CHAMELEON (CC / Mature) (Complete)

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Carol000
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Post by Carol000 » Sun Oct 26, 2003 12:38 pm

This thread begins on p. 89; if you have started here on p. 90, please go back one page to the beginning. Thanks. --Carol

Epilog 3: May 2023

Usually, watching the water on the lake calmed him. Somehow it put things in perspective, and all the decisions and feelings and pressures just broke apart like the little ripples that dissipated on the rocks and sand. Rocks and sand. It seemed an apt metaphor for his life. Okay, maybe that wasn’t really fair. He’d had a great life with parents who loved him, extended family who understood him as well as anyone could, and natural gifts that amazed even him. But being Alex Valenti had been rocky in ways no one knew, and he could never get a real grip on anything solid. It was like trying to hold onto the sand. He knew why he felt that way; he just didn’t know what to do about it.

Maybe it was the anxious care from his parents, grandparents, and the other mountain residents not to make him feel different that had set him slightly apart his whole life. No one had ever come right out and said that his mother was evil. They didn’t have to. Her name was never mentioned in his presence after the day his parents told him about her. They skirted around it like one would around toxic waste, and an element of fear joined normal annoyance when he misbehaved or lost his temper. It had made him suspicious of his own motives, fearful of demons that might emerge from him when he least expected it.

That self-doubt only aggravated the volatile relationship he had with Phoenix. What had started out as an unshakable bond when they were children had cooled to the point where he was a target for her every nasty mood. She wasted no time walking on eggshells around him. In fact, she wasted no time on him at all anymore, except to express her extreme displeasure at his existence. Hell, maybe she was right. Maybe he was no good for her. Maybe he was no good for anyone.

His insidious restlessness kept him floating while the people who loved him kept him grounded—a constant state of contradiction that left him edgy and unsettled, longing for the peace he saw in others. The worst part was, he didn’t know what direction to take next.

A flash of green caught his eye, and he gritted his teeth as he looked up. She was everything a Sagittarius was supposed to be, which he only knew because Phoenix loved to flaunt her belief in the stars, the Zodiac. Careless and irresponsible, restless and tactless, that was her. She poised to dive from the rocks above him, knowing full well the water was barely deep enough. Her green swimsuit shimmered in the early afternoon sun as she stretched her lithe arms skyward. He would have shouted a warning if she’d hesitated for even a second. But she didn’t. She never did.

With a muttered curse, his arm flew up to slow her descent and, according to the laws of physics, reduce the depth of her plunge beneath the water. Fool! She popped up from under the water loaded for bear. She’d felt his influence during the dive, and she was out to rip him a new one.

He waited, unconcerned, and watched her clean, efficient strokes as she made her way to shore. She was lovely. Her mother’s curtain of dark, silky hair and honest, intelligent eyes flecked with her father’s amber. She carried herself with his grace and confidence, too. But her laugh was quick and her mind quicker, and although she was good-humored and easy going with most people—the positive side to a Sagittarius—she reserved a special brand of snappishness for him. After watching her become gradually more surly toward him while he was in high school, he had hoped that perhaps their relationship would ease once he’d left for college. After all, visits home were frequent but short. To his constant bewilderment, however, absence had definitely not made her heart grow fonder.

“Who the hell do you think you are!” she shouted at him, droplets of water flying helter-skelter from the clumped ends of her long hair. “How dare you interfere with my dive!” The amber flecks turned an intense gold when she was angry.

“If I hadn’t interfered, the bottom of the lake might have,” he said with studied patience, mostly because he knew it would piss her off.

“I’ve dived off those rocks since I was 7,” she seethed, “and I haven’t needed your help yet!”

“Well you’ve gotten it, you stubborn alien,” he retorted, rising so he could use his considerable height advantage to emphasize his point. “I’ve saved your sorry neck a few hundred times, at least. Did it ever occur to you that when you were 7, your body didn’t dive as deep as it does now? Did it ever once enter your pea brain that Uncle Max had a reason to forbid diving from up there? You could break your neck!”

“Well, it’s my neck, isn’t it? And I know how to pull up fast; I never get near the bottom. So if you think you could find something else to do besides following me around and spoiling my fun, I’d really appreciate it.”

She had brought her 5’5” frame up to at least 5’6” through sheer force of will, he thought, amused, and he had to suppress a smile at how ferocious she managed to look. He fought the urge to reach out and smooth that deep crease between her eyes; she would go ballistic if he touched her.

“I was here first.”

The sheer childishness of his reply left her momentarily speechless. She sputtered for a moment, then flipped her hair over her shoulder, visibly pleased when several cold drops hit his face. “Masterful comeback for a college grad,” she drawled. “Sometimes,” she leaned forward, as if sharing a confidence, “I am convinced you are downright facinerous.”

“Facinerous,” he repeated. “I don’t think that’s even a word, Phee.”

“Oh yes it is!” she gloated, turning to leave now that she could smell victory. “It means ‘extremely wicked.’ That’s you, Alex. Facinerous.”

She took a few haughty strides, then turned slightly when he called to her.

“Phee?”

“What?” Her irritation was palpable.

“You did well on the SATs, didn’t you?”

She couldn’t hide the twitch of her mouth, but lifted her chin anyway.

“Of course.”

She disappeared into the trees in seconds, and Alex settled back on his perch, grinning at the exchange. Maybe she was coming around.

