Normal (CC, M/L, MATURE) ~{COMPLETE}~

Finished Canon/Conventional Couple Fics. These stories pick up from events in the show. All complete stories from the main Canon/CC board will eventually be moved here.

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Normal (CC, M/L, MATURE) ~{COMPLETE}~

Post by Angel » Mon Jun 14, 2004 10:26 pm

Title: Normal
Author: Angel
Category: CC
Rating: MATURE
Summary:This story is based on the 6th season Buffy the Vampire Slayer episode, Normal Again. If you don’t watch Buffy, that’s ok. You’ll still get what’s going on. For those of you who do watch Buffy, this isn’t really going to be like that episode (mainly because Max isn’t a Slayer and there are no demons in Roswell…only the emotional kind), but you’ll recognize the general plot. This picks up immediately after Tess leaves in the Granolith in Departure.
Disclaimer: The author of this fan fiction does not own any aspect of Roswell. Those rights belong to Melinda Metz, Jason Katims, WB, UPN, 20th Century Fox, etc. Disclaimer added by moderator.

I’ll warn you, though, if you’ve read my stories before you know that I like angst. This one will be no different. My characters are flawed. I like them that way, makes them more interesting in my opinion. And let’s face it, by Departure, all these characters were flawed already so I don’t really need to stretch the imagination to make them that way. I tried to add in a little bit of funny, too, so it’s pretty different from anything I’ve written before. Anyway, I hope you like it. I can’t promise fluffy goodness, but I can promise to do my best to give you a good story.

Thanks to Kath for being my extra set of eyes and the other half of my brain. ;)

Image


Prologue

“What do we do now, Max?” Isabel’s voice is still shaky from the revelation that Tess killed Alex. She doesn’t yet know the extent of Tess’ betrayal, though. I haven’t had a chance to tell them since the Granolith shot up out of the pod chamber and into the atmosphere, taking Tess and my son with it.

“I have to find my son.” As I stare out across the desert, I can feel the others’ gazes burning a hole in my back. Not one of those looks contains an ounce of sympathy for the situation I now find myself in, I’m sure. Not that I deserve any. I’ve betrayed every single person standing on this rock with me in one way or another.

Kyle Valenti, no doubt, is wondering why I couldn’t have been on the Granolith with Tess, taking me out of his world and his life forever. My existence has been the source of almost every bad thing that’s happened to Kyle over the last two years. And I guess I have to admit that he’s justified in his hatred of me. Hindsight is 20/20, right? As much as I can say to myself that I had no control over what’s happened in Kyle’s life, if I look at it from his point of view I’d hate me, too.

First Liz breaks up with him because of me. And as they remain friends, he watches as I crap all over Liz and our relationship, repeatedly. Second, his father loses his job because of us. There’s no denying it. Jim Valenti lost his job because he was protecting us, protecting our secret. And last, but certainly not least, Tess. Whether Kyle had sisterly feelings toward Tess, or something more, I don’t really know. But he and his father took her in at my request. I got Tess pregnant, hurting Liz as much as a person can, and because of that I was taking Tess away from Kyle and his dad. Then we find out that she killed Alex and made Kyle help her somehow. I don’t know all the details, but I’m sure they’re horrific.

Screwing up Kyle’s life is just the tip of the iceberg, though.

Maria Deluca is probably plotting how to kill me right this minute. I’m sure the list of ways to eviscerate me is growing longer with each second we stand here. I’ve committed the worst possible sin in her eyes, hurting Liz. As Liz’s best friend, she’s made me promise on more than one occasion that I would never knowingly hurt Liz. And as much as I want to say that I never meant to hurt her, I can’t.

I think I might be off the hook regarding taking Michael away from her, though. Thanks to him and his decision to stay before we knew the awful truth about Tess. Michael’s changed a lot in the last two years. So much so, that I hardly recognize him anymore. He’s found his home here with Maria and I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s what he’s always wanted, a family of his own, somewhere he belonged. I almost took all that away from him. Right now he’s wondering why the hell I’m the leader here and not him. But he’ll forgive me my mistakes.

Isabel might not. My sister knows how to hold a grudge and she has every reason right now to be pissed at me for the rest of our lives. I have said and done things to her in the last few months that are unforgivable. I’ve threatened her and bullied her into doing what I wanted. And Alex…I can’t think about Alex right now. Because thinking about Alex reminds me once again of how I’ve destroyed the lives of our human friends. The people who accepted us into their lives, accepted us for what we are. They’ve fought by our side and helped us through every crisis we’ve been confronted with. They’ve put their lives on the line. They’ve loved us.

Love. I never thought anyone could love me, really love me. Because of what I am. Because of where I come from. But Liz did. She loved me completely. And even though I wish I could say the same, I realize now that my love for her was selfish, destructive. I can feel her behind me, her small, soft hand in mine. Even now, she’s offering me her strength. I wish I didn’t need it, but I do. Like a drug. I need her, have always needed her, and that need has ripped apart her life. I am, as I have always feared, a monster.

Silence follows my statement. A silence that isn’t really all that quiet. Because even though I can’t read their minds, I know what each of them is thinking. It’s a long, drawn out, silent but not silent pause in the day. Liz is the first to move. Dropping my hand, she steps away and walks down the edge of the rock face toward Maria’s Jetta without looking back.

Slowly, everyone else follows and I stand by myself. All of them wanting to get away from me. Away from the destruction I’ve brought upon them. Isabel looks back and tells me she’s calling Jim to see if he’ll come pick us up. I nod absently, my eyes still on Liz’s retreating form. The last thing I remember before the world goes black is the sight of Liz climbing into the passenger side of the Jetta, glancing up at me with such sadness on her face that I feel my heart squeeze painfully in my chest.

When I come to, the first thing I’m aware of is how weak I feel. The room feels like it’s spinning, and I can’t make anything out clearly. I begin to panic. I must have been drugged. I try to shake off the grogginess and take in my surroundings. I’m alone. In a room with white walls. And I’m strapped down to a bed. No, this can’t be happening.

Before I start to scream, I see the shape of someone enter the room and hear a gasp. Whoever it is quickly leaves and I struggle against my restraints. How did this happen? The last thing I remember, I was in the desert. How did I end up here? What happened to the others? Isabel? Michael? Are they here, too? I try to reach out with my mind, looking for the thread of recognition that runs between us. But I don’t feel them at all. Their presence is totally missing from my mind.

There are machines beeping around me, and I can feel the I.V. in my arm. The restraints on my wrists prevent me from removing it like I want to. In my struggles, my vision improves and I start to feel a little bit better.

When the door opens, I don’t recognize the man who walks in. Instead of saying anything, I decide to wait for him, see what he has to say first. He doesn’t look like he’s with the FBI, but looks can be deceiving. He’s looking at me as if he’s surprised to see me looking back at him, and a hint of a smile comes to his face. He’s middle aged, with a sprinkling of gray hair mixed in with his brown. He walks closer to my bed, continuing to look at me curiously as he pulls what looks like a pen light from his pocket.

“Max? Do you know who I am?” He asks. His voice is deep, but friendly.

“Where am I?” I know he probably won’t tell me, but I don’t know why he would think I’d know who he is. I’ve never seen him before in my life.

He nods, as if suddenly understanding something he wasn’t sure about. He approaches my bed cautiously, and says in a gentle, soothing voice, “Max, I’m Dr. White. Your parents are on their way now. But let’s have a look and see how you’re doing, ok?” He gestures with his pen light, asking permission to come closer.

“My parents?” Is he lying, trying to get me to cooperate? I look around again, able to see out into the hallway when a nurse comes in. I briefly see other patients in the hall and various medical staff as well. “What is this place?” I look back at him with a look that tells him to keep his distance.

He sighs as if he doesn’t want to answer my question. “You’re in a medical facility, Max. I’d rather wait until your parents get here to tell you more.”

He seems sincere in that my parents are actually on their way and I start to wonder if I’m with the government at all. Glancing around the room again, I catch sight of the outline of my body under the blanket, thinner than I know it should be. I look at my arms and they look thin as well. And the skin covering the obvious bones sticking out is a pasty white. “Where’s my sister?” I notice now that my voice sounds different, my throat feels scratchy, unused.

Dr. White’s face seems to fall at my question and I fear the worst. “Let’s wait for your parents, then we can answer your questions.”

“Where’s Isabel?” I demand, fear edging its way into my heart.

“Max, Isabel isn’t here,” He answers carefully, nodding at the nurse who leaves abruptly. I have the feeling she’s going to be back with a syringe.

Panic has set in completely at this point and I can’t shake the feeling that things are very different. That this isn’t the FBI. That Isabel and Michael are gone, maybe dead. “How long have I been here?” My voice warbles, afraid of his answer.

Dr. White clenches his jaw, takes a deep breath and says, “This time, you’ve been here for just about a year, Max. But you’ve been in and out of this facility since you were six years old.”

The breath leaves my body and my jaw drops. “What?” I whisper. “You’re…you’re lying.” I’m so confused and I can feel the adrenaline coursing through my body, causing my heart to beat loudly in my chest.

He comes closer to the bed, seeing my impending panic attack. I struggle against the restraints fruitlessly and say through clenched teeth, “Don’t come near me.”

The doctor immediately stops and his shoulders sag, defeated. “Ok, Max. Calm down. I’m leaving now, but I’ll come back when your parents are here. They’ll help explain everything.” He backs toward the door and I think that my heart might actually be calming its rhythm; that thought is short lived.

Because at that moment, I’m faced with my biggest shock since I woke up. Dr. White is startled, but smiles quickly when the door opens. He looks nervously toward me, then back toward the new person intent on entering my room. “Look who’s awake,” The doctor gestures toward me.

A bright, cheerful face looks over at me and with a big smile, Alex Whitman says, “Welcome back to the land of the living, Max.”

That’s when the world goes black again.

~TBC~
Last edited by Angel on Mon Aug 23, 2004 1:10 pm, edited 15 times in total.

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Post by Angel » Mon Jun 21, 2004 1:24 pm

Thanks for all the great feedback! I know you all have a lot of questions, but they'll be answered soon enough. Hope you enjoy this next part...


Part 1

Of course. It’s always about Evans. Why are we still here? Shouldn’t this be something Isabel and Michael can take care of? I grunt again in irritation and kick a few rocks away, earning an annoyed look from Michael.

Liz and Isabel are fighting for control of the diagnostics that are going on over Max’s prone body and Maria is walking back with a bottle of water that she got out of the Jetta…taking her time, I note with amusement. When she gets back, she unscrews the lid and splashes some on his face, making me giggle slightly. I don’t know why, but I’m suddenly wishing she’d dump the entire bottle on his face.

I take this opportunity to sit down on a nearby rock and rest my head in my hands. Again, I wonder why we’re still here. We were on our way when El Presidente decided to pull a drama queen fainting episode. I wanted to leave anyway, but Liz jumped out of the car and went running. Her usual M.O. when it comes to Evans.

He’s been out for about ten minutes and now we’re stuck waiting here for my dad to come pick the alien trio up. I’m not sure why we need to wait with them, but Liz is insisting and Maria won’t go without her.

It’s just way too early in the morning for this. I’ve been up since, like, five when Liz and Maria came crashing in on me. The longer I sit here, the more I start remembering and I don’t want to. I don’t want to remember how much Tess messed with my head. I don’t want to know, not right now. Right now, I just wanna go home and go to bed.

“He’s waking up.” I hear Isabel’s anxious voice. “Max, can you hear me?”

When I look at Max, I see that his eyes are cracked open and he’s trying to sit up. He looks around, confused, and I think that maybe he hit his head when he went down. “What…what happened?” He’s looking at Isabel like he didn’t expect to see her there and asks, “Where’d Alex go?”

All movement freezes as we all stare at Max. “I guess he did hit his head.” I wonder if he has amnesia. People get amnesia all the time on TV when they hit their head. Maybe he doesn’t know who we are. Maybe he doesn’t know who he is. That would be cool. The more I think about it, the more fun I think we can have with this.

“Wait.” Max closes his eyes and rubs his forehead. “Wait,” he says again, and I can tell now that he’s remembering. Damn.

“Max, you passed out,” Liz tells him and hands him a bottle of water. “Why did you ask about Alex?”

I see Max look at Liz with one of his looks, and I feel like gagging. He stares at her for what seems like forever before he shakes his head and says, “I don’t know. I must have had a…a dream, or something. It seemed so real.”

Isabel tries to help him stand up, he resists, and she says, “God, Max. What happened? I was so worried.”

“I…I don’t know. I was standing here and you said something about calling Valenti, then I woke up in a hospital.” He runs his hand through his hair and takes a drink of water before continuing. “Everything…it was different. He said I’d been there for a year. And Alex was there.”

I watch Isabel and Michael exchange worried looks and I can’t help it. “So, did you ask the wizard for a new brain?”

Maria snorts a small laugh before covering her mouth sheepishly. I see a hint of smile on Michael, too, and score one for myself.

“Kyle,” Isabel says in warning and I stand up, not about to feel bad for making fun of Max’s little hallucination.

“Now that the crisis is over, can we go now? My dad should be here any minute.” I fidget impatiently, hoping Maria will see it my way. I have an extreme need to get away from this place right now. I want to get away from them, that rock, and anything else alien related.

Liz looks conflicted and I watch as she looks between me and Max. I know she’s pissed. And she’s barely holding herself together. I doubt the aliens know this, but I see it. She’s showing her solid, dependable exterior. But I can see it in her eyes, her vulnerability, her devastation, and her weariness. She’s gonna break soon, and I know she won’t want to in front of them.

“Come on, Liz. Let’s go home.” I walk to her side and I can tell that Maria sees it the same time I do because she joins me there. Maria helps Liz up off the ground and I put my arm around her, helping her stay standing without letting the others know that she needs it.

Maria walks over to Michael and says something to him that I can’t hear, probably asking if he’s staying with Isabel and Max. She kisses him lightly before walking away toward the Jetta and I gently guide Liz down the rocks and back into the car.

As Maria maneuvers the car along the dirt path that leads to the highway, I look back and see the three aliens watching us go. Max and Michael with matching looks of longing on their faces, Isabel with a look mixed with regret and anger.

And for a moment, I feel sorry for them. They were all betrayed by Tess, just like I was. I can empathize with what they’re probably feeling right now. But mostly I feel sorry for them. Isabel, who didn’t know what she had until he was gone. She seemed affected more than anyone by Alex’s death. At the time, it slightly irritated me, making me think she was looking for sympathy, more so than his two best friends. But I came to realize that she had finally accepted Alex’s love for her, a love that she constantly turned away. And just when she opened herself up to it, he was taken away.

Now they finally find out that Alex was killed by one of their own, someone they took in and cared about. I look away and back toward the front. Maria is silently driving, the radio is even turned off. She looks different. Sure, she looks tired. But it’s something else. Maturity. Like she’s aged in the twelve hours since I saw her last. I’m still trying to put my head around the fact that Michael wasn’t going to go with the others. That he was going to stay on Earth. For Maria.

Michael was the first one to always say how they didn’t belong here. I never was one to argue with him about that. But the fact that he chose to stay tells me that there’s a lot about Michael Guerin that I don’t know or understand.

