Rating: PG15 for adult content, nothing too graphic.
Disclaimer: I own nothing Roswell.
Spoilers: Nope. In fact, this was written before WDaMYK, so it's pretty much AU now. Futurefic.
Character Focus: "Other" POV. It's mostly CC with some I/K and a bit of UC-ness that is never repeated.
Summary: Liz Parker left Roswell a long time ago, and only one person can bring her back.
Author's Note: I'd like to state, right here, that I don't actually think canon!Maria would do what she does in this fic. (You'll know what I mean.) But the idea sort of grew on me, and I decided to keep it. It's nothing personal, though. Thanks, Debbie and Reese and Len, for your insights and comments.
This fic won Best AU Fanfiction in RosDeirdre's Fall Roswellian Fanfiction Awards.
That's what the magazines called her. The tabloids nicknamed her "Enigma" Parker.
She'd come out of nowhere and written a novel about nothing and everything. Critics raved and intellectuals debated, because it teased them, it offered answers to so many riddles, if only they knew how to see it, how to read it properly - or so they believed. It was added to college sophomore English and Philosophy classes after it refused to fade from the public consciousness, and instead found new market after new market, year after year. It was, some said, the last great American novel, and ten years after its first run through a small, independent publishing house, it was still in print.
The author's own refusal to answer their questions, to make any public comment on the book or the writing of it, fascinated the media, the scholarly, and, to a lesser extent, the public. That no follow-up book was planned stunned them all. Rumour had it that she'd turned down a huge advance, claiming that she only had one book in her and it wouldn't be fair to take their money.
Some industrious souls scoured her childhood for answers, shocked at the extremes of her youth, the paradoxes that seemed to reveal so much but so little about her. Her graduation photo was placed next to her mug shot, and there was no little speculation about what connected those two sides of her. They speculated about the trauma of losing a close friend to questionable circumstances, and more than one 'found' Alexander Whitman living on in her book.
They couldn't find her so they talked to her parents, who told cute but bland stories about their beloved daughter, and they talked to her childhood friends, who seemed normal enough. They talked to ex-boyfriends, who had nothing but good things to say about her and politely refused to discuss anything truly personal. They took pictures of the town where she grew up, and the CrashDown Diner found itself listed on book club tours and alien devotee conventions alike.
In short, they didn't know her at all.
And although I'd done my research and had an inside track on her life and her family and her friends, I didn't know her either. But that was about to change, and I wondered if I was ready.
I sat outside her place for half an hour, just breathing and trying to prepare myself.
It was about as rural as coastal Maine could get, and my rental's crappy motor could probably be heard coming a mile away. When no one came out to see who I was or what I wanted, though, I got out of the car and knocked. No one answered.
I walked around the house and I saw the ocean. It was a hundred feet away or so, grey and surreal and overwhelming. But when I finally managed to tear my eyes away from it, I saw her. And next to her, the ocean was just wallpaper.
At first, I just watched her. I watched her for a long time. I'm pretty sure she knew I was there. She was just looking out at the waves, an open book forgotten at her side. And she was very carefully not looking in my direction.
I took a few careful steps towards her. Nothing.
She didn't look like anything special, an ordinary looking woman in her mid thirties, except that she seemed to be more there than everything else around her. It was weird, but it was like her faded shirt -- an oversized button-down, rolled up at the wrists -- was brighter than the flowers in the grass behind her, just because she was wearing it. And she was wearing one of those big kerchief-scarf things around her head; I could almost feel the thin material in my hand.
That was how I knew it was her. Dad had told me I'd just know when I got close enough. And it had to be me. He and the others explained that they couldn't come, because they might spook her off. They'd given me the name of the town where they'd tracked her down and told me it had to be enough.
It was. And it was an exhilarating feeling, feeling that connection. There was something about her that seemed incredibly familiar, although that could just be because I'd seen pictures of her all my life.
Finally I shucked off my shoes and walked the rest of the way over to her, only to stand there in awkward silence, not knowing what to say or do, painfully conscious that my fate was somehow tangled up with hers.
"You might as well sit down," she said, and my legs collapsed beneath me, even before I had a chance to process the words.
Wait, I thought, had she ...?
She turned and looked at me, taking her time, studying my face, noting my worn jeans and my bare feet and my plain but clean t-shirt. Her eyes kept flickering to my hair, as if intrigued by it.
I was actually a little vain about my hair. I let it grow just a little too long, but I liked the look. It was thick and dark and girls seemed to like it, although of course I couldn't get close to any of them, not until everything was safe again. Dad told me once that I got my looks from my mother's side of the family, but it must be a relative I've never met. I've always looked more like him than my mom
which was all very well but utterly unimportant and irrelevant to the matter at hand. I needed to focus.
"I dreamed of you," I said, real fast, needing to get it out.
I held my breath but she just nodded, interested but not particularly startled. "Good dreams?" There was a wry curl to her smile.
"I don't know. I don't think some of them have happened yet. And those ones they scare me."
Ah, that got her attention.
"Listen " she paused, waiting for my name.
"Parker. My name's Parker. Parker Guerin."
Her smiled disappeared and something darkened around her, although she didn't seem angry exactly. I couldn't help but be a little disappointed. It's not every day you meet your namesake and I guess I thought she might be a little pleased, maybe even proud.
I was. I'd always thought it was cool to be named after a famous author, by people who actually grew up with her before she got famous.
"Well, Parker Guerin, I'm sorry to hear you've been having bad dreams. But I don't think I can help you."
"You have to." I sounded desperate, and I knew it.
"Really? Why's that?" Now her eyes looked a little cold, and I felt a shiver start somewhere along my spine and work its way up.
But I persisted. I had to. I'm the only one who could get through to her, they'd told me.
"Because everyone's going to die if you don't."
"Explain this to me again. What happened to their powers?" As she spoke she handed me the steaming mug. We'd come back to the house - her house, a little cottage just off the beach - and she'd started making me hot chocolate without even asking. I was grateful. I was used to the desert; I felt half-frozen here.
"Well, you know we're at war."
She winced. But I was serious. I'd gotten used to it over the last year, the running, the attacks, the fighting. We'd made contact with a resistance cell in Khivar's forces that didn't care about who had the throne - and neither did we. He seemed like a bit of a harsh ruler but not evil exactly. The only thing was, he was scared that Uncle Max would try to take the throne back, and wouldn't believe that Max didn't want it. So he sent assassins after us every now and then. So far we'd been lucky, and we were getting better at protecting ourselves. Until a couple months ago, anyway.
It was Serena, our contact with the resistance cell, who did it. She didn't mean to; she was trying to disable a new weapon of Khivar's when there was an accident. It detonated instead at three times the intended strength, wiping out the psychic and psychokinetic powers of any alien within a thousand-mile radius of Khivar's ship, which was hovering unseen over the Western United States at the time.
Any alien. Meaning, them and us - okay, meaning "them" and Dad, Max, Isabel and Serena.
I explained this to Ms. Parker, adding, "So their powers are all gone. Have been for a couple months now. The aliens coming after us lost their powers too, but they're still coming. We found a ship, and we're planning to use it, but we need someone with powers to activate it."
"Slow down. You're getting ahead of yourself. Who're 'they'?"
"Dad, Uncle Max, Aunt Isabel," I recited. "Mom, Kyle, and Jim don't have powers."
"Why didn't you lose yours?"
I blinked. How'd she know I had any?
She rolled her eyes and held up one hand. If I looked real closely, I could see a shimmer of green skating over the skin. I looked up at her with wide eyes.
"That hasn't happened since I was around other people with powers," she explained.
Oh. Guess that explained why I couldn't sneak up on her earlier. "What other powers do you have?" I asked, curious.
She shrugged, looking a lot younger than, what, thirty-five? "The usual," she said, vaguely.
Hey, whatever. All I needed was someone who could help me out. Help us out.
"I didn't know I had powers until the blast," I confided, and she looked mildly surprised. "Suddenly no one else had any but I did. It was real weird. Dad and Max tried to see if I had any while I was growing up, and they always said I was a human, like my mom."
She laughed suddenly. When she did, I felt the urge to laugh too, but I didn't know why she was laughing and it kind of freaked me out, so I fought it.
"You have no idea."
"I don't understand." I didn't, either.
She looked at me for a while, like she was trying to make a decision. "I'm going to tell you something. It'll be a short story, because you don't need to know all of it, but you came all the way out here and you deserve to know the important parts. You might not like me when I'm done, but that's okay. You're entitled. You understand?"
