FanFic - Other
"Out of the Woods"
Part 26
by Kath7
Disclaimer: I do not own any of these characters. I am just borrowing them. Lyrics to songs by Joe Cocker and Amanda Marshall.
Summary: This story is derived from a challenge from Actrez. The gang heads back to Fraser Woods (from Into the Woods) during their junior year. Tess and Michael join the Evans, while Maria goes with the Parkers. This story is post-Destiny. Liz had just returned from a lengthy stay in England. She returns to find a completely different Max and Michael.
Category: Other
Rating: PG-13
Kyle watched Tess pace the length of the campsite, her form tense.

It was 2:30 a.m. Max, Liz, Isabel and Alex had left on the rescue mission a good five hours ago and there was still no sign of them. Izzy had checked in once, entering Tess' mind to tell them that they were almost there.

Tess had been upset ever since. Her distress had been so great at once point, Kyle had noticed that her illusion had flickered slightly. The Liz figure that had been seated beside him at the fire had disapeared momentarily, but had flared back into existence quickly.

Kyle had been astounded at the detail that Tess had been capable of creating. He could still hear the Alex illusion snoring in the tent beside his dad. To try and lighten her burden slightly, Kyle had suggested that Tess make Isabel, Liz and Maria share the Parker tent. He had watched in amazement as the Liz illusion had gone up to Mr. Parker, had asked if he minded tenting with Mr. Evans that night so that the girls could have a late night gossip session.

"Sure Lizzie." Mr. Parker had said in his usual accomodating way.

"What about Max?" Mr. Evans had asked pointedly, glancing at the Max figure that was leaning against a tree near the fire.

The Max figure had glanced at his dad. "I'll sleep out by the fire tonight with Michael Dad. Care to join us Valenti?" The illusionary Max had sounded so much like Evans, it had made Kyle shiver. He had glanced at Tess questioningly. Her face was blank, her blue eyes wide with concentration.

"Ummm...sure, I guess." Mr. Evans had looked disapointed but the two dads had retired fairly soon after that. Tess had had the Alex doppelganger join his dad in their tent, but had managed to whisper to Kyle that she was going to bring him out soon to rejoin them at the fire so that she could rest for a while.

Sheriff Valenti had finally gone to bed, his expression still highly suspicious, even after the other "six kids" had returned from the forest. He had glanced at Kyle once, his eyes narrowed. Kyle had grinned innocently at his dad, knowing that Valenti was likely seeing right through him.

Tess had heaved a sigh of relief when she had finally let the illusion go. She had been ignoring Kyle ever since. He was worried about her.

Kyle wondered briefly when he had started caring about Tess Harding so much.

When he had dated her that one time last spring, his main motive had been to annoy Max and, he admitted to himself feeling a little ashamed, to hurt Liz. He had seen how uncomfortable Max was around the new girl and Kyle had, for one heart-stopping moment, wondered if Evans was actually interested in Tess. His immediate reaction had been pure, unadulterated joy. Maybe he could get Liz back if Max dumped her!

The way Kyle had felt about Liz...he had loved her in his own way. She was so smart, so pretty, so totally out of his league. Yeah, he was the captain of the football and basketball teams, but his rocky relationship with his dad had seriously undermined his self-confidence. That Liz Parker had wanted to date him - it had been like a miracle.

And then Max Evans had happened. It had come totally out of left-field. Max had always been so quiet, so unassuming, but suddenly Liz was obsessed with someone she had never even really talked about before. When she had broken up with him, Kyle had been devastated....and furious.

Sure, he and Liz had made up a bit during that whole fiasco when he had sprained his ankle. But he had still been angry, even if he hadn't admitted it to himself. The arrival of Tess had been like a dream come true. The chance to annoy had been irresistable...even though Kyle had sort of liked Max by then, especially after the night they had hung out together and Kyle had gotten Max drunk. He had been amazed at the intensity of the feeling he had witnessed between Max and Liz that night. And he had been jealous - because he still wanted Liz for himself, but also because he didn't think he would ever find someone who felt the way about HIM that Liz clearly felt about Max. He should have known that Max wasn't interested in Tess.

As he had soon learned, nothing that concerned Max Evans was ever as it seemed.

After Max had saved his life, Kyle had retreated into himself for a while. He was amazed that he wasn't scared by the fact that Max was an alien. Actually, he was relieved - glad to discover that his dad wasn't a looney-tune after all. He had regretted that he had never had a chance to thank Max for what he had done though - and for having saved Liz the previous fall, even though that had resulted in Kyle losing her.