He sat a while longer, waiting for the lake to work its magic on his soul, but the magic eluded him. The lake may have been calm, but he wasn’t. He needed to walk, to burn off some of this nervous energy. He ducked into the trees and followed one of the paths that had been worn by kids running back and forth to the lake over the years. Somewhere above him, he could hear the giggles that halted abruptly as he approached—no doubt Erika, Kelsey, and Shelby were having a weekend pow-wow in the tree house that had been, interestingly enough, the girls’ sacred hideaway since Uncle Max had built it for Phoenix all those years ago. He would have thought that now, as teens, they’d have outgrown it, but apparently not. He pretended not to know they were there and turned down a different path.

As soon as he’d come home, college behind him, the mental sediment kicked up again. The questions, the contradictory feelings, the frustration. Even a degree in psychology hadn’t chipped away at all the issues he kept tucked inside. Should he stay here, where people cared about him, understood his odd roots and even odder abilities? Or did he break free of this safe and maddening haven and go into the world to find a new life—one without all the baggage and expectations?

Who was he kidding? The baggage was there either way. So were the abilities and so were the expectations. The only difference was how closely the others were watching. Phoenix could have made the decision easy—if he had come home to find her welcoming, or at least more understanding of the tension between them. Was she afraid of him? Of what he might someday become? Or was she afraid that if she let him in, it would seal her fate in this isolated corner of the world? Independent—that was Phee. Chalk up another one for Sagittarius.

Damn it! He just wanted to feel he belonged somewhere . . . anywhere. He’d always loved this place, these people, so why was the bond that the others shared so effortlessly so hard to come by for him? When he was a boy, he’d focused on the obvious—his wavy blond hair in a dark-haired family; his highly developed alien powers compared to his brother and sister. As a pre-adolescent, he’d noticed the way the adults always watched him a little more closely, a little more warily. He was reasonably sure they didn’t even know they did it; they had loved him and done their best for him always, but he’d felt it in them—another of his gifts. It had been tempting to read their minds, but one or two daring attempts as a boy had left him cured; he had been more than a little rattled by Uncle Max’s erotic fantasies about his wife and visibly unnerved by Uncle Michael’s chaotic mind. And since his father could sense his attempts and was able to block him, he had been on the receiving end of several stern lectures followed by nights alone in his room—where, of course, he wondered all the more.

The source of the strangely elevated attention had remained a mystery until right before his twelfth birthday. He’d been rooting around looking for hidden presents, hoping for some clue that he was getting a guitar, when he found a box of books on Buddhism. Intrigued, since his family had attended a small non-denominational Christian church since he could remember, he pulled them out and recognized his father’s handwriting in the margins. Later that evening, his innocent question had changed his life.

Flashback

“Hey, Dad, have you always been a Christian?”

“Pretty much,” Kyle answered. “Took some detours along the way. Why?”

“Because,” Alex said with a grin, pulling a worn book out from behind his back, “I found this.”

Kyle squinted across the room. “Oh, man. Where’d you find that?”

“Hall closet.” He opened the book to the front flap. “So what does, ‘Hey, Buddha Boy, what would Buddha think about the Busty Biker Babes?’ mean?”

His father paled, frozen mid-click at the computer, and his mother looked up from her book, mouth gaping. Frightened, Alex plunged into his father’s mind without thinking. The images flying past all involved a short blond with curly hair and beautiful eyes, but the images were tainted with something Alex had never felt from his father before—loathing.

The horror on his own face must have jolted his father out of his reverie because he leapt from the desk and grabbed the book from Alex. Then, instead of getting yelled at as he’d expected, his father pulled him into a desperate hug and held on. When he finally let go, he looked drawn and resigned.

“Who was she?” Alex asked, afraid because he was sure he already knew.

His parents drew him to the sofa, flanking him, and he knew it would be bad.

“She was your birth mother, Alex. Her name was Tess.”

Hearing it out loud was much worse than suspecting it, Alex decided quickly. He tried to stand, but his mother pulled him back gently. “We should have told you this before,” she admitted softly, “but there never seemed to be a good time . . . or a good reason.”

“You’re not my mother.” It was more of an accusation than a question.

“She is your mother,” his father said firmly. “She didn’t carry you inside her, but she has been your mother your whole life.”

“Are you even my father?” He could feel the walls going up, but they were his walls, not his father’s. Even as he asked the question, he could see his father relax a little.

“Yes, I’m your dad, Alex. Sorry to add to the bad news.”

The feeble attempt at humor died between them.

“You were married before mom?”

At this, Kyle sighed and squeezed his eyes shut. Then he opened them again, looking to Serena for guidance.

“Tell him.” It was said with love, with sympathy. There was no anger, and Alex looked from one to the other, his frustration building.

“Tell me what?

He watched his father’s face, wondering at the secrets he saw there. He was a telepath, the most gifted of all of them. How could he not have known something wasn’t right! But he had known, he reminded himself. A part of him had known.

“Back in Roswell, before I ever met your mother, before I even knew the truth about your Uncle Max and the others, a new girl came to town. Her name was Tess, and she was after your Uncle Max bigtime. I tried to make friends with her at first, mostly to piss off your Aunt Liz because she’d dumped me for Max. Anyway, once I found out about all the alien stuff, I learned that Tess was after your Uncle Max because she’d been raised to believe that she was his queen back on Antar, and she wanted to resume her rightful place. He wasn’t having it, of course; he was as devoted to Aunt Liz then as he is now, although it was touch and go there for a while.”

He stood then, the memories twisting his face in once-forgotten pain.

