was possible to love someone so much that it frightened him. He loved Max and Isabel, of course, but this—this was so different—to place this much at risk, to lose control, so that the life of another was essential to your own. He wrapped an arm around her tightly, protectively; grateful for every second they had together.

Softly, she kissed his neck, the wisp of her breath warm on his skin. “What will you do?” she asked.

“Right now? Just be with you.”

She smiled into his chest. “That may be the best idea you’ve ever had.”

“Yeah,” he answered, “I think you’re right.

With his free arm he swept aside the sheet, leaving them exposed. Gently, he kissed her, and then, lips parted, again. His mouth, sliding to her throat, began a leisurely progress down her neck, her nipples, her stomach….

Afterward they lay in the dark, warm and damp, Maria’s body flung carelessly across his. They had not spoken in some while.

“What will you do?” Maria asked.

“I don’t know yet.” He gazed at the ceiling, pensive. “Max is just so…I have to do something.”

“He’s getting worse isn’t he?”

“Yeah,” he sighed, “and now Isabel is leaving…I think that might push him right over the cliff.”

“I just don’t understand why he’s letting her go,” she said, eyes glistening, “everything’s so screwed up.”

“I know,” he said kissing her forehead, “we’ll fix it somehow. We have to.”

They drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms pondering the fate of everyone.

A warm summer breeze filtered in through the open bedroom window. Ruffling the sheet partially draped over the two lovers. They lay spooned together, chests rising and falling in synchronized breath.

The shrill ring of the telephone rudely disrupted their peaceful slumber. Michaels long arm groped for the offending noise originating from somewhere beside the bed. The red numbers of the alarm clock glowed 2:42am as his hand finally clamped down on the cordless phone. He blindly jabbed at the talk button and barked into the receiver.

“This better be good.”

“Michael?” a tiny voice asked, “I’m sorry to call so late, but is Maria there?”

Michael sat up in bed; he could tell by the sound of her voice she was about to lose it. “Sure Liz, just a sec.”

He handed the phone to Maria who had bolted up beside him at the sound of her best friends name.

“What’s wrong?” she asked with no preamble, “are you o.k.?”

“Can you meet me Maria?” she whispered, trying to suppress the sob creeping up her throat.

“I’m on my way.” Maria answered and clicked off the phone. Jumping out of bed she quickly searched for her clothes.

“Do you want me to go with you?” Michael asked through the darkness.

“No,” she answered pulling a t-shirt over her head, “she just needs me.”

“She’s at the cemetery again.” He stated more than asked.

“Yeah, 3rd time this week.”

“Well, at least she’s stopped avoiding you.”

“I suppose. She’s worse you know, than when he died.” She finished buttoning her jeans and slipped on a pair of sandals. Hurrying to the side of the bed she kissed him. “I love you Michael.”

“I love you too. Are you sure you don’t want me to go with you? I could just hang out in the Jetta.” He asked running a finger down the length of her cheek.

“You’re sweet, but no. I’ll be back soon.” She kissed him again and was gone.

“Be careful!” He called to her as he heard the front door close quietly.

Maria pulled the Jetta into the cemetery and turned off the engine. Taking a deep breath, she opened the door and climbed out. She hated coming here, hated thinking about Alex in this place. She took another deep breath, inhaling the smell of death, and started the hike to Alex’s final resting place.

Getting closer she saw Liz at the grave. She was practically lying in the grass, her whole torso splayed across the marker; silent tears splashed onto the letters engraved in stone.

Maria stopped a few steps away, her heart breaking again for her two friends, one below and one above the cold hard ground.

“Liz.” She whispered.

Glancing up at Maria, fresh tears formed on hooded eyes. “Oh Lizzie,” she said kneeling down beside her, “you have to stop doing this to your self. It won’t bring him back and he wouldn’t want this Liz. He wouldn’t want to see you like this.” Maria brushed the hair caught in her tear tracks off her cheeks.

“I know Maria,” she said pushing her self up off the ground, “but I just had to say goodbye one last time and I wanted you to be here. I’m sorry it’s so late.”

It’s o.k. chica,” she said wrapping an arm around Liz’s shoulder, “you know I’ll come, whatever time it is.”

Liz smiled. “Was Michael really pissed?”

“Are you joking?” Maria laughed, “Spaceboy doesn’t get mad anymore! He wanted to come with me, if you can believe that.”

“God Maria, he’s changed so much. It’s like—it’s almost like he’s become Max and Max has become Michael.”

Maria regarded her, “No, I think this Michael has always been in there somewhere, he just wouldn’t let him out.”

“Yeah, you’re probably right, but I think you’re the reason those walls finally came down. I’m so happy for you Maria, I don’t think I’ve told you, but I really am.”

“I know you are, but speaking of Max…”

Liz looked away, not wanting to have this conversation just yet.

“C’mon Liz, you have to tell me sometime. You know he cancelled the last three meetings.”

Liz looked back at her incredulously. “He did??”

“Yeah he did. And you know he’ll barely speak to Michael, or anyone, and did you know he’s letting Isabel go to Santa Fe?”

“What??”

“That’s right she leaves next Saturday. What happened Liz? He’s been like this since the last time we were all together.”

Liz pulled up a blade of grass and twisted it around and around her finger.

“Has he heard anything about the baby, or—or Tess?”

“Well I’ll let that slide for now, but don’t think I didn’t notice that not so subtle attempt at changing the subject. As far as I know, there’s been nothing new, but like I said he’s been canceling meetings. So as it stands we’re still waiting on communication from Larek.”

“We need to talk about a lot of things Maria, but not tonight. Can you give me a ride home? I walked here.”

“Yeah, c’mon. You know I’m going to be at your door first thing in the morning right?

“I wouldn’t have it any other way.”

Taking one last look at Alex’s head stone, the girls walked arm in arm to the car.
********************
ABSOULTION

Part 5

May 24th 2001 (earth time) Antar


Above an almost dead world, one habitable moon hung suspended like a cloud-veiled turquoise. The eternal hand that held the chain of it’s orbit had dusted it’s velvet backdrop with brilliant stars, and cosmic energies danced on the wrinkles of space time, singing their timeless music, neither noticing or caring for Antar, the four other worlds, or their petty wars.

From the window of the Kings suite in the Royal Palace, Khivar observed the moon looming ominously over the near desolate expanse of Nereus. The last of the four worlds to yield to Khivars demands, it was now on the brink of utter destruction. The seemingly endless battle had cost them heavily.

Shaking his high domed gray head, he spoke to the moon. “Pity.”

“They’ve taken the prisoner to cell block 464.” Eila’s soft contralto voice interrupted his musings.

“Prisoner?” He turned to her, black almond eyes shimmering with feigned shock.

“Yes, prisoner. As in one. It appears only Queen Ava made the journey.”

“Does she carry the heir?”

“We haven’t examined her yet your majesty.”

“And the granolith?”

“Safe and sound. I’ve ordered continual security.”

“Excellent,” he said dismissing her. Turning back to the window he listened for her retreating steps.

“There is talk of a rebellion sir,” she said ignoring the dismissal.

Whirling around in exasperation he chilled her with his icy glare. “There is always talk of a rebellion my dear, we were a rebellion, if you recall. I want the results of the examination immediately. Now leave me.”

“Of course your majesty,” she said, bowing slightly as she backed out of the room.
******************

June 03, 2001 11:06am Roswell, NM


Melissa and her passenger pulled up in front of the UFO Museum just after 11:00. They had been chatting the whole way into town and now the conversation was winding down.

“Well here we are. Home of all things alien.” Melissa chirped happily as she turned off the engine. “Are you sure I can’t give you a lift to your Aunts house? I mean it would be no trouble at all.”

“No really, it’s not far, and you’ve done so much already,” the stranger said, “and besides, I know you’re just itching to get into the museum to see if they have anything new!”
“Well, that’s true,” Melissa said not even trying to hide her excited grin, “I just love all that junk! Well at least let me give you some money so you can call your Aunt, maybe she can come and get you. I still can’t believe your friend left you out there in the middle of nowhere with out so much as penny! Not a very good friend I might add, here take this.” She shoved some bills into her passenger’s hand.

“I’m pretty sure that a phone call doesn’t cost this much Melissa,” the stranger said, holding up the three twenties Melissa had passed on.

“I know, I know,” she said dismissing the statement with a wave of her hand, “but if you go across the street there to the Crashdown Café, they have the best burgers, you can get something to eat and then you’ll have some change to make a call. I’m not going to take it back to you better just go.”

“Melissa, I think you have to be the nicest kindest person who ever tried to run me over! I appreciate this more than you know. I will take your advice and go get myself a burger. Have fun in the museum and be careful the rest of your drive.”

With that, the woman Melissa almost killed with her truck was out the door and headed across the street. Pausing briefly, she turned and waved. Melissa smiled and waved back, and then she hopped out and eagerly entered the UFO museum.

*************************************

July 18, 2001 Roswell, NM


Lying in the middle of his bed with the sounds of Isabel packing echoing in his ears, Max closed his eyes. He wanted to leave; better yet he wanted to disappear, to go away, even from himself.

For the millionth time, the events of the past few months played out in his mind like some horrific nightmare. Except this was no dream, this was reality. This was so real, so absolute, and so unequivocally tangible, that there was no refuting it.

Max felt as if his insides had been hallowed out. The constant dull ache he had known for so long now became a sharp stab of pain that pierced his heart every waking moment. He couldn’t sleep, yet felt as if he were never fully awake.

His life was all fucked up and he had no one to blame but himself.

A knock on his window temporarily suspended his self-loathing. “Go away,” he muttered instinctively. He didn’t want to see or talk to anyone. Everything he touched turned to shit.

The knocking persisted and the fleeting thought that perhaps it might be Liz was the only thing that drug him out of bed. Pulling back the curtain he found himself staring at his second in command.

Baffled, he pushed his window open. “Since when do you knock?”

“Since now I guess,” Michael said climbing in. “We need to talk Maxwell.” He plopped down into Max’s desk chair and crossed his arms over his chest.

“I don’t want to talk. Go away.” Max crawled back into his bed and curled his knees up to his chest. Grabbing a pillow and covering his head with it, he willed Michael to leave.

“I’m not going to leave until we talk Max. You’re being an ass and it has to stop.”

Max threw the pillow against his wall and answered him with a seething look that ought to have set him on fire on the spot, burnt him right to the ground. Instead, he leaned back in the chair and cocked an eyebrow.

“Glare at me all you want Maxwell, it won’t change anything. In fact it just proves my point. You’ve become a first class jerk, and I for one am sick of it. You used to be someone I admired, someone I even aspired to be like, and now look at you. You’re just an asshole, hiding from responsibility, from life, curled up in your bed with your blanky and pillow. Next you’ll be sucking your thumb.”

For a moment, Max was enraged. The feeling vanished as quickly as it came when he realized how incredibly right Michael was. He blew out a defeated breath and looked at his friend. “You’re right Michael,” he said, “but I don’t know how to fix this, any of it. I don’t think there’s anything I can do. I’ve screwed it up too badly.”

Michael inhaled deeply and let it out slowly, this was the most he’d heard Max say in the last month, he hoped it was a good sign. “I want to help Maxwell, but you have to let me. There has to be a way, so the first thing you need to do is get your sorry ass out of that bed and for crying out loud take a shower man.” Michael stood up and moved to the window. “I’m gonna be back in an hour to pick you up. Be ready.”

“Michael,” Max called to him. Half way out the window Michael paused and waited. “Thanks.” Nodding, Michael swung his other leg over the sill and closed the window behind him.
******************

July 14th, 2001 Roswell, NM

Chocolate chip ice cream in hand, Maria climbed the steps leading to the Parker’s apartment above the Crashdown. True to her word, she was going to see Liz.

Nancy Parker opened the door and couldn’t help but smile at the sight before her. Maria DeLuca stood in her doorway with a gallon of chocolate chip ice cream in one hand and two giant spoons in the other. “Good Morning Maria. It’s kind of early; I don’t think Liz is even awake yet.”

“Don’t worry, she’s expecting me.”

“Yes I see that,” she said gesturing to the ice cream, “c’mon in. Do you want bowls or will you be eating it right out of the carton?”

