posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:44:13 PM
The Skies of Fire

Author: Majesty
email: majesty0000⊕hotmail.com

Summary: This is a catharsis of sorts for me. A/U Max and Liz. Aliens are aliens. Humans are humans. Alex isn?t dead.

Rating: I have no idea yet, but I seem to lapse into NC-17 eventually *happy*The Skies of Fire

This is a catharsis of sorts for me. A/U Max and Liz. Aliens are aliens. Humans are humans. Alex isn't dead.

*****This may be politically incorrect for me to write at this time, and if people are upset by it, I will take it to a link on another website, but it's been eating at me, trying to find something productive I can do with all of these feelings I have been having over the past week. Due to the tragedy last week, this type of scenario has been playing in my head, and I seriously have to get it out?now, as it's driving me crazy. Call it living in NY with a vivid imagination, whatever. If you don't want to read about disasters, then don't read this one. My dark side needs some healing. Don't worry, it will have a good ending, but there is mention of the WTC, and though it is not about the disaster, it does play a part in this story, sort of an homage, so to speak. So if this disturbs you, don't read it.*****

PROLOGUE

Max Evans stood over the arid desolate area that had once been a thriving city called Dallas. At least it was two months ago. Now all that remained were buildings that had once housed thriving businesses and happy homes, and the remnants of the lives that had once thrived here. Another large city. Another emptied out community. It was all the same, town after town. Place after place. Max and the others had seldom seen any survivors, and when they did, most were quite incoherent. But one man, a man in Philadelphia, had been able to speak. He had been left there, assumed to be dead. And for all intents and purposes, he was.

Max, Isabel and Michael had stayed with him for two days before they died, and they learned that much of what had happened to them had happened to him.

The last thing they all remembered was sitting down together for dinner in New York. They all shared an apartment, and kept their cover under the guise of being college students. Not really a guise, as Max himself actually enjoyed it. Michael however, hated it. Max excelled. It had been hard leaving Roswell to come out to New York City, a strange, dangerous and wonderful place. But Isabel entered into FIT, and did remarkably well as a designer, getting herself a job in the fashion district after graduating from the four-year school. Michael didn't find his footing right away, choosing to quit St. Joseph's, finding work until he discovered an art school that suited him. Isabel and Michael had been working for the past year while Max finished schooling.

Max's last year in medical school. He was supposed to graduate, with honors, in half the time of the other students, and the unthinkable happened.

Max sat across from Michael who was scowling at him. Nothing unusual for Michael.

"Max, what the hell are we gonna do once you graduate?" he said angrily.

"I don't know Michael, get a job, maybe a better apartment in the East Village?" he said.

"Maxwell, we have to move on. We've been here way too long as it is. We agreed to stay until you graduated. We can't stay here forever," he said.

Max knew he was talking about the skins. They had been protected by Nasedo for most of their time in NY. But Nasedo had gone away a few months back, trying to get a lock on the skins, and they had only heard from him once since then. Michael wanted to high-tail it out of New York, but Max refused. He balked at leaving, moving again. He was tired of constantly looking over his shoulder, keeping his distance from people. He wanted to be able to connect with people. Not in an alien way, but to heal in the most basic human ways possible, which is why he had wanted to become a doctor.

Michael thought it was a stupid idea, and accused Max of wanting to put them all in danger, because he thought that Max wouldn't be able to resist healing people the alien way. But Max knew in his heart Michael was wrong. He was not God, and never planned to walk in his footsteps. He knew he could not heal people the way he wanted to, so he would just have to do it the conventional way.

All his life, through school he hadn't made friends. The moment he had gotten off the school bus the first day he went to school with Isabel, he had seen a little dark-haired girl that had stolen his heart named Liz Parker. He had watched her from afar longingly all through his school years. He had kept his distance from his classmates, sticking with Isabel and Michael, watching others go to parties, on dates, to the proms.

He had watched beautiful Liz laugh with her friends Maria and Alex, enjoying their easy company. He wished to be part of that close-knit group. It was easier for Isabel. She was the popular ice-queen, and had hung around with all the other shallow elite, which afforded her social opportunities without emotional involvement. Michael had always been a loner. He was used to it, and most times enjoyed it, preferring only the company of Isabel and Max himself. But for Max it was hard. He knew that he caught the eyes of girls, but he only had eyes for one, and it killed him knowing that if he could just have the chance, he would talk to Liz, maybe get to know her?and maybe by some miracle she might even talk back to him. But he couldn't afford that chance, as Michael had so often told him. He knew Michael was looking out for all of them, but sometimes he resented the way he seemed to be ok with their situation. Max knew because of what he was, they could never have normal.

And so he watched Liz date Kyle Valenti, leave the Crashdown on his arm for Senior Prom, watched Kyle kiss her passionately afterwards before saying goodnight to her well into the morning hours. He could not explain the emptiness he had felt, though Isabel had tried to make things easier, telling him that humans were not good enough for them anyway.

He longed for that normalcy, and he still longed for it now. But that was his trade-off for being able to be in NYC getting his degree. He had promised Nasedo no emotional entanglements, and he had lived up to his promise, as lonely as it was. He didn't think much of dating, but at the least it might be nice to have friends outside their tight circle of three.

Max knew though, that getting close to anyone would put those people in danger, and so he remained distant from those in his study groups, never lingering after the studying was done. Most of the time he was ok with it, but sometimes?sometimes he found himself awakened in the morning hours before dawn, after dreaming of an angelic face, warm brown eyes, and chocolate silky hair.

"Maxwell!" Michael said snapping his fingers annoyed, drawing Max out of his reverie. "Are you listening to me?"

"Yeah I'm listening," Max said irritated. "Can we talk about this *after* I graduate?"

"You don't get it do you Max?" Michael growled. "We're like sitting ducks here right now. Nasedo?"

"Nasedo is fine," Max said angrily. "He was never one to check in with us all the time."

"Max, come on," Isabel said. "This isn't like him to be silent this long. Something's wrong."

"You don't know that," Max snapped.

"We don't know anything!" Isabel said worriedly. "Max, can't you see that this is bad?"

Max was about to answer her when the building shook fiercely, almost knocking them out of their chairs.

"What was that?" Isabel asked fearfully.

"I don't know," Max said as another violent quake shook the building with a continuous vibration.

"Stay where you are," Max shouted as he crawled over to the window.

The city streets were crowded with people running in panic, not knowing what exactly it was that was causing the quakes. Max opened the window and poked his head out, looking uptown. He could see a bright red haze above the midtown skyline, furiously making it's way toward this end of town. He could see fires in it's wake.

He quickly took his head in, slamming the window down.

"Get under the table now! Both of you!" he has said commandingly as they scrambled under the mammoth table.

"What is it Max?" Isabel had said fearfully, holding onto his arm.

"Whatever it is, it's coming this way," Max muttered, gazing at the window as Michael looked at him questioningly. Max remained silent as he watched the slight red glow burn brighter reflecting against the glass. They listened to the shouts and screams grow more frantic outside, and suddenly it was upon them, casting an angry beam into the apartment.

Instinctively, Max threw up his shield as the glass on the window shattered into a thousand pieces. He felt an amazing and horrible energy fill the room, literally enveloping the building, shaking its very foundation.

Dimly he heard Isabel scream as the ceiling fell around them and they were literally blinded by the energy bursting through the building.

There was a mighty roar that shook the building and Max felt it give out, floor by floor until it reached theirs, and they knew nothing but blackness.

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

Some time, perhaps hours later, Max stirred. All around him was surrounding blackness.

He tried to move, and winced when he felt a crushing weight on his waist. Smoke permeated the area, causing him to choke, and then cry out in pain, as he felt a sharp stab of something in his side.

"Isabel?" he cried in panic. "Michael?"

There was no answer.

He tried to move again, to no avail. He consciously controlled his breathing, knowing that giving in to panic was the sure way to his downfall.

Feeling around the rubble to either side of him, he tried to get his bearings, to find something that might aid his situation.

Just then, he caught site of a beam of light. About to call out, he remembered the inhuman energy that had torn the building apart and remained silent. He hoped his previous call to Isabel and Michael hadn't alerted whatever it was to his presence.

He lay completely motionless as he watched the beam travel above him. After a moment, he surmised it to be a flashlight, but his concern now was who was carrying it.

He tried to breathe as silently as possible, trying to stay still, but it was getting increasingly difficult to do that as whatever was stabling him in the side seemed to be working its way further into his body with the angle his side was at.

He grimaced in pain as the light came closer, and still closer. He was caught, he knew it. They should have left New York while they had the chance. Michael was right. It was all his fault.

He closed his eyes and prepared to meet his fate.

"Max?" a soft voice whispered, and Max's eyes snapped open.

"Isabel!" he said. "Over here!"

Max heard scrambling for a short second, and then the light was in his eyes.

"Oh thank God Michael," she said gratefully.

Max squinted. "Can you get that light out of my eyes?" he said.

"Sorry," Michael grunted as he lay the flashlight down, pulling debris off of Max.

He felt Isabel's cool hand touch his cheek.

"Are you ok Max?" she asked, tearfully.

"I think so," Max said, as the heavy piece of wood was pulled off of him. He heard Isabel gasp.

"Max, you're bleeding!" she said worriedly.

Max put his hand to his side, and winced, sitting up.

"I'll be all right," he said.

"That looks pretty bad Maxwell," Michael said doubtfully.

"I'll be fine. Isabel, give me your scarf", he said, and she quickly took it off, handing it to him. At least there was some advantage to having a sister in the fashion industry, he thought wryly, as he carefully tied the long scarf around his waist tightly.

He tried to stand up, and fell heavily.

"Damn," he cursed. "Michael, help me up!" he said angrily.

"Max I think you should stay where you are until we get a look at you," he warned.

"Michael, I don't have time for that. I need to see if anyone needs help," he said, attempting to get up again, and falling to the floor once more.

He didn't miss the worried look that passed between Michael and Isabel, before Isabel lowered her head.

"What?" Max said, and they didn't reply.

"What?!" he asked again. "There have to be people out there that need medical assistance?"

Again his query was met with silence.

"Are you telling me that everyone is dead?" Max asked softly.

Michael looked at him silently for a moment, while Max looked at him questioningly.

"No Max, he said finally. "No one needs help. They've all gone."

"What do you mean they've all gone?" Max asked, confused.

"I mean, everyone's disappeared," he said.

"What do you mean disappeared?" Max asked.

"Just what I said, they've disappeared, vanished, gone," Michael muttered.

Max let out a harsh breath.

"I don't understand," he said.

"After it happened, we must have been separated with that blast of energy. When I woke up, I got up and called out to both of you. The building is barely holding. I walked outside and found Isabel sitting on the ground. We looked around for you and were calling you, but you didn't answer. I decided to take a scout around. Some buildings were destroyed, some weren't. But all I know is, I couldn't find a single soul out there, alive or dead," Michael said, looking at the ground.

"Help me up," Max said.

"Max I don't-" he started.

"I said?help me up," Max said forcefully.

Michael sighed angrily, and grabbed his arm, helping him up.

"Max, I think we should take a look at you first," Isabel argued.

"I need to see this Iz," Max said quietly, picking his way through the rubble to the opening in the front of the building.

Max didn't know what he expected, but he wasn't prepared for the sight that met his eyes.

Everywhere was destruction. Many of the buildings were damaged, or down altogether. Cars froze in the streets, their navigators gone.

Max listened to the eerie silence as he slowly walked up the street, Isabel and Michael in tow. He called out, hoping to hear an answering shout, any answering shout, but was met with only silence. He turned around, facing downtown and looked up at the sky. It glowed an eerie red. His gaze was drawn to the twin towers of the World Trade Center, where the red glow seemed to burn brighter. These two buildings remained untouched, seemingly the only ones unaffected by this strange energy that had invaded the city.

Max was unable to heal his wound completely. He had a strong feeling it was due to what had happened in NYC.

And so it was that they traversed the city for a week, looking for someone, anyone who might have been spared whatever had happened to the rest of the city's inhabitants, but found no one. During the day, the sky glowed an ominous orange, and at night was hazed with a deep red. Every night the same, never fading.

And then they had walked the George Washington Bridge, strewn with abandoned cars to New Jersey. Strangely, outside the city, it seemed all buildings and structures were unaffected, though they did not find a single soul along the way. They got to a rural enough area and were finally able to make use of a car. All phone lines were down. There was no way that they could get in touch with the Evans. They had made it to Philadelphia, taking side roads, and riding the shoulder most of the way to avoid the cars stopped in time on the roads. They made it as far as they could by car into the city, and then again were on foot.

And then they had found him, sitting on a bench near the Liberty Bell. He did not respond at first, seemingly unable to believe that he no longer was alone. He was obviously ill. Max did what he could to make the only living person they had seen so far as comfortable as he could until two days later, he was at peace.

