So just to make things confusing, here's another brand new chapter that wasn't in the original, so as of today 11/16, this is the new chapter eleven, and the old chapter ten is still below it because it will be replaced by its rewritten version, now chapter twelve, in two weeks. Enjoy!
So I lied, or rather forgot something in my previous AN
The chapter I'm posting today, 12/21 (waaay late, soo sorry!) is the new chapter twelve, but it is also brand new, so the old chapter ten will still be below it in this post (meaning there are three chapters in this one post, two new, one old as of today), and will eventually become the new chapter thirteen the next time I post (this time for real!!) So sorry for the confusion.
Okay! So finally, on 2/6 (waaay late I know) I posted the new chapter thirteen, bringing the number of chapters in this post up to a final total of three. That should lessen the confusion, hopefully. Also, points to anyone who catches my tiny crossover moment in chapter thirteen!
Chapter Eleven ~ Picking up the Pieces
Ava opened her eyes and sighed, wishing that Liz were ready to commune with the Granolith. Continuing to make the attempt herself was taking a toll and she was getting sick of the chronic migraines. Despite her bloodlines, she found it difficult to communicate with the being, to understand everything it tried to show her. Their family, her and Rath’s, were the traditional keepers of the Granolith shards, and before the Granolith had been shattered, they were its caretakers all the way back through Antarian history. But only certain members of their family could actually speak with the being, and in her previous life, she had been the first to attempt it in over a century. And, despite her years of study, she had only managed to barely scratch the surface of the being’s power.
She had a feeling that Rath, the original Rath, would have succeeded where she failed, but he had refused to try, not wanting to spark more discord between himself and Zan, or add more fuel to the whispers that he should be king. Rath in this life had no interest in such things, and his intelligence had been completely subsumed by his anger, and Lonnie’s wiles. Lonnie hadn’t wanted an equal partner, just a biddable lackey; more fool she.
Once Liz had time to heal from whatever had happened in Roswell, Ava wanted to speak to her about going back to find Michael, assuming of course that he didn’t come find her first in his role as protector. She doubted that the Roswell version of Rath shared the same weaknesses as the one she’d grown up with, and it would be a relief to surrender the burden of responsibility to the person it rightfully belonged to; or, at least, one of the persons.
Already she could feel the pull of the book towards her friend, could feel the Granolith’s wordless desire to connect with the other girl, who lived in steady denial of her own feelings. Liz was not what she expected from the brief moments they’d spent together the year before. That Liz had been stubborn and smart, but Ava hadn’t seen her as particularly strong, or powerful. She had sensed the difference in her, a faint tingle explained by her healing, but she’d had no inkling of how much power the small human would eventually hold
Being near Liz now, was like standing next to an open fire; her power radiated from her in waves that Ava could almost feel like heat on her skin. That would be their next lesson; learning to conceal her power so that she wasn’t a walking beacon for their enemies. Liz learned quickly, was ever curious, and her mind seemed perfectly suited to grasping the details of how their abilities worked. The only times she struggled was when instinct trumped logic, and then Ava had to remind her to stop thinking and just feel.
But aside from Liz’s growing control of her powers, Ava worried about the other girl, about how bottled up she was. She still hadn’t told her what happened to drive the brunette out of Roswell. All Ava knew was that somehow Tess had betrayed them and left Earth, and that Liz had subsequently fled, leaving the others behind and asking them not to follow. Ava had contemplated trying to contact someone in Roswell to find out more, but didn’t want to risk either losing Liz’s trust, or one of the others thinking that she was Tess and striking out in anger. Michael or Isabel were both perfectly capable of destroying her mind on the dream plane, whether they knew it or not, and she didn’t fancy being a vegetable for the rest of her life.
The tiny blond uncurled her legs and stood, stretching her arms over her head until she felt her spine pop and then walked from the living room into the kitchen. Liz was at class, she had started college two weeks before, and Ava had the house to herself for the next four hours before Liz would come home to start getting ready for their shift. They each worked two days from Monday through Thursday, but on Friday’s and Saturday’s they both worked, and tonight was the first of their two busiest shifts.
Once she had become accustomed to it, Ava was surprised by how much she enjoyed working at the bar. It was loud, and crazy, and filled with so much energy that her empathic abilities sometimes overloaded, but she loved every minute of it. It felt good to be earning her way, to be accepted as an employee, as a normal person, something all too rare in either of her lives.
And the flirting was fun too she thought with a grin as she pulled the fixings for a sandwich out of the fridge. The college guys couldn’t seem to get enough of her miniature doll looks and piercings, and flashing the tongue ring always guaranteed her a big tip, along with a few phone numbers scribbled on napkins. She never took any of them up on the offer; casual sex held little interest for her, and dating was clearly out of the picture, but knowing they wanted her was a unique kind of high, a pleasure she hadn’t experienced in New York when she had been unable to see past her love for Zan.
Liz got her share of numbers too, and all were tossed in the trash, the ones from dark-haired men usually crumpled first. Whatever had happened, had hurt her deeply, and despite Liz’s sunny outward demeanor, Ava worried that the scars weren’t
healing, and wouldn’t until Liz was willing to talk about it.
The Granolith pulsed its agreement and worry in her mind and she sighed again, staring listlessly at the sandwich she had made, appetite lost to renewed pain and stress. All she could do was be there for her friend; offer her support and companionship, and hope that Liz opened up before someone else found them.
Pain that deep could cause permanent damage, especially to emotion-based abilities like theirs, and though Liz refused to admit it, they both knew that her involvement with the Royal Four, and their enemies, was far from over. For now, Ava wouldn’t push, but eventually, Liz would have no choice but to the face the demons of her past, or she would be consumed by the demons in their future.
Liz collapsed on a bench in the small grassy area outside the main campus building and closed her eyes, tilting her face up towards the sun, craving the suffocating heat of home. It was warm here, and bright, but never as warm or as bright as Roswell. The smells were wrong too. She had loved the salty tang of the ocean when she first arrived, and still did, but she missed the sweet desert air more every day.
Speaking with Isabel in her dreams had alleviated some of the pain of being away from home, but Isabel hadn’t come in two weeks, and Liz hadn’t yet worked up the courage to ask Ava to show her how to dreamwalk herself. After all, she had chosen to abandon her friends and family when life became too much for her, maybe they had decided they couldn’t forgive her for that betrayal. Leaving Max was one thing – but leaving everyone else – sometimes she wasn’t sure she had made the right choice.
She loved her life here in California. She loved her freedom, working at the bar, her new classes. She loved living with Ava, and was even becoming accustomed to the idea that she was no longer entirely human, although she wasn’t willing to dwell too deeply on what that might mean for her future.
