BOOK 10 MAJESTY'S
(Sunday, July 29th, 2001)
Sean waited outside the Crashdown until the last customers had left and Liz was alone. He knocked on the glass to get her attention, not sure how Liz would react. He wouldn't have been surprised if she ignored him but she crossed to the door, opened it and wordlessly invited him inside.
Sean had prepared everything he had wanted to say to Liz but suddenly all of the words were gone and he shoved his hands in his pockets. "Liz, I just wanted to tell you how sorry I am about everything."
"Sean, you already apologized."
"I know but I could have gotten all of you killed and now you have to worry if I'm going to turn you over to the FBI."
Liz shook her head, "I know you'll keep our secret."
"That's because you're a good person and you see good in others. That's one of the things that attracted me to you. I wanted to be the person you saw."
"Sean…" Liz started, but he stopped her.
"No, listen Liz, I know you're with Max and I don't have a chance. I wish I had listened to you when you told me I couldn't do anything to turn you from Max. If I'd had any idea about the truth…" he trailed off, shaking his head. "I just wanted to tell you that you don't have to worry about anything. Your life is not going to be screwed up because of me."
"I know, Sean," Liz assured him. "I never doubted it."
Sean smiled, "So you really are the Queen of another planet."
Liz was suddenly nervous and looked away from him. "In my other life, but I don't remember anything about it."
Sean smiled humorlessly. "But you and Max found each other anyway. Neither of you knew who you really were but you were drawn together. I guess it really was meant to be."
Liz could hear the note of disappointment in his voice. "I'm really sorry Sean."
(Monday, July 30th, 2001)
Michael had been silent the entire car ride back to his apartment from the Valenti's house and Maria was starting to worry. Usually he was excited about their memory recovery sessions but today he had seemed strangely subdued.
Maria pulled into a visitor space at his apartment complex and turned off the ignition. "Michael, do you want to tell me what's wrong?"
He turned to her with a scowl. "What?"
"Something's wrong. Do you want to talk about it?"
Michael shook his head, as he opened the door and grunted a simple, "No." Then he turned and headed toward his apartment.
Maria got out of the car and hurried after him down the hallway. "That's not good enough Michael. In a relationship, we help each other through problems."
Michael jammed his key in the lock, without a glance at Maria. "Well you can't help me with this."
When Michael swung the door open, Maria followed him inside. "How do you know unless you tell me?"
Michael knew Maria wouldn't give up and he let himself fall onto the sofa, releasing a sigh. "I'm a killer, that's what."
Maria stood in front of him, "You think you killed John."
Michael nodded, "I couldn't stop thinking about it today when I was supposed to be meditating. Look at the facts, remember what everyone said they were doing. They were all using their powers to do something, and John burst into flames. It had to be me."
Maria shook her head but Michael continued, "I killed Pierce and I killed John. That's my job, that's what I do whether I want to or not, and there's nothing anybody can do about it. It's who I was in my last life and who I was born to be in this one. I just have to learn how to live with it."
Max sighed wearily as he slumped down on his bed. For weeks he had been trying to recover his memories of Liz but still he'd had no progress. Everything he remembered was from his early life and he grew more frustrated with every memory recovery session.
Isabel had suggested that perhaps the memories of loving and losing Liz were too painful and subconsciously he didn't want to remember.
And even though Max thought his sister might be right, he needed to remember Liz. He wanted to know everything about her and he felt it would bring them closer. If he remembered their life together, he could show Liz and prove to her they belonged together.
All evening, Liz had sensed that something was wrong with Maria. Dropping things and forgetting orders, Maria was definitely preoccupied. Liz waited impatiently until she and Maria were the only ones left in the Crashdown, before confronting her friend.
Liz locked the back door behind the last cook and turned to Maria. "Okay, we're alone. Do you want to tell me what's going on?"
Maria smiled, "I guess that friend thing works both ways."
Liz nodded and pushed Maria down into a booth before sliding in across from her. "So?"
Maria sighed, "Liz, I think Michael killed that John guy."
"Any of us could have done it. What makes you think Michael did?"
"Michael thinks he did it," Maria said. I tried to talk to him about it but he said to leave it alone. He's convinced he did it because he killed Pierce, and I think he's scared that he can kill without really meaning to."
Liz shook her head, "No, Maria. Michael couldn't possibly have killed John without realizing it. He has better control of his powers than that."
"Maybe," Maria said, "but think about it Liz. It couldn't have been Max because he was using all of his energy on the shield. You were astral projecting and then unconscious, Kyle doesn't have his powers yet. That only leaves Isabel and Michael. Isabel said she pointed the gun up and pulled you away from John. How much energy would that leave her to do anything else?"
Maria shook her head, "By a process of elimination it must have been Michael and I'm sure he's figured that out too."
Liz nodded, "If it was Michael, he did what had to be done. I'm not saying John deserved to die but I'm not sure there was another choice. John would have killed us all."
"I agree," Maria said. "We're at war and Michael is the King's second in command. That's got to mean he was in charge of the army on Antar, but he's a different person now and I don't know if he's cut out for this."
Liz sighed and took Maria's hand in hers. "I don't know if any of us are."
(Thursday, August 2nd, 2001)
(The Valenti House)
The meditation hour had concluded and the gang had decided to hold mini-meetings afterward.
Max waited until everyone had gathered around before he started. "Does anyone have anything to report or discuss?"
Everyone looked around but no one said anything, and Max was about to adjourn when Liz hesitatingly spoke.
"Um, there's something that's been on my mind but I don't think it will be very popular."
