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wait for the stars to fall

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As Marilyn Manson once said, everything I was afraid of when I was growing up, Iʼve become. Iʼve taken on my nightmares, like the devil and the end of the world, and Iʼve become those things. Maybe I should have listened to Max when he ordered us around. Maybe I should have talked to Isobel even more when we were teenagers. Maybe I shouldnʼt have let hope get the best of me. This is my life now, a never ending crash landing Iʼm not able to avoid anymore. I was afraid of being too human, and in fighting my humanity Iʼve lost so much. Now itʼs time to get it back, for real, second by second.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The glowing in his hand isnʼt fading, but heʼs not making progress by applying pressure and heat to the marred skin underneath his fingertips. He has to try harder, he has to find a way to make it work. He has the feeling that this is a turning point, a make-or-break kind of situation. He knows he has to succeed.

Heʼs afraid of what might happen if he just doesnʼt.

Max groans, the force of his own willpower grounding him as he keeps on channeling the strength from the storm into the flesh thatʼs beginning to get warm under his touch. He bites his lip, closes his eyes for a second to find his balance. And there it is, crystal clear and brighter than the sun, in the middle of his conscience, waving happily.

Liz encourages him to go on, and itʼs Liz who heʼs going to disappoint if he doesnʼt manage to bring Rosa Ortecho back.

Heʼs already saved one of the Ortecho sisters before, he reminds himself. He can do this, even if it means attempting salvation for a ten-year-old corpse they found out-of-the-blue while digging into Noahʼs history. And as fucked up and exhausting the task at hand may seem, Max knows he has to get through with it. Heʼs never going to forgive himself if he gives up now.

His strength falters, he shudders forwards. It feels as if heʼs missed a step while walking, but heʼs just kneeling on the filthy ground, beside a glowing pod where Rosa has been kept for the past decade. His stomach churns at the mere thought of the times Noahʼs been to this very cave, to talk to her and swear endless adoration to her, while he dragged Isobel through a life of shadows and lies.

Max shakes his head, his hand never leaving Rosaʼs bare chest. The motion feels intimate, but not as it felt when Liz asked him to leave a mark on her skin – not like heʼs leaving a part of his immortal soul behind her closed eyelids. Rosaʼs not Liz, he repeats to himself, but he has to save her nonetheless.

After everything their mistakes have led to, this is the least he can do. Max wails, his inner force surging forward as he replays the few memories he has of Rosa, just like he did when he was trying to keep Liz from dying at the hands of Wyatt Long. He mutters to himself that this is the correct thing to do, to right the wrongs of three terrified teenagers when they were too trapped in fear and too high on pain to think properly.

His hand is itching where it touches Rosaʼs skin, but his fingers are still glowing and the heat is still bearable, so Max keeps pushing forward. Maybe if he just makes one last effort, maybe if he focuses harder on the memories – the last time he saw Rosa alive, she told him to stay away from her sister. That he did, he let Liz fade away to the back of his mind, a dormant memory that blazed alive so suddenly a decade later that it had thrown him backwards. It felt like heʼd stepped into a rollercoaster with no safety belt.

He allows that feeling to bleed into his motions, and cries out, a wordless sound that rips his insides and tears him in half, an open wound seeping and pounding and beating. His hand feels on fire; his whole being is begging to crawl out of his skin and blend with the soil under his knees.

Rosa gulps for air and chokes on her own haste to breathe.

Max stumbles back when he realizes her eyes are open, staring into his with the full youth of her nineteen years, beautiful and deep like her sisterʼs. He marvels in the resemblance, dark hair and chocolate eyes, olive skin and the trademark Ortecho moles. He lands on his back with a thud, his bones unable to hold him up straight anymore, his heart relinquishing its beating.

Max feels the air leaving his lungs, but heʼs suddenly too tired to breathe in again. His brain seems to have forgotten the basics of surviving, shutting down every cell in his system, and heʼs drowning in the open air, fighting to comprehend the consequences of what heʼs done.

Rosaʼs hovering over him, her voice muffled by the cotton surrounding his ears. He canʼt hear what sheʼs saying, canʼt really feel how sheʼs shaking him. Maybe sheʼs bellowing at him to get up and out of the cave. He wishes he could muster up the strength to move, but his legs have long given up on any motion, and his arms weigh a ton. Even his eyelids are too heavy to move, and he canʼt close his eyes for a much-needed rest. He barely reads Rosaʼs lips as sheʼs mouthing donʼt close your eyes, Evans, look at me, and maybe sheʼs screaming but he canʼt hear anything.

Max just wants to sleep for a while. A nap sounds like the best option after the night heʼs had – heʼs killed Noah and gotten rid of the threat to Isobelʼs sanity, to their own lives, heʼs healed Michaelʼs hand as payment for having endured so many hells to keep them safe and sound, heʼs finally felt what itʼs like to be fully, truly, deeply loved by Liz.

A rest sounds like the best idea heʼs ever had, and heʼs accomplished so much already that he feels he deserves it. Just five minutes, a quarter-hour tops, he promises himself. Even if he canʼt close his eyes, maybe he can block out the light somehow. Rosa keeps trying to move him to no avail. He doesnʼt need to budge at all. He can just drift away for a second on this hard ground, rocks beneath his skull, arms spread open wide like a cross.

He wants to chuckle. This may be the end of all men with healing hands – a limbo of boneless fear and exhaustion, waiting for their fate to be met with shame and forgiveness. He wishes he could tell Liz to take care of Rosa. He wishes he could be there for their reunion, to watch the gleam on Lizʼs eyes as she hugs her long-lost sister and promises to never let go.

His own sister shows up in his mind, but Max is too exhausted to answer her call. Isobelʼs trying to reach out to him, to keep him from lying down in the dark heʼs now craving. He tries to dismiss her with a curt wave of his head in his mind, but he has no strength left. Then thereʼs Michael, although heʼs more of a presence in the back of his mind than a voice tugging at his soul, beckoning him to move. Max canʼt bend to whatever his siblings are asking of him, with words or with feelings. He just wants a short break. Maybe he could try to sit up and follow Isobelʼs command for once in his life, take Rosa to a safe place, and then he could close his eyes and sleep twenty-four hours straight.

But heʼs so tired. He canʼt keep his grasp on his own consciousness any longer. He lets go, and everything turns to dust around him as he allows the night to finally embrace him.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Slightly shaky fingers lift to her lips as Maria turns her back on the makeshift stage and the man playing guitar. She feels giddy inside, fuzzy and warm, as though the sun has risen in her soul. She wants to scream, she wants to cry, she wants to tap-dance and sing. She wants to climb on the rooftops and make sure everyone in Roswell is aware that she is, for once, happy.

Michael Guerin has come back to her, to the Wild Pony while it was still closed to anyone but her best customer. He kissed her with a fierceness sheʼd almost forgotten, buried in the guilt that came with the knowledge that sheʼd hurt her best friend when sheʼd slept with Guerin in the desert in Texas. She still feels guilty when she thinks of Alex, of his eyes full of hope and regret, of his tight smile and his curt okay that truly meant I wish Iʼd told you before and please donʼt do that again and I canʼt ask you not to fall for him. But Guerin is here with her, playing a calm tune on her old guitar. Heʼs come to her and heʼs kissed her like sheʼs the last drop of sanity in his crazed world.

Michael Guerin has chosen her.

Maria knows she wonʼt be able to focus on counting back the bills as she had been doing when he stepped into the bar, asking whether it was open, when what he really wanted to know was if there was any chance for them not to be broken and bruised. She felt the distress oozing from every one of his pores, the guilt building up behind the gold in his eyes, and she wanted to kiss his worries away, to be the one to make him forget about whatever hardships he might have gone through. She wants to be his port in a storm. She wants so badly to become the beacon in his night that sheʼs flung herself to him without thinking about the consequences that just a kiss on those lips would have.

But Michael chose her, and she cannot deny her own feelings. Surely they caught her like a deer in headlights, but she canʼt fight them anymore – she could cry, she could kick the floor and swear sheʼd rather have Alex by her side than break his heart over a guy, but what she feels for Guerin has struck her harder than expected. The blow to her heart felt like a freight train colliding against a paper wall. She canʼt ignore whatʼs crystal clear – sheʼs chosen a guy over a lifelong friendship, and sheʼll have to own up to it someday.

Just not today.

Today she wants to revel in the fact that, for once in her life, someone has actively sought her and attempted to make her feel wanted and deserving. Today she wants to be the kind of girl who gets all the attention. Today she wants to stop being the best friend, the third wheel. Today she wants to stop being invisible and rise up to become herself.

The music vibrates louder, calling to her. She smiles softly while she turns around in her stool, one hand resting on top of the bar for better balance, searching for grounding. She still wants to pinch herself to make sure she isnʼt dreaming. Sheʼs faced with a soothing sight when she lays eyes on the man playing guitar.

Michael is hunched over the instrument, humming softly as he strums the strings with a soft caress. She isnʼt sure why heʼs now willingly playing guitar when up until a few days before, Michael hadnʼt been able to grasp anything with his left hand without it cramping. She distinctly remembers his discouraged face when Arizona proved to be a fraud. Her eyes dart to his fingers, expecting them to be a mangled mess of flesh and bone.

As he stops playing and flexes his hand underneath the guitarʼs neck, Maria has to choke down a gasp.

There is no visible injury in those fingers, the back of Michaelʼs hand smooth skin against the wooden surface. Heʼs looking down at his fingers with a glint of awe in his eyes, and Maria fights the urge to stand up and shake him for answers. Sheʼs not ready for whatever explanation he has to offer, but she knows she wonʼt be at ease until she finds out. She remains silently looking at those fingers until he glances up with a pained look in his eyes.

“How?” she blurts, gesturing to his hand in hopes heʼll understand her broken attempt at asking.

For a second it seems like he doesnʼt know what sheʼs talking about, but then he trembles, a shiver up his spine that leaves him shaking under her prying eyes. He doesnʼt say anything, he doesnʼt even budge for a second. And then, as if someone cut the strings holding him up, Michael slumps out of the chair, crumpling to the floor, guitar falling beside him.

She yelps, running to his side. When she reaches him, his eyes are open but blank, lifeless. She shakes him, ushering him to wake up and come back to her, because she canʼt believe sheʼs finally found herself someone to love that loves her back, only to lose him to some sort of stroke, on the filthy floor of the Wild Pony, at an odd hour on a Monday.

Her fingers brush his uninjured ones, the touch sending a jolt of electricity through her. She jumps slightly, grabbing at her necklace for protection against whatever is holding Michael hostage in his own skin. When the feeling of the familiar weight against her chest comforts her enough to stop the shaking, she furrows her brow and decides to try and move him to the back office, where she has a couch and more privacy than in the bar where anyone could enter unannounced – very much like Michael just did, what seems like a lifetime ago although it’s only been a matter of minutes

Maria groans as she tries to haul his weight on her shoulders, only to drop him back to the floor.

“Donʼt you dare die on me, Guerin,” she mutters under her breath, closing her hands around his wrists and dragging his body across the floor to the back exit where her office is. Sheʼs sweating when she reaches the knob, but sheʼs managed to move Michael without him suffering any further injuries than a bump on his forehead from where he met the ground face-first after collapsing.

Only when sheʼs got him half-propped up against the couch, running out of the strength to lift him up on the furniture, does she check that he is, in fact, not waking up, passed out with his eyes wide open. Only then does she allow herself to crumble down.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The frame cracks with a crying noise before tipping off the mantle and falling to the ground. Isobel smirks, satisfaction present in her features as she grips the arm of her sofa with slender fingers. She can do this – she has already proved that there is more to her, to them, than they initially thought. There is a busted frame to prove it next to the one sheʼs now moving around.

Isobel squints her eyes, focusing again on the picture now lying on the floor, glass broken across their smiling faces, reminding her of the way that Noah always managed to make her laugh. She closes her eyes briefly, unwanted memories flooding her as she loses her control over her powers.

She remembers the first time she saw him, tall and tan and so attractive that Isobelʼs breath hitched in her throat. Noah always was a gentleman – opening doors for her, insisting on walking her home, buying flowers just because the lilies reminded him of that one day they both got lost in the municipal gardens, and he took her along on a romantic stroll – that she just know realizes was all feigned on his part. Isobel remembers too the last time she saw him, dead on the filthy soil outside the turquoise mines, an electric tree blooming from his chest and spreading through his arms.

“Focus,” she chides herself when the frame doesnʼt budge. She feels her control slipping away, so she fumbles to gain some semblance of power as she grabs the sofa tighter. Thereʼs a trickle of blood rolling down from her nose; she tastes salt and iron when she licks away the dense liquid, tears and blood mixing together in a river that doesnʼt seem to stop flowing.

The frame finally flies up from the floor, trembling under the force of Isobelʼs focus, her gaze never leaving the picture. She isnʼt using her hands as support, sheʼs just moving a small object with her brain. Isobel allows it to fly across the room and through the open window to the patio, where it crashes.

“I have to tell Michael,” she says out loud. She canʼt wait until she tells both her brothers that sheʼs able to levitate stuff. Maybe she can even make her hands glow like Maxʼs, teach herself to heal and repair.

Maybe if the three of them join in with their newly-discovered healing powers, they can try to bring back Rosa Ortecho. Noah has hinted that they all are powerful enough on their own, and Isobel has just proved that he was right somehow. Under other circumstances, she wouldnʼt have hesitated in giving Noah credit for his good ideas – it sickens her to think about how much power she willingly gave him, apart from the things he took from her without anyone noticing. Without anyone really being able to stop him.

“I have to reach them,” she mutters to herself, standing up. She tries to tap into her connection with Max, but it feels feeble and hazy. Isobel frowns; she knows Max must be exhausted after the events of last night. Sheʼs sure itʼs too much even for her goody-two-shoes of a brother – killing his own brother-in-law when all Max had ever done with his gift was heal Michael’s occasional drunk-fighting injuries and revive Liz Ortecho when Wyatt Long shot up the diner. The drifter in the desert from when they were all fourteen is conveniently buried deep in her memories; she doesnʼt want anything to trigger her into another blackout state.

They still donʼt know if there are more aliens like Noah – thirsty for power and wild with abandonment. She canʼt risk it any more than she already has.

She taps the connection again, already feeling dizzy. Max isnʼt replying, but through their link she can sense a revolting feeling, as if her brother is drunk on power and high on force. Isobel blinks twice, trying to identify the feelings rushing into her – trying to distinguish if theyʼre hers or Maxʼs, or even Michaelʼs, given the sudden thirst for acetone and whiskey sheʼs having.

Sheʼs overwhelmed when she reaches the mantle where the frame had been on display, slender fingers grabbing the thin fabric with a shaking she canʼt control. Suddenly the noise in her head, the rumble thatʼs ever-present since Michael got back to Roswell the year they all turned eleven, is gone – replaced by a cold that seeps down her spine until it squeezes around the core of her connection with Max. A link that now is trembling. Isobel surges forward with her mind in an attempt to keep Max from going silent as well, but the connection is severed abruptly, leaving a gaping hole in her soul. Isobel feels adrift, fighting for the air thatʼs now scarce and stale, suffocating her from the inside.

It feels as though Max is gone. Isobel doesnʼt think it can be possible, because how could he, but the pain of a line shred to pieces, raw and messy around the edges, is enough to send her in a spiral of grief and anger.

“Max!” she cries out. She needs balance, something to lean against until she catches her breath, until the lightning and the thunder roll out of her in the same waves that are now pinning her to the ground. “What have you done?”

She projects that thought once and again, reaching out to Max to no avail. Isobel switches her aim but Michael is also unavailable, blocking her unconsciously with a symphony of tunes and quiet. Sheʼs all alone, on her own for the first time since hatching out of her pod.

Sheʼs terrified.

Her vision blurs. Her strength dissolves in a fit of splutters and a well of despair, as she falls to the ground, not fully unconscious but not totally aware.The rest of the decorations above the mantle tumble down to the floor, surrounding her like an ex-voto for a deity. She fights for support just as much as she fights for air, not managing to keep any of them as she stumbles and stutters, breath hitching until it catches in her throat, threatening to suffocate her. Her body hits the ground as her mind crashes against a black, invisible wall.

Her hair sprawled like a halo around her head, her arms upturned at unnatural angles, Isobel closes her eyes for the briefest second to gather the courage to prod at the connection once again.

Just one second, she tells herself before fading away.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Rosa isnʼt sure what happened. She feels disoriented, trapped in a circle of headache and dizziness, as Liz wraps herself around Max Evansʼ limp body in an embrace thatʼs made of tears and wails. Rosa is trying hard not to flinch every time Liz cries out, fist bumping against Maxʼs chest, spluttering expletives and shaking his unmoving frame.

No se va a mover,” Rosa finally says, stepping forward, placing a hand on Lizʼs trembling shoulder. “Let him go, Liz. Se ha ido.”

“You canʼt know for sure,” Liz replies stubbornly. “He has to – heʼs just – Max, wake up!” she sobs, curling herself against his body, tear stricken. “Please wake up.”

Determination courses through her. Rosa surges forward and disentangles the two of them, pulling at Liz until she is pressed against her instead of Max. She pets Liz’s long, dark hair, trying to reconcile her last image of a teenage little sister with the grown up woman whoʼs crying not-so-silently with her head buried in the blanket that covers Rosa.

“Everythingʼs going to be fine,” she coos. “I promise, Liz. Tranquila, estoy aquí.”

Eventually, Liz calms down, her breathing evening a bit as she fights to control her emotions. Rosa is still caressing her back, fingers running lightly up and down from the base of Lizʼs neck to halfway down her spine, soothing touches when she knows words wonʼt bring them the peace that they’re both craving. When she feels her sisterʼs heart rate has slowed down enough to allow Liz to breathe properly without the risk of choking on her own tears, Rosa dares to speak up again.

“Iʼm sorry,” she begins, favoring English over the Spanish that comes easily to her tongue when sheʼs feeling lost. “I just woke up and he was there, unmoving. I couldnʼt make him open his eyes.”

“Itʼs not your fault,” Liz shakes her head, sniffing a little. Thereʼs snot in her nose, just like when they were kids; Rosa has to keep her hand from reaching out to clean Lizʼs face. This is clearly not her usual scene – not when her younger sister looks like sheʼs aged a decade overnight. Liz turns again to Max, freeing herself from Rosaʼs grip and shaking Max slightly.

Idiota,” Lizʼs hand keeps colliding against Maxʼs chest, over and over, and the sound of flesh on fabric is grating Rosaʼs nerves. “¡Idiota! You had to go and be all hero, didnʼt you?” Rosa tries to keep her from damaging what sheʼs sure is Maxʼs corpse. The man – and wasnʼt he a child just yesterday when she shoved him out of the Crashdown parking lot? – isnʼt moving and isnʼt breathing either, if the lack of heaving from his chest is any telling.

“Liz,” she tries again, but her sister is already leaning over Max, covering him with her long black hair and her tears, checking, feeling, shaking. Rosa sighs; never, in her nineteen years of experience, has she ever had to face such a situation. She might have had to shoulder their mother leaving, she may have had to hide the fact that sheʼs not Arturoʼs daughter – only by blood, because heʼs her papi no matter what – but sheʼs never had to comfort her sister when sheʼs mourning over the loss of someone who, apparently, she holds quite close to her heart.

“Liz, let go. We have to call the police, or an ambulance, or someone. Let go and let me –” she fishes for her phone, belatedly realizing that sheʼs only wearing the blanket sheʼs woken up to. “Here, give me your phone and Iʼll call –”

“No!” Liz bellows, grabbing Maxʼs body tighter against her own chest. “No police, no hospitals, nothing. We need to call Isobel, we need to call Mikey.”

“Wait now, what?” Rosa blinks in stupor for a second before collecting herself, grasping the edges of the blanket before rising to her feet. “What do you mean? Call Isobel Evans? ¿Estás loca? Whoʼs Mikey?” Liz stops her thrashing, going so completely still Rosa fears sheʼll collapse any time. “Liz?”

“Thereʼs so much I have to tell you,” Liz whispers, still not letting go of Max as she finally, finally, moves to fish her phone out of her purse, forgotten on the ground by their side. She mutters under her breath some Spanish Rosa doesnʼt catch, so low and slurred that sheʼs sure Liz is just talking gibberish and not an actual language. Liz lifts the phone to her ear in a swift movement, cursing gruffly when no one picks up. “Cʼmon, Iz, pick up, pick up, pick up, dammit!”

“Liz,” Rosa gets on her feet and walks around the cave until sheʼs standing opposite to Liz, at the other side of Max whoʼs still fully unmoving on the filthy floor. “Look at me, hermanita. We need to call an ambulance, maybe they can still do something for him. But we have to do it now. Youʼre in shock, itʼs normal. Lemme help you.”

“No!” Liz cries out again, punching a number onto the screen of a phone Rosaʼs sure her sister didnʼt have yesterday. In fact, Rosa isn’t sure there had been those fancy touch screens on phones yesterday; where’s Liz flip phone she just gave to her as a graduation gift? “No hospitals, no ambulances, no doctors, Iʼve told you, Rosa. So much to tell you, but I canʼt right now.” She holds her index finger up while the phone rings feebly before a metallic voice announces the voicemail. “Dammit, Michael, pick up your fucking phone for once!” She tries again, still not looking up from Max, a sharp rictus on her features as the line goes silent after the voicemail message. “Michael, call me back as soon as you get this message. Itʼs important. Itʼs Max.”