But more and more, she was realizing that coming here hadn’t just been finding a fresh start, it had also been running away, and just as with that first summer after Tess showed up, eventually she would
have to face the people, and the problems, that she had left behind. She could only hope that this time, once she had the courage to deal with everything that had happened, it wouldn’t lead to even worse events. Because looking back, it would have been easier if she had stayed in Florida, although not necessarily better. Who’s to say that without her, things would have played out differently? They might have even played out worse, at least for Michael, Isabel, and Max, betrayed by one of their own. As much as she loved, and missed, Alex, she knew she wouldn’t trade his life for the hybrids.
If she could
go back, could change things, would she tell herself to stay out of the diner that day? To call the sheriff and say that she thought one of their customers had a gun? After everything that had happened when Max came back, she didn’t know if time travel was ever
a viable option. Hindsight was most definitely not twenty-twenty. She didn’t know if she had stopped the world from ending, but she knew that Alex would still be alive, and that Max’s innocent son wouldn’t be in the hands of the enemy, if she hadn’t changed things irrevocably. No, there would be no more messing with time, no more attempts to make things right. No matter how tempting it was to try and reclaim her lost innocence, everyone’s lost innocence.
Liz would face her past, eventually, but only with a mind towards the future. The dreams of the girl who wanted to be head of molecular biology at Harvard were dead and gone. So were the dreams of the girl who had pictured herself in a wedding dress and practiced writing ‘Mrs. Evans’ over and over again. Pieces of those girls still existed inside of her, her love for science, and even her love for Max would never disappear completely, but she needed to figure out new dreams, new plans.
This Liz Parker had a family in Ava, a life of work and school, and powerful abilities that meant she would live in fear of the government, not to mention aliens, until she died. Which, if she listened to Ava’s occasional bouts of pessimism, might be a lot sooner than she wanted. She was trying to be proactive in learning about her powers, about the aliens past and possible future, but there was still a lot more to learn if she wanted to be prepared for whatever might come their way. No matter how much she wanted to pretend that nothing outside her carefully created bubble existed.
Taking a deep breath she opened her eyes, tasting the salty air on her tongue, bitter like tears. She needed to tell Ava what had happened with Future Max and Tess, find out what the other girl thought it might mean for them now. She also needed to face her remaining fears; Max to say goodbye, Maria to repair their lifelong friendship, Kyle to apologize for abandoning him in his darkest hour, and Michael to see if he would ever forgive her for what she cost all of them.
The salt she tasted now was no longer entirely from the ocean, and she swallowed, hard. Soon, she would be ready soon. But not yet.
Jeff watched Michael working in the kitchen through the open door of his office, concerned by his unusual silence. The boy had always been laconic, but he had become positively mute in the past two weeks, and he knew it had something to do with the way Michael flinched whenever Maria was around, quite different from their usual explosive relationship.
As awful as the cost was, Jeff had been pleased with the way Michael, Isabel, Maria, and Kyle seemed to have bonded together after the loss of their friends. Maria at least he had always considered a second daughter, and as the others became important to Liz, they had become important to him too. Unlike their friend Max, Jeff had never disliked Michael or Isabel, especially once Michael became an employee.
But two weeks ago things had changed. Maria was now on the outside of the group, willingly it seemed or he knew she would be yelling up a storm, and while Isabel and Kyle remained close, Michael had withdrawn from everyone, speaking only when spoken to and performing his duties with as minimal human interaction as he could manage.
The quality of his work was as high as ever, and he had been unfailingly polite to Jeff and Nancy as well as the other employees. Jeff also knew that he was doing extraordinarily well in school. The perks of being a son of Roswell meant that he had contacts everywhere, and Mary in the school administration was keeping him in the loop when it came to ‘his’ kids, especially Michael. He knew the boy was emancipated and he worked so many hours, even more so after Liz left, that Jeff had worried it would damage his chances of graduating. But the boy seemed to be balancing everything just fine, with the exception of his personal life.
He knew that Michael would never willingly speak to him about his problems, and wondered briefly if he spoke to anyone about them. He would have asked Liz, but Liz wasn’t here, a fact that still sent wrenching pain through his heart every minute of every day. Pain that her latest letter, filled with apologies and expressions of love, had done nothing to alleviate. The thought of his little girl, out there all alone, it terrified him and woke him with nightmares every night.
One of the reasons he worried so much about the boy he was currently observing, was that he knew Michael cared about his daughter too. Michael asked Jeff regularly if he had heard from Liz, and had promised to let him know if Liz reached out to him or anyone else in their group. Jeff cracked a smile at the idle thought that if Liz was here, he might have encouraged her to date Michael if he and Maria were really over, although he wasn’t sure if the girl code allowed it.
It was a strange thought for a father to have, but given his other choice of Max, or the highly unlikely celibacy until age thirty, well his baby girl could certainly do worse than the shaggy-haired young man flipping burgers ten feet away.
Maria’s voice suddenly rose in the diner and Jeff frowned as Michael visibly winced before his face returned to its previous stoic expression. Maybe he would ask Isabel about it, she had been very helpful over the summer, and if any of the remaining teens would know what was going on, it would be her. But right at that moment he needed to stop avoiding his balance sheets before Nancy started making him sleep on the couch again.
Diane peeked into the living room and smiled as she saw Isabel curled up on the couch with the Valenti boy, laughing. Laughter had become far too scarce in their house over the past few months, and seeing the happiness radiating from her daughter’s face made her heart clench and tears well in her eyes.
When Alex died, and Tess and Liz Parker both left, and Max started spiraling, she hadn’t known if she’d ever see Isabel smile again; real smiles and not just the plastic ones she put on for her parents’ benefit. She hadn’t realized that Isabel even knew the Sheriff’s son, but lately he had become a fixture in their house, and whenever he was around, Isabel couldn’t seem to stop smiling.
She pulled her head back, not wanting her daughter to catch her spying, and sighed, wishing her other child’s problems could be resolved so easily. Max had never opened up to them like Isabel had, had never fully trusted them, but she knew in her heart and soul that he loved them, that he wanted
to be a part of their family. Which made his recent actions even more inexplicable.
Where had she gone wrong? Was there any way she could have shown him how much she loved him, how unconditional their roles as parents were? What had happened to take her quiet, straight A, unfailingly polite son, down the path that led to him sitting in a jail cell? She had been so thrilled when he showed an interest in Liz Parker, when he started breaking out of his shell, and while she hadn’t like the blond, Tess, quite as much, at least it proved that he was no longer hiding from the world.
But, as much as she wanted him to be who he really was, to not be afraid to make mistakes, she had never foreseen criminal behavior, and had no idea how to help him when he wouldn’t even tell the truth, wouldn’t tell them why he had done what he did. Philip was angry and suspicious and their meetings inevitably ended with Max retreating into sullen silence, refusing to speak at all.
Something had happened, something awful that had caused two girls to leave town and her son to change in ways so drastically that she hardly recognized him anymore, and unless one of her children admitted the truth, she didn’t know if the mess could be fixed.
Isabel laughed again and Diane smiled through her tears, feeling true joy that her daughter was moving past her grief, and true sorrow that her son could not move past whatever obstacles prevented him from living.