"What is it, Liz?" Max asked.
"I know everyone is still pretty mad at Sean but I've been having this feeling that we should get to know him better, you know, include him in things."
"Are you nuts?" Michael asked incredulously. "That jerk nearly got us all killed."
Maria patted him on the arm, "I'm sure Liz remembers." Maria stood up on tiptoes and yelled in his ear, "Since she was the one with the gun to her head."
Isabel ignored Michael and Maria. "What exactly did you have in mind, Liz?"
"I'm not suggesting we take Sean with us to practice but we could include him when we hang-out at the Crashdown or on Saturdays sometimes."
Kyle spoke up, "And you said you had a feeling we should do this?"
"Okay," Kyle said, "that's good enough for me."
"Wait a minute," Michael protested. "Just because Liz says so and that's good enough." He turned to Isabel and Max, "You two can't seriously be considering this, just because she guessed right once."
"Michael, it might be more than that," Isabel argued. "We don't know what kind of powers Liz has."
Michael shook his head, "But you don't seriously think she can predict the future?"
Isabel shrugged and Michael turned to Max. "What about you?"
With a shiver of fear, Max remembered the last weird feeling Liz had gotten and made up his mind instantly. "So we get to know Sean better," Max said as he cuffed Michael on the shoulder. "What could it hurt?"
(Friday, August 10th, 2001)
(Chavez Community College)
Isabel grabbed a Sociology book from the shelf and added it to her growing pile. She'd had no idea freshman classes required so many large books and felt momentarily overwhelmed. But she immediately pushed the doubts aside. She was a good student and was prepared for college, she just wished that she knew someone on campus.
All of the older friends she'd had in high school had either gone out of state to college when they'd graduated, or gotten jobs, so for the first time in a long time, Isabel was alone. She missed Max and Michael and the others and wished they were all together. But, she reminded herself, she'd never had trouble making friends, and when classes started it would only be a matter of time.
Isabel shifted the pile of books and balanced them on her hip as she attempted to read her book list. She was sure she'd seen a workbook on the list to go with the Sociology textbook and quickly scanned the list for the title. With a nod, she spied the title and then saw it immediately above her, on the top shelf. Sliding the list in her top book, she reached for the workbook, but was surprised that even on tiptoes it was out of her reach. Adjusting the books in her grasp, she reached for it again, but the other books slid out of her hand crashing loudly onto the floor.
"Crap," she said under her breath, hoping no one noticed, but suddenly she was aware of someone behind her.
"Let me help you with those," the decidedly masculine voice purred, as he scooped up her books off the floor.
Isabel rolled her eyes and turned with an automatic refusal on her lips, "Thanks, but I…" But the words died in her throat when she took in his appearance. The first thing she noticed was that he was tall, taller than she by at least a few inches. He had broad shoulders and a well-muscled body that his clothes couldn't disguise, and she found her gaze lingering longer than it should. Quickly looking into his face, she noted in passing his golden-blond hair and hard, handsome face, but practically gasped when she saw his eyes. They were a striking, deep green like the color of an emerald, and seemed to blaze with intensity.
She managed a breathless, "Thanks."
"You're welcome," he said with a smile. "I noticed you reaching for the workbook for this class," he said, still cradling her books in one hand, as he effortlessly took two workbooks off the shelf above them. "I'm taking the class too, so I guess I'll see you there."
Isabel hadn't gotten the breath knocked out of her by the sight of a gorgeous guy in a long time, and after everything that had happened, it felt nice and normal to be flirting. She nodded, "Yeah, I'll see you in class."
"I'm Hale, by the way," he said with a crooked grin that revealed a dimple on his cheek.
"Isabel," she stammered, "Isabel Evans."
Hale smiled again and handed her the books. "Hale Sinclair, and it's nice to meet you Isabel Evans."
Michael angrily pushed everything off the table with a sweep of his hand, "Damn it."
He raked his fingers through his hair in frustration. He could still picture John holding the gun to Liz's head and the feeling of hopelessness he'd experienced.
Since John had nearly killed them, Michael had been doing a lot of extra practicing to hone his powers. He concentrated on directing his energy into a small target without damaging anything around it, like what had happened with Liz, but so far he'd been far from successful.
In his apartment he'd set up a simple target. It consisted of two bricks, one covered with a towel, and the other set behind it and just to the side. Every time he took aim at the brick behind, he pictured Liz and John's faces instead of the bricks. He was getting better, hitting a smaller area, but he was still scorching the towel and he imagined what would happen if it were really Liz.
Michael took a deep breath and bent down to pick up the bricks. He carefully rearranged them on the table and repaired the towel before placing it back on the front brick. He stretched his aching neck and back and redirected his concentration on the bricks. No matter how frustrated he was, he had to keep practicing, their lives might depend on it.
(Saturday, August 11th, 2001)
(Copper Summit, AZ)
From Corporal Raltos' body, Khivar watched with a satisfied smile as the new troops went through their training maneuvers. They were growing accustomed to their husks more quickly than he had hoped and when the time came to put his plan into effect, everything would be ready.
He just had to be patient a little longer and everything he wanted would be his.
(Thursday, August 12th, 2001)
Max, Liz, Kyle and Isabel sat in a booth eating, as Maria and Michael worked their shift. The gang had finished their memory retrieval session earlier and automatically headed to the Crashdown together.
Kyle leaned forward, "So you guys want to catch the Planet of the Apes remake on Saturday?"
Isabel rolled her eyes. "What is it with guys and monkeys?"
Max and Liz laughed but their attention was diverted to the front door as a voice rang out, "Max, hey Max."