His name was Jack Rogers. He had a family, a wife and two daughters that had vanished just as the rest of the population of Philadelphia had. During those two days, he talked of a red Armageddon that had plagued his city and had taken those that he loved. He didn't know how he had survived it. Max gently pried him for information about where he was at the time, what he was wearing, who he was with. There seemed to be nothing remarkable about any of it. He was a steel worker, on his way home in his car, when all hell broke loose. He was in his work clothes, ordinary cotton, by himself. When it hit, he lost consciousness, much as they did. And he awoke to the same horror that they did. The complete disappearance of every person in the city.


They laid Jack to rest, and moved on to Columbus, Ohio, and Max suddenly turned mysteriously ill. Unable to move without writhing in pain, Isabel and Michael had feared he would meet the same fate as Jack.

It had to be his wound. It must have been infected by whatever energy was permeating the air since that fateful night.

Day after day Isabel sat at Max's side, nursing him and praying to a God she wasn't even sure existed to spare her brother. She feared that a human God would not have mercy on those not of this earth, but she prayed anyway, for the first time in her life.

Michael made short excursions into the city, but turned up no further answers as to what exactly had happened. He had his suspicions that Khivar had something to do with this, but no way to prove it.

Max had few moments of lucidity, his body burning with an alien fever that no power of Michael's or Isabel's could take away. He tossed and turned, his body wracked with pain, unable to realize where he was, who he was with. For two weeks his body was ravaged by it, and then it broke, but he did not regain consciousness for another week. When he did, he could not speak, only staring almost unblinking at the wall in front of him. Isabel coaxed and cajoled him, trying to get a response, and received none.

For another two months Max lay bedridden, unresponsive. His only change in movements were when he closed his eyes to sleep. Isabel cried constantly, and Michael was starting to worry that Max would never come out of this coma-like state he was in.

Max had no conscious thought of where he was. He had no clear thoughts of self, only dim flashes of his surroundings.

And then one night that all changed.

Images of his home flashed in his mind. His home in Roswell. And then he was there, seeing the pod chamber, and an apparition of Nasedo, beckoning him, telling him where he had to be. He caught flashes of masses of people. It did not make sense to him. The people were screaming, being driven somewhere, but he could not tell where. And he felt a gentle presence, someone unknown to him, and then it was gone, replaced by a murderous apparition that overpowered everything around him.

Max sat up straight with a strangled scream in his throat, startling Isabel from her nightly watch over him.

"Max!" she screamed incredulously, throwing her arms around him. He tightened his arms around his sister, grateful to see her. Over her shoulder, Michael stood in the doorway, looking at him in disbelief.

Max looked at him intensely.

"We have to go home, to Roswell," he had said quietly, and Michael had nodded.

But it took weeks for Max to get his strength up. Michael refused to move from Columbus until he felt that Max was well enough, afraid that travelling would cause a relapse into whatever illness Max had been ravaged by.

And here he stood now, outside Dallas, hours away from the place he called home for so long, having no idea what he would find what he got there, but knowing somehow that home held the key to everything.



Edited by - majesty on 09/21/2001 21:46:34

Edited by - majesty on 10/02/2001 13:20:58
posted on 20-Sep-2001 9:47:42 PM

PART ONE

Night was falling as they made their way slowly down 380, about 20 miles from Roswell. Even now, Max couldn't get used to the fluorescent crimson haze that dominated the night sky, dimming the stars and dulling the moon.

He sighed tiredly. Even after weeks of recovering, he still did not feel himself. He didn't know if it was the magnitude of the idea that they could very well be alone on this planet he had grown to love, or if it was the illness that had struck him so quickly and rabidly. He supposed it might be a little bit of both. He did not hold much hope that his parents were still in Roswell, or anyone else for that matter. But something was drawing him there, an unspeakable voice that told him that the small town that he grew up in held answers for him.

And he desperately needed answers. He needed to know if they had been somehow responsible for what had happened here. All communications had gone blank. They had no idea if it was just the United States that had been affected, or if it was the whole world. Max had a suspicion that it was worldwide, after all, wouldn't someone have ventured over here after all communications cut off?

"Max, are you ok?" Isabel asked worriedly looking back toward him in the back seat. She had noticed that most of the time he just stared out the window at the sheer stillness of everything. It was strange to see the animals about now. They seemed unafraid, the birds, the wild creatures, as if for now at least, they knew they had taken back control of the world that had been overrun with humans.

Michael gently maneuvered the car around the abandoned autos on the highway. The going had been slow, but Max had felt a growing urgency that they had little time now.

"Michael do you think you could hurry it up any?" Max asked quietly.

"I'm doing the best I can Maxwell," Michael said flatly. "What's the sudden rush? I mean, it's not like we are going to be late to any parties," Michael said dryly, glancing at Isabel, who gave him a warning look. She had been the brunt of too many party jokes in the past.

"I don't know," Max said. "I just have this feeling that we have to get there soon."

"Whatever," Michael said non-commitally. He didn't hold much faith in Max's sudden premonitions. But, he'd humor him. It's not like they had anything else to do in the near future.

Max turned back to the window. He looked at the landscape, so familiar and yet it seemed so long ago since he had seen it. And he guessed it had been. He had not been back for holidays or summer break, making every effort to finish school as soon as he could. Isabel had gone home with Michael a few times, and his parents had come out to NY to see him a couple of times, but he had been far too busy and had too much work to afford the luxury of an extended break.

Memories of the drive back from the orphanage, clutching Isabel's hand, both afraid of the unknown filled his head. They had no idea what to expect when they had been adopted by the Evans. But Isabel was quicker to accept their willing embrace then Max had been. Max felt lost, and had felt that way for as song as he could remember. But he loved his parents, and he knew he was fully loved by them as well. He knew that he and Isabel had brought joy into their lives, joy that only children could create.

But though he loved them, he somehow always felt a separateness with them. Isabel never felt it like he did, Max knew. Sure she knew she was different, but she loved being Diane and Phillip's daughter. It was the one close human contact they allowed themselves.

Max held a tiny hope that maybe his parents were here, that somehow maybe they had been spared whatever happened. But what if they had? Was that worse than being claimed by whatever evil force that had swallowed everyone up?

They had run into three other people in their travels, a woman and two men. None of them knew their names. None of them could understand what was asked of them. They mumbled incoherently and cowered in fear at the slightest shadow, the tiniest movement around them. Jack had been lucky. He hadn't lost his sanity. These others seemed to be in a state of dementia, unable to interact with the world around him. Max had no way of knowing whether it was the trauma of the disappearance of everyone, or something that had mutated in their bodies when they encountered the energy.

Max ran a shaky hand through his hair. It was the ultimate irony. He was on the verge of graduating medical school, finally able to help people as they wanted, and everyone had either disappeared, or was beyond help.

He didn't want to think of what would happen beyond Roswell. It was intimidating enough to think that they had travelled thousands of miles and had seen only a handful of human beings, only one of which had the capacity to speak to them..

There were no tell-tale lights ahead to tell them they were nearing town. Max had expected as much. The electricity was dead, much as the town probably was. Maybe this wasn't such a good idea after all, he thought to himself.

And then he caught a glimmering reflection in the distance to his left.

"Michael!" he said quickly. "Stop the car."

"What is it?" Michael said.

"I don't know," Max answered, as Michael killed the quiet engine of the Honda they were driving and switched off the lights. Max looked away for a second, and it was gone.

"I thought I saw something out there," he said, pointing to the arid desert area to his right.

"What was it?" Michael said.

"I can't tell," Max said, opening the door quietly.

"You two stay here," he whispered, as he quietly clicked the door shut.

"No way, Max," Michael said, "We're coming with you."

Max shook his head. "I'll call out if anything is up. Please," he said, "I need a minute out of the car anyway."

Michael sighed and leaned back in the seat.

"I don't see anything out there Max," he said. "I thought you were in such a big rush to get into Roswell."

"I was?I mean, I am. Just give me a minute to stretch my legs and check out whatever is out there. It's probably nothing."

"Be careful Max," Isabel said, touching his arm from the open window.

He looked at her reassuringly. "I'll be back in a few minutes."

Max started in the direction he thought he had seen the quick flash of light. Now it appeared dark. He didn't know how far he would have to walk to find whatever it was out there, but it felt good to stretch his legs. Suddenly the urgent feeling he had been carrying with him had left him as if it were never there.

He threaded his way between the small scrubby trees that dotted the landscape, as his eyes became used to the dim. A howl arose somewhere in the distance, and Max felt strangely comforted by it's high keen. It was familiar?home, something he and Michael had heard on many occasions at night camping near the pod chamber. He smiled slightly, the first time he had done that in a long time, and it felt good.

He breathed in the familiar scent of the desert and impulsively stopped in his tracks, looking back. He could not see the car in the darkness, but his sharp senses pointed his eyes in the correct direction. They could wait a few minutes.

He noticed the fairly large stump that rose to his waist next to him of a long dead tree. Five minutes. Five minutes was all he wanted to sit and take in the familiarity. He gently gripped his side out of habit, as it still twinged when he sat, and slid down the stump, his back resting against it, pulling his legs up.

A soft wind ruffled his hair and he shut his eyes, revelling in the momentary peace he felt being in this element.

And then he heard the first whimper, in the distance, and the shuffling of feet, and the broken gate of someone being shoved through the sand. His eyes snapped open in alarm, first to hear other voices besides Michael's and Isabel's and secondly because whoever one of them was, they were in pain. He could sense it.

"Shut up!" a voice said. "Are you going to tell me where the rest are, or am I going to have to kill you first and look for them later?" an angry voice said.

"I'm not telling you anything!" a soft voice said with quiet intensity. "So go ahead and kill me."

"With pleasure," the deeper voice answered, and Max heard a dull thump, and a shriek, followed by the heavy sound of something hitting the sand.

Max slowly rose, trying to get his bearings, his eyes searching wildly for the source of the voices in the dark.

Max heard a moan of pain, and his eye again caught the small flash of light as the attacker quickly switched a flashlight on, it's beam ricocheting off of a small metal object, before it was switched off again. His eyes did not have time to adjust, and as such, he couldn't make out much of either figure, one standing, the other on the ground.

Max knew he had to do something. Quietly he circled around toward the attacker's back, careful to remain silent.

The man was busy struggling with the other on the ground, and there was another cry of pain from the ground.

Max crept up quickly, and his eyes fell upon a man struggling to keep someone pinned to the ground. His clenched hand rose and fell, and there was a quick glint of metal, a knife in the darkness.

Max knew what he had to do. Rushing up behind the man, he delivered a swift kick to his side and knocked him off balance. The man quickly regained his composure, jumping to his feet with a menacing stance.

He rushed at Max and took him off guard, knocking him onto his bad side, and his breath hissed out of his body in pain. He rolled to his side, gripping it.

Breathing heavily, the man grabbed the flashlight from the ground, and quickly shined it on Max's face before snapping it off again.

"Well, if it isn't King Zan," he laughed softly. "Never thought I would meet you face to face. And now I get the honor of killing you."

Skin, Max thought quickly, and reacted as the man rushed at him on the ground with a knife. He quickly rolled as the man hit the sand plunging the knife into it, instead of it's intended target, Max's heart. Max quickly turned and was on his knees, and gave a good pound to the man's lower back, where he knew a plug-like growth would be. Nasedo had drilled it into them. Immediately, the body disintegrated into dust, mixing with the timeless sand that had blown across this plain for centuries.

Max winced as his side was gripped with biting pain, and struggled to his feet, turning to pick up the flashlight. He straightened up and grunted in pain as he felt another hot bolt of pain crease his side.

Stumbling slowly to the person on the ground, he fell to his knees beside them. He fumbled with the switch on the flashlight for a moment before getting it to work. When it's beam concentrated on the person lying next to him, his breath stilled in shock.

His eyes fell across the girl he had thought of so many times, the face that had haunted his dreams for years. Her skin was unusually pale, with the exception of the purple bruise quickly forming on her cheek.
Her sooty lashes fell on her cheek in unconsciousness.

Max swallowed hard. This just could not be possible. Of all the people in the world who had disappeared, how could she be here? And what did a skin want with her?

The rising moon's light caught the shiny surface of something around her neck, and Max's eyes widened when he caught sight of it.

My pendant! He thought. What is she doing with my pendant?

He had left it in the safety of the pod chamber, when he left for New York. Nasedo felt that someone, specifically a skin, might recognize the symbol, and would then know what Max was. Nasedo had given it to him in his tenth year, a year after he first approached he and Michael and Isabel for the first time. They sensed what he was, that he was not human. They also quickly learned of the protection he offered them, and as such followed his instructions and advice explicitly.

And now Liz Parker was wearing it. What the hell was going on?

"Liz," he said softly. "Liz, wake up!"

When she didn't respond, he laid his hand on her stomach to shake her, and immediately felt warm sticky liquid cover it. He raised his hand in front of him. Blood, inky black in the moonlight. And there was a lot of it, he noted frantically, as he watched it pooling, soaking through her clothes.

Panicking, he ripped her shirt open, exposing two knife wounds. He had to do something. He couldn't let her just die like this.

Again he laid his hand on the sticky blood that was covering her abdomen, closing his eyes, feeling the light and heat that spread from his hand.

"Get your hands off her!" an angry voice shouted, "I have a gun!"

