Revelations (ML / Adult) (Complete)

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EmilyluvsRoswell
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations (ML / Adult) (Complete)

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Thu May 15, 2003 10:08 pm

Winner - Round 15

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Winner - Round 10

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Winner - Round 7

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Liz sleeps with Future Max

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Winner - Round 6

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Max and Liz's angry kiss

Round 5

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Round 4 Winner

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Liz to Future Max:

"Then come here," she pleaded, holding out a hand. When he hesitated, she blinked, sending tears streaming down both cheeks. "You've already had this night. You've had fourteen years of nights like this. Let me have just one."


http://images2.fotki.com/v21/photos/5/5 ... rup-vi.jpg
Best Supporting Portrayal of Kyle Valenti
Best Dreamer Fanfiction



Round 3 Winner

[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v21/photos/5/52482/216689/Authorwhoshouldhavewrittenforshow-vi.jpg
[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v20/photos/5/52482/216689/ccauthoraward-vi.jpg
[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v20/photos/5/52482/216689/imaginative-vi.jpg[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v21/photos/5/52482/216689/Bouncinginseat-vi.jpg
[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v23/photos/5/52482/216689/POV-vi.jpg
[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v21/photos/5/52482/216689/bestliz-vi.jpg
[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v20/photos/5/52482/216689/bestisabel-vi.jpg
[img]http://images2.fotki.com/v22/photos/5/52482/216689/untitled-vi.jpg
by Blanca

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Despite my best intentions, and numerous real-life projects (some of which are even in progress), I haven't quite managed to shake loose from the fanfic obsession. This is something that's been nagging at me for a while, and I've finally decided to give in and write it. A word of warning: it's rather different than my usual fare.

Special thanks to Blanca for the lovely banner.

:)
Em

Revelations
by EmilyluvsRoswell

Disclaimer: Me no own. Some dialogue has been taken directly from the show, primarily The End of the World, and Max in the City, and was written by Jason Katims and Ron Moore, respectively.
Category: Liz POV.
Summary: Post-End of the World. With a twist.
Spoilers: Do we still need to do this one?
Rating: Adult, for a few graphic scenes.
Author's note: I said I was done with fanfic. My muse claims not to have gotten the memo. Whatever.
May 2003

***

Time present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future,
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.


~T.S. Eliot

***

Prologue

***

The tears refused to come. Liz wished she could cry, knew on some level that she needed to release the emotions that shimmered beneath the fragile surface of her self-control, but she couldn't. Her tears had abandoned her. Perhaps she had used them all the night before, after going to see Max. Or maybe she was just too numb for them to flow. It didn't matter. Nothing mattered anymore.

She pulled her cotton robe tightly across her breasts as she curled onto her side, eyes fixed on the empty window. It wasn't empty to her, though. She could still see Max out there, ghost-like, just as he had appeared a little while earlier. His expression was etched in her memory - utter disbelief, color draining from his cheeks, the pain and betrayal in his eyes. All he had wanted was to love her, and she had destroyed him - destroyed them both.

He was watching her. Funny how she could sense him, even though he wasn't her Max. He had emerged from the bathroom shortly after Kyle left, but had kept his distance, remaining carefully out of her line of sight. Somehow she knew what she would see if she turned, so she held herself stiffly, eyes trained past where he hovered in the doorway. She didn't want to see him. Didn't want to acknowledge that he was worried about her, or that he wore his regret like a hair shirt. It would be written all over his face, and she wasn't prepared to deal with that right now. This way, she could blame him, hold him responsible for everything she had done in the past two days. As long as he kept silent, as long as she didn't have to see his guilt-ridden expression, she could keep her own guilty feelings at bay.

"Liz." His voice was quiet, so familiar. So broken. Like something tapping at her own shattered heart, urging her to meet him half way.

"The look on his face," she relented, still staring out at the deserted balcony. "On your face."

"I've fought a thousand battles, but watching you do that was the hardest thing I've ever done."

"Yeah, well, doing it wasn't exactly a walk in the park," she managed past the lump in her throat. She pushed herself up to a sitting position, legs half curled beneath her. "So, what now?"

"We wait," he replied.

"No," she whispered. "I wait. For Max and Tess to be together. For the world to keep spinning without me."

"You don't know that." There was a brief movement, as if he intended to come to her, but then he faded back into the shadows. "I saw you with Kyle. He's turning into a great guy."

Something in his voice made her turn. She could just make out his face in the dark. The apologetic smile, the haunted eyes. "What are you talking about?" she asked.

He looked down, hair falling forward to obscure his expression. "Maybe it would be better for you to be with a human."

That quickly, the warrior had vanished, replaced by the boy she loved - seventeen and insecure - unable to believe that she returned his feelings. How could he still not understand? "Don't you realize what you are to me?" she asked softly. "What you'll always be? You're the love of my life. Everyone else is going to be second best. There will never be another you."

"I'll never be the same," he murmured quietly. "That I do know."

"And you think I will?" she snapped, her nerves threatening to unravel. "I have to live with this. You're going to disappear in a puff of smoke, but I have to get up tomorrow and face everybody. It's a lot easier to give everything up when you're not going to exist to suffer through it being gone." She stopped abruptly, registering the pained acceptance on his face.

"You're right," he said. "I did this to you. I'm so sorry, Liz. If there had been any other way- "

"Don't," she cut him off, closing her eyes. "I shouldn't have said that." She couldn't believe she'd lashed out so brutally. He had left his wife behind, given up his very existence to save the world. She wasn't the only one whose life was in tatters.

"You didn't say anything that wasn't true."

His voice came from barely a breath away, and she opened her eyes to find him kneeling on the floor in front of her. He looked so much like the Max she knew, despite the long hair and the clothes and the battle-weary eyes. Her hand came up of its own volition, and she reached out to brush a strand of hair from his face, only to have him shy away.

"Sorry," she said, unaccountably hurt. Her hand dropped.

"No, Liz, it's just…" His eyes flickered away, then darted back to meet hers. There was a heat there she had not noticed before, and something deep within her did a slow roll.

"Max," she murmured, her voice hoarse. She watched in amazement as his pupils dilated visibly. This time when she reached for him, he didn't back away, and she ran her palm slowly down the side of his face, feeling the familiar contours of his cheek beneath the thick stubble.

"We can't," he breathed, when she began to lean forward.

"Why not?" she asked, eyes focused on his lips.

"Liz, you don't know what you're doing."

"Yes, I do." She closed the distance between them and kissed him.

His mouth started out stiff and unresponsive, but he was incapable of fighting her for long. All resistance melted away, his lips gentle and remarkably skilled. When she tried to deepen the kiss, however, he closed his hands over her shoulders and pushed her firmly away.

"This is a very bad idea," he said. He was staring down at the floor, suddenly fascinated with the carpet.

"I don't care."

His head snapped up and she could see he remembered another time she'd said those words. "Liz, you're hurting and vulnerable, and I'm going to be gone soon."

"So then you shouldn't care either," she replied tartly.

Climbing to his feet, he paced to the window and stared out into the darkness. "You're not thinking clearly. I don't want you to do something now that you'll regret tomorrow."

"Tomorrow will be full of regret regardless. I was supposed to be with him tonight. That's what you told me. Instead, he thinks I was with Kyle. In reality, I'm here with you and you're turning away from me."

"That's not fair," he said, facing her once more.

"Life's not fair, Max. Haven't you figured that out yet?" she asked, tears suddenly pricking her eyes. So they hadn't deserted her after all. "I've done everything you've asked of me since you got here. Given up everything because you told me there was no other choice. Don't I get a say in anything?"

"I'm not your Max," he said harshly.

"You're all that's left of him," she replied brokenly. "The Max out there? He's not the same person anymore. You said as much yourself."

His eyes met hers and held for a long moment, as if he was struggling to maintain his focus on reality - on the girl she was versus the woman she might have become. When he spoke, his words were no more than a breath. "You told me you weren't ready."

"You told me I was."

"I don't want to hurt you anymore," he whispered.

"Then come here," she pleaded, holding out a hand. When he hesitated, she blinked, sending tears streaming down both cheeks. "You've already had this night. You've had fourteen years of nights like this. Let me have just one."

***

He kissed her tears away. After that, he kissed her everywhere else, lips following hands as they skirted over the smooth contours of her body. Soft, teasing nips. Wet, open-mouthed caresses. Places she never knew were sensitive - the back of her knee, her instep, the hollow between shoulder and neck. Other places, ones that made her blush just to think of them. He knew her body intimately, his fingers adept at coaxing her responses. As new as each touch was for her, to him it was a familiar gesture. He brought a lifetime of loving her to every kiss, and each one eased the pain in her heart.

She could not help but watch him, even as her own hands wandered across his back, over his shoulders, down his arms. There were scars here, the marks of a soldier. Some faint, others more recent, too many to heal. Would her Max face such ordeals? How much of the future had they altered, and how much would remain the same? Her thoughts jumbled together as pleasure pulsed through her veins, and she arched against the man in her arms, her mind flying to pieces.

"Liz," he murmured hoarsely, poised to take her. His eyes glittered with tears as he waited for permission, and in that moment she knew he was really with her. His memories were for his wife - that self she would never be - but his thoughts were in the moment. There was no doubt who lay beneath him, no pretense of being in another time and place.

"Please," she whispered, pulling him close, desperate for one moment of oblivion, to feel something beyond the great gaping void that hovered in the background and threatened to swallow her forever.

Their eyes locked and then they were joined. The flashes began instantly and moved too fast for her to follow, a kaleidoscope of faces and experiences - a life well-lived. And then they were both crying silently as Max buried his face in her neck, his tears wetting her cheek. Emotions spent for two loves that were lost forever - one erased by time undone and the other killed by cruel necessity.

"I'll always love you," he said softly, his arms tightening briefly before he released her. He spooned behind her, one hand smoothing over her bare hip to align their bodies.

"I know." She leaned against his chest as he tugged the covers up over them. His breath stirred her hair gently and she felt him kiss the back of her head - just a brush of his lips. She wanted to talk, wanted to ask him things, but her muscles were so relaxed and her eye lids had grown heavy. Sleep beckoned, with its seductive promise of forgetfulness.

"I'm so sorry, Liz," he whispered once more.

"Don't be," she said. "I'll survive." She felt him pull away, and realized how her words had sounded. "I'll be all right," she promised.

When she turned, he was gone.

*****

TBC
Last edited by EmilyluvsRoswell on Mon Feb 23, 2004 12:21 pm, edited 48 times in total.

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EmilyluvsRoswell
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Revelations - Part 1

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Mon May 19, 2003 1:07 pm

Liz shoved the blankets off the bed and rolled onto her side, trying to find a cool spot on the pillow. The red numerals on her alarm clock stared through the darkness, reminding her just how long she had been lying there awake. Not that sleepless nights were a novelty these days. More like an unwanted houseguest that had overstayed its welcome. She snorted softly at the comparison, recalling the Tess Harding look-a-like asleep downstairs. At this point she'd gladly house Ava for a month if it meant she could get a full night's rest. Unfortunately, there was no correlation between the two.

The last month had been one long roller coaster ride of anxiety. It wasn't just the tension between her and Max, though that would have been sufficient to keep her up nights. The shattered look in his eyes alone had made her cry herself dry on more than one occasion. But then you had to add in all the rest of the alien insanity - the bizarre circumstances of Congresswoman Whitaker's funeral, the Skins in Copper Summit, the disappearing population of Roswell, the arrival of the duplicates from New York. Had Liz actually thought that by distancing herself from Max she would escape the alien abyss? If anything she felt herself being dragged more firmly into the thick of things. There was so much she knew because of Future Max's visit, but she had no way of telling the others. So she had become guardian of their safety from a distance, no longer truly part of the group even when she was in a room with them.

Wasn't it bad enough that she had ruined her relationship with Max? She hadn't quite understood, going into this, that more than their love would be destroyed. Never could Liz have imagined a time when Max would tell her they couldn't be friends. Yet he had done just that only days before, and then run off to New York with Rath and Lonnie. And Tess. Funny how that had worked out so quickly, she thought wryly, swallowing hard. Max and Tess, together in the big city, while she stayed home alone and pretended everything was fine in the face of a sea of accusations and recriminations. What a joke.

She could understand Michael and Isabel's attitude. After all, they had never been her biggest supporters, and when push came to shove she had known they would side with Max. It was only to be expected. But somehow it still hurt to have them ignore her, or glare suspiciously, just waiting for her to reveal their secret. They were blaming her for everything, as if their own constant bickering with Max had no bearing on the situation. Though she supposed in some ways they were right that Max's sudden departure for the summit was her fault; she doubted that he had gone in that other timeline. If she and Max had made love, he would have stayed in Roswell. Still, there was a certain amount of irony in the situation. Michael and Isabel were no longer sure they could trust her, yet she had done what she did in order to save their lives.

But Michael and Isabel weren't the only ones she had managed to push away. Kyle had been looking at her differently since the night they had pretended to sleep together. He knew the truth, but not her motivations, and it was clear the question was bothering him. She would catch him watching her at school or in the café, his thoughtful gaze demanding answers she could not give. The rumors about the two of them weren't helping matters. Liz knew Kyle wanted to refute them, to put an end to the vicious gossip, and that he couldn't understand why she allowed the talk to continue. She could see everything he thought he knew about her flying out the window, and she hated it.

And now she was lying to Maria. Her best friend in the entire world since they were small, and Liz had opened up her mouth tonight and lied to her face. When Alex had finally learned the truth about Max and the others, Liz had thought she was done with lying to her friends. She had even sworn as much to Alex. Yet here she was, lying to all of them, and for what? How could this possibly save the world? All it was doing was driving them all apart. Driving them all away from her. It was one thing to go through life without Max's love - to be alone in that way - but another thing to lose all her friends. Because that was where she was headed if things kept on this path. Was that what it would take to save the world? Did she have to give up everyone?

Liz shut her eyes against the tears that threatened to fall. She was so tired. So very tired of carrying all of humanity on her shoulders. It had only been a few weeks, yet she felt ready to drop under the weight of the burden. Why her? Why was she the only one who needed to be strong?

The answers flickered across the inside of her eyelids, images that haunted her dreams in the wee hours of the morning when she finally slept. The flashes she received from Future Max had been no more than a rushed blur in the heat of their lovemaking, yet the impressions remained burned into her mind, coming back to haunt her only after Max had vanished from her bed. Horrible visions of death and destruction, mangled bodies, buildings razed, Roswell reduced to so much rubble. The misery had far outweighed the happier moments - making love in the desert, their wedding, dancing until dawn in a dive outside Phoenix - and the combination of the two made for surreal nightmares. Her eyes snapped open and she sat up with a gasp, preferring the bitter reality of her darkened bedroom to the potential apocalypse ahead.

Brushing the tears from her face, Liz took several cleansing breaths, trying to get her heart rate under control. She had to keep it together; she had no choice. Yes, it was hard, but it was just the way things had to be. The alternative was too frightening to consider.

Still, Liz found her gaze drifting to the telephone. Surely she could tell Maria at least part of the truth. Enough so that she wouldn't feel so betrayed. She could trust Maria to keep her mouth shut, and it would be such a relief to know she wasn't completely alone. Reaching out, she allowed her hand to hover over the phone for a moment, then grabbed the receiver and began to dial.

Maria answered after one ring, her voice laden with sleep. "Hello?"

"Look, we need to talk," Liz said, without preamble.

"It's three in the morning."

"Please, Maria?"

Liz could hear the soft sigh of resignation through the phone. "Where?"

***

"I know this all sounds really crazy." Liz watched her best friend's expression as they sat in the soft glow of the lights illuminating the fountain. She had just told Maria that Max had traveled through time, visited her from the future, yet Maria showed no indication of either running or calling for the nearest psychiatrist. Liz wasn't used to Maria staying quite so calm, and it unnerved her.

"No, please, crazy is sleeping with Kyle Valenti. So please, get to that part."

"Okay. So Max - no - Future Max tells me that the reason the world comes to an end is because - get this - he and Tess weren't together when their enemies came to earth. And the reason they weren't together was because Max and I got married." The words sounded so rational to her own ear as she said them, but her heart was starting to pound harder and Liz struggled to focus.

"Oh."

"I know. It's really confusing."

"No, I'm with you. Keep going," Maria coaxed her.

Liz took a deep breath, willing herself to just get through it. "Future Max tells me that I need to find a way to get present day Max to fall out of love with me."

Maria began to nod in understanding. "So you slept with Kyle."

"No, no. Not really," Liz said quickly. "I arranged it so that Max saw Kyle and I in bed together, but nothing really happened."

"So Max thinks that you and Kyle-"

Liz nodded slowly. "I'm sorry I lied to you."

"No. I am so sorry that I got so mad. I should have known that it was an alien thing," Maria told her. She tilted her head and stared at Liz a moment. "Are you okay?"

"Not really," she whispered in reply. "God, every time Max looks at me, all I can see is his pain and confusion. Part of him refuses to believe what he saw. He keeps demanding the truth. Then he gets furious all over again because he's so sure I'm lying."

"You can't really blame him," Maria said softly. "What you supposedly did is so completely out of character for you. I know I didn't believe it when I heard the rumors."

"It hurts so much, Maria," Liz whimpered, feeling herself crumple. "I hate what this is doing to him."

"What about what it's doing to you?" Maria scooted closer and pulled Liz into a comforting hug. "Are you sure this is the only option? Isn't there any other way?"

"No," Liz declared stubbornly, brushing at the traitorous tears that crept down her cheeks. "I can't risk it. I've seen what happens to the world and I won't be responsible for that kind of devastation." She let out a shaky breath. "Max and I just have to stay away from each other."

"Okay, okay," Maria relented. "So," she said, a smile playing at her lips. "Still a virgin?"

Liz felt a jolt of panic. She knew Maria meant the question to be teasing - an attempt to lighten the mood - but there was no way she could answer truthfully without everything else spilling out. And she wasn't ready for that. She didn't want to reduce her single night with Max - Future Max - to a girls' gossip session. For now, she needed to maintain the dream. Talking about it would make it too real.

But she didn't want to lie. Not again. So she did the only thing she could think of, and avoided the question. "Max is the only one I want, Maria. I can't imagine being with anyone else," she said softly.

Maria's gaze lost its mischievous spark. "Liz, I know it feels like that now-"

"Don't, okay?" Liz sighed. "I know you want to help, but I'm not ready to hear how the world is filled with other boys. How I'm going to be better off with a human," she added with a crooked smile. "Believe me, I've already heard it. My heart just won't accept it."

"Okay," she agreed. "You know I'm here for you, though, right?"

"Yeah, I do. Thanks, Maria." Liz shifted, suddenly aware of the cold dampness seeping through the thin cotton of her pajamas. "Let's get out of here," she suggested.

Maria yawned. "No arguments from me."

***

Isabel had chosen the booth Liz always thought of as Max's. How many afternoons had he spent sitting there, nursing a cherry Coke, his eyes trailing after her while he pretended to study? If someone's spirit could leave behind some sort of residual aura, then that booth would radiate Max Evans until the day the Crashdown was demolished.

Not that it seemed to be helping Isabel any. Liz stood on the opposite side of the café and watched as Max's sister tried to dream walk him across thousands of miles. Her eyes were closed in deep concentration and she pressed one hand to her forehead, as if that would intensify her abilities, but her frustration was obvious.

Suddenly Isabel sat up straight and smacked her hand against the table in front of her. "Damn it. It's not working. I can't reach him," she bit out.

"Yeah, but you've got to try again," Michael told her, surprising Liz with his calm demeanor.

"It won't do any good," Isabel said quietly. "He's not hearing me."

Liz wove through the tables that separated them. She refused to believe there was nothing they could do. "Okay, so what's plan B?" she asked.

"There isn't one," Isabel replied, an edge to her voice.

No one spoke for a minute. Liz was sure she could hear the pounding of her heart echoing through the empty restaurant. She shut her eyes, trying to force down the wave of panic that threatened to swamp her. Things were supposed to be better now, not worse. How could everything have spun so completely out of control? Max was supposed to work with Tess and Michael and Isabel to save the world. She had given him up because that was his destiny. He wasn't supposed to go to New York and get killed. Was this her fault? Had she done this? If she hadn't said anything about the Granilith, would Max have been safely on his way back to Roswell even now?

"Liz can do it."

Her eyes snapped open and she spun toward Ava. "What? What are you talking about?'

Ava had pulled a chair down from one of the table tops and was placing it in front of the booth, near Isabel. "Max brought you back from the dead," she stated baldly. "You've been changed."

Liz stared at her. "What do you mean by changed?"

Shaking her head, Ava took her by the shoulder and pushed her down into the chair. "Look, there isn't enough time to explain. You've got to trust me here. If Max brought you back, you're different now."

Both Isabel and Michael were staring at her. "Ava, how do you know this?" Isabel asked slowly. "And just what do you think Liz can do?"

"Never mind that," Ava insisted. "Do you want to save Max or not?"