Isabel turned to see who it was and then looked back to them, "Oh great."
Ryan came toward them with a smile but tripped on the leg of chair and fell forward onto their table, toppling a drink that spilled onto Max and Liz.
Ryan picked himself up and was immediately apologetic, fumbling to grab napkins from the dispenser. "I'm really sorry, Max, Liz. I'm kind of a klutz."
Michael witnessed the scene from the kitchen and burst through the door into the dining room, grabbing Ryan by the front of the shirt. "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
Ryan shook his head, "Nothing. It was an accident."
Max stood up and put a hand on Michael's arm, "Michael." He spoke softly, but his meaning was clear.
Michael nodded and released Ryan, smoothing his shirt. "Sorry man."
Ryan nodded, "It really was just an accident." He turned to Max and Liz, "I'll be glad to pay for any damage."
Liz laughed, "Don't worry, Ryan, it's just a little lemonade. It'll wash out."
Maria took Michael by the arm and led him into the back. "What was that about? The guy spills a drink and you nearly take his head off."
"Okay, I might have overreacted a little," Michael said softly.
"A little," Maria deadpanned. "What is going on with you Michael? Accidents have happened before. Why did you go off on that guy?"
Michael shook his head, "That guy, Ryan, we don't know anything about him. He could be anyone, an assassin, and he could have just taken out Max and Liz."
"What?" Maria asked incredulous.
He frustratedly ran a hand through his hair, trying to explain himself. "Don't you get it, Maria? I'm Max's second in command. I'm supposed to keep him safe but I nearly let us all get killed."
Maria shook her head and took hold of his arms, "Max doesn't need a bodyguard, Michael. He can take care of himself and he won't let anything happen to Liz. And no matter how powerful you are, you can't stop bad things from happening to people you care about."
Michael suddenly felt deflated and let himself sag against the wall. "I just felt so helpless when John had that gun to Liz's head. I couldn't do anything."
"I know," Maria said softly, "I felt the same way."
(Monday, August 13th, 2001)
(Chavez Community College)
Isabel arrived early for class, quickly glanced around and when she didn't see Hale, took a seat in the middle of the room where he would be sure to see her when he arrived. She took out her book and pretended to be reading the first chapter as she covertly watched the door. There were a lot of desks in the room but as the minutes passed, they filled up quickly and Isabel released a sigh of frustration as the chairs around her were taken, one by one.
She glanced at the clock on the wall, noting that the class was due to start in just a couple of minutes and Hale still hadn't arrived. The professor came in and started arranging papers on the desk and Isabel slumped back into her chair dejectedly as the bell rang, signaling the beginning of class.
But just as the sound of the bell died away, the door opened and Hale entered the room. Isabel felt her chest tighten as he briefly looked around the room and his gaze halted on her. With a crooked smile, he approached and took the single remaining chair next to her.
"I see you saved me a seat," Hale purred.
Isabel felt herself blush but smiled and continued the lighthearted banter, "Actually I saved if for the other dashing stranger who helped me in the bookstore, but since he didn't show, I guess it's yours."
Hale's smile widened and Isabel felt her heart jump.
"Dashing stranger," he mused. "Hmmmm. I think I could get used to that."
Isabel felt incapable of speech for perhaps the first time in her life and desperately searched for a comeback but she was saved as the teacher started class.
"I'm Dave Roberts," the instructor introduced himself, "and this is Sociology 101. I like to have a fairly informal class, so feel free to call me Dave." He reached for some papers and started passing them down the rows. "This is a syllabus for the semester, and as you can see, we will be covering the following topics…"
Isabel's mind drifted as the teacher continued and she dared a glance at Hale. He was scanning the syllabus, but when her eyes lingered on him, he looked up as if he had known she was watching him. She felt herself blush again and with a brief smile, turned her attention back to the instructor.
The class was interesting and it passed quickly and Isabel was surprised when the bell rang.
Dave held up his hands, signaling the class to wait. "So all of your work this semester will be done in pairs or with a research partner, as I like to call them, and your first assignment starts today. Choose partners and let me know who you are working with tomorrow."
Isabel watched as Hale quickly jammed his books into a leather satchel and slung it over his shoulder, and she felt a pang of disappointment that he had not suggested they partner together.
But instead of leaving, he turned back to her. "So Isabel, I don't know anyone else in the class, and I thought you and I could partner up?"
Isabel was jumping for joy inside, but outside she played it cool. Cocking her head to the side, she narrowed her eyes and said, "I don't know. Are you a good student or a party-er? I mean I don't want to get stuck doing the whole assignment myself and carrying you the whole semester."
Hale gave her a knee-melting smile. "Of course you're right to be cautious, you don't even know me. So how about you let me buy you lunch and we can learn all about each other?"
Isabel nodded, "I'd like that."
(In the desert, near the pod chamber)
Song Playing: Yellow by Coldplay
Max and Liz lay silently next to one another on a blanket, gazing into the sky.
In the last few weeks, they had spent as much time as possible together, talking for hours about their hopes and fears and dreams, catching up on everything that they had missed in each others' lives the last year because they hadn't been together.
Liz confessed her lingering guilt and overwhelming sorrow about leaving Max after his experience in the white room, and forcing him to deal with it himself. She regretted not being there for him when he was trying to figure out how to be a leader, and more than anything she regretted pushing him away.
Max told her of his worries about keeping everyone safe, his struggles with Michael and his uncertainty about his role as leader. He confessed his fears of losing her, and the pain he had experienced when he had seen her in bed with Kyle, and his struggles and self doubt in the long months afterward.
