Page 2 of 7
Posted: Sun Apr 13, 2003 10:32 am
Continued from last post
Racing down the highway, Tino kept one eye on the rearview mirror. Holy shit! he thought to himself. What the fuck was that?
It’s like he’d stumbled onto the headquarters of the fuckin’ Dark Side. And if that wasn’t The Force he’d seen, hovering green and ghostly over those people, he didn’t know what the hell it was.
He’d watched for a brief time from the woods, but he knew someone was close behind him; he’d heard the echo of his own steps—running, walking, stopping whenever he did. Then, just as he’d seen the General . . . the goddamned General! . . . pull a gun, and that freak kid somehow push it out of his hands without ever touching him, he knew he had to do something. Then he’d heard that noise behind him again, and he’d gone for broke, shooting into that green cloud thing.
He still wasn’t sure if his eyes were playing tricks on him—maybe it was just that weird light creating optical illusions—but it looked like that cloud just, well, just absorbed the bullet. And the next one bounced off, he could swear! He was so stunned by this that he didn’t realize how close the other guy was. The next thing he knew, he was on the ground, eating dirt with his arm wrenched behind his back. Whoever he was, he knew something about wrestling. Tino was painfully aware that the only thing that saved him was his assailant’s momentary distraction when people started shouting, and he was able to extract himself and run like hell. He still didn’t understand why no one was following him. Where the hell was that truck?
Distracted and nervous, he bore down on the gas pedal, suddenly desperate to get back to his room where he could work on his alibi and get a drink. God, he needed a drink. Lost in thought, he careened around a bend in the road, cursing out loud when he saw the police car lying in wait for drivers taking advantage of the wide, semi-deserted road. Immediately, the squad car pulled out, lights flashing. With one tweak of the siren, Tino pulled over. Arranging his face into a casual look of chagrin, he waited. And waited. And waited.
Finally, the officer emerged from the vehicle, slowly, one hand on his holster. Making eye contact through the driver’s outside mirror, he warily approached Tino’s car. Sweat broke out on Tino’s forehead, and his casual look of inquiry slipped into an uneven grimace.
“Could you step out of the vehicle, please?”
“Officer, I’m sorry, I know I was going a little fast . . .”
“Step out of the vehicle, sir.”
Tino reluctantly opened the car door, noting with nervousness the intent watchfulness of the policeman. Before both feet hit the ground, he was getting new instructions.
“Turn toward the vehicle, legs spread, hands on the roof.”
This was more than a traffic stop. He’d gotten tickets before, and he’d never had more than a scolding and a ticket. Following the instructions, he closed his eyes in barely contained frustration as the officer began to frisk him. He found Tino’s gun immediately and ripped it from his belt, drawing his own weapon in the process.
“Officer, I’m Major Tino Gibbs, assigned to the temporary base outside Roswell. That’s my legitimately issued sidearm.”
Tossing Tino’s gun out of reach, the officer unclipped the handcuffs from his belt and snapped one around Tino’s wrist, bending the arm behind him.
“Well, Major Tino Gibbs, your gun may or may not be legally registered, but for the moment, you’re under arrest for sexual assault.”
“You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can and will be used against you . . . .”
After finishing the required Miranda rights, the officer, limited to one hand since his gun occupied the other, barked orders that left Tino handcuffed and marching back toward the squad car. Once inside, Tino watched the officer pick up the discarded gun and slap an orange sticker on Tino’s car. Then he grabbed the keys, locked it up, and slid behind the wheel.
Words buried in static pierced the air in short bursts. Sitting in stunned silence in the back seat, Tino thought they felt exactly like gunshots.
Prominent Couple Dies in Unexplained Explosion--
Local Gaming Community Grieves
By Carol Schanche
The Press Staff Writer
Witnesses described this morning’s accident that killed Andrew and Susan Crawford, heirs to Atlantic City’s largest gaming empire, as explosive and horrifying. The crash occurred around 2:30 a.m. when the Crawfords’ car, northbound on I 295, exploded for no apparent reason. Debris was propelled across both northbound lanes and at least one southbound lane, causing police to temporarily close the highway for cleanup.
Andrew Crawford, 25, was the son of David Crawford, one of Atlantic City’s most successful gaming entrepreneurs. His wife, Susan, 23, was a teacher at Indiana Avenue Elementary School in Atlantic City. Their son, Alexander, age 9 months, is being cared for by family members.
David Crawford could not be reached for comment, but his brother, Bradley Crawford of Las Vegas, is quoted as saying that the family is heartbroken about the tragedy, and that they will be talking soon about what’s best for the Crawfords’ now-orphaned son. Sources say the little boy was adopted only three months previously, and that the young couple had been contemplating a move to a more family-friendly environment.
Although details are sketchy, there is reason to believe authorities are investigating foul play.
The atmosphere in the cabin was hushed and tense while its inhabitants waited for River Dog’s return. Kyle was sleeping, but his cool skin and shallow breathing was scaring his watchful friends and family. Max and Liz sat close by the bed, wrapped in each other’s arms and in their own little world of silent conversation and mutual concern. There had been some discussion about what, if anything, Max could do for Kyle now, but even if Max hadn’t been substantially weakened by the effort of repairing Kyle’s arm, he reminded them that he couldn’t make something from nothing. There was simply no way to create more blood.
Isabel and Jim were perched on either side of the bed, watching Kyle intently for signs of discomfort or . . . or worse. The parents milled about restlessly, still reeling from their first personal introduction to the kind of danger their children faced.
“What about that guy?” Michael worried. “We have no idea who he is or what he’ll tell when he gets back to town . . . if that’s even where he came from.”
General Christopher’s mouth twitched. “At this point, all we can hope for is that he’ll just sound like a crazy man. What I don’t understand is what he was doing here in the first place. How did he know to come here? How did he even find it?”
“You were followed. It’s the only explanation,” Michael stated abruptly. The unspoken accusation drew the General’s head up sharply.
“I was not followed, Mr. Guerin. I was very aware of what was going on behind me on that road.”
Michael scowled at him, but said nothing.
Maya walked across the room to Max and Liz and squeezed between them, uncharacteristically quiet.
“You okay?” Max asked, rubbing her arm lightly.
“I wanna go home.”
Liz looked up at Max and nodded, then glanced at Isabel. “We’ll have to reach the other kids without her,” Liz said. “She’ll be too traumatized to do it tonight, and we’ve got to get her home. It’s only fair. I think we can do it from a distance now, don’t you, Isabel?”
“I don’t think you even need me,” she said distractedly, eyes still on Kyle. “I’m not sure I had anything to do with your getting in last time. And you and Maya found each other without me the first time. I don’t see why you can’t just do that again.”
Maya squirmed, turning to look up at Liz. “We can do it, Liz,” she assured her friend. “I can find you easy, and I always see the others, too.” Her big eyes pleaded even before her words did. “But please, let me go home.”
Liz bent to give her a hug. “Okay, sweetheart. We’ll get you home. But we’ll miss you.”
Maya threw her arms around Liz’s neck and nodded under her chin. “Me, too.”
Then she turned to hug Max, eventually snuggling down into sleep. Max smiled at Liz, and she saw the sadness there. He’d grown very attached to Maya, and it was going to be hard on him to let her go.
“We’ll see her in our dreams,” Liz whispered over Maya’s head.
Max smiled briefly, then dropped a light kiss on Maya’s head, then Liz’s lips. One day, they would have a family to keep, for always.
“Jim, remember that time you called me into your office after our kitchen fire?”
Jim looked up at Diane, momentarily distracted from his son. “Yeah. I showed you the file on the Crashdown shooting.”
Diane nodded. “I remember you looked at me so intently and said, ‘Someone went over to her, put his hand over her, and healed her.’ When I realized you were talking about Max, I admit to thinking maybe your father’s mental illness was hereditary.”
“You went to the Sheriff’s office?” Max was shocked, panicking in spite of the fact that there was no longer a secret to keep.
His mother smiled sheepishly. “Well, he asked me to stop by, and I was still upset and confused by your refusal to explain how you put that fire out. And then there were those old home movies with the bird . . .”
Max forced himself to relax. The truth couldn’t hurt him now. He felt Liz squeeze his hand, and he squeezed back, grateful for the strength her presence brought him. “Yeah, that really threw me, Mom. When I saw that film clip, I could feel my heart in my throat. I watched myself heal that bird, and couldn’t believe my eyes. I didn’t even know I had powers then; it was just . . . instinctive. I didn’t know what to tell you, so I got mad,” he shrugged.
“I realize why, now,” she soothed him. “But at the time, I just wanted to shake the explanation out of you. I even questioned Isabel.”
Isabel shifted on the bed. “Funny, you never suspected me of anything. Only Max. Maybe because I wanted to tell you for so long; I was looking for an excuse to tell you the truth. But it always came down to keeping you safe. I guess Max and Michael were right after all, considering now that you know, your phones are tapped, you’re learning to act like spies, and you’ve been shot at. And it’s only the first week.”
Nervous chuckles greeted her all-too-accurate assessment. There could be no recriminations for this secret; the kids had been right all along.
Footsteps signaled River Dog’s arrival, and he headed straight for Kyle’s bed, a small box under his arm.
“There are a few more items in the truck. I need two of you to go get them.”
The General leapt to his feet, and Michael joined him, both partner and guard. A half-smile creased the General’s face, but he accepted Michael’s presence, and they took off at a jog.
For the next few minutes, there was only enough conversation to direct the effort to help Kyle. River Dog didn’t have everything a hospital would have had, so he was counting on some alien help to fill in the gaps. Several anxious minutes passed as they waited for the General and Michael to return. They were just getting worried when the two men arrived bearing the rest of the equipment and some astonishing news.
“We know who followed us,” Michael blurted. “It was a Major from the base.”
All eyes swung to General Christopher. He held a small object in his hand.
“He must’ve been suspicious of me for some reason. He planted a tracking device on the truck.”
“How do you know it was him?” Philip asked.
The General smiled. “Because I turned on the short wave in the truck. Major Tino Gibbs was arrested about a half hour ago on the road between here and Roswell.”
“Arrested?” Nancy asked. “Why?”
The General caught Philip’s eye, and his smile grew wider. “Sexual assault.”
Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2003 5:20 pm
Hello, my friends. If you're interested in the reason for the day-late posting, just check about 3 posts up. If you don't care, then read on! (Posted in two parts.)
As River Dog, Jim, and Isabel worked their medical and extraterrestrial magic on Kyle’s blood transfusion, the others returned to the porch, leaving Maya asleep on the other cot. The last hour had been nothing short of traumatic, and even if Kyle recovered as they hoped, they still had a big problem.
Sitting in the dark, the couples clung to each other, drawing some reassurance from the closeness. Amy sat alone, huddled and distracted, her mind clearly on the other side of the closed door. Slightly apart stood the General, now a tentative member of the group but still something of an outsider. Trust was something hard won, and although he’d made major inroads tonight, he was still too new, too unpredictable to be considered one of them.
Michael voiced the question uppermost in almost everyone’s mind. “What the hell do we do about Gibbs?”
“What do you think he saw?” asked Nancy.
“Plenty. More than enough to worry about,” Michael snorted.
“Maybe they won’t believe him,” Jeff ventured. “I mean, he’s not going to have much credibility given the rape charges and, with luck, murder charges, too.”
“They’ll believe him,” Max said quietly. He had Liz pressed closely against his chest, hanging onto her like a life preserver in a restless sea. When could they ever achieve the control they’d sought for so long?
“He’s still an Army Major entrusted with classified information about a legitimate search for aliens. Even if the police don’t believe him, his military colleagues will. Right, General?”
The General had been listening carefully, but started slightly when Max addressed him directly. He knew how tentative these remarkable people were bound to be with him; he’d been the enemy, after all. How could they know what he’d been thinking as he sat on the sidelines observing? How could they imagine how impressed he was with not only their abilities, but their restraint in dealing with potential danger. He’d seen firsthand how reluctant they were to harm anyone unnecessarily, how defensive their actions were until an offense was the only option left. How could they even imagine the shock of watching Max return an all-but-severed hand to its place, knowing what it would cost him? And how could they understand that he knew something of what it was to be the hunted, when all you really wanted was to be left alone. Vietnam had taught him that.
Now Max had turned to him, his question an invitation, a peace offering. He accepted it gladly.
“First of all, I’d appreciate it if everyone just called me Eric. Second, Max is right. If someone under my command came to me with a description, location, and eyewitness account like this, you bet I’d take him seriously. At least enough to investigate. Gibbs is not well liked, but he is considered a bulldog with his assignments. However, . . .”
The lift of his voice, followed by thoughtful silence, left the group expecting more.
“What?” Philip asked.
“His behavior has been very erratic lately. I’ve heard complaints about him through the grapevine, and I’ve observed incidents that could give credence to a charge of instability. He’s right on the edge, as that heinous rape proves. If there was just some way to push him over, it wouldn’t take much to convince people he’d just lost it. Then all his talk would just be considered ranting. Especially if I take that view publicly.”
There was a general shifting in the shadows on the porch. The implications of Eric’s words were more realistic than he knew.
”Are you thinking what I’m thinking?” Liz knew the answer before she asked the question.
“Definitely,” Max and Michael answered in unison.
“When Isabel is finished inside, we’ll talk to her,” Max stated.
A few seconds passed before the silence was again broken.
“Did I miss something?” Eric asked.
Michael snickered as Max answered him. “Let me explain the concept of ‘dreamwalking.’”
“I thought they’d be back by now,” Taylor frowned, stabbing at a slippery piece of sweet-and-sour pork with her chopsticks. Nate leaned over with his fork, pierced the meat, and fed it to her, grinning at her affronted look. Now that Gibbs was in custody, they both anticipated Nate would be released tomorrow, and even Hanson felt compelled to relax the rules for the evening. Taylor had brought Nate some Chinese take-out, and they were munching companionably.
“You know when I asked you to dinner, this isn’t what I had in mind.” He grabbed an egg roll and dipped it into the hot mustard.
“Are you kidding? Most men would love being served a dinner that the woman paid for. You’ve got it made!”
She stopped mid-bite when she saw his face.
His expression had gone dark, and Taylor set down her food.
“I’ll have it made when I’m out of here and Gibbs is convicted.”
He forced himself to relax when he saw her uncertain expression. This had been the hardest time of his life, and although he’d done his best to remain calm and composed, he’d never been so scared. The only good to come out of this whole thing was meeting Taylor. Oh, and maybe saving the lives of some pretty decent aliens. Not exactly a resumé-builder, but it gave him a good feeling. So did the woman sitting across from him, looking so concerned.
He offered his hand, palm up, on the table, and she smiled as she laid her own inside it, letting out the breath she’d been holding as his warm fingers wrapped around hers.
“And once I’m out, we’re having a real night on the town. I’ll even pay.” He smiled then, and the boyish young man emerged again, impish and fun.
Taylor’s own tension eased, and she withdrew her hand to resume eating.
“Would you like to meet them?” she asked, almost laughing when Nate choked a little on his mouthful of food.
“Well, I’d like to, and if I can convince Uncle Jeff to let me see Liz before they leave, maybe you could come. Besides, I’ll bet they’d like to thank you.”
Nate’s eyes were alive with excitement at the prospect. “We’ll see what Dad says when he gets back. I wonder how it went?”
He eyed his watch.
“I thought they’d be back by now.”
The moon had drifted quite a way in its practiced arc across the sky when River Dog and Isabel emerged from the cabin looking tired but calm.
“Kyle’s still unconscious, but his color is good and his breathing is regular,” River Dog announced. “Deputy Valenti is resting. I think they’ll both be fine.”
Amy rushed into the cabin past their surprised host, but he stepped aside with a gracious nod. Everyone knew how hard it had been for her to stay outside during the procedure, especially the other adults who had seen firsthand how close the two had become during the reading of the journal. Even Maria felt warmed by their obvious attachment. She knew what a good man Jim Valenti was, and could finally feel confident that his relationship with her mother was good for both of them. It was nice to see her mom happy again.
“Thank you,” Max said to River Dog, knowing how inadequate his thanks was for all the things River Dog had done for them in the last few days. “Isabel? Are you okay?”
Isabel slumped to a seat on the stairs. “Yeah, I’m just . . . tired, I guess.”
Diane rose and went to her daughter. “Are you sure that’s all it is, honey? Did everything really go okay in there?”
“Kyle will be fine. The Sheriff . . . I mean Deputy . . . will, too. It’s just . . . god, when will it all end? When will we ever find some peace?” Her chin trembled with restrained emotion. “Now we’ve got that Major telling everyone where we are and what he saw.”
She turned to Max, her level of agitation rising. “We’ve got to leave again. You know that, right? More running . . .”
The tears came, and Diane held her daughter, aching for her burdens . . . aching for all of them.
Max tightened his hold on Liz, consciously feeling the warmth of her back against his chest, the fullness of her hips against his thighs. She was the softness and strength from which he drew his comfort. Thank God for her; how would he survive this without her?
Her answering rush of reassurance and mutual need soothed the rough edges of his frayed nerves just like the tide washing away the churned sand of a busy beach, and he bent to kiss her head. They had to hold it together. They simply had no choice.
“Yeah?” How lost she sounded.
“Wanna do something about Gibbs?”
She raised her head from her mother’s shoulder. “Like what?”
“Eric thinks Gibbs is right on the edge now. How would you like to give him a little push?”
The General handed Isabel a piece of paper from which an unsettling face glared menacingly. Eric had some talent with pencil sketches, having befriended a courtroom artist who’d been drafted during the Vietnam War and assigned to the same platoon. The artist had found an eager student in Eric, and it had been a hobby of his ever since. When Max had explained Isabel’s ability to dreamwalk and lamented their lack of a picture of Gibbs to help her, Eric had surprised them all by supplying a detailed drawing. Now Isabel stared at the sketch, and a smile crept slowly across her face. The silhouette of her head turned toward Max. It was dark, but he knew from her tone of voice that a small spark had returned to her eyes.
“How about a big push?”