Liz sighs deeply as she hangs up, staring at her screen as she shakes her head. Rosa is speechless, she isnʼt understanding anything that’s been happening ever since she woke up with the worst headache in ages – ever since Jasmineʼs birthday party and the weird mix of alcohol and pills and joints and that blue liquid that tasted like shit but gave her the highest high of her life – but she can feel Lizʼs distress. Her aura is all jumbled in black and gray and blue and purple, Rosa can feel it. There are tons of questions fighting their way up her throat, choking her in their haste to be asked.

“Why donʼt you want to call an ambulance?” she settles for saying, the most pressing issue at hand addressed the first.

“I canʼt let them get to Max,” Liz replies simply. “Soon as they find out, theyʼll want to experiment on him, dissect him. Theyʼll kill him.” There are tears sliding down her cheeks again, an unsure finger tracing up and down a pattern on Maxʼs shirt. Rosaʼs lost among her sisterʼs words, which she doesnʼt understand, and the reality theyʼre facing, where theyʼre sitting by a corpse talking instead of acting.

“But, Liz,” Rosa begins, fidgeting because she doesnʼt know how to say that Max is already dead without sounding like an insensitive bitch. “Liz, heʼs already –”

“He had to save you,” Liz sobs quietly. “He had to go and be the alien Jesus he claimed he couldnʼt be. Why, Max?”

“Alien Jesus?”

Ya te lo he dicho, thereʼs so much –”

“– that I donʼt know,” Rosa finishes Lizʼs line. “Why donʼt you stop saying that and start actually telling me? Because sure as hell yesterday when I went to bed you werenʼt looking so grown up, and Max Evans didnʼt even know what a beard was, and you werenʼt on speaking terms with Isobel Evans and that Michael guy I donʼt know anything about!”

Liz looks up for a second, something undefined crossing her features as she makes a decision.

“I guess it was just yesterday for you, wasnʼt it? When you went to meet up with Isobel Evans and Jasmine Frederick and Kate Long at the turquoise mines?”

Rosa has a sinking feeling creeping up in the pit of her stomach. Somethingʼs utterly wrong in the way Liz is saying her words. She can only nod.

“Rosa,” Liz says softly, fully turning in order to face her and looking straight into Rosaʼs eyes. “Youʼve been gone, as well. We didnʼt know there was a way to bring you back, until Max... Well, Max obviously has found a way.”

“Bring me back?” Rosa doesnʼt like the sound of that. Itʼs as if Liz means that Rosa was some place else different from this dimension, but she canʼt surely mean that.

“Thereʼs no way to say this gently,” Liz mutters. She squares her shoulders and shakes her head, going in for the plunge. “Itʼs currently 2018. Youʼve lost over ten years, Rosa.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Kyle Valenti has always prided himself on living by the family code. Even in his darkest hours, when he thought nothing was worth his efforts anymore and heʼd wanted to give up so badly his bones had ached with the need to let go, the Valenti Code had gotten him through his pain until heʼd reached higher grounds. He isnʼt sure the code applies to his current situation, watching over a slowly shutting-down body in the middle of a secret bunker used as an operation center to hunt aliens.

Kyle shakes his head.

“I took an oath to do no harm,” he mutters.

Jesse Manes is still lying on the floor where he fell after Kyle injected him with his best mix of barbiturates.

Heʼs found out that life can change at the drop of a hat. He once was the Homecoming King at Roswell High and then he became the freshman no one would ever look at twice at the UNM. He got through tending to shooting victims without knowing if he was healing the shooter. He lost his father to a brain tumor heʼs only recently discovered was caused by an extraterrestrial force. Heʼs been tracked, pursued, and shot, and heʼs survived.

Tears well up in his eyes when he realizes that heʼs lost so much more in these past months than just some weight and the memories of a father who was always the best person he knew.

Heʼs lost his father three times, he realizes. Once when the tumor that took his brain erased all semblance of sanity, next on the day he died, leaving Kyle and his mother devastated in his wake, and the third time when he found out that Jim Valenti hadnʼt been the respectable Sheriff heʼd led everyone to believe. Kyle isnʼt sure how he feels about his dad anymore. He really doesnʼt know how he feels about any of his childhood heroes anymore. Heʼd always looked up to his dad and Jesse Manes – police and military, set out to serve and protect. In their own twisted way, Kyle thinks they believed they were doing the right thing. In fact, he knows Jesse Manes still believes it – the end justifies the means – but itʼs harder for Kyle to ignore the means when heʼs been shot, bulletproof vest aside. And now heʼs stuck in this goddamn bunker with a hole in his shirt and the promise that things are just going to turn even more hellish in a couple of hours. At least now he knows heʼs not alone, even if in the very beginning he hadnʼt wanted to draw Alex into this.

“You sure as hell werenʼt thinking with your brain, Valenti,” he admonishes to himself as he looks up from the desk heʼs currently sitting at. Calling Alex and telling him over the phone that they now had a situation at the bunker had been the easiest and fastest way to get him to come over to the base. Not telling him that the situation involved his father had definitely not been the wisest move. Alex had tripped on Jesseʼs body upon entering the bunker in his haste to save Kyle from whatever trouble heʼd gotten himself into – they were both still reeling from the prison and the explosion, and they didnʼt really know the extent of Flintʼs influence. Alex had tripped, falling face-first onto the floor right next to his father, and Kyle hadnʼt helped the laugh bubbling up inside of him at the absurdity of everything that had happened to him in less than a day.

After a beat, Alex had joined him in the laughter as Kyle had helped him onto his feet and away from his father.

“I donʼt know whatʼs happened here,” Alex had said, brushing off the dust from his jeans. “I donʼt think I want to know.”

“So I wonʼt tell you,” Kyle had promised, right before sighing and wiping a hand over his face. “But itʼd be better if you knew.”

“I know,” Alex had groaned, taking a seat at the very same desk Kyle had been sitting when heʼd entered the bunker. “I just – I thought he was in Niger for real.”

“Well, surprise?” Kyle had joked. When Alex had shot him one of his trademark glares, heʼd sobered up almost instantly. “I thought someone was following me, okay? I know it sounds insane, and I know it makes me look like Iʼm losing my shit, but I swear I thought he was following me, so I decided to, you know, stay safe and I went to this place to buy a gun and-”

“You what?”

“Yeah, donʼt judge me, man!” Kyle had sighed. “I bought a bulletproof vest, though. Turns out, I wasnʼt wrong and that was the best purchase of my life.”

He had kept on explaining what had happened after Jesse Manes had fired at him; Alex had remained eerily silent through the whole tale, just sending the occasional glance down at his father. Afterwards, heʼd just stood up, told Kyle to not touch Jesse, and had begun pacing the hall with his hands stuck in his pockets, the taptap of his prosthetic against the floor the only sound cutting through the silence. After what had seemed like hours, Alex had checked his wristwatch and sighed.

“If heʼs back in town, it means my power over him isnʼt as strong as I thought it was,” heʼd huffed. “We need to think about our next move. But I have something to do before we can get to that part,” heʼd added. “Iʼll be back soon enough. Just keep me posted and when I come back weʼll think about what to do.”

“And what am I supposed to do, stay put here while you go do what? Save the world or what?” Kyle had scoffed, reaching out and grabbing Alex by his wrist, effectively stopping him from moving further towards the door.

“Yeah,” Alex had replied slowly, wriggling his way out of Kyleʼs grasp. ”I need you to stay here and check on him to make sure he doesnʼt wake up before we have a good plan. I wasnʼt expecting him to be back too soon, and now I have some loose ends I need to tie up.”

“Guerin?” Kyle had asked stupidly, earning himself another glare from Alex.

“Iʼm not sure that the bullet hasnʼt affected your brain, Valenti,” Alex had said slowly. “Of course I need to go talk to Guerin, and his siblings, because my father back in town after Caulfield blowing up can only mean that they are in danger. I need to make sure theyʼre alert just in case, while we fix this.”

Kyle can swear, in hindsight, that there were tears rimming Alexʼs eyes before heʼd turned around and walked out the door, closing the gate after him with a loud bang.

And now Kyleʼs still waiting on him to come back. He’s lost track of time, down in a bunker where everything seems to happen in slow motion. Heʼs already texted him twice to let him know there havenʼt been any changes in their current situation, and he hasnʼt received any in response until his phone beeps loudly, echo reverberating in the silent hall. He picks it, fingers tapping on the metallic table as he opens the message app and reads the content. He pales, eyes widening in surprise and fear as he allows the words to sink in.

He fumbles to get on his feet as he searches the contact list on his phone, finding the one heʼs looking for, and hoping against hope that Jenna Cameron will pick up the phone.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The sun is high in the sky when Alex checks his watch for the upteenth time. Heʼs been waiting for a couple of hours now, finally getting some warmth in his bones under the maroon sweater and the black leather jacket that heʼs chosen to go meet Guerin. He should be sleeping; he should be gathering data with Kyle; he should be looking for a better way to get his father out of the picture.

He shouldnʼt be sitting on a lawn chair at a lonely junkyard, waiting for a future he doesnʼt even know exists anymore.

His phone pings. Alex takes it out from an impossibly tight pocket and unlocks the screen with a sweep of his thumb. Itʼs a message from Kyle. He dismisses it with a shrug; Kyle knows not to contact him unless itʼs a matter of imminent death. A quick text to let him know about the state of the burden they both now have to bear doesnʼt qualify. At least not yet.

Heʼs had quite a night. When theyʼd left Guerin at the mines after Caulfield, Alex had known something would inevitably go wrong. As if the rest of the day hadnʼt been stressful enough – learning about more aliens being alive and in captivity had been topped with the knowledge that his own brother Flint had been behind it all, following their fatherʼs orders. And then.

Then Michael – Guerin – chose to stay with them, to die with them, and Alex had seen his whole life played out in front of him, a future hampered by the absence of one vital part of himself. He had needed to do something, as reckless and suicidal as it had been; Alex had had to make a decision that, given any other circumstance, he would never have made. For the first time in his whole life, with the sole exception of a kiss and a moment shared in the shed, Alex Manes had bared his soul and told his truth. Afterwards, heʼd walked away to lick at his wounds like he always does, not sparing a single thought to Michaelʼs state as theyʼd dropped him by the place it all began.

Alex closes his eyes as his mind supplies him with images from the storm that swept away all his mistakes and replaced them with new, fresh sins to commit.

Itʼs beginning to be obvious that, although they didnʼt really set a time for their talk, Michael Guerin isnʼt going to show up.

His phone beeps again, insistently. He checks it again, surprised to see Lizʼs name glaring at him from the screen. “Liz?” he questions as he picks up, too stunned to think properly. “Whatʼs going on?”

“Alex, gracias a Dios. No one elseʼs picking up their damn phones!” she sounds distressed, voice clogged and tight. For a second he feels as though heʼs talking to Rosa, her voice reminiscent of the old days, sending him through a spiral of memories. “Where are you? We need help!”

“Whatʼs wrong, Liz?” he asks carefully, rising to his feet as he speaks. He has to find his balance on his prosthetic after having spent so many hours sitting on that uncomfortable chair. “You sound –”

“Not Liz,” she says. Alex drops back into the chair, rakes a hand through his short hair. “I know this is going to be such a –”

“Rosa,” he breathes out. If someone had told him, a couple of months ago, that heʼd ever have the chance to talk to his best friendʼs dead sister, he would have had that person committed. “How on Earth – Whereʼs Liz? Is she with you?” As an afterthought, too shocked to be fully functioning, he questions, “Rosa, whereʼs Max?”

“See, thatʼs the thing –”

“Rosa,” he warns, standing up again and talking a few careful steps towards his car. “Where are you? Whereʼs Max? I know he has to be there with you. Pass me to him.”

“Itʼs Max,” her voice cracks, and itʼs all Alex can do before leaping into his Humvee and sprint all the way to wherever they are. He has better control than last night, however, so he just walks as fast as he can towards the vehicle, standing under the sun a couple of feet outside Sandersʼ sign. “He – Alex, Iʼm not sure heʼs breathing.”

Alex can hear the distinctive sound of someone crying, and rustling, as if Rosaʼs kneeling.

“Rosa, tell me where you are. We can fix this, I promise, but I need you to tell me where you are. Please,” he adds slowly, hoping to get through what sounds like a serious panic attack. Heʼs clearly successful when he hears sniffing and a soft okay at the other side of the line.

“Weʼre at – this seems like a cave, I donʼt know exactly where – wait, maybe Liz –”

“The turquoise mines?” he chokes out. He knows about the cave and the pods, heʼs talked about them with Liz when the whole Isobel debacle, even if he hadnʼt dared to talk straight forward to Michael.

“No,” Liz takes over the phone. Even without being able to see her, Alex can tell sheʼs shaking. “Alex,” she croaks out. “Max, he – he –”

“I know, Liz,” he speaks softly, climbing into the cabin of the Humvee with the phone pressed tightly against his ear. He starts the car with one hand, the engine roaring to life with a grunt. “I need to know if youʼre at the turquoise mines.”

“Not exactly,” she exhales, her voice distant all of a sudden, and Alex recognizes the background sounds. Heʼs been put on speaker. “I donʼt know, Alex. I donʼt really know.”

He makes up his mind so quickly it leaves him dizzy. “Keep your phone on, okay?” he commands. “Iʼm going to try and track you down.”

“You can do that?” comes Rosaʼs voice, unsure and so young. Alex refrains from punching the wheel as he too puts the call on speaker. He doesnʼt reply. “Alex?”

Thereʼs a bag below the passenger seat. He reaches out to grab it, muttering to himself when his prosthetic gets caught in the dangling straps when he lifts it up. “Fuck it,” he says. “Iʼm here, I promise. Just – just stay where you are. Try to be calm. I know itʼs not – Iʼll be there in no time.”

He hears the soft click of the call ending, but he doesnʼt know if hanging up has been conscious on the girlsʼ part, or just a glitch in the line. He doesnʼt care, really, as he takes his laptop from the bag and opens the lid. His fingerprint is enough to get it working, and he taps a few codes into one of the programs already running, the coordinates bright in the middle of the screen.

“There you are,” he mutters through his teeth, frowning at the spot in the middle of the desert, thirty miles too far from anything remotely resembling urbanized. When heʼs about to maneuver to get the hell out of Roswell and into the desert, he remembers something and picks his phone from where it has fallen onto the passenger seat, next to the laptop now spewing directions.

He types a quick text to Kyle, smth wrong in the desert. gonna check out. keep an eye on burden. call for reinforce. will come back soon. kyp, before fixing his eyes on the road and starting his way down the lane outside Sandersʼ. His phone buzzes, but he doesnʼt look at it, deciding that Kyleʼs reply can wait until he gets to the middle of nowhere, New Mexico, where Max Evans has decided to play hero.

He hasnʼt made it through the outskirts of the town when his phone blares again. Heʼs ready to throw the device outside the window, he wants to yell and kick and flounder. He wants to crawl under a rock and forget the last ten years happened.

“What the hell,” he cries out as he pulls aside, ready to murder. He canʼt lose any more time, but the phone keeps ringing. Whoever it is, it has to be important. As he steps on the brakes too forcefully, the cell flies from the seat to the floor, bouncing on the lower front of the dashboard and landing halfway below the seat. He huffs.

“Isnʼt it enough to find out your family runs a secret facility to torture aliens, or to discover the fucking love of your life is actually an alien, or to almost die in a supposedly abandoned prison? No, surely it isnʼt enough.” He bends down to reach for the phone, grazing it with his fingertips. He groans. “No, it isnʼt,” he mumbles as he fumbles to get the phone from where itʼs seemingly stuck, still ringing a headache into his skull. “Apart from having to deal with a father who tried to kill my best friend from high school, now it seems Max Evans has decided to play god, and who the hell is calling me at this goddamn hour?”

He finally manages to grab the phone with one last push. He straightens up, the device secured in his grasp, as he looks down at the screen, lit up with a picture of Maria and Liz smiling up at him, taken one of the last days heʼd gone to the Pony before everything spiraled out of control. He frowns.

“Why would Maria call me now?” he muses. He picks up the call with quivering fingers, fearing that his best friend – his alleged sister – bears more bad news.

“Hey, Maria, now’s not the best time – Maria?” he asks in a surprised voice, brows furrowing even deeper as he tries to understand the ragged words among the sobs coming from the other side of the line.

Chapter Text

All my life I have been scared of who I am, of what we all are. Tales donʼt end in happy endings for the guy with the healing hands, history has never been kind to every little thing humans donʼt understand. When I was younger, I read every book on religion I could get my hands on, and thereʼs this line from the Bible, Matthew 2:2, that says we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him, that has always sounded familiar, warm, to me. It also raises so many questions, because whoʼs to say Michael, Isobel and I didnʼt come straight from a star somewhere up in the skies?

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

He is floating. Objectively Max knows he canʼt, because even aliens arenʼt equipped to fly, although Noahʼs words about how they have only scratched the surface of their powers haunt him.

But he is floating.

The darkness around him only deepens as Max dives into it, boneless and bodiless, sure that he has died and turned into a meteorite tracing trails in the night sky. He remembers the pain and the glowing hands, the stretch of his skin as he ran himself ragged overusing his powers. Max remembers Rosaʼs despairing eyes, her words urging him not to give up, and he also remembers his inability to close his eyes.

His floating comes to a halt abruptly, as though he has hit a wall. Physically he feels like heʼs been run over by Michaelʼs truck and a Police cruiser taking turns; he understands that it has to be a side effect of resurrecting a girl who had been dead for ten years. Max reaches out in front of him, the darkness preventing him from seeing anything, but there’s nothing keeping him from moving. He doesnʼt know whatʼs going on, whether he is still alive or dead or in the limbo he was told about when he was a kid growing up in all too religious Roswell. He blinks, to no avail – the darkness remains firmly in place. He sighs.

Thereʼs the familiar push in his mind, a swirling whirlwind in pinks and oranges that heʼs come to associate to Isobel. Max wants to dismiss her, waving her off in his mind, trying to pull back and push forward into the darkness, a call in the silence that surrounds him. Isobelʼs reaching out to him, and soon enough he feels the distinctive whites and purples coming through from Michaelʼs mind.

No, he projects in his mind. Go back. Itʼs too late.

He feels Isobel fighting him back, Michael calling for him to stop being such a stubborn martyr. Max doesnʼt listen to them, the darkness seeping through his bones.

When have you ever listened to us? Michael questions rhetorically, but Max ignores his words and takes a step forward. The darkness still calls to him, but his feet donʼt push past the invisible barrier.

Wait! Isobel cries out in his mind, the psychic connection vibrating with her efforts to keep him in place, strong enough to actually fight against his own mind. Heʼs too tired to fight back, but he really wants to move forward. He meant what he said in the cave, right after killing Noah, right before healing Michaelʼs hand the way heʼd wanted for ten years. They canʼt live in the past anymore. They need to embrace who they are, what they are, so they can learn about themselves and become more powerful. Max isnʼt sure how much of that thought is his and how much is Noahʼs projection that he absorbed after striking lightning through his brother-in-law.

The darkness shifts, becoming lighter as Max can see his surroundings. He is standing in the middle of the New Mexico desert, dust in swirls around him as the sun bathes him. He blinks at the sudden disappearance of the dark space heʼs been in for what has felt like eons. He sighs when, turning around, he can see Isobel and Michael there with him. Max realizes then that he isnʼt in his own headspace anymore; Isobel has taken over and sheʼs trying to keep him in place for as long as her powers will allow.

“Max,” she says softly, taking a step his way. He lifts one finger in front of his face, and Isobel stops. By her side, Michael is frowning silently. “What have you done, Max?" she sighs.

“What I should have done ten years ago,” Max replies truthfully. “If I had known that Rosa–” he trails off, gesturing vaguely before himself, hands drawing circles as he shrugs.

“You resurrected her,” Michael accuses him. He looks like heʼs been sucker punched, eyes swimming in their sockets wildly, remnants of dried blood on his collar, left hand smooth and healed. Complete.

“Yes,” Max confesses. “Itʼs what I should have done,” he repeats.

“You fucking idiot,” Michael growls, but his voice doesnʼt rise above a monotone whisper. Max wonder briefly how much strength Isobel is putting out there to keep Michael from lunging forward. “You always have to be the goddamn hero. Did you even think of the consequences?”

“Where were you going?" Isobel asks, fulminating Michael with a glance so cold that it would have frozen hell, Max notices. He is glad not to be on the receiving end of his sisterʼs wrath, until Isobel looks back at him. “You were surrounded by darkness.”

“I donʼt know. I think Iʼm–”

“–dead,” she finishes his sentence, choking on the word when he couldnʼt pronounce it. “I can feel it. We can feel it,” she adds. By her side, Max can see Michael trembling, hands balling up in fists, clenching and unclenching spasmodically. “You have to come back,” she pleads.

Max shakes his head. He canʼt speak, not now, not when the darkness is already whispering his name at his back. Michael squints his eyes at him; Isobelʼs lower lip quivers as she wobbles. “Iʼm sorry,” he says. “I meant it. We need to move forward. This is forward for me.”

Drops start to rain from the cloudless sky as Isobelʼs eyes well up with unshed tears. “You promised we would move forward together!”

“You said to be normal,” Michael finally intervenes, stepping up and closing the space between them. “You dying after bringing back a dead girl is not normal.”

