Roswell, One Two Three GO TEAM!

Title: One Two Three GO TEAM! [Max/Liz, Maria/Michael, Isabel/Alex, Kyle/Tess]
Rating/Warnings: R for character death. But don’t worry, it’s nobody you like.
Summary: Liz is kidnapped, and when the others come to save her they may find some things they though they had lost.
A/N: Set after the end of season 2. Things just needed to be fixed, dammit.

One Two Three GO TEAM!

Liz stared at her journal, which remained as blank as it had for the last several hours. For days she had been trying to put into words how she felt about everything, but she was beginning to think it was a lost cause.

A month ago, everything had been wrong. Alex was dead, Tess was pregnant, the aliens were leaving for home, and it looked like she really didn’t have a place in Max’s destiny. But then just as suddenly as everything had fallen apart, it all fixed itself. Well, not all of it. Alex was still gone and Tess most likely had had the baby by now, but Michael, Max, and Isabel had figured out Tess just in time, and in the end Tess was the only one who left.

Leaving Max staring at Liz, blinking like he’d just woke up from some ridiculous nightmare.

That night he had crawled in her window and begged her to take him back and Liz broke down, pouring the whole story of Future Max out to him. Max had stared at her in disbelief and then burst into tears. Liz had sat with him for hours while he cried until he was hoarse and then collapsed into exhausted sleep, clutching her like he was afraid she would disappear.

Liz had watched him and held him close until he woke with a start and stared at her.

“Liz,” he had whispered, voice raspy. “I can’t take it back. I can’t fix it, not even for you.”

“I pushed you away,” Liz had replied gently.

“But you didn’t…didn’t…” Max had squeezed his eyes shut.

“Stop it,” Liz had ordered, brushing tears off his face. “It’s over. We were both wrong and stupid, but it’s over now.”

And then things had been relatively normal. Max and Liz were together, Michael and Maria were together, and Isabel and Kyle had become really close. Just friends, but they had each lost someone very close to them, and seemed to be good for each other.

Liz was about to give up trying to write and go back into her room when she heard the thump of someone hopping off the fire escape behind her. She closed her journal on her lap and smiled.

“Max, I thought you’d never get here,” she said.

“You should watch your back, bitch,” Liz heard Tess’s voice and then everything went black.

* * * * * *

Michael climbed up Liz’s fire escape with an uncharacteristic grin on his face. He was planning the best date Maria had ever had, and he wanted Liz’s input. As he cleared the last rung of the ladder, the grin was wiped off his face. The lawn lounge chair that was always there was tipped over and Liz’s journal was flung upside down on the ground. He picked up the journal and flipped to the last entry.

August 12, 2001.

And that was all. Liz had been here earlier, but she was definitely gone now. Michael slipped inside Liz’s room and hid her journal, chest tightening. Liz would never leave it out laying around like that, not after he had stolen her journal two years ago. Something had definitely happened to her. He hurried back down the fire escape and practically flew to the Evans’ house.

* * * * * *

Liz opened her eyes and tried not to throw up. Her head was throbbing and she ached everywhere. Slowly she sat up and tried to see where she was through the spots in her vision.

A room. Just a plain room, no furniture except the mattress she was propping herself up on. Nothing on the walls, no window, one door. Liz was willing to bet that the door was not going to open, and she wasn’t planning on rushing over to try it out until her stomach settled down.

She tried to remember what had happened.

“I was sitting on the roof,” Liz said out loud, hoping the sound of voice would help clear her head. “And I thought Max had come, and I heard Tess’s voice…but that’s impossible.”

Liz looked around the bare room helplessly.

“Isn’t it?” she asked the empty air.

As if in response the door creaked open. Liz pressed herself against the wall, heart hammering in her ears.

“Finally awake?” Liz would have known that cold voice anywhere.

It indeed was Tess standing in front of her.

“What’s going on?” Liz asked weakly. “Where am I?”

“As if I’m going to tell you that,” Tess snarled. “I know Isabel will dreamwalk you the minute you’re asleep. Don’t worry, though,” she purred, seeing Liz blanch. “They’ll find you soon enough. But it will be on my terms.”

“Why are you here?” Liz demanded, ignoring her head and pushing herself unsteadily to her feet. “You got what you wanted, you got the heir. Why don’t you go to your stupid planet and leave us alone!”

“Ooh, such venom,” Tess smiled maliciously. “Jealous that your precious Max gave it up to me? He wasn’t very good,” she whispered conspiratorially.

“Funny, he said the same thing about you,” Liz spat back. “Maybe because he had to keep his eyes closed the whole time so he could go through with it.”

“He was only the means to an end anyway,” Tess shrugged. “He’s too corrupted by you humans to ever be a king.”

“Why are you doing this, Tess?” Liz asked, tiring suddenly of the cat-fight.

“Tess?” She started to laugh shrilly. “You stupid human, haven’t you figured it out yet?”

Liz stared at her, confusion and dizziness roiling in her stomach.

“I’m not Tess. That weak bitch could never have fulfilled my destiny,” she sniffed disdainfully. “She didn’t even want Max, she was going to screw everything up for that ridiculous jock Kyle.”

Liz swallowed, feeling like she was about to pass out again.

“Ava. You’re Ava,” she said weakly.

“Very good, human,” Ava smirked. “You aren’t as stupid as you look.”

Suddenly a lot of strange things made sense to Liz. Kyle’s shift in affections, Tess being nice to Liz one day and then reverting back to ice-bitch the next, her renewed interest in Max. Liz sank along the wall down to the floor, unable to support herself anymore.

“I have big plans to make for your friends,” Ava laughed icily. “I’ll be back to play with you later.”

Liz sat numbly on the floor as Ava left, slamming the metal door behind her.

* * * * * *

“What do you mean gone!” Max shouted at Michael.

“Max, calm down!” Isabel snapped. “What happened, Michael?”

“I went by to ask her some stuff about Maria,” Michael explained. He told them about the lounge chair and the journal.

“Oh god,” Max fell, rather than sat, onto the couch. He looked up at Isabel and Michael. “About an hour ago I got a splitting headache. I thought it was from not sleeping, but if someone took Liz…”

“I’ll call the others,” Isabel said grimly. She went into the kitchen to use the phone. Michael sat next to Max on the couch.

“Don’t sweat it, Maxwell,” Michael said. “We’ll find her.”

“Every time I get her back, something else happens,” Max said despairingly. “I’m starting to think that we really aren’t meant to be.”

“That’s crap,” Michael said bluntly. “If you didn’t love her, we’d all be dead right now. So shove it.”

“Thanks, Michael,” Max said dryly, but he knew that Michael was expressing fervent feeling in his own way.

Isabel returned from the kitchen. She tried dreamwalking Liz while as they waited for the others, but she couldn’t get through.

“At least she’s conscious,” Michael said. Max looked sick and said nothing.

When Maria and Kyle arrived, Max nearly did start to cry. A month ago the group would have been packed into his living room. Now they could sit on the couch.

“Liz has been taken,” Max told them without precursor.

“Oh god,” Maria cried, clutching Michael’s arm.

“What are we going to do about it?” Kyle asked immediately.

Just then the phone rang.

All five of them exchanged glances, then dashed for the kitchen. Michael reached the phone first, deftly evading a tackle from Maria.

“Yeah?” he demanded of the phone. He listened for a couple seconds, said “got it” and then hung up.

“It was Tess,” he said tightly. “And she has Liz.”

* * * * * *

Liz thought that she should sleep. Who knew how long it would be before Ava came back. But she just laid there, staring at the ceiling.

I wonder if Max even knows I’m gone yet, she thought, the realized that he was supposed to come see her that night. “He must know by now,” she said out loud. Her voice, which was supposed to sound reassuring, just sounded hollow in the empty room.

She decided that she needed a plan. Any plan, it didn’t matter what.

“How long has it been Ava and not Tess?” she asked herself. She ran back through the past couple months, searching for clues. It had definitely been Ava who killed Alex. And it had definitely been Tess flirting with Kyle at Christmas.

“Well, that’s a start,” Liz said. “Between Christmas and May. And Kyle had that episode at the prom about Tess being like a sister, so between Christmas and prom.”

Eventually Liz narrowed it down to between Las Vegas and prom, but then realized that Alex had been in “Sweden” before then.