The Las Vegas airport was humming as David Crawford stepped into the terminal, checking signs for directions to baggage claim. Alex squirmed in his arms. The noxious fumes emanating from his diaper assured them plenty of “personal space,” and David again doubted the wisdom of bringing Alex out here personally. In the end, he’d been convinced to come himself, if only to give the appearance of being the caring grandfather. Those closest to him knew that since his wife, Connie, had died from an allergic reaction to penicillin before routine surgery, he had lost himself in his work, even to the point where his son, daughter-in-law, and newly adopted grandson, Alex, had been held at arm’s length. He had little rapport with the fussy bundle he carried, and the little dickens could sense it.
On the upside, this trip gave him the chance to check progress on the new family enterprise—the Oasis Hotel and Casino just outside Vegas. His brother, Bradley, was serving as point man on the project, and David’s daughter, Serena, was attending the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, in business administration while she learned the gaming business from the ground up. Living with her Uncle Brad and Aunt Megan, she was being primed for the fast track, and was doing well in school. David had seen her the week before at Andrew’s and Susan’s funerals, but things between them had felt stilted and awkward. Although greatly relieved when Brad and Megan offered to take Alex until the family decided what to do on a permanent basis, he was nervous about his reception.
Spotting Serena’s face in the crowd near the luggage carousel, he pasted on a smile, settled Alex against his shoulder, and made his way toward her.
“Hi, Dad,” she smile tentatively. Then the smile turned warm and genuine. “Hello, sweet Alex,” she crooned, reaching for him in a natural motion. Wrinkling her nose with a laugh, she arched an eyebrow at her father. “Did you forget spare diapers?” she teased, and he felt the chill between them start to thaw.
“No, I’ve got a couple in my briefcase,” he answered with embarrassment, but have you ever been in the bathroom of an airplane? You can even turn around! And nobody wanted me doing it in the seat, believe me. The flight was full.”
“Your briefcase?” she laughed. “Why didn’t you take the company jet?”
David shrugged. “I sent Glen on a vendor-hopping trip looking for new game tables and slots. Business is good, but that means things wear out fast. Gotta keep one step ahead of the competition, right?”
Serena nodded distractedly as she got Alex giggling with tiny kisses around his neck. David grabbed his small suitcase and Alex’s two large ones, secured them to a cart, and followed Serena toward the cabstand. He watched Alex’s enthused communication with his Aunt Serena and shook his head. Their bond was a mystery to him, but it helped assuage his guilt to know that Alex would be getting that kind of loving attention. Lord knew he wasn’t capable of it. Not any more.
They piled into a waiting cab and settled back.
“So, how’s the Oasis coming along? Hiring yet?”
At that moment, Alex spit up on Serena’s shoulder. David winced, but Serena took it in stride.
“Oh, sweetheart, the airplane ride was hard on you, wasn’t it?” She matter-of-factly began to wipe them both off, leaving her father’s questions unanswered. David leaned back in the seat and sighed. One of his burdens was being handled, at least.
Everything had turned to crap so quickly, his head was spinning. Now he was confined to a tiny jail cell while aliens were practicing their damned witchcraft or voodoo or whatever the hell it was out on the Mesalika Reservation. He’d tried to tell the cops, but they weren’t taking him seriously. In fact, the guy taking his fingerprints had been a real prick, offering to send him videos of My Favorite Martian when he was locked away in the state mental hospital.
He’d been accused of rape! Rape? He’d paid that tramp good money for a 5-minute fuck. It’s not like she was a goddamned vestal virgin. He’d be out tomorrow for sure, and then that bitch would be sorry she ever messed with Major Tino Gibbs. It was her word against his; who was gonna believe that whoring slut?
Fighting back his frustration, he threw himself down on the hard cot. The sounds of drunken belches and angry punks shouting idle threats set his nerves on edge. How was he supposed to get any sleep?
“Shut the fuck up!” he yelled at his invisible companions. His request was met with equally crude suggestions, and he buried his head under the flat, lumpy pillow.
Eventually, the lights were flipped off, leaving only an eerie glow from the emergency lighting and the echo of footsteps as the guard checked each cell. The din of unrest quieted, and the Major fell into a restless sleep.
He was back at the reservation, watching the people in the green cloud huddling together in fear. From the sky came a brilliant light, followed by hundreds of focused, intense lights, all swirling with energy and color. As each light receded, it deposited a creature with scaled tentacles and a dinosaur-like head. Then, before his eyes, two of the humans turned into the same horrifying form, and the creatures descended en masse on the remaining humans, tearing the flesh away from their bones amidst shrieks of pain and terror.
Then one of the creatures swung its ungainly body in his direction, seemingly spying him among the trees and brush. Undulating on its thick tentacles, it froze him with its eyes and covered the distance between them with astonishing speed. As it reached him, the head became human again, a maniacal look on its morphed features, and it hissed, “The human race is doomed.” Then the head reverted to its dinosaur form, and the wide mouth, lined with razor-sharp teeth, descended toward him.
The screams pierced the quiet of the jail, awakening every inmate and bringing three angry guards running.
“They’re coming! They’re coming!” Gibbs screamed in high-pitched terror.
“What the hell are you screaming about?” demanded one alarmed guard.
“Those aliens! They turn into these creatures, like a big octopus only with dinosaur heads, and they have these teeth . . .”
As he recited the details of his dream, he recognized how it all sounded—like he was crazy. He tried to stop talking, but with each frantic breath, another incoherent phrase would spill out, purging itself from his disrupted subconscious. Even his scattered, breathless apologies only enhanced the sense that this man had become psychotic. He heard himself, knew what he sounded like, and yet he couldn’t make himself stop. Part of him watched as another part of him self-destructed. It was that first part that heard one of the guards say, “Call an ambulance. This guy’s gotta go to County.”
continued in next post
Posted: Mon Apr 21, 2003 5:22 pm
Part 24 continued
“Bye, Dad,” Liz whispered, hoarse with emotion. “Don’t forget the favor I asked you about, okay?”
“Not for anything, honey.” He squeezed her hard, then pushed her away from him determinedly. “Keep in touch, promise?”
“I promise,” she choked, turning into her mother’s arms.
Max was working through a similar parting from his parents. Isabel had said goodbye at the cabin so she could keep an eye on Kyle, even though River Dog had also promised to watch him. Jim had been reluctant to leave his son, in spite of River Dog’s and Max’s assurances that he just needed rest, but it was clear to everyone—including Jim—that he couldn’t stay. His absence in Roswell tomorrow would have been noticed, and they couldn’t afford that now.
Maria also bid an emotional farewell to her mother, who surprised Michael with a hug, admonishing him to take care of her little girl. He seemed awkwardly pleased at her kiss on the cheek, even giving her a brief squeeze before she climbed into the truck.
Eddie had walked back to the cave with the families just to make sure they found their way in the almost complete darkness of the woods, but stood aside as the painful goodbyes continued. The emotion of separation was not lost on him, and he began to make detailed plans for returning Maya to her parents. He had always understood how worried they were and how they missed their daughter, but the scene before him made him appreciate it all the more. It was past time for Maya to go home.
Eric spent the time finishing the minor repairs under the hood, then hoisted himself into the driver’s seat and started the engine, grimacing with the memory of the last time he’d performed that same innocent act. Then the truck started down the path and faded from view. The two couples followed Eddie slowly back toward the cabin, talking quietly in subdued recognition that it was time to move on.
“I had hoped to try reaching the other children tonight, just to see if we could do it without Isabel, but I’d expected to have Maya with us,” Liz mused. “If we’re going to leave, this is our last chance to get her direct help.”
“Well, if Izzie’s right, we don’t need either of them. Maya should be able to find you while she’s sleeping. Maybe this is the best experiment, after all. Sydney should be there now, and we know Samuel is. That just leaves the three boys from the hospital.”
Liz slipped her arm around Max’s waist; his arm had been holding her protectively around the shoulders since they’d left the cave. He knew what it cost her to say goodbye to her parents, and he wanted to be there for her. Being with him would have to be enough for now, but it was unfair that it had to be.
“Will you stop that?” she sighed with exasperation.
“Sorry,” he grinned. Man, this ability to read each other’s thoughts would be hard to get used to.
“Anyway, I think you’re right. Let’s try as soon as we get back. And then, Max . . .?” She looked up at him, and although her face was obscured in darkness, he could feel himself stirring in response to her unasked question. Yes, they would find a way to be alone tonight.
River Dog was waiting for them on the porch.
“Everything okay?” Max asked at once.
“Yes,” River Dog nodded. “Isabel finished the dreamwalk—I think it amused her, in fact—and then she drifted off in the chair next to Kyle’s bed. Maya hasn’t awakened at all.”
“I’m beat,” Maria said. “Can we just crash on the sleeping bags on the floor?”
“Sure,” Michael agreed, equally aware of Maria’s sad mood. “Whatever you want.”
She smiled at him gratefully, and they slipped quietly inside the cabin.
“What about you two?” River Dog asked.
Max squeezed Liz’s shoulder. Apparently, luck was with them. “We’ll go back to the cave to sleep, but first we want to try to reach the other kids on the dream plane. We have to find out if we need either Isabel or Maya to help.”
River Dog led the way inside. A lantern burning dimly in the corner provided just enough light to make their way through a maze of beds and bodies. Maria and Michael were already settling down, spooned together as closely as they could manage. Reaching Maya’s cot, Liz gently nudged the little body closer to one side and laid down next to her. Max knelt at the bedside where he could keep a hold of Liz’s hand. They were ready to try this on their own, but close enough to reach for Maya should they need her.
Liz closed her eyes and felt herself sink into a state of deep relaxation. Max’s presence was with her, comforting and safe. It didn’t take long this time to emerge into the dream plane where the familiar streaks of light danced and flitted in a spectacular game of tag. Or was it Quidditch, as Maya had suggested? Liz looked up at Max to see him staring in amused amazement as the lights dove toward them and then darted away again. Liz could recognize Maya and Samuel now, though she couldn’t have explained how. It was only a sense of them, as if their personalities somehow permeated the light and made themselves known to her.
“There’s Samuel,” Max pointed, confirming Liz’s own feeling of recognition.
“I think that’s Sidney.” Liz indicated another of the playful lights, and Max nodded his agreement. “And there’s Maya.”
After several minutes of watching them at play, Liz tried calling to them with her mind, hoping they would assemble and she and Max could meet the boys they hadn’t yet contacted. They hadn’t heard from Brody yet about who these boys were, but surely the boys themselves would be able to tell them something.
The lights floated toward them, then descended into a circle. Maya materialized in her chosen place between Max and Liz. Sidney appeared next to Liz, and Samuel next to Max. The remaining children were slower to materialize, hovering around the others, waiting.
“It’s okay,” Maya assured them. “It’s Max and Liz. Max is the one who cured your cancer, and Liz is his wife.” She beamed up at them then, proud of her position of privilege in the circle.
One by one, the boys took form, warily eyeing Max and Liz, but obviously reassured by the ease with which their companions interacted with them.
“I’m so glad to see you,” Max began gently. “What are your names?”
“I’m Patrick,” said the tallest boy. “This is my brother, Scott.”
Max and Liz looked at each other in surprise. Brothers? Those parents had two children hospitalized with cancer? The nightmare that family had endured stunned them both, and they stared at each other, then the boys, for a long moment.
“And you?” Max asked the smallest child. “What’s your name?”
“Miguel,” he said timidly.
“I’m glad you’re here,” Max told them. “We’ve spent some time with Maya and Sidney, and have learned that some unusual things have started to happen to them. We think maybe it’s because of the healing when you were in the hospital, so we wanted to talk to you, too.”
“You know,” Liz inserted conversationally, “Max healed me once, too. So I’ve experienced some changes as well. I want you to know that it’s okay; it’s nothing bad. Have any of you had anything weird happen, like maybe some lights flickering in your hands? Anything like that?”
The boys exchanged nervous looks; whether it was nervousness about the possibility of their hands lighting up or reluctance to tell anyone, they couldn’t tell. Finally, the smallest boy spoke up, unexpected tears welling up in his huge brown eyes.
“I did,” he sniffed, trying to look brave. “It started a few days ago, so I’ve been playing in my room so no one will see. I thought maybe . . . maybe I was dying . . . again.”
It was as if someone had slapped them, hard. This sweet child thought he was facing death for the second time in his young life. How could one so young cope with such an overwhelming fear? Max looked horrified; Liz swallowed through the ache in her throat and spoke as normally as she could.
“Miguel, I’m sorry that you’ve been so frightened, but you’re not dying. In fact, soon you’ll discover that there are wonderful new things you can do. We don’t even know what all they might be yet.”
Miguel nodded, clearly not sure if this was the whole truth. Still, his tears stopped, and his little mouth tensed with determined control.
“What about you two?” Max had gotten himself together, and only Liz could detect the slight trembling in his voice.
Scott shook his head, but Patrick threw him a reproving glance. “Scott and I share a room, and he has had some of that hand thing. He even cries sometimes. But I haven’t had anything. What’s wrong with him?”
Now the scolding look had turned into genuine brotherly concern. The trauma these children had lived with was unthinkable, and Max hurried to relieve—he hoped—their fears.
Crouching now, so he wouldn’t look so intimidating, he tried to explain. “Here’s the thing, guys. When I came to the hospital and healed you, I was using some . . . unusual abilities. I honestly had no idea it would cause any changes like this. But my wife has been helping us understand about the changes, and now we know that they won’t hurt you. Once you get past this first part, the flickering hands, that energy will be directed to a whole new purpose.
“With Liz, it’s seeing things that will happen in the future. My sister can see people’s dreams, and I can heal people who are hurt or sick. You see? They’re good things, and they won’t hurt you. But what’s really really important is, you can’t let other people see.”
“Why not?” asked Patrick.
“Because other people won’t understand. They might be afraid of you or think something’s wrong with you, even though there’s not, and if that happens, you might not be able to do all the things you do now, like go to school or play with friends.”
Liz could tell that Max was trying to make this sink in without scaring them too much. The consequences of their sharing these new abilities could be much worse than he described, but as long as they were convinced, that’s all that mattered.
Scott spoke for the first time, a tremulous voice betraying his fear. “What if I can’t help it?”
This secret, only days old, had already taken its toll on the little boy. Liz could feel Max’s anguish over the after-effects of what he’d done.
They wouldn’t be here at all without you, Max.
He looked up at her sharply, and his shoulders and face relaxed in response.
“Tell you what. I’ll come here every night, if I can, at least for a while. If you have questions, or get scared, or just want to talk about it, we’ll all talk together, okay?”
“Does that include me?”
No one had seen him approach, and their mouths gaped in surprise.
“Apparently getting healed twice accelerates the process,” he said dryly. “Wonder if I’ll wake up supercharged.”
Liz couldn’t help but smile. When you stopped to think about it, Kyle was handling this whole thing with grace and aplomb. At that thought, Max turned to her with a grin. How she loved slipping in those “SAT words.”
“What’s so funny?” objected Kyle.
Max turned to the children, suppressing a chuckle. “This is Kyle, a friend of mine who was also healed. Twice, as he just mentioned. Just remember, you’re not alone, and we’ll all be here for each other. But for now, what do you have to remember?”
“No telling anyone,” Maya answered with an air of importance.
“Not even our parents?” Patrick asked.
“Not anyone, except us, okay?”
There were nods, some eager, some unsure, but unanimous, at least.
Max looked at the quietest of the children. “Samuel? You haven’t said anything. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah. I’m just wondering why my hands don’t spark.”
“I think, Samuel, it’s because you’re special. Your brain works a little differently than the other children. Maybe it was able to route that energy into a more useful place right away. You found this dream plane sooner than the others, right?”
Samuel nodded, somewhat heartened by this idea.
Max turned back to the group. “It seems like the older you were when I healed you, the longer it takes to see the change, probably because you’re not growing and changing as fast as a younger person. Patrick, you haven’t seen anything yet, but you probably will eventually. Meanwhile, will you help look after your brother?”
Patrick nodded solemnly.
“Miguel, will you come back tomorrow night? And we’ll talk about this some more?”
Miguel was looking somewhat relieved, though he was still tense and watchful. “Yes,” he answered stiffly.
“Okay, then, everyone can go back to playing. Sidney, you’re looking happier. Are you enjoying it here?”
Sydney nodded her head vigorously and grinned.
“Kyle, you want to play, too?” Max teased his friend.
Kyle was not amused, however, which only made Max start to laugh, and Liz joined in, giggling in spite of herself.
With that, Liz and Max withdrew, waking inside the cabin. Orienting themselves in the dark, they clasped hands, feeling buoyed by what they’d accomplished. As Liz sat up, Isabel whispered loudly from the bed across the way.
“Come quick! Kyle’s awake!”
“God, I need you tonight.”
Back in the cave at last, Max wrapped his arms around his wife, pressing his lips to her forehead for a long moment, relieved to be alone with her again. They would never stop missing the frequent contact with their parents, but in the end, all they really needed was each other. A lot had been resolved tonight—relationships with parents and in-laws, trust between the aliens and General Christopher, a bond among the children who’d been healed, and hopefully even the threat posed by Major Gibbs. And thankfully, Kyle was fine, though mildly annoyed at having experienced yet another alien adventure. But a lot was still unresolved—Nate’s release, where to go next, how to impress a cautious nature on the healed children, Zan.
“Shhhh,” Liz soothed. “Let your mind stop spinning for a minute.” She brought her lips up to meet his. “I need you, too.”
There was invitation and promise in her voice, and Max felt the thrill shoot through him. It happened every time. Her voice did magical things to him; whether it was the sound alone or the knowledge of what lay beneath it, it had always sent a hum scurrying along his veins and straight to his heart. That wonderful feeling, that sense of coming alive made his heart leap . . . along with other interested parts of him.
Just like dominos, each reaction triggered the next, until they found themselves on the cave floor, cushioned by blankets and desire. Unwilling to give in to urgency, they reveled in the luxury of time and privacy. Max’s warm lips nibbled, sucked, and kissed their way from sensitive lobe to pulsing neck, while he whispered tender words with his mind. Liz sighed beneath his touch, recognizing the warm, melting sensation that always accompanied his loving. She had no idea if this sensation was human, alien, or simply Max, but she never wanted to live without it.