“Come back,” Isobel begs. Max notices sheʼs wearing her wedding band still, as though in this mindscape she hasnʼt yet got over the loss in her own life. Itʼs been less than twenty-four hours, but Max feels like his whole existence has passed by in that span of time. “Itʼs not too late. I have been able to reach you. I can bring you back, Max. Take my hand,” she adds, stretching fingers towards him. “Please, Max.”

But the darkness calls to him, Max can feel it. Itʼs a sirenʼs call, the same he suddenly can recall from the moment they were pushed out of the pods and into an unwelcoming world. He turns around to face a wormhole beginning to form, turning and twisting black against the bright colors of the desert Isobel has created for him. Max closes his eyes, looking for his balance. When Isobel and Michael run up to him in a futile attempt to stop him, he projects a protective field around himself, pushing them back, stopping them from touching him. He can hear Isobelʼs strangled yelp; sheʼs usually in charge in this situation – no one can lie to her, no one can act against what she wants, except for Noah. Max is channeling some of Noahʼs energy, and he uses it to push against Isobel and Michael.

“Max!” Michael yells, but Max is facing the wormhole, a small vortex opening in front of him. “Donʼt!” Thereʼs panic in his voice.

Max shrugs, the motion throwing both his siblings stumbling backwards. He dares a glance over his shoulder to see Isobelʼs eyes glistening with tears, Michael brimming with anger. “I love you both,” he says. “But I have to do this. I have to move forward now that I can. You should do the same.”

“Max!”

He ignores their pleas, pushing down the grief Michael is throwing his way and the pain Isobel is projecting. He takes a step forward, and then another, until he is fully entering the wormhole and the darkness engulfs him.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Pick up, Kyle, for Godʼs sake,” Alex mutters under his breath as he drives madly throughout the desert, phone on speaker mode, dust creating patterns behind the car. “Pick up the damned phone!”

“Alex?” comes a voice through the static, and Alex sighs in relief. “Whatʼs wrong? First that text and now–”

“I need you to go to the Wild Pony,” Alex instructs, cutting Kyle off before he loses more precious minutes. If what heʼs gathered from both his conversations with Maria and Rosa – his heart still stops beating at the mere thought – then they are already running out of time. “Help Maria out, sheʼs in some situation and I canʼt–”

“I canʼt leave the bunker,” Kyle protests. “Need I remind you of the burden you and I have talked about? I canʼt up and leave here to go help DeLuca with whatever she needs to fix at her bar.”

“Itʼs Michael!” Alex all but bellows onto the speaker, head tilted to a side to keep his eyes on the road as he directs his voice towards the device on the passenger seat. The map on his laptop screen shows the pin far away from the main road, so he steers off the pavement and into the desert. The car runs into a few bumps before he can control the wheel again. “Somethingʼs wrong with him!”

“Werenʼt you going to meet up with him? Whatʼs he doing with Maria?”

“Sometimes you can be so fucking dumb, Valenti,” Alex spits out as he surmounts a crest and his eyes land on Lizʼs SUV parked askew in the middle of nowhere. “Iʼm in a bit of a situation myself, Liz needs me. And I need you to help Maria and Michael. Whatever it is, you needed to be there like, half an hour ago.”

“And what about–”

“I donʼt care about the burden right now, Kyle,” Alex says, deflated, as he stomps on the brakes of his own car next to Lizʼs.

“I havenʼt been able to contact Cam,” he hears on the other end, Kyle sounding as exhausted as Alex is feeling. “Whatʼs going on, Alex?”

“Youʼll understand when you get to the Pony,” Alex rubs a hand over his face. “I have to hang up now, Kyle. Wonʼt be reachable for some time, donʼt know how long. Keep trying to find Cam, we need as many hands with this as we can get.”

“That big?” Kyle doesnʼt ask anything else, just makes a noise that could be a groan or a growl, the static over the line making it difficult for Alex to distinguish over the rushing in his own ears. “Be careful, Alex,” he finally says. “I donʼt want to have to rescue you wherever you are now.”

“Same,” Alex replies before killing the connection and resting his forehead against the steering wheel for a second. His day has become increasingly stressful by the second – the call from Lizʼs phone and talking to a newly-resurrected Rosa has been surpassed by Mariaʼs own call crying that Michael Guerin of all people had collapsed on the floor of the Wild Pony of all places after playing the guitar of all instruments after a decade being unable to even hold it with his left hand.

He sighs as he opens the door of the car, the windy heat of the desert hitting him, sneaking up his nostrils. His left leg takes all his weight as he slowly gets out of the vehicle, so many hours of sitting and waiting having taken their toll on his stump. The leather jacket forgotten on the seat, he closes the door and makes his way through the dry rambla to the point his device is telling him that Lizʼs phone is. He rolls up the sleeves of his maroon sweater and talks himself into entering what looks like a cave when he reaches an uneven patch of ground, sliding a bit and almost landing on his ass in the middle of the desert.

“Liz?” he calls out before setting foot inside. He needs the reassurance that heʼs going to find what heʼs come here looking for. When she doesnʼt reply, Alex reaches for his weapon instinctively, only to come up empty handed when his fingers brush past his belt. He isnʼt wearing his holster today, because he thought – silly of him – that he wouldnʼt need a firearm to talk to Michael.

This is Roswell, he admonishes himself. And there are aliens and a government conspiracy to wipe them from Earth. What were you expecting?

“Liz,” he calls out again, stepping in between the rocks that form an entrance to a cave thatʼs hidden from view. There are voices coming out from the inside, Alex recognizes Lizʼs broken and despaired and Rosaʼs – he would have never thought heʼd hear her voice again. “Liz, itʼs Alex.”

He doesnʼt want to acknowledge the fact that he spoke to Rosa Ortecho on the phone barely twenty-seven minutes ago, because as crazy as growing up in Roswell has been – as crazy as having been involved with aliens his whole life – Alex canʼt wrap his head around the fact that the dead can still be walking the Earth ten years after their dismissal. Still, he walks into the cave, ready for a fight if necessary. What he sees, though, takes his breath and his balance away for a brief second.

There is a sparkling-white, oval-shaped, egg-like structure that partly illuminates the space. Alex stares at it minutely, curious as to whether it’s one of the pods Michael told him about, barely hours before, but now it feels like a lifetime has passed between this moment and the morning when Michael confessed his darkest secret. Alex wants to touch the shimmering surface thatʼs calling to him, but a wail at his feet distracts him enough to tear his gaze away from the pod and towards the sound.

In the middle of the cave, poorly lit with candles, lies Max Evans, his chest being pounded by a silhouette backlit against the rocks. His eyes are wide open, as though heʼs staring at the ceiling during one of his pensive phases Alex remembers from high school, when Max would zone out whenever Liz was around. One of his arms is outstretched at a weird angle, and his face holds the stillness of centuries of death. Alex has seen enough corpses throughout his decade of service in the American military to recognize one when he sees it.

Thereʼs nothing he can do to help Max Evans.

He stares at his body, spread-eagle on the floor, until a thought heʼs been trying to push down surfaces with enough force to knock him out of breath.

According to Maria, Michael dropped dead in the middle of the Wild Pony without warning. Alex is sure that if he asks about the time when Max has passed away he might get a time frame compatible with when Michael was rendered unconscious. Which means he has to find Isobel Evans right away. And pray that whatever affliction thatʼs taken Max doesnʼt spread through their shared mindscape too fast for him to save the other aliens.

He doesnʼt realize heʼs staring until Rosa clears her throat and he blinks. The form pounding on Maxʼs chest morphs into a sobbing Liz, crashing her fists once and again, sputtering in Spanish as though no one can understand her – venga, vamos, Max, despierta – long black hair brushing Maxʼs arm with every movement, and Alex knows that, had Max been a tad more alive than he is right now, Max would have been ticklish all around from the soft caress of stray locks against his skin.

“Liz,” he whispers, taking a small, unsure step towards his friend. The ground isnʼt as even as heʼd like it to be, and heʼs got to be careful if he doesnʼt want to end up in the hospital with a broken prosthetic leg and a grumpy military doctor. “Liz, Iʼm here.”

“Thank God,” says another voice – the one Alex wasnʼt expecting over the phone – and suddenly the situation becomes almost unbearable as Alex turns to his left and takes in the sight of Rosa, standing tall next to her sister, hands tangled together in a nervous heap while a blanket with rich native American decorations wraps her frame. “I was beginning to think you wouldnʼt come.”

“Rosa,” he manages to say through the haze that seems to have taken charge of his mind. “Itʼs really you.”

“Of course itʼs me,” Rosa retaliates, picking the end of the blanket and wrapping it tighter around herself. “I donʼt know whatʼs happened, Alex, I donʼt really understand, but one moment I wasnʼt and now I–”

“Oh my God,” he half mutters, half chokes out. “Youʼre alive.”

“And Max is dead,” Rosa states, softly but loud enough that Lizʼs ears catch upon it, if the way she perks up is any indication.

“Heʼs not dead!” she protests without turning around. “He canʼt be!”

Rosa shoots a look at Alex that clearly means that she thinks her sisterʼs lost her mind. How Alex has missed these interactions, these moments when he could communicate with Rosa without any words needed – just a glance, a smirk, in their own little world. But time has passed, heʼs grown up and escaped one hell to enter another, and now heʼs facing the dead body of Deputy Evans and a very much alive Rosa Ortecho.

He feels like heʼs seventeen again, afraid and doubtful and worried that his life is running out of his control.

“Liz, if heʼs brought Rosa back,” he starts, circling his friend like he would a wounded animal, too scared to startle her into bolting, but also wanting to make sure she pries away from Max.

“Rosa is very much brought back, you jerk,” Rosa herself interrupts him, clearly offended by being addressed as if she’s not there.

“If heʼs done that,” Alex continues.“And it seems he has, thereʼs no way back. Have you checked his vitals?” When Liz nods, Alex sighs. “Heʼs dead, Liz.”

“We can still help him!” she cries out, finally turning around to look at Alex. “What are you doing here?” Liz blinks at him as if sheʼs just realized heʼs there. Alex decides that he could probably blame it on the shock of watching Max Evans dead on the floor.

“Rosa called me,” he explains simply. “Liz, I know youʼve grown close to Max, but thereʼs nothing we can do. He was the healer and–”

“Wait,” Liz cuts him. She stands up but doesnʼt budge from Maxʼs side. “First, I love Max. As in, Iʼm in love with him. But,” she frowns at him before daring a glance at her sister, whoʼs conveniently staring at the embroidery in her blanket. “But you know Max is a healer. How do you know about that?”

“Donʼt you think we have more pressing matters in our hands right now?” Rosa pipes up, pushing off the wall sheʼs leaned into while Liz went on a rant about how much she loves Max Evans. “I donʼt think itʼs important right now to know how Alex–”

“It is,” Liz states. Her voice grows firmer and steadier as she gazes Alex up and down. “Because heʼs military, and heʼs a Manes, and he was with Mikey for some time when we were still in high school.” Suddenly she seems to realize, as Alex lifts an eyebrow elegantly at her. “Mikey told you. Right.”

“Iʼm not sure I like your implications that I’m military,” he says, brows furrowed once again. He doesnʼt correct her on the assumption that what tied him to Michael was a brief thing from long ago. “But my point is still valid. Max isnʼt breathing. Not even Kyle could save him.”

“Wait, Kyle Valenti?”

“Yeah, Rosa, Kyle Valenti,” Alex snaps at her. He doesnʼt have time to explain anything, he has more pressing matters on his hands, and he needs to go find Michael and Isobel. “Liz, how about we move Max to my car and go from there? This situation might have affected Isobel and Michael too,” he settles on, in the hopes that her inclination to help others might finally kick in and shake her out of this nightmare.

“Yes,” she agrees readily. “Letʼs move Max to a proper pod, and then we can go find Michael and Isobel. Maybe theyʼll need the pods as well.”

“Thatʼs not what–” Alex cuts himself off when he sees the way Liz is looking up at him, hopefully. “Why do you want to move him to a pod when thereʼs one right here?”

“Noah said it was defective,” Liz explains. “Thereʼs a lot you still donʼt know, Alex. But Noah? Heʼs dead. He killed so many people. He killed–”

“–Rosa,” Alex finishes. The folders heʼs been perusing with Kyle and Cam come rushing to his mind, all the information theyʼve gathered and the fake autopsies signed under a fake name. “My father knew about it. God, we need to rush, Liz. We need to move now.”

“What do you mean–”

“Not now. Iʼll explain later,” Alex huffs as he steps forward and grabs Maxʼs arm, pulling at him. With what seems like unhuman effort, he lifts him and places all the weight on his left shoulder. “Cʼmon, help me. Weʼll move faster.”

Between the three of them they manage to move Max into Alexʼs car, while Liz babbles about how the pods keep the aliens in stasis – as though Alex doesnʼt already know from his conversation with Michael – and how they need to get Max into one with as much silver goo covering him as they can gather. With Max secured in the back seat alongside Rosa, whoʼs fidgeting away from him, Alex turns to Liz, sitting in the passenger seat, and asks the only question heʼs yet to get an answer for. “Why are you so sure Max isnʼt completely dead, Liz?”

He can see as her eyes well up again, darting back to Maxʼs unmoving form, and a sad smile creeps up her face. She pulls down her jacket from her left shoulder, leaving it dangling awkwardly from the other, as a glowing handprint peeks out from underneath the stripes of both her top and her bra. Alex watches it mesmerized, not fully understanding what heʼs looking at until she speaks again.

“This handprint is a psychic connection,” she explains. “I can feel what he feels. I can feel echoes of past sensations, memories of past times, but also what he feels right now. If heʼs scared, or angry, or thirsty,” her smile falters. “He doesnʼt feel dead, Alex. He isnʼt feeling alive to me either, but he definitely isnʼt dead. Iʼd have felt it, just like I felt Noah.” When she realizes sheʼs not making any sense, she sighs. “Trust me, I know what Iʼm feeling. Iʼm scared because heʼs scared, but heʼs also hopeful somehow? And intrigued. Wherever he is, heʼs investigating something. I canʼt bury him, not yet, Alex.”

Alex nods curtly, about to start the engine again, but Liz isnʼt done yet.

“We have to bring him back, just like we brought back Isobel.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The darkness dissipates when he comes through the other side of the wormhole. It takes him a moment for his eyes to adjust to the new lightning, the bright colors an aggressive attack on his pupils. He blinks, hand over his eyes, as something in his soul settles for the first time in almost two decades.

Itʼs said that when humans die, they revisit their lives in the small moment between their last breath and the moment their soul leaves their body. Max wonders whether it might be the same for aliens, if thereʼs a heaven where people like him could go in the afterlife. Heʼs always been a religious kind of guy, but this doesnʼt sound nor feel like heaven to him; at least not the way heaven is painted in the books heʼs read.

Max knows, without a shadow of a doubt, that he is back home.

How could he believe that Earth was his home, when he was missing out on the amazing vibrancy of this world where rivulets of purple just entwine with trails of pink, forming structures he can brush with his fingertips?

He takes in what his eyes are registering: a cluster of buildings suspended in thin air, sentient beings skidding through the empty spaces, a sky white and blue and yellow, a ground pink and red and green. He feels like he canʼt breathe, for all the beauty that surrounds him all of a sudden. He wants to touch – heʼs dying to feel the way those surfaces spread smoothly under his glowing hands. Max breathes in, exhales, and gulps in the air that feels so different yet almost the same as it does on Earth. Itʼs somehow thicker, but breathable, and he revels in the feeling of what heʼs seeing before his mind registers the change in the scenery.

The buildings shift and turn, as if heʼs watching a movie, the skies closing off in stormy weather, and then the people – those sentient beings heʼs seen before – are gathering around one shrine, candlelit and richly ornate. Those beings look like humans, their bodies the right shape and varying heights, but the colors of their hair match the buildings and the atmosphere, and their clothes are nothing similar to those he used to wear on Earth. They make him feel self-conscious; after all, he died with simple jeans and a shirt on. He doesnʼt have enough time to wallow in self pity, because the image is changing, and Max is beginning to believe that heʼs suffering from hallucinations because it feels like heʼs watching a movie, a plot unfolding before his eyes.

There are three beings holding three bundles of blankets, wrapped tightly around what Max recognizes as babies. He frowns. He doesnʼt know whatʼs going on, but when the beings leave the infants on top of the altar, the rest bow and clap and coo. Thunder resounds and lightning threatens to strike. There is a storm brewing around the scene, and Max is scared for the three little babies deposited helplessly over the surface, exposed to the elements. He has to bite back a yelp when the lightning crosses the painted sky and strikes right through the shrine. The lightning strikes two more times, one for each baby, before vanishing in thin air. Max resists the urge to go check on the babies; no one seems to care about their well-being. He understands when he feels a voice in his mind rather than hear it, saying loudly, “The thunder has spoken, the lightning has struck. These are the chosen ones.” The voice isnʼt speaking in English but Max understands the words nevertheless, a litany of sounds and syllables that feels engraved in the deepest part of his soul.

The crowd cheers loudly. “Vilandra, Zan and Rath,” the same voice keeps talking, and Max realizes it comes from one of the three beings who had taken the children to the shrine. “They will lead us victoriously in our quest.”

Max frowns, he doesnʼt understand much of what heʼs seeing, but thereʼs a dreadful feeling of belonging whenever he sets his eyes on the bundles on top of the shrine. The image shifts quickly this time, and now heʼs facing a world torn by war and destruction, so similar to the picture Noah painted during his last hours on Earth that Max simply accepts that he is, in fact, on his home planet, whatever its name. He still doesnʼt understand why or how or whatʼs going on, but he can assure himself that heʼs witnessing the downfall of his own civilization.

Heʼs standing in a cave, similar to the one where the pods remain on Earth, shaken by thunder and something Max canʼt put his finger on – something scary. There are three kids and a woman whoʼs hunched over them in a protective stance. The thunder outside relents after a few moments, and the woman stands up once again. One of the children, a boy with hazel eyes and soft curls, clings to the edge of her dress. "Mom,” he projects. Max doesnʼt think heʼll ever get used to that way of communication.

“Itʼs okay, son,” she coos, petting his curls. “Why donʼt we pick it up where we left it?" She pauses for a second, regarding the girl, barely five, big green eyes locked on the rocky wall behind the womanʼs back. "Vilandra, you have to focus. You hold the power now, and you have to share it.”

“How do I do that?” the girl whimpers, sucking on her thumb.

“Your brain is your power, Vilandra,” and Max is sure that the woman is trying so hard to remember the name, as though sheʼs about to call her by another all the time. "Think hard, focus on Zan and tell me, which power do you think will suit him better?"

The girl looks back at the third child, a serious boy with big hands that rings a bell in Maxʼs memory. “Healing,” the girl states. The woman nods, and pushes her gently towards the boys.

“And Rath?”

“He needs to be able to move things,” Vilandra mutters. “Mom says heʼs the one born to protect us.”

The woman huffs slightly; Max can tell she doesnʼt like what the girl has said, but she doesnʼt seem to act on it. “Well, then, honey. Focus on them, reach into their minds, and share what you think they need with them. Zan, Rath,” she commands. “Remember what I told you about opening your minds? Now itʼs time for that.”

Max stares at them as the girl squints her eyes and the boys close theirs. He can feel the surge of power and electricity running through them. The woman smiles sadly when she deems them done. “Now I will teach you how to use them,” she says. “Thereʼs much more to you than primary powers.”

Max doesnʼt remain in the cave to witness it. Thereʼs a pull in his gut and suddenly heʼs once again outside in the open, under a sky that threatens to split in two halves over his head. The buildings that once were bright and shimmering are now broken and ripped in pieces, the beings – aliens just like him, his people, his family – chased down by ships that fall from the sky in rows of destruction, hunting, killing, obliterating. He finds himself glued to the scenes, unable to speak or to act on what looks like yet another memory, even if he doesnʼt know whose it is, so he just stares and drinks in what heʼs seeing, so he can take it with him wherever he goes next.

Max is taken to a small room where a council of seven adult aliens is gathered, three kids running around seemingly unaware of the war destroying their home outside. One of the adults is projecting her voice to the rest, her blonde locks a river down her back. Max hears her in his mind, just like before when he witnessed the babies being chosen by lightning. “We have to send them away,” sheʼs saying. Some of the others nod slightly, but another brunette female alien shakes her head.

“Thereʼs no point in sending the saviors away. Whoʼs going to help heal the sick, or rebuild our homes, or rule our world?”

“Weʼve been doing it for centuries now, Kedra,” the blonde insists. “Itʼs the only way to ensure we survive.”

“We need them here, Kadja!” Kedra says. “Weʼve been sending them away, and where has that gotten us? Nowhere!” She stands up, her lips never moving as she speaks with her mind. “They have been reincarnating, they have been flown to different worlds across the galaxies, and every time they have been split up, tortured, killed.”

“If they stay here, theyʼll be killed as well!” the one named Kadja exclaims. “I just want them to survive, so our people have a chance to thrive in the future! If we keep them here, hidden and blocked, theyʼll end up finding out. Theyʼll kill them!”

“You seem to forget the twins are my children, Kadja,” comes the icy reply. One hand waves toward the kids, whoʼve stopped their games and are now staring at the adults with bright wide eyes. Max recognizes the features, but he refuses to believe – whatʼs there to believe, anyway? – until the child with chocolate locks lifts a hand that starts glowing red.

“You seem to forget that Mich–Rath is my only son,” Kadja retaliates, only a slight stumble in the way she pronounces the name Max doesnʼt recognize. “Sending him away might as well kill me, but I canʼt think of myself now. I have to think of the greater good.”

