CHAMELEON (CC / Mature) (Complete)

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Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sat Jul 05, 2003 11:27 pm

I hope everyone had a great Fourth! I spent my day writing this story, napping, and watching fireworks. That qualifies as an almost perfect day!

You have all been very patient with me as I wandered so far adrift from my usual intense focus on Max and Liz. Believe me, they are still the beating heart of my love for Roswell and this story. But Kyle's story was very important to my ultimate goal for Chameleon, and as you seem to agree, it's a pretty complex story.

HOWEVER . . . we are going to spend this week with our beloved couple. They have some talking to do (what? you want more than talking? :wink: ), and I've missed them as much as you have.

I hope you enjoy being back with our sweethearts.

(Posted in two posts.)

Part 34

“What’s that about?” Maria frowned.

Liz just stared at the door, still conscious of the wisps of hot air that sliced through the air conditioning after Max stormed out of the apartment. What was that about? She was almost afraid to know the answer to that question. She could only think of one reason he’d be furious to discover Kyle was Zan’s father when his reaction to Tess being Zan’s mother was only unhappy resignation. And that reason stabbed at her heart, opening old wounds she had thought healed long ago.

“I have no idea,” she mumbled through tight lips. She turned to head into their bedroom, wanting only to be alone.

“Liz, aren’t you going after him?” Maria asked incredulously, casting a pleading look for help in Michael’s direction.

“He knows where to find me,” Liz ground out, and slammed the door. Leaning back against it, she heard Maria’s fear undercut what she intended as an order.

“Michael, do something!”

Maria had walked every mile of Liz and Max’s rough times right alongside her friend, and there was no question that she didn’t want to revisit those days.

“Like what?” Michael bit back, a similar undercurrent of uneasiness in his voice.

“Like . . . fix it,” Maria finished lamely.

Liz threw herself on the bed and did what she always did when her emotions took her somewhere she didn’t want to go—she tried to analyze the situation. First, Max was as surprised as anyone that Zan was undoubtedly Tess’s. There was no other explanation for the little boy’s developing powers. But that news had been met with reluctant acceptance and more than a little curiosity about Zan’s origins. Then, when she told him Kyle was the father, his emotions had fairly burst out of his façade of control, even to the point where Liz couldn’t get past the emotional “noise” to understand its cause.

Her first reaction was to assume he was jealous that Kyle had fathered a child with Tess. But did that make sense? Liz was completely sure of Max’s love for her. Still, that didn’t preclude some leftover sense of innate connection to another hybrid with whom he thought he’d fathered a child. Had he grown used to the idea? He had embraced Zan as his son in his mind for months before the baby was even born. Then, during their week together, he had felt the emotional bond of father and son. And for weeks after that, he coped with the painful sacrifice of giving his son up.

Then their honeymoon night, when the truth became clear, there had only been relief and joy and ecstatic union. But what about the trauma of losing that father-son bond? Was it like really losing a son? Did he miss that sense of having brought a piece of himself into the world, in spite of the horrific circumstances? And had it all been easier to accept when he could believe there were loving parents out there grieving for the loss of their human child? As perhaps his own mother—his Antarian mother—grieved for the loss of her son for much the same reason?

What if, in spite of Max’s love for her, a child born of their union would be somehow less? Somehow a compromise when compared to a completely hybrid child—a living testament to a rare and special species? Did Kyle, Zan’s human father, taint Zan’s bloodlines, diminish his value in Max’s eyes?

Liz could feel the anger and fear gripping her heart as her mind spun wildly out of control. What if Max didn’t want a family with her? What if—eventually—he didn’t want her? What if . . .?

The door flew open so hard that it bounced almost closed behind Max as he strode into the room, and he stood staring at her with a stunned expression that was at once angry and disbelieving. She jumped up, startled and defensive. His jaw worked furiously, but no sound came out, until . . .

“What the hell are you thinking? Have you lost your mind? After all we’ve been through, after the connection we’ve formed, how can you be thinking like this? How . . .?”

He searched her face, looking so shocked that Liz felt almost compelled to turn her head just to make sure a second one hadn’t popped out next to her. His ragged breaths seemed disproportionately loud as she gaped back at him, only now beginning to realize that he had heard her thoughts and come running to confront her. And in the midst of her confusion, she found it odd that a detached piece of her should notice how beautiful he looked with his skin glowing with perspiration and his muscular chest heaving under his damp shirt.

“You were so upset about Kyle, like you were jealous . . .”

Her sentence fell into Max’s mouth as he covered hers with a ferocity that shot a thrill down her spine. He kissed her angrily, thoroughly, with such dominance that she felt she had been yelled at, punished, and then forgiven with the sweep of a tongue over bruised lips. By the time he was done, the kiss gentled, and she felt his hands release her arms and slide around her, cinching her tighter and tighter into his body.

“For a smart girl, you sure can be dumb,” he mumbled into her hair.

Liz’s last ember of anger sputtered to life, and she pulled back from him. “Then why don’t you tell me what the hell you’re thinking?”

The tension that had stiffened his body sagged into itself, and he sat heavily on the edge of the bed, pulling her down by the hand to join him.

“I’m sorry, Liz. I felt so angry, and I just had to sort it out. I needed to run some junk out of my system, you know? I’m sorry I left you confused; that was wrong, but . . .” He threw her another disbelieving look. “. . . but I didn’t get far when your thoughts got me even crazier! My god, Liz!”

“You were going to tell me why you were so angry. If it wasn’t jealousy . . .”

Max shook his head and rolled his eyes. “Jealousy.” He chuckled without humor. “What’s the opposite of jealousy, Liz? What word describes the feeling you have when dislike and even loathing turn into a hatred so consuming, you think you may become paralyzed by it? When you realize that you had the power to destroy something so evil that it was like a living poison in your midst, destroying anything good that it touched and leaving nothing but the pain in its wake—what if you could have destroyed it and you didn’t!”

He stood suddenly and went to face himself in the small mirror over the dresser, squinting as if he wasn’t sure he recognized his reflection. Liz gripped the bedspread, tingling with the extreme energy Max was exuding, but she said nothing.

“When I realized Tess had used Kyle, I didn’t feel just anger—just righteous indignation that she had taken another family’s child for her own purposes. It became personal, Liz.” He turned to face her, then, his eyes pleading with her to understand. “It is personal. She took a friend, someone who had become like her family, and robbed him of his free will. She used his body and his mind and his trust to rape him, create a child with him, and then take that child away when he didn’t even know it existed. It was bad enough what she did to me, and I hated her for what she did to you, Liz. But this was the worst—or shall I say, a personal best for her. This was so low, I can’t . . . I can’t even conceive of it.”

Liz opened her mouth to correct him. Kyle hadn’t been mindwarped—at least not during that part. Manipulated, yes. But not mindwarped. Not until after Zan was conceived did she psychically alter his emotions. But Liz didn’t get the chance to speak; Max was on a roll.

“And who knows how long she had him under a warp. Look what happened to Alex! Kyle’s had nothing but grief since he found out about us. Now he has a son? An alien son? What’s he supposed to do about that? He’ll be at Zan’s mercy eventually. How do you discipline a kid who can squash you like a bug before he’s old enough to understand what he’s doing? I mean, come on. Kyle’s got his faults, but he doesn’t deserve that. I swear to God, Liz, if she weren’t already dead, I honestly think I could do it now. And I don’t like feeling that way.”

Max took a deep breath, blowing it out slowly, then wiggled the fingers that had cramped from being curled into fists for so long. He had to calm down. His feet started to wear a path around the room.

“And what about Zan? By telling us he was human, Tess endangered him all the more. I gave him away! I sent him off without any defense against a world that would be waiting to study him like a lab rat. He could have been killed . . . or worse.”

Max knew firsthand that there was something worse than being killed, and the thought that this could have been Zan’s fate sent a wave of nausea through him that hit Liz, too. And it didn’t improve much knowing what they all faced now. Liz tightened her grip on the quilt and tried to breathe deeply, quelling the urge to throw up.

“We have to help raise him, you know, Liz.” He’d stopped his pacing and turned on her, looking with trepidation for her reaction to what had just struck him. “Kyle can’t do it alone. He won’t know how. Now he’s tied to us, when I think what he really wanted was to get to a place where he could escape this insanity and make a life that had nothing to do with us. Can you even imagine what he’s feeling right now? And what about Serena? He was starting to fall for her. This has probably condemned that relationship, even if she’s willing to accept Zan, which I doubt.”

Liz caught Max’s hand as he passed by for the umpteenth time and pulled him down to sit next to her. He didn’t resist but turned to face her with such helplessness on his face and in his voice. “Some of us were born to this, Liz. And some of you signed on, for better or for worse.” He touched her ring, running a fingertip over its smooth metal and rough stone. “But not Kyle. He’s been dragged into this by default, because I changed him and there’s nothing he can do about it.”

He sighed, slumping further into himself, but held her gaze, earnest and emotional. “This may sound odd, Liz, but I’ve been watching Kyle. He’s turning into a . . . a great guy.”

Liz’s eyes widened and her lips fell open in surprise.

“What did you say?”

Max’s mouth twitched at one corner. “I know I don’t usually say nice things about Kyle, but . . .”

“Max, those were Future Max’s almost exact words to me when he was suggesting I get back with Kyle after I made you fall out of love with me.”

“What?”

“You sat on my rooftop while I cried my heart out and told me maybe it was all for the best. That you’d been watching me with Kyle and he was turning into a ‘great guy.’ You said maybe I’d be better off with a human.”

She watched his face change, and then he was reaching for her, sliding his large hand down her jaw line, and tilting her face up to meet his. His lips fluttered lightly over hers, vibrating ever so slightly with one whispered phrase.

“I pray I was wrong about that.”

And then his lips pressed fully into hers, more insistent this time, asking for forgiveness and granting it all at once. She opened to him, mind and body, and they soared to that hidden plane they reached only when they were together like this, and the flashes welcomed them. The dark-haired toddler they had seen once before fell happily into her . . . her? . . . father’s outstretched arms, and he swung her into the air, grinning back at the rapturous face, alight with the rush of flight and the security of loving hands. And as he lowered the child to his chest, the two reached to enfold a third—Liz, smiling with such pure happiness that it fairly shone around them.

They parted, looking for and finding confirmation that the other had seen it, too, and bursting with the knowledge that this joy was part of their future.

“I love you, Liz. I want you and only you and always have. I want your heart and your body and someday, our babies. When you doubt that, it’s like driving a stake into my heart. I don’t know how to make you believe it, but . . .”

Her fingers stilled his words. “I do believe it, Max. I do. Maybe it was shock or the heat or just being afraid of not understanding what you were feeling, but I went a little crazy, that’s all. I’ve gotten so used to feeling you inside me . . .” She halted when his sincere expression faltered into a sexy smirk for an instant, and she couldn’t help but smile back. “I mean feeling your thoughts inside me. It scared me when I felt your violent reaction but couldn’t understand it.”

His concern returned, and she touched the crease between his eyebrows with a fingertip.

“You were wrong, Max. I could never be with anyone but you.”

This time the kiss carried them down into the softness of the quilt, and their hands reached out for the reassuring familiarity of a body that was gradually becoming a part of their own. Words from a song Liz loved popped into her mind when she touched her husband—“muscle and sinew, velvet and stone . . . Make myself translucent to let you in.” And suddenly she wanted nothing more than to let him in. “I am wanting, I am needing you here inside the absence of fear.” That’s what their love was—should always be: the absence of fear. How could she have forgotten that, even for a minute?

The loving caresses gradually filed away the rough edges of their broken connection, and soon the nature of their touches altered, evolving into a familiar need to make their bodies one, as well. Liz felt Max shiver when her fingers ducked under his t-shirt and began to trace the fluctuating hills and valleys of his abdomen—muscle and sinew—and against her hips, pressed firmly into her own, she felt him respond to her—velvet and stone. Whoever wrote that song knew something about love—physical, emotional, spiritual. They knew its feel and its power. The headiness of knowing that she held such power over Max, and his complete willingness to let her wield that power always left her feeling at once invincible and humble. It was the greatest act of love Max could offer—giving her control. And she knew that this power didn’t stop with his body; he was incapable of separating that from his own heart, his very soul.

His hands pushed roughly at her tank top and one breast sprang free, almost leaping into his grateful palm. Matching moans passed between them at the contact, and Liz arched into him, wriggling against the hardness that pressed into her stomach. Max’s mouth left hers and he bent to suckle at her breast, his tongue teasing her nipple to a pebbled peak, leaving her gasping above his ear. Her hand came up to press his head hard into her, and she closed her eyes, head thrown back as the warmth spread quickly through her.

His fingers homed in, confident of their target. He knew the magic combinations now; he knew when and where and how hard. She had wondered more than once as her body sang in response to his talented hands, mouth, cock, whether he consciously studied her responses or whether his instincts had just been honed by the weeks of having her come apart in his arms.

She struggled to swim up from the dazed depths of his ministrations to offer him some of the same sensuous attention. He was peeling her top off now, and the shift in position forced his hips across her bare midriff, leaving an invisible trail of damp warmth. He was already primed for her, and the faint whiff of his juices triggered a primal response from deep within her.

She rolled him backwards and straddled him, nostrils flaring at the way his eyes followed her breasts, and the bulge beneath her twitched and swelled. She parted her lips, needing the oxygen from both nose and mouth to contain the ragged breathing that accompanied her wildly beating heart. She inched his t-shirt off of him, thinking again how he reminded her of an agile cat, muscles working smoothly just beneath the surface—sleek strength, leashed power.

His fingers dove into her hair and fell away, letting the strands cascade over them and down to her shoulders. Then again and again, until she leaned gradually forward, closing the distance between them. As her hair tickled his chest and shoulders, he raised his head to take her mouth, pulling her back down with him, and they both gasped when their nipples touched. The jolt began a wild frenzy of need. Fingers attacked the zippers and buttons that stood in their way, and Liz thrilled to the desperate need in Max that matched her own.

Liz could feel the heat from Max’s erection through the thick denim, and she could smell his juices simmering just beneath the surface. It was igniting her, pushing her to a recklessness she rarely allowed herself. Every time she felt her passion rising, she could feel Max respond in kind. They were driving each other higher, feeding off of each other’s abandon, humming with energy and passion, their explosive potential barely contained.

The final layers of clothing hit the floor, and Liz felt Max’s hands cupping her from behind, urging her up his body, further and further. Without question, she followed his lead, unprepared for the onslaught of sensation that ripped through her when he lifted her up and over his mouth, suckling her heat as he had her breasts. She may have screamed; she wasn’t sure. But this new attack on her senses was unprecedented. In spite of herself, she pressed into him, deeper, deeper, feeling him devour her, penetrate her, tease her clit with his teeth. The coil that tightened within her ached with the anticipation of release.

She wouldn’t go without him! Not this time. This was a union, a healing, and they would get there together. She lifted herself with fierce determination, almost cumming in response to the raw possession and lust in his eyes. She wriggled down his body again, slipping off the side of the bed where his legs still dangled, and brought her mouth to his hard, burning length. It leapt within her lips, seeping profusely.

“Liz!”

A plea, a cry, a prayer. As far as she was aware, that was the first coherent syllable from either of them since they had escalated into this elevated state of sexual abandon. She’d never felt so alive.

Only seconds of laving his sensitive tip and sucking him in deeply, and Liz felt him fly up to pull her away from him.

“Now!”

He pulled her up and onto her back in one smooth motion, and then he took her, plunging in with a cry that came from long-locked depths. Once there, he stilled, as if momentarily stunned at having found what he so desperately sought. His head nestled in the crook of Liz’s neck, and she heard him whisper, so softly and reverently, she felt tears spring to her eyes.

“I was wrong. You’re mine. Just mine.” And with that, he began to move, more gently but no less urgently, until the pressure could no longer be contained and their muscles melted into each other in a shattering release. Even minutes later, when Max’s long, trembling sigh signaled his return to the bonds of earth, Liz couldn’t bring herself to release her twin hold on him, arms and legs only an outward sign of the oneness she still felt with her lover.

“So what did you say?” Max asked.

“Mmmm, what? What did I say to who?”

‘To me, Future me, when I said maybe you’d be better off with a human.”

Liz tightened her grip again, and smiled into his hair.

“I said you were the love of my life, and that anyone else would just be second best.”

And as his tears slid over her shoulder, she kept him enclosed in the protective circle of her body and her heart—inside the absence of fear.

continued in next post
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

User avatar
Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
Posts: 110
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sat Jul 05, 2003 11:31 pm

Part 34 continued

********
“So, does making love in the middle of the afternoon make me a wanton hussy?” she asked, looking up into his adoring face with wide-eyed innocence.

“Absolutely,” he nodded seriously, leaning in for one more taste. “You’re ruined. I’ve got a guy coming around in about an hour with your scarlet letter.”

Taylor sighed with a frown. “Then I guess I have nothing left to lose.” Her legs clamped around him and her hips teased him with slow, rhythmic circles. “If this is wanton, then so be it.”

Nate grinned down at her, enthralled with the infinite facets of this incredible woman he had fallen for so quickly and so thoroughly. Cool lawyer one minute, fiercely loyal friend, the next; patient researcher on the one hand, sexy lover on the other. And all those many sides of her had concentrated only on him for the last few weeks. She had worked tirelessly to prove he was innocent of murder, believing in him almost from the beginning. Then she had burrowed into his heart, giving him a home in a way no one ever had before. And now she was on the verge of enticing him back into her body, which was not exactly a hard sell.

“We’re having dinner with my dad, remember?” he reminded her, already aware of the fuzziness that dulled his brain when she aroused him like this.

“Not hungry,” she whispered into his ear before her tongue snaked into it.

“Oh, god,” he moaned, vaguely aware that he was trying to make a point. “But he’ll be waiting. You know . . . how generals . . .are.”

Now her fingernails were raking none too gently over his back, and he felt the swell of her breasts, pliable beneath his weight.

“We’ll just share a shower when we’re done,” she promised huskily. “Save . . . time.”

That fast he was ready, burying himself in her again, reveling in the little sounds he’d come to know as erotic approval, and he lost himself in the red-gold crown of her hair and the sweet warmth of her body.

Forty-five minutes later, they rushed into the restaurant, glowing and breathless . . . and late. General Christopher looked up at them from over the top of his menu, a glare of disapproval on his face.

“Watch broken, son?” he asked.

Nate and Taylor stopped in their tracks, glancing at each other with uncomfortable surprise.

“No, sir, I . . .”

“Or,” he smiled suddenly, “did you come up with something better to do?” He winked at Taylor and her eyes flew open in surprise as a blush rose quickly up her cheeks.

“I . . . uh . . . I’m sorry, sir.”

Eric waved a hand in invitation. “Sit. I’ve ordered an hors d’oeuvres platter and I’m sure the waiter will be here shortly to take your drink order. So, all ready for your trip?”

The two young lovers relaxed, a little surprised but relieved to see the general in such a good mood.

“We’re packed,” Nate told him, “and we’ve got a care package to deliver from the Parkers and Evanses, but I still need to get a map. The resort’s too new to be online with Map Quest yet, so my directions are a little vague.”

“When’s your leave up?”

“Wednesday, but Taylor has to be back Tuesday, so we’ll be in Monday night.” He dropped his voice. “Will there still be a Special Unit in place when I get back?”

At this, Eric’s smile returned. “Only a skeleton. I got word this morning that at least half of the people assigned here will be reassigned next week some time, and I’m to supervise the dismantling of this facility over the next 6 months.”

“That’s wonderful!” Taylor beamed, then faltered at the look on Nate’s face. “Isn’t it?”

“Yes,” he said softly, but without enthusiasm. “Of course it is, but . . . Dad? Am I one of those being reassigned next week?”

Eric looked at his son sympathetically. “No, you’re not in the first wave, but I don’t give it more than a month or two.”

Taylor’s face fell and she set down the potato skin that had looked so mouthwatering a moment ago. “Oh.”

Eric looked from one face to the other, and knew what he suspected was true. This wasn’t a casual romance for either of them. They were in love, and that was a hard thing to be when you were both military officers.