"Just do what she says," Michael told them. "We can worry about the rest of it later."

Liz shook her head. "This is crazy."

"Like that's something new?" Michael cracked.

Isabel met Liz's gaze across the span of the table. "Liz, take my hand."

Suddenly Liz felt her eyes fill with tears. What the hell was wrong with her? The most important thing was saving Max. Why did it matter how they helped him? She looked down at Isabel's hand, then glanced at Michael and Ava.

"I don't know why, but I'm really scared to do this," she admitted. "You know, if you can't contact him, what makes you think I can?"

"I know my brother, and I know that if there's one voice that he will hear no matter where he is, no matter what he's doing, it's yours," Isabel said firmly. "Take my hand, Liz."

Taking a deep breath, Liz slipped her hand into Isabel's. She felt a fluttering of power as Isabel reached for a connection. It wasn't swift and effortless, like with Max, but Liz was still surprised by the jolt of energy that flowed up her arm and into her body. She watched Isabel's eyes drift shut, then allowed her own to close as well. The pads of her fingers pulsed in rhythm with the beat of her heart, a rapid staccato that sent blood rushing to her temples. She could hear Isabel calling to Max - not aloud - but deep inside of her, the urgency matching that of the emptiness within her own soul. Then she stopped paying attention to what she was feeling and concentrated on contacting Max. She pushed all of her doubts and fears aside, ignored the impossibility of succeeding, and simply thought of him. Her love for him. How he had always made her feel cherished and special. The way the world would fall away when he looked into her eyes.

The lights dimmed all around her and the air grew cold and damp. Muffled street noises accosted her from all sides - the harsh squeal of brakes, horns, sirens blaring - each sound distant and fuzzy, as if her ears were filled with cotton. She could smell exhaust from a truck backfiring, roasting chestnuts, the barest hint of snow. A dark city street came into focus, skyscrapers rising on either side, cars moving rapidly through the intersection just feet in front of her. She turned her head, hardly believing her eyes, and caught sight of Max as he strode down the sidewalk.

There was no time to marvel at her success. Already she could see Rath pulling Tess back, his hand clamped over her mouth, and Lonnie waving her hand purposefully, her sly gaze focused upward. One glance at the scaffolding above Max's head told Liz what she intended to do.

"Max!" Liz screamed, her voice shattering the dream-like quality of the scene.

He jerked his head in her direction, eyes wide. "Liz?"

She didn't stop to think, just frantically motioned him forward. "Move, come on!" she yelled.

Despite his obvious confusion, Max took a single step toward her, down into the street, just as the scaffolding crashed to the ground behind him. The sidewalk shook beneath her feet, the vibrations rippling outward until they extended to the entire street, and then everything went black.

Liz whipped her head back, eyes flying open. She was sitting in the Crashdown, squeezing Isabel's hand for all she was worth, her heart racing as if she had run all the way from New York.

"Are you okay?" Isabel asked, her dark eyes anxious.

"What happened?" Michael demanded. "Did it work?"

Liz nodded, bracing her free hand against the table as she tried to catch her breath. "I saw him," she whispered. "He… they were trying to kill him. Lonnie."

"Oh my God," Isabel murmured.

"You saved him," Ava stated calmly, nodding at Liz. "Told ya."

Liz stared at her for a moment. "Yeah, I did," she said quietly.

"How?" Michael asked, and Liz noticed his voice had lost its empirical tone.

"I'm not sure. I was just… there. I could see them walking down the street together. Max was in front and Lonnie tried to…" She shuddered. "She was using her powers to drop a section of scaffolding onto him. I called out and he moved out of the way in time."

"So he's all right?" Isabel asked.

"Yeah. I didn't see what happened afterwards, but at least now he knows what's going on," Liz replied.

Everyone sat in silence for several minutes. Finally Liz couldn't stand it anymore. "Okay then," she said. She got up and swung her chair back onto the adjoining table. "I don't know about you, but I'm beat. I didn't get much sleep last night. Just lock up when you leave, okay?"

"Liz, wait," Isabel called.

She paused, not bothering to turn. "What?" she asked, her voice sounding weary even to herself.

"I just… Thank you," Isabel said.

Liz swiveled on her heel. "I don't want anything to happen to him, either." She watched as Isabel and Michael traded looks. "Not that I'd expect either of you to understand that," she muttered under her breath. "Goodnight." Without another word, she pushed through the swinging door into the break room and stomped upstairs.

*****

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations - Part 2

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Thu May 22, 2003 12:38 pm

Hi guys!

I'm happy to see that you're enjoying this so far. A lot of you have made great observations, and as always I see the questions are starting to come. I'm just going to let the story answer them for you as it unfolds. ;) Because after all, what would be the fun of my just telling you?

Anyway, here's the next part. Er... don't hurt me, okay?

:)
Em

*********

Part 2

*********

"Liz? Liz?"

A hand waved in front of her face, and Liz jumped in her seat. She turned and found Max watching her, eyebrows raised expectantly. "What? Oh, sorry," she said, taking the small beaker he held out to her.

"Are you okay? You've been distracted for the whole lab," he whispered, as she continued with the next portion of the experiment.

"Just tired. I didn't sleep too well last night," she murmured.

"Too much caffeine before bed?" he teased.

Liz forced a smile. This was the first time Max had seemed half-way comfortable with her in more than a month. He had been civil all week - since his return from New York when they had agreed to give their friendship another try - but the strain of the effort had been like a dull veneer over his eyes every time he looked at her. For whatever reason, his mood seemed lighter today, more relaxed. She could only hope it would rub off on her.

"No, nothing like that," she replied, concentrating on the chemicals as she combined them. She caught her bottom lip between her teeth and watched as the liquid in the vial changed colors.

"What, then?"

"Um…" She glanced sideways and found him waiting patiently for her response. "Nightmares," she replied truthfully.

"Oh," he said, his eyes darkening in comprehension, his forehead furrowed in concern. "Do you want to talk about it? It might help."

Liz could tell there was nothing forced in his offer; he meant it. Max understood what it was like to face sleepless nights, tossing and turning, fearing the unknown of oblivion even as you craved it. She wondered what his dreams had been like after the white room, and if there had been anyone for him to talk to about the demons haunting his nights. Guilt surged from deep in her gut, as she remembered how she had run from him, leaving him to battle those fears without her. She had let him down in the worst possible way, yet here he was, offering his support despite the chasm that lay between them.

"Thanks," she said. "But I…" She let her gaze drop, then turned back to the experiment. The flame of the Bunsen burner flickered and danced beneath the beaker, making the contents bubble. A far safer sight than a pair of warm, sympathetic eyes. She watched for a moment, then turned down the gas. "I'm okay," she said finally, glancing back at Max.

He smiled and nodded, both gestures somehow unnatural. "Sure."

Liz jotted down a few quick notes on the experiment, and then they busied themselves with putting away the equipment. When the bell rang, Max shoved his notebook into his knapsack as he slid off his stool. "See ya," he said.

"Right," Liz replied, as he hurried out the door. She sighed and let her forehead drop onto the desk for a moment. It took a monumental effort to sit up again, but she managed. She packed her books slowly, and ended up the last student to leave the classroom.

***

By the time she got home, Liz's head was pounding. The last thing she wanted to do was work the closing shift at the Crashdown, but it was too late to get someone else to cover, so she dutifully changed into her uniform and dragged herself downstairs. She was just tying on her apron, debating whether or not she could swallow aspirin on an empty stomach, when Maria rushed in, letting the back door slam.

Liz winced as the sound ricocheted through her brain. "Please don't do that."

Maria raised an eyebrow. "Hangover?" she asked wryly as she stowed her bag in her locker.

"Not enough sleep. I feel like hell."

Eyes narrowing, Maria gave her a critical once over. "You look it, too. I thought you said things were better between you and Max?"

"They are," Liz sighed. "At least he's stopped glaring at me all the time."

"But you're still not sleeping well," Maria stated.

"I can't help it. I keep dreaming of that other future. Wondering if we really changed things." Liz leaned her head back against the lockers and closed her eyes.

"Liz, you can't keep worrying about this. You're turning into a nervous wreck."

A cool hand pressed against her forehead and Liz opened her eyes to find Maria frowning at her. "That feels good."

"I think you've got a fever. Does anything hurt?"

Liz rolled her eyes. "You sound like my mother."

Maria let out a snort. "You don't let your mother get this close. Seriously, Liz, I think you might be coming down with something. Your immune system is probably shot, between the stress of everything that's been going down and not sleeping."

"I have felt kind of weird all day," Liz admitted.

"Why don't you head on upstairs and climb into bed," Maria suggested.

"What about the dinner rush?"

"It's only Tuesday, I can handle it. Go. And take some chicken soup with you."

Liz would have laughed if she'd had the energy. "Okay. Thanks, Maria. You're the best."

"My middle name," she quipped.

Liz shoved her apron back into her locker, then wandered into the kitchen and ladled some soup into a take out container. Climbing back up to the apartment, she felt as if she was moving in slow motion. Her head was heavy and she was aware that her stomach seemed incredibly empty, as if it was trying to digest itself. Only then did she realize she hadn't eaten since breakfast.

"No wonder I'm lightheaded," she muttered.

She kicked off her sneakers and sat on the edge of her bed to eat her soup. It was hot and soothing going down her throat, and made her head feel better almost instantly. She ate most of it before setting the container on her nightstand and crawling under the covers. Now that her stomach was no longer clawing at her, and the throbbing in her temples had lessened, exhaustion took over. It was sheer bliss to close her eyes and let her head sink into her pillows. Her room was quiet, isolated from the clatter of the café and the traffic on the street below, and she let the silence lull her. Within minutes, she was asleep.

***

…I held Michael in my arms - dead. Isabel died two weeks before that. You have to do this, Liz. You have to find a way. All our lives depend on it.

Max moved toward her like a sleep walker, dry eyed, his expression blank with shock. Isabel hung loosely in his arms, her body a dead weight. Her long blonde hair had been hacked off close to the scalp, revealing partly healed wounds, and her face was horribly battered. When Max set her down - ever so gently, as if it still mattered - her limbs fell at odd angles to her torso, twisted and broken. He carefully adjusted her arms so her palms rested on her stomach, then gingerly straightened her legs, his clumsy fingers the single outward sign of his distress.

"Oh, God," Liz breathed, taking a step forward, only to stop when he shook his head.

He stood slowly. "I need to be alone for a while," he said hoarsely.

"Max, no," she whispered, catching the despair in his eyes - the self-recrimination. "This isn't your fault."

"Don't you understand? All of it's my fault. Everything."

But when he would have walked away, she threw herself against his back and wrapped her arms around his waist, pressing her face hard against the rigid line of his spine. "Max, you're just one man."

And he broke beneath her touch, falling to his knees, pulling her into his arms as the tears began to fall. He buried his face in her hair and howled like a broken animal. Liz held him while his body shuddered with a grief that refused to be contained, her own cheeks streaked with tears. Neither of them spoke. There weren't any words.

***

Liz jolted awake in the darkened room, stomach roiling. Her covers had tangled around her legs like so many snakes holding her captive, and she fought to free herself so she could stumble to the bathroom. She fell to her knees in front of the toilet mere seconds before she was violently ill. Even after losing her meager dinner, she continued to cough and dry heave, the phantom stench of death lingering in her nostrils and contributing to her nausea.

Once her stomach finally calmed, she stayed on the cold tile floor, her head resting against the porcelain bowl. She was trembling all over, unable to tell which had affected her more deeply - the flu or her nightmare. Grabbing a wad of toilet paper, she blotted the clammy sweat from her forehead and wiped her mouth, grimacing at the foul taste that coated her tongue. Her legs were wobbly, but she managed to pull herself to her feet, using the edge of the sink for support. After brushing her teeth and splashing cool water over her face, she began to feel slightly more human.

"No school for you tomorrow," she mumbled, staring at herself in the mirror. The thin face that peered back from her reflection seemed to belong to someone else. Her cheeks were hollow, her skin a sickly shade of gray, her eyes lackluster. "I've got to get a grip," she sighed.

Liz flipped off the bathroom light and staggered back to bed. She made a half-hearted attempt to tug the covers into some semblance of order, then lay down. Her stomach felt almost normal, and she relaxed slightly as she stared up at the shadows her bedside lamp threw over the ceiling. With any luck, all she had was some twenty-four hour bug, which would mean she was over the worst of it. She hated being sick - was impatient with anything that made her slow down or interrupted her routine - and tended to be a terrible patient. It was a good thing she was generally healthy, she thought, her eyes beginning to drift closed. Maria must have been right about her immune system being worn down from stress and fatigue. She really needed to take better care of herself.

A sudden thought had her eyes flying open and her empty stomach clenching painfully. Liz dragged herself out of bed and over to her desk. She fumbled through her books until she found her planner, then flipped quickly through the pages, nearly tearing them in her haste. Running a finger over each page, she scanned through the month of October, then slowed as she reached November.

"No, no, no," she murmured, turning the pages until she hit the current week - the first in December. "I just forgot. I never marked it," she told herself, closing her eyes and thinking back through the events of the past two months.

She clearly recalled having her period in the middle of October, just where it was marked in the calendar. But after that things had gotten so crazy. There had been the night of Isabel's surprise party, when Congresswoman Whitaker kidnapped Tess. Then Future Max, of course. Ignoring that, she quickly moved on to the trip to Copper Summit, and then the weekend the Skins had invaded Roswell and made all of the humans disappear. Frowning, she gazed back down at the calendar and started counting. She should have gotten her period just after that, but she couldn't remember having it. If that was true then she was now… three full weeks late.

Liz's knees gave out and she sat abruptly at her desk, staring out the window. It just wasn't possible. She had to be mistaken. After all, she had been late before when she was under a great deal of stress, and if these last few weeks didn't qualify, she didn't know what did. That was all this was: stress and nightmares and insomnia - nothing more. The universe just could not be that cruel.

***

With the help of a slice of dry toast and some carefully applied make up, Liz made it to school the next morning, despite Maria's scowling admonishments. When her free period rolled around, she snuck out to the student parking lot and borrowed the Jetta, using the spare key Maria always left stashed in her locker. Driving across town to the big chain drugstore that had opened over the summer, Liz prayed that her friend wouldn't need anything from the car before she got back.

The rest of the school day dragged. Liz could barely concentrate on her classes, all too conscious of the box buried at the bottom of her backpack. By the time she got home, she was running on nerves alone. Half of her was swimming in deep denial, certain that everything would be fine, while the rest of her remained eerily calm and rational about the entire situation, as if it was happening to someone else. The voice of logic kept whispering in her ear, insisting there was no escape from basic biology and that fighting it was only putting off the inevitable.

She waited a full five minutes over the time it said in the instructions, telling herself that she wanted to be sure of the results. In reality, she couldn't seem to make herself go into the bathroom to look. When she finally went in and stared down at the indicator sitting on the counter, the colorful little plus sign took her by surprise. It didn't matter that she'd known, deep down, that the test would be positive. Somehow she had still expected to get a lucky break - that this would prove to be one of those close calls that gives you a really good scare and teaches you never to be so careless ever again. Apparently, she was wrong.

Liz left the pregnancy test in the bathroom and went back into her room, somewhat dazed. She was seventeen years old, a junior in high school, and she was going to have a baby. What's more, the alien father of her child no longer existed. Not technically, at least. He hadn't left the country or died, either. Oh no. Nothing so easily explained. Instead, he had vanished - had literally evaporated from her bed moments after impregnating her.

Suddenly the entire situation was utterly absurd. What the hell was she going to do? What was she going to tell people? God, what would she say to her parents? Just the thought of coming up with some sort of logical story was exhausting.

And Max… Max would think the baby was Kyle's. Liz tried to imagine how he would react, and found she couldn't. Nothing in any stage of their relationship had prepared her for something like this. It went beyond any of the bizarre alien occurrences they had faced to date, and this time she was going to have to deal with it entirely on her own.

…it's not just Max that's the problem here. You are. You're not letting yourself change…

The words floated through her mind, and Liz sat down on the edge of her bed, a chill running down her spine. She had changed. And she would continue to change for the next eight months, or however long a half-alien pregnancy took. Pressing the palm of one hand against her still-flat stomach, she tried to imagine herself swelled to accommodate a baby. Somehow, she suspected that wasn't quite what Future Max had meant.

Lying back on the bed, drawing her knees up into her chest, Liz started to laugh.

******

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations - Part 3

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Mon May 26, 2003 11:03 am

Hi everyone! I hope you've all recovered from part two, because I'm back with an update for you. I realize you've all got tons of questions, and that this scenario really does invite them, but you'll just have to wait and see. I think it's safe for me to say that Liz has a long road ahead of her. ;)

Anyway, here you go. Enjoy!

:)
Em

******

Part 3

******

Liz marveled at what you could block out if you tried hard enough. Or better yet, if you were sufficiently distracted by the things going on around you. After all, the world didn't stop simply because your life was coming apart at the seams.

She got up every day and went to school, worked in the café, did her homework. Her morning sickness continued, but she learned to forestall the worst of the symptoms by carrying little packets of crackers with her everywhere and shoving one in her mouth at the first sign of nausea. Whenever Maria stopped fighting with Michael long enough to check in, Liz would assure her she was fine, then tell herself she wasn't really lying because everything was fine as long as she didn't think too much.

The distractions only multiplied as the holidays grew closer. Liz watched, amazed, as her friends slowly began to lose their minds. Isabel's obsession with all things Christmas had suddenly skyrocketed this year. Her trips into the Crashdown reminded Liz of those old Tasmanian Devil cartoons, only with tinsel and red velvet instead of dust and smoke. Maria wasn't much better, constantly lecturing Michael about the merits of the perfect present and then torturing him with her visits to Brody Davis. The day she had started muttering about being there for Brody and his daughter, Liz thought she had finally lost a vital screw.

But Max had surpassed them all, actually scaring Liz with his talk of being haunted. She had known it was serious when he showed up at the café, telling her he needed a friend. They had fallen into a very deliberate pattern over the past weeks, never discussing anything too important or involved, and thereby maintaining the delicate spider web of their newly resurrected friendship. For him to set aside those unspoken rules and open up to her was a measure of how rattled he was. She had never seen Max unhinged, not even in the middle of the direst circumstances, and any thoughts of her own predicament had disintegrated in the face of his plea for help.

Now, walking through the quiet streets on her way to mass, she wondered if she had done the right thing by helping Max the way she had. When she'd told him about Sydney's cancer, her only thought had been to enable him to alleviate his guilt over letting that man die. It seemed an even trade - just enough to balance the scales in Max's mind without sending the cosmic forces out of whack. She had never imagined he would heal all those other children. Part of her loved him even more for what he had done. She knew in that moment at the hospital, Max's only thought had been to help those kids, end their suffering, simply because he could. And why shouldn't he use his gifts for good? What more noble gesture could there be, particularly at this time of year.

But the more she considered the situation, the more frightened Liz became. Everything seemed to get back to the idea of playing with the natural order of things. She and Max had changed time, altered history. It was supposed to be just one thing - putting an end to their relationship so that Max would be with Tess - but it had led to endless other events that might never have occurred. Her own weakness that last night with Future Max had created a child that never should have been; Max had gone to the summit in New York, and now he had saved a ward-full of children who most likely would have died. What kind of repercussions should they expect? How could she not have thought about all the consequences that would ripple out from a single well-intentioned action?

The soft sound of Christmas carols drifted through the air, and Liz let it soothe her as she made her way across the park. She was glad her parents had decided to stay home this year. Something about being here on her own felt right. She had never been particularly religious, but she could not claim utter disbelief the way Max did. In fact, she suspected even he believed in a great deal more than he knew. Every time he helped someone - healed them - he showed the very love and faith that kept the world turning. She understood that being who he was would always leave him with doubts about the existence of God, but in her mind that didn't rule out a higher power. If the last year had taught her anything at all, it was none of them were simply wandering around in random patterns without any purpose.

Walking into the seating area near the bandstand, Liz found many of the chairs already filled. Maria sat with her mother and Michael, and Liz smiled in their direction as she filed into a partly empty aisle. She realized too late that Max's parents were at the far end, along with Isabel. Mrs. Evans was already waving in her direction, indicating that she should join them. Liz waved back, then shook her head and left several seats between them, as if allowing room for her own parents.

There was a decided chill to the air, a crispness that reminded Liz that winter had truly arrived. It always came so suddenly, with Christmas and New Year's hard on its heels. She frowned, thinking about the decisions that lay ahead. This year would give a whole new spin to the concept of resolutions. Just one more week, and then she had to start facing reality. The idea made her shudder.

Someone sank down in the empty seat next to her, and Liz looked up into Max's smiling face. She gaped at him, not certain he was real. He laughed quietly and took her mittened hand between his own bare ones. In his black leather coat and knit sweater, his dark hair tousled by the light wind, she reflected that he had never looked more handsome.

"I thought you didn't believe in God?" she said, blurting out the first thing that came to mind.

Max leaned in slightly, his gaze holding hers. "I believe in you," he murmured in reply.