Many times they had connected to let the other see or feel what had happened to them, the shared experiences and emotions giving them a better understanding of one another. Their relationship was healing more every day, each hour they spent together bringing them closer to where they had been before things had gone so terribly wrong.
As they laid together under the stars, Max held Lizís hand in his and thought how wonderful it was to spend some quiet time with her. From his position, Max could see the old radio tower and smiled sadly remembering the night he and Liz had found the orb. That had been a magical time in their lives. They had been blissfully ignorant of all of their problems and enemies and Tess.
Max sighed softly, he and Liz had shared many things but there were two subjects he never discussed with her.
Max's thoughts turned automatically to his son. He would be more than two months old by now, and not for the first time, Max wondered what he was like. Would he be more human or purely alien? What did he look like? Was he developing powers already? Max didnít know anything about his raceís lifecycle, how quickly babies developed. The baby had grown so fast inside Tess and he wondered if the rapid growth continued after birth as well? Could his son be able to walk and talk by now?
He wondered what Tess had named the boy and what she was teaching him about his father. Was she teaching him to follow Khivar, to lie and deceive?
Max pushed the thoughts aside, helpless to do anything about it. He might never even see his son.
The pressure of Max's hand on hers increased and Liz turned to him, propping herself on an elbow. "What's wrong, Max?"
"Nothing," he said automatically as he squeezed her hand reassuringly, and quickly covered. "I was thinking about the close call with John in the quarry. I'm just glad we didn't lose anyone else."
Liz nodded, understanding. "It easily could have gone the other way. We've been preparing for an alien attack and we were nearly wiped out by one human with a big gun." Liz tried to laugh. "I mean, how many times am I destined to get shot in this lifetime?"
Max's face went suddenly pale and he shook his head, "Please Liz, don't even joke about that. I thought I was loosing you again. That crazy man had a gun pointed at your head and all I could think about was that I wouldn't be able to heal you in time." Tears welled up in his eyes and spilled over the lids, leaving shining trails down his cheeks. "Losing Alex was terrible enough but if you died Liz, I, I don't know what I'd do."
"I'm sorry," she instantly apologized, reaching to wipe his tears away. "I didn't think."
Max extended a hesitant hand toward Liz's face and when she didn't pull away he cupped her cheek in his palm, stroking the satiny surface with his thumb. He wanted to kiss her so badly, he thought he would die. He needed that bond between them to reassure himself she was really his, that she wouldn't slip away again, but he held back.
"Liz?" he asked hesitatingly. "Would it be okay if I held you for a while?"
Liz could hear the longing in his voice and she felt the same way. With a smile, she nodded.
Max sat up and took her in his arms, pressing her to his chest. Her small body molded into his, her head fitting perfectly under his chin. He took a deep breath to inhale Liz's familiar, sweet scent as his hand skimmed the surface of her hair. Instantly he felt more calm, more relaxed, and as Liz wrapped her arms around him, he knew without a doubt she belonged there.
Liz sighed in contentment. It was so nice to be held by Max again and for a few moments it was as if they had never been apart, everything was perfect. But a sudden nagging thought intruded into Liz's fantasy. "Max," she started softly, "do you ever think about your son?"
"Sometimes," Max said hesitantly. "What made you think about it?"
Liz shrugged and pulled back so she could see his face, "I don't know. It just came into my head."
"I was thinking about him just a few minutes ago," Max admitted. "When you asked me what was wrong. I didn't say anything because I knew it would hurt you."
Liz nodded, understanding. "But not talking about it doesn't make it less true," Liz pointed out. "You have a son," she looked into the sky, "somewhere, up there. It's has to be hard for you not knowing what's going on."
Max nodded but remained silent.
"Max, beyond anything else, we are friends and I hope you feel you can talk to me about anything, your son included."
"Liz I don't . . ."
Liz cut him off, "Don't try to protect me from this, Max. What you said is true for me too. I want to be involved in every part of your life."
Max nodded and smiled, "Okay."
Liz smiled back and took Max's hand in hers, squeezing. "So Max, do you want to talk about your son?"
Max looked down at the ground and then back at Liz. "Yeah."
(The DeLuca House)
Maria closed the door behind her and called out, "Hey Mom, I'm home."
She went into her room and dropped her things and then headed into the kitchen. Her Mom was seated at the table and Maria grabbed a bowl and a box of cereal from the cupboard. She placed them on the table and turned to get the milk, "How was your day, Mom?"
Amy didn't answer and Maria turned back to the table with the milk. "Mom?"
Amy was staring straight ahead and Maria was suddenly concerned. She shook her mother's arm, "Mom, are you okay?"
The action jolted Amy out of her reverie. She rubbed at her forehead and focused on Maria. "Oh honey, when did you get home?"
"Just now," Maria said, "but are you feeling all right?"
"Fine," Amy assured her, tapping her fingers on the table. "Maria, I know this is going to sound strange but can you tell me what happened that day when we got trapped in the UFO museum?"
Maria was worried. Her Mom was tapping her fingers, obviously she was remembering. "What do you mean?" Maria asked cautiously.
"Just what you remember about that night."
"Well," Maria started casually, "we were delivering the t-shirts and there was a blackout and we got trapped inside the museum and had to wait for the police to rescue us. Why are you asking about this, Mom?"
Amy shook her head, "I've been having nightmares about that night, where Brody took us all hostage."
"But those are just dreams," Maria pointed out.
