Thirteen Years Ago


Author: Reese
Rating: PG-13
Spoilers: Through part of Departure
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
Summary/Author's Note: This fic is in response to the challenge by the same name at Leta's wonderful UC Liz 'shipping site, Beyond Dreams. The required pairings were Liz/Kyle and Maria/Brody. The rest of the challenge went like this, "AU Departure. What if the Pod Squad had left? When they finally come back, what will they find? Assume Tess had nothing to do with Alex's death."
Feedback: always welcome!


Thirteen years ago.

I still can't believe it.

Thirteen years ago we stood in a chamber, much like this one, and said goodbye to this place.

Michael clearly had his doubts that morning, but his loyalty to Max, and to me, I think, was stronger than any bond he had here on Earth.

I had my doubts as well, but I knew Max needed me. Plus, it was an opportunity to right the wrongs of a previous life.

Despite all of that, I think if Alex would've been here that morning thirteen years ago...I never would have left Roswell. But I guess all of that is really in hindsight. You don't know what you've got 'til it's gone.

Max on the other hand, seemed so sure of himself that morning. He knew he was making the right decision, for the baby's sake, and he was going to stand by it. And Tess was so confident he was going to love her and forget about Liz when we got back "home."

She was so wrong.

I didn't even know, for several weeks after we arrived there, that Max spent many nights walking the abandoned corridors of our once-majestic home, questioning his decision...quietly and only to himself.

I learned of his regret one night when I, too, was unable to sleep because of memories from this place. I heard a sort of tempered sobbing coming from the end of the hallway and knew it was Max before I even laid eyes on him.

It was the same desperate sound he had made the first time he saw a dead dog on the side of the road. He wanted to stop and make sure it was OK, but Dad tried to explain there was nothing we could do for it. Mom and I had spent the next two hours of the trip trying to calm him down.

Mom. Dad.

When I sat down next to him, neither of us spoke. We never spoke on those nights...nights when the pressures of our responsibilities there and the memories of here seemed too much to bear.

I reach into my back pocket and pull out the one tangible memory I had taken with me.

I run my hands along the edge of the tattered photo. Many nights I sat with Max, holding this photo in my hand and crying as he sat next to me, with a picture of Liz, doing the same thing. The image of a boy, tall and skinny alongside a girl in a red dress has faded over the years.

Unlike Max, I won't be able to take another picture to replace this one.

"I guess we should be going."

Max's voice breaks my train of thought.

The four of us stand there, unsure where to go, unsure who to see and how they will react.

We fought for thirteen years to be able to come back. And now that we're here, we have no idea where to begin.

"Should we plan to meet up again later?" Tess looks up at Max, painful doubts dancing in her eyes. It took a great deal for her to return here with us. She knows what it might mean...for her...and Max.

"You two go ahead. Is and I will get rooms at the hotel. We'll leave a key for you downstairs. That way we have somewhere to go if..."

If they don't want anything to do with us.

No one finishes the thought out loud but we all fear the reactions of those we left behind. We didn't know it would take this long to end the fighting on our planet. But that was thirteen years ago. We were na´ve then.

Tess reluctantly follows Michael out of the granolith chamber, but not before looking back at Max, as if she were trying to memorize his every feature. It almost seems like she's not planning on seeing him again, or at least, not in the same way.

She may be right.

I can't help but feel sorry for her--the Queen--whose King has always loved another more than her. She tried to accept it long ago and finally resigned herself to the understanding that her marriage, like mine, was one of necessity more than intimacy. But I think there was always a part of her that hoped for something more.

Max turns to me once the other two are gone. "Do we go home?"

A lump forms in my throat. I never thought he would even consider letting us see Mom and Dad again. How would we explain everything? The Jeep...the tape...where we've been for the last thirteen years?

"We have plenty of time to do that, Max. Why don't you go find the person you really came to see."

He pulls out his worn photo of her and nods in the direction of the picture in my hand.

"I wasn't sure we were ever going to make it back."

"Well, we did. Now we've just got to track them down." He doesn't move except for the trembling of his hand...the one holding Liz's picture. "Max? Are you ready?"

"It's strange. I've been ready for the last thirteen years. I've spent every waking hour thinking about her and what I'd say to her when I returned and now...it just seems to late. I don't think there's anything I could say to her now. So much has changed."

"Max, your parting was a good one. You set her free and she gave you her blessing. I think she'll be happy to see you again...to know what you accomplished while you were away. Either way, let's get going. This place doesn't hold the fondest of memories for me."

"Will you come with me? After we get the rooms, that is? I'd just feel better if someone was there with me. Then we could decide...together...about Mom and Dad."

"Sure."

After all, I don't have anyone to see besides them.

I take one last look at the picture in my hand before following Max out of the chamber.

God, Alex. I wish you were here.

<*>*<*>*<*>

Oh, this can't be good.

Max emerges from the gas station with slumped shoulders, staring at the ground in front of him as he walks towards me. I slide the picture back into my pocket so I can focus on the task at hand.

"Max, what is it?"

He looks down at me with a pain in his eyes that I know far too well.

"She's here...in town."

"Well, that's good news, isn't it?"

"She's married."

He can barely get the words out.

I just sit there, staring at him. He knew this was going to happen. He just has to realize it. He didn't expect her to wait all these years, I know he didn't. But I'm sure there was a small part of him that hoped she would.

"Come on, Max. Since they're living here in town, you can meet him and-"

"I don't have to meet him. I already know him."

With these words, something in him snaps. The sadness is gone and replaced with something else. Anger. Resentment.

"What?"

"Yeah, Isabel. Let's go pay a visit to Mr. and Mrs. Valenti...shall we?"

I don't know what to say. It makes sense in a way but somehow I never imagined, and clearly neither did Max, that anyone would marry within the group we left behind. They always seemed like family...we just didn't think they'd actually become one.

"Oh, and after that, we should stop in and say hello to Mr. and Mrs. Brody Davis. Assuming Michael hasn't killed him by now."

"What?" I get up from the bench, apparently too quickly because everything gets a bit blurry for a moment, and take a step closer to him. "Maria and-"

"We need to find Michael." Max knows that, despite many years of experience, Michael still has a tendency to react rather than think.

I close my eyes and reach out with my mind.

"He doesn't know yet." I would have sensed the rage if he did.

"Tell him to meet us at the Crash-"

"He'll meet us in the park. He's already on his way."

Old habits die hard.

"Is Tess still with him?"

"No, she apparently went her own way."

Max hesitates before speaking. He's obviously concerned about her. We all sensed her doubts and fears about coming back and now Max is debating whether or not he should go after her. After all, she is a part of him...a part of us. But he decides to deal with Michael first. "Let's get to Michael then."

I am not looking forward to telling Michael. He believed Maria would wait. We discussed the fact that our relationship back home was separate from the feelings we had for those here on Earth. We had kept up the pretense of a married couple after the wedding, but war and politics kept us apart as it was. The few nights we did have together were spent reminiscing about our times here...with Maria...and Alex.

<*>*<*>*<*>

Michael sits on one of the park benches and puts his head in his hands.

"Maxwell. Are you sure?"

"Yes, Michael. I'm sorry."

Michael looks up. "What about Liz?"

A flash of pain crosses Max's face before he answers.

"You must mean, Mrs. Kyle Valenti."

Michael looks from Max--to me--and back again.

"Maxwell, I'm..." Michael tries desperately to come up with something but finally surrenders to the shock of it all. "I don't know what to say."

"Yeah. Neither did I." Max puts his hand on Michael's shoulder. "Looks like we were both wrong, huh?"

My heart is breaking for the two men in front of me...my family. We have been through so much together over the years and seeing them in this pain brings back memories of my own pain from so long ago.

"Well, I better get going."

"Michael, where are you--?" Max doesn't know if Michael should be alone after hearing such news.

"To see Maria...Davis." The last name comes out as barely a whisper.

"And you," Michael points to Max, "need to go find Liz."

Max is silent as he looks away from Michael. It's obvious he wasn't planning on it.

"Is, make sure he does it. You and I both know he'll regret it the rest of his life if he doesn't." He moves closer to Max and looks him in the eyes. "Go. If nothing else, make sure she's all right. Make sure he's treating her right."

He starts to step away. "You owe her that." And with those words, he is gone.

I wait a minute before speaking. "Max...do you even know where to look?"

"The Crashdown."

<*>*<*>*<*>

I don't know if I'm ready for this.

Max reaches out and opens the door to the Crashdown.

There's no going back now.

We both pause in the doorway to absorb all the changes around us. The aqua uniforms have been replaced by a dress code of black shorts and either a black or "alien" green T-shirt. We see different variations of the shirt hanging on the wall.

I hear Max chuckle next to me. He points to the ones in the middle. They have the same front, with the Crashdown logo, but the back shows a picture of a celebrity with the caption: "Alien?" In big letters and then under it, in smaller letters: "You never know." There's one with Michael Jordan and another with Michael Jackson. We don't recognize some of the other faces.