"First of all, you are like your mother. You look like her, but more than that, you're not entirely human, just like she's not entirely human. Although you were born that way, not changed, so maybe that makes a difference."
I pushed back in my chair, edging away from her. "What are you talking about?" I was beginning to think this was a mistake. Hell, I was beginning to wonder why they sent me here at all. And alone? Mom doesn't let me go anywhere alone if she has a choice, let alone across the country.
Without losing eye contact, Ms. Parker reached up and tugged at a knot in her scarf thingy so it fell off. I could see her hair. It was a lot like mine, actually. Longer, but the same colour, texture oh shit. No.
"No," I denied out loud, but it came out sounding like a croak.
She nodded, and I could tell she regretted having to tell me.
I couldn't think of the words I needed. I just felt so damn betrayed. By who, I didn't know. Maybe everyone. I didn't expect this. Was I dreaming? I wanted my mom and dad. I wanted to hide, and I wanted to go back in time and do something different so I didn't end up here, end up now.
She was talking, answering my questions.
"You probably know the basics of how babies are made by now. I'm not going to go into that; it's the part of the story I said I wouldn't tell. It wouldn't serve any purpose."
"But - but my mom is Maria DeLuca. It says so right on my birth certificate." I sounded stupid. But everything felt so wrong, like I didn't know up from down anymore.
She shrugged. "For all I know, Maria probably is your mother in all the ways that matter."
"Not all the ways that matter. I don't want you to be my mother."
"I don't want to be your mother either."
Wow, that was honest.
Her voice softened. "Parker, it's not you. I'm sure you're a great kid. But I didn't get pregnant by choice. I wasn't ready to be a mother, and the circumstances around around what happened I kind of lost everything that seemed important to me in my life. Well," she amended, "not my parents. They've been great, better than I had any reason to expect."
Her brow furrowed suddenly, and she looked sick. "Oh, shit."
"What?" I couldn't help it. I've always been the curious type, and she looked like she'd just had an epiphany or something. And she swore; I hadn't expected that. Then again, I didn't know what to expect. She just seemed different than everyone said she'd be. Harder. Plus, when I was focused on her, I couldn't think about how unfair this was to me.
She was staring at her hands. "I think I manipulated them. I didn't know it, but I think I did, with my powers. That's the only explanation for -" Suddenly she seemed to remember I was there. "But that's not important right now. Although if you ever wanted to meet them, you could, you know. They'd love to meet you."
"I know your parents. They run the CrashDown." It hit me, then, that Amy Deluca was not my grandmother. Nancy and Jeff Parker were my grandparents. Holy shit.
"I meant that if you wanted, we could let them know. They'd love to know you."
"Maybe later." Like, never. Meeting her was bad enough. If I didn't need her help so much, I'd have been out of there already.
She nodded. "Yeah. I was just ... anyway, what I was trying to say is, I wasn't ready to be a mother. I wasn't even ready to be me. I was changing, do you know what that means?"
I shrugged. "Adolescence?" I offered sarcastically. I could almost feel my mom's hand itching to slap me upside the head half a continent away for being impertinent, but I couldn't help myself.
Liz grinned, her eyes lighting up. It changed her completely. "No, Michael Jr., it wasn't just 'adolescence'."
I had to fight not to grin back at her. Wait, how did she do that? Again? And what was going on here? I felt like I was on a roller coaster, and helpless to get off.
Serious again, she continued. "I started getting stronger powers. Maybe being pregnant kicked them into high gear, I don't know. But there I was, with powers I didn't understand and didn't know how to control, and - and some things happened that made it hard to go to the others for help. I was worried that I was going to hurt someone, so I decided to leave."
"You abandoned everyone, you mean." So she thought sarcasm was funny? I'd see how she felt about brutal honesty.
She didn't do anything except look thoughtful. "In my own defense, I felt abandoned first. But yeah, basically that's it. And the one thing I was sure of was that I was in no condition to raise a baby, let alone an alien one. But the pregnancy developed so quickly, I didn't really have any choice in the matter. Can you do the blasting thing?"
It took me a second to catch up. Damn, but she switched subjects so fast it made my head spin. "What? The - oh, yeah, I can." Well, sort of. I've blasted things, anyways, although I'm having a bitch of a time controlling it.
"Can you imagine how terrifying it would be not to have control of it, with a child around?"
Suddenly I felt a little light-headed. There was no way she could know, no way. I didn't even tell Dad. "Yeah," was all I said, but she seemed to pick up what I wasn't saying right away.
"Where was it? Where you lost control? School?"
"Campground. They were still new and I went out in Fraser Woods, thinking I could get some privacy to work on them. Only some kids were camping nearby, and one of the kids got too close. It was - it was close."
"Then you do understand." She paused. "Do you still have the burn on your shoulder?"
She sounded sick again. I felt kind of sick myself.
"Burn? I have a birthmark " I said slowly.
She shook her head. "You don't have any birthmarks."
"Oh." It was all I could say. But the thing was, I understood now. I didn't hate her anymore. I didn't want to start calling her Mom or anything, and I was still mad that she just left like that, but I understood.
She didn't say anything for a while. "I'll go get some wood for a fire," she said abruptly, and suddenly I realised how dark, and how chilly, it was getting. "If you're cold, there are some men's sweatshirts in my bedroom dresser - bottom drawer - that might fit you."
Men's sweatshirts? Please, I prayed, don't let her say anymore. I really don't want to hear that on top of everything else, I have a stepfather or something. I think I might really lose it.
Yeah, like I was doing so well so far. I know.
She looked upwards in exasperation. Obviously she could read me like a book. "I order my clothes from catalogues, Parker. They got the order wrong once but it was more trouble than it was worth to send it back."
I took a moment to look around her bedroom. What can I say? I was curious. It was neat and very tidy, although that probably had more to do with how little she actually had in there.
She only had one picture on her dresser, of her parents and a much younger her. I studied it for a minute before bending to open the bottom drawer, smiling a little at the scent of cedar. Mom had lavender in a lot of her drawers. I always thought it was too sweet, or something. This was better. This was -
I stopped. What the hell was I thinking? It was just a stupid drawer smell. I pulled out the sweatshirt on top, a navy one that looked like it'd be a snug fit but I could get it on.
I was checking in the mirror to make sure I had it straight when I saw her. She was standing in the doorway, looking at me, and in the mirror it looked like we were standing side by side. I don't know how I didn't see it before. I'd seen pictures of her, of course; you didn't live in Roswell all your life and not know what the prodigal daughter who 'made it big' looks like. But somehow I'd never really noticed how much I looked like her, even when I stood a foot taller. It was it was eerie.
I guessed she thought so too, because she turned and walked out without saying anything.
"We got kind of sidetracked there," she said from where she was sitting in what was obviously her favourite chair. It was all worn and there was a pile of books next to it.
Right then, though, she was peering at her fingertips, and I watched in some awe as she ran her other hand over each one, carefully pulling out slivers of wood and leaving two fingers glowing slightly. Done, she held them up her hands at me and wiggled them.
"Spirit fingers!" she joked, and I smiled at a dim memory of Mom laughing over some old movie from her childhood.
"How'd you do that?" I asked, impressed. "I tried to heal a cut once, and all I did was turn my knee green for a week."
She smiled, but it looked uncomfortable. "Practice. I spent years practicing, out here, not going into town unless I had to, or unless I could believe I wasn't going to do anything to get attention or hurt anyone. How long have you had your powers?"
"Just over two months."
She nodded. "When I'd had my powers for two months, I had to wear gloves or walk everywhere because I'd drain a car battery in about ten seconds flat, just by touching the car."
I smirked. "I stopped doing that after a week."
"I don't know. I just concentrated on not - you know, letting the energy flow into me." I frowned. "I know I didn't explain that right."
"No, I know exactly what you mean. It's like, if you're not careful, you'll take energy from everything around you, just suck it out, like a vampire or something."
"Exactly! But - how do you know that? Dad says it's not like that for him. He says the energy comes from inside him."
She thought about that for a moment. "Maybe it's different for them than for us."
Us. She'd said 'us'. Wow.
"What is it?" Now this was the person I was expecting, the one Kyle described to me. She was looking at me like she honestly wanted to know what was wrong. Maybe I was just getting more familiar with her facial expressions.
"I never thought that there was anyone else like me. But I guess I guess I'm like you. It just it seems weird, you know?"
"But not bad?"
I decided not to answer that too fast. I'd only known her for a couple hours, less even, and already I knew she wouldn't appreciate a quickie answer. So I tried to decide how I really did feel about it.
"I don't think so."
She smiled. "Good enough." Then she frowned. "What do you mean, no one like you? Didn't any of them have children of their own?"