Liz smiled. She couldn't help it. His mood was contagious. One night, she thought. I deserve one Christmas miracle, if nothing else.

They turned their attention toward the choir, and Liz let her arm brush against Max's. He kept hold of her hand for the remainder of the service, even when a light snow began to fall. When the singing ended, and the park lights were extinguished in favor of candles, he still held her hand. And when the minister gave the sermon, Max kept their hands linked as they stood and sat and knelt with everyone else.

"Can I walk you home?" Max asked. It was just past midnight, and people were still lingering, wishing each other a merry Christmas and enjoying the snow.

Liz hesitated, then nodded. "Thanks."

Max glanced toward his parents, who seemed to understand, then tucked Liz's hand through the crook of his arm. "All set."

They walked slowly along the sidewalk, bathed in the glow of the lights that decorated the store fronts. A few people passed them, smiling in greeting, but the town was mostly quiet. Neither of them spoke, but for once their silence was comfortable with nothing hanging between them demanding an answer. The questions were still there - Liz knew Max hadn't let go entirely - but they went unasked. She refused to allow herself to dwell on it, instead concentrating on the way her breath froze in the air, and the contrasting warmth that swirled deep inside of her.

"Here we are," Max said as they reached the Crashdown. His gaze drifted up to the darkened second floor. "I guess your parents are asleep."

"They both worked today, so they wanted to turn in early."

"To be rested when you drag them out of bed at dawn to open presents?"

Liz laughed. "That hasn't happened since I was six," she informed him.

"Well, Isabel's still pretty much a stickler for tradition."

"Oh, so I guess you'd better go then," she said. "I'm glad you came tonight."

He ducked his head briefly, then looked into her eyes. "Me too," he said softly. "Thank you, Liz."

Her mouth went dry. "You… you don't have to thank me for anything, Max." She watched something flicker through his gaze - denial? determination? - and suddenly she knew he was going to try to kiss her. She caught her bottom lip in her teeth, and his eyes dropped to follow her movements. But before he could lean toward her, she took a quick step back. His eyes darted to hers again, this time tinged with hurt.

"Merry Christmas," she said, as gently as she could, forcing herself to smile.

He smiled back, his expression softening into something more resigned, accepting, his eyes still shadowed. Her heart squeezed painfully. "Merry Christmas, Liz."

Max stood on the sidewalk while she let herself into the café. When she turned to wave goodbye, she saw he was already walking back in the direction of the park.

***

The day after Christmas, Liz dressed for work and headed down to the café, only to find Maria standing at the foot of the stairs, blocking the entrance to the back room. Her green eyes bore into Liz as she slowed her decent, and her expression was nothing if not determined.

"Maria?" Liz asked hesitantly, coming to a stop one step from the bottom, the added height allowing her to meet her best friend's gaze. "What's up?"

"That's what I'd like to know," Maria replied. "What is going on with you?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Oh, no," Maria said, shaking her head. "Don't even try it. I have known you like forever, and you are hiding something from me. You've been distant for weeks, daydreaming at work, jumping when anyone comes up on you unexpectedly," she continued, ticking her points off on her fingers. "Plus you've been sick more this month than in like the last two years. So out with it, Liz. Spill."

Liz tilted her head and gave Maria her most effective annoyed glare. Maria, however, refused to budge an inch, apparently unimpressed. Knowing she was cornered, Liz sighed and sat down on the stairs. "I really can't talk about it."

"No way. You're not pulling that one again. Last time you couldn't talk about it, you were getting visits from the future," Maria hissed.

"Fine. Yes, there's something going on," Liz admitted wearily.

"I knew it. So?"

"Maria, I promise I'll explain everything, just not right now, and definitely not here," she said, nodding toward the café. "No one else can find out about this."

"There's a surprise," Maria said, rolling her eyes. "Upstairs. Now."

"We have to work," Liz pointed out.

"You cannot possibly expect me to wait until closing to find out what this is all about," Maria said. "We have ten minutes before our shift. Give me the abridged version." Already she was tugging at Liz's arm, urging her up from her seat on the steps.

"Okay, okay," Liz groaned, rising to her feet. As they climbed the stairs and headed down the hall toward her room, she wondered exactly what the abridged version might be. She could barely imagine relating the story straight through, never mind editing it for time.

"You'd better sit," she told Maria as she closed her bedroom door and threw the lock.

Maria followed Liz's actions wordlessly, then obediently dropped onto the edge of the bed. "This is serious, isn't it?" she asked. "Lizzie, you know I'm here for you."

Liz nodded as she sat next to her. "Okay," she began, exhaling slowly. "This is going to sound… bizarre," she said, suddenly realizing just how insane her situation was.

"I've gotten used to bizarre, Liz. I can deal. I just don't like it when I see you trying to handle stuff all on your own."

"I know, and I'm sorry. I meant to tell you, I just didn't know how."

"Well, just tell me now, okay? I'm listening."

"Right. So, I guess the easiest thing is to just say it, then." She glanced nervously at Maria. "Try not to freak out on me."

"Liz, this can't be worse than dating aliens. What is it already?"

Liz took a deep breath. "I'm pregnant."

Maria blinked. "You're pregnant," she repeated, as if she were waiting for the rest of the sentence. When Liz merely nodded, she began to frown, her brow furrowing in slow motion. "Liz, how the hell can you be…? I mean, you need to…" Her eyes grew wide. "Oh my God. Please tell me this is not Kyle Valenti's baby, Liz. You told me you didn't really sleep with him!"

"Shh!" Liz admonished. "No, it's not Kyle's. I told you, we never did anything."

"I know, but Liz, you can't claim to be a virgin one minute and then hit me with something like this the next. Obviously you had sex with someone," she snapped. "Unless you're trying to convince me this is some sort of alien version of the immaculate conception."

"Maria! Would you just let me finish?"

"Okay, yeah. I'm sorry," Maria said, losing some of the edge to her voice. "Go ahead. Tell me how this happened."

"All right," Liz said. "I didn't lie when I said I never slept with Kyle. Or when I told you I only wanted to be with Max."

"You and Max slept together? When? I thought you had to stay apart?"

"Maria," Liz warned. "Yes, Max and I made love, but it wasn't this Max," she said. "That night - after I'd pretended to be with Kyle, and Max looked so utterly destroyed - I slept with the Max who came back from the future."

"Oh, Liz," Maria whispered, and Liz could tell from her tone of voice and the sympathy clearly shining in her eyes that she understood. Still, she felt the need to explain.

"I know it was a mistake. I just-it was Max, Maria. It didn't matter that he was older and had lived this whole other lifetime that I'll never see. In his heart, in his eyes, he was still the same as my Max. I could feel his love for me - not just the future me, but me. He remembered everything from the past few months after I got back from Florida, trying to win me back, eventually succeeding. Every time he looked at me, that's what he saw. The girl he loved," she whispered. "I stopped being able to completely separate him from present day Max. The emotions were the same. He was the same."

"So you slept with him."

"I wanted that night. I was supposed to have had it with my Max," she whimpered, the enormity of all she had lost suddenly crashing down on her. "Maria, I gave him up, gave him over to his destiny. Not just to save the world, but to save him. All I wanted was a single night, something to hold onto when I'm alone," she sniffed, fighting to keep her tears from falling. "Future Max was going to vanish, cease to exist. It was just supposed to be me, now, dealing with my feelings and no one else to blame if I regretted my actions. There wasn't supposed to be a baby."

"I'm guessing you didn't think about using birth control," Maria ventured quietly.

"I didn't have anything," Liz muttered. "But even if I had, why would I need it? Future Max said he would just disappear once we'd altered the future sufficiently. How was I to know that not all of him would evaporate?" she said wryly.

"Liz, what are we going to do?"

She let out a shuddering breath. "I don't know. I really don't."

"I hate to point this out, babe, but we're talking alien pregnancy here," Maria said, a note of apprehension in her voice. "Don't you think maybe it's time you told Max the truth?"

"No," Liz said firmly. "Maria, swear to me you won't say anything to him. This is my problem. He has nothing to do with it."

"Nothing to do with it? Liz, technically that's still his child. Just because he didn't have any fun in the getting, doesn't mean he won't be linked to the baby genetically. How can you not tell him?"

"This doesn't change anything, Maria. Max isn't this baby's father. That man no longer exists. I need to do this on my own, and leave Max to his destiny. Otherwise what was the point of the last six months?" she demanded.

"He's going to find out eventually."

"That I'm pregnant, yes. But not the rest of it. I don't know how he'll react, and I can't risk jeopardizing the future. Max can't know the truth. We're talking about the fate of the world. Promise me you'll keep quiet."

"Okay, all right, I won't tell him. But what if there are complications? This could be dangerous, Liz. Like, worse than glowing hickeys kind of dangerous."

"If things get weird, I'll go to Isabel. I think she'll agree to keep quiet if she understands the potential ramifications."

Maria's gaze dropped to her waist. "So how far along are you?"

"Around eight weeks." She looked down at her flat stomach. "It's too early to show. With any luck, I won't for a while."

"And when you do?"

"I'll figure something out. I just want to buy as much time as possible before I have to start making decisions."

"Lizzie! You up there?"

Both girls jumped to their feet at the sound of Mr. Parker calling from the stairs. "Damn," Liz said, glancing at the clock. "We're late," she said, quickly brushing at her cheeks to get rid of the lingering tears. "Coming, Dad!" she yelled back.

"What are you going to say to your parents?" Maria asked.

Liz hesitated, her hand on the door knob. "Nothing for the time being." She didn't want to think about how disappointed her parents were going to be, or how angry. Plus there was the little matter of the identity of her baby's father; there was just no easy answer to that question.

"Whatever you decide, I'm behind you. Just tell me what you need."

"Thanks, Maria," Liz said, pulling her friend into a hug. "I'm afraid I'm going to be taking you up on that."

*******

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
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Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations - Part 4

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Thu May 29, 2003 2:47 pm

Hey there! Thanks to everyone for the great feedback. I'm finding the different points of view fascinating, particularly the fact that the general consensus seems to be that Liz should tell Max about the baby - and that it's definitely his. Pretty interesting, since the poor guy has yet to have sex with anyone. ;) Anyway, needless to say, answers are forthcoming, but it might take a while.

This next part was the devil to write, and I owe much thanks to the wonderful Blanca for her comments and for putting up with my muse, who has been very vocal about this story and driving her crazy daily.

Without further ado...

:)
Em

******

Part 4

******

Liz sipped her soda absently as she stared at the sheet of paper spread on her lap. It looked the same as it had the night before, and, much like her pregnancy test a month earlier, it was unlikely to alter under her watchful, wishful gaze. That didn't mean there was nothing she could do about it, but her choices were limited and none of them particularly appealing.

The door to the café swung open and Maria appeared, antennae bobbing. "There you are. What are you doing taking a break now? Our shift ends in less than half an hour."

Glancing up, Liz braced herself for Maria's inevitable reaction. "I'm working a double."

"You're what? Why?" Maria swept into the room and flopped down next to her. One eye on the kitchen, she leaned in close so she wouldn't be overheard. "Liz, you need to take better care of yourself. You're pregnant. It's not healthy for you to run yourself into the ground like this."

"Karen's in-laws showed up this morning out of the blue, so I said I'd cover for her. It's no big deal. Besides, I'm fine. I've been sleeping a lot better the last couple of weeks."

"Does that mean the nightmares have stopped?" Maria asked, glaring at her.

Liz let her head fall back and shut her eyes. "No."

"I didn't think so. Let Karen find someone else to fill in."

"Maria, the shift change is in twenty minutes," Liz said, rolling her head to the side and giving her a pointed look.

"Fine. Then I'll do it."

"You have plans with Michael."

"Please. Getting ignored while he shouts at the hockey game on TV, then making out during the commercials? I think I can bear the sacrifice," she said.

"It's not just that," Liz sighed. "Here." She handed her the paper she'd been studying.

Maria smoothed the sheet across her knee and quickly scanned it. "Your bank statement." She looked up. "I don't get it."

"The balance," Liz told her, jabbing a finger at the bottom of the page. "I've been working since I was fourteen years old, and that's all I have to show for it."

"All? Liz, there's nearly three thousand dollars here. Plus, doesn't your dad still put half of your earnings into your college account?"

"Yeah, he does, but that's not the point." She dropped her voice to a whisper. "Babies cost a lot of money, Maria. Right now I'm not in a position to support myself, let alone a child, too."

"Liz, babe, it's not going to come to that. Your parents would never turn their backs on you. You know that."

"Do I?" she asked, not feeling so sure. "Maybe you're right," she relented, when she realized Maria was gearing up to argue. "But what if you're not? I need to be prepared for anything. This is my responsibility."

"Okay, I hear you. Just promise me you'll be careful, all right? No amount of money is worth making yourself sick."

"I'll take it easy," Liz said. "Besides, soon I'll be too fat to work one shift, never mind two."

"I don't think you need to worry about that for a while yet." The persistent ringing of a bell from the dining area caused her to groan. "That's probably my order. I better get back in there."

"Maria, don't forget your promise. No telling anyone. Not even Michael," Liz said, glancing toward the kitchen.

"Relax, chica. Spit's about the only thing I share with Spaceboy these days."

Liz wrinkled her nose. "Thank you very much for the visual."

"Any time."

The kitchen door flung open and Michael stuck his head into the break room. "Are you two working here, or what? I've got food backing up on the counter," he growled.

"Coming," Maria said, waving him away. "Charming to the last," she muttered.

"My break's over, anyway. Table five is probably waiting for their check." She folded her bank statement and shoved it into the pocket of her apron. "Let's go."

***

It was nearly ten o'clock by the time the last customers paid and Liz was able to lock up. She turned the sign in the door so the closed side faced out, lowered the blinds in both of the front windows, and began to count out the cash drawer. It felt wonderful to sit down for a few minutes, her tired feet tingling as she propped them under the counter. Arching her back, she let out a soft groan when her spine cracked in response.

Once the money was locked in the safe, Liz began to methodically turn the chairs up onto the tables in preparation for mopping the floors. It was her least favorite part of working the closing shift, and after a sixteen-hour day it seemed akin to torture. Not for the first time she wished for a few alien powers of her own, so she could simply wave a hand and make the floor sparkle. She supposed at the rate things were going, it might actually happen one day, but she wasn't anxious to try. With her luck, she'd end up burning down the café.

"Kitchen's done, Liz," José called from the back. "You need anything else?"

"No, thanks," she yelled. "See you tomorrow."

The cook waved from the pass through and a minute later she heard the sound of the back door closing. Sighing, went to throw the bolt, then headed into the kitchen and grabbed the cleaning supplies.

Liz was just starting to wet down the floor when a soft tap came at the front door. When she looked up, she found Max peering at her through the darkness. It had been a while since he had appeared this way at closing time, but somehow she wasn't particularly surprised to see him.

She turned the latch and opened the door a crack. "What's up?"

Max glanced past her into the café before meeting her eyes. "Hey. Can I come in a minute?"

"It's late, Max, and I'm really tired."

"Just for a minute," he repeated. "Please? I'll help you clean up."

Liz's back throbbed and she could feel the beginning of a headache threatening behind her eyes. "You don't mind?"

"All you have to do is sit," he told her with a small smile. "And listen. Maybe advise a little?"

"I think I can handle that," she agreed, stepping back to let him pass.

She settled into a booth and tucked her legs up under her so her feet were out of his way, wincing when her back protested again. Max had already wrung out the mop and was swiping down the tiles in efficient strokes by the time she realized what he was doing. She let out a snort of laughter.

"What?" he asked, glancing over. "Am I doing it wrong?"

"No," she said, shaking her head and trying to control her grin. "I just figured you'd, you know." She waved a hand to demonstrate.

"I'm perfectly capable of doing this the old fashioned way," he remarked. "Besides, it'll give me time to talk to you."

His tone was serious, and suddenly Liz felt less like laughing. "What about?"

Max sighed and went back to mopping. "It's Isabel," he admitted.

"Isabel?" Of all the topics he might have brought up, that was the last one Liz had expected.

"Yeah. I don't know what to do about this whole Grant Sorensen thing," he continued, frowning down at the wet floor.

"That guy who showed up at her birthday? The one who dug up Pierce's bones?"

"Right. He's been calling her again. I think they even had a date planned for tonight, but then she cancelled for some reason."

"Okay," she said slowly. She wasn't sure precisely where Max was going with the conversation, though she could guess. She resisted the urge to reach out and throttle him. Didn't he have enough to worry about without interfering in his sister's social life?

"I know Mom talked to her about Sorensen, but clearly she didn't get through to her. And Iz sure wasn't listening to me or Michael. We're just getting back on speaking terms after the whole Vilandra debacle," he muttered. He had stopped cleaning the floor and was gesturing with the mop. "I don't want to jeopardize that, but I can't just sit by and not say anything to her."

"Why not?"

Max jerked his head up. "What do you mean?"

Liz took a deep breath, recognizing that he was trying hard to do what was right. "Max, what exactly has you so concerned about Grant? Did he say or do something that makes you think he's a threat?"

"I-no," he admitted. "Not really."

"So, other than the fact that he's older, and a stranger, you don't really have a problem with him."

"Isn't that enough? He's at least thirty, Liz!"

"And Isabel is eighteen," she replied, trying to block out the image of a thirty-something Max that flashed through her mind. "She's an adult, not a little kid. You can't tell her who she can and cannot see. I know it's hard, but you have to trust her," she continued gently. "I mean, you know Isabel. She's dated before and it's never been an issue." Not like with us, she added silently, somehow suspecting the comparison had already come up.

Max stared at her a minute, then nodded reluctantly. "You're right. I just…"

"Feel like you need to take care of everyone," she finished for him.

He shrugged, looking sheepish. "Thanks."

"I didn't tell you anything you didn't already know."

"Maybe not, but it sounds a lot more reasonable coming out of your mouth."

"Voice of reason. That's me," she said, unfolding her legs and standing stiffly. "And now I'm going to kick you out," she declared. "I'm exhausted."

"I'm sorry," he said. "Let me just finish up with this."

"It's fine," she said, walking toward him, her hand held out for the mop. "I can-" Suddenly she was hit by a fierce wave of dizziness, the world tilting as her feet flew out from beneath her.

"Liz!" Max cried, dropping the mop and grabbing for her. He caught her as she fell, pulling her securely against him. "Are you okay?"

For some reason the room was still spinning around her. And why did Max sound like he was miles away? "I don't know," she murmured. "I'm all light headed."

"Come on," he said, slipping an arm beneath her knees. He carried her into the back room and set her on the sofa. "Stay there. I'll get you something to drink." A moment later he was shoving a glass of juice into her hand. "Did you eat dinner?" he asked worriedly.

Liz tried to nod, and ended up dribbling juice down the front of her uniform. She felt a gentle hand cup her cheek, holding her still as she finished drinking. Then Max took the glass from her unresisting fingers and set it aside. He knelt in front of the couch, his eyes boring into her. "Liz?"

"I'm better. The juice helped," she said. And it had. Her head felt like it had been planted back on her shoulders where it belonged. "I ate, but it was a long time ago," she added. "And I worked a double shift."

"A double? Why didn't you tell me? I never would have come in."

She shrugged. "You said you'd mop. How could I resist?"

He frowned. "And that's it? Nothing else is wrong?"

"I'm fine," she insisted. She could practically see the gears turning inside his head.

"You've been tired a lot lately," he pointed out, eyes narrowing. "And you're really pale. Are you still having nightmares?" he asked softly.

Liz felt a jolt of surprise, shocked that he remembered. But then why was she? He was Max, after all. "Stop," she said. "I'm okay."

He reached out and brushed her hair from her face, knocking her antennae off in the process. His gaze was still assessing, concerned. "Let me check you out," he said, already cupping her face between his palms. "Just to make sure."

"Max, no," she whispered, closing her eyes to keep him from forming a connection. She couldn't let him in, couldn't let him see. Too many secrets, too much to hide.

He sighed and she felt his breath ruffle gently over her face. "If you're sure," he relented, his hands coasting down over her neck, then her shoulders, and finally coming to rest on her arms, his gentle touch causing her to shiver.

"I'm sure," she said.

She opened her eyes again and instantly realized her mistake. The moment their gazes met, she saw Max's pupils dilate rapidly. "No," she cried, shutting her eyes again and wrenching out of his grasp.

Max knelt frozen on the floor before her. She could tell without looking that he hadn't moved an inch. His breathing sounded harsh and erratic in the quiet of the break room, and she found she was afraid to look at him - not because he might trick her again, but because of what she might see.

Liz shifted into the corner of the couch and pulled her legs up beneath her, then finally risked a glance at Max. He was pale, but his expression was completely blank, his eyes devoid of any emotion. At first she thought he was in shock, simply staring unseeing in her direction. But then she realized he was gazing at her stomach.

"Max?"

"Tell me I didn't see what I think I saw," he whispered hoarsely. "Tell me you're not pregnant."

She swallowed hard, but the lump in her throat refused to be moved. "I can't."