“You’ve heard the stories; it was a dangerous time and the protector had gone to do Max’s bidding elsewhere. She was his charge, he’d raised her, so when he left, your Grandpa Jim took her in. While she lived with us, she led me to believe that she’d given up on Max, seeing how things were with him and Liz, and she started on me.”

He whipped back toward them, frustration evident in his body language from head to toe. “Alex, I swear to you, I thought I loved her. I also thought, because she told me so, that she couldn’t have children with a human, so . . .”

Alex squirmed. They’d had a basic birds and bees talk, but the idea of this father . . . he didn’t really want to hear this. His discomfort must have shown because his dad stopped, took a deep breath, and changed course.

“She had a baby, Alex. You. But she mindwarped everyone into thinking you were Max’s and then . . . left. When she brought you back to Roswell the next year, we still thought you were Max’s, and he put you up for adoption. Not . . .” he hurried to add when Alex gasped in surprise, “not because he didn’t want you, but because Tess said you were completely human and he loved you enough to give you a normal life. He was trying to protect you.”

Alex’s head was swimming. He was even too dazed to resist when his not-really-mother pulled him against her.

“My brother and his wife adopted you, sweetie,” she explained, her voice as gentle as a butterfly kiss. “And they were so happy, you can’t imagine. But they were killed in a car accident only a couple months after you came to them, and it was nothing short of a miracle that I was caring for you when I met your dad. We fell in love with you . . . and each other, and you’ve been our son ever since.”

Alex’s heart was thrashing against his ribs, pounding for release from its prison; it would surely have burst if he hadn’t concentrated everything he had on steadying its rhythm. Eventually, he realized his head was resting against his mother’s chest and she was stroking his hair. He didn’t want to be stroked. He wanted to hit something. Hurt and furious, he launched himself from the couch and whirled around to face them.

“Then how do you know I’m yours and not Uncle Max’s?” he accused, fists tight at his side.

“It’s hard to explain, Alex. Uncle Max realized you weren’t his when the warp broke right around the time he married Aunt Liz. For a while, we thought maybe Tess had kidnapped you from someone else, and Uncle Philip was even doing a search of missing baby cases. It wasn’t until we moved to Vegas and I met your mom . . . I was driving the two of you to the pediatrician when you zapped a pacifier into your mouth. I knew immediately who you were and that there was no way we could go to the doctor. We went to Max’s instead. We realized you had to be Tess’s own child, and then it hit me that you were mine, too.”

His voice fell to a whisper, and his eyes ached for Alex to understand. “She’d lied to me, Alex. To everyone. But I knew, then, that you were my son.”

“Why didn’t you ever tell me this?” Alex hissed at his father. “You hate her! I felt it! And you probably hate me, too!”

He raised his hand and blew the glass out of the row of family pictures on the mantle; then, with an anguished cry, he bolted from the room.

End flashback

Alex shook himself, the memories still fresh and painful, and plunged deeper into the woods.

********
Phoenix blew through the door like a storm, taking the steps two at a time. Swinging into her room, she pulled up short when she saw her mother changing her sheets.

“Oh!”

“Hi, hon. I thought you’d be gone longer,” Liz said, smoothing a corner. “Can you help me on the other side?”

“Where’s Dakota?” She tucked in the sheet and pulled up the bedspread.

“Your sister went to help set up for the fun-day at school next week. I think she misses being with her dad at school every day.”

“Oh, man, she’s lovin’ that. Any excuse to use her powers. What’s the theme this year?”

“Star Trek.”

“What?” Phoenix collapsed into a chair. “That is so lame. Couldn’t he come up with anything better than that?”

Eyeballing her daughter, she saw right through the façade of teen ennui. “Well, I’d agree except the students voted for it themselves. Apparently the wide variety of species and therefore costumes appealed to them.”

“Or,” Phoenix hypothesized with a note of disgust, “he suggested it and all his little groupies swayed the vote.”

“Groupies?”

“Groupies. Don’t you know, Mom, that half the girls are related to him and the other half just sit and drool over him? And the guys . . . forget it. They all want to be him, related or not. It’s pathetic.”

Liz tried unsuccessfully to swallow a laugh.

“You don’t believe me? Ask Joy. I caught her writing his name in little hearts in her notebook once. I almost lost my lunch.”

“I can imagine,” Liz sympathized with a grin. “Then I suppose it’s a good thing his school doesn’t cover high school, huh?”

“Ewww, mom, that’s gross. Although, I remember wishing I could stay here for high school. Why didn’t Dad ever expand our school right to twelfth grade? The high school’s so far away.”

“Too many state regulations for all the different subject matters at that level. Besides, Dad’s got a new project in mind now that he’ll only have five students next year. You’re all getting so old.”

“What new project?”

“A book! He’s been working on a manuscript sort of fictionalizing our own experiences. Brody knows a couple of publishers he can send sample chapters to once he’s satisfied with them.”

Phoenix frowned, straightening in her chair. “Is that safe?”

“Sci-fi is a very popular genre, Phee. The wilder the story, the better. It won’t even cause a ripple of suspicion, I’m sure. So what brought you home so quickly?”

Phoenix huffed impatiently. “Alex. He was down at the lake and making a nuisance of himself, so I came home.”

“And how, exactly, did he make a nuisance of himself, if I may ask?” Liz watched her daughter carefully; her suspicions were confirmed a little more each time Alex came home.

“I was . . .” Phoenix snapped her mouth shut. “He just seems to have made it his personal mission to spoil my fun.”