My attention gets diverted when Liz leans her head back on the headrest in front of me. I can see her shoulders shake slightly and Maria silently reaches over to grab Liz’s hand. I feel unwanted tears sting my eyes and I look away, out the window to my right. And now my thoughts have nowhere to go but where I don’t want them to be…Alex.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ok, what just happened here? Am I the only one who doesn’t know what’s going on? Max didn’t kill Tess? He sent her off in the Granolith instead? Why? Maybe I should have stayed in there with him to make sure she paid for what she did to Alex. I should have, but I left like he told me to. Why did he send her and not go with her? Why didn’t he make her stay? What happened in that chamber?

Watching Maria’s car disappear down the road with a cloud of dust in its wake, I’m still standing here wondering what’s going on. But I know I won’t get any answers if I ask. Max is in his own little world and Isabel is busy shooting daggers at the departing Jetta.

I don’t blame them for leaving. I wish I could have gone with them. It’s why I stayed on this planet, after all. Isabel’s just pissed that she’s stuck here waiting for Valenti with the two of us. She probably wanted to go with them, too.

“It was so real.” Max is mumbling to himself, still kneeling on the dusty ground. I’m exhausted and I know Max is, too. It’s been a long night.

“Maxwell, why’d you let her go?” I ask him, not really expecting an answer. He looks up at me with a blank look and I wonder if he realizes what I’m asking him. I shake my head in annoyance and walk away to sit on the rock Kyle was sitting on a few minutes ago.

That was a pretty good zinger Kyle threw out, I have to admit. With the way Max has been acting lately, while I stood by and watched as he made one bad decision after another, it does seem like he could use a new brain.

But fainting is just not something we do. I wonder what Tess did to him in there. “What do you think she did to him?” I ask Isabel, knowing she probably doesn’t know. But we have to think about the possibility that Tess did something irreversible to Max before she left.

“You think she did something?” Isabel jerks her head toward me.

I shrug. Maybe I’m wrong. “Seems weird that he just let her go. Then this whole fainting thing and his dream. He’s still acting weird.” I look toward Max and see that he’s eyeing me in annoyance.

“I can hear you,” he says in irritation.

I raise my eyebrows at him in a way I know he hates. “Really? ‘Cuz you’re not acting like it.”

He stands up, brushing the dust from his pants in a way that just screams he’s on his superiority high horse. “There’s something strange going on.”

I can’t help but laugh. “You think?” We’re standing in the middle of the desert after missing the ride home to our planet when an evil alien took off on our spaceship carrying Max’s kid. I’d say we passed strange a couple of exits back.

Max looks like he wants to strangle me but before he can say anything Isabel starts crying. And I don’t mean little sniffle cries like when she’s trying to get her way. I mean the big, sobbing, choking kind of crying. Aw shit. He throws me a look like it’s somehow my fault that she’s crying and puts his arm around her for a hug.

“It’ll be ok, Is,” he tells her while her entire body shakes.

“She…she killed him, Max. Why…why would anyone want to hurt Alex?” I can barely make out what she’s saying, but I guess that it’s just hit her. Why. I’d like to know that, too, but I guess we won’t now. She’s gone. She had Alex decode that book by mindwarping him, then she just killed him? Why? If he could, I’m pretty sure Alex would have decoded the book for us without having to mindwarp him.

I look back toward the road. The Jetta is long gone and I wish I were, too. I hate when Isabel cries. What the hell do you do when a girl cries? Max is always good with stuff like that. Isabel always says it’s because he’s sensitive. What does that mean? Sensitive. Sensitive to what? To feelings? I’m pretty sure the last few months have blown the Max-is-sensitive theory out of the water.

Maria always used to tell me she wished I were more like Max. I think it was the sensitive thing. I’m sure she’s changed her mind now. She loves me. I know it like I know that I love her. She’s perfect for me, and as much as she tries to deny it, I’m perfect for her. I used to get so pissed off whenever she would compare me to him. Max? She would chew him up and spit him out in less than a day and he’d have no idea what hit him.

Isabel’s calmed down a little and Max is still sitting next to her, their arms around each other in comfort. Isabel would forgive Max anything. Which sucks ass, because that leaves me as the only one left to call him on his bullshit. And the biggest load of bullshit right now…why did he let Tess leave?

“Are you gonna tell us why the hell you let Tess leave?” I watch him look up at me in irritation, as if I should know the answer to that question.

“My son was dying.” He says this with a whine and I have to fight the impulse to punch him, again.

“And she couldn’t have been, oh, I don’t know…mindwarping you?” I don’t know why, but when Kyle told us she mindwarped him and Alex, the first thought I had was the baby. “Hell, we don’t even know if there was a baby.”

I can tell he hasn’t even thought of that possibility because the color drains from his face. Now that I think about it, maybe he didn’t even have sex with her. Because an hour-long orgasm? Maria’s not an alien, but I certainly didn’t come close to an hour-long orgasm. I don’t think I’ll tell him this, though. Not yet, anyway. I don’t feel like sharing my sex life with the two of them.

I hope Valenti gets here soon. I should have gone with Maria.

~~~~~~~~~~

My bed. All I want is my bed. This will all get better in the morning, won’t it? I just can’t take anymore. I feel like I’ve been running on empty for the past 24 hours. Thankfully, Maria and Kyle aren’t trying to talk to me and I love them for it. I mean, what is there to say? Tess killed Alex. And Max slept with her. Oh God. I think I want to vomit.

“Pull the car over.” Maria immediately pulls over and I open the door before it can even come to a stop on the side of the road. I lean out and it comes up. There’s not much that does, but I feel the acid burning my nose as it does and now I have bile running out of it and mixing with my tears. Maria reaches around and hands me a fistful of tissues and I wipe it from my face.

“Thanks.” I lean back in the seat and feel the desert breeze blow over my face, cooling the sweat that’s there. My eyes are closed, but all I can see is him with her, naked and writhing together. Please let it stop.

Maria pulls back out on the road and I look over at her. There’s something different. I don’t know what it is, but she looks…I don’t know, more mature. That’s funny, because I’m supposed to be the level-headed one in this friendship. She’s supposed to be the wacky sidekick. And now, for some reason, I feel that our roles have reversed and I’m not sure when that happened.

Her knuckles are white from gripping the steering wheel so hard, and by the way she’s grinding her teeth I can tell she’s upset, angry. She can’t be mad at Michael. He was going to stay here for her. I can’t even comprehend that one right now. No, she’s angry with Max. So am I, but I’m not sure I have a right to be. I’m the one that pushed him toward Tess. I’m the one who lied to him. I’m the one who blamed him for Alex’s death and helped drive a wedge down the middle of our group that I think will take a long time to mend, if it ever does.

But I still can’t help it. I can’t help the anger I feel toward him. But more than that, I’m angry with myself. I can blame everyone around me. Tess for killing Alex, Max for sleeping with her, Maria for not believing me that Alex was murdered. But there’s only one person to blame. Me. I screwed around with the timeline and caused all of this. Because of me, Alex is dead. My best friend was murdered and it’s my fault.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Fri Jun 25, 2004 9:32 am

Sernbetrachter, Don't worry, Alex will show up again. He's definitely a big part of the story.

Gigo, I can't promise all their problems will be fixed, but a lot of them will definitely be addressed.;)

frenchkiss, patience, young grasshopper.;) You'll get your answers in due time. Muahahaha...

Breathless, oh yes, the pain of season 2. It was just all so painful for us, and it always bothered me that a lot of what happened just wasn't addressed on the show.

BelevnDreamsToo, You'll get some of your answers in this part.;)

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! For anyone who doesn't remember that episode of Buffy, or if you never saw it and have an incredible desire to know what it was all about, you can read the transcript here. But like I said, you don't have to have watched it to follow this story. I just took the general idea of it and morphed it for Roswell.

A little disclaimer: this part contains small bits of dialog taken from Buffy. I'm stealing, I know. It doesn't belong to me.


Part 2

I really didn’t want to leave Liz, but I have to get home and try to explain some things to my mom. She’s probably freaking out right now, wondering where I am since Liz and I took off a couple of hours ago without any explanation. I may have perfected the art of deception and lying over the last two years, but lately my mom has started getting suspicious. Really, who wouldn’t be?

I’ve been gone days at a time, usually with some flimsy excuse as to where I’m going. When I am home, I get home after curfew. If I come home at all. My mom works hard and I know she thinks she’s let me down in the parenting department. That’s why I feel guilty about lying to her and taking advantage of the fact that she can’t really ground me. She tried to once. But realized quickly that it was fruitless because she couldn’t make sure I was at home.

Our little house looms in front of me and suddenly I’m afraid to go in it. I’m afraid to disappoint her yet again. It kills me a little more each time she looks at me and knows I’m trying to pull one over on her. I don’t make an effort to hide my homecoming. The car keys jingle from my finger as I walk through the kitchen and into the living room.

She’s not sitting there waiting for me with a pissed off look on her face like I’m expecting. Instead, she’s lying on the couch, asleep. As I stand there watching her, I think about what Tess did to her. What she did to Alex. That bitch took away my best friend and she could have done the same to my mom. I don’t know what I’d do without her and I’m suddenly overcome with fear. Fear that something might happen to her.

I unzip my boots and quietly walk over to the sofa, lying down next to her as gently as I can. I feel her wrap her arm around my waist and pull me close in her sleep and that’s when I let my tears fall. I feel like I’ve grown up overnight. I made love to Michael for the first time, then found out in the most jarring of ways the true evil that exists out there. But lying here with my mom’s arm holding me close, I can’t help wishing that I were just her little girl again.

~~~~~~~~~~

The strangest thought comes to me as Max and I walk toward the back of our house to sneak back in after Valenti drops us off. What would we do without Jim Valenti? I used to be so scared of him, scared that he would find out the truth about us. But ever since he found out that truth, he’s done nothing but help us. And I don’t know why.

Both he and Kyle have been put in danger countless times because of us. He took Tess in just because we asked him to. And when we told him of her deception, of how she killed Alex and mindwarped his son, he showed nothing but concern for us. I expected him to wash his hands of us, finally realizing how dangerous we are. But he just looked at us with fatherly concerned and made sure we were all ok. It made me want to start crying again.

But even though we assured him we were I know that we’re not. Not by a long shot. Max crawls through his window before me and I wonder if Michael’s right. Was the baby really sick? Is there even a baby? There’s no way to find out now, but I know Max has more to tell us. He hasn’t said what happened when we left the pod chamber. What did Tess say to him? What excuse did she give for killing Alex? Or did she even give one?

“Max, are you ok?” I’m still worried about why he fainted. He said he had a dream he was in a hospital and that he saw Alex. He was only out for a couple of minutes. How could he have had a dream in that short time?

“I’m fine, Isabel. Just tired.” I should be angry with him for how he treated me after Alex died. But I just don’t have the energy for it. He looks so sad, so defeated. So I just nod my head at him and go to find my bed to get some sleep. Something tells me that I’ll need it to get through the next few days.

~~~~~~~~~~

Finally. Now I can have at least a few hours of peace before the world crashes down on us again. My bed is so comfortable and all I want to do is go to sleep. But that vision, or hallucination, whatever it was has me shaken. It seemed so real. If I were dreaming, why would I dream that?

I wish I could just shut off my mind and really fall asleep. But I keep seeing Liz’s face as she got into Maria’s car earlier. I’ve hurt her so much. She looked haunted, and if I’m honest with myself, she’s looked that way for a while now. It got worse after Alex died, but whatever has been eating away at her started long before that.

It’s like some parasite attached itself to her and sucked away her life, small bits at a time. She used to be so full of energy, so full of life. When she walked into a room, the whole world seemed brighter. But over the course of the last year, that light has faded. She seems so tired all the time, and even if she didn’t, the dark circles that have made a permanent home under her eyes would say enough. I hardly ever see her smile or laugh and she’s withdrawn from everyone, even her friends.

Of course, that parasite is me and this entire alien mess she’s wrapped up in. I’ve been so blind. My eyes finally start to drift closed and I feel that weightlessness you feel right before you fall asleep. The last thing I see before finally falling unconscious is Liz’s face, full of pain and anger.

When I open my eyes again, I’m startled by my mother hovering over me as she strokes the side of my face with her hand. She smiles at me and says, “Oh, Max. You really are awake.”

Climbing out of the fog that still surrounds me, I turn my head to the side and am slammed into reality. I’m not at home in my bed. I’m in that hospital again. Testing my arms, I find that I’m still restrained to the bed and I turn back to look at my mom. “What is this?”

Dr. White suddenly appears in front of me, the same patient smile on his face. “Max, do you know where you are?”

“Roswell,” I manage to croak out before I see Alex hovering behind the doctor near the door. “Alex.”

“You remember Alex?” The doctor smiles at my mom as if this is some sort of breath through.

“He’s dead. Am I dead?” I have to be dead. It’s the only explanation I can come up with. My mom grabs my hand, my pasty white hand on which I can see my blue veins showing through.

“No, honey. You’re not dead. And we’re not in Roswell.” She shakes her head sadly at me as she glances nervously at the doctor.

“Keep talking to him. It’ll help keep him lucid,” Dr. White encourages her and she turns back to look at me.

“Mom,” I croak again, not recognizing my voice. “What’s going on?” What kind of dream is this? Why does it seem so real? I need to remember to ask Isabel to dreamwalk me tomorrow night. Maybe she’ll be able to figure out what’s going on. For now, I guess the best thing I can do is just go with the flow. This is obviously a dream. I’ll probably wake up any minute now.

“Can’t we take the restraints off?” I hear my mom ask. I can’t keep from staring at Alex. I feel someone unbuckling the leather straps that are keeping my hands at my sides and I try to sit up.

“What do you mean we’re not in Roswell?” I take a closer look around the room. It doesn’t look like the hospital in Roswell, but then again Dr. White said I was in some type of medical facility. He didn’t say hospital.

“We’re in Phoenix, Max. Just where we’ve always been.” My mom is using the tone of voice she uses when talking to little kids. “You’re not an alien, Max.”

My face must register my shock because Dr. White looks like he’s suddenly ready to run interference. “What are you talking about?” Why is my mom talking about aliens? I need Isabel. Maybe if I concentrate, I can pull her in here with me. She does it all the time; it can’t be that hard, right?

“Max…Max…” My mom has her hands on my face, trying to get me to open my eyes. Maybe if I squeeze them shut tight enough, I’ll be able to get through. I don’t even realize that I’m whispering Isabel’s name until my mom starts shaking me.

“Max, you don’t have a sister. Isabel isn’t real and neither is Michael.” I pop my eyes open and look at Alex.

“Alex, tell them.” I’m getting desperate now for someone to be normal in this dream.

Instead of saying anything to me, he turns to Dr. White. “Do you think he’s really here this time?”

The doctor shakes his head and says, “It’s hard to tell. There are so many layers to the delusions and schizophrenia that it’s hard to say if he’ll ever be normal in any sense of the word. This world he’s built is fantastical and intricate, and he’s made himself the central figure. He’s built in family, friends, an entire system of support. They’re as real to him as you and me.”

“What are you talking about? I don’t have schizophrenia.” This is ridiculous. “You aren’t real. You’re not really here.” I lean back on the bed and wait to wake up. This dream can’t go on forever. Maybe if I close my eyes…

“…Max! Wake up!” I jolt awake when I feel the sting of a hand slapping my cheek.

“Isabel, what the hell?” I sit up and bring my hand to my cheek to relieve the pain. I’m also relieved to find myself in my own room. “There’s something wrong with my dreams Isabel.” When I look up at her, though, I’m surprised to see that she’s crying and Michael is standing next to her. “What?” Now I’m concerned. Did something happen?

“Max, you wouldn’t wake up. I was so scared.” She drops down on the bed next to me and hugs me fiercely. I look up at Michael helplessly and see a matching look of concern on his face. That’s when I see that it’s dark outside and I look at my clock. Its red letters are glowing 10:30.

“Wow. Did I sleep all day?” I gently push Isabel away from me and see her face twist up again as she looks up at Michael.

“You’ve been asleep for three days, Maxwell.” He runs his hand through his hair and paces over toward my dresser. “You were out. We tried everything, even the healing stones.”

“Three days?” I’m completely awake now and swing my legs over the side of the bed. That’s when I notice I’m wearing completely different clothes. “Why did you change my clothes?”

“Well we couldn’t just leave you lying in bed, Max. Mom and Dad would have started getting suspicious and taken you to the hospital.” Isabel stands up next to Michael and they both look at me strangely.

I feel strange, so I guess I shouldn’t complain. “I’m really confused.”

“We changed your clothes everyday and took you out.”

“Took me out.” I repeat this to make sure I heard her right. “What, like Bernie? Did you pose me in the car and make me wave at people as we drove by?” Please let them say no.

Michael snorts and tries to keep from laughing. “Something like that.”

I don’t want to talk about this anymore. Three days. That means there’s something wrong with these dreams. “Isabel, I need you to help me. These dreams, they have to be the problem.”

She sits next to me and says, “Tell me about them.”

So I do. Every weird detail. Everything the doctor has told me. I can hardly believe that I remember so much. Usually I don’t remember much of my dreams when I wake up. There’s one thing that keeps niggling at me from the back of my mind, though. During the first dream, the doctor told me that I’d been in and out of that medical facility since I was six. That’s how old I was when I came out of my pod.