“Out of the carton, it doesn’t taste the same when you put it in a bowl!”

“No, of course it doesn’t, how silly of me. Well hurry up, before it starts to melt all over my carpet.” Maria laughed as she made her way to Liz’s room.

“See ya later Mrs. Parker,” she called over her shoulder.

Opening Liz’s door with a flourish Maria burst into the room. Groggily Liz sat up in bed, “Maria, it’s 6:30 in the morning,” she said rubbing her eyes.

“Yes it is,” Maria agreed, sitting down on the bed. “Here’s your spoon,” she said handing over the enormous utensil. She peeled off the lid of the ice cream container and dug her own spoon into the center.

Liz laughed as she watched Maria try to fit the entire spoon into her mouth. “Maria, these are serving spoons,” she said as she looked at the one in her own hand, “and isn’t it a little early for ice cream?”

“I know they’re serving spoons, but look how much you can get on there,” she said scooping out another heap, “and it’s never too early for ice cream. So dig in, and tell me everything.”
**************

"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."

Edited by - ShellSueD on 09/15/2001 14:06:09

Edited by - ShellSueD on 09/15/2001 14:08:06
posted on 14-Sep-2001 2:29:14 PM
ABSOLUTION

Part 6

July 14th, 2001 Roswell, NM


A trail of liquid chocolate chip ice cream was racing down the end of her spoon and running onto her hand. Liz licked the sticky mess off.

“Maria,” she said licking off another runaway trail, “we’ve almost finished the entire container. I think it’s time to switch to the non-fat soy crap. I feel like I’ve gained 50 pounds.”

“I know, I know, but it’s sooo good! I can’t eat it with Michael he dumps Tabasco all over it. Incredibly disgusting. So are you going to tell me what’s been going on with you or do I have to beat it out of you with this unusually large spoon?” Maria asked, only half kidding.

Liz sighed and studied the rapidly disappearing ice cream. Tucking a loose lock of her raven hair behind her ear, she looked at her life long friend. “I’m all screwed up Maria. I have so many thoughts swirling around in my head all the time, I can’t think clearly. The more I try to figure things out, the more of a mess I become.” She flung her self back down on the bed in exasperation. “I don’t know what to do.”

“Well, shutting me out is not the answer Liz,” Maria said, “That’s what best friends are for ya know.”

“I know Maria, I’m sorry, I am but it was hurting me too much, you know, to be around you and Michael. Seeing you so happy, when I couldn’t even stand to be in the same room with Max was just killing me.”

“Oh Liz..” Maria covered her mouth as tears welled up in her big green eyes.

“Don’t cry it’s not your fault. I just didn’t realize how hard it was going to be. I thought since she was gone and Max finally knew the truth that it would be easy to let it all go, but I can’t Maria. I hate him too much for what he did. Do you know how excruciating it is to love someone so much it hurts and then to hate them so much it hurts all at the same time? And then seeing you, you who now has everything I ever wanted and knowing that I’ll never have that... it’s just hard. God, I sound like a selfish little brat, whining about what I can’t have.” She swiped angrily at the tears of frustration that somehow escaped her hold on them.

“Liz you don’t sound like a selfish brat, you are the least selfish person I know. You’re just really frustrated at the injustices of this ugly little mess we call a life. And I don’t mean to sound like I’m defending Max or anything, because what he did with that slut is just inexcusable, but at the time he did think that you’d slept with Kyle.”

“I know Maria, but I guess I just thought that he knew me well enough to know that it wasn’t true. Even though I told him a million times that it was, I think I was holding out hope that he would know my heart well enough to know it was a lie. And I thought I knew him well enough to know that he would never do that to me, especially with Tess. But I was wrong wasn’t I? And now here we are and I don’t think it’s repairable. We’ve cut each other too deeply.”

“Liz, you can’t just…”

“ But Do you know what the worst part is Maria?” she asked, “The worst part is that I think this all could have been avoided. All of it. Alex, Tess and Max, everything. If only I would have told Max about the future version of himself.”

“What?” Maria asked, baffled. “What are you talking about? You had to Liz; it was the right thing to do. You’re…”

“That’s just it Maria, I don’t think I had to. I don’t think he was real.”

“Whoa, whoa, whoa” Maria stood up, her hands waving emphatically, “What? What do you mean you don’t think he was real? You said, you said that it had to be him because he knew things…knew things that only he could have known. What? Why? How?…”

“I think it was Tess.”

Maria’s jawed dropped open and she slowly lowered herself into the chair at Liz’s desk. Minutes ticked by as she let this little tidbit sink in.

“Maria? Are you all right?”

Blinking rapidly, Maria shook her head clear. “I don’t understand, how could she…”

“Think about Maria, we saw with Alex and Kyle, and even your Mom, just how powerful she is. She could have done it.”

“But why wouldn’t you have remembered by now? Everyone else has remembered what happened.” Maria countered, her brain finally coming out of the fog.

“Yeah, I’ve been think about that, and all I’ve come up with is that maybe in the end she was doing so much that her powers were weakening and she couldn’t control it anymore. It was almost a year ago when future Max came; she had nothing else to concentrate on.”

Shaking her head in agreement, Maria moved back to the bed and sat down near the end. “I never thought of it before, but you may be right. Oh God Liz, this is terrible.”

“That’s not all,” Liz said, “What if the baby isn’t real Maria?” Liz winced inwardly at the thought of Tess being pregnant with Max’s child. That was suppose to be her and so she wondered again if she was just thinking of these things out of a false sense of hope that it was all an illusion.

“OH. MY. GOD.” Maria stood up and began to pace, “We have to tell Max, Liz.”

“NO!!” she yelled.

“What do you mean no? He has to know, what if it is fake and he’s just worrying for nothing?”

“We don’t have any proof Maria. He never did believe me about Alex, until it was too late, what makes you think he would believe this? We have to find out for sure before we tell anyone one Maria, that includes Michael,” she said looking at her sternly. “And anyway, what if I’m totally off base and it’s all real? Then we’re just back to square one.”

Maria sat back down, pressing her fingers to her temples. “I see now why you’re all screwed up. How do we find proof? Where would we even start?”

“I don’t know Maria. I don’t know. I’ve been trying to find a trigger you know, like Kyle did, and your Mom with the t-shirt, but so far…nothing.”

“Hey!” Maria exclaimed, a sudden light bulb igniting, You should go over to Kyle’s, I think they still have some of the little tramps stuff there, maybe if you know, you’re around something of hers it would help,” shuddering, Maria continued “as gross as that would be, it’s worth a shot.”

A shudder of her own erupting, Liz answered “It probably couldn’t hurt, nothing except my pride anyway,” she smiled cynically and shook her head, “Wait, how long do we have to get over there? Aren’t you moving into the new house?”

Maria rolled her eyes, “yeah, but not till next week.”

“I still can’t believe your Mom married the sheriff. And now Kyle’s your brother!” Liz stifled a laugh with her hand.

“I’m glad my misery amuses you Liz. At least the new house is big enough for me to have my own room, I was contemplating running away at the thought of having to share my space, but it all worked out. And you know Kyle has a girlfriend now so I don’t think he’ll even be around too much. Plus, I can always go to Michaels.”

“What? Kyle has a girlfriend? When did this happen?”

“You see what happens when you shut out the world? You miss all the good stuff. Yep he’s got a girl friend all right and the boy is totally whipped already.”

“Well who is she? Please tell me it’s not Pam Troy again.”

Maria laughed. “No I think he learned his lesson the first time with that bimbo. It’s this new girl, Casseia. She moved here a couple of months ago and get this, she’s 21, unbelievable gorgeous, rides a motorcycle, and she genuinely seems to like our little Buddha Boy. Go figure. They’ve been out every night this week.”

“You’re kidding.”

“Nope,” she said shaking her head, “Kyle is so enamored it’s sickening really.”

“I’m happy for him.” Liz said.

“Yeah, me to,” Maria said reluctantly. “C’mon get up and get out of those pajamas, we’ll go over to the sheriff’s house right now.” Maria pulled her friend up by the arm and led her to the bathroom. “Shower.”

“Right.” Liz said grabbing a towel from under the sink. “Do you think we’ll ever stop calling him sheriff Maria?”

“Nope. He’ll always be the sheriff to me.”

“Me too.” Liz said turning on the water. Maria closed the door and sprawled out on the bed to wait for her friend.


********************************
June 18th, 2001 Roswell NM

The silence of the fervid desert morning enveloped him as he crouched down in between the rubble and rocks, out of sight of prying, curious eyes.

He was drawn to this place, as he assumed she was, and here is where he found himself the better part of most days. Today was no exception.

He waited anxiously in the seclusion of his vantage point, body tensed with the anticipation of her arrival. She ran here every day. Her sinewy, sensuous body glistening with sweat, pounded out a relentless rhythm in the sand.

Abruptly the energy in the air around him moved and surged as if it recognized her, as if it was welcoming her. His eyes closed involuntarily and he sucked in a quick breath as her presence engulfed him, overpowering his senses. She came into view just as he was opening his eyes and he caught a glimpse of her unusual gray ones twinkling in the bright light of the sun

He watched from his hiding spot as her powerful legs carried her effortlessly over the uneven terrain. Absently he clicked the metal ball in his tongue against his teeth, wondering not for the first time, if she sensed him as powerfully as he did her.
********************

ABSOLUTION

Part 7A

July 08, 2001 Roswell, NM Crashdown Café 7:00pm



“OWWW!!” Kyle stopped and rubbed the back of his head where Maria’s palm had just made painful contact. “What was THAT for?”

Maria rested her hands on her hips in exasperation and rolled her eyes at her stepbrother.

“Kyle, you’re scaring our paying customers not to mention driving me insane, so for the last time will you stop pacing around and park it some where?” She looked around quickly for an empty table, but they were all full. Spotting an unoccupied stool at the counter she pointed to it. “There. Go sit down.”

“Maria…”

“No, uh un.” Maria shook her head and took him by the arm, pulling him toward the counter. “I can’t take it anymore Kyle. If you ask me one more time if you look all right I’m going to have to hurt you” She pushed him down onto the stool. “Stay.”

“I’m not a dog you know,” he mumbled.

“Yes, I know. How unfortunate, because right now I’d love it if you would ‘play dead.’” She pointed her finger at him and gave him the DeLuca death stare. “Stay.”

Shaking her head she slammed through the swinging door and with a frustrated growl, threw herself down on the couch.

Heading for the bathroom, Michael caught the exaggerated action and sat down beside her. “What’s got your panties in a bunch?”

Fully expecting a rant about his lack of sensitivity, Michael was slightly shocked when she simply said, “Kyle.”

“Kyle?” he asked. “He’s still here?”

Maria nodded. “Yeah, he’s STILL here. He’s been here since 5:00. It was cute at first, you know? He was all nervous about this date, asking me how he looked, and if I thought she would like his shirt, and checking his hair in the napkin dispensers, but I can only take so much. Thank God it’s almost 7:30 or I might have enlisted your alien blasting skills to annihilate his annoying ass.”

Michael laughed. “Well, in Kyle’s defense, that chick IS totally hot. I’d be nervous too.”

“Yeah, well there’s nervous and then there’s irritating, annoying, psychotic behavior.”

Chuckling, Michael wrapped his arm around her and rested his head on top of hers.

“Well, the good news is it’s 10 after. 20 more minutes and he’s out of your hair for a good couple of hours, maybe 3, if he gets lucky.”

“Michael…” Maria warned.


Kyle sat staring at his watch as the second hand methodically ticked off the seconds, wondering if it was ever going to read 7:30. He’d never been this anxious before and was starting to think that something may be wrong with him. Wiping at the beads of sweat popping up on his forehead, a realization occurred to him and he jumped up off the stool in a panic. Running at full throttle he burst through the door to the back room.

“MARIA!!! You gotta help me!!!!!!!!”

*********

July 20, 2001

Liz stepped out of the shower into the steam filled bathroom Grabbing the towel she’d hung from the back of the door, she began drying off. She wrapped the damp towel around her dripping hair and tied it up in a turban on the top of her head. She slipped one arm into her robe, then the other. Tying it tight around her waist, she opened the bathroom door and watched as the steam escaped into her room. She was about to retrieve her pajamas from the dresser when she heard a noise on her balcony.