She lifted her head slightly, craving the taste that always went with the feeling, a matched set that made her head spin and her heart pound. He met her eagerly, sweeping into her mouth with a craving of his own. She smiled against his mouth and he pulled back, returning her smile with a quirk of curiosity. With a quick kiss to her nose, he asked, “What’s so funny?”
“Nothing,” she lied. At his arched eyebrow, she laughed out loud. “I just never had you pegged for a Michael Bolton kind of guy.”
“Michael Bolton? Uh, no, not really. Why?”
“Because I distinctly heard a ‘said I loved you but I lied’ run through your mind.”
It was Max’s turn to laugh. He cupped one side of her face, eyes filled with humor at first, then with sincerity. “Well, I don’t think I even knew that was Michael Bolton, but that line was sort of running around up there. I’ve said ‘I love you’ a thousand times, Liz, but the line that I keep remembering is, ‘This is more than love I feel inside.’ I know it sounds hokey, but that’s how you make me feel, like what I feel for you doesn’t even have a word. I need you with me, loving me, to be whole. Without you, I’d only exist, incomplete, half a man.”
Liz’s hand stroked the soft curls at the nape of his neck, wanting, as she did so often, to truly be a part of him, to crawl right inside and live there, protected and protecting. Her throat was tight with emotion, but she needed to share with him how his words affected her.
“We are a part of each other, Max. That will never change. I can’t be me without you, and what’s more, I don’t want to be. You told me once that the day you told me your secret was the day your life began. Well, mine, too. The Liz Parker that existed before you became a part of my life was just a vessel, on hold, waiting for you to fill it and bring it meaning. You may think I’m independent and strong and frustrating . . .” She watched him smile through eyes filled with love. “. . . and I am.” The smile broadened. “But it’s loving you that’s given those parts of me direction and purpose.”
She kissed him again, so happy to have him to herself. “Remember when the minister said ‘Where there were two, now there is one’?”
He smiled, warmed by the memory of that day and still awed by the miracle that the love of his life was also now his wife. “How could I forget?”
“Our hearts have been one for so long. Our minds are one now, too. That just leaves . . .”
Max pulled back to see her face, electrified by the desire in her eyes. It was a less than subtle hint. In fact, not even a hint, since they were halfway there already. But he loved to hear her say it, to tell him that she wanted him as much as he wanted her. He could never get enough of her, and sometimes he felt that he was always the aggressor, always pushing for just one more taste of her, one more chance to lose himself in her body. He knew—more than ever, now that he could “feel” her thoughts—that she was a willing and eager partner, but when she asked him to make love to her, the whole experience took on a heightened edge.
“Aren’t you exhausted?” he teased, wanting her to say it straight out. He was more than aware that they were, indeed, exhausted, but he also knew the need he felt—his and hers—to take refuge in each other’s bodies.
“Make love to me, Max.”
His mouth covered hers in a gentle kiss, no less urgent for its softness. Sometimes it was the sweeter kisses that allowed him to lose himself not just in her body, but in the sense of her—that cushion of love and safety that saved him every day, a buffer against the harsh realities of his life . . . and hers.
Their nonverbal communication was devoid of conscious thought, only emotions that flowed in and around them, kneading the tension and problems away, warm lips and eager hands just an accompaniment to the music of their shared love.
“I love you,” they whispered in unison, and as he slipped into her, the world held them in a perfect moment.
Posted: Sun Apr 27, 2003 8:31 am
Hi, everyone! I hope spring has finally reached your corner of the world!
Well, I have a few comments before this week's chapter is posted. First, a couple of responses to f/b:
Yes, I'm easing Zan/Alex into the story (a few of you still seem unsure that Zan IS Alex, but yes, he is, of course). I'm sorry if it's a little confusing. The Zan story is the thrust of the rest of Chameleon, althought M/L are always my center. There are still a few surprises in store! All will become clear as we go along. Just know this: Zan/Alex is not and never will be Max's son!!!!
You have given me a most awesome compliment. The fact that you, a full-fledged Dreamer (as am I), find yourself caring about characters that you only know from this story is so important to me. It gives me hope that I could try my hand at a non-Roswell story, and people would still read it. Thank you so much.
You crack me up! That list of questions, "Will so-and-so do such-and-such?" made me think of the ending of each episode of the tv comedy Soap.
It was a totally absurd comedy with a great cast, and each ep ended with a narrator asking this long list of soapish questions like that. LOL! And as the narrator (falsely) promised each week: "All will be answered in the next episode of Chameleon."
Now a special acknowledgement:
Many of you have heard me say that I'm an editor of journals for English teachers. Every day, I read for consistency and clarity. Well, I've met a Chameleon reader who ought
to be an editor! Gigo
has sent me two pms in the last day. She's rereading Chameleon (bless her heart!) and has noticed two major inconsistencies. One had been pointed out to me before; the other is a humdinger that no one's ever noticed, least of all me. I've tried to fix the file, which is archived, but to no avail. I've got a pm out to Kath for help, and I'm not going to tell you what it was because if you didn't notice, so much the better for me! But thanks for the close and careful read, Gigo
. Good job.
Okay, here we go! I wanted to cover SO much in this next chapter, and it was getting too long, so if you think I've overlooked some folks or plot threads, I haven't (I don't think). They just wouldn't all fit! So behr with me until next week. Meanwhile, for those who have complained about the dearth of nookie, I wrote the opening scene just for you. Mind you, our timeline has been moving really slowly. In point of fact, these two have been going at it like bunnies, but you don't realize it because it can be a couple of weeks between scenes. So here's a little something to tide you over!
In two posts, as usual--
The hazy dawn had given way to a brilliantly sun-drenched morning, and its insistent rays crept determinedly into Max's reluctant eyes. He breathed in the cool air and it filled his lungs, a pleasant contrast to the warmth that filled his arms. Spooned comfortably against his wife, he felt the welcome weight of her breast resting easily in his palm, and he indulged the urge to press against it, letting the memories of the night before flood his mind. She stirred beneath his touch, unconsciously pressing back. He felt the nipple harden and ran a thumb over it, smiling to himself as it reached for him.
She wriggled, pushing her hips back against him. It had little effect, since he'd awakened already hard for her, as he usually did. But they rarely had a chance to act on it, and he wondered if she would find his fantasy disturbing or provocative. As if in answer, her hips snuggled closer yet, nestling him still deeper in the warmth of her intimate crease. He swallowed his gasp as the jolt of this unexpected touch shot through him.
He suddenly visualized taking her like this, encouraged all the more by the sensation of dampness seeping back toward him. Just as suddenly, he clamped down on the images. He couldn't take her while she slept. Whatever was between them had to be mutual. She was his wife, his partner, not his property.
It is mutual.
Oh god! At first, he felt panic. She'd heard his thoughts! He was a disgusting lout. A crude horndog. A . . . then her response sunk in. It is mutual.
"Liz? Are you awake?" His voice shook-uncertainty and excitement sharing the same uncontrollable tremors.
In answer, Liz shifted, parting her legs in invitation, covering his breast-filled hand with her own. He bent to kiss her neck and felt the shivers scurry through her; he stopped to suck her sensitive earlobe, and the shiver turned to a shudder. Her reactions fanned the flames igniting within him, and he trembled with the effort to control his most primal instincts. She lifted his arm from its resting place beneath her head, bending it at the elbow and bringing the fingers to her lips, where she took them into her mouth one at a time, pushing against sweet resistance, then pulling against slow, strong suction.
They both felt his cock leap at the metaphor, and his hand left her breast to find her other lips, equally wet, equally ready to take him in. He pushed gently, and she opened to him with a faint mewling sound, and he knew what her face looked like at that moment. He’d seen it so many times—eyes half-closed, teeth biting into her lower lip, a look of utter concentration on her face. He loved it when she was focused completely on the sensations his loving triggered. Being the center of her world was exactly where he wanted to be.
His fingers went first, stroking her, penetrating her, sliding along the slick crevices. He felt her desire building, and it filled him with awe and need. Following her folds back toward his eager tip, he touched himself briefly and cried out, surprising and embarrassing himself, but he felt her thrill to the sound, and the jolt urged him on. She was ready. He led himself forward again, then plunged home with a desperate thrust.
One hand braced on her hips, the other on her breast, he came to her over and over, electrified by the newness of taking her this way and amazed by her impassioned reaction. She shifted forward to her knees, inviting him closer, deeper, and his fingers reached in front of her again, seeking her stiff nub, circling and stroking until she burst around him, drawing his own climax from deep within him.
With no conscious thought, they collapsed onto the rumpled blankets. Max covered Liz, broad chest to slender back, waiting for the solid cave walls to stop their improbable spinning. Soon Max became conscious of their harsh breaths echoing back to them from those same walls—now blessedly stationary--and realized he had allowed his weight to press full force against Liz’s tiny form. He pushed himself off with an appalled apology, but she only turned with a sexy smile shining from a crown of mussed hair.
“You are the sexiest man alive.”
Max’s mouth fell open, embarrassed, pleased, amazed. “You’re okay?” he asked, the faint crease in his brow at war with the sparkle in his eye.
Liz rolled to her back, stretching in long, naked luxury while he feasted his eyes. “Better than okay, Max. I’ve been thoroughly loved by the man of my dreams. I don’t think it gets any better than this.”
He was still gaping at her, absorbing her beauty, her strength, and her bold and sassy flirting. She rolled toward him and opened her mouth against his. After a second’s hesitation, he responded, already feeling his desire returning—until the unwelcome whirr of a car engine penetrated their haze.
“Car!” he whispered frantically. The two jumped up, pulled on their clothes, and peeked out from the protected crevice near the entrance. A dark blue Honda pulled up, and a flash of red hair rose above the opening door.
“Brody’s here,” Max announced unnecessarily.
The two lovers emerged from the cave, ready to meet the day’s first challenge.
Alex was having a hard time adjusting to his new time zone, Megan Crawford concluded, staring down at her wide-eyed great-nephew who clearly had no idea it was 4 a.m. Megan had never had children, and she had always considered that one of the regrets of her life. At the moment, however, it was hitting her as a pretty sound life choice.
He began to gnaw ferociously at his fist, the universal baby sign for “If you don’t feed me immediately, no one else will sleep, either.” She gathered him up and plodded toward the kitchen.
“I’m too old for this,” she informed him, juggling his squirming body and trying to program the microwave at the same time. He hadn’t come with instructions, and she was unnerved to discover that being thrust into the role of mother did not automatically instill well-developed maternal instincts. Well, maybe that was because she wasn’t a mother, and didn’t intend to be one now. That train had left the station a long time ago.
At first, she and Brad had just assumed they would have a family, but when two years of trying failed to result in a pregnancy, they both went in for tests. She knew Brad had assumed the problem was with her, but ultimately, it was a matter of sperm count. Brad had wrapped his bruised ego in a thin façade of “probably for the best,” and thrown himself into work—an already innate family trait. Her one attempt at discussing adoption had unleashed a painful tirade about human grab bags, and she’d never brought it up again. She’d compensated well, though, and she told herself every day that she liked her life as it was. Maybe it had been for the best after all.
Her thoughts shattered abruptly when Alex decided another universal baby sign was in order—screaming. Apparently, even microwaves were too slow. Wearily handing him a rock-hard piece of Melba toast to keep his mouth occupied, she settled him into the high chair and began to stir the oatmeal. A quick count of his teeth had forced her to come up with gum-able foods, but she hadn’t hit on any favorites yet.
The Melba toast hit the floor, followed immediately by more violent wails than before. Serena shuffled in and patted him on the head, yawning.
“Hey, little man. Can’t you sleep?”
Her aunt threw her a pointed glare. “Good guess. What are you doing up?”
“I heard him fussing and thought maybe I could help.”
“You don’t know any more about babies than I do,” she reminded her niece. “Go back to bed.”
Serena had grabbed a banana from the fruit bowl and broken a few pieces in front of her ravenous nephew. “There ya go,” she soothed. The room fell silent, save for the sticky smacking of a contented baby. Megan looked at her niece in surprise.
“How did . . .?”
Serena shrugged. “Everybody likes bananas,” she said simply.
By the time the banana had disappeared, the oatmeal was ready, but Alex’s restlessness began to reassert itself. Stiff, jerky movements, clues to his impending cries, became wilder with each rejected bite.
“Just eat a few bites,” Megan begged, feeling slightly desperate.
“Let me try,” Serena offered.
Megan gratefully abandoned her seat in front of the high chair and slid into another, reaching immediately for the hot coffee Serena had started. She watched as Serena went to the cupboard and pulled out the honey. Drizzling a few drops on the oatmeal, she was soon having trouble keeping up with Alex’s baby-bird appetite.
“Serena, did you do a lot of babysitting growing up?”
“Some, I guess.”
“You seem to know a lot about babies.”
“A little. Mostly, it’s just a matter of putting yourself in their shoes . . . so to speak.”
Megan watched them for a moment.
“So, are you going to be around next week? Or is there a lot happening on campus?”
“Nothing big on campus, really, but I promised Uncle Brad I’d help out with the hiring. We’re starting to get applications from those Internet ads we were running, and the paper’s gonna run them this weekend. Why? You need me for something?”
Megan sighed. “Just wondered if you’d be around to help with Alex. I don’t know how long we’ll have him, but I’m sure it’ll be at least a week.”
Serena looked sidelong at her aunt. It was likely to be a lot longer than a week. Her dad had no intention to taking Alex back East, especially if there was a chance someone had purposely killed her brother and Susan. Alex was safer here.
Her heart squeezed painfully at the thought. She couldn’t believe they were gone. She’d loved her brother, and been so excited when they’d gotten the baby. It was like a gift from God. Learning quickly that Andrew suffered from low sperm count, too, the young couple hadn’t hesitated to seek adoption alternatives, and right or wrong, having money didn’t hurt. They had Alex two months later. She’d been out to see them twice since they’d gotten him, and she knew Alex would’ve had a great life with them.
“Why Alex, do you think?”
“I expected Andrew to name the baby for his father or grandfather, or even Susan’s dad, but Alex? We don’t have any Alexes.”
“Oh. Well, his middle name is James, for Grandpa, of course. But they got him through a private adoption, and the people who knew where he came from called him Zan. We all thought that was weird, but when he came to Andrew and Susan, they decided that Zan must’ve been short for Alexander, and they thought it suited him, so they went with Alex. Alexander James Crawford. I like it, don’t you?”
Megan smiled sleepily. “Umm-hmm.”
“Go back to bed, Aunt Megan. I’ve got him.”
Megan peered gratefully through droopy eyes, and nodded. “Thanks.”
With breakfast done, Serena lifted Alex from his high chair and snuggled him close. “I’ll take care of you,” she promised, cuddling him in the crook of her arm. “Don’t you worry.”
And his trusting smile told her he wasn’t worried at all.
He had slept with her all through the night. Only slept. She hadn’t asked him to, but she hadn’t resisted, either, when he led her to bed and then laid down beside her, holding her until the small tremors that shook her from time to time finally faded into sleep. The trauma of bringing rape charges against Tino Gibbs had been unnerving, exhausting, and by some perverse trick of society, humiliating. She had leaned on him for support, clutching his hand like a life preserver, and faltering anew every time a male officer with a glint of doubt in his eye asked her another question.
Once the official charges had been drawn up, a female officer had come to take her for a medical exam, although it was understood that a rape—or any level of sexual activity—would not leave identifiable traces after two days. Still, it had to be done, and he had waited for her, holding her fast when she rushed to him at the end.
With a protector’s fervor, he made his case to Sheriff Hanson, pleading with him to let her wait until morning to be questioned. Whether it was his impassioned plea or her fragile state that tipped the scales, the Sheriff agreed, extracting a promise from Tyler to bring her back first thing in the morning with all the clothing she’d worn on the night in question.
When he’d taken her back to her trailer and coaxed some scrambled eggs and milk down her reluctant throat, she slept, and he had lain there, ready and willing to absorb some of her pain. He couldn’t say for sure if he had managed it, but perhaps so, because the morning found him feeling much worse and Star much better. Guilt was plaguing Tyler for putting her through this; determination had won Star’s battle. Now they were back at police headquarters, ready to face her punishment for being the victim—the inquiry.
Tyler pulled into a back corner of the parking lot, hoping to give Star as much privacy as could be had in such a public place. He hurried around to open her door, and she smiled warmly at him. He knew she appreciated being treated like a lady, and he knew, too, that how she saw herself would factor into this interview.
He steered her toward a side door—another attempt at privacy—when it was flung open by the shoulder of a hefty deputy whose hands had an orange-clad prisoner firmly under control, one hand on his cuffed wrists at his back and the other on his shoulder. A second deputy followed close behind. Tyler pulled Star to one side to let them pass when the prisoner raised his head, a scowl etched tightly on his face.
The strangled gasp beside him prompted him to look more closely at the prisoner. They were face to face with Tino Gibbs. Before he could react, Gibbs lunged at them, a feral growl leaping across the distance between them.
You fucking whore! Look what you’ve done! I paid good money for that fuck and now you cry rape? I gave you twice what it was worth, you painted piece of shit!”
Tyler yanked Star backwards as the deputies regained control. Gibbs was almost purple with rage, his eyes bugging out of his face like a demented toad. Star was trembling, but Tyler felt her draw herself up to face her attacker.
“He paid you?” one deputy asked with a frown. That didn’t sound like rape.
Star dismissed the question, focused solely on the object of her loathing. “It was rape, you sorry son of a bitch, though if I had been a prostitute, I would’ve had to give you a discount, considering how fast it went.”
A suppressed smirk crossed the deputy’s face, but soon faded when his prisoner went berserk.
“Don’t you play games with me, you pathetic slut! I’ll be out of here in no time, and then you’ll be sorry. You messed with the wrong guy this time!”
“You’ll never see the light of day again,” she said quietly. “Not with what you did to Deloris.”
“Who?” He paused long enough to squint in confusion.
“My friend from the roadhouse. My dead
He snorted derisively. “Birds of a feather, eh? She played games with me, too, and she lost
. Just remember that, bitch.”