********
“What the hell were you thinking? Have you lost your mind?”

Michael tugged on Maria’s hand, trying to break the open-mouthed spell that had gripped her since Max flew by in a rush of sweat and fury. The bedroom door almost closed in their faces, and Michael knew an exit cue when he heard one.

“Let’s get out of here.”

Maria nodded, eyes still glued to the door. Michael tugged again, harder this time, grabbed the van keys, and pulled them both into the late afternoon sun. Waves of suffocating heat enveloped them, but nothing like what washed over him when he opened the van doors, and he had to turn his face away.

Let’s sit over there and let this thing air out,” he suggested, pointing to a nearby picnic table.

“Don’t you think we should stick around?” Maria asked, glancing nervously up at their apartment door. “He looked really mad.”

“He is really mad.”

“Why?”

Michael sat down and leaned back against the table’s edge, propping his elbows up on either side. “I dunno, but I’ve seen him mad before. He’ll get over it. You know he could never hurt Liz.”

“Yeah, I know, but it’s just not like him. Not with Liz, anyway.”

“Yeah.”

They sat quietly, each lost in thought. The parking lot got a little busier as people with “9 to 5” jobs began to arrive home, and one by one they disappeared into apartment doors, some greeted by quiet, but others welcomed by a kiss or an excited, “Daddy!” Michael shifted a little, and Maria looked over.

“Penny for your thoughts.”

He gazed at her, his soft brown eyes scanning her face, his lips pursed.

Maria smiled suspiciously. “What? What’s going on in that scattered brain of yours?”

“We fight a lot.”

“Yeah, so what else is new?”

“But you know I love you, right?”

Her smile broadened. “’Course I do. And I love you. This goin’ somewhere?”

“I always figured married people shouldn’t fight. Max and Liz don’t . . . didn’t. And I’ve never seen the Evanses fight. I mean, when you get married, you’re sort of agreeing not to fight anymore, right?”

Maria pulled her head back and squinted hard at him. “What? Where are you getting this stuff?”

“I don’t know—just people I know. TV. Whatever.”

Maria studied him until he squirmed. “Quit starin’ at me. What’re you doin’?”

“I just realized that you have never really been around married people, have you? I mean, not parents, not friends—until Max and Liz, and they don’t count. They’re like not even real. You have no idea what marriage looks like.”

Michael looked defensive . . . and wary. “So?”

Maria shook her head slowly. “How long did I harp on you about being a better boyfriend? How many times did I give you grief about not knowing how to treat a girl? And yet, I never once realized that you have absolutely no role model for any of that. You were raised by Hank, for god’s sake! Even Max and Liz have never had what you might call a normal relationship, and when did you really stick around to watch them interact, anyway? And as for married couples, you’ve never been around any of those, either. My god, Michael, it’s amazing we’ve gotten this far!”

She launched herself at him, kissing him soundly on the lips, and he returned the kiss on autopilot for a moment, surprised by her outburst. Soon, though, he let himself feel it, and it felt good. So damned good. It always did. He’d never told her, never opened himself up enough to say the words, but this was what he lived for anymore. This sense of belonging, acceptance, love-in-spite-of-everything. She saved him every day, and he’d never really told her.

She broke off first, babbling away again. How that used to annoy him! And yet now, it was comforting. Normal. A reassuring background to his life, like a hockey game on TV. Only this filled more than the hours. It filled him.

“It’s like that parable in the Bible, where this poor old woman only gives like a dime at church or something and all these rich people are giving tons of money, and Jesus says something about how that dime was like giving a fortune for somebody who has nothing.”

Her mouth fell open, as if listening to herself had just given her an insight she didn’t know she had. “Michael. You’ve given me a fortune—relatively speaking. I mean, if you think about where you’re coming from, what you’ve given me is huge!

And she was in his arms again, showering him with kisses and making him laugh—a rare sound. It made her pause and beam at him, pure joy sparkling in her eyes. God, he loved her.

“Is it enough to marry me?”

The sudden stillness was so sudden, so complete, they both sat in shock, staring at each other. Had he said that out loud? Had he just asked Maria to marry him? He must have, because she was looking at him with eyes so big, there didn’t seem to be much holding them in, and her full lips were frozen in a perfect “O.”

Was it seconds? Minutes? The sense of time stopping was pressing on him hard now, and he was starting to think he’d stepped into that old Twilight Zone where time stood still but the main character was still walking around trying to figure out what happened.

Finally, a hoarse whisper. “What?”

Okay, she was alive and in the time warp with him. Now what? Was he serious? Had he meant it? But there she was, warm and alive and more full of love and life than he’d ever been. And she was sharing it with him, and had been for longer than he was willing to admit. And the thought of ever waking up again without this in his life was completely unthinkable. Yes, he’d meant it. How could he not? She was more than he could have asked for. More than he deserved.

“Marry me.”

“You’re serious?”

“Well, as long as it’s okay to keep fighting, what’ve we got to lose?”

A flicker of something in her eyes. Disappointment? Damn. He was doing it again. Pretending he didn’t care. Giving off his “it’s no big deal” vibe.

“Maria, the plain fact is, I can’t imagine not having you in my life. I don’t ever want to wake up and not have you beside me. All that shit you do that annoys the hell out of me—I need it. Somehow you made me need you. And love you. And I just . . . I just always want it to be like that. And if even Max and Liz can have a fight, then I guess it’s okay for the rest of us, right? I mean, as long as we’re clear that I’m not promising to never fight with you . . .”

Then he saw the tears and realized with some surprise that he didn’t have to be afraid of them. He’d finally reached the point where he could tell the upset ones from the happy ones, and thank heaven these were happy ones. She came to him then, a sniffling, runny-nosed, sweaty angel who said the only thing he wanted to hear.

“Yes.”

********
“Where are you going?” Max asked groggily. They had spent the late afternoon and early evening in the most perfect pattern of alternating naps and lovemaking. Even now, watching Liz rise from the bed, naked and mussed, sent him back toward arousal.

“I have a surprise for you,” she whispered, an excited edge to her voice.

The room was dark, but the timer had turned on the living room light. As Liz reached the doorway, Max called to her. She turned slightly.

“What?”

He said nothing.

“Max?”

“Nothing,” he sighed. “I just like your naked silhouette in the doorway.”

“Max!” She was going for indignant, but the little laugh in her throat gave her away, and he grinned in the dark.

“Can’t blame a guy for trying!” he called after her.

Seconds later, she was back and flipping on a nightstand lamp.

“Hey!” Max complained, shielding his eyes.

“It’s only fair. Maybe I like seeing you lying naked in my bed,” she teased back, earning herself a suggestive leer.

“I can arrange for some free samples, if you’re interested,” he told her in mock seriousness. “But you’d better sign up early. My slots are filling up fast.”

“In your dreams,” she huffed. “Besides, you have a more pressing engagement.”

“And that would be . . .?” he questioned, waggling his eyebrows.

From behind her back, she pulled a small package. “Happy Two-Month Anniversary, Max.”

“Liz!”

He sat up, and reached for the gift, wrapping a hand around her wrist so she would join him on the bed. They sat cross-legged, knee to knee, and Max eyed the box curiously.

“What is it?”

“Only one way to find out,” she smiled, eyes alight with anticipation.

He shook the box gently near his ear and frowned in concentration. Then he sniffed at it.

“Just open it, Max!”

He loved driving her crazy like this. Liz was a kid with presents, and the only thing better than getting one from her was giving her one. He could prolong both until she squealed with impatience, and he loved doing it.

He gingerly unwrapped the box, taking care not to tear the paper or crease the tiny bow. She was bouncing now, her fingers twitching to reach over and do it for him. At long last, the paper fell away and he slowly lifted the lid.

All the playfulness went out of him. He looked from Liz to the box to Liz to the box.

“How . . .?”

“I gave my dad the slip when they came to see us at River Dog’s cabin, and he took care of it for me. It arrived this morning.”

Max was speechless and his fingers trembled slightly as he reached into the cotton lining and pulled out his watch—the one he’d had to hock weeks ago in order to get enough cash to keep them on the road. The one his parents gave him for graduation. The one that said his parents were still proud to call him son—alien or no.

“Liz.”

Her fingers reached to still his shaking ones, and she drew them to her mouth, pressing them briefly to her lips.

“I couldn’t let you give that up, Max. It means too much.”

She had known. Somehow, she had known what this meant to him. And she had planned to get it back, knowing that he would have insisted they needed the money more. Which they had, at the time. But she hadn’t forgotten about it. When he had given up any hope of ever seeing it again, she had found a way.

“Liz, I . . . thank you.” He crushed her to him, thanking whatever providence had brought her to him . . . or him to her, more likely. She was everything to him.

“I can’t believe you did this. You never stop surprising me.”

She pulled back a little and smiled one of those brilliant smiles that lit her whole being and warmed his in the process. Eyes shining with love, she whispered, “And I hope I never do.”

“I . . . I have something for you, too, but . . . it’s nothing like this. I mean, it’s nothing . . .”

“You got me something?” The look of surprise and delight in her eyes focused him, and he found his own smile again.

He leaned back, groping between the mattress and box spring, thus exposing himself rather completely to her admiring gaze.

“Why you certainly do have something for me,” she drawled with a southern belle accent. “And I do declare, it’s alive!”

Finding what he was fumbling for, he sat up and realized he’d been providing quite a view for his sexy wife, and just the look on her face sent a jolt of energy to his groin, resulting in some definite movement.

“First things first,” he cautioned, feeling the warmth spreading through him. “Here.”

He watched her, feeling self-conscious, since his gift to her wasn’t nearly as meaningful as hers to him. She opened the enveloped eagerly, and her eyes widened in surprise when she pulled out the embossed card and read it.

Elizabeth Evans
is invited to be our guest for a
full-day massage and make-over at the
Oasis Spa
followed by one night in the
Renaissance Bridal Suite


“Max! We can’t afford this! It’s wonderful! I mean, it’s absolutely amazing, but how can we afford it?”

It made it all worthwhile to see her bubbling with excitement in spite of her worry over money.

“Mr. Frederickson told me that the landscapers are running behind schedule for the Grand Opening next week, and if I wanted to, I could get some extra hours in over there. So before I talked to the head groundskeeper, I went to the personnel manager and worked a deal. If I work an extra day and a half on the landscape crew between now and the opening, I’ll make enough to pay for the spa day and the hotel night at the pre-opening employee discount rate.”

“But Max, you’ll be exhausted working so hard in this heat, and I’ll feel so guilty just laying there getting . . .”

“. . . getting a down payment on what you deserve for all you’ve been through for me,” he finished for her. “Besides, it’s completely selfish, because when I join you in that bridal suite, I will have the most beautiful, most relaxed, best smelling, and sexiest wife in the universe, and I plan to take full advantage of it.”

Her lower lip trembled, and he felt her conflicting emotions tip in his favor.

“I love you.”

“I love you, too.”

“We can’t do this kind of thing every month, you know,” she sniffed with a small laugh. “We can’t afford it.”

He pulled her back down to the pillows and gathered her tightly to him. “I never need another gift, Liz. I’m holding everything I want right now.”

And when he kissed her, he could tell she knew it was true.
Last edited by Carol000 on Sun Jul 06, 2003 4:18 pm, edited 1 time in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Jul 12, 2003 11:44 pm

I must be a freak. No matter how hard I try, I can't seem to get my chapters down to the nice, rational 10-page size. This one is a freakin' 19 pages. I promise to cut them down in the future. I can't keep up with myself! LOL!

Thank you all for the awesome feedback. I have to say, each post in response to this story is a joy to me. And those who stop to speculate and laugh and grieve and drool just make my day. I appreciate the time you take to comment, and I just wanted you to know that.

So, get comfortable! Needless to say, this is posted in two posts.

Part 35

"I have so many questions, I hardly know where to start," Serena sighed. She and Kyle had spent the last half hour playing with Alex, a respite from the storm that was buffeting their emotions in so many directions. By unspoken agreement, they had settled in the living room and concentrated on the one thing that wasn't a question--they had a beautiful little boy to take care of and he came first. Kyle learned quickly that Alex had mastered another unexpected power--he could make them smile, in spite of everything.

Now that Kyle knew this was his son--the very real product of a love that was only illusion--he found himself falling in love in a way he'd never imagined. Suddenly, everything Alex did was miraculous; every sound he made was a triumph. When his little arms reached for Kyle, a thrill went through him unlike any he had ever experienced. He'd heard about it and read about it and, truth be told, scoffed at it. He'd seen it only as a way to romanticize the relentless tedium of chasing after whiny brats.

He couldn't have been more wrong.

Now, with a mellow Alex snuggled contentedly in his arms, Kyle felt a sense of peace and belonging that he thought he'd never find. Alex needed him and, if he gave his imagination free rein, he could imagine Alex loved him, too. It was an incredible feeling.

Serena's sigh pressed against his silent thoughts, and he looked up at her. He could only imagine how she was feeling. But she hadn't run away. She was here, talking to him and insisting that she wanted Alex in her life. That had to be good, right?

He was fighting the urge to prod her emotions. That was an invasion of privacy under the circumstances, he told himself. She would never forgive him, if she found out, and it was very important to him that he build a firm foundation between them. It had to start with trust.

"Anything you want to know, Serena. If I know the answer, I'll tell you."

"I'm afraid I'll ask everything out of order, but I have no way to figure out what the right order is. I want to know more about Alex, I want to know how Tess got to another planet . . . and back! I want to know why people are trying to hurt Max and Liz and the others and where those people are now. I want to know if . . . if you're . . . one of them now. I want . . ."

"Serena."

Her voice died out, and she looked at him with haunted eyes, though her descent into withdrawn denial was long over. He felt the urge to reach for her, but the weight of Alex in his arms and the knowledge that he might be the last person she saw as refuge kept him still.

"Why don't I start from the beginning? I don't know all the details because I was on the outside during the first year of all this, but I can give you the highlights, anyway."

He brushed his lips over the silky top of Alex's head as he organized his thoughts. There were a lot of scary, weird things she didn't need to hear right now. Mostly, he thought, she'd want to know about the people she’d met--and Alex. The first one.

"Well, the deep background is that Max, Isabel, and Michael were found as children wandering the desert in 1989, naked and unable to speak English. They looked like 6-year-old humans. The fact is, they were in the original 1947 crash outside Roswell, but were protected by incubation pods that somebody from their ship hid in a cave in the desert. They know that some who traveled with them were captured and others killed. Anyway, the Evanses found Max and Isabel together, and adopted them, so they've been raised as brother and sister."

"Where's Isabel?"

"Well, there's a story there, too, but the end of it is that she's married and living under an assumed name with her husband in the Midwest."

"So he knows, too, I assume."

Kyle let out a little puff of air that spoke more of disbelief than humor. "Yeah, now, but not when they got married. Remind me to tell you that one sometime."

"Where was Tess?"

"She was there, too, I guess, but didn't come out of her pod when the others did, so one of the survivors of the ship who made it back to the pods raised her. He was too late for the others. Anyway, they didn’t know she existed, and they just grew up in Roswell like regular kids and never told anyone their secret. They were pretty clueless about themselves, actually.”

“How about Michael. What happened to him?”

“Foster care. Bad foster care. A drunk who only paid attention to him when he wanted someone to beat on.”

“How awful! Why didn’t he . . . I don’t know . . . do something to the guy, or leave?”

“I think Michael was the most adamant about keeping the secret. He didn’t dare do anything, and he wouldn’t leave Max and Isabel, anyway.”

“So that’s how it was until the shooting?”

"Yeah. At first it was just Liz who knew, but she couldn’t keep it from Maria for long.” He stopped and smiled to himself. “A word to the wise, Serena. Don’t ever let on to Maria that you have a secret. The girl will badger you to death.”

Serena smiled, too, thinking of how impassioned Maria had been that afternoon, and imagining that she took her friendships very seriously.

“Alex wasn’t a part of it for a while, I gather. You have to understand, ever since elementary school, Liz, Maria, and Alex were best friends. Everyone thought it was weird that Alex hung out with two girls all the time, and we used to tease him mercilessly, but he was a good guy and the three of them were tight. Liz and I were dating when Max healed Liz after that shooting, and immediately I felt something going on with them. She kept telling me it was nothing, but I couldn't shake the feeling. When we were together, her head was somewhere else entirely. And she kept running off with him at the drop of a hat.

"Well, I don't know what all went on between them--it had something to do with the destiny story and Tess and something about a holographic message from Max and Isabel's Antarian mother--but it seemed like . . ."

"Antarian?"

”They learned that Antar is the name of their planet. Anyway, it seemed like they were together and then not and then together and then not. All I knew was, she wasn't with me, and I was pretty pissed at Evans. My dad had warned me to stay away from him, but I didn't know why. I only found out later that he suspected something long before anyone else did.

"Anyhow, an incident during one of Roswell's famous Crash Festivals kinda gave Dad a different perspective, and he began to realize that Max and the others needed to be protected, not captured, but he was keeping me out of it. Then Tess came to town--you pretty much know that part. What you don’t know is that Tess didn’t know as much as she liked the others to think she did, and Max wasn’t accepting her as his “destiny” or whatever, so she was desperate to get this destiny book—some weird Antarian thing that supposedly had all the answers—translated.

“I may not have mentioned that Alex was super smart. In fact, he was a geek. Two years ago, while we thought he was off doing a semester abroad, he was really holed up at some university under one of Tess’s mindwarps using a massive computer to translate the thing. But . . .” The rush of images came flooding back, and suddenly he was at Alex’s funeral, carrying his casket to a gravesite. The anger and helplessness that welled up inside him left him breathless, and then the air rushed back into his lungs in a painful hiccough. The memory of that day, of what Tess had done . . . it was unspeakable. It was unthinkable. It was fucking monstrous.

Much to Kyle’s surprise and chagrin, he started to tear up again. Damn it! He never cried. Never! And he’d cried in front of this woman he hardly knew twice in one day. He bit the inside of his cheek and took a deep breath.

“She kept up the mindwarp for too long.” His phrases were pushed out through a constricted throat, and he couldn’t get enough breath to speak in anything but short bursts. “And his brain couldn’t take it. . . . He pleaded with her to stop . . . before it killed him, . . . but she couldn’t take the risk . . . and he died, . . . right in my room!” Now his chest was tight, too, and he looked at her desperately, as if she could somehow pull him back from the brink of despair. “I even helped her . . . dispose of the body.”

“Kyle!”

Serena’s shocked gasp brought him back to himself again, and he hastened to explain himself. “I didn’t know, Serena! She warped me, too. I didn’t break that warp for weeks, and by that time, Alex was long since buried.”

His voice broke and he threw his head back, gritting his teeth and squeezing his eyes shut, determined not to break down again. Another few breaths, and he felt the worst was over.

“The only good part of the whole story is that I remembered just in time for Liz to figure out that Tess, who had convinced the others to return with her to Antar, had been lying the whole time. We raced out to the pod chamber just as Max and the others were about to leave with her, thank God.”

“How, Kyle? How could they leave the planet? It takes NASA months of planning and hundreds of specialists to do that, and even then, they never make it out of the solar system!”

“In that cave, there was a hidden machine called the granolith. They didn’t even know it was there until two years ago. It could only be used once, and Tess left in it. I have no idea what kind of ship brought her back.”

“Max was going to leave? Leave Liz? I wouldn’t have thought that possible.”

Kyle caught the disbelief in her words and her tone. She’d known Max and Liz for less than two days, and she already saw it. He shook his head and braced himself to pay Max a compliment.

“Max is nothing if not a man of honor. He thought he’d fathered a child, and Tess raised the stakes by convincing him the baby would die if she remained on Earth. If he stayed with Liz—which he definitely wanted to do, believe me—he thought he would be condemning his son to death. The separation was killing both of them, though. You’ve never seen two people look more miserable. He could have sent Tess back alone, of course, and he did in the end, but he felt duty-bound to be a father to his child. After we figured out the truth about what Tess had done, I honestly thought he would kill her. He probably would have, too, if not for the baby.”

They sat quietly for a while. Kyle distracted himself with Alex, tickling his feet and laughing at the childish squeals of delight. Just this simple play centered him. How appropriate. Little Alex bore a striking resemblance to Buddha.