She walked deliberately to the window and peered out into the night.

To say she was shocked at whom she found standing apprehensively near the ladder, would be a gigantic understatement.

Something has to have happened, she thought to herself as she slid the window open.

“Hey,” she said sticking her head out.

“Hey.” Isabel answered.

“Is everything okay Isabel? You look kind of upset.”

“Um, yeah” she responded. She glanced down at her feet and began fiddling nervously with the bottom of her shirt. “Everything’s fine, I just—I just kinda wanted to talk to you.” She looked back up at Liz, eyes quietly pleading.

Liz’s eyebrows rose with apparent surprise. In the two years plus she’d known her, Isabel had never wanted to talk to her. “Sure Isabel, of course. Why don’t you come inside,” she said and stepped to the side to allow her access.

Isabel climbed in and looked around Liz’s room. “I haven’t been here in awhile, you got a new chair,” she said pointing at Liz’s new desk chair.

“Yeah,” Liz said smiling slightly, “the other one broke a few weeks ago.”

Isabel nodded and continued to survey the room. They both stood there awkwardly, looking anywhere but at each other.

“Did you want to sit down?” Liz finally asked. “You can try out the new chair,” she added, pulling it out from the desk.

“Thanks,” Isabel murmured and absently sat down. Liz sat on the bed across from her. “You cut your hair,” she stated.

“Yeah,” she said, unconsciously reaching up to touch it, “a while ago.”

“I like it,” Liz said smiling, “and the color really brings out the brown in your eyes.”

“Thanks,” she said, rubbing a strand between her fingers, “Michael says it makes me look old.”

“That’s Michael for you.” the girls said in unison. Nervous laughter erupted from both of them, but quickly died. Isabel began fiddling with the oh so interesting hem of her shirt again. Liz adjusted the towel on her head and shifted on the bed, waiting.

“Look Liz,” Isabel began, glancing up at her “I’m leaving tomorrow and I wanted to say good-bye.”

Isabel hesitated, as if waiting for a response and Liz noticed for the first time how deeply her eyes seemed to be etched with sadness. She’d seen them hard, and mostly cold, but never sad. She searched them deeper and realized she was seeing Isabel’s soul, somber and dark.

Blinking, she became aware she was staring and she shook her head clear. “Oh,” she replied. “Yeah, Maria said you were leaving.”

“Everyone is coming by tomorrow, you know, to see me off I guess, and I was pretty sure you weren’t going to be there so I wanted to make sure that I said good-bye,” she continued.

“Oh, Isabel, I…”

“No, it’s okay. I really wouldn’t have expected you to be there. I mean, I’ve never been a great friend to you or anything,” she took a shaky breath and went on. “And with everything—everything that’s happened, you know, with Max and uh, and uh, with—with Alex. I just—I just…”

“Isabel, you don’t have…”

“Yeah I do Liz. I need to. You have been such a great friend to all of us and I don’t think I’ve ever once since thank you. You’ve risked so much just to protect us and gotten nothing in return. You’ve been so good and kind and done everything in your power to help us and I need you to know how grateful I am. I know that we would have never made it through so many things if not for you and I especially know that if not for you, we’d all be dead right now and I want to say thank you, for everything.”

Liz was shocked again. “Isabel…”

Isabel held up a hand, “I’m not finished. I also want to say how sorry I am. Sorry that you’ve had to endure so much pain and anger and sadness. Sorry that you had to loose you’re best friend because of us. Sorry that when you smile, it never reaches your eyes any more.” She looked down at her hands.

“Isabel, I don’t blame you for that, any of you,” Liz pointed a finger at her, “and you shouldn’t blame yourself either.”

“I know you don’t Liz, but I do blame myself, how can I not? If I wasn’t who…”

“No!” Liz interrupted. “It’s not because of who you are Isabel. Let’s just admit the obvious here, Alex died because of Tess. You had no way of knowing what she was capable of Isabel, none of us did. It’s not anyone’s fault.”

Isabel’s eyes filled with tears, “I’m sorry none of us believed you about Alex, Liz.” She whispered. “We should have at least listened to you.”

“It’s okay Isabel,” she said reaching out to squeeze Isabel’s hand. “It’s okay.”

“I loved him,” she said looking Liz right in the eye. “I wanted you to know.”

“I know,” Liz nodded, “I always knew.”

“Of course you did.” Isabel wiped at her eyes. “I wish—I wish I would have just told him.”

“I think he knew too Isabel.”

“Really?”

Liz nodded and reached over to her nightstand to get Isabel a tissue.

“Thanks,” she said taking the tissue, “ I should go and let you get some sleep.” Isabel stood up abruptly and pushed the chair back under the desk. She walked over to the window and pushed it open. Turning back around she shocked Liz for the third time that night.

“I know this is the last thing you want to hear, but I’m going to tell you anyway. I know that you feel betrayed by the whole Tess baby thing..” Isabel winced as she said the words and saw Liz’s face fall, “but I just want to tell you that I don’t think that any of it was real, the sex, the baby, I think she was doing her mind manipulation crap.”

Liz’s mouth dropped open. “Oh My God Isabel. I’ve been thinking the exact same thing. Have you told Max your suspicions?”

“You have? No I haven’t told him. He stopped listening to me a long time ago. But you should tell him. I think if he’ll listen to anyone right now, it will be you.”

“No, I--he—I can’t…”

“I’m not saying that this would fix anything between you, if it’s even true, but it might be a starting point. I’ve never seen him happier than when he was with you, or you when you were with him. I know that he still loves you Liz and I’m pretty sure you still love him. He’ll listen to you, trust me.”

Liz could only stare at her.

“I know we’ve never been close Liz, but I’d like to work on that. Will you call me in Sante Fe? You can get the number from Michael.”

Liz smiled, “Yeah, me too. I’ll call. Good luck Isabel.”

“Bye Liz.” She climbed back outside and headed for the ladder. “Thank you Liz, for being such a good friend even when none of us deserved it,” she called over her shoulder.

Liz lay back on her bed and listened as her new friend climbed down the ladder.

************
July 8th, 2001

“Kyle…I’m warning you, I’m on the brink here. I’ll make Michael use his powers on you if I have to.” She glanced at Michael out of the corner of her eyes and added, “and you know he still can’t control them very well.”

“Heeey!!” Michael complained.

“What? You know it’s true Spaceboy.”

Michael rolled his eyes and shrugged as he looked at Kyle, “You know I wouldn’t want to do it man, but she’s got a point, you seem a little hysterical.”

“Thanks Michael, really. You’re a real pal. Look Maria, one last thing and I’ll leave you alone. I swear.” His blue eyes begged her.

She sighed dramatically. “Fine, fine what is it now?”

“Okay, so I was sitting out there, like you told me too, and I realized that I haven’t even thought of any place to take her. I mean where should we go? Should we just do the dinner and movie thing or is that too boring? What if she thinks I’m boring? What if she’s changed her mind and has just decided not to show up?”

He began pacing again, running his hand nervously through his hair. He was messing it up and Maria could see he was going to be using the napkin dispensers again soon.

“Kyle, look, you need to calm down. I’m sure she’ll show up. This whole nervous, jittery, sweating thing is so not good. She’s not going to think you’re boring; she’s going to think you’re going through heroine withdrawal or something. You need to be calm, cool, aloof.”

“Aloof?”

“Yeah, aloof. Like you don’t care one way or another that you’re going out with her. And didn’t she ask you out? That means she decides what you do.”

“It does? But she just moved here, what if she asks me for suggestions of places to go? What if she’s all dressed up and here I am all casual. What if…” Kyle tripped as he was pacing and took a header onto the floor.

Michael burst out laughing and Maria said, “Kyle, I said be aloof, not a doof.”

Kyle slowly got up off the floor and dusted himself off. “Don’t mind me, I’m just here for your amusement.”

“Kyle, I’m going to tell you a couple more things and then I want you to walk carefully back out there and sit back down Okay? Good. Now, she did ask you out, so that should mean she decides what to do and she pays, but you’re right she did just move here, so this is what I’m going to suggest. I don’t think she’s really the dinner and a movie type so if she asks, why don’t you mention that new entertainment spectrum down on 15th street. It’s got all those places to eat; games, shops, you name it. It’s even got one of those rock-climbing walls. I don’t think she’s the dress up type either so you should be fine there. You look good, except you need to fix your hair. That’s it, that’s all I’m going to say so go fix you’re hair and get back out there you stud muffin.”

“But…”

“Nope. That’s it,” she said and spun him around to the door, “Go.” She gave him a shove and he stumbled through the door.

“Thanks a lot,” he called sarcastically to her. She plopped back down on the couch next to Michael.

“He’s going to be a first class dork isn’t he?” Michael asked.

“Yep,” she nodded.

“This will be his first and last date with her won’t it?”

“I’m afraid so,” she nodded again.

***********************************

ABSOLUTION

Part 7B

July 8th, 2001



Kyle sat at the counter muttering to anyone who would listen about the injustices of life, so he completely missed it when his watched finally ticked off 7:30 and the bell over the front door of the café jingled, signaling Casseia Dascotte’s grand entrance.

She had forgone her traditional all black attire for a deep aqua top, sleeveless of course, black jeans and the ever present Dr. Martin boots. Her hair normally pulled back in a ponytail or a braid was flowing loosely down her back. It was impossible not to look at her and heads turned, some discreetly and some not so discreetly, as she headed to the counter.

“I just wanted a little bit a help, was I asking too much?” Kyle repeated for the 3rd time to the waitress behind the counter. Teri, shaking her head and rolling her eyes responded, “No Kyle, you weren’t. Can I get you anything else? A valium perhaps?”

Casseia stood behind him. Sharing a smile with the waitress, she taped him on the shoulder.

“I’m sitting here not moving just like you asked Maria, so cut me some slack will ya?? “I….”

Kyle spun around on the stool, his words dying on his lips as he realized exactly who had interrupted his griping.

“Hey Kyle.” She smiled.

Kyle opened his mouth but his voiced refused to work.

Casseia cocked a perfectly shaped eyebrow, “You were expecting someone else?” she teased.

“Uh—no, no,” he finally managed, “well—sort--sort of. I thought you were my sister for a second.”

“Apparently. Disappointed?” she asked.

“No. No—uh—no, you’re a much more appealing alternative.”

She laughed, “Well that’s good to know. Are you ready to go?” she motioned to the door with a tilt of her head.

Kyle nodded and followed her out of the café. Shaking his head he wondered how in the name of Buddha he was going to make it through this date when just the site of her turned him into an stuttering moron.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
JULY 14th, 2001


“Anything?” Maria asked again.

“No, nothing.” Liz didn’t even bother trying to disguise the disappointment in her voice. She and Maria had been sifting through Tess’ things for the past hour, hoping to find a trigger to confirm their suspicions that the evil tramp had been manipulating them all, even Max.

But the task was proving useless at best. The only thing it had managed to accomplish was to bring up noxious memories and relentless heartache.

They turned together towards the door when they heard a soft knock. Kyle poked his head inside.

“You guys are still here? I don’t know how you can stand being this close to her stuff for so long. I haven’t been able to set foot in this room since—well since you know”

Maria and Liz nodded.

Betrayal hung dense in the room between them.

“Lets go.” Liz jumped to her feet quickly followed by Maria. Kyle opened the door wide and stepped back to allow them to pass. Slamming it shut, he walked with the girls to the living room.

“You guys are lucky you came over today, Dad and I were going to torch that stuff tomorrow.” He said, gesturing to the room they just vacated.

“Are you kidding?” Maria asked.

“Not at all. It seemed appropriate. I’ve been looking forward to it.”

Maria smiled. “Can I come? I want to watch.”

“Yeah, me too.” Liz added.

“Yeah sure,” Kyle replied nodding his head.

“We should go,” Liz said grabbing Maria by the arm. They navigated their way through the many boxes to the front door.

“Oh Kyle,” Maria said turning around, “remember—not a word to Max about this.”

“I think your confusing me with someone who actually talks to ‘His Royal Dickness’ Maria.”

“Funny.” Maria pulled the door with her as she walked out, clicking it shut softly.