A bouncy little blonde interrupts our observing. "Hi! Welcome to the Crashdown. Can I get you a table? Front or back?"

"Excuse me?" We look at each other, confused by the option.

"Are you here for the alien-themed diner in the front or the sports bar in the back."

She's talking to us like we're idiots. I'm tempted to use my powers to teach her a little something about customer service.

"Actually, no...we were wondering who runs this establishment now...and if they're here?"

"Ummm..." She looks around likes she's trying to see if they're in.

Wouldn't this girl know whether or not her boss was in?

"Mrs. PV isn't in today..." She cranes her neck trying to see into the back, I guess, "but I think Mr. V is. Do you want me to get him?"

"Mrs. PV?"

The girl looks at Max as though not knowing this "Mrs. PV" is a crime.

"Mrs. Parker-Valenti...Mrs. PV. Do you want me to get Mr. V or not?" She has eyed some of her high school buddies that entered behind us and clearly wants to be with them rather than trying to explain to us who's who.

Max hesitates, so I answer. "Is he in the back?" She nods yes. "We'll just see our way back then."

I can't resist the temptation. As we pass her by, I use a quick wave of my hand to exact revenge.

That'll teach her to never talk to a king like that again.

I look back before we pass through the doors to the sports bar. The group the girl so badly wanted to join is sitting there laughing at her where she stands.

I guess green teeth are funny to some people.

"Isabel. Don't do that." I am reprimanded from behind.

"What? I was doing that in your honor."

"Well...don't. We've got enough going on right now. We don't want to have to explain why all these weird things happen around us...like in high school."

I can see it in his eyes. He's remembering the day he saved Liz...and all the rumors that started because of it.

Just before we pass through the door, Max points to the sign above: "Jim's."

"Are we sure we want to do this? In public? At his place of business?" Max is trying to get out of facing Kyle.

I close my eyes and let my senses survey the room. "There's only four people in there. One at the bar and three playing pool in the corner." I hesitate for a moment. "I'm going in. Are you coming?" I don't wait for an answer.

Here it goes...

I am practically holding my breath as I turn the corner. I try to take in my surroundings, hoping no one will notice me just yet. I want to see what they've created back here. Max is standing next to me, doing the same.

One of the pool players calls out to the guy at the bar.

"So, Kyle...where's that good lookin' wife of yours today?"

I can feel Max stiffen next to me.

Kyle's back is to us but his voice is unmistakable.

"She's saying goodbye to her folks...and the Evans."

I can't breathe.

"They headin' back to Florida already?"

"Already? They've been here two weeks. Two very long weeks."

"How are they likin' it down there, anyway? I just can't imagine Jeff Parker sitting around all day doin' nothin' but soakin' up rays, you know?"

"Oh, they love it. Probably the best move they ever made. It's been good...for all of them."

"How are Phillip and Diane doin'? Retirement treatin' them good, I hope."

Max is holding my hand. Tightly.

"Yeah, Jeff and Nancy say they're doing great. Moving out of this town and finally letting work go was what they needed. You should see Phillip...I swear he's stopped aging since they moved down there."

This comment is met with some chuckles in the corner.

"How's his wife doin?"

Kyle hesitates before answering. My turn to squeeze Max's hand. Tightly.

"Well, let's put it this way. When they came into town and we met them at the airport, that was the first time Diane didn't just burst into tears at the sight of Liz."

"Oh, that's right. Your Liz dated one of those kids who died in that freak accident all those years ago."

Kyle's voice was quiet. "Yeah. She did."

The three men in the corner finish off their beers and start for the door. The chatty one signals he'll meet them outside and then makes his way to Kyle at the bar and puts a hand on his shoulder.

"Well, Kyle. I hope this doesn't come off wrong or nothin', but there's got to be a part of you that sees the silver lining in that cloud, huh?"

I think Max is going to break my hand.

"Actually, Sal...believe it or not...I'd be willing to give all this up if it meant those four were here with us today."

The man is clearly shocked...and touched by Kyle's remark.

"Son, your father would be proud, you know that? He'd be damn proud of the man you've become."

Kyle puts a hand on top of the one on his shoulder. "Thanks, Sal. You know what that means to me."

Sal pats him on the back and makes his way to the exit at the back of the bar. "Close up, Kyle. Go home and spend some time with your wife."

"I'm planning on it. Have a good one, Sal." The man exits out the back door with a wave.

He's alone now. Max is shaking. Or is that me?

"Kyle?" I'm shocked to hear my brother's voice.

Damnit, Max...I wasn't ready yet.

"Yeah, that's me...what can I get ya?" He finishes organizing the papers in front of him and starts to spin the stool around to face us.

I don't think I've ever been this scared in my life.

Max takes a step forward as Kyle looks up from the bar.

I think my knees are going to give out.

His eyes lock on my brother's. He says nothing at first, just stares at a ghost from his past.

He rises, ever so slowly, from the stool. "Max?"

I can feel my brother's fear. "Yes."

Kyle makes a sudden move towards him. I close my eyes and feel the power rushing through me. I raise my hand to protect my brother...

"Isabel! No!" I look up and find my brother engaged in a bear hug...with Kyle Valenti. Kyle pulls back, to see what Max is yelling about.

"Sorry, Kyle. It's just...habit."

He looks at me, shocked at first, and then hesitantly makes his way towards me.

"I don't know if it's possible, Isabel Evans, but you are just as, if not more beautiful than before." With this, he embraces me and I can feel the tears in my eyes. I never expected this welcome. Not from him...not from anyone. I throw my arms around him and whisper a thank you before reluctantly pulling away.

He takes a step back and looks us both over. "So why are you...I mean, when did you...I mean-"

"Just arrived today. Don't know how long we'll be here. And to be honest, I don't think we really know why we're here. We just...wanted to be." Max's answer is an honest one. We didn't really come with much of a plan...just a desire to get here.

"Wow." Kyle runs his hands over his face and then through his hair. Suddenly, his smile disappears.

"Where's Tess? And Michael? What-"

"They're here as well." I cut him off before his imagination runs wild.

He breathes a sigh of relief. "Well, where are they?"

"Tess is...around and Michael...he's on his way to see Maria."

Kyle looks at us, panic in his eyes. "Look, Max, I don't know if you know...I mean, if he knows...but Maria is-"

"Married. He knows. And it's OK, he's not going to hurt anybody. I think he just wants to see her...make sure she's OK...that sort of thing. He's probably at the UFO Center by now. Figured that was the logical place to start."

Kyle looks like he's going to be sick.

"Actually, Max. That's not...I mean, Maria," his voice gets softer with every word, "...is gone." The look in his eyes is unmistakable.

"What?" I am the first to respond. I turn to Max, questions flaring in my eyes. "But you said..."

"The guy just told me they got married. Once I found out about...once I found out what I needed to know, I didn't stick around. I just walked out."

Max can't even look at Kyle. He's ashamed for being so mad about their marriage. Especially after the warm welcome...and what we overheard earlier.

I'd be willing to give all this up if it meant those four were here with us today.

No matter what happens...no matter where I end up in this universe...those words will comfort me. Always.

"She's going to be thrilled to see you, Max."

Max looks at Kyle with surprised eyes. Kyle just returns the look with a smile of his own...welcoming, reassuring and supportive.

"I think we need to go find Michael." I hate to disturb their bonding, but Michael is going to need our support when he hears the news.

"You're probably right. Let's-"

"Guys, give me two minutes and I'll drive you there myself. No offense, but I want to make sure Michael doesn't take out his frustrations on Brody. He's been through enough lately as it is."

I'm almost afraid to ask the question...

"When did Maria...when did it happen?"

"Two weeks ago today, actually. That's why everyone was in town."

"What...what happened?" Max is barely able to get out the question.

Kyle picks up his keys and turns to us, "A car accident. A stupid car accident."

I feel sick to my stomach. My knees start to go weak and I can feel my body sway...

"Isabel!" Max reaches out and grabs hold of me. Kyle pulls up a chair and Max gently places me in it.

"Isabel...are you OK? What happened?"

I can't believe, after all these years, he has to ask.

"Alex."

Max kneels down next to the chair and places his hands on mine. "Oh Is, I'm so sorry. I-"

"Oh, my God," Kyle says. Max looks up to see a wide-eyed expression on Kyle's face.

"What?" asks Max.

"Umm..nothing. Look, we need to get to Michael...and Brody."

Max helps me out of the chair and we follow him to the door. Kyle pauses to look at me. He has the strangest expression on his face.

"Man, do we have a lot to catch up on," he says as he walks out the door and into the blazing New Mexico sun.

Oh, how I've missed that sun.

<*>*<*>*<*>

"Michael?" Max is yelling as he makes his way down the stairs into the UFO Center.

"Brody?" Kyle is right behind him.

I stop at the bottom of the stairs and close my eyes, trying to sense where Michael is.

"He's here." Max and Kyle both turn and look at me. "And he knows."

"Oh, no." Kyle starts making his way toward the back office and Max and I follow.