“I see. Well, go call Seth and Zeke from out back. We’re due over at the Guerins’ for a cookout and it’s almost time to go. Oh, and can you go pick up Nana and bring her back? I haven’t been able to get her behind the wheel of a car since Gramps died.”

Liz fought the overwhelming sadness that visited her each day when she remembered again that her father was gone. His eyesight had gotten poor and he’d been unable to renew his driver’s license, but that didn’t keep him from sneaking out to run errands anyway. Then, six months ago, he’d lingered a little too long at the coffee shop in town, and in the dark, he’d driven off the road and plunged into a ravine. Several dark hours later, they finally found him—too late, even for Max. They learned later, he’d had a stroke, though it was unclear if that was the cause or the result of the accident. Liz knew, one way or the other, it’s how he would have wanted to go—no debilitating illness, no chronic pain, no loss of mental faculties. But that didn’t ease the hole in her heart, and it certainly didn’t make her miss him any less.

“Okay, mom!”

Liz watched her daughter fly out the door—her throttle was always on full power—and turned to stash her journal between the mattress and the box spring where she’d found it. It never once occurred to her to take a peek inside—nothing could have violated Liz’s personal code more—but her eyebrows flew up when a small yearbook-type picture of Alex fluttered to the floor. She picked it up, noticed the worn edges, and carefully slipped it back into the pages.

Continued in next post
Last edited by Carol000 on Sun Oct 26, 2003 12:58 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
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Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Post by Carol000 » Sun Oct 26, 2003 12:40 pm

Epilog 3 continued

********

By the time Alex felt comfortable in his own skin again, the cookout was almost underway. From down the road, he could see his parents pull up in front of his Uncle Michael and Aunt Maria’s house with Joy and Dominic in tow. He was mystified as to why they drove the short distance instead of walking it until he saw the back of the minivan open and chairs and the volleyball set begin to tumble out. Jogging toward them, he smiled. Cousins and friends greeted each other with genuine affection, and although the casual bickering got off to a quick start, he knew how they loved each other. And him. He was a part of it, in spite of his origins. He seemed to be the only one still working on accepting that.

Almost everyone was there, including Patrick and Sydney, who had driven all the way from Albuquerque with their two-year-old, Abby. She hadn’t exhibited any special powers yet, and no one was sure if she would; after all, she was the first child parented by two changed humans, which qualified as unexplored territory. Brody was already sitting on the grass playing with the little girl, delighted as a child himself.

Maya helped the elderly River Dog into a lawn chair near the other grandparents, doting on him like a loving granddaughter. Theirs was a special relationship, steeped in trust and mutual understanding. River Dog’s eyesight was failing, but his smile was ready and his wit sharp. He was very much a part of them. His pal Amy Valenti hurried over; she never tired of picking River Dog’s brain about the spiritual traditions of his tribe. When she’d opened a gift shop at Space Mountain, she’d made sure that crafts and talismans from the reservation were prominently displayed, and although she wasn’t running it any more, she still made trips down there to choose interesting items for the store.

Miguel and Scott were the only two who couldn’t make it; work obligations had made it impossible. And in point of fact, they were missing Samuel, too. He was still an active participant on the dream plane, and it saddened them all that he couldn’t be a part of their waking lives at times like this, but he was living too far away and was unable to make the trip without supervision that just wasn’t available. Still, they knew that he knew they cared for him.

It was hard to pick out the only completely human family in attendance; Nate and Taylor and their children, Connor and Dillon, were as integral to the group as anyone, easily accepting and coping with the variety of abilities and pranks that always flew back and forth among the younger generation. Short of recognizing that the two Christopher boys were incapable of deflecting blasts and other orneriness that the others playfully traded, they were treated just like everyone else.

While Jim and Philip helped the younger boys set up the volleyball set, Alex used a free hand to open the back door for his Uncle Michael, who was balancing a platter of hamburgers and brats; his own brood—Benjamin, Erika, and Kelsey—trailed behind, also weighed down with dishes and drinks. Ben winked at Alex, then threw his tray of drinks into the air, gleefully listening to the gasps of dismay as they flew and tilted in every direction. Then, with a flourish, he spread his arms and watched them reassemble on the tray without a drop spilled.

His cousins and friends broke into applause, but his mother was not amused. “So help me, Benjamin Guerin, you pull another stunt like that and I’ll have your father suspend you from a tree limb. This isn’t a circus!”

Michael took his cue from his wife and scowled at his son. “You listen to your mother,” he growled. Then, as soon as Maria disappeared inside, he leaned in. “Awesome, Benji. Gimme five.”

Ben grinned, knowing how his father admired good control over their many powers. He wasn’t sweating his mom’s tirade.

“I saw that, Michael,” Liz warned with an amused smirk.

“Yeah, but we keep each other’s secrets, don’t we, Doc?”

Liz and Michael had developed a real affection for each other over the years. Michael’s art studio had settled him, given him a way to channel his restlessness and sometimes combustible energy. Near his studio, Liz had opened a medical clinic, first offering only a first-aid station, then gradually expanding her services as her education allowed. Now her full-service clinic gave residents and guests a comfortable and reputable facility for health care. With the shop and the clinic so close together, Michael and Liz had eventually begun to meet for lunch occasionally, sharing food and honest talk. Now they could look back and laugh at their early animosity. They were friends.

Once Max arrived from the school with Dakota and Blake, Isabel’s oldest, the party officially began. Brody offered a welcoming toast, and there wasn’t a soul present who didn’t feel once again the triumph that their gathering represented. Not only were they thriving as people and as professionals, but Brody’s wildly successful resort concept had made it possible for them to live among each other, offering support and a sense of community that had once seemed impossible.