Serena watched him, wondering how in the world to feel about what she’d learned today. Two weeks ago, she didn’t know Kyle Valenti. She didn’t know aliens walked among us. She didn’t know her nephew was, at least in part, of another world. Today, Kyle was sitting in her living room playing with his son, who, by an appalling quirk of fate, was that same nephew and, truth be told, the center of her world. And while she was being honest, she had to admit she’d started to feel something for Kyle. But what was she supposed to do with all that now?

“Whoa!” Kyle wrinkled his nose in response to the fumes that suddenly sprang from Alex’s diaper. “Hey, man, what did you do?”

Serena laughed. Kyle was positively flummoxed, and she found it terribly funny. She was pretty sure he’d never changed a diaper.

“Diapers are in there,” she nodded toward the bedroom.

“Huh? Me? You gotta be kidding! I don’t know how to change a diaper. Besides, it’s disgusting!”

“Oh, so it’s all right for me to change a disgusting diaper, but not okay for his own father?”

She had meant it as a joke, but Kyle flinched, stung by the reality.

“Kyle, I’m sorry . . .”

“No, you’re right. I need to learn to do this. I just . . .”

He picked Alex up as if the baby’s entire body were a dirty diaper, holding him with stiff arms as far in front of his chest as he could. Serena suppressed a compassionate giggle.

“Come on. I’ll show you how.”

Twenty minutes and half a box of wipes later, a disgruntled Alex opted for Serena’s company, and they returned to the living room. The focus of their efforts accepted his nighttime bottle gratefully and lay back in the crook of Serena’s arm, watching her face intently. It was unnerving how he studied people.

“He seems to be trying to figure out what you’re thinking,” Kyle smiled. “Actually . . .” His tone drew her eyes to his. “I’d like to know that myself.”

Serena sat silently for some time, looking from Alex’s earnest gaze to Kyle’s cautious one. “I don’t know what to think,” she answered honestly. “All I do know is that I love Alex, and whatever happens, his safety and happiness have to come first. You can be sure that I won’t say anything to anyone, though, Kyle. I wouldn’t do that to him.” She hesitated, then lifted her chin determinedly and finished her thought. “Or you.”

The breath he’d been holding rushed from his body, and he realized he’d been waiting to hear that . . . out loud. He’d sensed it all along, but hearing it was a huge relief.

“And what about us?”

He was slightly hurt by the surprise in her eyes. Hadn’t she thought that maybe there was an us? But her answer threw the surprise right back in his court.

“I like you, Kyle. A lot. And, to be honest, I’ve been hoping something might happen between us. But what worries me is, now that we both care about Alex, how will we know if what’s between us is really us, or just because of him?”

His lack of response didn’t seem to bother her, nor did his blank look. She had more on her mind.

“This afternoon, Kyle, I heard a little of what you and Liz were saying. I heard her say how strong and sexy and kind you are, and so far, I’d have to agree.”

A twinge of pleasure went through her at his modest blush. “I also heard you say that you’ve never really loved . . . or been loved. Well, neither have I. But when it happens, I want it to be for me. For Serena Crawford. And for the guy I’m with. Not because it’s convenient or expected. I want to be in Alex’s life, Kyle. And I hope you’ll let me. But if there’s ever anything more for us, it has to be separate from him. I’m not part of a package deal.”

She’d said all the things he’d been thinking—even before he knew he’d been thinking them. He’d had one friend in high school get married because he’d gotten his girlfriend pregnant. It was a nightmare. Sex was not love. Man, did he know that! And babies didn’t make a relationship work. Just ask his dad. But as he looked at this girl--lovely, smart, unbelievably brave—cradling his son so gently, he knew there was a lot there to love. And if she was willing to try, he could only thank the stars he had this chance. How was that for irony? Were it not for the stars, he surely would not be in Las Vegas about to step blindly into the vast unknown.

He leaned toward her, his eyes never leaving hers, and prayed they told her what she needed to know. “Would you mind very much if I kissed you?”

********

It was the middle of the night when Liz heard the front door of the apartment open. Maria and Michael were murmuring quietly, and then the talking stopped and more romantic noises filtered through the door. She smiled to herself. She was so happy that Michael had finally accepted his feelings for Maria, and whether they’d realized it or not, the number of fights they started had dropped considerably. In retrospect, she realized that the unresolved sexual tension that existed between them for so long, followed by Michael’s expectation that he would have to leave her, had probably kept these two high-strung people just itching for an outlet. And so they fought.

Well, they weren’t fighting now, she thought wryly, turning into Max’s chest in a vain attempt to avoid hearing anything too private. He pulled her close in his sleep and placed a groggy kiss on her head. She was just snuggling in comfortably when the bedroom door burst open and a wide swath of light fell across the floor.

“What . . .?”

Liz struggled to sit up, constrained as she was by Max’s embrace, but before she could make sense of what was happening, a lamp went on and a naked Max was half out of the bed, poised to fight.

“Whoa, girlfriends, cover it up. We have news.”

Liz squinted painfully into the sudden light to see Maria standing with her hand over her eyes and Michael leaning against the doorjamb with an amused smirk on his face. She grabbed the sheet with one hand and groped thin air with the other, trying to reach Max and pull him back under the covers as well. The sound of Maria’s voice was at least as effective, though, sending him diving for the bed in a clumsy sprawl of arms and legs.

“What the hell, Maria!” he shouted. “Michael, get out!” He looked at Liz nervously, obviously checking to make sure all her parts were covered. He was feeling every bit as vulnerable as she was.

“Maria, we’re covered, but what is the matter with you? It’s the middle of the night and this is our bedroom!

“You’ll forgive me when you hear what I have to say, Liz, because you’re my best friend and this is the most important news of my life.”

She paused, and Liz wondered if she was supposed to guess what this news was.

“Maria, you’re not pregnant!

Michael made a small choking sound, but Maria ignored it. “No, Liz! Michael and I are engaged!”

She beamed at both of them, holding out her hand to display a modest silver filigree ring.

“Maria!”

The girls bent into an awkward hug, since Liz was still holding the sheet up with one hand.

“Congratulations! That’s wonderful!”

She saw Max grinning at Michael’s embarrassed shrug. “Way to go, Michael. I knew you’d see the light eventually.”

“Well, I figured what the . . .” He stopped and looked at Maria’s smile and something flickered across his face. Then his tone changed. “I’m just glad she’ll have me.”

Max’s eyebrows went up at that, but the grin stayed in place.

“Oh, and Max, I tried that diamond thing you did, but it . . . uh . . . well, the friggin’ thing just exploded, so I guess I could use some help.”

“Happy to, Michael,” Max said, with a more serious tone of best friendship, and they exchanged a meaningful look. When Michael looked away, Max smoothed over his friend’s embarrassment with some comfortable grumbling.

“But tomorrow, okay? Even Superman needs sleep.”

“Looks like you two made up,” Maria teased, completely unembarrassed by the whole ridiculous scene.

“Yes, Maria,” Liz said, an edge of exasperation in her voice. “But as thrilled for you both as I am, this is just a little awkward, if you hadn’t noticed, so can we celebrate tomorrow?”

“You bet, chica! You won’t mind if we start without you, will you?” She fairly skipped over to Michael and bounced up to kiss him quickly.

“Not at all,” Liz replied, leaning over to switch off the light. “Just keep it down, okay?”

A snicker shot through the darkness, and Michael’s voice carried easily. “I wouldn’t go there, if I were you.”

Maria’s giggles faded into the next room.

“What did he mean by that?” Liz asked Max as she snuggled back against him.

“I have no idea,” he murmured, smiling at her surprised squeal when his fingers began to work their magic.

********

Morning came much too soon.

Max was the first one out to the kitchen, fumbling through the ritual of making the coffee—the stronger the better—for the four sleepy teens. One by one, the others stumbled into the kitchen, poured the black starter fluid into a cup, and slumped into a chair at the table. No one commented on the general state of exhaustion they shared; or on the marks that had appeared on necks, shoulders, thighs; or on the intimate looks that lingered between the two halves of each couple. And no one regretted that use of their night, either. However, as the old adage warns: No good deed goes unpunished. There were definitely prices to pay.

Max pulled his chair behind Liz’s and began to massage her neck. Her head lolled backwards and a long satisfied sigh escaped her lips.

“Oh, yeah,” she moaned.

“Huh,” Michael mused thoughtfully, staring into his coffee cup. “When I heard that sound last night, I had a whole different picture of what was causing it.”

Liz’s eyes flew open and her head jerked up. “Michael!”

Max tried to glare at his best friend, but the amusement in his eyes sabotaged the effect and Maria laughed.

“I’m surprised you could hear anything over your own grunts and ‘yeah, baby’s,’ Maria teased, ducking quickly to avoid his playful jab. But his loose fist unclenched to run gentle fingers down her arm, and her face went from impish to tender in the space of a breath. Liz felt Max give her shoulders a little squeeze. They were both so happy for their friends.

Liz glanced at the clock. “Listen, guys, I hate to cut this pithy conversation short, but I have something important to tell you before we get to work. It’s about Kyle. I never got the chance to tell you what he told me yesterday, and you need to know before you see him today.”

“There’s more besides the fact that he was totally used by that tramp and has a kid?” Maria squealed.

Liz felt Max tense behind her, and she lifted one hand to settle over his on her shoulder. This was going to be hard to explain; it would be harder for the others to hear. In a way, what happened to Kyle was much more painful that being duped by a mindwarp. He’d had his heart broken.

“She did use him,” Liz began, “but not the way you think.”

Michael and Maria frowned in confusion, and Max abandoned her neck massage to pull his chair even with hers.

“What are you talking about?” he asked, a note of dread in his voice.

“Kyle only put the pieces together yesterday, and when it hit him, he was devastated. That’s why he ran out the way he did.” She sighed again, wishing there were some easy way to tell them. “Tess didn’t mindwarp Kyle into sex. She did something much worse. She made him fall in love with her.”

The silence was so thick, Liz couldn’t breathe. She didn’t think anyone else was, either. They just stared, stunned expressions frozen on their faces. There weren’t even questions. Not yet, at least.

“He was pretty upset when what really happened dawned on him yesterday. Tess led Kyle to believe she’d given up on Max and destiny and that whole line of bull from Nasedo. She and Kyle got close, and she started coming on to him, especially at the house when they were alone. She must’ve said all the right things or pushed all the right buttons or something, because he swears it wasn’t just sex. He honestly thought they were in love. He confessed they were pretty . . . active . . . you know, sexually, and . . .”

“Then why the hell didn’t he say anything when she got pregnant? He let Max go through that hell . . .”

Michael was turning a blotchy red, and Maria laid a hand on his arm, still staring at Liz.

“Because,” Liz shouted over the outburst, “she said she could only get pregnant from another hybrid!”

“And he believed this?” Michael’s tone was quieter, but still seethed with anger.

“Yeah, he did. He feels stupid about it now, but when she said it was Max’s and Max accepted it, Kyle didn’t even question it. He thought it must be true. And by that time, she had started warping him. She must’ve found out she was pregnant right before the prom, because that was when she warped him into thinking his love for her wasn’t romantic, after all, but brotherly.”

Liz finally risked a look at Max’s face. Unlike Michael, he had gone pale, and she feared yesterday’s overwhelming anger would erupt again. She opened herself to his thoughts and flinched involuntarily as the shock and fury swept over her. But he had it under control this time. Having worked through much of his contempt and loathing yesterday, he was no longer overwhelmed. Just supremely pissed.

“And that’s when she came after me—swooping in for the kill. And I let her do it. I should’ve been strong enough . . .” His expression had become distant, contorted with self-recrimination.

“Max!”

He snapped back to the reality of the kitchen and looked at her. The shame still lingered in his eyes.

“Max, we will not go down that road again. We’ve got to stop accepting blame for this. Yes, I pushed you away again that night, because I thought I was saving the world,” she said, rolling her eyes in a self-deprecating gesture. “And you got mindwarped because you thought you had nothing left to hang onto. You were vulnerable. Besides, you didn’t even really ever have sex with her. Look, we could play this game until our dying day, but there’s no point. Don’t let her win again. This isn’t my fault or your fault or Kyle’s fault. It’s Tess’s fault. It always has been. So let’s focus here.”

She knew she’d gotten through to him when she saw his mouth twitch and his expression turn from tortured martyrdom to a sort of amused respect.

“Yes, ma’am,” he said softly, leaning across to kiss her cheek.

The wind thus removed from her sails, Liz relaxed, and continued her story. “Anyway, it wasn’t until yesterday when Zan exhibited some powers that Kyle realized the baby was really Tess’s, and that if you weren’t the father, Max, he must be, and that hit him . . . hard. And on top of the shock of finding out he has a son, he has to cope with the fact that his son is an alien and that his alien son is being cared for by a woman he’s falling for and that this woman now has to be told about aliens and the fact that her nephew is one and the fact that this new guy in her life might be turning into one and is the father of that baby!”

Liz’s monologue had gained speed like a runaway train, and she stopped abruptly to take a deep breath. Even she was getting overwhelmed by what Kyle was dealing with . . . in truth, what they would all be dealing with. It was Max’s turn to be the calming influence.

“But now we know, Liz. And we’ll deal with it. All of us, together. He’s not alone.”

Liz leaned her head against her husband’s shoulder gratefully. “Yeah, I know. Just, please, everyone remember that Kyle is feeling really shaky right now. He’s got a lot on his plate, and besides all that, he’s feeling . . . unlovable. He said something that sort of shocked me yesterday. He said no woman had ever really loved him—not me, not Tess . . . and not his mother.”

“Oh my god.” Maria’s face crumbled at the thought, and her eyes shone with gathering tears. She reached for Michael’s hand, and he enfolded it gently. “Oh my god. Poor Kyle.”

“Don’t worry, Liz. We’ll go easy on him,” Michael promised.

At Liz’s skeptical look, he rolled his eyes. “Yes, I will go easy on him.”

“Okay then,” Max said, rising to his feet. “Let’s get to work.”

continued in next post
Last edited by Carol000 on Sun Jul 13, 2003 12:01 am, edited 1 time in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Jul 12, 2003 11:46 pm

Part 35 continued

********

Everyone was working today—the first guests were due to check in. Michael was doing extra security rounds. Maria was preparing dressing rooms for the first moderately famous headliner and his entourage—some comedian she’d never heard of. Liz would be registering guests, and Max, who would have had the day off because Conventions wasn’t up and running yet, was going to be working his first day on the landscaping. The air crackled with expectation and energy, and Liz felt nervous, in spite of herself. She was prepared, she told herself; it just wasn’t that hard. But there were bound to be snafoos and mistakes as the staff went through their paces for the first time under “live” conditions. Besides, she was keeping an eye out for Kyle or Serena, and neither had made an appearance yet.

Morning was pretty quiet in the lobby. Most of the traffic was either staff or VIPs from the Crawford empire touring the facility. By noon, though, the bustle of the place charged the atmosphere, and Liz was almost dancing at her station. She watched with curiosity as men and women in suits began to gather just outside the front doors near the camel fountain, which was working at last. Maria had won the bet about where the water would come out, but none of them had predicted the final effect—the camel shot a spray of water from the mouth, which wasn’t too unusual except it arched over the drive and into a pond, thus creating an arch under which cars and pedestrians would walk. Liz noticed the lights aimed at it from the ground, and imagined that at night, it would be lit up in wild colors. This was Vegas, after all.

Watching as the gathering grew, Liz’s heart squeezed nervously when she saw Serena approach her uncle, a clipboard in her hand. There was no sign of Kyle or Alex, but Serena was all business. At least no FBI agents had shown up to arrest anybody. That was always a good sign.

Liz watched from the front desk as Serena organized the last-minute arrangements—move the flower arrangements over here; sweep the red carpet one last time; make sure the ribbon for the ceremony was stretched shiny side out. Soon her petite frame, attractively turned out in a pale yellow suit with navy trim and perfect navy pumps, was front and center with several resort executives while her uncle cut the ribbon amidst loud applause and a firestorm of camera flashes. Once the pomp and circumstance was over, though, Liz saw her slip inside, neatly avoiding interviews, small talk, and more pictures.

Serena ducked into the room behind the front desk. Liz, beside herself to know how Kyle was, nodded to her partner at the desk and went in the back, too. Serena was sitting in at a desk, elbows propped on its surface, her head in her hands.

“Serena?”

Serena started, relaxing only slightly when she saw Liz.

“I’m sorry,” Liz apologized when she saw how tired and pale Serena looked. “I can leave, if you want to be alone.”

Their eyes held for several seconds, and Liz felt a wave of pity for Serena and the world she had left behind just yesterday morning.

“Are you okay?”

What was it that hovered just beneath her melancholy expression? Resignation? Hopelessness? Confusion?

Serena slumped back in her chair and offered Liz a wan smile. “Hi.”

Well, it was a start.

“Serena, are you all right? Is Kyle okay? Where’s Alex?”

“Well, Kyle is sleeping on my couch at the moment. He’s keeping an eye on Alex until I can get away. I just hope he’s not so deep asleep that he doesn’t hear Alex when he wakes up. The thing is, I’m afraid to leave him with anyone else now. But how in the world is this going to work? I just can’t seem to think . . .”

Her head fell back into her hands, and Liz saw her shoulders shaking. She hurried across the room and pulled her into a one-sided hug.

“I know what you’re feeling, Serena. And I know it’s not easy. But you’re not alone. Neither is Kyle. We’ll all help, any way we can. You just have to tell us how. There are enough of us that he needn’t ever be with anyone else.”

A hand reached out to grope for the tissues, and Liz placed one in her palm. After dabbing at her eyes, she sighed and sat up.

“I know you mean that, Liz, and I appreciate it, but that’s not completely practical. For one thing, my aunt and uncle are used to taking him at least part of the time, not to mention my father who is trying to plan his future somewhere else. And it’s not just Alex. What about Kyle? He’s at the end of his rope. This has hit him in a completely different way. He already knew about all this . . .” Her voice dropped to a whisper. “. . . alien stuff.

She glanced around nervously, then returned her attention to Liz. “But now he’s a father with absolutely no warning or even experience with kids. He has no real home. No money. And then there’s . . . us.”

Liz sank into the straight-backed chair next to the desk, and looked at Serena compassionately. “Is there an ‘us’ for you two?” she asked softly.

Serena shrugged. “Probably not. Maybe. I . . . I hope so.” And then she was crying again, but this time the emotions won out and she stopped trying to talk, just sagging into Liz’s open arms and letting the sobs find their way to the surface.

The door from the lobby pushed open, and Liz’s co-worker stuck her head in, closing it again soundlessly when she saw what was happening.

“It’s okay, Serena. We’ve figured our way out of tougher ones than this,” she comforted, hoping what she said was true. This wasn’t going to be simple. “And if it’s any comfort to you, I think Kyle feels the same way.”

Wet patches on Liz’s blouse cooled suddenly as Serena sat up, puffy-eyed and blotchy. Liz felt a brief sense of comfort to see that even someone like Serena looked terrible right after a good cry.

“He does,” she nodded. “But the thing is, how do we separate our relationship from Alex? We both care about him. We both want to be in his life. But neither of us wants to need Alex to make us work, you know? Most couples get to know each other for a while before the demands of anyone else can influence the relationship. But in our case, everything will be about Alex, so how will we know if we make a good couple without him?”

“Wow,” Liz sighed, impressed. “That’s a really good point.”

At Serena’s look of distress, she hurried on. “But that, at least, is one place where it’s easy for us to help. You have four willing babysitters—well, three and one reluctant helper,” Liz smiled. “You and Kyle need to plan some time just for you two. Let us care for Alex sometimes; then you can enjoy some dating time. You’re right, you need that. But at the risk of influencing you, I want you to know that Kyle is a great guy.” She smiled to herself at the popular description. “I’m not saying he’s necessarily the one for you—no one could know that—but I am saying your time with him won’t be wasted.”

A genuine smile broke out on Serena’s face. “Yeah, I know that much already. I hear you two dated.”

Liz was mildly surprised Kyle had brought that up, but she felt pleased that he had. “Yes, we dated for about 8 months. The thing is, Kyle has grown up a lot since then. He was just a popular high school jock then, though I have to say he was always nice to me. No complaints. It’s just that when I got to know Max . . .”

Her face softened as she thought of Max, and she heard Serena’s chuckle. “No need to explain. I’ve seen you two together.”