She could only hope and pray that he would be able to move past this, without the impetus of yet another trauma, because she couldn’t bear the thought of losing her son, not ever.
Amy leaned against his shoulder, her small sigh making Jim smile and worry at the same time. He was grateful that Amy had let him in, that despite the hardships of the past few months, his personal life hadn’t been so sweet since Kyle’s mother left him, since before that if he was honest with himself. But adding Amy to his life, meant adding one more child to worry about. Not that he hadn’t worried about Maria before, just not in quite the same way.
The teens were pretty good about keeping him in the loop when it came to alien stuff, but when it came to their personal lives; he was as clueless as any parent. He did have eyes though, and he knew something had happened to separate Maria from the rest of the group, something that made her restless and moodier than usual, and had turned Michael into a taciturn mute.
Amy had asked him for advice and he hadn’t known what to tell her. Other than alien related drama, both pre- and post-shooting, Kyle had been relatively easy to raise. They had the same interests, similar personalities, and excluding his son’s recent fascination with a fat philosopher, they didn’t have too many breakdowns in communication. Girls were different, more complicated, girls as volatile as Maria even more so, and without letting Amy in on all of the secrets he was keeping from her, there was nothing he could do or say to make the reasons for her daughter’s behavior clear.
Lying to a woman that he was beginning to love, it frustrated him endlessly. If Michael wasn’t so clearly going through something, he would have already approached him about telling Amy the truth. It wasn’t fair to her to have the two most important people in her life lying to her. And with Maria as a daughter, and if Jim got his wish and got to stay in her life forever, she would undoubtedly become a part of the alien madness eventually. Better for her to learn now, before a crisis came up, and before it was too late for her to forgive him for the deception. The next chance he got, he would speak to Michael about telling Amy the truth; he didn’t want to ruin this second shot at happiness, not if he could help it.
Chapter Twelve ~ Moving Forward
Liz looked up from her textbook and frowned, the sensation of someone watching her making the back of her neck tingle. Ava was at work so the apartment was empty, meaning there was no way for anyone to be watching her; at least not anyone human she thought with a shudder. It wasn’t the first time she’d felt it since arriving either, she realized with a growing sense of unease. Maybe it was Ava, checking in on her; although she wasn’t sure the hybrid actually had the power to do that.
Or maybe, she told herself rationally, you’re just being paranoid. After all, given everything, she’d kind of earned the right to be paranoid, and with newly developing alien powers she wasn’t quite used to, it wouldn’t be so surprising if it was just her imagination acting up. Lately she’d been sensing things from people around her, noticing things she’d never noticed before, and it made her twitchy. Even her regular senses like sight and hearing were enhanced, which had led to some very impressive headaches after a long night at the bar, although her speed and accuracy with orders had never been better.
Giving up studying as a lost cause, she leaned over and set the textbook on the floor before reclining deeper into the basket chair, staring at her hands and willing strands of green electricity to come to the surface. The crackling lines of green danced across her skin with only a faint tingle and she smiled. It had taken almost a month for her to learn to control her most volatile ability, and only in the past three weeks had she learned to do so without pain.
Her grasp of molecular manipulation was almost perfect and she’d even come up with a few uses for it that Ava had never thought of, like practicing on blood samples until she could make them appear human in case of a hospital emergency like the car accident with Max two years ago.
Looking back, she had to wonder why the hybrids hadn’t worked harder on their powers. She understood their desire to hide and avoid suspicion, but better control of their powers would have made that easier rather than harder, and after two potential teachers showed up, only Michael had shown any interest in learning, although in retrospect Tess may have done more harm than good with her teaching, who knew what her plans had been.
From what Ava had said, the bulk of their powers didn’t start showing up until puberty, and had increased in strength since then, which especially in the case of Max and Isabel who didn’t have to deal with the stress Michael did, was plenty of time to experiment and try to gain more control. Maybe it was just the scientist in her talking, but she couldn’t imagine having these abilities and not wanting to know everything she could do with them.
She let the power cascading over her skin die out and bounced her foot restlessly. One of the perks, and frustrations, of her changing status, was that she needed less sleep, and had a lot more energy. Which, as a college student and working girl, were useful, but not so fun on her days off when she used to be able to veg out and now couldn’t hold still for more than twenty minutes without getting bored.
Working at a bar killed all desire to go to one recreationally, and at this time of night there wasn’t a whole lot to do that didn’t involve partying. She still hadn’t worked up the courage to ask Ava to teach her how to dreamwalk, but maybe she could figure it out on her own? Isabel had done it after all, although the blond did have a prior life’s instincts to draw on unlike Liz. She knew Isabel used pictures to connect with people and while Liz didn’t have whole photo albums like she did at home, she did have a few she could try, if she could decide who she wanted to risk visiting.
Jumping to her feet, she walked to their shared bedroom and pulled her journal out from the wall, a trick Ava had showed her in lieu of her balcony full of loose bricks. Tucked inside the journal were several photos from home, including one of her parents, who she desperately wanted to see. Seeing them like this would be a horrible invasion of privacy, but her guilt over leaving them overruled her guilt over taking an uninvited trip into their subconscious.
Liz collapsed on her bed, holding the picture with her left hand, and touched her father’s face with her right index finger, concentrating on that tingling pool of energy inside of her. The picture started to smoke. “Crap!” She exclaimed, yanking her hand away and quickly pulling all of her energy away with it as the picture fluttered down to land on the bed. The photo was warped now, but otherwise undamaged; the faces of her parents still clear.
Blinking back tears as frustration welled within her, she grit her teeth and picked the picture back up. She could
do this. Closing her eyes, she slowly breathed in and out, lightly drawing on her inner core of power and trying to focus on how she felt when Isabel had visited her dreams. Unseen behind her tightly shut eyelids, a ripple moved over the surface of the photo as her consciousness flowed out of her body and onto the dream plane.
All around her were glowing orbs, some bright with color, some dim and gray. She was moving too quickly to see more than a brief glimpse of the strange landscape and suddenly found herself in front of a dark orange orb, currently streaked with flickering black lines. Something tugged at her and then she was inside, standing at the end of a dark alley in some unknown city.
Her father was standing at the other end of the alley, despondently calling her name as sirens echoed in the background. His eyes were dark with pain, and the look on his face was devastated. “Lizzy! Where are you Lizzy?” He sounded so lost and Liz felt her heart shrivel in her chest, what had she done to him?
The connection shattered as she lost focus and with a jerk she was back in her bedroom, sitting up on her bed and gasping as tears burned in her eyes. She fumbled unseeingly for the nightstand and managed to wrap her fingers around her small, prepaid cell phone. She dialed a number from memory and held it to her ears, praying that this wasn’t a horrible mistake, and knowing that she couldn’t live with herself if she didn’t take the risk.
“Hello?” A sleep roughened voice asked and her heart started to beat again.