“Bye Kyle,” he heard the girls muffled chime as he weaved his way to the kitchen.

* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
July 08th, 2001


“So,” Casseia said, linking her arm through Kyle’s, “I’m new around here so I don’t really know any of the cool places to hang out, but I heard about the new Spectrum on 15th, do you want to check it out?”

They were walking towards the parking lot arm in arm and Kyle was consumed with the sensation of her arm touching his. He thought he’d heard her ask a question, but had no idea what it was so he just mumbled, “Yeah sure.”

“Kyle? Are you okay?”

“What?—What?” He shook his head, looking around he noticed that they had stopped walking.

“I just asked if you were okay, you look kinda spaced out there.”

“Oh, oh—yeah, sorry. I guess I was just somewhere else for a second. Sorry,” he murmured glancing down at his feet. When did I become such a dork?

‘Don’t be sorry. It happens to me all the time. Sometimes I think I must be from another planet or something,” she chuckled, “well this is me.” She pointed to the motorcycle in front of them.

“You—you ah—ride a Harley?” he asked, eyes wide.

“Yeah, is that…would you be more comfortable driving your car?”

“No, that’s—it’s fine,” he bit his lip nervously, “it’s fine.”

“Great.” She plucked two helmets off the back and handed one to Kyle. “Here you go.”

“Right. Right. Okay.” He took the outstretched helmet and watched as she fastened hers securely to her head. He mimicked her movements, silently cursing himself for not taking Michael up on his offer to teach him how to ride one of these things.

Casseia pulled her hair back into a ponytail, slipped on her sunglasses and flung her leg over the seat, straddling comfortably into position.

“Ready?” she asked, eyebrows rising above the rim of her glasses.

“Yeah.” Kyle said with mock confidence. He climbed awkwardly onto the bike behind her and looked around in confusion as to what to hold on to. Aren’t there handles or something on these things?

“Hang on tight,” Casseia answered his silent question grabbing his hands and placing them around her waist. She turned the key and the Harley rumbled loudly to life. Revving the engine, she gunned out of the parking lot.

Kyle did the only thing he could. He hung on tight. Enjoying every second.
*********************
ABSOULUTION

Part 7C

July 19th, 2001 1:15a.m. Lincoln National Forest 85 Miles West of Roswell, NM



Max winced as another branch slapped him in the face. He had been following Michael through the bush for what seemed like hours, dodging and ducking trees and bushes assaulting his skin, tearing at his clothes. As he watched the light from Michael’s flashlight bob up and down ahead of him, he wondered for the millionth time why he hadn’t thought to bring two flashlights.

He plodded on in the darkness. The sound of his heavy boots snapping and crunching the foliage covering the ground was amplified in the quiet of the forest. His eyes trained on the light ahead, he didn’t see the slight decline of the ground before him. Taking another step his boot slipped on a moss-covered stone and the ground rushed up to meet his face.

Sprawled out face down, he moaned in frustration and more than a little bit of pain. Rolling over, twigs and dirt embedded in his skin, he squinted as a beam of light shined directly into his eyes.

“Maxwell, stop dicking around. Get up, let’s go.” Michael’s annoyed tone pierced his ears.

“Oh, sorry Michael. You know how much I love rolling around in the dirt,” he mumbled sarcastically.

Michael just stared at him.

“A little help here would be nice.” Max extended a dirty arm up and Michael grabbed his hand, hauling him to his feet.

Brushing himself off, he turned to his friend. “You know Michael, it’s not like I’m being ungrateful or anything, because I really do appreciate you trying to help, but how exactly is traipsing through the forest in the middle of the night going to aid in the search for my son?” He paused and pulled a twig out of his hair. “I mean I did what you wanted, I came out here, no questions asked. And now I’ve been following you for an eternity with no end in sight, and I’m sorry but I need to know exactly what you think this is going to accomplish.”

“You done?” he asked curtly.

Max pulled another twig out of his hair. “Yeah.”

“Good. Lets go.”

Michael turned, and with a step, began his quest again. He was a man on a mission.

Max sighed heavily and started running to catch him. “Michael,” he called, “Michael…wait up.”

*********************

July 08th, 2001 Roswell, NM


Casseia pulled her Harley to a stop across the street from the spectrum. She killed the engine and slipped the helmet off her head. Glancing over her shoulder at her passenger, she chuckled when she saw Kyle’s face all clenched up, eyes shut tight.

“We’re here Kyle.”

“WHAT?” he said loudly

She laughed as she pried his hands from around her waist. “I said we’re here. Don’t worry, you’ll be able to hear again in a few minutes.” Free of Kyle’s death grip she eased herself off the bike and flicked out the kickstand with her boot.

She smiled at him, still sitting there with his eyes closed. Damn he was adorable.

“Um, Kyle?” she prompted. “Are you coming?”

Kyle opened his eyes and blinked a few times. That was so awesome! he thought to himself. The sound of someone’s throat clearing caught his attention. Turning his head slightly to the left he saw Casseia staring at him expectantly.

“Are you coming?” she repeated holding out her hand to help him.

“Yeah—Yeah” he said taking her offered hand. She helped him off the motorcycle and he stood nervously next to her.

“I guess we should go then,” he muttered and took a step toward the other side of the street.

“Ah, Kyle?” she stopped him. “You might want to take your helmet off.”

Kyle covered his eyes with his hand and shook his head. This just keeps getting worse.

Turning around he tried to muster up his last shred of dignity. “Right. Right. It’s so darn comfortable I forgot I had it on.” He undid the strap and pulled it off, handing it to her. She hung it next to hers and grabbed his hand.

“Lets go have some fun,” she said and led him across the street.

******************************

July 19th, 2001 Lincoln Nation Forest 1:45a.m.


Max sighed for the 100th time when his shirt caught on a protruding branch. Yanking it free, he groaned when he heard it tear. Holding his sleeve up in the faint light from the moon, he futilely attempted to survey the damage. Realizing what an idiot he was being and that Michael was probably a half a mile away by now, he pulled his arm down out of the sky and began walking. He took two steps and slammed into to something very hard.

His first thought was that he’d just run into a tree, but then the tree said, “This is it.” And Max realized he’d just plowed into Michael’s back.

“Jesus Michael! I couldn’t see you. Why’d you turn off the flashlight?”

“I didn’t,” he replied pounding it into the palm of his hand. “Stupid batteries died.”

“Why don’t you just fix it?” Max asked like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

“Oh yeah. I forgot.” Michael waved his hand over the flashlight and the beam immediately illuminated the darkness in front of them.

“What the….” Max’s words trailed off as he scanned the surrounding area. A portion of the forest in front of them, maybe 2 feet in every direction, was completely scorched, burnt to ash from the ground all the way up to the tallest trees.

“Whoa,” Michael whispered as he slowly spun around in a circle, shining the light up and down.

“Michael, what is this?” Max asked following the path the flashlight was making in the trees.

“Well Maxwell,” Michael began, “if you’d gone to work at all lately you’d know that there have been an unusual amount of sightings reported in the past month or so.” He paused and shined the light in Max’s face. “The first one being right here.”

“You’re kidding.” Max said incredulously

“Yeah Max, I drug you through the forest for and hour and a half as part of some elaborate practical joke.” Michael snorted and rolled his eyes.

“While you’ve been curled up in your bed sucking your thumb and feeling sorry for yourself, I’ve been spending a lot of time at the UFO center. Since you haven’t been around, Brody’s been more than happy to share information with me.”

“The first sighting was here, on June 2nd and since then there have been 8 different ones between here and Roswell. That’s 9 sightings Maxwell, in a month and a half. Unusual, to say the least. There is typically one or two every couple of months, maybe. But 9? In under 2? Something is happening Max, and it probably isn’t good.”

Max stood, mouth hanging wide open, shocked. One, about the sightings, and two, that Michael had been taking initiative and actually doing something productive that isn’t going to get him arrested.

“Michael, I….Why didn’t you say anything before now?”

“Would you have listened? Look Maxwell that doesn’t matter now. What matters is we could all be in trouble here. It’s part of the reason that you shouldn’t let Isabel go. What if they’ve come for us Max? We should all be together.”

“It’s too late now Michael, she’s going and that’s it. I can’t stop her.” He turned his back to him. “It’s too late,” he whispered.

Max stuffed his hands in his pockets and kicked at the ground.

Michael sighed and moved the light; Max caught a glimpse of something dark near his feet.
“Michael, shine that light back over here.”

“Where?”

“Right here,” he motioned emphatically towards his shoes.

Michael moved closer and shined the light at Max’s feet. Both men bent down to inspect the circle burned into the ground. The whole area was charred, but this spot was darker than all the rest, and formed in a perfectly symmetrical circle.

Max reached out with a hand to touch the seared soil.

He jerked it back hard, a serious of flashes assaulting his mind, and lost his balance. He bumped into Michael and they both toppled over. Max was breathing hard, his brain struggling to believe what he’d just seen.

“Max! Max!” Michael was shaking him, trying to pull him up off the ground.

“Max, c’mon man. What happened?”

Finally standing, Max steadied him self with Michaels arm.

“I saw it Michael—I saw… It was—it was an alien—a woman—a transport—left her—she was running—running.” He stopped, his breathing erratic.

“Okay Max, breathe, breathe. What did she look like?”

“I don’t know—I don’t know—so fast—couldn’t see.”

“Shit,” Michael spit out, “What if it was Tess?” he asked.

Max shook his head. “No—no—no—wasn’t Tess. She was—she was—she was afraid.”

“Afraid? Afraid of what?”

“That—that someone followed her. We have to go Michael.”

Max took off running in the direction they came from, his heart hammering like a freight train.

Michael did his best to keep up.

***********************************

July 08th, 2001

Kyle and Casseia made their way through the crowds in the spectrum. They aimlessly wandered in and out of shops holding hands and laughing together at some of the bizarre items being sold.

“This would look good on you,” Kyle stated as he held up a black tank top for inspection.

Casseia looked the shirt up and down skeptically. “Kyle…”

“What?”

“It says: LOVE SUCKS” she pointed out.

He glanced down at the pink sequined letters. Smiling brightly he said, “yeah I know, that’s part of the charm.”

She shook her head and laughed. “I don’t think so Kyle, but I did see something over there that I’ve been picturing you in since we walked through the door.” She gestured to the other side of the store.

He cocked and eyebrow in question. “Well, by all means. Let’s go have a look.”

He took her hand and led her through the store. He was amazed at how quickly he’d become at ease with her. He’d been a nervous wreck since the moment she asked him out, but now he was so comfortable around her. They were only 40 minutes into the date and he was feeling like he’d known her forever; it was like she had some power of him.

She stopped in front of a particular rack and grabbed the item in question. “These,” she said, holding them up.

Kyle’s head tilted from side to side as he examined them. “Those are leather pants,” he said slowly.

She smiled slyly and nodded.

“You’ve been picturing me—in those???”

“Oh yeeaahhh,” she drew out, licking her lips seductively.

Kyle swallowed hard. “Well—um, I’ve never worn leather before. Doesn’t it like chafe or something?”

“No, no. Leather is quite comfortable actually,” she assured him.

“Right. Right. Well, something to think about. We should go.” He took the pants from her and shoved them quickly back on the rack. Grabbing her hand he pulled her as far away from the pants as he could get.

“Kyle, slow down,” she said laughing, “I was just kidding about the pants.”

He slowed down and turned to her, “You were?”

“Yeah,” she said nodding, “You are so not a leather pants guy. Jeans and cowboy boots, but not leather pants.”

Relief flooded his face and he draped an arm around her shoulders. Leading them out of the store he said, “I knew you were kidding.”

****************************************

July 19th, 2001 7:00am

It didn’t open till 9:00 so the Crashdown was all but deserted.

In a back booth sat two aliens that remarkably resembled a couple of local teenagers.

“Why didn’t Isabel come with you?” Michael asked.

Max was nervously tapping his foot on the linoleum. This was big, this was huge. They needed a plan, and he was fresh out of those at the moment. He hoped that they could all brain storm and come up with something.

“She said something about Hell freezing over before she was getting up at 6:00. I stressed how important it was…but you know how she gets.” Max said shaking his head.