We stop abruptly when we turn the corner and run right into Kyle who's frozen in the doorway. Max and I peek over his shoulders to see what's stopped him in his tracks.

Brody is sitting in a chair with Michael sitting opposite him. Michael has his hands on Brody's head and his eyes are closed in concentration.

Kyle starts to make a move towards them, but I stop him.

"It's OK. Just wait," I whisper.

Kyle is clearly torn and I can't blame him. If I came around the corner and saw that, I'd be afraid, too. But I can sense what Michael is doing and I know he needs just a minute more.

I wonder if Brody will remember any of this when Michael is done.

Finally, Michael pulls away from Brody and puts his head in his hands. It's obvious by the redness of Brody's eyes that he's been crying.

"Did you see it? Could you see everything that quickly?"

Wait. What is Brody talking about? Does he know what Michael's doing?

Kyle is concerned at this point and wants an answer. "What's going on here?"

Michael just sits there, his head still in his hands. Brody answers for them both. "I was just sharing some of my memories with Michael, here."

I guess he knows.

Kyle steps to the side so Max and I are visible to Brody.

"Max? Isabel? My goodness, is that really you?" Brody steps forward and turns the handshake Max offers him into a hug. Then he turns to me. "It's good to have you back. All of you."

"Brody, I'm so sorry. Kyle told us about Maria." Max shifts his feet, clearly uncomfortable in this situation.

"Yes, well. It has been hard. But being able to share some of our memories with Michael has made it a little easier, I think."

It's too bad he won't remember any of this when we're done. We just can't take that chance...that's what Max will say.

I make my way past the crowded doorway and kneel down next to Michael, putting my arm around his shoulder and my hand on his knee.

"Michael," I whisper. I don't know what to expect but I want some kind of reaction from him. His silence makes me nervous.

"She had a good life, Is. A great life. She was so happy." His voice cracks in the end and he turns to me, welcoming my embrace and trying to draw strength from it. He and I have been through so much over the years together. Our bond is so strong, sometimes even stronger than the one I share with Max, that I feel his pain. But mixed in with the pain is a feeling of relief, almost to the point of joy.

The knowledge that her life, however brief, was filled with happiness and without regrets is a relief to him.

Brody breaks the silence. "Before I go, I have something for you." Michael looks up and wipes the tears from his eyes, then focuses on Brody.

"I don't know if you could see this when you...you know...watched my memories, but this is for you." He hands Michael a fluffy book of some kind with sunflowers and aliens all over the cover.

"She always knew you would be back. And she made me promise that when that day came, if she wasn't here, that I would give this to you. For some reason, I think she always knew she wouldn't be here when you came back. I think this was her way of being able to tell you about her life...even after it was over."

Did Maria tell Brody everything?

Brody takes a deep breath and sits down. Kyle is immediately at his side, with his hand on his shoulder. Brody seems strengthened by it and looks up at Kyle with a smile.

I never would have imagined those two being such good friends.

I look back down at Michael who's running his hands over the cover of the gift in front of him. "What is it?"

"It's a scrapbook, that's all I know. I never looked at it. It was for you."

Michael starts to open it but then closes it and rises to his feet.

"I think this is something I need to do...alone." He turns to Brody, "Good luck and...thank you. Thank you for giving her the life I never could." Brody rises to his feet and the two embrace as though they are long-lost brothers.

"If you ever need anything, you know where to find me." Brody pulls out a card and hands it to Michael. "I'm leaving tomorrow morning for awhile but you can always reach me at this number, OK? So if you need anything...or if you just want to talk." He pauses. "Or if you want to go through any more of my memories, we can do that, too. It's up to you."

Michael just nods a thank you and makes his way out of the room. Max goes to say something but instead, just puts his hand on Michael's arm as he passes, offering support. Michael stops and looks Max in the eyes. "Don't worry, Maxwell. I'll be back. I just need a little time."

"I know...and I understand. Take your time. There's no rush. Just be sure to let Isabel know where you are from time to time, OK? You know, so she doesn't worry."

Michael and I exchange amused glances while Max isn't looking. When will Max ever admit he's the one who worries?

Michael nods an agreement to Max's request and then leans in closer. "Have you seen her yet?"

Max glances in Kyle's direction. "No, but I will later."

"Be sure to tell her everything, Maxwell. Everything. Because you never know what can happen...and when it will be too late." Michael looks down at the scrapbook in his hands, proof that what he says is true, before excusing himself from the room.

Max looks at me with concern. I simply nod and smile.

Relax, Max...he's going to be fine.

Kyle clears his throat. "Well, then. Brody, are you joining us for dinner tonight?"

Brody smiles. "Thanks, Kyle, but I think I am going to spend my last night here alone...in the house."

"OK, just give us a call if you need anything."

Kyle turns to walk out while Max and I say our goodbyes to Brody, who gives each of us one his cards. "I mean it, if you need anything...call me."

Brody then looks at me with a sort of newfound recognition and glances at Kyle who is waiting in the doorway. I turn just in time to see Kyle barely shaking his head.

"What?" I feel like they are somehow communicating behind my back.

Brody steps over to me. "Nothing, Isabel. We're just trying to adjust to the fact you're all home. You have so much to catch up on."

Max steps toward Brody and offers Kyle's dinner invitation again. "Are you sure you won't join us? We'd love to have you."

Max, what are you doing? We have to do something to make him forget all of this.

"Nah, I appreciate it though, Max, but tonight is my last night in the house I shared with my wife. I plan to spend some quality time remembering...well...everything. A lot has happened there that I want to remember...and other things that I need to get closure on before I leave."

I look to Kyle for an explanation but Brody sees and answers instead. "Sydney spent her final days in that house."

I see Max lean against the doorway. "But..."

"It just wasn't meant to be, Max. I appreciate what you did all those years ago...but it just wasn't meant to be."

Max and I exchange surprised glances. How does Brody know about that?

Kyle and Brody sort of chuckle before Kyle explains that Brody has known for some time. Maria told him the whole story before the wedding. She didn't want to go in to the marriage with any secrets or lies between them.

That explains why he's so willing to share everything with Michael...he has the full story on their relationship.

We say our goodbyes to Brody, then Max, Kyle and I head out to Kyle's truck.

"Where are you guys staying tonight?"

"The hotel...over on Citrus."

"Well, I don't think Liz is going to go for that at all. Have you already paid for the rooms?" Max nods yes.

"Let me call Carl and cancel those for you. Trust me, it's not like Liz would let either of you out of her sight tonight anyway. So actually, you don't really have a choice in the matter, now do you?" Kyle laughs as we load into the truck.

Max hesitates. "Kyle, are you sure that's OK...with you, I mean? We don't want to impose or-"

"Max, listen. There is so much to catch up on that you're probably not even going to need a bed, 'cause you won't be sleeping tonight. I have a feeling that an all night 'gabfest,' as the girls used to call it, is on for tonight." He glances at me in the backseat with a smile. "And I know Isabel will want to stay with us tonight."

"Why is that? Your place have a hot tub or something?"

"Actually, yes, but that's not the main reason." He starts to pull out of the parking lot. "Look, I can't wait to catch up on everything but if I tell you anything else before my wife sees you, she will be thoroughly pissed at me. So let's hold off on any more big news until we get home, OK?

"Will she be there?" Max is getting nervous just thinking about it.

"Probably not, but she should get home shortly after we do. She's on her way back from the airport because..." He pauses for a moment, then continues. "OK, we have to stop talking. No more talking until we get home. I can't tell you anything else."

Max turns back to me and I shrug.

We've waited thirteen years, Max. I don't think another hour or so is going to kill us.

<*>*<*>*<*>

"Uh...wow," is all Max and I can say when we arrive at the Valenti household. "This is...this is..."

"Big? Obnoxious? Oh yeah, but fun, too. Come on in." Kyle leads us into the foyer. Max and I are immediately lost among all the pictures hanging on the walls that line the entrance of their home. Pictures of both sets of parents, Kyle and Liz as kids and so many other people. Some we recognize, some we don't.

Max stops in front of their wedding portrait.

"Kyle, this is quite a home." It's not just the size, but the feel of it. It's a happy home. You can feel that as soon as you walk in the door.

"Thanks. Here let me give you the dime tour."

I nudge Max to break him from his daze. I think seeing Kyle and Liz's wedding portrait has finally made their union real to him.

As we pass through the house, Kyle explains that he and Brody went into business together several years ago and that most of their investments have done quite well. And their company financed the opening of the bar and the renovations at the Crashdown the year before.

"I swear we should just have one big bank account between the whole lot of us," Kyle laughs. "It's not like we keep track of whose money it is anymore. We all contribute...we're just one big family." He pauses. "That's how we survived...you know...everything that's happened over the years. It's done nothing but make us closer."

I reach for Max's hand. "Sounds like we've had somewhat of a parallel existence then." The four of us had experienced enough pain on our home planet to bring us closer together. We were the only ones who understood each other, so we stuck together as well.

