He moved past me in a blur, a fluid streak of motion ducking through the window, launching himself over the rooftop and into the night. I didn't try to stop him. I didn't turn to watch him go.
I didn't move at all.
I don't think I knew how.
It's all I think about -
I was still standing there, stunned and shaking, when I heard the determined sound of my Dad's footsteps in the hall. He stopped outside my door and knocked twice, hard. "Liz? You alright?"
I closed my eyes and tried to take a deep breath, settling for the little bit of air I could force down my lungs. My hands fluttered up to my face and rubbed the tears into my skin. "I'm, uhm -" I swallowed and took another breath. "I'm fine," I croaked. Just go away. Please go away -
"I want to talk to you," He said. He sounded upset. I turned around slowly, trying to get myself together before I crossed to the door and opened it. He didn't even look at me as he walked in.
"What's all this yelling about, Liz?"
I looked down, watching my fingertips fumbling with the edge of my shirt. "Your mother's trying to sleep," He said, his voice heavy. "I mean -"
"I'm sorry," I whispered. "It was, uhm -" I swallowed and glanced over at my desk, where Alex's laptop stood. "It was the computer," I said. "The laptop."
He frowned. "The - what? Liz, what're you talking about?"
"It's nothing," I said, exasperated. "It's just - not working. It's slow, and I was frustrated, and I just -"
"Liz," He said gently. "Look, I know you want to do well in school, but it doesn't even start for another week. You don't have to be staying up late..."
"It's no big deal," I interrupted. "I just - I just thought I'd start early. You know, do some research. I didn't -" My voice caught and I pressed my lips together in a white line for a second, shaking my head and looking down. The tension in the room faded slightly.
"Liz?" He asked, his voice concerned. I closed my eyes and turned my face away. He sighed. "Lizzy." He took a step toward me.
"I'm okay," I whispered, biting down on my lip, shaking my head. "Really. I'm fine. I'm - I'm sorry, Dad, I didn't…"
"Lizzy," He said gently. "I didn't mean to make you - don't cry, honey," He said, moving closer and wrapping his arms around me, crushing me against the rough texture of his robe and the softness of his T-shirt. "It's okay, pumpkin," He said, his voice soft but determined. "Hey. Look at me." His fingertips slipped under my chin, tipping it back , moving my face up to look at him.
"It's just a computer," He said gently, smiling. "We can get you a new one."
I blinked, staring up at his smile. He just wanted to make everything better. To make everything alright.
Except the computer wasn't the problem at all, that was just a lie I'd made up so he wouldn't ask me questions I couldn't answer, and he'd never understand, and even if he did there wasn't anything he could do to fix what was wrong…
"Dad," I whispered, shaking my head. "You don't have to do that. I don't need another one. I can just use the ones at school."
"Honey - it's okay to want things. It's okay to need stuff sometimes. But you can't depend on it this much. You know?" He sighed and stepped toward the bed. "Come here," He said, patting the space next to him. I swallowed and sat down, folding my hands together over my lap.
"It's like this," He said. "All this stuff we've got now - computers, cell phones, all that stuff - it's supposed to make our lives easier. Right?"
"Right," I said quietly.
"So here you have something that's supposed to make your life easier, or better. And it's great, and it helps, but it's a luxury. It's something you don't really need to survive. But then," He shrugged. "I don't know, people get used to it. And then everyone thinks they need them. But they don't. The world worked perfectly well for centuries without cell phones, and digital technology, and computers, and all that. And don't get me wrong, they all help to make our lives better, but…" He sighed.
"I guess I'm trying to say we also need to be able to deal with not having them," He said. "Does that make sense?"
I stared over at him.
"I know. I know," He said, rolling his eyes. "The paleolithic era speaks. The last stronghold against civilization."
"No, I - that wasn't what I was thinking," I said quickly.
…all I can tell you is that right now you need to focus on you. Get your strength back. Your independence. Let yourself recover. And let Michael do the same thing…
Maybe this is something you can't fix…
"You can't define yourself by what you don't have," I murmured. "You can't lose sight of who you are just because the things around you are… falling apart…"
I stared down at the pale circle of skin on my ring finger for a moment and then looked over at my Dad. He was smiling this sad, wistful smile..."What?" I asked. "What's wrong?"
"Oh, nothing," He said, shrugging. "Just that you won't need me much longer."