Then Liz’s face grew serious. “You have to do what’s right for you, Serena, but please tread softly. Kyle’s been hurt, more than once. There’s only so much a person can take.”

Serena held her gaze for several seconds, then nodded slightly. “Funny, I never even thought that he might be the one to get hurt.” She stood to leave, then turned to give Liz an impulsive hug. “Don’t worry, he’s in good hands,” she promised.

********

Nate and Taylor pulled into the grand entrance to Oasis around 3:00, mouths agape at the opulent front to the building, appointed with generous touches in brass, lush plant groupings, and sharply dressed employees. Nate surrendered his keys to the valet and followed Taylor and the bellman through the door, held open by an old-fashioned doorman, complete with epaulets. The lobby was several stories tall, and as they looked up, they had to squint as the light from the skylights refracted from thousands of prismatic crystals that made up the huge chandeliers. Against one wall, hundreds of strings guided water droplets from the wall-mounted source shaped like a snake toward a pond with yet another small fountain. Musical notes filtered through the soothing sound of water rushing by, a sexy rhythm and blues number. A scantily clad barmaid offered them a complimentary cocktail, which they declined, and they turned in awe toward the registration desk. To their delight and relief, Liz stood behind the counter, busily taking a list of requests from a man with rings on every finger. He looked very comfortable in this environment.

As the man left, Taylor stepped forward to the desk, Nate at her elbow.

“Welcome to Oasis. Do you have a reservation?”

When Liz received no answer, she looked up from her computer to find her cousin and Nate smiling at her. She began to squeal in excitement when discretion kicked in, and she whispered her enthused greetings.

“Taylor! Nate! What are you doing here?” she asked excitedly.

“Taking advantage of the one and only offer that will ever get us into a place like this,” Taylor grinned, nodding her head in the direction of the richly decorated lobby. “This place is amazing!”

“Isn’t it?” Liz agreed. “It’s sure a comedown to go home at the end of the day. Well, in a lap of luxury sense, at least. So you’re staying here on the intro offer, huh? That’s great! How long?”

“Just til Monday,” Taylor told her. “Then I gotta report back to work.”

A line was starting to form behind them, and Liz pulled her attention back to the matter at hand. “Speaking of work, I’d better get you registered. It’s nuts here. Uh, I see you have two rooms?” she asked uncertainly, more than a little surprised, but trying not to show it.

Two rooms?” Nate frowned. “I think there’s been a mistake.”

“Hmmm, well, the reservations are in Taylor’s name. Did you order two rooms?”

Taylor was already blushing by the time Liz turned back to her, and Nate was looking at her suspiciously. “You didn’t,” he said, disbelief in every syllable.

“I just . . . I thought . . . we never talked about it, and I didn’t want to assume, and besides, Liz is my cousin,” Taylor stuttered, lowering her voice as if Liz couldn’t hear her from two feet away.

Liz’s snort of laughter made them both look up. “Taylor, my dear, wonderful cousin, if you think I’m going to be shocked, then you haven’t been paying attention. It takes a lot to shock me these days.”

Taylor’s blush deepened, and she shifted awkwardly.

“Besides,” Liz continued, still highly amused, “I would be a lot more shocked if you kept both of those rooms. What a waste. Do us all a favor and free up one of them, okay?”

“Yes, please,” Nate decided for them, rolling his eyes. “Two rooms,” he muttered disgustedly, holding out his hand for the key card.

Liz laughed. “Better take them up on that free drink, Taylor. You need to relax!” She winked at Nate. “Go for a dip. The pools are incredible. You guys free for dinner?”

“Absolutely!” Nate smiled, guiding Taylor away. “Leave the details on the message machine . . . in our room.” He returned Liz’s wink as Taylor gave a little wave, and they headed for the elevators.

********
Taylor took a long sip of . . . what was this, anyway? . . . fruit, umbrella, definitely some booze. Whatever. Palm trees and blue sky and an almost empty pool area were filling her with a wonderful sense of serenity. She sighed deeply and let her mind wander as Nate pulled his t-shirt off, revealing his powerfully muscular body and his tawny complexion. God, she wished her skin were that color instead of this pasty white, freckle-bound excuse for skin that she had. Maybe the two-piece had been a mistake. It just accentuated how pale she was, though the jungle print did complement her hair and eyes very well. Or so the sales clerk had said.

Nate stretched luxuriously, and her eyes trailed over him, refusing to look away when he caught her at it.

“See something you like?” he asked suggestively, sitting on the edge of her lounge chair.

“Everything,” she sighed into his mouth just before he kissed her.

“You are so beautiful,” he said softly as he pulled away. “You’re like a porcelain statue, all smooth and perfect.”

She opened her mouth to protest his skewed perspective, then shut it again. If he liked her this way, that was good enough for her. She felt his hands skim across her sides, dipping in at her slim waist and cupping out over her slender hips. It made her feel sexy and desirable and suddenly she was very turned on.

“We could go up to the room,” she purred. “The pool will be here later.”

“But we’re already here,” he protested, and that fast she was cradled in his arms and headed for the pool. She opened her mouth to scream but never had time to get it out because, without breaking stride, he walked straight into the deep end and they were submerged.

Taylor sputtered to the surface, her eyes flashing with images of revenge. Nate let out a whoop and took off swimming, Taylor only a few feet behind him. Her long, lean form shot through the water, and soon she had a hold of his ankle. He turned with a yelp and began to splash her, which she happily returned, upping the aggressiveness with each attack. Nate jerked his ankle free and began to kick water in her direction, which eventually backed him up against the edge of the pool. Taylor caught a wave with her palm and pushed it toward Nate with all her might.

“Whooooo!”

As high a note as it was, the voice that produced it was obviously masculine. Nate and Taylor turned toward the sound, already looking guilty, but their embarrassment was soon replaced with genuine laughter.

“Max!”

Taylor pulled herself from the pool and threw her arms around her new cousin-in-law.

“Aahhhh!” Max backed up reflexively, gulping in air with a surprised smile. “That’s cold,” he laughed. “I’ve been planting this bed and was hot, but jeez!”

Nate extended his hand. “Hi, Max! We thought we’d surprise you, but this is a little more dramatic than we had in mind.”

The men shook hands, comfortable with each other right away. “Have you seen Liz? She’s just inside.”

“Yeah, she checked us in,” Taylor told him. “We’re meeting you two for dinner.”

“That’s great,” Max said sincerely, with a glance across the pool, “but my boss is watching. I’d better get back to work.”

“No problem. We’ll see you tonight.”

Half dry now, Taylor made her way back to her lounge chair while Nate swam some laps. As she sat enjoying the view, she watched Max bend to his work. He wasn’t too bad a view, either. Alien or not, Liz had every reason to be attracted to him. He was gorgeous. Beads of sweat ran in rivulets through the valleys created between straining muscles. His back and arms worked in a smooth rhythm, and when he turned to lift the next plant from the pallet, his abdomen tensed under the strain. The word was washboard. What a common, pedestrian reference to describe a thing of such beauty. And the legs and butt, clenching and unclenching to keep the body balanced under the shifting weight. She thought back to the embarrassing scene at check-in, and realized with an internal chuckle that Liz had no prayer of being prudish about sex.

Chiding herself for such thoughts about a now-relative, she moved her gaze to her own beautiful man. He finished a lap at her end of the pool and climbed up the ladder, dripping and breathing heavily.

“The water’s beautiful,” he said, grabbing a towel to wipe his face.

“That’s not all that’s beautiful,” she teased, feeling smug when his movements stilled for a split second, registering her remark.

Before he could answer, her attention was pulled back to the far side of the pool. A buxom blonde in a thong bikini, bronzed skin, and gold decorating every appendage was sidling up to Max. Her voice carried easily over the water.

“Would you be a dear and get me a drink,” she purred. “I’d be ever so grateful.”

Taylor could feel her hackles rise, and glanced up to see Nate watching with interest.

“Ma’am, I’m just the grounds crew. The bar staff comes through every few minutes, though. I’m sure they’ll be happy to take your order.”

“Oh, but . . .” She brushed against him, trailing manicured fingernails down one bulging arm. “. . . I’m sooo thirsty. I’ll make it worth your while, honey. Never doubt that.”

Max looked across the space between the pool and the bar, searching for a server, but none were around.

“Sure,” he said. “What can I get you?”

“Oh, how delightful,” the woman beamed as she settled into a chair, posing her legs at their best advantage. “Make it a strawberry daiquiri, would you?”

Max took her key card, which served as a charge card for purchases and gambling on the premises, and two minutes later, brought her a frosty pink drink. He handed her back her key card and turned away, but she grabbed his wrist and pressed it back into his hand, along with some cash. He looked down, surprised at first, then angry, though he strove to contain it.

Taking a breath, he said calmly, “You wouldn’t want to lose track of this,” and handed her the key card. Then, with somewhat more hesitation, he handed back the bill.

“Thank you, but you should save your tips for the bar staff. Excuse me.”

He missed the look of insulted shock on the woman’s face as he stalked off. He hadn’t yet reached the bed he was planting when he was stopped again. This time, a long-legged brunette in a designer two-piece and a straw hat touched his arm.

“I’ve seen you around on my way to rehearsals,” she said. “I’m a dancer with the review. The name’s Cheri. What’s yours?”

“Max.”

“Well, Max, would you be a dear and oil my back? I can’t reach.”

Max looked nothing short of panicked. He stood speechless, staring at a bottle of suntan oil that had mysteriously appeared in his hand. Cheri arranged herself on a chaise, face down, and reached around to unhook her top. Then she propped herself up on her elbows, all but coming out of the skimpy band of fabric, and gave him a sidelong glance.

“The whole back, if you would, Max. Take your time.”

She batted her long lashes and lay back down, leaving Max blinking nervously.

“Well, he certainly has his hands full, doesn’t he?” Nate chuckled, trying to suppress his laughter when he caught Taylor’s glare.

But her glare quickly morphed into a smirk. “So will Cheri,” she said smugly.

Nate turned to see Liz approaching, and he tensed in vicarious empathy with Max.

Liz apparently had no trouble sizing up the situation. Giving Max a knowing smile, she took the tube and slicked up her hands. Then she bent to apply the oil to Cheri’s back.

“Mmmm, I never would have expected your hands to be so soft,” she crooned. “I bet they’re really good at other things, too.”

“I like to think so,” replied Liz, nonchalantly, feigning surprise when Cheri came up off the lounge with a jolt, remembering a little late that her top wasn’t coming with her. “But you’d have to ask my husband about that.”

She stood, smiling at the brunette, then turned and stepped into Max’s arms, which wrapped around her automatically. Their kiss was brief but heated, and when they parted, a still-surprised Max could only smile as Liz took one parting shot.

“I just came to tell you that when the boss heard you’d arranged for us to have the honeymoon suite, he said he’d throw in a bottle of champagne on ice. I guess there’ll be at least one thing in the room that night that’s not . . . hot.”

She ran her hands down his bare chest and kissed him one more time before turning back toward the hotel. Taylor caught her eye as she sauntered off, and they grinned at each other.

Nate just shook his head. “Well, well, this should be an interesting weekend.”
Last edited by Carol000 on Mon Jul 14, 2003 7:53 am, edited 1 time in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Jul 19, 2003 10:13 pm

Wow! You guys aren’t shy with an opinion, are you? LOL! Well, the consensus of those still reading is that you like long chapters. I did hear from a couple of readers I lost along the way who said the long chapters were part of the reason. Not that they didn’t enjoy them, but they could just never find the time to read them all the way through. Basically, there was too much going on to keep track of from week to week. So I guess it’s true—you can’t please all of the people all of the time. But thank you for the wonderful feedback and encouragement.

HEY, Tigereyes! I missed you, and it’s so great to see you back. Not only did you leave awesome f/b, you also picked up on lines no one else mentioned. Subtle things I had wondered if anyone would notice, so thanks!

As for this chapter—it IS a little shorter than some, but that’s because I’ve had an extreme week and there wasn’t time for more. Plus, this one is a little transitional. We’ve gotten past the last major denouement of the story, and I needed time to see different reactions and set up the last leg of the plot. So no angst, no extreme emotion, and no major developments—just a lot of adjusting and setting up for the future. Sit back, relax, and let the gang enjoy a taste of normalcy for a change.

(Oh, still posted in two parts! )

Part 36

“You and Nate seem to have come a long way since we saw you at the reservation,” Liz observed, eyes twinkling with mischief. The Olive Garden atmosphere was festive but quiet, and she could feel herself relaxing. “But apparently the lines of communication are still a little muddy. Nate looked pretty surprised about the two rooms.”

Taylor took the friendly ribbing with a grin, but couldn’t stop the blush. “I just didn’t know what to do! I mean, he never said ‘Get one room,’ so I wasn’t sure, and I didn’t just want to assume. But how do you bring a thing like that up? I mean, if he didn’t want one room, then the question would make us both feel awkward, and . . . aaaaaah,” she huffed, throwing her hands in the air. “I just couldn’t decide what to do, so I played it safe.”

She leaned forward to whisper in Liz’s ear. “But I’m so glad he objected!”

Liz laughed, feeling elated at the surprise evening out with another couple—a couple they had no secrets from. Liz loved Michael and Maria, but . . . well, no two couples should spend every spare moment together. Besides, Taylor had always been a favorite of Liz’s, and it felt wonderful being able to enjoy her happiness and share secrets with her.

Their two handsome escorts came in from the parking lot, and both women sighed in appreciation, then laughed at their own reactions.

“Quick,” Taylor asked, whispering again. “What’s it like making love with an alien?”

Liz’s eyebrows flew up, and her head swiveled suddenly in Taylor’s direction. “Taylor! What kind of question is that?”

Taylor pulled back apologetically. “Sorry, Liz. That was incredibly rude.”

Liz bent toward her cousin. “Amazing!” she answered with a spontaneous giggle. “Absolutely amazing!”

“What are you two girls giggling over?” Nate asked with a suspicious grin. “It can’t be good for us,” he said, nodding at Max.

“On the contrary,” Taylor answered, batting her eyelashes with great exaggeration. “It might be quite good for you.”

That was enough to stop Nate mid-sit, and Liz burst out laughing.

Max just smiled through the whole exchange, glad to see his wife so lighthearted for a change. It soothed his soul, and he realized with a pang how rare this was. He wanted to make her feel this way every day. She deserved a lifetime of lighthearted after what she’d been through. He leaned down and pressed a gentle kiss to her cheek, smiling as he felt her open to him. She was checking to be sure he was all right, that this dinner with Nate and Taylor wasn’t too “out” for him. He let his happiness flow toward her, and watched her face light up. It earned him a second kiss—on the lips. That one raced from chaste to involved in only a few seconds, and Max pulled away reluctantly, easing back into his seat, his eyes never leaving his wife.

“Hmmm. I’m beginning to see why Max didn’t take any of those beauties up on their not-so-subtle offers this afternoon,” Taylor teased.

Max swung a pained look in her direction. “I don’t know what that was about,” he protested, a bit of leftover panic in his voice. “I was working on that landscaping and the crazies just came out of the woodwork.” He shook his head, bewildered. “They must’ve been drinking or something.”

“Or . . .” Taylor began, with a wink at Liz, who was watching her husband with a loving but patronizing look that said clueless! “Maybe they just know a good thing when they see it.”

“Huh? No . . . I . . .” He could feel his face grow warm, and he wanted desperately to change the subject.

Nate was smirking at Max’s discomfort when Taylor turned the tables on him. “I imagine if I hadn’t been laying there staking my claim, Nate would have been on the hit list, too.”

“What? I . . . don’t think . . . uh . . . Waiter! Can we get a wine list?”

When the waiter appeared, the women were still laughing, substantially reducing the effect of their half-hearted apologies to the two embarrassed men.

“How about some Chianti?” Nate suggested.

“Lovely!” Taylor agreed.

“Nothing for us, thanks,” Max said. “We’re . . . uh . . . under age.”

Nate’s flash of surprise was followed immediately by an apology. “Oh, man, I’m sorry Max. I completely forgot. You don’t seem . . .”

“I know. I don’t feel that young, either.”

The waiter took the order and left. With a nod from Max, Liz clarified the situation. “It’s not only that. We found out the hard way that Max and Michael can’t drink at all. It goes right to their heads. There was this one night . . .”

The rest of the dinner was filled with stories and laughter, a wonderfully, fantastically, perfectly normal night. Max kept watching Liz’s face, relaxed and happy, just like it used to look all the time back in the days when his only contact with her was as a faithful customer at the Crashdown. It gave him hope that their lives could find that peace again. Not the innocence. Never the innocence. It was much too late for that. But maybe they could have the happiness, anyway.

When Max wasn’t watching Liz’s face, he was noticing the little intimate touches that Nate and Taylor were constantly exchanging, and it made him think of himself and Liz. Those two were definitely falling in love; he felt quite qualified to recognize the signs. They represented another aspect of the hope he was feeling. Here were two people who weren’t alien, they weren’t in love with an alien, they weren’t even involved on a daily basis with aliens, and yet they had come to know him, accept him, and enjoy his company. If only the world was inclined to give him the same benefit of the doubt. Still, he liked the feeling of having friends--friends who knew “the secret” but for whom his alien-ness was not the focus of the relationship so much as just one more interesting aspect of his personality. He smiled as he saw Nate’s thumb rubbing idly over Taylor’s wrist and saw her respond by hooking a little finger over his. Yes, they were falling in love, and he could truly say it couldn’t happen to two nicer people.

They were still lingering over coffee when the sound of a baby’s squeal made them all turn their heads. Just settling into a booth across the room were Kyle, Serena, and Alex. Max was surprised by the mixed feelings that did battle in his mind at the picture they made. He had assumed, after the relief of knowing that Zan wasn’t his, that if there were ever to be an alien baby, it would be his and Liz’s. At least the first one. Michael and Maria wouldn’t be taking that step for a long time, he felt sure. And Jesse was not likely to jump into fathering an alien child, given the difficulty he’d had accepting Isabel’s secret. Somehow, seeing Kyle over there with a woman who looked so like Liz it made him do a double-take sometimes, and with the child he’d accepted as his own for a while, made him feel a little resentful. On the other hand, he had never really wanted Zan to be his—not with Tess. And the fact that Kyle had been reunited with his son and was working out a relationship with a woman who cared for his son, too—well, you had to be glad about that, right?

The expression on Liz’s face reminded him instantly that he hadn’t bothered to shield his thoughts. She reached for his hand. She had expected this reaction. She understood it.

“It’s okay, Max. We’ll have our chance. Besides, this could turn out to be the best thing that ever happened to him.”

“You know that guy?” Nate asked.

“That’s Kyle,” Liz answered, surprised. “Oh! That’s right! You never met him when you came out to the reservation. Yeah, that’s Kyle. The woman he’s with is a member of the family that owns Oasis, and the baby . . .” She stopped, reluctant to start another long story around the restaurant table.

“Is that Zan?” Taylor whispered softly, eyes wide with speculation. They had only gotten the sketchiest details at their Crashdown lunch with the family.

“Want to come back to the apartment?” Max offered. He had accepted that there were no secrets from these two anymore, so they might as well hear the whole thing. “You can follow us over there, and then Liz and I will tell you another wild story.”

“Sure,” Taylor agreed.

“But we can’t stay too late,” Nate added, throwing Taylor a meaningful look that everyone caught.

“We won’t take up your whole night,” Liz promised with a wink. “In fact, we wouldn’t dream of it.” She had some plans of her own, and they involved some intimate alone time with her husband. Practicing to conceive a baby was always a good idea, she thought with a grin, her mind wide open to Max. She sent him an erotic image, just to be ornery, and rose casually as his face froze. While he recovered, she made her way toward Kyle and Serena.

“Hey, Kyle. Serena. Hi, Alex,” she said, bending over to smile at the baby who was happily gumming a piece of breadstick.

“Hi, Liz. You out with Max tonight?” Kyle looked drained, but stable. Serena was still a little dazed, but calmer than when Liz had last seen her.

“Yeah, and my cousin Taylor and her boyfriend, Nate. He’s the one who warned our folks about the journal, remember?”

“Oh, yeah. They’re an item now?”