Alex watched from the sidelines. He’d read enough books, studied enough statistics, and talked to enough friends to know that the extraordinary love and devotion that these couples expressed for each other was not typical “out there in the world.” His own father was, at that moment, talking with Nate while his arms encircled his mother. They were completely comfortable with each other. Completely in love after all these years.

His Aunt Maria and Uncle Michael bickered quite a bit, but he’d learned early on that this was simply their way, and for every sharp comment or pointed glare there was a tender touch or meaningful look. Uncle Jesse and Aunt Isabel were the most “normal” of the bunch, but even they maintained a completely united front, in spite of their divergent personalities and tastes.

Of course, they could all have taken lessons from Uncle Max and Aunt Liz, who rarely let a chance to touch each other go by. And when they looked at each other, their features softened and their eyes held, as if they couldn’t take a single moment together for granted. That’s what Alex wanted; that’s what Alex was pretty sure he would never have.

His eyes drifted to Phoenix—smart, lovely, challenging Phoenix. He’d always felt it—the need to protect her, to know her, and in the last few years, to love her. He’d let himself hope for a while; he could sense how her pulse jumped around him and felt the conflicted emotions that he triggered in her. And he’d talked himself into believing that her anger was simply a fear of committing to something that might keep her tied to this place and these people when she was itching to see the world. But lately, he’d started to acknowledge the other obstacles. He was 4 years older and finished with college. She was just about to embark on that adventure, and chances were that he and the mountain would begin to turn into memories instead of realities.

It seemed almost laughable that he was still a virgin. It wasn’t for lack of wanting and it wasn’t for lack of offers. He’d made the most of his college years, and no one who knew him would call him a saint. But his father and uncles had done a good job of scaring the bejeesus out of him before he left the mountain—alien sex had certain . . . side effects . . . they’d said, stumbling over words and exchanging nervous glances. And those side effects would be noticed by the . . . er . . . partner, and would most likely arouse . . . “pardon the expression” . . . suspicion.

That knowledge was more effective than a chastity belt. He was willing to take risks, but not with an unsuspecting girl who only wanted a few hours of fun. He was going to have to wait for the “real thing,” and it looked like the “real thing” wasn’t waiting for him. Well, he thought, if she was a poster child for Sagittarians, he wasn’t far off the mark with his own Capricorn traits: prudent, patient, reserved, and yes, somewhat pessimistic. But ambitious, too. And his ambition included a dark-haired beauty with fire in her heart.

Phoenix looked up from her forehead-to-forehead conversation with her cousin Joy. She knew he was watching her, but he didn’t look away when she challenged him with her eyes. What flashed between them forced a gasp from him, in spite of his control. She’d felt it, too—he could tell from the startled, then angry look on her face. With a word to Joy, she turned and ran for the house.

********
“Look at him over there,” Kyle said, shaking his head. “He’s been so aloof and quiet since he got home from college. It’s like he’s over there keeping an eye on everyone, like a watchdog.”

“Well, Alex does mean ‘great protector,’” Liz told them. “I remember thinking how appropriate that was when we were researching names. Seems he was always looking out for the little ones.”

“Researching names?” Jesse chuckled. “What, like checking for meanings and stuff? Why were you doing that?”

“All our kids’ names have meaning,” Liz said. “Phoenix is more of a metaphor, I guess; her very existence meant a new beginning for us.” She smiled at Max, and he reached for her hand, bringing it to his lips. Then he turned to his friends.

“Remember Dakota was born early when we were visiting River Dog. He helped bring her into the world. We wanted to name her for him, but somehow “River Dog” didn’t seem very appropriate, and he told us Dakota meant ‘friend’ in his native tongue.”

“You’re kidding!” Taylor exclaimed. “I never heard that story.”

“And we all know Max means ‘great,’!” Diane chimed in. “What more fitting name?”

“Mom,” Max groaned, rolling his eyes. “Please.”

“Get over it, Max,” Diane said with a twinkle. “A mother’s entitled to pride in her children.”

“Seth means ‘appointed one,’ which seemed to follow for the eldest son of a leader,” Liz continued, “and Zeke was born one night during a meteor shower. His name means ‘shooting star.’”

“This is cool,” Nate said. “Anybody else do that when they named their kids?”

“I guess we did, in a way,” Serena jumped in. “Alex was already named when we got him, although I guess his name fits, too, but Joy and Dominic were just reflections of how blessed we felt, and how strongly we felt that someone up there was looking out for us.”

“Who knew you’d turn out to be the spiritual one, Valenti,” Michael quipped. “Buddha, Christ—got any others in the wings?”

“Yeah, Guerin, and believe me, they’ve got your number. You’d better shape up.” Kyle needled his friend with affection. They had developed a great respect for each other over the years.

“What about you?” Sydney asked Isabel. “Do your kids’ names mean anything special? Our little Abigail was just named for my grandmother, but I have no idea what it means.”

“Not really,” Isabel grimaced. “We just liked the names.” She looked irritated, as if she’d missed an important point in her well-ordered life. “You didn’t pick names by meanings, did you, Maria?”

“Oh yeah,” Maria grinned. “Our Spaceboy wanted strong names for his girls; he wanted them to be able to handle themselves. “Erika means ‘powerful or regal,’ both of which suited him. And Kelsey means ‘warrior.’ He picked that one out himself.” Michael looked stricken between embarrassment and pride.

