FanFic - Max/Liz
"The Return"
Part 3
by Anunaki
Summary: My own version of what happens after the "destiny" episode. Sequel to "August and everything after".
Category: Max/Liz
Rating: PG
Isabel stood on the front porch of the place that had been her home. Once, she would have walked in the door without a second thought. Now she stood there trying to get the nerve up to ring the doorbell. "Any time now, Isabel. Just walk up there and do it." Like so many times in the last ten minutes she walked up and moved her hand towards the bell. She was almost convinced that this time she was going to do it, when she heard the sound of the locks being undone. Isabel wanted to run, but she was like a deer caught in headlights, unable to turn away as possible disaster sped towards her.

The door swung open and Isabel was face to face with her mother. It first Diane was startled by finding someone on her porch. Then, as she looked at the tall blonde woman in front of her recognition crept into her eyes. "Isabel?" Diane whispered.

Isabel stood motionless in apprehension of what might happen next. Then her mother was holding her, gently rocking back and forth. "Oh, Izzy. You've come back to me." The tears started to fall as sherelaxed into her mother's embrace.

"Mom, I've missed you so much."

Diane smiled through her tears. She never thought anyone would call her that again. She smoothed Isabel's hair. "Me, too, honey." They just stood holding each other for a moment, then Diane started laughing. "What are we doing, standing out here? Come inside. Let's sit down so we can talk."

Isabel followed her mother inside. The house was much like she remembered it. Still, her eyes were drawn from one object to another as each little thing brought back memories of a time that seemed so long ago.

Diane couldn't take her eyes off her daughter, afraid if she blinked Isabel might be gone. "Can I get you something to drink? Water? Soda?"

Isabel smiled, happy to have her mother fussing over her again. "No, I'm okay." The two women stood in the middle of the living room, neither knowing how to begin telling each other all that had happened since the last time they had seen each other. Isabel didn't know how much of her experiences her mother would be able handle right away. Plus, she felt that Diane was uneasy about something.

"Where's Dad? Away on a business trip or something?"

"Why don't you sit down?" Isabel didn't like the look on her mother's face. She nervously settled on the couch. Diane sat next to her and took Isabel's hand in her own. "Isabel, I don't know any easy way to tell you this." She took a deep breath to steady herself. "Your father died of a heart attack. Last year. June eighteenth."

Isabel couldn't believe it. She had imagined what coming back would be like a thousand times. She had prepared herself for having to search for her parents or face their rejection. She had never imagined this. "Daddy, dead? How did it happen?"

"He was in Boston. I had tried to persuade him not to go, he had been feeling so tired. But he was convinced that he had just been working too hard lately. He thought the trip would give him an excuse to relax. Plus, he was giving a presentation to the heads of the Department of Justice, it was such an honor, he felt he just had to go. Remember Carl Simons? He went too. He said Philip wasn't feeling well just before the presentation, but he thought it was just nervousness. Then Philip just collapsed. By the time they got him to the hospital it was too late."

Isabel's face was pale. "We should have been here. We could have saved him." Isabel looked at her mother and knew that she understood.

"You mean Max...?"

Isabel nodded silently. Diane was lost in thought for a moment, then pulled her daughter to her. "Oh, honey. I spent a lot of time blaming myself, too. I kept thinking, I knew he was tired, I should have made him stay home. But he wanted to go. I couldn't have known what would happen. Even if you'd been here, you wouldn't have been with him in Boston. There's nothing you could have done. It was just his time."

The faint glow of the first light of dawn began to separate the expanse of west Texas plains from the field of stars above it. Nighthawks and bats swooped and careened around the streetlamps like barflies enjoying one last dance before the cool mystery of the night gets chased away by daylight. Isabel sat entranced, listening to the sounds of Roswell waking up around her.

Too much had happened that night for Isabel to think about sleeping. She and Diane had talked for hours. Isabel's heart had ached hearing about her father's death, but the pain worsened after learning of Philip's reaction to his children's secret. Unlike Diane, he had never had any clue that his children might be a little different. To learn that there was indeed intelligent life on other planets, and he had been harboring a manifestation of it in his home for ten years was hard to adjust to. He became withdrawn, suspicious of people, even those he had known his whole life.

Against Diane's objections, he had boxed up all the pictures of Max and Isabel and refused to mention their names. Before Max and Isabel had left, Philip had become suspicious of their behavior. He believed that the problem was drugs, and had asked around about intervention methods and treatment centers. So when they had disappeared, the story grew in Roswell that Philip fought with them about their drug use and they had run away. Philip was glad to have an excuse not to talk about his children's mysterious absence.

Eventually, Philip had returned to work. Philip and Diane's life settled into a pattern of routine and denial. It hurt Diane to not be able to talk to anyone about how much she missed the children she had raised, but she couldn't really go to a counselor and tell him her children had returned to their home planet. So she resigned herself to suffering alone, hoping Philip would eventually come to terms with what had happened. She had eventually given up hope of even that.

Then one day, Diane was drinking her morning coffee and reading the paper. Philip was wandering around the house, fiddling with one thing after another. Finally he came in and sat by her and stared out the window. He asked her if she had ever noticed anything unusual about Max and Isabel. Diane told Philip about the unusual gifts she had seen Max use and about the time he had saved her from the grease fire. It had been cathartic for Diane, for the first time some of her burden was eased. She hoped it would be a turning point and she and Philip would finally begin to open up about what happened. Although he never mentioned Max and Isabel again, Diane tried to convince Isabel that her father would eventually have accepted her back.

For her part, Isabel was finally able to share with her mother all the things that had happened leading up to their leaving. Diane sat astounded listening to all the dangers her children had faced alone. Several times Isabel could see the worry and hurt in Diane's eyes as she described a particular situation and thought that she should leave some parts out to protect her mother. But she wanted her mother to know everything. She had always had to hold something back when talking to her mother and it had always kept a distance between them. With each shared tear Isabel could feel the distance melting away.

Around midnight Diane had retrieved the family pictures from the attic, and they had spent the rest of the night reliving old memories until Diane, mentally and emotionally exhausted, had headed to bed. Isabel watched the crisp morning sunlight spread across the town she had grown up in and finally felt like she had found home.

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