For a second she couldn’t breathe, and then she managed to squeak out. “Daddy?”
“Lizzy? Oh my god, is it really you? Are you okay?” He babbled, sounding nothing like her usually collected father. It made her smile.
“I’m fine daddy; everything’s fine. I just, I miss you so much.”
“I miss you too sweetie, come home; whatever happened, we can work it out. Just come home.”
“I can’t daddy.” She said softly, pain shooting through her as she forced cheer into her voice. “I’m in school. I have a job that I love, I even have a roommate.” She could picture his disapproving scowl at her last words and hurried to add, “It’s a girl, dad, a friend I met while I was in Florida.”
“Are,” his voice broke and she could hear him trying to gain control of himself before he spoke again, “Are you happy Lizzy?”
Liz remembered teaching Ava to cook, remembered nights dancing and singing while cleaning up the bar, thought of just how much she was enjoying her new classes. “Yes daddy, I really am.”
They talked for almost an hour and by the end of the conversation, she was pretty sure he’d be having fewer nightmares about her, fewer, not none. He was her dad after all, and she knew he would always worry about her. But, at least for now, she didn’t have to worry about him hunting her down, or asking her to come home again, at least not to stay. He still wanted her to visit, maybe over winter break, but she wasn’t sure she’d be ready to face Roswell again.
One thing she was ready to face, was further experimentation of her new powers. She wanted to see if she could duplicate what she had done with Isabel last year when they reached Max all the way in New York. She had no desire to see New York again, but peeking in on Ava at the bar should be both feasible and entertaining.
She didn’t have a picture of Ava, but she had lived with her, and trained with her, long enough that she was pretty confident she could find her energy signature without a focus. She had ended up pacing while talking to her father, and now curled up on the bed again, sitting in Ava’s favored cross legged position and concentrating on the petite blond who had quickly become as close as a sister. After several minutes of concentration, her mind slipped away from her body again, but instead of seeing glowing orbs, she was flying through the city streets, as fast and invisible as a phantom until she was surrounded by the loud bustle of Johnny’s. No one seemed able to see her and she turned in circles, searching for a streak of pink and the familiar glitter of piercings.
Ava was standing behind the bar, flirting, laughing, and serving drinks like a pro. Liz grinned proudly, then placed her hands on her hips and waited. She knew the moment Ava saw her, the other girl’s blue eyes widened and the pitcher in her hand dropped to the floor, the tinkling sound of breaking glass cutting through the bar chatter. Matt helped her clean it up, clearly worried, and Liz’s enhanced senses caught her excusing herself. She concentrated and appeared in the backroom just as Ava came through the swinging doors, eyes blazing.
“What the hell Liz? Are you trying to give me a heart attack?!” She exclaimed, hands waving angrily in the air.
Liz laughed, disappointed to find that no sound escaped her lips, and shrugged. ‘Sorry.’ She mouthed.
Ava glared and folded her arms over her chest. “Experimenting without me I see?” Liz flushed and the hybrid shook her head, a smile twitching at her lips. “Well it is very impressive, but let’s save it until I get home, okay?”
The brunette nodded sheepishly and waved before closing her eyes and focusing on the apartment, the sound of Ava losing control of her giggles echoing in her ears as she flowed back into the darkness. She could feel the tug of her body and reached for it until something suddenly ripped her off course, sending her consciousness spinning in a direction she had no control over.
When the waves of disorientation passed she found she was back on the dream plane, in front of an orb that was a pulsing and malevolent black and sickly green. Something about the way it felt was familiar, but overlaying that familiarity, was another presence, something decidedly unfriendly.
Fear traced her spine with icy fingers as the pull towards the orb intensified. She fought against it with every ounce of power at her disposal, a rush of electricity spilling out of her until she was surrounded by a halo of pure energy. The pull strengthened until she could almost see tendrils of black creeping towards her with malicious intent.
Sudden anger overwhelmed her fear, and she wrenched herself away and out of the dream plane, one image flashing through her mind before she crashed into her body; the image of Max’s disappointed face.
Jim watched helplessly as tears streamed down Amy’s face. Her hands shook as she clutched the note Maria had left and his heart broke at the sheer misery radiating from her slender frame. Clenching his fists, he turned and plucked the phone off the wall, guilt and determination solidifying in his gut. It was time.
Michael groaned and rolled over, reaching blindly for the phone as he cursed whoever had woken him up at the ungodly hour of six in the morning on his day off. “What?” He growled into the phone.
It was the sheriff, sounding both panicked and firm. “It’s time Michael; bring Isabel and Kyle over to Maria’s house. Something happened and Amy needs to know the truth.”
The other man hung up before Michael could reply and he slammed the phone back on the cradle with another frustrated growl. Damn it all to hell. He didn’t need this, not now. He knew why Jim wanted to tell Amy the truth; he even agreed and respected his decision, but the last thing on Earth Michael wanted, was to be there when she found out exactly what her daughter had been sleeping with.
As for Maria, his heart clenched; the pain was fading, but it still hurt every time he saw her and remembered her words, remembered the look in her eyes when she told him she didn’t want to be like him. His shoulders slumped as exhaustion, physical and emotional, washed over him. Maybe it would have been better if he hadn’t stayed for her, if they had gone back to Antar. Yes, he probably would have died, they all would have, but Maria, Liz, Kyle, and the sheriff would have been safe, and his last memory of their relationship would have been of the night he and Maria shared, instead of the sight of her walking out of his apartment and out of his life.
Gritting his teeth, he stood and moved to his closet, disinterestedly grabbing the first clothes that came to hand and dressing in the dark before striding out of the bedroom and towards the front door, snatching his keys off the kitchen table before leaving. He’d ride his bike to Isabel’s and then they could take her car and swing by to get Kyle before heading to the Deluca residence.
It was the last place he wanted to go, but he wasn’t the boy who had tried to leave Roswell anymore. No matter how unhappy he was, he wasn’t abandoning his family ever again, and if that meant facing Maria, and Amy, well then that was what he would do. Even if it killed him, or, more likely, just made him wish for death.
Jim answered the door, his weathered face taut with worry. “Hey kids, come on in.” They followed him into the living room where Amy was pacing, wringing her hands and sobbing. Jim wrapped his arms around her and guided her towards the couch before pulling something from her fingers and handing it to Michael.
It was a crumpled and tearstained piece of lined paper, and Michael shot him a confused glance before smoothing it out as best he could and reading the words scribbled on it in sparkling purple ink, Maria’s favorite.
Mom, I’m so sorry to leave you with just a note, but I knew I couldn’t do it if I had to face you. I’m leaving, going to New York to try and pursue my music. Billy’s waiting for me so I won’t be alone. I just can’t do it anymore, I can’t be here without Alex and Liz, I can’t stay in Roswell any longer or I’ll never get out. It’s not Michael’s fault so don’t blame him, I’m doing this for me. I love you and I’ll call as soon as I’ve settled in. This will be a good thing, you’ll see, in no time you’ll be hearing me on the radio and seeing my face on billboards! I know I haven’t always been supportive about you and Jim but I know he makes you happy so I hope you keep him around. I miss you already.