Brody laughed. “Good thing those meanings weren’t attached to something like Hildegard or Gertrude!”

“What about Benjamin?” Patrick asked. “Did you have meanings in mind when you picked that one?”

Michael and Maria fell silent, and no one missed the long look they exchanged. When Michael remained quiet, Maria finally answered, her voice low. “Benjamin means ‘son of the right hand.’”

Max looked struck, unbelievably touched. “Michael, I . . .”

“You don’t have to say anything, Maxwell. That’s just how it is.”

Son of the Right Hand. Michael had always been Max’s right hand, and never moreso than since their coming to the mountain. The strain between them had dissipated with time and maturity, and they loved each other as brothers. Benjamin was his father’s child, son of the right hand, and heir to the role of protecting the alien clan from danger. The name was a revelation, though, and the sense of family that permeated their lives grew a little bit stronger.

********
The next afternoon was unusually hot for May in the mountains, but nature had grown impatient, pushing leaves to unfold and bask in the sun. Phoenix scooted a few inches further along the branch, pressing her lips together in her effort to loop the rope around it. Frustrated with her failed attempts to tighten the knot, she lifted her hand, concentrated, and grunted in satisfaction when her haphazard knot closed into a firm and secure one. A rope swing was just the ticket for an afternoon like this.

Turning, she felt the branch give under her, a short sharp jolt of warning. She froze, unsure whether to scramble back toward the trunk or hold her breath and . . . what? She looked with longing at the thick main branch she had left behind moments ago, and frowned when she realized how much of a risk she’d taken climbing out on this one. None of her powers were going to help her, unless . . . maybe that green shield would break her fall, but could she maintain it while she was actually falling? It took a lot of concentration.

“What the hell are you doing up there?”

Alex’s angry shout startled her and she whipped around to see him, knowing instantly it was a mistake. Her weight shifted, her foot slipped, and the branch gave way. As she fell, all she could think of was the lecture she knew she’d get from Alex; a broken leg would be better.

It wasn’t really a surprise when she felt her body sag harmlessly into a cushion of green. What was a surprise was when that cushion disappeared suddenly and she fell the last two feet with a painful thud. Climbing to her feet with a grimace, she glared at Alex, a mumbled oath flying past her lips before she could stop it.

“You better not let your father hear you talking like that,” he said, his body shuddering with the effort to control his temper. “Now do you want to tell me what the hell you were doing up there? Besides trying to break your neck . . . again?”

She grew taller suddenly, as she always did when she was facing him down. He made her so angry, though she’d never figured out why. “No, I don’t.”

She began to stalk off when he grabbed her arm. “Phee, you could have been killed! Or paralyzed! Or . . .”

Here it came. The lecture. She just couldn’t. “Let go of me!” She wrenched free and stood glaring at him, a thousand rants forming in her mind. “What is it with you, Alex? You are why I fell. You scared me with your shouting! How is it wherever I am, you’re lurking nearby to undermine what I’m doing? Don’t you have anything more important to do?”

“That branch was about to give way,” he spat back. “If I hadn’t been here, you’d be laying there with broken bones at best and wondering when someone would find you.”

He was right, of course. And that was all the more infuriating.

“Self-righteous Capricorn.”

“Irresponsible Sagittarius. Or should I say ‘flighty,’ since that’s what you seemed to be attempting.”

She was embarrassed, and that was completely unacceptable. Better to leave in a huff; it had worked before. She winced slightly as she turned to leave, but his voice caught at her again.

“Phee, are you okay?”

She pulled in her claws long enough to observe the minimum requirements for civility. “Yes. Thank you for the shield.”

She felt his eyes on her as she began to walk away again. She wasn’t sure if she was supposed to hear what he said then, but she did.

“What am I going to do with you?”

She wheeled on him, furious again. “Do with me? What are you going to do with me? Nothing, Alex! Except leave me alone. What makes you think you have to do anything with me?”

He looked just as furious, and she had to brace herself not to back away as he approached with long, angry strides.

“It didn’t used to bother you, my being around all the time,” he said in controlled tones that did little to hide his anger. “Quite the opposite, as I recall.”

Then his voice gentled, and a look of mild desperation came over him. “In fact, we used to seek each other out. Tell each other our secrets. Now it seems I can’t be anywhere near you without you flying into a rage. Why is that?”

She didn’t want to have this conversation. Didn’t want to say things to him that she wouldn’t even say to herself. Why were men so stupid? He was cornering her, asking for the hard stuff when he wasn’t offering her the same.

“Get off my back, Alex. What do you care, anyway?”

“I care, okay?”

Yeah, right, she seethed. She was building up a head of steam now.

“Oh really? You care? I’ve been here for four years without you, Alex. Four years during which you graced us with occasional fly-by visits. ‘I’m sorry, but I only have two days before I fly to Greece.’ ‘Oh, sorry I missed your birthday but my psych professor nominated me for an award and I had to go to D.C.’ I wish I could come back for Spring Break but there’s a trip to the Mayan ruins . . .’ You were leaving the mountain years before you actually left, Alex. You left me a long time ago.”

“Left you?” He had the nerve to look confused, she thought bitterly. “I left everyone, Phee. My parents, my brother and sister, everything I’d ever known. It’s called college. It was scary, but I promised to make the most of it and I did. I didn’t just leave you.”

“But we had something special, damn you. It should have been harder for you!” She was yelling now and it felt good. Purging the pent-up hostility felt wonderful, in fact. “You left a gaping hole, damn it! I lost my best friend, my . . .”