~~~~~~~~~~

School’s finally out, but all that means is I get to work more shifts. I shouldn’t complain, really. It helps to keep my mind off of everything, namely Max. I’m worried about him. I don’t want to be, but when Isabel called earlier to tell me he still wasn’t awake, I couldn’t help the panic that seized me. What if he’s dying? What if Tess did something to him when we left them alone? That’s the popular theory of the moment. Only because we can’t think of anything else.

“…and a side of Saturn Rings.” I blink, realizing that I just missed the first half of this guy’s order as I glance at my watch.

“I’m sorry, the grill is shut down. We still have desert, though.” I plaster on my waitress smile for him as he makes an irritated sound and gets up to leave. Good, he was the last customer and I’m anxious to get started closing.

“Lizzie, why don’t you go ahead and take off. You’ve been here all day.” I turn around and see my dad sitting at the counter going through the receipts. I can’t believe my good luck, so I don’t argue.

“Thanks, Dad.” I breeze past him, stopping to give him a quick kiss on the cheek before I race upstairs to change my clothes. I haven’t heard from Isabel since this morning and I’m hoping that something has changed with Max. Of course, she probably would have called if it did.

I sink onto the edge of my bed in my underwear, my uniform crumpled in my lap. I keep thinking about when Michael was sick and how we all thought he was dying. I’m scared because we tried the healing stones on Max and they didn’t work. Isabel tried dream walking him and couldn’t get through. I was even desperate enough to ask Michael to hold Max’s eyelids open while I tried to form a connection with him. I’m not sure why I thought I’d be able to do it on my own, but Ava said I was changed. I thought it was worth a shot.

Throwing my smelly uniform into the corner, I pull on some shorts and a tank top and call Isabel while I put on my shoes.

~~~~~~~~~~

I get up and rub at my face, and find several days worth of stubble there. Now that I’m paying attention, I can also tell that no one has bothered to brush my teeth and it tastes like something died in my mouth. “I’m taking a shower.” I glance at Isabel as I walk out of the room and say, “Would you mind ordering a pizza or something. I’m starving.”

Just as I get to the bathroom door, I hear a loud thump coming from my bedroom followed by voices. As they get louder, I realize that one of the voices sounds like it belongs to Liz and I make my way back to my bedroom, my heart beating double time when I realize it is her.

When I open the door, I see the three of them standing next to my bed for a split second before Liz runs over and launches herself at me. I don’t know what’s caused me to be so lucky, but I’m not about to question it. I hold her tight, as tight as she’s holding me and I hear her sobbing against my chest.

“I can’t believe it, I thought you were dying. Oh God, don’t ever do that again!” She pulls away from me and punches my chest before she takes a step back and wipes her face. I’m still standing there like an idiot with my arms out, even though she’s stepped out of their reach.

I don’t know what to say so I continue to stand there and look stupid. Liz is in my bedroom. And she has on these little shorts and this really small tank top and I don’t think she’s wearing a bra. Ok, eyes to the face.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Tue Jun 29, 2004 9:57 am

Look at me, I'm in a posting frenzy today.;)

Sternbetrachter, 1) maybe 2) maybe 3) maybe 4) maybe 5) maybe.;) The title has multiple meanings. One of them being that it references the Buffy ep title, Normal Again. The rest, you'll have to find out.

frenchkiss, Well, now, I just can't tell you. That would ruin the whole story.;)

Zevrillion, No need to see Buffy.;) Everything will be explained as it pertains to the Roswell universe. Glad you like it!

Breathless, No, the dream reality didn't last 3 days. Time will work differently in both realities.

alienmom, Yup, he's only 'awake' in one place at a time.

BelevnDreamsToo, Good for you! Although, the Buffy episode isn't really like this story, just the general plot. Yes, Max will find that things are a lot different in his dream reality.

alana, Thanks for reading! I'm glad you like it.

majiklmoon, Aw, thanks!

mezz, I loved that ep, too. There was a little uproar about it in the Buffy fanworld, though. A lot of people didn't like it. But I thought it was great!

Gigo, Psychoanalyze away.;)

DreamKeeper, I always thought of Valenti as a good man with an obsessive streak. I'm sure he feels a large amount of guilt for tipping the FBI off about Max. Plus the gratitude for saving Kyle. I think it all boils down to his sense of duty to protect the people of Roswell, and he came to realize that Max and the others fall in that catagory.

I am a dreamer, You're right, I won't give it away.;) And don't worry, I'm not into the whole incest thing.;)


Part 3

“What’s wrong with him? Can’t he talk?” I hear Liz talking, but she’s turned toward Isabel and Michael.

“I can talk,” I tell her as I strategically hold my bath towel in front of my pants. “I was just uh, going to take a shower.” I glance at Isabel and indicate that she should fill Liz in while I’m gone. It takes a little longer than usual, but after about twenty minutes I feel a lot better, and cleaner.

When I get back to my room, I find two more additions. Kyle and Maria are sitting on my bed and Liz, Isabel and Michael are lounging on the floor. Looks like we’re having a party in my room. And there’s even food!

“I made you a couple sandwiches.” Isabel points to the plate and the bottle of water on my dresser. I attack it like a mad man and I know everyone’s staring, but I’m just so damn hungry. After I shovel the sandwiches down my throat, I guzzle down the bottle of water. When it’s empty, I toss it in the trash and wipe my mouth with the back of my hand.

“Keep your hands and fingers away from the hungry alien.” Kyle. I glare at him, pretty sure that he’s been enjoying my three days of incapacitation and I can only hope that Michael protected me from him.

“Kyle.” Liz sends him a warning look and I look at her gratefully.

“So, do I even wanna know what was done to me while I was sleeping?” I look over the group sitting in my room and see a few guilty looking faces. Surprisingly, Liz blushes and looks at the floor and I file that little tidbit away for later.

Kyle raises his hand and asks, “Can I tell?” He’s got a shit-eating grin on his face and part of me knows he’s just screwing with me, but the other part wonders what really went on. They wouldn’t do anything mean, would they? But then I remember what an ass I’ve been and I’m worried.

“No. And we didn’t do anything, Max. You spent a lot of time at Michael’s so I could get you out of the house.” Isabel rolls her eyes at Kyle and I choose to believe what she says for my own sanity, of which I think I’m seriously lacking lately.

Once everyone has a good look at me, they all leave. Except for Liz.

“Isabel told me about your dream, or whatever it is that’s going on, Max.” She’s moved to the chair at my desk and I can’t help but look at her legs. Eyes to the face.

I sit down wearily on my bed. “I don’t know what’s going on. I’m so confused.” I shake my head and look at the floor, hoping an answer will magically appear in the carpet. “They seem so real, and I’m scared. What if this isn’t real? What if I’m really in that institution and I’ve just made all of this up?”

I can’t stop thinking about what the doctor was saying about my condition. How could I make up something like that myself? I feel the bed dip next to me as Liz sits down and she puts her hand on my arm.

“Max, it’s not real. You have to trust me, because we’re real. That place, wherever it is you go, it’s not.” She sounds so worried and I have the urge to pull her close to me and comfort her. But I can’t. I don’t have the right to do that anymore.

“Part of me wishes that it was.” I really do. Then that would mean nothing in the past year happened. I would have never turned into some kind of horrible person. I would have never slept with Tess and gotten her pregnant. Alex would be alive. And I’d be normal. Well, as normal as a guy with schizophrenia can be, anyway.

“Oh, Max.” I still can’t look at her. I can’t face the evidence of what I’ve done to help destroy her and her life. I know she’s worried and that she feels some obligation toward me. The clock tells me that it’s 11:30.

“You should go.” I don’t want her to get in trouble. Although, I have no idea what her curfew is during the summer since I’ve never spent a summer with her. “I appreciate whatever you did to help. But I don’t expect you to have to deal with this.”

She doesn’t say anything and she removes her hand from my arm. I feel the loss of it instantly, as if my own limb has been cut off. She stands up and my eyes don’t travel any further up than her shoes as I watch her walk toward the window and climb out silently. It’s for the best. My life is fucked up in about 568 different ways right now and she shouldn’t have to be dragged down in the muck with me. And I know she would do it. She would stand by me and support me. Because that’s the kind of person she is. But I can’t let her. If that makes me an asshole, well, that wouldn’t be anything new, either.

I think more about my strange dream, visit, whatever the hell it is, and I go to Isabel’s room. I have to work on the assumption that this might happen again and I don’t want them to cart me around town again, pretending everything’s normal.

But the problem is temporarily taken care of the next morning when my parents announce that they’re going to stay with my aunt in a couple of days. She lives in California and they’re taking a month off for a long deserved vacation. A couple of days. I hope I can hold out that long.

They were worried about me. Apparently, they’ve hardly seen me for days. Isabel has covered everything with me and I tell them I’ve just had to work a lot and that I’m involved in some summer astronomy club for school. “Didn’t I tell you?”

My mom shakes her head and says, “You probably did. I’m sorry.” She’s happy. I’m in a club. I’m being social. That should tide her over for the next year. My parents think there’s something wrong with me. That I’m some kind of social recluse that only hangs out with his sister. And Michael. When I started seeing Liz last year, I think I put their fears about me being gay to rest.

I love my parents. I really couldn’t ask for better ones. Dad works a lot and I think he’s a little clueless as to what really goes on around the house. But Mom, she’s so close to the truth that if she stepped back for a moment and really put all the pieces together, she’d know everything. And maybe she has, but she’s never said anything.

She knows there’s something different about me. Although she probably just doesn’t know how different. She worries about me and I don’t know what to do to keep her from worrying so much. But she’s my mom, and I know she will anyway.

I make up some story about how Michael’s painting his apartment and I’ll be helping. Just in case I have another one of my “dreams” before they go on vacation. At least they’ll think I’m over there. Michael and Isabel can cover for me better.

My life has become an intricate series of lies and I can’t help but think about what the doctor said in my dream. That I’d created an intricate support network. Isabel and I are on our way over to Michael’s apartment. Because my condition has kept everyone busy for the last three days, no one has gotten together to talk about what happened with Tess. I guess they’ve been waiting for me to fill in the gaps.

I spent the better part of the day helping my dad clean out the garage. Normal stuff. I need to make an effort to be around since I’ve been gone for three days. My dad didn’t say much, but he asked about Tess and that caught me off guard. I told him that she went to spend the summer with her dad. It strikes me as funny that it could entirely be true. If Tess has a father who’s alive on our planet, anyway.

He also asked me what happened to the Jeep. I repeated the story that Isabel told me, that I sold it to some guy who was leaving for college on the east coast. Something about the way he looked at me made me nervous, but I pushed it to the side and stayed busy with the garage.

We have to wait for Maria and Liz to get off work. Michael tries to ask me about Tess, but I wave him off, telling him we’ll wait for the girls. I don’t wanna go through it twice. Once is bad enough. Of course, he’s pissed at me. That’s not new. Michael’s been pissed at me for most of our lives. I find rolling my eyes and ignoring him is the best way to deal with his frustration in me. I honestly don’t think that anything I can ever tell him will make him happy.

When Maria walks through the door, I sigh in relief. She’s the only one who can keep Michael off my back. I don’t know how she does it, but I will be eternally grateful for the calming presence Maria has on Michael’s psyche. And I try not to make too much of an ass out of myself when Liz walks in by keeping my eyes directed away from her.

I notice that she sits next to Kyle and I can’t help the pang of jealousy I feel when she does. “So can we get this started? Pauly’s having a party tonight that I wanna get to.” I look at Kyle and can see that he doesn’t really wanna be here. He’s probably not anxious to think more on what Tess did to him and I don’t blame him. I wish I could stop thinking about it, too.

“Nasedo made a deal with Khivar. Tess was supposed to get pregnant with my child and bring us back to Khivar. I guess the two of them had been working toward this since the beginning.” I see the shocked faces around us and I don’t blame them. As much as no one ever really liked Tess, except maybe for Kyle, I don’t think any of us expected her to be working with the enemy.

“We could have died.” Isabel is clearly horrified that we barely escaped, that we almost helped Tess follow through with her plan. “If she hadn’t have killed Alex, and if Liz didn’t figure it out, we would be there now.” She turns to Liz with tears in her eyes and says, “I don’t know what to say. I think we all owe you an apology. You were right all along and you…you saved our lives.”

“Yah well, if it wasn’t for me, Alex would be alive and none of this would have happened.” Liz mumbles this to herself, but we all hear her. At least I do.

“Liz.” Maria is giving her a look of what, warning? I look at both of them and there’s something passing between the two of them that I can’t figure out. Like they know something and Maria is warning Liz not to say anything.

“What are you talking about?” Isabel is as confused as I am and I’m glad I’m not the only one in the dark.

Kyle looks uncomfortable and I find it strange that he’s not joining in on this. “So are we done? Can I go now?” I watch his eyes dart from mine, to Liz and then to the floor. And it’s in that moment that the conversation I had with Liz in the Jeep three nights ago blasts through my head. She told me she never slept with Kyle. At that moment, I was beyond shattered. The truth I had been waiting for for so long was finally there and it didn’t matter. I’d already fucked everything up and finding out that the catalyst of my downward spiral never happened destroyed me. I didn’t even ask her why.

Now as I look at the humans sitting across from me and the way Maria and Kyle keep glancing at me, the immense sadness that I saw cross Liz’s face, I realize that Maria and Kyle know. They know why she set the stage for my devastation and for some reason, Liz thinks that Alex died because of it.

“Why did you want me to think you slept with Kyle, Liz?” I finally find my voice and I’m proud that I’m able to keep it calm and even.

This gets Kyle standing, looking severely uncomfortable. I don’t mind. “Kyle, sit.” My voice is commanding, louder than normal. The secrets that exist between the six people in this room are crushing me and I intend to get everything out in the open.

I see that Isabel is surprised by what I’m asking Liz. She still thought that Liz actually had sex with Kyle. I never got a chance to tell her any differently. It didn’t seem important at the time. But what I find interesting is that Michael seems more surprised by the fact that I know. So he’s known that they didn’t sleep together. Maria probably told him. I can’t get angry about that now.

Because Liz is looking at me and shaking her head, she’s not gonna tell me. “Max, please…” She’s begging me with her eyes to drop it. Her eyes, filled with fear and tears. I don’t know the extent of the secrets she’s hiding, but I can tell she’s scared to tell me.

I can’t stand the look I see there. The look that for some reason or another is there because of me. So I turn to Michael and let my anger at him unfurl. “You know what this is all about, don’t you? Tell me!” I’m standing now and suddenly I hear everyone talking at once.

“Max…” Liz’s voice is tearful, pleading.

“Hey, don’t yell at him!” Maria rushes to his defense, solidifying my belief that she’s told him something.

“Don’t ask me, ask them.” Michael stands back and points toward Liz and Kyle, hoping to get the attention off of himself.

And right then, right there, with everyone yelling at each other and the accusations flying, I hate my life. I hate that the people in this room have been lying to me for almost a year. I hate that my own sister is one of them. She has her own secrets that she won’t reveal. And more than anything, I hate that Liz is crying. Again. Because of me.

But my self loathing only lasts as long as my balance. The room starts to spin and I can hear voices, voices that don’t belong in Michael’s apartment. I can hear my dad. I don’t know if I say anything before I make it to the floor, but the last thing I see is Liz’s horrified face, tears running down her cheeks as she rushes toward me.

She gets taller and taller. No wait. That’s me as the floor rushes up to meet me. I can see her lips moving. I think she’s saying my name but I can’t hear her. Instead, I hear my dad say, “Come back to us, Max.”

“Dad?” I look up at Liz’s confused face hovering over mine and feel one of her tears drop down on my nose. But then it instantly changes and instead of Liz, I’m looking into my father’s face.

“I’m here, son.” He’s smiling, relieved. I don’t have to look around to know where I’m at.

“Where’s Liz?” I check for wetness on my nose, but her tear is gone. Just like my sanity.

My dad turns toward my mom and asks, “That’s the girlfriend, right?” She just nods sadly and he turns back toward me and talks to me like I’m five, and deaf. “Max, you’re ok now.”

I’m beyond confused and at this point I’m seriously questioning what’s real and what isn’t. I feel a little bit relieved when I see Dr. White walk in and my father steps away from my bed. He checks my eyes with a pen light and asks me how I feel.

“Confused.” I figure honesty won’t hurt anything. He just nods his head as if he’s heard this before.

“Max, do you want to get better?” He studies me for a moment, then says, “I know it may be hard to admit, but do you see that that other place…it’s not real?”

“I don’t know what’s real anymore,” I admit as I look around my bare hospital room. My parents look on, worry etched all over their faces.

“Well, let’s think about this logically for a moment. This place that you go, Roswell. You’re a reincarnated alien king whose ship crashed on Earth. You, along with a sister and another, grow up as normal human kids. But you have powers. You fall in love with an Earth girl and become hunted by the FBI and other evil aliens who turn to dust when you press a button on their backs.” He pauses for a few moments and says, “That isn’t real, Max. You’re a normal, human young man with parents who love you and want nothing more than to see you get better.”

“We want to take you home, Max,” my mother says and I turn to her. What the doctor just said does sound ridiculous. Maybe they’re right. It would make more sense if this was my reality. Certainly, not a lot about that other place has made sense to me for a long time now.