“There must have been something going on between Tess and Alex before Ava came!” Liz realized. Had it been Tess making him translate the book all along? And where was Tess now? Had Ava killed her too? Liz shook her head, which was beginning to ache. How was she going to find out for sure?

“I could get flashes from Ava!” Liz exclaimed. “But I’d have to touch her…” chewing on her lip, Liz began to formulate a plan.

She would be ready when Ava came back.

* * * * * *

“Are you sure that’s all she said?” Maria asked for the fiftieth time.

“Yes,” Michael replied, being surprisingly patient.

“And you’re sure it was Tess?” Kyle asked for the two hundredth time.

“Either her or Emilie de Ravin,” Michael said cynically. “They sound an awful lot alike, you know.”

“I hate that show,” Maria said disgustedly.

“The WB ruins everything,” Isabel agreed.

“Could we focus for a moment here?” Max pleaded. “How long has it been?”

“Fifteen minutes and 36 seconds,” Kyle said immediately.

They all stared at him.

“37 seconds…38…” Kyle trailed off.

“Did she say when she’d call back?” Max asked Michael.

“Nope,” he replied. Max raked his hand through his hair, making it stand on end.

There was silence for a minute.

“Are you sure…” Kyle started.

“I’m not answering the phone next time!” Michael interrupted, throwing his hands in the air. The phone immediately began to shrill. Everyone stared at Michael, who folded his arms. “Absolutely not.”

“I will,” Max said, getting up and snatching the phone before anyone could protest. They stared at him in shock as he calmly said “Hello, Tess.” He listened silently, motionless. When he hung up the phone, he looked paler than he had before, if that was possible.

“What did she say?” Maria asked.

“She wants us to bring all four orbs and the book and meet her in three hours,” Max said hollowly.

“We only have one of the orbs, Maxwell,” Michael pointed out.

“Tess knows where they are,” Max said.

“What!” Isabel demanded.

“Can we sit down?” Max asked weakly. “I’ll tell you everything then.”

* * * * * *

When Liz heard Ava opening the door she tried to look hostile, yet helpless.

It wasn’t hard to do.

“I just got off the phone with your spineless boyfriend,” Ava said sweetly. “He was very subdued, he didn’t even demand to speak to you. Most people do that I understand.”

“I’m sure he knew it would be pointless,” Liz replied, but she still felt a little stung. “He knows what he’s doing.”

“Hah!” Ava laughed. “Max doesn‘t have a clue. Now Zan, he knew how to handle a situation. He would of got us home months ago, and I wouldn’t have to deal with you pathetic humans anymore.”

“If you hadn’t killed him,” Liz sneered. “He couldn’t have been that great a leader if you just wanted to get rid of him.”

“Rath and Lonnie did that!” Ava hissed, eyes narrowing. “Zan would have saved us!”

“He could barely hold you four together, much less rule a planet,” Liz said archly.

“Don’t you dare talk about Zan like that!” Ava’s voice started rise and she advanced on Liz. “You don’t know anything about it!”

“I know that he wasn’t half the man Max is!” Liz taunted. “It’s a good thing you didn’t try to replace Max, I would have known the difference in a second! It doesn’t even matter that Zan is dead, he could have NEVER been king!”

Ava screamed with rage and slammed Liz into the wall by the throat. As soon as Ava’s hand closed around her skin, Liz closed her eyes and forced a connection.

Images of New York, Zan, Rath, and Lonnie flashed through her mind, but she concentrated harder, focusing on what she wanted to know.

Ava was so furious, she didn’t realize what was happening at first. When she finally realized that Liz was using her, she screamed again and squeezed Liz’s throat tighter. Blackness crept into the edge of Liz’s mind, but she fought back, still rifling Ava’s memories. Ava threw Liz on the ground like she’d been burned and fled the room in a black fury.

Liz lay on the ground, gasping for air. Tears began to trickle from her clenched eyes. Tess was alive. She was here, being held near Liz.

And so was Alex.

* * * * * *

Max passed his hand over rock and a silver handprint lit up before the rock slid aside, revealing a small cavity.

“I can’t believe those stupid orbs were here on the reservation the whole time,” Michael said bitterly.

“I guess Nesado hid them here,” Isabel said. “He didn’t trust us, so he didn’t tell us.”

“But Tess knew,” Michael said harshly.

“Maybe she didn’t,” Kyle said a little too quickly. “Maybe she found out on Antar.”

“Why are still you standing up for her?!” Maria demanded.

“I don’t know,” Kyle said uncomfortably. “Something about it just isn’t right.”

“Something hasn’t been right ever since we met Tess,” Michael growled.

“Cool it, you two,” Max said tiredly. He slipped the three orbs from the cavity into his bookbag, which already held the other orb and the book. “We’ve only got an hour until we’re supposed to meet Tess.”

* * * * * *

Liz was still laying on the ground when Ava returned. She didn’t even bother to look up.

“Go away, Ava,” she said dully. “Max is going to kill you when he finds out what you’ve done, and if he doesn’t Isabel certainly will.”

“I’m not here to talk about them,” Ava said, the sweetness in her voice hardly concealing her open malice. “I’ve brought you a playmate.”

Liz raised her eyes and froze.

Ava was holding a baby. Max’s son.

Liz’s mind whirled frantically. Ava is trying to torment me, she thought. Maybe if I act like I don’t want to see Max’s son, she’ll leave him here for a while!

“Why did you bring him?” she asked stiffly.

“I thought you would want to meet Max and my son,” Ava purred, her smile growing wider.

“Why?” Liz retorted, trying to sound bitter. “He isn’t mine.”

“That’s no way to talk about a permanent fixture in your boyfriend’s life,” Ava said, laying the baby down on the mattress next to Liz. Liz struggled to keep the hope from showing on her face. “I think I’ll leave you two alone to get acquainted. Play nice,” Ava said, giving Liz a malicious smile before sailing out of the room.

Liz let out a huge sigh and immediately pulled the infant onto her lap. For several minutes, Liz couldn’t speak. She examined every part of the baby, and marveled at how small and perfect he was. He grasped her finger in his tiny fist and Liz began to cry.

“I’ll get you out of here somehow,” she whispered fiercely. “Your dad’s been searching for you since before you were born.”

Liz went on talking about everything. She told the baby about Max, the others, Roswell, high school, anything she could think of. After watching him for awhile, Liz noticed that the baby was very listless. She tried to wake him up, but she couldn’t get him to a state of full awareness. Finally she decided to try and connect with him like she did with Ava.

It was hard for Liz to clear her head of the anger and fear she felt, but she took several long breaths and concentrated on Max’s son.

She pushed gently, trying not to scare the baby, and his consciousness washed slowly over her, unlike the fierce stabbing of Ava’s mind.

Liz didn’t see any clear memories, just a sequence of feelings. There wasn’t any pain, but an overwhelming lethargy and a sense of something not quite being right. Liz felt his contentment and surprise at being held close, and realized that Ava probably didn’t hold him very much. When she thought of Ava, Liz felt the baby get agitated. Conflicting emotions of love and nervousness rolled through her, and she concentrated on sending calming feelings. She thought hard about Max and how loved and safe he made her feel.

Liz opened her eyes to see the baby staring at her face with wide-open eyes, face screwed up with concentration.

“Don’t worry,” she whispered, holding him as close to her as she could. “Your daddy’s coming to get us as soon as he can.”

* * * * * *

Maria pulled up in front of the abandoned building Tess had told them to meet at. She turned off the engine and the five teens sat in the car, no one moving.

“Should we be getting out?” Michael asked finally. Max shook himself as if just waking up.

“I guess so,” he said slowly. They piled out of the Jetta and cautiously approached the front door to the building, then stopped, unsure what to do.

“We shouldn’t all go in at once,” Max said suddenly. “In case it’s a trap.”

“I’ll go around the back and see if there’s another way in,” Michael offered. “I’ll take Maria with me.”

Max, Isabel, and Kyle watched Michael and Maria disappear around the corner, and then Max took ahold of the door handle.

“Here goes nothing,” he said to no one in particular. He pushed open the door and peered into the darkness inside. He looked back at Kyle and Isabel, who shrugged at him. The trio walked slowly inside.

They had barely walked a dozen steps inside when the door slammed shut behind them and the lights flicked on, blinding them momentarily.

“Took you long enough.”