She trembled under the strain of not finishing that sentence.

“Your what, Phee?” Now his voice was velvet soft, and she fought the feelings that surged through her body . . . from the heart out.

“None of your damn business. You lost the right to know what I’m thinking a long time ago.”

“Tell me, Phoenix. It’s important.”

She stepped into him, as close to nose-to-nose as she could manage. “It’s important to whom, Alex? Not you. It hasn’t been important to you in a very long time.”

“Yes, it is.” That same velvet tone pushed her over the top. She could barely see straight.

“Why?! Why is it important now?”

She was challenging him; she always had. And he met the challenge in the only way he knew how. The truth.

“Because I love you, that’s why!”

He might as well have slapped her. If she had written books on what he might have said to her at that moment, she would never have thought to write that one down.

“What?” It was a squeak more than a question.

He took a deep breath and let out a hissed curse. “Damn it, Phee, I love you. And what makes no sense is I think you love me, too, but you never stop yelling at me long enough to realize it.”

He’d said it. Out loud. Right where she could hear it. Where she could see it in his face. There was no running now. It was all around her and she had to face it, even though she’d spent considerable effort avoiding it before.

“I . . .” She swallowed hard and began again. Her eyes were filling with unwanted tears and she swiped at them. “I’m only 17.”

He let out another slow breath. “Your point?”

“You’re 21, Alex. You’ve been to college. Dated. Seen some of the world. Why would you come back here and want me?”

“I tried not to,” he confessed. He could smell her now, but he pushed aside the feelings her scent triggered. “But it’s always been there, hasn’t it? When we were small, it was always the two of us. We were a team. We understood each other. We loved each other.”

“We were kids,” she countered stubbornly.

“Yes, we were. And when we stopped being kids, you turned away.”

“You went away!” she erupted with a sob. “You were out there where I wanted to be, and when you came back, you talked about places and people and experiences I wondered if I would ever have. I knew you wouldn’t come back for good. And I understood that, because I know I won’t either. I want to see the world, Alex. I don’t want to spend my life on this mountain, tied to what we are and where we are. I want to live, but you . . .” Her voice all but disappeared. “You left me behind.”

It had come out in a rush, words that described things she’d never even let herself think. She was losing the battle of the tears, too, and bit down hard on her lip to stop them.

“So which is it, Phee? Are you afraid I won’t come back or afraid that you can’t leave?”

“Neither. Both. I don’t know!” Somehow, his hands were on her shoulders. If felt good—strong, comforting, solid. She shrugged them off. “I have dreams.”

“I know.”

“Dreams about you.”

“I know.”

“How? How do you know?” She was eyeing him suspiciously now. “If you’ve been reading my mind . . .”

“I didn’t have to. I have the dreams, too.”

“What, my dreams? How do you know they’re the same dreams?”

“Because I know. They’re erotic dreams sometimes. We make love. And we tell each other everything. We’re happy.”

She stood stunned for a moment. “We’re here.”

She could hear the desperation in her own voice. It scared her to death that she would be here always. Not by choice, but trapped by circumstances over which she had no control, even with her powers. What good were they? She couldn’t use them. She couldn’t tell anyone about them. They took control away from her more than gave it to her.

“Is that what scares you? That you feel trapped on this mountain? Or is it me? Would you feel trapped with me?”

She wasn’t sure why she began to shake just then, but she felt the weakness rip through her and knew she would have fallen again had Alex not stepped in and wrapped his arms around her. She looked up into his face, more confused than she’d ever been in her life.

“You said you lost your best friend. Then you said you lost something else. Tell me what it was, Phee. Please.”

She shook her head. She couldn’t give him that last piece, because that would be giving him everything. And then, when he left, she would have nothing.

“Try something for me,” he said gently.

She looked at him warily, ashamed at how wonderful it felt to be in his arms.

His eyes focused on her mouth, and little explosions began to fire through her bloodstream.

“Alex?” she breathed.

He didn’t answer, but bent slowly toward her, touching his lips to her, then gradually increasing the pressure until her world tilted and his lips became the center of her universe. It was only later she would identify the feeling that enclosed her as coming home. All she knew in that suspended moment was that it was right. They were right, and the weakness no longer felt like shame but more like a purging of her demons, a crumbling of the walls.

He released her lips, though his arms stayed strong and firm around her.

“Well?” She didn’t miss the glimmer of victory in his eyes, and it prompted one last token argument.

“We’re so young.”

He smiled and kissed her lightly again. “True. You, especially. But might I remind you that your parents were only 16 when they fell in love. Uncle Michael and Aunt Maria were, too. Aunt Isabel was 18 and,” he paused pointedly, “she married an older man. Maybe it’s an alien thing. Besides,” he said, sliding his hands up her back, then forward to her neck, cupping it as his thumbs teased her earlobes and traced her jaw. “I want you to date in college and meet new people and experience new things. And then,” he came at her again and she held her breath in anticipation, “then I want you to come back to this.”

This time she pushed up to meet him, opening herself to him in a flood of love newly released from behind her protective walls. Her head spun, her blood rushed, and she held on for dear life as he gave to her more than she thought she could hold. When, at last, he pulled himself away, his ragged breaths flitting across her face, she watched him struggle to steady himself.

“We will see things, Phoenix, I promise. We will go and see and experience and love, and then we will come back here, to the place and people that made it possible for us to do all those things. I can be a psychologist anywhere. You can . . . do whatever it is you decide to do wherever you want to do it. It doesn’t matter where we are. You’re my home, Phoenix. I’ve always known it.”