I stared at him for a second and started shaking my head. "Dad -"
"All grown up," He said quietly, standing up and kissing me on the forehead. His hand rested on my shoulder for a minute. "Okay. So. I'll call Alex tomorrow and ask him to set us up with some new computers. Fast computers. How's that?"
"That'd be great," I whispered.
"That's my girl," He said, touching his finger to my nose for a second before turning to the door. "Now get some sleep," He said. "You have a big interview tomorrow."
He turned around. "Yes?"
I stood up. "You know I'm…" I paused and took a breath. "You know I'm always going to need you," I whispered. "Right?"
He stared at me for a second, surprised, and then crossed the room, pulling me into a bear hug. "Love you," He whispered.
"Love you," I whispered.
"Okay," He said, releasing me and backing up, pulling the door open. "Good night, sweetie."
He pulled the door shut and I stood in the quiet for a minute, turning everything over in my mind.
After a minute I turned around and stared at Alex's laptop. It was still on the Hazardous Waste List. I moved to it and closed it, staring down at it before looking out at the night sky.
Whatever was going on with Michael, he wasn't giving me any answers. Not about us. And he didn't know anything about cadmium x, or he would have told me...
He didn't know any more than I did.
But Whitaker might have answers.
I had to get that job. She might have brought files with her. This was the site of the crash, after all, maybe she was coming here to look around…find some evidence…
That was another reason to get close to her. To keep her in the dark about Michael. And Max…
I stood up, moving to my closet and pushing the hangers aside. Too formal. Too young. My hands flew over the fabric until I found the one I was looking for. I lifted it off the bar, staring down at the material. Perfect.
I moved to the bed, the dress hanging limply in my hands, and sat down again, staring at the place where he'd stood.
The room was so much bigger without him in it. But I didn't feel like I was going to drown in the empty space anymore.
I hung the dress up and got ready for bed.
Stupid. You went to her. You went right to her. I tried to keep my footsteps quiet in the hallway, moving to the door, standing there for a second while I caught my breath. Nasedo could already be inside, just waiting for me -
I slammed the door open and looked around the darkened room. It was empty.
I searched the kitchen first. Behind the counter, in the pantry. It wasn't his m.o. but I didn't want him grabbing me in the dark. I didn't want him taking me by surprise. Not again.
Ten minutes later I'd searched the place five times and finally relaxed. He wasn't here. I glanced at the door. Didn't mean he wasn't coming.
I looked over at my bed and grabbed the sheets, bunching them together, forming what I hoped was a lumpy version of a body, covering it with a blanket. I moved back to the furthest corner of the room, beyond the circle of light from the street, pressing my back against the hard plaster. I could see the door from here. I'd be ready…
…I can phase through things, Michael. Lots of things. Things like rock. Like wood…
I jerked away from the wall like it was on fire.
He didn't have to use the door. He could just phase through the wall. Just slip up behind me and I wouldn't even know until it was too late…
My heart sped up and I turned around, looking behind me, searching for a flicker of movement. Nothing.
This was crazy. If he could just shape-shift through the wall...
I'd have to stay ready all night.
I fumbled for the remote in the dark. Maybe he'd at least think I was awake. I found it and pushed the buttons randomly, still looking around the room.
"…so we understand that learning to draw is learning to see," The TV voice droned. A man flickered into view, standing by an easel holding a drawing of a chair.
"In a painting or drawing, the space around the object is just as important as the object itself. A good artist strives for a balance between the positive space - the object we're drawing - and the negative, or background, space around it. The absence of something has to be taken into account.
"Most people are unaware of the role negative space plays in drawing. Sometimes it is easier to draw what is not there. Sometimes that helps us to see the object, to be able to truly understand it. "
I inched back into the corner, trying to keep my breathing quiet, pushing down the instinct to make myself comfortable. Comfortable'll just put you to sleep. Or get you killed.
I sat in the dark, my back pressed against the wall, my eyes flickering around the room, until morning.
He never came.
I took a breath and ran my hands over my dress, smoothing the material down, before walking into the café.
The music stopped me dead.
"Oh, no," I murmured. "Maria…"
Maria waved at me from table two, tucking in her order pad and moving over to me. "Hey! That dress is incredible. Where'd you get it?"
"Oooh, I could hem this for you if you want," She murmured, her fingers slipping over the material. "Maybe bring it up a couple of inches -"
She looked up, startled. "What?"