~~~~~~~~~~

Why won’t he wake up? Why is this happening? I feel completely and utterly helpless as I watch Michael pick Max up from the floor and take him into the bedroom. Maria has her arm around me and her sympathy is only making me feel worse. “It’s my fault, Maria.”

“No it’s not. Liz, look at me.” I turn to look tearfully into her face and I can feel a pep talk coming on. “Listen to me. None of this is your fault. You can’t help it if Max is going bonkers.”

I laugh through my tears at the way she says that, but it’s short lived when I glance over and see Isabel’s face. She looks scared, and angry.

“Max isn’t going bonkers.” Isabel rolls her eyes and follows Michael into the bedroom.

“Maybe we should go,” Kyle offers and I can tell he’s at a loss as to what to do. Just like the rest of us.

But I can’t just leave. And I tell them that. “Maria, is it ok if I tell my parents I’m staying at your place tonight?”

I can tell she doesn’t approve, but she agrees anyway. It’s why I love her so much, she’ll always have my back, even if she doesn’t think I’m being rational. There’s only been one exception. Alex. I don’t think I’ll ever forget how she looked at me during those days I was running around like a psychotic person, kind of like she was looking at Max just a minute ago. Now there’s something to think about.

Michael walks back out into the living room and Kyle tells him, “Well, let me know what I need to do to help cart Max around this time.” He sounds tired and annoyed. As if Max is somehow orchestrating this whole thing just to get on his nerves.

I watch Michael say goodbye to Maria, promising to see her in the morning and I’m reminded that I need to have a talk with Maria. The last few days have been so hectic that I haven’t had the chance to get the scoop from her on what’s going on between her and Michael. I’m such a shitty friend.

When I go in and sit on the bed next to Max, I think about how unfair it all is. It seems like it’ll never stop. The weirdness, the crises, the never-ending drama. I lean my face down close to his and press my hand to his chest and whisper, “Where are you, Max?” And I hope that wherever he is, he can hear me.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Sun Jul 04, 2004 11:07 pm

frenchkiss, good theory. I'd tell you, but then I'd have to kill you. ;)

Gigo, I wouldn't say that Liz and Isabel are at odds with each other so much as they're both worried about Max and are feeling a little helpless.

roswellluver, yes, swiss cheese...or a nice, mushy brie.;)

Smac & Breathless, Messy Max. He's not exactly escaping because he wants to. Although, it does seem to be at the most inopportune moments.

DreamKeeper, Huh, I never thought of the Terminator. But that's pretty cool!


Part 4

I’m actually pretty happy that Maria decided to go with me to Pauly’s party. Anything that can take our lives away from the Martians is good in my book. “Do you think it’s a good idea that we left Liz there?” I hand Maria a red plastic cup of beer after fighting my way out of the crowd around the keg.

“No.” I watch her chug half of it and vow to make her fight those people when she wants a refill. We’ve been here for an hour and it sucks. Not the party, really. We do. We came here to have fun and all we’ve been doing is drinking and bitching about this new alien mess. “But she wants to help. That’s what we do.” She says that last part sarcastically in a sing song voice and it makes me smile.

I see Pauly, Dobbs and Rodriguez standing on the other side of the room looking in our direction and laughing. I nod my head at them in acknowledgement, knowing what they’re thinking. That I’ve moved on to the best friend. It’s funny how much things have changed in the last year. A year ago, I was at this very party doing Jello shots with Vicky Delaney, hoping that by the end of the night I’d find out if she was wearing underwear or not. She wasn’t.

Then I was shot. Which, in and of itself sucked big. But after that, my life has become a circus. I think the only cool thing that happened this year was going to Vegas. That was fun. I never thought I’d be friends with these people. Of course, I never knew half of them were aliens, either.

But when I start thinking about how much these people have fucked up my life, I always think about Alex and what he said to me that day in the killer crystal cave. And I wonder if, wherever he’s at now, he still thinks knowing them is a good thing. Maybe not so much anymore.

I’ve had too much to drink. I need to stop thinking about Alex. Because if I start thinking about Alex, I’ll remember what she did to me.

“Come on.” I stand up and haul Maria to her feet and watch her sway a little. “Let’s go do some Jello shots.” I start laughing and she looks at me like I grew a third eye in the middle of my forehead. So I reassure her, as if she can read my mind, “I promise not to try to find out if you’re wearing underwear or not.”

~~~~~~~~~~

This sucks. This sucks beyond the sucking of it all. I can see my parents standing out in the hospital corridor talking with Dr. White and the biggest worry I can muster up right now is what Kyle’s doing with my unconscious body. So I try to not think about it. It’s probably best if I don’t, and instead, I stare at Alex. Whoever this Alex is, he must think I’m completely wacko. I’ve been staring at him for a good ten minutes. I’ve tried to find differences, something that will tell me that this isn’t really the Alex that I know.

When the staring doesn’t bring results, I turn to questions. “How old am I?”

“Eighteen,” he says with a smile. He’s always smiling. As if I might explode if he stops. It doesn’t seem like a nervous smile, though. Like my parents.

“Huh.” That doesn’t tell me much. I’m eighteen in that other life, too. “How do I know you?” Let’s try that one. Because if there’s no Liz in this reality, then I have to have met him some other way.

There’s that smile again. It’s a patient smile and I get the feeling he’s gone through these questions with me before. “Our parents live next door to each other. We’ve been friends since we were in diapers.”

“So you’ve stayed friends with me even though I’m nuts?” I can’t help but ask. If I’ve been in and out of the loony bin since I was six, that’s some dedication right there.

“Sure. I guess I’m loyal like that,” he says.

“And you’re 18, too?” He nods. “Are you still in school?” I look out the window into the daylight and see a few birds fly by the window.

“Just graduated last week. I’m going to USC in the fall,” he tells me. Ok, that’s different. Alex is younger than me, well, was younger. I have no idea what that means so I go back to staring at him.

He glances back toward the hallway as if to make sure no one’s listening and he leans forward. “So, I’m dead?” He’s still smiling and I wonder why he thinks he should be. “Was I doing something cool, like saving your life, fighting off evil aliens?”

Oh. Ok. Now I get it. It must be like reading a book, or watching a TV show. Whenever I come to this place, I must tell them everything that’s happened in the other place. And now Alex wants to know what’s happened since the last ‘to be continued’. “Uh, kind of.” I feel weird talking about this with him.

“But you tried to heal me, right?” He’s nodding his head, encouraging me to tell him more. Hell, why not.

“Yah. Didn’t work.”

He shrugs and says, “That’s ok. Thanks for trying.” This makes me laugh, but then I stop, horrified that I’m laughing. This is a little fucked up and I think that maybe I don’t want Alex here talking to me anymore.

He must sense that I’m getting agitated because he leans back and says, “Ok, change of subject. Let me just fill you in on what I’ve been doing. Would that be ok?” I breathe a sigh of relief and feel my heart rate start to return to normal. That must be his green light.

“So, last time we talked, I just met this girl. That was about nine months ago and she’s still with me. Can you believe it? I brought her here once to meet you. Her name is Courtney.” As if he’s moving in slow motion, I watch him pull out his wallet and flip it open, holding a picture out for me to look at. A picture of Courtney. The Skin. I start to see spots. I think Alex is still talking but I can’t hear what he says because I’m distracted by the new person standing with my parents and Dr. White out in the hall.

The spots are getting bigger and I hear a ringing in my ears. I try to call out, but I’m not sure if I’m making any sound. Ok, I guess so because everyone in the hall is looking in at me in surprise. I see Dr. White moving toward me and everything seems to slow down even more. But I can’t take my eyes off of her and I try to call her name again.

“Liz!”

“Max, I’m here. Shhhh.” I close my eyes when I hear her voice and curl into a ball. I don’t know where I’m at. I don’t know if that’s really Liz. But I feel her familiar arms around me and let her rock me against her, let myself get lost in the feel of her, the smell of her. When I finally dare to open my eyes, I have serious doubts about what I’ll find. Or where I’ll be.

Thankfully, or not, depending on how I look at it, I see the ratty bedspread that I know covers Michael’s bed. I stay still for a moment, thinking that if I move too quickly I’ll be catapulted into that other world again.

“Liz, is it you?” I whisper, afraid of talking to loud. Afraid of disturbing this tentative hold I have on this reality.

“It’s me, Max. I’m right here.” I feel the bed dip next to me and then I see her and I sigh in relief. “You’re here now, you’re safe.” Sure, but for how long?

~~~~~~~~~~

“Did you hear that?” Isabel and I both look toward the door of my bedroom. Of course I heard it. Hell, my neighbors probably heard it, too. While normally, hearing Max screaming Liz’s name from my bedroom would have me out of this apartment in five seconds flat, vowing to burn my sheets upon my return, I know this scream is different.

I walk over and open my door to look in, hoping I don’t see any naked flesh staring back at me. I see Max curled up in a fetal position and rocking back and forth. Aw geez. I shut the door and tell Isabel, “He’s back.”

“That’s good, right? He was only out for a few hours this time.” The look on her face is so hopeful that I can’t say anything. I don’t wanna ruin the moment for her by telling her that he looks a little worse for wear this time.

I fall back on the couch and look at the clock again. It’s late, so the chances of Maria coming back over are slim. I hope she didn’t go to that party with Valenti. She has an early shift at the Crashdown in the morning and if she doesn’t get enough sleep tonight she’ll be in a bad mood all day.

Isabel’s hovering around the door and I know she’s just dying to walk in there. “We have to do something, Michael.” Uh oh. She’s gonna look at me and expect answers again and I still don’t have any. We’ve tried everything we can think of. I seriously don’t know what else to try. Maybe he’s just cracking up. He’s definitely been acting steadily crazier over the last year. Maybe this is it, maybe he’s just going over the edge.

I wonder what we’d do if he actually went crazy, drooling, nutso. It’s not like we can have him committed or anything. Maybe we’ll have to lock him up in an abandoned…

“He’s awake, but pretty shaken up.” My thoughts had wandered so much that I didn’t notice Liz had come out. Oops. Isabel sweeps into the room, practically knocking Liz over in the process. I would really hate to see what she’ll be like if she has a kid someday. She’ll probably attach a permanent tether to it so she’ll always be able to keep an eye on it.

“Did he tell you what happened this time?” I ask Liz this as she crosses the room and sits next to me.

She shakes her head and says, “Not much. He’s scared. He thinks…he’s starting to think that we’re not real. That this isn’t real and where he’s going is.”

That’s not good. Tess did this to him, I know she did. But how? She was obviously more powerful than she said she was. How else was she able to mindwarp Alex for so long, and Kyle, and who knows who else? Shit, she could have been mindwarping all of us.

“We need to start thinking about finding someone who can help us,” she says and I give her my best ‘who the hell would be able to help us’ look. “Ava has the same powers Tess does.” Huh. I never thought of that.

“That’s what I was thinking,” I tell her. No need to let her know she’s the brains of this operation. My agreement with her seems to make her happy so I keep on going, stupidly. “I should go to New York and dig around and see if I can come up with anything.”