Max whirled and rubbed at his dazzled eyes. Through spots, he saw Lonnie leaning on the door they had come through. He felt Isabel tense beside him.

“Where’s Liz?” Max demanded. “Where’s Tess?”

Lonnie gave a short, barking laugh.

“You’ll get to her soon enough,” she said darkly. “But we get to play with you first.”

“We?” Isabel asked harshly.

“We,” whispered an oily voice in her ear. She spun around to see Rath had crept up right behind her while she concentrated on Lonnie. She threw a wild punch which Rath dodged easily, stepping back. His laugh wrapped around Isabel like fur, feeling slightly obscene.

“I’m going to enjoy playing with you most,” he purred.

* * * * * *

Michael and Maria snuck around to he back of the building and found some windows. Michael climbed on top of the dumpster and peered inside.

“Is anybody there?” Maria whispered loudly.

“Not sure,” Michael said, shaking his head. “Too dirty.” He held his hand up to the glass and tried to turn the lock with his powers. His control wasn’t fine enough, however, and he ended up snapping the lock off completely. Swearing, he simply gave up and put his fist through the glass with a grunt.

“Michael!” Maria hissed, eyes wide.

“I’m fine,” He said irritably. “Be quiet.” He covered what remained of the lock and melted the rest of it, then forced the window up. Maria scrambled up the dumpster and Michael looked inside to make sure no one was there, then helped her through the window.

She waited for him, stifling a sneeze from the dust which covered the floor, inches deep. Michael took stock of the room, which was empty except for some wooden crates lying scattered haphazardly.

“Stay behind me,” he ordered Maria tersely, then walked silently towards the one of two doors in the room. He rolled his eyes as he heard Maria’s heels clicking loudly behind him. He took a deep breath, and threw open the door.

It was a broom closet.

Michael slammed the door, swearing.

“Not a word!” He glared at Maria who was giggling nervously. Michael crept to the other door and opened it a crack.

On the other side, Lonnie and Rath were circling Max, Isabel, and Kyle with their backs to Michael and Maria.

“I’m gonna storm them while they aren’t looking,” Michael whispered to Maria. “Hide here.”

“No way!” Maria protested. She glanced around and picked up a short length of pipe laying on the floor near her feet. “Bring it on.”

Michael let out an uneasy sigh, but nodded sharply.

They burst through the door, Michael hurling an unfocused energy bolt that knocked Rath, stunned, to the floor. Maria swung the pipe at Lonnie, but Lonnie grabbed the pipe mid-swing. She gave it a sharp tug, and Maria stumbled to her knees. Lonnie pulled back to strike her with the pipe and Isabel tackled her from behind, driving them both to the ground.

Max and Kyle hurried to secure the dazed Rath and Michael set Maria on her feet while Isabel wrestled with Lonnie. Lonnie flipped Isabel onto her back and brought the pipe down hard.

“NO!” Max screamed, diving for Lonnie, and blowing her off Isabel with an energy blast at close range. Lonnie flew into the far wall with a sickening crack and fell to the floor.

“Michael!” Kyle called, struggling with Rath who was starting to wake up. Michael dashed over and grabbed Rath’s arms. Together they forced Rath’s hands behind his back and tied him to a pole with a length of chain Kyle found on the floor. Michael melted the chain together just as Rath really began to struggle, then struck Rath’s head against the pole, returning him to unconsciousness.

“Isabel!” Max demanded frantically. “Iz, are you all right?”

“Max?” she asked. “I think…I think I fainted…”

“You’re all right,” Max gasped, more to reassure himself than her. “You’re all right…”

“Can’t say the same for Lonnie,” Maria said in a shaky voice. All the heads in the room swiveled towards Maria. Max felt as though his head were made of lead.

“She’s dead,” Maria said simply. Max shook his head back and forth, and moved his mouth, but no sound came out. He could only hear the rushing of his blood in his ears.

“Max!” Isabel was shaking him, and he stared at her uncomprehendingly. “We have to go, Max. We came for Liz, remember?”

“Liz,” Max repeated. He shook himself like a dog shakes off water. “We have to find Tess,” he said, standing shakily.

“That shouldn’t be hard,” Michael said tersely. Max whirled to find Tess stepping out of the shadows. Kyle, Isabel, Michael and Maria all moved closer to Max.

“If you’re looking to Max for protection, I wouldn’t expect too much,” Tess sneered. “He’s been rather…vulnerable lately.”

“Where’s Liz?” Max demanded harshly.

“Worried about your silly human girlfriend?” Tess taunted. “Aren’t there larger issues you should be worried about? Like your son?”

Max stiffened.

“Where are they?” Max’s voice took an edge of deadly calm.

“Where are the orbs?” Tess asked.

“I have them,” Max replied, not moving. “What do you need them for? They were just supposed to give us the message about our destinies. You’ve been to Antar, what more could they tell you?”

“Antar!” Tess spat. “Don’t expect any answers there! Kivar isn’t interested in me any more than he’s interested in you. All he wanted was to destroy the heir. If he got the rest of you in one fell swoop, so much the better. You’re pathetic,” she snapped at Max’s sharp intake of breath. “Do you really think I’d be so stupid to tell him I had the heir with me? And what would stop him from killing me?”

“Certainly not your charm,” Isabel snapped.

“So why come back here?” Michael asked. “And why the orbs?”

“I worked a deal with Kivar,” Tess smiled viciously. “I made him see that he could use the heir to his advantage, raise the heir to follow him. In exchange for you and the orbs, I keep my life and stay on Antar, raising our son.”

Max flinched visibly at the words ‘our son’ and clenched his fists.

“You can’t take us all, Tess,” he said tightly. “Now where is Liz?”

“Oh, she’s here,” Tess shrugged carelessly. “Not that it’ll do you any good. The humans are free to take her home after we leave.”

“We aren’t going anywhere,” Michael growled. He put a hand behind him to push back Maria, and touched empty air. Out of the corner of his eye he saw her edging towards Tess stealthily. He forced himself to look at Tess and not Maria and silently vowed that the next time he would harness her to him.

“I trained you,” Tess sneered. “I know that none of your powers area match for me, especially yours, Michael.”

“We’ve been practicing,” Michael shot back, desperate to keep Tess talking. “How do you know what we’re capable of?”

“Oh, please,” Tess snorted. “You can’t be serious.”

“Deadly serious,” Michael smirked. He heard Isabel hiss sharply and knew that she had seen Maria too. Max was oblivious, just staring at Tess, clenching and unclenching his fists.

What am I doing? a scared voice silently asked Maria. You’re saving Liz, she told the negative voice harshly. Her foot kicked against something and she looked down to see the pipe rocking back and forth on the floor. Maria was far enough around the side of Tess at this point to bend down and slowly pick it up without being noticed, then she continued edging towards Tess so slow it made her want to scream.

Michael was having much the same thought. He was running out of ideas to keep Tess occupied. He nearly shouted with relief when he could see Maria behind Tess without taking his eyes off Tess’s face. He tensed painfully, knowing that Maria’s life might depend on his aim.

“BITCH!!!!”

Maria’s war cry made Tess turn her head, but not fast enough and the pipe cracked down on the side of Tess’s face.

“Isabel, Max, now!” Michael cried frantically. Stunned from Maria’s hit and the combined force of Max, Michael, and Isabel’s energy blasts, Tess crumpled to the floor. The pipe slipped out of Maria’s limp fingers and clattered across the floor. Michael rushed to Maria and squeezed her breathless.

“I’m going to kill you!” he snarled in her ear.

“Is she…” Maria choked out.

“She’s alive,” Isabel said, kneeling and checking Tess’s pulse. “Barely.”

“That’s all I need,” Max growled. He dropped down beside Isabel and took Tess’s head in his hands. He forced a connection hard, raping her mind of the information he wanted.

“She’s downstairs,” Max said harshly. “Let’s go.”

He rushed off without looking behind him to see if anyone followed.

* * * * * *

Rath came too and glanced around the empty room with only Ava lying unconscious on the floor. He snapped the chains that were holding him, ignoring the angry burns the hot metal produced on his skin. He walked over to Ava and shook her awake.

“Ava!” he snapped. “Where’s Zan?” Ava groaned in response. “Where’s Zan?!” Rath demanded again, shaking her harder.

“With…Liz…”Ava moaned.