Hanson had appeared in the doorway, and with that the deputies renewed their efforts to get Gibbs into a squad car for transport to the county mental health facility. Hanson laid a hand on the nearest one’s shoulder, though, and gave his head a slight shake. Let him talk,
Tyler saw the exchange and frowned at the Sheriff. Star was putting up a brave front, but this guy was intimidating and dangerous, and she could fall apart at any minute. But his look of protest was met with a meaningful stare, and as Gibbs continued to yell, he understood.
“She thought she could play hard to get, telling me ‘no visitors tonight.’” He laughed a humorless laugh. “Like I’d wanna fuck that used up piece of ass. All I wanted was to find that punk-ass lieutenant she’d fucked and the bitch wouldn’t let me in.”
“So she was alive when you got there?”
Gibbs whirled around to see Hanson standing there, peering at him intently.
“No! Uh, yeah. Well, at first . . . the first time. But then I went back . . .”
The story began to twist around him, like a living noose, and the rage-blotched face drained to a ghostly white.
“She was dead when I got there. I mean earlier, she didn’t let me in. Then when I went back she was dead.”
“But earlier, she was at the roadhouse. There are lots of witnesses.”
“We saw you at the roadhouse, Major,” Tyler reminded him. “We told you where she lived. You called the police only a half hour later.”
Gibbs was sputtering now, filling in imagined details and desperate explanations.
“She was alive at first, but wouldn’t let me in. She came after me! I pushed her. It was self-defense!”
“How’d you get in?”
“She let me in . . .”
“Then why was the door kicked in?”
“How the hell do I know? Probably Lt. Christopher . . .”
“But his shoes are clean. Yours have wood splinters and blood . . .”
“I was protecting my country!
” He was screaming now, the blood back in his face, sweat forming on his brow. “That kid went over to the aliens’ side! He’s helping them, and I can prove it. His father’s in it with him. I saw them all, out at the reservation . . . I shot at them but the bullets bounced off the green cloud, and one of them made stuff fly around without touchin’ it, and . . .”
“Forget county, fellas,” Hanson said. “Put him in isolation til we figure out if he goes to state for holding or if he’s bound for a criminally insane facility. Either way, he’s gonna be up on murder charges.”
Gibbs had fallen to his knees, openly weeping and muttering under his breath.
As the deputies pulled him upright again, Star got in the last punch. “It was rape, you miserable loser, and this time it’s you
who messed with the wrong gal.”
Tyler looked in amazement between Star, standing strong in a way she’d never done before, and the miserable creature who used to be his commanding officer. It was a picture of justice unlike any other, and he knew the image would never leave him as long as he lived.
continued in next post
Posted: Sun Apr 27, 2003 8:33 am
Part 25 continued
“There you are!” Maria called. “We were beginning to wonder if we’d ever see you again.”
“Why, what time is it?” asked Liz.
“9:30.” Isabel stood from the steps, almost losing her balance when Maya raced by to greet her favorite couple. She leapt confidently into Max’s waiting arms, beaming down at Liz from her high perch.
“I’m going home today!”
“I know, little one,” Liz smiled back. “We’re so happy for you. And we’ll still see you in your dreams, right?”
Maya nodded enthusiastically, eyes bright with excitement.
“An’ the lights in my hands is all gone. But look!”
Her hand hovered in the general direction of a series of pinecones balanced on the porch rail. As she flicked her wrist, they fell to the ground, one by one.
“Whoa!” Max breathed, “looks like you’ll be Michael’s protégé, then, huh?”
Maya giggled. “Can’t blow stuff up,” she admitted, “but maybe . . .”
“Maya,” Michael reminded her from the porch, “what did we say?”
Maria looked at Michael, suddenly the protective father figure. It suited him, she thought, and a little thrill of expectation rushed through her.
“I know,” she frowned impatiently. “I can’t show anyone. I won’t. I’ll just practice when I’m alone.”
“If everyone was waiting, why didn’t you guys come get us?” Max asked casually as they strolled toward the fruit basket on the porch.
Kyle and Michael exchanged a meaningful look, but said nothing.
“Because we know better . . . now,” Maria quipped.
Liz and Max peered at her, confused. “What does that mean?” Liz asked her friend, reaching for an apple.
More silence. Then, “Let’s just say, we’ve tried that. It’s generally not a great idea.”
Their befuddled looks persisted for a few seconds, then Liz’s eyes began to widen followed immediately by Max’s horrified look. They glanced at Maria, then each other, then Maria, then the ground, as new shades of red rose quickly up their necks, into their faces, and back to their ears.
Desperate to put an end to this disgusting conversation about her brother’s sex life, Isabel walked toward their guest with a slightly crazed smile on her face. “Brody! Hi. How’s Sidney?”
“Much better now,” he announced happily. “Your little talk the other night, and her visit into the dream plane with Maya, really helped. She’s sleeping well and waking up happy.”
“That’s great!” Liz smiled. “Did you find out anything about the other boys? You probably know that we met them in the dream plane last night.”
“Yeah. Sidney told me this morning. I hear you were there,” Brody said to Kyle. Everyone but Max and Liz jerked around in surprise. Kyle hadn’t said a thing.
Kyle grimaced. “I was hoping to keep that to myself for awhile. You know, til I get used to the idea.” He looked at Max and Liz for help, but they just grinned at him.
“It was just a matter of time,” Liz shrugged. “Welcome to my world.”
Kyle’s mouth twitched, whether with amusement or irritation was anyone’s guess, but Brody dismissed it and continued his report.
“Two are brothers, as you know, Patrick and Scott Morgan. They live over in Tatum. Their dad’s a trucker, and their mom runs a salon out of her home. Miguel is one of 7 children, and he lives all the way over in Capitan.”
Michael expressed everyone’s surprise. “Capitan? What was he doing in a Phoenix hospital?”
“It’s pretty desolate out that way. There’s a small hospital about 30 miles from there, but it can’t deal with cancer patients, especially children. Fact is, Phoenix is the only hospital that takes pediatric cancer patients for more than a day or two.”
His statement met with an awkward silence. If anyone would know about who took care of those desperately sick children, he would. He’d almost lost his daughter, a loss none of them could truly imagine. Brody saw their expressions and shook his head.
“No, don’t go getting all maudlin on me. I have my child back, and so do several other families, thanks to you, Max. There’s no need for sadness. Not for me, at least.”
Max smiled his gratitude and pushed the conversation back to its original purpose.
“Okay, so we know where everyone is. The question is, how do we keep contact? I mean, we can talk to them in the dreams, but what about their families? Can they really keep something like that from their parents?”
Isabel caught her brother’s eye. “We did,” she said quietly.
He nodded grimly. “And look what happened. Our mother knew we were keeping secrets, our father hired an investigator, your marriage almost fell apart, and the Parkers forbid me to see Liz. Other than that, it went really well.”
An uncomfortable silence settled over the group, and Liz reached for Max. His hand clamped around hers, then relaxed as he beat back the turmoil of recent memories. That was behind them. It was all out in the open now, and their families were still there, stronger than ever.
“I had a thought,” Brody suggested. “There’s nothing suspicious about a support group. What if I started one for the kids who were healed that day? We wouldn’t have to worry about other people wanting to join because these are the only children who’ve been healed like that. And if we met regularly—it wouldn’t be that often because of the distance, especially for Miguel, but maybe 3 or 4 times a year—we would get to know each other. You know, build a sort of trust. Then I could talk separately with the kids, see if they were having any sort of problem, and also gauge whether the parents were suspicious or not. Eventually, maybe some of them could be told. What do you think?”
As he finished, every eye was on him, a variety of expressions visible on their faces.
“Good thinking, man.”
“That’s brilliant,” Max said, genuinely impressed. “Are you sure you wouldn’t mind? It puts a lot of pressure on you.”
Brody smiled, pleased with the reaction but embarrassed by the praise. “Let’s see, Max. Aliens saved my life by curing my cancer. They saved my daughter’s life by curing her cancer. So, short of having the best employee I’ve ever had quit because he’s an alien, I don’t really have much to complain about, do I? It’ll be quite some time before the scale is balanced, I think.”
Max nodded and clasped Brody’s hand. “Thank you, my friend.”
They shared a quiet moment filled with respect and friendship. Then Brody turned to leave.
“Wait!” Eddie suddenly stood. “Can we catch a ride back to the Mesalika gift shop? I loaned my car to my brother, and I need to get Maya home.”
“Absolutely. Come on.”
At Eddie’s words, though, Max and Liz both tensed. They had known it would be hard to say goodbye to the little girl who had pulled them back to Roswell. Because of her, they had been able to reach the other children Max healed, and hopefully had laid the foundation for offering long-term help. And quite inadvertently, she had led them to a new relationship with their parents. How could they say goodbye?
Maya must have sensed their sadness. She left Eddie’s side and walked to them, her lower lip quivering ever so slightly. Without a word, Max swept her up and held her to him, reaching with his free arm to pull Liz into their impromptu hug. The three stood quietly, letting imperceptible squeezes, gentle nuzzles, and small, throaty sounds convey their sense of loss at the parting.
Finally, Maya lifted her head and looked from Liz to Max. “I think you should tell her the secret, Max,” she said with a surprising maturity of tone. “Maybe it will help.”
Max’s eyes widened. Sometimes she seemed older than her years. He’d already told Liz their “secret,” but Maya didn’t know that, and he melted under her encouraging gaze.
Nodding in silent assent, he looked at Liz, who had heard Max’s thoughts and met his look with equal solemnity.
“Liz, I told Maya that you were incredibly special to me, and that I hoped one day, we would have a little girl just like her.”
He found the words difficult to say. Not only was he attached to Maya, but he was unsure if his future with Liz held children. They had seen one dark-haired child in a shared vision, and he wanted to believe that was a glimpse of the future, but he also knew he’d have to be a lot more confident about their compatibility before he took that chance with her.
A sheen of tears left Liz’s eyes bright with emotion. “We will,” she told her husband and the little girl in his arms.
“But not exactly like me,” Maya continued seriously. “A little different, ‘cause I don’t want you to forget me.”
At this, Liz’s tears spilled onto her cheeks. “Never,” she whispered, pushing up to kiss Maya’s perfect cheek.
“We’ll never forget you,” Max murmured through an aching throat.
“If I could have two mommies and daddies, I’d want you,” she said very quietly, as if she were afraid her real parents would hear her. She threw an arm around each neck and hugged with vice-like power, then shimmied from Max’s arms and returned to Eddie. “I’m ready.”
With a final glance over her shoulder, she allowed herself to be led toward the woods behind Brody. When her small form had disappeared down the path, Liz turned into Max’s chest with a small anguished sound, and they held each other.
“We’ll see her tonight, in the dream,” he reminded her, and her head bobbed in acknowledgment.
“I know,” came her muffled words. “I just hope someday, all these things we’re hoping for can be more than dreams.”
Around the porch, their friends watched the poignant scene, and felt themselves agreeing—each with a different definition of the dream cradled in the secret places of their hearts.
Posted: Sun May 04, 2003 7:25 pm
Sorry it's later in the day than usual, folks.
I've had a hectic week and actually needed this afternoon to finish writing. Remember how I said I was trying to get to much into last week's chapter that it got too long? Well, this could've been split again
, but I didn't do it, so you've got 20 freakin' pages to read! You might need more than one sitting.
Just a couple quick notes:
You're having trouble with the archived chapters? Sounds like a buffer problem since you can open it, but can only read 6 chapters. Tell ya what: e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
and I will send you individual chapters. If I gang them, they'll zip and you might have buffer problems again. Let's give that a try. Thanks for reading!
I absolutely cannot BELIEVE you read this all at once from the beginning. I would have sworn that was outright impossible! I am extremely impressed. And thanks!
Hi, hon! You asked if you saw Gabaldon's influence? The answer is "you betcha!" I am always impressed with her descriptive powers and her talent for sarastic narrative. I've been working to incorporate some of that. Plus her vocabulary boggles the mind. I've started making a list of great words she uses! Nice to know you noticed!
Okay, here we go--in two posts (what a surprise, huh?).
“How’d you like to get outta here?”
Nate sat up like a shot, swiveling his head toward the cell door.
“As a judge. And there’s already somebody here to take you home. It’s not every lawyer that gives this level of service,” the Sheriff grinned.
Taylor? He thought his dad was coming as soon as he and Philip Evans had cleared up any paperwork. Feeling oddly giddy, he bent to put on his shoes. He even endured Hanson’s amused smirk as he tucked in his shirt and ran a comb through his hair. Turning to leave, he suddenly backtracked to the tiny sink and took a swig of the generic mouthwash provided to prisoners. Finally determining he’d done his best, he followed Hanson down the hall to the release station.
Taylor smiled at him through the glass as they carefully itemized the few belongings held during his imprisonment, and then the door buzzed and opened. His freedom was only a step away.
“Hey, soldier. Need a ride?”
It felt different looking at her now. He wasn’t the accused waiting for her advice or the prisoner subject to the indignities of a criminal environment. He was a lieutenant in the U.S. Army, and he was her equal. At least professionally. Personally, though, she was still in charge. Because now that worrying about life in prison wasn’t using all his brain capacity, he realized that sometime in the last week, he’d fallen for her--hook, line, and sinker.
Catching her flirtatious spirit, he looked at her speculatively. “Well, I’ll have to take all offers under advisement. How do I know yours is the best one?”
Her green eyes sparkled beneath a vibrant crown of red hair. “Because mine includes dinner. Although, you’ll have to spring for it. All that’s free is the company.”
He glanced at his watch. “It’s only 1 p.m.”
“Then I guess we’ll have to keep ourselves busy til dinner.”
He couldn’t stop the grin that lit his face at her implication, and he felt his stomach doing little back-flips. This was more than he could have hoped for; they were going to spend the whole day together.
“Does my dad know you’re here? I think he was planning to come over.”
“He’s the one who called me, actually. He said he had some important things to take care of redirecting the investigation on the base. He hoped you’d understand.”
Nate had no doubt that his father had his hands full, but he couldn’t help but wonder if he was doing a little matchmaking, too. His dad liked Taylor, and it was quite possible he’d been able to tell that Nate liked her, too. A lot. He thought his dad had mellowed over the years; at least he hoped so. Maybe they could work on that father-son relationship after all.
“Well, I suppose you’ll do,” he teased, offering his hand to her. She huffed at him, but took his hand, and they left the building. Nate stopped to turn his face to the sky, feeling the tension drain away as the sun enfolded him in a warm cocoon. He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, absorbing every energizing ray, but he knew it was long enough when he felt a soft hand squeeze his fingers gently.
“Shall we go to the park?” she suggested quietly.
The spell broken, he grimaced, abashed. “Sorry. It’s just feels like a long time since . . .”
“No apologies. I understand.”
He felt suddenly euphoric. The clean air, the bright sun, this lovely woman glowing with life. And freedom.
“The park, it is. Right after we go to my place.”
Seeing her eyebrows leap in surprise, he realized how that sounded. “I desperately need a shower and a change of clothes. Will you come with me? I’ll only be a few minutes.”
She relaxed again and nodded. Then, with no forethought whatsoever, he leaned over and kissed her. It was brief and light and more exciting than any kiss he’d ever experienced. When his lips left hers, he looked at her, as completely surprised as she was. The uncertainty in his eyes was met with a gleam of anticipation in hers. Their first kiss. He hoped there would be many, many more.
“So, we need to decide what our next step’s gonna be.”
Her comment, appropriate to the group at large, was met with a wave of amusement from Max. Then his thoughts carried him away, and the smile went from amused to thoroughly content. He looked at her furtively, the memories of that night and so many since simmering between them.
Pleased that she’d induced the desired effect, Liz took their shared memories and expanded them, adding images of the what-ifs and almosts and maybe somedays with a decidedly erotic flavor. She almost laughed out loud when the innocent smile left his face to be replaced with a semi-panicked look and a strangled croak.
“You okay, Max?” Isabel asked, eyeing him warily.
“Ye . . .” He swallowed and tried again. “Yeah, fine. Any sodas left?”
Kyle reached into the ice chest and threw Max a Cherry Coke, watching with confusion as he held it to his face instead of opening it up. Why was he glaring at Liz?
“Well, we had a plan when we left the first time,” Michael began, oblivious to the subtle interaction taking place under his nose. “I say we go with that. Hit Vegas, find jobs, and try to blend for a while. Besides, it’ll give us some time to find some balance, figure out what normal looks like.”
Balance. Normal. Everything seemed to be taking Max and Liz on a walk down memory lane. Calling a telepathic truce, Liz scooted over to settle next to Max, and they began to focus in earnest on the group discussion.
“What about you, Kyle?” Liz asked cautiously. She knew how alone he’d been feeling, and how lost—no tangible goals, no one to call his own, no idea what his future looked like. “Are you coming? Or would you rather try to go back to Roswell?”
Kyle sighed wearily, pushing thumb and forefinger against squinted eyes. The time for debate was over; he had to make a decision.
“Yeah, I’m coming. The way I figure it is, the Army will have no one to focus on but me, if I go back. Besides, that nutcase Gibbs could finger me as part of the weird stuff he saw out here, and it would make his story all the more credible. And what if they start testing me
? Now that it looks like my powers are starting to materialize, who knows what they’d find? Besides, who’s gonna help me figure out how they work besides you guys? The fact is—as much as it pains me to admit it—you all are my family now, the only ones who know me anymore, besides my dad. And for that matter, he doesn’t need me complicating things, either. He’s got his hands full putting his own life back together.”
His head came up from where he’d been staring at his hands as he talked. Yes, lost. That’s how he looked. His next words just underscored the effect.
“Does anyone object? I mean, if I’m gonna just get in the way or cramp your style or something . . .”
“We’re glad you’re coming, Kyle,” Max said sincerely. “You’re one of us. It’s the right decision.”
Maria left Michael’s arms and sat beside Kyle. They’d never been especially close, but that needed to change. He needed friends, maybe even more than the rest of them who had someone to share the burden with. Even Isabel had someone, since she’d found a way to see Jesse through her dreamwalking.
“I know what it’s like, Kyle, to not be sure which side of this to come down on, even though I seem to be the only person in a 20-mile radius without
powers. But we’re here for you. All of us.”
Kyle looked mildly surprised by her statement, but embarrassment-tinged gratitude eased his pinched face nonetheless.