Instinctively, protectively, Max's eyes flew open, and he threw his protective green shield around he and Liz, looking behind him for the intruder.

Intruders as it turned out, for as he turned around, he saw the last three faces he thought he would ever lay eyes on again. Maria Deluca, Alex Whitman, and Kyle Valenti.

He quickly dropped his shield, wanting to hope they hadn't seen it, but he knew they had.

Maria stood open-mouthed. "Max Evans?" she said incredulously.

"Great, now they're not only coming after us, their mutating people that used to live here," she said angrily to Alex.

"He's one of them," she said.

Then she noticed his hand still glowing on Liz's stomach. Angrily as she rushed him.

"What the fuck are you doing to her?" she screamed. "Get your hands off of her," she said, pushing him.

Max quickly removed his hand, and then held both of them up.

"I'm not going to hurt her," he said.

Maria's face turned to one of horror when she saw the blood dripping from his hand.

"You bastard!" Kyle said, as he promptly attacked Max, punching him in the jaw, knocking him to the ground.

"Maria, help her," Alex said, as he pointed the gun at Max.

Maria and Kyle knelt next to Liz.

"Oh Alex," Maria said, practically in tears, "this doesn't look good."

"Son of a bitch, I am going to kill him," Kyle said, rising quickly.

"I didn't do it!" Max said, preparing for another blow.

"I swear, I was trying to help her!" he said quickly.

"Bullshit," Alex said, cocking the gun.

"Please," he said. "I'm here with my sister Isabel and Michael Guerin. I came back to find out if my parents made it through whatever it is that happened. They're in the car waiting for me. We were on our way into town and I saw a flash out here. We stopped and I came to check it out. I saw him, the guy that was after her. He stabbed her. I tried to stop him, but I wasn't quick enough. I pulled the plug out of his back. He's dead. I was trying to help her," Max said, as he watched Maria try to stem the blood flow.

"And you just proved that you're one of them," Kyle said angrily. "How else would you know about the plug?"

Max just looked at him silently. Maria glanced over at him for a long moment silently, while she tried to dress Liz's wound.

"And that is aside from the fact that you have a radioactive hand and that you can make that fucked up green bubble," Kyle said menacingly.

"I say we do 'em," Kyle said staring at Max.

"No," Maria said suddenly.

Alex looked over at her. "What do you mean no Maria? The guy just tried to kill Liz," he said exasperated.

"I didn't?" Max started, and Alex turned back toward him aiming the firearm at him.

"Shut up," Alex said.

Max kept silent.

"Alex, if we take them with us as prisoners, we have some leverage. As long as we have their kind, maybe they'll leave us alone until we do what needs to be done," Maria said, tightening the makeshift bandage she had made by tying her sleeves together after ripping them off.

"But I'm not-" Max said.

"I said *shut up*," Alex growled.

"Alex just get rid of him," Kyle said. "I'll go up to the road and take care of the other two."

Max felt panic rise in his throat.

Alex was silent for a long moment.

"No, Maria is right," he said finally. "They have to know that they're out here. Sooner or later they'll come looking for them. They can't afford to lose any more of their own kind. They'll want them. We'll negotiate, buy time."

Kyle looked at Alex in disbelief, but already knew that if he had made up his mind in Maria's favor, there was nothing he could say about it. But that didn't stop him from having the final word.

"I think it's a mistake, but fine," he said. "But if anything happens to us because of this, don't say I didn't try to tell you," he said.

"Whatever," Alex said. He looked toward Maria.

"How bad is she?" Alex asked.

Maria looked up at him worriedly.

"I don't know. It looks like she's lost a lot of blood."

"We have to get her back into town right away," Alex said.

He handed the gun to Kyle.

"Go round the other two up," he said, "and be quick about it."

"My pleasure," Kyle said, glaring at Max as he took the gun.

TBC?







Edited by - majesty on 09/21/2001 21:49:01
posted on 1-Oct-2001 1:14:23 PM
PART 2

Max had not realized the extent of his weakened powers until he had set his mind to trying to move the gun out of Alex's hand. It hadn't worked. He had had no trouble using his shield for protection, and he could feel that his healing powers were still strong, but his other powers had receded dramatically, and it had to do with being here. He had not felt this the day before in Dallas.

Now he sat silently while Alex passed Maria the gun and picked Liz up gently off the ground. He knew time would soon run out for her if something wasn't done for her soon, but he also knew that his offer of help would fall on deaf ears. They did not trust him, it was perfectly clear. And now he worried for Michael and Isabel. He prayed that Michael wouldn't try something stupid when Kyle appeared. He silently prayed that Michael would realize his powers had diminished before things got out of hand.

Max sat in silence as he watched Maria fashion a temporary bandage by tying the sleeves of Liz's shirt together after ripping them off at the seams.

"Alex, we have to go…now," she said. Alex nodded, and walked over and handed the gun to Maria, which she promptly pointed at Max.

Alex gently picked Liz up off of the ground, holding her to his chest.

"Get up," Maria commanded Max.

Max stumbled to his feet, clutching his side and wincing at the bright stabs of pain that emanated through his body.

Alex turned to the left and started walking. Maria waved the gun at him and Max followed. Maria fell in behind him, the gun trained at his back.

They walked for about ten minutes until they came upon a dark SUV, parked next to a dirt road that led up to the highway. Maria kept the gun on Max while Alex situated Liz in the back, and then she got in herself. Alex motioned Max into the front passenger seat, and walked around to the driver's side.

"Alex, we have to hurry," Maria said worriedly.

"I am going to drive by Kyle to make sure he's ok, and they can follow us back to Roswell," he said, turning starting the engine.

"Well, whatever you have to do Alex, do it fast. She isn't looking good," Maria said, taking in Liz's pale and bruised form. Her breathing had become shallow.

"I can help," Max said, turning in the seat to look at her.

"We don't *need* your kind of help. Do you think we're stupid? That we would let anyone like you near her? You've done enough already," Maria said.

"You don't understand, I didn't-"he started.

"No, I don't think *you* understand friend. Liz is my best friend and if she dies so help me God I will kill you myself. Now I suggest you turn around and keep your mouth shut before I get trigger happy," she hissed, pushing the barrel of the gun within centimeters of his forehead.

Max turned forward again in his seat. These people were the first to know their secret, and that was bad enough, surely enough to freak anyone out. But they thought that he and Isabel and Michael were here to hurt them. Max had never hurt a living thing in his life, and he wanted more than anything to help the girl lying prone in the back seat. But he knew that if he spoke again, he'd only be making things worse.

Just then, the lights of the SUV came upon the Honda that they had been driving. Michael and Isabel stood against the car, Kyle pointing the gun at them. Alex slowed down.

"Kyle, you ok?" he asked.

"Fine," he said, his eyes never leaving his two captives in front of him. "Fuckhead here tried to pull some crazy power shit on me, but it didn't work. Sucks for him," he laughed bitterly.

Michael immediately caught Max's eye and Max shook his head, letting him know not to try anything further until they could figure out why they had lost some of their capabilities. Michael nodded imperceptibly as Isabel passed Max a confused and worried glance. He gave her a tight smile. It was going to be ok for the time being.

"Follow us back to town," Alex said. "And you two," he said, "don't try anything funny, or your bud here is gonna get wasted."

Michael's lips tightened and Isabel nodded.

Alex pulled forward and waited for Michael to get behind the wheel, Isabel in the passenger seat and Kyle in the back, holding the gun on
them.

Alex gunned the truck riding the shoulder of the road toward Roswell, and the Honda kept up behind them.

Max looked out at the speeding terrain alongside the truck. Two minutes later, Max looked up and noted that there were no longer cars abandoned on the road. Someone had cleared them.

They raced toward Roswell and merely minutes later, Alex was parking the truck in front of the UFO Museum, Michael following suit in the Honda.

Alex jumped out of the truck and gently took Liz out of the back seat. He looked at Maria questioningly.

"Kyle and I can handle them," she said to him, and he nodded, relieved, quickly taking Liz inside.

"Get out of the truck, and do it slowly Max. I have no reservations about killing your alien ass, nor your sister's or Guerin's," Maria said to him, but now Max was able to see her eyes, and he knew by looking into them, her voice belied how she really felt about firing that gun.

Still, Max remembered Maria to be a drama queen. He didn't want to chance throwing her into a panic, because he didn't know how she would react, and so he got out of the truck, carefully favoring his side, as she stepped back to keep him in range of the gun.

Michael and Isabel got out of the Honda, and before Kyle could get the gun focused on her, Isabel rushed over to Max.

Kyle walked over and grabbed her arm roughly.

"You must be stupid," he said, "do you see that I have a gun? Got a death wish?" he growled, as Michael readied himself to rush him.

Max's hand shot out holding him back.

"Michael don't!" Max said, and then glanced at Kyle.

"Look, we won't pull anything else. She was just worried about me," Max said.

"Whatever," Kyle said angrily. "The next one who tries anything like that is getting a bullet. And I've had lots of practice with this at the range, courtesy of my Dad," he said.

"Fine," Michael said. "It's over."

"Let's go. Inside," he said shoving Max and Isabel toward the door, Michael behind them.

They went through the doors, and Isabel whispered to him.

"Are you ok?" she asked worriedly, noticing him holding his side.

"I'm fine," he said quietly. "Can you use your powers?"

She shook her head. "Michael tried when Kyle came at us with the gun, but something's wrong. What's going on Max?"

"I don't know yet, but go along with this for now until we figure it out. It's going to be ok," he said.

"I hope your right," Isabel muttered, as she looked back at Michael.

Max felt a strange sense of déjà vu coming back into the museum he worked in through his junior and senior years of high school. Even Michael had to admit it was the perfect cover, and Nasedo loved it because there was always the off chance that some piece of real alien information would pass through the doors of the place. And once in a blue moon it did. Reports of a sighting in Frasier Woods led them to the discovery of the skins on Earth, sent by Khivar.

But what Max liked best about the job then was the opportunity it afforded him to quietly watch Liz across the street in the Crashdown. Of course his boss, Milton didn't like that, and told him so on numerous occasions, but even Milton knew Max was the best worker he had, so he ignored it about 50% of the time. Max thought of all the times he had watched Kyle sit in the booth near the window, hanging around for Liz while she was at work. And he had wished that was him. So long ago it seemed, and yet it was as if it was yesterday.

Isabel used to call him pathetic when he used to suggest going to the Crashdown for something to eat. She knew what he was up to. He had put up with the comments from Michael and Isabel just to be there for a little while, and sometimes he was lucky and Liz had waited on them.

He remembered senior year, AP physics. He thought he had died and gone to heaven when he was paired with Liz for lab. They never said much more to each other than what was involved with their current projects, but he had thought it was better than nothing. Back then, just to be in sitting next to her was more than he could have hoped.

Max looked up to see Maria sweeping the *alien corpse* off of the surgical table used to portray one of the scenarios ufo-logists believed occurred in the big crash almost 50 years ago.

Alex laid Liz gently on the table. She didn't stir.

Maria squeezed his arm.

"Alex, what do we do now?" she asked worriedly.

"Get Serena, she should be scouting at the end of Main Street," Alex said, and Maria nodded, sprinting toward the entrance of the museum.

Alex checked the make-shift bandage, noting that blood was seeping through it fairly quickly.

Alex turned to Kyle.

"Tie them up," he said.

Kyle nodded, and grabbed cable a bunch of cables that were lying on the floor. He handed it to Isabel.

"Do it," he said, motioning to Michael. Isabel looked at Max, and he nodded, so she took the cable and started to tie Michael's hands behind his back, as Michael glared at Kyle.

"Make it tight," Kyle said. "I'm going to check it."

Isabel finished, and Kyle threw the next one at Max.

"You know the drill," he said, and Max carefully tied the cables around Isabel's wrists.

Kyle kept the gun pointed at Max while he checked the security of Michael's and Isabel's bonds, and then commanded Max to turn around. He slashed the cable around Max's wrists, making it painfully tight, and Max grimaced at the constriction.

"Sit down against the wall," he said, and the three complied. Keeping an eye on them, Kyle walked over to where Alex was trying to stem the blood from Liz's wounds.

"It slowed a little," Alex said, as he went to the box on the wall and pulled heavy gauze and tape out of the first aid kit. He opened the package of gauze.

"Lift her upper body," Alex said as he pulled the shirt sleeves off of her.

"Fucking bastard," Alex said as he glared at Max.

Max's jaw tightened.

"I told you I didn't do it," Max said angrily.

"I saw you doing something to her with your hand," Alex said.

"I was trying to help her," Max said.

"Max, don't bother," Michael said angrily. "It's not like they're going to believe anything you say."

"Why should we?" Kyle asked. "The whole fucking world is wiped out and all of a sudden you are here for a homecoming? You're one of them. I don't know if they made you one, or if you were always an alien, but it doesn't matter. I saw what Evans could do, and none of you are going to get the better of us. They'll come for you, and when they do, we'll have something to bargain with."

"How the hell did you all survive?" Michael asked. We've been across the country, coming from New York, and the only people we saw were crazy. And the one normal person we ran into was dying. So what's different about all of you? How are you still standing here? It isn't the town, or everyone would still be here, but it looked pretty deserted to me. Are you working with someone? Did they protect you?"