"Could you -" I licked my lips. "Could you explain the music?"
"Oh, I know," She grinned. "Isn't it great? It's part of my master plan."
"Master plan," I repeated blankly. She nodded.
"Yup," She said, grinning. "Guaranteed to bring the overly stubborn czechoslovakians of the world back to us. Where they belong, I might add."
"Maria," I said, trying to be patient. "What are you talking about -"
"OK, Liz, I gotta get this order, they've been waiting forever," She said, scurrying over to the kitchen. "Ask Alex to fill you in."
I took a deep breath and counted to five. Forget it. Ignore it. I scanned the room for dad and Alex. They were sitting in one of the window booths, talking. I gripped the laptop tighter and crossed the room.
Say my name, say my name
you actin kinda shady
aint callin me baby
why the sudden change?…
"So I think this is a good model for you," Alex was saying. "Are your phone lines DSL compatible?"
Dad blinked. "Are they what?"
"DS - oh, hey," Alex said, looking up at me. "There's my baby!"
My dad's eyebrows went up.
"Oh, I mean the, uhm - the laptop," Alex said quickly, reaching for it and placing it on the table. I bit back a smile. "Not your daughter." He blinked. "Sir. I mean -"
"It's okay, Alex," Dad murmured, rolling his eyes and waving his hands. He slid across the booth and stood up. "I think I've heard more about computers than I ever wanted to know," He smiled. "Round of cherry coke?"
"Thanks, Dad," I said. He nodded and walked toward the soda machine. I sat down in his place.
"Smooth," I murmured, nodding at the laptop.
"Oh, shut up," He said, a smile skipping across his face.
"So... Maria said you had something to do with this horrific music?" I asked.
"This? No," He said quickly, shaking his head. "No, Alex Whitman does not favor cruel and unusual punishment for the masses. It's her plan for subliminal alien manipulation."
I laughed out loud. "What?"
"I'm unclear on the specifics, but I think her theory is that if she plays enough 'you done me wrong' music, that Michael'll come around."
My heart clenched up. For both of them. "Oh," I said. "Right."
"It won't work, of course," He muttered. "I tried to tell her that."
I looked over at him. "You think?"
He shrugged. "Just a hunch," He said.
I stared at him for a second and nodded.
"In the meantime," He said, raising his voice. "She could at least offer free earplugs!"
"I can't hear you, Alex," Maria sang out across the room. He rolled his eyes and I smiled.
"I don't know why she thinks they'd be incredibly susceptible to mainstream, anyway," He muttered. "There's plenty of perfectly good, alternative, angry-love rock out there."
Dad circled back to the table, holding two cherry cokes. "There you go," He said, setting them down and smiling at me. "You look terrific," He said. "She's gonna hire you on the spot."
"Thanks," I said, smiling up at him and glancing over at Alex. "I hope so."
"I know so," He said. "I'm gonna make some calls about those computers, Alex. Thanks for your help."
"Sure," Alex grinned. "Thanks for the soda."
We sat there for a second, drinking and enjoying the quiet.
"So," Alex said. "You're still going. To the interview."
"Yeah," I said, staring out the window. "Three o'clock."
"Are you sure you know what you're doing?"
My eyes flickered down to the table. "No," I said quietly. "But I don't know what else to do."
He stared at me for a second and then nodded again. "Alright," He said. "You want company? I can wait outside for you if you want."
I smiled. "Thanks, Alex, but…it's okay."
"Right," He said, shaking his head slightly and smiling. "Story of my life. I'm surrounded by women who don't need my help."
I shook my head. "No, Alex, it's not that, it's…" My voice faded as I looked at him.
He wasn't talking about me. Or Maria.
"Alex," I said softly. "I'm sorry. About Isabel."
His gaze flickered up to mine, raw and vulnerable, before he could cover. "Right," He said easily. "I know."
"No, I mean -" I sighed. "I just mean I… understand," I said haltingly. "How it feels. You know?"
He stared at the table for a second before looking back up at me. "Yeah," He said quietly. "I know."
"And - you know, you're wrong about us. Not needing you, I mean," I said. "I don't know how I would have dealt with all that last night if you weren't there."
"Oh, come on," He said depreciatingly. "No big deal."
"No - Alex, it was. It was a big deal," I insisted, leaning across the table and touching his hand. "I really appreciated it. Okay?"