“Let the thunder and the lightning speak,” one of the eldest aliens projects then, effectively cutting off the rising argument between the two mothers. “If itʼs decided, then we will send the saviors away, safely tucked in travel pods, to reach a destination unknown to most of us, so if the time comes that weʼre tortured for their whereabouts, we wonʼt have that information to reveal.”

Max waits for the image to change, and surely it does, becoming a spiral of circling colors mashing up, memories and conversations and pictures of an escape in the making, of Kadja and Kedra fighting for control of a sinking ship, of smoke and fear in the air, of callused hands pushing three pods into a cave because the thunder and the lightning had deemed them so important that it was worth sacrificing everyone elseʼs lives.

His spirit drops when he finally realizes what has been under his nose the whole time, but itʼs something he could only notice after having been sent in the right direction by the images heʼs been shown – the memories of a life he doesnʼt remember having. He knows when he sees the face of the little girl, seven years old and blonde as the sun; he knows when he watches the curly haired boy wailing and painting the walls with red; he knows when he recognizes his features on the serious face of the brunette boy holding the weight of the universe on his shoulders.

Thereʼs some truth to the myths heʼd been fed while growing up. In the tales of gods and miracles and water turned wine and men walking on water and healing hands. As he spirals down into the dark void once again, he knows.

Father, Son, Holy Spirit.

Enabler, Healer, Protector.

Vilandra, Zan, Rath.

Isobel, Max, Michael.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The moment he hangs up on Alex, Kyle knows thereʼs not an easy way out of the hell heʼs placed himself in. One glance at the floor, where Jesse Manes is sprawled as the life slowly seeps out of him, and Kyle feels like heʼs going to be sick. The weariness is starting to put a dent in his resolve.

With a sigh, he produces the second needle he prepared when he was trying not to fall into madness. He stares at it reverently, as though it holds the secrets of the whole universe, before uncapping it and sticking it in Manesʼ neck once again.

“Itʼs just a new dose,” he mutters. He stands up without touching the body on the floor. “It will slow down the process, reverting it to the early stages. It wonʼt kill you, but it wonʼt wake you up,” he keeps explaining like heʼd do to any patient come his way to seek for a cure to their pain. He doesnʼt know why he didn’t tell Alex about the second needle, the second plan he had in case things didnʼt turn out right – the liquid heʼd planned to inject in his own veins, a solution if things turned out to be unbearable for him. Jesse Manes doesnʼt take prisoners, he tells himself as he walks out the bunker, phone firmly in his pocket. Better out than dead, he reassures himself.

One day, Kyle will have to tell Alex about his plan to put himself into a coma for the greater good – he isnʼt a trained airman, under duress heʼd have spilled his guts – and about how much he values life that he would willingly go under before being broken. The price heʼs got to pay, the life he has in his hands right now, hanging in the balance of unconsciousness and organ failure, is too high for someone who just wanted to become a surgeon.

When he exits the bunker, heʼs still wearing the bulletproof vest.

The ride to the Wild Pony goes without incident. Kyle makes sure not to run any red lights, not willing to attract any attention to himself as he drives back into town. His fingers keep tapping on his phone, the fading sound of ringing filling the cabin through the speaker of his Bluetooth device. Jenna doesnʼt pick up the phone the first two times, and the third one, just when Kyle is about to enter Roswell, doesnʼt go the way he would have wanted it to. He hangs up, frustrated that heʼs not coming across with his point to the stubborn people heʼs surrounded himself with. But when the Wild Pony shows up in front of him, he promptly focuses on the task at hand – find Maria, help her with Guerin, and maybe, perhaps, be able to understand whatʼs going on.

The bar is closed, according to a sign hanging from the front door, but Kyle knows better. Heʼs aware Maria doesnʼt actually lock the place up if sheʼs already inside, so he strolls confidently to the door and grabs the handle, trying to turn it. The handle doesnʼt budge. Kyle tries again a couple of times, frantically moving it up and down with no success.

He pounds on the door, hoping he doesnʼt look like a needy drunk whoʼs up early to get his fix.

It takes Maria at least ten minutes to rush to the door; not that Kyle is counting. What he is counting, though, is the number of quirky stares he gets from bypassers and tourists on their way to the recently reopened UFO Emporium. Kyle huffs under his breath – he missed the only two town events where he could have bragged about being a surgeon and flirted with all the women he would have wanted to. And now heʼs looking like heʼs up for trouble in the middle of the day.

"Weʼre closed,” he hears Maria say from the other side of the door.

"Itʼs Kyle,” he replies. "Alex called me. Said you needed help.”

The door cracks open slightly. Kyle peeks Mariaʼs face, pale and exhausted. "I guess itʼs good youʼve come. Youʼre a doctor.” She opens the door fully and he steps inside, waiting for her to lead the way. "Michael was doing just fine, you know. And suddenly he dropped, eyes open, and he won’t wake up.”

Kyle nods, fear increasing. Michael has gone through a lot these past days, from what heʼs been able to gather – Caulfield was a minefield full of his worst nightmares, and the three of them had to watch go up in flames because they tried to help the prisoners. Kyle remembers Michael saying that he could feel the anger and the screams inside the building. He canʼt help but think that maybe the stress of the past few days has finally taken its toll on the alien. “Take me to him.”

He follows Maria through the bar, to the small cubicle where sheʼs hidden Michael from view. When he sees the alien, he has to fight the urge to covers his mouth with his hand in order to stop a wail from coming out. He takes in the sight – the eyes wide open, the lifeless slump of his body, the left hand dangling off the couch.

The left hand that looks completely healed, when just the morning before it had been as mangled and broken as the past ten years.

“Whatʼs going on, Kyle?” Maria demands, voice breaking.

“What was he doing here?” he asks in response, kneeling in front of the couch and checking vitals. Michael is still alive, but unresponsive. Kyle canʼt know the reasons why he fell unconscious, but he canʼt really take Michael to a hospital. He needs Liz and her biomedical training and her studies on alien physiology to understand.

“He came here. Asked if he could play. Then–” she trails off. Kyle has the feeling sheʼs keeping some secret but he doesnʼt pry.

“I need to make some calls,” he tells her. “He’s unresponsive but breathing. It may be related to stress or something similar. Keep him here, and call me if thereʼs any change,” he motions for her to give him her phone and punches his number on it.

“And thatʼs all?” her face is drenched in tears but her voice only quivers a little.

“I need my bag and some other things from the hospital. Guerin has an utter fear of doctors and hospitals. We canʼt risk taking him there to wake up surrounded by machines and white lab coats,” he reasons, hoping to sound reassuring. “I will be out less than an hour. I promise Iʼll be back.”

Maria nods slightly, letting him go through the open doors. Kyle closes the one leading to the front of the bar behind himself and slips into doctor mode once again. He has a mystery on his hands, but he canʼt afford to panic. His mind wanders back again to Michaelʼs words, and a thought occurs to him, a thought thatʼs scary enough to leave him breathless.

If the three of them are connected, Isobel might be in danger as well. And maybe the source of this illness thatʼs crept upon Michael is in Maxʼs hands.

Heʼs so engrossed in his thoughts that he doesnʼt notice the ruckus outside the bar until he almost runs into a couple of people shaking in the street. When he looks up, he sees a crowd cutting off the access to the parking lot, some women muttering under their breath, a man comforting a young child.

Thereʼs a woman wearing a t-shirt that reads Iʼm a believer standing near a big black SUV. “Call the police!” the tourist is screaming, flailing around as her husband kneels between two parked cars in the lot. “Heʼs dead! Heʼs dead!”

When Kyle wades his way through the crowd gathering around, muttering that heʼs a doctor and that he can help somehow, he feels short of breath. Itʼs like heʼs starring in a shit show with increasingly spooky elements, because heʼs sure heʼs staring at Racist Hankʼs dead body, a gleaming handprint blooming in his chest, glowing through the ripped shreds of his torn shirt.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The radio is blasting some Counting Crows song she doesnʼt recognize from the first beats, but Jenna doesnʼt really care as she drives with the sun on her face the last few miles to her next stop, somewhere near Terre Haute. Sheʼs been driving nonstop for some time now, enjoying the solitude of the road in the wee hours of the morning after having slept under six hours at a filthy motel on the outskirts of Loma Linda. Her fingers grip the steering wheel with a force she hasnʼt felt in herself for so long sheʼs almost forgotten sheʼs strong enough to bend reality to her will whenever she needs to move forward.

Adam Duritz is singing in the background of her mind, they paved paradise and put up a parking lot, and she finds herself humming along. As she approaches Terre Haute, the traffic becomes denser and harder to navigate. Her grip on the wheel tightens as she squints her eyes at a car that passes her old truck way over the speed limit. Jenna mutters under her breath, fingertips catching up with the rhythm, when she’s abruptly interrupted by the blaring of her phone, thrown hastily onto the passenger seat when she left the motel this morning in the blaze of the engine and the pedal to the floor.

“Who the hell–” she cuts herself as she dares a glance at the screen, lit with an incoming call. The car sheʼs following in this lane surrounding Terre Haute swerves towards an upcoming exit, making her hit the brakes abruptly to avoid a collision. “Where did you learn to drive?” she yells more to herself in the confines of her car than to be heard by the careless driver whoʼs now navigating happily away. Her phone has gone silent, finally. Sheʼs already fed up with the noise of the newest Panic! At The Disco song sheʼs set up as ringtone.

When the gas tank indicator points below one third, dangerously nearing the red marking reserve, Jenna scans the road signs and takes one of the exits for a gas station. Just a few more miles, she tells herself as she drives slower. The gas station is almost upon her when she exits the freeway, the black and white stripes of I-44 E shimmering in her rearview mirror.

The music seeping through the speakers is now even more upbeat than before, and she sings along the lyrics, nothing ever comes without a consequence or cost, tell me will the stars align?, as she taps the fingers of her left hand on the plastic cover underneath her window. Her head bobs in time with the sound, her tight ponytail bouncing as Dan Reynolds bleeds out on the lyrics. Right around halfway into the song, her phone rings again insistently, persistent in its quest to ruin any of the good songs this forsaken radio station plays. This time she manages to grab it from the passenger seat, lifting it so she can read the name on the screen. Itʼs lucky that Jenna was already pushing on the brakes as she neared the gas station; otherwise she would have come close to hitting one of the trees that salute drivers from the side of the freeway. She brings the car to a halt next to the gas pumps, but when she aims to swipe her finger over the phone screen the call has already been disconnected.

“Fuck,” she swears under her breath. Her long nails, previously perfectly manicured until she discharged her firearm in a public place to save Max Evans of all people, get in the way as she falters while attempting to unblock the screen. Luckily for her, the phone blares once again, and this time she manages to pick it up in time. “Valenti,” she says, suddenly out of breath.

“Thank God, Cameron,” comes the reply from the other end. Static muffles the line and she doesnʼt hear whatever heʼs saying.

“Valenti, Iʼm losing you,” Jenna says. “Are you in the clubhouse?”

“Iʼm driving,” Kyle explains. “Iʼm getting into town right now, you should be hearing me just fine.”

“Whatʼs the emergency, Valenti?” Jenna demands, biting her thumbnail as she eyes the gas station trying to decide whether she should buy some chips or wait until sheʼs all settled down in Marysville to go grocery shopping.

“I donʼt know,” Kyle answers shortly. “I need you to go to the desert. Alex is already there, he hasnʼt told me much but–”

“Hold your horses,” she cuts him off. Her left hand threads through her ponytail, messing it up. She closes her eyes. “Is this related to,” she lowers her voice although sheʼs still inside her car, “the alien manhunt?”

“I guess so. I really donʼt know,” Kyle repeats between huffs, as though heʼs working hard on controlling whatever emotion heʼs bottling up. “I already told you. Alex called for reinforcements, and thatʼs all I know. We need you to go to the desert.”

“Do you ever ask a question, Valenti?” she hisses, opening the door of the car and stepping outside under the scrutinizing gaze of one of the station workers. Her ponytail bounces against her back. “Iʼm not in Roswell. Hell, Valenti, Iʼm not even in New Mexico anymore.”

“What do you mean?” And there it is, Jenna can hear it crystal clear – Kyleʼs voice breaks by the last syllable, and the panic breaks through his words. “Where are you going? Whatʼs going on?”

“Listen, Valenti,” she interrupts him again before he can go on and on with endless questions she doesnʼt want to answer right now. “I donʼt owe you any explanation. Iʼm no longer a Deputy in Roswell, and Iʼm moving to Ohio with my sister. Iʼm not coming back.”

“But–”

“Valenti, this fucked up quest of yours has already cost me my job and my sisterʼs safety,” Jenna snarls. “Iʼm not giving up any more of myself to it, am I being clear?”

“Jenna,” he resorts to first names, but sheʼs having none of it.

“I should have left a note in the clubhouse,” she laments. “Leaving town. Donʼt look for me. Hell, Valenti, tell Manes Iʼm out of it. Whatever it is, look for help somewhere else.”

She hangs up, harsh and angry. She collapses against the side of her car, one hand still holding the phone close to her chest while she splays out the fingers of the other against the cool surface of the vehicle. She tries to focus on her breathing – one in, one out, steady, counting down to three every time she inhales so she can calm her nerves – before she pushes away from the car and to the pump, ready to refill her tank and speed away from Indianapolis so she can reach Ohio on schedule. Sheʼs just shy of three hours from her final destination. She can make it.

As much as she tries, during the remainder of her road trip to her sister, Jenna canʼt stop thinking about Kyleʼs words, repeating on a loop over the music that the radio host is playing. She isnʼt paying attention anymore, only focused on her breathing and the road as her mind plays tricks on her. She tells herself that both Valenti and Manes could have come across something important that needed her backup, but she also talks herself down from turning around and driving back home because Charlie needs her in Ohio and not in Roswell.

Jenna has let her sister down so many times that she canʼt afford to disappoint her once more.

Right on time, according to the plan she had built before hitting the road back in New Mexico, she rolls into Ohio and drives easily towards Marysville. She follows the GPS instructions, navigating through the main roads until she finds her way to the military facility where Jesse Manes had managed to transfer her sister. She knows she should check into the hotel room sheʼs booked in advance, in a tiny, family-run hotel near everything but the prison. But Jenna canʼt wait to get her clearance into the building where theyʼre keeping Charlie, so she’s ready to visit her first thing in the morning. It’s well into the afternoon by the time she pulls up to the facility parking lot and kills the engine; she hasnʼt been able to shake Kyleʼs words from her mind, but she has to gather herself if she wants to go through the motions of becoming Charlieʼs only approved visitor.

The military men guarding the entrance eye her shamelessly as she wraps her jacket tighter against her skin. Sheʼs forgotten that fall in Ohio gets colder than in New Mexico, and her leather jacket puts up no fight against the forty-six degrees Fahrenheit hitting her before she sets foot inside the building. The reception is aseptic, just a desk with a computer on it, flanked by posters calling for recruitment; Jenna canʼt help the smile that creeps up her face when she thinks of another building, another time, when need and love had made both the Cameron sisters enlist in an adventure that had left them reeling and broken. Unconsciously she rubs her thumb over the tattoo imprinted on the inside of her left wrist. Time to man up, she tells herself, snickering at her own choice of words. The bored-looking woman sitting at the desk looks up from inspecting her nails when Jenna approaches.

“May I help you?” she says, and it surprises Jenna to notice that sheʼs not military.

“My nameʼs Jenna Cameron. Iʼm here to get clearance to visit Charlotte Rebecca Cameron,” she explains, taking some papers out of the bag that she grabbed from her trunk before. The forms are neatly organized; Jenna doesnʼt like chaos to reign in her life, and sheʼs filled the dotted lines with all her information and Charlieʼs beforehand so she wouldnʼt waste any time. “Here, I think I have everything covered.” She hands the papers to the woman, whoʼs looking unimpressed with her.

“Leave them there,” the woman gestures vaguely toward the surface of the desk while she turns to the computer and punches some keys. “Whoʼs the inmate you want visit clearance?”

“Charlotte Rebecca Cameron,” Jenna repeats, already frowning. She doesnʼt like repeating herself. “Do you need me to spell it?”

“No, thank you,” the woman – Rhona Shelley according to her name tag – replies, typing up fast. “Thereʼs no one under that name here.”

“Look again,” Jenna snaps. The feeling of dread that has been pooling in her gut since sheʼs hung up on Kyle only grows. “My sister was transferred here a couple of weeks ago, following Master Sergeant Jesse Manesʼ orders,” she explains.

“Wait a moment,” Rhona Shelley commands, as she stands up and disappears through a door on the side of the reception hall, leaving Jenna alone. A couple of uniformed women walk by; Jenna thinks they might be guards as well, but she canʼt be sure. After a couple of minutes, Rhona Shelley shows up again, with a stack of papers in her hands and a frown matching Jennaʼs on her face. “Miss Cameron, your sister never made it to Marysville,” she informs. “There was no record of orders for her to transfer here.”

“That canʼt be possible,” Jenna protests, but Rhona Shelley is already sitting down on her chair and leaving the papers in front of her. “She was transferred.”

“She isnʼt here,” Rhona repeats. She proceeds to peruse through the papers, promptly ignoring Jenna.

“Canʼt you please tell me where my sister is?” Jenna tries for politeness but fails halfway through when her words come out spiteful and angry.

“Sadly, I canʼt,” the other woman tells her, brushing past the papers without looking back up at her. “Thatʼs confidential.”

“Iʼm her sister!” Jenna snaps. “Iʼm her only family!”

“Sorry,” Rhona says, although she doesnʼt sound sorry at all. “I canʼt do anything.”

Jenna huffs but pushes herself off the desk, walking back out. Once faced against the cold air and the fading sun, she closes her eyes. Manes had told her Charlie would be in Marysville, but he had lied to her. She wonders which other lies heʼd fed her, but she already knows the answer for that – sheʼs been working with Alex and Kyle for a while, sheʼs seen Max and his brother-in-law, and even if she doesnʼt fully understand whatʼs going on, Jenna has the inkling that Isobel Evans and Michael Guerin arenʼt the evil Manes wanted her to believe they were. Her train of thought trails off as she realizes her mistake.

She shouldnʼt have trusted Jesse Manes; her instincts told her so when he tried to blackmail her into helping him. Now she knows he tricked her to get her away from Roswell, and it irks her. Jesse Manes doesnʼt act without a purpose, and Jenna would be crazy if she thought otherwise.

Rubbing a hand over her face, the other gripping the edges of her jacket as though she was holding the edges of a reality crumbling down to ashes, Jenna knows exactly what she should be doing.

Walking past the two guards who eye her once again as she rushes to her car, she yanks the door open and jumps inside.

Chapter Text

They say that the true awakening takes place within, as though you have any control on how and when you wake up to the perils and dangers of this life weʼre leading. But the truth is, you canʼt control the way your mind realizes one day that you are not alone in this universe. Once upon a time, my father found something that made him believe. The monsters are among us, waiting for their moment to attack, and itʼs our sacred duty to defend this planet from their invasion. The day I opened my eyes to that truth, there was no stepping back for me. Iʼm a man with a legacy, and I will live up to it.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Maria looks down at Michaelʼs frame sprawled on her couch. He has his eyes open, and there haven’t been any changes in his breathing patterns ever since Kyle left the office to go grab his things. Maria isnʼt sure whatʼs going on, but sheʼs taking advantage of the situation to think about what has happened and all the things that donʼt really add up.

Michael looks peaceful, almost as though he’s sleeping. She smiles softly at his curls plastered to his forehead, imagining him by her side on a lazy Sunday morning, tracing patterns on her dark skin to wake her up – the moment she was robbed of that rushed morning in Texas not that long ago. Sheʼs surprised by her own yearning for some normalcy among the chaos her life has become; her mother isnʼt improving and sheʼs buried deep in debt after all these years seeking a cure that always seems to slip through her fingers. She desires a hand to hold hers through the pain of daily life, a respite from the despair of watching as her only rock crumbles under the crushing force of an illness no one understands.

Her eyes fall on Michaelʼs left hand. Itʼs so obvious, so evident, that she has to swallow hard around the lump in her throat that has nothing to do with having him unconscious on her couch. His mangled limb has been a gossip thread for so long, passing through all sorts of ideas varying from an accident with the cattle to an angry boyfriend after finding him getting frisky with his girl. Maria has never asked, mainly because it isnʼt hers to know, but mostly because when Michael first showed up with a bandaged hand she had been busy coping with her best friendʼs death.

But now she canʼt ignore it. The constant of broken bones and crooked fingers that grabbed the beers at awkward angles is now replaced by newly-unblemished skin and perfectly right fingers. Maria reaches out and caresses his hand, not really knowing what she expects to find. Itʼs still not smooth, even without the scars Michaelʼs hands wear the calluses of a life spent working, but the feeling isnʼt the one she had when she accidentally brushed her hand to his during their Texas rounder. Thereʼs a spark there, a tingle that reminds her of static electricity shooting up her spine. She frowns, ready to step back, but she finds it hard for her to walk away even if itʼs just a few steps.

Michael has something addictive about him, even when heʼs scared the shit out of her with her open eyes and unmoving frame. Maria has got a first fix of it and now she needs more, much more, so much that sheʼs ready to risk a lifelong friendship for one more taste of the drug that sits on Michaelʼs secrets.