Another long pause. "Does anyone know?"

"Just Maria."

He nodded slowly, his eyes still pinned to her waist. "When are you going to tell him?"

"Who?"

Max's cheek twitched, as if he had developed a tick. "Kyle."

Liz suddenly felt light headed again. He thought Kyle was the father. Just what had he seen in their brief connection? Clearly he knew about the baby, but it seemed as if he'd gleaned nothing about Future Max.

"When?" he asked again, his voice strained.

"Max, I-"

"I can't believe he did this to you," he growled. His hands clenched, giving off a soft, green glow, and a vein was beginning to pulse at his temple. "What the hell was he thinking?"

"Max, stop, it's not his!"

His eyes flew to hers, wide and wild. "What?"

Liz felt all the air rush out of her lungs. If she thought Max had seemed shocked before, it was nothing compared to his present expression. "I…" Her voice was so soft she could barely hear it herself. She cleared her throat and sat a little straighter. "I said, it's not Kyle's baby. He's not the father."

Max stared at her for a long minute, his pale face immobile. She watched as her words gradually registered, could see the pain deep within his gaze, recognized the flicker of something new there that she could only label as disgust. Her heart beat so rapidly she feared she really would pass out this time, but she continued to hold her ground, forcing herself to witness his final and complete disillusionment. It was killing her, just as surely as she knew it was killing him, but she had no choice. The way Max had been ranting - and glowing - she couldn't allow him to go on believing Kyle was at fault; he might very well have gone after him, and Kyle had done nothing to deserve that. Better for Max to believe she was a slut, for him to give up on her completely. In the end, he would move on. And so, somehow, would she. It was for the best.

"You're lying," he said finally, his voice like gravel.

"What?" That wasn't the reaction she had anticipated.

"You're trying to protect him."

"Max, I'm not-"

"You really expect me to believe that you slept with Kyle and then turned around and slept with someone else - without protection, no less - and that this mystery man got you pregnant?" he demanded, his voice rising. "Liz, I know you. You'd never do that, you just wouldn't. It's impossible."

"I'm telling you the truth," she insisted. "Kyle isn't the father."

"Then who is?" he shot out, leaning forward. He had closed in on her, and suddenly she was trapped between the corner of the couch and his angry eyes. "Who is he, and where the hell did he come from all of a sudden?"

"I-Max, please don't do this," she begged softly, trying to disappear into the cushion behind her. She couldn't stand to lie to him again, but she was too afraid to tell him the truth. That other future still haunted her dreams, the images so fresh and real that they stole her breath away. She couldn't risk telling Max everything; too many lives were on the line, including his.

"Don't do what? Ask a question? Expect an answer? Give a damn?" he snarled. "That's the real question, isn't it, Liz? Just why do I still care, and why does it matter so little to you?" He began to deflate, the fight draining out of him. "No one changes this fast, Liz. No one," he whispered.

It was like Copper Summit all over again - or the day he had returned from New York. Max was virtually pleading with her to tell him that she was still the same sweet girl whose life he'd saved that day in the Crashdown, all those months ago. And Liz wished with all her heart that she could do that for him, but she couldn't. The truth was, that girl had died anyway. She no longer existed. And neither did the Max who had saved her.

"I'm sorry," she said. Sorry I can't be that girl for you, that we'll never have our wedding dance, that I've broken your heart yet again. More sorry than you'll ever know.

"So am I," he replied, shaking his head. He was no longer looking at her, and Liz wondered if he even could. His breathing was ragged and he seemed to be pulling himself together by an act of sheer will. "Are you still dizzy?"

The abrupt about face threw her for a second. "Oh, um, no. I'm all right, now," she said softly. "Thanks."

"Good." He stood up, still avoiding her gaze. "It's late, so I'd better…" He jerked a thumb toward the exit.

"Yeah, okay," she said.

Max headed toward the door, his movements stiff as if he were in physical pain. He paused before going into the café, his back still to Liz. "You should tell him," he said. Without waiting for an answer, he exited the break room. A moment later, Liz heard the chimes ring out from above the front door.

"I wish I could," she whispered into the silence.

******

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
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Revelations - Part 5

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Mon Jun 02, 2003 12:40 pm

Thank you all for the wonderful feedback. I'm glad everyone's getting into this, and again, the different view points are fascinating.

Okay, here's the next part. Just a quick note: up until now, everything I've posted was written quite a bit in advance, but now I'm catching up and will have to start writing as I go. The muse is willing so far, but I just wanted you to know in case I'm unable to post quite so frequently. I'll do my best to stick to twice a week, but life happens.

:)
Em

******

Part 5

******

…supposed to be breaking up with him, not kissing him.

You kissed me… I mean, he kissed me.

You're only making me love you more…


"I never thought it was possible to love you more, but I do. Every day when I wake up with you in my arms," Max murmured. Warm lips punctuated his words as he trailed feather-light kisses along the line of her jaw.

Liz smiled and snuggled into his embrace, relishing the feel of his bare chest beneath her cheek. "We'll be late for work if you keep that up," she warned half-heartedly, already arching into the palm that smoothed down her back.

"And since when did that stop us?" he teased.

"Never," she admitted, shifting over him so she could give him a proper kiss. She sank her fingers into his hair, ruffling it back off his face. "You need a trim," she informed him, just before lowering her mouth to his.

"Mmm. I know," he replied between kisses. "Maybe tomorrow."

The phone rang, shattering the early morning peace. Liz groaned and rolled off of Max. "We need to start unplugging that," she told him as he reached to answer it.

The bed tilted and abruptly Liz found herself kneeling in front of what had once been the Crashdown, Max's arms around her as she sobbed. The supporting walls to the right and rear of the building were the only things still standing; everything else had been gutted by the explosion and ensuing fire. Bricks and plaster had been thrown as far as the hardware store down the block. All along the street, windows were broken, cars smashed by debris. Even now, flames licked at the store adjoining the café, the fire fighters still struggling to control the blaze. Somewhere amid the destruction, a beam shifted and crashed noisily to the ground, prompting a loud cry from the onlookers. It looked like a war zone.

Sheriff Valenti stood beside them, awaiting word from the rescue team that had been sent into the café to check for any injured. "Max," he said, his voice low, "we won't know until the arson team's been through the scene, but I don't like the look of this."

"Me neither," he agreed, his arms tightening around Liz as he spoke.

The roar of a motorcycle cut through the din. "Lizzie!" Maria climbed off the back of Michael's bike almost before he had stopped, and pushed swiftly through the crowd.

Liz jerked herself from Max's embrace and into Maria's waiting arms. "Oh, God, I'm so glad you weren't working," she cried.

"Who was here?" Maria asked. "Your parents?"

"Both inside," Liz choked out.

"No," Maria whispered. "Oh, Liz."

"We don't know anything yet," Max insisted, though it was clear from the condition of the building that they were hoping for a miracle.

Michael joined them as the rescue team began emerging from the smoldering shell of the Crashdown. They watched as the men stepped carefully over the rubble, skirting what was left the giant UFO sign that partially blocked the entrance.

"I'm gonna go get their report," Valenti told them. "I'll be right back."

In a fog, Liz drifted after him, only half aware of Max's hand holding tight to her own, of Maria and Michael trailing behind them. She watched as the Sheriff and the head of the rescue team spoke in low tones, heads tilted in toward each other like lovers whispering. Then the Sheriff turned to her, and there was no need for words. Everything was in his eyes, so filled with sorrow they made her heart ache.

"I'm very sorry, Liz," he said quietly. "There weren't any survivors."

"No," she murmured. "Nooooo," she cried, breaking down once more. And suddenly the only solid things in the entire world were Max's arms wrapping around her, his chest growing wet from her tears, his murmured words of comfort and love.

***

"It's all right. Liz, honey, wake up."

Max's soothing voice grew lighter, losing its deep undertones, until it was a woman that reassured her. Liz swam up from the depths of her dream and opened her eyes.

"Liz? You okay?"

"Aunt Rachel?" Liz blinked and the room came into focus around her. "What's going on?"

Her aunt brushed her hair back off her face. "You were having a nightmare. I could hear you right through the wall."

Liz struggled to sit up, shoving off the light blanket that seemed determined to cling to her. "I'm sorry I woke you up." She began to rub the sleep from her eyes and found them damp with tears. Her lungs hitched when she tried to take a deep breath, yet another sign that she had been crying.

"Don't worry about me. How about you? Are you okay? Do you remember what you were dreaming about?"

"I was-not really," she replied hesitantly.

Rachel's blue eyes narrowed. "You sure?"

Liz nodded slowly, the image of the ravaged café still fresh in her mind. "Just normal nightmare stuff, I guess."

"You've been having a lot of nightmares since you got here. Sometimes it helps to talk out whatever's bothering you. And yes, I'd say this even if I wasn't a psychologist," she added with a smile.

"I'm fine, really," Liz insisted, but even as she said the words, she could tell her aunt didn't believe her.

"You wouldn't be here if everything was fine," Rachel said. "It's never been your style to run away from your problems, Liz, yet here you are, hiding out for the second time in a year. No, let me finish," she said, when Liz tried to interrupt. "It's not that I don't love having you, because you know I do. But your sudden desire to go to school in Florida this semester has no more to do with wanting to focus on your studies than last summer's appearance had to do with needing time away from your parents," she continued. "Something else is going on, and it's tearing you apart from the inside. You've been here almost a month and each day you grow more quiet, more withdrawn. When we're in the office, you might as well be invisible. If it weren't for you picking up the phones, I'd never know you were there. I'm worried about you."

"I know," Liz said. "And I'm sorry. It's just that this is something I need to work out on my own right now."

"Sometimes removing yourself from a situation just makes it harder to fix."

Liz smiled sadly. "Sometimes removing yourself from a situation is the only way to fix it."

Rachel sighed. "When we were growing up, I was always the smart-ass little sister. I drove your mother crazy. Whatever she said, however she tried to help, I always knew better. I'm beginning to understand how she must have felt."

"I just need a little more time."

Her aunt gave her a shrewd look. "You know as well as I do, Liz, that time only goes in one direction. Wishing for more of it doesn't do any good."

"I-what do you mean?"

"I mean, niece of mine, that I have eyes. And from the looks of things, you only have about five more months to figure out what you want to do."

Liz dropped a protective hand over her stomach. Her pregnancy was no more than a slight swelling of her abdomen and thickening of the waist. With the exception of her tightest jeans and one pair of shorts, all of her clothes still fit. She had been so certain that she didn't show yet. How could her aunt possibly have known?

"Oh, honey," Rachel said gently. "Don't look so shocked. I've only been suspicious for the last few days, and more because of how you were acting than anything."

"I was going to tell you. Really. I just didn't quite know what to say."

"I'm going to take a wild stab in the dark here and guess your parents don't know."

Liz shook her head. "They never would have let me come if I'd told them. And I had to get out of Roswell."

Rachel nodded. "I understand. But you know that you do have to tell them, right?"

"Yeah," she said. "I was just hoping I could wait a little longer."

"Until when? The baby's first birthday? Liz, you have to call tomorrow."

"Okay," she agreed reluctantly. "I know you're right."

"Come here." Rachel inched forward along the edge of the bed and wrapped Liz in a hug. "It's going to be fine. I promise. Why don't you lie back and get some sleep, and we'll talk more in the morning."

"Thanks, Aunt Rachel," Liz whispered, hugging her tightly.

"Anything for my most favorite girl in the world," came the murmured reply. "I know you're scared, baby, but everything's going to be okay." She pressed a quick kiss to Liz's forehead. "Now go to sleep."

Liz shimmied back down in the bed and tugged the sheet up over her. Rachel rose and started out of the room.

"You're not going to ask me about the father?" Liz asked suddenly, pushing herself up on her elbows.

Rachel paused by the door and turned, her long auburn braid flipping over one shoulder. "Do you want to tell me?"

Liz shook her head. "I just-the only other people who know, that was the first thing they asked me."

"Well, I'll admit that I just assumed that Max was the father. He's the boy you ran from last summer, so it just stands to reason you're running from him again."

"What makes you think that?"

"Like I said before, honey. Running from your problems just isn't your style. You've stood up to everything that's crossed your path since you were a little girl. But something about Max Evans sends you into a tail spin," she replied.

Liz let her head fall back onto her pillow. "He's not the father," she said quietly. "But I guess you're right about the running part. Goodnight."

"Goodnight, Liz."

***

"Daddy, I know you're upset-"

"Upset? You're damn right I am, young lady. My daughter drops a bomb like this - from the other side of the country, no less. I want you on a plane today, Liz."

"Dad, that's not going to solve anything," Liz reasoned.

"You think running away is the solution?"

"I think I'd prefer not to grow big as a house in front of the entire town," she told him.

"Maybe you should have thought of that sooner. I can't believe this is happening. You're smarter than this, Liz. You've always been so responsible. What was going through your head?"

"Daddy, please don't," she whispered, tears coming to her eyes. She could deal with his anger, but not his disappointment.

"Okay," he said slowly, clearly trying to rein in his emotions. "Just come home, Liz. We'll work it all out when you get here."

"I can't," she said. "Dad, I won't. Aunt Rachel said I can stay until the baby's born."

"What about your mother and me? We're supposed to just sit here wondering what the hell is going on? Have you even told Max? I'll tell you one thing, he better not show his face in the Crashdown again, or he'll lose the ability to get any future girlfriends-"

"Stop it! Just stop, Dad. Don't blame Max. This has nothing to do with him. He's not the father."

There was a long pause. Liz could hear harsh breathing on the other side of the phone, and her mother in the background, asking what was going on. "You really expect me to believe that, Liz?" her father asked finally.

"Max and I broke up last spring. You know we did."

"Fine. Who is the father then?"

"It doesn't matter."

"Of course it does! Some boy gets you pregnant and you're not even going to say who? Liz, what's wrong with you?"

"Daddy, it doesn't make a difference. He's gone. I knew he was going and that I'd probably never see him again, okay? I couldn't find him even if I wanted to."

"You mean he moved away? Liz, this is the twenty-first century. There are plenty of ways to track someone down, I don't care where he's run off to."

"Look, I'm not telling you, so just forget about it." She shut her eyes, tears squeezing out from beneath the lids. "I'm going to stay and finish out the school year here, where I don't have to be reminded how I've let everyone down," she sniffed.

"Liz, let me talk to him." Her aunt, who had been standing by for support, gently pried the phone from her hand. Liz released her grip on the receiver and curled back into her chair, feeling as if an enormous weight had been lifted off her.

"Jeff, it's Rachel… She's right here, but she's pretty upset right now and that can't be good for her… No, I didn't know until last night," she sighed. "Look, I understand how you feel, but shouting at her isn't going to change anything. You can't just bully her that way… She's almost eighteen, do you really want to force her? Just put Nancy on… Hi, you okay?… Yes, she's fine. Really, Nance… It's nothing you did or didn't do," Rachel continued, her tone softening. "I know this is a huge shock. Why don't you take some time for everything to sink in. Talk it out with Jeff, then give us a call this afternoon, all right?… Love you, too. Bye."

Liz watched as Rachel hung up the phone, then flopped onto the couch opposite her. "Thanks," she said.

Rachel flashed her a weak smile. "No problem. They'll be more rational once they cool off a little."

"I'm not sure Dad will ever cool off that much," Liz replied. "I can't really blame him. This is the last problem he ever expected to deal with."

"You're an intelligent young woman, but you're still human," her aunt pointed out. "A good head on your shoulders doesn't automatically make you infallible."

Liz let out a snort of laughter and shook her head. "Funny how my parents don't give me any credit for being intelligent when I do something wrong. Adults get to mess up all the time and no one questions whether they're grown up, but make a mistake as a teenager and they send you packing back to childhood."

"It's a hard age. You're straddling the fence. Don't tell me there haven't been times you were glad you could still hide behind the security of being a kid."

"I haven't been a kid for a while now," she sighed.

"You definitely have some hard decisions ahead of you," Rachel agreed. "Have you thought through all your options?"

"There wasn't really much to think about. I'm having the baby because I can't imagine doing anything else."

"And then? What about adoption?"

Liz pressed her hands lightly against her abdomen. It was too early for her to feel any movement, but somehow she could still sense the life within her. Maybe it was just an alien thing, but it didn't matter. The baby was already very real, and it was hers.

"I guess that answers that question," Rachel said.

"I can't help it," she shrugged.

"I know, honey." Her aunt stood up. "We need to get you in to see a doctor this week. You should have already been in for a check-up before this, and I know there are vitamins you have to take."

Liz felt a flutter of panic. She had no way of knowing if a routine examination would turn up anything odd, but she couldn't take the risk. "I have to check with my parents' insurance to see which doctors are covered," she said.

"Let me know if you need any help," Rachel told her. "Whatever you want me to do, I'm here for you."

"I know you are. I'm sorry for dumping all of this on you."

"Don't be. I'm just glad you felt comfortable coming to me. Now, I'm going to go take a walk on the beach. Want to come?"

"Not right now. I think I'll check my e-mail. See what everyone's up to. But thanks."

"Sure." Rachel padded on bare feet across the hardwood floor, stopping by the door to slip on her sandals. "Feel free to ignore the phone until I get back. On the off chance your father decides he's waited long enough to call," she added with a knowing smirk. "See you in a bit."

Liz listened to the screen door bang shut, and the resulting bark of excitement from the neighbor's yellow Labrador, Rex. She headed to the small guest room at the rear of the house, and by the time she got there she could see Rachel from the window, making her way down to the water's edge with Rex romping playfully at her heels. Her aunt was teasing the dog with a stick, encouraging him to jump up and try to get it. When she finally threw it, Rex barreled across the sand to fetch it as if it was the most important task in the world.

Smiling, Liz sat down at the tiny white desk beneath the window and fired up her laptop. As she waited for the machine to warm up, her eyes traveled around the small room, soaking up the peace of the moment, grateful to be there. It was so different from her parents' apartment in Roswell. Her aunt had painted nearly everything in the house a bright, open white, then accented with Mediterranean blue and soft, sea foam green. The furniture was minimal and rustic, with clean lines that brought to mind pictures Liz had seen of the Greek islands. It left her with the same clean feeling, as if the dust had been swept from every corner of her mind, leaving her fresh and ready to start anew.

A soft, salty breeze came through the open window, ruffling the crisp white curtains. Liz inhaled deeply, then let the air out gradually before she focused on her computer screen. A few quick clicks and she was online, watching a series of e-mails download into her account. Maria, Maria, Alex, Maria. She hesitated for a moment, then skipped directly to Alex's message. Much as Liz loved Maria, she had started to grow a little impatient with the gloomy tone of all her e-mails. It seemed she never had any good news, just rambling accounts of all the terrible things happening in Roswell since Liz had left: her cousin Sean coming to stay, a girl getting buried alive, Sheriff Valenti losing his job thanks to his involvement with the aliens. She appreciated being kept up on everyone's lives, but at the same time she was desperate for some levity in her own day to day existence.

Alex provided that levity. With the exception of a scolding phone call when he first got back from Sweden, he had yet to reproach her for leaving Roswell, nor had he even asked her outright why she had gone. Instead he sent her airy, amusing e-mails that poked fun of every serious situation back home, and made her smile in spite of herself. They were a welcome change.

She clicked on his most recent note, eyebrows rising at the length.

Heya Liz. Assuming your brain isn't scrambled by whatever Maria's written, I figured you'd want a more coherent version of what's been going on around here. Can't say I've got all the Czech explanations straight, but I'll do my best. First, you heard Valenti lost his job, right? Well, it didn't do much for the Max/Kyle sitch. Only now the glaring goes both ways. But they worked together to save the world this week, so I guess they've put their differences on hold.

Liz frowned. Save the world? What the hell was going on now?

Anyway, we're all okay - at least physically - but it was touch and go for a while. Some sort of alien virus was trying to kill everyone. Originally this stuff was supposed to allow our DNA to meld with Czech DNA, but it was going crazy, trying to track down the human cells it recognized, and using Grant Sorensen as a host. Okay, I'm explaining this badly, but the girl it was after is apparently the granddaughter of the guy who donated Michael's human half, which is why it wanted her. Something familiar about her gene structure.

Did I say I was going to be more coherent than DeLuca? I take it back.

Short story, Maria and Michael took a road trip to Arizona and saved the girl (incidentally, I think Maria's grounded for life), while the rest of us tried to kill these blue crystal things that were part of the virus. Kyle and I bonded - did you know he's got a pretty decent singing voice? - and the world is safe for another day. The bad news is the Feds were in to investigate Valenti and I heard the agent was there when all this stuff came to a head. Max says Valenti is handling her, but I figured you'd want to know. Also, Sorensen ended up dead. I'm getting the idea that Isabel's blaming herself for that one. And before you ask, yes, I'm tempted to go be the comforting friend, but I know it won't do either of us any good, so I'm leaving her alone.

Other than that, not much new. Got band rehearsal, so I better sign off. Burned a CD for you, so look for it in the mail. Miss you.