He stared at me for a moment before the smile spread across his face. "Yeah," He murmured. "Okay. Thanks."
"Sure," I said quietly, smiling. Then I thought about what I had to tell him, and the smile slipped away. I moved my hand back to my lap.
"Look… Alex," I started. "About last night -"
He shrugged. "Don't worry about it, Liz."
"No, Alex, I want to explain. I mean, about -" I took a breath and leaned forward a little. "About that call. It was -"
"Liz," He said, deliberately. "Look, you don't have to explain anything to me -"
"He wanted to tell me that Nasedo's back," I finished quickly.
The effect was immediate. "Are you serious?" He whispered, leaning across the table. "So - so what, he's totally done in Washington?"
"Who knows," I said, shaking my head. "He just - wanted to let me know."
Alex sat back suddenly, staring at me. "Because of the kidnapping."
I took a breath and nodded. "Right," I said.
"That's why you told me to leave," He said slowly. "Because he was worried that I might…"
"That you might be him," I murmured, looking over at the soda counter. "Yeah." I leaned back and brushed a strand of hair back from my cheek. "So that's why," I finished. "I just wanted to tell you."
He nodded, his face pensive, his fingertips tapping rhythymically on his laptop. "Thanks for telling me," He said quietly after a moment.
I felt the knot in my stomach loosen and smiled with relief. "Sure," I said quietly. "Thank you for always understanding. I mean, all this… stuff. It just..."
"Oh, please," He grinned. "What are friends for?"
"Well, it was really sweet of you," I smiled. "I mean, I don't know if I could have handled it if I -"
"Elizabeth!" A woman's voice called.
I looked up and saw a tall, blonde woman hurrying over. The café doors were still swinging shut behind her. I blinked.
"Ah, bonjour, mon petit ami," She squealed, reaching over the table and clutching me in a hug. "You are surprised to see me, non?"
I stared up at *Maria*. The singer. From the Babe Magnet.
"What -" I blinked up at her. "What are you doing here?"
"Ach," *Maria* said, her fingertips suddenly resting over her heart. "Is zat any way to speak to your pen pal? From France? Who has come all this way to see you?"
"Pen pal?" Alex asked.
I looked over at him, panicked. "Alex, uhm - this is -" I swallowed. "This is -"
"Call me Marie," She said smoothly, stretching out her hand to shake his. "And you are Alex, non? I feel as if we already know each other, I know so much about you."
He glanced over at me before reaching for her hand. "Well, it's nice to meet you, Marie," He said, surprised but smiling.
"Enchante, mon coeur," She purred.
"Uh - yeah," He said, smiling even more. "So - a pen pal?" He said, turning back to me. "I didn't know you had a friend coming from Europe -"
"Neither did I," I said weakly.
She smiled and waved her hands. "Well, I thought perhaps she would come to me," She said pointedly, "But zat was not the way, non? So I decided to come and see her myself. As you americans say, if ze mountain vill not come to Mohammed…" She shrugged. "Besides, I have alvays wanted to see Vegas. I simply thought I would stop on the way and talk with you."
"Talk," I said.
"Oui," She beamed. "Perhaps now?"
"Uh - yes," I stammered. "I mean, I - uhm, Alex? I'll be right back."
He was still smiling up at *Maria*. "I'll be right here," He said. She smiled back.
I think she was blowing him a kiss when I half-dragged her through the restaurant and past the swinging doors in the back.
"What are you doing here," I whispered, glancing around the locker room. Thank God it was empty -
She shook her arm loose and glared at me. "Is zat any way to speak to someone who's come all this way to help?" She sniffed. "Perhaps it is true, what they say about Americans."
"I'm - I'm sorry," I murmured. "I don't mean to be rude -"
"Well, you could have fooled me."
I pressed my lips together. "Okay, so… you must be here for something? In specific?"
Her lower lip turned up in a gentle pout. "I do not know if I should tell you," She muttered. "Perhaps next, you will drag me out into ze alley?"
"*Maria*. Look. I said I was sorry -"
"Oui," She said, turning her face away. "But you did not sound as if you truly meant it."
I stared at her back, speechless, and tried to breathe.
"I am sorry," I said finally. "I am very, very sorry. I don't even know what I was thinking."
She turned around and stared at me appraisingly for a moment before breaking into a smile. "Yes, yes, very good, mon ami. Do not worry," She patted me on the shoulder. "We are friends again."