“You left her with the human?!” Rath screamed at her. “You stupid bitch! You’ve fucked us all!”

“Us both,” Ava corrected, coughing. “Lonnie’s dead.”

“They’re DEAD!” Rath screamed, tossing Ava back to the floor where she lay limply. He raced in the direction Max had just lead the others.

Ava began to crawl to the door.

* * * * * *

“This is the hallway,” Max announced. “She’s close.”

“TRAITOR!!” Rath roared, tearing down the hall from the other side, charging at them. He was throwing unfocused energy blasts in every direction, wild shots completely uncontrolled in his rage.

“Down!” Max shouted, taking Kyle and Isabel to the ground with him. He heard Michael and Maria drop behind him. Rath’s shots embedded in the walls and ceiling, and flew over their heads. As he approached, Max took careful aim and let fire a single shot. The blast tore through Rath’s knee and dropped him to the floor. Rath screamed incomprehensibly and continued to fire wild shots.

“What now, Maxwell?” Michael demanded over the noise.

“Good question,” Max muttered.

* * * * * *

Liz huddled against the wall when the crashing outside the door began, clutching the baby to her. She tried to comfort his feeble whimpering while containing her own terror. The screaming and explosions grew louder outside, getting closer and Liz felt her own scream building, threatening to break free.

Suddenly something hit the door and blew a fist-sized hole in it. Liz sat stunned speechless, clutching Max’s son so tight he started to struggle. She leaped to her feet and rushed to the door. She reached her hand cautiously through the hole, flinching every time she heard a scream or a blast. It sounded like it was right outside the door. She reached her arms as far as it would go, stretching onto her tiptoes with effort.

She felt the door latch under her fingers.

She flipped the bolt open and took a step back, then kicked the door open as hard as she could.

* * * * * *

Max watched in shock as a door next to Rath flew open and cracked him in the head with a sickening smack, and he slumped forward onto the floor. A final blast from Rath hit the ceiling right above him right as Liz flew out the door. The ceiling, weakened by previous hits, cracked.

And collapsed on Liz, burying her under the debris.

Max leapt to his feet and ran towards her, choking and groping blindly in the dust of the collapse.

“Liz! LIZ!” Max cried, tossing rubble out of his way.

“Max, stop!” Isabel cried, coughing in the dust of the collapsed corridor. She pulled him back by the shoulder.

“But Liz!” he struggled against her.

“Let me, Maxwell,” Michael said, pushing past him. Michael closed his eyes and put out his hand, pushing the dust and smoke down the hall so they could see. Underneath the fallen ceiling panels and plaster, Max could see a leg sticking out. He broke away from Isabel’s grip violently.

He started tossing debris frantically behind him and Isabel, Michael, Maria, and Kyle joined in silently. In a matter of minutes, Liz’s body appeared, curled in a tight ball. Max pulled her onto his lap.

“Liz, oh god Liz, wake up,” Max begged, tears tracing paths through the dust on his face.

“Oh my god, Max!” Isabel cried. “She’s holding…is that…”

“Jesus,” Kyle whistled.

Max looked down and realized that Liz was clutching a baby. She had been protecting it with her body when the ceiling collapsed. He reached down dumbly and touched the infant’s cheek. It let out a feeble wail.

“Max…” Liz opened her eyes and coughed weakly.

“Liz!” Max cried in relief. “Don’t move, let me heal you!”

“No,” she shook her head. “The baby…she did something to him…”

“I’ll check him, Liz,” Isabel said quickly. “Let Max heal you, please.”

Liz reluctantly let Isabel take the baby from her. Max took ahold of her face before she could protest and opened their connection. She was hurt badly, but not fatally. As Max knitted her back together, he started to see flashes of her last few days here.

Isabel looked the baby over and didn’t see any injuries, but Liz was right, something was wrong. He was hardly crying or fretting at all. In all the noise and confusion he actually seemed listless and like he was about to fall asleep. Isabel took his tiny hand in hers and opened a connection.

When she discovered the problem, she had to fight back tears. The blood vessels in the back of his neck had been constricted to limit the blood flow to his brain. It wasn’t getting enough oxygen so that he was never completely awake. Isabel didn’t think she could do such delicate work, and she pulled out of the connection.

“That bitch,” she hissed, clenching her jaw.

“What?” Maria asked.

“She squeezed the blood vessels in his neck so his brain wouldn’t get enough oxygen. That’s why he’s so sleepy.”

“Why?” Maria gasped, wide eyes filling with tears.

“Probably so he wouldn’t cry,” Isabel said tightly.

“I’ll kill her,” Michael growled with quiet rage. “Tess is dead when I find her.”

“Not Tess,” Max said. They looked over to see him clutching Liz to him, face pale. “It’s isn’t Tess.”

Kyle was the first to speak.

“What? What are you talking about?”

“It’s Ava,” Liz said quietly. “Its been her the whole time.”

“Then where is Tess?” Kyle demanded.

“She’s here,” Max said. “Ava kidnapped her and has been holding her here for weeks. There’s something else.” Max glanced at Isabel.

“What?” She begged. “Don’t play games, Max.”

“Alex is here too,” Max said.

“Alex?” Isabel whispered. “Alex can’t be. He’s dead. Isn’t he?”

“He’s here,” Liz told them. “He and Tess were working together, and Ava…” Liz subsided in a fit of coughing.

Isabel looked like she was about to faint, and Maria took the baby out of her arms.

“Kyle, take Izzy and go look for Alex and Tess,” Max ordered him quietly. “They should be near here, if this is where Liz was being held.”

As Kyle helped a shell-shocked Isabel up, Maria told Max what Isabel had said about the baby. Liz nodded.

“He never cried,” she said, tears falling down her cheeks. “All he did was sleep. I was so scared, I thought he was sick, I didn’t know what to do.”

Max reached over and took the infant’s hand. As soon as he touched the baby, he knew it was his son. He swallowed the lump in his throat and tried to concentrate on healing the delicate blood vessels in his son’s neck and brain.

Suddenly the infant scrunched his face up and began to wail, ear piercing shrieks of confusion and fear. Maria, Liz and Michael let out sighs of relief. Max just looked lost and sick. Liz held out her arms and Maria gave the baby back to her. He quieted some, but continued to whimper.

“We have to get out of here, Max,” Liz said gently. “The rest of the hallway might collapse. We have to find Alex and Tess and get out of here as fast as we can.”

Max stared at her dumbly, then nodded a little. Maria and Michael helped Liz and Max up and they followed the hallway Kyle and Isabel had taken.

* * * * * *

Kyle hurried down the hallway, calling out Alex’s and Tess’s names. Isabel trailed behind numbly. Suddenly someone was pounding on the door beside them.

“Kyle!” They heard through the door. Isabel froze. “Kyle, we’re in here!”

Kyle threw his shoulder against the door, but it didn’t budge. Isabel put a hand on his shoulder and pulled him out of the way.

“Move back!” she yelled through the door. She put her hand on the door and slowed its molecules to practically nothing. Kyle threw a hard kick at the door and it shattered, scattering shards across the floor.

Kyle and Isabel stood silent and motionless in the doorway, neither sure what to do. Inside the room, Tess dropped the force field she had put up to protect her and Alex. Isabel’s legs gave out and she crumpled to her knees. Alex rushed past Tess and sank down next to Isabel, gathering her up in his arms. Kyle and Tess continued to stare at each other across the room.

“I thought she was you,” Kyle said, not sure what to do.

“I know,” Tess said simply. Kyle took a dozen slow steps towards her. When he was close to arm’s length the familiar crackle between them started up, tugging at him. A crackle he hadn’t felt in weeks, and suddenly he understood it.

“It wasn’t you,” he choked out in relief, pulling her roughly towards him and kissing her hard.

“No,” she whispered, clinging to him so tight she could hardly breathe. “It wasn’t.”

Alex stood up, carrying Isabel who looked like she had passed out.

“Where’s Ava?” Alex asked Kyle.

“She escaped,” Kyle said tersely. “Rath’s unconscious out in the hall.”

“What about Lonnie?” Alex asked. Kyle shook his head.

“Max,” he said quietly to the unasked question.

“All four of us are killers now,” Tess murmured darkly.

“It’s not like anybody left us a choice,” Kyle replied grimly. “We’d better go find everyone else. I’m not sure how stable this building is.”

“What do you mean?” Tess asked.