I shook my head. No.
"What about Isabel and Jesse?"
Wow. She really was out of the loop. "Isabel and Jesse divorced about seven years ago. He was offered a job in New York, and she told him that she couldn't leave New Mexico. He still visits sometimes, but he has a new girlfriend and she doesn't like him coming here. He does help when we need legal stuff done low-key."
Ms. Parker shook her head. "It's kind of sad. They were so in love. I was a bridesmaid at their wedding, you know."
I nodded. I'd seen the pictures. Who hadn't? Some tabloid had gotten a hold of some and decided to share with the world. "Actually, I was pretty young when they broke up. I don't really remember Jesse being around that much. Isabel moved in with Kyle a few years ago but they say they aren't dating."
I lifted one eyebrow cockily. "Dad always said they had their hands full with me."
She smiled at that, and I had this sudden urge to go over and hug her. I didn't, of course. I'm too old for that kind of thing. But she looked as lonely as I felt sometimes.
"What about Max and Tess's son?"
She stared at me, but let it go. Maybe she wanted to talk about that as little as I did.
I didn't wait for her to ask the obvious next question. From what Isabel told me, I knew this would be hard on her. "Max and Serena have been dating for a long time, but as far as I know they're not planning a family. Especially not with everything that's happened in the last year or so. It's too dangerous."
I didn't miss the little hitch in her breath when I said his name. Max has never made a secret of how he felt about her. Even Serena knew that he was still in love with his first girlfriend. But I wasn't expecting the other part.
"Serena? But she was supposed to be my friend, not -"
"How do you know Serena?"
She stared at me for a second. "I don't. Anyway, we have more important things to worry about." All business now, she leaned forward and pinned me with a look that made me want to straighten my tie. If I'd been wearing one, I mean. "What precisely do you need from me?"
I took a deep breath. "We need you to come back to Roswell with me. As far as we know, you and I are the only ones - like, on this world - with alien powers. And I'm just learning how to use mine. They're not reliable. So we need someone who can get into the pod chamber where we have some supplies stored, and who can activate this ship Dad and Max tracked down. And Serena thinks that you might be able to connect with the others, maybe kick-start their powers or something. She says it's worth a try, anyway. And I -"
"I was hoping you could help me control my powers. But that was before -"
"Before you found out. And now you're not sure if you want me to be around at all."
I nodded, slowly, wondering if she was going to get upset. But she just breathed out and leaned back, with her eyes shut.
"Call me Liz."
I smiled, relieved that she wouldn't take offense because I had no intention of calling her Mom or Mother or anything like that. Not now, not ever.
"Will do. So, Liz?"
"Will you come?"
She didn't answer for a bit. Then, sitting up, she reached inside her pocket for a phone. I just looked at it in surprise; the way everything looked around here, I thought she was roughing it or something, all cut off from the world. I was not expecting one of the new satellite bouncers that were good anywhere in the world and were damn near impossible to trace or tap.
I had a similar one in my bag. I kept it for emergencies because it was too expensive to use all the time.
She flipped hers open, telling it: "Callwood." After a second, apparently waiting for Callwood, whoever that was, to answer, she continued. "It's Parker."
She flashed me a smile.
It sounded weird to hear someone else say that.
"I'm going away for a while. Could you keep an eye on the place for me? Nah, I have no idea how long."
"Oh, thanks, that'd be great. What?"
She listened for a while and then laughed. This was a real laugh, and I wondered just who Callwood was, anyway.
"Listen, why don't we kill two birds with one stone? Let Kit stay here. I'll even pay him extra to do some yard work and the fence could use painting. I'll leave my truck so he can go into town for supplies. In turn, he can use my workstation for his project instead of tying up yours. What do you think?"
She made a reassuring noise. "Oh yeah, he screws up or breaks anything, I'll take it out of his hide myself, you have my word."
I was pretty sure she was joking.
"Okay, then. I'll be leaving in about an hour. Think he can be here by then? Great. And Kent? Thanks, I really appreciate it. Tell Hedy she's a goddess, and I want to hear all about Spain when I get back, all right?"
"Thanks again. Bye."
She hung up and looked at me. "Can you cook?"
What? Oh. "I guess."
"Okay. Here's the plan. I need to pack a bag. While I do, why don't you make some dinner for us? I have some leftovers in the fridge. You could heat 'em up, maybe put some vegetables on to boil or something. Or you could make a salad; I don't care. Either way, though, I want crusty bread. The breadbox is on the counter. What do you think, sound good to you?"
Just then my stomach growled, and I flushed in embarrassment. "Yeah, it does. Okay."
"Make enough for three. Maybe Kit'll get the idea and eat some real food while he's here."
She disappeared into her bedroom, and I started looking through her kitchen. I almost drooled when I saw the lasagne. Lasagne's always been my favourite.
I remembered the vegetables and the bread, even toasted it a little, and brought out a pitcher of water and put together a couple place settings. It was kind of nice, actually, to do something so familiar. I mean, I still felt kind of odd, like I was kind of numb, but on the plus side, I hadn't lost control of my powers when I waved my hand over the food to heat it up.
Now that was a welcome surprise.
"Hey, Parker, everything looks great. Ooh, good choice."
I laughed as she dug in, mixing her lasagne in with some vegetables and taking a mouthful.
"What? I don't stand on ceremony here."
I shrugged and followed her lead. After a while, though, my curiosity got the better of me. "Who were you talking to on the phone?"
"My neighbours. Kent Callwood works for the lumber yard in town and when he doesn't do that, he works for me. Handy guy to have around, knows everything there is to know about home repair. Hedy's his wife. She's in Spain right now, visiting her sister. Kit's their oldest boy, not too much older than you, and he's great with computers. Been giving Kent a lot of grief about their ancient hardware. So I said he could use mine. It's okay," she said, catching my dubious expression, "it's secure. I have everything private stored on a detachable drive. I'll take it with me when we go. And I trust him not to break anything."
"It's not that. I just wondered where you keep a computer around here."
Wiping her mouth with a napkin, she gestured for me to follow her back into the main room. She opened an ancient looking wardrobe and I was shocked at how sophisticated a set-up she had inside.
I nodded, fingers itching to play with it. She noticed and rolled her eyes. "You cooked, I'll do the dishes. Why don't you see if I have any games you like? Or, if you want, you could get in touch with your family. The connection's secure and untraceable."
I sat down as she disappeared into the kitchen. When I heard her running the sink, I keyed in one of Dad's secure 'netmail addies. Not that I didn't trust her, but I knew better than to take chances.
Mission accomplished. ETA Albu. approx. 5 hrs.
I waited for confirmation and then checked out her games selection.
"There's a secret passageway behind that door in the corner. Twenty thousand points easy."
"Game pause." I whipped around. There was a guy standing behind me, looking at the screen over my shoulder. I relaxed when I realised who he was. "Kit, right?"
"Parker." I paused the game and handed him the controls. "Knock yourself out. I'll go find Liz."
He nodded affably and sat down. "Game start." He was caught up in the game in seconds.
Liz must've heard him come in because she called out "Game pause" and handed him a list, some money, and programmed the thumb key so he could get into her house and drive her truck. It only took a minute.
"Thanks, Liz, this is really cool of you," he said when she was done. He meant it, too. I could tell.
She started to brush him off, and then stopped to look at him more closely. I guessed she was reading his aura or something like that, but she looked like she was just studying his expression. When he blushed, she laughed triumphantly. "Out with it. What do you have planned?"
Slowly, he pulled out a small box and she squealed when he opened it, sounding and looking almost as young as he did when she 'oohed' at the sight of a small ring and a smaller diamond. "You're going to ask her?"
He nodded anxiously. "This weekend. I thought I could invite her here, if that's okay, and we could talk things over."
They'd completely forgotten I was in the room, but I felt self-conscious about intruding so I just kept quiet.
Liz nodded enthusiastically. "That's a great idea. And tell her I have the perfect engagement present."
Kit looked awed. "No, Liz, I couldn't. It's too much."
"Nonsense. Besides, you have to do all the hard work. I'm just making the call to the editor, you have to sell your book to him." She grinned, looking very satisfied with herself. "We'll show the lovely Angelica that you'll make a living as a writer yet!"
He practically glowed, basking in her happiness. I blinked. This was the same guy who played video games like any other slacker? This was a whole other side to his personality, and I wondered how many people got to see it.
She grinned and pulled down his head to kiss the top of it. "No problem. But if you trash my house, or crash either my car or my system, I will wreak terrible vengeance upon you. Be warned."