"That's what I thought," Amy said, "but I made a delivery to the museum today and it was like I've got two memories on top of each other. It isn't like a dream, it's like a memory that I'd forgotten. I can remember the blackout and waiting for the police, but then when I was there today, I could picture Brody with a gun, holding us hostage and accusing Max of being an alien. I can remember the exact place where Brody had Max and Tess tied up. Then Brody ordered food from the Crashdown and took Liz hostage too and he stabbed Sean."
Maria shook her head, hating to lie to her mother, "But Sean is fine."
"I know," Amy said, shaking her head. "It sounds crazy, and when I try to think about it too much, I start to get these terrible headaches. Maybe I'm getting a brain tumor or something."
Maria wrapped her arms around her mother's shoulders. "I'm sure you're fine, Mom. You just had a really vivid dream."
(Saturday, August 18th, 2001)
Isabel yawned in the backseat as her father drove the family to the mall. Her parents had insisted on the whole family going so they could buy some new clothes for school and Isabel was never one to pass up a shopping trip. But she was tired after the extra early morning practice session the change in plans had caused.
The car slowed and her father turned, but even through her yawns Isabel knew they weren't at the mall. "Where are we going?"
Philip stopped the car and he and her mother turned to Isabel. "With you and Max going to separate schools we just couldn't work out how you were both gong to get where you were going with only one car. So your mother and I decided to get you your own car, Isabel."
Isabel was suddenly awake and excited, "Really?" She turned to Max, "You knew about this?"
Max nodded, "Yeah, Mom and Dad talked to me about it."
Diane spoke up, "We knew Max wanted the Jeep and we thought you wouldn't mind him keeping it if you could have a car you wanted."
Isabel nodded, "Thanks, Mom, Dad, that would be great."
"So here we are, honey," Philip said. "Dealership road. Just tell us where you want to start."
Michael followed Maria out the back door as she lugged the loaded trash bags to the dumpster. He closed the door behind them and took the bags from her hands, tossing them casually aside.
Maria put her hands on her hips. "What are you doing?"
They hadn't been alone together for days, and Michael couldn't believe how much he craved the physical contact. Without a word, he pulled Maria to him and took her lips in a burning kiss.
Maria kissed him back, but after a moment she pulled away. "What has gotten in to you?"
Michael shrugged. "With everything going on we haven't had the chance to be alone together and since this is the last weekend before school starts, I thought we could go back to my place after work."
Maria looked down at the ground and then back up, focusing on a spot just behind Michael's head. "Um, not tonight Michael. I um, I've had a headache all night."
Michael was stunned speechless and let Maria past him into the building without a word. After the door closed behind her, he picked up the trash bags and tossed them into the dumpster. Reaching for the doorknob, he stopped, shaking his head. "A headache?"
(Sunday, August 26th, 2001)
Max stood next to the table, looking into the faces of all of his friends. "We all know what tomorrow is," he started, "and I don't know if any of us are really prepared. But we've all been working hard these last few months, and now comes the real test. This isn't the time to relax. We should keep on our toes more than ever. Everyone needs to be careful. Report any suspicious activity or people immediately."
The others nodded and he continued, "It's been great spending all of this time together and I don't want that to stop, but we have a huge challenge ahead of us."
Michael rolled his eyes, "Max will you stop being so dramatic. It's not like we've never been in this situation before."
"But it's different this time," Liz reminded him.
Max nodded and raised his cup, "To our senior year."
Everyone raised their cups and repeated the toast, "Our senior year."
None of the gang noticed a figure watching them from across the street.
(Monday, August 27th, 2001)
(West Roswell High School)
Michael rubbed at his eyes as the teacher passed out the syllabus for the semester. History wasn't typically one of his favorite subjects but he had started to reconsider. As Max's second in command, he needed to learn everything he could, and studying the past could help them in the future.
He glanced at the syllabus, noting with interest the sections covering World Wars I & II. At least some of the class would be interesting, he thought to himself.
A commotion in the front of the room drew his attention and he was surprised to see Ryan coming in late.
Ryan spotted Michael, and with a wave, headed into the back of the room and took a seat next to him. "Wow, Michael, I'm glad to see someone I know. It's a really big school and I was afraid I wouldn't have any classes with you guys."
Michael's eyes narrowed suspiciously, "I didn't know you were coming to school here. I thought maybe you graduated already or something."
"No," Ryan said. "This is my senior year though. How about you?"
"Yeah," Michael said dismissively. "So where did you say you lived before you moved here?"
"Scottsdale, Arizona. My Dad's company transferred him here."
"Your Dad with the military?" Michael asked.
Ryan shook his head, "Naw, nothing cool like that, he's in sales. You know, copiers, faxes, that sort of thing. I guess Roswell is quite a growing market."
Michael nodded, "Yeah, I guess."
(The Parker House)
Nancy entered the house and was relieved to see Liz at the kitchen table, bent over a textbook. She put the bags of groceries on the counter. "Homework already? It's only the first day of school."
Liz shrugged, "Mr. Seligman likes to get an early start."
Nancy took a seat at the table. "Well I'm glad to see you're keeping up."
Annoyed Liz put down her pen and looked at her mother, "Keeping up?"
Nancy sighed, "We both know that your grades suffered a bit last year because of all the time you were spending with your friends."
Liz thought of the things she and the others had done to save themselves and the Earth, but she couldn't exactly tell her mother the truth, so she simply nodded.
Nancy continued, "And you've spent a lot of time with your friends this summer, going off on picnics several times a week, and to the movies, and parties. But now school is starting and I just hope you don't think you can continue with that schedule. Being with your friends and Max is important to you, I know that and I'm not going to tell you to stop seeing them unless it becomes a problem. But if you want to get into a good college, you need to concentrate on your schoolwork."
