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“Adjustment”

Story by Shira

Written by Annie, Cole, Jeslyn and Shira

Edited by Lisa, Liz, Mark, Sherry and Tiff

 

 

Playlist:

1.  “Imprint” by Double Drive

2.  “Landslide” by Dixie Chicks featuring Sheryl Crow

3.  “Like a Stone” by Audioslave

 

 

The silence was deafening as eight pairs of eyes focused on the person standing before them.  Ava shifted uncomfortably under their gazes.  Hanley finally took pity on her and brought it upon himself to end the quiet.

 

“Ta da,” he said, in a half-joking manner.  “This is Ava, your brand-new fourth.” He pressed a hand to her back, gently shoving her inside the doorway.  The door closed behind her unexpectedly and she jumped from the sudden noise.

 

The room broke out in whispers and confusion.

 

Max stepped forward, very confused, ready to defend the group with his shield. Michael likewise stood up swiftly.

 

“Fourth, what do you mean the fourth?” Maria questioned, from where she stood by Michael.  “Who the hell is she?”

 

“Ava is Avan’ya, our former queen,” Hanley poignantly explained.

 

Kyle took a step towards him.  “Not anymore,” he bit out.  “Liz is the queen now.”

 

Isabel’s head shot up and her eyes collided with Serena’s wide green ones.  “What?”

 

Ava turned towards Liz and smiled.  “You’s got hitched!” she said excitedly, noticing the ring on Liz’s finger.  “Congradula–”

 

“Be quiet!” Kyle ordered, interrupting her.  “You don’t mean it.  I know you!  Nothing that comes out of your mouth is ever the truth.”

 

“Kyle,” Serena called out, taking a timid step forward.  She had never seen him like this before.  “Calm down.  Let Hanley explain.”

             

“No,” Kyle responded, never removing his eyes from Ava.  “I’m telling you we can’t trust her. For all we know, this whole thing could be another mindwarp.”

 

"Man, chill," Ava said quietly, taking a small step back to Hanley's side.

 

Liz stepped forward, contemplating the situation. She knew that Ava wasn’t Tess and Tess was gone, yet some of those memories couldn’t help but resurface. Liz quelled them and focused on Kyle.

 

“Kyle,” she said softly. “Ava isn’t Tess. Let’s not jump to conclusions.”

 

“She’s not far from her,” Kyle commented, his voice getting steadily louder.  “How can you all forget what Tess did to us… what she did to Alex?  Tess was evil, but the girl wearing her same face is just fine? There’s some logic.”

 

Ava stared at the ground, glancing back up to Hanley uneasily.

 

“Doesn’t mean that Ava’s the same,” Isabel chimed in. Everyone turned to look at her as she came in from the living room and this made her suddenly aware how defensive she sounded.

 

“And how do we know that?” Kyle challenged, finally turning to address the rest of the group.  “Is there some sort of secret handshake that means she’s a good alien?”

 

Isabel moved to stand in front of him.  “Think about it, Kyle.  I’m nothing like Lonnie, and I am certainly not Vilandra.  Rath lives somewhere in Michael, we’ve seen that; but after today you should have no doubt that Michael is still his own person.  We can’t judge Ava by someone else’s actions.”

 

“Like hell we can’t,” Kyle muttered.  “So, what you’re basically saying is that we automatically trust her,” he accused, pointing his finger sharply at Ava.  “I’m not about to make that mistake again. No way!”

 

“I’m saying we give her the chance to be trusted,” Isabel stated, glancing over at Ava. “Everyone deserves a chance.”

 

“This is bull…” Kyle started to say, but Hanley cut him off.

 

“Enough!” Hanley barked, waving his hand.  An eerie hush fell around the room.  Ava let out a tiny sigh of relief that the rest of the group was now staring at him and not her.

 

“Okay, this wasn’t quite the warm and fuzzy reception I was expecting,” Hanley admitted, scratching his chin and trying to work through his apparent confusion.

 

“And what reaction were you expecting?” Michael retorted, crossing his arms defiant to anything Hanley had to say. “That we would jump up and down with happiness, and then burst out singing Cumbaya?”

 

Max placed a hand firmly on Michael’s shoulder, trying to settle him.  “Calm down,” he urged, in an attempt to get a handle on the situation. “Please,” he added, seeing Michael open his mouth to contest.  

 

“Thank you,” Hanley let out a breath of relief.  However, the look on Max’s face kept him from proceeding any further.

 

“You should have told us,” Max stated, turning to face Hanley fully.  “We had the right to know you were bringing someone back with you, no matter who it was. That was a dangerous and reckless decision that you shouldn’t have made on your own.”

 

Hanley lowered his head, searching for the right words to justify his actions.  “I did have my reasons.”

 

Jesse, who had remained a silent spectator up until this point, could no longer contain his curiosity.  “And what were they?” he questioned.

 

“When I found Avan’ya, she wasn’t exactly in the safest of situations,” Hanley explained.  “If I had mentioned anything, it might have put her – and you – all in danger.”

 

“I knew it, Maxwell…” Michael began, but Max stopped him with a single glance.

 

“Why?” Liz asked, studying the expression on Hanley’s face.  “What’s going on?”

 

“I’m not entirely sure,” Hanley admitted.  “I’ve been in contact with other protectors, sent just a few years ago, and they all agree that something is coming, something big.”

 

            “Other protectors?” Serena said softly just as Michael spoke up again.

 

“Great,” Michael scoffed.  “That’s nice and vague.  Have any other useful information? Cause I hate to break it to you, danger just isn’t a big deal with us anymore.”

 

“It’s different,” Ava told them, looking down to the wooden floor again.  “Dis time it’s all different.”

 

Kyle glanced around to see everyone listening to her intently, and then saw Ava’s eyes come up to give him a quick look before falling back to the floor. 

 

“I don’t believe a word of this,” he gritted out, storming past Ava and Hanley.  Kyle whipped by the pair so fast that he knocked the small girl up against the wall.  The front door slammed behind him, causing silence to fall upon the group once more.