Alex


Liz read the e-mail twice more before she gave up trying to decipher it and closed her inbox. If Alex was rambling this badly, she had no hope of understanding Maria's messages. Only now she was dying of curiosity, and the slightest bit worried. Even with Alex's reassurances that they were all fine, Liz understood that things had been bad, and part of her desperately wanted to know all the details. An alien virus? Where had it come from? Was it something the Skins unleashed or was there another source? And, perhaps most important, had they been successful in destroying it completely?

Only one person was likely to have the answers to her questions. Max. Liz hesitated, then reopened her e-mail program and clicked on the new message icon. She would just send him a quick note, asking what had happened and if he was all right. Knowing Max, he was riding a wave of guilt over the entire situation - from Valenti's dismissal to this latest alien crisis.

And you're the last person he'll want to talk to about it.

The thought came from thin air, but Liz had to acknowledge the veracity of it. She hadn't heard from Max since she left Roswell, nor had she been able to bring herself to make the first move. It was as if that night in the Crashdown, when Max learned of her pregnancy, had effectively dissolved their tentative truce. Any chance of them rebuilding their friendship was now pretty well shattered. Understanding it was entirely her fault only made it hurt that much more.

She watched the cursor flash for a moment. Her aunt had been right when she accused her of running from Max. Liz had left Roswell to spare Max the sight of her growing rounder by the day, but also to spare herself from his endless demands for the truth and the hurt look in his eyes. She was hiding in order to stay strong, because she just couldn't do it any other way. Liz had no doubt that, given access and enough time, Max could wear down her resolve and convince her to tell him everything. So she chose to run.

But the price of distance was being out of the loop. She had given up the right to know everything that happened back in Roswell, or to offer advice and comfort. And Max had shown no indication of missing her input. Better to leave him be and concentrate on her own problems. She certainly had enough to keep her occupied.

At the other end of the house, the phone began to ring. Liz closed her eyes briefly, wondering if she should simply do as her aunt had suggested and ignore it. Was she ready to talk to her parents again?

Opening her eyes once more, her gaze fell on the blank e-mail window that still waited for her, the cursor flashing steadily in the corner. With a decisive click, Liz closed the program, then went to answer the phone. She could only run from so many things. It was time to start taking a stand.

*****

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations (Part 6)

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Fri Jun 06, 2003 11:38 am

Hi! Back with more. And be sure to check out my pretty new banner at the start of the thread. Thanks, Blanca!

:)
Em

******

Part 6

******

The door to the principal’s office swung open and Dr. Rinaldi stuck his head out. “Miss Parker?”

Liz stood nervously. “Yes, sir,” she replied softly. Never in her academic career had she been summoned to see the principal. Well, unless she counted the time she and Max had been caught making out in the eraser room, but that had been an extreme situation. When the note had arrived ten minutes earlier, excusing her from class, she had been sure it was some sort of a mistake. Clearly, it was not.

Dr. Rinaldi graced her with a smile, his small, neatly trimmed mustache curving upward. “Come on in,” he said, standing back to let her pass. “Have a seat,” he added as he closed the door again, then moved behind his desk. He lowered his burly form into a brown leather swivel chair, his palms flat on the blotter in front of him.

Placing her knapsack on the floor, Liz sat in one of the two chairs facing the principal, shifting slightly to make sure her dress didn’t pull across the swell of her stomach. The cut was full enough that it went a long way to camouflage her pregnancy, but it could not perform miracles. At five months along, there was only so much Liz could hide.

“So, Miss Parker, how are you enjoying Florida? You’re living with your aunt, I believe?” Dr. Rinaldi slipped on a pair of reading glasses and picked up a folder from a pile on his desk. Opening the file, he gazed at it briefly before peering up at Liz over the top edge of his glasses.

“I like it a lot, so far,” Liz replied. “And yes, I’ve been staying with my aunt.” Her mind was whirling. Was this because she was a new student? Maybe the principal liked to check in with everyone after they had been attending classes for a few months, just to make sure they were settling into the routine. It seemed like a good policy, but Liz couldn’t quite make herself believe that it was that simple.

“And how are your classes? Your teachers speak highly of your work, so I’m assuming there’s been no trouble there.”

“My classes are fine,” Liz said, trying not to frown. “Is there a reason they wouldn’t be?”

“No, not at all. I can see from your records that you were a stellar student at your old high school.” Rinaldi put Liz’s file down and took off his glasses, pinching the bridge of his nose briefly.

“I’m sorry, Dr. Rinaldi, but why exactly am I here?”

The principal sighed. “You’re right. I’ll get to the point. There have been some… complaints.”

“About me? From my teachers?”

“No, from your fellow students. And several of their parents, as well.”

Liz was beginning to understand, but she had no intention of making the discussion easier on the principal. “What did they say?”

Dr. Rinaldi stared at her for a long moment, then sat back. “I imagine you know. Let me make myself clear, Liz,” he said, his tone almost fatherly. “This is a public high school, and it is our duty to provide educational opportunities to all students legally registered in the district. As such a student, you are entitled to all of the benefits we offer, both academic and extracurricular. On a personal note, I find it admirable that a young woman of your obvious intelligence is committed to her education, regardless of the obstacles in your path. I’ve seen plenty of girls in your situation who have taken the easy way out – putting off school, settling for a GED – and their futures have suffered for it.”

Liz took a deep breath and let it out slowly. “So, what you’re saying is there are people less than thrilled about the fact that I’m pregnant and going to school with everyone else,” she said baldly. “But that there’s nothing they can do about it.”

“That’s the extent of it,” he agreed. “Officially. The real story, however, has more to do with your brains than your breeding, if you’ll pardon the expression.”

“I don’t think I’m following you.”

“This is a small school, and the top students have been competing with each other since they were barely out of training pants,” Rinaldi said. “Suddenly you sweep in with your perfect grade point average and stir up the order of things. You’re a threat to the class rank, plain and simple. But it’s easier to claim moral outrage than to admit they’re worried you’ll make valedictorian.”

“You’re kidding,” Liz murmured.

“I’m afraid not.”

“I had no idea. Everyone seems so nice…”

“I’m sure. But that doesn’t mean they wouldn’t prefer you to switch to night school, or drop out entirely.”

“I see.”

“Do you mind my asking when you’re due?” he asked quietly.

Liz shook her head. “Some time in July. Assuming everything goes smoothly,” she told him.

“Do you intend to remain in Florida after you have the baby?”

“You mean, would it be safe to spread the word that I plan to graduate from West Roswell High next year?” Liz asked archly.

Dr. Rinaldi smiled. “As I said, an intelligent young woman.”

“Truthfully, I hadn’t really thought much past mid-terms,” Liz admitted. “But I do miss my friends and family.”

The principal nodded. “I’m not trying to chase you off. You’re an asset to the school, Miss Parker, and a credit to your parents, not to mention to yourself. I’d be proud to hand you a diploma next June, should you remain with us. Please understand, I just felt you needed to know what you were up against. People can be cruel.” He stood up.

Liz rose as well, taking Dr. Rinaldi’s hand when he extended it. “Thanks for the vote of confidence,” she told him.

“My pleasure. I wish you luck, young lady. Let me know if there’s anything I can do for you.”

“I will.”

***

Liz stormed into her room and tossed her bag on the bed, then threw herself down next to it. She had emerged from school after the final bell to find her aunt’s car papered with flyers from Planned Parenthood, the sight effectively dispelling any warm feelings she might have harbored following her talk with the principal. The parking lot had been full of students, any of whom could have left the brochures, but not one seemed to be paying any attention to her. They weren’t even interested in her reactions to the prank, whether she was upset or angry or indifferent. It was like she wasn’t there at all.

She had never claimed to be a saint. Liz had had her share of run-ins with other kids back in Roswell, and she hadn’t always been on the receiving end. Pam Troy, in particular, had been the beneficiary of several jokes Liz had played in junior high, though it had generally been payback for something Pam herself had done. But she couldn’t imagine ever being so needlessly callous to her classmates, especially over something as ephemeral as rank. As for going behind her back, that was just plain cowardly. Even Pam Troy had the guts to insult her to her face.

At heart she knew none of it mattered, that she wasn’t there to make friends or win approval, but the knowledge did nothing to combat the sharp hurt that tunneled deep within her. All it did was add to the constant ache she already lived with every day, making her miss her friends and family that much more. Never before had she felt so completely alone.

Glancing at the clock, Liz discovered she’d been brooding for nearly half an hour. She was scheduled to work for her aunt, she had a paper to write, and she had volunteered to cook dinner, yet all she felt like doing was crawling under the covers to hide. Instead she levered herself off the bed and changed into a loose white top and a pair of pale blue cotton pants with a stretchy waist. The shirt flowed to her hips, covering both the elastic and her stomach. Then she grabbed her history book and her cell phone and headed down to the small office her aunt maintained at home.

When Liz had first arrived in Florida, she had started to hunt for a job immediately, but with little luck. Most of the tourist-based businesses hadn’t planned to hire anyone until the summer rush, and her brief stint for Congresswoman Whitaker had been insufficient background to land her a part-time office job. But then her aunt’s receptionist had quit at the end of January, and Rachel had suggested Liz take her place. Grateful for the chance to earn some money without running herself ragged, Liz had jumped at the opportunity. After the craziness of the Crashdown, she found the quiet office almost boring most afternoons, her activities limited to filing paperwork and answering the occasional call from one of Rachel’s patients. But it left her plenty of time to study, and when Rachel had a break between appointments she would come out of her office to chat.

Liz set her things down on her desk and began sorting through the mail. A few moments later, the door to the inner office opened and her aunt emerged.

“Anything good?” she asked, nodding toward the stack of envelopes and magazines.

“Mostly bills,” Liz replied. “Here’s something on a conference in Denver,” she added passing her the brochure.

Rachel peered at the cover and wrinkled her nose. “Not until October. Don’t they know it’ll be cold by then?”

“I think the idea is that people might want to ski over the weekend,” Liz laughed.

“Not me. Give me an afternoon by the pool any day.” She dumped the flyer into the trash and sat on the corner of Liz’s desk. “So, how was school?”

Liz shrugged. “I’ve had better days,” she admitted.

“Classes or something else?”

Liz grimaced. “Apparently my fellow students aren’t as nice as I thought. There’s some nasty talk going around about me.”

“Because of the pregnancy,” her aunt sighed in understanding. “For a liberal town, we certainly have our share of small-minded citizens. I’m so sorry, Liz. Do you feel like talking about it?”

“That’s okay. You’ve got Mrs. Brooks coming at four.”

“That doesn’t mean I can’t be here for you,” her aunt said. “I’m all yours in an hour. Or maybe you’d rather talk to someone else,” she suggested, fingering Liz’s cell phone where it rested on the blotter. Standing up, she dropped a quick kiss on the top of Liz’s head. “Just go ahead and send Mrs. Brooks in when she arrives.”

Liz sighed once her aunt had returned to her office. She couldn’t help but marvel at Rachel’s ability to read her, considering that her sister – Liz’s own mother – never had the slightest idea what was going through Liz’s mind. Was it simply because she was a psychologist, or did she just pay more attention? Liz doubted her mother would have realized she was pregnant as early as Rachel had.

Conscious of being on the clock, Liz turned back to her work. She finished sorting the mail and did some light filing, stopping only to exchange pleasantries with Mrs. Brooks when she arrived and to send her in to Rachel. She had her desk cleared off with half an hour to spare, and found herself eyeing her cell phone.

“You should read the history assignment,” she muttered, even as she picked it up and hit the speed dial.

The phone rang several times, and Liz was just about to hang up, assuming Maria was working, when she heard a click and a woman’s voice filtered through the connection. “Hello?”

Liz frowned. “Mrs. DeLuca? It’s Liz.”

“Oh, hi honey, how are you?”

“Um, I’m fine. I… I was sure I’d called Maria’s cell phone, though. Did I call the house by mistake?”

“No, no. You have the right number. Unfortunately Maria’s been grounded until she’s thirty and that includes loss of phone privileges.”

“Grounded? What for?” It had been over a month since Maria’s jaunt to Arizona with Michael, and Liz knew for a fact that she was no longer in trouble for that. Or at least not banned from the phone.

“Apparently, Michael got it into his head to organize a field trip to Las Vegas this weekend,” Mrs. DeLuca replied.

“Michael and Maria went to Vegas?” Liz sputtered.

“Oh yes. They all did. Kyle, Alex, Isabel Evans, and Tess Harding.”

“What about Max?” she asked before she could stop herself.

“I don’t think he went. Jim Valenti drove down and hauled them all home, and he didn’t mention Max being there.” Mrs. DeLuca let out a weary sigh. “Be thankful you’re in Florida, Liz. No doubt they would have somehow dragged you along if you had been here.”

“I doubt it,” Liz replied. “I’ve um, never really wanted to go to Las Vegas.”

“How is Florida? Do you like your new school?”

“Yeah, it’s great,” Liz said hastily. “Um, my aunt’s calling me, Mrs. DeLuca, so I’d better go. Could you at least tell Maria I called?”

“Of course. She can still use her computer, so I expect she’ll send you an e-mail explaining what a witch I am. You take care, Liz.”

“Thanks, you too.” She flipped her phone shut and dropped it back on the desk, then pressed the heels of her hands hard against her eyes. Vegas. Her friends had packed up and gone to Vegas for the weekend, apparently on the sly. Why there? Was it alien related? And if it was, why hadn’t Max gone too?

…We drove to Vegas and got married at the Elvis chapel. Congratulations, kids…

Liz shook off the memory. One trip had nothing to do with the other. Only the destination was the same, and that meant nothing. But that didn’t make her any less curious.

Grabbing her phone again, she dialed Alex, but his cell cut to voice mail after several rings and the machine picked up at his parents’ number. She toyed with the idea of calling Kyle, but decided he wouldn’t appreciate the intrusion, particularly if he was grounded as well. He had been extremely touchy about all things alien since his father was fired, and Liz understood that, to a certain extent, he lumped her into that category along with Max and the others. He had e-mailed her a few times since she’d left Roswell, but the messages had lacked substance and Liz knew he was angry with her. Which left her waiting to hear from Maria.

***

As soon as she was done with work, Liz dashed up to her room to check her e-mail, only to find nothing but spam. She typed out a quick note to Maria, practically begging her friend for an update, then headed back downstairs to cook dinner.

Despite the relatively warm weather, or maybe just because she was missing the tastes of New Mexico, Liz had been craving chili for days. Her aunt had picked up the fixings for her from the store, and now she set about browning chopped onions and garlic, then added the ground meat to the pan, as well. The familiar aroma made her nose twitch, and she told herself the tears pricking her eyes were simply leftover from cutting up the onions. They had nothing to do with being homesick.

“Mmm, something smells good,” Rachel declared, coming into the kitchen and peering over Liz’s shoulder as she dumped everything into a deep pot and shifted it to the warm burner.

“Dad’s recipe,” she replied.

“Can I help?”

“I’ve got it,” Liz assured her. “This is supposed to be your night off. Take advantage while I can still reach the stove,” she added wryly, swinging her hips back from the counter to mimic what her stance might be a few months further into her pregnancy.

Rachel settled on a stool, out of Liz’s way. “Feel like talking now?”

“Not really,” Liz sighed. “I tried to get a hold of Maria, but she’s apparently banned from using the phone.”

“What did she do now?”

“You don’t want to know.”

“Well, I realize I’m no substitute for a best friend, but I am here and willing if you change your mind.”

“I’m sorry,” Liz said, feeling a pang of guilt. Her aunt had been nothing but supportive, and here she was giving her the brush off. “I do appreciate the offer, but I’m okay. I was mad and hurt earlier, but it’s pretty much worn off now.”

“That’s good to hear. Sometimes you just have to let it all roll off your back.”

Or have something else distract you, Liz thought.

“Well, I guess I’ll go set the table, since I’m obviously superfluous in here,” Rachel teased.

Liz gave the chili a good stir, then left it to simmer while she made a salad. It felt strange to be cooking. She rarely had the opportunity at home, since family dinners had pretty much ended when she started high school and her schedule became too erratic. When she did sit down with her parents, her mother generally played chef, claiming she needed to keep her skills handy in case one of the Crashdown cooks went missing. The comment used to amuse Liz until Michael had joined the staff, after which it sent a chill down her spine.

By the time she had finished the salad and tossed a little dressing in, the chili was bubbling away. She took a spoon and scooped up a bit of the liquid, blowing gently before she tasted it. Finding it a tad bland, she added another shake of chili powder and some more cumin and gave the entire mixture a final stir.

“All ready,” she pronounced when her aunt appeared again. “If you grab the salad, I’ll serve.”

“Got it,” Rachel said, taking the salad and heading back into the dining area.

Liz ladled the chili into two earthenware bowls, then carried them to the table. Going back to the kitchen, she grabbed the basket of rolls she’d left warming in the oven and flipped off the lights.

“I’m so glad food smells don’t make me sick anymore,” she said, taking her seat. “I’m starving.”

“I can tell. You cooked enough for a small army,” Rachel said.

Liz shrugged. “It’s always better the next day. What’s the use of just making one batch?”

“Good point.” Her aunt dug into the rich, beefy mixture and took a bite. A moment later she was fanning her mouth and grabbing for her water glass.

“Did you burn yourself?” Liz asked worriedly. “It’s got to be hot. It came right off the stove.”

Rachel chewed quickly and swallowed, wincing slightly. She shook her head and took another gulp of water. “Not hot hot. Spicy,” she said. “How much chili did you put in there?” she asked, rising and going into the kitchen.

Liz frowned. “Not that much. I did add a little extra because it didn’t seem to have enough kick, but I just figured the spices were losing their potency,” she said. Taking a cautious bite of her chili, she glanced up as her aunt returned with a tub of sour cream. “It seems fine to me.”

Rachel’s eyebrows rose. “I think it’s safe to say that you’ve got your pregnancy taste buds. Some women crave pickles and ice cream; looks like you want hot and spicy.”

Liz groaned as her aunt dolled two large spoonfuls of sour cream into her bowl and mixed it in. “I’m sorry,” she said. “I had no idea. It really tastes completely normal to me.” Max would probably love it, she added silently, resisting the urge to roll her eyes.

“Don’t worry about it. All better now.” Rachel took another bite of her chili, now a pretty pink color with darker swirls where the sauce hadn’t quite blended with the sour cream, and grinned. “Delicious.”

***

Liz checked her e-mail right after dinner, and again an hour later, but there was nothing from Maria. Finally she got to work on her English paper, trying to concentrate on Hamlet’s internal musings and ignore her own. She supposed she should be thankful that they weren’t reading Romeo and Juliet. That would have definitely pushed her over the edge.

Just after nine, her cell phone rang. Liz answered immediately, hoping it might be Alex. Instead she was surprised to find Maria on the other end of the line.

“I thought you were grounded?”

“I am,” Maria replied. “Mom went out to pick up Chinese, so I snuck my phone out of her room. I have to make it quick, though. We’ve got ten minutes, tops.”

“Okay, okay,” Liz said. “What’s the story? Why did you all go to Las Vegas?”

Maria groaned. “Remember I told you how Laurie Dupree’s family tried to buy us off? Well, Michael still had the money and he was having nightmares. Thought it was cursed or something,” she muttered with a snort, clearly not agreeing with her boyfriend’s opinion. “He talked Max into going with him to Vegas to gamble away the cash.”

“Wait, I thought Max didn’t go?”

“Max went, he just didn’t get caught,” Maria said. “We all ended up going. Michael told me and I basically invited myself along and convinced Alex he should come, too. Somehow Kyle and Tess heard about it, and you know Max blabbed to Isabel thinking she would stay home and cover for him. Anyway, we all went. It was supposed to be fun. Michael changed our IDs to make us legal and gave us all some of the money with strict instructions to blow it all.”

“So it was just a vacation?” Liz asked. “No danger or funny stuff involved?”

“Pretty much,” Maria said. “But once we got there things got weird. Michael was in a bad mood and didn’t want to spend time with anyone but Max.”

“Well, but that was the original plan, wasn’t it?”

“Yeah, I know but… Anyway, I tried out for a singing gig, only it turned out they were looking for strippers.”

“Maria!”

“I know, I know. I ignored the fine print, whatever. It was fine. Alex was with me, nothing happened. But then I get a call from Spaceboy telling me he and Max were in jail.”

“What? Oh my God!”

“I guess Michael was cheating in the casinos. There was this big fight and they got hauled in. When I went to bail them out, Max and Michael weren’t even speaking to each other and Max caught the next flight home. That’s why he wasn’t there when Valenti showed up.”

“It doesn’t sound like you guys had much fun,” Liz said. “I’m sorry it wasn’t worth a grounding.”

“No, it was,” Maria said, a smile evident in her tone.

“How?”

“Well, I arranged a nice dinner for all of us and then Michael somehow got me a chance to sing on stage. It was really sweet.”

“What about everyone else?”