“Yeah, isn’t that great? And speaking of great, I’m glad to see you looking better, Kyle. I was worried after last night, and I didn’t see you all day.”

“I’m sorry, Liz. It’s been a pretty crazy 24 hours, and . . . Serena and I have done a lot of talking. We just came in here for a break. We kinda needed to do something normal, ya know?”

Liz nodded. “Do I ever.”

The poor guy had been through the wringer, and Liz felt incredibly protective of him. She leaned down to give her surprised friend a quick hug, and squeezed her eyes shut when the flashes began to spin wildly through her head. Images, snapshots of people and places and hints of events to come. She stood back up, shaky and confused, trying valiantly to keep any signs of what she’d seen off her face.

Max was at her side in an instant, a steady hand under her elbow.

“Hey, Kyle. Serena.” Max didn’t even look at them as he greeted them. His eyes were glued to Liz, who was trembling against his hand. He could feel her scattered frame of mind, and his good feelings plummeted. He wasn’t about to waste time with small talk.

“Good to see you,” he waved, a little too cheerily, and steered Liz outside.

********
Sydney sat snuggled against her father, listening to him read Ender’s Game . . . again. It was the latest in her fascination with stories where children held a special power in the world of aliens. She was completely capable of reading it on her own; she’d done it, in fact. But there was something about her dad’s unusual accent that gave the words an extra flavor of adventure and mystery. Besides, reading together had become a treasured ritual for both of them.

Her eyes were heavy, and in the drowsy fog of pre-sleep, her mind wandered to the flashes she’d been having when they were together. They weren’t alarming, just confusing. In them, she and her father were living somewhere else, and there were lots of other people, too, and it was beautiful. Max, the man who had made her cancer go away, was there, with his pretty wife. Others were strangers, but they all seemed to be having a nice time.

“Daddy?”

His voice stopped and she looked up to see him watching her with those warm eyes and that lopsided smile that always made her feel safe and loved.

“Yes, sweetheart?”

“I’ve been wondering something.”

“Yes?” he prompted. Something about her daddy made him easy to talk to; she knew she could ask him anything. That’s why she almost always did.

“Are we moving?”

His eyebrows slanted up at an angle, making a little triangle on his forehead. “Moving? Well, I suppose we might someday. How would you feel about that?”

She peered at him curiously. That wasn’t exactly an answer. “Fine, I guess. I mean, I don’t know. I like my friends here. But . . . I’ve just been thinking about us somewhere else.”

“You have?” He seemed very interested now.

“Yeah, but I wasn’t like . . . daydreaming about it or anything. I hadn’t even thought about leaving here. It’s like these pictures of us in another place just keep popping into my head. Especially when we’re reading like this. And there are lots of people there with us, like that Max guy and his wife. But there are strangers, too.”

Her father frowned a little, as if concentrating hard on what she was saying. She loved having his complete attention. She wanted very much to keep it, so she scoured the images for more detail.

“It’s a big place, with mountains and a lake. And a pool!” she remembered suddenly, eyes brightening with the memory. She was warming to the idea of this place.

“Was there anyone else there that we know?” he asked.

She thought hard. “Well, Maria was there, and a couple of other people from that place we went to when we saw Max,” she said slowly, “but I can’t remember their names. Oh! And Maya! . . . I think.”

She was secretly beginning to wonder if her wishes for this imaginary place were merging with what she’d really seen in her mind. She looked up at her father a little guiltily.

“I’m not sure about that last part,” she admitted. But she wasn’t sure he’d heard her. His expression was far away, and he was nodding very slightly, as if agreeing with a voice she couldn’t hear.

“Well, I’ll be,” he was muttering. “Of course. Yes, that’s it.”

His attention returned to her quickly. “Bedtime, little princess. Daddy has some phone calls to make!”

continued in next post
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Jul 19, 2003 10:15 pm

Part 36 continued

********

Back at their apartment, Maria and Michael were finishing up some Chinese take-out when Max and Liz arrived with Nate and Taylor, who were lugging a very large box and a much smaller one, respectively. They greeted their friends warmly, but it didn’t take long for Maria to pick up on the tension, especially in Max’s face.

“What’s up, Max?”

“Liz had some flashes, but she won’t talk about it,” he frowned.

“Not won’t, Max,” Liz protested. “Can’t. I’m not sure what I saw. It wasn’t upsetting so much as confusing. I don’t understand it.”

“What were you doing when you got them?” Michael asked. “As if I didn’t know.”

“No,” Max muttered darkly. “She wasn’t anywhere near me when she had them. She was hugging Kyle.

His emphasis on Kyle’s name drew Liz from her thoughts, and she looked at him askance.

“That’s what’s bugging you? That I had a flash touching Kyle?” She didn’t know whether to laugh or be annoyed. For pity’s sake, when was Max going to quit feeling insecure? At least he had the good grace to look contrite.

“Is this like when you knew Kyle was going to be hurt out at the reservation?” Nate wondered.

“Yeah, it’s just vague images, but so little detail. I don’t quite understand them, so I have to try and interpret. Not an exact science, unfortunately.”

“What did you see, chica?” Maria asked, crossing the floor to sit by Liz. She ran a soothing hand across her friend’s back.

“Well, it was good . . . I think. No scary images and no one looked upset. Uh, let’s see, the main thing was Kyle and Serena. They were together, and Kyle was holding Alex and they both just looked really happy. That was clearest part. But what was fuzzy is where we were. I didn’t recognize it, but it looked like a big complex—you know, like Oasis but different. Lots of buildings . . . mountains . . . Michael was there, and Brody, of all people. We just seemed . . . busy, but I have no idea what we were doing.”

She looked up apologetically. “That’s all I remember. I’m sorry, but it doesn’t seem to be anything bad, so I guess it’s all right that it’s fuzzy. I wonder what it means—besides that maybe Kyle and Serena will come through this together.”

She brightened at the thought, and everyone seemed to relax.

“Well, it’s nice to get some good news for a change,” Maria said, leaning back against the couch with a sigh. “Who’s up for some virgin daiquiris?”

Liz, Taylor, and Nate burst out laughing, while Max just shook his head, resigned.

“What?” Maria asked, bewildered.

“Let’s just say it’s the first time today that Max has thought of daiquiris and virgins in the same sentence!” Nate gasped between hoots of laughter, amused by Max’s glare over a thinly disguised smirk.

Maria stared at them, shrugged, and went into the kitchen, dragging Michael behind her. When they returned with the drinks, Nate reached for the boxes they’d brought in from the car.

“What’s that?” Michael asked.

“A care package from the parents,” Taylor smiled, setting the smaller box on the coffee table. “They’ve sent a little something for everyone, I think. I know what’s in the first one, because it took special treatment.”

She opened it up to reveal two carefully packed Crashdown pies—or rather, Amy DeLuca pies. Men in Blackberry and Corona Coconut. The whole room groaned with anticipation of dessert.

Then Liz leaned forward and pulled at the tape on the large box, but she couldn’t get a grasp on it. Michael beat Max to the punch, running his hand over the tape and leaving a neat slit all along the length of it. He smiled proudly, like a little boy who had mastered a grown-up skill.

“Nice,” Max said. He knew better than to say more. His one word of praise was all Michael needed. Michael’s control improved every day, and it made him feel like more of an equal, Max knew.

Maria and Liz pawed through the box’s contents, lifting out boxes and bags for each of them. Michael couldn’t hide his pleasure when he saw a package with his name on it, too.

Maria ripped into hers immediately, squealing in delight when she opened a personal CD player and several recently released CDs along with some favorites she’d had to leave behind.

“Mom must’ve gone down to Jammin’. Pete, the manager, knows what I like and always saves me copies when the new stuff comes in. This is awesome!”

Michael approached his gift with caution. He wasn’t used to getting presents, and he wasn’t sure how to react. The card said it was from Amy and Jim. How about that?

He unwrapped the box slowly, and Max suspected he was savoring the moment. It brought home once again the extreme differences in the lives they’d led up to this point.

“Holy shit!” Michael cried, identifying the gift before anyone else could.

“What is it?” Maria crowded over his shoulder. “Oh my god. It’s a DVD player!”

“And two DVDs!” Michael exclaimed, his caution and reserve shattered by a huge grin. “’NHL Highlights and Flubs’ and ‘Braveheart.’ How did they know what I like?” he asked Maria, touched and incredulous.

“So maybe I talked about you a little,” she smiled at him, leaning in for a kiss.

“What about you guys?” Taylor asked, watching as more gifts emerged.

“Well, here’s one for Kyle,” Liz said, setting aside a heavy, medium-sized box. “And this is for Max.”

Max accepted the box and immediately opened it. His face lit up as he first pulled out two carefully wrapped picture frames—one of his family taken last Christmas, and one of him and Liz that he kept in his room on the nightstand. It wasn’t a very good picture—he’d had it blown up from one of those mall photo-strips, but it had gotten him through a lot of long nights. One day, when they could afford it, they’d have a better one taken.

Liz leaned over his shoulder and saw the pictures.

“Max! How wonderful. Pictures make a place home, don’t you think? Although that one of us looks like a bad photocopy. Isn’t that the one from the mall? What did you do to it?”

He shrugged and looked back over his shoulder with puppy-dog eyes. “I had to have something, and you never gave me a better one, so I had to make do.”

She could never resist those eyes, and she kissed him, narrowing her own eyes to slits when she saw his smug face afterwards. She had totally been played.

Then he pulled out an envelope and chuckled when he saw the contents—a gift certificate for Olan Mills. Apparently, his parents anticipated his intention of getting a better picture of his beautiful bride. Beneath the envelope were new pants and several new shirts.

“Thank heaven!” Liz sighed. “Boy, do you need those.”

“Open yours,” Maria said, pushing the last package toward Liz.

She, too, had some new clothes and some favorite bath products, all of which she was happy to see. But when she reached the bottom of her box, her eyes widened and her mouth fell open. Lying there was something she never thought to see again, something that had, in so many ways, changed all of their lives.

“Liz, what is it?”

She reached down into the box and pulled it out.

“It’s my journal.”
********

Just the act of eating out like a normal couple had settled Kyle’s and Serena’s nerves. The food was good, Alex had behaved, and they talked about everything except the crisis at hand. Sports—Serena was a basketball fan, as it turned out—had been a big topic. They argued amiably about which teams they rooted for and which players were most likely to take their teams to the play-offs. They compared notes on cooking, too. Serena was surprised to discover that Kyle could cook. She told him that was a highly prized skill in a man, and he felt inordinately pleased.

Alex surprised them with another insistent chorus of “Da!” and Kyle secretly harbored the hope that maybe . . . just maybe Alex was really calling him Dad. Serena even stopped interpreting the sound as a request for his toy, but he wasn’t sure if she was hoping on his behalf, or if she just didn’t want to hurt his feelings. Other couples with children stopped to exchange compliments about babies, and neither of them was inclined to explain that they weren’t a family. They sure felt like one.

Soon, though, it was time to return to Oasis, and in so doing, the complications of their lives settled back in on them. As they entered the private entrance that housed the elevator to the resident apartments, they ran into Serena’s uncle.

“Hello, Serena,” he smiled broadly. “And how’s our Alex today?”

Kyle stepped into the background, anxious to avoid anything other than superficial interaction with Brad Crawford.

“He’s great, Uncle Brad. He’s been teething, but he feels better now.” That was a pretty generic comment, Kyle thought, considering how Max had used his “powers” to achieve Alex’s improved state. Serena was being very cool about it.

“And who’s your friend?” her uncle asked in a cordial tone.

“This is Kyle. We just got back from dinner.”

“Kyle, is it? I don’t believe we’ve met. How do you know Serena?”

It was an old, familiar feeling knowing that when he answered that question, Serena’s uncle would have a whole different attitude toward him. He was tired of not being good enough for people, but he was too proud to lie. Let them take him or leave him. He could feel Serena’s eyes on him, but he didn’t look at her.

“We met while I was driving her around town with Alex.”

The tall man blinked, then frowned. “You’re one of our drivers?”

“Yes, sir.”

He saw Serena’s uncle flip her a quick glance. “I see. Uh, well, that’s very nice of you. Serena, you could have come to eat with us. You didn’t need to take a driver.”

Serena’s face hardened. “I didn’t ‘take a driver,’ Uncle Brad. I had dinner with Kyle. We’re friends. And he’s been helping me with Alex, too.”

“I see.” This was clearly the polite form of we’ll see about that in Brad Crawford’s vocabulary. “Well, I’m sure Mr. . . .?”

“Valenti.”

“. . . yes, Mr. Valenti has his own matters to attend to now. Thank you, Mr. Valenti. I’ll help Serena up with Alex’s things.”

“No, Uncle Brad. He’s coming upstairs with me. I’m fixing dessert for us.”

They stared each other down until Brad finally shrugged and said, “Well, I’m sure it will be very tasty,” and pushed through the door.

“Serena, I can . . .”

“Don’t!” She was fuming and turned to Kyle with eyes flashing. “Don’t you dare say we’d better not see each other because of him. I won’t be dictated to and I won’t subscribe to the ‘money is quality’ philosophy that the men in my family seem to be born with.” She quieted, then said more softly, “Except my brother. Susan didn’t have money, but you never saw two people more in love.” When she’d finished, there was a smile on her face again.

“Come on. I promised you brownies.”

Kyle played with Alex while Serena worked on the brownies. He even managed to change a diaper—his first solo performance. He brought Alex out to the kitchen perched on his shoulders, smiling proudly. It earned him a lick of the spoon and a kiss on the cheek from Serena. A moment later, though, his smile turned to a grimace, and Serena almost collapsed on the kitchen floor laughing. A yellowish trail was working its way down the side of Kyle’s neck and shirt.

“Guess I wasn’t ready to solo,” he grumbled, heading back to the changing table, a teary-eyed Serena still snickering behind him.

“If at first you don’t succeed . . .” she recited cheerfully.

An hour later, they were munching on brownies and chatting while Alex cruised around the room holding onto low furniture. He’d really picked up speed in the last few days, and they couldn’t afford to take their eyes off him. He turned to look at them every few minutes, as if waiting for their attention to wander so he could grab something he knew he shouldn’t.

“He’s gonna be a handful,” Kyle said, almost smugly.

“Like his father?” Serena teased. “I have a feeling you were, too. Probably still are.”

“Absolutely,” Kyle agreed. “My father said that one time, he came out to the kitchen and I had managed to pull the entire silverware drawer out. Forks and knives everywhere. He said it was a miracle I wasn’t bleeding all over the floor. That’s when he went out and bought baby gates. Hey! Maybe we should get some for here. I could do that tomorrow, if you want. Gotta take care of our son, right?”

He’d already lifted Alex into his lap when it registered what he’d said. Our son. He looked over at Serena. Yeah, she’d caught it. She was staring at him, but he couldn’t tell if it was surprise or concern he saw there.

“I’m sorry. I . . . it just slipped out. I didn’t mean anything by it. You want another brownie?”

He rose abruptly, setting Alex down on the floor at his feet, and escaped to the kitchen, cursing himself for a slip that felt much more like reality than reality. He already felt like he had a family. But he was just setting himself up for a fall, and imposing his fantasies on Serena, who hadn’t had even a few days to get used to any of this. He was rushing her. Rushing himself, for that matter. What was her favorite color? What music did she like? When was her goddamn birthday!

“Da!”

Startled, Kyle looked down. There was Alex, wide-eyed and teetering on little bowed feet. Serena was standing behind him, grinning from ear to ear. Two more toddling steps, and Alex was at his side, arms outstretched.

“Da!”
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Aug 02, 2003 11:32 pm

I'm back--finally!

Thanks for your patience, everyone. Our family visit was fun but exhausting, and the house may never be the same! A few notes in response to f/b and comments:

FIRST, there were a few questions about Liz's journal being included in the gift box (in the last chapter). Several assumed it had been destroyed. Well, yes, Liz did ask her father to burn it "out by the pod chamber where my husband was born." (Damn, I still tear up when I read that!) But given that the parents reestablished contact with the kids much sooner than anyone expected, and given the impact it had on the parents' understanding of the past 3 years, I was coming from the pov that Jeff just couldn't bring himself to destroy a legacy like that. What a gift for their children or for a larger society in an idealistic future. Or just a treasure for Liz herself. I decided that they realized what Liz had given up in sending it to them, and that since they had a safe way to return it to her, they did so. I didn't get a chance to address that in this chapter, but it will come up again with more explanation of what I've just said.

NorafanofMaxandLiz: Thank you for the wonderful compliment! When a reader calls characters "rich," I feel I've done my job. Your words mean so much to me. And as for recommending it to others, please do!

Craig and Tazno: I appreciate your efforts to encourage nominations for this fic at the awards boards. I've learned the hard way that what I write does not seem to be the stuff of awards in Ros-land. I confess to pouting to Craig about it from time to time, but that hasn't dampened my love of writing or of Max and Liz, so I ignore it and move on. Your votes of confidence warm my heart, though. Thanks.

BelieveInTrueLove: You call this story a good candidate for "the next part of the show." You have stated, without a doubt, my fondest fantasy. I wish you had the power to hire me for the job! Your saying it is the next best thing, though, so THANK YOU!

Gigo: YES, I stayed for the last bit after the credits of Pirates. I didn't know what was coming, and our side of the theatre emptied quickly, but the other side knew something we didn't know, so we hung around and waited for it. Very cute, but still--pretty short for the long wait, as you said! Normally, we go to late afternoon movies (the cheap ones around 5:30) and sit in an almost empty theatre. This time, though, we wound up at a prime time showing, and I'm so glad. The theatre was almost full and the crowd was into it--laughing, cheering, clapping even! It was a great time.

Okay, enough of the notes. Here is this week's Chameleon.

Part 37

Sometimes when he kissed her, it all seemed possible—the happy family, the bright future, the love that had always eluded him. But when he felt his heart start to hope and his pulse start to race with the promise of physical pleasure and emotional intensity, he could almost feel the spell burst like the dream bubble in a comic strip, and the doubt settled over him like a shroud. He knew Serena was frustrated with him, and he didn’t blame her. He was a walking, talking, self-fulfilling prophecy.

“Tell me about her.”

An involuntary shudder passed through him, and he looked at her warily.

“What?”

“Tell me about her. About Tess.”

Kyle pushed against the sofa cushions to sit up straight, feeling an unwelcome chill at the loss of Serena’s body heat. He instantly regretted the move, knowing that the chill was seeping into their mood as well. Her body still glowed from his attention--hair mussed, lips moist, skin flushed--but the dreamy glow in her eyes had been replaced with watchfulness.

“You already know about her. Why do you want to talk about her any more?”

“Because she’s still here, Kyle, still looking over your shoulder and manipulating your thoughts. Every time you start to feel something, you pull away, and I can almost believe that if I look up, she’ll be there, watching us, making you doubt everything you feel. So I’d at least like to know what I’m up against.”

She may as well have slapped him. Her words shook him to his very core—not because she said them, but because they were true. How could she know that? He hadn’t even admitted it to himself. How could she read what was in his mind? That was supposed to be his shtick now.

His face must have given him away; he’d always been a lousy poker player. Serena sat up, too, and Kyle was painfully aware of the distance she maintained between them.

“You fell in love with her. Why?”

Why? That was a good question. Why? What had made him fall for her like that? He’d never asked himself that question before.

“I honestly don’t know. I’ve never thought about it. I guess . . . well, I guess because she seemed to like me. Not Evans, at least not any more, and not the guys at school who were smarter or taller or richer. Just me. I guess I fell in love with how she made me feel about myself.”

He blinked, more than a little surprised at the truth behind his own words. “That sucks, doesn’t it? I mean, when I put it that way, it sounds like it was all about me—how she made me feel. But I loved her . . . or thought I did.”

He scrunched up his face in concentration, obviously asking himself Serena’s question for the first time. “But why? She wasn’t really pretty, and she wasn’t nice. In fact, she was mean and selfish most of the time. But when we were alone, we’d talk about all kinds of stuff. Stuff I was interested in.”

The confusion began to ease from his face and a bitter acknowledgment took its place. “Stuff I was interested in. Dammit! She talked about whatever I wanted to talk about—sports, alien issues, dreams for the future. Then she’d turn into this little sex kitten, all provocative and seductive, and I felt like some kind of stud. She worked me! That conniving she-devil knew what I wanted, knew what my weakness was, where I was vulnerable!”