He laughed, sounding like the slacker again. "You'd have to stand in line. I think Dad lectured me for twenty minutes before he let me come over here."
"Okay, well, we've got to get going. There's some dinner for you in the kitchen. Have fun, and I'll see you when I see you, 'kay?"
"Bye," I said.
He nodded, though I could tell he was just being polite. "Bye Parker. Nice to meet you." It was clear he knew there was something up, what with my name and how much I looked like Liz, but he didn't say anything. My guess? For him, I bet it was just another aspect of the mystery surrounding America's most sought-after reclusive author.
I knew from experience how powerful hero worship could be. My entire family was made up of hero types, and in my case, familiarity did not breed contempt.
I grabbed Liz's bag and led the way out to my rental.
She smiled when I held the door for her.
We didn't talk on the way to the airport.
While I picked up our tickets she headed to some terminals where she plugged in her Clipboard, and again I was impressed to see the latest in computer technology come out of a bag that looked like she'd dragged it through a jungle or something. "Talking to my old editor," she said when I looked curious.
"He's deaf. We 'chatted' online," she explained.
"Cool. Flight leaves in half an hour," I told her, and we sat down in a relatively empty section.
After some time I looked at her, and I was shocked to see her trembling. All her earlier cheeriness was completely gone.
"Liz? What's wrong?"
She looked at me. "I've spent almost half my life avoiding Roswell, Parker. It's a little stressful to be going there right now, okay?"
I nodded. "Oh. Sorry."
She relaxed a little. "Don't be. It's not your fault. In fact, I'm glad you came. It's good to meet you."
She studied me for a bit. "Listen, let's get something cleared up now. Michael and Maria are your parents; I'm not going to be challenging that or anything. I do want to get to know you, though. That's why I'm coming. I mean, if I can help them I will, but I wouldn't do this just for them. You understand? You okay with this?"
My head was spinning again, and I couldn't speak, but I nodded.
She nodded, satisfied, and we waited for our boarding call in companionable silence.
We didn't really speak during the flight except the polite noises you make when you step over someone or accidentally jog them with your elbow.
But when we started descent, she grabbed my hand, and I looked at her.
She was absolutely pale and her eyes were scrunched shut. I squeezed her hand back, not knowing how to comfort her, and she relaxed a little.
She let me take the lead when we made our way into the terminal.
They were waiting for us, all of them. And suddenly I felt bad, like I'd led her into an ambush. But I didn't have time to worry about it, because as soon as Mom saw me she yelled and threw herself at me, checking me over for injuries, like I was coming back from battle or something.
I hugged her back, but it was Liz I was watching. Her face was perfectly composed now, no traces of her freak-out in evidence. She shook hands with Serena and hugged Kyle and Jim, but she kept her distance as she greeted the others. She wasn't rude or anything, she just made it clear that she wouldn't welcome anything more personal.
Her parents wouldn't be coming. They were on vacation, and wouldn't be back for a couple weeks.
It was kind of weird watching everyone greet her back. Serena didn't know her so she joked about getting her copy of Liz's book signed and then stood back. Kyle and Jim were grinning, happy to see her and not afraid to show it.
Isabel looked anxious, like she didn't know what to expect, but she also looked kind of hurt when Liz only nodded politely. Max didn't look like he was feeling anything at all, and that was how I knew how hard he was fighting whatever it was he was trying not to show.
It was Mom and Dad that surprised me the most. I knew that Mom and Liz had been best friends growing up, and Mom always talked about her with this wistful look on her face. I thought they'd be thrilled to see each other, but Liz's eyes kind of glazed over, like she wished she was somewhere else, and Mom looked - well, she looked guilty. I was kind of shocked.
Right then and there, I knew there was a story. And I knew they wouldn't tell me what it was, so I'd have to find out on my own.
Dad looked blank the way he did when he was trying to hide what he was thinking, and I was pretty shocked by him too.
He and Mom touched all the time. That's just who they were. But when he saw Liz, Dad pulled away from Mom and put his hands in his pockets. I thought Mom was going to cry, and for the first time, something occurred to me. I mean, it was so obvious. I couldn't believe I hadn't thought of it before.
Mom and Dad had been together practically since they met. I knew this. And I'd seen the pictures; they'd been together for a long time before I was born.
I was my father's son. I knew this, just as I'd known immediately with Liz that we had a connection. So at some point, Liz and my dad had slept together while he was with my mom.
Suddenly I was so angry, I barely felt the pain of a superheated luggage handle melting against my hand.
Dad -- my dad -- had cheated on Mom.
Unbelievable. I couldn't believe it. It was like saying the world was flat, or that humans were alone in the universe. It just didn't make sense. But what other explanation was there?
It was weird, though.
I got angry, so angry that I couldn't hear anything except the sound of blood pounding through my head, but I didn't go blind. And watching the three of them standing together, there was no doubt in my mind that there was something very wrong with this scenario, because Liz wasn't the one looking guilty.
Mom was the one looking like she'd just killed a puppy.
I looked down, slightly bemused to find the melted plastic hardened and dripping with ice crystals. Just as quickly I looked up and around, trying to see if anyone had seen what had happened. I didn't see anything suspicious.
But damn, I really needed to learn how to control these damn powers. Maybe I could do it before I had to explain destroying Liz's luggage.
I flipped the photo album open and found the picture I wanted. It was just her, and whoever had taken the picture had lucked out, because she looked like she was in her own world and it was a good place to be. It was a nice picture.
Everyone was in bed now, I figured. Liz was staying in her parents' apartment over the CrashDown, so I didn't know about her, but she'd had a long day. It was worth a try.
I took a deep breath, double-checked that my door was locked, and got comfortable. I figured that with everything going on, Liz's dreams were going to be vivid and hopefully her mind would be on the current situation.
Biting my lip, I touched one finger to the image, thanked Aunt Isabel, and then I was in.
... Whoa. Her head hurt. A lot. Maybe it was all that bright light - and that noise. Noise like that was gonna leave her permanent ear damage, she just knew it. Who the hell had given birds bullhorns anyway?
She shifted a little, trying to find a more comfortable position, and froze when her hand hit something unexpected.
Not something. Someone.
Somehow she managed to force one eye open. Immediately her eyes opened all the way in shock and the light slammed into her with the force of a sledgehammer.
She didn't care. She had to get out of there. Now. Before they woke up. She didn't want to know what happened, why she was in bed with them, and why why she didn't have on any pyjamas.
She bit down on her lip to keep from crying out loud. If the aching was any indication, this really was as bad as she thought.
She made it as far as the kitchen before breaking down completely. Collapsing to the floor, she hugged her knees to herself and just cried, her clothes in a pile next to her.
She didn't remember a thing, but she knew a couple nasty truths that she just couldn't deny.
She wasn't a virgin anymore, for one. The stickiness on the inside of her thighs and a peculiar soreness was testament to that. But it hadn't been with Max. Not unless he'd come back from the family trip to the coast a week early, and then left her here to go back.
Something in her broke then. Who the hell was she, that she could do these things? This felt wrong, so wrong, and she felt wrong, and she didn't know what to do. Normally she'd just go to Maria, talk it through, but there was no doing that this time.
Her hands trembled as she pulled herself together and started shoving on clothes.
She'd just left Maria. In bed. With Michael. And logic suggested that it was Michael's fluids that were staining the inside of her jeans that rubbed her uncomfortably because she'd left her underwear somewhere back in -- in there -- and damned if she was going to back in there --
Damned. She was damned. She'd cheated on her boyfriend. No, more than boyfriend, they were practically bonded. She'd committed adultery. With his best friend, no less, and maybe hers, and oh god, what it did mean, did it mean that she had inclinations she'd never known about before? She didn't even know who she was anymore, what kind of person would do all of this she was a bad person. If there was a Hell, she was in it. Or she was going to it. Or both.
Finally clothed but still feeling indecent, like anyone who saw her would immediately know, like it was some giant red letter on her forehead or something, she staggered to the door and out into the hallway. She made it to the stairs before she remembered that she'd left her purse back back there, with her car keys in it.
She clenched her eyes shut and, slowly, she forced herself to step back towards the door she'd just left. When she got there she just leaned against the door, feeling weak and bad and confused.
Then she heard the voices.
Maria. "Where'd she go? I thought she was going to get a ride with me to the CrashDown."
"What happened last night?" That was Michael. He didn't sound like himself. He didn't usually sound that scared. "All I remember is coming home from work, you and Liz were drinking or something "
"You don't remember? We found out that Liz gets drunk on eucalyptus tea now , and we thought it might be an alien thing so you drank some too."