Liz smiled sadly. There were so many other things that were more important than her grades, but her mother didn't know about any of it, and for a moment Liz wished she could tell her the truth. But she simply nodded, "I promise, I'll do my best."
(Tuesday, August 28th, 2001)
Isabel stopped her silver 1990 BMW at the address Hale had given and her eyes widened at the size of the house. Hale had suggested they work at his house and she'd agreed, barely glancing at the address, but driving to his house she realized it was in the most expensive part of town. And seeing Hale's house and the one's surrounding it, she could see why.
The house resembled a civil war era mansion. Two, gleaming-white stories were supported by several huge white columns, and a balcony on the second floor echoed the porch on the ground floor, wrapping around both sides of the house.
"Wow," Isabel whispered. She gathered her belongings and approached the front door but before she had even reached the porch, Hale emerged greeting her.
"Isabel, I'm glad you could make it."
"Hale, this is a beautiful house," Isabel gasped. "I didn't even know things like this were built in Roswell."
Hale smiled. "I imagine it would be the kind of place my mother would like," he explained, as he relieved her of her books and led her into the house. "She died when I was very young and I never knew her, but for some reason this house reminds me of her."
He led her inside and Isabel's eyes traveled quickly over everything trying to take it all in. The interior was richly furnished in period pieces, giving it a warm, homey feel. Isabel turned back to Hale, "Is your Dad home? I would love to meet him."
Hale shook his head, "My Dad died a few years ago."
Isabel was instantly horrified, "I'm so sorry, Hale. I didn't know."
"There is no way you could know," Hale said softly. "We had just moved here after I graduated high school. I was supposed to go to college that fall and I was spending the summer with him but he got sick and died suddenly." He paused. "After that, college just didn't seem so important and I took some time off."
Isabel nodded, understanding, "What did you do?"
Hale shrugged, "Moped around for a while, traveled, tried to get my head together, and then I just suddenly decided to give college a try." He looked at her and smiled, "And I'm glad I did, otherwise I wouldn't have met you."
Isabel smiled back at him, "I'm glad you did too."
(Thursday, August 30th, 2001)
Maria let herself into Michael's apartment without knocking and grabbed him from behind, placing a sloppy kiss on his cheek.
Michael wiped at his cheek, "Come on Maria. I'm trying to work here."
Maria glanced at the books spread out before him on the counter with surprise. "Wow, you really are. I don't think I've ever seen you do homework, Michael."
"Yeah, well if I want to graduate, I have to pass certain classes."
Maria shook her head, "I thought school was no big deal to you. So what's changed?"
Michael shrugged, "I never thought school mattered because I didn't think I was a permanent resident of this planet. But now that I've chosen to live here, I thought it might be a good idea to get an education so I don't end up working at the cheese factory."
"But with all of this stuff with Max's son and Khivar, you don't know what will happen. You might have to go back."
Michael studied Maria for a moment. For the past couple of weeks she had been distant, and suddenly he wondered about her motives. Was she scared that he was going to leave her? But that didn't make sense, he argued with himself, he had stayed on Earth for her. Maybe she was just going through a phase, he decided and shrugged, answering her. "Maybe, someday we'll have to go back," he conceded. "But maybe not. And I don't want to put my whole life on hold waiting for something that may never happen."
(Saturday, September 8th, 2001)
Max sat silently across the table from her, and Liz could practically feel the tension coming from him. At first she had thought it was just her imagination, but as the night progressed he seemed to have gotten more nervous. Finally she put down her fork and leaned in closer, "What's wrong Max?"
His head snapped up immediately, "Wrong?"
"You've had something on your mind all evening," Liz said.
Max shook his head. "There's something I wanted to ask you, but now I'm wondering if it's a good idea."
"What is it, Max?" Liz asked softly. "You know you can ask me anything. We don't have any secrets from one another."
"It's not like that," he tried to explain. "I wanted to ask you to go somewhere with me. It's just with what happened last year and how things turned out…" he trailed off and started again. "This isn't how I wanted to do this. It should be special or clever, at least that's what I've heard from other people. But then I wanted it to be face to face, so I could explain. I mean, I would definitely understand if you didn't want to…"
"Max," Liz cut him off, reaching across the table to clasp his hand, "it's okay. Whatever it is, you can ask me."
Max took a deep breath, "Liz, what I wanted to ask is, would you go to the homecoming dance with me?"
Max's question caught her unprepared and she instantly understood his hesitation in asking. Their prom date had been a complete disaster and had jump-started his relationship with Tess. Liz felt a cold shiver of fear race down her spine but immediately pushed it away. If she and Max were going to build a relationship, she had to get over the past, and a school dance was the perfect place to start making new memories.
Liz smiled, "I'd love to go with you, Max."
(Monday, September 10th, 2001)
(Chavez Community College)
Isabel walked beside Hale in silence as they headed toward the parking lot, a soft smile curving her lips. For the last month she and Hale had spent every afternoon and some evenings and weekends together, working on their project.
At first, she had worked hard to keep the atmosphere between them light and flirtatious and she was good at it, having practiced on lots of boys in high school. She and Hale had laughed and joked and gradually gotten to know one another. And Hale had been a perfect gentleman the whole time, not even attempting to kiss her. Eventually Isabel had opened up about Alex's death and with Hale's own loss so recent, Isabel felt that he really understood.
The one thing Isabel had always envied about Max and Liz's relationship was their closeness. They always seemed so in-tune with one another and at times it almost seemed like they were one person. With Hale, Isabel felt like the closeness she desired was possible, and she had started to wonder what might develop between them.