Kyle's face tightened. "That's none of your business."

Just then Maria came rushing in with a young woman dressed in fatigues. Her hair was jet black, cropped into a severe bob. On her feet were sturdy combat boots.

Max's first impression was that this was someone that was a trained fighter. In her hands she held a semi-automatic rifle, and a large bowie knife was strapped to her leg over her pants.

But her aggressive appearance was belied by the look of concern, worry and kindness written on her face.

"Serena," Alex said, "you have to help her."

She hurried over to the table.
Noticing that their captors' attention was diverted Michael whispered to Max.

"Max, what the hell is going on?" he hissed. "What if they're working with the skins?"

"They aren't," Max said in a low voice. "One of them tried to kill Liz out in the desert. I was trying to help her when they found us," he said, motioning his head toward the three humans.

"They think we're skins," Max said.

"WHAT?!?" Isabel said.

"Shhh," Max said quietly.

"They think we're skins, and that the rest of the skins are going to come and get us, because they need all their reinforcements. They must have lost a lot of their kind with whatever happened here," he said.

"Oh they're going to come for us all right," Michael said. "And if they do, we're as good as dead."

"Michael, I know that," Max said. "But at this point it's not like we can walk out of here and leave town."

"We have to do *something*!" Isabel whispered.

Max was quiet for a minute. "I think we should tell them the truth, the whole story."

"Are you crazy Max?" Michael answered.

"Look, they already know we aren't human. Our best chance at surviving this is to tell them everything," Max said.

"Max, they are freaked out enough as it is," Michael said, glancing over at the humans. "They may just kill us."

"Michael if the skins get here and find out about us, we'll have worse things to worry about than being killed. There's nothing Khivar would like better than seeing our prolonged torture. I don't think we have any other choice," he said.

"Max, what if they don't believe you? Or what if they see that we are more valuable as Khivar's enemies than as skins? They could just hand us over to him!" Michael whispered.

"Michael, we don't have any other options," he said.

"I don't like it either Max, it's too risky," Isabel said softly.

"I'm telling them," Max said with finality, and Isabel's face hardened.

"Don't we have a say in this?" she asked.

"Isabel do you trust me?" Max asked, and after a moment, she nodded.
"Michael?" he asked looking at him. Michael looked at the ceiling and nodded.

"I promise, everything is going to be ok," he said.

"I hope you're right Max," Isabel said forebodingly.

Alex watched Serena quickly evaluate Liz's wounds, and then he noticed someone was missing.

"Serena, where's Doug?" he asked.

"Disappeared," Serena muttered. "Like Liz did."

"What do you mean? I thought he was with you?" Alex asked.

"We split up. One of them tried to attack me, and Doug went after them. I've spent the last 3 hours looking for him. I found the one who tried to jump me. That's how I was able to tell you Liz was in the desert," she said. "I would have thought Doug would have gotten to him first, so I have to assume he's been captured," she said grimly.

"Then who is going to help Liz?" Maria said panicked.

Serena shook her head. "I can fix superficial wounds. These are deep. I don't know."

"What now?" Kyle asked.

"We wait a few minutes to see if Doug comes back. Keep pressure on the wounds," she said.

"But that isn't going to be enough soon," Maria said desperately.

"It's all we can do," Serena said.

Max fought the urge to tell them again that he could help her. In their emotional state, he knew it might make things worse.

And then, Liz stirred.

Her hand went to her abdomen, and a pitiful moan of pain flew from her lips.

Serena and Maria flew to her side.

"Liz chica, we're here," Maria said, as Serena smoothed her long hair from her forehead.

"Can you talk?" Serena asked.

"Cold," Liz said, "I'm so cold," and she shut her eyes again.

Max couldn't keep quiet any longer.

"She's in shock," he called out, and Serena's head snapped toward him.

"Who are they?" she asked Alex.

"Old schoolmates, or so we thought. He tried to kill Liz," Kyle said. "His hand was on her stomach, and it was glowing."

"I told you, I was trying to help her," Max said. "I'm not a skin."

Serena stared at him for a moment, and walked slowly toward him, never breaking his gaze.

She stopped in front of him, and Isabel and Michael looked at him warily.

"Lean forward," she said forcefully, and after a long pause Max leaned over. He felt her hand pull the back of his shirt up. She felt around at the small of his back, and then straightened up.

"He's not a skin," she said, turning to the others.

"Then what the fuck is he?" Kyle asked. "And why did he hurt Liz?"

"The question is Kyle, why didn't you look to see what he was in the first place?" Serena answered, irritated.

"Maybe because at that point Liz was bleeding to death?" Kyle snapped back. We haven't seen any humans in months. And whatever the hell he is, he isn't human."

"Let's not panic," Alex said, trying to cool tempers.

"Look I am trying to tell you that she is in shock," Max said, exasperated. "She's lost a lot of blood."

"What the hell do you know about it?" Kyle said angrily.

"I was a month from graduating medical school when everything went down," Max said.

"A doctor?" Kyle laughed. "Now that's a kicker!"

"What's so unbelievable about it?" Max said angrily.

Kyle stopped and stared at him. "Why the hell would you want to be a doctor, being what you are? Unless…oh I get it now. You guys want to find medical ways to fuck with us."

Max struggled to his feet angrily, and Kyle strode over to stare into his face angrily.

"Who told you to get up?" he asked.

"You don't know me at all, and you have no idea what you're talking about," Max retorted fiercely.

"I will tell you this, not even knowing if that knife hit any internal organs, she is losing a lot of blood, and if you don't stop that soon, nothing is going to save her," Max said quietly.

Serena pulled Kyle away.

"I can help her," Max said.

"No," Kyle answered. "We wait for Doug."

Serena looked at him.

"We have to talk," she said quietly, and they walked over toward Maria and Alex.

Max looked over at Michael.

"We may just have a chance yet," Max said. "I don't think this Doug guy is coming back. If he doesn't, we may be the only ones who can help Liz," he said.

"Max, you don't actually think they are going to let you near her do you?" Michael said in disbelief.

"I don't think they are going to have a choice," Max answered quietly. "If I know anything at all about Maria and Alex, they aren't going to let Liz die."

"Max, who are you kidding, we don't know anything about them at all!" Michael said.

"He's right Max," Isabel said. "We don't know them. We never knew then in high school."

"I knew Liz," Max said softly, looking in the direction of the humans.

"Oh give it up Max!" Isabel said, irritated. "You talked to her like twice in Physics! And other than that, the only other words you ever spoke in her direction were, 'I'd like an order of Saturn Rings and a Cherry Coke please,' for God's sake!"

"I know enough to know that Alex and Maria love her, and they aren't going to let her die," Max said strongly.

"Whatever Max," Michael said. "While you're waiting for them to suddenly realize we are the good guys, I am going to try to scope a way out of here before it's too late," Michael said disgustedly, studying every area of the museum.

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

"What are we going to do if Doug doesn't come back?" Maria asked. "As much as hate to say it, Max is right. She has lost a lot of blood, and if we don't do something soon, it's going to be too late."

"You can't seriously be considering letting him look at her are you?" Kyle said incredulously.

Alex looked at Kyle and then glanced over at Serena. "No," he said forcefully.

"No way!" Kyle said, to Serena. "Look I know she's your friend, but she's my girlfriend, and I don't want some slimy alien getting his paws all over her!" he said.

If Kyle stopped and admitted it to himself, he would have realized his objections really had less to do with the fact that Max was an alien, but that it was the Max he remembered from school that would be helping Liz, not him. He remembered the way Max ogled Liz in school. Had he been stupid enough to think he hadn't noticed it? He had let it go because Max never did anything other than gawk. But it still irked Kyle to look out the window of the Crashdown to see Max looking at Liz from the doorway of the UFO Museum.

Serena spoke up. "Kyle, we may have no other choice. We have the upper hand here. If he tries anything we'll take care of him."

"I don't want him pulling any of his alien crap on her. What if he makes her like him? Then what?" he asked.

"If we let him look at her, it will be in a medical capacity, and that's all. Look, we don't know, Doug may still show up, but right now it isn't looking good. I don't know what I can do for her."

Serena looked at Kyle closely. Why did he always have to argue with her?

"Fine, we'll give Doug ten more minutes, and then you look at her," he said decisively. Maria and Alex nodded.



posted on 1-Oct-2001 1:15:05 PM
PART 3

Ten minutes later, Serena approached Max.

"You want to help? Tell me what I have to do," she said.

"I don't know unless I look at her," he said.

"Not possible," she said.

Max knew that if he didn't tell her what she needed to know, it was almost a certainty she would die.

Max told her what he thought she would need, knowing that asking for a trip for blood to the hospital was futile. Any blood that was stored there was useless. With no electricity in town any supply that might be around had surely gone bad, and she had no way of knowing Liz's blood type.

Not for the first time he thought how much easier it would be if they just let him heal her. But he had no choice.

Serena moved over to the table Liz lay on. She looked at Liz's wounds. Both were still bleeding, though very slowly, and judging from the flow of blood, and the length of time that had passed, she knew Liz had lost a dangerous amount of blood.

Gingerly she wondered if it was a possibility that her intestines had been nicked.

"I'll do what I can," she said to the others. We can't risk any operations or anything like that. We don't have a sterile area, and I am not trained in that," she said.

They nodded, and Serena quietly went to work while Kyle watched her like a hawk.

After an hour of cleaning and dressing the wounds, she was finished. She hoped she had done enough. She was not happy with the fact that Liz had not re-gained consciousness through any of it. She would have though the pain of what she was doing would have roused her. This worried her, and she prayed that she was not too late.

When she was done he stepped back and covered her with a blanket, carefully laying across her stomach and pulling it up to her shoulders. A sweat had broken over her brow, a sign that her body was fighting infection already. She didn't want to think of what had been on that knife, or where it had been. She had done all he humanly could

"I did all I could," Serena said, "but it doesn't look good. She's lost a lot of blood, and it looks like she's fighting some sort of infection.

"I know if I…" Max said.

"No way," Kyle said angrily.

"Enough Kyle," Serena said.

Once more Serena felt a pang that Kyle cared so deeply for Liz. From the moment she met him, she had felt this strange attraction to him, but he had not returned it. Serena loved Liz like a sister, but she couldn't help but feel jealous that Liz had Kyle's attention. She covered those feelings by being curt with him, trying to convince herself that it didn't matter. That is, until she stopped for more than two minutes to think about it. Stop it, she told herself. There are more important things to worry about other than your crush on Kyle. Like whether Liz was going to live. Like whether they were going to win over this crazy thing that had happened to their world.

Michael muttered "Nice, we all are still tied up here Max. 'Oh they'll let me help her'. Brilliant one Max," he said, and Max glared at him.
Max could feel Isabel and Michael's anger.

He didn't look at them.

**********

Some time later Max was awakened by a shadow falling over him. Disoriented, he looked over at Isabel and Michael. Both had also dozed off. And then he noticed the person who had kneeled in front of him.

"Shh…" Serena said. "It's just me."

Max looked at her questioningly.

"We need to talk," she said quietly, glancing over at the humans who had fallen asleep on the seats they had dragged out from the theater area. Maria lay slumped against Alex, while Kyle leaned back in his chair, arms folded across his chest.

"How is Liz?" Max asked quietly.

"She's got a bad fever," Serena told him.

"Who are you?" she asked.

"Max Evans," he answered.

"No, *who* are you?" she asked again.

Max looked at her confused.

"I can see something different about you. I don't know what it is, but I can see it. You have this strange aura," she said.

"Aura?" Max asked skeptically.

"Oh what, you don't believe in auras?" she asked. "You are an alien, you of all people should be accepting of things that are different," she said.

Max just looked at her.

"Let me help her," he said quietly.

"I can't do that," she said. "I don't get any menacing intentions from you, but I don't know what you are capable of," she said.

"I would never hurt her," he said, looking at her intently, and her eyes widened.

"You have feelings for her?" she said incredulously.

"What?" Max asked in disbelief. "No! I don't even know her really," he said, flustered.

"I sense it," she said. "Strong feelings, old feelings…childhood feelings."

"No, you don't know what you're talking about. I wanted to be a doctor before all this happened. I wanted to help people," he said.

"Max let me explain something to you. I am somewhat of a clairvoyant among other things. So I know you are lying through your teeth," she said.

Suddenly, Liz's body wrenched off the table, and Serena rushed over, as Kyle Maria and Alex woke up hearing the noise.

Max heard the labored breaths that she was trying to take, and he knew that she was going to choke to death on her own blood. And that same instant, an explosion outside rocked the building. Kyle and Alex ran to the front door, anticipating an attack.

Max looked desperately around for something that would cut the cable that was tied around his wrists while their attention was occupied, as Michael and Isabel stood.

"Get out of here now!" Max said. "The back door! Go, while they aren't looking!"

"Max, we're not going without you!" Isabel said.

"I'll be out in two minutes, I promise. Go!" he said, pushing her toward the direction of the back entrance.