"Well, that's a relief," I said drily. She shot me a look and I smiled weakly. "So," I said gently. "What brings you to Roswell?"
"Well…" She shrugged. "Since Whiteotter asked me to, I tell you. She said to give you a message."
"A message?" I demanded. "What - sorry," I muttered when I saw the look on her face. "Sorrysorry. Please, go ahead."
She pursed her lips and cleared her throat. "She said ," She said, her fingertips resting on her collarbone imperiously, "Tell her, 'Max is ze key.'"
I blinked. "Max is the key," I repeated. "The key to what -"
"Ahhh," She said softly. "That is not ze entire message." She said to be sure to also say, 'But not in ze way that you think.'"
I stared at her. "Not in the way I think," I repeated.
"Oui," She said proudly, nodding. "That is what she said. And my work here is done."
"Wait -" I ran around her, blocking her path back to the café. "Wait. What does that mean?"
She shrugged and waved her hands. "I should know? She is ze otter, Elizabeth. She tells me nothing." She shrugged again. "Only what I have told you. No more."
I stared at her open-mouthed. My fingers ran over my face. "I can't believe this," I muttered. "Look, there must be something else. She had to tell you something -"
"Ahh, do not vorry, mon ami," She said softly, her hands running gently over my shoulders. "All will be right in the end. You will see."
I stared at her helplessly. "How do you know that?" I whispered. "I mean, how do you -"
"Elizabeth," She said gently. "We all still believe. So should you."
I opened my mouth to protest, to tell her he was being impossible, and changed my mind, biting down on my lip instead -
"And for goodness' sake, stop doing that," She scolded.
"That - that lip thing you do when you are nervous," She muttered. "Look. Now is the time to be sure. To have - how do you say - faith," She said suddenly, brightening. "That is ze word. Not nervous. Understand?"
I blinked and nodded slowly. "Ye - yes," I stammered. "I mean… yes."
"Bon," She said, pleased. Her hands brushed over my clothes. "Now, go to that interview and knock her over."
I smiled a little. "Dead," I corrected, gently. "You mean knock 'em dead."
"I know what I meant," She muttered stiffly, walking to the café doors and turning back to face me, her hair swirling around her shoulders. "Now if you will excuse me, I must talk with him."
"Talk with him?" I asked suddenly. "Him who?"
She laughed and pushed the doors open. "Alex, of course," She said, walking through. "Who else?"
People do lots of things when they think they're being watched.
They look behind them. Look over their shoulder. Peer around corners. I'd just gotten a refresher course of what it felt like to be hunted, and it reminded me of something important.
People hardly ever look up.
I stood on the rooftop across the street from the crashdown, crouching down, waiting for her to come back. She'd been talking inside with Alex for a while. She was wearing some summer dress that made me forget to breathe, and I swallowed the jealousy that leapt up inside me when I saw her smile at him, reach over and touch his hand…
I clenched my teeth and tried to focus. She'd left the table with someone, a woman I didn't recognize, and she hadn't come back yet. I didn't think Nasedo could shapeshift into a female form, but if I didn't see Liz in another ten seconds, I was going in. Nine. Eight. Seven -
The blonde was standing next to Alex, smiling. She sat down next to him. What the hell?
Where was Liz?
I was just about to turn for the fire escape when she walked out of the building, her hair loose and flowing over her shoulders, and that dress…
I swallowed hard. That dress made me hurt.
She was halfway down the block before I snapped out of it and moved to the fire escape to follow her.
I shifted my weight and my hands flickered over my dress.
Maybe it was too - high school. Or too short. You should've worn the blue. That's a more professional color...
Well, too late now. I glanced down the street, tucking a strand of hair behind my ear, and bit down on my lip nervously before letting go. I shook my head thoughtfully. *Maria* was laughing with Alex when I walked by them. She was flirting like crazy and Alex had been blushing to the tips of his ears…
I smiled a little. Alex deserved a little attention from a pretty woman.
I took a breath and adjusted the strap of my purse, thinking about the interview. You've got to get this. If you don't -
My gaze strayed from the street to my hands, to the pale, thin strip of skin on my ring finger…
I circled it with my fingertips. I'd worn it every day since he gave it to me. I could still feel it, I thought, even though it wasn't there…
"Liz," A voice called out, and my heart stopped.
You don't have to worry. Michael told you that you don't have to worry -
He was right in front of me. I took a breath.