A small helpless sound squeezed through her throat. You’re my home. Her mother had told her once about how her father and she had come out of a particularly bad time with just those words. Words that meant love and commitment and promises of things to come. Words that meant everything.

“Soulmate,” she said softly.

“What?”

“That’s what I was going to say. I’d lost my soulmate.”

His smile smoothed out all the frayed nerves, all the conflicting emotions, and settled on her heart like a warm blanket.

“No, you haven’t lost that,” he sighed, kissing the top of her head. “And you never will.”

continued in next post
Last edited by Carol000 on Sun Oct 26, 2003 8:46 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 » Sun Oct 26, 2003 12:47 pm

Epilog 3--conclusion

********
The beautiful day had made them restless to be out of the house and renew their acquaintance with the mountain. Liz tugged at Max’s hand and twirled with delight at the new green of the trees and the bright blue of the sky.

“I love it here,” she sighed, ending a pirouette with a sudden kiss. He grinned at her, thoroughly happy to see her like this. They both worked hard, but they didn’t mind. Their lives had been everything they’d hoped for and more, and finding time to be alone together was the best part.

“It was good to see everyone last night,” Max said, slipping an arm around her. “When I take a step back and look at all those kids and the people who’ve been so important to us all these years, I can hardly believe it’s my life.”

“They’re wonderful,” she agreed. “I can’t believe River Dog made it up here. I wonder how old he is now.”

“Old as the hills,” Max mused. “But not too old to keep sharp. Do you know what he said to me?”

“What?”

“We were talking about Phoenix—she seems so keyed up lately—and he said not to worry; Phoenix just needed to find her balance. Can you believe that? Like a voice right out of the past.”

Liz assumed an interested expression, avoiding her husband’s eye. “And did he say exactly how she should go about that?”

“You’re kidding, right? When did River Dog ever say anything straight out? Still, I am a little worried about her. Something’s got a hold of her, and she won’t talk to me about it.”

“She’ll work it out, Max.”

He stopped, turning her to face him. “You know what it is, don’t you?”

She had to smile. “I have a suspicion, but that’s all it is. She hasn’t talked to me, either.”

“Well, I just hope . . .”

He stopped cold, and Liz looked up in horror to see Phoenix falling from a tree. Max raised his hand a split second later, withdrawing suddenly when he spotted the green shield, and then Alex off to the side. He took a first step, ready to run to his daughter’s side, but Liz put a firm hand on his arm. Before he could protest, Phoenix had jumped up and was yelling at Alex, who was yelling right back.

“What is it with those two?” Max asked, not really expecting an answer. “They used to be so close.”

“Mmm hmmm,” Liz mumbled noncommittally.

“When they were little, Alex was totally devoted to her, remember? And she adored him. It’s sad that they grew apart the way they did.”

Shaking his head, Max made to walk toward them, but Liz stopped him again. “They’re not yelling now,” she observed.

Max halted again, watching in confusion as their conversation went low-key but the tense body language remained. Then their voices rang out again just before Alex walked angrily toward her and Liz felt Max tense. She could see the scowl on his face and knew he was itching to get in there and break it up. Liz knew better.

“Let’s go,” she whispered, pulling on Max’s arm, but he resisted.

“You don’t think,” he began uncertainly, “I mean, you don’t think there’s any chance he might . . . I hate to say this but, you know, hurt her?”

“He’s not Tess, Max. I know we keep waiting to see her in him, but he’s not. He’s Kyle, though I worry that Alex doesn’t see that. He won’t hurt her. The only one he hurts is himself.”

“Then why is she so angry with him all the time? If you don’t think he ever did anything to her, then . . .”

“They have other issues, Max. That don’t concern us.”

“Like what?”

Their voices had gone quiet again. He turned to look at them, his jaw dropping as Alex swept his daughter into his arms and kissed her with a passion that sent Max’s blood boiling.

“What the hell . . .!” He jerked free of Liz’s grasp and took an angry step. His head whipped with the force of Liz’s pull this time.

“Liz, what are you doing? He’s over there mauling our daughter . . .”

“Max, look at them.”

Max snapped his eyes back to them. His mouth fell open in silent shock as he watched his daughter fall into the embrace with a move so familiar it clutched at his gut. She was her mother in so many ways.

“Liz.” It was a question. An exclamation. A protest. A realization. His eyes came back to his wife. She was smiling. Why was she smiling?

“I don’t understand.”

“I know,” she said, love bright in her eyes. “Come home, my love, and I’ll explain it to you. And then, I’ll make you forget all about it.”

“But she’s only 17.”

“I was 16.”

“He’s 21 and out of college.”

“And has loved her all his life. Sound familiar?”

He glanced over his shoulder, grimacing at yet another kiss, one that Phoenix wasn’t resisting in the least. Then he looked into Liz’s face and saw the calm, loving promise it held. He sighed.

“It’ll be alright?”

“It’ll be alright.”

A small smile came with the next sigh. “And if I behave, you’ll reward me when we get home?”

Liz opened her mind, sending scenes that brought color to Max’s cheeks in seconds. His eyes turned dark.

“Race you.”

As Liz admired his retreating figure, she hugged herself with pure happiness. A new generation was beginning the journey, but she wouldn’t have traded hers with anyone’s. It may have started because a boy loved a girl, but the magic truly began when she loved him back.


The End


To Jason Behr as Max Evans, with my deepest thanks:

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Last edited by Carol000 on Sun Oct 26, 2003 8:48 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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