 

Serena felt torn.  This was important, something about the cause, as her mother use to call it.  Her mother, who put the cause before everything in her life: love, home, and certainly her daughter.  The thought of all the heartache her mother had put her through made Serena decide at that moment she wanted to be nothing like her mother. 

 

“I have to follow him,” she stuttered, quickly darting away from the group.  Stealthily, she moved past the protector and Ava, grabbing her coat as she followed the path Kyle had just taken.

 

“We all need to talk,” Hanley said, shutting the door behind her.  “And I have a feeling it will take awhile, so may I suggest that we all go into the living room and get a bit more comfortable?”

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

The living room was filled with commotion as each person found a comfortable spot to sit. Max and Liz sat on one couch, while Jesse and Isabel sat on the other.  Maria retreated to a seat at the bar and Michael stood near her, leaning against the bar with his arms crossed.  They all looked at Hanley and Ava, who stood in the center of the room, and silently waited for them to get comfortable.

 

Hanley looked at Ava while she glanced around the room in search of a place to sit.  She felt nervous, knowing that the others weren’t welcoming her with open arms, although she’d expected just such a reaction.  They had been reluctant to warm up to her the last time too.  Whatever Tess had done, it must have been pretty bad.  Spotting a brown leather recliner secluded in the corner, she moved timidly to take a seat there, and jumped when somebody suddenly spoke to her.

 

“There’s a seat at the bar here if you want it.

 

Ava looked at Maria, hesitant to take the seat she offered.  A small grin formed on Maria’s lips and she patted the cushioned bar stool, encouraging her to take the seat.  In that moment Ava saw a chance to belong and she took it. Michael didn’t look thrilled at all when Ava sat down, but she ignored him for now.

 

Hanley sat in the recliner and took a look around the room.  Max was watching him with worried eyes.  Liz gripped Max’s hand, her eyes darting from her husband to Hanley.  Isabel had no emotion on her face but it was evident that she was anxious to get started.  Jesse was staring at his wife’s clenched white knuckles, rubbing small circles on her back in an attempt to calm her down.  Maria was gazing curiously at Ava, studying her nose rings and multi-colored hair while her subject of curiosity was trying her best to look at nothing at all.  Michael stared straight at Hanley, arms still crossed, obviously anxious to get the discussion going.

 

Hanley took the recliner and dragged it closer to the group before sitting down with a deep breath.

 

“Now, getting down to business,” Hanley began, leaning forward with his elbows on his knees. But Liz interrupted him.

 

“No, we should wait until everyone is here.”

 

Hanley did not question her, although he sighed unhappily, leaning back in the chair.  Michael shifted anxiously and Isabel took a deep breath, looking around.  Ava glanced around the room again and nibbled nervously on her lower lip.  They waited for someone to break the silence, but because they were all waiting, no one spoke up.  Everyone silently hoped that Serena and Kyle would return soon … very soon.

 

Breaking the silence, Isabel turned on the television and all eyes turned toward her.  She looked around at the others and shrugged.  Watching television, or pretending to watch television, was much more comforting than the tense silence.  No one protested her action until she started to channel surf and she was a little surprised that the voice she heard belonged to Michael.

 

“Is there a hockey game on? The Red Wings are going to be playing St. Louis today.”  When Max looked at him disapprovingly, Michael shrugged and added, “What? It could be a while till they get back.”

 

“Well, I’m not watching hockey,” Isabel replied, “and I have the remote.”

 

Michael smirked, and brought his hand up, wiggling his fingers.  “You forget that I have a universal one.”

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

1.

 

“Kyle,” Serena called out down the street, running towards the figure hurrying ahead of her.

 

Without turning around, Kyle answered her.  “Go back, Serena.”

 

She took another couple of swift steps towards him.  “Not a chance in hell.”

 

That stopped him.  However, when he turned around, Serena could see pure fire burning in his eyes.  “I really want to be alone right now,” he told her forcefully.

 

“Well, we don’t always get what we want,” Serena retorted, irritation lacing her words. “So you wanna tell me what’s going on?”

 

“Apart from the fact that everyone back in the apartment is about to let a murdering, lying, selfish killer back into our lives, not a thing,” he commented sarcastically.

 

“Kyle,” Serena muttered, her features softening from irritation to concern.  “You have to let this go. Tess is–”

 

“How would you know anything about Tess?” Kyle snapped, his voice rising from a low rumble to full blown shouting.  “You have no idea what Tess did to us! What she did to me!”

 

“Then tell me!” she shouted back in frustration.  “I don’t read minds.  I won’t have a clue until you talk to me, Kyle!”

 

“You say that like you’re the one so open about everything,” Kyle tossed back at her, his words laced with bitterness.  “We’ve been together for weeks now and you’ve never shared anything with me.  Not one little thing.  Nice double standard.  My past needs to be an open book, but you can decide which snippets of yours get to be shared?”

 

The instant the words left his mouth, Kyle regretted them.  Serena’s face simply crumbled before him as he saw tears begin well up in her eyes.

 

“I’m sorry,” she whispered, tears starting to drift down her cheeks.  It felt like he had hit her in the stomach.  There was just so much anger in his voice and it was now directed at her.  But the worse part was… he was right.

 

Kyle stood there in a moment of remorseful inaction, until she turned from him to run back towards the apartment.  “Serena wait,” he called, following her, reaching out to take a hold of her arm. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

 

She tried to maneuver out of his grasp.  “No.  Let me go,” she pleaded.  “I’ll leave you alone.  That’s what you want.”

 

“No that’s not what I want,” he told her, effectively stopping her movement.  She turned to face him, and Kyle found himself stunned by the emotion he saw in her eyes.  There was hurt, frustration, and something that looked surprisingly like love. 

 

He needed her to know, needed her to understand.  “It might not be what I want,” he began, “but it’s what I need.”