“I’m going to tell her she has to stay,” Michael interrupted his thoughts.

Max ignored his comment “Did you tell Kyle to bring his Dad?”

Michael rolled his eyes, “yeah Max, I did. Jesus you’re asshole sometimes.”

“I’m sorry Michael, this is just really….”

Maria barreled through the doors, clearly not thrilled at being awake. “Okay, I’m here. What’s the big emergency? And this better be good pal. I need my beauty rest you know. It takes a lot of work to look this good.” She plopped down in the booth next to Michael and pecked him on the cheek. “Well?? Are either of you going to talk or should I just plan for charades?”

Max glanced at Michael as if to say, “she’s your girlfriend”

“I think we’re going to wait for everyone else Maria, so you know we only have to tell it once, and why didn’t you come with Kyle and the Sheriff?” Michael asked.

“I’m working the breakfast shift today Michael, duh.”

Just then the Sheriff and Kyle came through the door. “You know Miss Deluca, just because you’re my step daughter now, doesn’t mean I can get you out of speeding tickets. I’m not the Sheriff any more you know.” He pulled up a chair and sat down at the head of the table while Kyle slipped in next to Maria.

“What?? I was not speeding. I maaaay have been going a little faster than you, but I would never speed.” She batted her eyes in the most innocent way.

“Yeah right Maria. We’ve all ridden with you, its no use,” Kyle said. “So Senor Presidente, what’s this all about? We’ve all got other things do today.” He looked at Max and waited.

“I know you do Kyle, and I appreciate you taking the time to come down here, but we need to wait for Isabel and….”

Isabel took that moment to walk in. She walked over with out saying a word and gestured to Max to let her sit down. He slipped out and she slid into the booth up against the wall. Max sat back down beside her and Kyle said “Okay, we’re all here.”

“Um, no. Liz isn’t here yet,” Max said softly.

“Oh yeah Max,” Maria began, “Um, Liz isn’t—well she’s not going to come. She had some other plans so……..” she trailed off and looked away from his imposing glare.

They all found fascinating things to look at as Max took in that information.

“Fine,” he said after what seemed like minutes. “Lets get started then.”

The bell above the door jingled interrupting Max’s beginning and they all looked up.

Sean Deluca sauntered through the door in his usual way. “Hey,” he said, looking at the group.

Michael elbowed Maria in the ribs and she rushed out “Hey Sean. We don’t open till 9:00 you know.”

“Yeah well, Liz invited me.”

********************************
ABSOLUTION

Part 7 D

July 08th, 2001


“Oooooooooohhhh!” Casseia practically squealed, “They have a rock climbing wall! Do you want to go?”

Kyle took one look at her beautifully excited face and knew there wasn’t anything on this earth that would make him say no to her.

“Yeah, of course. Rock climbing, great. Lets go.” He gave her his best phony smile and they made their way to what Kyle assumed would be his greatest humiliation yet.

“Okay so you’re all hooked up and ready to go,” the instructor chirped happily as he made a final adjustment to Kyle’s harness. “Have at it,” he said and gestured to the wall looming menacingly in front of Kyle’s face.

He glanced to his left to tell Casseia that maybe this wasn’t such a good idea, but she was gone. Dumbfounded Kyle looked on either side for her. She got one look at me in this ridiculous harness and ran for the hills he thought.

“Kyle? Are you going to start?” she called to him.
His head snapped up in the direction of her voice and he sighed inwardly at the sight of her. She was already 1/3 of the way up the wall.


“Yeah—yeah,” he mumbled, “I was just channeling my inner calm.”

“Huh?” she asked staring down at him.

“Nothing. I’m coming.” He grabbed onto a handhold and pulled himself up. Reaching his foot up, he planted it on the first available spot he saw. Damn these things are tiny. He tried to scoot his foot as far up against the wall as he could but wasn’t having much luck. He stood suspended there, his arms and legs in different positions, wondering absently if this is what it feels like to be Spider-man. Minus the web of course.

Slowly but surely he made his way painfully up the wall. Casseia waited for him for a while, but eventually continued on. Kyle was only a few feet below her, admiring the strength she was exuding. He watched for a while; the muscles in her arms pulling taut as she moved to another spot higher on the wall. As he reached for another handhold, he suddenly imagined how great the view would be if she had been wearing shorts, and lost his grip. He panicked and in his haste, his feet lost their hold and he slipped completely off.

“OH SHIT,” he hollered as he free fell a foot, until the harness caught and jerked his falling body to a halt.

Every head on the wall turned at his out cry and he heard Casseia call to him.

“Oh my God, Kyle are you okay?” she asked, concern evident in her voice.

He twisted his body so he could see her, “Oh, I’m just dandy. Um Casseia? Now might be a good time to tell you that I’ve never been rock climbing in my life and I have absolutely no clue what I’m doing.”

She gave him a pity smile and shook her head. “Yeah, that’s become quite clear. I’m coming down,” she said and began her retreat.

******************************

July 19th, 2001

“I find that extremely hard to believe,” Max said as he slowly got up. He walked the two feet to where Sean stood and stopped mere inches from him. “This is a private party, you should leave.” He didn’t even bother trying to disguise his anger.

Sean moved forward slightly until their toes touch. He was a couple inches taller than Max, so he looked down and locked eyes with him, matching his wrathful glare. “Liz invited me,” he repeated in a low voice.

Max’s hand balled into fists at his sides and he spoke through tightly clenched teeth. “Liz would never have invited you to this. Leave. Now.”

“I did invite him Max,” Liz said from behind him, her words cutting him like a knife. “But not for this.” She strode over to them from the door to the lounge and spoke softly to Sean. “Didn’t I tell you to come in through the back?” she asked him.

“Sorry, forgot,” he said not looking away from Max. The two men continued their staring match and Liz rubbed at her forehead in frustration.

“Okay Sean, why don’t you go wait for me outside and I’ll be there in a minute.” She touched his arm lightly. “I’ll be right out.”

Max seethed when he saw her touch him, a surge of jealously coursed through him. Where had that come from? He shook his head breaking eye contact with Sean. I have no right to be jealous he thought looking at his feet.

“Please Sean,’ she insisted. Max’s head came up at the sound of her voice just in time to see her touch his face. She use to touch his face like that.

“Sure Parker,” he said and headed for the door. Max had to bite his tongue to keep from screaming at him that she has a first name.

Sean pushed open the door and turned around to smirk as Max before he disappeared outside.

Liz sighed and called over Max’s shoulder to Maria, “Can you fill me in later Maria?”

“Yeah sure,” she answered. Liz gave her a grateful smile and then spoke to Max. Her voice was soft, but her words were hard.

“I would appreciate it if you never speak to my friends like that again.”

“Liz I…”

“Don’t Max. Just don’t. I have to go.” She turned on her heel and headed for the door.

“Liz wait,” he said catching up to her at the door. “This is really important. We could all be in danger. There’s been a….”

“When aren’t we in danger Max?” she asked, cutting him off.

“I just want to protect you,” he whispered reaching a hand up to her face.

“Don’t—don’t touch me,” she said taking a step back from him, “you don’t have the right anymore—not to protect me—not to touch me—not to anything.”

She registered the pain that flashed quickly through his eyes and ran out the door to Sean’s waiting arms.


**************************************
July 08th, 2001

“I need a shower.” Kyle said, taking another bite of ice cream.

“Yeah, me too,” Casseia agreed, “Rock climbing makes ya sweaty.”

“So does slipping and almost plummeting to your death.”

Casseia threw her head back and laughed out loud.

“Should I be disturbed that you think it’s funny I almost died?” he asked.

“Kyle,” she said trying to regain her composure, “You did not almost die. What a drama queen.” She laughed again, a deep throaty sound that Kyle found incredibly sexy.

“Did you just call me a queen?”

She nodded, a hand clamped over her mouth in a vain attempt to conceal her giggling.

“First you laugh at my near death experience and now you call me queen. It’s a good thing I’m a confident, secure in my manhood kind of guy or something like that could emotionally scar me for life,” he deadpanned.

She smiled her radiant smile and Kyle thought he might melt right in his chair.

“I had a good time with you tonight Kyle,” she said sincerely.

He grinned back at her, “Me too.”

“We should probably call it a night though,” she said reluctantly, “the guy behind the counter is giving us the ‘please leave so I can clean up and go home look’.” She motioned with her head to the kid behind the counter.

“Oh, then I’ll just give him the ‘Hey, don’t you see how hot my date is look.’” He winked at her and turned to the guy behind the counter.He wiggled his brows up and down and gestured repeatedly to his ‘hot date’.

“We close in 2 minutes,” he said, completely unimpressed.

“Totally gay,” Kyle said getting up.

“Oh yeah, no doubt.” Casseia rolled her eyes and followed him out the door.
**************************************
July 19th, 2001

Max stood watching the door. Every cell in his body cried out to him to run after her, to make her stay, to make her see how much he loved her, but she was right. He had no claim to her anymore. And never would again.

“Michael, do something,” Maria hissed in his ear.

“What?” he asked

“He’s been standing over there for fifteen minutes Michael, go and talk to him or something,” she whispered.

“About what??” he asked incredulously.

“Wow, dense much?” She rolled her eyes and pushed him with her hip. “Let me out Michael, I’ll take care of this, per usual.”

Michael got up and let her out. He wasn’t dense; he just didn’t want to be the one to talk to him after that little display. He smirked at her as she brushed by him. “Good luck,” he said under his breath.

She turned back and glared at him, wishing she could shoot fire out of her eyes.

“Max?” she questioned softly behind him.

“I’m fine Maria,” he snapped without turning around.

“I didn’t know he was coming here Max,” she said to his back.

“I don’t want to hear it Maria.”

“Okay, but I just..”

“I said I don’t want to hear it. Could you just give me a minute, please.”

“Um yeah, sure.”She headed back to the table and Michael got up to let her in the booth, “Smooth Maria, way to take care of things.”

“Shut up Michael.”

Max came over and slid back in his seat. “There are some new aliens in town,” he said like the previous interlude had not happened, “one that we know of for sure, and possibly 8 others, maybe even more. I have to assume they aren’t of the good variety.”

“The one we know about for sure is in human form, a woman. I’m afraid that’s all of a description I have. Sheriff, if you still have access, I need you to check out any recent arrivals in town. They could be establishing identities here just like Tess did.” The Sheriff nodded and he continued on.“As for the rest of us, there isn’t much else we can do. I’m going to try and use any resources I can at the museum to track anything even remotely unusual. We need to be extra cautious, no one goes anywhere alone from now on, it’s not safe. Travel in pairs of two or three, and vary your routine everyday. Any sign of anything suspicious, even if you think it’s nothing, let Jim or I know. Listen to your instincts and be careful.” He ended his speech and the whole table started talking at once, firing question after question at him in one big jumbled mess. Max simply got up and walked out the door without another word, leaving a very angry and very stunned group in his wake.

“Well, leave it to his Majesty to break his own rules,” Kyle pointed out. “He’s a real piece of work ya know? We all come rushing down here at his beckon call, he dumps this ‘there are potential evil aliens out there waiting around to kill us’ information in our laps, and then he just takes off? Did he or did he not say that no one travels alone? That it’s not safe? I just want to pummel that guy. I can’t believe this…”

“All right son, that’s enough,” Jim put his hand on Kyle’s arm, “we’ll sort this out. Michael, can you give us any more information?” he asked.

“Not really. All I can tell you about is the sightings.” Everyone listened intently as Michael told them of the sightings, his and Max’s trek through the woods and Max’s flash.“….and that’s it,” he finished, “that’s all we have to go on.”

“It’s not much, that’s for sure, but Max is right. Until we know exactly what we are dealing with here, we need to be extra careful. I’ll see what I can do about getting some extra patrol around town and I think it’s a good idea not to go anywhere alone.”

“But, ‘Mr. I’m the King, do what I say’ just walked….”

“Not now Kyle,” Jim warned.

They fell silent, processing the news. “Does this mean you’re not leaving Isabel?” Maria asked finally.

All eyes turned to her.She bit her bottom lip and slowly shook her head.
**************************************
July 08th, 2001

“So, um, can I—can I call you?”Kyle and Casseia were standing next to his mustang, neither one anxious to end their date.

