Author: Debbie
Rating: PG
Disclaimer: Everything belongs to Katims and Metz, et al. I own nothing.
Author's Notes: Thank you, Bennie, for beta-reading and for refreshing my memory on sugar isomers!
Feedback: I'm dropping all pretense of dignity to beg you, please, please, please, tell me what you think. I take both positive and constructive feedback.

"How's this look, Liz?"

It was Wednesday afternoon, and Max, Alex, and I were working on our Chemistry assignment after school. Our teacher had told us to devise a project and present it to the class, so that's what we were doing. We had chosen to work with the molecular model-building set - a bunch of colored wooden marbles representing different elements, and miniature springs as the "electron bonds" to connect them. We were showing how the same elemental contents could be rearranged with different bond structures to form new compounds. Alex and I had taken over one of the large lab tables; Max had laughingly rolled his eyes over how much room we were taking and had simply moved his collection of beads and springs to another table in the back.

"Hmm." I looked over at the molecule Alex had just constructed. "Oh, no, you've got sucrose again. For sugar the carbon atoms have to be linked *this* way." I leaned in so I could reach the tangle of beads and springs, quickly making the necessary changes. "Like this, see?"

"Thanks," he murmured. I could feel his breath against my cheek and I suddenly became aware of just how close he really was. I looked up at Alex to see if he understood the changes I'd made, and found his face mere inches from mine, his brown eyes staring intensely at me. It wasn't an expression I had ever seen on him before. It was almost as if he was going to ...

Before I could even finish the thought, it happened. Alex dipped his head down and brushed his lips gently over mine, causing a sudden electrical tingle all down my body. All I could do was stare in surprise as we parted. Where had that come from? I darted a quick glance over at Max - had he seen? Apparently not. He was still bent over his bead-and-spring collection at the back of the room, seemingly oblivious to what had happened.

Alex caught the direction of my gaze. He suddenly seemed to realize what he had done; his eyes widened in shock and he stammered an apology. "Oh my God, Liz. I'm so sorry. I don't know what... I-- I've got to get a drink. You thirsty? No, no of course not. Ok, well, I'll be back." Then he practically ran out of the classroom.

As soon as he left I turned back to my notes, but my mind was racing. Alex? I'd never really thought of him that way before, but it wasn't really so farfetched, come to think of it. We were both alike in a lot of ways - both pretty quiet, studious, loyal types. And he was pretty good-looking, in a sweet, geeky sort of way. Then I caught myself -- what was I thinking? I had Max, I was happy. Still ... now that the idea of Alex was planted in my brain, I was having a hard time letting go of it. I was just thankful Max had somehow missed that surprising interlude between me and Alex.

Or not. A few seconds later Max put down his molecular puzzle and walked over to my end of the classroom. "Liz," he murmured, as he got to my side, "can I ask you a question?" He seemed nervous about something.

I looked at him warily. "Sure."

He hesitated a second before blurting out his question. "What was it like to kiss Alex?"

Uh oh. My heart started pounding. So he *had* seen us. "Max, I swear, I had no idea that he--"

Max cut me off gently, with a finger to my lips. "It's ok, Liz. I just want to know what it's like to kiss him."

"It's ... just different," I hedged. "Really, you have nothing to worry about, Max. It was just one quick kiss you know? Really..." He was watching me intently, but it didn't seem like it was with an eye for jealousy. It seemed he was really looking for details. A thought suddenly occurred to me. "Max -- are you ... are *you* interested in kissing Alex?"

His ears suddenly turned red and he nodded, eyes cast downward in embarrassment.

I must have looked like a stunned ox because Max jumped in hurriedly with an attempt at explanation. "I still love you, Liz, really I do. Maybe it's just because you and Alex are so similar." I was startled to hear the echo of what I had realized only minutes before. He went on, "I've never been attracted to any other guy before. I don't know what's different about Alex, but I can't seem to help it. I want to kiss him. But I love you and I don't want to lose you. Does that make any sense?"

"I think so," I said slowly. I wasn't sure it did. But then I realized I'd just had my own unexpected musings about Alex. Why should it be so different for Max to have those same thoughts? "Yes, I think so," I repeated, with more confidence this time. "Maybe ... maybe we can work something out."

The relief in Max's eyes spoke volumes. He gave me a quick kiss of his own. "I would really like that. I just wish I knew if he'd be interested. Are you sure you don't mind?" It all came out in a rush. Clearly, he'd been holding this in for some time.

"I don't mind. Besides, I agree -- Alex is pretty cute." I gave him a mischievous smile before schooling my face into a mock-serious expression again. "Now, go on back to your molecule -- we've got a lot of work to do!"

Max gave me another kiss, and then headed back to his collection of beads and connectors. Alex timidly came back into the room a few minutes later, clutching his soda. He eased into his seat next to me and whispered "Liz, I swear, I don't know what came over me. It won't happen again, I promise."

"It's ok, Alex." I smiled at him. "Max knows and he doesn't mind." To prove it, I gave Alex another swift kiss. Alex's eyes practically bugged out of his head in response. He opened his mouth to say something, closed it, then opened it again. "Oh," he finally managed. "Well, all right then." He glanced back at Max before speaking again. "I was afraid he'd turn me into turnip or something. Those powers still kinda creep me out."