He stood, turning on Serena in a burst of self-revelation. “Of all the narcissistic crap! It was never about her; it was about who I was when I was with her. I don’t think I ever even asked her about herself—what she liked, what she wanted. I just let her give me what I thought I wanted and called it love.” He snorted derisively. “I’m such a loser.”

He stalked across the room and grabbed his room key, embarrassed and enraged at what Serena’s simple question had uncovered.

“Kyle.”

He hesitated, hand on the doorknob. “Yeah?”

“You’re doing it again.”

He threw a sidelong look over his shoulder. “I’m doing what again?”

“Making it all about you. Aren’t you going to ask me what I like? What I want?”

It was one of those moments when pride and longing do battle. An exit now would be dramatic, satisfying, a triumph of martyrdom. But his heart wanted to stay and let her talk him out of it. Everything he felt about Serena was different. She was honest, open, and chose to be with him in spite of all the insanity, not because of it. If he stayed, though, she would have the advantage. In handing her his heart, he was giving her the power to hurt him, to exploit his vulnerability. And the Valenti men didn’t surrender power easily. Not once they’d been burned, anyway.

Then he made the move that he knew would be his undoing even before he did it. He looked her in the eye. There it was—an invitation that moved him with its very simplicity, glowing unguarded from her clear blue eyes.

“What do you want, Serena?”

“I want you to stay.”

Then she did something he didn’t expect. Instead of claiming her victory by waiting for him to come to her, she started toward him, her steps just a little uncertain. His reserve shattered, and he took two long strides to meet her, sweeping her into his arms with a gasp of surprise and gratitude. This time, the kiss was all it should have been—tender and honest and shared with a full heart. He squeezed her tightly until she finally broke off with a breathless little laugh.

“Kyle, I can’t breathe!”

He loosened his hold on her by a small degree and smiled down on her, feeling lightheaded with hope.

“The first night we can get one of the pod squad to sit, we’re going out . . . on a real date. We’re going to talk for hours, or go bowling, or dancing, or gambling for all I care, but we’re going to date, Serena. We’re going to find out everything there is to know about each other, and then . . . then I’m going to know why I already think you’re the most wonderful person I’ve ever met.”

He leaned into her bright smile for another kiss when the phone rang. Serena jumped and sprinted for the phone in spite of Kyle’s pout of disappointment.

“It’ll wake Alex,” she explained quickly, already reaching for the phone.

“Hi, Dad. . . . Yeah, I got your message, but I didn’t have a chance to call you yet. It’s really late out there, isn’t it? . . . No . . . No! Dad, no. Uncle Brad doesn’t know anything about him. He’s jumping to conclusions. . . . I’m 19, Dad. Who I date is my business. . . . What his father does is none of your business, but I assure you, it’s perfectly respectable. . . . Alex is fine. He’s getting plenty of attention, and my grades are fine, too, thanks.”

She rolled her eyes toward Kyle, then frowned at his expression. He knew he was scowling, but he also knew why Serena’s father had called. Brad Crawford had called him to warn him that his daughter was getting mixed up with the wrong kind of guy—no college, no money, no prestigious family name. Just when he’d let himself commit to trying for love again, it was going to be ripped away from him.

Then the conversation took a turn that moved his relationship with Serena to the back burner.

“What? You can’t do that! Alex is fine here. I’m taking good care of him, just ask Aunt Megan. He has everything he needs here, Dad, and plenty of people to look out for him. . . . But he already knows us. He took his first steps tonight, right here in my apartment! He loves us. . . . What? Well, me, I mean. And Uncle Brad and Aunt Megan. . . . No, they haven’t spent that much time with him since the first week or so; they’re opening a resort, for pete’s sake, but things will settle down soon, and meanwhile, we’re . . . I mean, I’m handling things just fine. . . . NO! You can’t put him up for adoption! You can’t!”

She was shaking now, and Kyle felt sick to his stomach. He sat down hard on the nearest chair and tried to hear Serena’s voice through the rush of blood in his ears.

“Listen to me, Dad, he’s our family now.” She was speaking with clenched control, seething with contempt. “He’s a Crawford. Andy’s son. Your grandson. You can’t turn your back on him. What if he’d been their natural child? Would you abandon him then? . . . Yes, it is abandonment. He couldn’t be with anyone who loves him more than we . . . than I do. We can give him everything he needs. I’ll quit school and care for him full time, if no one else wants the job. But you’re not just handing him off like some football. . . .”

Her tears were falling now, and Kyle somehow managed to stand and stumble toward her, pulling her so tightly to him that the phone was pressed painfully between them, but Serena didn’t resist. In fact, she pressed her forehead into his chest, and he could see her white knuckles trembling against the receiver.

“You do this, Dad, and I will never . . . and I mean never speak to you again.”

She let the phone drop heavily to the floor and sobbed into Kyle’s shoulder, never feeling the anguished tears that rained down into her hair from above her.

********

Philip Evans sat behind his desk with an awed expression on his face. Brody beamed at him, knowing that this time, the plan was viable; it satisfied all the requirements and offered answers to any who chose to take advantage of it.

“What made you think of this?” Philip asked, smiling now himself.

“I didn’t. Sidney did. Or rather, she saw it. In her mind, that is. I think she’s developing the same ability that Liz has,” he hypothesized. “We were reading, and she just asked me if we were moving because she kept seeing us in a different place. Once she started to describe it, it all came together. I’ve even thought of a name.”

Philip chuckled. “What did you have in mind?”

“I talked to a real estate bloke when I was thinking of starting a new town. I wanted someplace in the mountains where the utilities wouldn’t be impossible to connect, and there were already some highways nearby, but that was secluded and scenic. He found a huge tract of land for sale in the Monzano Mountains. It’s perfect! It has beautiful scenery, it’s already known for an annual ski event, it’s only an hour south of Albuquerque, and best of all . . .” His smile grew even broader. “. . . it was the site of over 130 UFO sitings in the last 60 years!”

A perplexed crease appeared above Philip’s raised eyebrows. “And that’s good because . . .”

“I want to name the resort Space Mountain!” Brody grinned triumphantly. At Philip’s continued confusion, he went on enthusiastically. “Don’t you see? The name alone will make people think of UFOs and the Disney ride. It’s a feel-good name that promises fun and excitement. This place has the advantage of an already existing mystery. People will come there hoping to see something strange, so if they do, it will only add to the mystique of the place. Max and the others could find work there and a safe home for their families. Any of the children Max healed can come to live there, too—with their families or later as adults with families of their own. There’ll be plenty of jobs—we’ll need accountants, landscapers, hotel management people, computer people, food service, just about anything--and of course, we’d make a point to employ the ones with special “abilities” from our own circle. If any of them are willing to become teachers, the kids could have their own school nearby. Skiers already know the place, and the whole New Mexico alien theme will be an attraction in itself. There are some depressed towns in the area with utilities we can extend to, too. And there’s a water supply and a network of roads running around it.”

Brody rose from his chair, carried away with plans and visions that Philip both admired and questioned. The logistics wouldn’t be easy from any standpoint. Still, it was an intriguing venture. Brody wasn’t even glancing at him now, though. He was in his own world of possibilities and plans.

“We’ll make it a family oriented place. We could have both hotel rooms and bungalows. We’ll offer water sports, hiking, fishing, skiing, a children’s program, maybe horses. We won’t bring in the big name entertainers; we’ll keep it low-key—quality without hype. Maybe we could even invite artists to do shows or sell crafts—an artists’ colony!”

Philip put the brakes on. Pretty soon, he felt sure, Brody would be annexing the whole state and developing it into Brody-World.

“Brody. . . . Brody!”

Brody halted abruptly, a gleam still in his eye. “Hmm?”

“Slow down, my friend. If we’re going to do this, let’s start with the basics, okay? Can you contact your real estate agent and see if the land is still for sale?”

“Oh,” Brody shrugged, “I did. I made an offer on it this morning.”

continued in next post
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Aug 02, 2003 11:34 pm

Part 37 continued

********
Liz snuggled closer to Max’s warm body. No matter how she felt—happy, scared, sexy, frustrated—having Max’s arms around her made her feel safe and loved. She didn’t want to admit it, but having those women come on to Max at the resort yesterday had made their sex last night all the more exciting. She had him, and no one else did. It made her feel powerful and bold . . . and incredibly lucky. He was a beautiful, sensual, attentive lover who knew just when to take her hard and fast or slow and gentle—often both in the same night. She never got used to the thrill of having his hands on her, cherishing her most intimate spots and stimulating her body and her heart with his lavish attention.

She started slightly when something brushed her hand under the sheets, then smiled when she realized Max had sprung to life in his sleep. What dream was arousing him? She hoped she was the main character.

“You always are,” he murmured sleepily from above her head. He kissed her hair, then let out an unconvincing “Ow!” as she smacked his chest lightly. “What was that for?”

“You were eavesdropping,” she scolded. “I thought you were asleep.”

“Well, that was your mistake, wasn’t it? And besides, you weren’t shielding your thoughts,” he pointed out smugly. His hand automatically moved from his mouth to hers, as it did each morning, cleansing their breath so they could talk, kiss, and whatever else moved them, without bothering to address the age-old problem of morning breath. He’d tried it on their honeymoon, and it had become one of Liz’s favorite manifestations of Max’s powers.

“Then what’s got your juices flowing so early?”

“You,” he sighed, leaning down for a kiss on the lips. “If you’re going to lay there and relive last night, I’m bound to get . . . interested.”

His lips traveled down her throat, diverting to her ear, then her shoulder. One hand began teasing her breasts with a slow massage that drifted closer and closer to her nipples, already stiff with anticipation. Her eyes fluttered shut as she gave herself over to him. It was so easy to do. She was his.

Moist warmth attacked her from two fronts—his mouth on her sensitive nipples, and his seeping length against her hip. Her legs spread instinctively, a fervent invitation for more—more closeness, more contact, more Max. He moved over her, teasing her opening with his tip and watching her body arch in response. He bent his head to lap at her breasts again, applying a little more pressure to her swollen nub—back and forth in a relentless rhythm that left her writhing and mewing in pleasured protest. He loved to tease her, to make her so crazy for him that she wanted to scream. A part of her thrilled to it, and she suddenly decided to make him know what that felt like. Today, he would find out.

***
He sucked in his breath when he felt her hand wrap around him, and he felt his fluid spill over and trickle down his cock and onto her hand. He looked down to see her stroking him; it was always incredibly erotic to watch her handle him that way, like the fondest fantasy of his teens. Her fingers were small but strong, tender but powerful, and he felt the threat of his impending orgasm building inside him.

“Liz,” he whispered, looking up into her eyes, alive with love and desire.

The gleam of power crept into her look, and he knew she was going to make him pay for teasing her. She pressed his tip into her folds, now pulsing with erotic pressure, and rubbed herself with it, offering him only the most tentative feel of her opening. When he pressed forward to enter her, she led him along her wet lips, but denied him entry. Then, as he began to shake with need, she sat up, pushing him back so that his head rested against the foot of the bed, and then her mouth was on him, taking him in deeply, gently, her tongue running wildly over every inch of velvet-sheathed steel. He groaned loudly, biting his lip to keep from shouting out at her that he was about to cum. She already knew. She knew everything about him—his mind, his heart, his body. He was hers.

It had taken him a while to accept that she was willing to let him cum this way. He had always wanted to pull away, to save her from the endless bursts she coaxed from his very soul with her loving ways and her sexy body. Max wasn’t exactly sure what was considered normal in terms of how long a guy could cum or how much he could release, but even if the exaggerated locker room stories were true, whatever Liz did to him seemed to top them all. And yet there she was, giving him this amazing gift.

He stole a look at her, knowing it would only drive him crazier. Her hair undulated in luxurious waves as she caressed, laved, and sucked at him. Watching himself appear and disappear inside her snapped his fragile control, and he felt the warmth start to rise and his muscles tense before the inevitable. Then, just when the stars began to swim before his eyes, she left him, and his eyes flew wide with surprise and alarm. But before he could find any words, she straddled him, lifting herself onto him and reaching for his hands. She pulled him up to face her as she began her rhythm, her hips now mimicking the hypnotizing undulation of her hair just a moment ago.

The new position had temporarily distracted him, and Max felt some small fragment of control return. He leaned forward another inch to pull one small, firm breast as far into his mouth as he could. So soft, firm, supple. Just the feel of it sent electricity through him, and he was already back to the final countdown of his imminent explosion.

Liz’s movements had become more frantic, and he reached between them to ensure she came with him as he burst within her.

“Love you!”

The sound was torn from her as he felt her muscles clench furiously around him, only prolonging his blinding orgasm. He surged within her without thought or will until he felt he no longer had the strength to sit up. He fell back on the bed, bringing her with him, and they fell asleep, entangled in bodies that wanted only to be one.

********
Liz was unsure how much later it was when she first stirred on top of her husband, but she could see the sun was high in the sky, and they had promised to bring Michael and Maria for a swim with Nate and Taylor before Liz’s evening shift at Oasis. Michael and Max were working later, too, although Maria had the day off. Liz had left a message on Kyle’s room phone to invite them along, but so far, he hadn’t called.

She woke Max with a chaste peck on the cheek and then scooted hurriedly toward the bathroom. She wasn’t going to take a chance on a repeat of this morning’s distraction, as wonderful as it was. Donning a nightshirt that served only to get her back and forth from their bedroom to the bathroom they all shared, Liz stepped into the hallway clutching a fresh towel. She winced slightly at the noises coming from Michael and Maria’s room, recognizing Michael’s “whimper of fulfillment,” as she and Maria had dubbed it. It was a quirky little sound—high-pitched and helpless, and very un-Michael-like.

No two couples should know each other this well, she thought with a grimace.

Under a hot shower, her mind wandered to Kyle and Serena, and she wondered how their evening had gone. She had sensed their high tension levels when they’d bumped into them at dinner, but she’d also seen a closing of the ranks, as if they’d decided that whatever they faced, they would try to face it together. She hoped the rest of the evening had been calm and uneventful.

An hour later, Max was driving the van into Oasis when they saw Kyle waiting stiffly out front next to a stretch limo. He was obviously expecting a VIP guest.

“Max, hold up!” Liz said suddenly. “Let me slip out here and see if I can get a word with him before the guest comes out.”

Max pulled up to the curb of the wide drive, pulling away as soon as Liz was out. They’d been given very strict instructions about not taking up space in the guest entrance. He watched in the rearview mirror as Liz went up to Kyle, and he felt his stomach tighten when Kyle’s hand flew to his forehead and Liz’s hand went to his shoulder. Something was wrong.

Around back, they began to make their way toward the pools when Max heard his name. He looked up to see his Conventions boss waving him over.

“I’ll catch up,” he said to Michael and Maria. He jogged over to Mr. Matheson, worried when he saw how unhappy the man was.

“Max, I have to ask you something.”

“Sure.”

“Did you ask to be transferred to grounds crew?”

“No, sir. I mean, when I first applied, I was interested in that because the pay is a little higher, but it hasn’t come up since.”

“Then explain to me why the head groundskeeper asked me to okay the change. He said you were working for him yesterday. What’s that about?”

Max frowned, wondering if there were a right answer to this. “I’m a newlywed, Mr. Matheson. A newlywed who couldn’t afford to give my bride a honeymoon. I worked a deal with the manager that if I worked a couple of days for grounds-keeping to help them catch up for the opening, I could have the bridal suite one night when it wasn’t booked. It was just a trade, not a request for reassignment.”

His boss nodded, apparently less angry than before. “I see. Well, you must’ve made a hell of an impression if that old geyser is trying to get you over there now. You have experience with that sort of thing, do you?”

“Well, no, not really. My experience is really more convention-related, as you know. That’s why they put me with you.”

“Okay, then. I’ll work it out. You don’t want to switch, right?”

“No, sir. Well, I mean, I like the conventions work but I could use the money, I admit. Whatever you all decide is all right by me.”

“Fair enough, son. I’ll get back to you.”

He walked past Max into the parking lot, leaving Max a bit bewildered and unsure which outcome to hope for. By the time he got back to the pool area, Liz was there, looking worried. Nate and Taylor had joined the group, too.

“Liz?”

They all looked up as he approached, worry lines on every face. “Oh, Max! Serena’s father wants to put Alex back up for adoption!”

“What?”

“He called last night. Kyle said that first he was on Serena’s case for dating a chauffeur, and then he threatened to put Alex up for adoption. I guess since both adoptive parents are dead, and it’s been less than a year since the adoption, he can do that. Serena has no legal right to him, and Kyle certainly doesn’t. It’s not like they can do a paternity test! Who knows what would show up? Max, we can’t let him go to anyone else!”

The uneasy feeling in Max’s stomach tightened into a knot. She was right, of course. No one could raise Alex who didn’t know about his special heredity. And they didn’t have the money or the clout to fight David Crawford. And if they just ran off with Alex . . . well, that would be kidnapping. They’d just be running again, without a leg to stand on if they were caught. And this time there would be a lot more to go on and a lot more people willing to turn them in. The other alternative that presented itself didn’t feel right either, but he couldn’t think of another one.

He reached for Liz’s hand and searched her eyes. “What if we adopted him?”

Liz only stared at him, but Taylor shook her head. “I’m no adoption expert,” she admitted, “but Max, you and Liz are 19 and 18. There are couples out there with longer marriages, better jobs, and more stability who know that they can’t have their own children. They’re just dying for a baby to adopt. You’d never qualify.”

She was right, of course, not to mention that Kyle would have one more reason to resent Max for having something he wanted. God, wouldn’t this ever get easier?

“There might be a way,” Nate suggested tentatively. Every eye swung his way, and he hoped he wasn’t wrong.

“I can’t be sure, of course, but I think there might be a way to get documentation on a paternity test without going through regular channels. All they need is a buccal swab--you know, just cells from inside the cheek.”

Liz and Max exchanged a look, each thinking of their first meeting after Max saved Liz’s life.

“They have all the equipment at the Special Unit. I mean, they were running this kind of test on everyone who passed through there to make sure their DNA was completely human. Maybe if Dad got the swabs he needs, he could run it through the lab anonymously—everything over there is ‘need to know’ only—and assuming they came through as a match, he could just fill in the names and get one of the doctors to sign off. If the DNA was weird, the lab at the Unit would be curious, but wouldn’t know where the sample came from. And if it weren’t weird, it would be just one more routine check that proved someone was human.”

Everyone was quiet, digesting Nate’s suggestion. It seemed possible, at least.

Maria asked the next question. “Okay, so if Kyle can prove he’s the father, and Serena’s father is serious about putting Alex up for adoption, the courts couldn’t deny Kyle custody, could they?”

Taylor shook her head slowly. “No, I don’t think they could.”

“Court?” Michael shouted, then lowered his voice as other sunbathers glanced in their direction. “Do you hear what you’re saying? How can one of us go to court? That’s like taking out an ad in the The New York Times. I can see the headline now: Suspected Aliens Take a Gamble in Vegas. We can’t go to court.”

“Maybe you won’t have to,” Taylor said. “Maybe just the bluff will be enough. If Serena’s father doesn’t want Kyle around, and doesn’t want Alex around, maybe the bluff will be enough. He can get rid of both of them in one fell swoop. If Kyle promises to take Alex and leave, it can all be handled privately, which Crawford Enterprises would probably prefer anyway, since the public at large wouldn’t take kindly to a rich mogul like that turning his back on a baby. Very bad press.”

“But then what about Serena?” Liz frowned, biting at her lip. “Where does that leave her?”

“I guess that’s up to her, isn’t it?” Max’s voice carried an air of resignation; he obviously wasn’t sure she would choose the life that Liz had.

“Nate,” Taylor asked, “how would we get a swab kit and then get the samples to your father? We can’t mail things back and forth yet; it’s too soon.”

“We could have them sent to me here in overnight mail to arrive Monday—they don’t deliver on Sunday. A package from Dad to me wouldn’t raise any suspicions. Then you fly home instead of driving with me. You can take them in your luggage and I’ll meet you back in Roswell.”

“That’s a long drive alone, Nate,” Taylor reminded him. “I’d hate to just take off without you.”