Michael wordlessly handed the note to Isabel and moved closer to the couch, shifting his feet nervously as he stared down at Amy. “I’m sorry Mrs. Deluca, I never wanted Maria to be so unhappy here. If there’s anything I can do…” He trailed off as she lifted her face to meet his gaze, still sniffing.
“It’s okay Michael; you made Maria very happy when you were together, if anyone’s to blame for this it’s me. I’m not exactly a great role model.”
“No Amy, that’s not true.” The sheriff said, shaking his head and hugging her closer.
Michael nodded and added, feeling awkward. “I know Maria loved you Mrs. Deluca, she thought you were an amazing mom and I might not be the best judge, but I have to agree.”
“Thank you Michael.” Amy said, managing a shaky smile. “I just wish I knew what was going on with her; she used to tell me everything and now,” she gestured helplessly to the note before collapsing deeper into Jim, her shoulders beginning to shake once more.
“Well we can tell you some of what Maria’s been dealing with the past two years.” The sheriff said gently, his eyes darting to each of the teens before settling back on Amy’s face, which was shifting from sorrow to confusion.
“What are you talking about Jim?”
Michael sighed and sat down in the chair next to the couch, preparing himself for a long night. “He’s talking about us, about the secret that Maria found out two years ago, about why she’s probably safer in New York than she was here.”
“Well that was fun.” Kyle said sarcastically as they walked out of the house three hours later; three hours that contained more tears, disbelief, rage, and finally a kind of shocked acceptance that Michael was sure wouldn’t last. He could only hope that Amy would forgive the sheriff for his part in the deception, even if she never could forgive Michael.
A raging headache was pounding in his skull and there was nothing more he wanted to do than go home and collapse into bed, but telling Amy had made him realize that there was someone else who deserved to know, someone else who needed
to know if he was going to keep his promise of having no more deaths on his conscience.
“I think we should make one more stop, if that’s okay with you guys.” He said quietly as they got back in Isabel’s car, both of the others turning to look at him from the front seat with a mixture of curiosity and concern. “We should go see Brody at the UFO center; if he already broke through the warp once, he might do it again and without Max…”
He trailed off, seeing the light of understanding flicker in both of their gazes. “He could end up like Alex.” Kyle said grimly while Isabel flinched.
Michael nodded and leaned his head back on the seat as Isabel pulled away from the curb, wishing for a little healing juice of his own to soothe the pain drilling through his temples. He could fix bruises and a broken ankle, but a migraine of this proportion was a little out of his league, despite the recent honing of his powers. So instead he focused on breathing in and out, and on pushing every single moment of the past five weeks out of his head.
By the time they reached the UFO center, the pain had dulled from blinding to merely unbearable, and he had managed to mostly suppress thoughts of Maria and her mother and how his world had come crashing down even as he finally found the answers he had sought all his life. It was time to give someone else the answers they needed, and maybe help a man regain the life he had lost because of them and their past.
Brody was just finishing up a slideshow for the few tourists who came to town after summer and the Crash Festival, and Isabel managed to catch his eyes with her trademark smile and shoulder lift. Michael snorted and Kyle grinned, although there was a brief flash in his eyes of something that looked a lot like jealousy or possessiveness to Michael’s brotherly gaze. He frowned, but before he could speak Brody had approached them.
“Hello Isabel, are you here about Max?”
“No, not exactly. Could we talk to you? Somewhere private?” She asked, smiling winsomely.
“Of course, of course, we can use my office.” The man said brightly, his perpetual enthusiasm wearing on Michael’s nerves even as he knew that confirming the truth of alien existence would send that enthusiasm through the roof. His headache was already getting worse.
Brody sat at his desk and gestured to the two chairs in front of it. Michael let Isabel and Kyle take the seats and chose to lean against the wall behind them, next to the door in case things didn’t go so well and Brody tried to bolt or they had to get medical help. They hoped that telling him the truth would prevent the warp from damaging his mind, but in all honesty they had no clue what it would do to him.
“Do you remember a few months ago? When you told us about a man named Larek?” Isabel asked gently, and Michael tensed.
Brody frowned, “That name, how do I know that name?” He reached up and rubbed his temple, lines of pain appearing around his eyes as he muttered softly to himself for several moments before his voice grew loud enough for them to hear him clearly. “I, I had a gun and I threatened people.” He shook his head, voice rising frantically. “What did I do? That girl, that blond girl, she made me forget…” His head snapped up and his eyes locked with Isabel’s, voice uncharacteristically harsh. “What is going on?”
Michael straightened and held out his hand, palm up, concentrating until a glowing ball of light appeared above it. “Aliens are real; you’ve met quite a few. You really were abducted Brody, by an alien named Larek, and we’re here to tell you why.”
Brody stared wide-eyed at the hovering ball of energy before his eyes lifted to Michael’s and he collapsed back in his chair. “Holy crap.”
Michael’s lips quirked into a smile and he closed his hand, extinguishing the light. He might have said it with different words, but the other man had perfectly expressed his sentiments. Holy crap indeed.
Chapter Thirteen ~ Reconnecting
Liz gazed at the deep, midnight sky, a feeling of foreboding washing over her. There was a sense of electricity in the air that had nothing to do with her powers, and reminded her strongly of how she had felt in the cave as the four hybrids worked to activate the orbs. Fear swirled in her stomach in reaction to the building tension. Sleeping, dreaming
, had become a nerve wracking prospect ever since her encounter with Max’s orb and this was doing nothing to reassure her.
Shivering, she glanced down the beach and noticed a dark figure sitting in the sand, staring at the crashing purple waves. Isabel was the only person who had ever visited the dreamscape, and Ava had taught her how to put protections on her orb against hostile intruders, something they both felt was necessary after her last hijacked excursion.
She coated her hands in crackling strands of electricity, wondering at the effects of a battle in the subconscious, and approached the figure, stopping when she was just a few feet away. Before she could say anything, it started raining, torrents of warm water falling out of the imaginary sky, and the person turned towards her, a heartbroken face revealed to her questing eyes.
“Michael!” She gasped, dropping to her knees beside him and wrapping her arms around his broad frame, her normal reluctance to invade his personal space completely erased by the devastation in his warm sienna eyes. “What happened?!” Michael wasn’t the sort of person who broke down often, or ever. She hadn’t heard from Isabel in more than two months and only something horrible could have prompted this; visions of dead bodies all too similar to Alex were flying through her mind. “Is everyone okay?”
He was shaking and while he didn’t lean in to her embrace, he didn’t pull away either. “She left.” He finally said, his voice lost and broken. “I stayed for her and she left.”
“Maria?” Liz asked dumbly, wondering what could have driven her best friend to leave the man she had fought so hard to let her in to begin with.