As they continued walking, Hale slipped his hand into hers. Isabel was surprised by his action but instead of an intrusion, it felt like the most natural thing in the world. And she looked at him and smiled, squeezing his hand.
Hale returned her smile. "Isabel, I was wondering if you would like to go somewhere with me on Friday."
"We go to lunch and the library every day," Isabel said, misunderstanding. "We don't need to make special plans."
Hale smiled more widely. "Well, I thought we should make plans. I understand that's what typically happens when I guy asks a girl on a real date."
For a moment Isabel was stunned and then she smiled. "I'd really like that."
(West Roswell High School)
Kyle joined Michael, Maria, Max and Liz at their lunch table, smacking Michael on the back. "Where's your shadow?"
Michael groaned and rolled his eyes, "That Ryan guy is harder to get rid of than a case of the flu."
"I thought you said you were going to tell him off," Maria said.
"I was," Michael said, "but he is so dang happy to have someone to talk to in the three classes we share, that it would be like kicking a lost puppy. I just didn't have the heart."
Kyle leaned across Michael and spoke to Maria, "Did you know Michael had a heart?"
Maria wrapped her arms around Michael. "He likes to act tough but he's just a big softie inside."
Michael snorted, "Besides, the guy is a total screw up. He is always knocking stuff over and tripping."
"Yeah," Liz said. "My Dad wanted to ban him from the Crashdown. He said Ryan was really putting the ‘crash' in the name Crashdown. I had to convince him Ryan wasn't causing all of the accidents on purpose."
"Good thing he doesn't work there," Maria said with a shiver. "Can you imagine all of the broken dishes?"
"At least he can't cause too much damage working with stuffed aliens," Kyle said with a laugh.
Max shook his head. "At the museum he's acquired the nickname of tornado. I spend half my time cleaning up after him. He knocked over an entire display last week and it took me hours to fix."
The sound of books hitting the ground drew their attention.
"I think a tornado just touched down," Kyle quipped.
Ryan picked himself and his books up off the ground and rushed toward their table. "Hey guys, how's it going?"
"Hey Ryan," they all answered.
Ryan turned to Max, "Do you think Brody would let me have the night off. Michael and I are supposed to do this report for history class."
Max started to answer but Michael cut him off, "Ryan I already told you it can't be tonight. I've got stuff to do."
"Oh right," Ryan said with a nod. "Well, I could stop by the Crashdown and we could start on your break."
Michael shook his head, "I'm not working tonight."
Ryan's brow creased in confusion. "This report is due Friday. We've to get started on it. If you're not working then what are you doing?"
Michael couldn't exactly tell Ryan the truth, that they were going to the quarry to hone their alien powers. He looked to Max for help but Max shrugged.
Michael let out a sigh, "I'm doing stuff, okay?" He saw the hurt look on Ryan's face and instantly regretted his harsh words. "Look, how about I meet you in the library after school tomorrow?"
Ryan regained his good humor, "Okay, that'll be great." He jumped up from his seat, "I'll see you guys later."
Kyle waited until Ryan was out of earshot. "Poor Michael, forced to be nice to someone."
"Shut up, Valenti," Michael said with a laugh. He watched Ryan's lanky gate as he walked past the students and into the building. "That guy will be the end of me."
(Friday, September 14th, 2001)
The bell above the door rang, drawing Maria's attention and she looked up to see a deliveryman with a large bouquet of flowers, entering the restaurant.
This was exactly the romantic kind of thing Max always did for Liz and Maria approached the counter with a sigh, "Delivery for Parker?"
The deliveryman flipped through his schedule sheet. "No, these are for a Maria DeLuca."
Maria glanced at the size of the bouquet and then back at the deliveryman. "DeLuca? Are you sure?"
The man pointed to the line on the his delivery sheet, "Yeah. Do you want to sign for these or what?"
Maria signed the paper and the man placed the flowers in her hands. Her first thought was that Michael sent them but then she remembered the flowers Brody had sent when Alex died. Even though Brody had never sent her flowers before for no reason, it would be just like him to do something so thoughtful.
The delivery guy was almost out the door before Maria called out to him, "Hey, who are they from?"
The man glanced at the sheet again and yelled across the restaurant, "Says Guerin."
Maria smiled dreamily, taking a vase from under the counter and started arranging the flowers. There was a large variety and she didn't know half the names, but she didn't care because Michael had finally done something romantic. Maria shrugged, trust Michael to arrange the delivery when he wasn't there, but she was still happy.
After a few moments she stood back to admire her handy-work but she was interrupted by a familiar voice from the back room.
"Aren't you even going to look at the card?" Michael called out.
Maria ran and threw her arms around him, covering his face with kisses. "Thank you. Thank you, Michael. I love the flowers."
Michael motioned to the flowers, "But aren't you going to read the card?"
"Oh," Maria said, "I didn't see a card." Searching through the blooms she finally found the card and read it aloud.
I still can't dance and I stink at poetry
But I would love it if you would accompany
me to the Homecoming dance.
Maria pulled Michael into another hug. "I'd love to go."
"That's great, Maria," he said with a smile. "But since when do you ask the delivery guy who the flowers are from?"
"Well," Maria said with a laugh, "since you never sent me flowers before, I didn't want to assume."
Michael's eyebrows rose, "Who else would you assume was sending flowers?"
Maria shook her head, pleased with his sudden bout of jealously. "No one, Michael. No one at all."