"Maxwell, if you aren't out there in two minutes," Michael said warningly.

"I'll be there," he said.

Michael urged Isabel on. Looking around as another thunderous explosion rocked the building, Max spotted a pair of scissors. He deftly turned and picked them up with his tied hands, working the blades between the cable and his wrist, trying to get the leverage to cut the thin wire. Maneuvering the scissors, he desperately tried to saw the wire with them as he watched Serena and Maria try to shield Liz from the debris falling from the ceiling.

A second later, the room went black. Max heard Maria scream, and Liz's labored breathing. Continuing to saw at the wire, he frantically made his way in the direction he last saw Maria and Serena, listening intently, tripping and bumping into objects in his way.

Suddenly the cable gave and fell of his wrists. He clutched the scissors and made his way further toward the gasping raspy noise he knew was Liz. With one hand in front of him he continued on, until his hand on the table stopped him. His groping hand fell on Liz's wrist and he felt her pulse racing through it, with the effort her body was using to try to get air into her lungs.

"Serena!" Maria shrieked a short distance away. Max took Liz's hand in the dark, and pulled her close. Whatever happened he would do what he could for her. He felt the tickling softness of her long lashes on his cheek in the dark, fluttering against it, barely touching him. Oh God, she is awake, he thought desperately.

"It's going to be ok Liz," he said anguished. "You're going to be ok."

He could feel the wrenching of her chest as she tried to draw breath, and without even thinking, he placed his hand flat in the middle of it, closing his eyes, as the building shook again, eliciting another scream from Maria. He pulled her body flush against his, hiding his hand between their bodies, feeling his healing powers kick in, making a connection with her that he had never experienced with anyone before.

*flash*

Liz is standing on the playground, six years old. She is laughing with Maria as they play jump-rope.

*flash*

Eight years old. Alex is chasing her through the Crashdown, her long dark hair flowing behind her like silk. This elicits a yell from her father, but it doesn't stop them from crashing through the doors of the kitchen, diving onto the couch in the breakroom, laughing hysterically.

*flash*

Thirteen. Liz sits with Maria in her bedroom, her arms wrapped around her while she cries inconsolably over her father's departure. He hasn't even left a note. Liz doesn't know what to say, so she doesn't say anything at all, just holding her friend.

*flash*

Fourteen, Liz and Maria sit watching Alex learning to play the bass guitar, while his band-mates struggle with their own instruments. They are struggling not to laugh, as Alex puts his intense rock star face on.

*flash*

Fifteen. Liz blushes as she stands at her locker on the last day of school and Kyle Valenti, wrestler and star basketball player for the Roswell Comets, asks her to a movie. Maria stands a short distance away, trying to hold back a laugh at the look on Liz's face.

*flash*

Kyle leans in closer to her, gently touching his lips to hers. She thinks to herself that it is exciting, and definitely nice, but not the mind-blowing experience a first kiss is supposed to be. But maybe it was just that she was nervous.

*flash*

Sixteen. Liz is peering out of the doors of the kitchen in the Crashdown at Max Evans shyly. He doesn't see her. Good thing. What would someone like Max Evans want with her anyway? He's smart and utterly gorgeous. But no one could take away her daydreams. Neither could anyone take away the racing heartbeat of hers when he rarely came into the restaurant and she was lucky enough to wait on him, along with Michael Guerin and Isabel, his sister. She didn't know exactly what it was Isabel had against her, but she never failed to shoot a nasty look in Liz's direction as she came to take their order. Not that she actually *had* to take Max's order. He always ordered the same thing on the rare instances he came in, and she had memorized it. She would ask though, because she was always rewarded with a polite smile from Max, one that she could almost imagine might be something more. But he never said anything further to her, and she kicked herself for her stupid daydreams. Besides, Kyle was so good to her, even if they didn't have all the same interests. What couple ever does?

*flash*

She was supposed to watch movies with her grandmother, she kept telling herself. She was not supposed to be sitting in the waiting room of the hospital hearing that her beloved Grams had had a stroke.

Kyle sat rubbing her back, but she felt lost. And alone…so alone. Wishing there was someone she could talk to. Wishing that she could call Max Evans and just talk to him. Because she thought about him. A lot. Later, she would tell herself how crazy that was. But dreaming about Max Evans had become a pastime for her. And then her Grams died, and she was out of school for a few days. Kyle came to the funeral with her, and he was wonderful. Supportive, attentive, everything a good boyfriend should be. And she told herself to give up her little daydreams, because they weren't harmless. She had made up this fictional Max Evans in her head, and was comparing Kyle to him. And he wasn't even real. Kyle was tangible, Kyle was there…Kyle was her boyfriend. So she stopped her thoughts of fictional Max, and did very well at it, until she got back to school with puffy red eyes a few days later, and knew that everyone knew what happened. Even Isabel had given her a sympathetic smile. And when she walked into AP English, the real Max Evans turned around and gave her a sweet smile. It was quick, but enough to fuel her daydreams all over again.

*flash*

Senior year. AP Physics. She couldn't believe it. She and Max were partners in lab. She would get to sit next to him every day for the whole year. It didn't matter if they only spoke when they were working on their projects. It didn't matter that they didn't look each other in the eyes. It didn't matter that he didn't really know she existed. She got to sit elbow to elbow with him, and every once in a while their elbows would touch, and little shivers of electricity would shoot up her spine. Sometimes she would get the chance to look sideways, and she would catch a glimpse of his beautiful shiny hair. And always she could breathe in the scent that was Max. Clean and musky and totally exciting. And then she would leave class and scold herself for acting like an idiot girl with a junior high school crush on a boy. She was dating Kyle, and he was popular, and he was good to her, and he really *liked* her. But those little daydreams of Fictional Max, Prince Charming Max, continued, made all the more vivid with the little contact she had with him in class.

*flash*

Graduation day. The football field was resplendent with the bright blue and gold school colors proudly worn by the students. Liz is Valedictorian and she is a nervous wreck about giving her speech. She has practiced it endlessly on her balcony. Alex, Kyle and Maria all assure her that she is going to be fine, but she won't be fine. She will be up in front of the whole school, what if she made a mistake? Ceremonies begin and finally it is her turn to step up to the podium, and she feels her heart beating ninety miles and hour, and her breath is coming quick, and she wants to turn around and run. And she lays her paper on the podium and looks out at the crowd and panics. And then her eyes light on Max Evans, who is looking at her intently, and she thinks of Fictional Max, her Romeo, and she looks away and begins talking in a self-assured voice. Five minutes later she is finished, and people are applauding, and she can step down.

She doesn't remember much of the ceremony, only that she thinks she did ok. And all of the students including herself, receive their diplomas, and the hats are thrown and it is over. High school is over, time to start living in the real world.

Kyle wraps his arm around her and they walk through the throng, dazed, trying to find their parents. And then, Liz catches a final glimpse at Max Evans, and as she looks at him, he looks at her, and they both smile, and then the moment is gone, people blocking her line of vision. When they clear, he is gone.

*flash*

Liz's father has passed away. She was supposed to start at MIT in the fall, but she foregoes and decides to go to school locally to help her mother with the restaurant. She and Kyle go to Las Cruces, and Kyle helps out with anything he can. She loves him for it. She realizes that the pipe-dream she has created for herself doesn't exist. The real Max left Roswell years ago, and never looked back. Time to give it up, and so she does.


Max feels his heartbeat meld with hers, the thrumming of the blood running through her veins becoming one with his, and then the moment is gone, and the lights have snapped on, and Kyle is pulling him away from her, and he is screaming at him, but Max cannot hear him. Instead he still hears the heartbeat that for one moment in time merged with his, that whisper of her husky voice as she scolded herself, told herself to forget about him.

And he is overcome, and pushes past Kyle, into the heart of the night, the echo of Maria's voice shouting Serena's name ringing out of the building.



posted on 1-Oct-2001 1:15:56 PM
PART 4

Strange sensations. A comforting voice speaking. Something touched her mind. Something gentle. Something warm like sunlight on her face. Tingles. No more pain. She felt her mind flood with old memories. Was she dying? Was this what it was to die? This calm sense of feeling safe?

And then it was gone, and Kyle was yelling. Liz fell back to the table with a gasp. Chaos was erupting around her. She was being shaken. Voice so deep speaking in slow motion. Kyle. Why was he shaking her?

"Liz!" he shook her again. His face came into focus. She squinted at the light hitting her eyes.

"Liz, speak to me? What did he do to you?" he said frantically.

"What?" Liz said fuzzily.

"What did he do to you?" he repeated.

"I was stabbed," Liz said. "One of the skins found me and he wanted to know where Serena was, and I wouldn't tell him, so he…"

"No Liz, what did Max just do to you?" he asked.

"Max?" she asked confused.

"Max Evans," he said. "He did something to you."

"I don't understand," she said, feeling her stomach, expecting pain and finding…nothing. Nothing but a curious warmth radiating from her chest.

"What happened to me Kyle?" she asked, her voice cracking. Alex stood behind Kyle concerned.

He took her hand. "You were stabbed. I guess Evans wasn't the one who did it after all…"

"Wait, Max Evans was here?" she asked in disbelief, sitting up slowly.

"Serena sensed you were in danger. We went out into the desert after you, and when we found you, he was doing some glowey thing to you with his hand," he said. "Are you sure it wasn't him that attacked you?"

Liz put her hand to her head. "Yeah, I'm positive…" she said, trying to recall the events in the desert.

The skin had come upon her while she was scouting. She didn't see him approach, and he grabbed her, and she was hit over the head and she passed out. When she woke up, she was being dragged out of a car in the desert. The skin tried to get her to tell him where Serena and Doug were, but she wouldn't cave. He hit her across the face, and bright pinpoints of pain blew up behind her eyes. She knew that it might come to her giving up her life, being associated with Serena, but it was an acceptable risk. Because life as it was now on Earth was not acceptable. She needed answers as to what had happened to her family, to the people in town, to her friends' families.

The skin asked again, and again she remained stoically silent. And she knew her end was near. She saw it in her attacker's face. He knocked her to the ground, and she fought him off with all she had, but he was stronger. And when she felt that white hot jab of pain in her stomach, she said a silent prayer that her friends would not meet the same fate. And it came again, and she felt herself losing consciousness. She struggled to maintain it, knowing if she blacked out she would never wake up.

And suddenly, her attacker's weight was lifted off her legs, and she heard a struggle, and she blacked out for a few seconds. Then her eyes focused again, and she saw a silhouette leaning over her framed in the red glow of the sky, and moonlight. She thought hazily that maybe it was an angel, for surely angels glowed like this, and then her vision faded to black. Max Evans was her angel?

"Liz," Alex said, putting his hand on her arm, concerned.

"I'm fine," she said looking at him.

"But you were choking, and you were bleeding," he said.

Liz again touched the shirt they had laid over her front. She looked up at him and then down again as she slowly lifted the shirt and gasped.

There was nothing there. No cuts, no blood, no scars, only a curious warmth in the center of her chest.

"What the fuck?" Kyle said in disbelief.

"Kyle…" she said in shock. "What happened to me here? Where is everyone, Serena, Maria?"

Kyle looked down.

"What?" she asked, alarmed.

"They took Serena. Maria ran outside to try to stop them."

"No!" Liz said.

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Maria came flying out the back door and saw Isabel and Michael standing outside.

"Which way did they go?" she shouted as she ran alongside the building.

Michael and Isabel didn't answer, watching her sprint around the right corner of the building. Michael heard the roar of an engine, and a huge truck came around the corner, almost running he and Isabel down. Hands still tied, they pressed against the building, and Michael saw a quick flash of Serena's face as the truck took off down the block behind the museum. Michael and Isabel looked at each other and ran around the left side of the building. They weren't going to wait around for Maria to come back with a gun.

Maria came back around the building and saw that Michael and Isabel had disappeared.

"Shit!" she cursed, distraught.

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Max ran, without any clear destination. He reached the end of the building, turning the corner, and ran straight into Michael.

"Max! What the hell is going on in there?!" Michael yelled.

"Two guys just took that girl Serena out of here," Isabel said.

"We have to get out of here," Michael said, and then he noticed that Max wasn't even listening to him.

"Earth to Max!" Michael said loudly. "Did you hear what I said? We have to get out of here. Help us get out of these cables."

Wordlessly Max stepped behind Michael first and removed the cable from his wrists and repeated the same with Isabel.

"Let's get the car," Michael said.

"No," Max said. "We have to get to the pod chamber, but if we take the car, there is a chance that we'll be spotted. We should go on foot," he said.

"Max it'll take hours to get there on foot!" Isabel said.

"We've walked further," Michael said. "He's right, we have to stay out of sight. Both of the humans and the skins."

"We can't take the chance that the skins have sentries posted on the road. We'll go through the desert," he said.

Isabel sighed. Even with probably a total of 20 people left on the planet, they still had to hide. She thought of her parents, the only people who had accepted her unconditionally. The only people she didn't have to put on an act with. What had happened to them? She felt the ache in her heart that they might have suffered.

Max felt the adrenaline wearing off and was starting to feel the magnitude of the energy sapped from his body when he healed Liz.