“She didn’t want to be like us; she didn’t want to change.” He choked on the next words. “She didn’t want to be like me.”
The pain in his voice broke her heart. Someone else hadn’t taken Maria away from him; she hadn’t left because of his personality or a fight, but simply because of what he was, and for Michael…that would crush him. He was so sensitive about who he was and what he was; he craved acceptance even as he rejected it and this was the ultimate betrayal. Liz felt a surge of anger at her best friend and tamped it down. She didn’t know what had happened and it was Michael who needed her now.
“It’s not your fault, Michael. It’s her problem not yours.” She stated firmly, gripping his chin so he couldn’t look away from her. “If it was you, then I would have freaked out when I started changing but I didn’t.” He looked doubtful and her voice softened. “You did not chase her away. You did everything you could to make her happy; you gave up all of your hopes for seeing your home for her, if that wasn’t enough then there isn’t anything you could have done.”
He hadn’t tried to turn away so she let go of his chin and smiled, her arms still around him. “The rest of us are still here, we love you, and even if you wanted it, you’re never going to be alone again.” After that she fell silent, feeling a little nervous about her declaration no matter how true it was, and projecting all of the feelings of acceptance that she could, hoping that her words had penetrated his depression.
The rain changed as suddenly as it had begun, changing to a sprinkle of small warm droplets that fell on her upturned face. Michael pulled her into a breath-stealing hug before letting her go and shifting away from her slightly, his gaze moving to the ever-changing waves. He remained silent for a moment and she held her peace, giving him time to recover from his unusual display of emotions, something he didn’t have a lot of practice in.
“Thank you.” Was all he said when did finally speak, his fingers reaching out to rest on hers as the two of them watched the ocean in comfortable silence, until the sun rose and it was time to return to the real world.
Liz woke up with a smile on her lips, the peace she had felt sitting next to Michael still pervading her being. It had felt right having him there in her dreams, and she found herself hoping that he would come back, a hope she didn’t dare dwell too closely on.
Remembering why he was there in the first place brought an angry frown to her face and she decided she would actively seek someone else’s orb for the first time since her father. Isabel’s first to catch up on what was going on and find out what had happened from a more objective perspective, and then she and her best friend were due for a talk. For more reasons than just Michael.
A sudden clatter from the kitchen brought her to her feet and she grinned as she padded down the hallway. It seemed Ava had taken her up on her suggestion to start cooking.
The sight that greeted her amused eyes almost sent her to the floor with hysterics. All three pans and four bowls they owned were on the counter, plus half the food in the fridge. Ava’s hair was up in a loose ponytail that now had half the hair falling out of it and there was actual flour smeared across her left cheek. Her frantic blue eyes met Liz’s laughing brown ones and she wailed. “Pancakes are evil!”
Biting back her laughter so she didn’t stress her friend out even further, she walked around the counter and took the shaking glass bowl out of her hand, setting it down next to the sink. “What happened?” She asked calmly, leading Ava towards their new kitchen table and seating her in one of the four chairs.
“I wanted to surprise you with breakfast. I know you like pancakes and I asked Matt last night, and he said I should find a recipe, but all they needed was eggs and butter and milk and flour, and if you wanted something else you could add it in, and then you dropped the batter in the pan with some butter and flipped them and that was it, and I couldn’t find a recipe so I thought I would just try and then I dropped the eggs and I grabbed the wrong white stuff and it tastes wrong and I don’t know what to do!”
Liz added not needing to breathe to her mental list of alien abilities and wrapped an arm around Ava’s shoulder. “It’s okay. We’ll fix it and I’ll teach you how to make pancakes. We will also go buy you a cookbook; you can pick out any one you want. Okay?”
Ava nodded, grimacing as she reached up to wipe the flour off her face. “I look like a cornball.”
“Don’t worry; you’re still a badass chick from outer space, even if you do look adorable.” Liz said dryly as she stood and handed Ava a dishtowel. “I’ll wash, you dry.”
Pouting, Ava took the towel and started putting food back into the fridge as Liz piled dishes in the sink, both of them sidestepping the eggs on the floor with the ease of someone who worked in the food or beverage industry.
They finished cleaning in companionable silence, only the occasional teasing comment heard amidst the clatters and running water. Afterwards Liz got dressed, Ava got cleaned up and they left to go out for breakfast. It was their shopping day and besides Ava’s cookbook, they also needed to run some errands. Their day passed in relative harmony, ending with a very successful dinner by Ava before she had to leave for work.
Liz spent the night doing homework, still reveling in the fact that she was learning again, challenging herself. She and Isabel were taking certain similar classes, and before the months of silence, had planned on comparing notes to gain new perspectives, something she hoped they could still do. She had missed school a lot; something that most normal teenagers would consider grounds for committal to an asylum, but that didn’t change the fact that she just loved learning new things, discovering new ideas she had never considered before, and that she actually enjoyed the classroom environment. Yes, she had been learning a lot about her new powers and the alien world she had unwittingly entered, but that knowledge had all sorts of fears and dangers that her formal education did not.
She left the living room light on for Ava and went to bed, falling asleep rather quickly, her mind seeking Isabel’s before her eyes were fully closed.
The next day was Friday and they both worked that night, fully enjoying the excellent tips from the drunken college students who still had spending money from their parents. The period of broke desperation wouldn’t set in for another couple months, and a flirtatious smile and wink was all it took to pad their spending money. The two of them had finally convinced Matt to update the music in his ancient jukebox and the customers loved it.
The last drooling coed filed into a waiting cab and they locked the door with happy grins. It was the first weekend that Matt had let them work alone, and so far it was going wonderfully. No major incidents, great business, and happy customers.
“That guy totally wanted to take you home tonight.” Ava teased. Liz flushed and ignored her, scrubbing the counter diligently and refusing to think about the leather clad man from earlier who had easily reached Michael level hotness. “He was totally yummy and you know it.” Ava continued, bumping Liz’s hip with her own as she passed, not noticing the way Liz blanched as she realized what she had just thought. Had she really just called Michael hot? Not that he wasn’t; but she wasn’t supposed to think about him that way, was she?
Focusing on the conversation with Ava to distract herself, she rolled her eyes. “Yummy he was, but I’m not interested. His brother seemed to really like you though, even if he was a lot quieter than flirty boy.”
Ava giggled. “Maybe, but he was like twice my height! And they were both carrying way too much baggage, not to mention some weapons.” She said, tapping her nose to indicate the smell of metal, and oddly enough salt, they had both picked up on around the two men, who had only had so much opportunity to flirt because of the way Liz and Ava had wanted to keep an eye on them.
Moving to the jukebox, Ava slipped in a couple quarters and made a selection, looking over her shoulder at the brunette. “But enough talk about boys, let’s party!”
Liz groaned, her head rocking back as she closed her eyes in resignation. “Ava…”
“You know you like it.” The blond stated with a grin, turning the volume up with a wave of her hand as the strains of ‘Crazy Bitch’ filled the room.
