|"Strong, Dangerous, and Undeniable"|
|Disclaimer: The characters aren't mine, but thanks to Ms. Metz, Mr. Katims, and the WB for letting us play.
Summary: This story begins with the scene in MITC when Liz does her astral projection thing. It follows along with everything in the show, except the final scene in MITC in Liz's room never takes place.
|As they made their way to the dance floor, Max walked at Tess' side, his hand politely at her back to guide her. He was really wishing they could just hurry and get this over with. He felt a little guilty for his attitude, afterall Tess was his friend. It shouldn't be that big a deal to share a dance with a friend, but this just felt wrong. He wanted to be with Liz right now. They'd barely had time to recover from whatever it was that had been happening in that banquet hall. He should be with her, not off dancing with the one person that was a threat to their relationship. |
The press of people grew more difficult to navigate as they drew near the waiting crowd at the railing, and Tess smiled up at him a bit coyly and slipped her hand into his, presumably so they wouldn't lose each other. He offered her a weak smile in return, and she hugged his side closely as they pushed through the throng.
Max felt a wave of uneasiness at her actions. He was alarmed by the vibe he seemed to be picking up from her. Like a 'let's be more than friends' kind of vibe. But he thought he must be mistaken. Tess had given up on the idea of a romantic relationship with him.
Just as they reached the steps that led down to the dance floor, the song that was playing came to an end. Feeling as though he'd been granted a reprieve, Max breathed a short-lived, sigh of relief. But it was completely dispelled with the DJ's next announcement.
"Okay, boys and girls, looks like our band is just about ready, so this one will be my last tune for awhile. Guys, grab your girls and make the most of it."
A single male vocalist accompanied by an acoustic guitar and the muted sound of cymbals keeping rhythm in the background immediately began the lyrics to the song 'Perfect Place'. People paired up and moved together to begin swaying to the music, and Max's uneasiness returned stronger than ever as Tess tugged him down the steps to join them almost eagerly.
Tess was ecstatic at the turn of events. The situation had played right into her hands. Not only had she finally gotten Max all to herself, but now she was going to get to slow dance with him. And she was determined to do exactly as the DJ had said and make the most of it.
Weaving her way amongst the crowd of dancers, she found them a spot where the crush of the couples around them would necessitate that she and Max dance close together, then she turned to face him and circled his neck with her arms. Max eased his arms around her waist and unobtrusively attempted to put a little space between them, then woodenly set them into a slow side to side motion.
As they danced in silence, his eyes shifted around the room, only looking down at her occasionally, and he found himself comparing how very different it felt to have Tess in his arms than it did to hold Liz. The two girls were similar in height, but somehow they felt different in every way.
He and Liz fit together like two interlocking pieces of a puzzle, the contours of their bodies just seemed to flow together naturally. But with Tess he felt all at odd angles against her, and her curves seemed to hit him in awkward places. When he held Liz he never felt like he could get close enough to her. He wanted to be closer than their bodies would allow. Tess wasn't dancing nearly as close to him as Liz had been earlier, but he still felt hemmed in and uncomfortable at the close confines. Mostly, holding Liz just felt like coming home to him. At times he found a passion that was hotter than the sun within her slender arms, but at others she offered him the most serene peace and contentment he could ever hope to find. Somehow, he felt more sure of his place in the world when he had Liz to hold to. But Tess- Tess just felt completely...alien. In every sense of the word. She made him think about things that called into question who he was, where he belonged, and even whether his life was his own.
Max was thankful the music they were dancing to wasn't exactly dreamy and romantic or he probably would've felt even more awkward dancing with Tess than he did already. While it was a slow-tempo song, the gentle beat that drove it kept it from being too soft and mellow, and the lyrics seemed to be about a guy chiding a girl for her false notions of love. His voice was slightly smoky as he sang the words of the chorus dolefully:
There is no perfect place, baby There is no perfect place Forget what you have heard Each and every single word Those fairytales that you embrace No, there ain't no perfect place.
