Disclaimer: Roswell, the characters, and situations are owned by the WB. No
infringement intended. |
Summary: Michael is missing, and Max and Isabel need to find him before it's too late.
|Michael touched her arm. “It’s okay, Iz. We can heal him.” Realizing what he had just admitted, Michael shot a look at Sheriff Valenti then at Liz. Liz met his look squarely, her eyes bleakly apologetic. Swearing under his breath, Michael looked down at his best friend and came to a decision. “After all,” he said, staring defiantly at the sheriff, “Max did it for Liz two years ago.” He paused, looking embarrassed. “Actually, you’d better do it, Isabel. I’m not always the best at this kind of stuff.”|
Isabel nodded, reading both frustration and fear in Michael’s words. Studying him, Isabel realized that Michael looked as if he were feeling Max’s pain in his own body. Her gaze shifted to Alex and Maria. They were standing with their arms around each other. Both of them looked terrified but determined to help. Isabel’s eyes came to rest on Liz last. She had curled herself on the ground beside Max, her face wet with tears, her hand stroking his hair off his forehead, her lips moving close to his ear, murmuring reassurances about love and fear. This is one of those moments Liz was talking about, Isabel thought wonderingly, one of those moments when everything is crystal clear. In that moment, Isabel understood that these four people meant more to her than anyone except her brother. They were all strong and loyal. They were each afraid of different things: Isabel herself of being different; Michael of being put down and ignored as stupid because that was what his foster father did; Alex of being left out in the cold and friendless because that was how he felt at school sometimes; Maria of being abandoned as her father had abandoned her; Liz of living without a plan, of losing control enough to force Max into losing his. But they had all overcome their fears because they cared enough about each other to reach out and become friends.
Crouching beside Max, Isabel tasted new tears run into her mouth. “Hold him tight,” she whispered to Liz, as she peeled away the bandage covering his left side.
Liz gave a small laugh and nodded. “I’m never letting him go after this.”
Standing apart from the group of teenagers, the sheriff watched the events unfold. It felt strange for him to realize that everything he had ever believed was true. He was about to see absolute proof that his father had not been insane. He felt a rush of triumph as he watched the hand Isabel Evans placed over her brother’s wound begin to glow.
When Isabel touched his side, Max shuddered. “Max, look at me,” she ordered, grabbing his chin. He was beginning to shiver uncontrollably. “Liz, do something. This is a lot worse than what happened to Michael. He’s lost so much blood…. I can heal the wound, but I can’t replenish the blood. I need you to hold him still so I can at least heal the gunshot wound. It’s his only chance.”
Frightened that she was losing him, Liz tangled her arms around Max, whispering into his ear: “I love you, Max. Please stay with me. I love you.” In the warmth of her embrace, Max stopped shivering.
Isabel used that moment to make the healing connection. She replaced her hand over Max’s wound, and closed her eyes. Her hand glowed then faded. Max didn’t move.
“Max?” Liz whispered, resting her forehead against his, her eyes shut tightly. “Max, open your eyes. Please.” Tears squeezed out from beneath her lashes.
Minutes passed. No one moved. No one breathed. Then Max reached up to tuck Liz’s hair behind her ear. “Hey,” he said quietly. “How’s my girl?”
“Your girl?” Liz laughed and flung her arms around his neck. “Fine. Now that you’re okay. Max. I can’t live without you. I can’t breathe if you’re not there. I love you so much. I was so afraid—“ Her words tumbled on each other as she told him what lovers had told lovers for centuries – that for her, the sun rose and set in him, that her heart beat for the thought of him alone. Max pulled her into his arms properly and kissed her, cupping her face gently, returning her promises of eternal love, his voice urgent and low.
“Whoa,” Maria interrupted, an indulgent smile on her face. “Cool it, you guys. You have an audience.”
Blushing, Liz and Max fell apart. But Liz didn’t move away completely. She stayed close to Max, still touching him, seeming afraid that he would disappear if she let go.
“I guess that’s what a near-death encounter will do to you,” Michael observed, but his tone was more wistful than mocking. Maria and Isabel exchanged a shocked look. He ducked his head to hide his expression. “What?” he demanded gruffly.
Maria’s eyebrows shot up to her hairline. “Nothing, obviously.”
Michael ignored her. Now that the crisis was over, he could only think about its consequences. He frowned at the sheriff, who was still watching their every move with avid interest. “So what do we do now?”
“What do you mean?” Max asked, sitting up gingerly, still wrapped in the shelter of Liz’s arms. He was still too pale but was improving rapidly.
“I know what he means.” Everyone jumped at the sound of Agent Topolsky’s voice. The former guidance-counselor-turned-FBI-mole stepped out of the shadows near the warehouse door. “And I know how to take care of this situation.”
Intense fear raced through the six teenagers. Their fear connected them utterly. Identical nightmarish images of dissection tables and cattle prods and sharp scalpels flashed through their minds.
But before anyone could react, Topolsky sank a hypodermic needle into Sheriff Valenti’s upper arm. The sheriff tried to yank himself away, but she had the element of surprise on her side. After a couple of seconds, Valenti toppled to the ground.
“Why did you do that?” Liz cried, her eyes reflecting the stunned expressions of everyone around her. She tightened her arms around Max. “He helped us get Max out. He isn’t a bad guy.”