Maria sighed. “Kyle, Alex, and Tess hung out. Isabel had gone off with some people she’d met and showed up later in a bad mood. But I saw her dancing with Alex, so who knows what’s going on there.”

“Not again. I thought he was staying away from her?”

“He was. I think she started it this time.”

“Really?”

“Yeah. But never mind them, how are you? I miss you, Liz. When are you going to come home?”

“Maria, you know I can’t.”

“I know no such thing. Look, I know you’re scared, but you can’t do this on your own. You’re going to need help of the extra terrestrial sort,” Maria hissed. “And I still think you should tell Max.”

“Tell him what? ‘I know we’ve never slept together, but I’m pregnant with your child.’ Maria, he’s not going to see it that way. Just because I consider Future Max and this Max to be the same, doesn’t make it true from his point of view. This baby might as well belong to that dupe of his in New York.”

“Wait, I thought he was dead?”

“He is. You know what I mean.” Liz let out a long sigh.

“I’m sorry. How are you? Really.”

“I’m okay, I guess. I’m starting to get some flack at school. My parents call like daily. My clothes don’t fit. I miss everyone,” she grumbled softly. “Other than that, life’s swell.”

“How are you handing the doctor thing?”

“I tell my aunt I’ve got an appointment and then I go to the library instead,” Liz said. “I’ve taken out a bunch of books on pregnancy, and so far I seem to be advancing according to human terms.”

“Liz, you can’t just assume that. You need someone to examine you.”

“I can’t risk it. I’ll figure something out, I promise. I’m taking care of myself. It’ll be fine.”

Maria let out a small sigh of defeat. “Okay then, what about your nightmares?”

“Still having them.” Liz glanced at the clock. “We should probably wrap this up. I don’t want you to get into more trouble.”

“Don’t worry about me.”

“I… I miss talking to you like this,” Liz confessed. “There’s so much I can’t say in an e-mail.”

“I know. Just come home, Liz. It’ll work out.”

“What about Tess? Is Max spending any more time with her?”

“Not really. She’s hanging out with Kyle a lot. Max seems to be alone most of the time. Michael’s avoiding him and Isabel seems pissed off at him, too.”

Liz closed her eyes. “Maria, they need to stop bickering this way. They’re a unit. They have to stick together.”

“So get your butt back here and tell them that,” Maria demanded.

“Maria, I can’t. You know I…”

“I hear the car. I have to go. Lizzie, I love you. Please come home.”

“I love you, too. Take care of yourself,” she replied hastily, then hung up, tossing the phone onto the desk.

Liz eased out of her chair and moved to the bed. Stretching out, she placed her hands over the gentle swell of her stomach and closed her eyes. “Hello in there,” she murmured. “Don’t you worry, little one. I won’t let anything happen to you. But there are a lot of people counting on us, and we can’t let them down. I’m sorry Mommy’s made such a mess of everything,” she sighed.

A small flutter came from under her skin, like butterfly wings against her palms, and Liz gasped softly, the tears seeping from beneath her eyelids going unnoticed.

******

TBC
Last edited by EmilyluvsRoswell on Sat Jun 07, 2003 1:42 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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EmilyluvsRoswell
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations (Part 7)

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Tue Jun 10, 2003 10:28 am

Hi everyone! Thank you all for your lovely feedback and comments. I realize this story is tough going, and I know a few readers have dropped by the wayside, so that make me appreciate you all the more for hanging in with me. You're the best.

Hugs,
Em

******

Part 7

******

Sundays were usually Liz's favorite day of the week. She would rise early and slip down to the beach just as the first rays of sun crept over the horizon and turned the ocean into a glimmering, shadowed mirror. Later the stretch of sand would disappear beneath a collage of blankets and umbrellas - everyone from teenage sun worshippers to young families competing for the best spots - but at dawn she could count on being alone, interrupted only by the occasional jogger. The solitude called to her, soothed her, prepared her for the week ahead. Often she would stagger outside directly from the throes of a nightmare, desperate to fill her head with the simple rhythm of the waves pounding against the shore, the throaty caw of gulls as they scavenged for food. Anything to erase the flames and destruction and death that haunted her nights.

This Sunday was different only in the hour. Unable to sleep, she had crept out of the house well before it grew light, tugging a sweatshirt over her loose sundress to ward off the damp morning air. She walked along the water's edge, her footprints disappearing in the foam of each rushing wave. Right, left, right, left, another rhythm in her head as she paced off the distance from her aunt's house to the neighbor's, and then the house after that. All the way down the beach she walked, a light wind whipping her hair around her face, her eyes fixed on a random spot at the edge of the world. By the time the sun finally winked into view and she turned back, her aunt's house had vanished from sight.

Liz tackled the return trip with no thought, her feet marching back up the beach on autopilot as she stared out into the distance. Rachel appeared around the halfway point, running along the sand in ancient blue gym shorts and a red t-shirt that clashed terribly with her hair. She waved as she headed toward Liz, then stopped and jogged in place a few yards away, waiting for her to catch up.

"Good walk?" she asked, her voice slightly breathy from her exertion. Liz suspected she had already run a considerable distance in the opposite direction before deciding to look for her this way.

"Fine," Liz said, not breaking her stride.

Rachel pivoted and fell in beside her, slowing to match her pace. "You went out pretty early," she observed. "More nightmares?"

"Just restless."

"You, or junior there?"

Liz rested a hand on her stomach and smiled in spite of herself. The baby had grown active the last few weeks, to the point where Rachel had teased that she had a future gymnast on her hands. "No acrobatics last night. This one's all on me, I'm afraid."

"You're missing home."

"That's part of it," she admitted. "It's just this weekend…" She trailed off, not sure she wanted to go down that road.

"Oh, come on," Rachel prompted. "You can't give me that kind of lead in and expect me not to push. Keep going."

Liz shrugged, knowing her aunt was right. Simply by opening her mouth, she'd given Rachel leave to press her for more information. "Ever since I left Roswell, I've been feeling guilty," she began slowly, trying to determine the best way to pick through the mine field of her life. "All of these things keep happening, and my friends are back there dealing with them while I'm lying on the beach."

"I'd hardly describe your trip out here as a vacation," Rachel interrupted.

"Maybe not," Liz conceded, "but that doesn't mean I'm home helping them, either."

"True." There was a brief silence as they reached the stretch of beach in front of the house. Rachel turned as if to go in, but then stopped and took a seat on one of the large rocks that marked the property line. "Do you consider it your job to be there to help your friends?"

Liz frowned as she sat down next to her. "In some respect. I mean, that's what friends do for each other."

"What can they do for you?" Rachel asked, glancing pointedly at her stomach.

"I-I'm not sure. Not much, I guess," she hedged, knowing her aunt could not understand the true dynamic of her friendships.

"All I'm saying is, right now, you need to concentrate on yourself. I'm sure your friends understand that."

"I suppose," she murmured, ignoring the fact that only a few of them knew she was pregnant. "It just makes me feel helpless. I know I left for a good reason, but at the same time I want to be part of their lives."

"Well, that's totally different."

"How do you mean?"

"You're talking desire versus a sense of obligation. It's not just that you feel guilty for not being there to back them up, you feel left out because you're not participating in what they're doing. Though, from the little you've told me, I can't honestly say that it sounds like you're missing much," Rachel added. "At least not if you judge by how many times Maria's been grounded." She smiled when Liz laughed. "So, what's happening this weekend that has you feeling homesick?"

"Last night was the junior prom."

"Ah. A teen rite of passage. I understand," Rachel said. "I guess all your friends went?"

"That's just it," Liz admitted. "Last year I was so sure I'd be going with Max. I figured we'd double with Michael and Maria, and that it would be this great night, you know? I even went so far as to buy a dress."

"A year ahead?"

"I know," Liz said, rolling her eyes. "It's silly. But it was the perfect dress, and it was on sale, and I was so sure…" She sighed. "Like I said, silly."

"Not really," her aunt soothed. "Tell me about it."

"It's black, with a fitted bodice and thin straps and this full skirt that spins out when you twirl," Liz said wistfully. "Now here I am, big as a house, thousands of miles away. Max and I aren't speaking, Max and Michael aren't speaking, Michael and Maria aren't speaking. God, everything's falling apart," she whispered.

"So, instead of the four of you going, none of you did?"

Liz shook her head. "No. After Michael refused to take Maria, I guess she whined about it to Max, so he asked her to go as friends. Isabel nagged Alex until he asked her, so they were going too. And Kyle asked Tess," she said, frowning.

"Does it bother you? Max going with Maria?"

"Oh no," Liz said. "I'm fine with it. It was just like him to ask her. I know she really wanted to go."

"But?"

"Nothing. I just… wish things were different. But they're not, and they can't be," she continued, "so there's nothing more to discuss."

Rachel's eyes narrowed and she appeared about to say something, but then she merely shook her head slightly and stood up. "How about we discuss breakfast? You hungry?"

"A little."

"I'm going to grab a shower and then I'll throw something together. Eggs okay?"

Liz smiled. "Yeah, thanks."

After her aunt disappeared into the house, Liz swiveled to face the ocean, the salt breeze ruffling her hair. People were already spreading out their blankets, claiming their squares of sand, unpacking pails and shovels and picnic breakfasts. A little girl went dashing down to the edge of the water in nothing more than a diaper, her padded tush swaying over chubby thighs. Liz watched as the child's father chased her down and swooped her up to his shoulders, making her giggle.

She closed her eyes, shutting out the families and the sand and the water. The low sun kissed her face, its gentle light permeating her eyelids. She could still hear the murmur of conversation as the beach grew more populated, and the lull of the water hitting the shore; she could feel the sand beneath her feet, smell the unique blend of coffee and brine and suntan lotion that signaled a morning at the seaside. It felt like she was worlds away from Roswell, from dances and dresses and starry nights on her balcony.

When she opened her eyes, sun spots danced before her, giving the landscape a mystical appearance. She blinked a few times and everything righted itself, but she was left with the unsettled feeling that things were changing, and not just in the obvious ways. Shaking off the sensation, she stood up and slowly padded back to the house.

***

Thanks to an eastern exposure, Liz's room was generally too hot and sunny for comfort in the morning, then gradually cooled as the day went by and the sun shifted to the far side of the house. As a result, she ended up spending hours with her aunt in the small den at the back of the house, reading or watching TV or just talking. It was the last that made her nervous, more and more so as her pregnancy progressed. Not that Rachel tried to trick her into telling her things. Her methods were much more dangerous than that. She would simply come right out and ask Liz whatever she wanted to know: what the doctor had told her on her last visit, if she had a copy of her sonogram, whether she was gaining enough weight. Each question forced Liz to lie outright, making her feel that much more guilty for deceiving her aunt. She found herself contemplating telling her the truth - about everything - and that scared her most of all.

Once lunch was over and the dishes cleared, Liz fled to the solitude of her room under the guise of needing to study, though her homework was long finished and packed away. She needed to escape Rachel's probing gaze and the sensation that she was pealing away layers of secrets simply by watching the way Liz drew breath. Liz understood she was being paranoid, that her aunt was merely looking out for her well being and trying to support her in every way she could, but she felt like she was being torn in half and it was hard to remain rational under those circumstances.

Lying on the bed, Liz rested her hands on her stomach and felt the baby shift in response. It had become a daily ritual, one that never ceased to amaze her. Not only did the baby seem to know when she was reaching for it, it appeared to hear her voice, as well. When it was particularly active, pressing tiny hands and feet against the inside of her body, she could calm it almost instantly by beginning to hum. Sometimes she would just talk, rambling on about anything that came to mind - Roswell, Grandma Claudia, Max. Especially Max.

"Hey there," she whispered. "You're being awfully quiet. I guess you're on good behavior. You know Mommy's not having a great day, huh? Well, don't you worry," she murmured. "It happens to the best of us. I'm just missing home." She glanced at the clock. "And if your Aunt Maria doesn't call soon, I'm just going to have to call her instead. I don't care if she is still asleep," she added.

As if on command, her cell phone started to ring. Liz smiled as she picked up. "Maria?"

"Not without a whole lot of hormones and a few other things best not discussed," came the reply.

Liz's smile widened to a grin as she pushed herself up to a sitting position. "Alex!"

"The one and only. I take it DeLuca has yet to report in?"

"No, the lazy bum," Liz replied. "She knows I'm waiting for all the details. How late can she sleep?"

A quiet snort came through the phone. "How soon they forget. Besides, I imagine she got in even later than I did."

"Oh yeah," Liz said, rolling her eyes. "'Cause Max is such a dancing fool."

"Ah, that's right, you don't know. Michael showed up."

"You're kidding. I thought he was totally against it? Plus, Maria was sure he was two-timing her," she added quietly.

"Nah. Turns out he was taking dance lessons in an attempt not to cripple her," Alex laughed. "For all the good it did. I heard a few squeals of pain from her general direction throughout the evening. I don't think she minded too much, though."

"I'll bet. So, Michael surprises everyone yet again. I'm glad. And kind of surprised that Max didn't say anything to Maria, rather than going to the trouble of taking her to prom."

"Er, I don't think Max knew anything about it," Alex said.

"You mean Michael didn't tell him ahead of time?"

"That would require actual conversation," he told her. "You know they're not speaking."

"Still?" Liz frowned. "I thought they patched things up after the whole Brody/Larek hostage thing at the UFO Center."

"Nope. You know Michael. Helping to save Max's ass was his duty, doesn't mean he has to talk to the guy. Besides, once he found out Maria flirted with Brody while they were in there, he was in a pretty pissy mood."

"And that's different how?" Liz muttered. "So, what did Max do once Michael showed up at the dance?"

"Oh. I'm, uh, not really sure," Alex said. "I think he might have just gone home. Honestly, I wasn't paying too much attention," he added sheepishly.

The idea of Max wandering home from the prom, early and alone, was enough to bring tears to her eyes. But she could hear the barely restrained glee in Alex's voice, so she blinked a few times and forced herself to focus on him. "Alex Charles Whitman, what have you been up to?" she mock scolded.

"I know, I know," he answered quickly. "I swore I'd be strong, but I'm not strong, Liz. I'm marshmallow. You know this."

"Alex," she sighed. "Okay, let's have it. What happened?"

"I did really well for a while," he insisted. "But Isabel kept looking at me. God, Liz, no one's ever looked at me like that," he continued quietly.

"Like she was really seeing you," Liz whispered.

"Exactly. And then she kind of warned me, and I could have stopped her, but I didn't."

"You kissed her."

"Yeah. Well, actually, she kissed me."

"Same difference. Okay, so now what?"

"I have no idea," he sighed. "The whole night was this completely perfect thing, but was it just that? The one night, magic of prom kind of deal?"

"What do you think?"

"I think she's stopped running," he said.

"I hope so, for your sake. But whatever you do, let her come to you, Alex. It's working so far. I mean, you've got her chasing after you," Liz said with a smile. "Who'd have thought?"

"Not me, that's for sure. Okay. Play it cool. I can do this. I can, can't I?"

Liz laughed. "Yes. Be strong. Man of Steel."

"Right. Yes." He let out nervous chuckle. "I wish you were here. I'm gonna cave by dinner."

"No, you won't. Have a root beer. Then call Maria and she'll back me up."

"Fine. Enough about my surprisingly existent love life. How are you? How's the littlest Czech?"

"I'm much better now that I've talked to you. And the baby's fine."

"You're sure?"

Liz sighed. Once she had finally told Alex the entire Future Max story, he had understood her decision to go to Florida and her reluctance to see a doctor. Unlike Maria, he had respected her choices and ceased to nag her about going home. But it was clear that he was concerned for her health, even though he realized how impossible it was for her to follow normal medical procedures. He had been vying for permission to tell Isabel everything for the past two weeks, reasoning that she could fly down to Florida and back on an alien-generated plane ticket before anyone was the wiser. But Liz was still hesitant to go to Max's sister until it was absolutely necessary, knowing it would mean putting her directly in the middle.

"Yes, I'm sure. I can't explain why, but I can just tell."

"Like some sort of connection?"

"Maybe that's it. Or just some kind of instinct. I don't know what it is, but I trust it."

Alex hummed softly. "You can't put this off forever."

"I know what I'm doing."

"I don't see how you possibly can," he muttered. "But it's your decision."

"I love you for worrying."

"I love you, too. That's why I worry." A soft click sounded through the phone line. "I've got another call. You want to hold on?"

Liz laughed. "I'll bet it's Isabel," she teased. "You go ahead. And remember, be strong."

"The strongest marshmallow in town," he vowed. "Talk to you later."

"Bye." She reached over and put her phone on the nightstand, then shifted so she could lie down again. It was wonderful to hear Alex so happy and confident. He'd grown so much over the past few months, it was hard to recognize him as the same gawky boy who had followed Isabel Evans all through school, never believing she would ever turn his way. And now, it seemed, she had. Liz just hoped that she meant it this time. Alex deserved to have his wishes come true.

***

…We had a great wedding. We called Maria, Michael, Isabel and Alex and had them meet us half way. We spent the whole night singing and dancing in some dive outside Phoenix. At the end of the night, "I Shall Believe" came on the radio.

I love that song.

I know. Everyone else was exhausted. But not us. We danced. Just the two of us. Ever since then it's been our song…


"How can they still be dancing?" Michael groaned from the booth where he sat propped in the corner, Maria sprawled across his chest. "It's nearly dawn."

"Don't you know anything about newlyweds?" Maria mumbled into his shirt.

"Yeah, but I'd always heard that stamina applied elsewhere," he said with a snort.

"Please, my ears," Isabel protested. "He's still my brother, even if he is married."

Liz smiled as Max's arms tightened around her. "Why'd we call them again?" he whispered, idly stroking the silk at her waist with one hand.

"Because we love them," she replied, tilting her head back so she could look into his eyes. He had the most beautiful, luminous eyes. Like amber flames. God knew he could melt her with a single glance. Kind of like he was doing now… "Max," she said, her voice suddenly husky.

"Yes, Mrs. Evans?" he asked, brows arching.

Whatever she had intended to say slipped from her thoughts as she felt her heart beat a little faster in the face of the pure joy and adoration shining down on her. "I love you," she murmured.

Every hint of merriment faded from his expression as he leaned down and kissed her, his tongue tangling with hers briefly before he pulled away. Those eyes told her everything she needed to know: Max loved her, and that love was the most vital and important thing in the world. Resting his forehead against hers, he held her firmly to his chest and swung her across the small dance floor, twirling them both until Liz could swear she saw stars. She followed him effortlessly, her long white gown rustling like the whisper of wings, their bodies completely in tune as they swayed to the gentle beat of the music.

As the chorus repeated over and over, Max brought them to a virtual standstill, their feet inches apart, their faces even closer. "This has been the best day of my life," he breathed, bringing his lips down over hers. She felt more than love this time, more than the hint of passion that had been brewing all night. This was raw desire, igniting a matching need deep within her. Liz pressed against Max, arching to meet each demanding kiss, her desperation growing with each caress until it reached a fever pitch. Gone was the shabby club, forgotten were their friends sitting back at the table and the weary staff anxious to close, ignored were the dying strains of music fading into the night. I shall believe, I shall believe, I shall believe…

A weary voice pierced through the haze of their embrace. "Okay, that's it. Those two really need to get a room," Alex announced.

Max pulled back, his eyes glassy with desire as he stared down at Liz. Their gazes held for a single moment before they turned to the others, and then everyone burst out laughing.

***

The phone was ringing. Why was the phone ringing? She wanted to keep dancing, to stay wrapped in the warm protection of Max's arms. Nothing bad could happen while he held her that way. While he still loved her. But if she answered the phone, the dancing would stop. The love would stop. And she'd be alone again.

Finally the ringing ceased, but Liz was awake now. She could hear her aunt's voice rising and falling at the far side of the house. A short, staccato gasp drove away the last vestiges of sleep, and she pushed her way up and out of bed. Not bothering with a robe, she made her way down the hall, taking measured, even steps, ignoring the fierce pounding of her heart. When she reached her aunt's bedroom, she found Rachel sitting on the edge of her bed staring at the floor, one hand resting on the phone.

"What?" Liz asked. "What is it?" Her mouth was dry and it was suddenly difficult to breathe. "Rachel," she said sharply, causing her aunt to look up, revealing blue eyes filled with tears.

"Come here," she said, reaching out a hand.

Liz took two steps into the room, and their fingers locked together. Rachel drew her down beside her on the bed and wrapped her other hand over their joined ones. "Honey, I'm afraid there's been a car accident," she said slowly. "It's Alex." When Liz didn't say anything, Rachel's hands tightened. "Liz, he's dead."

"No," she whispered, shaking her head. "No, he can't be."

"Liz, I'm so sorry, honey." Rachel released her hand and wrapped both arms around her shoulders. "I know how close you were."

"No, he can't be dead. It's not possible," Liz insisted, trying to pull away. "I was just talking to him. He was in…" She trailed off, realizing what she had been about to say. He was in Phoenix. After Max and I eloped. She shoved hard and managed to loosen her aunt's grip.