             

“Why?” she asked. She was openly crying now, her arms hugging her sides.

 

“Because Tess was evil,” he sighed, rubbing his forehead.  “We lived under the same roof, ate at the same table, and even shared some happy memories.  I loved her,” he choked out, “…like a sister.  And then, I helped her murder one of my best friends… under that same roof.” 

 

“Kyle, you didn’t know,” Serena jumped in defensively, shaking her head to emphasize her words.  “It wasn’t your fault.”

 

“But I should have known!” Kyle told her, the guilt he had felt for the past two years breaking free.  “I knew her the best and I would have never guessed she could do what she did.  Maybe if I had, Alex would have never died.

 

Serena reached out, gently taking a hold of his hand.  “You don’t know that.  Nobody does.  Tess is the one who tricked you and took advantage of what you offered her.”

 

Kyle began rubbing his thumb against her palm.  “What was that?”

 

“Family,” she said simply. 

 

A long pause fell upon them as Kyle took in her words.  He realized that he might not know everything about the girl standing in front of him, but every time he peeled back one of her layers, something brand new and amazing was revealed to him. 

 

“So do you understand why I freaked?” he questioned, bringing his free hand up to Serena’s face to brush away her tears.

 

She nodded.  “I understand,” she whispered.  “I don’t agree, but I understand.  But you have to know that Ava isn’t Tess.”

 

“I know that,” Kyle admitted.  “But she’s too close for comfort.”

 

“Okay,” Serena conceded. 

 

“Okay,” Kyle repeated.  There was a long silence as they stared into each other’s eyes, not wanting the moment to end.  Finally, Kyle took a small step back.  “Well, I’m going to finish my little walk, if you want to head back.”

 

Serena leaned in and placed a light kiss on his cheek, letting her lips linger on his warm skin.  “Don’t be out too long.”

 

“I won’t,” Kyle promised.  He returned her kiss, surprising her by brushing his lips up against hers.  Running a hand through her hair, he kissed her forehead and turned, heading off in his original direction.

 

Watching him, Serena let out a hollow breath.  As each step took him farther from her, she felt a chill settle around her body.  It was almost like a warning, having him walk away from her. 

 

“The truth is coming,” she muttered to herself. “I just hope you won’t hate me when you do find out.”

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

“Would you mind turning that thing off now?” Hanley requested the moment Serena let herself back into the apartment. “You all will want to hear what I have to say.”

 

Isabel looked at Hanley, frustration visible in her narrowed brown eyes.  She didn’t trust him and didn’t really feel like listening to him.  She’d finally won the battle for the television and watching Oprah sounded much better than Hanley-vision to her, but the others would be even more upset if she ignored him. 

 

“Okay, what do you want?” Isabel asked shortly, stabbing the OFF button on the T.V. remote.

 

Michael let out a light sigh of annoyance.

 

“Wait,” Liz began, seeing only one of the two missing people return, but Serena interrupted her.

 

“It’s okay, Kyle will be back later and I’ll fill him in.”

 

“Fine,” Hanley responded, taking a deep breath as Max nodded to him to continue. “Now there are some things you should know.  The Queen – Zan and Vilandra’s mother – sent more protectors to Earth three years ago because she knew the royal four would need help defeating Khivar and his followers.”

 

          He paused, and reached into his back pocket, bringing out a small, pentagon-shaped device.  “This is how I knew you were alive.”

 

“Keep that thing away from me!” Michael exclaimed, pointing at the device backing sharply away from the counter.

 

“Relax, it’s not lethal,” Hanley reassured him.

 

“Yeah, right!” Michael retorted. “Remind me of that the next time I get attacked by it.”

 

“That’s one of those–” Isabel turned back to Hanley, ignoring Michael’s outburst.

 

“Pentagon devices Brody had,” Max finished, looking at his sister knowingly.  He glanced back at Hanley. 

 

“Brody?” Hanley sat up straighter, suddenly more alert.  “Who’s that?”

 

Max looked at Liz before proceeding at her slight nod.  “He’s Larek’s human… head person.”

 

Hanley nodded in understanding.  “Good.”

 

“But we haven’t seen him since we left Roswell,” Max added. “So how do you have one of those anyway?” Max said, gesturing towards the device Hanley was holding. 

 

“Each set of protectors is given one of these.  It lets us know when signals from Earth to Antar are being made.  It also turns on if any of the Royal Four activate –”

 

“The orbs,” Liz finished softly, looking at the device with unease. 

 

Hanley looked at her in surprise and then his gaze moved to Max.  “I take it you have them still.”

 

“They’re here,” was all Max said, and Hanley nodded.

 

“Good.  We may need them later.”

 

Maria raised her hand.  “Permission to speak oh protective one, but Space-boy here has a question and if he doesn’t ask it soon he’ll probably implode.”

 

Michael gave Maria a rankled look before proceeding.

 

“Why did it take you so long to find us?” he demanded, scratching his eyebrow.  “I mean, if you’ve got all these deadly gadgets.”

 

Hanley rolled his eyes. “They’re not deadly. And it didn’t,” he began. “My brother kept an eye on all of you while you were still in Roswell until some time last spring, when we had … a family problem.  I came to Roswell to take his place, but all of you left because the FBI.  One hell of an article in the paper, too...  Anyway, my brother was gone before I could tell him what the FBI was planning.”  He saw everyone’s confusion.  “See, in the six months prior, I had been ordered to blend in with the FBI and keep an eye on them, I used them to find you because I knew that they wanted to finish what they had started.”

 

“So… you knew that the FBI was going to kill us at graduation?” Liz spoke up angrily.

 

“Yes, well, no. I knew because my job was to keep an eye on the FBI and find out how close they were to capturing you, and to prevent them from doing so at all costs. My brother was supposed to keep an eye on the royals – protect them, and if he revealed himself, to help them develop their abilities.  My sister was ordered to keep a close eye on whatever progress Khivar has made with his skin army,” Hanley explained, “and both threats have worsened since we arrived on Earth.  I’m still gathering whatever information I can from the other protectors, but I think that all of you have sensed the imminent danger and urgency of the situation.”