Someone crowded Max from behind, pushing him closer against Tess, and he darted a glance down at her and swallowed when she tightened her arms slightly around his neck and moved a tiny step closer herself.
Desperately, he launched into conversation to try and make things feel more normal between them.
"So, uh-" he cleared his throat. "Have you been having a good time?"
She nodded. "Yeah, this was a really good idea. I think it was good for all of us to get out of Roswell for a little while."
"Yeah," he agreed. Deciding to use this situation to his advantage, he said, "You and Kyle seem like you're having fun." He watched carefully for her reaction. "Actually, I've been noticing that about you a lot lately. You two are getting pretty close, huh?"
Shruggingly, she replied, "Well, I don't know if I'd call us close exactly, but living in the same house and all, we have gotten to know each other pretty well." Even as the words were coming out of her mouth, she realized that Max was right. She and Kyle had grown rather close. Sheriff Valenti worked a lot of night shifts, and lately, when he wasn't working he was out with Mrs. DeLuca, so she and Kyle often had the house to themselves. They'd spent a lot of time together talking and laughing about everything and nothing, or doing their homework together in companionable silence. She was really comfortable with Kyle. It was almost as easy to talk to him as it was to Max. In some ways it was even easier, because she didn't have to worry about accidentally letting something slip about their destiny that would put him on the defensive. And Kyle always listened to her patiently. Feeling as though she'd done him an injustice, she said in amendment, "I like Kyle. He's really been great since I moved in."
"Well, I'm glad you've become friends," Max said diplomatically. " Kyle has probably really needed someone to talk to about everything that's been happening since he found out about us." Encouraged with the way the conversation was going, he pushed for a little more. "But are you sure there isn't something else going on between you, Tess? I mean- because, it kinda seemed like Kyle might have been a little...I don't know, ticked off or something when you asked me to dance."
Tess frowned as she remembered Kyle's brooding look when she'd lightly intimated that she would never get him on the floor for a fast dance, and had asked Max to dance instead. Had he been jealous, she wondered. It wasn't possible that Kyle had feelings for her and she'd been completely oblivious to it, was it? The thought sent something fluttering in her stomach that was a strange mix of intrigue and dread. She honestly hoped it wasn't true, she told herself. There could never be anything more between them than friendship, and if Kyle was hoping for something more than that, she was afraid he was going to end up hurt, and that was the last thing in the world she wanted to happen. She wasn't convinced he was hoping for more, though. Surely he would've given some clue if that was how he felt, and she couldn't believe she would've missed something like that. No, there had to be some other explanation for that look in the game room.
"I don't think he was ticked off, Max. He must've just been feeling...protective or something," she said without conviction. Why Kyle might think he would need to protect her from Max she couldn't guess. "We're just- we're friends, that's all."
Satisfied that he'd given her something to think about, Max shrugged and said, "Well, that's just the way it seemed to me, but you've spent more time with him than I have. I guess you'd know."
Frowning slightly, Tess nodded, and continued to ponder whether this were true or not while the song played on in the background.
There is no perfect place, baby There is no perfect place Forget what you've been told Take a good, hard look at the hand you hold Then put on your poker face No, there ain't no perfect place.
After several contemplative moments, she shook off her thoughts when she realized she was wasting this opportunity with Max, and tried to come up with something suggestive to say that wouldn't send him running. But it was too late. The music had ended and the tinny sounding voice of the singer was plaintively singing the closing words of the song.
Tell me when will you ever learn Will you never learn You drive yourself crazy
Tell me how many times it takes For you to learn...
The words struck an odd chord within her for some unnamed reason, making for a very unsettled Tess who accompanied Max off the dance floor.
~* *~~~~~* ~~~~~~~~~~~~~ *~~~~~* *~
Liz studied Kyle, as he sat in the booth across from her playing absently with the straw in his soda, and tried to figure out how to open a conversation about Tess.