The look on her face tells me she thinks this is an excellent idea. Crap. Shut up, Guerin. Man, why can’t I just keep my yap shut? This is Maria’s fault. If she hadn’t have left, I would have never been forced to sit here and try to make Liz feel better. That would have been her job. I don’t know how to talk to Liz. Liz is…

I look over and see her big, giant puppy dog eyes trained on me. And it looks like she’s gonna cry. I’ve only really seen Liz cry one other time besides earlier tonight, when Max was taken by the FBI. She always seems so strong. I never even saw her cry when Alex died. I’ve seen Maria cry lots of times. And Isabel. But never Liz. Liz is a rock. She’s the calm one in our stormy group. She’s the one who gets things done no matter what. She’s the first one out of the gate to solve our problems, to find the truth. Even if we’re all against her.

So as I watch a lone tear drop from her eye and slowly roll down her cheek, it affects me. I feel this crushing weight on my chest and I find myself seeing Liz Parker for the first time, seeing her as human. Delicate, breakable…vulnerable. And I do the only thing I can think of. I pull her close to me and hug her, tucking her head beneath my chin.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Fri Jul 09, 2004 8:50 am

Thanks for all the feedback, everyone! I love all your theories about what's happening. I'll be back either Monday or Tuesday with the next part.


Part 5

“Now, you have all the numbers.” I follow my mom through the house while she points out everything to me for the tenth time. I just smile and nod and reassure her that we’ll be fine while they’re gone. I know it’s a big deal that they’re leaving for a month, but to them we’re model teenagers. If not a little loose with curfew rules.

Max and I get good grades. We stay out of trouble. We do our chores and we spend one night a week with them for family night. You couldn’t ask for better kids than us. Thank God they don’t know the truth. We pass my dad and Max as they make their own trip around the house and Max and I exchange identical grimaces.

“I want you to make sure you bag the grass every time you mow, Max. I know it takes a little more time, but try to make the effort.” Max rolls his eyes as he follows Dad into the living room. Yes, mowing the grass is at the top of our priority list. I’ll never understand my dad’s relationship with our lawn.

I just hope Max can stay in this reality, or dimension, or whatever it is long enough for our parents to leave. The absolute last thing I need to deal with is him passing out right in front of them. He seems better today. He doesn’t talk about it much, the place he goes. But the way Liz looked yesterday when I walked out of Michael’s bedroom tells me that he’s not doing as well as he’s telling me.

She looked scared. And that worries me more than anything, because Liz Parker is never outright scared. At least she doesn’t let anyone know it if she is. She’s one of those people who just jumps in feet first and figures out the problem once she’s there. Our little scientist.

So when I walked out and saw Liz with puffy red eyes and Michael’s arm around her, comforting her, I started worrying. If she doesn’t have any hope, if she can’t even think of some solution, then we’re screwed. Because Liz doesn’t give up. Especially when it comes to someone she cares about. She’s proven that time and time again.

“Ok, and the credit card and cash are in the drawer next to the silverware.” Smile and nod. “We deposited $500 into each of your bank accounts. That doesn’t mean you need to spend it all. It’s for emergencies.” Smile and nod. Next, she’s gonna tell me that she called Sheriff Hanson and let him know they’d be out of town and asked if the police could keep an eye on the house. “And I told you I called the Sheriff, asked him to keep an eye on the house?” Smile and nod.

~~~~~~~~~~

I love my dad, I really do. But this thing he’s done? With the sticky notes? The man has some serious control issues. He actually labeled all the tools so I’d know what they are. Helpful. Because I’ve always had problems telling the difference between a hammer and hedge clippers. Wait until I show this to Michael. He’ll piss his pants from laughing so hard.

If I make it that long to tell him, that is. It’s late afternoon and I’ve officially been in this reality for over twelve hours. Needless to say, I’m getting a little nervous that I might perform my fainting act before they leave. I stare holes into my dad’s back, willing him to get moving and leave. I wish I could plant a suggestion in his head telling him they need to leave immediately. Ok, scratch that. Sounds like something Tess would do.

I’ve heard the theories that Tess did something to me, that she’s somehow the cause of what’s happening. I’m not sure if I totally buy into that, but right now it’s the only explanation we’ve got. Michael told me about his plan to find Ava. A plan I’m completely against. But no one’s listening to the crazy guy.

I’m worried that he’ll find more than Ava there. Lonnie and Rath are unaccounted for and I know they wouldn’t hesitate to hurt Michael, or kill him. And if I know Michael, and I do, he won’t be careful. I’ve tried to warn him. But again, crazy guy. I’ve decided being crazy sucks. No one listens to me anymore. They all just smile and nod, like I just saw Isabel doing with Mom.

Finally, after what seems like a three hour tour around the house, Mom and Dad leave. Isabel and I are standing on the porch waving and smiling as they pull out of the driveway and disappear down the street.

“God, I thought they’d never leave. I kept worrying that you wouldn’t make it. Do you feel ok?” I feel Isabel leading me into the house and I’m just about to tell her that I’m not five years old, but I see those spots and I feel my knees go out. And the last thing I think is that I hope my parents don’t realize they forgot something.

When I wake up, I’m past being surprised to find myself in that same hospital bed. This time I admit I’m actually looking forward to this visit. My mission: to find out as much as I can about the people here. And if I’m completely honest, I just want to find out who the Liz look-a-like is and how she figures into my alternate life.

So, of course, no one’s in my room. I look around, hoping to find someone sleeping on the chair, my mom, Alex, look-a-like Liz. No one. My door is closed so I can’t even see into the hallway. I look down at my wasted body and figure it’s as good a time as any to test it out. So, gathering my IV tube and throwing off my blankets, I gingerly swing my legs over the side of the bed and rest my feet on the floor.

Good God, my legs are like toothpicks. I stare at my knobby knees in disgust for a few moments before I try to stand. So far, so good. Yay, I can stand. I take one last look at the IV stand and make sure I don’t have anything else hanging out of me that might inadvertently get ripped out. I don’t see anything, so I slowly start walking toward the door. I feel different. Lighter. Maybe because I’m so damn skinny. I wonder if this is what Alex feels like. Felt like. Damn.

I can’t start thinking of these people as real. It’s not healthy. Alex is dead. He’s not hanging around my hospital room chatting with me about his girlfriend, Courtney. Courtney is dead, too. Two people dead because of me, because of the Granolith. I shake myself out of my self-absorbed thoughts and make for the door. But it opens by itself.

I step back, surprised, and look down at my hand. Did I do that? No, I don’t have powers here. I look back up and take another surprised step back. Liz. It’s her. It’s look-a-like Liz. “Hi.” Man, that was lame.

She smiles and it’s the most beautiful thing I’ve seen in over a year. “Hi.” She makes this little motion with her head and I don’t understand. Does she have a twitch? Is look-a-like Liz afflicted with an uncontrollable twitch? Huh. “Can I…?” I realize, stupidly, that she’s nodding toward my IV stand and I feel like the world’s biggest moron.

“Oh, um, here, have at it.” I move out of her way and she checks the controls and switches and I feel like Darth Vader. All I need is the loud breathing and cool voice. “So, you’re a nurse.” Notice my brilliant powers of observation.

She smiles again, indulgently, and it’s not as awesome as it was before because this time I know she’s smiling at me because I’m a freak. “I’m Beth. We’ve uh, actually met before.” She makes a note in her chart and looks back up at me. Incredible. She looks just like Liz.

“I get that a lot.” My attempt at a joke actually makes her laugh. “So, you know my name. You probably know lots of things about me.” Now that I start thinking about it, I’m getting a little nervous. She looks at me strangely for a moment, as if she wants to say something, but she doesn’t. Instead she just nods and I get the feeling that she’s a little sad that I don’t remember her. “So, uh, how long have you worked here?” She doesn’t look like she’s leaving anytime soon, so I sit back down on my bed, afraid she might get a glimpse of my ass blowing in the breeze.

She laughs and I can’t help but smile along with her. Off my thoroughly confused look, she says, “I used to volunteer here. My dad, he owns a café attached to the hospital. When I graduated, I went straight to nursing school and voila, here I am.” She tucks her hair behind her ear. When the Liz I know does that, I know she’s nervous about something. Is she nervous?

“Wow. So, you’ve probably been here as long as I have.” There’s a thought. It also means she’s older than me.

While I’m contemplating what that means exactly, she says, “Yah, um, I’ve sort of known you since you first came here.” Ok. This is weird. She’s basically seen me grow up, in a mental institution. What exactly do you say in a situation like this?

“So Beth, is that short for Elizabeth?” She smiles again and rolls her eyes.

“Yah, but I hate being called Elizabeth. My dad still calls me Lizzie and it’s completely embarrassing.” I’m starting to get overwhelmed and feel the need to lie back down. When she sees me struggling with my IV tubes, she hurries over to help me back in bed.

I don’t really want her to. I don’t want her fussing over me, treating me like a patient. But that’s what I am. Look-a-like Liz is my nurse. And I’m her patient. This is just great. “Thanks, I’m just…I’m feeling a little tired.” I don’t want to be talking to this fake Liz anymore. I want to wake up and feel my Liz’s arms around me.

I watch her check the IV equipment again and head to the door. Before she leaves, she turns around and says, “I’ll see you later, Max.” I force a smile on my face, and I almost cry with relief when I see the spots again. Thank God. Please take me away from this place. I want to go home.

~~~~~~~~~~

Maybe I shouldn’t leave now. I look out my window and can still see Maria inside the terminal searching the tiny plane windows for me. I put my palm up and she finally sees me and waves. I got the call from Isabel yesterday afternoon that Max was out again. And as of this morning, he still wasn’t awake. Isabel’s freaking out. Maybe I should wait until tomorrow.

I lean my head back and close my eyes. Maybe I’ll finally get some sleep. I feel like I haven’t slept for days. I’ve been too busy watching Max. No, there’s no sense in waiting until tomorrow. Isabel will just have to deal with it while I’m gone. This might be our only chance to fix this. And the sooner I get to New York, the better. It might be a long search.

If I can’t find Ava or if she can’t help him, I’m afraid we’re gonna lose him. I can’t let that happen. Max can drive me up a tree on our best days. He’s so judgmental, and he’s got this moral superiority thing going on. He would never admit it, but I know he thinks he’s better than me, a better person. And then there’s the complete self-absorption. I’ve never known someone so self-involved and utterly clueless about it. He rides around on his pretend white horse and dictates to the masses how things will be done. Yup, Maxwell was born to be a king.

But he’s my family, my brother, really. And I love him. For all his faults, he has one redeeming quality. He’s always there for me no matter what. There used to be a time when I idolized him. I wanted so much to be more like him when we were kids. He had the perfect family, he got the perfect grades, everyone loved him. And I was like the anti-Max. I always screwed up. But he was always there to bail me out and he never looked at me like I was a loser. He was my friend when no one wanted to be my friend.

I stopped wanting to be like him when I realized that the more perfect you seem, the harder you fall when you fuck up. I figure if you’re a fuck up from the beginning, no one’s disappointed in you when you make a mistake. That became glaringly obvious to me over the last year. Max has made mistake after mistake over the last year. And I’ve watched everyone around him be disappointed in him. His parents, Isabel, Liz.

I don’t understand why Liz keeps putting up with his crap. After everything he’s put her through, she just keeps coming back. When I read her journal, I couldn’t help but feel my jealousy of Max rear up. I read about how totally in love with him she was, and I wanted that. I wanted someone to be blind to all my faults and just love me like that.

But look where it’s gotten her. He came back from the future and told her she needed to screw up her life for him. Her best friend was killed. And he slept with someone else and maybe, or maybe not, got her pregnant. But she still sticks with him, she’s still fighting for him. I admire her for it, but I also feel bad for her. She’s not the same love-sick girl I read about in that journal, that’s for sure.

I think the plane has leveled off now. We should be in Albuquerque soon where I’ll catch a direct flight to New York. Then I can sleep. I’ll call Isabel when I land, see if Max has woken up yet. I’m worried that one of these times, he’ll pass out and go to that other world and he’ll decide he doesn’t wanna come back. I wouldn’t blame him.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Wed Jul 14, 2004 2:09 pm

Thanks for all the great feedback, guys! I know you all have questions, and some of them will be answered.;)

Part 6

Who ever thought I’d turn to avoidance? Here I am, working on a Sunday morning when I wasn’t even scheduled. I actually had to beg my dad to let me work. I told him I was bored. He thinks I’m depressed and need to go have some fun. Actually, I just want to stay busy so that I’m not tempted to go keep a vigil at Max’s bedside.

He’s been out for two days now. Isabel is frantic and Kyle and his dad are doing their best to help her out. I don’t think it’s as much fun for Kyle anymore, now that the novelty of carting an unconscious Max around town has worn off. Especially since we don’t have to do it anymore. So Max just lies there, unmoving.

I haven’t seen Max since he woke up in Michael’s apartment five days ago. God, it seems like weeks have gone by since then. Isabel told me he passed out again right after their parents left, but he woke up the next morning. Only to go again a few hours later. Seems like his time in this reality is getting shorter and shorter each time he wakes up. And I’m terrified at what that means.

Michael left three days ago. He’s not having much luck finding Ava, but I’m trying to help him as much as I can. He calls in pretty regularly to update me. I think he’s calling me so much because he just wants someone to talk to. He told me he can’t talk to Isabel for too long because she’s a mess. And when he talks to Maria, she just begs him to come home. I guess I’m neutral ground.

And here I am, serving slimy eggs to hungry customers at eight in the morning. I’m avoiding Max. I don’t want to see him and I know that makes me a bad person. I just don’t think I can sit by his bed and watch him waste away in front of me. I know that’s what’s happening. Isabel told me he’s not looking too well lately. Understandable. He’s not eating. I’ve been entertaining the thought of trying to steal an IV along with some saline and glucose solution. Something to keep him hydrated at least. If he’s not awake by the end of today, I plan on bringing it up to Isabel.

I can hear my cell phone ringing and I quickly duck into the prep area to answer it. Caller ID says it’s Michael and I glance over to see Maria watching me. I know she thinks it’s weird that Michael calls me so much, but all I can do is reassure her that he’s ok and that we’re just trying to find Ava. “Hello.”

“I’m heading out.” He sounds tired, but he’s sounded tired for a while now so that’s nothing new. “I’m heading down to the sewer again.” He found the sewer his first day there thanks to Max’s brief moment of lucidity. No one was there and it looked like it’d been a while since anyone was down there.

“Be careful, Michael. And don’t forget…”

“…that Lonnie and Rath are still out there. I know.” I can tell he’s smiling indulgently. Probably rolling his eyes, too. I can’t help it if I worry, though. They killed Zan, and they tried to kill Max. “I’ll call you later.” He hangs up and I slip my phone back into my apron.

I look over and find Maria still looking at me. So I tell her what Michael told me and I add that he told me to tell her he misses her and that he’ll call her later today. She seems satisfied with that and I make a mental note to remind Michael that he needs to call her. I know he’s distracted with what he’s doing, but I really don’t want Maria pissed off at me because he can’t manage to call her.