But Max and Michael and Tess had disapeared for the summer, as had Liz. Kyle had been too late. He had seen Isabel around town with Alex for a while, but then they both seemed to fall off the face of the planet too...only Maria had kept him semi-updated about the others, when he had visited her at the Crashdown.

One day, he had been surprised to see Tess sitting at the counter in the Parkers' restaurant when he had gone in for an Alien Blast.

"Harding." He had said shortly, deciding to walk right past her. He was still pissed at her for having used him the way she had. It annoyed him even more that Liz had been right.

Tess had turned her blonde head, had blinked at him. "Hi Kyle." She had said quietly. Kyle had paused momentarily, seeing the expression on her face. She looked sort of dazed, like she had just woken up from some sort of weird dream. He hadn't said anything else, but from that moment on he had watched Tess Harding...

He had watched her at school, hanging out with a lonely looking Isabel in the quad, glaring at Max once he had started going out with Pam, bickering with Maria in English, yelling at Michael in the cafeteria...

He had been enthralled. Tess Harding was no longer an enigma...she was a real person who intrigued him beyond all others - even Liz. He knew that she was "not of this world" but it amazed him how human she really was. A snippy one on a regular basis, yes, but Kyle liked that. Attitude attracted him.

And one day he had realized that he was in love with her. He didn't really know her and she certainly did not know he was alive, obsessed as she was with Max Evans, who did not give her the time of day, but he KNEW that there was no longer the possibility that he could be interested in anyone else.

"Are you okay Tess?" He finally asked now, realized suddenly how absolutely stupid it sounded. Of course she wasn't alright! She had just spent the last few hours using all her energy to create the biggest illusion of her alien career and she was also clearly concerned about the others.

Tess stopped pacing, stared at him. "Isabel told me what's going on." She said suddenly, her eyes wide and frightened.

"What!" Kyle jumped to his feet. "You didn't tell me this before now?"

Tess grinned sardonically at him. "I was sort of busy Kyle."

"Right, sorry." He gazed at her questioningly.

"Is it really bad then?"

Tess nodded helplessly. "Michael isn't human anymore Kyle." Kyle felt his eyes widen, but he didn't say anything, waiting for her to continue. "It's kind of a long story, but there's one thing..." she trailed off. Kyle frowned with concern when he saw tears well up in her blue eyes. He moved towards her, cautiously put his arm around her, led her over to a log, made her sit down.

He kept his arm where it was. His heart was thundering in his chest. It was the first time she had willingly come into his embrace. Sure she had thrown herself into his arms way earlier that day when she had come careening out of the forest with Max - when Max had thought Liz was dying - but that had been to hide her face from Evans while she worked her illusion of Liz and the blood. Now is NOT the time Valenti! He told himself sternly. "Can you tell me?"

"River Dog is evil...." Tess began, clearly struggling to get the words out. It was like if she said them aloud, they would suddenly be real. "He's from our planet...and he told Max that Isabel and Michael and I aren't important. He only wants Max. He....he called me insignificant Kyle!" Her frame was tense. She was clearly on the verge of breaking down. "I mean...all my life, my WHOLE life, has revolved around the fact that I am Max's bride..."

Kyle felt himself flinch. Tess looked at him momentarily, confusion on her face. He smiled weakly but encouragingly at her. "Anyway, I've like clung to that over the last year. I was sure that Max would eventually accept it - Liz had...I was going to get the only thing I had ever wanted...but then he started acting so weird...and now...what if he's right Kyle?"

Kyle swallowed painfully. He couldn't believe that he was about to give Tess Harding love advice about Max Evans. Especially because he KNEW that Max loved Liz and that HE, Kyle loved Tess. "You said yourself that River Dog is evil Tess. He...he could be lying." He managed to stutter.

Tess tilted her blonde head, eyed him assessingly. "I don't know...Isabel said that Max believed him. Not that it would be bad news to Max." She muttered bitterly to herself.

"Well, I don't think that you should get too upset until the others figure out what's really going on." Kyle said decisively, although he could hear the sadness in his voice. He hoped Tess didn't.

"I guess you're right." She brightened a bit. "I mean, why would Nasedo lie to me all these years?" Kyle grinned weakly, moved his arm away from her.

Max Evans wins again, he reflected bitterly, as he watched Tess go stand near the spot where the others had disapeared hours back.

Part 25 | Index | Part 27
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