 

“More than sensed it,” Isabel clarified. “We’ve already experienced it… from both sides.”

 

Max nodded. The time was coming, and he was not prepared, not at all.

 

“We should probably explain to Hanley how you nearly died from a gunshot wound and Max was killed in that lab,” Jesse added, glancing at Isabel while summarizing the recent highlights of the group's life over the last year.

 

“Max was killed?” Hanley began, raising his eyebrow.

 

“And I got to be king for a day,” Michael added.

 

“Long story, I’ll fill you in later,” Max assured him.

 

Hanley squinted at the two and rubbed his chin but didn’t question them.

 

Isabel glanced at Jesse and narrowed her eyes worriedly as she saw how unhappy his face was. Until then she hadn’t realized how much everything was really affecting him. She turned and looked at Hanley again, but made a mental note to talk to Jesse about it later.  Her mind wandered back to the present as Serena spoke up.

 

“So… how is Ava involved in all this?”

 

“The royals were cloned into two sets as you all probably know.  Max’s set hitched a ride to New Mexico and Ava’s set in the sewers of New York City, where I first sought her out.  Her dupe was Tess, and since Tess is dead Ava is the only fourth you have left.”

 

“The only fourth?” Liz blurted nervously. “I mean, are you sure? Because I have alien powers, you know – premonitions and stuff.”

 

“That may be something else entirely, and we’ll have to look into that.  I do know with a great deal of certainty that you will need Ava in order to defeat your enemies, because the four of you make a complete unit.  Now, Max, Michael, Isabel and Ava - the four of you have to train.  You must be ready for the–”

 

“I think we can decide what we must do,” Max interrupted. “You’re not in charge here.”

 

“No, of course, that’s your job, Max,” Hanley rescinded, as if he were judging his king. 

 

“I’m not the leader,” Max insisted, although everyone looked at him as if he was the one in charge. “We make decisions as a group.”

 

            There was a slight pause as Hanley processed his words. 

 

“Fine,” Hanley relented, “Think about what I’ve said and make a decision.  Just remember, if you are not ready the next time your enemies attack, you will probably not live to tell the tale.”

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

“Hey honey,” Isabel said as she walked into the bedroom that Jesse and she shared. She was finally right where she wanted to be – alone with her husband after a long day, but he didn’t look so happy to see her as she was him.  In fact, he looked downright worn out from everything that had happened in the last two days.  She sighed as she walked to the vanity in the corner of the room and brushed her hair pensively. 

 

She looked in the mirror past herself and saw Jesse sitting atop the burgundy satin sheets on the bed, his physique contrasting against the dark mahogany headboard.  He was reading a book and a distraught look crossed his face.  Isabel quickly put on her ivory colored silk pajamas and walked over to Jesse’s side of the bed, taking a seat beside him.

 

2.

 

“Jesse, what’s wrong?”

 

“Nothing,” Jesse said with a low voice, still reading his book

 

“Jesse, I know you better than that… something is wrong...”

 

Jesse stayed quiet, eyes glued to the page.  Isabel finally had enough and quickly swiped the book from his hands.  She closed it and looked at the cover intently.

 

“I didn’t know that you liked Hemingway,” she said as she looked at the worn copy of For Whom the Bell Tolls. 

 

“Well, I kind of picked it up while you were gone...” he trailed, glancing from Isabel to someplace beyond her shoulder. “You know I never liked to go out much with the guys at work because all they ever talk about is picking up women, so I got really into reading.  It helped me to not think and worry about you as much.”  He paused, looking at his hands.  “You know, you can only look at cases so many hours a day before your head hurts, so one day I just went to the library and it was beautiful.  I’ve read a lot of books in the last few months,” he said as he looked down again, “But it seems like I can’t seem to get through this one...  I’ve been on the same page for the last hour.”

 

“If you don’t like it, read something else,” Isabel said simply.

 

“Isabel, it isn’t the book that is the problem,” Jesse said with an obvious seriousness in his voice.

 

“I knew something was wrong,” Isabel said as she shook her head. “Listen, I know it has to be hard to be thrown into the chaos again.  I mean Kyle is an angry human running solely on hormones–”

 

“Isabel–”

 

“And the whole Maria not being totally normal thing–”

 

“Isabel–”

 

“And to see them drag Calypso’s host body out of here–”

 

“Isabel–”

 

“And Ava, who looks just like Tess, is back–”

 

“Isabel–”

 

“I can see why you would be upset.  I mean any normal person would be...  we just come here and tear up your life.” Isabel looked down.  “Again.” She sighed. “I’m so sorry Jesse.”

 

“Isabel...  it doesn’t have anything to do with what you just said...  and if you would stop blaming yourself and who you are for one second I could tell you,” Jesse said sadly, looking up for the first time to find her beautiful brown, caring eyes. 

 

Isabel gazed back into her husband’s eyes for a few seconds before proceeding.

 

“You know you can tell me anything, right?” Isabel asked, setting the book down on the nightstand and taking his hand in hers.

 

“I know that I can tell you anything, but this just makes me feel so… ashamed,” he said with downcast look.

 

Isabel urged him to continue, holding his hand tightly.

 

“I went to have my annual physical today,” he started.  “There were some tests and more tests. The doctor gave me some bad news.”

 

Isabel felt her face turn cold...  was he dying? Was he sick? Did he have some disease? Could Max heal him?

 

“Before you jump to any conclusions, I’m fine.”

 

Relief washed over Isabel in the form of a small smile.  “If you’re fine, then what’s wrong?”

 

Jesse paused for a few seconds, looking down at their intertwined hands.  He took a deep breath and when he spoke, his voice was a low rumble that echoed throughout the room.

 

“I found out that I can’t have children.”