Wearily, he set the pace down the side streets, heading toward the desert area outside of town.

Michael glanced over at him, and saw his pale countenance and scowled.

"Maxwell, what did you do?" he asked. Max didn't answer, staring straight ahead of him.

"You healed her, didn't you? They were going to kill us, and you healed her," he said disgustedly.

Max's jaw tightened.

"Drop it Michael," he said warningly.

Max was still feeling the aftershocks of connecting with Liz. On one hand, his heart leapt that she had watched him as he had watched her. She had thought about him. She daydreamed about the same things he did.

But time had passed, and she had moved on with Kyle, as he too had convinced himself not to think about her anymore while in NY. Why pine after something that could never be? He thought to himself back then. But it could have been, had things been different.

Max was still reeling over the cruelty of fate. To find out now that Liz felt the way she did. To know that had he been a normal teenager, he might have had a chance with her. He felt what she felt. He dreamt her dreams about him. He saw how she felt when she looked at him, and for those few precious moments he forgot what he was, and he felt his heart lift that someone, Liz, could feel that way about him. And he never knew.

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Maria came back into the museum to find Liz sitting up.

"Oh my God Liz! You're…you're…" she stuttered.

"I'm ok," Liz said smiling wanly, her smile then fading quickly.

"Serena?" she asked, worried.

Maria's face fell. "They've got her," she said, looking at Alex.

Alex sighed heavily.

"What now?" he asked. "We have to get her back. Without her, we're all screwed."

"What about Doug?" Kyle asked. "We'd better see if we can find him."

"He's gone too?" Liz said dejectedly.

Alex nodded. "Serena got separated from him. He never came back."

"What if they have him too?" Maria asked.

"We'll figure it out," Kyle said, putting a hand on her shoulder.
"The first thing we have to do is scout around town, to make sure he isn't here. I don't know when we'll be able to come back once we leave, and I don't want to leave anyone behind. Alex and I will take a look around. You two stay here. We'll come back to get you."

Maria nodded. "Be careful," she warned.

"We'll be fine," Alex said. "Be back soon."

Kyle gave Liz a quick hug and he and Alex left out the front doors. Maria quickly walked the perimeter of the museum, making sure that no one was lurking in the offices or behind the displays.

Satisfied that there were no further intruders, she came and sat beside Liz, putting her gun on the table next to her.

Impulsively, she hugged Liz.

"Chica what happened?" she said, finally allowing tears to form in her eyes. "I thought we were going to lose you."

Liz pulled back and looked at Maria seriously.

"I'm not really sure," she admitted, pulling up her shirt again. Maria's eyes widened.

"Crap!" she sputtered. "But you were…we thought…there was a lot of blood! How?"

"I was hoping you could tell me Maria," Liz said, looking at her questioningly.

"Kyle said Max Evans…"

"Yeah," Maria said slowly. "I guess he wasn't lying. He *was* trying to help you."

"What is he doing here Maria? How did he survive?" she asked.

"Well, that's an obvious one. He's an alien, and so is Isabel, and Michael Guerin," she paused, her face scrunching up. "I always thought Guerin was out there, but I didn't think, you know, *out there*," she said, pointing up. "They must be here for some reason…maybe something to do with the skins?"

"Isabel and Michael are here too?" Liz asked.

"Yep," Maria said. She turned to Liz and sighed. "Liz, I am not exactly sure what to think, but I've learned not to be surprised by anything anymore."

Maria nodded. "They said they came back to see if their parents had somehow been missed by what happened. I was so freaked that he was doing something to you out in the desert, and then I started to think that we went to school with these people! But were they always aliens? Or did someone do this to them?" she asked. "Like a mutation or something…" she said, musing.

"Max Evans is an alien," Liz repeated, still unable to resolve it in her mind. This boy she had daydreams about for years wasn't even a boy. She didn't know what he was. Was he a shape-shifter? Or something else?

He had saved her life. But in doing that, had he changed her, altered her in some way?

Why had he fought the skin? Why did he put himself in danger?

Liz didn't understand it. She knew for sure that it wasn't some Prince Valiant complex he was experiencing. Life and maturity taught her that things like that just didn't happen to people like her.

She was perplexed, but she had no way to get any answers. Unbidden, her mind again went to that gentle touch she felt at the edge of her mind, the softest touch, tender, and the warmth that radiated through her whole body. It was the most amazing thing she had ever experienced she thought. But did she actually experience it, or was it some phantom imagery her mind created as it was shutting down in death?

As she thought of it, once more she felt the warmth course through her body, flooding her senses. It was a sensation almost erotic in its strength.

Maria was looking at her strangely, she noticed.

"What?" Liz said.

Maria pointed to her chest.

"Uh, Liz…what the hell is that?" she said, sounding spooked.

Liz looked down at her chest. Right in the center, just above the swell of her breasts, she saw the silver marking and she gasped, for a handprint was emerging through her skin…

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

A half-hour later, Liz was still shaken up by the mark left on her body by Max.

She took an old flannel off a mannequin and buttoned it up tight.

"Maria, you can't tell Kyle about this," she said.

Maria looked at her doubtfully.

"He should know Liz," she said.

Liz knew she should probably tell him. After all, she didn't know what was going to happen to her, what effects alien powers had on her body. But she also knew Kyle would lose his mind over this.

"Maria, we don't know what's going to go down from here on out. If I tell Kyle, this is going to freak him out, and none of us can afford to be distracted now. Please, if I feel anything is wrong at all, I'll tell him, but for now, I want to keep this between us," she said.

"Liz, you don't know when that is going to go away, if ever. He's going to find out sooner or later," she said.

"I'll deal with it when I have to 'Ria," she said. "Please, I need you to keep this to yourself."

Maria studied her silently for a long moment.

"You promise me that if you feel anything, anything weird at all, you'll tell me?" she asked.

"I promise," Liz said.

"All right. I won't say anything…for now," she said.

"Thanks Maria," Liz answered.

A moment later, Maria and Liz jumped up as they heard noises from the front of the building. Maria raised her gun in readiness.

Alex appeared first, an arm thrown around his shoulder, and then they caught sight of Doug, being held up by both Alex and Kyle. Maria lowered the gun and put it in the desk.

"Oh my God!" Maria said. "What happened to him?"

"Skins," Alex muttered bitterly. Doug was barely conscious, his head lolling back and forth with each step Kyle and Alex took.

Alex and Kyle set him down on the couch. Liz fought the urge to wince as she got a closer look at him. Doug's dark hair was matted with blood. She could barely see his hazel eyes through the contusions surrounding his eyes. Bruises covered most of his body. He had been slashed across the arms with some sharp object. Liz fought the urge to cry at the site of her friend in this state.

"It's going to be ok Doug," she said gently, once again struck by the similarities in looks between Serena and he. There was no avoiding that they were twins. She hoped that Serena wasn't experiencing what he did at the hands of the skins. She smiled shakily at him. She could hear a wheeze to his breathing.

"Doug, I am just going to check you out," she said. "I want to see if you have any broken bones. He just looked at her with severely swollen eyes, where they must have hit him. Gently, she started with his arms, gently squeezing. The left seemed to be ok, but the he gasped when she squeezed the middle of his right forearm.

"It's broken," she said, looking at Kyle.

She could see that his shoulder was dislocated too. He had a huge gash on his head that was bleeding down the back pretty heavily.

The wheezing she kept hearing was bothering her. She gently felt around his chest and rib area and he cried out.

"Ok, I am done," she said gently. "I'm sorry Doug," she said, feeling terrible that she had hurt him. His head fell back. He had lost consciousness.

"This doesn't look good," Liz said, looking at the others. "I think he's broken a rib, and it's pierced his lung. His shoulder is dislocated, and his arm is broken, and I don't know if he might have a concussion. We have to try to keep him up."

They tried to rouse him, but he remained unconscious.

"Liz, this isn't good," she said. "Do you think Serena can feel what happened to him?"

"I don't know," Liz admitted. "I hope not."

"We can't chance staying here any longer," Kyle said. "The skins will be back. I think we should go to the cave."

Liz nodded. It was the only place to be safe right now. The only place where they could plan on how to get Serena away from the skins. And she could do whatever she could to help Doug.

"Alex, can you put the seats down in the back of the truck? I think we can use that plywood as a makeshift stretcher to get him out of here," she said.

"Maria, grab whatever you think we might need to take with us. I don't think we'll be coming back," Liz said.

Maria stopped in her tracks the implications of the idea that they might never see home again hitting her. She took a deep breath and set about gathering the supplies, food and clothing they had stored her.

Carefully, Kyle and Liz struggled to position Doug on the thin board, trying not to hit his arm or shoulder. He moaned.

Alex came back in and he and Kyle lifted the board, taking it out to the truck and sliding it in the opened tailgate of the SUV. Maria and Liz brought out the supplies, loaded them and climbed in the back with Doug. Alex jumped into the driver's seat and Kyle sat in front with him.

Alex started the truck, keeping the headlights off, and moved slowly through the moonlit town. Checking repeatedly to see if they were being followed, Liz took one last glimpse at it before turning her attention to cleaning Doug's wounds. 15 minutes later, driving at a slow pace with the lights off, they turned off the highway onto a dirt road. Looming ahead, they saw the outcropping of rocks. Alex parked next to the rocks, jumping out to help Kyle again with the board. Liz walked up the short, steep path to the jutting rock and pulled the pendant around her neck away from her neck, waving it in front of the rock. An opening appeared in the rock and the four of them entered a chamber.

Though Liz had been here so many times in the past few months, she still was filled with a sense of awe every time she came in. To the left were three pods, broken open years ago. An alien King had been born here. A princess and the King's right hand followed. Liz felt sad that they had died. She would have liked to have seen what they look like. Zan... A king had been born here, and now he was dead. She wondered what he was like. What kind of person he had been. She had thought of that often in the past few months.

Breaking her reverie, she concentrated on making Doug as comfortable as she could. His wheeze had gotten worse, and she feared that the damage to his lungs would only increase. She said a silent prayer for his safety.

"Liz, Kyle and I are going to go leave the truck somewhere away from here," Alex said. "I don't want to take the chance of being discovered. We'll be back," he said.

Liz nodded, taking the pendant from her neck and handing it to him.

Then she and Maria were alone again, and Maria worked to put the supplies in one spot. Liz sat next to Doug against the chamber wall.

Her thoughts again turned back to Serena and Max Evans. Was he like Serena and Doug? A half-breed? Was he one of the gifted? And if he was, why was he here?

She wistfully thought of his eyes. She used to dream of looking into those gorgeous amber eyes, with amazing lashes. Even now, it sent her heart racing thinking about his lips. She scolded herself. What the hell was she thinking? He's an alien!

That feeling of someone, something touching her mind, touching her soul would not leave her. If he had been in her mind, what had he seen?

The sensation of warm hands touching her face, and a protective embrace enveloped her.

Distracted, she got up and went to help Maria. Quickly, she arranged the supplies, while Maria looked at her curiously.

"What's up with you Chica?" she asked.

"Nothing why?" Liz asked, glancing over at her as she folded blankets.

Maria stood up and put her hands on her hips.

"Spill," she said.

"What?" Liz asked again.

"I know something's on your mind, I'm your best friend. Besides, you've folded and re-folded those blankets three times already," she laughed.

"Maria, it's nothing. I'm just worried about Doug," she said.

"Fine, you don't want to talk about it, then we don't have to. But please don't lie to me Chica, 'cause I can see it on your face," Maria said.

Liz sighed. "It's Max Evans."

"What, you're freaked out that he helped you?" Maria asked, taking a blanket from her.

"Yes…and no," Liz said sitting down, next to Doug, taking his hand and rubbing it gently. Maria sat down next to her wrapping half of the blanket around herself and throwing the other half around Liz. She looked at Liz expectantly.

"Ok…I never told you this," she said. "I never told anyone this, but I used to have this sort of…crush on Max."

Maria looked at her trying to suppress a grin. "And you didn't tell *me*, your best friend?" she said.

"Maria it was just this harmless crush. Nothing could have ever come of it. Max would never have looked at me that way. I mean, I don't even think he ever spoke my name, and we were lab partners for a year," she said.

"And you were carrying this torch for Max while you were dating Kyle…" Maria said.

"Maria, it was an innocent crush. It had nothing to do with my reality," she said.

"You could have acted on it. You should have, I mean you never know what could have happened. Wait, what am I saying? He's an *alien*!" Maria said, smacking the side of her head.

"Liz, you know I always told you that I didn't think you and Kyle were meant for each other. And I love Kyle to death, I really do, but I always thought you both were…settling I guess. But I have to say, thinking about it now, it's better you wound up with Kyle than an alien. I mean, who knows what could have happened to you if you got involved with him?" she said.

"Maria, that's not even the point I was trying to make. When he did whatever he did to me…I don't know, I can't explain it, it was like he touched my soul or something. I feel sort of like…he's a part of me, like…I feel different," she said.

"Different like what?" Maria asked, alarmed. "Do you think he pulled some mojo mutant shit on you? Like he changed you into one of them?"