Just then, a phone rings. Kyle looks down at his belt, "Oh shoot...left my cell at the bar. Let's head back downstairs. I have a feeling that's Liz."

He darts down the stairs ahead of us and grabs the phone in the foyer. He doesn't even wait to see who it is.

"Sorry, honey...I know, I left it at the bar...Where are you?...Almost home?...Good, because I've got quite a surprise here waiting for you...No, don't rush--drive safe...Love you, too."

Kyle hangs up the phone and turns back to us. "Let's have a seat in the great room...she's going to be home soon."

Max just freezes where he stands. Kyle walks over to him and gives him a pat on the back as he leads Max into the other room. "Relax, Evans. It's going to be great. You'll see."

I stop just outside the great room to admire yet another wall of pictures when I see it. A frame of prom pictures...including the picture of me and Alex. I pull mine out of my pocket to compare when Kyle comes back to check on me.

"Wow, Isabel. That picture's seen better days." He looks up to see what I'm staring at. "Oh, don't worry. We'll give you another copy. We've got plenty of pictures of Alex around here."

I eye the other end of the hallway and see more frames but Kyle escorts me into the great room. "Liz will show you all those later. They're the more recent ones and she'll want to tell you every story that goes with them. Again, I am only doing this to avoid the wrath of my wife." He laughs as we both take a seat.

Kyle is sitting in an oversized leather chair...definitely his chair in the house. I take a seat on the couch while Max hesitates before sitting on the edge of the fireplace.

"You guys want anything to drink or eat? I know we have plenty of Tabasco sauce in there, it's sort of a family favorite..."

Max actually laughs for a moment before answering. "Thanks, Kyle, but I'm fine. Is?" I nod that I'm OK as well. I think we're too nervous to eat anything right now anyway.

Max starts to say something but is interrupted by the sound of keys in the door. I turn to see his reaction and he looks like a deer in headlights. I can't help but be amused at the sight of a king afraid of a girl.

Then again, Liz was never just "a girl" to Max.

Kyle is even on the edge of his seat. "I wonder if I should get out the camera. This is a moment we will want to capture...I'm sure of it."

The door opens and we hear keys thrown on the table in the foyer. "Kyle? I'm home," Liz yells out.

Max gets up from the fireplace and...

...walks right into the kitchen.

Kyle shakes his head, "He's not going to be able to avoid her much longer," he whispers.

Liz is still fumbling with something in the foyer. Sounds like she's putting things in the closet.

"Kyle? What's this big secret? I hope it doesn't involve going out because there is no way I could drag myself out of this house again today."

Her voice is getting louder...closer. Suddenly, I wish I was in the kitchen with Max.

She turns the corner, head down, as she goes through the mail.

"Honey, I'm sorry. How was your day? I don't mean to-"

She finally looks up from the papers in her hands and sees me sitting on her couch. The mail falls to the floor as her hands reach up to cover her open mouth. To say she is shocked is an understatement. I just wonder how it will go from here.

"Isabel?" Her voice is barely a whisper.

I rise to step toward her. "Yes," is all I can think of to say. I start to take a step forward but Liz comes barreling across the room before I have a chance to move.

This family really has a thing for sudden hugs that look like attacks.

She's holding on so tight I can barely breathe. "OK, Liz...it's good to see you...but..."

"Honey, you don't want to smother our guest, just welcome her home, OK?" The camera is sitting next to him but he's so wrapped up in the moment, I doubt it'll get used.

Liz pulls back and throws a wicked smile her husband's way. "Is this the surprise? Oh my God...I can't believe it!"

It takes her a moment to refocus before she tells me to have a seat. "Do you want something to drink? Or eat? Kyle, why didn't you get her anything?"

"I offered but-"

"We're fine, Liz. He did offer, but I think we're just too wound up to eat right now anyway."

"We?" She whispers. Her voice is full of hope and fear and...

"Yes, we." The voice comes from across the room. Max has come out of hiding.

Before I know what's going on, Kyle is out of his chair and by Liz's side as she goes weak in the knees. Max remains frozen in the doorway to the kitchen. He looks so much like the unsure teenager he was in high school, rather than the King he has become.

Liz Parker always did have an effect on him.

She regains her composure and turns to the man holding her up. "Kyle, is this-"

"Yes, honey...it's real."

"It's not one of my nightmares where-"

"No, Liz. This is the real thing."

She turns back to Max and starts to take one step closer to him. Her eyes are so focused on his, like she fears he will disappear if she blinks.

He starts to take a step toward her, the same fear in his eyes. I know he has suffered many a night dreaming about Liz, then waking up to realize where he was...and where she was not.

Max doesn't get the attack hug treatment. Instead, Liz stops just in front of him and reaches her hand out to touch his face. Max closes his eyes at her touch.

"Max?"

He opens them to look down at her, to take in the sight he has lived for these past thirteen years.

"Yes. It's me."

They stand there, staring at each other in disbelief, before Max finally pulls her close to him, whispering her name, over and over again, into her hair as the tears begin to fall.

I turn to see Kyle's reaction. There are tears in his eyes and a smile on his face. Without looking at me, he whispers, "She's waited a long time for this." Then he turns to look at me, assuring me he's fine with the scene in front of him.

"Well, Isabel. Why don't you and I step outside for a moment."

Is this really Kyle Valenti...willing to leave his wife alone with my brother...her first love?

Max pulls back from Liz, wiping his eyes, "Oh, Kyle. No, please...I didn't mean to-"

"It's OK, Max. I just figured you two would want some time alone."

Liz looks at Kyle. "They're staying with us, right?" She turns to Max. "You're staying here? You know that, don't you?"

"Yes, Kyle already informed us that we weren't allowed to stay at the hotel." Max smiles down at her before looking up at Kyle. "Do I need to call them about-"

"No, I'll take care of it. Just remind me after dinner, OK?"

"Will do." Max and Kyle exchange a glance over Liz's head that she might not see, but I'm sure she senses. These two have somehow managed to come to an understanding, without words, about the situation they are in. Kyle is not only welcoming us into their home but offering Liz and Max some time alone...without reservation.

Liz turns from Max toward Kyle, and in the process, her eyes go wide at the sight of me...like she's just realizing I'm here.

"Oh, my God...Isabel!" She turns to Kyle and the two of them seem to communicate without words.

"What?" I ask, looking from one to the other, trying to figure out what the fuss is about.

Liz's eyes are still on her husband, a look of disbelief on her face. "Really?" she asks him.

"Really."

"But...?"

"Soon."

"What?" I ask again, this time a little louder. "What are you two talking--or not talking--about?" I turn to Max but he looks as confused as I do.

"Umm...nothing. We'll talk about it later." She smiles at Kyle before turning back to me. "We just have so much to catch up on. It's been a long time. A lot has happened since you left." She turns back to Kyle, "...a lot." He nods in agreement, a devious smile on his face.

These two have their own language now. It's amazing to watch.

"Where's-" Liz begins to ask.

"They're here, too. Just not here yet." Kyle turns to us. "We should probably track them down, let them know to meet us here for dinner." He starts to head for his keys.

"That won't be necessary, Kyle." Max turns to me. "See where Michael is...let him know where we are."

I close my eyes and try to locate him. "He already knows...he's on his way."

"Is Tess with him?"

"Nope, that's your department."

Max closes his eyes, then suddenly takes a step back. "Kyle...your dad?"

Kyle is sitting now, on the fireplace, and Liz makes her way to him, putting her arm around his shoulders.

"Yeah, a year ago next month. How'd you know?"

I turn to Max, trying to read his expression. Does he mean what I think he does?

"That's where Tess is. She's saying goodbye." He looks at me. "She's on her way, too."

There is a moment of silence.

"Is Brody coming over tonight?" Liz asks Kyle, who is motioning for us to have a seat.

"No, he wanted to spend his last night in the house alone."

"I was so sorry to hear about Maria, Liz." It's all I can think of to say.

"Yeah, me too. I wish...I wish we could have been here for you."

Kyle places a supportive hand on her knee as she speaks to Max. I don't think this is a subject she's ready to talk about yet.

"Thanks, but you're here with us now which is more than I could have imagined." She turns to Kyle. "So what are we doing for dinner? Are we going to have any other guests?"

He looks up at her with a smile. "I figured we'd do the usual. The food should be here soon."

"We're not going to have enough. This is a little more than our usual Monday night crowd."

"Don't worry, we'll improvise if we have to." Kyle looks at me, then Max. "I still can't believe it...I can't believe you're all here."

"Trust me, neither can we."

We hear a knock at the door. Kyle and Liz sit up for a moment like they're expecting something but it apparently doesn't happen because Kyle starts to make his way to the door. "Coming."

Liz turns to Max, "How long are you here for?"

"We don't know. We never really gave much thought to what we'd do when we got here. We just wanted to get here."

Liz gets up and moves towards Max. "So we could talk tomorrow? I don't think tonight is going to be a good time." She throws a glance my way. "It's going to be a very busy night."

"Sure, no problem...I mean...that'd be great."