Taking a deep breath, I plaster a smile on my face and head toward the table of early church goers who just came in, determined to forget that Max is off in another world, thinking that it probably looks a lot better than this one right now.

~~~~~~~~~~

Ok, I’m trying to stay calm and rational about this. I really am. My boyfriend is off in a strange city and he’s calling my best friend at least five times a day, five times more than he calls me. I’m not jealous. I know he loves me. He let me see into his soul for God’s sake. They’re on this mission to find Ava, I know that. I’m not jealous.

But, is it too much to ask him to just call before he goes to bed? Or to take two minutes out of his day to call and say hi or that he misses me? I don’t think so. I mean, he and Liz hardly ever even talked before. Now they can’t talk enough.

I watch her as she talks to Michael. It’s a short conversation. He probably called just to tell her he has a hangnail or something. I must have a pissed off look on my face because she immediately looks guilty. “That was Michael,” she tells me. No shit. “He’s going back to the sewer today to see if he can find anything he might have missed. And um, he wanted me to tell you that he misses you. And that he’ll call you later today.” He so did not say that. But I love her for trying to make me feel better.

I smile because I don’t want her to think her efforts were wasted. I know she’s stressed out about this whole Max thing and I don’t wanna add my issues with Michael onto her load. She looks relieved and goes back to working. I know what she’s doing. She wasn’t even supposed to work today. She doesn’t want to go see Max and this is a convenient excuse. I’m not sure why she needs an excuse, probably more for herself than anyone.

I’m worried about her. She’s hanging on by a string that looks like it’ll break at any moment. And of course no one notices but me. And maybe Kyle. But Kyle has his own set of issues he’s dealing with at the moment. I think that whole thing with Max coming from the future completely messed her up. She hasn’t been the same since then. And to make it worse, she didn’t really have anyone to talk to. I’ll admit now that I was little preoccupied during that time. I was running off with Michael trying to chase down his crazy granddaughter, or whatever the hell she is. And Alex, he went to…no, wait. He didn’t go to Sweden. I keep forgetting about that. That dumb, blonde bitch monster from hell.

And when Alex died, no one believed her that it wasn’t an accident. How could we have been so stupid? Oh yah. That dumb, blonde bitch monster from hell. For all we know she was mindwarping all of us. When Max wakes up I’m making him check my brain out, make sure everything’s where it’s supposed to be.

“Miss…Miss…hello?” I turn to the customer whose order I was supposed to be taking. Oops. He looks pissed. “My orange juice?” I nod and mosey over to the counter. There’s no reason to hurry now, from his snotty tone when he asked about his juice, I’m assuming I won’t be getting a tip.

While I’m back there, I hear Liz’s cell phone ring again. Again?! That better not be Michael calling again. Unless he found Ava, anyway. I watch her check the caller ID and frown. She looks at it while it rings two more times and bites her lip before putting the phone back in her apron. That’s weird. Before I think about it anymore, though, the Crashdown phone starts ringing.

Since I’m closest, I answer it. “Crashdown Café, how can I…”

“Maria! Where’s Liz?” It’s Isabel. And she sounds completely frazzled. I look over at Liz, but she looks away. Isabel was trying to call her and Liz doesn’t want to talk to her. I get it.

“She’s uh, really busy. What’s wrong?” I hope she doesn’t ask me to come help her with Max. Because from what I hear, there’s a good chance bodily fluids will be involved.

“It’s Max, I need help. Valenti and Kyle are working. Michael’s gone. And Liz isn’t answering her phone!” She’s panicking. Her voice is getting louder and more hysterical as she talks. “Maria! I need help, I can’t do this by myself!” Oh great, she’s crying now. Shit.

Liz is doing her best to pretend she doesn’t know who I’m talking to, so I sigh very dramatically to show how put out I am by this and say, “I’ll be over in a few. Just calm down.”

When I hang up, I throw Liz my best evil eye and decide that after Max is dealt with I might just go to the mall. Liz can work the rest of my shift for me, and I’ll be expecting the tips. Seems fair to me.

~~~~~~~~~~

Nights are the most unsettling. I don’t feel tired, so I end up staring at the ceiling, or out the window. What do I do when I leave here? Do I just go to sleep? Or do I pass out and worry everyone here just like I do in Roswell? What do Alex and Beth and Dr. White do while I’m gone?

This is my sixth night here, I think, and these are the thoughts that are slowly making me realize that I’m insane. These people aren’t real, so why am I worried about what they’re doing while I’m awake? But what if they are? What if Roswell is what’s not real? That would make more sense. That would be easier.

The longer I stay here, the more I believe it. No, the more I want to believe it. I kind of like it here. Sure, I’m stuck in a mental hospital and I’m clinically schizophrenic. But other than that, it’s not too bad. My parents are here and I don’t have to lie to them. In fact, they encourage me to tell them about my alien powers and everything I’ve gone through in Roswell. Dr. White said that it’s good for me to talk about it. Apparently, the more I talk about it, the more I’m supposed to realize that it’s not true.

And Alex is here. He’s alive and he’s my friend. That’s gotta mean something, right? Even though he’s dating a dead, alien Skin. But that’s ok. She seemed pretty tolerant yesterday when I asked if I could see if she had a metal button on her back. She doesn’t.

And Liz is here, I mean Beth. I’m still having a hard time with her name. When I saw her again, I didn’t feel sick so I took the opportunity to apologize for my behavior when I met her. She just shrugged and said she’s been through it before. Apparently, she has to reintroduce herself to me every few years because I don’t remember anything. She told me the last time I was awake was a year ago.

She knows about Liz. My Liz. And she tells me that Dr. White thinks that I’m basing the characters in my alternate life off of real people here. That subconsciously I can hear them around me while I’m in a coma, or psychotic break, or whatever they call it. Makes sense. So I’ve been asking questions, trying to find matches in this world for all the people in Roswell. So far I’ve found everyone but Isabel and Michael. I find that interesting.

I get pulled from my thoughts when I hear the handle on my door turn. It’s dark, but with the background of the lights in the hallway, I can tell it’s Beth. She must see that I’m awake, so she walks in and closes the door behind her. “Hi. I was just checking on you before I go home.”

I can tell she wasn’t expecting me to be awake. “Oh. I’m having some trouble falling asleep.” Like that’s not obvious with me lying here wide awake in the dark. “What time is it?” I’ve noticed that they won’t give me clock. I asked for one, but they said I couldn’t have one. Sounds fishy to me.

“Just after two in the morning.” She walks over and fiddles with something on my IV. She’s not doing anything. I know how to work it now after watching the nurses come in and adjust it. I find it amusing to know that when Beth does it, she’s not really doing anything to it.

“You work late.” I wonder if she drives here from where she lives. If she does, what kind of car does she drive? If not, does she walk? Is it safe for her to be walking home alone at night? Is there someone waiting for her there? Her parents? A boyfriend? I know she’s not married. No ring.

“The schedule rotates. And I don’t mind being here at night. It’s quieter.” She glances around, but doesn’t make a move to leave so I offer her a chair and ask if she wants to sit with me a while. She smiles and sits and I notice that her hair is the same length as Liz’s. Usually when I see Beth, she has her hair pulled back. But tonight, it’s down.

“So, what do you do when you’re not here?” I’m curious about her life, about how close it might mirror Liz’s. Of course, she’s probably already told me all about herself, I just can’t remember. But she’s nice enough not to roll her eyes at me and point that fact out. Like Alex does.

She shrugs and says, “I help out my dad at the café. Or go out with my friends. I’m actually pretty boring.” I assure her she’s not boring and point out the fact that she could be locked away in the nuthouse staring at the ceiling tiles all night. She smiles and I notice her looking at me oddly again. Like she’s searching for something, or waiting for me to say something.

I think I’ve been here for over a week. I’m not sure because time seems to move differently here. And I’ve seen Beth every day. Mostly because she’s my nurse, but sometimes, like now, she’ll come in and we just talk. So I feel like I know her pretty well to be comfortable around her. Plus, I know she’s known me practically my whole life. So there’s probably not a lot I’ve ever done that surprises her. “What is it? You’ve got a weird look on your face.”

That seems to snap her back from her thoughts and she jerks her head back. “Oh, nothing. I was just…you don’t remember, so it doesn’t matter.” Uh oh. I don’t remember? She’s remembering something I’ve done one of those other times I woke up. I hope it doesn’t involve any nudity. Because this body? Sucks.

“No, it does. Tell me.” I smile at her, trying to decide if I wanna hear this or not.

“It’s just last time. When you were awake? You were here for just over three months. You probably don’t remember.” The shocked look on my face probably tells her I don’t. “It was a year ago, just about this same time. Which is weird. But you were with us until last September. Your parents took you home and everything. We were all so hopeful that you’d stay. They were even thinking of sending you to school.” She looks away and I recognize that look on her face. I recognize it because it’s the same one Liz has had on hers lately when she’s around me. Regret. Disappointment. Sadness.

“Oh.” I don’t know what to say really. I feel bad for my parents being saddled with a kid like me. Especially since I seemed to be normal until I was six.

“I’m not telling you this to make you feel bad.” She must have seen the crestfallen look on my face, so I shrug. “Anyway, I…well, we um, we kind of went out a few times.” She says this so fast that it takes me a moment to realize what she said. We went out? Like on dates? “And I was kind of hoping you’d remember. Because sometimes when you wake up you do. But you don’t and that’s ok. It’s just a little strange for me, you know?”

“I bet.” Now I know why she’s always looking at me as if she’s waiting for me to say something. She’s waiting for me to remember her. Man, it doesn’t matter what reality I’m in, I always manage to screw things up with Liz. It must be an innate talent I have. “So uh, I hate to ask, but why would you wanna go out with me? I mean, I’m crazy.”

She laughs a little and rolls her eyes. “You’re not crazy. You just have a unique disorder. You’re actually a pretty normal guy, when you’re here.” Normal? Me? That’s a good one. “We used to play together when we were kids. And when you were here, you know, sleeping…the doctors would let me come and read you stories and talk to you. I used to think it was so great because I could tell you anything and you never made fun of me. Of course, that was because you didn’t talk back.”

I smile at that, able to picture her doing that. And as I listen to more of her stories, I find myself looking forward to actually staying here. I want to make it up to her, all the times I’ve been asleep. This Liz doesn’t hate me and I could actually have a shot at making things right with her. I haven’t betrayed her here. I haven’t gotten Alex killed here. I’m not an alien king, I’m a normal guy who just happens to sleep a lot.

I could stay here. It’s so much better. There aren’t evil aliens hunting me. I won’t have to worry about constantly being in danger, or being discovered. The FBI aren’t after me here. And really, if I stayed here those people in Roswell would be better off without me. Especially Liz. I’m like a poison in her life, sucking all the life out of her and the people she loves. If I stayed here, I could have a normal life. With Beth and Alex and my parents. And they wouldn’t be hurt because of me.

I’m startled when I feel her take my hand in hers. She tells me that she needs to get home. And before she leaves, she says, “I really hope you stay for a while, Max.”

I watch her walk toward the door and before she leaves, I say, “Me, too.”

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Wed Jul 21, 2004 2:38 pm

Breathless, you and Max, both.;)

BelevnDreamsToo, Ah, but you're assuming the Roswell world is real.;)

DreamKeeper, Actually, the last time Max woke up in the hospital was the May before...around the time of the Mom-o-gram. He slipped away again in September, when Liz returned from Florida.

DreamKeeper & frenchkiss, Maria is slowly becoming aware that this problem is a serious one. Like Kyle, she didn't take it too seriously. Just another alien crisis.

BelieveInTrueLove, Related to Stephen King or Chris Carter? I wish.

Thanks for the feedback, everyone!


Part 7

The first time I see him, I’m scared shitless. I thought they’d found me. But I realized pretty quick that it wasn’t Rath who was trackin’ me down. It was the other one. Michael. I changed my hair, so that’s probably why he hasn’t spotted me yet in this smoky bar. I watch him flash a picture to the bartender. The bartender shrugs and shakes his head. I wonder where he got a picture of me, and figure it’s of Tess.

I know she’s gone. I feel it in my bones. Maybe she’s dead. No skin off my back. So why are they lookin’ for me? Obviously they want somethin’ from me, or they want me to do somethin’ for them. I doubt it’s because they miss me. I suck down the rest of my coke and get up from the booth. Might as well get it over with and find out.

“What do you want?” I must scare him because he jumps back a little. He’s starin’ at me and I figure he doesn’t recognize me right away. The hair.

“Ava.” I look at my watch, tryin’ to impress upon him that I don’t have all night. “I need to talk to you.” I raise my eyebrows to show that I don’t really care before I shrug and walk out the front door. I can tell he’s following me. Hell, he’s practically steppin’ on the backs of my shoes. Kind of like a puppy.

About a half a block away I finally say, “You were saying?” He looks surprised, like he’s been searching and searching for me and now that he’s found me he realizes he forgot to write the speech.

“Right. Yah, um, we have a little problem. Well, not so little, but we really need your help.” He’s gonna have to do better than that if he wants me to keep walking with him. I don’t need vague right now, I need a reason for why he’s been lookin’ for me.

“What’s the problem?” I bet myself ten dollars it has something to do with Tess.

“Tess did something to Max.” I knew it. “She took off in the Granolith.” Whoa. Wasn’t expecting that one. So my dupe scurried back to our planet. Good for her. I hope they kill her when she gets there. “But before she left, we think she did something to Max’s mind. He’s…”

I wait for him to finish his sentence, but he’s looked off, like he’s trying to figure out how to explain it. “He’s what? Been turned into a frog? Acting like he’s a woman? What?” I think I get the gist of what he’s gonna ask me, but I can’t help but give him a hard time.

He gives me an irritated look and I smile back. “He’s blacking out. And while he’s out he’s going to some other place. Sometimes he’s out for an hour, sometimes days. But when he wakes up, he tells us that wherever he’s going seems real and that the people there are telling him that this world isn’t real. He’s a little confused.”

A little? That sounds like serious shit. “That’s fucked up. How long’s this been goin’ on?”

“Almost two weeks.”