"No, no," Liz said. "I'm not an alien Maria. I can't explain it," she said.

Just then Kyle and Alex came back into the chamber.

"We'll talk about this later," Maria warned softly. "I suggest you refrain from doing anything with Kyle, you don't know if what he did to you is contagious."

Liz glared at her.

"Maria…" she hissed as Kyle came toward them. Alex sat down and threw his arm around his two best friends. He looked at them quizzically.

"I'm just saying…" she trailed off argumentatively.

"Shut up," Liz whispered.

Kyle smiled down at her and gave her a quick peck on the lips.

"How's he doing?" he asked, looking at Doug.

"Same," she said. "He hasn't regained consciousness. Kyle, I'm worried, what if the worst happens? What if he doesn't wake up? There is no way we'll ever find Serena unless he can at least try to connect to her. And we don't even know if he'll be able to. Their connections aren't good over long distances. What if they took her out of the area? We need to get her back! She and Doug are the only ones who can make this right!" she said.

"I know," Kyle said quietly, feeling bad that he had argued with her right before she was taken. There was something about her that challenged him, made him feel as if…no he didn't want to think about that. She was irritating, a know-it-all, but she also held the key to their futures and the futures of their loved ones. Yes, they had to get her back.

"We'll figure it out Liz, I promise," he said, pulling her into a hug.

Kyle rubbed her back comfortingly, and Liz once again tried to smother the thought that that was exactly what they were…comfortable. Damn you Maria, she grumbled to herself, pushing to the back of her mind that it was something she hadn't wanted to admit to herself for a long time.

Kyle pulled back, and his face hardened.

"Liz…" he said, looking at the V of skin her shirt now exposed. She winced inwardly, knowing the tope buttons must have come loose.

Kyle reached out and touched the silver marking splayed across her chest.

"That son of a bitch," he said.

She sighed, and then stiffened as she saw the opening appear in the chamber wall to the outside world.

Her jaw dropped as she caught sight of Max Evans' face for the first time in six years…



posted on 1-Oct-2001 1:16:32 PM
PART 5

Max stopped, stunned as he looked straight into Liz's eyes.

Michael walked in behind him, and his face hardened.

"What the hell are you doing here?" he asked angrily, looking at Kyle and Alex.

"We could ask the same question," Alex said, staring him down.

"We don't owe you any explanations," Isabel said coldly, standing next to Michael.

"Oh this is great," Maria muttered.

Kyle glared at Max, but Max hadn't noticed. He was too caught up in Liz Parker's eyes. The moment he looked into them, the flood of images from their connection flared to the surface of his mind.

Liz felt her breath quicken, and her heartbeat race at seeing Max. Looking into his eyes, she felt the blanketing warmth she had felt back at the UFO Museum.

Yelling erupted around them, but the two were deaf to it as time and space seemed to pause for an endless moment. Liz swallowed hard as she felt the intenseness of Max's gaze.

Max felt as if someone had knocked the wind out of him. Even with the bruise still painfully colored on her cheek, she looked beautiful. He had almost forgotten how beautiful she was. Perfect…

A hideous wheezing erupted from behind her and she broke his gaze. Turning quickly, she looked at Doug and nearly panicked. His face was turning a sickly shade of blue as he tried desperately to take a breath.

"Maria!" she called out frantically.

Maria broke her diatribe at Isabel and Michael as soon as she heard the panic in Liz's voice. She rushed over to where Liz was on the floor with Doug.

"Oh shit…oh shit," Maria said on the verge of tears.

"I want to know what's going on here, right now!" Michael yelled at Alex.

Max saw the panic in Liz's face and made his way quickly to the person her body was shielding from his view.

Liz looked up at him, tears filling her eyes.

"He's going to die," she whispered shakily.

Max looked at the man's face for a moment and then down to Maria, who moved out of his way. He knelt down, the outside of his thigh touching Liz's arm. He looked at her.

"Can you help him?" she pleaded.

He looked at her for a long moment and moved to place his hand on the mans' chest.

"Maxwell don't you dare!" Michael grated. "Don't you dare heal him! They tried to kill us, for crissakes! We don't even know what's going on here…"

"Max," Isabel said warningly.

Liz turned to them. "Look, I promise, I'll explain everything, why we're in here, what happened, everything. Just please help him. He's our only hope of finding Serena," she said, her eyes pleading with him.

"And why should we care of you get this Serena back?" Michael retorted.

"Because she can save the world," Liz answered.

Max looked up at Michael, giving him his answer, and Michael looked up at the ceiling in annoyance.

Max turned back to the man again and placed his hand on his chest, closing his eyes. Doug was wheezing laboriously, trying to get air into his lungs.

Liz watched in amazement as a slight glow appeared through the skin of his hand. This is what he did to me, she thought in wonder.

Max's face twisted in an almost painful demeanor, as his energy was sucked out of him, rebuilding cells and tissue and bone. His breathing became labored as his energy was depleted. Liz watched him heal, watched him become weaker as his efforts doubled to heal the man.

Isabel watched horrified as Max slumped away from Doug, trying to catch his breath.

She kneeled next to him, a worried look on her face.

"Max! Are you ok?" she asked.

He smiled weakly at her. "Yeah, I'm fine. He was pretty bad. It's harder to heal aliens," he said, as she and Michael looked at him in shock. He looked at Liz. "He'll be unconscious for awhile."

"What do you mean aliens?" Michael asked.

"I'll explain everything," Liz said, catching Max's eyes before looking up at Michael and Isabel.

Max used his feet to push himself back until his back hit the wall of the chamber, and then he slumped against it.

"Yes Serena and Doug are aliens, sort of…" she said.

"What do you mean sort of?" Michael asked. "And how did you know about this place?"

Let me start from the beginning," she said, looking at Alex, Kyle and Maria.

"Serena brought me here. That's how we knew about it. Serena and I met in a physics class at Las Cruces. We kind of bonded because she had lost her parents in a car crash right around the same time I lost my dad," Liz said, looking over at Max.

"I'm sorry," he said softly. She gave him a little smile.

"We were sort of drawn to each other, because we were kind of going through the same thing. Over two years we became really close. Everyone liked Serena and her twin brother, Doug. They were fun, assertive, and seemed to have this uncanny ability to know what you were thinking or feeling. I thought it was just one of those things with your friends knowing how you think. But one day, I got out of class late, and I was in a rush, and she came running after me. She told me to come back to class for a minute. I had to get to work at home, and I told her that. But she grabbed my arm at the parking lot. I was so mad at her, because I knew my mom was handling things alone at the Crashdown. So I yelled at her, and as I turned to the parking lot I saw a car come racing across it, full speed. A second later, it smashed into the driver's side door of my car, head on. I would have been dead. A professor had had a heart attack and died behind the wheel. His foot was pressed down fully on the gas," she paused, staring at her hands.

"I know I would have been dead if it weren't for Serena. I had to talk to her about it. That night we sat down and talked, and she told me she had certain "gifts", that she could sense peoples' thoughts and feelings, and that sometimes she could predict future events. I was a little shocked, but she had saved my life. I promised I wouldn't tell the others, and we grew even closer. A little too close I guess because I started to neglect my other friendships. Maria, Kyle and Alex were worried about me.

Almost three months ago, Serena was really troubled, and so was Doug. I was with them at the mall. I asked what was wrong, because I could tell something was off. Serena told me she was getting this strong sense of pain, of desperation, coming from somewhere close. She wanted to check it out alone, but Doug and I insisted that we go with her. We drove down 285, and she suddenly turned onto a dirt road. The feelings were growing stronger, almost unbearable. Then we wound up here, and Serena was walking around confused, because there was no one around, but the feelings were so powerful. Then the doorway appeared," she said motioning to the entrance to the chamber.

"We came in, and we found a man in here. He called himself the protector. He kept whispering about his foolishness, his underestimation that had caused the death of the Royal Three," she said.

Max looked at Isabel and Michael in alarm. Nasedo.

"He told us that the skins had captured him, after they had killed the Royal Three. I didn't understand, and I asked him to explain. He said that the Royal Three had been killed back on Antar, Zan, the King, Vilandra, his sister, and Rath, his second in command. They were re-created with human DNA and brought here for protection. He had to hide them from the skins. He placed them in the desert, knowing they would be picked up. They were adopted. And now they were dead. He said that he had called out to Serena and Doug, half-breeds, in desperation. They had been good to his King on Antar, and he knew that at least through them, a species would carry on. He told Serena to bring her closest friends and family members here when it happened. He told us that when he brought the pods here, he modified the rock in this chamber, so it's protected from any kind of radiational or biological energy. That's why we're still here," she said slowly.

"He didn't know where or when it would happen, but he sensed something terrible from the skin who had mortally wounded him. Whatever it was would be devastating, and they would know it when it came. There were others out there like Serena and Doug. They would sense each other after the skins attack, and they would know what to do. He gave her that pendant, and told her it would open the door to the chamber if passed over the mis-shapen stone, and then, he died. He literally disintegrated," Liz said.

Isabel's eyes pooled with tears that she fought to control. She could not let them know who they were. That they were the Royal Three. But Nasedo was gone. What were they going to do now?

"Serena didn't know what to say to me. I knew now that she was an alien, or part alien. She told me that through her bloodline, a human had fallen in love with an Antarian. She was mostly human, but the gifts that she had were all Antarian abilities. Each Antarian has different ones. Like I told you she is sort of psychic and clairvoyant. Doug is as well, but he also has the ability to talk to people telepathically. I guess Antarians are kind of like the X-Men," Liz said wryly.

"Serena didn't know how Antarian blood came into her family. She and Doug didn't find out until shortly before their parents were killed. They weren't really sure of it either, as they all appear human, even down to the cellular level. The Antarian genes are so diluted, they only appear in a few cells," she said.

"So the three of us started making trips out here at least two or three times a week, studying the pods here, some crystals we found in the back over there, just trying to prepare for the worst. Kyle, Maria and Alex knew something was going down, and so one day, they followed us out there. We never even knew it. When we opened the wall with the pendant, they sprinted up the hill into the chamber wanting to know what the hell we were up to. Serena had just picked up the crystals, and they were glowing. Kyle kind of freaked out," she said, smiling at him.

"He was yelling at us, they all were, and then there was this huge rumble, and the whole chamber shook. Rocks were coming down from the ceiling. We took cover. It lasted for about 10 minutes and then everything fell dead silent. We opened the door to the chamber, and there was this red glow everywhere. We hurried to the car, wanting to get back to town as soon as possible. But as we got near town, we saw cars abandoned on the road, bikes dropped in their place. And there was no one in town. They were all gone. My mom was gone," she said, her voice cracking. She looked over to see Max looking at her sympathetically, and she dropped her head.

She cleared her throat.

"Anyway, Serena started to get these wicked headaches that night. And then she saw that everybody that was here on Earth isn't dead. They're…somewhere else. She doesn't know where, but she's seen them, people as far as the eye can see. And there's something…wrong. Something wrong about the whole vision, and it scared the hell out of her. She saw the skins, out of their husks, and they were horrible to look at. There was something wrong with them. All night she was up pacing. And then she had the final vision. There were others like her, out there that had survived. They were starting to gather in Washington D.C. They aren't as powerful as she and Doug are. Some of them couldn't survive what the skins brought upon us. They were not purely human, so they couldn't be taken, but they weren't alien enough to survive the energy burst's effects. They were either driven insane, or died a slow death," she said.

"We've seen them along the way," Max said quietly, thinking of Jack Rogers.

Liz nodded.

"She and Doug supposed to go to D.C. They will lead these people in releasing the people that the skins have taken. She doesn't know why they were taken, only that they will all die if something isn't done soon," she said.

"We need to get her back from the skins. The energy burst has affected their husks, and a lot of them are dying. But there are still a lot out there, and they know about Serena and what she is supposed to do. They know that together, she and Doug could defeat them, but apart, they arent' strong enough," Liz said.

"So you're telling us that there is a chance that we can save our parents?" Isabel asked hopefully, looking at Max.

"If you want to join us…help us, I think there is a really good chance that we can do that. I want my mother back," she said quietly.

Isabel looked at Max and at Michael, who was very quiet. He never worried about Hank. As a matter of fact, he'd be happy if he dropped off the face of the Earth, but he knew that Isabel was beside herself thinking about her Mom and Dad, and he knew Max was upset about it too. Eventually he knew they would have to face the skins, so it might as well be now. He nodded at Isabel and Max, and Isabel bit her lip.

Max turned to the others.

"We'll help," he said. "I don't know what we can do, but we'll help."

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Kyle volunteered to do first watch around the perimeter of the outcropping. The skins were still looking for them, and they had taken to each taking shifts scouting. It had become a routine.

Not that Kyle particularly like leaving Liz behind with that freak Evans. He didn't really have anything against aliens persay, after all Serena was sort of one, but she didn't do any weird things physically to them, and she sure as hell didn't leave silver handprints behind.

In fact, Serena was one of the coolest people he knew, aside from the whole part alien thing of course. She knew how to fight with the best of them. She'd even taken him down a few times. She had said she had decided she had to be prepared to defend herself because sooner or later, she assumed something would arise out of her alien-ness. How right she was.