“Well, what do I have to go back to, even if it were safe? There’s got to be more out there somewhere, right? Something more than Roswell, New Mexico.”
Something flickered in Maria’s eyes. Then, with a glance at Michael who was giving her a surprised half-smile of his own, she threw her arms around Kyle’s neck and squeezed hard.
“What’s that for?” he choked, clawing at her arms.
She released him with a grin. “For showing me we have more in common than you’ll ever know.”
He followed her movements with bewilderment as she rose to give Michael a similar hug, though her boyfriend was much more receptive. Michael even kissed her briefly—a rare public display. Looking over at Max and Liz, Kyle was relieved to see their bemused expressions. Apparently, he wasn’t the only one who didn’t know what the hell was going on.
Max shrugged and tried again to return to the subject at hand. “So, Vegas. Okay, Liz? Do you still have those printouts about that casino that was advertising for staff? Oasis, I think it was called?”
“Yeah. They’re with my stuff in the van, but this place is new and needs all kinds of help. I think we all want to stay together, right? So if this place needs staff for a whole hotel and casino, it seems like that’s where we should start. If we pool our resources, we might be able to get a big apartment, or even a couple of small ones . . .” She snuck a glance at Max, feeling keenly his hope for a place of their own, but he kept his eyes averted, afraid to give away too much. The good of the group had to come first—as usual, he thought bitterly, then chastised himself for being selfish.
“They’ll need landscapers, pool maintenance, restaurant help, maids, desk clerks, activities coordinators, security, casino personnel. I guess there’s no point in aiming higher right now. With high school educations . . .”
She tried not to sound regretful, but they all knew she and Max and Isabel had planned on college degrees. They were having to adjust their thinking about that . . . for now, at least . . . and the disappointment was readily apparent on all three faces.
"Don't worry, Liz," Maria soothed. "Once we get settled, I'm sure you'll find a way to start college classes. There must be colleges in Vegas, right?" She looked around uncertainly, wondering if the gambling capital of the world was keen on higher education.
"Of course there are," Max smiled. Then, giving Liz a light squeeze, he said, "We'll find a way, Liz."
"I know." She turned smiling eyes to him. "Everything will work out. I know it will." Her thoughts came to him, and he realized she wasn't just talking about college. She was talking about their lives, education, children, safety, careers . . . even their own relationship. And what touched him most was that she believed it. Her
faith gave him faith. It really would work out.
The signs that Max and Liz were having a sublingual conversation were becoming recognizable to the rest of the group, so they waited somewhat impatiently for their friends to rejoin the verbal conversation the rest of them were trying to have.
"A-HEM!" Kyle interrupted loudly. "Can we get on with this?"
Startled back to the present, the couple nodded apologetically. Liz reached for the pad of paper she'd brought, and Michael rolled his eyes at the neatly drawn columns she'd already prepared. Max just grinned at his friend. Michael wasn't fooling anyone. He had long since come to appreciate Liz's analytical way of approaching things. There were a hundred times that particular characteristic had helped them out.
"Okay, I've made a list of potential jobs we could each apply for, and immediate needs, like a place to live and documentation for our new identities. I'll read them to you, but if you have another idea, just yell."
She took a deep breath to begin when River Dog emerged from the trees laden with supplies. He was stooped under a large backpack and there were several sacs hanging from each arm. Running to help him, they abandoned their planning for the moment.
"I have good news," he said, his quiet voice somehow penetrating the chatter of unpacking groceries and other supplies. "Max, Isabel, your father has heard from Lt. Holbrook. Major Gibbs is being bound over for a sanity hearing before they charge him with manslaughter."
"Manslaughter? Not murder?" Maria was fastest with the question on everyone’s mind.
“He confessed to causing the death of Deloris Delgado, but apparently her death was inadvertent. The way it sounds right now, she fell when he kicked the door in, but he used the situation to frame Lt. Christopher. Why
is still a little unclear, but he’s looking at manslaughter. Not to mention conspiracy. But he didn’t stop there. He started babbling about aliens and Nate and the general; he worked himself into such a state that no one took him seriously. Now Nate has been released, Gibbs is in custody, and that woman who brought rape charges has decided to go through with it, so he’s got that to deal with, too.”
Relieved smiles and congratulatory hugs were only the outward signs of a generally lighter mood within the group. One more burden had been lifted. In the last week, they had been able to meet their parents in a whole new relationship, they had made contact with the children who had been healed in the hospital and with Samuel, they had recruited Brody to help keep an eye on those same children, and they had contained the danger that Tino Gibbs represented.
Of course, the “I Know an Alien Club” had grown by leaps and bounds, Max mused, but the astonishing fact was, people—especially people who knew them as family and friends to begin with—were accepting, even loving. And even strangers like Nate and his father, given the facts and a personal perspective, had been willing to extend them the benefit of the doubt. All in all, things were working out pretty well. Just as Liz had believed they would.
Max looked around for his wife. He could feel her energy humming in his mind, though she was blocking her specific thoughts. That was okay; he was doing the same. Having two people in your head all the time was unnerving and exhausting, no matter how much you loved them. Still, her vibes were a little pensive.
He spotted her around the side of the cabin staring into the woods with a thoughtful expression on her face. Standing there in profile, the dappled shade dancing across her features, she looked ethereal, otherworldly, like a wood nymph that could disappear in a blink. Chuckling at his own flights of fancy, Max walked toward her. His imagination was pretty absurd, but it didn’t change his need to feel her—warm and solid against him.
Sliding his arm around her shoulders, he kissed her forehead. “You’ve gotten good at blocking your thoughts. What’s on your mind?”
Her smile was distracted. “Isabel’s been awfully quiet, don’t you think?”
Max followed the direction of her look and caught a glimpse of Isabel’s pale pink top moving in the trees.
“Yeah, a little, I guess. You think something’s wrong?”
“I don’t know. Just something . . .”
A voice behind them made them both jump. “I forgot one important detail of the message,” River Dog apologized. “Liz? Your cousin Taylor wants to come out and see you before you go. And she wants to bring Lt. Christopher. They’re waiting for an answer from Eddie when he goes in to work the dinner shift.”
Liz read the reluctance in Max’s eyes immediately. They’d been letting entirely too many strangers in as it was. The old caution was far from gone.
“But Max,” Liz reminded him, as if they’d already started the conversation, “they both know already. What harm could it do? Besides, if it weren’t for the lieutenant, both we and our families would be in even more serious trouble.”
He let down his guard and let her thoughts come to him. This was a loved family member, someone Liz liked and trusted. Even if he hadn’t been able to read her thoughts, her large brown eyes were asking as well, and he had never been able to say no to them. She asked precious little of him; he could give her this. Besides, she was right. There was nothing these two people didn’t already know, and they owed Lt. Christopher a great deal.
His thumb traced her cheek, and he knew that she could see his decision. Her gratitude shone back at him, warming his heart.
Max turned to River Dog. “Tell them it had better be tonight. We leave in the morning.”
Nate showered quickly, oddly nervous at the thought of Taylor sitting out there in his hotel room. For one thing, it was more than a little stuffy. The police hadn’t let the hotel staff inside the room since his arrest, and it was all the worse for the obvious search the police had done. The bed was unmade, the dirty clothes were still lying around, and even the towels smelled musty.
But more unsettling than all that was the stereotypical suggestiveness of it all. He wasn’t a player, in that sense, and he had surprised himself when he’d suggested she come with him. Now things felt awkward. For him, at least. Maybe that was because he couldn’t stop the parade of inappropriate scenarios that plagued his thoughts. He was still reeling from his unexpectedly powerful feelings toward her since his release. To be honest, he felt like he’d been run over by a truck. Now that the professional side of their relationship was all but gone, their interaction was more personal, and he realized that without his being aware of it, she had crawled just a little deeper under his skin with each meeting, each worried look, each determined suggestion. Now he had gotten off one emotional roller coaster only to find himself careening down another.
He cracked the door to the bathroom and stuck his head out. “Where do you want to eat? All I have with me are jeans and my uniform, and I’m not sure which to put on.”
He felt her eyes take in the cropped sight of him, hair dripping a little, long bare foot extended for balance in his bent position. He’d wrapped a towel around his waist and was trying to keep the lower half of his body behind the door, but he flushed hotly when her eyes rested on his chest and lingered, an appreciative twitch at the corner of her mouth. Fortunately, the heat of the shower had already reddened his face, so he hoped she wasn’t aware of her affect on him.
“Jeans,” she stated. “I know just the place for unwinding.”
“Sounds good. In that case, would you grab me a clean shirt from the closet?”
Taylor scanned the limited selection, and chose a vivid blue shirt with a thin white stripes.”
She approached the doorway and handed it to him. “I’ll bet this looks great on you.”
He stared at her for a long moment until her eyebrow quirked with humor. “Are you going to get dressed?”
“What? Yes! Sorry, yes. I’ll be right out.”
Fifteen minutes later, they were strolling through the park, chatting easily again, the tension gone. They bought a bag of stale breadcrumbs to feed the ducks. They stopped to watch the kids on the swings and toddlers braving the 4-foot slide. They sat on a bench and exchanged childhood stories and family history. It was somewhere around law school that Nate reached for her hand, and she took it, a slight hitch in her voice as she did. It made him feel good to know he wasn’t the only one affected.
A couple of hours had disappeared when his stomach rumbled, and Taylor grinned. “I do believe I heard the dinner bell. Come with me.”
She rose and pulled him up along with her, tugging him toward the center of town. He fell into step with her, happy to just go where she led.
“Aren’t you just a little curious?”
“About what?” he answered casually.
“About where we’re going.”
“Nope. If I’m going there with you, it’s alright with me.”
The brilliant smile that greeted his comment took his breath away. He stopped and turned her toward him. “But I get to choose the appetizer.”
Her questioning look relaxed into a welcoming one as he leaned toward her. This time, he lingered over the kiss, tasting her tentatively and judging her reaction one millisecond at a time. It was all the reaction he could have wanted. Her soft lips met his willingly, and as the last rays of the sun warmed their skin, the spark of new love warmed their hearts.
A mutual sigh escaped their just-parted lips, and they laughed lightly at themselves. Their eyes met in new understanding, and they turned to resume their walk to the restaurant. Taylor stopped in front of Senor Chow’s.
“Here we are!”
Nate took in the bright neon cacti and margarita glasses and chuckled. “Perfect.”
As they slid into a booth, Taylor set her cell phone on the table. Nate frowned slightly.
“Are you going to have to leave?”
“That depends. But if you’re good, I just might have a surprise for you.”
Intrigued, Nate picked up a menu. He couldn’t imagine what the surprise was, but if it had to do with Taylor, he was in.
Serena carried Alex upstairs to her suite. He’d been fussy all day, and her Aunt Megan looked completely fried. By the time Serena had finished her classes and met with her uncle about the logistics of interviewing hundreds of people for dozens of jobs, it was late, but she’d taken pity on her aunt and offered to take Alex to her room for a while. There had been no argument.
When she’d moved in with her aunt and uncle to start college and to continue her hands-on training in the family business, Uncle Brad had offered her the suite reserved for her father when he visited on business. It was part of a large residential complex on the top two floors of the hotel, and it allowed guests plenty of space, luxury, and privacy. A stairway connected her rooms to the large apartment occupied by her aunt and uncle, so she truly had the best of both worlds. It was actually more room than Serena had ever had to herself in her life, and she liked it . . . a lot.
There were two bedrooms—one large and one small—with a connecting bathroom, a living room, a kitchen, and a separate entrance. But the best feature, as far as Serena was concerned, was the skylight in the bedroom. She could lie in bed at night and look up at the stars, letting her imagination run free and her troubles evaporate into their vastness. She knew once the casino opened, the intense neon lights might mask the curtain of stars, but she hoped at least a few would fight their way through.
Alex was restless, looking up at her with large, desperate eyes that begged her for . . . something. He’d had dinner, though he was wearing the remains of his after-dinner spit-up on his t-shirt, and he was dry. What was wrong with him?
She stuck a finger in his mouth and he clamped down fiercely, causing his aunt to let out a surprised yelp.
“You’re getting a tooth!” Serena informed him. “That’s what bugging you.” Lacking any standard medicines to help him, and still a couple of weeks from a working gift shop/drug store on the first floor, she turned and made her way back to the deserted apartment downstairs. Serena knew Aunt Megan had already headed for a hot bath, and Uncle Brad was still downstairs working. With a glance over her shoulder, she grabbed a bottle of brandy and hurried back upstairs, shushing Alex whenever he looked about to object to the jostling.
Back in her bedroom, she soaked her finger in brandy and stuck it in his mouth. Then she arranged them in the middle of her bed and snuggled him next to her under the stars. She watched his face as he gnawed on her finger, somewhat soothed. He was staring up at those stars, just as she always did, but with a surprising focus.
“What do you see up there, little man?” she cooed.
He lifted an unsteady arm, and if she hadn’t known better, she would have sworn he pointed up to them.
continued in next post
Posted: Sun May 04, 2003 7:28 pm
Part 26 continued
The margarita had gone down so smoothly, Nate could already feel the warm buzz take over.
“How about another?” he offered Taylor, who seemed equally relaxed and content.
“Better not. I may have to drive later.”
“Drive? We can just walk back, can’t we? Or do you have to go somewhere?” He eyed her cell phone on the table with dislike. That possibility hadn’t occurred to him. Maybe after dinner, their time together was done. Maybe he’d read this whole thing all wrong, and she was just being nice to the client because her first solo case had gone well.
“I hope so,” she answered, a gleam of anticipation in her eyes.
“Oh, okay. Well, we’d better order, then. What time to do have to leave?”
“If I go anywhere, you’re coming with me,” she told him, enjoying watching him work on the mystery.
“You are. The fajitas here are wonderful, by the way.”
Twenty minutes and another margarita later, Nate had let himself forget his disappointment. Taylor was just wonderful—interesting, funny, down-to-earth, beautiful. Between the drink and the spicy food, her face had taken on a rosy blush, and the candlelight was turning the fine wisps of hair that framed her head into a flaming corona. She looked like a goddess, rising from the mists . . .
The cell phone’s Fur Elise broke into his rather extravagant fantasy, and he frowned as Taylor picked it up eagerly.
“Great! Thank you so much! Okay, bye.”
Her face was alight with excitement, and his imagination began to pick up the thread of his previous thinking, but she was already flagging down the waitress for the bill, a decidedly practical turn of events.
“Well, we are going for a drive.”
“It’s a surprise. I warned you, you know.”
“You did?” He was feeling very clueless, and couldn’t decide how he felt about that.
“I told you if you were good, I’d have a surprise for you.”
Okay, maybe he was feeling a bit better about this. “And I was good?” He couldn’t help the grin that broke out on his face at his adolescent double entendre.
“So far, anyway,” Taylor teased. “Come with me.”
It didn’t take long to realize where they were headed. “Are you kidding? We’re going out to meet them? Are you sure about this?” His own excitement was doing battle with nervousness and worry. He kept glancing around to see if anyone was following them.
“Relax, soldier boy. Your father’s got them spinning in circles over at the base. No one’s coming in this direction, believe me.”
Succumbing to the excited half of his reaction, he sat back in his seat, a million questions ricocheting in his head.
Max and Liz stretched out on the blankets in the cave, anticipating the arrival of Liz’s cousin Taylor and the lieutenant who had endangered himself and his career to help them. In spite of the heat, the cave was cool, and Liz lay tucked beneath Max’s chin listening to his heartbeat. It was a comforting sound. She knew that heart so well, but she also knew how often someone had tried to make it stop beating. They’d almost succeeded more than once. Now, feeling his fingers thread gently through her hair in lulling repetition, she pondered again the courage and character of a stranger who knew her heart through hearing her journal, and came to understand that Max was not a danger. Taylor must also have faith in him if she wanted to bring him to meet them, and since she trusted Taylor, she was looking forward to meeting this uncommon man.
She smiled, wondering what Taylor’s reaction had been when the truth of Liz’s recent life had unfolded in a police interrogation room. Well, she obviously wasn’t too freaked. She was on her way.
“Are you glad she knows?” Liz realized with a start that Max had been casually listening to her train of thought. She lifted her head and shifted so that she lay across his upper body, facing him.
“I think so. She’s my favorite cousin—well, I only have four—but she was always the one I connected with.”
Max’s mouth twitched with amusement, and she slapped his arm lightly. “Okay, not connected like you connect, but you know what I mean. It’s just weird with so many people knowing now—River Dog and Eddie, Brody, our families, General Christopher, and now Taylor and Lieutenant Christopher. But you know what, Max? Not one of them has turned against you for it. Only that freak Gibbs. But once they know you, they realize how special you are. They know that you’re a blessing, not a threat.”
She’d been concentrating on voicing her thoughts, looking past Max to a spot in the cave wall where a crystallized rock caught the sparse light. Now turning her gaze back to Max, she smiled shyly. He was looking at her with that look—the one where she could tell, even without telepathy, that he was busy being amazed that she was here with him, loving him with all her heart. She loved that look, even though it made her self-conscious.
“A blessing?” he teased her. “I doubt that’s the first descriptor they’d use. You wouldn’t be just a little prejudiced, would you?”
His hands left her hair and settled on her arms, pulling her up his chest toward his face and aligning her body with his. She came eagerly, and he kissed her, taking her mouth with a gentle intensity that warmed her all over. Her reaction was predictable, instinctive, and seconds later, so was his. He broke the kiss with a reluctant sigh.
“We can’t, Liz. What would Taylor think if she found us . . . you know. Besides, you know what Maria said this morning. People are afraid to come look for us anymore!”
His grin told her he saw some advantages to that mindset, but she also knew he was right. Besides, the first rush of engine noise was just now filtering into their lair from a distance. She slid off his body with a suggestive wriggle and laughed when she heard him gasp.
“I’m going to need a minute,” he scolded pointedly. “I’ll be right out.”
With her laugh echoing off the rocks, Liz walked out of the cave to greet her cousin.
Max had joined her by the time the car pulled into the clearing. Seconds later, Liz and Taylor were sharing an excited hug while Nate and Max took a long look at each other. There was no reason for either of them to be suspicious or guarded, but they couldn’t help but size each other up. As soon as the girls released each other, they went to retrieve the two men and make introductions.