“And you want me to try and help him.” I take a not so wild stab in the dark. He nods and stuffs his hands in his front pockets. It’s a very un-Rath like move and I’m reminded of how different they are from us. “You got a place for me to crash? Cuz I ain’t bunkin’ in the street this time.”

~~~~~~~~~~

I’m spent. Completely and utterly spent. I can’t even make myself move from the floor of my brother’s bedroom. And one of my shoes is missing. I roll over on my side and haul myself up to my hands and knees, grabbing soaked towels on my way. I try not to touch them too much. Some have a slimy, bile-like substance all over them.

I don’t know what it is, but the first time Max started foaming at the mouth and spewing up the stuff I panicked. Thank God Maria finally took pity on me and came over. As I stand up and wobble a bit, I keep my gaze averted from Max’s bed. I’m committed to this task now. Picking up the mess on the floor and throwing it all in the washer.

After that, I’ll come check on him. I don’t wanna look at him, not right now. Because keeping a grip on my emotions right now is all I have. I skirt around his bed. Don’t look. Don’t look. Damn, I have to look. I’ve got him stripped down to his boxers, the only thing I have the energy to dress him in. The bad part of that is I’m forced to look at the sickly state of his skin. It’s turned a disgusting shade of gray/green and I’m not sure if that’s a human thing or an alien thing.

When my eyes meet his face, I’m shocked to see that his eyes are open. “Max!” The towels get dropped to the floor as I walk over to the side of the bed and kneel on the floor. His eyes are open, but it takes him a while to acknowledge that I’m here.

He looks over slowly, disappointedly, and says, “Hey.” I almost burst into tears on the spot. “I’m back.” The way he says it tells me he doesn’t want to be.

“Max, Michael’s on his way back to Roswell with Ava. She’s gonna help you.” I believe, desperately, that this is true. I have to. He doesn’t say anything to that. Instead, he moves his mouth around and I can tell he’s thirsty so I rush into the bathroom and fill a cup with water.

After he’s propped up a bit and drank some water, he asks, “Has Liz been here?” He frowns when he looks down and sees the color of his skin. It’s a good thing he can’t see his face. His eyes are sunken and surrounded by black circles.

“No, not really.” I don’t wanna lie to him. Liz hasn’t seen him since he was at Michael’s apartment. And that was almost two weeks ago. After my first attempt at asking her for help, I stopped. I don’t have time to worry about why she won’t come see him. I’m sure she has her reasons. “Kyle and his dad have been helping. And Maria.”

He grimaces, embarrassed, and gives me a small smile. “Thank you. For taking care of me. I’m sure it’s not any fun.” He looks around his room for a minute and asks, “How long this time?”

“Three and half days.” Three and a half days of hell. “How long was it for you?”

He doesn’t look me, just seems to stare toward his window. “Longer.” I contemplate calling Michael and letting him know that Max is awake, but I think he might be in the air. Then I think about calling Liz because he asked for her. He looks over at me, almost like he just realized that I’m here and asks, “Has Liz been here?”

I wanna pull out my hair. I wanna cry. I wanna grab him by the shoulders and shake him until he’s normal again. “No, Max, I just told you she hasn’t. Do you want me to call her?”

“I don’t have her number.” He’s leaning over now, trying to sit up on the side of the bed. He doesn’t have her number? What’s that supposed to mean? I decide to call Liz and tell her that Max is asking for her.

I help him sit up and say, “I’m going to make you something to eat. I’ll be back in a few minutes.” If he hears me, he doesn’t act like it. He’s sitting on the edge of his bed now, staring at his closet. He’s obviously not here completely. Hopefully Ava can help him, because I think I’m losing him.

~~~~~~~~~~

I can feel him. I’ve always been able to in the deepest place of my soul. There’s always been this presence. And I know it’s Max. I can feel that place inside of me, that hole he occupies, get larger and emptier every day. It’s because he’s leaving. He’s slowly fading away and there’s nothing we can do to keep him here.

When Isabel called, I got a sick feeling in my stomach. All she said was that Max was awake and that he was asking for me. I know she’s disappointed in me for not coming sooner, for not helping. I’m disappointed in me, too. But my feelings for Max are so conflicted right now.

She seemed relieved when I told her I’d be right over. I’m scared. I’m scared to see him, to face his mortality. Maria and Kyle told me he doesn’t look very good. I think I’m even more scared because I know he’s awake. If he were asleep, I could break down and he wouldn’t know it. As I walk to their front door, I rein in my emotions and lock them tightly away before I ring the doorbell.

“He’s not himself.” Isabel tells me as we walk down the hall to his room. “And I want to warn you, he doesn’t look so hot. His skin’s…he looks sick. So try to keep your reaction calm. I don’t wanna upset him.” I listen to her give me instructions and resist the urge to scream. I know she’s tired, I know she’s trying to protect him. But what does she think? That I’m gonna walk in there and scream in horror and call him a monster?

Before she opens the door, I plaster a smile on my face and hold my breath. Oh my God. I can’t move. He looks so bad, worse than I imagined. I feel Isabel give me a shove from behind and I stumble slightly through the doorway.

When he sees me, though, I see his eyes light up and his face transforms, but only for a few seconds. Then he looks away. “Hi Max.” I hear Isabel shut the door and I walk further into his room. I notice a tray sitting on his desk with a half empty bowl of soup and some crackers. He won’t look at me and I start to worry that he doesn’t know who I am. “Do you remember me?”

“Of course I remember you,” he snaps and his eyes flash in anger. Then he shakes his head and runs his hand through his hair. “Sorry, I…I didn’t mean to…”

I walk over and sit on the side of his bed, facing him in his desk chair. “It’s ok.” When he looks up at me, I almost cry at the lost look in his eyes. He searches my face, I don’t know for what, but then he closes his eyes and drops his face in his hands.

“This is all wrong.” I can barely hear him, so I scoot forward and grab his wrists, pulling his hands down from his face. “Liz, you’re not really here. At least, I hope you’re not.” Off my confused look, he says, “If you’re not real, then you can’t hate me.”

“Max, I don’t hate you.” How can he think that? How can he think that I could ever hate him? He looks like he doesn’t believe me. “Ok, so we have some issues.” I quirk up the corner of my mouth in a smile, but he doesn’t respond. “Neither one of us has exactly been a saint lately. But I could never hate you, Max.”

“I can’t stand it here. Everything’s wrong.” I ask him what he means. “I can’t stand seeing what I’ve done to you, to your life. Beth is…she’s what you should have been.” Beth? Who’s Beth? “Although, I never imagined you wanting to be a nurse.” He shrugs and I see a ghost of a smile on his lips.

“Max, who’s Beth?” He looks up at me, realizing perhaps that he’s been talking out loud. And he stares at me in a way that makes me shiver.

“Beth is…she’s you. She’s the person I based you off of.”

“Based me off of?” I’m not following this conversation very well. I like to think of myself as a pretty smart person, but whatever Max is talking about is going right over my head.

“Dr. White said I’ve created you, all of you, based off of people in my world. But you like to be called Beth. I wonder how I got that wrong.” He’s staring off somewhere over my left shoulder and I shake my head. We’re losing him, he thinks that we’re not real.

I force him to look at me. “Max, listen to me. This…this is real. You and I sitting in your room talking. Remember the first time you kissed me? That was real. And the first time you told me you loved me? That was real, too. This Beth and Dr. White, they don’t exist.” I struggle to hold his attention and I can tell he doesn’t really believe me.

He shakes his head and pulls away from me, standing up on shaky legs. “I don’t know what to believe anymore. But I don’t like it here, there’s so much pain. And I caused it. And I just can’t understand how it all ended up like this.” He turns to me and smiles. “It’s so much better there, Liz. Things are normal.” He laughs a little and says, “Sort of. I mean, I am in a mental hospital with a raging case of schizophrenia. But it all makes sense there. It all makes sense in a way that nothing here does.”

I turn toward him, not wanting to scare him by standing up, too. “Max, don’t you see? You’re creating this other place to escape the problems we have here. I know things aren’t perfect and right now we’ve got our fair share of problems. But we’ll deal with them. I just need you to hold on until Ava and Michael get here.”

“Isabel and Michael aren’t there. Everyone else is. Alex, you, my parents, Maria, Courtney. But not them. I can’t figure it out.” He picks up a picture from his dresser, one of him, Isabel and his parents and stares at it.

Aha. I’ve got a good answer for him on that. “See! If we’re not real, and you’re basing us on people from that world, then why would you just create Isabel and Michael from nothing? They’re such an important part of your life, wouldn’t you expect them to be there in some form?”

“I don’t know. I just…I’m really confused.” He puts the picture down and looks over at me. “Isabel told me you haven’t come over. I…I don’t blame you. I want you to know that it’s ok, that you don’t have to come back. I just…I wanted to see you. One more time.” Why did she have to tell him that? God, now he feels like I abandoned him. I guess I did in a way. I should have come. I should have tried harder to get through to him.

“I’m really sorry, Max. It’s hard for me after everything that’s happened. It’s just hard for me to be around you.” He smiles again and nods. I watch him walk back over to the bed and lie down.

“You can go now.” He looks at me and smiles, stares at my face for a moment before he bends down to pull the covers up. “Thank you for coming.”

“Max, please…please stay here.” I close my eyes, willing the tears away. He doesn’t need to see me crying. I turn to him and put my hand on his cheek. “Please stay,” I whisper and I feel a tear fall down my face.

He watches it and reaches up with his hand to wipe it away. “I’ve hurt you so much, Liz. But you still cry for me. If I stay I’ll destroy you. And then I might not find my real Liz again.” I feel my throat close off in pain before a choked sob escapes and I lay my head on his chest.

“Don’t go, Max. Don’t go…don’t go…don’t go…” I lay on his chest, unable to stop repeating my command. Maybe through sheer will, I can keep him here. Maybe if I say it enough, he’ll obey. Maybe…

I feel his hand fall away from the back of my head and I look up to see that he’s gone. “Noooo!” I grab his shoulders and shake him. When that doesn’t work, I start pounding on his chest. I can hear my own screams in my head and I realize that those screams are coming out of my mouth when I feel Isabel pull me away.

She has to practically wrestle me to the floor to get me off of him and when I look up and see his still body lying in bed, his chest rising and falling slowly with each breath, I break down. I completely break down on the floor of Max’s bedroom, unaware of the carpet beneath my cheek, or that Isabel is crying silently next to me.

~TBC~

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Post by Angel » Mon Jul 26, 2004 4:42 pm

Thank you for all the wonderful feedback, everyone! I know it's sad, and I hate to say that it might get worse. But I never said this would be fluffy goodness.;) Thanks for reading...I hope you enjoy this next part.


Part 8

Holy shit, I forgot what a joke this town is. Look at all this alien crap. I thought it was pretty hokey last time I was here. That opinion hasn’t changed much. Zan would have loved it. He would have been really amused to know that the other set was livin’ in the alien capital of the world. I can almost hear him laughin’ in my head.

I do have to say that this bike of Michael’s is pretty cool, though. Thankfully, he’s cruising through the streets so fast that I can’t focus on any of the alien stuff in the stores for too long. This reminds me of the only other time I’ve ridden on a motorcycle. Zan and Rath lifted a couple from these rich kids who parked them in front of a bar. We rode those bikes all day and by the time they ran out of gas, we were out in the country. It was awesome.

When Michael told me that they needed my help, my first instinct was to say no. What the hell can I help them with anyway? They think Tess did somethin’ to Max. I don’t know what she could have done, but I hope they’re not too pissed if I can’t fix it. Plus, seeing Max gives me the heebie jeebies. All I can see when I look at him is Zan.

I asked Michael about how Tess left, and why. But he hasn’t told me much. Just that she took off in the Granolith after killing one of their friends. I’m guessing there’s more to the story, but he doesn’t trust me. That’s ok, because I don’t trust him either.

We pull up in the driveway of a big house and I assume this is where Max lives. It’s pretty nice. He’s got it good. I follow his lead after takin’ my helmet off and we walk right inside without knocking. I guess his parents aren’t home.

“Isabel!” he calls toward the back of the house and walks straight back through the kitchen. No one’s around and the house looks dark. It’s cozy. Lots of pictures and nick knacks. Homey.

“This way,” he says as he walks back down a hallway. I follow quietly, taking it all in. When we get to the end of the hall, I see a light coming from one of the bedrooms and he pushes the door open.

I see Isabel first. She looks like shit. “Thank God you’re here.” She stands up and looks completely helpless and frazzled. “This is a complete nightmare, Michael. He’s gotten worse,” she says to Michael, and I can tell just by looking at her that she’s about to have a major freak out.

I finally look over to see for myself how bad it is and I see that Liz is here. I didn’t notice her when I walked in because she’s sitting on the floor. She doesn’t even look up. I also notice that Max looks really, really fucked up. He looks like he’s ten years older than the last time I saw him.

“How long has he been out?” Michael asks.

“A few hours. He woke up earlier this afternoon.” I can tell Isabel’s about ready to start crying. Looks like she’s been doin’ a lot of that recently.

“Does he remember everything when he wakes up?” I finally say something and Liz’s head pops up as if she just noticed there were other people in the room.

She looks happy to see me for a second, but it doesn’t last very long. “Yes,” she tells me. “He talks about that place like it’s real. He’s starting to believe that we’re the ones who aren’t.”

I think about this and walk closer to the side of the bed. He looks sick. And he looks skinnier than the last time I saw him. “I can’t get in. I’ve tried, but I can’t get into his dreams,” Isabel tells me. She sounds so sad about it that I don’t tell her he’s not dreaming. I could feel it as soon as I walked into the room. If he were dreaming, I’d be able to feel his presence. I can feel Michael and Isabel’s presence. They’re faint, but there. Even Liz’s. But I don’t feel Max at all. He’s gone. And that has me confused.

“Can you help him?” I look across the bed at Liz and I shrug my shoulders. I want to say yes. Especially since she was so nice to me before. But I don’t think I can. I’ll at least try before I tell them that, though. I might be able to at least see what he’s seeing. Liz lays her head down on the bed next to his shoulder and says, “He thinks it’s better there. He wants to stay.”

Better? What could be better than the setup he has here? He better have palaces built of gold and his own personal ass-wiper wherever it is he goes. All three of them are looking at me now and I realize that I’m smiling. Oops. Not a good time to be smiling, I guess.

“So uh, you got anything to eat around here? I’m starved,” I ask, thinkin’ that if I’m gonna go rooting around in Max’s head I should probably eat somethin’ first. They might not be willing to feed me if they find out I can’t help him.

I hear Michael grunt and Isabel says, “Sure. Let’s go to the kitchen and I’ll show you where everything’s at.” I smile my thanks and follow her out of the room.

Before we make it to the hall, though, I hear Liz say, “Ava, thank you for coming.” I turn around and shrug.