Michael appears first, the scrapbook still in his hands. He goes directly to Liz and picks her up off the ground in a hug. "I'm sorry. I'm so sorry. I wish I could have been here...for you...for all of you."

He releases her from the embrace and she looks down at the scrapbook. "Did that...answer your questions?"

"I haven't been able to open it yet."

"You should, Michael. I don't know everything that's in there but I know enough to say it will make this all easier...so much easier for you." She waits for a response before continuing. "Why don't we put this up in your room and that way you can slip up there at any time to look at it. OK?"

"Are we staying here?" he asks, looking to Max who nods yes. He turns back to Liz, an appreciative smile on his face. "That'd be good, just point me in the right direction."

"Go into the kitchen there, up those back stairs and turn left. Last door on your left." She pauses. "Take your time, Michael. We'll call you when dinner's here."

He reaches down and places a kiss on her forehead. "It's good to see you."

"Good to see you, too, Michael."

As Michael disappears into the kitchen, I realize that Kyle is nowhere to be found. "Where did Kyle go?"

Max answers, "Tess is here. He's with her." Judging by the smile on his face, Max has picked up on Tess' excitement to see Kyle again.

"I'm right here. I'm right here." Kyle enters with Tess slung over his shoulder.

"Kyle! Put me down. What are you-" Tess is laughing uncontrollably but trying to put up a fight.

He finally releases her and once she is on solid ground, she slaps him on the arm in mock anger. Then she just stops and stares at him for a moment, letting it all sink in.

"Kyle, I was so sorry to hear about your dad."

His smile falters a bit. "Yeah, but it's good to have you all home." He turns to Liz. "We always gain one for every one we lose, it seems."

She smiles back at him and it looks as though they're remembering the last thirteen years together... the good times and the bad. And it seems they've shared a lot of both.

Michael reappears from the kitchen as Tess takes a seat on the couch and Kyle returns to his place next to Liz by the fireplace.

"This is quite a spread you've got here, guys." Michael doesn't seem at all surprised. Then I realize...he'd probably already seen it in Brody's memories.

"Thanks, Michael. Hey, have a seat, make yourself at home." Kyle looks down at his watch. "Dinner should be here any minute." Kyle and Liz exchange that look again. I can't describe it. It's like they know something we don't.

"When did you order dinner?" Max, nor I, remember seeing either of them on the phone.

"Oh, it always comes this time of night on Mondays. It's sort of a ritual."

An overwhelming sense of loneliness comes over me at the thought of having a normal life with a daily routine...and sharing it with someone you love. I need to get out of the room for a moment to pull myself together. "Liz, you mind if I get something to drink?"

"Oh sure, let me get it for you." Liz starts to get up from her spot next to Kyle.

"No, you keep on talking. I'm sure I can find my way around."

I make my way into the kitchen as I hear Kyle call out, "If you want Tabasco sauce, there's some in the pantry."

He wasn't kidding. There must be a case of Tabasco sauce in here. Were they expecting us or something?

I start to ask them what all this Tabasco sauce is about, when I hear someone at the door. A quick knock and then I hear the door open.

How rude. Who just lets themselves into the house like that?

I take my glass of water in hand and start making my way back to the others when I hear the voice in the foyer.

"Honeys? I'm home!" followed by a chuckle. "And I come bearing, quite simply, a cornucopia of Chinese take-out. I just couldn't resist trying this sweet and spicy sampler thing...figured at least the two of you would like it."

A pause.

"Guys? Where are you?"

"In here." Kyle looks at Liz who has her eyes on me...like she's waiting for something.

The room is silent and the footsteps are getting closer.

"Well, is somebody going to help me carry it all in or-"

I didn't know I had let go of the glass until I heard it shatter at my feet.

Is this a dream? Some trick? Is this their revenge for us leaving them all those years ago?

The pace of the footsteps quickens. "Liz? Kyle? Is that you? Everything OK?"

Oh. My. God.

There's no way...absolutely no way...this is happening. It can't be...it can't be him.

"Alex?"

He is frozen at the other end of the room. He glances at Liz and Kyle, sees they're OK, and then his eyes survey the other members of the room before his gaze settles back on me.

"Isabel?" He starts to take a step towards me but Max is at my side and Michael is in front of me before he takes another step.

"Who are you?"

"Michael, it's-"

"No, you're not. Alex is dead. We saw the body."

"It's probably a shape-shifter, Michael. Last I heard, there was still one unaccounted for in this area." Max leaves my side and takes his place next to Michael.

"He asked you a question. Who are you? And why are you here?"

Liz places herself between Max and Alex before speaking. "Max." He looks down at her as she continues, "It's him. It's Alex."

"But that doesn't make any sense! I saw the body. I tried to heal it."

"You know that unaccounted shape-shifter you were talking about?" Max nods. "Let's just say...he's accounted for." Kyle waits to see if Max understands.

"You couldn't heal him because you can't heal one of your own, or whatever, without those healing stones, right? Alex wasn't even in the country when it happened. He arrived home at the end of the semester, right before summer break."

"Right after we left..." There is something so wonderful yet so cruel about this. He's alive, if that is indeed him, but I missed spending the last thirteen years of my life with him by a matter of a few days.

"I wish I would have been there...to say goodbye." I see he's looking at me from across the room, trying to judge how I'm taking the news. I want to reach out to him...I want him to hold me. But I need proof that it's really Alex because I couldn't go through losing him again.

"How in the world...? OK, somebody please explain this to me." Michael is getting agitated. He doesn't know what to believe either.

Liz, Kyle and Alex look at each other, trying to decide who should tell the tale. Alex seems to be reeling from my presence as much as I am from his, so Liz decides to fill in the blanks.

"Alex was in Sweden. He was there for the whole semester. The Alex we knew, the one that came home early, was a shape-shifter and-"

"Wait. No. A shape-shifter kills its target before taking on their appearance." Michael thinks he's found a flaw in their logic.

"They don't have to." They all turn to Tess...except me and Alex. We refuse to look away from each other, like we're afraid the other will disappear if we do.

"What are you talking about? Nasedo always-"

"It's safer to kill the person whose appearance you take on because that way you guarantee there won't be two of you in the same place at the same time...but it's not necessary."

Liz picks up from there. "The shape-shifter had apparently been watching us for some time so when Alex went overseas, he saw it as the perfect opportunity to assume his identity and therefore walk freely among us and get access to that book. Luckily, he didn't see the need to kill Alex because, by the time Alex returned, you would already be long gone...and so would he."

"Wait. How do you know all this? How do you know the body we saw was a shape-shifter? And why would it still look like Alex after it's dead? Wouldn't it change back into...its original form or something?" There is something eerily familiar about Max questioning Liz's theories on Alex.

"The shape-shifter died in that car accident...it was real. But Liz was still on a mission to figure out what really happened to Alex, even after you left, and then one day..."

"I just appeared." Alex finishes Kyle's sentence, finally turning to face the two men in front of him who still question his very existence. "I understand why you have doubts but it is me. I didn't die in any accident. We can prove it."

"How?"

Liz answers. "We...um...dug up the body that was buried after Alex returned. We couldn't believe it was him but he swore up and down he had no idea what we were talking about. I ran some tests on the body that was buried in his place...it wasn't human. But this Alex is."

The sound of my own voice scares me. "Liz...are you...sure?"

"It's him, Isabel. I promise."

I'm not sure how I got there, but the next thing I know, I'm in his arms. He's holding me so tight that I think my lungs might collapse...and I don't even care.

"You looked really great in that red dress. Wish I had been there to see it," he whispers into my hair. And somehow those words, and the way he feels in my arms, convinces me Liz is right. This really is Alex.

I hear Kyle get up behind us and make his way to the door. "I'm going to get dinner out of the car. All of this reuniting is making me hungry."

Tess follows him out while Liz, Max and Michael make their way into the kitchen. "We're going to clear off the table so we can eat. Join us when you're ready." I don't even have to look at Liz to sense the smile on her face. I think she's almost as happy to see us together as I am.

Almost.

Alex finally starts to pull away but I won't let go. I will never let go again.

"Isabel, it's OK. I'm here. I'm not going anywhere...are you?"

"No, not if you don't want me to." I finally pull away from him, keeping both my hands on his arms.

"I don't. I most certainly don't." He smiles as he places a kiss on my forehead. "Isabel Evans. Isabel Evans. I just don't believe it. When did you...I mean, why are you--"

"We did what we needed to do back home. All we ever wanted was to come back here. So once things were settled at home, we did just that."

"But Liz and the others said the granolith was only good for one trip, or something like that, so I never thought you'd be back. I didn't think you could come back."

"It was only good for one trip home because that's all it was programmed for. It's a real drain on our resources, but being that we are the royal family and all..."

He laughs before taking my hand. "I think we should go in. Smells like the food is on the table."

We enter the kitchen, hand in hand, and find two seats waiting for us at the make shift dinner table.

"Have you still not gotten a formal dining room set, guys?" Alex asks.