"I drank that crap voluntarily? Right."
"Nah, I slipped you a mickey. Worked like a charm." She sounded proud of herself.
"You got me drunk on purpose? And Liz too?"
"It's okay, Michael. I made sure I didn't get too blotto. I also made sure you didn't run outside naked. I thought you'd appreciate that."
Silence. Then, "What did we do? I don't remember."
Laughter. "I pulled Liz into bed with us. It was so funny, I never knew she had it in her. Hell, I never knew we did. I don't know why we waited so long."
"Liz? Liz Parker? Are you serious? I mean, Liz?"
"Jeez, what's your problem? You seemed to be enjoying yourself enough last night. So did she."
"Sure. Kept saying 'don't stop' all night and everything."
"Wait, 'don't stop' or 'don't' and 'stop'?"
There was a pause. "What the hell are you talking about, Michael? We did not just molest my best friend, so you can just quit killing the mood," she told him, although she didn't sound as sure of herself anymore.
"I'm not saying - I just mean, Maria, are you sure she wanted to?" He sounded nauseous. "I mean, she always seemed like the kind of girl "
"The kind of girl who what?"
"Wanted her first time to be all special and shit."
"What? What do you mean? She told me she'd gotten serious with Max. I thought she meant they'd -"
"Oh, god what is that? Is that blood? Oh god "
"Maria, tell me exactly what went down last night. I mean, everything. And then we better go track her down, make sure she's all right."
She stared at the door in horror, then backed away, not wanting to hear anymore. Forget her purse. She could walk home. She'd get it later.
About half way there, she figured out what she was feeling. Shame. This wasn't Maria's fault or Michael's fault. She'd done this to herself. She wouldn't blame Max when he broke up with her after he found out. He should break up with her. If she had any guts, she'd break up with him first.
She was a bad person. Why else would this be happening to her?
"Parker! Parker, wake up, honey. Your dad's cooking breakfast."
I opened my eyes slowly, breathing evenly. It smoothed the transition from dreaming back to reality, just like Aunt Isabel taught me.
That was my mom on the other side of the door. She was the only mother I'd ever known or wanted, and I always thought that some day this war stuff would end and I'd meet someone just like her, and I'd be as happy as dad.
Right then, though, just the sound of her voice disgusted me. I literally felt like throwing up.
Dream analysis isn't an exact science. But even if Liz's memory, if that's what it was, wasn't entirely accurate, there was no getting away from how she felt while she was reliving it. She felt dirty and violated and wrong, and like it or not, I had to face that Mom and Dad were the ones who did it to her. And something told me I'd only just missed watching myself being conceived. Thank god for small mercies.
This explained a lot, but not everything. I needed to know the whole story. Otherwise my imagination would go crazy and I'd lose all control over my powers and everything would go to hell.
Man. A little knowledge could be a dangerous thing.
But who should I ask?
"Parker? Get your lazy ass out of bed. I heard your mother calling you. I know you're up!"
"Okay, we need to pick up Liz and get started on this," Serena said, trying to sound cheerful. It couldn't have been easy. Everyone, well, except Jim and Liz, were here for breakfast, and you could almost see misery and dread hanging over everyone like a cloud.
"I'll go," I offered. "Why don't you all head out to the canyon and we'll meet you there?"
Mom and Dad looked at each other, then at me. I knew that I'd gotten off easy the night before because they hadn't gotten a chance to have the talk with me alone. "The" talk.
"Parker " Dad said, tentatively, and that floored me. I'd never heard Dad sound tentative about anything.
"I know," I interrupted, not wanting to do this here and now. "You have to promise you won't freak, Mom, but well, it was pretty obvious once I got there. And yeah, I'd like to talk about it, but not right now, okay? I need to stay in control."
Everyone except Serena stared at me then, like they'd never seen me before. Max's mouth actually dropped.
"Wow," Kyle said, after a silence long enough to make me fidgety. "You know, I'd never really noticed it before " His voice trailed off, but they all seemed to understand what he meant, because they nodded.
"Noticed what?" Serena said.
No one answered, but I thought I knew what they meant. "I look like her," I told her frankly. "Liz is my biological mother."
Now Serena's mouth dropped, looking as stunned as everyone else. And then she nodded, like it explained something that had been bothering her.
"It's not just that," Max said. "You sound like her too." And the others nodded in agreement.
"Really?" I asked.
Suddenly Mom jumped up from the table and ran out of the kitchen. Dad started after her, but I grabbed his arm, and he looked shocked that I was able to hold him back, like he was just noticing that I was almost as tall as he was.
"Let me go," I said, and he nodded.
I found her on the back porch, sitting on the swing and hugging a cushion in front of her.
She looked up, and I could see how puffy and red her eyes were. "She can't have you," she said, and I didn't know whether to laugh or cry.
"She doesn't want me, and I don't want her," I told her, sitting down next to her, hugging her with one arm like she used to hug me when I felt bad.
And then I laughed, because her look of relief morphed immediately a look of absolute outrage. "What do you mean, she doesn't want you? She told you that?"
I nodded. "She said she wants to get to know me, but you're my mother and that's how it is."
Now she just looked confused, like she wanted to stomp around and yell and just get everything out, and didn't understand how I could take this so calmly. I worked really hard not to smile, because I knew she wouldn't take it well, but I wondered how it was that she didn't know by now just how well I can read her.
Then her brow cleared and she sighed, her head rolling back against my shoulder. "I see a lot of her in you, you know," she whispered, like it was painful to admit. "I'm sorry."
"Don't be. I mean, I'm mad that everyone kept this from me and I don't really understand a lot of it," I told her honestly, "but I talked with her and I understand why she gave me up."
Mom sat up then and looked wide-eyed. "What did she tell you?"
Right then and there, I let go of my last childish belief that my parents could do no wrong. Mom looked guilty again, and suddenly I had no doubt that at least part of Liz's dream was right. But I'd thought about this all night, and I knew this wasn't the time.
"Liz told me why she gave me up."
She looked relieved but also interested. "What did she say?"
"About the powers thing."
"What powers thing?"
Now it was my turn to be confused. "About how she couldn't control her powers, and was afraid that she'd hurt me."
Mom's eyes clouded over with fresh tears. "I didn't know that," she whispered, sounding and looking painfully young.
I pulled the collar of my t-shirt away from my neck. "Did you know this wasn't a birthmark?"
She shook her head. "What do you mean?"
"It's a burn. From a blast she couldn't control."
Like that, she seemed old somehow, like she was just crumbling. "Oh, Lizzie," she said, and I started crying too, just because it hurt to see her looking like - like she'd just lost her best friend all over again. "She never told me. And god, I never wanted to know. I was just so happy that she wasn't going to try and take you away with her. It must have been so horrible to go through that alone."
"Mom," I tried, abandoning my carefully thought-out decision not to press, "what happened? Why is she - why is she the one who had me? I've been trying to figure it out in my head, and it doesn't make sense. Not the timing, nothing."
"Parker," I heard, and turned around to see Dad leaning against the door behind us. "That's a conversation for another day, all right?"
I nodded, feeling more than a little embarrassed. Of course he was right. We had more important things to worry about right now. "Sure Dad."
I was kind of surprised when he hugged me as I passed by him to go back through the house, though. Dad was a rough-and-tumble type, not a huggy-feely type. "I know this is confusing, Park, but I want to make it clear that you were not a mistake, and you are never to think that you are, okay? I mean it," he stressed, when I rolled my eyes, not believing he was trying to lie to me like this. "Your birth wasn't planned, it's true, but you're here for a reason, and we've never regretted having you for a son. You understand?"
I pulled back, wanting to see his face as he spoke. "Okay, Dad, I get it." I was serious, too. I did. Oh, I thought I was due for some serious freaking out, just later.
It was nice to hear, though. Even if it did sound like a speech he'd been practicing for a long time.
On impulse, I tugged at Aunt Isabel's arm on my way out. "Can you come with me? I was hoping to talk to you about this dreamwalking thing a bit more."
She didn't want to come, I could tell, but I widened my eyes and did my best puppy imitation, and she sighed and nodded.
I grinned and led her out of the house. "Works every time," I said smugly, as I got behind the wheel. I got to drive all the time now that I've got my license; they all think I need as much experience as possible, in case something happens and I need to escape a situation or something. Defensive driving, and all that.
She reached over and roughed up my hair. "You little twerp. I can't believe I still fall for that."
I ducked my head and grinned, and then we were driving and there was this odd silence.
"So, which one did you dreamwalk last night?" she asked casually.