He looked back at the outcropping, scowling. He didn't know what those freaks would be able to do to help them find Serena, but if it got her back, then he'd have to tolerate them for the time being. He wanted his Dad back here safe and sound, and…he wanted Serena back alive too. Quickly he pushed that thought out of his head. He was with Liz, and he had to be there for her. After all if he wasn't, who would be?

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Maria was passing out food to everyone, after they decided to let Doug sleep off his recovery. Tomorrow would come soon enough, and he needed all the energy he could muster. They had no idea what to expect. And that was if he could connect with Serena. In his weakened condition that was no guarantee.

She passed a plate to Alex, and he glanced at Isabel curiously, sitting alone near the pods, her food untouched.

She looked up and Michael was standing there with a scowl on his face.

"Don't look so happy Guerin," she said sarcastically. "I mean I know you aren't exactly happy about being here, but damn the least you could do is try to be civil."

"Oh please, you guys don't like this any more than we do. Why the hell should we help you all anyway? You all were ready to kill us a couple of hours ago," he said angrily. "If I had any of my abilities, you'd all be dead now," he said.

"That's comforting," Maria said, irritated. "Now, the question you asked…why should you help us? Because we all have families that we want back alive. Even your friends want their families back," she said.

"Did they get more human chromosomes than you? You should take some lessons from them Guerin," she said sarcastically.

That hit too close to home. Michael glared at her, grabbed the plate of food from her hand and stalked off, leaving an open-mouthed Maria standing with empty hands.

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Alex poured some tea out of the thermos, and looked over at Isabel again.

Slowly he walked over to her and knelt down next to her, holding the cup out to her. She takes it from him wordlessly, looking at the pods.
Alex cleared his throat.

"Hey, uh…I'm sorry for the bully treatment you guys got earlier," he said, looking at her.

Isabel sighed, continuing to stare at the pods.

"Hey, I should have expected it. People just don't understand," she said bitterly. "We're not so different than you, you know."
Alex laughed mirthlessly.

"Well at least you know how it feels," he said.

"What?" she said incredulously, her head snapping toward him.

"In high school, your crowd. They never gave any of us the time of day. You all thought you were better than anyone else," he said.

"That's not true!" she said indignantly.

"Oh come, it's true and you know it. You never would have even acknowledged me in high school," he said.

"You don't know what you're talking about. You've no idea what I was going through," she said.

"Yeah, actually that's kind of freaky to know now that the most popular girl in school is an alien," he said, looking across the room.

"Yes, well I guess that changes your whole outlook on things, doesn't it?" she asked dryly. "Enough to turn you off?"

"Oddly enough, I sort of feel like we have something in common now," he said. "You know, knowing that one of the most gorgeous girls I've ever seen was feeling the same things I was back then…I guess the world isn't such a bad place after all," he said grinning. He stood up and walked over to Maria and Max, leaving Isabel to stare after him with her mouth agape.

*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%*%

Liz took her plate of food outside to wait for the sun, which was just beginning to peek over the horizon. She was tired, but no more tired than she usually was. None of them had slept well in months, since everything had changed in Roswell. She listlessly picked her the food on the plate in front of her, not really wanting to eat anything.

Looking down, she caught a glimpse of silver fingers on her chest, and she pulled her shirt across her.

"Did I do that?" a voice asked softly.

Liz started, turning her head quickly. He stood quietly against the rock, afraid to approach her, afraid that he'd scare her.

"I…I guess so," she said, looking down at the ground.

"I'm sorry," he said, walking a little closer.

She looked up and caught his gaze, those mesmerizing brown eyes for a long moment, and then broke eye contact.

"Why would you apologize?" she said shyly. "You saved my life."

He sat down next to her.

"I've never done that before…you know, with a person. I didn't know that was going to happen," he said apologetically.

Liz played with a pebble sitting near her shoe and smiled.

"I'm sorry about how everyone over-reacted," she said. "They didn't know…"

He smiled, looking up at the sky.

"It's ok," he said. "We're still alive, so no harm done."

"You're Zan aren't you? The King…" she said. "That's how you were able to get into the chamber."

For a fleeting moment, he considered giving her another answer, but he knew he couldn't lie.

"Yes," he said quietly.

She nodded silently, looking out at the arid landscape spread out before them.

"I wish he had known you weren't dead. The skins told him you were murdered," she said quietly.

He looked down at the ground and didn't say anything.

She mustered the courage to look at his profile.

"Max, when you healed Doug, were you hurt?" she asked, concerned.

He lowered his head and looked at her.

"No, I just used a lot of energy," he said. "It's draining. My powers haven't been the same since…"

He let a wry laugh.

"It feels so strange to be talking to someone about this other than Isabel and Michael, after all this time," he said.

"I'm sorry," Liz said quickly, starting to get up.

"No, it's good, " he said, catching her arm, and immediately her eyes were drawn to his hand, where she could immediately feel that welcoming warmth she had felt earlier.

She stared at his hand in wonder, with his wonderfully tapered fingers, so strong. Fingers that had the power to heal.

Max noticed her looking at his hand and he realized what he had done, quickly pulling away, knowing that the last thing she probably wanted was for him to be touching her again.

Liz felt a distinct disappointment at the absence of his touch.

They sat in uncomfortable silence for a long moment.

"Max, can I ask you something? You know, about when you healed me?" she asked.

"Yeah," he said, once again getting caught up in her liquid brown eyes before breaking the gaze, embarrassed.

"I don't know if I can answer. I have never done anything like that before," he admitted.

Liz paused a moment, trying to find the words to explain what she wanted to say.

"When you healed me I…I felt as if someone had touched my soul. I know that sounds crazy," she said quickly, "but I felt it, and I had all of these memories in my head. I don't know if it was a biological reaction from my brain, but I felt it, and I really need to know if it was real. Were you in my head Max?" she asked curiously.

Max blushed and looked down at the ground, embarrassed.

"Oh my God," Liz said, mortified. "You were…"

She was so embarrassed, she felt like she wanted to crawl under a rock.

"Oh, I feel *so* stupid," she said, moving to get up and away from him. He knew. He knew every thought she had ever had about him.

Impulsively, he grabbed her arm again, holding her there.

"No Liz, it's ok," he said quickly.

"No, it's not ok," she said, again trying to rise.

"Wait!" he said. "It *is* ok." He looked at her intensely.

"Can I show you something?" he asked, unsure of himself, pulling his hand away.

Liz nodded.

"Can I touch you?" he asked. "I need to touch you if it's going to work. I am not even sure it will. I've never tried this before," he said quietly.

Again Liz nodded wordlessly.

Tentatively, he reached up and gently put a hand on each side of her face.

Her eyes met his and she felt her heartbeat quicken, and suddenly she was drawn into them. She was *inside* Max.


*flash*

He and Isabel are walking along the highway. It is night, and headlights blind them.

*flash*

The social services woman is telling both he and Isabel that they were going to have a real family. Isabel turns and beams at him, but even then the little boy feels a pervading sense of displacement, or loneliness.

*flash*

He lay on his bed, a little boy, and there is a soft knock on the door. It opens, and the lady who told him to call her Mom is standing there with a kind and sympathetic smile.

She asks him if he wants anything. He tells her he wants to go home. She leaves the room for a moment and comes back with a small model of a house.

"This is a magic house," she says. Whenever you want to think about home, hold this and it will take you there."

Max smiles sadly and takes the house from her. She kisses him goodnight and shuts the door. Max holds that house all night and many nights afterward, but the magic didn't work. He never gets to go home.

*flash*

Max was holding Isabel's hand as he got off the school bus. He was afraid. School was a terrifying prospect for him. He couldn't even think about being around so many children, and he knew he would have to constantly watch himself to make sure that he didn't use his powers. He and Isabel knew instinctively that they had to hide them from humans, but sometimes it was hard, and sometimes they forgot.

Glancing nervously around the playground, he caught sight of the most beautiful dark haired angel he had ever seen. She was laughing with a little blonde girl and a dark-haired boy. His eyes were drawn to her all day. He wished he had the nerve to go and play with them, but Isabel kept him at her side all day, and even if she hadn't, he wouldn't have had the courage. Never had he felt so alone.

*flash*

A sullen boy enters class and immediately draws Max's attention. The familiarity was unnerving to him. There was something about this boy. He sat down next to Max without looking at him. Max looked over at him.

"I'm Max," he said.

The boy turned toward him and recognition dawned in his eyes.

"I'm Michael Guerin…"


*flash*

He watches Liz at thirteen, swinging her tanned legs at her desk, deep into listening to what the teacher is saying. Max can't concentrate. He is drawn to the silky smoothness of her hair, and imagines what it might be like to touch her skin. But he knows he shouldn't wonder these things. He is different.

*flash*

He walks by Liz's locker slowly, hearing Kyle ask her on a date. Inwardly, he feels like his heart is being ripped open, but he doesn't let it show on his face. He can't let any of it show. He stares almost unwillingly at her blushing face, and then feels a tug on his arm.

"Hey Max," Jenny Werner says. "How's it going?"

"Fine," Max mumbles, trying to look back at Liz's locker as he passed it.

"Um…I was wondering, do you maybe want to see a movie this weekend?" she asked hopefully.

Max looks at her and then looks quickly away.

"I can't, sorry," he says, imagining what it might be like if Liz ha asked him. But that would never happen.

"Oh," she said disappointed. "Maybe another time?" she continued hopefully.

"Yeah maybe," Max said, distracted. "See you," he said, walking away, leaving Jenny standing in the middle of the hall.

*flash*

He is standing at the door of the UFO Museum, watching the Crashdown yet again. He sees Liz walk past the window and his heart is filled with longing for what seemed like the millionth time. He sees Kyle walk into the restaurant, catching Liz by surprise, spinning her around. He can see the bright smile that lights her face, and he sighs and turns back into the museum.

*flash*

Senior year. He is sitting at the lab table in AP Physics. He sees her walk into the room, and it as if everything has suddenly lit up. She goes to the teacher for her table assignment and then miraculously she is walking toward his table. She gives him a shy smile, and sits down next to him.

She leans over to grab a notebook, and her hair falls on his hand. It feels like spun silk. He wants to reach out to touch it in the worst way. He wonders what it would be like to kiss her, to touch her soft lips with his own. All year, he tried to convince himself that it would be ok to have a conversation with her about something other than physics, but he never gets the nerve. Still he felt lucky to have even this short time near her. She smelled so good, like strawberries and vanilla, and sometimes he finds it hard to concentrate. Before he knows it, the year is almost over.

*flash*

Max sits a short distance down the road from the Crashdown. He is far enough away to be unnoticed, but close enough that he can see the front and side of the building. It is late, and he has been here for hours. Prom night. He had sat in this same spot many nights during the year. Tonight was going to be different. Tonight he was going to get the courage to climb up to her balcony to say something to her, anything. He looked at the six-pack he had sitting on the seat. That would help, he thought, as he cracked one open.

Two beers later, he realizes that he has absolutely no tolerance for alcohol at all. He grinned drunkenly. This wasn't going to be so hard after all. He saw Kyle's mustang pull up, and Kyle got out and opened the passenger door for her. They went to the side door, and then he embraced her, their lips meeting in what looked to be a fiery kiss.

"He isn't what she wants," Max slurred. "He isn't good enough for her," he said as Liz went inside and Kyle got into his car and drove away.

Max opened the door to the jeep, determined. He took a few steps and a strong arm grabbed his, holding him back.

"Oh no you don't," Michael said warningly. "What the fuck Max? You've been drinking?"

"Leave me alone," Max slurred, looking at her balcony.

"Nope," Michael said, not gonna let you do it, physically lifting Max around the jeep and dropping him in the passenger seat, sealing the lock.

"You'll thank me in the morning," Michael said, as Max glared at him.

*flash*

Graduation day. His last day at school. His last day to see Liz. She was valedictorian.

He watched her go up to the podium. He thought the caps and gowns looked stupid, but on Liz, she never looked more beautiful.

At the podium she paused, looking at the crowd, and suddenly her eyes fell on him and she started to speak.

Max's face burned and his whole body responded to her gaze.

When she talked about love and hope and the future, he felt like she was speaking to him.

And then it was over and she was gone from the stage.

Afterwards he stood with his parents and Isabel, scanning the crowd, and then he spotted her. And she smiled at him and his heart leapt. People walked in front of her and Isabel dragged him off. He kept looking behind him to try to find her again in the crowd, but he never saw her again.


Suddenly Liz was looking into Max's eyes again and she was herself. Her heart was filled to bursting with all different conflicting emotions, as her eyes filled with unshed tears. She was so truly sad for his loneliness. Her heart leapt that he had felt the same pangs of longing she did. She was angry with herself for not having the courage enough to speak to him. And she was grateful that he had saved her life.

She was trying to hold back her emotions, but the look he was giving her caused all her reason to fly out the window. In his eyes she saw everything she had ever felt for her Fictional Max.

"Did it work?" he asked, self-conscious.

She nodded slowly, never taking her eyes