Liz laughs as she brings another plate of food to the table. "No, Alex. We're still trying to decide if it's worth it. Personally, I like this little setup...but we'll see."

I turn to Alex. "Don't you live here, too?"

"Ummm...sort of. This is home base for me but I travel a lot so I don't really have a house of my own."

"But this is your home," Liz says to Alex before turning to me. "Alex owns part of this house along with the rest of us but insists on staying in the cottage out back."

"Well, sort of." Kyle laughs. "I can't remember the last time you actually stayed the night out there."

Alex turns to me and explains. "We normally fall asleep in the living room when I'm in town. We actually talk ourselves right to sleep, so yeah, I guess it has been awhile."

"How often do you get to come home?" Max asks before surveying the food in front of him. Alex wasn't kidding when he said he got a little of everything.

"Not often enough, that's for sure. And lately..." His voice trails off as he looks at Liz and Kyle. She is standing behind Kyle, with one hand on his shoulder and the other reaching out to Alex. Alex takes hold of her hand and the three of them share a moment that makes the rest of us realize how much we've missed over the years. These three have formed a bond that is unbreakable, which only makes sense considering all they've been through.

Alex looks quizzically at Michael, before glancing back to Kyle and Liz.

"He knows," is all Kyle says.

"Where's Brody?" Alex mouths the words to Kyle, unsure what Michael knows about that situation.

"At the house." Kyle whispers back. "And he knows about that, too."

"OK, does anybody else need anything?" Liz is standing in the middle of the kitchen now, arms in the air. "Final offer before I sit down and you have to get it yourself."

"Sit down, sit down...and eat. You've had a long day." Kyle motions for his wife to join us at the table.

"Hello? Hello?" We hear Tess coming down the stairs.

"This way, Tess." Kyle laughs as an exasperated Tess makes her way into the kitchen.

"How many staircases do you have in this house anyway? I about got lost just going to the bathroom."

We all laugh as Liz pulls up another chair for her. "Squeeze in wherever you can find room, Tess."

"Where are you sitting?" Tess is eyeing the space next to Kyle, and Liz knows it.

"I've got an idea...let's switch husbands. I'm getting sick and tired of mine and I haven't seen yours in almost thirteen years."

I can't believe this is happening. Tess gives Liz a quick smile and then excitedly pulls her chair up next to Kyle. Liz gives Kyle a quick kiss before taking her plate of food down to the other end of the table. Michael gradually moves over, between bites, to make room for her between him and Max.

Alex leans in closer, "Aren't you going to eat anything? Do you need some Tabasco sauce? I know they've got some around here..." He starts to get up but I pull him back down into his seat.

"No, Alex. I'm fine. I'm just...just taking it all in, I guess."

"When I first came back, you know after we established the fact that I was really me, the four of us would sit around some times for hours, doing nothing but being with each other. It's a lot to get used to, I know. Imagine coming back into town and all your friends telling you you're dead," he laughs.

Liz perks up at the other end of the table. "All right. I have so many questions...like what's your home like, how are things there, how long are you here for...stuff like that."

"Well, we have lots of questions, too, you know." Max laughs.

"Yes, yes, I'm sure you do, but the humans get to ask the questions first. Aliens get the second round." Liz sits up higher in her chair. "OK, who's going first?"

Michael actually smiles for the first time since we've arrived. "Good to know you haven't changed, Liz." She gives him a little punch to the arm before turning back to the rest of the table. "OK, I'll go first..."

<*>*<*>*<*>

We all sit back in our chairs, amazed by the fact that we not only ate all the Chinese food but probably half of their pantry over the last couple hours. Even my appetite returned as I listened to Liz interrogating us about our home planet. She's still the same scientist she was in high school.

I feel Alex getting up from his chair. "Where are you going?" I snap. He looks down at me with a mixture of amusement and amazement. I didn't mean to do that but just the thought of him being out of my sight...

"I'm just going to put my dishes up and then go make a couple of calls. I'm supposed to be heading out of town tomorrow but obviously that isn't going to happen."

"Oh, that's right. You've got that big presentation in Seattle this week, don't you? How's that looking, anyway?" There's just something about watching Kyle and Alex like this that reminds me so much of Michael and Max. They know everything about each other.

"Good, good. I'd say it's a done deal. And if so, that means we are all going to be a little closer to retirement." He and Kyle exchange a high five on his way to the sink. "Oh, remind me to leave those reports with you for Brody to look over when he gets back. The three of us need to sit down and make a decision on that before I go overseas next month."

"Will do. Just leave 'em in the office and I'll mention it to Brody."

"What do you do, Alex, that has you travelling so much?" Michael has decided to join in on some of the conversation now that there's no longer food in front of him.

"Oh, the short version, Alex. Please." Alex turns to Kyle, then Liz, with an amused look. Apparently, this isn't the first time they've made that request.

"I work with computers...and make lots of money."

Liz and Kyle break into a cheer. "You did it! You did it, Alex! In ten words or less! It's a miracle!"

Alex rolls his eyes in their direction. "Make fun all you want but I'm hoping to be moving back here within the next year to retire. Then I can just become a regular over at Jim's...right, Kyle? We can drink the day away and get fat on greasy food from the adjoining establishment. It'll be just like high school...except for the drinking."

"Speak for yourself," Kyle mumbles.

Alex laughs before taking a step toward the door. "OK, I need to go make a few phone calls down at my place. I assume everyone is staying here tonight?" He glances at Liz who responds with an enthusiastic nod.

"So does that mean I don't need to bring back...you know...our usual entertainment."

"No, I think we can hold off for a night or two to catch up with old friends...but only a night or two. Then we need to get back to the show. I can't go too long without my Coop fix."

Tess asks the question for us. "What are you talking about?"

Kyle laughs before answering. "Alex got his hands on these special edition Twin Peaks DVD's and somehow managed to hook us both on it. But he won't leave them with us, so we have to wait for him to come into town to see them."

"Isn't that the show with the FBI guy who has a thing for coffee?" Max and I are both surprised Michael knows anything about it.

"Yep, that's my Coop." Liz answers. "The finest man in law enforcement," she glances Kyle's way, "since my most handsome husband is no longer in that field, of course."

I catch a glimpse of Max watching Liz as she flirts with her husband. He doesn't seem sad, just relieved. And so does Tess.

"OK, I'll be back in a few. Actually, Michael...you mind joining me for a bit?"

Michael looks a little surprised. "Sure, Alex. Lead the way."

As he waits for Michael to get up from the table, he leans over the seat separating us. "I'll be back soon. Then we have some serious catching up to do."

"OK." My voice is weak, but his kiss calms my nerves. I just need to stay busy until he gets back.

"If you don't mind, I'd like to take a shower, actually." Tess looks to Liz for directions.

"Go up those same stairs, go left and the first door on the right will be your room. The bathroom is in there, too, and it's fully stocked. Just let me know if you need anything else, OK?"

"Actually, umm...do you have any extra clothes? We didn't plan this return trip very well."

"Sure, there should be some in the closet and drawers in that room. Just take whatever you need. Those are all extras anyway."

"Wow, you really do have everything here, don't you?" And with that, Tess bolts up the stairs. A moment later we hear a squeal from upstairs. Max starts to rise from his chair.

"It's OK, Max. I think she just found out she has the room with the jacuzzi tub."

It's confirmed a few seconds later when Tess yells down, "Thank you!"

There is a moment of awkward silence as Kyle, Liz, Max and I realize we're the only ones left in the kitchen.

Kyle breaks the silence. "Isabel, we can take a tour of the rest of the house now that you can look at the pictures."

"Oh, that's right," Liz says. "How did you keep her from seeing them?"

"Told her you would want to give her the official tour that included stories for each and every picture we have in this entire house."

Liz snaps a dish towel at Kyle. "Very funny. But I guess that was a good idea. Probably would have ruined the surprise if she'd seen pictures of Alex from last Christmas."

"That's what all the looks were about!" I had been so wrapped up in actually seeing Alex again that I hadn't bothered to put it together.

"Yeah, sorry about that. It took me a minute to even realize it when I first saw you. He's been around so long, we're just used to it. I almost forgot you didn't know."

"It's probably the greatest news we could have come home to. If only Maria were here."

Kyle takes hold of his wife's hand. "We wish she was here, too, but she had a good life, Max. A full life. Brody and her were quite the match. Nothing like her and Michael...Maria shared a different kind of love with Brody. But he always knew that and accepted it without hesitation."

I can feel Kyle still looking at Max. "So, Isabel...ready for that tour? I think these two could use some time alone." He leans over and kisses Liz before rising from the chair. He tucks a lock of hair behind her ear with his hand, then caresses the side of her face.

"I love you," she says.

"I know." He starts for the door. "I think after the grand tour, I'll take Isabel up to the observation deck, see if one of those lights in the sky we're always looking at is actually their home or not. Let Alex know when he gets back, OK?"

"Yes, please." I add on, without thinking. This is getting a bit embarrassing. But Liz and Kyle both just smile. They understand what it's like. They probably went through the same thing when Alex came back.

I follow Kyle out the door, but not before looking back at the two left in the kitchen. They are sitting at opposite ends of the table...just looking at each other.

It'll probably take them another thirteen years just to catch up on everything.

<*>*<*>*<*>

"Kyle, this view...it's amazing." We've finished the tour of the house and are now relaxing outside in the night air.

He pulls over a couple of chairs, sets them down and then grabs a couple beers out of the cooler.

"Want one?"

"Sure, why not."

"This is our nightly ritual. We eat dinner and, weather permitting, we come out here to unwind. The best nights were when Brody and Maria came by while Alex was in town. We could sit out here for hours telling stories. Especially since, by then, Brody knew about everything that had happened in high school.

"How did he take the news?"

"Actually, it was pretty amazing. He wasn't really surprised at all. I think he was kind of relieved to be honest."

"Were you all there when she told him?"

"No, she told him, they talked it over and then came over here to share the news. We knew she was going to tell him at some point. We'd already discussed it and agreed it was only fair that he know...especially after he started having the flashbacks."

"Flashbacks? Of what?"

"Oh, right. Sorry, somehow I keep forgetting you weren't around for any of this. When Sydney died, which was...oohhh...probably close to two years after you all left, Brody really fell apart. He and Maria had become very good friends, so she was there for him during the whole ordeal. Then, he started getting these flashbacks of being in New York and other memories he couldn't remember as being his."

"He remembered when he was Larek? How did that happen?"

"We're not exactly sure, but from what Liz and Alex came up with, we finally attributed it to the emotional stress of Sydney's cancer coming back. That somehow it triggered the memories. It was hard to watch and not tell him, because he started thinking he was going crazy. That's when we decided he should probably know."

"When did they get married?"

"About a year later. But Brody had first asked Maria to marry him long before that."

"What?"

"He basically had a standing offer to Maria for about two years before she accepted. He said he didn't see himself marrying anyone else and he couldn't see her with anyone since Michael was gone, so he told her that if she ever wanted to, to just let him know."

"What a strange arrangement, yet sweet at the same time. When did she finally agree?"

"After she told him about you...and the others. He took it so well and it just made sense. He made her happy and they were a wonderful match, Isabel. You should've seen them together. They made more sense than any couple I've seen since."

"I wish I could have been here to see that. I don't mean to pry but...did they not have kids?"

"No, they both agreed before they were married about that. Brody, I think, feared losing someone else, with what happened to Sydney and all..."

"And Maria?"

"Well, Liz still believes Maria knew she wasn't going to live past 30 and that's why she didn't want to bring a child into the world. Not only would she be leaving Brody, but a child as well. I guess she didn't think that was fair considering how strongly she believed that was going to be her fate."

Kyle reaches for another beer and hands me one without my asking. I remove both the bottle caps for us and Kyle laughs. "You're pretty handy to have around."

I sit quietly for a moment, debating whether or not I should even ask the question.

"Isabel..."

"Yeah?"

"Fire away. I know you're dying to know more than that." He turns his head to face me before taking another sip of beer. "She's probably in there telling him right now, as a matter of fact, so I don't see any reason why we can't do the same."

"Why didn't you and Liz have kids?" There is a moment where I want to take back the question, after seeing his eyes cloud over for a moment at the memory.

"We can't."

"But-"

"The doctors don't know why, not even the specialists. And we went to a lot of them, trust me."

"Kyle, I'm so sorry...I didn't mean to..."

"It's OK, Isabel. Really. You've got to remember that neither Liz nor I should even be alive. That's how we look at it. We were given our lives back but in return, we lost the ability to ever have a family."

"Wait...you mean...it has to do with when Max healed the two of you?" Oh God, please don't let that be it. Max will never recover from the guilt.

"That's what we finally agreed upon as the only possible explanation. We quit going to the doctors and just accepted that kids weren't going to be a part of our life. And somehow, it made it easier knowing that Brody and Maria weren't going to have kids either. I'm not sure why, it just did."

"Did they get married after you and Liz?"

"Oh no, they came first by a couple of years. They're probably one of the reasons Liz and I got married."

"How's that?"

"Well, Liz came back to Roswell after she and Alex finished up college out in California. She wasn't sure what she wanted to do with her life and we spent countless nights walking around town trying to sort it out. I was already here...college just wasn't for me, you know...basically figuring out what the hell I wanted to do with my life, too. Maria and Brody were already married at this point, so the four of us spent just about every waking hour together. I think those two deciding to move on with their lives made it easier on Liz and me."

"What do you mean?"

"Well, we ended up living together, in the apartment above the Crashdown, as it was. Her parents finally decided to move into a house so Liz could have the place to herself while she was in town. I was making next to nothing working with my dad and Liz was working at the Crashdown while she debated what she was going to do with her life. Then one day her parents told her they were going to sell the Crashdown so they could retire. They realized they'd spent enough of their lives in this town and were ready to get out and see the world.

"Well, needless to say, Liz freaked out when they told her. The Crashdown holds so many memories for us, as you know, and I just don't think she wanted to let go of them. Her parents wouldn't budge though. So the Crashdown went up for sale on a Monday and was purchased on Tuesday."

"Really? But I thought..."

"Brody," he laughs. "I had called Maria to tell her the news the night before and apparently Brody wasn't willing to give up those galaxy subs. He knew what that place meant to us, so he bought it."

"He just bought it?"

"Remember, Brody was already a millionaire because of that computer company he'd started and then sold."

"Oh, right. So, Brody owns the Crashdown now and you and Liz run it for him?"

"No, actually that was their wedding present to us."

"That's quite the present."

"Yep. I quit working at the station and dedicated myself to helping Liz run the place after her parents left. Alex was worried about her since she was having those nightmares, so he asked me to look after her while he was away. So, at this point, we are working together, living together and spending all of our free time together with Maria and Brody."

"Liz mentioned those earlier...what nightmares?"

"Up until we got married, Liz had these dreams about you and Max and...well, all of you. She saw war and pain and death-it was terrible. Sometimes it would take us hours to calm her down. So I moved into the apartment with her to not only help her with the Crashdown but to keep an eye on her as well." Kyle seems lost in the memory before snapping out of it. "But anyway..."

It's obvious Kyle doesn't want to discuss this any further. And neither do I. Her nightmares remind me too much of our reality at that time.

"Well...I'm surprised you managed to even stay friends, let alone fall in love," I laugh.

He welcomes the change in conversation.

"Yeah, trust me...we were pretty surprised ourselves. It took almost losing her for us to realize that Maria and Brody had been right all along. Plus, you throw Alex into that mix and..."

"Wait...what happened? You almost lost her? And what did Maria and Brody know all along?"

"They had been saying for a couple of years that we should go ahead and get married...that we had become more than friends somewhere along the way and we might as well admit it. Then she got sick...real sick...and we realized they were right."

"What was wrong with her?"

"She basically worked herself too hard and she wasn't eating right or taking care of herself, neither of us were, and her immune system finally gave out so she got pneumonia. And the fact that she didn't go to the doctor right away is why she got such a bad case of it. So I closed down the diner and spent the next 2 weeks at the hospital with her. Alex came into town and between the two of us, and Maria and Brody, Liz was never alone--not for a minute. Then one night Alex took me out for a beer and laid it all out for me."

"What did he say...to make you finally see?"

"Oh, I think I already knew, actually. The night I had to carry her to the hospital was the worst night of my life. We'd been going along, taking each other for granted and all of a sudden, she's so sick the doctor tells us to prepare for the worst. Alex basically said that if...no, when...she pulled out of it, she and I better have a little talk. He said we, of all people, should know people aren't here forever and you never know when they'll go. Or, in his case, go and then come back," Kyle laughs.

"So, you got married after she got out of the hospital?"

"No, it was actually a few months after that before we committed. We talked about it, in general terms, from the day she got out of the hospital but there was a part of me that wasn't sure if it was the right thing to do."

"Why not?"

Kyle looks over at me. "Because she was never going to love anyone like she loved your brother."

For some reason, I feel guilty coming back into their lives. I don't want to mess up this balance that they've created since we've been gone.

"Of course, then she asked me to marry her...and what was I going to do? Say no?"

"She did what?" I just can't see Liz Parker proposing. Being proposed to, yes...but doing the actual asking, no.

"Yep," he smiles now when he speaks. "We were just sitting there, doing the last of the inventory for the week and waiting for Maria and Brody to stop by, when she asked me."

"How did you react?" I can take a guess by the look he has on his face now. It's obvious he's reliving that night in his mind as he tells the story.

"I tried to be all practical. Imagine that, huh? Me trying to be the practical one when Liz Parker is in the room. I gave her all sorts of reasons why we shouldn't do it but..." He pauses for a moment, as though he's not going to finish the thought.

"Don't stop there." What can I say? I'm engrossed. "What did she say?"