Wow, she was good. "Liz," I told her, and she winced.
I nodded, suddenly feeling depressed. "Can you tell me what really happened? Because I don't know if I can believe what what I saw in her dream. It seemed like a memory, but it just seems impossible."
She checked the clock and sighed. We had a good twenty minutes before we got to the CrashDown, and she knew I'd badger her until she told.
"How much detail do you know - or want to know?"
"Not the, um, really you know, intimate stuff," I said, wrinkling my nose. And really, I didn't. Ever.
"Okay. That's fair." She thought for a minute. "Listen, when I tell you this, you might be kind of shocked, maybe even angry. And that's all right, you know? You're entitled. All I ask is that you hear me out."
The car swerved slightly. "Sorry," I apologized as she braced herself against the dashboard. "It's just that's what she said. Last night. Almost word for word."
She nodded. "I'm not surprised, somehow." She took a deep breath. "It was all my fault, actually."
I didn't interrupt.
"I used to dreamwalk everyone in the group. A lot. Especially the humans, because I didn't really understand them and I wanted to make sure I could trust them. I know, it's hard to believe," she joked, "but I wasn't always so accepting of them in our lives."
I didn't respond, not wanting to distract her.
"So one week Max and I were going with our parents on a family trip, just a parent and kid thing, and I knew that Liz was going to be lonely without him." She wrinkled her nose a little, although I don't think she knew that she was doing it. "God, it was so sickening, how cutesy those two were together. You risked sugar-shock just being around them. But," she sighed, "I thought I was being nice when I suggested to Maria that they should have a sleep over. You know, so she wasn't just mooning around like I knew he was going to be. And I don't know what I was thinking, but I told Maria about a funny dream I'd seen of Liz's, where she'd dreamed that she was -"
She stopped suddenly and looked at me sideways, and I could tell she was editing her story. I caught on then and couldn't resist a small, juvenile shudder. Ew, my mother (okay, biological mother, but still) had a sex dream, presumably with dad and maybe even my (other) mom in it. It just seemed so wrong.
"Anyway, it was a little more creative than I was used to seeing from her, and I was impressed. I guess that's why I told Maria. I knew she'd be impressed too."
I kept my mouth shut. I was not going to ask why. She might tell me.
"When we got back from the week away, everything had gone to hell. Liz wasn't talking to anyone, Maria and Michael were mad at each other but comforting each other at the same time, and Kyle was just confused and getting angry because no one was telling him what was going on. Liz wouldn't even see Max."
She sighed. "I went into her dreams that night and talked to her, found out what happened, sort of. And I guess I felt really bad, because I told her what I'd done and what I'd told Maria, and "
"And what, Aunt Isabel?"
"Pull over for a moment, Parker."
I did, and then I turned to her expectantly.
"Parker, powers can be fun. They're a part of you, and you should practice and get comfortable using them. But they can be used to hurt, too. You need to be careful about that. That night, when I saw the look on Liz's face "
I'd never seen an expression so bleak on my aunt's face.
"She looked betrayed. Like I'd violated her or something. And I didn't understand it then, but I had, Parker, I'd violated her trust and her - you know, what made her her - and I've regretted it ever since."
We sat there for a while, and then I had a horrifying thought.
"Is that what I did last night?"
She took both of my hands in hers, and nodded.
I felt sick. Physically sick. "It it seemed like a good idea at the time," I told her, and she smiled.
"It usually does. But now do you understand why we have to be just as careful with the mind powers as the blasting ones? They're just as harmful."
"I won't do it again," I promised as I started the car up again and pulled out onto the road, knowing that the moment was over.
"Just be careful, that's all. People have a right to privacy in their own heads."
"What happened next?"
She didn't answer right away. "We didn't handle it well," she said, finally. "I felt bad, but I didn't realise just how much I'd hurt her until a lot later, so I wasn't as sympathetic as I should have been. She wouldn't talk to Maria or Michael at all, and her parents basically forbid any of us to try and contact her."
"She told me she thinks she might have used her powers, by accident, to make them more supportive."
"Looking back, she probably needed them to be," Isabel said. "I don't blame her."
"Me either," I admitted.
"I do know that Max snuck into her room one night, trying to talk to her. I don't know what went on, but he came home and told me she broke up with him."
"Kyle tried to be there for her, I know he did, but when she wouldn't see any of us, and all he could see was how upset everyone else was, I think he just decided to be there for us instead. And he was," she said fondly, and I peeked over. Sure enough, she had a little smile on her face and she was blushing a bit.
I laughed. Just roommates, my alien hybrid ass.
She cleared her throat, obviously embarrassed. "Then she left and we never saw her again, until yesterday. We didn't even know she was pregnant, but a couple months later Michael and Maria found you on their doorstep, and Michael knew who you were right away. Maria's mom freaked royally but they passed you off as their baby and she didn't have much say in the matter. The rest, as they say, is history."
Neither of us said anything after that. Liz was waiting for us outside the CrashDown and got in the back seat without even asking where we were going.
Serena was the one Liz focussed on when we got there.
They were all waiting for us, watching us approach, but Liz only had eyes for her. "I need to connect with you," she said.
Serena nodded in understanding. "You can trust me, you know."
"I'm sure I can." But when she raised her hands anyway, Serena moved to stand in front of her, ready to connect and show her inner self, whatever Liz needed.
It was kind of neat to watch. It wasn't like watching Uncle Max connect at all; he always looked strained, like it hurt him to hold back so he wouldn't risk hurting someone else. He was too powerful not to hold back. Liz just narrowed her eyes, and I waited for it to start but after a while she stepped back.
"Okay," she said. Serena smiled delightedly at her, and I knew they'd exchanged something just between the two of them.
I almost laughed at the expression on Max's face. At first he'd looked worried, like they'd fight or something, but he hadn't bothered protesting. And now he just looked shocked at how quickly they'd - well, they looked like friends, or like they knew they were going to be friends.
Then Liz turned to the rest of us. "I'm not going to connect with any of you," she said abruptly. "I'll do what I can to help, and I'll help Parker with his powers, but not that."
"But -" Kyle spoke up, looking worried. "I thought -"
Serena shook her head. "We talked it over, and I think she's right."
"Who talked it over? When?"
She grinned and gestured to Liz. "We did. Just now. I explained to her what my idea was, to use her like a pilot light to get us going again, and she made a few suggestions. So what we're going to do is use Liz to connect with Parker here, and implant the information from my mind into his through hers. And he's going to be our pilot light."
"Will it work?" Dad sounded relieved that he didn't have to connect with her, and I could tell everyone else felt the same way ... including Liz.
She nodded. "I think so. The theory's sound."
And that was exactly what we did. Half an hour later, Max was practising his shield, Michael was blasting small rocks with enviable precision, Isabel was turning her clothes different colours, and Serena was ecstatic because she was finally able to activate her communicator, letting her contact her friends in the resistance for the first time in months.
The whole time, Liz stood off to the side. Then Mom tried to approach her and Liz grabbed me and announced that we were going off to work on my powers for a while.
Kyle hugged Mom and I shrugged helplessly, feeling bad but unable to do anything except follow Liz to a more sheltered area of the canyon.
"What did you have in mind?" I asked.
"First of all, I want you to know that as far as I know, there are no quick fixes. You have to learn to control your powers yourself, no one can do it for you. All I can do is show you some of the techniques I've found useful and you can decide if they help. Sound good?"
"I'm willing to try," I said, and I was.
We sat down, cross-legged. "Close your eyes."
I did. "Are we meditating? Because Kyle tried this already, and it didn't help."
"Sort of. But I'm going to try something he couldn't. At least I don't think he could."
I opened my eyes to see her looking thoughtfully at the ground. "As far as we know, he and Mom and Jim never developed any powers," I told her.
"Neither did you," she reminded me. "You should try the 'pilot light' thing with them later, see if any latent abilities pop up. Now," she said, all business again, "close your eyes."
When I opened my eyes, I looked at her in awe. "How did you do that?"
She smiled. "I didn't. That was you."
"That was him?"
We both looked over at the crowd that had gathered to watch us. I blinked. I hadn't even heard them coming. "I feel totally centred," I said.
"You were floating," Mom blurted out.
I turned to Liz with wide eyes. "I thought I just felt like I was floating! You mean I really was?"
"About four feet off the ground." She grinned, bobbing her head a little. "Who says meditation can't be fun?"
I laughed and pointed at Kyle accusingly. He staggered back, like I'd shot him in the heart, and we all laughed at him.
I was struck at how right it felt, like for the first time, my entire family was together.
I wondered how long it would last.