After Max and Tess had left to dance she'd talked Kyle into coming with her to get something to drink, and they had retreated to the sports bar located at the far end of the game room.
Liz had practically had to secure Michael's permission before he'd let her leave with Kyle. He was acting so weird tonight. And he was doing a really lousy job of holding up his end of the 'show Max and Maria there's no threat in this connection' plan. Maria had been standing right there while he'd quizzed her about where she was going like some overprotective father on a rampage.
Not to mention the way the connection had brought him bursting in on her and Max.
Nope, no threat here, guys. Everything is c o m p l e t e l y normal.
Liz mentally rolled her eyes.
She and Kyle hadn't spoken much since they'd entered the bar and sat down. There weren't that many people inside, probably because most everyone was outside waiting for the band to begin its performance. The cozy atmosphere was conducive to quiet conversation, if you could ignore the occasional outburst from random members of the mostly male patronage as they cheered on their favorite teams. There was a long bar situated along one side of the small establishment, and several television sets were set in the wall behind it, all broadcasting different sporting events. Booths such as the one she and Kyle were occupying took up the other half of the bar, arranged strategically around a big-screen t.v. It was extremely telling to Liz that Kyle hadn't even glanced at the football game that was in progress there.
Though Kyle's thoughts weren't quite a million miles away, they were several hundred yards away, and completely focused on Tess. He'd heard a slow song start playing a few minutes after she and Max had left, so he knew they were out there slow-dancing together. He could almost imagine her glee that the situation had played out that way, and part of him was happy for her. The part that had seen her sadness and yearning at Senor Chows' when Max had gone to dance with Liz. But another part of him hated the thought of them out there wrapped in each other's arms. He was worried that Tess would try to take advantage of the opportunity, and if Evans rejected her or hurt her in any way, Kyle was afraid he might have to take his head off. No matter what Buddha might think.
On the other hand, he didn't really like the thought of Evans welcoming any advances from her, either, he thought with a scowl.
Liz watched him as he frowned and jabbed at the ice cubes in his glass. "Are you okay, Kyle?" she asked with concern.
He looked up as if startled to find her there, then shook his head to clear it. "Yeah," he answered dismissively. "I'm fine. Sorry. I was just thinking- about stuff."
"Anything you want to talk about?" she inquired.
He looked at her consideringly for a long moment, curious to know just how things stood with His Royal Czechness. "Are you and Evans really just friends?"
The question came completely out of left field, and Liz's eyes widened slightly at its unexpectedness then immediately dropped to the table in front of her. Fiddling with the napkin that laid there, she replied stumblingly, "Y-yeah. We're friends."
Kyle noticed she hadn't said they were only friends. "Well, how are things goin' with that? You think it's gonna work out?"
She laughed a little nervously and avoided answering by saying, "This is the 'stuff' you were thinking about?"
"Well no," he admitted. "I just mean, I know you and Evans...care about each other. So, the friends thing- is that just because he still thinks you and I-" he faltered, then gestured vaguely and finished uncomfortably, "you know. Or... is it just that you decided friendship was all you could have between you?"
"Mostly the latter," she answered truthfully. Trying to stick with the truth as closely as possible, she said, "Max and I both know that with everything that's going on, and...and everyone that's involved, all we can be is friends right now."
"Right now," he pounced on the words. "But you're hoping for something more later?"
Cursing the slip, Liz replied a little irritably, "I don't know, Kyle. We have no idea what's gonna happen in the future. We're mostly just taking it one day at a time." She looked at him askance. "Why are you so interested in me and Max all of a sudden?"
He looked away and answered with feigned casualness, "I was just...curious about what was goin' on between you two. And where Tess stood in all of it."
Her heart lurched. "T-Tess? What do you mean?"
"I just..." he paused unsurely for a moment, then plunged ahead. "I hate seein' her get hurt, Liz. You know? If she hasn't got a snowball's chance with Evans, I hate to see her keep banging her head up against a brick wall. But I don't know how to stop her."