“Max, this is my cousin Taylor. Taylor, this is my husband, Max. I guess you already know more about him than most people ever will, but let me just add, he’s absolutely wonderful.”
Max found it hard to respond after an introduction like that, but he didn’t have to. Two seconds later he was on the receiving end of a huge hug, his face pressed against a mass of gleaming red hair that made him think of Liz’s mom.
“Welcome to the family, Max!”
He backed up to see smiling green eyes, and couldn’t help but smile back. “Hi, Taylor. Liz has told me a lot about you.”
“It’s all a lie,” she laughed. “Especially that story about skinny dipping at the lake!”
Liz swatted her. “I didn’t tell him that one!” she complained amidst giggles.
“And I want you both to meet Nate Christopher. He’s the lieutenant who warned your parents that their house was bugged, and he destroyed several audiotapes, too. However, I’m willing to overlook the illegality of that move,” she said with an impish glance at Nate.
The mood sobered abruptly, and Max extended a hand to the tall, quiet man who had saved his family a terrible ordeal and maybe his own life.
“I don’t know how I can ever thank you,” Max began. “I can’t imagine what it took to do what you did.”
Nate clasped the offered hand firmly. “It seemed the least I could do, given what you’ve been through already. Once I heard what I did of Liz’s journal, I realized how wrong it all was. It’s an honor to meet you.”
“Your father is a remarkable man, too. We owe your family a great debt.”
“I think it’s more like trying to right a wrong,” Nate said modestly.
There was a moment of silence between the two men as a tentative relationship took root. Then they released the handshake, and looked to the women to prevent an awkward moment.
“Would you like to come meet the others?” Liz asked. “It’s a pretty short walk.”
“Lead on,” Taylor commanded, though Liz didn’t miss the fact that her hand slipped immediately into Nate’s. Perhaps this was more than a lawyer/client relationship? Liz smiled to herself. Wouldn’t that be something?
The cabin appeared deserted when they approached, and Liz looked at Max with a slight frown. They knew River Dog and Eddie had left, but the others should have been there. Max held up a hand to stop the them on the porch steps and approached the door to the cabin slowly, one hand raised. Wrapping his fingers slowly around the doorknob, he burst into the cabin. A flurry of exclamations and thumping followed his entrance, and Nate flew through the doorway behind him. Within a few seconds, they emerged with flushed faces and guilty smirks.
“Michael and Maria will be right out,” Max said with as much dignity as he could muster. Liz burst out laughing and Taylor quickly surmised the circumstances.
“Michael would be the other . . . uh . . .” she began.
“Michael is an alien, yes. Maria is . . . well, you probably know Maria.”
“My sister, Isabel, is the other one. I wonder where she is.” He peered into the trees with a slight frown.
“She and Kyle went for a walk,” Maria informed them as she emerged from the cabin with a scowl. “We thought you’d be longer.”
“Obviously,” Max muttered, and her scowl deepened.
Liz stepped in, unwilling to let Maria get on a roll about people walking in on people.
“Maria? You remember Taylor, right?”
More introductions were made, and the six found seats around the porch.
“My dad was very impressed after the time he spent out here with you,” Nate told them. “He’ll be working to keep the investigation away from you until the unit is disbanded completely.”
“Yeah, he’s okay,” Michael nodded. Liz wondered if Nate would ever know what a compliment that was coming from Michael.
“I can’t help but wonder exactly what made you decide to take a risk like that,” Max commented. “If you’d been caught, it could have meant your career or worse.”
Again, Liz noticed Taylor reaching over and taking Nate’s hand. It was a comfortable, natural gesture, and she saw Nate’s quick smile as he threaded his fingers through hers.
“I guess that’s Liz’s doing,” he began. “I only spent a couple of evenings listening to the parents reading her journal, but the one thing that kept coming through—that is, if you don’t count their complete shock at most of what they were reading . . .”
Several knowing glances and grimaces were exchanged among the group. Taylor knew the least of anyone, but even she couldn’t imagine the effect those revelations had on Aunt Nancy, Uncle Jeff, and the others.
“. . . and when they realized that Max had jeopardized his own existence by saving Liz, they were just awestruck. Then Liz described how her own feelings were growing, and how Max had helped her say goodbye to her grandmother, and even how he’d gotten drunk with some ex-boyfriend and tried to win her back . . .”
He smiled at the memory of the exclamations that greeted Nancy’s retrieval of the altered photo from Liz’s room, and Max groaned with embarrassment.
Liz laughed. “Yeah, that was Kyle. He’s actually here with us. He’s the one walking with Isabel.”
“Your ex-boyfriend came with you?” Nate gasped in astonishment.
Liz laughed harder and the others chuckled with her. “Yeah, but only because Max healed him, too, at one point, and we’ve discovered the healing alters us a little. He wanted to be with us when he started to change.”
“Liz?” Taylor looked genuinely worried. “You’ve been changed? Are you becoming . . . one of them?”
In spite of her apparent acceptance of the aliens, the idea that her cousin could be changing life forms was obviously scaring her.
“Yes, a little, Taylor, but it’s okay. Nate didn’t hear that much of the journal. If he had, he would’ve learned a lot more. It turns out that Max and the others don’t have extraterrestrial powers. They are alien/human hybrids, and the powers are actually human—just abilities generated by human brains at a more advanced evolutionary stage. All the healing does is accelerate that evolution.”
Stunned by this news, Taylor scooched closed to Nate, and his arm wrapped around her automatically. Liz threw Max a glance and saw him watching, too.
Look at that! They’re a couple!
Sort of convenient, really, Max responded. At least they won’t have to worry about slipping in front of each other, or talking in their sleep.
Liz narrowed her eyes at him in silent irritation—both for his lack of romanticism and his assumptions about what must be a new relationship—only to hear him laughing at her in his mind. He loved pushing her buttons.
Turning back to Taylor and Nate, Liz realized they were staring at her and Max.
“Yeah, they talk to each other telepathically now,” Maria volunteered. “They can be really rude about it.”
Liz turned on Maria with wide eyes. “Rude?”
“You need to work on not being so obvious about it, girlfriend.”
Looking a little non-plussed, Liz turned to Max. “I guess they’re right.”
“If you don’t mind my asking,” Nate began tentatively, “what kind of stuff do you do, anyway? Besides healing and telepathic communication?”
“Uh, well, the telepathic thing is only with Liz,” Max answered with some reluctance. “It’s pretty new, actually. Other than that, we have some defensive mechanisms . . .”
“Like that green cloud thing Dad mentioned?” He was getting excited now, as if he were learning about the heroes in a new video game.
Max couldn’t help but grin at his enthusiasm. “Yeah, like that. And we can blast things and change molecular structure. Also . . .”
“Wait! Change molecular structure?”
Liz laughed. “That one always gets a rookie’s attention.”
Max looked askance at her use of the word “rookie,” but looked around for something to manipulate.
“Here, Maxwell.” Michael held out wooden stick River Dog had been whittling. Max stared at it for a moment, then encased it in his two hands for a few seconds. When he opened them, a beautifully carved pen lay across his palm. He presented it to Liz.
“For your journal writing,” he smiled.
Her eyes glowed, and she leaned up to kiss him—a sweet, chaste kiss appropriate for company.
He smiled back at her, always captivated by what he found in her eyes.
“That’s amazing,” Nate was saying. “Anything else?”
Liz pulled her attention away from Max and returned it to their guests. “Everyone seems to have their own specific gifts, too.”
“We’re all different, just like humans,” Max explained. “Michael can blast things from here to kingdom come, Isabel can dreamwalk . . .”
“Like eavesdropping, only on dreams. She can go in and see what you’re dreaming about.”
“There are others, too.” Liz felt Max tense; he definitely did not want to talk about Tess or mindwarping—possibly the most dangerous of the “gifts” they were aware of. “But that’s the idea. We don’t know what Kyle’s will be yet.”
“What about you, Liz?” Taylor asked.
“Oh, well, I’ve started getting flashes of the future, but they’re just intermittent and kind of impressionistic.”
“Like what? What have you seen?”
Liz frowned. “A few things. Most recently, Kyle getting hurt the other night. That’s one reason we had him out at the cave. We were trying to prevent his getting hurt. Then it just turned out that’s where he got hurt, so a lot of good it did seeing it ahead of time.”
Max pulled her close. He knew she’d been feeling guilty about that. Just like graduation—knowing ahead hadn’t kept it from happening. Still, if they hadn’t known the graduation speaker was part of the scenario, they wouldn’t have known to flee, so it did do them some good.
Determined to channel Liz’s thoughts elsewhere, Max made an uncharacteristic move, projecting the image of Nate and Taylor’s linked hands into Liz’s mind. It worked.
“So,” Liz pointed to the joined hands, “I, uh, thought Nate was a client.”
Taylor blushed deeply, her fair, freckled skin unable to disguise the rush of blood to her face.
“Not any more,” she said softly.
Nate took the bull by the horns. “Taylor has been amazing this week. But besides being a terrific lawyer, I found out a few other things about her, like how pretty and smart and funny she is.”
Taylor’s blush went from red to crimson, but her smile was pure pleasure. “Well, you already know what kind of man Nate is, so you add the good looks, and who could resist?”
This avenue of conversation had apparently left room for Michael’s mind to wander.
“Where are Kyle and Isabel, anyway? They’ve been gone forever.”
“Are they . . . a couple, too?” Taylor wondered.
“NO!” The spontaneous chorus made both Nate and Taylor jump, and they all laughed. Liz sobered a bit, though, and attempted to explain.
“Isabel got married without telling her husband about herself. In the end, he found out, and he was even willing to come with us, but he had a hard time accepting it at first, and she didn’t want him to have to settle for life on the run, at least not until he’d had time to see what his life could be like without her. He agreed to go to his new job, but he told her he wanted her back as soon as it was safe. She and Kyle have just become good friends because in some ways, they’ve been kind of thrown together.”
“And Kyle? Does he have someone?”
Liz winced. Their recent conversation was still fresh in her mind. “No. No, he doesn’t. But I think he’d like that to change.”
Questions, answers, and stories filled another hour before Nate and Taylor stood to leave. Max and Liz walked them back to the car, and while the girls cried and hugged and promised to keep in touch, Max took one more opportunity to thank Nate.
“If you had asked me where help in this situation would come from, you realize the last place I would have said was the Special Unit or the military. I can’t thank you enough, man. I hope you’ll let me know if there’s ever anything I can do for you.”
“You’ve opened up a whole new world for me, Max. It may be old hat to you, but for me, it’s like being in on the most amazing secret in the universe. What am I saying? It is the most amazing secret in the universe. Besides, if it hadn’t been for all this, I would never have met Taylor, and just between us, I think this could be something special.”
Max smiled. “I don’t know Taylor, but I know Liz and I know her family. They’re the best. Hang on to her.”
They waved the car down the bumpy trail and Liz turned to walk back to the cabin.
“Let’s take the long way,” Max whispered in her ear as he bent to nibble on her neck.
Liz bent her head back, focusing on the warm tickles that sent shivers through her whole body. “Mmmmm, what brought this on?”
“I just don’t want to take you for granted, that’s all,” he mumbled against her throat.
Liz sighed. “Yeah, a nice, long, walk.”
They turned down the trail the car had followed, enjoying the way the soft breeze threw patterns of light on the forest floor and stopping to admire the bright colors of the various wildflowers half-hidden in the brush. As they walked wrapped around each other, their one-armed caresses became more urgent, pushing them to look for any hospitable spot that was private enough for seclusion and large enough for their prone bodies.
Stopping to survey their immediate surroundings, Max tensed.
“What?” Liz whispered.
Small, muffled sobs. From where? Stooping to peek beneath a large dead branch hanging lopsided from a scrub pine, Liz spotted them. She tugged on Max’s sleeve and he bent to follow her pointed finger. There, straddling a fallen log, were Kyle and Isabel, arms around each other. Isabel’s shoulders were shaking, and Max crashed through the brush toward them before Liz could stop him.
“Max!” she hissed, confused by what she saw, but recognizing the desire for privacy when it hit her over the head. Reluctantly, she followed him.
“What the hell . . .?” he began, his voice a strange combination of concern and controlled anger.
Kyle released Isabel, but didn’t look at Max. Instead, he looked at Isabel, lifting her chin until she met his eyes.
“You’re going to have to tell him, Isabel. It may as well be now.”
Posted: Sun May 11, 2003 4:37 pm
Happy Mother’s Day! I know the term “mother” applies to many of you, so I wish you all a wonderful day. My children are scattered—one in Tokyo, one in Orlando, and one just home from college. So it’s quiet here, and that gives me time to post this week’s installment.
You guys crack me up! I think the best guess for why Isabel was crying was “Broke a nail.” SFOL!!! That one had me howling. Likewise the response from a list friend who doesn’t read the story here and so, doesn’t post f/b here, but she said, “Isabel’s crying? Okay, let’s spend half a milli-second on that. Okay, done.” HAHAHAHAHA! But the most popular reason is, Izzie is preggers. Can I be honest here? I can’t make Isabel pregnant because then I’d have to follow up on her, write about her, THINK about her. I don’t want to do that. So, read on, and find out what’s going on.
This chapter is a series of snapshots of the last few hours in Roswell. We’ll check in on everyone, get a glimpse at the future of certain characters we may not see much of anymore, and put a wrap on some other things. When you check in next Sunday, we’ll be in Vegas!
Posted in 2 posts.
The usual din of the woods halted abruptly, its invisible inhabitants startled into silence by Max’s outburst and the heavy expectation that followed it. Isabel looked deeply into Kyle’s eyes for several seconds, the strain of indecision evident in the uncharacteristic lines of her face. Finally, she turned to confront her brother, rising to meet his ambiguous expression. Liz stood back. This face-off seemed to fall into the dangerous world of sibling relations, and for the moment, she could only watch. Kyle caught her eye, and she recognized the look—resigned acceptance of the inevitable. He’d worn that look a lot lately.
“Max, I have something to tell you, and you’re not going to like it, but I’ve made up my mind.”
Liz recognized that look, too: Max getting ready to hear bad news. She realized she’d seen that look a lot, too, but not as much recently. Their union seemed to have given him that balance he’d always sought, and between them, they were handling the alien chaos with more confidence and emotional equilibrium. She said a little prayer that that wasn’t about to change.
“I’ve been talking to Jesse,” Isabel began, her eyes leaving Max’s, searching for a less disconcerting focal point. Then, as the nervousness gave way to strong emotion, she returned to lock her gaze on him again, anguish clouding her puffy eyes. “I’m going to him,” she stated simply. “I can’t do this—just pretend I’m not married, pretend that I don’t spend every day wanting the life we’d just started. I can’t hide forever, Max. Not alone.”
New conflicts played across Max’s face now. Concern. Guilt. Fear. “Iz, it’s not safe out there. They’ll find you. You know they have to be watching him. And you’re not alone. You have all of us . . .”
His voice trailed off under the piercing gaze of his sister. She was right. He had Liz. Michael had Maria. But Isabel and Kyle were not a couple. They never would be. And a good friend would never fill the empty space left by a missing lover. No one knew that better than he did. Kyle was already cracking under the strain, and he didn’t even have someone who held his heart. But Isabel did.
“Isabel, we’ve never been apart. Never. We have seen each other almost every day of our lives. How can we . . .? How can we do this?”
Isabel pulled him fiercely to her and the tears came. “Oh, Max! I know! That’s what I keep thinking, too. You are so much a part of my life, I can’t imagine it without you. But . . . now there’s Jesse, too.”
She pulled back, and Liz thought she saw some relief in Isabel’s eyes when she noticed the tears threatening to escape Max’s. In a funny way, that made sense. Isabel needed him to fall apart a little. This couldn’t only be her burden; they had to find a way to live with this together.
“Do you remember when we were about to leave Earth and go to Antar?”
He nodded, searching her face in confusion and fear.
“I was so torn. I wasn’t sure I could leave a place where I felt loved, where everything was familiar and comfortable. And you came in my room and told me this wasn’t your home and neither was Antar. You said I was your home.”
Liz’s heart lurched at the words, and even with their guards up, Max must have felt it, because she felt him reach out for her, even distracted as he was by his sister’s announcement. She pushed the small wave of hurt away and let his reassuring love take hold. She knew what he’d gone through then; they’d talked about it a hundred times. But still . . .
Isabel’s tears came harder now, and she fought to breathe and speak through the torrent of saltwater and emotion. Max gave her arm a reassuring squeeze with one hand and wiped at his face with the other.
“I knew what you meant, Max, because I felt the same way. I came to the granolith, ready to leave this place, so my heart wouldn’t lose its home. But now . . .” She squeezed her eyes shut, stubbornly trying to stem the flow. “But now there’s Jesse, and he’s my home, too, Max. I need him.”
Her eyes begged for understanding. Max was struggling, Liz could tell. Touched by his sister’s words and knowing it was indeed inevitable, he still threw the empty obstacles in her way, as if he had to at least say it all out loud so he’d know, on those long, haunted nights in the future, that he’d done all he could.
“They’ll find you, Iz. The General can’t put a stop to this that fast, if ever. What if they come for you . . .?” The fearful thought closed his throat, and everyone knew what horrific images were cutting through his mind, opening ill-healed scars.
“Max, we’ve thought this through. Jesse is changing his name—legally, but quietly. We’re going someplace new where Jesse will start a practice, and I’ll go back to school. It’s a blow to Jesse’s career, we know, but we’re both miserable as things are. They’d have to be looking pretty hard to find us, and I can’t hide forever, Max. One day, I’ll wake up and wonder what happened to my life.”
The battle was over. He knew it. She knew it. And their silent observers knew it. But every battle has one final shot, one last attempt at making a difference.
“Where will you go? How will I know if you’re okay?”
At this, Isabel smiled. “As for keeping in touch, Max, you know the answer. I’ll see you and Mom and Dad often, in our dreams. As for where we’re going . . .” She rolled her eyes, anticipating the look of shock on Max’s face. “We’re going to Illinois. Central Illinois, actually. There’s a nice college town there—big enough to blend into, small enough to notice if an investigation starts up.”