“Absolutely,” she nodded, “in fact I would be seriously offended if you didn’t.”

“Well I would never want to offend you. So I’ll call you—tomorrow?”

She smiled. The light from the street lamp bounced off her eyes and they glittered in the dark. “I’ll be waiting.”

“Okay—good. Tomorrow then.” Kyle shuffled his feet and looked around nervously, he wanted to kiss her so bad he could almost taste her already. He took a tentative step toward her to close the gap between them.

She took one too, and now they were so close he could smell the sweet spicy scent of her hair.

Taking the initiative she leaned in and Kyle held his breath. She’s gonna kiss me, she’s gonna kiss me, he thought and then a different thought impeded his mind and he suddenly asked her a question.

“This wasn’t some sort of joke was it?”

Taken by surprise, she pulled back. “Huh?” she asked clearly confused.

“You know, like you ask out a complete dork for kicks and then tell all your girlfriends what an idiot he is?”

“Nooo,” she said slowly.

“Okay, just checking.”

“All righty,” she leaned in, and once again he had a question.

“Did you lose a bet?”

She stopped and crossed her arms over her chest.

“What??”

“A bet. Did you like lose a bet and have to ask me out to pay up?”

“Um, no Kyle. Where is this coming from? I thought you were one of those ‘secure in his manhood’ kind of guys,” she said recalling their previous conversation.

“Touche,” he said smiling.

She chuckled and shook her head at him. “You are incredibly cute you know.”

Kyle’s cheeks flamed red and he ducked his head at the compliment.

“You are the most beautiful woman I have ever seen,” he said softly.

“Thank you,” she whispered. Reaching up with her hand she touched his cheek lightly and leaned in a third time,Kyle swallowed hard and closed his eyes.

“Um—one more question.”

She stopped, her mouth less than a breath away from his, and let out a frustrated growl.

Keeping his eyes closed he asked, “You’re not an evil alien from another planet here to take over the earth are you?"

She laughed and Kyle shivered at the feel of her sweet breath on his lips.

“Um, do all these things happen to you frequently?” she asked not moving from her position.

“You’d be surprised,” he said.

“Kyle?”
“Yeah?”

“I’m going to kiss you now.”

“O—Okay.”All sense of reality was lost when her mouth touched his and began the motion of shaping his lips to hers. Kyle returned the pressure and her soft hands crept upward, buried themselves into his hair and entwined his locks around her fingers. Her lips parted and Kyle took advantage of the invitation.His tongue invaded her mouth, gliding slowly over her teeth and around her own tongue, capturing the small sounds of pleasure that escaped her throat. He wrapped his arms around her tiny waist and pulled her close deepening the kiss.It was long and soft and gentle and heat seeped through every nerve in Kyle’s body, soothing and relaxing each muscle until he felt like liquid. Confident his knees would no longer hold up him up, he reluctantly broke the kiss and leaned back into his car, pulling her with him.He took deep breaths, willing his thundering heart to slow.Casseia placed her hand against his jaw, touched the area beneath his lashes, and then glided her finger along the cleft of his chin.Kyle stopped breathing. A renewed fire burned through him at her touch. He closed his eyes when her fingers rose higher to stroke the planes of his cheek. He hugged her tight to him and buried his face in the softness of her neck.

“You’re amazing,” he whispered into her skin sending goose bumps down her spine.

“So are you,” she replied.

She pulled back slightly and gently touched his lips with hers.

“Thank you for going out with me tonight. I had fun,” she whispered and placed a soft kiss on the shell of his ear. “Call me tomorrow? We can do something you want to do. No rock climbing,” she laughed.

He laughed with her, “yeah, definitely not! I’ll call tomorrow, I promise.”

They slowed untangled themselves from each others arms and Casseia climbed onto her motorcycle. “Goodnight Kyle,” she said smiling and turned the engine over.He watched her drive off into the darkness wondering how he got so lucky.
*************************************
July 19th, 2001

“Are you all right?” Sean asked. They were sitting on a bench in the park. She had asked him to bring her here after she came running out of the Crashdown. He had hugged her and told her he’d take her anywhere she wanted to go. They had plans to go to breakfast, but clearly weren’t going to get there.

“No,” she replied quietly, “but I’m gonna be.”

Sean nodded and glanced across the park. It was deserted, empty swings swaying slightly in the early morning breeze.

“Sean, I’m sorry about Max. He’s just…”

“Don’t worry about it,” he intervened, “it’s not a big deal.”

“Yeah, I know, but I still..”

“Listen Parker, I know how it is. I’ve been jealous before.”

“He still shouldn’t have treated you that way, He didn’t have any..”

“I’ve been treated worse believe me. Look Liz, I understand. Just let it go.”

“Okay.” She followed his gaze out into the park and sighed deeply. She’d been putting it off long enough. It was time to tell him.

“Sean, I need to…”

“I’m leaving Liz,” he interrupted, looking at her for the first time since they sat down.

“Wh—what?” she asked, tears immediately filling her eyes. He quickly looked away, not wanting to see her cry.

“I know this guy in California, he hooked me up with this great job. It pays a lot of money and I just—I just can’t pass it up.”

“Oh,” she said, tears wetting her lashes, “when?”

“I’m leaving tonight.”

“Tonight?” she repeated thickly, emotion clogging her throat, “Do Amy and Maria know?”

“No. I uh—I haven’t told them yet. I’ll probably just leave a note or something. I hate goodbyes.”

“Is that what this is?” she asked, her voice barely above a whisper.

He dropped his heads to his hands and buried his face in them. “I guess,” he said behind his fingers.

She was quiet, and he risked a look at her. She was silently crying, not bothering to wipe the wetness from her face. He couldn’t stop himself and reached up to brush her cheek with his thumb.

“If I hadn’t asked to see you today, would you have left me a note too?” she asked turning to face him. He nodded slightly and she looked away.

“I’m sorry I couldn’t love you Sean.”

He winced at her words, “Don’t be. You can’t make your heart feel something that isn’t there,” he said softly.

“I’ll miss you,” she said grabbing his hand.

“Me too.” He stood up with her and wrapped his arms tightly around her tiny frame. He held her close and inhaled the soft vanilla scent of her hair, his heart breaking for what will never be his.

“C’mon I’ll take you home,” he said,and they walked hand in hand through the vacant park.
***********************************

ABSOLUTION

Part 8a

July 21, 2001



“Isabel, Please.” Max begged her again as hefted another box into the jeep.

She sighed and sat down on the open tailgate. “We’ve been over this Max, and incessant begging isn’t going to change anything.”

“I know Iz, I know. I just—I just want you to be safe. There’s at least one, and possibly several, enemies out there and I can’t—I can’t protect you if you leave.”

“We don’t know that, Max. Not for sure, and you’ve got to realize that you can’t protect everyone all the time. Things would be a whole hell of a lot simpler if you’d just quit trying.”

He looked at her, his eyes desperate. “I can’t lose you too Isabel.”

She considered this. “Are you talking about Liz…or your son?”

“Both,” he whispered and sat down beside her, defeated.

“I don’t think you’ve lost either one of them, not completely.” She hopped off her seat and bent down to pick up another box.

Max was stunned. “What?? Wh-what do you mean?”

She set the box on the edge of the tailgate and slid it in place next to the others. “Don’t give up Max. Don’t ever give up!” she implored earnestly.

“Isabel, I—do you….”

The sound of a motorcycle peeling around the corner turned both their heads and they watched as Michael came roaring down the street.

“I’m surprised he came,” Isabel said, “after yesterday.”

“Ha. He’s pissed, but Michael’s always pissed. He loves you, so he’s going to be here to say goodbye. But only because it’s you, had it been me, we wouldn’t see him for days.”

“Right Max.” she said knowingly.

Michael skidded to a stop in front of them. He yanked off his helmet and regarded the boxes scattering the ground around the back of the jeep.

“I see you still haven’t convinced her to stay,” he said bitterly to Max.

He laughed humorlessly, “as well as you did Michael.”

“Humph,” Michael grunted and got off his bike. Without a word he picked up a box and loaded it into the jeep.

“Where’s Maria?” Isabel asked.

“She’s on her way. You have a lot of crap,” he stated picking up another box.

Isabel smiled. She was going to miss him, completely direct and utterly blunt Michael, but she had a feeling not for long.

Maria pulled up in the Jetta, followed quickly by Kyle and his Dad

Phillip and Diane Evans came out of the house carrying a couple more boxes and the group stood awkwardly together in the driveway, not knowing what to say.

Well, everyone’s here, I guess this is it.” Isabel looked slowly at the group feeling hot tears prick the back her eyes. She blinked fiercely, willing them away. “Don’t everyone say good-bye at once,’ she said with a false laugh.

Maria was the first to step forward. “Here,” she said holding out a closed fist. Isabel reached out and Maria dropped a small vile of liquid into her open palm.

Isabel peered at the tiny label, ‘cypress oil’, it read and she laughed.

“Just incase,” Maria said.

“Thank you,” Isabel said, and then pulled her uncharacteristically into a quick hug.

“Take care of Michael,” she said into her ear and then released her.

Kyle was next. “If you ever need help playing tricks on someone, or you know, spiritual guidance or anything, you know you can call me.” She laughed and he gave her a lopsided grin and hugged her.

She moved onto the Sheriff. “Thank you Jim,” she said as she embraced him tightly. “Thank you for risking everything to help us.”

“It’s been an honor Isabel. A real honor. Now you be careful, and here’s the number of my friend Pat,” he handed her a folded piece of paper, “he’s a deputy for the Sheriff up there and he’ll look out for you. I’ve also arranged for a car to patrol your street every night. Anything suspicious and we’ll be the first to know.”

She nodded and thanked him again, moving on to the next person waiting to say goodbye.

“Are you still mad?” she asked as she peered into his dark eyes.

He shuffled his feet and glared at her, “Yeah, I’m still mad,” his eyes softened and he added gently, “but I’ll get over it.”

“I love you Michael,” she said.

He looked away from her and mumbled, “ I love you too.”

“I didn’t quite catch that…what’d you say?” she teased.

He just rolled his eyes and wrapped his arms around her.

“Isabel sweetie,” her mother said pulling her body close, “are you sure that you should do this? I couldn’t bear it if anything were to happen to you.”

“Yeah honey,” her Dad added joining in the hug, “what if something happens and Michael and Max can’t get to you in time?”

“We’ve gone over this guys,” she said slightly exasperated, “It will be fine. I’ll be home every weekend; I’ve got the cell phone, plus Jim’s friend that will be patrolling every night. Please, I just really need to do this.”

Diane glanced sideways at Max and he shrugged. No one was going to stop her.

“Okay honey. Please be careful. We love you.”

Both her parents hugged her one last time and now she stood face to face with her brother.

“I’m going Max.”

“I know.”

“I’ll be fine.”

“Sure.”

She blew out a breath and pulled him close.

“Don’t forget what I said Max, about not giving up,” she whispered in his ear, “it’s not too late. The two of you need to talk. Go to her.”

She pulled back and peered into his questioning eyes. “And don’t think I don’t know that you’re sending Michael to spy on me.” With that she let him go and smiled when his jaw dropped to his feet, mimicking Michaels.

“Good-bye everyone. I’ll miss you.”

She jumped into the jeep and dove away with Michael following close behind.

****************************************
“Don’t follow to close,” she warned into her radio, “the second must not realize they’re being tailed.”

“Do you think it’s wise to send two of us?” he asked skeptically from the passenger seat.

She smiled, “Of course. Besides, we have our secret weapon.”

The two watched as a non-descript blue sedan pulled out in pursuit of the Princess and General of Antar.

*****************************************

ABSOLUTION

Part 8b

July 21st, 2001




Max stood in the middle of the street, alone. His parents had long since gone inside and everyone else had gone home. An hour had passed, maybe two, since her taillights faded into the night.

He knew he told her she could go, had even helped load her things into the truck, but he had never let himself believe she’d actually leave. She did. She climbed behind the wheel of the new Jeep Cherokee and drove away.

She didn’t look back. Not once.

A gentle hand on his shoulder finally tore his gaze from the road. Glancing at it, he watched as his Mother’s wedding ring glinted in the light from the street lamp.