“A section of ceiling collapsed on Liz and the baby,” Kyle told them.

“She’s got Zan?” Alex demanded.

“Thank god,” Tess said with fervent relief.

“Zan?” Kyle asked.

“That’s what Ava was calling Max’s son,” Tess said bitterly.

They suddenly heard Michael calling their names.

“Let’s go,” Alex said, clutching Isabel tighter to him.

They met Liz, Max, Maria, and Michael in the hallway.

“Isabel!” Max cried out.

“She’s fine,” Alex said. “She fainted.” He turned to Maria, who had gone white and was covering her mouth with her hand.

“I can’t believe it,” she gasped, tears spilling over her cheeks. “Oh god, Alex…” Alex handed Isabel gently to Max and held his arms open for Maria. She threw herself at him, sobbing loudly. Liz hugged Alex gently, still protectively holding the infant against her. Even Michael put a hand on Alex’s shoulder and just shook his head.

“We missed you, man,” Michael said gruffly.

“We needed you, Alex,” Max said. “Especially Izzy.”

“Jesus Christ, man,” was all Kyle could muster. “Jesus Christ.”

“So this is him, huh?” Alex asked Liz. Liz held the baby up a little for Alex to see. The baby was not impressed and wailed loudly. “He’s got quite a set of lungs!” Alex laughed. “Must get it from your side,” He elbowed Liz gently.

“Oh Alex,” Maria and Liz both exclaimed, laughing and crying at the same time.

“We had better get out of here,” Michael said, as a random shudder shook the building. “I don’t think Ava intends much of this building to last the night.”

“Izzy, come on,” Max said, shaking her gently. “You have to wake up now.”

“Max?” she said faintly. She opened her eyes and began to cry convulsively. “I had this dream and Alex was alive…”

“You weren’t dreaming, Izzy,” Max said gently. Isabel froze.

“I’m right here, Izzy,” Alex said. He let go of a reluctant Maria and Liz and took Isabel’s hand. “I’m not going anywhere.”

Max slowly stood Isabel on her feet. She never took her eyes off Alex as he lowered her to the ground. She took a shaky step towards him and reached out to touch his face, then collapsed in his arms.

“Izzy, we have to go,” Alex told her. “If I hold your hand, can you walk?” Isabel pulled away and stood unsteadily for a few seconds before nodding.

“Let’s get out of here then,” Max said, taking Liz’s hand and leading them back down the hallway.

* * * * * *

Outside in the cool night air of the desert, they were faced with another problem. While five people had fit in the Jetta on the way to the building, and six could have possibly managed it, eight was definitely not going to make it.

“Didn’t quite think this through, did we?” Kyle said to no one in particular.
“What do we do?” Maria asked, looking at Michael.

“How should I know?” he demanded.

As they were pondering, the unmistakable sound of a car engine approaching whined in the distance.

“Oh god,” Liz said moving closer to Max. Isabel clutched Alex so tight she was bruising his arm, and Tess hid behind Kyle.

When the car actually came into view, all the teenagers nearly passed out with relief. The car pulled to a stop in front of them.

“Need a ride?” Valenti asked. He glanced over the group, his eyes widening when he saw Alex and the baby, and narrowing when he saw Tess.

“It wasn’t her, Dad,” Kyle said wearily. “It was Ava.”

“Tess and I have been being held here for weeks,” Alex confirmed.

“Why is it that every time I get involved with you all, I end up with more questions than I started with?” Valenti held up a hand as Max opened his mouth. “Don’t start explaining now, we’re going to get back to Roswell and then you are going to tell it all from start to finish. Michael, I think we’d better go to your apartment, it’s further out of town than my house and there’s less chance of anyone seeing us.”

Michael nodded. Kyle, Tess, Max, Liz, and the baby rode with Valenti. Maria Michael, Isabel, and Alex rode in the Jetta. The Valentis’ car was filled with a tense silence. Tess squeezed Kyle’s hand so tight her knuckles were white and stared out the window. Kyle watched her, his heart aching. The only family she had ever known was with him and his father, and now even that fragile trust had been shattered by the same person who had kidnapped her. It was ridiculously unfair.

“Max,” Liz said quietly in the back seat. “I think you should hold your son.”

“Liz, I don’t think I should,” Max replied, voice nearly inaudible.

“Please, Max,” she said. “He’s already had one parent desert him tonight.”

“If I hold him,” Max said, finally looking Liz in the eye, “It’ll all be real.”

Liz didn’t reply, but laid the baby in Max’s arms. Max shifted the weight awkwardly as his son whimpered with uncertainty, then began to cry.

“Liz,” Max said helplessly.

“He’s just not used to you,” Liz said, folding her arms tightly. “Hold him.”

Max stuck out a forefinger and pushed it into the baby’s fist. He grabbed Max’s finger and stopped crying mid-wail. To Max’s amazement, a connection formed and he started to see fuzzy images of his son’s first days of life. Mostly it was just an overwhelming amount of simple emotion: fear, confusion, loneliness, and a pervading sleepiness. Then there was a blur of dark surrounding what might have been a face and sudden comfort. Max realized with a start that it was Liz. Max wondered if his son was getting anything out of this from him, and tried to send the idea of safety and affection.

Then it was over and Max was looking at Liz’s smug expression.

“I told you so,” she said. Then her tone softened. “How do you feel?”

“I should have been there,” Max whispered fiercely. “I should have protected him from her. You’re the first good thing he ever knew, and he has no idea who I am.”

“He’s less than a month old, Max,” Liz soothed him. “In two weeks, he’ll have forgotten everything and he’ll be perfectly normal.”

Max stared at her.

“Well, as normal as he can be anyhow.”

Max looked back down at his son who was moving his head quite a bit, staring with eyes wide open. Max held him closer so his son wouldn’t wriggle out of his grasp. The baby tried to bring a fist to his mouth and bopped himself on the nose. Liz and Max laughed as he let out a squall. Max led the fist with his finger in it to his son’s mouth, who promptly began sucking on it.

Max looked up to see Tess and Kyle watching them from the front seat. He smiled self-consciously.

“My son just hit himself in the nose,” he announced with a goofy smile.

“So this is the heir to the Antarian throne…” Kyle said sarcastically. He reached over the seat and tickled the baby’s stomach. The baby kicked his feet and cooed, drooling on Max’s hand. Tess looked small and lost, and on the verge of tears.

“Tess,” Max said, “You can hold him if you want.”

“I can’t,” she whispered.

“It wasn’t you,” Max said, voice hard. “Ava did all this, and you should NEVER feel guilty. Come on, go ahead and hold him.”

Tess hesitantly took the infant out of Max’s arms. The baby looked irritated at the loss of Max’s finger, but then grabbed a fistful of Tess’s blond curls and shrieked with glee.

“Ow!” exclaimed Tess, laughing along with everyone else. Tess tickled him and he squealed and yanked harder on her hair.

“You’re good at this!” Kyle laughed. “Maybe we should give one of these a try!”

“A-hrmph,” Valenti cleared his throat loudly and Kyle turned red.

“Many years from now I mean,” Kyle added hastily. “When we’re fifty…”

“Sheriff,” Liz spoke up from the back seat. “I don’t mean to hold up the explanation process, but I think a stop for basic baby supplies might be wise.”

“Already on it,” Valenti replied. “If I recall from my days of late night infant care, the convenience store near Michael’s apartment has the basic equipment.”

“You make it sound like we’re going camping,” Kyle made a face.

* * * * * *

An hour later, everyone was in Michael’s apartment, and Max was finishing his explanation.

“What I don’t understand is how you knew where to find us,” Max finished.

“I was driving by and I saw Maria peeling out of her driveway with the five of you crammed in there,” Valenti explained. “So I followed you.”

“But why didn’t you get there until after we had already rescued Liz, Tess, and Alex?” Maria asked, perplexed.

“Well, ah…” Valenti turned a little red and looked at his boots. “I was pulled over,” he admitted.

“Pulled over?” Kyle asked incredulously. “For what?”

“Speeding,” Valenti coughed quickly.

The teens glanced at each other, then all burst out laughing.

“Well, I think I’ve embarrassed myself enough this evening,” Valenti said wryly, putting his cowboy hat firmly back on his head. “Looks like its time to head out. Kyle, Tess?”