"It's really all right, Alex." I reassured him. "Max doesn't have anything bad in mind." I figured I wouldn't mention Max's own romantic intentions just yet - I knew Alex always needed lots of time to digest new ideas. We'd do one thing at a time.

"If you say so, Liz." We returned to our project without any further discussion.


We got the actual molecules set up that afternoon, but we still needed to write out our presentation and decide who would do what. So the following Saturday we met in Max's room; the other Evanses were all out so it was nice and quiet there. We sat on the floor to work, Max and I leaning against the foot of his bed, and Alex stretched out on his belly, his lanky frame sprawled over the floor, and propped himself up on his elbows. We'd been hacking away at things for quite a while before he finally decided to sit up like the rest of us.

"Ohhhh," Alex groaned, stretching his back. "I shouldn't have done that. Now I've got the worst kink in my neck and shoulders." He reached around with his right arm, trying to rub his left shoulder blade, without any success.

"Here, let me," Max interjected.

"Sure, if you want." Alex shrugged noncommittally, and then dutifully turned around so that Max could reach the offending sore spots.

With his talented healer's hands, Max went to work, kneading the knots in Alex's shoulder blades and massaging his neck. The expression on Alex's face turned from a scowl of pain to a look of sheer bliss. I wondered if Max was putting a little alien "oomph" into the massage to work the kinks loose. Whatever he did, it seemed to work wonders -- Alex closed his eyes and practically melted backwards into Max's arms as he relaxed. Max trailed his fingers down Alex's spine one last time and then placed a gentle kiss at the base of his neck as a finishing touch. I held my breath, waiting to see what the reaction would be.

I didn't have long to wait. Alex's eyes snapped open almost immediately. "Did you just...? You did!" He launched himself out of Max's embrace and onto his feet.

Max jumped up too. "Alex, wait, I can explain ..."

"*How* can you explain? Is this some alien custom? Are you gay? What?" Alex pointed a shaking finger in my direction. "And anyway, what about Liz? Aren't you in love with her?"

"It's ok, Alex, really," I tried to soothe him.

"Ok? Ok?! Liz, are you insane? I thought it was weird that Max didn't beat me to a pulp over that kiss in the classroom, but this is totally different." He turned to Max. "I don't know what kind of games you aliens play, but I'm not going to be a part of it." And with that, he turned on his heel and left the room.

Max looked at the empty doorway for a few minutes before turning to me. "I'm sorry, Liz," he sighed in frustration, running his hand through his hair. "I guess I blew it. I seem to be good at ruining things between you and Alex, don't I?"

"Yeah, but he came back before, once he had a chance to process the truth. Maybe he'll do so again," I suggested hopefully.

"I hope so. I know how much he means to you."

"How much he means to *us*. And don't forget that *you* mean a lot to me, too." I put my arms around Max and tilted my head up to kiss him.

His response to my gentle kiss was surprisingly passionate. Maybe it was the built-up frustration at what had happened. Or maybe it had nothing to do with that. All I know is that those kisses blossomed rather quickly into a serious make-out session. It wasn't until some time later, when I was shifting my position, that I noticed Alex was back, standing in the doorway. I don't know how long he'd been watching us, but a quick glance at his jeans showed me he was definitely aroused. And it wasn't me he was looking at just then.

I looked over at Max to convey "See, I told you he'd come back" with my eyes, but he didn't notice. His gaze was locked on Alex's. Slowly he got up off the bed and went over to where Alex was standing frozen in the doorway. He moved cautiously, like he was ready to leap back at the slightest sign of revulsion from Alex. Alex didn't move, didn't say a word. Max closed the gap with one final step, put his hands on either side of Alex's face, and kissed him deeply. Alex responded hesitantly at first, then with more heat. One hand came up to tangle in Max's hair as they continued to kiss.

When Max pulled away again, I could see that Alex's eyes were still closed, as if he was still in ecstasy over the kiss. I couldn't blame him -- Max's kisses were pretty potent. I was still feeling the effects myself... or was I feeling warm because of the intense interaction going on in front of me?

Alex finally managed to find his tongue. "Oh, man," he groaned. "What am I doing? Does this make me gay now?"

"Probably not, Alex," I answered. "Remember who you were kissing the other day?" And to remind him, I went over to the doorway and kissed him again. I'd been too surprised to appreciate things before; this time I took the time to savor the kiss, the warmth and softness of his lips as they slanted over mine. For someone who hadn't done a lot of kissing before, he was a natural. I could see I was going to have to take advantage of this in the future.

"Besides," I added, "the labels shouldn't be that important. Right Max?"

Max grinned shyly in response before ducking his head in agreement.

Alex looked back and forth between us. "Well, I've gotta say this is the weirdest arrangement I've ever seen, but if you're game, I guess I am." He suddenly looked awkward again. "So, um... what do we do now?"

I picked up a notebook. "Well, first we should finish our project. Then we can work on our other chemistry."

We settled down together and got to work.


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