“Max,” she said softly, “come inside honey.”

Nodding, he let her lead him back into the house. She closed the door behind them and the click of the lock echoed in the silence.

He stoically started moving towards his room; his Mother’s voiced called to him down the hall way, “She’ll be home every weekend Max.” He supposed it should, but it didn’t offer him any solace, neither did knowing Michael was going to be there.

This definitely went against all his instincts. Everything he knew told him he shouldn’t have let her go. But he couldn’t exactly tie her to her bed and hold her hostage. He’d hoped all the revelations over the past 2 days would make her stay, but obviously she didn’t want to deal with it, or she didn’t care. He wasn’t sure which option was worse.

He hadn’t even told her what Larek revealed to him last night. What was the point?

Michael tried telling her she couldn’t leave, even tried man-handling her, which resulted in her tossing him across the room with her powers. Max hadn’t seen him that pissed in a long time.

After his initial cool off he’d called and proceeded to nag Max over and over not to let her go. ‘Pull the King card if you have to’ he’d said. Yeah we all know how well that works. Isabel couldn’t care less about his King status and frankly at this point he didn’t give a shit himself. It’s caused nothing but pain and grief anyway. He’d done nothing but hurt every single person he ever cared about. He’d been a selfish bastard and he hated himself for it.

Michael seemed to think it could all be fixed.

Max could only hope he was right, but hoping was something he’d forgotten how to do.

His thoughts turned to Isabel’s parting words to him as he pulled off his shirt and mechanically crawled into bed. Wondering again what she could possibly know about Liz, he flipped on the radio. A beautiful voice wafted out through the speakers, singing his heart.

Under the shadows, forbidden and hot
Desire grows, more often than not

I’m sorry is a stupid thing to say,
Specially considering it’s not like I planned it this way

But I’m sorry is all that there is left of me
And I’m so sorry this love left me hollow
And made you empty

Maybe I could’ve loved you better,
Maybe you should’ve loved me more
Maybe our hearts were just next in line,
Maybe everything breaks sometime.

Everything breaks sometime


He winced as his radio shattered against the wall where he’d thrown it. A sob escaped his mouth and he bit down hard on his lip; A failed attempt to contain all the emotion spiraling dangerously out of control. With a growl of resignation, he rolled out of bed and reached for the shirt he left draped over the back of his chair.

He slipped on his shoes and quietly crawled out his window.


**********************************

Liz sat in the glow of the moonlight out on her balcony. He journal lay open in her lap, pen poised over blank pages. She glanced down at the empty page and it glanced back, mocking her. She closed it in defeat and carried it back to its hiding place in the wall.

Sitting back down she couldn’t stop thinking about the latest events to befall the group. When Maria told her the purpose of the impromptu meeting from the other day, guilt overwhelmed her to the point where she almost went to Max to apologize. Almost.

After Isabel came to her last night, she came close to joining the good-bye party that went to see her off, but in the end couldn’t bring herself to go. She never thought a time would come when she wouldn’t want to be around him, in one way or another, but it has, and it’s killing her.

She had fruitlessly hoped to find some inkling of truth to her suspicions of Tess, some proof that Max hadn’t betrayed her, but there was none.

She sighed and turned on the radio next to her, a passionate voice filled the silence with the story of her heart.

It’s hard to believe it’s boiled down to this,
Seems so surreal this won’t be healed by a kiss

It’s hard to stare at you, knowing you like I have
I use to feel so close, now I feel so bad

My heart’s filled with thunderstorms,
And I’m ready to burst
And I’ve lost my favorite harbor
And I’ll weather for the worse

Maybe I could’ve loved you better,
Maybe you should’ve loved me more
Maybe our hearts were just next in line,
Maybe everything breaks sometime

Everything breaks sometime, Everything breaks sometime

I’m so sorry, everything breaks sometime



The song ended softly and Liz wiped at the tears threatening to fall. She clicked of the radio and made a silent vow never to turn it on again.

She heard a noise that sounded distinctly like someone climbing the ladder and immediately panicked. She settled back into her chair when the familiar feel of him touched her mind. She absently marveled that even after all this time, after all they’d been through; she could still feel it when he was near. ‘What is he doing here?’ she thought.

A dozen possibilities raced through her mind as she watched his head appear over the brick wall of her balcony. He hopped over and stood uncomfortably near the ladder. She was about to ask him what he wanted when the words died on her lips.

He looked terrible.

His eyes were red rimmed and raw looking, his face pale and drawn. As he pushed his hands deep into his pockets he seemed unable to meet her gaze. Frozen, she searched for something to say.

“I see you got rid of the table,” Max offered, gesturing to the empty space her small table once occupied. The sound of his voice triggered a flood of emotions in her: love and joy, pain and anger, the loneliness and quiet desperation of the past few months.

“What are you doing here, Max?”

Her voice was edged with more bitterness than Max had expected. He took a deep breath.

“ I came to tell you how sorry I am,” he began haltingly. “I never meant to hurt you.”

She wanted to hear those words at one time, but strangely they meant nothing now. She glanced up at the sky, spying the V formation.

“It’s too late for that,” she said.

He lifted his head slightly. In the light of the moon he looked far older than he was, almost as if years had passed since she’d last seen him. He forced a thin-lipped smile, and then lowered his gaze again before pulling his hands from his pockets. He made a hesitant move to leave.

Had it been any other day, had it been any other person, he would have kept moving, telling himself that he’d tried. Instead, he forced himself to stop.

“Isabel’s moving to Sante Fe,” he said into the darkness, his back to her.

Liz absently ran her hand through her hair. “ I know. I saw her last night. Is that why you’re here?”

Max shook his head. “No. I’m here because I wanted to talk to you about my son.” He murmured the words over his shoulder; Liz could barely hear him. “ I was hoping that you would listen because I don’t know who else to turn to.”

His vulnerability touched and surprised her, and for a fleeting moment she almost went to his side, almost wrapped him in her arms and told him everything would be fine. But she couldn’t forget what he’d done, how he’d destroyed her.

“Max…it’s really late…maybe tomorrow?” she suggested. Max nodded as if he had expected her to say as much. She thought he would leave then, yet strangely, he didn’t move from his spot.

In the distance Liz heard the faint rumble of thunder. The temperature was dropping; a summer storm on its way. She shivered, but wasn’t sure it was from the cold.

Max turned to face her again.

“I also wanted to tell you about Tess” he said slowly.

From his pained expression, she knew how hard it had been for him to say the words. He seemed on the verge of tears as he stood before her; this time it was her turn to look away.

It’s not the right time, Max. It’s late and I’m tired and I don’t think I’ll ever be ready to hear anything about that.

That’s what she imagined herself saying. The words that came out, however, were quite different.

“All right,” she said.

She headed toward her window, motioning for him to follow. She crawled into her room with him right on her heels. She sat down in her new desk chair and held her hand out to the bed in a silent invitation for him to sit.

He lowered himself slowly onto the bed across from her. Settling down into the soft mattress, he took in every inch of her face.

Liz squirmed under the scrutiny and self-consciously tucked her hair behind her ear. Looking away in discomfort, she heard him whisper, “You’re so beautiful,” into the air.

The words hung there in the awkwardness of the moment until Liz finally turned back to him.
“Didn’t you want to talk Max?” she said ignoring his soft declaration.

“Yeah, yeah. Sorry.” He mumbled. “I don’t really know where to start,” he said sadly.

“Why don’t you try the beginning,” she prompted.

“Right. The beginning,” he started, rubbing his temples. It seemed he’d had a headache everyday for the past 6 months. “I guess the beginning for me was the night I found you with Kyle.” He paused for a moment and gauged her reaction. She’d gone stiff in her seat and her eyes were wide, with surprise or anger, he couldn’t be sure so he rushed on. “I’m not brining it up to upset you, It’s just that was the beginning of the end of me Liz. I know now nothing happened of course, but then I didn’t and it was devastating.” He took a breath, “are you ever gonna tell me why Liz?” he asked.

A pang of guilt shot through her at his question. I should just tell him already she thought to herself. What possible difference could it make now. “Yeah Max, I will. But not tonight. I think it will do more harm than good at this point.”

He nodded solemnly and inhaled an unsteady breath, “Okay. Okay.” He picked at his nails and continued on, not looking at her. “That night everything I knew, everything I believed in, was gone and I didn’t know who I was anymore. Then all that crazy stuff with the skins and our dupes was happening and the distance between us got farther and farther, and Tess and I were becoming closer, becoming friends. At least I thought we were. She was just there for me and didn’t pressure me about anything. And I guess I just needed that. But the whole time, my heart Liz, it was calling out to me, trying to tell me that you would not have done what you did. I refused to listen.”

“But then in Vegas, I thought—I thought maybe we could start to mend the rift between us and then Prom…. and Alex….” He let his words fade and risked a quick glance at her, knowing this was as hard for her to hear as it was for him to say.

She was curled up in her chair hugging her knees to her chest, eyes closed tightly.

Max’s heart leap into his throat at the sight of her, so hurt and vulnerable, trying desperately not to cry. He wanted to stop right then, not say another word, but he swallowed hard and plundered on.

“After Alex…after he…I don’t know why I wouldn’t listen to you Liz!” he cried

She opened her eyes at his outburst and tears tumbled from them unbridled. He wept with her, but persisted on.

“You were so positive, so sure that something horrible had happened to him and I wouldn’t listen. Even Michael and Isabel eventually believed you. Everyone but me. And Tess,” he added with undisguised hatred. “She—Oh God!” he sobbed and wiped his hands over his wet face.

“I don’t know how it happened Liz, how I got there that night,” Liz cringed, knowing where this was now headed. “It was like I couldn’t even control what I was doing any more, there was like this haze over everything and the only thing clear was her. I don’t even really remember it anymore, all I remember is waking up afterward with this sick feeling, horrified at what I’d so obviously done.”

He stopped and dropped his head into his hands, covering his face. Filled with shame, tears ran through his fingers and down his arm.

“And now I have a son,” he choked out through his hands, “a son, an innocent little boy—who has a murderer for a mother, and who’s going to die…”

Liz sat up in her chair, interrupting for the first time, “What do you mean Max? I thought—I thought if he—that he would be okay?”

“So did I, so did I,” he nodded, looking at her. “But last night, Larek—he came to me, with news. Tess is in custody on Antar and—and—scheduled to be terminated.”

He broke down completely then, sobs wracking his frame. Liz was confused, this made no sense. The plan all along was for her to return with the heir so why would they kill her? She rubbed her forehead and took in the sight on her bed.

He was so frail and broken, crying helpless in the middle of her bed. She couldn’t stop herself from wrapping him in her arms and holding him tightly.
*******

Liz held Max until he finally fell silent, spent and exhausted. Then she released him and went to the kitchen, returning a moment later with a glass of water.

She didn’t know what else to do nor did she have any idea what to say. She’d never seen him like this, ever, and it was very disconcerting.

Max looked up from the bed as she handed him the water. With a deadened expression, he took a drink, and then lowered it to his lap, both hands wrapped around the glass.

She reached over, touching his leg softly. “Are you okay?” she asked.

“No,” he answered earnestly, “but maybe I never was.”

“Probably not,” she agreed.

He smiled wanly. They sat in silence for a few moments before she spoke again.

“Why now Max? Why tonight?”

He absently rotated the glass in his hands. “I’ve been thinking about things, how screwed up it all is with us, with everything and with Larek’s news and then Isabel leaving tonight…and I don’t know, it felt like it was starting to eat me alive.”

“Why me then? Why not Michael, or even your parents?”

He didn’t answer right away, but when he looked up at her, his amber eyes registered nothing but regret.

“Because,” he said with unmistakable sincerity, “ You mean everything to me. I love you Liz. I love you more than I’ve ever loved anyone my whole life. Through everything, no matter what is was, my heart always told me to go to you. Tonight was the first time I listened in a long time.”

At his words, her breath caught in her throat.