A loud noise outside the bar breaks the magic of their moment, and Maria shrinks away from Michael. She hears voices, screaming loud enough to seep through the thick, soundproof walls of her sanctuary. With a sigh and a last glance at Michaelʼs mystery, she steps out of her office and locks it from the outside.

On the edge of reality, Michael sighs as he watches Maria scurry away, out of the room and into the wild unknown of the outside world. "Sheʼs going to freak out when she finds out,” he tells his sister from his spot across her in the darkened space theyʼre sharing. “Itʼs not going to be pretty.”

“Why did you come to her?" Isobel asks, genuine curiosity laced in her words. “You said youʼd love Alex Manes forever.”

“I also said that loving him hurts like a crash landing,” he points out. “Besides, I donʼt really have to explain myself to you, Isobel.”

“You canʼt lie to me here,” she tells him. Thereʼs a hurt in her words that strings Michael as well. “I donʼt want to lose you like weʼve lost Max, Michael. I donʼt want you to make the same mistakes Iʼve made.”

“I doubt that Maria will turn out to be an alien serial killer,” Michael frowns at her. He sighs again when she flinches, visibly hurt by his words. “Iʼm sorry, Iz. I shouldnʼt have said that.”

“Well, we canʼt know if Maria is an alien,” his sister speaks softly. Michael can feel her efforts in disguising the distress his words have caused. “She isnʼt the serial killer we were looking for, but that doesnʼt mean she doesnʼt have her own secrets. I am trying to protect you.” The way no one could protect me goes unspoken but understood. Michael turns his back on her, but that doesnʼt deter her from chastising him. “Telling her our secret could go so wrong. We have just found out what happens when we choose the wrong person to trust. Alex and Liz are way better than Noah,” and she shudders at the name rolling off her tongue, “but they have hurt both you and Max. Love works that way. It hurts and it gives and it takes. Adding Maria to the mix without knowing how sheʼd react is risky, Michael.”

“What are we going to do now?" he changes subjects. He tries to make it obvious that he doesnʼt want to talk about his heartʼs issues any longer. “Max has left us here and has gone to the next level. Whatever it means, wherever it is.”

“And Rosa is alive,” Isobel adds. She shakes her head; Michael can feel it rather than see it, their connection is so strong in their shared mindspace. “This is such a mess, and without Max I donʼt know how weʼre going to go on.”

Part of Michael wants to agree. Max has decided, once again, whatʼs best for them all and heʼs gone on, away from them, through a wormhole to someplace neither Isobel nor Michael himself could follow. It felt so final. Life is going to be different now, they will need to face a world where Max isnʼt there anymore. They will need to cover his death, to make up some excuses, to move on somehow.

They get to make their own decisions and set their own rules.

“Itʼs our time now, Isobel,” he tells her. “We get to decide what we do and how we do it. Max isn’t here anymore to force us to keep our secret or to decide for us.”

“But–”

“We get to live on our own terms. And I am going to do it, starting now,” he says, taking a step away from her, when a pain ripples through him. He doubles over, heaving and panting.

“Michael,” he hears Isobel, voice harsh and broken. He turns around to see her pale and retching. “Whatʼs going on?”

A wave of nausea surges through him. He canʼt understand it, but thereʼs a murmur in his mind that sounds so much like Max telling him to run to the cave, to find the pods. He blinks, the pain receding but the voice growing stronger. “Itʼs Max,” he says. “Heʼs calling for us.”

“Then we go,” Isobel decides. Michael doesnʼt have the strength to argue with her about her sick codependence with Max, a link that got weakened for him when he left Roswell at seven and that ended up severed when he took the blame for Rosaʼs death. He nods.

The blurry seams of his world become sharp and pointy all of a sudden, and his eyes focus on the ceiling of a room he doesnʼt recognize. He blinks, he coughs, and then he remembers. He remembers Noah and the pain and the death, but also Alex and a guitar and a kiss. And Maria.

Wobbling, Michael gets to his feet and walks up to the door, only to find it locked. With a little effort, he picks on the lock and simply runs away, allowing his psyche to guide him on a quest to find whatever Max needs from him.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Iʼm sorry you had to witness that, son,” Michelle is speaking softly, but Kyle isnʼt really registering any of her words. His eyes are still trained on the now covered body of Hank, being lifted into the coronerʼs car. “Itʼs not a pleasant view.”

“Iʼve seen my fair share of death, mom,” he retaliates slowly. His gaze flickers from the stretcher to the front door of the Wild Pony, where a bewildered Maria is watching the scene. “But I guess I have to go talk to Maria,” he suggests. “See if I can help her somehow, she looks like sheʼs going to faint any moment now.”

“Iʼll need to talk to her too,” Michelle tells him before he turns around. "And you. You tried to save him, and heʼs dead in her parking lot. Iʼm sorry but thatʼs how things should be done.” She looks apologetically to him. "When you deem her calm enough, could you tell her to come talk to me? I donʼt want to issue a warrant, and I donʼt want her to talk to anyone who might make her feel uncomfortable.”

Kyle hears the words his mother isnʼt speaking – the shared fear of those who arenʼt completely white in a small town like Roswell, in the middle of the deepest America anyone could think of. They have a whiter than white dead man on the parking lot of a bar run by a black woman, and the office leading the investigation is Latina. If they arenʼt careful, this situation could get out of hand easily, and Kyle doesnʼt need attention drawn to either of them, wherever they’re from, for that matter. Not when they have a Master Sergeant paralyzed in a basement, one alien sprawled on the couch of Mariaʼs office in the back of the Wild Pony, and what sounds awfully like a very difficult situation where Alex is helping Liz.

“Iʼll go talk to her then,” Kyle promises her. “If you think it could be of any help, when sheʼs calm enough I could bring us both to the precinct.”

Michelle looks at him with a knowing glint in her eyes, and her lips curve around a single word, thanks. With that, he squeezes her hand and retreats back to the door where Maria has stopped pacing and is now openly freaking out. Kyle watches as she bites down on the nail of her right fingers, eyes trained to the coronerʼs car as the driver revs up the engine and the vehicle veers away from the parking lot. The bystanders begin to disperse in slow motion, small groups still crowding the space as they gossip about what has happened. Kyle doesnʼt recognize anyone from Roswell, theyʼre probably tourists who came to visit the museum and the crash site.

“Maria,” he begins. “Iʼm so sorry. I just stumbled upon–that.”

“What happened?” she asks nervously. Kyle sighs. “Was that Hank?”

“Yeah, it was,” he settles for saying. He isnʼt sure how much Maria knows, if anything, but heʼs not going to be the one letting the cat out of the bag. It definitely isnʼt his secret to tell, even if it is his legacy. “Since it happened in your parking lot, my mother wants to talk to you. Itʼs just going to be a chat,” he rushes to add when Maria snaps her head up and looks right through him with weary eyes. “Nothing major.”

“Hank is dead. In my parking lot,” Maria informs him, as though Kyle doesnʼt know whatʼs going on. “And Michaelʼs still in my office looking more dead than alive, suffering from some condition you as a doctor canʼt diagnose. He doesnʼt like hospitals so Iʼm stuck with him for how long? Until he wakes up?"

Kyle bites his lip. Life would be easier if she knew. Everything would be easier if the world knew about aliens and superpowers and massive government conspiracies. And yet, he is the one left with the task of cleaning up after whatever natural disaster has happened to keep Michael in that sort of stasis.

Itʼs like a bulb has been lit in his mind. Whatever the reason, Kyle thinks he knows how to help Michael; the trickiest part is to actually act on his idea. “I think I know how to help him,” he offers. “But it will involve you helping me getting his sorry ass into my car and then respecting his privacy enough to stay put until I come pick you up so we can go talk to my mother.”

He sees the moment his words sink in Mariaʼs mind, for the ugliness creeps to her features as a frown knits her eyebrows together. “Donʼt you think even for a second that I wonʼt be going with you, Valenti,” she warns, eyes squinting against the clear light of day. “He came to me, he needs me. He chose me. Iʼm in.”

Unbidden and uncalled, Kyle feels anger building up inside of himself at her choice of words. He almost has no time to bite his tongue before replying with all the grief heʼs feeling for Alex and what he now thinks has happened between them. Kyle is sure Alex has been waiting for hours for Michael to show up, under the sun in the junkyard, until Liz called him, forcing him to give up on the last thread of hope. Kyle knows Alex – he does, even after all the shit he put them through – and he knows Alex wouldnʼt have hung onto a cause he thought was hopeless. And while Alex was waiting, Michael was at the Wild Pony with Maria. The entire time.

Kyle knows there are tons of things they could have been doing, apart from playing guitar.

The betrayal he feels surprises Kyle – even if Alex never said anything about his feelings for Guerin, Kyle had been able to feel them. He wouldnʼt have thought heʼd be so protective of Alex Manes after everything theyʼve been through, but the truth is, heʼd punch Guerin hard in that sardonic face of his for giving Alex hope for a future he was already planning on breaking. “No, youʼre not,” he replies, more viciously than he intended. “He may have come to you, but you called Alex,” he keeps on, accusing her with his words while he tries hard not to point at her with one finger. “Why did you do that?"

“Heʼs my friend,” Maria tells him, clearly annoyed by his words although Kyle can tell sheʼs shrunk a bit, a crack in her cool exterior only threatened by the fear of what has been going on in her parking lot. “Heʼs been my best friend for half my life. Why would he call you?”

Kyle bursts out in laughter as he pushes past her and into the bar. “I see now why Guerin came to you,” he says shaking his head. “High schoolʼs ten years to the left, but youʼre still sour from it. I donʼt have to apologize to you. I already made my peace with everyone I needed to.” He strides through the floor until he reaches the door of the office, where he stops abruptly, whatever he intended to say lost in his throat. Maria almost crashes against his back, her heels tapping on the floor impatiently.

“Listen, Valenti,” she speaks up. “I donʼt know why you think you can speak for Alex in this particular–”

“Shut up,” Kyle cuts her off. He pushes aside the memories of Caulfield – it feels so far away even if itʼs been only twenty hours since they reached the facility – and all the feelings that heʼs been fighting against ever since. This is bigger than everything else, and heʼs just now beginning to comprehend that he doesnʼt understand any of it. “The door is open,” he whispers.

“What?” Maria screeches, shoving him aside, all fight having left her.

Kyle points at the door, hanging off its hinges, half broken as though someone had ripped it from the inside. When they both peer into the office, Kyle sensing Mariaʼs distress even though heʼs no psychic, they are greeted by an abandoned scene.

There’s not a trace of Michael’s presence anywhere, not even a crease on the leather. The couch remains untouched, and everything looks perfectly still. Kyle frowns – he believes Maria, she doesn’t need to lie to him about Guerin, but the truth is that the room is empty.

Michael is nowhere to be found.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Rosa would be lying if she said she wasnʼt terrified as she rides in a car driven by Alex Manes while her little sister looks back every once in a while at the corpse of a very-much-dead Max Evans. Just the day before she’d been joking around the café with her father, thinking inwardly about the moment when she could tell him that she knows, that sheʼs known for a while, that she loves him all the same.

Just yesterday she was called to a deserted spot in the middle of the sandy dunes surrounding Roswell, only to witness Isobel Evans losing her shit once again.

But Liz says itʼs been over ten years now, that the world has fully spun around the sun ten times. That sheʼs missed her little sister graduating, and Alex enlisting, and Maria taking over the Wild Pony. Only, she hasnʼt really missed it at all.

Sheʼs been dead for over a hundred and twenty-five months.

Rosa scoots even closer to the window as the desert spans outside, not wanting to lay eyes on Max Evansʼ body sprawled like a doll on the backseat. The ride isnʼt too long, Liz told them that the other cave isnʼt that far away, but Rosa spends half of it reminiscing of what she thinks happened to her life in the twenty-four hours since she last had consciousness. The last thing she remembers is entering a cave, following Isobelʼs instructions. For a long while that spring, Rosa felt torn between wanting to be sober and clean, and spending time with a girl she might have been developing feelings for. Sheʼs been confused, and sheʼs been giving the situation a lot of thought. But after that last image of Jasmine and Katie on the floor, everything gets blurry. She has no recollection of the following hours – Liz says that itʼs because sheʼs been dead, but Rosa simply canʼt believe it. She canʼt have been dead for a decade and brought back to life by none other than Max Evans. As though Max, the cute shy guy who would have put a damper on Lizʼs brilliant future, could be something more than a small-town kid. As though he could be God.

“Itʼs here,” Liz exclaims. Rosa looks in front of her, vaguely recognizing the place as Alex kills the engine. “Cʼmon, we canʼt lose any more time, we need to get him inside a functioning pod as soon as possible!”

Alex steps out of the car and walks around it to the door opposite to where Rosa is sitting. She tries to open her door, she has her hand on the handle, but she just canʼt muster up the courage to actually turn it down and put her feet on the ground. “Rosa?” she hears at her back. When she turns around, she can see Alex and Liz looking at her as though sheʼs just grown a second head. “Are you feeling okay?”

“Yeah,” she lies. ¿Qué sentido tiene contar la verdad?, she thinks. “Itʼs just this estúpida door in the way.”

“I was thinking you could push Max from your side and then get out from here?” Alex suggests, clearly annoyed at the whole situation and a tad bit worried about Lizʼs mental health if the look in his eyes is sending Rosa the right signals. “Please, help us here. I know everythingʼs a bit confusing and–”

“You donʼt know shit, Alex!” she finally explodes, tugging the hem of the blanket closer to her chest. There should be scars where the autopsy would have cut her skin, if that story about her own death is true, but her collarbone is smooth and sheʼs counted her moles. Everythingʼs in place. Yet she has this weird feeling that sheʼs been thrown into a well too deep to climb out, her feet never touching the bottom, the water surrounding her, and she keeps drowning. “What the hell is going on? Why are you so invested in not burying Max Evans when itʼs obvious heʼs dead? Dead, Liz, muerto. But you keep talking about aliens and nonsense, and I canʼt believe what Iʼm about to say but, we should call the police!”

“Breathe,” Alex tells her, all the while pulling at Maxʼs limp arm. “Letʼs do something, okay? Why donʼt you wait in the car, this shouldnʼt take us more than a couple of minutes, and when weʼre back weʼll figure everything out?” He looks hopeful, the same glint in his eyes that sheʼs used to catch whenever she looks at him. This Alex may look older, may be wiser, but deep down heʼs the same scared teen she knows.

“Like hell Iʼm waiting here on my own in the middle of the fucking desert,” she finally says, pushing hard into Maxʼs back, a bit apprehensive to be touching a corpse. “Letʼs get done with this and then, caballero, youʼre so going to explain everything to me.” She follows them out of the car, helping while they drag Max over the ground and down a small rocky path apparently leading to nowhere. She can hear a distinct click every time Alex moves, and some of those movements elicit a wince from him – like when he doubles over to hitch Max higher in his grip, all the while helping Rosa keep Maxʼs legs from bumping on the rocks, and he manages to lift the body up enough so Liz doesn’t have to bear too much of the weight. He favors one of his legs, and drags his right foot like it pains him.

Rosa doesnʼt have the time to ask, because Liz is kicking down some wood covering the entrance to a cave. There are flashes of memories threatening her – that entrance where sheʼs sure sheʼll find Katie and Jasmine lying unconscious on the floor, the room where those oval things sparkle in a blinding way. Rosa feels his heart rate rising at the mere thought of meeting Isobel Evans inside, and thatʼs when she realizes that, actually, for her it has just been less than twenty-four hours.

But for the rest itʼs been much longer.

Liz doesnʼt have time to register her sister scurrying away closer to the rocky walls. Sheʼs taking in her surroundings, the evident signs of a battle inside the space where she kept Isobel for six weeks until they found a cure, the pool of dried blood in a corner, and what looks like a pot above a dying fire. She looks closer – inside thereʼs enough silver melted to cover Max entirely. “Joder,” she utters, low enough not to startle the silence reigning inside. “This is where everything took place yesterday.”

“What do you mean, everything?” Alex asks, holding Max in an awkward angle before letting him roll on the ground.

“Noah,” she offers as explanation. “I thought Mikey told you everything!”

“I havenʼt talked to Michael since last night, before the storm,” Alex explains. “I donʼt know what happened. Oh,” he breathes out when realization hits him. "It was his blood.”

"Cʼmon, Alex,” Liz urges him. "We need to get him naked and covered in that silver goo before we can put him in the pod.”

She doesnʼt wait for him to catch up on her words. Liz helps Alex out Max down on the floor and then she starts moving around, carefully avoiding the blood stains and the dents in the rocks that look suspiciously like a head has hit the walls. She proceeds to unbutton the black shirt covering Maxʼs torso, hands shaking slightly as she is unable to switch back into scientist mode. This isnʼt one of her lab rats. This isnʼt a model under her microscope.

This is the fucking love of her life that she still feels through a connection thatʼs feeble and dying, and she has to try her best to stop it from going silent at all. Because cutting that link will mean that Max is dead. And Liz isnʼt ready to say goodbye just yet. “Help me, please,” she begs, still kneeling on the hard, uneven ground; for the first time since she enlisted Alex in this quest – or maybe it was Rosaʼs idea, Lizʼs mind is still foggy on that aspect – she realizes what it must feel like for him and his prosthetic. Sheʼll have to make up for it later on, but right now sheʼs a woman with one goal and one goal only.

Alex kneels by her side and starts working on Maxʼs trousers, struggling to get them down his legs; Liz doesnʼt want to think about why it’s so difficult to maneuver around Maxʼs body, because rigor mortis isnʼt something Liz wants to think about right now. She can still feel Max deep inside her soul, the connection she practically begged out of him vibrating in low frequencies. It is still very much alive, and Liz is going to hold onto that tiny thread of hope – if she can feel him, then there’s a chance he can come back. She just needs time, and she will get time – she saved Isobel from a sure death, and even if it took her six weeks Isobel was well and dandy and alive by the time she managed to produce the right serum with Michaelʼs help.

“Michael!” she yelps, straightening her back as she speaks. She meets a startled Alex and a frightened Rosa when she looks around. Rosa recoils even further into the rock wall, and Alex has stopped in his motions to get the pot full of melted silver to look at her like sheʼs gone definitely wild. “I need Michael to solve this. Last time, he was the one who pointed me in the right direction, and he offered his own blood for tests and–”

“Are you telling me that Michael Guerin volunteered to be cut open for biomedical study?” Alex says, looking as taken aback as his words sink in. “The same Michael Guerin who wouldnʼt go get his hand fixed because it would mean going near a hospital?”

“I think there was more to it than–” Liz sighs. “You know why he couldnʼt have his hand healed, Alex. You know, now.” She looks at him encouragingly. There is a glint of sadness permanently etched in those chocolate eyes she used to read like an open book, and Liz has the inkling that the pain reflected there has more to do with what Alex left behind when he abandoned Roswell than with what he lived through during those ten years away. “Letʼs just get Max ready to be put in the pod, okay? I will worry about the rest later.”

They work efficiently – theyʼre a military man and a biomedical engineer, after all – and in less than ten minutes they have Max dripping melted silver. Rosa makes a pained sound, trying to get her sister’s attention away from the body that’s now covered in grey goop, but Liz canʼt focus on anything that isnʼt getting her boyfriend inside one of the pods; she wishes she knew which one had been Maxʼs so she could place him in a familiar space until she figures out how to bring him back. Donʼt be silly, she tells herself. He wonʼt be feeling anything because heʼd be in a pod! But heʼd still have a chance. Focus, Elizabeth. Focus.

She manages to haul Max near the pods with a little help of Alex, but once theyʼre facing the blinding white Liz realizes sheʼs miscalculated one small but very important detail in the plan. When they had put Isobel in the pod, she had been the one to situate herself inside. She was conscious.

Max isnʼt.

“How are we going to go about this, Liz?” Alex asks, sounding even less confident than he has during the whole ordeal.

“What the hell are you doing with my brotherʼs body?” they all hear at their back, anguished voice coming from the entrance to the cave. When they all turn around, they face Michael, looking every single drop of despair his voice shows.

Alex has never seen him more beautiful, with his curls wild around his head like a halo, his eyes focused intensely in the scene in front of him as though he canʼt believe what theyʼre doing inside the cave. Alex sighs. “Guerin,” he begins, taking in slowly the appearance of the man whoʼs occupied his dreams for over a decade. Just some hours ago he had been waiting for Michael at the junkyard, thinking about the storm that brew merely seconds after he lay himself bare in front of Michael. Alexʼs eyes roam over Michaelʼs frame – the white t-shirt he himself had watched Michael take the night before, the jeans that are ripped and worn-out and yet so Michael, the hands that twitch at his sides as he tries to keep himself in check.

Alex has to bite back a yelp when he sees two perfect, unblemished hands.

“Mikey,” Liz says, stepping in front of Alex. “We need to keep Max in a pod so he doesnʼt die.”

“Heʼs already dead,” Michael says, no emotion shown in his voice this time, as though the words drew the energy out of him. “Nothing you do will bring him back.”

“I can feel him, Michael,” Liz whines. The way she says his name makes Alex cringe; he has never heard Liz so desperate before. “Heʼs still in there! I can feel him!”

“Liz,” Rosa steps up. When Michael sees her, his face shows every bit of regret and ache Alex knows he feels deep inside before the mask is back up. Alex knows that mask as well – itʼs the face of a man who thinks the whole world has their backs on him, a kid who has grown up believing that humanity is a threat more than anything.

He wishes he could kiss that look away, but thereʼs only so much Alex can do to forget that Michael ran off to Maria, now that his hand has been healed, presumably by Max.

“Great,” he huffs. He doesnʼt address her specifically, instead stepping further into the cave. Rosa crawls back to the shadows, a frown on her face. Alex sighs. “What were you trying to do here? And whereʼs Isobel? She should have arrived.”

“What does Isobel have to do with all this?” Alex asks. Max is still propped between Liz and himself, the weight making him swift uncomfortably, but Michael doesnʼt show any signs of reaching out to help them.

“Max called us,” he explains quickly, the name sending a shiver up Lizʼs spine that Alex can feel through the vibration in Maxʼs body. “I just–I donʼt know. I had to come here. Isobel should be here.”

“Max called you?” Liz questions. “How?”

“The same way you got called last night,” Alex connects the dots so easily that it pains him to know heʼs been so blind before. After Caulfield, he forgot Michaelʼs words, itʼs like screaming from far away, but they make sense; Michael had been summoned through their shared psychic link right in the middle of Alexʼs speech in the airstream. Which means, “Max is really alive, if you can feel him.”

“I told you he was alive! Is alive!” Liz protests, Max wobbling between them. “Listen, Mikey, I know itʼs not–Iʼm sorry, okay? But we need to put him in a pod.”

“You wonʼt be able to,” Michael says. Alex frowns again, looking between Liz and Michael. “He has to be conscious to enter the pod.”

“How do you know that?” Alex asks him when it’s obvious that Liz isn’t going to question Michael’s words. For a science woman, he thinks to himself, you can be really gullible, Liz.

“I just know,” Michael insists. Alex arches an eyebrow his way, and Michael sighs, looking defeated.

“I don’t have any memories from before, you know that,” Michael tries to explain. “I just woke up and I knew I had to get out of the pod. We weren’t conscious, and no one was there to pull us out. We could only get out when we actively thought about it. And when Isobel–” he trails off. Alex fights back the urge to shake him out of what looks like a reverie, but Michael snaps out of it on his own a few seconds later. “She was well awake, even if she was dying, when she reentered the pod.”

Alex watches as Michael shudders at the memory. He wasn’t around when Isobel got so sick that their pods were the only solution to keep her alive – he’s known about it because Michael told him during their heart-wrenching conversation outside the Airstream – but he knows nearly losing Isobel has wrecked Michael, shaking him to his very core just in a way so close to what Alex has witnessed at Caulfield that it scares him.

“She wasn’t conscious when we took her out,” Liz argues, feebly.

“Max pulled her out,” Michael explains. “That’s why I think we need to be aware to get into the pods, but not to get out. It’s empirical science, after all.”

They all fall silent, the quiet only broken by Rosa’s heavy breathing behind them, from her spot near the cave wall. Alex frowns as a thought forms in his mind, and he almost smacks his forehead for not having thought about it in the first place.

“But you could put him in,” Alex marvels, hitting his forehead with his hand. “How didnʼt we see it before? You can move him around!”

“Just like you did Jasmine and Katie and–” Liz trails off, her words dying before being said, but Rosa has already heard them.

“He moved me, right?” she says shakily. “After Isobel–after–he moved my body!”

“Rosa, this is not the moment.”

“Oh, but it is,” Rosa steps away from the shadows, her fragile silhouette held barely together by the seams of the blanket around her shoulders. Alex thinks briefly about how they should give her some clothes, but the blanket strikes a chord within him. It looks exactly like the one his mom would wrap him in when he was a child and woke up from his nightmares. “Are you telling me that this freak can move stuff with his mind, and that you know because he moved mi cadáver when his sister killed me?”

“I thought you didnʼt remember anything?” Lizʼs voice pitches a bit by the end of the sentence.

“Well, Iʼm having some flashes,” Rosa spits cheekily. “I donʼt want him near me.”

“He was just helping–”

“Itʼs okay, Liz,” Michael assures her, lifting his left hand. Alex hears the moment Liz realizes whatʼs happened because she lets out a cracked wail. “Iʼll move Max. I can do it. And then, weʼre going to go search for Isobel. She should have been here already.”

“You keep saying that.”

“She was at her house, so she was closer to the mines,” Michael explains. Alex watches as he swallows the rest of his explanation – he knows that the moment Michael tells Liz that he went to Maria, Liz will be supportive, because thatʼs what Liz does with Maria. With everyone, really, if only Alex would have been brave enough to confide in her about how he felt. “Letʼs just move Max, okay?” And if he sounds off, no one in the cave calls him on it.

Michael stretches out his hand and focuses. Alex realizes that, although heʼs seen Michael move the trailer the day he showed Alex his bunker, he hasnʼt in fact seen him using the full might of his powers. Itʼs quite a sight to witness – the way Maxʼs body lifts of its own volition, floating through the air, and stops in front of the pods. Michael groans, flicks his fingers, and Maxʼs hand reaches out and gets through the membrane surrounding the pod in the middle of the cave. Alex wishes he could be of more help, so he places himself right besides Michael in case he collapses. There are beads of sweat pooling by his hairline, and his face is becoming whiter by the second.

Max enters the pod easily, but all hell breaks loose when the last of his fingertips get inside the shining bulb.

Michael sags against him under the effort of moving Maxʼs unresponsive body inside the pod. He dry heaves and coughs his lungs up. Alex holds him close to his chest, putting aside the pain he feels knowing that Michael chose Maria after everything he had gone through, because he promised Michael he wasnʼt going to look away. He wasnʼt lying when he said he considered Michael his family.

Family isnʼt only made by blood, but also by choice. Alex chose Michael a long time ago, even if he wasnʼt aware back when it happened. Now’s not the time for him to back out on the promise he made to himself, to Michael; even if all he wants to do is run away from Michael, or scream at the world for wronging him, or be angry, Alex knows what it’s like to be so lost that all you do is take the wrong turns at every crossroad. Even promises made under duress need to be kept – even if keeping this one means that the future he’s always hoped for is being, once again, snatched out of his reach.

Alex helps Michael get on his feet once again, keeping his hand on Michaelʼs lower back as they retreat out of the cave. He doesnʼt allow Michael to move the wood boards that have been blocking the cave entrance with his telekinesis, not after holding him while he retched from his recent exertion. Instead, Alex leaves him to support himself against Liz – Rosa is still wary around him, and Alex canʼt blame her, he can imagine everything has to be tenfold scarier for her right now – and he searches for something to close the entrance. Something thatʼs heavy enough that no one could move it and enter. He spots a boulder not so far, and with a little more force than he has he moves it in front of the cave; he pushes at it, rolling it over the uneven ground. He pants, beads of sweat rolling down his back as he places too much weight on his prosthesis, but the cave cannot be left in the open, and the wood boards might not be enough. He pushes and pushes until the rock rolls in place, covering the entrance with a loud whirring sound. It feels spiritual to him.

A rock in front of the cave where their healing alien Jesus lies dead in a shining pod.

He turns around to face the Ortecho girls and Michael, and simply gestures over to his Humvee. They have long days ahead of them, if theyʼre going to work together to bring Max back, even if Alex doesnʼt believe such a feat can be achieved when the resurrecting God is the one to be brought back.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

He feels weightless. It’s a similar feeling to the one he got that time when Jimmy shared a joint with him, back during high school, under the bleachers between third hour and lunch time, the weed lifting his soul and making him soar.

This time, however, he doesnʼt feel ethereal. This time he knows heʼs trapped in his own body, quickly closing up as the drugs hit his nervous system. Oh, the boldness of youth, he thinks, laying on the filthy floor of what used to be his bunker. One Valenti betrayed him once upon a time, and history repeats itself with the second generation. Maybe heʼll need to repeat himself once again, and obliterate the whole Valenti bloodline once and for all.

Everything is dark around him. He canʼt tell whether heʼs having a dissociative moment or if it’s just the drugsʼ effect on his organs. All he knows is that Kyle Valenti is a man with a code, even if itʼs one mangled code that involves turning your back on your best friend and conspiring for his demise. He knows Kyle will come back and at least put him on a hospital bed, monitored and under control. He can escape from the iron watch of hospital goons if heʼs awake enough to move one single finger of his hand. Sadly, in his current predicament all he can do is wait for the drugs to kick in, collapse him from the inside out, and kill him.

Unless he finds a solution. Unless he can convince Kyle that thereʼs another way. But itʼs too late, it seems, because his former ally is now walking away, and all he can hear is Kyleʼs muffled voice. Because thatʼs one side effect of the drugs – he canʼt move but he can hear everything, aware of his surroundings but trapped in his own body. He wonders briefly if this is what sleep paralysis feels like.

As much as he wants to, he canʼt will his body to respond.

He is military. He is strong. Heʼs gone to more wars than he cares to recount, and heʼs been to hell and back. There has to be something he can do to break out of this immobility and start fighting back.

The sounds change, he can hear Alexʼs voice in and out, but his conscience is failing him. He canʼt be sure how much time has past – his brain seems to be swimming in his skull while the rest of his body is unresponsive. One moment he can hear both his youngest – that disgrace of a son, so similar to his mother that he canʼt help but hate – and Valenti, arguing before the door creaks, and the next moment he’s lying on the ground completely alone.

Unmoving. Unable. Stopped.

Not yet finished.

He fights for consciousness, but it fades from his grasp. He tries to cling to lucidity using tactics he learned through years of training and deployments to places where despair and weakness lead to death. He focuses on the way his heart is slowly beating, stuttering thumps as his system closes up. He doesnʼt have to focus on the way his lungs seem to fail him, because making a point out of breathing could mean running out of air before his time is up. Thereʼs no feeling in his fingers or his toes, and his whole body feels loaded and heavy, but his ears and his mind are functioning perfectly.

Heʼs all alone in the bunker heʼs been using all these years under the government’s unaware nose. He knows every corner of the space, every sound the machines produce, the creaky lament of the lockers being opened and closed. For so long, it had been his haven, the place to go when everything else seemed to fall down crumbling into pieces. He came here after learning the truth about Mimi; he’d sat on the very same chair his youngest son had just sat on the day he decided what to do with Jimmy and the new threat he presented. Those desks, those computers, were his only solace when Misae packed her few belongings and fled. Project Shepherd has been his life, his family legacy, and heʼd be damned if he allowed it to become rotten and broken after the weakest of his sons ravaged whatʼs left of their family heritage.

Heʼs used to betrayal and loneliness. Heʼs always fought against the fear of being alone in their quest to save their world, feeling like an outdated war hero battling against a wall of disbelief and incomprehension. This isnʼt the lowest heʼs fallen, but as he analyzes and studies his current predicament, the more he thinks this time he might not have a safe way out.

Heʼs most likely going to die alone in this bunker, where his best and worst days were lived. He isnʼt ready for that.

The lack of feeling doesnʼt prevent the sting in his neck from hurting. He doesnʼt understand whatʼs going on, his eyelids still too heavy to be lifted. There are a few more stabs in other parts of his body – the crook of his arm, in between two of his ribs, and a new one next to his groin, up his thigh. The tingle in his limbs catches him by surprise, but itʼs not less surprisingly when he can open his eyes although he needs to blink a few times to adjust his eyesight to the dimly lit room. His back aches from having been on the floor for too long, although he canʼt tell how many hours it has been. Thereʼs no way to tell the passing of time underground, where there are no clocks or natural light.

The silhouette hovering above him stills for a few seconds, giving him a moment to collect himself. Eyelids still heavy, thick and tired as his whole body is, he takes in the unruly hair still in a regulation cut, the scar marring those Native American features, the dark eyes staring down at him, the smug smile. He coughs, turning his head to the side as the coughing fit evolves into something more and bile finds its way out of his system. He retches for a while before turning once again to meet those eyes, determined and hard.

“Hi, Dad,” Flint says, a smirk on his lips and steel in his gaze.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Isobel comes to her senses on her floor, surrounded by the remnants of the picture frame she blasted not even a couple of minutes ago. Her head aches, and thereʼs a particular spot where she knows a lump will be growing later on. When she watches the clock on the wall across the room, she realizes that more than a couple minutes have passed – it looks like at least five hours have rolled by since the last time she checked the clock.

She sits up slowly, her headache making her brain swim in her skull. Itʼs the first time in her whole life on Earth that sheʼs felt less than dandy – apart from that time, not so long ago, when she almost died from serum poisoning – so sheʼs at a bit of a loss. She wraps her arms around her waist, waiting for it to dwindle down. Thereʼs hammering inside her head, as if someoneʼs knocking around. She groans when the knocking becomes louder.

It takes her a while to realize that the knocking is actually taking place outside her door, and not inside her head.

“Coming!” she calls out. She thinks she can get rid of whoever is outside her door soon enough, so she can go find Max on the mines, where he called them. Sheʼs going to have to come up with an excuse for her hurry, but sheʼs a good actress, has been her whole life. She can get through this, whatever it is.

Her steps falter when her eyes catch a glimpse of a picture to her right. Hanging from the wall, in one of her favorite wooden frames, is a picture of her wedding to Noah. She would be fuming, but she doesnʼt have time. With her newfound powers, she breaks the glass over it and allows the frame to fall on the floor, where it cracks. She shrugs; sheʼll purchase a new one and frame a picture of her brothers once they’re all back on their feet.

“Mrs Bracken?” a young womanʼs voice carries through the closed door. Isobel frowns. “Mrs Bracken, are you inside?”

“Itʼs Evans-Bracken,” she says breezily as she opens the door. The chill of the morning air hits her face, and she wishes it sweeps away the tears that are threatening to fall down her cheeks at the mere thought of Noah and his name. “Good morning, how can I help you?”

Sheʼs met with the sight of two police officers – an old, almost bald man, and a young woman whoʼs probably the one to call her up. Theyʼre in their uniforms, and Isobel can see a cruiser parked at her entrance. She stops for a second to compose herself and then she speaks, giving them her best smile. “Is there anything I can assist you with, officers?”

The young woman shows her a credential, and urges her partner to do the same. “Deputy Sanchez and Deputy Wakefield, but you can call me Stephanie. We would like to talk to you about your husband, Mr Noah Bracken.”

Isobel finds herself panicking, and she’s sure all color is drained from her face, but she canʼt afford to lose her composure. She feels her smile faltering. “My husband isnʼt home right now,” she tells them, but the woman – dark and curly hair framing her features – simply nods. “Would you like to come inside and wait for him?”

“Thank you,” the woman – Stephanie – accepts her invitation and steps into her house. They get inside the living room, but the officers stop pointedly a few inches into the space, taking in the decorations but making no movement as to follow her to the couch, so she remains standing next to them. Isobel begins to sweat under her clothes. She should be heading out to the turquoise mines, but instead sheʼs entertaining some police officers sheʼs never seen before who want to talk about her husband.

“Please take a seat,” she says gently. “I donʼt think I have seen you around, and I thought I knew all police officers in town.”

“I bet,” Stephanie says, smiling softly. “Mrs Evans-Bracken, can I ask you whether you know whereʼs your husband right now?”

Isobel thinks sheʼs going to start hyperventilating. She hasnʼt had the time to think about a good cover up – should she say Noahʼs on a business trip? Should she imply Noahʼs left with her secretary? – and although sheʼs good at lying and has been her whole life, there are boundaries she doesnʼt want to trespass. Lying to the police could end her up in jail, and jail means the system, and Max isnʼt around to help her out like heʼs done with Michael in the past. She feels like crying and throwing up at the same time. “I donʼt know,” she settles for saying. “He isnʼt home right now, but Iʼm not sure if heʼs at his office.”

She hopes they buy her lies about her workaholic husband being at the office in the middle of a Monday afternoon instead of buried in the desert where she thinks Michael left him, in the very same fashion that he did with the drifter all those years back.

At least, she thinks Michael has buried Noah, but she can’t be sure. She was a bit out of it, trying to catch her breath after almost being killed by her psychopath of a husband, and she doesn’t really remember whether or not Michael has taken Noah’s fried body away from the caves to bury him with sand and guilt.

“When did you last see him, Mrs Evans-Bracken?” Deputy Wakefield questions. Isobel frowns, feigning to be deep in thought when sheʼs attempting to build a good backstory. “Donʼt tell me you donʼt remember.”

“Mark,” thereʼs a warning in Stephanieʼs voice that gives Isobel a few more seconds before she decides that telling the truth on this particular topic might be the best way to go around the issue. “Mrs Evans-Bracken, did your husband spend the night at home?”

“I donʼt know why youʼre asking me all of those questions,” Isobel says tentatively. “Last time I saw Noah, he was getting in his car. That was – oh, that was last night. I went to bed early.”

“Is it normal for your husband to spend the night out?” Mark asks again, and Isobel is thisclose to melting his brain and stomping over them both. Her brother needs her, she can hear his cosmic call, and yet sheʼs still derailed by a couple of police agents who are asking really weird questions about Noah, as though they know.

“No, it isnʼt. Should I be worried?” Isobel fakes an anguished frown. “Whatʼs going on? Why are you here asking questions about Noah? Has something happened to him?”

She can tell the moment Stephanie makes her decision to speak, because the young woman inhales deeply and reaches out a comforting hand that lands on top of Isobelʼs arm. She shivers at the contact. “Mrs Evans-Bracken, Iʼm so sorry. We should have told you first thing when we came here. I am so, so sorry.”

“Iʼm starting to get really worried,” Isobel retaliates, this time without any need to act. She doesnʼt like the sympathy in Stephanieʼs eyes. “Excuse me, who did you say you were, again?”

“Deputies Stephanie Lopez and Mark Bonts, from the Sheriff Department,” she says once again. “Iʼm afraid we come bearing bad news, Mrs Evans-Bracken. Why donʼt you take a seat?”

“I donʼt want a seat. I want the truth.”

Stephanie sighs but looks her straight in her eyes, and Isobel realizes that she isnʼt worried about what might happen to her if anyone found Noahʼs body. Sheʼs worried sick about what the government could do to them all when they find out and dissect Noahʼs corpse in the name of autopsies.

“Sheriff Valenti wanted your brother to bring this news to you, but sheʼs nowhere to be found.” Stephanie fidgets with her shirt, making Isobel even more nervous. “We have found your husband Noah Bracken on the side of the road, struck by lightning, near his car.”

“What?” Isobel says faintly. She isnʼt faking the way sheʼs running out of breath, although she canʼt tell if the lightheaded sensation is due to the lack of breathing or the fear mounting in her gut.

“Iʼm sorry, Mrs Evans-Bracken. Your husband has been found dead in the desert.”

Her world narrows for a second on those words, and then everything comes crashing down: the handprints, the alien signs, the way the lightning threaded through Max and into Noah until it fried it in a way that canʼt be confused with accidental lightning strikes. Everything happens in slow motion but sheʼs falling to the floor in flashes of speed.

Chapter Text

My whole life people have told me to stay in my lane, calm down, wait. And for my whole life, Iʼve followed the rules. Iʼve waited. Iʼve thrived. Iʼve hidden and Iʼve lied. But now things have changed. Now the dead walk among us, and there are gods living with us. I have my sister back, as angry and disappointed in all of us as she is, but I have lost so much as well. We all have to relearn our ways, somehow. So now I decide how to live my life, and itʼs not the time to wait. Nowʼs the time for action, and I will die myself before letting fear paralyze me once again.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

It takes Jenna twenty-seven hours to come back to Roswell, once sheʼs decided that she needs to get to the root of the problem in order to be able to solve it.

When she slams closed the door of her car and drives away from Marysville, a plan is already forming in her mind. She heads to the tiny hotel where sheʼd booked a room and gets herself checked in, ever-present scowl on her features preventing the clerk from chit-chatting with her. She locks herself up in the room, small and perfunctory, dropping her travel bag on the bed and searching for her laptop in the bottom of the second duffel bag she carries. Having been on the road for days to get up to Ohio, Jenna wanted to disguise her most expensive items, hence putting the laptop bag inside a completely frayed duffel. She plugs the device to the only outlet in the room and boosts it up.

A picture of Charlie smiling unabashedly at her from her screen, seventeen and unaware of the future that awaits her, takes Jenna down memory lane while the system gets started.

“You should have come to me, Charlie,” she laments at the other side of the bulletproof window at the military holding facility. Her sister looks wary and thin, much thinner than the last time they saw each other. “I could have helped you. Now I canʼt do anything.”

Her sister smirks but it lacks the edge Jennaʼs used to seeing in her green eyes. “Then it would have been the two of us on this side of the glass,” Charlie says. “You wouldnʼt have been able to help, Jen. No one can help me.”

“You just donʼt know,” Jenna insists, pressing on the matter. She hasnʼt been told the reasons why her sister has been arrested while on base. Jenna doesnʼt understand half of whatʼs going on, she only knows that Charlie is now held at a military prison awaiting to be court-martialed. “Lemme help you now,” she pleads, hand reaching to be placed on the glass, the tattoo on her wrist in full display. “I canʼt lose you too.”

“Youʼre not losing me,” Charlie assures her, mimicking her movement and lifting a hand to covers Jennaʼs at her side of the glass. “Weʼll get through this. But you have to go on without me.”

“Never,” Jenna vows. “I promised, remember? I will fight, Charlie. Whatever it is, we will get through it together.”

“Whatever it is?” Charlie frowns. ”You donʼt know what happened, right? They havenʼt told you.” Jenna stares at her, silently asking for an explanation, for a word to help her comprehend, but it never comes. Charlie remains silent for the longest time, her hand on the glass hovering above Jennaʼs, until itʼs time for her to leave as visitʼs time is over.

Jenna stares at her wrist tattoo, half of what it should be, the other half lost in the midst of Jesse Manesʼ wrongdoing. Sheʼs sure that the Master Sergeant is behind Charlie never reaching Marysville, but sheʼll need proof if she wants to go after him. She needs a hint as to where Charlie might be, and she needs back up if sheʼs going to face Manes about this.

Belatedly, she remembers the call she received when she was driving up to Ohio, the distress in Kyleʼs voice, the static that couldnʼt erase the words, the feeling deep down in her gut that something was utterly wrong.

The screen lights up with some webpage. Jenna peruses the Internet paying half a mind to what sheʼs doing, jumping from one document to another as she tries to write down Charlieʼs whereabouts chronologically. She knows her sister has been kept in a special military prison, sheʼs been up to visit her once a month no matter the distance whenever sheʼs been stateside. High security facilities are old friends of hers, because Charlie has been jumping from one to another for the past five years.

Jenna sighs.

Sheʼs staring at her work, a timeline of dates and places that makes no sense whatsoever. She tries to find a pattern, if only to attempt to figure out where Manes has taken her sister, when she realizes sheʼs approaching this particular subject at a bad angle.

Jenna opens a different document and starts typing everything sheʼs learned about Jesse Manes in the past months, after helping Alex and Kyle with their research. She has an eidetic memory, and a good one at that; there are few details that escape her as she dutifully lists everything she knows, every place theyʼve talked about, and she does a little research about the facts that she didn’t know before that would be important – Jesse Manes is such a hero to the American military that his feats are well praised in every public forum. When sheʼs done, she leans back on the uncomfortable chair, a frown dissipating as she notices the pattern.

Every time Charlie has been moved between prisons, itʼs been to a place where Jesse Manes has been stationed. When Jenna pulls up information from way before her sister was sent to prison for committing a crime Jenna has yet to discover, she sees that the base where her sister was arrested was the one where Manes had been an instructor for months prior.

The realization hits her like a freight train.

When she chose to move to Roswell to try and qualify for a job as Deputy, sheʼd done so because Charlie had been in a prison near the base. She hadnʼt paid attention to anything else; she hadnʼt had any reason to.

A quick search tells her that Manes is no longer in Niger, but his whereabouts are not publicly disclosed. She doesnʼt need more.

Sheʼs resilient, always has been. Sheʼs a fighter. Sheʼs a sister. And right now, sheʼs a woman with a mission.

On the morning of the third day since she left, Jenna Cameron drives fast past the Welcome to Roswell sign.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Heʼs lost track of time.

Max wakes up surrounded by darkness where before he had been inside the brightest light heʼs ever seen. It takes him a moment to realize where heʼs being kept, the secluded space making him feel trapped. Images of what should have been still flash behind his eyelids when he closes them again to center himself – a throne, lightning and love, so much love it was almost unbearable to witness. They had been happy kids growing up in a world torn between war and hope. They had been heirs of a power that was larger than anything heʼs ever been aware of. They had been chosen to represent the ideals of a universe expanding further than Antar and the Earth.

He’s been witness to several milestones of his own people, small and big steps in evolving their society into something that could be grand. Max canʼt believe how blind heʼs been about their past, their history, their legacy. Michael was right – they should have dug deeper into their origins, they should have researched and tried and tested their powers while they were growing up. But Max was so scared, so terrified of what might happen to them if they were found, that he put a damper on Michaelʼs attempts at exploring their alien nature.

He now knows how much heʼs made them miss to try to feign humanity. Heʼs now seen the wonder of their race, the sheer brilliance that shines through Michaelʼs chaotic entropy and makes Isobel dizzy whenever she dives into his psyche. He now understands the beck and call of the beacon on his back, a map to the stars he could have followed so many years ago. He now believes that Isobel holds the energy of a whole galaxy in her brain.

But he only does so because heʼs seen. So much for everything he told Liz outside the caves, while Isobel was dying inside a pod.

He now has proof. He can now believe.

There are three of them in the same way he was taught when he was a child: a trinity powerful enough to heal, to walk on water, to survive and resuscitate. Now he understands why humans have always reveled in people like him, in their kind; now he knows why it looks like theyʼre gods sent to the Earth to help people.

Max Evans is a god, healing hands and power bound. Isobel Evans is a goddess, wrung out from the strength of sneaking into minds. Hell, even Michael Guerin can be considered a god, what with his power over matter and his force and determination to survive in angry surroundings.

He has to get to them.

It takes all his strength to push past the membrane surrounding the pod, keeping him sound and safe and alive, but he manages to get three of his fingers out. The cold air of the cave greets his digits; he wriggles his fingertips tentatively and gets the rest of his hand out of the pod. His wrist nestled comfortably halfway out, Max weighs his options. He could remain inside the pod, cocooned in the warmth of blissful unawareness, but on the other hand he could step out and find his way to Isobel and Michael. He could try to explain everything heʼs learned during his time in his own mind – because he doesnʼt even know how to begin describing where heʼs been – and together they could find a way back to where they belong.

A way back home, even if home is right now torn between a civil war and complete obliteration.

Max manages to push through the membrane, first his arm and then his shoulder, until his face is out and he can breathe. He hasnʼt been aware of how much he needed air until heʼs able to inhale and exhale on his own. He gets out of the pod, the memories fading into a dull thrum in the back of his mind, ready to jump forefront if needed. He finds himself in their cave, standing stark naked in the middle of the dimly lit space where he fought Noah. Thereʼs a shirt carefully folded next to a lawn chair, and a pair of trousers waiting on the floor. He recognizes Isobelʼs touch on the clothes and Michaelʼs presence on the chair, and he can even sense Liz in the way an edition of Anna Karenina is tossed aside next to the chair. Max feels deep inside that they all have been visiting, trying to keep a connection running, very much like they all did when Isobel stayed in a pod for six weeks. It makes him wonder how long heʼs been out, how they’ve covered his absence, what he’s going to face when he reaches them.

Max spends a whole minute getting dressed, trying to get a grip on his new reality. He canʼt be sure whether or not his stunt on Rosa has been successful, he canʼt know how much things have changed or if they have at all, given that there are no clocks in the cave and he canʼt even check what day it is.

Max walks out of the cave on wobbly legs, squinting his eyes against the raging sun. Thereʼs no trace of the storm that brought their old lives to an end. Max blinks slowly, one hand before his eyes acting as a visor, and he decides that walking back to his home is the best option right now – his house isnʼt that far away and the stroll might help him focus on his next step.

He needs to find Isobel and Michael, he has to tell them how wrong heʼs been, how loved and cherished they were; he has to explain who they are to their own world, he needs to tell Michael how sorry he is for not having given him enough credit whenever Michael talked about star hunting.

Max begins walking slowly, gaining security in his step as he advances, the warmth of the sun bathing him under a new halo.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Like every other Wednesday, Kyle enters the precinct with a spring in his step and a box full of donuts. Heʼs supportive of a healthy lifestyle – heʼs a doctor after all – but from time to time he likes drowning in sugar during breakfast with his mother. He leaves the box on his motherʼs desk and places the coffee he hasnʼt sipped from carefully beside it.

“Morning,” he greets the few deputies lurking around the space. It feels weird to be there before his mother, but sheʼs been running around trying to minimize the impact of finding out Hankʼs glowing body and Noahʼs fried corpse within thirteen hours. Roswell isnʼt cut for the drama that could ensue if word spread about how nobody really knows what happened to Hank, not even the Sheriff Department.

It feels weirder not to be greeted by Guerin in the drunk tank. Kyle flops down to a chair while he waits for his mother, who enters the precinct barrelling. “Kyle,” she breathes when she reaches him; he stands up to hug her briefly, his nostrils reveling in the sweet scent that heʼs always associated with home. “Iʼm sorry Iʼm late.”

“Itʼs okay, mom,” he reassures her with a small smile. “Youʼre on time, and the coffee has cooled down a bit.” He knows how much she hates scorching hot coffee, but she hates even more when it goes cold.

“Thanks,” she says as she opens the lid of the donut box and picks one up. “These are the best of the whole town.” Michelle eyes him suspiciously. “You usually bring some avocado toast and coffee from the Crashdown, what are you up to?”

He laughs heartily. “Guilty as charged!” he confesses. “I wanted to spoil my mom for a change.”

“I sense bad news coming my way,” she presses on. “Whatʼs it this time, Kyle?”

He rubs his neck while he sips once again from his paper cup. He doesnʼt know where to begin, because he canʼt tell her the whole truth. Itʼs been a couple of days since they found Hank, and Kyle has been trying to interfere in the autopsy but although it surely took place at the hospital morgue, there are no records of the procedure. So he settles for the easier lie. “I have to work on Thanksgiving.”

“Again?” Michelle doesnʼt conceal her disappointment. Kyle doesnʼt really blame her; heʼs been skipping Thanksgiving and any other holiday and instead working hard at the hospital several years in a row. “You promised.”

“I know. Iʼm sorry, mom. I tried to get out of it.”

“Now thatʼs a blatant lie, Kyle,” she calls out on him. He bushes slightly. “Well, I guess Iʼll take the shift here as well. Weʼre having so much work over these sudden deaths.”

Kyle recognizes an opening when he sees one, and his mother is giving him one while treating herself to her second donut. He shifts in his seat, the t-shirt heʼs wearing stretching when he leans forward. His hard workout routine is paying off; heʼd like to say that heʼs doing it for himself, but the truth is that heʼd like to get a bit more of the ladiesʼ attention, now that Liz is out of the question and the rest of interesting women in Roswell are either learning to be a widower or out of town.

“Wasnʼt Noah Bracken hit by lightning?” he asks casually.

“He was, but Hank wasnʼt, and now the Army has snatched that case from us.” Michelle doesnʼt usually complain, but when she does itʼs a sight. Kyle watches as his mother leans in as well, hair slipping out of her tight bun, and whispers, “I shouldnʼt be telling you this.”

“I wonʼt tell anyone,” he promises but it falls on deaf ears. His mom leans back into her chair and drinks from her coffee.

“Still. Weird things are happening, you know. And weʼre understaffed,” she continues.

“Jenna Cameron leaving Roswell is solely your fault,” Kyle says softly, not really intending his words to be heard. His mom does, anyway, and shoots him a sideways look.

“What was I supposed to do?” she huffs. “Let her keep her badge? Donʼt tell me how to do my job, son. I donʼt go around telling you the best way to stitch someone up.”

Kyle shuts up; he doesnʼt want to start a fight with his mother in the middle of the precinct, with so many officers around. When Max and Cam were working there, the air had been less charged. It had felt like coming home, despite Kyleʼs efforts to challenge Max every single moment.

“But youʼre right, Kyle,” she continues, drinking from her now lukewarm coffee. “Cameron would be here, if she hadnʼt been so reckless. But Evans. Evans is the biggest loss.”

Kyle nods curtly. He couldnʼt tell his mother the truth about Max Evans even if he wanted to. There are secrets better kept within the small circle of souls who know about aliens as of now. They donʼt want the group to grow, even if they have been talking about bringing Maria in – after all sheʼs now dating Guerin, or so it seems – but their parents are out of the question. Not even Isobelʼs know; Kyleʼs not about to break their trust with his own mother.

“However, Kyle, I think you can help me with this, if you donʼt mind,” his mother is saying as she stands up. “Lemme show you something.”

He waits as she grabs a folder and opens it in front of him. Heʼs staring at Hank, dead with a glowing handprint on his chest. Kyle wets his lips and waits, already not liking where this all is going. “Isnʼt this classified?”

“Have you ever seen something like this?” Michelle demands instead of acknowledging his words. “The glowing print.”

“Mom,” he begins. Kyle knows he canʼt lie to her, has never been able to. Sheʼs always been the one to see right through him.

“Tell me, Kyle,” she insists. “Have you?”

“Yes,” he admits, defeated. It seems this isnʼt his week, or probably not even his year. First heʼs overpowered by a comatose man who vanishes into thin air in the bunker. And now his mother asking questions she already knows the answers for.

When he and Alex had finally made it back to the Project Shepherd bunker – Alex free of putting a dead Max in a pod according to his own words, Kyle finally able to leave his motherʼs office after discovering hankʼs body – it was to an empty space raided by what could have been coyotes, but they knew better.

The copies of the research they had been doing were gone, as well as Jesse Manes.

Theyʼve spent the past three days trying to locate both the monster and the information, tracking them through a device Alex had put on the hard drives as a preventive measure. So far, they havenʼt had any success – it seems as though Jesse Manes and the data have been swallowed by a black hole.

Kyle comes back to the present, trying to make sense of what his mother is saying.

“Did you go to Manes?”

This catches him by surprise, the alarm in his motherʼs voice at the mere thought of him going to Jesse Manes for help. Which is exactly what had happened in the beginning – right before he owned up to an ounce of decency and roughed the Master Sergeant up a bit

“Mom?” he tilts his head to the side, scrutiny in place. “What do you know about the handprint?”

“More than you think,” she tells him. Thereʼs a small part of him who wants to scream, but he mostly remains silent, astonished. “Iʼve known about them for years. Your father wanted to protect them. We didnʼt want you involved but I guess itʼs too late now, if Jesse has already got to you.”

Kyle shakes the haze off his head and stares at her openly. “I am in no way working with him,” he promises, the thought of what could have been enough to send him shivers up his spine. “But how do you–what–?”

Michelle sits back down on her chair and leans into the wooden desk. “Max Evans. Isobel Evans. Michael Guerin. Your father wanted to help them.”

Kyle feels his throat dry. He swallows around a lump, frowning, scared and thrown off. He doesnʼt know what his mother thinks she knows, but itʼs starting to become really dangerous, the way she keeps looking at him. “What about them?” he finally replies. His voice breaks just a little.

“Theyʼre aliens, Kyle,” his mother tells him, as though talking to a small child. “But you already knew that.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

“Stop it right now, Guerin!” Maria is yelling when Alex enters the Wild Pony for the first time in what feels like forever, although itʼs only been some days – he hasn’t been back since he found out about Maria sleeping with Guerin, that night after discovering how much Michael had hidden from him.

Alex takes a moment to drink in the scene in front of him as he saunters toward the counter for balance. Heʼs come to the bar to talk to Maria, because itʼs been three days since the call for help he got from her. Alex didnʼt need much more to connect the dots – Michael had gone to Maria instead of coming back to the Airstream to talk to Alex. It had hurt like a bitch, more so when he had faced Michael in that cave where they had put Max to rest. Alex shakes his head to clear it and comes back to the present, where Michael is painting a new collage of blood and sweat on Mariaʼs floor.

He can recognize Wyatt Long in the face beaten to a pulp that smiles bloody up to Michael, tall and broad clad in all black. Michael has his hands in fists held up in front of his chest, and his stance wobbles a little. Alex has the inkling that, were he to approach them right now, he would smell whiskey and acetone off Michaelʼs breathe.

“Alex,” Maria sighs when he grips the counter with unsteady fingers. “I wish you didnʼt have to watch this.” She gets from behind the bar and attempts to make her way over the fighting couple. “I will take care of this, and then we can talk, alright?”

Alex shakes his head again. “Lemme try,” he suggests. “Heʼs drunk, right?”

“Both of them are,” Maria says through gritted teeth, cloth in the hand thatʼs not boring a hole in her own counter. “Itʼs been a constant these days,” and it comes out more as a whine than a complaint, as though she is exhausted of this situation already.

Alex wants to tell her that this has only just begun – that Michael is spiraling and thereʼs not a thing they can do to stop him because the only ones capable of reigning him in are either dead or grieving. But he canʼt tell Maria that because his friend – and he still thinks of Maria as a friend after all – doesnʼt really know what has been going on in Roswell.

Thatʼs yet another secret that Alex has to keep, along with every other painful silence heʼs got to sit through when all he wanted to do was scream the truth from the rooftops.

“I will manage to get Guerin back into your office,” he promises. “Iʼll even lock the door.”

“As if thatʼs going to keep him,” Maria sighs again. She lets go of the counter and wraps her arms around herself. “Last time he managed to get out.”

Alex remembers the shock of seeing Michael at the cave, disheveled and crazy and lost, so lost that not even a beacon would have brought him home. He sighs as well. “He has this talent for picking up at locks,” he offers as only explanation before getting near to both Guerin and Long. Maria yelps when he comes close enough to have to dodge a punch from Long. “Stop it right now,” he asks politely, trying to convey as much authority as he can in only four words.

Guerin doesnʼt seem to recognize him through the haze of blood and alcohol, and surges forward. Alex catches him mid-movement, shaky frame collapsing on top of him. Thereʼs a loaded weight in those shoulders that tremble under the barest touch. “Letʼs go, Guerin,” he says gently, ignoring Wyatt Long when he should have been paying attention.

Heʼs so engrossed in keeping Michael upright that he doesnʼt see the hit coming. A fist collides with his jaw out of the blue, Long exclaiming victoriously, “Now you know, you bastard!” loud enough for everyone to hear. Alex doesnʼt really want to drop Michael like a dead weight on the floor, filthy already with dripping blood, but Long keeps pushing and since the first punch hit home heʼs trying for the neck and the chest. Alex doesnʼt think, his instincts take over as he lets go of Michael and turns around to face Long in a swift, graceful movement. He simply stretches his hands forward, catches some bones and flesh, twists around the edge, and in less than five seconds Wyatt Long is a sobbing mess mopping the floor with his stained shirt. “Leave, now,” he commands before turning to Michael. “Letʼs go, Guerin,” he repeats as he dusts off his jacket. “You need to sober up for the funeral.”

"“lex,” Michael spits. Alex realizes that maybe heʼs missing a couple of teeth. “Hurts.”

“I know it hurts,” Alex whispers softly. There are so many things he would love to say to Michael right now, so many jabs that would only leave him in pain again. He just sighs, aware thatʼs the only thing he ever does anymore near Michael. “Letʼs just get you to the office, and I will give you something for the pain. Cʼmon, Guerin,” he urges as he helps Michael off the floor. “Let me help you.”

The bar has become eerily silent as he forces his way off the middle of the pool tables, but once he lifts his gaze from Michael and allows it to wander around, everyone seems too busy minding their own business. He waves to Maria, whoʼs staring at them with an indecipherable look in her eyes. “Be right back,” he mouths as he drags Michael to the back of the bar and into Mariaʼs office, closing the door behind him.

The cowboy simply flops on the couch and smashes his face into a pillow. He falls asleep almost instantly, allowing Alex a moment to admire his curls, beautiful even matted by sweat and blood, and his healed hand underneath a poorly tied bandana. “Who are you trying to fool?” he mutters as he bites back the need to reach out and untangle the frayed material to see the flesh. “This isnʼt healthy.” His therapist would have a field day if he ever told her about this; not for the first moment heʼs thankful for them being aliens so he doesnʼt have to talk about everything happening in his life.

He retreats back to the main hall, where Maria has managed to appease the patrons long enough for them to be drinking and buzzing away quietly. “Hey,” he says as he sits on a stool, pretty much mimicking the same stance he had when he came to talk to her about what happened in Texas.

“Hey yourself,” she replies, small smile on her lips. Alex can tell she is nervous. He would be, were he in her shoes, because everythingʼs so fucked up right now that even though he knows what he wants to say he isnʼt sure whether this conversation wonʼt end with them parting ways forever. “What do you want?”

“Water for now,” he tells her. Itʼs barely noon, and although all he wants is to get drunk to forget Michaelʼs stunts and his own heartbreak, he needs to be sober for Noahʼs funeral. “Are you going to the funeral later?”

Maria shrugs. “I wouldnʼt, under normal circumstances,” she explains. “Regina George isnʼt my favorite person in this world. But Guer seems to like her enough.”

“He considers her his sister,” Alex says before he can stop himself, fingers around the cool glass Maria has placed before him. “Theyʼre family.”

“Are they, for real?”

Alex nods as he sips from the water. “Not sure about genetics,” and he hates to talk in riddles and half truths around his best friend, but itʼs necessary since it isnʼt his secret to tell. “I just know they were together in the group home when they were found in the desert. Whatever happened to them, it brought them closer.”

Maria looks at him with guarded eyes. She leans in, hovering above him but not touching. “You really know him, donʼt you?”

Alex closes his eyes, hurt bubbling up inside of him. But he promised himself that he wouldnʼt walk away – he would respect Michaelʼs decisions, even if they killed him, because thatʼs what real family does. Not that he should know, with his own family fuck ups, but itʼs some sort of wishful thinking. “I do,” he admits. “But thatʼs not the point here.”

Maria finally touches his hand where it’s gripping the glass, and squeezes tight. “I didnʼt know, Alex,” she begins. The pain is evident in her voice. “If I had known–”

“I didnʼt tell you,” Alex cuts her off. He doesnʼt want her pity, but he needs her as a friend. He has to be adult enough about this whole situation. “How would you know?”

“But then I knew, you told me,” she keeps on. “I knew and still I followed up with this and I canʼt believe I took Lizʼs word for–”

Itʼs like sheʼs physically punched him, the way she speaks. “Liz?”

“I might have told her Michael was your Museum Guy,” Maria confesses. “I never should have, and I shouldnʼt have followed her advice.”

“She told you to go for it,” Alex understands now. Even though itʼs painful, he kind of sees where they both are coming from – he never told his best friends that Michael was much more than a fling or a hookup. He never even told them back while they were still young and naive that he was the guy Alex would have given up everything for. It takes him a minute to reconcile with the fact that this is his fault as much as theirs. “Iʼm sorry, Maria.”