 

Isabel gave a slight nod to let Jesse know that she understood what he was saying, still relieved that he was physically okay, but her mind was reeling from the news. As she pulled him into a tight embrace, she closed her eyes, thinking of the children she’d never have. The truth’s stark clarity started forming in her mind as she pulled back, looking into her husband’s eyes intently.

 

“You have to be so disappointed,” Jesse was the first to speak, his voice laced with sadness.  “I know how much you like kids – you always liked working with them in that Christmas Pageant.”

 

Isabel took a deep, steadying breath before answering. “Honestly Jesse, it is a little sad, you’re right...I love kids, but I am just glad that you‘re okay.  I don’t know what I would do without you.”

 

“I feel like I’ve let you down.”

 

“Jesse, this isn’t your fault...  really.”

 

“I know.”

 

“Having children isn’t everything.”

 

There was a pause, Jesse tried to speak and stopped. Finally he just said it. “Maybe we could, you know, adopt someday.”

 

Isabel sat there, taken aback for a moment.  She hadn’t even thought that far ahead, she was too wrapped up in her relief that Jesse was okay to even think about adopting.  But… adoption?  Sure, without her parents, she and Max would have been lost without their unconditional love and support.  But this was a whole new ballgame.  Having enough love wasn’t the issue – safety was.  That was the exact reason Max gave his son up for adoption. How could she knowingly bring in another life, a child, into this whole alien fiasco?  Could she be that selfish? 

 

            Well, she could be and had been in the past. First Alex, then Jesse… But knowing how another human’s life would turn out if they were brought unwittingly into the chaos…

 

Jesse pulled her into another hug and held her tightly for a moment before pulling away.  She gave him a slight smile, assuring him that she still loved him and everything would be okay.

 

“Someday,” Isabel said, “But someday maybe a long time away from now.”

 

“Don’t worry, I don’t plan on going anywhere.”  Jesse returned her smile and Isabel felt all the tension she had been holding drain away.  Stifling a yawn, Jesse said, “Okay, how about some sleep?”

 

Isabel smiled, silently thanking the heaves for the world’s most perfect husband. 

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

Isabel yawned as she neared the kitchen, feeling relaxed and refreshed from her beauty sleep.  When she reached the kitchen doorway she heard the voices of two people she never expected to hear having a civilized conversation together.  Curious about the new development, she stood there for a moment and listened, transfixed.

 

“You grew up in a sewer?”

 

“Well it was all dried up but yeah, and it ain’t all that bad so long as you got company.  It ain’t as nice as that alien themed town you came from, what with the rocks an’ desert an’ all.”

 

“Probably, but don’t ask me to remember… everything in my mind … it’s just…”

 

“Hey it’s cool, ya know?  Most people don’t get ta live twice. You’s lucky.”

 

Isabel peeked her head inside and quickly ducked out, not sure what to make of the situation.  Although she knew that Maria was changed, she didn’t expect her friend to be talking to Ava of all people.  They were smiling and laughing.  “I must have entered the twilight zone,” Isabel thought to herself.

 

“Good morning,” Isabel greeted them, finally entering the kitchen. She regarded Maria curiously for a moment.

 

“Good morning,” Maria replied, noting the way Isabel looked at her. “Something wrong?”

 

“No, not at all,” Isabel said uncomfortably while she opened the refrigerator and peered inside.  After grabbing the jug of orange juice, she shut the door and looked at Maria again.  Judging by the skeptical look on her face, Isabel had a feeling that Maria didn’t believe her.

 

“Look, it’s just…” Isabel hesitated, searching for the right words. “Not that it’s a big deal or anything, but you would never have given Ava or Tess the time of day before.”

 

“I agree,” Kyle spoke up, entering the room.

 

“Maybe Ava isn’t that bad,” Maria pointed out firmly. “She doesn’t seem to be the same type of person that Tess was at all.” 

 

“I doubt it,” Kyle scoffed, “The real enemies always seem nice or innocent at first. Whittaker, Tess, Nasedo… need I go on?”

 

“Well, technically, Nasedo never really seemed all that innocent, considering all the killing he did,” Isabel cut with an apologetic look towards Ava.

 

“Look,” Maria began, but Ava cut her off.

 

“Don’t botha,” Ava insisted softly, shaking her head.  “He’s got a right to be PO’d.”

 

Maria stood glaring at Kyle, before she stalked out of the room, brushing against Liz.  Liz opened her mouth to stop her, but she found herself unable to say anything.

 

“What just happened?” Liz spoke up.

 

Isabel just looked up at the ceiling, flailing her arms toward it as if to ask a higher power for assistance.  Her attention turned to the cupboard, since she wanted a bowl of cereal, but Liz was waiting.  When Kyle spoke up, Isabel froze and looked blankly at the cupboard in front of her.

 

“Maria was talking to the enemy.”

 

Liz flicked a look towards Ava and sighed. “Don’t call her that, Kyle. You’re jumping to conclusions.”

 

            “Well, one of has to since the rest of you are just sitting on your asses waiting for things to happen. I’m not going sit here and watch my life get torn apart by your alien friends.” He glanced meaningfully at Liz and then Isabel before stalking out of the room.

 

Blowing out a weary breath, Isabel shook her head and went on to open the cupboard.  ‘It’s just not my morning,’ she thought to herself unhappily. 

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

“So, Maxwell...  what’s up?” Michael asked.

 

“I just thought that we should talk.  You know, about stuff.”

 

“Could you be any more specific?”

 

“We need to talk about the problems at hand and decide what the most important course of action is and what to do about it,” Max said seriously.

 

“You don’t think I know that?” Michael said shortly.

 

“Look. I need your help here.  There are a lot of problems right now. Hanley bringing Ava here... Maria.  All these things have to be dealt with.”

 

“Yeah yeah, problems are nothing new. Get to the point.”