“If you don’t mind, Dad,” Kyle said, glancing around at the others, “I think we’d like to all stay together for at least tonight. Before everything gets crazy tomorrow.”

“I don’t think that’s too bad an idea,” Valenti nodded. “Isabel, Liz, why don’t you tell your mothers that you’re sleeping over with…oh damn. I was going to say Tess, but she’s been missing all this time…”

“Umm, actually,” Liz said, “I doubt my parents know that. I didn’t tell them anyway.”

“Me either,” Isabel added.

“Well, it all works out then,” Valenti agreed. “Maria, I’ll stop by on my way and tell your mother.”

“I could just call her,” Maria pointed out naively.

“She’ll ask fewer questions if I do it in person,” Valenti said with a smirk. “She’ll have other matters on her hands…”

“AAAHH!” Maria screeched, covering her ears.

“Oh my god,” Kyle said, looking queasy. “Was that really necessary?”

“I’m going to tell my mom everything tomorrow,” Max told Valenti. “We’re going to need help explaining my son officially. Paternity and whatever else.”

“Call me when you’re ready,” Valenti nodded. “I’ll come over. Between your father and I, we should be able to work it out.”

“Thanks, Sheriff,” Max said with relief.

“You really have to stop calling me that,” Valenti pointed out.

“I can’t,” Max shrugged. “You do realize that I had nightmares about you for my entire childhood? You’ll always be Sheriff Valenti to us.”

The others all nodded, except for Tess who shrugged helplessly. Valenti couldn’t help but smile cheesily. He sobered as his eyes came to rest on Alex.

“Son,” he sighed, “I don’t have any idea what we’re going to tell your parents.”

“Neither do I,” Alex admitted. “But we’ll think of something.”

“Tess?” Valenti asked. “Could I talk to you alone outside for a minute?”

Tess glanced at Kyle who squeezed her hand reassuringly, then nodded. She followed Valenti out to his truck in the street.

“I just wanted to say,” Valenti began awkwardly, “that I know it wasn’t you before. She hurt Max and Isabel worst, and if they say it wasn’t you, then it wasn’t you. I just wanted to tell you that tomorrow, when you and Kyle come home, we’ll start this whole family thing all over again. I’m not saying it won’t be hard at first, but I’ll give it my best shot.”

Tess responded by throwing her arms around Valenti’s neck.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Valenti murmured, hesitantly hugging Tess back.

* * * * * *

When Tess came back in, the eight teens and one infant stared at each other.

“So, what are we going to do?” Maria asked.

“I am starving for some real food,” Alex said quickly.

“And a hot shower!” Tess chimed in.

“We’ll order pizza while you two get cleaned up,” Liz laughed. “What do you want on your pizza?”

“Everything!” Alex and Tess exclaimed simultaneously.

“Which one of you is showering first?” Michael asked. Alex and Tess glanced at each other, then raced for the bathroom. Alex got their first and slammed the door in her face, wicked laughter wafting out from behind the door.

“Haven’t you ever heard of ladies first?” Tess demanded, banging on the door.

“If you find any ladies out there, send them in!” Alex called back.

Tess narrowed her eyes and Max and Michael exchanged glances, wincing. Tess stood outside the door arms folded
until she heard the sound of water running. Then she calmly unlocked the door, strode into the bathroom, and flushed the toilet. Alex’s scream echoed through the apartment.

When he emerged in a towel fifteen minutes later he shot an icy glare at Tess, who ignored him as she ran into the bathroom and slammed the door.

“You totally asked for it, man,” Kyle said.

“Shove it,” Alex sneered, snatching the clothes Michael offered him and stalking into the bedroom to change.

Michael, Maria, Isabel, and Alex went to pick up the pizza while Max and Liz heated formula in the kitchen for the baby. Kyle lounged on the couch. When Tess emerged from the bathroom he swallowed hard.

“Did Michael set out clothes I could wear in his bedroom?” Tess asked, running a hand carelessly through her wet curls. Kyle nodded wordlessly, unable to take his eyes off her. The way he was staring at her made Tess’s chest tighten and she flushed slightly. “Thanks,” she said huskily, walking a little too quickly into the bedroom and shutting the door behind her. She leaned against the door and took several deep breaths.

She came out of the bedroom just as Maria, Michael, Isabel, and Alex returned with the pizza and was frozen in place by the open desire on Kyle’s face.

“Hey!” Isabel called. “Are you guys hungry?”

“Starving,” Kyle murmured, gaze sweeping over Tess from head to toe. Tess shivered, physically feeling Kyle’s eyes slide over her skin, leaving a burning trail. Even though she was fully dressed, Tess felt like she was completely naked.

“Hey, you two,” Liz said, coming into the room and breaking the spell. “Let’s eat already!”

Tess reluctantly turned to follow Liz into the kitchen and felt strong hands close on her upper arms. Tess inhaled raggedly as hot breath brushed her ear.

“If I start touching you now, I’ll never stop,” Kyle whispered, voice rough.

“You are touching me,” Tess pointed out huskily.

“And believe me,” Kyle growled, “there isn’t much stopping me from taking you on the floor right now.” Tess’s knees went weak and she put a hand to the wall for support. His hands slid off her and Tess leaned heavily against the wall, breathing hard.

“Tess, are you all right?” Alex asked when she walked dazedly into the kitchen. “You look a little flushed.”

“Oh, I may have overdone with the hot water,” Tess said, voice still breathy. She looked over and caught Kyle’s stare. “God, it felt good though,” she said deliberately.

“I know,” Alex agreed heartily, completely missing the sexual overtones. He devoured his slice of pizza in five bites and Isabel laughed.

“You’re going to choke,” she teased him. “Slow down!”

“Liz, come here,” Max called from the stove. “I can’t figure out if this formula is hot enough.”

“Drip it on your arm,” she told him. “Make sure its not burning.”

“OW!” Max cried sharply.

“Your daddy’s pretty silly,” Maria told the baby, who Isabel was holding.

“Your daddy is injuring himself for your physical safety,” Max said sourly, coming over with the bottle wrapped in a towel. “I was going to put Tabasco in it, but I thought we had better try it plain first. Who knows what he’ll eat.”

“I think that’s a good idea,” Liz said. “I’m not even sure if its safe to give Tabasco to babies.”

“You can’t give them honey,” Maria said. “I saw it on ER.”

“Obviously a good source,” Michael rolled his eyes.

Max’s son wouldn’t drink the formula plain, and didn’t like the spicy version either.

“What do we do now?” Liz asked.

“Just try different tastes until you hit something he’ll eat,” Isabel suggested.

“I’ll make a chart!” Liz volunteered immediately, and everyone laughed.

“Just try something less spicy,” Tess suggested. “Maybe its just too much for him.”

They diluted the Tabasco in several weakening potencies, but the baby wasn’t into any incarnation of the spicy formula.

“So let’s assume that ‘spicy’ isn’t doing it for him,” Liz said, crossing off a line in her notebook. “That leaves us with ‘bitter,’ ‘sour,’ and ‘sweet.’”

“I have something sour!” Maria exclaimed. She dug through her purse and came up with a blue raspberry ring pop. “It’s even pacifier-shaped,” she said smugly.

“This can’t be healthy,” Max said, examining the electric blue object.

“Just a taste won’t kill him,” Maria replied casually, taking it back from Max and popping it in the baby’s mouth. “I think you can figure out what to do with this, kid.”

The baby sucked on the ring pop energetically, obviously happy.

“Guess that solves that problem,” Liz said. “Sour it is.”

“Well, he isn’t eating that thing,” Max said protectively. “What’s sour and won’t turn him into an ADD candidate?”

“I think I have some lemon juice,” Michael said, getting up and opening some cabinets. “Here.”

Max mixed some of the leftover formula with the lemon juice and gave it to the infant. Soon he was happily nestled in Max’s arms, drinking the concoction greedily.

“Ugh,” Tess made a face. “I can smell that from over here. Why on earth would anyone eat that?”

“Ha ha!” Kyle exclaimed. “The tables are turned now! Now you know how we feel all the time.”

“Do you think he’ll always like sour things?” Max asked. “Do you think he’s different than what we are?”

“I don’t know for sure,” Liz said. “But I’ve read that babies’ taste buds don’t develop completely for the first year or so. You might have been the same way, you were just in your pods when it happened.”

“That’s true,” Max said thoughtfully. His son finished eating and started to fuss. “What now?” Max asked, looking perplexedly at the girls.

“Just because we’re girls, we should know?” Tess challenged.

“Don’t you people ever watch Lifetime?” Maria said, exasperated. “He probably needs burped. Hold him up against your shoulder and pat his back.”

“Maria, don’t harass him,” Liz said. “He’s only been a father for a couple hours.”

“It’s the right of every person without children to tell parents how to raise their kids,” Maria sniffed. “That’s the way it works.”

* * * * * *

Alex awoke from his doze with a start. Isabel, pillowing her head on his chest, looked up at him.

“Why aren’t you asleep?” Alex asked. “Granted, Michael’s couch isn’t the most comfortable bed…”

“I don’t want to,” Isabel said petulantly, letting out a yawn. “You keep waking up, you aren’t any better.”

“It’s just,” Alex sighed. “I don’t know what I’m going to tell my parents. I can’t just go home tomorrow and say ‘oh, Mom, Dad, I wasn’t really dead. I was kidnapped by the alien who faked my death.’”

“I know how you feel,” Isabel said gently. “I hate lying to my parents, too. But the truth is that they won’t care what happened. They’ll just be glad you’re back.” Isabel lowered her eyes. “Like me.”

“I have to tell them something,” Alex pointed out, holding Isabel tighter.

“Alex, I think we may have to accept the fact that there is no rational explanation about your death and subsequent resurrection, except the truth,” Isabel said.

“You could tell them that you found me in the desert,” Alex offered.

“We may have to,” Isabel snorted. “They really won’t care much. Just say you don’t remember what happened to you.”

“Maybe,” Alex said doubtfully.

“Just go back to sleep,” she yawned. “Maybe you’ll dream up some plausible excuse.”

“Speaking of,” Alex said thoughtfully, drifting off, “I had this crazy dream that while I was gone you were hooking up with this Hispanic guy…”

* * * * * *

“There,” Max said, setting the chair down to block the way out of the kitchen. “but I’m telling you, one-month-olds don’t crawl, alien or not.”

“You don’t have any idea what he’s capable of,” Liz said from the kitchen floor, where she was trying figure out how to put one of Michael’s shirts on the baby without smothering him. “Poor Michael’s lost three of his shirts tonight. And I’m not sure your son is going to leave this one in returnable condition…”

“That’s another thing,” Max said, settling down on the pile of blankets and pillows they were using for a bed. He took his son from Liz. “We can’t go on calling him ‘the baby’ or ‘your son.’ We’re going to have to name him.”

“Ava named him Zan,” Liz said, trying to sound casual. Max wasn’t fooled.

“I’m not calling him that,” Max said vehemently. “That name doesn’t bring anything but blood and death.”

“Did you have something in mind?” Liz asked.

“Not really,” Max shrugged. “Just not that.”

“Do you have any family names? You could name him after your dad,” Liz suggested.

“Liz,” Max said seriously, “someday he might have to rule a whole planet.”

“So what?” Liz asked.

“King Phil?” Max raised an eyebrow and Liz began to giggle.

“King Max isn’t much better,” she pointed out.

“All the more reason to rectify the issue now,” Max replied.

“There aren’t many names that sound dignified after the word ‘king’,” Liz said thoughtfully. “It makes most people sound like a spoiled child.”

“There’s always Charles, Edward, Louis, George…” Max ran through a list of all the European kings he could name. Liz wrinkled her nose.

“Those are terrible!” Liz laughed. “King Louie of Antar?”

The suggestions kept sounding worse until Liz and Max were crying with laughter.

“Maybe we should just pick something normal, and not worry about reigning a world just yet,” Liz suggested, wiping her eyes.

“We should just give and call him something trendy,” Max said, half-kidding. “Like Brent.”

“Or Devon,” Liz said, still giggling

“Justyn with a y.”

“A.J.!”

“Ja-son!”

“Hey,” Liz said suddenly. “What’s wrong with that?”

“Ja-son?” Max repeated staring at her. “Well for one thing…”

“No,” Liz interrupted. “Just Jason. That’s a perfectly normal name.”

“King Jason,” Max said slowly, trying it out. “I like it. What do you think?” he asked the baby. Jason waved his arms and laughed. “Looks like we have a winner.” Max sighed suddenly. “What am I going to tell my parents?”

“What am I going to tell my parents,” Liz replied gloomily.

“Liz,” Max said. “You don’t have to be a part of this. I would understand if you didn’t want to stay with me.”

“Max…” Liz began.

“You could still have a normal life, finish high school and go to college,” Max went on. “I mean, this isn’t fair. He isn’t even your son, why should he take away your future too?”

“Max!” Liz interrupted. “Stop it. Your son isn’t ruining anyone’s life.”

“But…”

“I’m not leaving you,” Liz said firmly. “Lots of people have babies in high school. Not like it’s a great thing, but they manage, and so will we. Besides,” Liz added, lowering her eyes, “this might be my only chance to have a family with you.”

Max opened his mouth and then closed it again. He hadn’t thought of that. Liz went on hesitantly.

“You don’t even know whether hybrids can have children with humans. And I want to have kids. I want to have them with you. And babies need mothers. So I’m staying.”

“Good,” Max said with relief. Liz looked back up at him.

“Good?” she asked.

“I don’t think I can do this by myself,” Max admitted guiltily. “and I don’t want to do this with anyone else. I love you, Liz.”

“Max, I love you too.” Liz yawned suddenly. “God, I’m tired.”

“Kidnapping does take it out of you,” Max said, laughing. “Here, lay down.” Max stretched out on the blankets with Jason on his chest and Liz snuggled into his side.

“What are you going to tell your mother?” Liz asked sleepily.

“I think I’m going to have to tell her all of it,” Max sighed heavily. “’Where’s the baby’s mother, Max?’ ‘He doesn’t have one, Mom, we found him in the desert.’ Or, ‘Well, Mom, it’s a girl that looks exactly like Tess, funny enough, but she’s gone and she isn’t coming back. No, no, I’m very sure.’”

“You don’t have to if you don’t want to,” Liz pointed out gently.

“I do want to,” Max said uncomfortably. “It’s just…I’m scared. What if she hates me? What if I scare her?”

“Max, your mother loves you,” Liz assured him. “She will love you no matter what. Even if you really were green and slimy and had a third eye.”

Max smiled at the old joke, but didn’t really feel much better. He decided to change the subject.

“I wonder what Alex is telling his parents.”

“Now there’s a good question,” Liz agreed “I’m glad I’m not in his shoes.”

“Yeah.” Max yawned hugely, setting off Liz. They glared balefully at Jason, who was waving his hands at nothing energetically and laughing.

“Why won’t your son go to sleep?” Liz demanded, struggling to keep her eyes open. “I thought infants slept most of the time.”

“He has been sleeping for the whole first month of his life,” Max replied. “He’s very well rested I’m sure. Or it could be that hybrid babies only sleep a few hours a day…”

“That’s not funny!” Liz hissed, pinching his arm.

“Mmm,” Max murmured, his own eyes starting to close of their own accord.

“Max,” Liz sighed softly, “we have to stay awake.”

“Why,” Max said, eyes now firmly shut. “He can’t even crawl yet. He isn’t going anywhere.”

“I think this is child neglect…” Liz’s eyes were closed now too.

“I won’t tell if you won’t.”

And with that both new parents were out cold.

* * * * * *

“Mmm, Michael,” Maria sighed. “You really shouldn’t start that…”

“Why not?” Michael asked. “You taste good.”

“God, you do too…” Maria pushed at Michael weakly. “We can’t…”

“Sure we can,” Michael said. “We do it all the time.”

“But six of our friends are right outside this door, probably listening to every…ooh…”

“Shirt,” Michael commanded. “Off. Now.”

“Noo, Michael,” Maria folded her arms across her shirt.

“Either you take it off,” Michael said evenly, “or I blow it up.”

Maria stared at Michael, then began to giggle. Michael used the lull in Maria’s defenses to peel her shirt off and fling it over his shoulder.

“Bra too,” he said tersely.

“Nuh uh,” Maria said firmly. “We totally aren’t doing this.”

“You had your chance,” Michael shrugged finally. He pinned his squealing girlfriend to the bed and held her wrists down. “Stop struggling.”

“What are you going to do now?” Maria demanded smugly. “You have to use both hands to hold me.”

Michael’s mouth quirked in a half smile. He lowered his head to Maria’s chest and used his teeth to unhook her bra, then nuzzled it out of his way.

“Much better,” he said. Maria’s scathing retort came out as a whimper.

“Not…fair…” Maria gasped. Michael wouldn’t have bothered to answer, even if his mouth hadn’t been full. “Won’t get…jeans,” Maria hissed triumphantly.

“That would be true,” Michael mumbled, “if you hadn’t taken them off before getting into my bed.”

“…Damn…”

* * * * * *

A low moan floated out of the bedroom, over to where Tess and Kyle were doing their best to ignore both it and their arousal. They lay on the floor next to each other, staring at the ceiling, being very careful not to touch each other.

“So you’re a mechanic?” Tess asked.

“Well, someone has to pay the bills,” he answered nonchalantly.

“That’s very macho,” Tess commented.

“It’s nothing to go all fem-Nazi about,” Kyle said defensively.

“No, no, in a good way,” Tess reassured him. “Honestly, I think there’s something very sexy about a man who’s willing to get his hands dirty. With the sweat and the grease…and the chrome…and the muscles…”

“I think you’d better stop,” Kyle interrupted, just as a little shriek issued towards them.

“Sorry, got a little carried away.”

They lay in silence for a few moments.

“Do you want to go for a walk or something?” Kyle asked.

“Yes!” Tess answered almost before he stopped speaking. Kyle laughed quietly as he helped her to her feet and they slipped towards the door.

As Kyle shut the door behind them, Tess closed her eyes and just felt the cool night air from the desert ruffling her hair. She felt Kyle come to stand beside her and slip his hand into hers. She opened her eyes to find him watching her with open appreciation and blushed.

“Come on,” he tugged her gently off the porch.

They wandered down the sidewalk in silence for a little while. Tess tried to keep her eyes on where she was going, but her gaze kept drifting to the sky, and more than once Kyle had to pull back onto the sidewalk, or steady her when she stumbled on the uneven pavement.

“Sorry,” she said after half a dozen trips or so. “It’s just, I spent my whole live staring up at the stars. It was the thing I missed most when…” she trailed off and shuddered a little. Kyle squeezed her hand tightly.

“Come on,” he said again, “I want to show you something.”

Several blocks away, they came to a small park with several large rocks strewn about haphazardly. He pulled Tess up to sit beside him on one of the largest rocks and stared up at the stars with her in the clear desert night.

“We used to play out here when we were kids,” Kyle explained. “One time, in elementary school, we had a class overnight trip here for science class. It was right after my mom left, and I wanted to be alone, so I wandered off from the others. I found Alex sitting here on this rock. He was just staring up at the sky, swinging his feet. Finally I asked him what he was doing, and he looked at me, really calm, and said he was waiting. I asked him what for and he said, ‘I don’t know yet. But it’s important.’ And then he asked if I was waiting too. Before I answered, our teacher found us and made us come back with her. But I never forgot Alex just sitting on this rock, staring at the sky like he was ready to wait forever, that whatever he was waiting for was worth it.”

“Alex told me he always loved the stars,” Tess said softly.

“I guess he knew how important they’d be to us,” Kyle reached over and tugged one of Tess’s curls gently, “even if the rest of us didn’t yet. And when Isabel and Max showed up at school later that year, he looked at me like he was saying ‘See? What did I tell you?’.”

“I wish I could have been here when I was little,” Tess sighed wistfully. “I wish I could have grown up with all of you.”

“Me too,” Kyle agreed. “I was getting tired of being the only one who was still waiting.”

Tess met his gaze shyly, and he leaned over to kiss her gently, this kiss saying everything their desperate kiss earlier hadn’t had time for.

Kyle began to feel a little dizzy, and realized with awe that he had connected with Tess before the flashes actually engulfed him.

Tess breaking out of her pod to discover that she was utterly alone…Tess starting school late and being ignored by the other kids…Tess packing her things again before she’d even fully unpacked from the last move…Tess’s first day at any one of dozens of high schools whose name wasn’t worth remembering, with people whose hostility towards her remained long after their names had been forgotten…Tess’s first days in Roswell, where Isabel had been the only person to ever be truly friendly towards her…Tess watching Max, Isobel and Michael with envy, waiting for the inevitable move and rejection, compounded by the realization that she could never replace Liz in Max’s eyes…and then…Kyle…

Kyle when his father explained that his mother wasn’t coming back…Kyle burying his anger and hurt in sports…Kyle being jealous of how close Liz, Alex, and Maria were…Kyle purposefully making shallow friends and dating vapid girls to keep his relationships superficial…Kyle spending his whole summer at football camp while everyone else was on vacation, so he could be the football star…Liz breaking up with Kyle for Max, blaming him for Paulie and the other guys ambushing Evans in the alley…Max healing Kyle… Kyle’s confusion and frustration with everything and everyone…except…Tess…

The last thing Tess saw before the connection broke was Kyle’s memory of Alex sitting on the rock, waiting, legs swinging against the rock patiently, like he was prepared to wait forever if he had to.

Waiting for them. Waiting for her.

Both Tess and Kyle collapsed against the rock simultaneously, gasping.

“What base was that?” Tess asked after a long moment.

“Home run,” Kyle laughed breathlessly, thinking about his crestfallen confession to Max that he had only gotten to second base with Liz. “Want to go for a grand slam?”

Tess rolled her eyes, knowing it had probably been too much to ask for that she got a human who wasn’t so fond of sports metaphors.

* * * * * *

“Everybody ready?” Max asked, taking a deep breath to steady his nerves before they all went back to real life in Roswell.

Max looked around at the eight faces staring back at him, which all echoed his own reluctance to go back out into the outside world.

Maria, chewing on her lip, nervous for all of them and sneaking glances at Michael. So full of energy and all things glittery, Max was thankful for Maria almost as often as Liz, grateful she was showing all of them what it really meant to live with your whole heart.

Alex, looking even more tense than Max did, but putting on a brave face and a goofy smile for all of them, especially Isabel. Max valued his candor and his humor, knowing that they all needed it to keep from taking themselves too seriously.

Tess, apprehension tinged with outright joy at actually having a family to go home to, with people who loved her for was she was, instead of what she had been on another planet, in another time. Max had feared for a long time that she would be what drove them all apart, but now realized that she was closing the circle.

Michael, looking outwardly calm, having opted to go with Alex to tell his parents he was alive. Orphaned several times over, Max was sure that Michael knew that they were his real family, and that there was a better chance of the UFO convention being cancelled than of them betraying his trust.

Liz, his soulmate, holding his son, knowing full well that the scene with either of their parents was not going to be pretty, but standing by him anyway. He could see the gears of her little scientist’s brain clicking away, working on a plan for them.

Kyle, holding onto Tess’s hand like he’d forgotten there was another way to stand. Max’s guilt about turning Kyle’s life upside down was alleviated by the knowledge that he was fully one of them now, and the happier for it.

Isabel, his sister, still clutching Alex like she thought he might vanish if she breathed too hard, anxiety for him warring with the excited fear she felt about telling her and Max’s parents the truth about them after all this time.

Jason, his son, who clearly had no idea what anxiety even was, and for whom each day was a fascinating miracle where everything had to be touched and experienced and then put in your mouth.

Max took stock of his own emotional situation and saw the same mix of fear and elation in himself as in all the others. There were lots of reasons to be scared, his parents, his son, his uncertain future.

But Max was starting to realize that the reasons for the profound feeling of good were more numerous and deeper rooted. These people, all teaching him something unique and essential, were filling up the places that his existence as a willful outsider had torn in him and making him whole. Unbidden, the words that Michael had said to him in Las Vegas rose in Max’s mind.

“Whoever sent us down here was smart. You know why? Cause they sent us together. And so long as we’re together, we’re gonna make it.”

“Isn’t this the part where we all put our hands in the middle and shout ‘Go team!’?” Alex asked, breaking into Max’s reverie. He stuck his own hand out and raised an eyebrow at the others. Maria giggled, then put her own hand firmly on top of Alex’s. Tess, then Kyle, then the others followed suit, finding Alex’s charm hard to resist.

“All right, is everybody ready?” Alex asked. Everyone nodded, trying to suppress giggles and snorts. “One…two…three…”

“GO TEAM!”

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