"All right," Max said as we returned to the cars, and I perked up to hear it in his voice again, that sound of command that I was used to hearing all my life, that had faded in the past couple months. He sounded physically stronger, and I looked around, noticing how Dad and Isabel stood straighter, and Maria and Kyle looked real serious.
Only Liz didn't look that impressed. She listened politely as Max gave his orders, but that was about it.
"Serena's contacted the ship. We'll rendezvous in three days."
"Why three days?" Dad wanted to know.
"There's a storm coming. We want to use it for cover."
Dad nodded, and I knew he wasn't going to challenge it.
Serena spoke up from where she stood at Max's side. "I'm going to act as 'pilot light' now, and hopefully everyone in the resistance will have their powers back within the week. With any luck "
"With any luck," Max continued, "we'll have enough of a lead time to make an offensive hit that'll stick."
"You're going to kill them all?" Liz said suddenly, from a couple feet away from the group. There was nothing in her voice or manner to indicate anything other than mild interest, but I got the feeling she disapproved.
Max tilted his head to one side, trying to hear what she wasn't saying. "As many as possible, yes."
"Parker told me the only reason Khivar was coming after you was to prevent you from making a play for the crown. Is that true?"
Max nodded. "Earth is our home. We don't know anything about Antarian culture, and we don't want to go back."
Liz turned to Serena. "And Khivar isn't a tyrant?"
Serena shrugged. "He won the war. He's spent the last ten or so years, Earth Time, rebuilding Antar and relations with the other planets. He's no better and no worse than any other powerful warlord."
"Why do you oppose him, then? Why the resistance?"
"We just don't approve of killing the Royal ones," Serena admitted frankly. "Their line can be traced back through millennia of Antarian history, for one thing, and it's just wrong to kill people because of who their parents are and what they did."
"What happened with Tess?"
There was silence. No one was expecting that.
"She's on Antar. She sits with Khivar, but she doesn't have any power. She never had any royal blood in her, you know. Her only link to the House of Antar was by marriage, and with Max here essentially declaring that null and void, she's more a curiosity than anything else." Automatically, Serena's hand rested on Max's arm. She didn't seem to mind when he pulled back slightly, though.
"Your son?" This, she aimed specifically at Max.
When he spoke up, there was no denying the pain and grief in his voice. "He couldn't survive the air on Antar either. Apparently there was something congenitally wrong with him. One in a million thing, but he had it."
Liz studied Max for a minute, and I was amazed to feel their connection. They were standing ten feet apart, they hadn't spoken or seen each other in sixteen years, and as far as I could tell, neither showed any inclination towards each other at all. But it was there, and I'd never felt anything like it, except maybe the bond I have with her and with Dad.
I wouldn't be surprised to see them just fly into each other's arms. Hell, I was half expecting it.
"I'm sorry, Max," she said instead, sincerely, and I believed her.
He nodded and looked like he was going to say something else, but he just stepped back and grabbed Serena's hand instead.
I looked at Liz, but she didn't seem affected at all. I mean, she still looked sympathetic, but that hadn't changed when he'd gone to Serena. No jealousy, no envy, nothing.
Man, I'd never figure people out.
"Why do you have to kill them?" Liz said, all business again.
Isabel stepped forward, knowing as usual when her brother was being pushed to his limits. "What alternative do we have? He'll never stop coming."
"So meet him partway," Liz said. "Find some neutral ground, maybe somewhere public where no side has a clear advantage, and connect with him. Or with Tess, that might be easier. You can't lie in a direct connection, can you?"
"Can you protect yourselves against unwanted invasion into private areas of the mind?"
"It takes some doing," Serena said, peering at Liz with narrowed eyes and a thoughtful look, "but yes. Do you really think it could work?"
Liz shrugged. "Who knows? But isn't it worth a try? I'd feel better knowing that Parker isn't going to be on the run all his life."
I knew everyone's eyes were on me then, but I ignored them to follow the lightning exchange between Liz and Serena, who seemed to be communicating more than what the rest of us could hear, just by facial expression.
"We'd need preparation time and the help of resistance forces," Serena mused, "but it's just crazy enough to work."
"You think so?" Max asked, and he wasn't asking his girlfriend, he was asking a trusted advisor. I could hear it in his voice.
Serena nodded but she didn't look away from Liz. "We need to talk some more. How about meeting for coffee tomorrow? I'd love to pick your brain on some other matters. Plus," she teased, "you still need to sign my book."
Liz shrugged, but I could tell she was pleased.
And inexplicably, Max seemed pleased too. I could practically feel his muscles relax from five feet away.
I looked between the three of them, and then my mom and dad and Isabel and Kyle. They were all watching with poorly disguised interest, but I couldn't figure out what they were hoping for.
Someday someone was going to have to explain to me what just happened. I was completely lost.
"Max, can I talk to you? Privately?"
He looked around. No one seemed to have noticed that I'd pulled him into a corner; they were too busy celebrating. We'd decided to have a party when we got back, because it seemed like the thing to do, and who knew when we'd get the chance again?
Jim had come by to congratulate everyone, and stayed to start a sing-along with Maria. Only Liz wasn't here. She'd gone straight home to the CrashDown, and no one had argued.
Uncle Max nodded and followed me up to my room, where I shut the door to show that I was serious.
"I'd like to know what happened."
"To make Liz leave."
"What did she tell you?"
I knew he was evading the question, but I answered anyway. "She was afraid of hurting me, because she didn't have her powers under control."
Max nodded, looked incredibly sad. "I can imagine."
"I don't think you do," I said, slowly. With a weird sense of déjà vu, I pulled my collar away from my neck, so he could see the blotch on my shoulder. I'd watched Mom's face when I did this, and I wanted to see his reaction too. I figured I'd never find a better opportunity to see how he really felt about her.
He looked confused.
"It's not a birthmark. It's a burn scar. She said that after it happened, she knew it was too dangerous to keep me herself."
It was incredible to watch the emotions that passed over his face. Uncle Max was the epitome of stoic; the most upset I'd ever seen him was the time Isabel was badly injured in an attack and he was scared he wouldn't be able to save her. He did, of course, but I'd never seen him look so - I don't know, like something hurt him so deeply that it shook him to the core.
Until now, anyway.
I took a deep breath and went in for the kill. "Why couldn't she come to you guys for help? What did you do to her that night before she left? Why did she have to give me up, Uncle Max?"
He was pale and sweating by the time I'd finished asking, like I was physically hurting him. And maybe I was. But I needed to know. I needed to know who abandoned who.
The last two days were finally starting to seem real to me, and I was starting to panic.
And for the first time in my life, I couldn't go to my parents about something bothering me. I wasn't sure I trusted them anymore. Maybe more than anything else, that hurt.
He didn't answer right away, and I realised that he was fighting me - wait, fighting me? In awe, I realised that I was doing something to him, exerting some kind of power over him, and dimly I wondered if this was what Liz had done to her parents. Only they wouldn't have been fighting her, and they were human, so maybe none of them realised it. Uncle Max was part alien, and he was trained to resist mental invasion.
Suddenly my phone rang, and I answered it automatically.
"Stop, Parker. Whatever you're doing, stop it. Now."
I recoiled. "Liz?" She sounded really, really stern.
"I don't know how." I looked at Max, and what I saw frightened me. His face had gone waxy, and there was sweat pouring off of him. "Can you come here?"
"I'm almost there now. Where are you in the house?"
I knew the sound of authority when I heard it, and I answered obediently, as clearly as I could. "My room. Up the stairs, third door on the right."
Suddenly I heard voices over her connection, and it was eerie to know that the people I could hear on the phone asking her what was wrong and where was she going were just downstairs. Then I heard them on the stairs - for real, not through the phone, and saw the knob shake.
"Parker, open the door."
Obediently I flicked it open with my powers and she came in, everyone else trailing behind her looking worried and confused.
She ignored them all, grabbing my hand and dragging me over to Max.
"Everyone, keep quiet," she said, and in another time and place it would've been funny, the way they just did it. "Parker needs to concentrate."
"I don't know how to stop it," I told her, and then I started crying, because I didn't want to hurt Max, I really didn't. I'd just wanted to know.
I didn't care anymore, though. If we made it through this, I swore, I'd just let it go.
"It'll be fine, Parker, you just need to change the flow of energies." Suddenly her voice was soothing, and I let her calm me down. She put her hands to my temples and concentrated, and soon I felt something. It was tentative, and somehow I knew she was making this up as she went along, but I wanted to help so I didn't fight her.
In a moment our breathing and our heartbeats had synchronized, and I felt as centred as I did earlier in the canyon.