Topolsky carefully capped the needle and dropped it into her jacket pocket. She shook her head. “It’s not safe for anyone to know what he just saw. I just injected him with an amnesia-inducing chemical. He’ll wake up in the morning with a headache but no lasting damage except the complete non-remembrance of this entire evening.”
The six teenagers stared, unable to absorb what was happening. Finally Alex asked, “Why are you doing this?”
Agent Topolsky smiled at her one-time favorite student. “I don’t work for Agent Stevens or for Sheriff Valenti. I work for a branch of the government you’ve never heard of, one that specializes in cases like this one.” Her mouth twisted wryly as she gazed up at the night sky. “I’ve been playing double-agent for so long that I’d almost forgotten what it feels like to be honest.”
Alex frowned. “Double-agent? What? You’re like the MIB or something?”
Topolsky smiled again. “Something like that. I was sent here to find and protect the alien who healed Liz Parker.” She glanced at Max, then at Isabel and Michael. “My mission was enlarged when I learned there were three aliens. I was told to protect all of you.”
“But you said that none of us could be safe with Max Evans around. I remember you said that. And you left Roswell.” Alex was still struggling to understand. His bewildered face comically mirrored those around him.
Agent Topolsky shrugged. “It wasn’t the right time to reveal my cover.”
“It sounds like you’ve done this before,” Alex said when she didn’t elaborate. “Like this is something the government does all the time. Does this mean there are more aliens?”
Topolsky sighed and looked away. “I can’t answer your questions, Alex. I’m sorry.” She looked back at the warehouse then down at the sheriff. When she spoke again, her voice was clipped and to-the-point. “My mission was to protect the aliens in Roswell, New Mexico. I have neutralized the FBI agents inside the warehouse. I will make sure that the sheriff gets back to his office so that he has no suspicion of anything stranger than a hangover when he wakes up. The last thing I need to do to complete my mission is to erase all FBI files related to this incident and preceding events.” She stared at Max and Liz’s linked hands. “My agency will keep an eye on you from a distance. But you should be able to lead normal lives.” Pulling a cell phone out of her back pocket, she turned to leave. Then she turned back. “I told you I was on your side,” she said pointedly to Liz and Alex. With that parting shot, she walked away, pressing buttons on the phone she went.
“Did that just happen?” Alex asked, sounding as dazed as everyone felt.
“I think it did.” Isabel was beginning to smile. “Max. Michael. We don’t have to run. We won’t have to leave Roswell.” She took Alex’s hand. Alex looked down at their joined hands with something akin to amazement. Then he grinned.
“She said we could lead normal lives,” Max agreed softly, smiling into Liz’s eyes.
“She also said that she couldn’t answer our questions,” Michael reminded them. “Which means she knows more than she’s telling.” Michael was already thinking ahead, already eager to restart his quest to find out who and what they were and where they were from.
Maria grabbed Michael’s arm, dragging him back into the present. “Let’s just enjoy this moment, okay? I know it’s difficult for you to be happy even for a minute. But just try. For me.”
Michael stared at Maria. Gradually, his face softened into a smile. “For you,” he repeated slowly.
Maria nodded. “Yeah. For me.” The six friends separated into pairs as they headed back home. Liz and Max walked a little ahead of the others, content just to be together. Their happiness was a tangible thing between them. Isabel and Alex followed, talking quietly together, tentatively exploring the newly opened door to their relationship. Maria and Michael brought up the rear, bickering as usual, but their barbs were gentler than they had ever been.
When they were halfway home, Maria stopped, holding Michael’s arm to keep him with her behind the others. She looked up at him intently. “Michael, I have to ask you. Did you mean everything that you said in the Crashdown?”
Michael didn’t pretend to misunderstand what she was talking about. He recalled every detail of his outburst in the Crashdown. He looked at Max and Liz, walking ahead of everyone, their arms around each other, their bodies leaning together, naturally in step. He looked back at Maria and said quietly, “No. I don’t think anyone can deny that depth of feeling. It’s like a Fabergé egg, fragile and breakable, but so beautiful that it has a kind of strength you can’t even imagine.”
Maria stared at Michael. “That was beautiful. A bit cheesy, but beautiful. I’ve never heard you say anything like that before.”
Brushing a finger along her cheek, he smiled sheepishly. “I know. I’m finally beginning to understand what it’s like.” Then he kissed her.
Far in front of Michael and Maria, Liz said softly, “Max, I was so afraid I would lose you.” She leaned her head against his chest, feeling his heart beating exactly in time with hers under her cheek. “There are so many things in the world that I’m afraid of, but nothing more than the thought of losing you. Because being without you is the only thing that I can’t live with.” She knew she was simply voicing what his eyes had already told her. “Max. My life is in your hands as much as yours ever was in mine.” She smiled at him, her heart in her eyes. “No more stepping back, Max.”
Max smiled gently. “No more stepping back,” he promised. “Liz. Being in love with you is the only real thing I have ever felt. My whole life.” Tilting her chin up, he kissed her lightly. “No matter what we go through, it’s all worthwhile for me – it will always be worthwhile for me – because we’re together.”
Smiling back, finally understanding that her place amongst the stars was less important than walking beside Max, seeing his sweet smile, listening to him breathe beside her, strong and warm and alive, Liz tucked her hand into his, and they walked home together.
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