“I’ll miss you, too, babe. But this is pretty important, wouldn’t you say?”

Taylor looked around her at all the anxious faces. There was no decision to be made.

“Of course, it is.”

“I’ll go call my dad,” Nate said, grabbing his room key. “Be right back.”

********
It was late afternoon when Kyle got back to the resort. He had taken some rich banker and his wife all over the Vegas suburbs so they could get an idea about where the elite live in Vegas. No realtor’s car for this couple. No sirree. They just met the realtor at each address, then spent half an hour walking through the place while he sat in the car freaking out over losing his son and maybe Serena, too. It had been a great day.

He came through the lobby, intending only to give Liz a quick nod, when she waved him toward the front desk with quick, jerky arm motions. He was in no mood, but he didn’t have the heart to just blow her off, so he walked in her direction.

“Hi, Liz. Listen, I’m beat. I’m just gonna . . .”

“Kyle, go see Max. He’s back in the Conventions office cross-checking next week’s convention guests against room reservations. He’s got something important to tell you.”

“Now, Liz? I told you, I’m beat. Can’t it wait?”

“No! It can’t. It’s an idea about maybe keeping Alex. Go!”

Kyle didn’t need any more incentive than that. He raced through the darkened hallways back to the Conventions business office only to find Max sitting on a loveseat with his arm propped up on the sofa behind Serena. The logical side of his brain knew it was nothing; the emotional side—the one that had lost two women and a life of free choice to Max Evans—was not so understanding.

“What the hell? Get off her, Evans.”

Two heads swiveled in his direction, one face confused, the other pale with exhaustion and irritation.

“Kyle, grow up,” Serena sighed. “I stopped in to check on something for next week’s convention and Max was here. We’ve been talking and you need to hear what he has to say.”

Kyle still felt resentful, and then felt resentful that he felt resentful, finally flopping into a chair with a huff. “So, do you need to put your arm around me while you tell me this news, Evans? Or is that just a service you provide the women.”

Max’s face went to that controlled blank that Kyle recognized as thinly concealed anger, but he removed his arm from around Serena.

“You can be a real ass, Kyle,” Serena glared. “Not only was Max sharing a very good idea with me about Alex, he was also being a good listener while I talked through our very confusing last couple of days. He was being nice. What are you being?”

Kyle let his head fall back against the chair. “An ass. I’m sorry. What’s going on, Max? You have an idea about Alex?”

Max’s face cleared instantly, and he launched into the group’s idea for keeping Alex with Kyle, if that’s what Kyle wanted. As he spoke, Kyle couldn’t help the surge of hope that welled up inside him at the possibility, and he felt doubly idiotic for his behavior when he’d first arrived. Then he saw the look on Serena’s face, and realized why she’d had one more thing to be confused about. Her role in this was both unpleasant and unclear.

“Serena?”

She looked up at him, more uncertain than he’d ever seen her.

“I won’t do anything that you don’t know about and agree to. You’ve been a mother to Alex for weeks. I won’t take that away from you unless it’s the only option. I promise.”

Tears of relief rolled slowly down her face, and she rose, doing her best to give him a smile. He stood and gathered her to his chest.

“It doesn’t matter what we say about keeping our relationship separate from Alex,” he mumbled into her hair. “We’re Alex’s parents now. And whatever we work out between us won’t change that.”

She nodded against him, then raised her head and kissed him. Max didn’t know what came after that. He had quietly left the room.
Last edited by Carol000 on Fri Aug 08, 2003 12:33 pm, edited 6 times in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

User avatar
Carol000
Addicted Roswellian
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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sat Aug 09, 2003 9:33 pm

Computer problems bite!

This public service announcement is brought to you by one frustrated author. But in spite of the fact that this chapter was written on three different computers, and that I'm posting a few hours early because I'm about to lose Internet access again (just for a few hours--I think), I'm happy with it. We're in the home stretch, folks.

Thanks to folks who either sympathized about the nomination thing or went and nominated the story! For what it's worth, I appreciate it.

Another loooong chapter. Here we go . . .

Part 38

Isabel had little rest that night. There was so much information being exchanged and so much coordination to be done that she skipped class the next day just to get some rest. But it had been worth it. Now everyone was aware of the threat to put Alex up for adoption, Michael and Maria’s engagement, and Brody’s idea of a mountain resort where any hybrid or “inner circle” member could find work and a safe family atmosphere. The participants in this dream plane marathon had been tired, too, but happy and grateful that they had such a strong support group in which to share both joys and problems. Now, three days later, several of the issues facing them were coming to a head.

********
“Let’s eat!”

Maria carried a tray of burgers in from the grill on the apartment’s tiny balcony. Smoke wafted in from the charcoal’s embers and circled her head like a dingy halo. There was an emotional pall over the room as well, and no one could summon an appetite. The gathering was, after all, just a thin excuse for being together when the call came. General Christopher was expected to let them know as soon as the test results had been confirmed, and until that phone rang, eating was out of the question.

They sat dutifully at the table, passing condiments and pouring drinks as conversation lurched between them, labored and dry. All they really wanted to do was sit and stare at the phone, but sublimating tension was an art form they had perfected long ago. Except for Alex.

“Da!” He watched the group warily, clearly uneasy with the awkward atmosphere. Without a thought, Kyle reached for him, lifting him from the high chair and then swooping him in the air like an airplane. Apparently, this kind of treatment was just what Alex had in mind. His face beamed with wide-eyed excitement and his belly laugh was punctuated with squeals as his body whooshed high then low, all within the trusted hands that held him.

“Let’s get Mommy!” Kyle laughed, dive bombing Serena with his wriggling missile. She covered her head protectively and pretended to be terrified, which pleased Alex immensely. Immersed in his play world, Kyle missed the looks that the others exchanged, happy that their friend was finding fulfillment with this pieced-together family but nervous that it could be snatched from him with one phone call.

It was something of a miracle that Alex didn’t wind up sailing through a window when the phone rang. Instead, Kyle just sort of folded up like an accordion and collapsed with Alex on the sofa next to Serena. The first ring only served to freeze all motion and speech. The second one prompted panicked looks, as if picking up the receiver would result in pain or punishment for the one foolish enough to do it. The third ring finally moved Michael to action. If there was one instinct bred into him, it was to take action in a crisis. Any action.

“Hello? Yes, sir. Uh-huh. Yes. Really? Okay. Yes, I’ll tell them. Thank you.”

No one even blinked as Michael replaced the phone. His eyes swung to Kyle, whose grip on Alex was rigid and still. Only Serena moved, reaching blindly to grasp Kyle’s arm. Then, instead of speaking, Michael’s gaze moved to Alex.

“Man, I hope he’s not as ugly as you.”

Still no one moved, afraid to interpret Michael’s words. Finally, Michael’s face broke into a grin.

“Congrats, my man, you’re a daddy.”

The air rushed from five sets of oxygen-starved lungs, and the bedlam began. Hugs, shouts, tears, more hugs. No one had dared anticipate what would have happened if the news had gone the other way. After all, Tess was capable of anything. There would have been other willing takers had she offered, and they all knew it. High school guys aren’t exactly picky. But no one said it out loud; that would have been the lowest blow of all for Kyle.

A euphoric closeness settled over them, and they took turns greeting the newest member of their family into the fold. Happy to have his hands free to hug the stuffing out of Serena, Kyle allowed Alex the dubious honor of being handed around the group. Maria cooed and crooned at him while Michael looked on with distant affection. When Max got his turn, he found himself blinking back fresh tears, and Liz felt his sense of loss simmering underneath his happiness. It was not his son who he’d risked so much for last year. It was not his son who had given rise to such feelings of love and protectiveness. And that was a good thing, he knew. It was just hard to absorb.

Liz slipped two arms around her husband from behind and looked eye to eye with little Alex, who was slightly alarmed at the eruption of noise and tears.

“He was worth it, Max. He might be Kyle’s and . . . hers, but he was worth it.”

Max shifted Alex to one arm so the other could pull Liz around to his front. The sense of family was strong, in spite of everything, and he bent to kiss his beautiful wife. It was really no surprise when the now-familiar flash came to them—the lovely dark-haired girl toddling to her father . . . to Max. They parted, seeking confirmation in each other’s eyes. Yes, their future was bright, and included a little girl who was already loved beyond imagining. She would be a friend to the little boy Max now held. Maybe this boy would even be her protector. There was a certain cosmic symmetry in that.

Alex had had enough. This wasn’t play. It was boring.

“Da!” he protested, looking back over his shoulder for Kyle.

Kyle released Serena with one last kiss and turned with a teary laugh to his son. “Don’t worry, little guy. Daddy’s here.”

********
Liz, Max, and Kyle had been playing with the children in the dream plane while awaiting yet another update from Isabel. They made sure to visit at least once a week, and the children seemed excited when Kyle told them that he had a baby boy who would one day join their group. No one knew how old Alex would be when he found his way to them in this place, but no one doubted that it would happen.

“What’s his name?” panted Patrick, who was still breathing hard from their flying game of “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Flying seemed to be the most popular part of playing on the dream plane, since it was something they could never come close to accomplishing while awake.

“Alex,” Kyle answered.

“I mean his whole name,” Patrick pressed. “I’m Patrick Nathaniel Morgan and my brother is Scott Alexander Morgan. What’s his whole name?”

Kyle looked nonplussed. What was his whole name? Not only did he not know his son’s middle name, he had to come to grips with the fact that his last name was Crawford, not Valenti. And that wouldn’t change unless he got the chance to adopt him, which would be hard to do even with a paternity test. After all, Kyle couldn’t provide a home for his son.

“I . . . uh . . . Alex Crawford,” he admitted quietly, grateful that Patrick accepted this contradiction without question. He looked up to see Liz and Max watching him, and breathed a sigh of relief when Isabel appeared looking excited.

“Good news tonight,” she smiled. “First, Kyle’s dad and Mrs. DeLuca are coming up to see Kyle and meet Serena and Alex. Your dad can’t believe he’s a grandfather, Kyle, although I think he’s pissed about what led to it . . .”

Kyle rolled his eyes. He was sure that his father would tuck a “disappointed in you” lecture into their meeting, but so be it. It would be good to see him anyway.

“Do they think it’s safe? What if they’re followed?”

“Yeah, they thought of that, but the Special Unit is dwindling fast. The General says they’re reassigning a lot of people elsewhere, and the research is being packed up for storage. Besides, Mrs. DeLuca did some checking and found out that there’s a merchandiser’s convention in Las Vegas next week, so she registered for it. They won’t stay at Oasis, but they’ll be in town and want to see everyone.”

“Reassigning?” Max looked at Liz. They’d both had the same thought.

“What about Nate? Will he be moved?”

“It looks like it,” Isabel nodded. “He hasn’t gotten any notice yet, but he’s expecting it. I guess he and Taylor are pretty torn up.”

“They never said a thing!” Liz exclaimed. “They were just here and never said anything about it.”

Max reached for her hand. “Maybe they just wanted to forget about it for a while. You know, a getaway. There’s nothing we could do about it anyway.” His hand slid up to her shoulder, and then he was pulling her to him. The very thought of being separated from Liz was obviously something he couldn’t even imagine.

“You said ‘first,’ Iz. Was there something else?”

His sister’s smile returned. “Yes! Brody’s offer on the land was accepted. He’s hunting for an architect who is experienced at resort work to start some preliminary plans.”

“Wow, that’s fast,” Kyle said. “How long until there’s an actual resort?”

“Probably three years,” Isabel said. “I told him we could speed that up for him, but he said he didn’t want anything suspicious about this process. All by the book, he said. Besides, he hopes that’ll give some of us time to get through school and be able to fill some of the key jobs when the place opens.”

Her excitement was contagious. The appeal of a beautiful place where they could live without secrets—at least from friends and family—and still pursue careers was like a dream come true.

“Can you believe Brody?” Max mused, catching Isabel’s eye. He’d never told Liz that they almost killed Brody one night, and he hoped she never saw that in his mind. It was his most shameful moment, and he knew Isabel shared that shame. Her eyes told him so.

“Max!” Liz enthused. “This is wonderful! We need to start school, but how? How will we afford it?”

He had no idea. But he also had no doubt they’d find a way. They always did.

********
“We’re what?”

Michael stared at his fiancée in tight-lipped disbelief, but she only flashed him a bright smile and thrust a car seat into his arms.

“I said we’re watching Alex tonight. Kyle and Serena are going out.”

“What the hell are we supposed to do with him?” Michael sputtered. “Why aren’t Max and Liz taking him?”

“We’re supposed to show him a good time,” she responded, unfazed by Michael’s fuming. “And Max has a meeting with his boss tonight about where he’ll be permanently assigned. Liz is going to do some online research on schools while she waits for him. You put the car seat in the car and I’ll go up and get Alex from Serena’s.”

Michael had never seen a more complex array of belts, buckles, and pads in his life. You needed a freakin’ master’s degree just to get the freakin’ thing installed. He’d expected to spend the evening watching a basketball game and then seducing Maria. That was the best part of living together. They had every night to make love, and Maria was always in the mood. But now he’d become a freakin’ babysitter against his will, and he’d probably wind up in some freakin’ park pushing some freakin’ baby swing.

With a growl of exasperation, Michael waved a hand in the direction of the car seat, swearing furiously when the padding changed color and one buckle melted into a misshapen lump. He stared at it, knowing damn well he had no idea how to put it back the way it was.

“What in the world are you doing, Michael?”

Max was standing behind him, peering doubtfully at the chartreuse car seat with the unusable buckle. Michael eyed him angrily.

“If you’re so damn smart, you do it. Do you have any idea how complicated those things are?”

“Not a clue,” said Max easily. “Looks like an engineering final to me.”

“Thank you,” Michael sighed, somewhat appeased. “Could you at least . . .?”

“You can do it, Michael. Just calm down first.”

Michael was about to argue when he realized that Max had just exhibited faith in his ability to control his powers and fix his mistake. He always complained about Max saying he had to come to Michael’s rescue all the time. This time, though, Max was going to let Michael fix it. He took a deep breath, tried to remember what color the cushions had been, and closed his eyes.

When he opened them, he had restored the seat to a dark blue color and modeled the buckle after another one, but both men were still staring helplessly at the complicated system when Kyle and Serena approached, each holding one of Alex’s hands as he practiced shaky baby steps on the hard pavement. Maria was right behind them, loaded down with bags and supplies.

Kyle laughed as he drew near. “Ah, I see we’ve stumped even the advanced alien mind of our leader and his right-hand man. And judging from the altered cushion color, I’d say there’s been at least one failed attempt.”

Michael glared, but Max chuckled, stepping aside with a flourish. “Please enlighten us, master.”

Kyle made quick work of the installation, threading straps through slots and connecting buckles in a blur of competence. With a bow of triumph, he took Alex from Serena’s arms and buckled his son into the seat.

“Magic hands,” he said smugly with a wink at Serena, who had patiently taken him through the steps a number of times.

“Come on, magic hands,” she grinned. “Don’t use it all up here.”

Kyle’s eyes widened in surprise, and he turned and followed her to her car, his friends laughing behind him.

“I thought you had a meeting,” Michael said as Max turned back to him.

“I do. I’m nervous, so Liz and I came out for a quick walk until it’s time. I’m not sure what’s going to happen. And if they make me choose between Conventions and Grounds-keeping, do I go with money or job satisfaction?”

“Money”

“Job satisfaction.”

The two answers came simultaneously from Michael and Maria, respectively. They looked at each other disgustedly.

“We’re here to make money, Maria, and then get out.”

“And go where?” she challenged him. “What we do here may be the basis for what jobs we can get later. If we get experience here in something we don’t like, we might just get stuck with that next time around, too. If Max would rather work conventions, then that’s what he should do. Is that what you want, Max?”

Expecting a quick confirmation, Maria sagged a little at Max’s silence. Liz looked up at him, too.

“What do you want, Max?”

He shrugged. “I don’t know, but I think we’d all better figure that out if we want to prepare for a place at Space Mountain. We have a chance to start a life there—a real life with friends, family, careers, and more safety than we’ve ever had. I don’t know about you guys, but I don’t want to screw that up. Whatever we do, we’d better make sure it’ll make us happy.”

The seriousness of his words quelled the light banter, and as Liz and Max continued their walk, Michael and Maria faced each other again. Questions and reassurances flew between them with a look, and Maria stepped into his arms. They really did have a lot to talk over.

Alex grew restless at the lack of attention and began to complain with irritated grunts and restless limbs.

“I guess we’d better get going,” Michael sighed. “Where are we going, anyway?”

“Ummm, how about the park?”

“Yeah, that’s what I thought,” he muttered under his breath. They had just gotten into the car when a stocky, middle-aged woman came flying out of the employee’s entrance waving her hands madly. She ran toward them with the short, inefficient waddle of someone who never runs, coming to rest against the car, heaving desperately.

“Maria,” she gasped. “Maria . . . gotta come . . . now!

“What are you talking about, Grace? What’s wrong?”

“Singer . . . not coming. . . . You . . . you gotta sing.”

“What do you mean she’s not coming? I talked to her people last week! We confirmed for the 18th.”

The woman stared at her, her breathing coming more evenly now. “Maria, it’s the 17th.”

The color drained out of Maria’s face and she fell back against the seat. “It is?”

“It is. And Mark said that you told everyone that you sing. That you even sang a lounge in Vegas last year. So . . . you’re up, kid.”

“Michael,” Maria wheezed, panic evident on her face. “Michael, I have no costumes, no music. What am I gonna do?”

He gave her a smile full of confidence. “You’re gonna sing, Miss Marguerita Salt. It’s what you’ve always wanted.”

Maria sat, stunned, until Grace pounded on the car door. “Now! You’re on in an hour!”

A huge smile broke out on Maria’s face, and she threw her arms around Michael’s neck. “Thanks, Michael, for believing in me.”

She scrambled out of the car and trotted across the parking lot behind Grace, turning at the door with a wave. Michael couldn’t help but smile and wave back. He wouldn’t admit it, but when Maria got really excited about something, it stirred him, made him feel alive. She made him feel alive. It was probably why he loved her so much.

A wet raspberry sound broke into his thoughts and the smile faded as quickly as it had come. Alex. He had to keep Alex all night. Alone.

His look of panic made Maria’s pale in comparison.

********
“Here’s the thing, Max,” Mr. Matheson began. “I’ve been very happy with your work in the Conventions department so far. You’ve handled all your assignments with intelligence and common sense—a rare combination, I’ve found—but Mr. Penopolis also sees a lot of potential in your work, and he’s anxious to have you join him.”

“Potential?” Max tried not to look as confused as he felt. How did one have potential digging holes?

“Yes,” Mr. Penopolis nodded, looking oddly uncomfortable. “You did a great job the other day, and I could use you on my staff.”

“Uh, thanks. But all I did was dig holes and put the plants you gave me in them. I’m not sure why that’s being singled out as potential.”

Mr. Penopolis squirmed in his seat, his eyes flitting around the room but never trained on Max. “Well, I get a lot of guys who dig a hole and think it’s time for a break. You worked hard when I needed things to move quickly, and I appreciated that.”

Max searched his mind for Liz. She had promised to stick close by and let Max keep her informed. Both of them had been bewildered by this turn of events; their jobs were too lowly to garner any kind of attention from the bosses. He felt her right away, and knew she was still as clueless as he was.

“You’re welcome.” He sat awkwardly for a moment, but when no one spoke, he grew slightly impatient. “What exactly do you want from me at this meeting?”

“We’re each hoping you’ll decide to join our departments, Max. Where do you want to work?”

Max blinked, and he could almost feel Liz frown in concentration, trying to figure out what was going on.

“Is this usual?” Max asked, suspicious. “Do you always give people a choice of where to work once they’ve been hired for a specific job?”

The two men looked at each other. They didn’t seem happy about the question.

“We try to treat each situation on its own merits,” Matheson said, obviously uncomfortable. “In your case, I sent a note of complaint up to Brad Crawford when I found out another department was recruiting you. That had never happened at the other resorts I’ve worked at.” He threw an irritated look at his counterpart.

“Well, it’s not like it was my idea!” Mr. Penopolis spat. “What do I care who’s digging the holes?”

Max looked from one man to the other, totally confused. “You just said . . .”

“It wasn’t me. That barkeeper started it.”

“Started what?”

Penopolis sighed. “I guess bar sales went way up when you were working out by the pool. They want you working out there. Often.”

Max could hear Liz’s thoughts sputtering with both laughter and outrage. It took him a moment to catch up with her conclusions.

That’s what this is about? Bar sales? You want me out there because it ups drink sales?”

Mr. Matheson studied his young employee, a sympathetic look on his face. “I’m sorry, Max, but it is more money, which you said was important to you. Anyway, when Mr. Crawford sent his niece down with a reply, we were told to let you decide which you wanted.”

Serena. Serena had fixed it so he could choose between the money and the work. Max tried not to smile when he felt that Liz was also touched by the gesture. They both wondered if Bradley Crawford had any idea what his niece had done.

“I can’t offer you more money, Max,” Mr. Matheson said, seeming truly regretful, “but if you’re interested, I can offer you one of our work-study spots. It would allow you to work here and get money and time off for classes toward a degree.”

A jolt of excitement raced through Max and Liz’s connection. A way to go to school! This was it! The answer they’d been looking for!

“I can raise your wages to $18 an hour,” countered Mr. Penopolis, a note of bitterness in his voice. “That’s as much as my second-year guys get, but that’s as far as I can go.”

That was $4 dollars an hour more than Max was making now, but there was no decision to be made. He wanted that college degree, and now he had a way to get it. With a mental nod from Liz, he turned to Mr. Penopolis.

“I appreciate the offer, but I’m going to have to stay with Conventions. Having the chance to go to school is worth sacrificing the extra money now. Thank you, both of you, for giving me the choice.”

Mr. Matheson beamed at him. “I had a feeling you were a man who looked toward the future,” he said, standing to shake Max’s hand. “Meet me tomorrow morning, and we’ll go over the details. Then Jeanine will take over; she handles that program for us.”

Mr. Penopolis gave Max’s hand a perfunctory shake and left. Max wasn’t sure if he was more angry about Max’s decision, or the fact that Max had been given the choice, or that the bartender had put him in that position. In either case, he was anxious to be gone, and Max anticipated a difficult second day earning that honeymoon suite.

continued in next post
Last edited by Carol000 on Mon Aug 11, 2003 11:20 pm, edited 2 times in total.
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sat Aug 09, 2003 9:36 pm

Part 38 continued

********
A fish out of water. That’s what he felt like.

The park was filled with families, joggers, and lone figures just taking in the fresh air. There were several people near the playground with young children, but none so young as Alex. What was he supposed to do with him?

He had picked through the massive supplies Maria had dumped in the back of the van, choosing a blanket, a bottle, and, reluctantly, a diaper. But now he was actually in the park, looking like a dad, outfitted like a dad, and completely helpless about how to act like a dad. Alex squirmed in his arms, and he set him down on the ground with a sigh of relief. Maybe they could just walk together.

Michael scanned the park, noting a baby swing on one side, a sandbox, and a fountain. Other than that, it was pretty much just trees and . . .

“Hey, little guy. Where’s your mommy?”

Michael turned to see Alex two picnic tables away looking up at a young woman who was packing up the remains of the family meal. Her daughter, maybe 5 or so, Michael estimated, was offering Alex a potato chip.

“No, honey, he can’t have that yet,” the mother said, looking around for Alex’s parents.

“Hey!” Michael sprinted for the table, seeing the disappointed look on Alex’s face as the chip was taken away again. He could only imagine the reaction if he zapped the thing right out of the little girl’s hand.

His shout provided enough distraction to all parties that disaster was averted, and they all watched him approach at a full run, the mother looking rather amused.

“They sure can get away fast, can’t they?” she empathized.

“Uh, yeah, fast,” he muttered. “Thanks.”

He glared at Alex, who stared back at him, unconcerned. Shit, this was going to be even harder than he thought.

“How about the swings?” he suggested, figuring that the baby swing would at least keep Alex confined. He settled the small body into a swing, belted him in—a much easier process than that car seat—and began to push. Okay, this was more like it. No big deal. Baby contained. He could relax.

As he thought about what Maria must be doing now in preparation for her sudden plunge into Vegas entertainment, he pushed the baby swing, unconscious of the repetitive movement. A frightened squeal brought him out of his thoughts, though, and he looked to see the swing sailing high, a scared Alex jerking his legs and arms in agitation.

“What the hell are you doing to that baby?”

He looked around to see a grandmotherly type sitting on the bench next to the sandbox, presumably watching the young boy who was playing in it.

“I . . . I thought he’d like to swing,” Michael stuttered. The woman glowered at him as he reached out to slow the chair’s wild swinging, but it was too late. Alex was in a state, and the imminent yells were plainly visible on his face as they stacked up like planes on a runway. One deep breath later, they started. Ear piercing, hair-raising shrieks that turned the head of everyone in the park.

Michael fumbled with the belt and lifted Alex out of the chair, feeling very self-conscious and very irritable.

“It’s okay, it’s okay,” he repeated, patting Alex’s back like he’d seen the others do. He began to walk, putting some distance between him and the gawking looks of the people near the swings. It took several minutes before Alex calmed down, but eventually his hoarse little cries subsided to intermittent whimpers, then hiccoughs until he rested limply against Michael’s shoulder. It was a weird feeling. A nice feeling.

Circling back around the park, Alex spied the sandbox and wriggled to get down again. This time, Michael watched carefully as he toddled across the grass to the sandbox. Deserted now, it seemed safe enough, so he settled on the bench, prepared to watch every move his young charge made. It was a good plan, until a plastic shovel full of sand was suddenly diverted to Alex’s mouth. When Michael sprang into action, Alex accepted the challenge, and began to crawl away, laughing as sand fell from his mouth. He couldn’t stand in the uneven sand, thank heaven, or he would likely have led Michael a merry chase, but even so, it was a sandy child that Michael finally snatched up from the ground, and if he hadn’t been so frustrated about how to de-sand him, he might have laughed at the bright eyes that peered from beneath granulated eyebrows.

Spying a water fountain, Michael walked toward it, intending to demonstrate the manly art of spitting. Once he’d shown Alex how to do it, he leaned the small body over the stream of water. Alex took the water happily, but when he started to swallow, Michael shouted.

“No! Spit it out!” He opened his mouth and pursed his lips in a brief refresher course, but when Alex opened his mouth, sandy drool was all that came out.

Growling in frustration, Michael marched toward the fountain. With a quick look around, he stripped Alex naked and plunged him in the shallow water. Peals of laughter bubbled up from Alex’s throat as he splashed and strutted, fascinated by the shiny pennies beneath his feet. With one eye on Alex and one on the “Keep Out of the Fountain” sign, Michael shed his shoes and socks, rolled up his pants, and sat on the fountain’s edge with his feet in the water. He was just starting to relax when he noticed a new fountain—a yellow one—streaming from Alex’s tiny penis. Grabbing the baby, Michael sat him between his legs and used his powers to redirect the stream straight down where his leg would hide it. He wasn’t about to touch Alex there; with his luck, he’d get arrested for child molestation.

The two sat quietly for a long time, watching the water fly into the air, then expand in a curtain of iridescent spray. It was almost dark when Michael finally pulled Alex from the fountain. Lights had flipped on, suddenly making the two of them much too prominent in the dark park. Besides, it was probably Alex’s bedtime. Maybe he’d fall asleep in the car.

As he pulled out of the parking lot, Michael suddenly acted on a whim. He wanted to see Maria perform, and with his security ID, he could get backstage. Watching Maria sing had always been a kick for him, a fact he’d never admitted until their last trip to Vegas. Now, though, things were different, and he could be honest about his admiration for her. That was another nice thing about their current relationship. Keeping his feelings under wraps had been exhausting. Not as exhausting as watching Alex, Michael thought with a grimace, but still, it was a relief to be able to act on his “urges” now—sexual and otherwise.

Coming through the back door of Oasis, Michael nodded at another security guard, who raised his eyebrows at the sight of Alex, but kept his mouth shut. Michael made his way to the stage entrance and flashed his ID to the guard there. Taking a peek at the stage, Michael’s mouth fell open.

Maria was in her element. Dressed to the nines in a strapless, beaded gown of sparkling green with a slit up to there, spiked heels, and a glittering necklace, she was crooning a ballad like it was the story of her own life. She looked like she was born to the stage, and sounded like the sultry vixen he knew she could be. She was wonderful. Maybe tonight, he’d tell her that.

Shifting his snoozing armload, Michael saw a stage techie wave him over to a folding chair where he could sit and still see Maria. Nodding his thanks, he sank into the chair and let himself get lost in Maria’s velvet voice. When she’d finished her song, the appreciative crowd gave her a long round of applause. He watched as she went to whisper in the band leader’s ear, then looked off-stage right at him. The next song started; he recognized it and smiled.

The poets say that all who love are blind,
But I’m in love and I know what time it is.
The good book says, “Go seek and ye shall find.”
Well, I have sought, and my, what a climb it is.


Michael’s heart swelled. “I’ve Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good” was the song she’d sung on their wild jaunt to Vegas a year and a half ago. He’d taken almost all the money they had left that night, and bought her a chance to perform, just like she’d always dreamed. And she’d done herself proud. He’d never forget it.

The last few lines floated toward him, and he wondered if they reflected how Maria felt. Or maybe how she’d felt then.

Though folks with good intentions tell me to save my tears,
I'm glad I'm mad about him; I can't live without him.
Lord above me, make him love me the way he should
I got it bad and that ain't good.


He hoped she believed in him now. At least in how much he loved her. It had taken a long time, but he damn well believed in her.

Loud applause segued into yet another song, and the warm pressure of Alex’s sleeping form was lulling him as well. Later—he didn’t know how much later—he was wakened by a kiss on the forehead.

“You were wonderful,” he murmured. She smiled down at him, eyes bright with excitement and love.

“Come on. It’s time to put my boys to bed.”

********
Dinner had been fun. Lots of fun. When Kyle had insisted on taking Serena out, she knew he intended to pay. They both knew Serena was the one with extra cash, but Serena also knew that that wasn’t the point. She wasn’t about to strip Kyle of his pride; he’d already had that experience at the hands of a woman.

So by unspoken consent, their date was a simple affair. They’d driven out of town to a spot with a wonderful view of the city, deli sandwiches and sodas in the cooler, and a blanket for city-watching and stargazing in the trunk. They had munched and talked and teased and opened themselves to each other in a way that was new to both of them. There was no suspicion about agendas, no posturing to impress. It was Kyle and Serena, as they were, baggage and all.

“I’ve been meaning to ask you something,” Kyle said, between bites of roast beef sandwich. “What’s Alex’s middle name?”

“James, for his grandfather,” Serena answered.

Kyle stopped mid-chew. “You’re kidding.”

“No, why?”

“Because James is his grandfather’s name.”

Serena frowned. “You mean your father? His name is James?”

Kyle broke into a big smile. “Yep. Jim Valenti. Oh my god, he’s gonna die when he hears that.”

Serena smiled back. “How perfect. Do you think he’ll be happy about Alex? Or will he be upset?”

Kyle considered for a moment. “Both, but he’ll be okay. He won’t disown me or anything, and I think he’ll dig being a grandfather.”

“Well, if he’s anything like his son, he’ll step up, I have no doubt.”

Kyle threw her a grateful glance, then looked out over the city surging in the distance. As the millions of dazzling lights began to stand out against the dusk of evening, they both absorbed the quiet stillness that settled defiantly over the landscape, a stark contrast to the escalating rhythm of Las Vegas at night. Sitting on the blanket, they turned inward, lost in thought, the atmosphere lending itself to privacy and self-reflection. After several minutes, Serena emerged from thoughts of her father’s ultimatums about Alex and looked toward Kyle, whose face was wistful and melancholy.

“Penny for your thoughts,” Serena said softly, touching his arm.

He started slightly. “Sorry. I got lost there for a minute.”

“What were you thinking about?”

He searched her face, looking for something, she thought. She hoped he found it there, but she wasn’t sure when he started speaking.

“We’ve agreed to be honest, haven’t we? If I tell you, I hope you’ll promise to take this as random ramblings. I don’t want to scare you.”

She nodded confidently, but wondered if she could live up to the promise. Everything about this scared her.

“My brain is mush, Serena. It spins and spins with the same old crap and never gets anywhere. And it’s because I realize that I have very little control over what happens now.” He took a deep breath and looked at her.

“Can we lay down? I have a feeling this will come out better if I’m looking at stars instead of at you.”

She nodded, curling up next to him with her head on his shoulder. She realized too late that she’d startled him again. He hadn’t expected her to stay so close, but when she began to move away, his arm came up around her, pulling her back against him.

“Okay, here’s the thing. I have just learned I have a son, and I’m crazy about him. I can even almost forget who his mother is. I have to believe she was taught from the beginning to be who she was, and that it’s not a genetic flaw that could show up in Alex. That’s part one of the equation. Then there’s you.”

She stiffened at that, only because she was afraid of what he might say, but she forced herself to relax against him again. She didn’t want anything interrupting his train of thought. She knew already this was going to be important to hear.

“I’m falling for you, Serena. Too fast. I’m afraid of scaring you. And I’m afraid of falling too fast in general. That’s backfired on me before, although I’m not making any comparison between you,” he hastened to add. “You told me that you and Alex aren’t a package deal, and I respect that, but the problem is, I don’t know how to separate the two relationships. You have been like Alex’s mother since the moment we met. I was attracted to you right away, but kept my distance because I thought you were married and because of who I am and who you are. That ‘two different worlds’ thing.”

He paused, half-expecting her to protest, but she just lay quietly, tracing little circles around his t-shirt neck.

“And then I realized you are a package deal—you have to be. Because they’ll never let me have Alex on my own. Paternity test or not, I have no means of supporting him. I don’t even have an apartment of my own, and I can’t get one because part of my salary is a room at the hotel. And you can’t have him on your own, because you’re not old enough to adopt a baby by yourself. You’re still in school, and your money is really your family’s money, so if your father cut you off, you’d be in the same boat that I am. The only chance we have of getting Alex is if we’re married and present the paternity results. But if we get married, we’ll probably still be broke. And besides, how would you ever believe that I loved you for you and not just to get Alex?”

He stopped abruptly, and Serena had the feeling he’d let his little speech go on longer than he intended. What he couldn’t know was that she’d had every single one of those thoughts herself . . . except one. And she wasn’t ready to share that one yet.

Stars were struggling to be seen against the dark night sky, competing as they did with the massive glow that surrounded Vegas each night. Still, the brighter ones were visible, and Kyle pointed toward the northeast.

“See that?”

Serena followed his finger and noticed a collection of stars that seemed to form the letter “V.”

“Yeah.”

“One of those is Antar, Max’s planet. Alex’s, too, in a way.”

They stared in silence, the awesome truth of Kyle’s words heavy in the air. Finally, Serena propped herself up on one elbow, looking down into Kyle’s face, highlighted in light and shadow so it was hard to read.

“Can I say something now?”

“I wish you would,” Kyle answered nervously.

“Almost everything you just said has been going through my mind, too. I love Alex. I can’t keep him on my own. And neither can you. But we can’t let anyone else raise him. No one will love him like we do. No one will understand him like we do. And no one else has an ‘in’ with others who can help raise him like you do.”

She hesitated, knowing this next part would be much harder to say. Kyle was lying tense beneath her. He hadn’t heard what he needed to hear yet, either.

“As for you, Kyle, I’ve fallen hard, too. And like you, part of it is tied up in Alex. In how you are with him. But that says a lot about you, too. It tells me you are a caring man, a courageous man, a principled man. Didn’t you risk everything taking me to Max’s that day because it was the only way to protect Alex? Didn’t you stand ready to take Alex on your own—without an ounce of experience or prior knowledge of him—when you thought I didn’t want him? And didn’t you become his father in every way as soon as you realized the truth? No excuses. No shrugging off responsibility. He was yours, right at that moment.”

She felt him relax, but he was still waiting, and she knew exactly what he was waiting for.

“And I think that’s when I became yours, too.”

The small gasp and the rising of his chest beneath her hand were the only indications of his reaction at first. Then she realized how his heart was racing, and when she smoothed her hand against his cheek, it was wet. Her heart clenched tightly. Yes, that’s what he’d wanted to know. Needed to hear.

She bent to kiss him, and he met her gently, tenderly, almost carefully, as if he might jar the dream apart before he was ready. She pressed against him, reassuring him of her very real presence, and rejoiced when she felt his arms tighten around her, pulling her so close, seeking entrance to her mouth . . . and her life.

She opened to him, and their kisses became urgent, needy. Their words had opened new doors; their honesty and intent opened their bodies to new exploration. Suddenly, everything seemed possible, and they reveled in that knowledge and in each other.

Serena was in heaven. She had wanted to say those things to Kyle, but had been afraid, as she always was, that her money was part of her appeal. Now, for the first time, she thought she had found someone who was less interested in that than in her, and it made her feel bold and desirable. She melted inside when Kyle deepened their kiss; she shuddered with pleasure when his hands moved under her shirt. Nerves were firing everywhere, and her body was taking control, her mind only a dazed follower.

He rolled on top of her, and the pressure of his body on hers felt wonderful. Without conscious thought, she wrapped her legs around him and arched under his lips’ exploration. He pushed her shirt was up under her arms, and she realized with a start that her bra was undone when Kyle’s lips began to suck at one breast. She could feel the warm meltdown of her body, but she also felt his erection so hard and ready through his jeans.

She tore her lips from his, her mind warring with her eager body. “Kyle, no!”

He froze, his mouth leaving a cool, wet circle over one nipple, which ached with willingness and loss.

“What’s wrong?” he panted.

“Kyle, we can’t do this. Not now.” She wanted to cry at her own words. Her heart was ready for him. Her body longed for him. But . . .

She felt him struggling against his own body, which was primed for action. Sex was a familiar road for him, and she had already talked herself into accepting that. He had a son, for god’s sake. He knew the ways of a woman’s body. But she . . . she was a different story.

“Kyle, think. Unless you brought some protection with you, we can’t risk another Alex in our lives right now. And besides . . .”

She struggled to sit up, and he rolled off of her, still breathing hard. She knew he was probably in pain now. She’d read about how hard it was for a guy to stop in the middle like this, and her guilt almost joined her desire to pull him back to her and finish what they’d started. But she had something to say first.

“Kyle, there’s something I haven’t told you.”

He looked at her, his face unbelievably tender, considering what she had just done to him. He reached for her hand. “What is it?”

She almost cried at the caring on his face. It was more than she had expected, or probably deserved.

“I’m . . . I’m a virgin, Kyle.”

He couldn’t keep the stunned look off his face, and she felt almost ashamed of something she had intentionally preserved for “the one.” But then his expression went from stunned to . . . what was that? Joyful? He looked overjoyed, and she was suddenly ecstatic that she had made that pact with herself years ago.

“You are?” he asked, looking for all the world like someone had just handed him a fragile treasure. “You’ve never . . .?”

“Nope. I saw too many girls at my high school in a race to see who could give it away first or most often, and I always felt a little sad when I looked at them. It was like they were trying to prove their own worth, but I was determined to have worth on my own terms. So, I said no. A few times. Pretty soon, guys quit trying. I wondered sometimes if I’d made the right choice, but then it was a matter of principle . . . or stubbornness,” she laughed nervously.

She risked another look at his face. It was still there. The joy. The tenderness. The love.

“I’ll be damned,” he said, still staring. “Come here.”

He opened his arms to her and she fell into them. They lay down again, and this time the kisses were less urgent, more gentle and exploratory.

“If you’ll let me,” he breathed between small kisses over her face and neck, “I’ll show you, slowly. Only what you’re ready for, only when you say. But if I’m the one, Serena, I’ll never hurt you. I . . .” He pushed up to look into her face, wanting to read her eyes.

“I love you.”

This time, he almost hoped for tears, and he wasn’t disappointed. Her tears glistened in the moonlight, and he could feel her tremble. He kissed her so gently then, and when they pulled apart, her next breath offered him yet another gift.

“I love you, too, Kyle.”
Carol/spacemom

Max and Liz: The love that is Roswell--"You have gone through me like thread through a needle. Now everything I do is stitched with your color."

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