Liz sighed inaudibly, but finally smiled and went back to cleaning, singing along just as loudly as Ava.
Since it was the first of their two busiest nights they had more cleaning to do. Not bothering with any more quarters, and after repeating ‘Crazy Bitch’ two more times, Ava waved her hand at the jukebox and altered it to play continuous, random tracks.
After a brief moment of whirring, the next song began. A moment later and Liz stopped mopping, her fingers white as they gripped the wooden handle, and her eyes sliding closed to hide her pain. ‘Well my girl’s in the next room, sometimes I wish she was you.’ “Please turn it off.” She managed to stammer out, unpleasantly surprised by how much the memories still hurt.
Ava obliged and then walked towards her, opening her mouth to speak when a sudden click at the door caused them both to turn.
All of the blood in Liz’s face drained out as someone stepped into the room, dark eyes locked on hers, sending her heart into her throat where it struggled to escape.
Ava glanced back and forth between them, the terror visible on Liz’s features freaking her out. “It’s your friend Liz; you knew they’d find you eventually.”
“No!” Liz snapped, her hand shaking as she raised it to point at the figure. “That isn’t my friend. My friend is dead, Tess killed him.”
Isabel stared at the rubble around her, broken bits of stone and crystal and other material, millions of memories destroyed in a single, thoughtless act. A minor loss compared to the rest of the devastation in their lives, but one that affected her all the same. Closing her eyes she concentrated intensely, bending the dream to her will. When she opened them again, the pod chamber surrounded her in all of its original glory. She smiled and trailed her fingers over the rough edges of the sack that had kept her safe for almost fifty years. Here in her dreams she could still see it as it had been, the only place she had ever felt close to her original mother, the elusive woman who had sent her millions of miles away to have another chance at life.
“I miss you mom. I don’t even know you, but I miss you. We’re doing okay, we finally know why we’re here and maybe, maybe someday we’ll see you again.” She said into the silence, blinking back tears. “Max, he’s not doing so well, and I don’t know what to do.”
Before she could continue, someone cleared their throat behind her and she whirled, hands raised defensively.
“I didn’t mean to interrupt you.” Liz said apologetically as she stepped out of the shadows.
Isabel dropped her hands and gave a weak laugh. “Only fair I guess, considering how many times I’ve interrupted your dreams.”
Liz smiled, seating herself on a large boulder. “You’re always welcome, even when you ignore me for weeks on end.”
It was Isabel’s turn to smile apologetically. “I’m sorry; it’s just been really hectic these past couple months. With the book and Max, and Maria, not to mention school…” She trailed off and chose a boulder for herself. “I’m sure you have lots of questions.”
Liz nodded. “Yes I do, but a specific one first. What happened with Maria? Michael…he visited my orb last night; he was upset and he said Maria left, but he didn’t explain what had happened.” She shrugged, a worry line appearing between her eyes. “I was hoping you could fill in the blanks.
“Normally that would surprise me,” Isabel said with a sigh, “But with everything that’s happened lately, well at least he’s reaching out, even if it isn’t to me.” The blonde straightened, her voice firming as she pushed her emotions aside to deal with later.
“We figured out about Earth and our abilities, and how Kyle and you are changing a little over two months ago. Maria, she freaked. At first she was upset that she was the only one not in the book, not changing, and then she realized she didn’t want to be and broke up with Michael.”
Liz frowned, but nodded slowly, she could understand Maria having that reaction, but one thing wasn’t clear to her. “What do you mean she was the only one not in the book? Do you mean the Destiny book?”
Isabel’s eyes widened, “Oh! I’m sorry, sometimes I forget you aren’t here, you have no idea what I’m talking about do you?”
Liz shook her head, smiling slightly, and biting down on the impulse to explain about Ava and just how much she did
know. It was Ava’s choice when she was to be revealed to the others, and she wasn’t ready for that yet.
“Michael and I can read the book now, and it changed. Max and Tess aren’t in there anymore; instead you and Kyle are, paired with Michael and I respectively.” Isabel explained, clasping her hands together to hide her nervousness and hoping that Liz took the news better than her best friend.
The brunette’s jaw dropped. She knew she was in Ava’s book, but she hadn’t really thought about what that might mean to the Roswellians book. Max was gone? Kyle
was in it? The pairings Isabel mentioned, that meant that they were the new foursquare, but what about Ava? Where did she fit in? Liz cleared her throat when she picked up on Isabel’s nerves and smiled shakily. “Well that’s interesting. How did Michael handle all of this?” She asked in a not so subtle bid to change the subject.
Isabel nodded, indicating her understanding, and moved on. “He didn’t take it well, became a hermit again, just going to work and school and reading that damn book. He only talked to us when we talked to him and never talked to Maria, who never talked to him either. She still talked to Kyle and I, wanted to be friends, but it was awkward.” Isabel admitted, smiling hesitantly at the other girl. “Then finally, about three weeks ago, she left a note for her mom and went to New York.”
The hybrid sighed, shaking her head. “Maybe it’s our fault for not trying harder to include her after she and Michael broke up, but ever since she left Michael’s been worse. It wasn’t until today that I actually saw him smile or start a conversation. I think I know why, now.” She said, managing a smile as she wondered deep inside what had
led her brother to go to Liz; if it was just friendship or if Michael had finally moved on to the girl she had always thought he liked, but ignored because of Max.
“It’s not your fault.” Liz said first as she mulled over everything Isabel had just told her, everything except the few tidbits she was choosing to repress at the moment. “I love my best friend, but I also know her, and she’s never been completely comfortable with the whole alien thing. Realizing that it wasn’t comfortable with her either would have been enough to send her packing, especially without me or…or Alex to help support her.” She finished, voice breaking slightly as she met the other girl’s gaze with a shared flash of grief.
“As for leaving Michael, I think, in her own strange way, she was trying to save him pain by leaving him free to find someone who would be okay with what he was, and with becoming what he was.” She shook her head and gave a half smile. “Not that he wanted someone else, but Maria tends to think she knows what’s best for everyone, regardless of their own opinions. Just another of her loveable quirks.”
Isabel laughed, strangely heartened to hear Liz talk about her best friend that way. It reassured her that Liz wasn’t going to be angry with them about Maria leaving; Michael wasn’t the only one with rejection issues. “You should also know that Amy and Brody both know the truth. Jim didn’t want to lie to Amy anymore now that they’re getting more serious, and Michael didn’t want to risk Brody being hurt.”
“How did Amy react?” Liz asked, wide-eyed. She understood telling Brody, and respected Michael all the more for why he had done it, but Amy, that was risking a nuclear explosion.
“About as well as you’d expect. She’s forgiven Jim now and they’re still dating, although not quite as intensely as before, but she goes out of her way to avoid the rest of us.”