“Why would you be sorry?” Maria sounds baffled. Alex looks up at her to see tears in her eyes. “I will break up with him, Alex. I like him, but he isn’t worth risking a lifetime friendship.”

“You like him,” Alex smiles softly. “The thing is, Maria, that he likes you too. He must,” he continues when she tries to talk over him. “Because he left me waiting and came to you. Heʼs been through so much lately,” Alex whispers mostly to himself, but he knows Maria catches up in his words. “He needs someone stable, someone who wonʼt be ashamed.”

“Are you ashamed of Michael?” Thereʼs a horrified pitch in her voice. Alex lowers his head again. Itʼs painful to be the bigger man and deny himself what heʼs been too scared to seek for so long. Itʼs painful to watch Michael try to be whole with someone else.

“I am not,” he clarifies. “I was ashamed of myself, I guess.”

“Alex.” Thereʼs a strain in her voice that he doesnʼt like, that he canʼt bear hearing. “I donʼt want this to be–”

“I know what itʼs like to fall in love with Michael Guerin,” he says, trying to help her understand that heʼs not mad, at least not at her. Itʼs been three days since Michael left him back at the Airstream, three days since the cave and Max. Heʼs seething, but he canʼt blame Maria. If anything, he should blame himself and his always ill-timed decisions.

“You are in love with him,” she quips. Her eye scan his face as though she can read his soul.

“I was,” he lies, because thereʼs not past tense in his feelings; there hasnʼt been a stop to them. “For a long time. Chose to tell him way too late. He came to you instead. That means something, Maria.”

“He said weʼd talk, but we havenʼt,” she laments. The shift in the conversation is noticeable. Alex decides not to dwell too much on how his heart is breaking.

“Everythingʼs been intense for him lately,” he settles for saying. “Isobelʼs husband, and now Max Evans–”

“I wouldnʼt have pegged you for a gossip, Alex Manes,” she hits him playfully with the cloth. The rumor mill says that Max Evans has gone missing while searching for Noah Bracken, and that the lack of traces about his whereabouts now that his brother-in-law has been found dead means that heʼs going to show up in similar circumstances. Alex knows better, but nowʼs not the time to correct Maria. Itʼs still not his secret to tell. “But youʼre right. It seems heʼs been under so much stress.”

“And yet he came to you.”

“Do you know what happened to his hand?” she asks out of the blue, killing the uncomfortable silence between them. He shakes his head.

“Maybe you should ask him,” he offers. Lies and secrets are heavy in his soul, regret in Michaelʼs hazel eyes whenever they lock gazes — Alex can’t stand to even look at his left fingers out of shame and blame, but he can’t stop himself from stealing glances whenever he’s around the cowboy. It isn’t his place to say anything, even if he wants to. He could tell her about the shed and the hammer and the hatred and the fear, but he doesnʼt think it will help her understand that heʼs not mad at her. It’s still not just his secret to tell.

“Maybe I should.”

“Be patient,” he tells her, pushing himself off the stool. “He needs a friend right now, and I can be that, but he needs to be loved more than that. Thatʼs why he came to you.”

Maria sighs. “Alex,” she repeats.

“Weʼll be okay,” he promises, even if his heart is breaking at the memory of Michael passed out on someone elseʼs couch. “I promise.”

Maria doesnʼt look convinced, head turning from the door of her office to Alex, but finally she relents. “I guess Iʼll see you at the funeral?”

Alex nods. “Just, donʼt be a stranger.” He smiles crookedly. “We all could use a friend, after all.” And with that he leaves the bar, limp ever present in his strides, his heart turned to shreds at his own feet.

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

Rosa stares longingly up the stairs leading out of the bunker sheʼs been staying in. After three days of almost complete isolation, sheʼs beginning to feel trapped in her own head. She can feel her blood vibrating against her skin, a chant about art and freedom and life that she doesnʼt think she can ignore any longer.

The hatch opens, and she can see a pair of shoes followed by her sister in the Crashdown uniform. Rosa sighs. “Came to see the prisoner?”

“Rosa,” Liz admonishes. Sheʼs even wearing the antennae, Rosa can see them when Liz lands on the floor with a small jump, at ease with her surroundings. Sheʼs been told that Michael Guerin and Liz worked together in the bunker under the Airstream for six weeks straight after some incident with Isobel Evans, but Rosa hasnʼt retained all the information.

Sheʼs not really interested in anything that has to do with the person who drove her nuts during her last days on Earth, and who, apparently, was possessed to kill her in that cave. Rosa doesnʼt want to forgive, she doesnʼt want to forget. The only memories she has are from her very last moments – the way Katie and Jasmine were sprawled on the ground, broken beyond repair, the way Isobelʼs eyes had gleamed with a fiery red light, the heat against her mouth as Isobel pressed her glowing hand on Rosaʼs lips, and the void afterwards.

It had felt like falling endlessly, and although for Rosa it had only been some hours, itʼs evident that time has passed for everyone else. Ten years, she often thinks to herself. Iʼm now the baby sister.

“Rosa,” Liz is calling her name again, and she knows sheʼs spaced out. “Iʼve brought you some lunch,” she continues, waving a take-away bag from the Crashdown. Rosa shrugs.

“Iʼm not hungry,” she replies.

“Well, you have to eat, hermanita,” Liz retorts.

“I want to go out,” Rosa begs, turning around in the bunker thatʼs not hers, facing a cot thatʼs not at all hers, surrounded by alien technology that she didnʼt even ask to acknowledge. “Quiero ver a papá, please take me to him.”

“You know I canʼt,” Liz says apologetically, leaving the bag with the food on top of the backlit table in the middle of the room. “Not until we figure out how to bring you officially back. Alex is working on that, but heʼs got so much going on right now.”

Rosa huffs. She wants to kick something, but she knows Guerin will give her a lecture if she breaks anything down here – heʼs been kind enough to allow her to stay underneath his trailer when it became obvious that she had nowhere else to go. Right after getting Max Evans into a pod – and that image is going to haunt her for eternity – Alex had discovered that his safe place had been compromised. Rosa hadnʼt understood half of what was said, something about a military bunker and some breach in security, but she got two things: Jesse Manes was on the loose, and she had no place to stay the night. Alex hadnʼt wanted her back with him at the cabin outside the woods, the same place where Jim Valenti had taken her for a detox tour before she fled, because Alex was afraid that his father would show up.

She hadnʼt comprehended why Jesse Manes was so dangerous now that they were all grown-ups, but she hadnʼt questioned Alexʼs reasons – not when he was using his authority voice, one she hadnʼt heard him use ever. Rosa had been so worried about her little brother in arms when sheʼd been alive, and now that sheʼs back she still worries about Alex. Although heʼs a military man, and heʼs been to hell and back, heʼll always be her compi.

“Iʼm not hungry,” she repeats to the void in front of her. “I want to get out of here, Liz.”

“Iʼm sorry,” Liz replies at her back. Thereʼs rustling, so when Rosa turns around to face her sister again she sees how Liz has taken two burritos and one giant Coke out of the bag. “I canʼt let you out, not now. Soon enough, Rosa, prometido.”

Rosa knows she canʼt believe her. Thereʼs so much to do, so many things to take into account. Sheʼs been dead for a decade, and she hasnʼt aged a bit thanks to the pod Noah Bracken had put her in. She doesnʼt have any conscious memories of the man, because all their interactions have been through Isobel; she didnʼt recognize him when Liz showed her some pictures. But thereʼs a voice haunting her dreams, turning them into nightmares. She shakes her head and picks up one burrito. The smile that splits Lizʼs face in two is worth it.

“So, whatʼs the deal with Guerin and Alex?” she questions instead of the million doubts that plague her mind, while Liz leans in to sip from their shared Coke. “Iʼdʼve thought theyʼd sorted their shit by now.”

“Wait, what?” Liz whips her head up from the straw, Coke dribbling down her chin. “You knew?”

“Who didnʼt?” Rosa chirps. When sheʼs met with silence, she frowns. “You didnʼt,” she says, more a statement than a question. “Dios mío, you didnʼt!”

“I donʼt think anyone did, to be honest.” Liz chews down on her burrito and swallows before continuing. Thereʼs sauce on her lip. “I guess Max sensed something, at some point, given the connection they all share, but thatʼs all. Mikey and Alex were never–you know, it was just–”

“You can say the words, Elizabeth,” Rosa jabs at her. “Donʼt be a prude.”

“Iʼm not!” she defends herself, much to Rosaʼs delight. “I just–Youʼre only nineteen!”

“Iʼm still your big sister, Liz, tell me all the juicy details!” Her jokes are met with silence and a pensive stance from Liz.

“I donʼt know,” Liz finally sighs, after what feels like a lifetime. “I thought that they had a fling during high school, and that it didnʼt last, but now that I know some things–it seems Michaelʼs Alexʼs Museum Guy.” She pauses for effect. “It seems Alex has been pining after him for a decade, and they had something right before this whole nightmare. But Mikeyʼs with Maria now, so I donʼt know.”

Rosa holds back a witty remark. She has the feeling that it wonʼt be welcomed, not now that Liz is lost deep in her thoughts. “I think it seems easy to know.”

“Oh, it doesnʼt. Apparently Max healed Michaelʼs hand before getting to you. Without Michaelʼs consent.”

“Oh, yeah, the hand healing that has had you all riled up for three days. How did Michael break it in the first place? Everyone keeps saying it looked horrible.” And by everyone, Rosa means Kyle Valenti, whoʼs been down that ladder far more times than she would have expected. Heʼs on a quest to reconcile with his past and get to know her now that heʼs aware that they are related.

“I actually donʼt know,” Liz confesses. “He never wanted to talk about it. All I know is that it happened sometime between when I last saw you and the moment Isobel went after you in the caves.”

Rosa nods her head. She doesnʼt have any more questions, not now, and even if she had, she knows that Liz wonʼt answer any. Sheʼs already dusting off her uniform and straightening her antennae. Half her burrito is forgotten over the table. “I have to leave,” she excuses herself. “I still have a shift at the café, and then itʼs Noahʼs funeral. I need to go.”

“To mourn the murderer?” Rosa canʼt help but say.

“No,” Liz talks back, already at the end of the ladder and ready to climb up. “To pay homage to the hero.” And with that, she begins her ascent. Before she gets completely out of the bunker, Liz cracks her head backwards awkwardly and stares straight into Rosaʼs eyes. “I will be back after the funeral. The test results on your blood samples should be done by then, and Alex wanted to check on you.”

She disappears into the wide open outside world, leaving Rosa completely alone with her thoughts.

Sheʼs just a bystander now, witnessing as a life she was never supposed to have slips through her fingers in a place full of secrets and whispered half-truths. Nobody talks about the mysterious disappearance of Max Evans, since they all seemed to have settled for a rumor that Isobel had helped spread – or so Liz has told Rosa. No one cares about aliens. Nobody wants answers, so nobody asks.

No one knows about the girl who shouldnʼt be alive, rotting away in a bunker underneath the surface with only her memories and the suffocating pain emanating from the handprint she still has on her skin, proof that sheʼs alive and that he died. Proof that religion had one thing down right.

The wraith walks among the living.

“This town is haunted,” she speaks to the silence surrounding her when her sister leaves, closing the hatch in her wake and pulling the trailer back on top of it with the force of a truckʼs engine. “And I am the ghost.”

~ * ~ * ~ * ~

The casket is closed. Isobel sighs as she allows her hand to slide over the rich wood. Sheʼs still alone in the church, although the service is only forty-six minutes away. Sheʼs waiting for her mother to show up any moment now – Isobel has managed to ditch all her efforts to make her feel better in the wake of finding out about Noah. Isobel canʼt resent her mother for that, since she can never know half of the story, but she needs to be alone for a while and her mother has respected it.

Not for the first time, Isobel muses about how it must be to have an overbearing mother who fusses around her and worries too much. Sheʼs the one to blame for Annʼs behavior ever since Isobel hit puberty – with their powers on the fritz while their teenage selves learned to accommodate to their new bearings, Max hadnʼt wanted to risk anything. She was forced to distance herself from her own parents, from the people who helped her and took her in when she had nothing. Still, she resents her parents for not reaching out to Michael, for leaving him behind. Itʼs tough to constantly feel torn.

Max and Michael. Theyʼre the crux of everything for her.

Max isnʼt around to be blamed for her pain. Sheʼs been told that Michael put him in one of the pods, since she hadnʼt been able to be there. Noah had spoiled it for her as well, just another way for her late husband to fuck her over. Max is gone, although she can still feel a hum in the back of her mind, a hum that Liz has told her Max didnʼt feel when Isobel was in the pod. It gives her hope while she lies to everyone, her mother and father included, and tells them that sheʼs destroyed over the fact that Max is missing.

Lies and more lies, the main pain in her soul rippling through her whenever she thinks that Noah has taken everything from her – her agency, her life, her brothers. Max is in a pod and Michael –

Michaelʼs entering the church in his big black cowboy hat, Maria DeLuca pushing him through the doors. Isobel sighs again as she steps off the altar and walks toward the entrance to greet them. When she reaches them, she stops at an armʼs length, taken aback by how bad Michael looks.

Heʼs swaying a bit, and the odor tells her heʼs already been drinking. If it werenʼt for the smell, she could have guessed his inebriation from his dark, bloodshot eyes. Isobel lives in a permanent state of worry about him, ever since he came back to Roswell at eleven and got pushed back into the system that had separated them for those first four years. Although sheʼs glad that he has Maria now, despite Isobelʼs own feelings about her, Michael doesnʼt seem a bit happy when Maria is around. Isobel lies to herself, trying to convince her worries that itʼs just because of Max and that when Max comes back to life – when they bring him back – Michael will come back to his usual self.

Underneath the lies, Isobel knows the truth, though. Michael has never been happy, not really, until Alex Manes entered the picture. He had been sulky and angry, and suddenly Isobel had felt hope and future in his mind when she dared to risk it and walk through it. After the summer when she killed Rosa, that changed.

Michael, she muses to herself as she finally takes the last step and hugs him, is his usual self when heʼs drunk and lost. The bubbling hope had been a glitch in the system that supports his permanent anger.

“Iʼm glad youʼre here,” she whispers into Michaelʼs curls when he hugs her back. “Thanks for coming.”

“Anything for you, Iz,” he replies. Thereʼs no slur in his voice, but the hint of acetone in his breath in enough for Isobel to understand how much heʼs hurting without entering the chaotic realm of his mind.

For the last three days, Isobel has wondered how Michael was coping. Sheʼs barely been out of her house at all – except when she had to go to the morgue at the hospital to recognize Noahʼs electrified body, as if she hadnʼt seen it the first time. Afterwards, her mother had come pick her up and sheʼs been trapped between her own walls, sorting through Noahʼs belongings and explaining why their pictures were busted while Ann organized the funeral.

Itʼs the first event she hasnʼt planned herself in a long time, and Isobel couldnʼt be more at a loss.

Michael had hidden from her the whole time. After their shared experience with Max in the void of black, Isobel hasnʼt heard from him. Sheʼs tried calling the human way, reaching out to him by phone, but Michael always lets her go to voicemail, so she wasnʼt sure if he would actually show up –if only to check that Noah is effectively dead. It isnʼt a surprise to see him with Maria – the rumor mill has reached Isobel too – but she wants the only brother she has left to be happy, and thereʼs an aura of despair around him. They had talked about family and Caulfield briefly in between Noah and Rosa, so Isobel knows heʼs partly grieving the loss of his mom, but it doesnʼt take a genius to understand that the tether Michael had to this planet, before, is almost severed from his darkened soul.

He doesnʼt say anything else, and Maria helps him sit on a bench by the back of the church. Isobel goes back to the altar, and itʼs there her mother finds her ten minutes later, with the aisle full of people searching for a seat and ready to give her their condolences. She just wants everything to end, because she doesnʼt like the idea of having to keep on lying about who sheʼs crying for.

“How are you feeling, dear?” Ann asks, her long blonde hair falling in waves at her back. Isobel wants to tell her that sheʼs feeling self-conscious in her black dress, right above the knees, and her own hair in a neat ponytail that sways from left to right when she walks – she never thought she’d be the lamenting widow, and it’s the first time in her adult life that she doesn’t feel like she fits in. She’s just lost in her grief, although it isn’t grief for her husband – she’s mourning something else she can’t share with her mother.

“Iʼve been better,” she admits. “This is hard.”

Her mother gives her a pitying look and an awkward pat on the shoulder. She proceeds to scan the crowd from their spot on the altar, where Isobel is getting ready to give her speech – something halfway between heartfelt and sickening, since sheʼs thrown up twice while thinking about it, and twice more while actually writing it down. “Ew,” Ann says, bringing Isobelʼs focus to the present. “One would have thought he would have had a bit more class and not come at all.”

Isobel follows her motherʼs gaze to land her eyes on Michael, fidgeting in his seat and trying not to flinch whenever Maria touches him. Somehow, the way her mother talks about Michael – has been talking about him ever since high school and their blatant refusal to take him in because heʼs got a foster home and if heʼs living in his truck itʼs probably because heʼs trouble – sets fire inside of her, and she turns to her mother so fast that her head is spinning quicker than her ponytail.

“Stop it right now,” she says, voice filled with authority and derision. “Stop talking about Michael like that. Enough.”

“Honey, I donʼt think youʼre in the right mind–”

“I said enough,” her voice is vicious. She revels in the fact that her mother looks like sheʼs slapped her across the face. “I know you donʼt recognize him, but Michael is my brother. He was there at the group home when you adopted us,” she keeps on, not allowing her mother to interrupt. “Heʼs the troubled child you left behind. So no, donʼt go talking about him like that. Iʼve already lost a husband, we donʼt know where Max is,” yet another lie burning in her tongue, “and I will not allow anyone to talk about my other brother like that.”

Isobel watches as realization dawns on Ann Evans, the perfect housewife whoʼs spent the past twenty years of her life fiercely denying that her actions had any impact on a childʼs life. “I didnʼt know,” she says apologetically, but Isobel is having none of that.

“That doesnʼt make up for the fact that youʼve been treating him like shit and Iʼve allowed it.” Isobel grips the coffin with her manicured hands until her knuckles are white. “But thatʼs going to change, now.”

Her mother nods mutely, and goes to sit front row with her father, whoʼs looking at them with a frown. Isobel ignores them both, instead walking to stand in front of the crowd when the priest signals for the choir to begin singing so the ceremony can start.

She catches Lizʼs eyes as she sits with Arturo, both dressed in black and wearing matching grieving looks. Isobel knows that Liz is the only one apart from Michael that can get what sheʼs feeling right now. She sees Kyle entering a bit late with Sheriff Valenti in tow, seemingly distressed with hands shaking nervously. By the end of the church, she spots Alex, sitting on his own looking down as though heʼs praying.

She wants to address them, not sure if she wants to reassure them that everything will turn out right in the end or if she needs them to tell her that this time they win. They get to have their happy ending.

The ceremony begins, and she feels the pull of dissociation where she gets to leave her body and forget anything thatʼs happening – one of the side effects of having Noah in her mind for so long.

Isobel doesnʼt remember half of it, only bits and pieces of the priestʼs words and her own speed, and suddenly sheʼs sitting sandwiched between her parents, cheeks tear-stricken as the choir sings about everlasting love even from the afterlife. If only they knew.

Her pain becomes anger when she thinks about everything Noah has taken from her – sheʼs now the widow of Roswell, a beacon and an example, but she only feels hatred. Because of Noah sheʼs spent the last ten years thinking Michael was a murderer, and thatʼs something she has to learn to forgive herself for before she can ask for atonement. But also because of Noah she doesnʼt know who she really is, and sheʼs lost half of her soul thatʼs now sitting in a pod she still has to visit.

Noah gave her wings, but they were loaded with wax as he sent her flying toward the sun.

The haze of the funeral drifts into the haste of the reception in the house she shared with Noah, people offering wishes and advice that she doesnʼt need. She needs a punching bag. She needs a glass of wine. She needs a gun and a target.

She needs Noah to be alive so she can kill him with her bare hands and the melting force of her brain.

Isobel doesnʼt notice something is wrong until sheʼs faced with Michael clutching his head with his right hand, the left one in an ugly bandana. She realizes then that sheʼs swaying in place and the people in front of her are swimming under her sight.

“Whatʼs going on?” Michael asks at the same time as she feels a scream growing from the deepest of her mind, the place where sheʼs pushed Max and their shared connection.

Isobel grabs Michael by the hem of his shirt and pushes him into the nearest room, which happens to be Noah’s in-home office. She barely manages to close the door at her back before the pain hits her in waves once again. Bile threatens to rise in her throat, and sheʼs shuddering. Thereʼs a pull in her mind, a slow but firm prodding that tugs at her heartstrings and plucks at the edges of her mind. She can tell Michael feels it too, because heʼs pale and shivering as well, and in her mind she can feel him yelling into the chaos as the pain consumes him.

In the midst of their convulsions, Isobel doesnʼt realize her hands have begun to glow – red, angry – until she hears two confused yelps by the door that didnʼt actually close properly, matching the fear sheʼs got conquering her insides.

“Isobel?”

“Michael?”

When both of them turn around, they meet Ann and Maria, who are staring at them bewildered. “What does this all mean?” Maria manages to ask before Ann Evans collapses by her side, fainting under the stress of watching the sheer unhuman nature of her own daughter.