"She waited until I was done with my little rant which, by the way, she did nothing but smile through the entire thing, and asked if I was done and could she now have her turn. She proceeded to tell me there were only three people in this world she couldn't live without: Maria, Alex and yours truly. She said we had been through everything together and while she loved Maria as a sister and Alex as a brother, she loved me as something more. At that point, I had held out as long as I could. I laughed as I pulled something out of my coat pocket and handed it to her."

"What? What was it?"

"An engagement ring. I got it when she was in the hospital and had carried it around with me all that time, trying to figure out whether or not I was about to make the biggest mistake of my life...and hers. But then she asked and...well, the rest is history."

Kyle reaches for another beer and hands me one as well. "Since when can you guys handle alcohol, by the way? Your brother never could."

"I guess I'm just the exception in the family." I remove the bottle caps again with just a quick wave of the hand and Kyle is as impressed as he was the first time I did it.

"So...aren't you going to ask about Alex?" He smiles that wicked little Valenti smile before settling back into his chair.

"Well, I didn't see a ring. That's good, right?"

"He's always said that he's too busy with his work to dedicate himself to anyone. Heck, we're his family and sometimes we have to make an appointment to get him down here."

"Oh."

"Isabel, I'm pretty sure that statement doesn't apply to you."

"Really?"

"Oh, give me a break. I'd be surprised if you make it through the night a single woman. Oh wait...are you even single? I mean, you and Michael...?"

"We consider this a different life than that one. Michael and I love each other very much but we always knew that if the opportunity arose to come back here, we'd both want to take it. That's just always been understood."

We hear whistling coming from inside the house. "That's Alex. He must be washing dishes. Always whistles when he washes dishes. It's just one of those 'Alex' things, I guess."

Kyle turns to face me. "Well, go in already. He's probably trying to be nice and not smother you or anything but I can tell you one thing; I think the wait is going to kill him if you stay out here much longer. We can fill you in on everything else tomorrow. There's no way we are going to catch up on thirteen years in one night."

"True. But I still haven't heard how everyone reacted to Alex coming back? I mean, his parents? The town? How in the world did you explain it?"

"Oh, Isabel. I'll leave that story up to Liz and Alex. Once Liz and Maria accepted it was him, the three of them plotted and schemed to explain away his 'death.' Plus, it didn't hurt having the Sheriff on their side." He winks. "But we'll get to all that tomorrow. Let's get you inside."

He gets up from his chair and gathers the bottles from the deck before leading the way in. He stops just shy of the door. "Umm...Isabel, I should probably wait out here a while longer, you know, to make sure they're done."

"Kyle, this is your house. There's no reason for you staying out here. Besides, they're all in the kitchen together so we are the only ones being exclusive at the moment." He laughs as he follows me into the house.

"How do you know that, anyway? You did it earlier with Michael."

"Let's just say that we use certain regions of our brain that you don't and this allows us a greater range of...umm...senses. That combined with knowing him all my life and going through the bonding ritual with him-"

"Bonding ritual? Oh, do tell..."

"It's basically pre-marriage counseling where they make sure that the two individuals are in tune...that they can become one when unified. This is necessary for any marriage to be sanctioned in our world. So, basically, Michael and I just know each other real well."

"Whoa...I wish they had those rituals around here. I wouldn't mind being able to just sense where Liz is at any given moment...would really cut down on my worry time."

I laugh as we make our way into the kitchen where Tess is demonstrating some of the new powers we picked up while we were away. Liz is fascinated by Tess' ability to manipulate light, especially when Max joins her in creating the display.

Those two always have worked well together. Thankfully, Tess was strong enough to support both her and Max when we first returned. He was overwhelmed but she kept him grounded throughout the tumultuous early years.

The same was true of Michael. He returned with a vengeance, as though making up for past failures none of us could quite remember. I, like Max, was unprepared for the chaos we were thrown into, but Michael was there for me, day and night, until I was able to stand on my own two feet again.

I notice that Michael, although removed from the group, has a smile on his face as he watches. I walk over to him. "Hey."

"Hey yourself. I was wondering when you were coming back in. What were you and Valenti doing out there anyway?"

"Catching up on thirteen years of stories. What about you?"

"I think I'm about to turn in."

"Have you even looked at it yet?" I don't want to press the issue but he needs to face it sooner or later.

"About to do just that, actually. Happy?"

"Sorry, I didn't mean to-"

"I know you didn't. Sorry, I'm just...a little overwhelmed, I guess."

"That's understandable. Today has been full of surprises."

"Yeah, speaking of, what are you doing over here talking to me when I believe there is a certain someone over there at the sink who would enjoy your company even more than I do...as hard as that is to imagine."

I place a quick kiss on Michael's cheek before sneaking up behind Alex at the sink.

"Hey there! I didn't see you come back in. How did your chat with Kyle go?"

"Good. How about everyone else?"

"Tess is really starting to relax and Michael has been...well...better than expected."

"And?"

"I think Max and Liz have a lunch date for tomorrow. I doubt they even scratched the surface of everything they want to say to each other. Probably best for them to get away for a couple hours to talk stuff over. How's Kyle?"

"Doing real well. When did he become such an...adult? I mean, he's not jealous or anything and he was so welcoming to me and Max today. It's just not what I would have expected from him in this situation."

"Kyle has changed a lot over the years...we all have. Plus, I think he always knew this day would come. Actually, I think he hoped for it. He knew Liz needed some closure...and to know you were all OK."

We are interrupted by Tess' announcement.

"OK, this is fun and all but I traveled across a galaxy today so I think I deserve some sleep." Tess makes her way around the room and says her goodnights. She stops at Max, who is sitting next to Liz and, after hugging Liz and thanking her for the hospitality, simply kisses him on the forehead. "Goodnight Max. I'll see you tomorrow."

As she makes her way up the stairs, Max turns to me with a surprised expression. I just shrug. Guess she's over her insecurities about being here. Probably doesn't hurt to see that Kyle and Liz are so happy.

Michael slips out of the room next and no one bothers him with goodnights. They know he has more important things to do at the moment.

I turn back to Alex. "So did you make your phone calls? Do you have to leave tomorrow?"

Oh, please say no. Say you'll stay here with me...forever.

"I am off the hook until next week. Turns out the meeting had been rescheduled anyway. So I would have been on my way to Seattle for nothing."

"I'm glad...that you're staying, I mean."

"Yeah, me too." He puts his arms around me and pulls me close. "I could stay with you forever."

<*>*<*>*<*>

Oh, this can't be good.

Max emerges from the gas station with slumped shoulders, staring at the ground in front of him as he walks towards me. I slide the picture back into my pocket so I can focus on the task at hand.

Why does this feel so familiar?

"Max, what is it?"

He looks up at me with a pain in his eyes that I know far too well.

"She's here...in town."

Who is? What is he talking about?

"Wait. Max, where are we? Where is everyone?"

"What do you mean? Michael and Tess went their own ways already and we're going to meet up with them later at the hotel, depending on how things go. I was just trying to get some information from that old guy who works at this gas station since he used to always know everyone else's business, remember?"

Oh God, this can't be happening. It was real. All of it. I know it was. It has to be. I can't lose him again.

"Max. What did the he tell you? Is Liz living here?"

"Yeah." He looks sad again.

"Is she married?" He looks up, a bit surprised by the question.

"Yeah, she's married to-"

"Kyle Valenti? Tell me it's Kyle."

"Yes, it is. Wait, how did you know that? And why are you so desperate for it to be Kyle?"

So far, so good.

"Is Maria married?"

"Yes. Isabel, how do you-"

"Is she married to Brody? From the UFO Center?"

He doesn't answer, just stares at me.

"Damnit, Max...answer me! Is she married to Brody or not?"

"Yes, she is. Now will you please tell me how you already know all of this?"

"Later. We need to get going. We need to find them...any of them. No, wait. We need to meet Michael in the park to let him know about Maria and Brody first."

Oh, should I tell him about Maria now? No, I should probably wait to make sure this is all real.

I get up from the bench, apparently too quickly because everything gets a bit blurry for a moment, and take a step closer to him.

What is going on here?

"Max? What are you-come on! Let's go." I motion for him to join me in the direction of the park.

"No, Isabel. Not until you give me some answers. What the hell has gotten in to you? I leave you out here for barely ten minutes and when I come back, you're spouting out answers to every question you ask me. What's going on?"

He starts to take my seat on the bench when I see the sign I had been sitting next to: "Kick back and relax at Jim's...located behind the Crashdown in the heart of downtown Roswell."

"Max! Get up!" He jumps up from the seat. "What now, Isabel?"

"The sign...the sign on the bench." My hands are shaking as I point to the back of the bench.

He gives the sign a quick glance. "So? They put a bar up behind the Crashdown. What are you getting at?"

Oh, my God.

"What does it say at the bottom, Max? Read it to me." He hesitates. "Please, Max, just read it to me. I'll explain everything in a minute, I promise."

"OK, then." He leans in to read the fine print at the bottom. "It says it's a DV&W establishment, Is. That's it."

Davis, Valenti and...


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