That was about as Liz had expected, and she was glad that Amy hadn’t rejected the sheriff, after everything he’d been put through since helping them save Max; he’d earned a little happiness, they all had. “Well, that’s enough of the serious stuff, if there’s anything I need to know about Max you can tell me later. How’s college?” She asked, leaning forward with a bright smile and locking away thoughts of destiny and Michael to be dealt with later.
Giggling, Isabel leaned forward too, her voice taking on a conspiratorial tone. “Well the classes are fun, but the boys are simply hilarious…”
Two hours later Liz rested in her own dreamscape, still smiling. She found it odd that she got along better with Isabel now, when she was miles away and no longer dating her brother, than she ever did in Roswell. Odd, but definitely good. Letting her smile fade away, she steeled herself and sought out her best friend’s orb, far from its usual home.
Maria was sitting at the fountain where Liz had told her about future Max all those months ago, staring into the water and holding a guitar as she strummed the beginning chords of ‘Strange Attraction.’
Liz couldn’t help but smile as she watched, then walked over and sat down next to her.
Maria looked up, clearly startled, and then gave her a wan smile as the realization that this was more than just a dream settled in. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised; I knew you were changing.”
Liz nodded, but remained silent, studying her best friend for a few moments, noting the changes since she had last seen her. She looked worried and tired, more than she used to, but she also appeared happy and despite the hurt she had caused, Liz couldn’t help but be glad that the only best friend she had left was doing well. How could she blame Maria for wanting to escape? Wasn’t that what Liz had done? Maria was strong, but she needed people who understood her and with both Alex and Liz gone, it wasn’t surprising that she had finally realized the alien life wasn’t for her.
Maria shifted uncomfortably as Liz stared at her. “So, how’s life wherever you are?” She finally asked, breaking the silence if not the tension.
“I’m doing good; working, going to school, I even have a roommate.”
Maria smiled sadly. “We were supposed to be roommates in college. I’d be your eccentric bohemian friend who didn’t actually go to University just community college, and you were going to be my insanely smart bookish roommate who was going to save the world from cancer or something.”
“Or something.” Liz agreed, remembering the day she had supposedly saved the world and wondering just how much good she’d actually done, if any. “We were also supposed to have normal boyfriends, boring lives, and both still be in Roswell, toiling away in my parents’ diner. Nothing happened the way it was supposed to.”
“I guess not.” Maria said with a sigh. “You’re here about me leaving aren’t you?” At Liz’s nod, she grimaced. “I just couldn’t do it anymore. I’m not like you Liz, I don’t embrace the unknown. I might be considered the bold, loud one, but you’re the one with real courage, not me, and I’m not willing to give up all my normal, boring dreams.”
“None of your dreams are normal or boring.” Liz stated with a smile as she bumped her shoulder against Maria’s, happy to see a sparkle returning to her best friend’s eyes. “And I know how hard it was without me and Alex, I’m sorry.” She added softly, reaching out to take Maria’s hand. “Michael will be okay. I think, in a few months, you two should talk in a dream, work everything out.”
Maria nodded hesitantly. “I guess that would be okay. I didn’t mean to just leave him, but I couldn’t think of any other way to do it that would hurt him less.
Liz squeezed her hand. “It’s okay, you did hurt him, a lot, but he still has Isabel and Kyle and me, he’ll be alright.” Seeing the sadness flash over the blonde’s face, she decided she’d made her point and changed the subject. “Now who’s this friend of yours, and how’s New York?”
Several hours later and several states away, a brooding, teenaged alien stared at the chemistry homework in front of him, and smiled at the thought of the tiny brunette who was the only person he knew that people thought of when looking at complicated chemical formulas. Thinking about Liz helped him not
think about Maria, and with the brunette’s face in the book next to his he had plenty to think about.
Kyle hadn’t started changing yet, but he could tell from Liz’s dream that she had, and not only had she changed, but she had excellent control of her powers, probably better than his had been before these past few months, and he couldn’t help but wonder where’d she learned that control. Something to ask her the next time he visited her dreams, something he needed to know as a protector, and as a friend.
He wasn’t sure why he had sought her out, why it had been Liz who was privy to his loss of control instead of his sister or even Kyle; but that night, when his repression techniques stopped working, she had been the only one he was drawn to and somehow, inexplicably, he had found himself in her dream orb the moment he fell asleep, despite Isabel never leading him to it. He supposed it was only fair that she got to see him show weakness, considering how thoroughly he had invaded her personal thoughts when he stole her journal.
She amazed him. Then and now. Her reaction couldn’t be more opposite than Maria’s, even though she had personally experienced more betrayal and loss at their hands then anyone other than Alex. She accepted him, comforted him, no matter that her entire life had been destroyed. Max really was an idiot; he never should have chosen Tess over the brunette, no matter the provocation.
Thinking about Max drove away all sense of peace and happiness and he frowned, pushing away his textbook. Max must have found another alien to teach him about his powers, and the only aliens on Earth whose existence he was sure of were Nicholas, Rath, Lonnie, and Ava. The last choice was unlikely, but if Max had found, or been found by, any of the first three – Michael’s fists clenched in anger and frustration – that would be disastrous.
Ever since they used the orbs, confirmed the past Tess had been telling them of, Max had been different. It wasn’t immediately evident at first; he was still pining after Liz and rejecting all things alien, something Michael had understood and not pushed that summer because of what Max had gone through in the White Room, something Michael still felt guilt and rage over. But then Liz had come back, those stupid rumors about her sleeping with Kyle spread around, and Tess had become Max’s shadow.
Michael had watched helplessly as Max distanced himself more and more from everyone but the blonde girl, as he grew angrier and more controlling, his worst traits magnified and his best ones suppressed. When everything exploded – Alex’s death, Liz’s accusations, Tess’s pregnancy and betrayal – he had hoped that the devastation would be enough to snap Max out of whatever funk had come over him. Instead, he had gotten worse.
The Max of two years ago, no matter how impulsively he acted when he healed Liz, would never have held up a convenience store, would never have invaded his family’s dreams, and would never have sought out another alien, preferring to remain as human as possible. Whether it was Liz, Tess, or some other catalyst, something had irrevocably changed the boy he once called brother.
Now Michael just had to pray that Max didn’t figure out a way to break through his binding. He had already reinforced it once, but he could tell that Max had been actively fighting it and if he succeeded, Michael wasn’t sure what the other boy would do, or what he himself would be willing to do to protect the family he had left.
He looked up at the clock and groaned, then pulled the chemistry book back towards him and finished off the last few equations, anticipating another “Well Michael, look who got another A, see what happens when you try?”
In addition to his new academic status, the Parkers had begun to train him to be the official assistant manager, increasing his responsibilities and pay, and ensuring that he wouldn’t need to find another job when his government aid ended next month. His life had changed, and was still changing, on all fronts, and so had he, making him wonder what had happened to the angry teenaged alien who just wanted off this planet. Maybe he finally grew up.