(Saturday, September 15th, 2001)
Hale's black Audi TT convertible rolled to a stop, and once again he teasingly warned Isabel, "Keep your eyes closed."
Isabel agreed with a smile, "Okay, but how am I going to get where ever it is we are going?"
Hale leaned closer, "I'll lead you."
He got out of the car and moved around to the passenger side to open Isabel's door. Taking one of her hands in his and wrapping his other arm around her waist, Hale led her a short distance.
Isabel could tell they were walking on grass and she could hear running water but she didn't know where they were.
"Okay, now you can open your eyes," he said softly.
Isabel first focused on the fountain illuminated by spotlights. She noted they were in the park and then she saw the elaborate table-for-two that was set up near the fountain, complete with flowers and candles. "Oh," she gasped, "it's so beautiful." She turned to him, "How did you arrange this?"
"Oh, you know, I just used a little magic," Hale said with a wink. "I wish we lived near an ocean so we could do this on the beach, but you have to work with what you have." He led her to a chair and pulled it out, "Allow me."
Isabel sat and Hale took the chair across from her and suddenly the soft sound of a violin filled the air. Isabel turned to see a violinist approaching the table. "I can't believe you went to all of this trouble," she exclaimed.
Hale shook his head, "It was no trouble at all. I just wanted to do something special for our first official date, so it would be something you would remember."
Isabel smiled, "You're right. I'll never forget this."
Hale's intense gaze met her's across the table, "Good." He held her eyes for a moment before he turned to the ice bucket next to the table and retrieved a bottle, holding it out for her inspection, "Sparkling cider?"
She nodded silently and he filled her glass and then his own.
He placed the bottle on the table and then raised his glass. "A toast," he said softly. "To good friends."
Isabel touched her glass to his and drank, noting that his eyes never left hers. Intellectually Isabel knew she had to be careful, but a sudden impulse made her reach across the table and touch his hand. "This may sound corny, and you can say no if it's not your kind of thing, but next Saturday is my high school's homecoming dance and I was wondering if you'd like to go."
Hale took her hand in his, brought it to his lips and pressed a soft kiss to her knuckles. "I'd love to, Isabel."
(Monday, September 17th, 2001)
Kyle watched Isabel covertly as he pretended to be meditating, waiting to talk to her alone. Finally she took a break from her practice and went to get a water bottle and he loped over to her and took a seat on a rock. "How's it going?" he asked.
Isabel shrugged, "Okay, and you?"
"Fine," Kyle said with a nod, wondering why he was suddenly so nervous. "I guess you've heard that Max and Liz and Michael and Maria are going to the Homecoming dance."
"Yeah," Isabel said with a nod.
"Well I just wanted you to know that we could carry the buddy thing over to include the dance, if you wanted to go." He shrugged, "So you didn't feel left out, or anything."
Isabel smiled, "That's so sweet, Kyle. Thank you for offering, but I already have a date."
Kyle was stunned. "You do? Who is it?"
Isabel glanced at Max and Michael. "I haven't told anyone but I've been hanging out with this guy at school and I asked him to the dance."
"Oh," Kyle said, trying to hide his disappointment, "that's great."
"I haven't talked to Max or Michael yet but I just assumed that we would all hang out together. So you should get a date and we'll all meet up."
Kyle didn't have a clue who he would take to the dance and that was part of the reason why he had asked Isabel. He'd dated a number of girls over the years but he didn't have a friendship with any of them.
With a jolt of pain he remembered the prom. He had really wanted to take Tess, hoping to advance their relationship, but suddenly he'd realized that she was more of a sister to him. And vaguely he wondered if that same thing would have happened if he had taken Isabel to Homecoming. Kyle Valenti, doomed to brotherly relationships with hot chicks.
Maybe he should take Isabel's advice and get a date before he ended up a monk. He had noticed a brunette in his history class looking at him, maybe he'd talk to her tomorrow.
Kyle nodded, "Yeah, maybe I'll do that."
Michael pushed a basket of onion rings onto the table and slid into the booth across from Max. "So did you catch the game yesterday?"
Max shrugged, "I was studying with Liz."
"You missed a good one," Michael said. "The last few minutes were wild." He dowsed an onion ring with tabasco and stuffed it in his mouth. "So how are things with you and Liz?"
"Good," Max said with a nod. "Things are good."
Michael nodded understanding, "Things are still platonic."
"That is not the only part of a relationship, Michael," Max scolded. "I'm glad we're taking things slow. Liz and I really needed to repair our friendship and now we are closer than ever. When we do go to the next level, both of us will be ready."
"So…" Michael started, but trailed off, peering over Max's head and out the front window. "Is that Maria going into the UFO museum?"
Max turned, "Yeah."
Michael stood up and motioned across the street. "What is she doing over there?"
"Maria and Brody are friends," Max said with a shrug, "you know that."
Michael raised his voice, growing angry, "I know she takes him dinner, but she goes over there when she's not working? She never told me that. What are they doing together over there?"
"Nothing," Max assured him. "They usually go into Brody's office and talk. Sometimes they have tea." Max leaned forward. "Michael, I would have told you if I thought anything inappropriate was going on."
Michael sat down shaking his head. "Tea? They have tea? What the hell is that?" He looked at Max, "I know Brody has a crush on her but I never took him seriously because I thought Maria wouldn't give him the time of day."
"Michael," Max said more forcefully, trying to get through to his friend, "Brody and Maria are just friends."
Michael focused on the door of the UFO museum as if he could see inside, and thought of Maria's cool attitude toward him lately, coupled with what Max had just said about his friendship with Liz. "Yeah, they're just friends."