She wasn’t disappointed. Max’s jaw dropped, with Liz’s a mirror image right behind him.
“Central Illinois?” he croaked. “Isabel! Boston was one thing—big city, cutting edge fashion, lots of history and geography, but the prairie?” He started to smile, and her shoulders relaxed. His teasing felt normal, forgiving, even understanding.
Liz watched Max carefully and knew he was coming to terms with Isabel’s choice. Then, in a rush, he opened his feelings to her, and she swayed under their impact. He understood what Isabel had said all too well; he couldn’t imagine living apart from Liz ever again.
Liz stepped up to take his hand, but his arm shot out to gather her to him, and she wrapped herself around him. “Good luck, Isabel,” she said softly.
Isabel slid into Max’s other arm, and Liz’s eyes darted over toward Kyle. His enigmatic expression masked what she knew lay just under the surface. His loneliness quotient just shot sky high, but he wouldn’t hold Isabel back for the world. How could he try to deny her what he so desperately wanted himself?
Liz detached herself from Max with a reassuring thought. She smiled as his now empty arm went around Isabel, and she made her way over to Kyle. His mouth was tight; his eyes held in check, wide and tense so the tears would not come.
“Kyle, . . .”
He shook his head sharply. “Don’t, Liz. I’ll be fine, but we’re not going to talk about it. Not now.”
She nodded. Talking, hugging, any open acknowledgement of the situation would get him started, and it was the last thing he wanted.
“I’m gonna take a walk,” he said hoarsely, and she watched his retreating figure, straight and rigid. And alone.
Phillip straightened in his chair with a grunt as he stretched the kinks out of his back. He’d been poring over reports from police precincts all over New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, and Nevada, although he knew full well that if Tess had stolen a baby, it could have come from anywhere on the planet. Still, there was a certain logic to the premise that she hadn’t come that far. First, every time she landed her craft, she was risking the notice of astronomers and locals, so depending on the abilities of the ship and Tess’s ability to fly it, she may have taken a child nearby enough that the remainder of the trip to Roswell had been accomplished below radar across unpopulated desert. Second, Zan had been clean and healthy from the moment Tess arrived, leading them to believe he hadn’t been through much in the way of trauma, neglect, or sleeplessness. Taken as a package, New Mexico and its neighbors seemed the best bet.
There had been a total of four kidnappings of white infant males in the last six months—two from hospital nurseries, one from a residence, and one from a shopping cart. Given that Zan had had a baby blanket that was clearly not hospital issue, the two most likely leads were the home and shopping cart abductions. He’d start there.
It seemed more than just a day since he’d seen his son and new daughter-in-law. He already missed them. Watching them together, free to let their feelings for each other show at last, he’d been struck with the intensity and maturity of the relationship. These weren’t dewy-eyed kids with romantic notions of life on the run. They’d already been through more adversity and stress than he’d ever seen or hoped to see. No, they knew what they were in for, and still wanted it—or rather, wanted each other, and that made the rest of it tolerable.
The ride home last night had been . . . unusual. He and Diane sat opposite Jeff and Nancy in the back of the truck, feeling self-conscious about what they had witnessed, and yet joyful, too. Once all the odd puzzle pieces from the last few years had fallen into place, forming the final, mind-blowing picture, they were reminded again how little they had understood any of it. Now all those glimpses into their children’s relationship took on new meaning. So much of what had looked like rebellion and immaturity had been, in fact, a series of valiant efforts to cope with more than most adults would ever have to—confusion, fear, danger. What had looked like hormone-induced lust had been an effort to cling to something their children had instinctively known was a life-altering bond—although Philip had no doubt there were some raging hormones at work, too. Still, now that the parents had seen their children again in this new context, they had their own demons to face: the humbling facts that they hadn’t seen it; they hadn’t helped; they hadn’t understood.
Bouncing along in that truck, the irony of their circumstances was not lost on Philip, or the others, he felt sure. He was quietly aware that this dim and rocky ride home was an apt metaphor for their own children’s journey—a journey during which they peered into the future with only shadow, perception, and instinct to guide them, never knowing for sure where they were along the bumpy road, but confident that in the end, they would find home.
His musings were brought up short when the phone rang. It was Vic Alvarez, the private detective he’d hired to spy on Max. The memory made him shudder, but he shook it off. There was nothing he could do about that now. There was something he could do about this baby, though. And maybe doing this for Max would help ease his guilt. He arranged a meeting and closed the files. Time to go home; Diane would be waiting.
Star cleared the dishes as Tyler suppressed an appreciative belch.
“I had no idea you could cook like this,” he said. “That was fantastic.”
Star looked pleased, but passed off the compliment. “It’s nothin’. I’ve just always loved to cook. When I could afford cable, I watched those cooking shows, ya know? But those recipes always called for expensive ingredients or special pans or somethin’. I’m just a down home kinda cook.”
“Well, I know about 200 guys who’d give a day’s leave for a meal like that,” he enthused. “Maybe you should think about opening a restaurant, Star. I mean, when all this stuff with Gibbs is over, you could start a business, have something to call your own.”
Star turned slowly, her face thoughtful. “You really think I could, Ty? I mean, have a business? My, wouldn’t that be fine,” she breathed, almost to herself. Then she shook her head, sending the dream packing. “You know how much money that would take? And I’d hafta keep books and hire help and . . .”
“Sure you could. In fact, I can get you some brochures and stuff about how to start. And maybe you could take some classes at the community college, you know, just to pick up some business know-how. Hey! I bet I know some people who could help you!”
Tyler’s mind was racing. He still didn’t know—would never know—exactly what had happened with Gibbs and Nate, but he did know that Nate had specifically asked for that lawyer, Philip Evans, and he’d put two and two together enough to realize that somehow, this was all wrapped up with the families of those kids the Special Unit had been tracking. Even without the details, he could put a lawyer and a restaurateur smack in the middle of it. Maybe they could be convinced to help Star begin a new life.
Star was watching him, skepticism and hopefulness vying for control of her features.
Tyler just smiled. “I don’t want to say just yet. Let me make some calls. Maybe we can get together at the roadhouse tomorrow and I’ll fill you in.”
Star frowned. “Not the roadhouse, Ty. I think I’m done with that place.”
Tyler heard the tone of her voice and gave her a long look. She was making the break, changing her life. He felt proud of her, like an older brother seeing his sister make good.
“The Crashdown, then,” he suggested casually, and caught her faint smile as she realized he understood. “So break out those cookbooks, Betty Crocker. You just might need ‘em.”
His enthusiasm was contagious, and Star heard a giggle escape her lips. The sound startled her. She hadn’t heard that sound in a very long time.
Alex cried out and Serena awoke with a start. They were still snuggled on the bed, but one quick sniff instantly revealed the reason for his distress. Serena shook herself mentally, then cradled the little body to her and swung off the bed. She had no supplies in her suite, so she flipped on the light to the stairs and descended into the kitchen. Megan had a makeshift changing table assembled in the corner of the kitchen, and Serena headed toward it, as anxious as Alex to dispense with the matter at hand.
As she changed him, they made eye contact, and she couldn’t help the warm feeling that went through her every time she looked to find his little mouth turned up at the corners. He only did that with her, and it gave her a private feeling of pleasure that this little orphaned boy had found some comfort in her presence. She hoped to have kids someday. If she felt this attached already to a baby who she’d only spent a few days with—counting her visits to her brother—then how would it feel to have a child of her own?
Megan staggered into the room, leaning against the wall heavily when she saw that Serena was already changing him.
“I’m sorry, honey. I didn’t mean to leave him with you all night. Once I laid down, I just conked out. I’ll take him.”
“That’s okay, Aunt Megan. We’re doing just fine. In fact, I was thinking, maybe we should move his crib into my spare room. You have him all day. The least I can do is take the night shift. Besides, he’ll start sleeping through the night again as soon as he adjusts to his new time zone and surroundings, don’t you think?”
Megan couldn’t disguise her gratitude, although she made a cursory attempt at arguing.
“Oh, no, Serena. You’ve got school and work. You can’t handle him, too.”
“Not alone, no, but I can help, and I don’t mind getting up with him. We’ll both be sawing logs in no time.”
She had no idea if that last part were true, but once the idea to have him with her at night had dawned, she warmed to it quickly. Her aunt needed little convincing.
“Well, if you’re sure . . .” She was already wandering back toward her bedroom, and the smile on Serena’s face was met with a broad one from her happy charge.
“I guess it’s you and me, kiddo,” she grinned. “Now don’t make a liar out of me. I do have a ton to do tomorrow, and I need my beauty sleep.”
Alex yawned in response, then resumed his smile.
“That’s my boy,” she laughed, and headed upstairs. Just for tonight, he could sleep in her bed.
They lay down together, looking up through the skylight.
“Look, Alex,” she crooned quietly. “See those stars? They almost look like the letter ‘V.’”
Alex jerked his hands and legs in acknowledgment.
“That’s right,” she chuckled. “V is for Very cute baby.”
She pulled him closer and fell asleep with the scent of baby powder in the air, and puffs of sweet baby breath on her face.
Continued in next post
Posted: Sun May 11, 2003 4:40 pm
Part 27 continued
Nate stood at Taylor’s door, gazing down into beautiful green eyes brimming with life. He loved that about her; everything she tackled got her full and energetic attention—be it a court case for a stranger, a reunion with a cousin, or a surprise for a date. Right now, he had her attention, and it made him feel things he hadn’t felt in a long time.
“You’re staring,” she scolded him, eyes bright with laughter. “Should I be insulted or complimented?”
He maintained the eye contact but with a hint of embarrassment. “Complimented. Definitely complimented.”
“In that case, want to come in?”
His face fell. “I can’t. Apparently, one day is all I get to recover from the trauma of the last week. I have to report for duty tonight. I imagine there will be some changes when I get back there. Thank you, though, for the invitation, and for arranging that meeting tonight.”
“My pleasure. It’s weird isn’t it? They seemed so . . . normal. And it’s obvious that Max is totally besotted by Liz. And that telepathy thing? That has to take some getting used to!”
“I never would have thought in a million years that there was really anything to that crazy investigation, let alone that I’d wind up meeting real aliens. Or that I could wind up related to one.”
The expression on her face was his first clue. Then he replayed the tape in his head and realized what he’d said.
“I didn’t mean . . . I was just . . .” She blinked at him, and he shook his head in disbelief. “Just kill me now.”
At her chuckle, he tried again. “I know we barely know each other, Taylor. I’ve just never felt so at home with a woman before. The truth is, I’m crazy about you, and I hope that you’ll at least let me spend some more time with you. I think we might be good together.”
Her eyes were shining at him, like two emeralds glinting in the sun. “I’d like that.”
“Besides,” he told her in a conspiratorial whisper, “given what I know about alien powers, I think I should do as I’m told.”
“Oh? And what were you told?”
“Not to let you get away.”
Her eyes widened in surprise. “Max said that?”
“He did.” And as he bent to kiss her, he thought what good advice that was.
The six teens talked well into the night. They had dealt with change a lot over the last three years, but nothing as drastic as having one of their own leave for good. Well, not counting Tess, who they’d long since realized was never one of their own, species notwithstanding. In truth, only Alex’s death had compared with this. At least in this case, no one was dying, only moving on to embrace a life she had longed for but never expected to have.
Michael had hit the roof at first, even daring to forbid her to go, but the weak threat crumbled into a plea unlike any they’d heard from Michael. Isabel had faced him down with gentle determination until, finally, he had accepted it with stone-faced resignation, all outward signs of emotion banished. Maria had come to him quietly, then, and although his face had remained stoic, his arms crushed her against him, as if she were the one thing that could keep him afloat in the undertow that threatened to drown him.
As the original storm of reaction to Isabel’s announcement passed, Max watched Isabel surveying the morose group. They weren’t the only ones rattled. This was pretty scary for her, too. Maybe moreso, since she was giving up her whole family, and the others were only losing one member. Max watched her closely, memorizing her every move and tucking each away in that part of him that sheltered precious memories. Liz’s comforting thoughts and subtle reassurances had calmed him, outwardly and inwardly. It saddened him to think of losing Isabel, and it scared him a little, too. She was part of the “team.” But he knew, as he’d always known, that Liz was the only one he couldn’t live without. And the happiness she’d brought him was something he hoped Isabel could find with Jesse. He loved his sister enough to let her go.
“Do you know how you’ll get to him, Isabel?” Kyle asked. “I mean, you can’t just go into Roswell and catch a bus.”
Max admired Kyle’s style. He was doing his best to get on board with Isabel’s plan, even though it left him all the more alone. He had to believe that once they got to Vegas, Kyle’s job and new contacts would erase some of the isolation he was feeling.
“No,” Isabel smiled. “Jesse and I agreed that I would tell my parents in a dreamwalk tonight, so nothing is really set up yet, but the idea is that as soon as Jesse finds a place in Champaign, he’ll let my dad know. They’ll pack up my things, and the next time a truck is ready to take the Native American crafts from the reservation to the gift shops in Albuquerque, I’ll go along. I can catch a bus or a train from there, with all new ID, of course.”
“Oh! A new name? Can we help pick it? And we could change your looks, too!”
Maria loved a project, but Michael reined in her enthusiasm. “We’re leaving tomorrow, Blondie. No time for makeovers. Besides, Isabel is uniquely qualified to pull that off.”
The subtle peace offering earned him a teary smile from his almost-sister. She sniffed loudly, then answered Maria. “I was thinking of Katie—you know, for Katherine,” she said. “And maybe going blonde again.”
“Eewww,” said Maria. “Katie? The only Katie I know is a slutty bitch who gets everything she wants with cleavage and attitude. You really don’t want to use Katie.”
The first laughter of the evening burst into the air, and the tension drained away. It would be all right. Everything about their lives was changing; this was just one more thing.
“Hey, everybody.” Eddie walked through the door with the aroma of Crashdown goodies wafting from plastic bags that dangled from each hand. “I’ve brought food and a message from Brody.”
“Thanks!” Kyle showed encouraging signs of excitement as he jumped up to take the bags from Eddie and distribute the food. “Ah, grease! My favorite food group.” He sniffed the air with a blissful expression, then started to dig through the bags, laying out rows of burgers, fries, and shakes.
“And look!” he exclaimed. “A pie!”
The tantalizing smells moved everyone to action as they snatched up their favorites.
“Whassa messj?” Michael tried to ask around a mouthful of food.
“Brody made contact with all the parents except Miguel’s since he was here. They’ve set up a meeting for next weekend. Miguel’s family doesn’t have a phone, but he knows where his mom works, so he’ll try her at work tomorrow. It looks like the ones he’s talked to think this support group idea is great. Apparently, the circumstances of their cures have caused everybody from reporters to religious fanatics to camp out in their kids’ lives, at least for those two brothers. Anyhow, looks like its gonna happen.”
“Fantastic,” Liz beamed. “We’ll meet the kids tonight and let them know that it’s okay to talk to Brody about everything. This was a great idea.”
She fed Max a french fry, then leaned forward to kiss him quickly. “I’m so proud of you.”
“Me? What did I do?”
“Look what you’ve started? Because you were brave enough and compassionate enough to save lives, you’re bringing together a whole new . . . life form. All these people will be able to do who knows what, and make the world a better place! And now, thanks to Brody, they might even be able to do it with less fear and confusion than you grew up with.”
Max chuckled, and pulled her to him for another kiss. “Only you, Liz Evans, would see this as so wonderful. But I’m glad you approve.” Then, looking into her eyes, he said more seriously, “They’re going to have a rough time, Liz. We have to be sure we don’t forget about them. They’re going to need us sooner or later. Both of us.”
“And we’ll be there for them,” she answered. Another kiss was imminent when Eddie cleared his throat uncomfortably.
“Okay, then, River Dog and I will be back in the morning to see you off. What time do you want to leave?”
“Early,” Max said quickly. “We have two long days of driving ahead of us, and the sooner we get there the better.” He glanced at Kyle and could read the agreement on his face. “Have you talked to River Dog today?”
“Yeah. After you leave, we’ll take Isabel back to my mom’s house. She’s looking forward to meeting you, Isabel.”
Isabel looked startled. “Me? She doesn’t know about . . .”
“No, nothing like that. I think she just wants to see this tall white girl I’ve described close up. You won’t exactly blend in on the reservation,” he grinned.
Embarrassed, Isabel looked at the ground. “Yeah, well, tell her thanks . . . I think.”
Eddie left with a chuckle and a wave.
The silence that descended in the room at his departure was heavy with melancholy. All eyes seemed to fall on Isabel, different expressions of sadness and worry etched on each face.
“You guys,” she squirmed, “I’ll see each of you, I promise. You’ll always know where I am and how I’m doing.”
“Please,” she choked out, on the verge of tears again, “please don’t make me feel guilty about this.”
And that was the trigger. Max was first, hugging his sister so tightly, she could hardly breathe, but she made no protest. Seconds later, Michael joined them, setting aside his habitual aloofness in favor of reassuring his lifelong sister that he, too, wanted her to be happy. Liz and Maria found themselves crying, too, and Kyle’s eyes shone with tears he would not shed. He couldn’t afford to unleash his pent-up emotions. His tentative control was all that held him together these days.
“We’d better get some sleep,” Max finally whispered, letting his sister go and turning toward Liz. Liz felt him reaching for her, first with his thoughts, then with his eyes, then with his arms. They came around her with such need, just as she had known they would. Whatever blows life delivered, they knew where their salvation lay.
With an early morning departure looming, they had decided to stay together in the cabin tonight to save time in the morning. Michael and Maria headed for the small bed they’d shared for the last few nights. Max led Liz to the second bed and spooned around her, arms pulling her close, face buried in her neck. Kyle smiled awkwardly at Isabel.
“I’ll just grab a blanket and settle on the porch. You take the sleeping bag.”
“Kyle.” He turned to face her, his sagging smile struggling to stay in place for a few more seconds.
“Would you just hold me?”
The smile faltered. Could he fake his calm demeanor for much longer? He didn’t begrudge her this bold step toward happiness, but he couldn’t help wonder if he would ever find the same thing.
“I’ll miss you,” she whispered.