"Hi, Max," I said.
I slipped into the alley, crouching down. Max was talking with her. If it really was Max… Isabel stood a few steps away, looking at Max, her eyes worried, her fingers knotted together. She turned suddenly and walked away, and I breathed out. If he was with Isabel, chances were it was Max…
"Maria said you were still away," Max said, confused. "I thought -"
"Yeah, I know she did," I interrupted. "Um, you know, I just...I wanted to get settled a little bit before..."
"Yeah. I...I understand," He said. He sounded wounded, and I felt myself relax a little. He didn't sound so angry. Maybe Michael was right. Maybe it's alright now…
"Listen, Liz, I...I know how strange everything got before you left," He said.
Everything in me tensed again. I looked down at the sidewalk.
"But I think it's okay," He continued quickly. "No aliens have attacked. Nasedo is putting an end to the special unit as we speak. I think - I think that all of this could finally be over."
"Oh," I said uncertainly. "I, uh - I really hope that's true," I nodded and swallowed, licking my lips. "For all of you."
"And I just want you to know about the whole Tess situation -"
"Max," I said, interrupting again. I don't want to talk about Tess. Or Michael. I don't want to talk to you - "You don't...you don't have to -"
"It's just that it's definitely over," He stressed. "I don't have feelings for her."
I glanced down at my hands. My fingers were still circling my ring finger, testing the skin nervously.
"I've told her that," He continued. "And she understands. I know it's probably irrelevant at this point, but...just for the record."
I closed my eyes for a moment and remembered the scorch marks on Michael's shirt -
"Right," I said quickly. "Yeah. I just - I just want to get a fresh start," I said quickly. "I've decided -"
"Right," He interrupted. He sounded as if his voice was about to catch. "Right. Anyway, you look -"
"Oh," I said, suddenly wishing I'd worn something else. Anything else. "I, um -"
"Great!" He said, smiling awkwardly.
"No, it's -"
"Different," He said softly. I looked up at him suddenly. He was smiling at me…
I took a breath. "I, um - I have a job interview," I said. "Actually."
He frowned. "Oh. Well - what about the Crashdown?"
"Well, uhm - this really incredible opportunity came up sort of out of the -"
"You must be Liz Parker," A woman interrupted.
"Congresswoman Whitaker!" I said, smiling broadly and shaking her hand. Thank you. Thank you. She smiled back. "It is so nice to meet you," I said, relieved. "You, uhm - you're a real hero to me."
"You don't need to suck up, really," She said wryly. "My paid staff takes care of my enormous ego."
"Oh," I said. "So there's, um, not an actual salary?"
"We have a lot to talk about," She grinned, turning to Max. "Hi."
"Oh - I'm sorry," I said quickly. "This is Max Evans. A friend."
His eyes flickered over me for a moment. He looked uncomfortable. Nervous, I thought, surprised at that. And wounded.
"Nice to meet you," The congresswoman said.
"Same here," He said. His voice sounded tense and my heart sank. What did I say? I didn't mention Michael. I didn't say anything about -
"Should we step inside?" She asked, turning to me.
I glanced at Max. He was glaring at her. "Yeah," I said hurriedly, forcing a smile. "Sure. That would be great."
I took a deep breath when we walked into the building, leaving Max on the street, and the doors shut behind us.
That was her new job? Her safe, non-alien-affiliated job?
Working for the only woman who voted against the closing of the special unit, for God's sake? Whitaker. Of all people. Damnit, Liz…
Max stepped away. I scowled and stepped out from the alley, moving toward him. She couldn't work for Whitaker. And she wasn't going to listen to me.
But she might listen to Max.
"What the hell was that?" I demanded, catching up to him and falling in stride with him. He glanced over at me quickly and then back over his shoulder.
"What was what?" He asked.
"Liz. With Whitaker. The only one who opposed closing the special unit, Max. The one who knew about the murder -"
He pulled me into an alley and snapped around to face me. "You want to keep it down, Michael?" He said, his voice a tense whisper. "I don't think everyone heard you."
"Max, you cannot let her work there. Alright?" I shot back. "It's a bad idea."
"She can work where she wants to work, Michael," He said evenly. "Besides, it might be a good way to know what Whitaker's up to."
"Excuse me?" I demanded, leaning in to him. "What, so she's your spy now? Is that it?"