“No problem.” It’s not like I have anything better to do.

~~~~~~~~~~

“I’m starting to think it’s not healthy to come out here and talk to you like this.” The grass feels damp when I sit on the ground, but I don’t care. Anything is better than being trapped in that house with Max.

“So why do you?” Alex walks into my view from behind me and sits on his neighbor’s headstone.

I look down at the ground and shrug. Why do I? I don’t really know. “You’re the only one I can talk to.” Sad, but true. At the moment, there’s no one I can talk to. Liz is in a daze. Michael’s in fix-it mode. And Max is catatonic. That sums up the circle of people I have to talk to. I can’t really talk to Kyle or Maria. I don’t really know them that well. I guess that’s my fault, but it’s a little late to start building friendships now.

“I always told you that if you just tried a little harder with Liz and Maria that they could be great friends.” He did tell me that. But I was never interested in friendship. Plus, they were dating Max and Michael. The last thing I want to hear about is those two and their love lives.

“I don’t think Liz would want to be friends with me anymore. Not after the way I treated her.” I think back to how mean I was to her when I heard she slept with Kyle. I saw what it did to Max and I couldn’t believe she’d do something like that. Turns out she wouldn’t. And now I feel like crap.

“Liz is a pretty forgiving person,” Alex tells me with a smile. “After the way Max treated her, how all of you treated her, where is she right now?”

She loves my brother. I’m not sure he really deserves it, but she does. I understand why she stayed away for so long. I tried to be mad that she wouldn’t help with Max. But I can’t blame her, not really.

“Love is a powerful motivator. Sometimes it makes us do things we wouldn’t normally do.” I nod my head, agreeing with him. But then I look up and realize he’s not talking about forgiveness.

“You know about Max coming back from the future.” Of course Liz would tell Alex. If Maria knows, Alex knows.

He smiles at me sadly and says, “Yes. She did it for you and Michael.” Ok, that’s not really helping with my guilt. Sometimes when I come out here to talk to him, I forget that he’s dead. I forget that it’s not really him who sits here with me. But he always seems so real to me and I want to believe, if only for a few minutes, that he’s still alive.

“I’m scared, Alex. I think Max is giving up. He sees you, you know. Wherever it is he goes, you’re there.” I look up at him and see him smiling at me.

“Of course I’m there. He’s created a world that’s better than this one. He’s angry at himself for not being able to bring me back to life, so he’s done the next best thing.” I remember that night. The blood on Max’s hands. The helpless expression on his face when he got out of the corner’s van. I was so sure he would be able to do it. I was so sure that Alex would follow him out of that van.

I start to feel the seat of my pants get wet the longer I sit here so I stand up. I should go back. I should be there when Ava tries to get through to Max. I really hope she can help, but at this point I think he might be beyond help.

“Don’t lose hope, Isabel. You guys will get through this, you always do.” Alex stands up with me and I feel him reach out and touch my cheek.

“Thank you for being here,” I tell him, even though I know he’s not really. But it’s nice to come out here and pretend for a while.

“I’ll always be there for you, Isabel. You don’t have to pretend.” He smiles and I watch as he disappears. I stand there for a little while longer before picking up some dying flowers next to his headstone and taking them away. I’ll bring some fresh ones tomorrow.

~~~~~~~~~~

It’s getting harder for me to figure out how long I’ve been here. I remember talking to Liz and Isabel, but I can’t remember how long ago that was. I’m getting stronger and the last time I talked to Dr. White he told me that I might get to go home soon. That would be cool. I really want to see where I live. The only bad thing about that would be that I won’t see Beth every day.

“So I hear they’re gonna spring you from this joint.” I look up when Alex walks into the room and smile. I haven’t seen him for a couple of days. At least, I think it’s been a couple of days. I’m not sure.

“That’s what I hear,” I tell him.

He pulls up a chair next to the bed and pulls out a deck of cards. “Just in time, too. School is out, summer is well under way and the pool is loaded with beautiful young ladies wearing nothing but strings and small scraps of material.” He’s grinning as he rolls the portable tray over between us and starts dealing cards.

I laugh and say, “I don’t think I’ll be going to the pool anytime soon. I might scare people away with my bright, glowing skin.”

“A couple of days out of this place and some fresh air will cure that.” He picks up his cards and says, “Besides, you didn’t seem to have much of a problem last summer.” He grins.

I look over my cards and see that I have a crappy hand. If I had powers here, I’d change the cards because Alex beats me every time we play. Just in case, I try. Nope, still no powers. “So do you know Beth very well?” I’ve never really seen them together. Sometimes they pass each other coming and going from my room and they say hello. But that’s the extent of their relationship that I’ve ever seen.

“Sure.” He shrugs. “I’ve known her about as long as I’ve known you. We went to school together. Plus, I see her here all the time.”

“But, are you good friends? Are you, Liz and Maria like, the three musketeers?” Alex looks at me strangely, like he’s sad about something and I realize my mistake. “I mean Beth. Are you, Beth and Maria good friends?”

He sighs and says, “We’re not like that. Sure, we’re friends, but the three of us don’t really hang out together exclusively or anything. They were a couple of grades ahead of me. We’re not them, Max.”

I nod, feeling bad. Like I’ve disappointed him somehow. “I know, I’m sorry.”

“Is it still that real to you? You’ve been awake for a while now. Usually, the memories start to fade the longer you’re here.” No one’s ever told me this before and I’m surprised. I guess it makes sense.

“Last time I woke up. Last summer, did I still go back? You know, for short periods of time after I woke up?” I’ve been curious about what happens here during my brief visits back to Roswell. Do they even know I’m gone?

“For a little while. But it stops eventually. I think by the time you went home last summer, your visits to that other place had stopped,” He tells me and I search my mind for memories of last summer. In either place. I know I spent a lot of time locked in my room, depressed about Liz. But I don’t remember anything like this happening. And I can’t remember anything about this world.

“I have a good feeling this time, Max. I think you’re here for good. Don’t you think it’s about time?” He puts his cards down on the tray. “I know you’re pretty confused still. But I also know that this time you seem to be more here. Like you’re starting to realize that this is where you belong. I mean, come on Max. Why would you choose to be in a world where I’m dead?” He smiles and picks up his cards again. I can’t argue with him about that. He makes a lot of sense.

“Do your really think so? Do you think it’s different this time?” A big part of me hopes that he’s right, hopes that this is the world that’s real. There are things I’d need to get used to, but this world seems right and normal in a way the other one never has.

Of course, I’ve seriously entertained the thought that I’ve gone completely psycho and I’m making this entire thing up. But maybe that’s ok, too. Even if it’s not real, it’s not a bad place to be crazy in.

“I do,” Alex says. And I want to believe him. Alex is a smart guy, he wouldn’t steer me wrong.

~TBC~

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Angel
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Post by Angel » Thu Aug 05, 2004 11:40 pm

Part 9

Why am I only one in here? Isabel just took off, not that I can blame her. I kind of left her alone with this mess while I was in New York. And Liz and Ava are in the kitchen talking, I can hear them from here. I try to listen, but their voices are too low.

I don’t like sitting in here alone. Being around Max right now is making me extremely uncomfortable. I didn’t expect him to look this bad, this sick. I can’t reconcile the Max that I know with the Max that’s lying in front of me.

“Maxwell, you need to wake up now.” He doesn’t move. It was worth a try. I can’t stand seeing him like this, weak and vulnerable. I wish I knew what was going on. Now I have an idea of how he and Isabel felt when I got sick last year. It’s not like it’s normal for us to get sick. Hell, they probably thought I was dying. For all we know, Max could be dying. Maybe Tess didn’t do anything to him and this is just how we die.

I look over at his stereo and pick up the pile of CDs that are stacked next to it. Music might help. I flip through them, cringing at his poor taste in music. Counting Crows, Moby, Gomez, Wilco, Stereophonics, Smashing Pumpkins. All crap. No wonder he’s in a fucking coma. I toss them back on his desk. No reason I need to suffer through that. He probably won’t hear it anyway.

Why can’t Ava get in here and tell us if she can help him or not. Then we’ll at least know. What will we do then? What will we do if Max does die? It’ll just be me and Isabel then. How will we ever be able to fight our enemies with just two of us? Maybe I can convince Ava to stay here in Roswell.

Shit, I can’t start thinking like he’s already gone. I look up at his face and I think I see his lip twitch slightly. Is he waking up? I lean over him and shake him a little bit. But he doesn’t move again. I hate this.

I hate that we don’t know what to do. I hate that all our hopes are pinned on Ava being able to fix this. I hate that our lives are so screwed up that Max has decided he likes it better in some fake world he created in his head. I hate that I stood by and watched Max self-destruct and I didn’t step in and try to help him out.

I feel tears fall down my face and I hate those, too. I’m fucking crying. Jesus. I’m glad I’m the only one in here.

~~~~~~~~~~

This is kind of uncomfortable. We’re standing outside Max’s bedroom door and I can hear Michael crying inside. Liz hears it, too. I can tell by the way she’s starin’ at the closed door with her hand over her mouth. I back away, intending on giving the guy some privacy and Liz slowly follows me back into the kitchen.

“Maybe we should just, um, wait for a few more minutes,” Liz says, as if we didn’t just hear Michael sobbing behind that closed door.

“Yah.” I don’t know what to say. Liz just spent the last fifteen minutes asking me about my life. Where I’ve been. What I’ve been doing. And I’ve seen her steadily get more excited, more hopeful. She’s startin’ to believe that I’m the answer to all their problems. She even hinted around that I should think about stayin’ in Roswell. Somethin’ about how Tess is gone and if I stay there’ll be four of us again. I have no idea what that has to do with the situation they’re in, but I humored her and told her I’d think about it. She seems mega stressed and I don’t wanna be the one to send her over the edge.

A few minutes later we hear the bedroom door open and we peek around the corner to see Michael stepping into the hallway. “Are we gonna get started on this sometime this year?” he bellows from the end of the hall.

Excuse me? I stand up, all ready to give him a piece of my mind. “We would have gotten started…” But I feel Liz pull my arm back and she interrupts me.

“Sure. Let’s go ahead and try it now. I’m sure Isabel won’t mind if we start without her.” She gives me some kind of warning look that I interpret to mean that I shouldn’t point out the fact that we overheard Michael’s little break down. Whatever. I didn’t realize he was so sensitive.

When we walk back in the room, Liz asks me, “If you see him, could you…could you just tell him that I love him?” I nod and look toward Michael to see if he has any messages. By the look he throws at me I’m guessing not.

I sit down next to Max and take a deep breath. This isn’t gonna work. I glance over to Liz and Michael and they’re watchin’ me in expectation. Nothin’ like a little pressure. I press my hands to each side of his head and concentrate. Nothin’. I’m not surprised. The guy isn’t here. At all.

I pull my hands away and sigh. He feels warm so I put my palm to his forehead. Whoa! Ok, that was weird. I feel this rush of energy and all of a sudden I’m standin’ in a really bright hospital room. And I see Max sittin’ up in the bed in front of me. Liz is here, too. And some other guy I don’t recognize.

“Liz?” I call out to her but she doesn’t seem to hear me. When I look toward Max, though, I see that he knows I’m here. He’s starin’ at me with wide, surprised eyes. “Hey, Max.”

“Ava?” He sits up straighter and I see Liz look behind her toward me, in the direction that Max is looking.

She turns back to him and asks, “What is it, Max?”

“What are you doing here?” he asks me, ignoring Liz.

His gaze follows me as I walk toward the bed to the opposite side of Liz and that guy. “They thought I could help bring you back. What are you doin’ here?” I look up toward Liz, but not Liz. She looks different here. Happier, healthier.

“Who’s Ava?” the tall guy asks. I watch as Liz shrugs and sits on the bed next to Max. She puts her hand on his cheek in concern.

“She’s no one,” Max tells them with a smile.

“Ouch,” I say, offended. “You need to snap out of it, Max. Everyone’s worried about you. Isabel’s a basket case, Michael’s crying, and Liz…she wanted me to tell you that she loves you.” There, that’s good. Make him feel guilty.

Max shakes his head and says, “Those people aren’t real. I belong here.”

“I think he’s seeing someone from that other world,” the tall guy says. “Maybe I should go get the doctor.” He looks worried and I wonder who he is.

“Who’s that?” I ask, pointing toward the unknown guy.

“That’s Alex,” Max says. “You should go now.”

Alex? Didn’t Michael tell me that Tess killed Alex? “Max, Alex is dead. This is all in your imagination. I don’t know what’s goin’ on, but you need to wake up.” I’m getting frustrated and I point at Liz. “That’s not Liz. Liz is sittin’ next to your bed right now and she really thinks that I’m gonna be able to help you. So you have to come back because I don’t wanna have to tell her that I couldn’t.”

He grabs the sides of his head and squeezes his eyes shut. “Get out of my head! I don’t want you here!”

I roll my eyes at his temper tantrum and start to say somethin’ back, but in the blink of an eye I’m back in his dark bedroom. “Huh.” I sit back and pull my hand away from his forehead. He kicked me out. He had the ability to kick me out of his head, so at least he has some control over what’s going on.

“Ava, what happened?” Liz rushes over to my side. “You got in, didn’t you?”

I nod my head, still looking down at Max. Great. How am I supposed to tell them what he said? I hear Isabel come rushing into the room and I realize that I couldn’t have been in there with Max for too long.

“What happened? Why didn’t you guys wait for me? Did you see him? Did you get in?” I look over at Isabel and nod my head as I stand up.

“Yup.” By the way they’re all looking at me, I guess they want some details. “He’s in a hospital, and he wasn’t real happy to see me.”

“What did he say?” Liz looks like she’s about ready to jump out of her skin. I really don’t wanna have to tell them this.

I fold my arms across my chest and say, “He said he wants to stay there, that he belongs there. Liz, you were there. And Alex, maybe. I never met the guy, but Max told me his name was Alex. Tall, skinny guy.”

Liz nods and wipes tears from her eyes. “What did you tell him?”

“I told him that everyone here was really worried about him and that he needed to wake up. I told him that Alex is dead and that the Liz there isn’t real. But he pushed me out. He told me to get out of his head and he pushed me out.” That’s all I have for them and I feel bad. I know they were counting on me, but there’s nothing I can do if he doesn’t wanna leave that place.

No one says anything for a while. They all just stand there and look at Max. And I think about the energy I felt when I was in there with Max. It’s weird, because I don’t feel anything from him now. But my body is still humming from the memory of it.

~~~~~~~~~~

I should probably go home. I don’t even know what time it is, but I think it’s early in the morning. My parents don’t even know where I’m at. Although, given the last couple of years they shouldn’t be too surprised that I’m staying out all night. Maybe they’ll go easy on me since school is out.

Maria got here a couple of hours ago and I think she and Michael are sleeping on the couch. Or trying to sleep. I don’t think any of us has been sleeping very well lately. I can’t hear anything from Max’s room, but I assume that Isabel’s in there with him. She knows I’m out here. Or at least I think she does since she cracked open Max’s window letting me know she was close.

I’m glad she’s not shutting me out. Especially since I haven’t had the best track record for the last couple of weeks. She knows I’ve been avoiding Max and this whole situation and I’m glad she hasn’t called me on it. She hasn’t punished me for it either. Part of me wishes she would.

I can’t stop thinking about what Ava told us. I’m still reeling from the fact that she actually got in. But hearing that he wants to stay there, and hearing about the other me that he’s created. It’s like I can’t breathe. She also told us that if Tess did that to him, she doesn’t know how. She sensed that there had been some mindwarping, but mindwarping wouldn’t do that to him.

So now what? If Tess didn’t do anything to him, we’re back at square one. This all started that morning. It has to have been Tess. The other Max never told me about anything like this. He would have warned me, wouldn’t he? That means that this was caused by something that’s different in this timeline. Well geez, that narrows it down.

What’s different? Max and I never made love. Max had sex with Tess. Tess is pregnant with his baby. Alex is dead. They almost went back to their planet on the Granolith. Tess left the planet. Those are the only differences that I know about. I’m sure there are more, but he didn’t tell me much. I should have asked him more questions.

The Granolith? No, they’ve all been around the Granolith before. There was something special about that morning. I’m sure of it. God, this is impossible. Even if one of those things is the reason this has happened, we still don’t know how to stop it. The Granolith is gone and so is Tess.

I’m so tired. And I’m scared. I can’t get my hands to stop shaking. I’m scared that he won’t wake up again. That I’ll never get to talk to him again, or see him smile at me. I’d even settle for him being angry with me as long as he was here and awake and himself again.

I just feel so stupid and helpless. There’s nothing I can do to help. And I’m scared to death that I’m gonna lose him. That I already have.

~TBC~

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