“You have every right not to believe me,” he admitted. “ I probably wouldn’t, given the way I’ve acted. I’m sorry for that—for everything. I was so wrong,” he paused. With his thumb he traced the rim of the glass in his hands. “ I wish I could explain why I did the things I did, but I honestly don’t know. I’ve been lying to myself for so long that I’m not even sure I’d know the truth if I saw it. All I know is that I’m no good without you Liz, and that I screwed up the best thing I’ve ever had in my life.”

“Yeah, you did,” she agreed, prompting a nervous laugh from Max.

“ I guess a second chance is out of the question, huh?”

Liz was silent, suddenly aware that at some point this evening, her anger toward Max had dissipated. The pain was still there, though, and so was the fear of what might come.

“You used that one up a while ago,” she said calmly. “You’re probably somewhere in the 20’s by now.”

He heard an unexpected glimmer of encouragement in her tone and looked up at her, his hope barely disguised.

“That bad?”

“Worse,” she said smiling slightly.

“No hope, huh?”

Was there? That was all it came down to wasn’t it?

Liz hesitated. She could feel her stubborn resolve crumbling as his eyes held her gaze, speaking more eloquently than any worlds he might say. All at once she was flooded with the memory of the day he saved her, when he risked everything to heal her simply because he loved her, reviving the feelings she had worked so hard to repress these past months, this past year.

“I didn’t exactly say that,” she finally answered. But we can’t just pick up where we left off. There’s a lot we have to figure out first, and it isn’t going to be easy.”

It took a moment for the words to sink in, and when he realized that the possibility was still there-faint though it was-Max felt a wave of sudden relief wash over him. He smiled briefly before setting the glass down on the desk. “I’m so sorry Liz,” he repeated earnestly. I’m sorry.”

She simply nodded and took his hand. “There’s something I think I should tell you Max.”
**************

ABSOLUTION


Part 9


June 18th, 2001



She loved to run. This she discovered her first night on earth, nearly two weeks ago. It’s how she got out of the forest the transport literally dumped her in.

It made her feel free for the first time in her life.

She rushed headlong into the desert over the familiar path, her breath coming in short, even pants, her long braid swinging behind her in time with her feet.

She smiled when she felt the abruptness of his power mingle with hers.

The first time she felt the touch of his energy she panicked. She had been running, not unlike today, when she slammed into the solid wall of his power. The shock of it almost knocked the air right out of her. It did knock her legs out from under her and she tumbled into the sand. Scrambling to her feet, she scanned in vain for a place to hide, but the tumbleweeds didn’t offer much comfort.

As she stood rigid in the dirt, whomever was emanating the power, yanked it forcefully back with in them, leaving an emptiness flapping in the atmosphere. That’s when she realized the familiarity of it, like an old friend she hadn’t seen in a long, long time.

When she determined who it was, she wouldn’t know till a week later that she was only partially right.

She saw him behind the ally of Horton’s drugstore, leaning down to tie his boot. She did a double take, and on the second look he was gone. She almost convinced herself that she’d hallucinated the whole thing when she saw him again on the corner of Elm near the park. She watched with her mouth dangling open as he knocked down the umbrella of the Papaya’s hot dog cart with his powers. And while the sweet little old vendor struggled to upright it, he swiped two dogs and a bag of chips.

The mass of rock and rubble came into view and she felt a surge in the air.

He was close. Today was the day. He obviously wasn’t going to come out of hiding, so it was her move.

Normally she would run right by, but today she went straight into the once intricate formation, right to the source of power.

He was crouched down low behind a slab that had amazingly remained in tact, dressed in dirty combat boot and equally filthy green cargo pants. A black shirt with the sleeves cut off, that was surprisingly clean, stretched across his well-defined chest. Around his neck was a thick silver chain with a very familiar symbol, and on his right wrist was a matching cuff. His hair was strange, to say the least and she’d never seen so many piercing, but it was unmistakably him.

His eyes were closed, his breath quick and shallow.

“You’re supposed to be dead,” she stated.

His eyes opened wide and he struggled to keep a neutral expression on his shocked face.

“What?” he asked, his heart thumping so loudly in his chest he was sure she could hear it.

“Dead. Ava thinks you’re dead,” she said calmly.

He considered this while trying to get his panicked pulse under control. How does…what the…who…? He spoke slowly in an attempt to keep his voice steady.

“Yo that chick’s still breathin’? I figured they’d a whacked her by now.”

“Nope,” she shook her head, “They are dead.”

“Who?”

“They. Your sister and Rath.”

“Boo Hoo,” he said and she laughed.

“So how does one survive being run over by a mac truck?” she asked nonchalantly.

Jesus, who is this chick? “Yo, I gots resources ya know?”

She smiled and cocked an eyebrow, “Yeah, I guess you do.” She tilted her head and scanned his features. “You look just like him. Well, except for the tattoos,” she said glancing at his well-covered arms. Noting the foursquare symbol displayed prominently on his shoulder, she continued on, “and the piercings. Is that a ball in your tongue?” she asked wrinkling her nose.

“Yeah, they’re cool, you should get one,” he said absently, “You said I look just like him, you mean my dupe?” he asked. Hi s heart rate was slowly returning to normal

“Well technically, you’re his dupe,” she corrected, “but that’s who I was referring to. Look, I saw you in town last week, you really shouldn’t be out in the open like that.”

Whoa. How the hell did she… “Listen lady, before you start spoutin’ about what I should and shouldn’t do, you wanna tell me who the hell you are and how the hell you know who I am? Cuz I’ll tell ya, there ain’t nothin’ I’d like to know more right now.” He crossed his bulging biceps over his chest defiantly.

She smiled again, “I’m a friend.”

Damn she’s really starting to irritate me with that little smug smile. “A friend?” he scowled, “I ain’t got no friends.”

“Well, I’m not an enemy, so that automatically makes me a friend right?” she said facetiously.

He narrowed his eyes indignantly, not at all amused.

“Okay, okay,” she held up her hands in mock defeat, “ We were friends, in another life, but that’s beside the point.

I was sent here to protect the Royal Family. There have been some recent developments and we have a battle on our hands. I, along with 3 others, were sent to ensure the preservation of our King. You are an unexpected surprise, since we thought you were dead, but an added bonus. We can definitely use your unique ‘resources’. The others have retaliated and many of them are here to make sure the King never returns home.” She paused and observed the look of utter disbelief on his face.

“C’mon Zan,” she said slightly exasperated, “ out here in the open where we both let our energy unfurl, you sense mine, I know you do. Just like I do yours. You know I’m not one of them.”

He just stared at her, “What recent developments?”

Well he doesn’t beat around the bush, “That’s a long story. Where are you staying?” she asked abruptly.

“Here and there. What developments?”

“Pushy aren’t you? Look I’ll tell you everything, but I’d like to do it somewhere I can sit down. Will you come back to my place?” she asked, “I’ve got a hot shower which it looks like you could use, no offense, and a nice comfy couch.” She raised her eyebrows expectantly for his answer.

He regarded her quizzically, obviously fighting some eternal battle. He knew she wasn’t the enemy, in fact, to be perfectly honest he was starting to get a pretty good idea who she was, but he learned along time ago not trust anyone, especially not ‘friends.’

The desire to be clean finally won out. “That shower of yours got one a them massaging heads?” he asked seriously.

“As a matter of fact it does,” she said smiling, “shall we?” She gestured with her hand and he reluctantly began to follow her out of the rubble.

“You run?” she asked as they trekked through the dessert.

“Only when chased,” he replied and she laughed for the second time that morning.

“Ava’s gonna flip when she sees you,” she said a while later.

He stopped abruptly in the sand. “She’s here?” he asked incredulously.

“Yeah,” she nodded not breaking her stride. He ran to catch up and they fell into companionable silence.

They were almost to the road when he spoke again. “You got a name?”

“Casseia,” she said, bringing him to a surprised stop again. So I was right.

“THE Casseia?” he asked to her retreating back.

She slowly came to a stop and turned to face him. “You remember me?”

“Yeah,” he nodded deliberately.

“Wow they really screwed up the memories didn’t they?”

His brows furrowed, “I guess. Does Ava remember you?”

“Not really. See, all screwed up. C’mon lets go.” She motioned with a wave of her hand and he fell into step beside her.

They rounded a bend and her Harley came glittering into view. “Sweeeet,” he drawled, “Yours?”

“Yeah.”

“Can I drive?”

“No.”

******************************

TBC

ABSOLUTION

Part 10

July 21st, 2001


“Liz?” Max called to her again. She’d been about to tell him her suspicions when something he’d said earlier flashed through her mind. She wasn’t sure, but she thought she just might have the proof she’d been futilely searching for.

“Liz!” Max tried one more time. He was starting to get worried. She had this really glazed over look in her eyes and hadn’t said a word in the last 10 minutes.

He reached up and touched her cheek softly. Her skin was so silky. He couldn’t remember the last time he touched her this way and it made his heart twist painfully in his chest. Things will never be the same again. His thumb moved of it’s own volition in a gentle caress of her cheek and a couple of his fingers found their way into her hair.

“Liz, sweet Liz,” he whispered and her eyes began to focus. She saw his dark brown pools and smiled happily, but only for a second. She jumped quickly up and away from his touch. How did she get so out of it?

“Sorry—I’m sorry. I guess I was somewhere else for a minute.” She paced around her room acutely aware of the spot where Max’s hand had just been. It tingled, his touch still lingering there.

“Oh, it’s okay Liz,” he mumbled looking down at his fingers. He could still feel her skin, soft and supple.

I will not let him get to me, I will not let him get to me, I will not let him get to me. She repeated over and over to herself.

“Max, what exactly did Larek tell you?”

“Well, he said that something big had been happening and that it was really difficult for him to get any information. For some reason Khivar has beefed up his security and no one can get to him. Anyway, he finally got to a source inside Khivars camp that told him Tess in being held captive, awaiting her execution.”

Max watched as Liz’s eyes filled with something close to glee.

“I think that is the just the best news I’ve ever heard” she squealed and clapped her hands together giddily. She literally beamed at him.

Max’s eyes grew dark and he frowned at her. “Look Liz, I know you hate her, I do too, and she certainly deserves to die for what she did, but she’s carrying my son and I’m sorry but I just can’t be happy about him being killed.” He tore his eyes from her, upset at her callous disregard of his son’s life.

“No, no, no Max! Don’t you see?” she said sitting down next to him on the bed, “There isn’t a baby Max, there never was. It was all a trick.”

“What?”


*************************************

June 18th, 2001 *flashback*


Casseia and Zan pulled up to a non-descript house just on the out skirts of town. There was nothing special about it. Just an average, middle of the road, suburban house where not even the nosiest of neighbors would suspect it was a secret hide out for the other worldly Antarian Royal Guard.

She eased the Harley into the garage and Zan followed her inside.

“Hey Ava,” Casseia called into the house, “Look who I found out in the desert.”

A tiny frame appeared in the hallway, “What did yo….” She trailed off when she caught sight of him standing awkwardly by the dining room table.

She rubbed her eyes and shook her head; sure it was a figment of her imagination. When he didn’t disappear she let her mouth hang open in shock.

“Yo, you gonna catch flies if you don’t shut that trap,” he teased her.

That was all she needed to hear. She ran full tilt at him and launched her self into his arms.

He caught her with ease and returned her fierce hug. “You’re alive! You’re alive!” she cried.

“Livin’ and breathin’,” he agreed and slowly lowered her to the ground

“Bastard,” she yelled and slapped him hard across his face.

Casseia stifled a laugh, mumbled something about leaving the two of them alone, and disappeared down the hallway.

“What the hell was that for?” he asked rubbing his cheek.

“For lettin’ me think you was dead,” she said and crossed her arms, “Why’d you do that?”

“Jesus! I didn’t do it on purpose. I didn’t even know if you was still around. They tried to off me, and since you was always agreein’ with me, I figured they’d a done the same thing to you."

She inhaled a long breath and eyed him suspiciously, “Well I’m glad you ain’t dead,” she said finally.

“Me too,” he nodded, “glad that you ain’t dead,” he add quickly. “What’s with the locks?” he asked fingering her jet-black hair.

“A disguise, stupid. You’re gonna hafta change to, if you was plannin’ on hangin’ around.”

“Yeah, sure. First thing I’ll do is take a shower. Point the way?” he asked and she led him down the hall.
*****************************
TBC



"Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional."