FanFic - Slash Stories
Part 1
by Annie
Disclaimer: I don't own any of these characters. I'm just playing with them for a while but I'll give them back as good as new.
Summary: Kyle-o-rama. What would happen if Max saved Kyle from that gunshot wound instead of Liz?
Category: Slash Stories
Rating: PG-13
Authors Note: This fic resembles canon in no way, so let me slap a big AU label on it now. Fourth part of the Genesis series, following Samaritan, Oasis, and Metamorphosis. FEEDBACK: Yes, please. Constructive if you can, but I'll lap up lavish praise too. Flames will be laughed at. DEDICATION: To everyone who has given me such wonderful feedback on this series. This isn't the end, but I will be taking a break from writing Roswell fic while I work on some other projects I've been neglecting.
Kyle awoke with a start, feeling chilled and bereft. He sat up and looked around, alarmed that Max was gone. For a long, frightening moment, he wondered if he had dreamed the events of the last two days. The idea of it -- the idea that something so startlingly *real* to him was just a mirage -- made him vaguely nauseous.

But, no. There he was. Max sat on the edge of the cliff, the morning sunlight glinting off his dark hair. From where he sat, Kyle could tell the other boy was troubled. He stood up, wrapped the blankets around himself to ward off the morning chill, and went to sit next to Max.

"Mornin'," he offered.

Max jumped, startled out of his thoughts by Kyle's silent approach. He smiled weakly. "Good morning."

"Is it?" Kyle asked without rancor. Max regarded him for a long moment, until he understood what Kyle was asking.

"Kyle, last night was--"

"--amazing," Kyle finished. Max smiled again and nodded.

"Yeah," he agreed. "But... it can't happen again. I can't put you at risk too."

Kyle brushed his hair back from his face and sighed. He wanted to argue with Max, wanted to come up with all the reasons swimming in his head why they *should* be together, but his innate sense of logic pushed to the fore. Max was right. He hated it, recoiled against the idea that he might never feel the way he had felt last night again, but he knew he'd be putting Max in danger if he got too close to him.

(--He wants to protect me, I want to protect him. We're a piece of fucking work, aren't we?--)

He reached a hand up to cup Max's jaw and turned the other boy to face him. Looking solemnly into Max's pain-wracked brown eyes, he nodded. "I know. I know, Max. Just... we've got some time before we have to head home and go to school. I don't want to waste it, ok?"

Not giving him a chance to protest, Kyle kissed Max fiercely, possessively, maintaining the firm grip on his chin. Resisting for a brief moment, Max gave in with a soft sigh, leaning into Kyle.

Kyle enclosed Max in his arms, imprinting the feel and smell and taste of the other boy in his memory as he kissed him. Somehow, he knew Max was doing the same, storing up these few moments before the reality of their lives tore them apart. Kyle opened his blankets and pulled Max into the cocoon of warmth, the texture of Max's clothes against his bare skin intoxicating. He worried at Max's lower lip with his teeth until Max moaned breathily into his mouth.


The two boys sprang apart and whirled around at the sound of the voice. Liz stood there, one hand clapped to her mouth, eyes wide with surprise and embarrassment. She stumbled back several steps, shaking her head in denial of what she had seen, until she tripped on a rock and fell, landing with an audible whoosh on her backside.

Recovering his wits, Kyle strode to her and offered his hand to help her up. Mutely, she took it, still slowly shaking her head from side to side. Fear at her reaction struggled with inexplicable amusement at her scandalized expression, and Kyle thought the amusement was going to win out any minute. He could feel a hysterical giggle bubbling in his chest and he fought it down. Barely maintaining a neutral expression, he looked at Liz. "We have a lot to talk about."

To his astonishment, *she* burst out laughing, the sound one level below a mad cackle. Her breath hitching, she managed to choke out: "Obviously."

Max had come over and stood beside Kyle, watching Liz with a mixture of alarm and concern on his features. "Is she going to be all right?" he whispered to Kyle.

Kyle shrugged. "Beats me."

Eventually, Liz got herself under control, wiping tears from her eyes shakily. "What a morning. First Maria gets attacked and then I see... *this*--"

"Maria was attacked?!"

"What happened to Maria?!"

Kyle and Max spoke simultaneously, all humor thrust aside. Liz nodded, her eyes somber, darting back and forth between the boys.

"That's why I came out here, to find you. She's ok now but..." She glanced at Max, then back to Kyle. "Can I talk to you alone?"

Kyle looked at Max and the other boy nodded. Kyle led Liz over to his car. He indicated she should turn away so he could get dressed. "What happened, Liz?"

The muscles in her shoulders bunched up and Kyle could tell she was struggling to hold back tears. "Kyle, someone broke into Maria's bedroom last night and threatened her, then knocked her unconscious."

"You can turn around now," he replied absently, pulling his shirt over his head. "Threatened? Threatened what?"

Tears brimmed in her eyes, evidence of how scared she was, so scared that finding her boyfriend locked in an embrace with another boy barely registered. "He said if she told anyone about what happened to you at the Crashdown, he'd come back and kill her. And Kyle, when he knocked her out, she said he just put his hand on her head and she was gone. He didn't hit her or drug her or anything."

His knees feeling rubbery, he leaned against his car for support, his thoughts reeling. Was it possible there were others like Max out there, willing to do *anything* to keep their secret safe? Or maybe it was Michael Guerin, who had shown previous signs of behavior that would eventually land him in reform school or jail. Either way, he knew his father must know about the attack on Maria by now and his suspicions would be heightened even more. "Is Maria going to be ok?"

Liz nodded, tucking a lank of hair behind her ear. "She's scared, but physically she's ok. Kyle, that's not all. She says... well, she says the person who attacked her was Max." She glanced fearfully over her shoulder, where Max stood, looking over the precipice.

Kyle shook his head. "That's impossible, Liz. Max... Max was here with me the whole night." If she still had any doubts about what she had seen, he knew what he had just said would erase them. "It was night, probably dark. Maybe it just looked like Max."

"No," Liz argued. "Maria was very clear on that. She said she *saw* Max, that she would swear on her life it was him."

"And I'm telling you that's impossible!" Kyle countered hotly. "Max and I came out here a little past eight and we've been here, *together*, all night."

"So how do you explain it then?" she responded, just as angrily. He couldn't blame her. She was frightened for Maria and for herself, just as he was frightened for Max.

"I don't know," he replied wearily. "I don't know. Liz, does my father know?"

"Yeah," she confirmed, then said what he had been dreading to hear. "He's got a warrant out for Max's arrest."

With difficulty, Kyle convinced Liz that Max needed to know what was going on and she needed to keep quiet about their whereabouts, for now. After explaining the situation to Max, he urged Liz to take them to Maria. The three piled into Kyle's car and headed back towards town.

Periodically, Kyle would glance over at Max, aching to comfort him. The other boy's face was deathly white and he kept clenching one hand into a fist repeatedly. Every few seconds, he'd turn to Liz and plead with her, his voice breaking. "I would never hurt Maria, or any of you. I promise."

Liz still looked troubled and her eyes wouldn't meet Max's, but she nodded and smiled as reassuringly as she could. "We're going to figure out what's going on, Max. It'll be ok."

They pulled up in front of Maria's house. Before getting out of the car, Max grabbed Kyle's arm.

"How much does she know?" he whispered urgently, as if he could keep her from overhearing his terrified desperation.

Kyle gently disengaged his hand and held it for a brief moment. "She knows, Max. She has since yesterday. But she won't say anything, I promise you."

Liz placed her small hand on Max's and Kyle's and met Max's eyes for the first time since she had stumbled upon them that morning. "He's right, Max. I won't say anything. And... I believe you. I don't think you hurt Maria."

Max took a deep breath and exhaled slowly. "Thank you." He reached for the car door handle. "Let's do it."

The three stepped out of the car and walked around to the back of Maria's house, where they could tap on her window without her mother finding out. Kyle pulled Max aside.

"Maybe you should let us talk to her first. If she sees you, she might..." He trailed off, knowing he didn't need to complete the thought. Max nodded his agreement and stepped back several paces until a large hydrangea bush partially hid him. Liz knocked softly on Maria's bedroom window and it slid open.

Kyle was shocked to see how drawn Maria's face looked, her eyes darkened with dried tears and her skin pale with fear and exhaustion. She beckoned them inside without saying a word, silently climbing into her bed and hugging a stuffed monkey to her chest.

Liz sat gingerly on Maria's bed. "Maria, Kyle and I need to ask you some questions about... about what happened to you."

The other girl nodded listlessly. "OK." She looked at Kyle. "Did you father arrest him yet? Did he arrest Max?"

Kyle had to stop himself from looking out the window to see if Max had overheard her. He decided it was wisest to let Liz handle things. Neutrally, he replied, "No, he hasn't."

"Oh," was all she said.

"Maria, are you *positive* it was Max who did this?" Liz asked quietly.

Maria looked angry, the first emotion she had shown since they had arrived. "Of course I'm positive! God, I'm so tired of everyone asking me the same questions!" Her voice shook with unshed tears. "I know it was dark, but the moonlight was bright and I got a clear look at him. It was Max. It even *sounded* like Max. I didn't think... he always seemed so *nice*." She broke down, curling into the fetal position and sobbing. Liz stroked her hair and murmured to her, eyeing Kyle frantically.

Kyle decided it was time to step in and take a big leap of faith. Hoping that Liz was right all those times when she expounded on Maria's virtues, he sat down on the other side of the bed and waited for Maria to calm down enough for her to listen to him. When she was down to wheezing snuffles, he began.

He told her the truth, about everything. Starting from the events in the Crashdown, he explained everything that had happened in the last two days.

(--Well, almost everything.--)

Leaving out the details -- knowing from Liz's speculative glances that he'd have to do more explaining before too long -- he finished by insisting that Max couldn't have been the one to attack her because he had been with him the entire night.

At first, she understandably refused to believe any of it. She shook her head violently and squeezed her eyes shut, but Kyle kept on and Liz added her own comments supporting his. More tears leaked out as she kept repeating that she had seen Max over and over.

Eventually, she started to relent a bit and listen to what they had to say. She sat up, still clutching the toy to her, her tears drying as she absorbed everything. Finally, Kyle said the one thing that convinced her.

"Maria, I believe you when you say you saw Max."

Her eyes widened. "You do?"

"Yeah, I do," he responded, not sure where he was going with this but following a thought niggling at the back of his mind. "But I don't think it was really *our* Max. Maybe... maybe there's others like him out there. And maybe some of them are identical to each other, and that's who you saw. Or maybe there are clones, like 'The X-Files'. I don't know. All I know is that the Max Evans you and Liz and I know would *never* hurt anyone. And I think you know that too." He finished his impassioned speech and watched for Maria's and Liz's reactions.

Liz, as usual, came through for him, nodding enthusiastically as he spoke. But he was doubly impressed with Maria, whom he'd always considered so flighty and hysterical. Perhaps she was those things, but she was also willing to listen to other viewpoints and keep an open mind.

Maria opened her mouth to say something when they heard several voices from the living room. One of them was Maria's mother, but the other made Kyle and Liz freeze.

(--Oh, shit. Not now.--)

Pulling the door open stealthily, Kyle confirmed his suspicions. It was his father, Sheriff Jim Valenti. But what made Kyle's heart jump to his throat was the sight of a trembling Max, standing beside the Sheriff, his hands bound behind his back. Liz and Maria crowded behind him and saw the same thing, a tiny gasp escaping Liz's throat.

"--caught him lurking in the bushes by your daughter's window, Diane," Valenti was saying. "I guess he came back to finish off his threat. That right, Mr. Evans?"

Maria reached for the doorknob, but Kyle stopped her. "No, stay here."

"But... I can tell him I was mistaken, that I was shaken up by the attack and got confused. I have to tell him it wasn't Max," she whispered fiercely.

Kyle shook his head. "No, you don't know my dad. That'll make him even more suspicious, which will make it worse for Max. We need to let him take Max down to the station and then we'll find a way to get him out."

"How?" Liz asked.

He closed his eyes and rubbed the bridge of his nose tiredly. "I don't know."

Several hours later, Kyle, Liz, and Maria met with Isabel and Michael at Kyle's house, knowing it would empty since Sheriff Valenti was gleefully booking his most-wanted criminal. Kyle explained the situation to Isabel and Michael, facing a tense moment when Michael threatened to tear him to pieces for putting Max in this situation. Maria stepped right up to Michael, glared at him, and told him in no uncertain terms to sit down before she made him sit down. Grudgingly, Michael complied, a look of vague bemusement crossing his features, and he continued to shoot glances towards Maria, who ignored him studiously.

Isabel got to the point. "What are you going to do about this?" she demanded to Kyle.

He paced the living room, his thoughts working furiously. He was a born leader, had known that almost his entire life. On the field, on the court, in school, people listened to what he had to say. But in this situation, he wished fervently for someone else to take the lead and tell him what to do. He sighed and ran his fingers through his hair.

"I'm going to get Max out of jail."

"How are you going to do that?" Isabel persisted.

"That's not your concern. Just trust me when I say I *will* get him out."

She challenged him with her steady gaze for a moment, then looked away. "OK. I'll trust you. For now."

Michael wasn't willing to let it go at that. "Assuming you do get him out -- and I'm not conceding that until I actually see him -- what next? Valenti's not going to let go of this very easily."

"I don't know what to do next, ok?" Kyle replied, frustrated. "Right now I just want to get Max free."


Kyle was startled by Isabel's forthright question and tried to evade it. "What does it matter?"

"Well, a couple of days ago you hated my brother. Now you're going to break him out of jail--"

"Wait a minute! I didn't say anything about a jailbreak here," he interrupted.

"Whatever. You still haven't given us a reason *why* you're doing this for him." She stared at him coldly, her face impassive.

He started to make up something to appease her, then decided to go with the truth. Sort of. "I owe Max. That's all you need to know. The rest is none of your business."

Isabel opened her mouth to argue the point, but Liz spoke up, ending the standoff. "He's right, Isabel. It isn't any of our business why he's doing this. He's doing it, and that's what matters now."

Kyle threw her a grateful look and she smiled in return. Taking over for him, she jumped up. "OK, let's go. Kyle will go to the jail and the rest of us will wait at the cliff. If we don't hear anything in an hour, we'll know something went wrong. Is that all?"

Michael and Isabel looked at each other. "We need to make a couple of stops first," Isabel said.

"OK," Liz replied, then looked at Kyle. "Guys, I need to talk to Kyle for a minute. Can you wait outside for me?"

The others trailed out the door to pile into Max and Isabel's jeep, Maria still glaring at Michael. When the door closed behind them, Liz turned to regard Kyle thoughtfully.

"Kyle, I know I told Isabel the why wasn't our business, but I think I deserve an explanation for... for what I saw this morning." Her voice was firm but non-accusatory.

"You mean when you stumbled onto me and Max making out?" He tried to joke lightly and she returned his slight smile.

"Yeah, that."

"You do deserve an explanation, Liz. I just... I just don't know if I can explain it to *myself*, let alone someone else. About the only thing I can say with any certainty is that... is that..." He trailed off, not sure how to finish what he wanted to say. He studied the carpet, unable to look at her and face her hurt or repulsion or anger.

"Is that you love him?" she asked gently, saying what he couldn't voice aloud. He jerked his head up sharply in surprise, finding only understanding and compassion in her brown eyes.

"Yeah. I do," he replied weakly, the sheer idea of being in love with Max Evans sending faint flutters through him. "Liz, I'm so sorry. I never wanted to--"

"Kyle, it's ok," she interrupted, walking over to stand in front of him. "You and I knew we wouldn't be together forever. What we had was good, but it wasn't enough, for either of us. I'm not hurt. A little surprised at who it was you finally did give your heart to," she smiled teasingly, "but not hurt."

He wrapped his arms around her and held her in a tight hug. "God, Liz, you're so amazing. Someday you're going to find someone who will appreciate just *how* amazing you are." He kissed her forehead and released her. "I should go now. Time's running out."

She headed towards the door to meet the others, then turned back and dazzled him with a warm smile. "Good luck."

Kyle decided the direct approach was the best way to go. Actually, he was convinced any approach would lead to disaster, but he marched towards his father's office with a ramrod straight back and conviction in his steps anyway. He knocked on the door with more confidence than he felt and called out politely.


No answer. He knocked again, then slowly opened the door. The office was empty, only a single lamp burning over the desk. Kyle breathed out a small sigh, relieved that he had some more time to prepare himself before the big confrontation.

(--Dad must still be interrogating Max.--)

Even though he knew this wasn't a dank, hellish prison in some third world country, images of Max being tortured kept crawling through his head and he shivered. To calm his nerves, he sat down in his father's chair and idly looked at the papers strewn across the desk. One particular file caught his eye and he opened it, skimming over the contents distractedly until a picture focused his attention.

A picture of Max Evans.

Reading more carefully, he realized the file was a dossier on all the information his father had gathered about Max, including the events in the Crashdown the other day and Maria's attack last night. He flipped through the pages urgently, squinting to read his father's cramped, tight handwriting as he described various suspicions he'd had over the years.

As he read the report of the attack on Maria, something he saw chilled his blood. A person matching Max's description was seen driving out of town in a blue Explorer with Texas plates, heading south on 285. A New Mexico state trooper had pulled him over for expired plates, but let him go with a warning. Only after the person had driven away did the trooper -- being new at the job and too young and inexperienced to remember protocol -- call in the plate. The car had been reported stolen and the description of the person driving was a man wanted for questioning in several aggravated assaults in the Southwest.

What haunted Kyle's thoughts as he read were the dates of the attacks. Some of them--

(--MOST of them--)

--were at times when Sheriff Valenti *knew* Max was in Roswell. He knew because -- being the methodical, precise man he was -- he had marked down nearly every day and time he had run into Max. The evidence of his father's irrational obsession was right in front of him.

(--He knows. GodDAMNit, he KNOWS Max isn't guilty.--)

"Kyle? What are you doing here?"

His father's voice shocked him out of his thoughts and he jumped out of the chair, clutching the folder.

"You knew, Dad. You knew Max didn't attack Maria and you arrested him anyway." He was surprised how calm his voice sounded.

Valenti reached for the file but Kyle drew it back. Crossing his arms, the Sheriff stared at his son evenly. "Kyle, I don't know any such thing. Miss DeLuca says she saw Max Evans in her bedroom last night. It's in the report."

"The report *also* says that there have been attacks exactly like Maria's in several states over the past few months, most of which Max can't possibly be connected to. Dad, you *know* he didn't do it!"

His father ignored him. "What do you want, Kyle? As you can see, I'm a busy man."

This was it. Kyle steeled himself. "I want you to let Max go."

For a long moment, Valenti didn't respond. Then a short bark of laughter escaped him. "You're kidding, son."

Kyle shook his head. "No, I'm not. I want you to let Max go. Please." He put as much humility behind that last word as he could muster, hating that he was having to beg his father for Max's freedom but swallowing his pride anyway.

"I won't do any such thing," his father responded levelly. "You've got some nerve coming in here and telling me how to do my job."

That angered Kyle. "Do your job? Oh, that's *rich*, Dad. How is arresting a sixteen-year-old kid for something he didn't do doing your job?" His words crackled with scorn and his father's pale blue eyes hardened.

"That's enough from you. You don't get it, Kyle. Max Evans is not just a 'sixteen-year-old kid.' He's not like us. He'll never *be* like us!" Sheriff Valenti shouted now, his careful self-control cracked.

"Like us?" Kyle responded forcefully, raising his voice to match his father's. "You mean bitter and obsessed and vengeful? You're right, Dad. Max Evans is *nothing* like us! God, listen to yourself! You're willing to throw away the integrity of your job, not to mention the love of your only child, just so you can say to everyone, 'Look, folks, the Valenti's *aren't* insane. I was *right*!'. Is that really so important to you, Dad? More important than your conscience? More important than your *family*? God, Dad, I love you. You're the only family I have left. But I swear, if you do this, if you pursue this thing with Max, you will lose my respect and trust forever. There's no going back after that. Is that what you want?"

His father glared at him for a long time, breathing heavily with emotional turmoil. Kyle merely held his gaze, refusing to give ground. Finally, reluctantly, Valenti looked away, his blue eyes dark with something Kyle couldn't interpret. Silently, he walked out the door. Kyle felt his legs go rubbery and he collapsed into a nearby chair.

(--I failed. I failed and it's going to make things worse. Max, I'm so sorry. I tried. I really tried.--)

His eyes blurred and he brushed angry tears away, trying to get control of himself before he had to deliver the bad news to the others. He leaned forward and buried his face in his hands, shaken by the confrontation with his father and the impact of his failure to free Max.


He jerked his head up to see Max standing hesitantly at the door, looking pale and tired but otherwise in one piece.

"Max! What... I don't... Why..." he stammered.

Max smiled at Kyle's confusion. "I know. I don't understand it either. But your dad unlocked the cell door, told me I was free to go, and that I could find you here."

"You know what? I'm not going to question it. Let's just go while we still can."

Kyle and Max left the office and headed towards the front door. From the corner of his eye, Kyle could see his father watching him from down the hall. He tugged on Max's sleeve. "Wait outside. I'll be right there." Max nodded and slipped out the door. Kyle took a deep breath and headed towards his father. Stopping in front of him, he regarded the older man.

"Thank you," he finally said. Valenti just nodded, nothing in his eyes or features giving away what he was feeling. Kyle turned to go again, then hesitated and turned back. Quickly, before he could change his mind, he hugged his father. The other man stiffened at first, before he relaxed and slowly wrapped his arms around his son. Kyle couldn't remember the last time he had embraced his father, but it felt good. Reluctantly, he pulled away. He walked down the hallway to the door and turned around once more.

"Thank you," he repeated, his voice a ragged whisper of gratitude. His father tilted his head in acknowledgment, and Kyle walked out of the station.

On the drive to the cliff to meet the others, Kyle filled Max in on the information he had discovered in Valenti's office. Max was strangely quiet, only asking an occasional question for clarification. As they pulled in next to the Jeep, both boys sat in silence, lost in thought.

Isabel pounced on Max as soon as he stepped out of the car, hugging him desperately and asking him constantly if he was all right. Laughing, he gently disengaged her and assured her he was fine. Michael just shook his hand and quietly informed him he'd prepared a cake with a file baked into it, just in case Kyle's plan didn't work. Isabel let go of Max long enough to thank Kyle.

"I'm sorry I doubted you, Kyle. Thanks." Her hazel eyes were still touched with suspicion and fear, but there was a warmth in there he hadn't seen before.

"It's nothing," he replied awkwardly. "So what's next?"

Nobody said anything, just looked at each other nervously. Liz and Maria had the oddest looks of sympathy on their faces, and Isabel and Michael refused to look at him. Feeling puzzled, he opened his mouth to ask what was going on, but then he saw the Jeep. Large duffel bags were crammed into every bit of storage space available. Suddenly, it hit him.

"You're leaving?" he demanded, to no one in particular. Max stepped forward, his dark eyes brimming with pain.

"We... Isabel and Michael and I can communicate when we're not together. After your father arrested me, I told them to pack."

Kyle couldn't understand. "But... I got you out, Max! My dad's not going to bother you anymore."

Max shook his head. "You don't know that, Kyle. You got me out, and I can't thank you enough for that, but it's not over. He may have called someone, talked to someone about me. Someone who might *listen* to him and come out here. I can't put Isabel and Michael at risk like that. I can't put *you* at risk like that."

"Where will you go? What about your parents? What about school? Do you have enough money?" Kyle thought he might be able to throw enough questions at Max to make him change his mind. The alternative -- accepting that Max was right -- was impossible.

"Thanks to you, we know where to go. South, to find my lookalike. It's a start. We want to find out where we came from and you gave us a start, Kyle," Max's voice was pleading with him to understand. "We've got enough money. And our parents... Is and I will miss them, but we can't put them in danger anymore either."

To his horrified embarrassment, Kyle felt hot tears on his face. "What about me, Max?" he rasped.

Max reached a hand out to brush the tears away, but pulled back as he remembered that there were others watching. He jammed his hands into his pockets instead. "Kyle, even if I stayed, we couldn't... We're just..."

"Different," Kyle finished for him.

"Yeah." Max agreed miserably, his own tears surfacing.

Isabel stepped forward and pulled on Max's sleeve, not wanting to interrupt but knowing they had to leave while Sheriff Valenti was still willing to let them go. Max turned to go to the Jeep, where Michael already waited in the back seat. Liz and Maria moved up to flank Kyle and Liz touched his shoulder, offering what comfort she could. Kyle watched Isabel and Max head towards the Jeep, his heart thrumming wildly.

(--Don't let him go like this, you asshole.--)


Max turned around at Kyle's call. Striding forward, not caring who saw or what they thought, Kyle clasped his hands on each side of Max's head and pulled him into a frenzied, tempestuous kiss, claiming the other boy's mouth with his recklessly. Max responded in kind, clinging to Kyle as their tears mingled.

Unwillingly, they pulled apart at last. Kyle still held on to Max's face, his thumb smoothing along the planes of his cheekbone. Hoarsely, he whispered, "Max, I...I..."

Leaning forward to rest his head against Kyle's, Max swallowed thickly and nodded. "I know."

Finally, Kyle let him go and stepped back. Max climbed into the Jeep and immediately started it up and pulled away, not looking back again. The Jeep tore out onto the highway and headed south, picking up speed.

Kyle mutely watched the car dwindle in size as it sped down the road, eventually disappearing altogether. He kept watching for a long time.


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