Liz swallowed sickly, and had to force her words past the tightness of her throat. "Kyle, are you saying...Tess still wants to be with Max?"
Kyle's brows drew together. "Well, yeah. She thinks that's her- destiny, right?" he said, as if the words left a sour taste in his mouth.
"Yes, but...Max thought she'd given up on all that. He thinks she's happy being friends."
His expression doubtful, he said, "I don't think so, Liz. I mean, I don't guess I've heard her say it in so many words, in fact, she's kind of denied it, but I've seen the way she looks at him. And just from the things I've heard her say when we talk...I get the idea she thinks she can't even move forward with her life 'cause she has to wait around until he finally realizes that his destiny is with her," he finished on a bitter note, frustrated at Tess' single-mindedness.
Liz looked at him wordlessly, trying very hard not to look as shaken by this as she felt. Kyle was confirming her very worst fears, and panic and dread had begun to churn within her at his words, threatening to make her sick.
Pushing her trepidation aside, she forced herself to ask the single question whose answer could mean everything to her and Max. Because Kyle had probably spent more time with Tess than any of them, and if anyone would know, he would.
"What if-" her voice emerged as a hoarse croak, and she cleared her throat to get it to work properly, but her words still came out scratchy and low. "What if Max never does that, Kyle? What if something finally made Tess realize he'll never be with her like that? Would she...do you think she might...leave Roswell?"
Kyle blinked. "Leave? No, of course not," he automatically denied. "This is her home. She wouldn't pick up and leave just because Evans..." he trailed off uncertainly when he realized he couldn't honestly say what Tess might do when it came to Max. She seemed pretty fixated on all that destiny stuff. But the possibility that she might actually leave town if all that didn't work out had never occurred to him, and he wondered what had made Liz think it was possible.
He fixed his gaze on her warily and said, "Why'd you ask that, Liz? Has she said somethin' to you?"
"Tess?" Her eyes shifted away as she shook her head. "No, we- um, we've never talked about it." "Well, then why would you think she might leave?" he asked, growing agitated at the prospect. "She finally has a real home here in Roswell, with a chance for a semi-normal life. And she has people here who care about her. She wouldn't just- take off, and leave all that behind just because things with Captain Galaxy didn't go the way she planned. She's got a lot going here. She has to see that."
The idea of Tess leaving really disturbed him. The past few months she'd become a fixture in his life, and he'd grown used to having her around. He couldn't imagine how lonely and empty the house would seem without her feminine presence and the sound of her laughter to fill it. Sure, they did have some pretty frou-frou lookin' stuff sitting around now that served no genuine purpose, but they also had home-cooked meals and clean socks where you could find them. He hadn't been that crazy about her moving in at first, but now he liked the fact that his home was hers. This was where she belonged.
Liz felt hope leap within her breast at Kyle's heated reaction to Tess' leaving. The way he was acting, it shouldn't be difficult at all to persuade him to help them keep Tess in Roswell. Now if only Tess could feel this strongly about leaving Kyle behind, this could be the first step to keeping her here.
"You really care about Tess a lot." It was a gentle statement rather than a question, but Kyle answered anyway.
"Yeah, I do. She's- like family."
Liz was hoping he meant more like kissing cousin-type family rather than a platonic sibling kind of family.
"I've seen the way you two act with each other. You're really good for her, Kyle. She's different when she's with you. Even Max has noticed it," she told him.
His gaze sharpened with interest. "Yeah? What'd he say?"
She shrugged a shoulder. "Just that he's never seen Tess the way she is with you. She seems...happy, you know? Carefree. He wonders if maybe there's something going on between you."
A satisfied little smile curved Kyle's lips. What he wouldn't give to be able to show Max what it felt like to be the reject while he walked away with the girl. The smile slid from his face. Of course, the fact that Max wasn't in love with Tess would suck most of the satisfaction out of it. He gave an inward shake of his head. That wasn't what this was about, anyway. This was Tess they were talking about here.
It made Kyle feel warm inside to think that she might be happier when she was with him than at any other time, but the likelihood of her choosing him over Max and the whole alien destiny thing was pretty slim. Not that that was even what he wanted from her. He liked Tess. A lot. But there was no way he was going to let himself fall into the trap of pining for another girl who only had eyes for Max Evans. He'd learned his lesson with Liz, and he refused to put himself through that again.
Even if it was a distinct possibility that he was happier in Tess' company than at any other time, too.
He sighed. "No, there's nothin' going on. We're just friends."
Liz looked at him searchingly, and decided to take a chance that what she was hoping for was really true. Softly, she asked, "But you kinda wish maybe it was something more?"
He didn't quite meet her eyes as he replied, "Why would you think that? You think you've got some kind of psychic alien thing going on?"
The corner of her lip tilted up. "No, I haven't got a psychic alien thing going on. I told you, Kyle, I've seen the way you act together. And... you just seemed kinda- bummed that she and Max went to dance," a sentiment she could totally understand and sympathize with, she added silently. "And just now, you got pretty upset about the thought of her leaving." She looked at him gaugingly and shook her head a little as she concluded, "I just figured...all that's gotta add up to more than friendship."
Kyle shifted in his seat. "Yeah, well, you're wrong. So we look happy when we're together. Big deal. I had a German Shepherd once that seemed to enjoy my company too, but that didn't mean I wanted to date it. And- I was not bummed she went to dance with Max, " he said defensively. "She can dance the night away with him for all I care. I'm just afraid she's gonna get her hopes trampled on again, that's all. I was showin' a little friendly concern, alright?"
He seemed to be protesting just a little too much, Liz thought, and she wasn't sure she was buying a word of it. "And the part about being upset that she might leave?" she prompted.
Sensing that she wasn't believing him, he narrowed his eyes at her. "Okay, fine. That part's true. But that doesn't mean I want her for a girlfriend or anything. It's just- she can't leave Roswell, Liz. I mean, where would she even go? She has enemies out there. The watcher, for one. She takes off by herself, and she's an easy mark. We can't let that happen," he said emphatically. The idea of Tess being captured by the enemy terrified him. That had already happened twice in the past couple of months, even with the benefit of others around to protect her. He hated to imagine what could happen if she went out on her own. She could simply disappear and they would never know what became of her. He looked at Liz appealingly. "I know that you probably have less of a reason than any of us to want her to hang around, Liz, but you have to see how dangerous it would be out there for her."
"No, yeah, I totally agree," Liz hurried to assure him, bemused at the ironic turn this conversation had taken. Kyle almost seemed to be pleading with her to help him keep Tess from leaving town. "We should definitely do what we can to get her to stay," she agreed. "Got any ideas about what we can do?"
They had only begun to come up with some options when the object of their discussion entered the bar with Max and Isabel.
As they approached the table where she and Kyle were sitting, Liz saw Tess scrutinizing them keenly, her eyes lingering on Kyle as though she were searching for something.
"Hey, the band's starting. Are you guys coming to watch?" Isabel asked them.
Liz and Kyle got up and paid for their drinks, then they all left the bar together. Unable to shake the sense of doom that had taken hold of her, Liz walked close at Max's side, needing the reassurance that only his steady presence could provide. As if he'd heard and understood her need, Max cupped a hand gently under her elbow and stayed close.
Though they'd added someone else to their ranks tonight who would help them try to keep Tess in Roswell, Liz couldn't help but worry that it wouldn't be enough if it was true that Tess still wanted Max.
This past week with him had reminded Liz of the happiness that could only be found in Max, and selfishly, she didn't want to give that up. It had killed her spirit to have to do it before. She was afraid she would only ever be a hollow shell of herself if she didn't have him beside her to make her whole. But they couldn't keep going on the way they were forever. And if they didn't do something to clear up this whole end of the world mess soon, she feared they would never be able to be together.
|Part 34 | Index | Part 36|
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