"It's sudden and terrible," Rachel said gently, silent tears streaking down her cheeks. "Give yourself a little time to process."

Liz shook her head again and stood up. "I have to go home."

"Are you sure that you…"

"I said, I have to go home," she repeated. Once the words were out, she set her jaw, bracing it to keep the trembling at bay. From the tips of her fingers, all the way down to her bare feet, she could feel the tremors threatening to start. And if she gave in, if she let loose for even a second, she would break. This isn't happening. The thought pounded through her brain, her temples starting to throb in time to the phrase.

"If you're sure," Rachel said, going on in a steady voice as if the world wasn't flying to pieces. As if Liz wasn't about to shatter where she stood. "Your mother thought you'd want to go, to be there for the funeral. But Liz, no one would think less of you if you chose to stay here."

Liz jerked her head up and met her aunt's worried gaze. "I would."

*****

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
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Posts: 56
Joined: Tue Oct 09, 2001 4:58 pm

Revelations - Part 8

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Tue Jun 17, 2003 4:15 pm

Sorry for the delay with this. I think you can all understand when I say it was a difficult section for me to write on many levels. I hope you consider it worth the wait. And as always, thanks for all your wonderful feedback.

:)
Em

******

Part 8

******

It was mid-afternoon when the small prop plane banked sharply to the right then straightened over the single runway of the Roswell airport, signaling an end to the final leg of Liz's journey home. She had spent the day shuttling between the hard molded plastic chairs that seemed to adorn every airport waiting area, and too-narrow coach seats that never allowed sufficient space to stretch her legs. Once the plane touched down, it was all she could do to wait for them to roll the stairs into place and open the door. She felt a hundred years old walking across the tarmac, back aching, knees stiff, eyes smarting from the sudden brightness of the outdoors after a day spent in dull florescent lighting.

The Roswell airport wasn't very big, and Liz spotted her mother the moment she entered the terminal. She looked pale and tired, her face bare of make up, hair hanging in a limp braid, but she lit up with relief when she caught sight of Liz.

"Oh baby," she said softly, pulling her into her arms, though Liz's stomach wedged between them made it decidedly awkward. "I'm so sorry about Alex, honey." She took a step back, keeping hold of Liz's shoulders. "Look at you," she whispered. "I can't believe it." Her eyes darted down, then back up, and she appeared flustered. "How are you?"

Liz shrugged. "I'm not really sure," she admitted. "It was all I could do to just keep moving until I got here."

Her mother nodded. Reaching out, she stroked Liz's hair off her face. "Let's get your bags and head home, okay? You must be exhausted."

"Yeah." Liz allowed her mother to steer her over to the baggage area, where her suitcase was sitting with several others. A few passengers were claiming their belongings, but nearly everyone had already made their way out of the airport and the terminal was oddly quiet compared to the chaos of her earlier stopovers. The parking lot, too, was almost deserted. She had forgotten how small everything seemed. How manageable. It was all so deceptive.

They drove in silence, Liz staring out the window. She was conscious of her mother stealing glances at her, but she didn't have the energy to talk. Instead she watched the scenery go by, growing more and more familiar as they got closer to home.

"Your father's so excited to see you," her mother said as they pulled onto Main Street. A few blocks ahead, Liz could make out the sign above the front of the Crashdown, already lit though it wasn't dark yet. "He wanted to come to the airport with me, but he had to work. We're a little shorthanded right now. Maria was scheduled for this afternoon, but given the circumstances…" She trailed off as she braked for a red light. "I think we both feel a little guilty for being happy you're home," she admitted quietly.

"Because I'm back for a funeral?"

Her mother's expression tightened. The light turned green and she stepped a little too hard on the gas, sending them shooting through the intersection.

Liz winced, but she could already feel the pressure building, everything hanging there in the air between them, and she didn't have it in her to simply ignore it. "I'm sorry. Look, I know you've been worried, and that you and Dad were angry that I went to Florida without telling you I was pregnant. I know that it's weird to suddenly see me like this, all fat," she continued, tears pricking the corners of her eyes. "And that you realize Alex is the only reason I'm back, and he's probably the only reason we're not screaming at each other already, but I just can't do this, Mom, okay? Please. Not now." She took a deep breath, fighting to hold onto the fine threads of her self-control.

"I don't want to argue," her mother said quietly. She had pulled around the corner and parked behind the café. Now she drew the keys out of the ignition, but made no move to get out of the car. "You're right. Your father and I were angry. We still are," she added. "But we love you and, right now, we're more concerned with your well-being than with the details of how we got to this point. So, why don't we just try to get through the next few days, all right? Then we can worry about the rest."

"Okay," Liz agreed, grateful for the reprieve.

"Let's go inside. Your father's probably wondering what happened to us by now."

***

Liz had to get out of the house. It had been barely an hour since she had arrived home, yet already she was crawling out of her skin. Her father's welcome had been heartfelt, complete with a bear hug and a kiss on her forehead, but Liz had not missed the brief expression of shock that flitted over his face when he first saw her. Knowing she was pregnant was clearly far different than facing the proof. Suddenly Liz felt self-conscious with her own parents, something she had never experienced before, even in the heat of the deepest alien conspiracies. She could sense their eyes following her as she moved around the apartment, as if she might break under the strain of multiple teen statistics come to life. Given everything she had been through over the past two years, their concern was almost funny, but then they had no way of knowing that.

Her mother was clearly reluctant to let her go out, as if her fragile state rendered her unable to drive down the street without a chaperone. But Liz pretended to misunderstand her subtle hints about dinner and getting some rest, simply assuring her she would eat when she got back. Not bothering to unpack, or even to change out of the loose dress she'd worn to travel, Liz slipped down the stairs and out the back door before anyone could issue a more forceful protest.

It was dusk when she pulled into the DeLuca's driveway. Even as she climbed out of the car, the porch light flickered on, its sensors reacting to the darkening sky. Liz climbed up the front steps, the middle one groaning predictably, and rang the bell. She had time for a fleeting wish that Mrs. DeLuca not be the one to answer the door, and then the doorknob rattled and Michael was suddenly standing on the other side of the screen. He looked only mildly surprised to see her.

"Liz, hi," he said quietly. "You got home fast." He pushed the screen door open a crack, waiting for her to step back out of the way so he could let her inside. "Maria's gonna be so glad to see…" He stopped as she cleared the door, his gaze dropping to her stomach. "What the-?" His eyes flew to hers, piercing in their understanding. "You've got to be kidding me. This is why you went to Florida?"

She nodded slowly, somewhat thrown by his obvious surprise. She had assumed Max told both Michael and Isabel about her pregnancy. Or at least Tess, which would have been enough for the news to spread to the others, she thought somewhat bitterly.

Michael scowled. "Is this why Max has been such an asshole? I can't believe him."

Liz could see the direction his thoughts were flying, his anger and paranoia gearing up in equal proportions. "Michael, stop. Can I come in?" she asked wearily.

He paused mid-rant, looking uncharacteristically repentant. "Sorry, yeah. Sure." He stepped out of the way so she could pass.

The house was dark, just a small light on in the kitchen. The air around them seemed to hum with sadness. Liz sighed. "I really don't have the energy to do this with you right now, okay? I got no sleep last night, as I'm sure you can imagine, and I spent the day on airplanes." Pressing her fingers to her temples, she allowed herself the luxury of closing her eyes for a moment, shutting out Michael's questioning gaze. "Yes, Max knows I'm pregnant, and no, it's not his baby," she let out all in one breath. When she opened her eyes again, Michael was staring at her, his expression unreadable. "What?" she demanded.

He started at her sharp tone. "Nothing. Forget it."

"Michael?" Maria's soft voice echoed from the other room. An instant later she appeared in the doorway, her hair a tangled mess and her clothes so wrinkled it was clear she had been sleeping in them. Her red-rimmed eyes took a moment to focus on Liz, and then she was flying across the room.

"Oh, God, Liz," she cried. "I knew you'd come home."

Liz hugged Maria tightly, taking comfort in how real and solid she felt. It made the last twenty-four hours seem more dream-like than ever, and right now that was what she needed. To hold on to the hope that she might still wake up and find everything back the way it should be.

Over Maria's shoulder, she saw Michael's eyes soften. He jerked his head toward the door. "I'm going to go pick up some stuff for dinner. You staying?"

Liz shook her head. "I told my parents I'd be home. But I'll be here until you get back for sure," she added, understanding what he had not said - that he didn't want to leave Maria alone.

"Right." He frowned slightly, then turned and left.

Maria flicked on the lights, then pulled Liz over to the sofa. "How'd you find out?" she asked, her voice slightly hoarse from crying.

"My parents called last night and told Rachel. She told me," Liz replied simply. She glanced around the room, something occurring to her. "Maria, where's your mother?"

"She stayed home all morning with me and Michael, so she just ran down to the store for a few hours. Something about expecting a delivery," she said. "And Sean's out of town for some sort of court thing."

Liz had forgotten about Sean. It was strange to think of him living in Roswell after so many years. He had been such a wild kid. She'd always admired his fearlessness. At least until he'd ended up in jail. Maria had always considered him a pest, and Alex had been terrified of him. Sean used to call him Alice. She hadn't thought of that in years.

Shaking off the memories, she focused on Maria. "Talk to me," she prompted. "What happened? All I know is it was a car accident."

Maria nodded, swallowing visibly. "Okay. Um, it was just after closing at the Crashdown. Most of us were there. Michael and I had been working, and Isabel, Kyle, and Tess were hanging around, going through prom pictures. Alex was supposed to come meet us," she choked out. "But…" She shook her head and took a deep breath. "I dropped a plate while I was cleaning up, so I went into the break room for the dust pan. Valenti had come in the back door and he was just standing there," she said, her eyes filling with tears. "He had this look, you know? I could tell something bad had happened. Then he told me. I… I screamed and ran out to the café to Michael. I felt like I couldn't breathe."

"Oh, Maria," Liz said, pulling her friend into a hug.

Maria rested her head on Liz's shoulder. "Valenti followed me and told the others. Right away, Isabel said we had to go get Max. That he'd take care of everything," she whispered.

Liz felt her heart skip a beat. "What? Maria, what are you saying?"

Maria sniffed. "I know it sounds nuts, but she was so sure."

"Where was Max?"

"Home. He had claimed to have homework, but I just think he wanted to skip the whole prom recap," Maria said. "Not that I blame him, after the way I took off with Michael."

"I'm sure he understood."

Maria shrugged, then leaned forward and grabbed a box of tissues off the coffee table. She pulled one out and blew her nose. "That's kind of beside the point."

"What happened next?" Liz pressed gently.

"Isabel went to get Max, and then we all met down behind the Sheriff's station."

"Why there?"

Maria started to tear up again. "That's where the morgue is," she whispered, her words barely audible.

"Oh God," Liz murmured.

Maria took a shuddering breath. "The… the coroner's van had already gotten there and when Valenti checked he could tell they… they had taken Alex inside. So, he and Max went… in."

"Max went into the morgue?" Liz whispered.

Maria nodded. "Yeah. Oh, Liz, he looked so awful when he came back out. I've never seen him that pale, and his eyes… I just…" She broke off crying.

"Shhh," Liz soothed, hugging her tightly again. "I can't believe Isabel made him do that."

"No, Liz, he wanted to try," she insisted, swiping at her wet cheeks. "But the whole time he was in there, Isabel kept going on about what he was doing, and how he and Alex would come running out any minute, and that we'd need to come up with a cover story for Hansen. She was positive it would work. When Max came out by himself, she just ran off. It was awful."

Liz tried to imagine what she would have done. Would she have expected Max to try to heal Alex had she been there? No-that wasn't healing; what Isabel had expected was resurrection. That was just… She shuddered at the thought of Max trying to bring Alex back. But then she thought of going forward, knowing Alex was dead. The flood of despair that followed made it easier to understand Isabel's motivations.

"How is Isabel?" she asked softly, trying to focus on the present, fighting the urge to spiral into misery.

"I'm not sure," Maria admitted. "Max went after her. I couldn't face school today, so I don't know if she went." She sat up and grabbed another tissue. "I'm so glad you came home, Liz." Her eyes drifted to Liz's burgeoning middle and she smiled faintly. "I can't believe you actually look pregnant. I mean, I knew you would, but seeing you is just weird."

"Yeah," Liz agreed. "I'm having that effect on pretty much everyone. My dad looked ready to pass out when he saw me, and Michael just about went ballistic when he opened the door."

Maria gasped. "Michael! I didn't even think about him not knowing!"

"I thought Max would have told him," Liz admitted.

"Come on, Liz, you know Max better than that. Besides, if Spaceboy knew, no way would he have been able to keep his mouth shut. I'd have heard about it." Maria took her hand. "So what did he say?"

"Not much. I kind of cut him off at the pass by telling him it wasn't Max's. I could see him spoiling for a fight," she sighed. "But now I'm thinking about all the people who don't know. I don't want them to find out at the funeral. It wouldn't be right."

Maria frowned a little. "Michael can tell Isabel. Though you really should talk to her."

"After," Liz said, shaking her head. "This week is about Alex."

"I guess I can tell my mom for you."

"Terrific," she mumbled.

"It's a good thing Michael spent last night on the couch," Maria agreed. "What about Kyle?"

"I'll go see him tomorrow."

"Mr. Whitman asked them to be pallbearers, you know," Maria said in a whisper, as if saying it any louder would make it more true. "Michael, Max, and Kyle."

"I can't believe this is happening," Liz said, closing her eyes. "What did I do, Maria? How did we get here?"

"What? Liz, what are you talking about?"

She opened her eyes and stared at her friend. "This shouldn't have happened," she said, her voice tight. "Alex wasn't supposed to die. In that other timeline, he lived until at least nineteen. He was there with the rest of you when Max and I got married. It's all my fault."

Maria's mouth dropped open. "Liz, you can't really believe that," she said, clearly stunned.

"How can I not?"

"Liz, you didn't do this! You were thousands of miles away. It was an accident, a terrible, terrible accident," Maria said tearfully.

"But if I hadn't messed with the way things were supposed-"

"Stop it!" Maria cut her off. "This is not. Your. Fault. You don't know why this happened, okay? It's tragic and it hurts and we'll never forget it, but you can't blame yourself." She grabbed Liz's shoulders and shook her. "Do you hear me? I can't deal with this if you go off the deep end on me. I need my rational, reasonable best friend."

Liz nodded, if only to get Maria to release her. There was no point in upsetting her any more than she already was. "Okay," she agreed softly.

Maria eyed her for a moment, then seemed satisfied. She flopped back on the couch, looking exhausted. "Good," she said. She turned and stared at the pile of crumbled tissues on the table, but made no move to throw them away. "My mom thinks I should go back to school tomorrow. Rumor has it they've brought in a grief counselor," she sighed. "How will talking to a total stranger help anything?"

"I don't know," Liz said.

They sat there in silence for a few minutes until the sound of the door opening made Liz sit up straighter. When Michael appeared, she relaxed again, glad she wouldn't be forced to face Maria's mother.

"I should get home," she said. "My mom was less than thrilled that I came over."

Maria nodded. "Call me tomorrow?"

"I will."

The girls stood up and hugged again. Liz found herself loathe to let go, as if Maria would disappear into the ether if she didn't keep a tight grasp on her. But finally she stepped back and picked up her purse. "Take it easy," she whispered.

"You, too," Maria said. "And Lizzie?"

"Yeah?"

Maria hesitated. "Just, please drive carefully."

Liz nodded. "I'll call when I get home," she promised. She peeked warily at Michael, but he seemed more interested in how Maria was doing than in grilling her. "See you later."

"Right," he said. He looked her carefully in the eye, and Liz suspected he was working hard to keep from glancing downward.

Though she was less than anxious to get home, it was an odd relief to get out of Maria's house and have the door close behind her.

***

Liz was discouraged to discover that her favorite pajamas no longer fit. Cursing her disappearing waistline, she changed into sweats with a loose drawstring waist and one of her father's old T-shirts, then curled up on top of the covers, her back supported by several pillows. Bending her legs, she propped a photo of herself with Maria and Alex against her knees and traced over the outline of their faces. They all looked so young and carefree. She and Maria had their uniforms on, and all three of them were grinning for the camera. The shot had been taken the summer before last - before the alien abyss opened wide and sucked them in for good. In some respects, it felt like another life entirely.

She set aside the picture, the sight of Alex's smiling face putting her at serious risk of tears. She was afraid once she started crying, she'd never stop. Leaning back, she cradled her stomach between her palms and began taking deep, calming breaths. The baby had been restless all day, no doubt tuned into Liz's unease over the trip home and what it meant. She knew if she didn't relax it would continue to fuss, and she couldn't face the prospect of another sleepless night. There was too much to do over the next few days, and she would need every ounce of strength she possessed to get through it all with her sanity intact.

"Come on, baby," she hummed softly, stroking one hand back and forth, focusing on the tiny life within her. "You're okay. Mommy's got you safe." She felt it start to settle slowly under her gentle ministrations, her tone clearly lulling it into a more peaceful state. "That's it," she whispered. "No more kicking in there, okay? Plenty of time for that once you're born."

The quiet of the apartment enveloped Liz as she lay in her familiar bed. She had forgotten how still everything got once her parents were asleep. At her aunt's, she could always hear the crash of the water along the shore, or light traffic on the main road leading to the beach. But Monday night in Roswell meant the world ground to a halt, everyone getting eight hours of shut eye for the day ahead. The town simply shut down by eleven o'clock.

Beneath her hands, there was a renewed flutter of activity. "What?" she murmured, opening her eyes and looking at her stomach. "Why won't you just go to sleep tonight? Huh, little one?" she asked, sitting up and crossing her legs.

This time the movement came from beyond the window. Liz froze, her eyes pinned to the balcony as she saw the shadow of someone climbing slowly over the wall. Then the figure turned and she forgot how to breathe.

Max stared at her for a moment before he crossed to the window. She heard the soft click as he used his powers on the lock, and then he bent down and raised the sash. "Hey. Can I come in?" he asked quietly.

She hadn't seen him in more than three months. He'd lost weight - maybe as much as she had gained. His face was thin, the hollows of his cheeks pronounced, and she could make out the line of his collar bone through the fabric of his shirt even from where she sat.

"Sure," she said, her voice sounding strange, like she'd never used it before.

He climbed in off the balcony, closing the window behind him, then leaned back against the small ledge as if unwilling to come any closer. His eyes darted around the room, avoiding coming to rest on any one spot for too long, and definitely avoiding her. His expression was guarded, but Liz could see the faintest line between his brows, the beginning traces of a frown.

"Did you see Michael?" she asked.

"What?" He looked at her then, and the frown settled into place. "No. Why?"

Liz shook her head. "I just figured he told you I was back."

"No one told me," he replied. The frown deepened. "I just-I knew. That you would be, I mean," he added quickly. "I never doubted you'd come back for Alex."

"Yeah," she choked out.

His eyes finally met hers, and something deep in his gaze softened. "Are you all right?"

Liz began to nod, then changed her mind. "Not really. You?"

"No."

Neither of them said anything else, and the silence grew more and more awkward. Finally Liz couldn't take it. "You want to sit down?" she offered hesitantly.

Max lingered for a few seconds, then slowly approached the bed. His eyes were drawn to her rounded stomach and Liz felt her cheeks grown warm. The baby kicked abruptly and she winced.

"What?"

"Nothing," she said with a weak smile. "Go ahead," she added, nodding at the foot of the bed.

He sank down a few scant feet away, looking vaguely uncomfortable.

"Maria told me what you did," Liz told him. "Last night. Thank you."

"I didn't do anything," he said. His gaze dropped to his hands.

"You tried," she whispered.

"It didn't work."

"But you did the best you could. I can't imagine… going to the morgue. God, Max."

"He saved me. Remember? He covered for me at the hospital without even knowing why he was doing it. Just because you asked him to." He exhaled sharply. "I owed him. I owed him better than he got."

"You're not God," she reminded him in a hushed voice. "You told me that yourself." She leaned forward slightly, trying to see his expression. "None of this is on your head."

His lips twisted for a moment and he glanced up at her. "I need to ask you something."

Liz sat back abruptly. Here it was, the real reason for his visit. She steeled herself. "Okay."

Max sighed and looked down again. "Am I… Did you go to Florida because of me?" he questioned softly. "Because of how I reacted that night in the Crashdown?"

She found herself remembering her aunt's words-that only Max Evans had the power to make her run. "I had a lot of reasons," she said carefully.

"But I was one of them."

"You were a part of it, yes," she admitted.

Max rubbed the palms of his hands roughly over his face and stood up. For a second Liz thought he was going to leave, but instead he fell to pacing at the foot of her bed. "I'm sorry. I never meant…" He trailed off as he came to a stop in front of the window and stared out into the darkness. "I want you to know that I didn't connect with you on purpose that night. I would never do that to you against your will," he said grimly. "It just happened. You opened your eyes again and I was still looking at you and it was like getting sucked into a vortex. I still don't understand it."