"You're one to talk about spying," He snapped. "What's your problem? Is this about evil aliens again? 'Cause if it is -"
"This is about using her. Any of them," I snapped, jabbing a finger to his chest. "You're gonna get her hurt, or killed, and -"
"Michael Guerin?" Someone interrupted.
Both of us looked over. I saw the gun on his hip first and then the badge. One of Valenti's deputies. Not the one Nasedo had been...
"Can you come down to the station, Mr. Guerin?" He said evenly, his gaze flickering from me to Max and back again. "We'd like to ask you some questions."
"Right now?" I asked. "Well, I'm - I'm on my way to work," I lied. "Maybe later I can -"
"You're not on the Crashdown's schedule for today, Mr. Guerin," He said, his voice flat and hard, his stare burning into my face. "I checked."
I closed my mouth and then nodded once. "My mistake," I mumbled.
I glanced over at Max. He nodded slightly, frowning, and backed up, walking away quickly.
"Later, Maxwell," I muttered.
"Come on," He said, taking my arm. "Let's go."
He led me out of the alley to his squad car.
Which was parked right in front of Whitaker's office. Damn.
He opened the back door and motioned for me to get in. I looked over at the window to Whitaker's office. Her blinds were open.
And Liz was staring at me with this stunned look on her face.
I got into the car, facing forward and slumping down in the seat.
"…so it looks like you've done really well," Congresswoman Whitaker said. "Anything else you'd like me to know?"
I blinked and turned to look at her. "Wha - uhm, no. No, I can't - I can't think of anything," I stammered, forcing a smile. I felt sick. One of Valenti's deputies had put Michael in a squad car and just driven off -
"Do you have any questions?" She prompted. "Anything about the filing, or the phones, or -"
"You know, I'm - I'm a really quick study," I said, the words spilling out of my mouth. "Look, I know you've probably got lots of applicants for the job, but I really want to work here. I mean, for you."
She grinned. "Flattery doesn't hurt, but it's not one of your job descriptions, Liz."
"I know, I just - I'm sorry," I said, leaning back in the chair and biting down on my lip. She looked at me thoughtfully.
"You know what?" She asked, putting my resume down. "I think we'd make a good team, Parker. You're hired."
"Really? Oh - thank you," I said, standing up. "Thanks. When do I start?"
"How about tomorrow?"
"Perfect," I breathed, gathering up my things. "Thank you so much, you will not be sorry. I'm just gonna, uhm - tell my parents," I said. "My mom'll be so excited."
She laughed. "Well, good. Welcome aboard, Liz."
"Thanks," I stammered, moving to the door. "Thank you."
As soon as I passed the window I got my cell phone out and started dialing.
"Sheriff," I said quickly. "It's Liz. Did you send someone out to get Michael?"
He paused for a moment. "Parker?"
"Sheriff, it's important. Nasedo's back," I breathed. "Are you sure it was one of your guys?"
There was a pause. "Where did you get that information?" He demanded.
"I don't -" I shook my head. "Look - please. Is it one of your men?"
"Deputy Hanson's out," He said slowly. "Hold on." There was a pause, and I heard a door closing. "Alright, who told you he was back?" He demanded, his voice low. "Max?"
"No," I whispered. "I'm - I'm not even sure Max knows. Why are you bringing Michael in?"
"It's nothing," He said. "We just need to talk to him. I'm taking care of it."
"Tell me what's going on," I said. "Just tell me."
There was a pause. "One of my men found something at the site," He said.
I talked to him. Out at the site -
"What," I whispered. "What did you find?"
"It's nothing. I'll take care of it."
"Sheriff -" I took a deep breath. "Look, when you needed to know about Max - I told you. What's happening with Michael?"
I listened to him sigh before answering. "We found a knife," He muttered. "With his fingerprints all over it. That's all I can say at the moment."
"I'm coming down there," I whispered.
"No, you are not," He snapped suddenly. "I appreciate your help, Liz, but I can deal with this. I want you to go home and wait for my call. Understand?"
"Fine," I whispered. "Okay."
"Talk to you later," He said, and hung up.
I stared at the phone before shutting it off, trying to keep my hands from shaking. I looked up at the wide expanse of sky, the endless blue, and tried to breathe.
"Let him be alright," I whispered. "Please let him be alright."
|DC Slash||Harry Potter||Ros. Hetero||Ros. Slash||Ros. Other|