He would miss her, too. Sighing, he lowered himself to the sleeping bag and held out his arms. She scrambled down, nestling against him until blessed sleep claimed them both.
Liz heard the last of the rustling diminish into silence and relaxed against Max. Her mind was spinning with questions about the future, but she kept them shielded, hoping Max, at least, could get some much needed rest. She even thought he might be asleep already when his hand slipped over her breast and she felt him nudging at her mind, as if to say, “Are you awake?”
Her hand cupped his, and their thoughts merged, tumbling together like children wrestling, motion without direction. What Liz felt most strongly was need. Max was losing a stable figure in his life, the one that had been with him most constantly, the one who had known him—really known him—longer than anyone. His heart turned to her, grasping for the reassurance he knew she could provide. She was his stability now, the one who knew him and would never leave.
She turned in his arms and his lips took hers hungrily, seeking and finding the promise he needed. There was no foreplay, no whispered words of love—only the fumbling of hands and the swallowed gasps of urgency. And there in the quiet, hidden by shadow, they came together, their vows renewed, their bond reinforced, their future together certain, no matter where it might lead.
Posted: Sun May 18, 2003 10:48 am
Well, an announcement, anyway. It will probably be two weeks before another Chameleon chapter is posted, but I have the best possible excuse. Next weekend—Memorial Day weekend—a wonderful group of Rospals and I are getting together. We are a small group of 12 who met online, bonded in LA at the second national party (most of us, anyway), and then made another trip there on our own last year to watch eps, retrace the filming site tours, and meet the New Zealander among us. Next weekend, 10 of us are once again meeting, including several wonderful fic authors. Even Liesel (I know you all remember LivE) is coming all the way from South Africa! We are so excited! :multi: We will miss the two friends who can’t make it (our New Zealander has understandable obstacles, of course, and Breathless—silly girl—thought she should take a scheduled trip with her daughter instead—go figure!
just kidding, Debbi!), but after this weekend, most of us will know all 12 personally, and some have become good friends. Roswell has given us all so much! So I’m sure you can see why I might miss an installment, right? (Hope so. :puppydogeyes: )
That being said, I want to congratulate one of you—but I’m not saying which one. One feedbacker has nailed what’s about to happen. Many are due for a surprise. Hmmmm, which is which?
I can’t seem to write a short chapter. Don’t know why. But here’s another long one, posted in two parts!
Two days in an old van without so much as a shower hadn’t done much for their state of mind or their looks, but at least they were in Las Vegas, home to gamblers, strippers, Elvis chapels, and, perhaps for the first time, aliens. There was no time for sightseeing, though. They had only one immediate goal: get jobs. Well, make that two immediate goals: clean up and get jobs.
Stopping at a campground outside of town, they dispensed with the tents and made for the showers. Max and Michael had already helped Kyle by eliminating wrinkles in his clothes. Now, back at the van, they each took pleasure in helping the girls look more presentable—that is, when they weren’t busy mussing their hair and make-up. The showers lifted their spirits, and with directions from the campground office, they went in search of Oasis.
It didn’t take long to locate the new gambling resort. Subtlety was not one of its virtues, and although there was obviously much to be done before it opened, the grand entrance, broad drive, and recently erected neon palm trees were no small giveaway as to the clientele they hoped to attract.
“Are we dressed up enough?” Liz wondered, frowning down at her khaki pants and cropped top.
Michael snorted. “Considering we’re looking for jobs as kitchen help and grounds staff, I don’t think what we’re wearing will be a big concern.”
“Anything but waitressing,” Maria grumbled. “I’ve had my fill of that.”
Signs directed prospective employees around the huge fountain whose mammoth camel was not yet spouting water, across a small concrete bridge that spanned “Lake Mirage,” to a service entrance at the side of the building.
“I don’t care where the water comes out of that thing,” Kyle grimaced, eyeing the camel. “It’ll be gross.”
Maria giggled at that, and started to name the possibilities until Kyle slapped a hand over her mouth, leaving only the garbled mumblings as she continued the list. They were all laughing when they got out of the car and followed the arrows inside.
They were directed into a large convention hall lined with tables. As soon as they came through the doors, a bored employee shoved an application at them and waved at a bank of tables where rows of heads were bent in concentration. Apparently, everyone was to complete the same application, filling in basic information on the first page, and then filling in the specific areas appropriate to the jobs that suited their interests and qualifications.
All five gathered at one empty table to look over their options.
Clerical: Accounting / Main desk
Kitchen: Cook / Wait staff / General
Grounds: Landscaping & mowing / Pool maintenance
Guest Services: Concierge / Limo service / Activities coordinator / Spa/Salon / Children’s program / Pet Care
Housekeeping: Maid / Maintenance
Garage: Valet service / Mechanic
Casino: Floor staff / Floor manager / Security / Bartender / Wait staff / Pit clerk
Retail: Gift shops / Pro shop
Entertainment: Booking coordinator / Stage manager / Paralegal
They had talked about which jobs each person would be suited for, but looking at the list was more than a little intimidating. Pens scratched industriously, punctuated only with questions, comments, and sighs. Short of their brief jaunt to Vegas a year and a half before, they had no experience with a big city or a business this size. The cavernous room added to their sense of intimidation, and the number of people applying made them feel discouraged before they even began. Their expressions strained, they went to stand in their separate lines.
Liz started in the line for Clerical, knowing that she might be forced to try Housekeeping and Kitchen staff as well. This was harder than she imagined; every face seemed more confident than hers, every application more impressive than hers.
It’ll be fine, Liz. We’re together, and we can do this. Besides, anybody who doesn’t want to hire someone as smart and beautiful as you needs their head examined.
She looked back toward the end of the Grounds line—one of many Max planned to stand in that afternoon—and saw him watching her, those sexy eyes taking her mind off her worries. She smiled and he winked at her, making her almost laugh out loud. She’d never seen him wink before. As she turned to face forward in line, she scanned the line of men in front of him. None of them could hold a candle to Max—not for looks, not for strength, not for . . .
he warned as her mind went to purely unprofessional places, and her smile turned into a grin.
Mmmmm, that might be a fun way to pass the time.
She let her mind wander to some of their sexiest moments together and felt his response leap at her.
Liz! I can’t go through an interview with a . . . you know . . . turned on like this. Stop it!
His panicked thoughts amused her even more, but they really did need jobs, and she couldn’t have him distracted or . . . um . . . uncomfortable during the interview, so she just offered him a sweet kiss, chuckling at his relieved thank you. She looked back at him once more and saw him take a deep breath.
Liz turned around abruptly. She hadn’t realized she’d reached the front of the line, where an older woman was conducting Oasis business with a severe professionalism that bordered on rudeness. She scanned Liz’s application, then peered up at her through thick glasses.
“How old are you?”
“18. Isn’t that what I put on the application?” Liz asked worriedly, trying to read the form upside down.
“It is, but you look younger. You’ll be required to provide proof of age, you know.”
“Yes, ma’am. No problem.”
“No experience with office work, I see. Just waitressing. This is the Clerical line, you know.”
“Well, yes, ma’am, I know, but I do have some experience. I not only waitressed at my father’s diner, I also helped him with the books and even with the hiring. Oh, and I interned in the Roswell office for our Congresswoman.”
The woman scanned the application, stopping at Liz’s brief description of her time with Vanessa Whitaker, minus the part where the Congresswoman was an alien and Isabel blew her up with her powers. What information she had included, however, seemed to impress the interviewer, at least to the point where she didn’t dismiss Liz out of hand. Abruptly, she shoved a piece of paper at Liz.
“Do these problems.” She started a timer, and watched as Liz made quick work of simple math calculations.” Mildly impressed when the timer hadn’t even gone 20 seconds, she looked at Liz more closely.
“Let’s say I’m a potential guest at the hotel, and I arrive with my family—wife’s on edge, kids are crying—and the room’s not ready. What do you do?”
Liz thought quickly. She’d dealt with many a frazzled family at the Crashdown when the kitchen was backed up, and she’d honed her techniques over the years. Her current favorite was to give each kid a quarter and take them to the jukebox to pick out a song. That usually distracted them long enough for the parents to take a deep breath and munch on complimentary Saturn Rings. She always made her investment back and then some when the grateful parents left a tip.
“I guess I’d call someone from the children’s program to show the kids around the play area, and then suggest the adults have a complimentary drink in the bar until the first available room was made up. . . . If that’s allowed, of course,” she finished nervously.
Liz tried to keep from squirming as the woman gave her a thoughtful once-over.
“Conference room C,” she finally said, handing Liz a red pass. “Please wait with the others. Someone will be in shortly.”
Flipping a quick look over her shoulder, she saw Max’s curious expression.
I don’t know if I have it or not,” Liz shrugged mentally, “but I’ve gotten past the first screening, at least.
he said, his pride in her obvious in his face and his thoughts. Liz straightened her shoulders and smiled at him.
She moved hurriedly out of the way and down the hall marked “Conference Rooms.”
Kyle stood nervously in the “Garage” line. After two years of working on cars, he was pretty sure that he knew his stuff, but the others in line were older and probably more experienced, and he was suddenly and acutely aware of all he didn’t know.
Looking to his right, he rolled his eyes when he noticed Michael just ahead of him in the “Casino” line. Figures Guerin would go for that first. Maybe he should have, too, come to think of it. He knew how to gamble. How hard could it be to run the games? Then he took a closer look. Three
lines for “Casino.” Three friggin’ lines!
And every single one was long. Everyone wanted that job. He shuffled forward. Better to stay in this line.
People-watching had become a favorite pastime for Kyle. Ever since he’d become suspicious of the Lost in Space crew, he’d taken to noticing subtle nuances of behavior, speech, and body language. Now, with nothing else to occupy his mind but the jitters, he took a long look around the room. There were at least 300 people there, looking for work, and this was only one day! Studying the faces of the men and women screening applications, he jerked abruptly, bumping the man behind him.
“Watch it!” came the irritable reaction.
“Sorry,” Kyle choked, feeling the disconcerting sensation again, this time slightly threatening.
What the hell was
that? That vague pressure on his mind, like something pushing in on him. Then he felt it from yet another direction, and he jerked again.
“What’s wrong with you, man?” scowled his neighbor in line. “You on something? ‘Cause I’ll tell ya right now, they test for that stuff. You’ll be out before you even get through the door.”
“Huh? No, sorry.”
The first chilling ripples of panic began to skitter within his chest, and the thought crossed his mind that he might be having a heart attack. His eyes darted around the room, landing randomly on people around him. Each time, a new and different wave surrounded him, applying mild pressure in his mind and sending his emotions careening wildly—excitement, fear, boredom, guilt, weariness, even horniness . . . that one from a young guy in the casino line behind Michael. No, wait. It was
Michael! Michael who was whiling away his time in line looking at Maria across the room and no doubt fantasizing.
That’s when it hit him. He was sensing what each person he looked at was feeling. Oh god! It was happening! He was getting . . . powers! He didn’t want powers. He didn’t want the responsibility, the alienness
. It was okay for genuine aliens. It was even okay for someone married to a genuine alien, but he wasn’t either of those things and was never likely to be. How in the name of Buddha was he supposed to deal with this?
Floodgates opened and Kyle reeled under the battery of emotions that crowded into his mind. He wasn’t hearing thoughts or getting flashes. He was only sensing emotion, good and bad, and the jumble of emotion he was sensing was as varied in intensity and intent as one could imagine.
He closed his eyes, wondering if he could go through life pretending to be blind, but it only took a few seconds before the irritated applicant behind him gave him a nudge.
“Wake up or get outta line,” he grumbled. Kyle looked back at him reflexively and immediately felt the man’s irritation growing deeper. He closed the gap in the line that his lack of attention had created and looked toward Michael a few people forward in the next line, but there was no help there. Michael’s fantasies had apparently progressed because he was boring holes into Maria with his eyes, and Kyle felt himself getting aroused even as he tried to ward off Michael’s lust-filled emotions. Shit! Having Maria and these feelings in his mind at the same time was enough to make him jump out of his skin. He never
felt like that about Maria, and he wasn’t about to start now!
In the name of all that’s holy, STOP!
he cried out in his mind, but there was no escape. Breathing heavily now, he looked for someone to focus on who seemed calm . . . or brain dead. Either would do. He looked up toward the man screening applicants in Michael’s line. The man was tired and pissed. Okay, not a good place to focus. Facing the line past that, though, was a young woman. He felt immediately calm, warm, even cared for just looking at her.
That felt good. He just stared at her, soaking in the easy vibes, and started to relax. Inching forward, an idea burst unbidden into his thoughts.
“Guerin!” he stage-whispered.
“Michael!!” Still nothing. Kyle reluctantly shifted his attention to his friend and almost yelped when the lust grabbed a hold of him. Shit, he was getting a friggin’ hard-on just looking at Michael. Did he just think that? Oh god!
Mercifully, the guy behind Michael tapped him on the shoulder and directed his attention to Kyle, who felt a blessed deflation in his groin. However, the lust was replaced with extreme annoyance. Whatever. Anything was better than what he’d been feeling a minute ago.
“What?” Michael hissed.
Kyle took half a step out of line so as not to lose his place, and motioned Michael to do the same. More annoyance. Finally, they were close enough that Kyle’s loud whisper could be heard only by Michael under the din.
“Get into the next line,” he urged.
“The guy up there won’t give you the time of day, but the woman in the next line might.”
Michael squinted at him, obviously trying to figure out the punchline.
“I’m serious, Michael. Get in the next line.”
“Are you screwin’ with me, Valenti? I’ve already been standing in this line for 20 minutes! Why would I get out of line just to start over in another one?”
“Because the guy running this line is pissed; you’ll never get by him. But that girl running the next line is nice. She’ll give you a break.”
“Fuck off, Valenti,” Michael said dismissively, and turned to assume his place in line.
“Well, considering that’s where your mind has been for the last 15 minutes, maybe you
should,” Kyle needled. “Where is Maria, anyway?”
Michael turned slowly, peering warily at Kyle. “What makes you say that?”
“Because my ‘gift’ has hatched, you freak, and it’s all about feeling what the person I’m looking at is feeling. So I’ll thank you to keep your horniness under control before I wind up with a boner over your
girlfriend during my interview.”
Michael was speechless—a rare and beautiful sight, as far as Kyle was concerned. He turned away triumphantly, noting with satisfaction that Michael stepped out of line and headed toward the end of the next one. This might be fun after all.
That brief thought was immediately squelched as he began to look around the room, forgetting that his casual gaze would cause him to be bombarded by every possible emotion. He brought his eyes back to the young woman who headed up Michael’s application line and took a deep breath. Better. There had to be a way to control this; surely he wasn’t condemned to spend his life as a human magnet for everyone else’s mental state.
He thought back to all the times he’d watched the others try to control their powers. In every case, he’d been aware of what looked like a disciplined effort to control their own minds. Shuffling forward as the line inched along, he closed his eyes and pictured a wall—the Berlin Wall, the Great Wall of China, the wall between the girls’ and boys’ locker rooms. Yeah, that helped. He felt the chaos diminish. Or was that because his eyes were closed?
He squinted, afraid to let too much in too quickly. He started with the young woman he’d watched earlier. For the first time, he realized how much she looked like Liz—long, dark hair; petite; intelligent. But the eyes that looked out from under long lashes were a startlingly clear blue, and the laugh that came so easily was higher and lighter than Liz’s. Looking at her made him feel mellow, warm. She was comfortable—with herself and with others. It felt nice.
The guy behind him nudged him forward again, and Kyle turned, ready to apologize again for not moving with the line, but the emotions that assaulted him this time were tightly strung, edgy. He tried imagining his protective wall without looking away, but the results were disappointing. There was only the mildest reduction in the effect, and Kyle averted his eyes quickly.
Kyle handed his application to the older man behind the draped table in front of him. What had most certainly started out as a crisp clean tablecloth was now a smudged facsimile, lying drunkenly askew, puddling off to one side. From under the material, something pulsed rhythmically, and Kyle realized it was the man’s foot. Hazarding a look at the man’s face, his conclusion was confirmed—this man was bored and eager to be on his way, but the line that meandered endlessly behind Kyle gave no promise of relief.
“Two years working as a mechanic?”
It took a few seconds for the question to penetrate Kyle’s thoughts, and he jumped when he realized the man was waiting for him to respond.
“Oh, yeah. Two years.”
“Have you worked on foreign cars? BMWs? Jaguars? Mercedes?”
“Uh, well, not that many. Lots of campers and pick-ups in Roswell.”
Kyle snorted. “Not much call for those, either.”
The man’s frown deepened, and Kyle realized he was digging himself a hole.
“But I’ve rebuilt two engines and done some first-class troubleshooting on the local rental cars, all kinds.”
It sounded lame even to him.
Valenti. Your father is in law enforcement?”
“Yeah,” Kyle replied slowly, uncomfortable with the turn in the conversation.
“Got any training?”
“Not formally, no, but the experience sort of found me, you know? The thing is, I’d really rather work as a mechanic.”
“I’m not sure you’re ready for our garage, short of the valet service, but we’re looking for security. Pays better than valet, too. You’re too young to carry a gun, o’ course, but we need bouncers and guards.”
He peered up at Kyle over his half-lens reading glasses. “You’re a mite small for a bouncer, but you might do as a security guard.”
Kyle bit back the sarcastic comeback that rose to his lips. He needed a job. Now. But Security? Why was the world always trying to turn him into a cop?
A heavy sigh escaped his lips, and the guy let out an amused snort. “Tell you what?”
Kyle quirked an eyebrow, afraid to screw up whatever altruistic impulse this guy seemed to be following.
“How’s you’re driving?”
Kyle brightened. “Great! I can drive anything. Sports cars to campers, automatic or stick shift. I can even drive a tow truck. Never had a ticket or an accident.”
He eyed Kyle speculatively, then nodded to himself. Tearing a piece of paper from a notepad, he scrawled a few lines, folded it, and handed it to Kyle with a blue pass.
“Go to the office off the lobby, and tell them Jerry sent you to see Mr. Crawford about the chauffeur’s job.”
Kyle grabbed the paper and pass excitedly. “You got it, Mr. . . . Jerry. And thanks!”
continued in next post