Liz let his words sink in, wishing he would turn so she could read his expression. Something tugged at her mind, important yet elusive. She tried to remember what their connection had felt like that night, but it was so long ago and had been over so quickly. All she came up with was the feeling of panic she had experienced at the thought that she had given everything away.

Max sighed and pressed his forehead to the window. "Whatever else is going on with us, I don't want you to be… scared of me," he said quietly. "I know I was a little insane that night, threatening to go after Kyle, but I'd never hurt you or anyone you care for."

She felt her heart stutter. "Max, I know that," she said. "You were upset. You had every right to be," she acknowledged.

"No," he said, finally turning to look at her. His eyes were completely closed off. "I didn't. No right at all. I don't have any claim to you, Liz, no matter how hard that is for me to accept sometimes."

"I didn't leave because I was frightened of you, Max. I left because I didn't want to force you to see me this way every day," she whispered. "I never wanted to hurt you."

"You should be with your friends and family right now. Don't run away on my account." His eyes darted to her bedside clock. "It's late. I should go. That's really all I wanted to say, anyway."

"All right."

"I guess I'll see you at the funeral."

Bile rose in Liz's throat and she swallowed hard. "Right. Um, listen."

"Yeah?"

"There are a lot of people who still don't know that I'm…"

"Pregnant," he finished for her, his tone flat.

"I didn't think about it before I came home, but I really don't want everyone to just find out at the funeral. It's not fair to them, or to Alex," she said brokenly.

Max stared at her, comprehension dawning in his eyes along with a hint of pain. "I guess that means I should say something to my parents."

"I'm sorry," she whispered.

"It's fine. I'll talk to them tomorrow," he told her, turning to leave. He paused, one leg already over the sill, and glanced back. "Welcome home." Then he was outside, using his powers to relock the window.

The baby began to kick as Max disappeared over the wall, pulling Liz's attention away from the deserted balcony. She rubbed her stomach, crooning softly, and ignored the tears that had turned her vision blurry.

*****

TBC

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EmilyluvsRoswell
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Revelations - Part 9

Postby EmilyluvsRoswell » Mon Jun 23, 2003 7:18 pm

"Stop fidgeting or I'll never get this straight."

"Sorry," Liz sighed, locking her knees. She was standing on a chair in the middle of her room while her mother pinned up the hem of her dress - a black A-line garment Nancy had found in storage, that accommodated Liz's rounded stomach but fell nearly to her ankles. "Why am I so short?" she complained.

"You're not short, you're petite," her mother mumbled around a pin. She tucked up the last bit of fabric and tacked it in place. "There. Done," she said, checking her handiwork as she stood. "Go take it off and I'll sew it later."

"Thanks, Mom." Liz stepped off the chair. "I don't know what I would have done if you hadn't found this. I don't think I could have faced a trip to the mall."

"I know, honey."

Liz changed back into her own clothes and handed the dress to her mother. "I can do it if you don't have time."

"It's no trouble. It'll be faster for me to just whip it up on the machine," she assured her. "Besides, didn't you say Kyle was dropping by?"

"Yeah. He's got lunch period free so he said he'd come over," Liz replied, tugging at the edge of her shirt.

Her mother's eyes narrowed. "I take it he doesn't know you're pregnant?"

Liz shook her head. "He's pretty much the last person I need to talk to before the funeral tomorrow."

"What about Max?"

"He's known for a while," Liz hedged, not willing to admit he had known even before her parents.

Sighing quietly, her mother picked a piece of lint off the dress that hung over her arm. "Liz, I know you don't want-"

"You're right, Mom. I don't want to talk about it."

"Honey, do you really think we won't find out eventually? That baby's going to look like someone," she said pointedly.

"What happened to not worrying about any of this until after the funeral?"

"Fine," her mother agreed. "But don't expect our questions to go away simply because your father and I are willing to give you space."

"I would never make that mistake," Liz muttered as her mother walked out of the room.

Flopping down on her bed, she shut her eyes and pressed the heels of her hands over them. It had been a long morning, marked by tension and the threat of confrontation from the moment she got up. Her mother had been helpful - almost solicitous - but her constant presence was starting to get on Liz's nerves. Every move she made, one of her parents seemed to be hovering nearby, making suggestions or offering advice. Compared to months of Rachel's low-pressure style of support, it felt like she was being smothered.

Liz let her arms drop on to the bed, then rolled gingerly to one side and propped herself up with her elbow so she could see the clock. Kyle was due in five minutes. Time to pull it together. Taking a deep breath, she pushed herself to a sitting position, then struggled to her feet. Her mother had told her earlier in the day that she appeared to be carrying small, and wondered if she was gaining enough weight. Liz had snorted at the idea, unable to imagine feeling any fatter or more awkward. If her current size was any indication, her child was going to be enormous.

She went into the bathroom and ran a brush through her hair. While she was staring at her reflection, there was a light knock on her door and she heard Kyle calling from the hallway. Taking a deep breath, she poked her head out into her bedroom. Kyle was standing in the doorway.

"Hey," he said, giving a little wave. "Welcome back."

"Thanks."

Kyle's eyebrows rose. "So, you gonna come out of there or am I supposed to come in?" he asked, nodding toward the bathroom.

"Um, yeah. I… I guess I should come out," she said. Tilting her head slightly to one side, she took a deep breath and stepped into her room.

Kyle's eyes dropped almost instantly, but unlike virtually everyone else who had seen her over the past two days, his gaze failed to return to her face. "Holy crap."

"Yeah. This is why I needed to talk to you."

"I can't believe this," he sputtered. "I mean, you're… Buddha give me strength," he mumbled.

"Kyle. Kyle, do you think you could look at me?" Liz asked.

"Huh?" But his eyes finally flickered up to meet hers. "Liz, what the hell's going on?" He reached behind him and shut the door.

"I should think that's pretty obvious," she sighed, walking over to the bed and sitting down on the edge.

"Nothing about any of us is obvious anymore," he grumbled. "I mean, are you okay? We are talking little green offspring here, right?"

Liz stared down at her lap, not knowing what to say. She could feel Kyle watching her, waiting for an answer.

"Hold on. Are you saying that baby isn't Max's?" he hissed. He took two steps forward until he was standing directly in front of her. "Is this why we pulled that stunt last fall?" he demanded. "Shit! Max thinks it's mine, doesn't he? That's why he looks like he wants to tear my head off whenever he sees me!"

"Kyle, I-"

"This is insane! What were you thinking?"

"I told him it isn't yours, all right? God, Kyle, do you really think I'd do that to you?"

"My first instinct would be to say no way, but then that's what I would have said to the idea of you getting knocked up, too," he shot back.

"Thanks for the vote of confidence," she said. She had intended for the retort to sound angry, but instead it came out half-hearted and watery.

Kyle backed down instantly. "I'm sorry. Liz, really. Just don't cry, all right? Geez." He sank down next to her on the edge of the bed.

Liz nodded, trying desperately to get herself together. "You're right that he assumed it was yours," she whispered finally. "I told him he was wrong. But… I'm not sure he believed me."

"Great. Alien king on the war path," he muttered.

"Max won't do anything to you, Kyle."

"What a comfort," he said with a snort. "Okay, fine. It's not Max's, and I know it's not mine," he continued. "So, who's the proud papa?"

Liz shook her head.

"What the hell's that? Don't tell me you don't know?"

"Of course I do!"

"Well, okay, who then?"

"I'm not telling anybody. It doesn't matter," she sighed. "The father's long gone and talking about it won't change anything."

"If it won't change anything and it doesn't matter, then there's no reason not to tell me."

"Kyle."

"What? Who is he? And how did I miss you seeing someone new? You said he's gone, gone where? Does he know you're pregnant? Did he just run out on you?"

"It's not like that."

"Then what is it like?" he asked. Liz could hear the impatience in his voice.

"I don't want to talk about it," she said, rising to her feet. "Look, I just didn't want to spring this on you at the funeral tomorrow. I didn't think it would be fair to shock you that way. Could you please tell your father for me?" she asked, avoiding his eyes.

Kyle got up and walked around until he was facing her, a frown creasing his brow. "Liz, it's not Alex's, is it?" he asked quietly.

Liz felt a lump lodge itself in her throat. God, Alex. Her eyes filled with tears and she shook her head.

"I'm sorry," he said quickly. "I didn't mean to… I just, you said the father was gone and… I'm sorry."

"It's okay," she whispered.

"Listen, I'd better get going. Are you sure you're all right?"

"I'm surviving," she said honestly. "Thanks for coming by, Kyle. And I'm really sorry. For the mess with Max and everything."

"Don't worry about," he told her. "It's not like I aspire to be Evans's favorite person."

Liz managed a weak smile. "I'll see you tomorrow."

"Right. I'll fill my dad in tonight. Let me know if I can do anything else."

"I would have thought you'd give up on making that kind of offer," she said. "Haven't I gotten you in enough trouble?"

"Looks like you saved the best for yourself," he replied wryly. "Look, I'm here when you're ready to talk about it."

"Thanks, Kyle. You're a good friend."

He shrugged. "Story of my life."

***

The morning of the funeral was dry and sunny, the blue sky dotted with an occasional cottony cloud. Liz couldn't help but think it was all wrong. She had only been to one other funeral in her life - her grandmother's - and on that day it had rained so hard that no one had managed to stay dry, even beneath the broad black umbrellas provided by the mortuary. Surely that sort of weather was more appropriate for burying someone you loved?

Since the Whitmans had decided against a viewing, the service was to be held at the cemetery. Driving over with her parents, Liz was completely numb. She had ceased to feel anything at all - no pain or fear or guilt. All of her emotions seemed to have drained away, leaving her a hard shell that was simply going through the motions. Part of her knew she was hiding from reality, closing herself off so she could deny what was happening, and that eventually she would have to face the truth of the situation, but she could not seem to bring herself to care. It was easier to feel nothing. Safer.

"Honey, we're here."

Liz jerked her head up at the sound of her mother's voice. Her parents were already out of the car, both regarding her with identical expressions of concern.

"Sorry," she said, slipping from the back seat.

"Come on, Liz," her father said gently. He put an arm around her shoulder and guided her toward the path into the cemetery.

There was already a small group of people gathered. Several rows of folding chairs were lined up along one side of the open grave, occupied with the exception of four in the front that had been left free for family members. Additional mourners stood to the right of the formal seating area, and Liz spotted Maria and her mother among them. She moved toward them automatically, her parents trailing after her.

"Liz," Maria said, pulling her into a hug. "God, how am I going to do this?" she asked, tears filling her eyes.

"You will because you said you would," Liz told her. "For Alex. You know he always said you sing like an angel," she whispered against her cheek.

"Right," Maria sniffed, hugging her tighter.

When Maria had finally released her, Liz turned to find herself facing Mrs. DeLuca.

"Hi, honey," Maria's mother said, pulling her into a hug that matched her daughter's in intensity. "You sweet girl," she murmured, stepping back with a sigh and taking Liz's chin in her hand. "Are you all right?" she demanded.

Liz tilted her head slightly, but managed to nod.

"You should sit. Jeff, go find your daughter a chair," Mrs. DeLuca prompted.

"No, I'm fine," Liz said. "It's okay, Dad," she added, turning to her father. As she did, she saw Mr. and Mrs. Evans walking toward them, with Isabel following a step behind. Mrs. Evans met her eyes and nodded slightly, her expression filled with sympathy, but that was her only acknowledgement. Isabel's gaze were trained on the ground. The blonde's cheeks were wet with tears and it was clear from the slight tremors running through her frame that she was still crying. Liz doubted Isabel was aware of anything beyond her own pain, and again felt an instant of gratitude for her own frozen emotions.

Maria clutched at Liz's hand. "Here they come," she whispered.

Liz looked past the Evanses to the hearse that was pulling into the drive, followed by two black cars. A number of other vehicles filed in behind them, headlights shining despite the bright day. She watched as Mr. and Mrs. Whitman emerged from the first car, along with Alex's uncle and a grandmother Liz recalled meeting several years earlier. Then the doors of the next car opened and several men in dark suits climbed out, along with the minister. Beyond them, Max and Michael got out of the Jeep, Michael tugging uncomfortably at the collar of his dress shirt. Jim Valenti emerged from his truck, and behind him, Kyle and Tess climbed out of Kyle's car. It seemed like they were all moving in slow motion, as if the air around them had thickened somehow and was dragging against their skin.

The pallbearers made their way toward the back of the hearse where two men were already preparing to unload the casket. Liz felt Maria's grip tighten on her hand the instant the coffin became visible, heard the slight whimper her friend let slip through clenched teeth. But both were overshadowed by the soft gasp Tess let out as she walked over to join the Evanses. She had stopped only feet from the grave, her eyes pinned to Liz, mouth open in a perfect 'O" shape. Liz met her bright blue gaze evenly, and for an instant she could allow herself not to care about the other girl's surprise, or to wonder what this meant for the fate of the world. Let her panic over the paternity of Liz's child, and what hold she now had over Max. Tess would learn the official story soon enough. Meanwhile, she could experience a few minutes of doubt and insecurity. It was little enough given what Liz had to face every day.

Someone called to Tess. She jerked her gaze away from Liz and continued over to where Isabel was standing with her parents. Liz couldn't help but feel a stab of regret as Isabel whispered something in Tess's ear that appeared to calm her. It wasn't difficult to guess what she had said. Still, Isabel's body language indicated a certain amount of impatience with Tess, which went a long way toward soothing Liz's disappointment.

The Whitmans moved into their seats and everyone stood as the pallbearers approached with the casket. Liz stared at the polished wooden box and forced herself to breathe. Alex was inside of there. Her sweet, goofy Alex, loyal to a fault. He was really and truly gone. Never again would he appear at the Crashdown, minutes away from closing time, begging for an orange soda. No more movie nights, complete with Ben and Jerry's. She would never get another chance to see him play with his band. Or to see him grow to be a man, with his own home and family. His computer hacking days were over. He had been released from the alien abyss, once and for all, though Liz knew he'd never wanted to be free.

A soft clink tore her from her thoughts as the men set the casket down on the supports that straddled the grave. Then the pallbearers moved to stand with the rest of the mourners. Max glanced briefly at Liz before joining his parents, and the Valentis took their places on the far side of Tess. Michael, however, came over to join Maria. He nodded to Liz as he took Maria's hand and gave it a quick squeeze.

The rest of the service passed in a blur. Liz knew the minister was speaking, but his words washed over her, leaving no impression. Only when Maria stepped forward to sing was she able to focus. She could hear her friend's pain in the breathy quality of her voice, and she understood it was taking every ounce of her strength to make it through the song without breaking down. Liz had never admired Maria more.

Then everyone was stepping forward and placing roses on the lid of the casket and Liz felt her knees threaten to buckle. Sheer will and her father's hand on her elbow were the only things that kept her on her feet. That, and keeping her eyes trained firmly on the horizon. She would not watch them lower Alex into the ground. She just couldn't.

Everyone began to move slowly toward the cars. Liz walked between her parents. She knew she was using them as a shield - that no one would approach her as long as she had one arm linked with each of them - but she refused to feel guilty. The day was about Alex, not her pregnancy or any other alien melodrama.

"Liz, your father and I need to get back to the Crashdown," her mother said as they reached the parking area. "If we drop you at the Whitmans', will you be able to get a ride home with someone?"

It took a moment for her mother's question to register. "You're not coming?" she asked.

"We'd like to, but we really can't," her father replied. "You'll extend our sympathies, won't you?"

Liz climbed into the back seat of the car without a word. Her father peered at her in the rearview mirror, a small frown creasing his brow. Catching sight of his worried expression, she forced herself to respond. "Um, I think I'll just go home with you guys."

Her parents glanced at each other. "Liz, you don't have to," her mother said. "It's no trouble for us to take you over."

Liz took a deep breath. The idea of wandering around the Whitmans' house, of having all of those people staring at her and possibly cornering her with questions… It was enough to make her heart start racing. From where she sat, she could see everyone piling into their cars. So many of them. Too many to face. "I'd rather not go," she said. "I don't really feel up to it," she admitted.

"Are you feeling all right?" her mother asked quickly.

"Yeah, Mom, that's not it, okay. I just don't want to go. Can you drop it, please?"

Comprehension flooded her mother's blue eyes. "I understand," she said gently. "That's fine, honey."

"Thanks," she whispered, feeling weak and childish, but suddenly too tired to fight either sensation.

***

Liz had forgotten how crowded the Crashdown could get on a weekday afternoon. The after school crush was in full swing when they got back from the funeral, and both of her parents immediately headed down to the restaurant to relieve the overwhelmed staff. Glad to have the apartment to herself for a little while, she went up to her room and changed out of her mother's black dress, then climbed out onto her balcony. It was getting difficult to maneuver through the window, her protruding stomach brushing against the sill as she shimmied through the opening, making her feel wide and ungainly. "One of these days I'm going to get stuck," she muttered, as she lowered herself onto her deck chair.

The sky was still clear and blue, the clouds apparently having scattered in the gentle breeze. Staring upward, Liz could just see the crest of the moon where it was beginning to rise. It wouldn't be dark for hours, yet there it was, a gentle reminder of the presence of the universe and how tiny their world really was.

"Are you up there somewhere, Alex?" she whispered. "Can you see me? Hear me? Are you watching over us?" She took a deep shuddering breath, her ribs trembling with the effort it took not to cry. "We sure need someone watching over us all, don't we? But not you. It shouldn't be you. I need you here with me, keeping me sane."

A soft buzzing sound filled the air, growing steadily louder, and a minute later an airplane flew into her line of sight. It seemed to move so slowly, not even as fast as the cars on the street below, and though she knew it was merely an illusion of the distance, she found herself waiting for it to drop from the sky. How slowly could it fly and not risk crashing? How fast did a spaceship go?

Liz pressed her hands over her face, shutting out the enormity of the heavens above. It was too hard to sit there and wonder, to search for answers she would never have. And it didn't make any difference, anyway. Alex was gone. She could no longer feel him. He had simply vanished into oblivion.

But did she really believe that? How could you be there one moment and the next simply… not? She needed to understand what had happened. She had to see for herself.

Feeling a surge of determination, Liz heaved herself to her feet and wiggled back through the window into her room. She grabbed her purse and slipped downstairs. When she poked her head into the kitchen, she found her father working the grill, a giant apron tied around his waist.

"Dad, I'm just going to run out for a little while," she said quickly. "I won't be late." Then before he could respond, she turned and hurried out the back door.

In the corner of her mind, Liz acknowledged that what she was doing could be considered strange, even morbid. The accepted route had been set out for her: go to the funeral, back to the house, pay your respects, dry your eyes, move on. But somehow that felt false. Formal. Not at all in keeping with the kind of friendship she and Alex had had, or with the kind of person he had been. Alex was about irreverence, not tradition.

She drove carefully, keeping to the speed limit. That would be Alex's legacy to all of them, she thought sadly. Caution. What was it Valenti had said when he was Sheriff? Arrive alive. Liz swallowed hard and blinked. Tears didn't make for safe driving. Besides, she only had the barest idea of where she was going, and if she didn't keep a sharp eye out, she would miss it.

The spot was only about a mile from the Whitmans' house. Liz saw the swooping curve in the road and knew she was there. She slowed considerably, then finally pulled off to the curb. For a moment she simply sat there and stared out the windshield, wondering if she had finally lost her mind entirely. What did she think she was doing?

Answers, she reminded herself. That's what she wanted. She climbed out of the car and walked a few yards up the road, keeping an ear out for oncoming traffic. Then she saw them. Heavy black skid marks in both directions, one set considerably thicker than the other. She could only assume the fatter tracks were from the truck that had hit Alex's car, since the tires would have been much wider. They went on for a good twenty feet, curving off the road toward the sandy embankment. The thinner tracks were shorter and turned abruptly toward the double yellow line. From the positioning, it was clear the car had collided with the side of the semi.

Liz glanced to both sides, checking once more for cars, then walked out into the middle of the road to the spot where the vehicles had crashed. "So this is where you died," she whispered. She stood perfectly still, hardly daring to breathe, but nothing happened.

"I don't know what I expected," she murmured softly. There was a faint vibration beneath her feet, signaling the approach of a vehicle, so she turned and walked back to her car. She climbed behind the wheel and let her head rest against the back of the seat. A moment later a minivan swooped by, obviously going too fast. "Maniacs," Liz said with a scowl. She turned her gaze once more toward the center of the road, and the place where her best friend had died.

Then it hit her. Two sets of tire tracks, one heading east, the other west. Both braking abruptly. Both turning. But one set turned away from the oncoming traffic, and one set turned directly into it.

Liz jumped out of the car again and raced back into the road. She knelt over the thinner set of tracks and traced them with a trembling hand. "Alex?" she whispered.

In the distance, she could hear the rumble of another vehicle. She stood reluctantly and returned to the car, this time starting the engine. Only then did she realize she was holding her breath. She let it out slowly, and felt tears pricking at the corners of her eyes once again. Something was very wrong. And she was going to get to the bottom of it.

***

TBC


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