 

“We have to figure out how to deal with Hanley and Ava.  I mean is what he said true, that we couldn’t beat Khivar without her? That we have to trust her or we’ll all die? How can we trust her, when she could be Tess all over again? None of us have even begun to get over all the damage she caused and we’re supposed to just welcome her duplicate into our midst?” Max fired off his concerns, his voice low and upset.

 

Michael raised his hand in a ‘stop’ motion. “Whoa there, who said that was even our main concern?”

 

“It‘s obvious that it is, Michael...  I mean Kyle can take care of himself, but Ava...”

 

“What about Maria?” Michael interrupted sharply. “She is the most important thing right now.  She needs us...  all of us. Kyle’s a big boy and can take care of himself.”

 

The door swung forward, revealing an angry Maria DeLuca, her eyes burning with fury.

 

“I am not a problem! There are way more important things than me right now.”

 

“How long have you been outside the door?” Michael asked, surprised.

 

“Long enough to know that there are more important things to take care of than me.  Hanley and Ava need to be dealt with, whereas I am fully equipped to take care of myself, thank you very much.”

 

“Maria...” Michael started, wide-eyed.

 

“No, Michael...  maybe you should start worrying about your own problems for once instead of mine.  Maybe everyone should start worrying about what’s right in front of their eyes.  The time is coming when decisions are going to cost lives.  You can’t afford to have clouded judgment, at any cost!

 

Michael was about to disagree again, but he looked at Max and saw him give a slight nod, knowing it was probably best that he didn’t argue with Maria right now.

 

“That goes for you too,” she added, looking pointedly at Max.

 

Michael leaned against the wall and looked at Maria quizzically, before throwing his hands up in defeat. 

 

“I agree with Maria,” Max said decisively.  “Hanley and Ava have to be dealt with. We have to decide where our trust lies, once and for all.”

 

“Thank you, Maxwell!” Maria said, relieved.

 

A funny look clouded Max’s face at her words.

 

Noting his expression, Maria asked with sharp frustration, “What? What did I do now? Everyone thinks I’m crazy for talking to Ava, now what did I do, huh?”

 

“Really, Maria...  it’s no big deal,” Michael said placating.

 

“Did I ask you?” Maria said, clearly annoyed with Michael and his protectiveness.

 

Michael shook his head and looked down at his feet as Maria turned to Max once again.

 

“Yeah, it really was nothing,” Max agreed with Michael.

 

“Oh, so now you agree with me...  must be a first,” Michael said sarcastically.

 

“Michael...” Maria warned and once again turned to Max who was rolling his eyes.

 

“Really Maria...  it isn’t a big deal,” Max said again.

 

“Well then, if it isn’t a big deal, why don’t you tell me?”

 

Max looked to Michael for a little help, but when he realized he wasn’t getting any, he turned back to Maria.

 

“It’s just that only Michael calls me Maxwell...  it’s kind-of his thing.”

 

“So, what do I call you?” she asked.

 

“Well, usually just Max...  but you used to call me...” Max paused, a little embarrassed.  “Well you used to call me girlfriend, because we were really close that one summer when I was pining for Liz while she was in Florida…”  He noticed her growing irritation.  “But really...  it’s no big deal. If you want to call me Maxwell, Max, or whatever.”

 

“That’s what nobody understands… and that’s why you can’t help me.  It is a big deal,” Maria said as she stalked out of the room, slamming the door behind her. 

 

Peeling himself away from the wall, Michael gave Max a disapproving glance and headed for the door. 

 

“What did you want me to say?” Max asked in defense, his palms turned upward in question.

 

“I don’t know...” Michael sighed and shook his head.  “She’s just been so upset lately.  I hate seeing her that way, you know?”

 

“Yeah, I know. But maybe you should give her some space,” Max suggested.

 

“No, I should go and make sure she’s all right.”

 

“She’s upset, and she has a lot of stuff to sort through, Michael. I would too if I had someone else’s memories in me.”

 

Michael shot him a pointed look before sighing. “Yeah I guess,” he said, rubbing his eyebrow.

 

“Plus, we really do need to talk about what to do about Ava.  I mean Liz seems to trust her and I trust Liz, but I’m not sure.”

 

Michael sat down and looked up at Max pensively.

 

“Michael, that has to be the first time I’ve ever seen you… sit down and think.”

 

“Yeah well, don’t get too used to it.”

 

“I won’t,” Max said with a chuckle, sitting down across from him.

 

“I don’t know if we have any other choice but to trust her for now,” Michael finally said, looking longingly at the door.  Suddenly, all he wanted was to find Maria.

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

“So tell me again why we chose this movie,” Maria asked as she tried to get comfortable on the couch.

 

“It’s your favorite,” Liz said, moving to sit beside her.  “You used to make me watch it with you all the time.”

 

Maria studied the television screen.  Some guy was professing his love for the girl in a truly sappy manner.  “Okay,” she conceded, letting the subject drop for the moment.

 

“A chick flick,” Kyle groaned when he walked in the room. 

 

Serena reached out her hand for him and latched onto his belt loop, pulling him down next to her in the plush chair.  “But with a behind like that…” she began to joke.

 

“Too much information,” Max coughed, taking a seat on the other side of Liz.

 

“I’m not kidding,” Serena continued, pointing towards the screen.  “Just take a look at the curvature of that thing!  Talk about Pi times R squared. That is one nice, full a..”

 

Kyle lowered his head quickly, his lips instantly silencing hers.  Serena was all too eager to return the favor.  Slowly, he drew away, opening his eyes to look at her.

 

“Sssssss,” Serena hissed, finishing her sentence, her resolve melted.

 

Liz turned her head to share a chuckle with Max, but it was Ava’s sad face that caught her eye. 

 

She was alone in the kitchen, perched atop one of the barstools and pretending to look at a magazine. Occasionally she would sip from her glass of water and glance up, peering into the living room with longing.  Compassion stirred in Liz’s heart.

 

Ava wanted to be in there with them.  She wanted to be part of the group, not separated; exiled. She was all alone.

 

“Hey guys,” Liz said, lowering her voice slightly.  “Let’s invite Ava to join us.”

 

The tension in the room spiked as the words left her mouth.  For a moment, there was complete silence.  Everyone seemed to shift in their seats.  Max even wrapped an arm around Liz’s waist possessively, unconsciously drawing her close.

 

“I don’t know,” he muttered, sort of hoping only Liz would hear.

 

He didn’t get his wish.  “I’m with Max on this one,” Kyle spoke up, shooting the idea down.  “No way.”

 

“Come on,” Isabel rallied for the girl.  “It’s just a movie, Kyle.”

 

Liz’s gaze went from her husband to Isabel and back again, surprised by both their reactions.  “What’s the matter, Max?” she asked softly, rubbing his arm gently in comfort.

 

“I just don’t think it’s the best idea,” he told her quietly.

 

Kyle nodded his head in agreement.  “Speak up, Max, ‘cause this has got to be the first time I have ever agreed with you on anything.  In fact, maybe we should all mark this down as some sort of historical occasion.  Max and Kyle agree on not trusting Ava....  check.”

 

“Enough,” Michael finally blurted out.  “This isn’t a matter of trust, alright?  It’s a stupid chick flick.  I mean, come on, Ava’s here, and from what Hanley was saying, she’s here to stay. Let’s at least give her a chance.” 

 

Isabel gaped at him.  “Well, this is a first.”

 

“Besides, if she tries anything funny, I’ll blast her,” he added with a grin.

 

Isabel rolled her eyes and even Ava smirked.

 

Shaking his head, Kyle glared at Michael.  “Well Hanley’s not here right now to reinforce ‘play-time.’  So, I’m going to go with my instincts on this one.”

 

Liz ran a hand through her hair, still trying to think of a way to get this under control.  “Give it a rest, Kyle,” she finally said, exasperated. “I mean, she barely even talks as it is–”

 

Kyle stood up.  “Fine, she comes … I go,” he announced to the group, down to Serena for support.

 

Serena sat there, almost like a deer caught in headlights.  Taking a deep breath, she looked at him, then to Liz.  “I … I don’t know.”

 

“She’s not Tess,” Liz argued to the whole group, but mainly it was addressed to Kyle.  “Ava even helped me save Max when he was in New York.  Are you all forgetting that? This is not Tess – Tess is dead.” 

 

“And how do we know she wasn’t helping put him there in the first place?” Kyle shot back.

 

Liz let out a frustrated sigh.  “I just know, Kyle.”

 

“Fine,” Kyle groaned, tossing his head back.  “Whatever.”

 

“Lighten up, sheesh Kyle,” Maria told him.  “Just let her watch the damn movie with us already.”

 

Liz’s head snapped around on its own accord.  “Huh?” she gasped, shocked at what Maria had just said.

 

“What?” Maria questioned, shifting a bit off to the side.  “She can watch the movie with us if she wants to, right?”

 

“I didn’t think you liked Ava,” Liz explained, her eyes still open wide. 

 

Maria shrugged her shoulders.  “Why wouldn’t I?  I don’t even know her.”

 

Liz thought for a moment.  “I don’t know.  You just never really liked Tess so I assumed…

 

Maria’s eyes grew cold. “Hey,” She snapped.  “I was helping you out.  Sorry, I tried.”

 

Swallowing hard, Liz looked away.  “I didn’t mean anything, Maria.  I… I...”

 

Throwing up her hands in defeat, Maria managed a tiny smile.  “It’s all good,” she eased off, turning back to the movie.  She really didn’t feel up for a fight, especially when it seemed like Liz could really go for a few rounds before she would consider letting it drop.  

 

Liz racked her brain, trying to figure out a time before this that Maria and she had ever been at odds. They’d argued over little things but the events had always worked themselves out in the end. For some reason she felt like this time, things would never be the same if they let their unspoken odds go on festering.

 

She shifted against Max, trying to get into a more comfortable position when her hand brushed against Maria’s leg.

 

*Flash*

 

“Michael, I have to get out of here.”

 

“Maria – what are you talking about?”

 

“Here! This place – it’s suffocating me. Liz, especially. I can’t stand it anymore! I have to get out of here.”

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

            Liz opened her eyes and glanced to Maria automatically. She saw Maria’s eyes flick briefly in back in her direction, noticing her blatant observation.

 

            Maria was going to leave. And she had to stop her.

 

She glanced to the T.V. The previously sappy couple was now engaging in moves that were only known to gymnasts as far as she was concerned.

 

“Can they do that on T.V.?” Michael pointed out. “Legally, I mean?”

 

As a moment of unease settled over everyone, Liz thought wildly for something to break the tension.  Glancing around, she spotted a bowl of butter mints that she guessed Isabel had put out, seeing how Isabel was always trying to make the apartment more...'livable'.

 

“Oh, Maria, look...” Liz said quickly, grabbing the bowl and offering it to her friend “Butter mints.” 

 

Maria raised a quizzical brow.  “Yeah?” She shook her head in confusion.

 

“They're your favorite.” Liz said innocently.

 

Maria's frustration mounted. “No...they're not!” She abruptly stood, knocking the candy bowl over, its contents flying into the wall.

 

Liz glanced towards Michael, who was staring at the broken bits of candy bowl as they spun on the floor before coming gradually to a stop.  Max was about to jump up from his seat.  She looked back to Maria.  “I...I don't understand, you used to–”

 

“Exactly!” Maria exclaimed.  “I used to like them.  According to all of you, there are a lot of things that I used to like.  There are a lot of things that I used to be.  But I'm not any of them anymore, and I really wish everyone would quit trying to make me be someone I’m not!”

 

Everyone stared in dumb shock as Maria continued.  “I know that it's hard on all of you; I can feel that now, but have any of you thought of what it's doing to me?”  She questioned, and turned to Liz and Isabel.  “Both of you said that I didn't like Ava, because of Tess.  But now...” She trailed, her features twisted in frustrated desperation.  “...I don't understand what kind of person would judge someone simply because of the actions of another, or because they look like someone else.”  She looked pointedly at Kyle.

 

Maria took a breath and then turned to Max.  “And you...half of the time I want to call you Zan, who knows why.... because I certainly don't – instead of Max, Maxwell, girlfriend...whatever!” She abruptly turned back to Liz, before Max had time to respond.

 

For a moment, she simply stared before speaking.  “And you... Elizabeth, Amíle, whatever. I can't describe how confused you make me.  Half of me remembers loving you like a sister... and then the other half of me only remembers hating you like a worst enemy.” 

 

Liz swallowed and blinked back tears.  “Why?” She asked helplessly.  “Why can't you remember how things were? How they're supposed to be?”

 

Maria shook her head and shrugged.  “I don't know.  But I know that staying here won't help me.  Not when everyone expects me to be something – or someone – that I'm not anymore...I mean,” She looked down at herself and picked at her shirt, “Who wears these circus clothes anyways?”

 

“I totally agree…” Serena said out of nowhere in a relieved tone, then caught Kyle's glare.  “Nevermind.” She said quickly.

 

Maria let out a long sigh.  “I can't deal with what's going on in my head and all of you as well.  I can't.  I'm sorry.” And with that she ran from the room.

 

Michael waited until the door slammed before turning on the group; however, Max beat him to the punch.

 

“Michael, we've got to figure out a way to control her.  She could have hurt someone.”

 

Michael gave Max an angry look.  “Is that all that's going through your head Maxwell? Did you not just hear what she just said?!” Michael sighed and looked to everyone present.  “You guys are making her crazy, and that's making me crazy!”

 

“We haven't been doing anything!” Liz ground out. 

 

“Yeah, Michael...” Isabel added.  “We've only been trying to help.”

 

“Well, stop!” Michael yelled, as he started off in the direction that Maria had gone.  “Obviously it's not working. She’s my responsibility, so back off!”

 

Everyone looked helplessly at one another and then together winced as the door to Michael and Maria's bedroom slammed again.  

 

~.~.~.~.~

 

3.

 

As Michael barged into the room, his anger suddenly vanished when he saw the tears and heard the heart wrenching sobs coming from Maria as she frantically threw clothes from the closet.  He took a few tentative steps toward her.  “Maria...what are you doing, what's wrong?”

 

“Everything is wrong!” Maria nearly screamed as she pulled a suitcase from the closet and threw it onto the bed.  “I'm getting out of here.”

 

“Maria...” Michael said, trying to stay calm as he came up to her and took hold of her arms, turning her to face him.  “They just don't know how to deal with this... none of us do…”

 

“No...” Maria said firmly, shaking her head.  “I do...and I need to be away from them.  They want me to be her...Maria...their Maria and I can't do that.  I’m not... I...” She looked to the scattered clothes around the room.  “I don't want to wear any of these clothes... none of them are me...they're too bright or feminine or something...and, and...there are things that I remember doing that I can't stand remembering that I did...because I would never do them now!”

 

Her eyes, watered with tears, snapped up to his.  “I remember what I said to you that day, the day after I got that demo deal in where was it… oh yeah, New York.  The day after we slept together.”

 

Michael glanced towards the floor between them.  “That was a long time ago.”

 

Maria pushed his hands from her shoulders and placed her hands on either sides of his face.  “I said that it didn't mean anything...” She shook her head, a look of disbelief in her eyes.  “I love you, and I don't understand what kind of person could say something like that with a straight face to someone that they love.  I just don't...and I don't understand why they want me to be a person who would say anything like that.  Stuff like that and so many other things that I remember saying that I would never say now.”

 

Michael closed his eyes and pulled her closer, wrapping his arms around her tightly.  “They just don't realize how different you are.”

 

“But you do.” Maria whispered against his ear.  “Why can you and not them?”

 

“I don't know...maybe because, on some level, I know who you used to be and who you are now, because of...”

 

“Calypso,” Maria finished.  “I remember being her too...sometimes it's hard to decipher which life I've lived and which I'm just now being introduced to.  Sometimes I don't even know which I am...”

 

“You’re neither,” Michael replied, taking a step back to look at her.  “You're just...you.”

 

Maria smirked.  “That helps, thanks.”

 

“I'm trying... I–”

 

“I know,” Maria said with a nod, then continued, “But still I can't stay here.  If I'm going to figure out who I am... I need to be away from here...away from anything that's going to pull me in all these directions.  I need to find a balance.”

 

Michael swallowed and nodded, fearing the worst.  “Alone?”

 

Maria gave a long sigh as she reached her arms up and around his neck, pressing her forehead against his.  “Never. I want you to come with me. But I know that you don't want to leave them, so... the choice is yours.”

 

Michael glanced up into her eyes and knew what he had to do...he'd taken so much from her for so long...it was his turn to give a little.  Leaning in, he pressed a soft, gentle kiss to her lips, and then whispered.

 

“Okay.  Let's get out of here.”

 

   

 

© 2002-2003 Roswell: The Final Chapter.  Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.  Any similarities to events, real or imaginary, are strictly coincidental.  Roswell: The Final Chapter is in no way affiliated with UPN, the WB, Regency Television, 20th Century Fox, or Jason Katims Productions.

© 2004-2005 Roswell: The Final Chapter.  Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.  Any similarities to events, real or imaginary, are strictly coincidental.  Roswell: The Final Chapter is in no way affiliated with UPN, the WB, Regency Television, 20th Century Fox, or Jason Katims Productions.

© 2006-2007 Roswell: The Final Chapter.  Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.  Any similarities to events, real or imaginary, are strictly coincidental.  Roswell: The Final Chapter is in no way affiliated with UPN, the WB, Regency Television, 20th Century Fox, or Jason Katims Productions.