"Now," she said, easing out of our connection and placing my hands on each side of Uncle Max's head, "stay centred, and find where your energy connects with his. Start pulling yours back, but gently, not too fast."
I looked into Max's eyes and then I was in, and oh god, his mind was nothing like I remembered when he'd connected with me when I was younger I bit my lip and forced myself to stay centred, half-listening to her talking to me and half-lost in the chaos.
Finally I felt my energy backing off and his energy reasserting itself, strong, insanely strong, and I was half expecting his body to start fighting me off too. I could feel the power rebounding along our connection and I stepped back, holding up my hands in a futile effort to ward off his power.
It happened so fast that everyone at the door was caught off guard. But then Liz was in front of me, pushing me out of the way and slipping into the connection so she'd take the full brunt of it.
I happened to be looking at Max at that second, and I hope I never have to witness that kind of sheer terror again. When Liz placed a hand on his temple, the tendons in his neck stood out with effort and, in a feat of superhuman strength that should have been impossible, he clamped down on his energy before it could explode out of him.
His eyes leaked red tears as the pressure built inside his mind, inside his head. Somewhere in the room someone moaned, and it sounded like Isabel.
"It's okay, Max," Liz said, kindly. "Let it go."
"I love you," he whispered. A thin trail of blood trickled from one nostril as he did.
"I know. I love you too."
And that was when it all went black.
Later they told me that my mind had overloaded from the amount of psychic energy hitting it.
And I'd only received a residual amount, the merest fraction of what Liz's body absorbed.
"How did she know?" I asked, but no one could answer. Isabel suggested that maybe she'd stayed connected with me somehow, but there was no way of knowing just how she'd known what was happening.
Mom and Dad hadn't left my side since the light show had faded. Dad even had a few energy burn scars on his arm where he'd interfered with the connection to pull me and then Liz out of it. Left without focus, Max's energy had manifested physically and, well, blasted outward. There was some serious structural damage done to the walls of my room.
No one asked me what happened. They knew enough. And I'd learned my lesson; there would be no repeats.
Max hadn't spoken since he'd regained consciousness. He still had his powers, and Isabel had healed him right after she'd healed me. But he couldn't look me in the face, and he refused to let anyone, even Serena, comfort him. Guilt was tearing him apart. He was the most powerful of us all, and he couldn't come to terms with knowing that he'd almost killed two of us.
I would recover fully, Isabel assured me. But Liz
Liz was another story.
The door was opened by an older man, who forgot what he was going to say when he saw me.
"Jeff?" A woman came into sight, and when she saw me she gasped.
"Can I see her?"
Mr. Parker (my grandfather, I marvelled inwardly) recovered rather quickly and stepped back, allowing me in so he could close the door. A few reporters had been caught sneaking around the hospital, and everyone was going to great lengths to protect her from prying eyes and cameras.
No one spoke as I approached the bed. Somehow I managed to place the vase of flowers I'd picked up downstairs on a table beside her bed, and then I stood there and tried to take it all in.
She looked diminished. The day I saw her on her little stretch of beach - could it have been only a few days ago? Is that possible? - she'd seemed larger than life. No, not larger, just more there, more intense, than the world around her. Now, only the faintest signs of breathing convinced me that she wasn't that she was still alive.
"Uh, Parker," Mrs. Parker said then, sounding embarrassed but determined, "I don't mean to be rude, but "
I turned and smiled at her. I'd been coming into the CrashDown about once a week with my parents for most of my life, and they'd never looked at me like this before. "I know. Everyone's seeing it suddenly. Crazy, isn't it?"
"I never put it together before. Why didn't I put it together before?" Mr. Parker wondered out loud. "You you're the baby she gave up when she left."
I nodded. "She gave me to Mom and Dad." Experimentally, then, I exerted just a little empathetic power - that's what Serena called it when I asked - and waited.
Nancy shook her head, but suddenly she didn't seem so upset. "Well, it's a small world. I'm glad I was able to be a part of your life anyway, Parker," she said, pulling me into a hug.
"That goes double for me," Jeff agreed, and hugged us both. "Parker," he grinned, clearly understanding my name better now.
I didn't feel guilty. I mean, technically what I did was wrong, but I didn't really change their minds or anything intrusive, I just gave their more positive emotions a nudge and let their inherent good natures take it from there. I decided to explain that to Liz if I ever got the chance. I figured she'd appreciate knowing that she didn't really violate her parents all those years ago.
"Do you guys mind if I spent some time with her alone? We could talk more later, if you like."
They looked at each other and nodded. Smiling a little, they gave me another quick nod and left the room, careful to close the door firmly behind them.
Once I was sure they were gone, I turned back to Liz. Utterly serious now, I reached out and placed one hand on hers, feeling the hum of our connection kicking in.
She was not going to suffer for my mistake. If there was anything I could do to help her, I would. My powers were stronger than ever, and I was fully recovered from what had happened. I was ready.
I owed it to her to try, anyway. I took a deep breath and focussed.
No one noticed me as I was leaving the hospital. My grandparents were fielding questions from the press and everyone else seemed busy. I smiled when someone called a doctor into Liz's room and the noise doubled.
I was pale and shaking, and I was glad Isabel was waiting for me in the parking lot because I wasn't sure I'd be able to make it much further than that. But I'd done what I came here to do. It wasn't as hard as I'd thought, to calm down my mother's mental energies and trigger the ones that made her her, that shaped who she was and let her control her own body.
Once again, I was the pilot light. That's all. It was just a matter of waiting for the fire to take hold, now.
Oh, and there was one other thing I could do for her ...
"So, she's okay?"
I looked at my dad seriously. "Yeah."
He nodded and we both looked back at the game.
"And you're good?"
I rolled my eyes. He knew damn well exactly how I was. He and Mom had been checking on me constantly, and I knew he'd read my aura half a dozen times since I got home. "Yeah, Dad, I'm good. Hey - that was illegal. That body check was illegal, wasn't it?"
"Hell yeah, that was illegal," he said indignantly, staring at the screen disapprovingly, before turning back to me. "What's she gonna do?"
"You mean, is she going to stay in Roswell?"
"That depends," I hedged, trying to decide how much to tell him.
But it was Uncle Max who wanted to know more. "On what?" he asked from the doorway. It was the first time I'd heard him speak since that night. His voice sounded really rough, but like there was more wrong than just not using it. Maybe he'd injured himself more than anyone knew.
"On you," I told him. It was very satisfying; I'd wanted to tell him that for days. I was just waiting for the right moment to push.
We stared at each other for a while, and then he turned and walked out of the room.
Dad and I grinned when we heard the front door slam and the sound of an engine outside, but we looked back to the door when we heard footsteps.
It was Serena, and she looked happy. "He's finally going to go to her," she told us, as if we didn't know that already.
Dad's eyebrows just about hit the ceiling. "You okay with that?" he asked, curiously.
She nodded like it was a given, and I believed her.
"Want to watch the game with us?" I asked. "Edmonton's kicking the crap out of L.A. Dad's gonna start crying any minute now."
She laughed and sat down as he threw a handful of cold popcorn at me and pretended to growl. I didn't care. All I could think about was the reunion about to take place, and how much I wanted it to go well. Of course, I'd had a very interesting dream about this day, and I had an idea things were going to go better at the Parker residence than either of them expected.
The alien crisis was over and it looked like my family was going to be a family again.
All things considered, I decided, life was good.
Liz didn't end up staying in Roswell, and they didn't let me go with them to the summit. I went back to Maine with Liz instead, and I got to know Kit and his fiancée.
The rest ... well, I got the feeling that Max and the others were waiting to see if it was safe before asking Liz to become part of their lives again.
Liz's publishing house was thrilled to hear from her, if only to promote someone else's book. Liz even agreed to write an introduction for it, and Angelica practically hyperventilated, knowing what that would mean for sales. They wouldn't see the money for a while, though, and Liz conferred with Kent, who agreed to let Kit take on her latest project, expanding her cottage to include a bedroom for me and a guest room.
I ended up spending several weeks with her, and she taught me a lot about the powers we shared. In turn, I like to think I had a lot to do with her decision not to become a total hermit again.
Max showed up after two weeks, and I could tell from the look on his face that everything had gone as planned. We were home free on Earth ... literally. We didn't talk about it, though. This didn't seem like the time or the place. He just gave me a hug and some packages from Mom and Dad, clothes and money and stuff, and then I gave him a tour of the place.
He spent his first week on the couch while I threw a sleeping bag on the floor but the second week he moved his stuff into Liz's room. I was so happy to get the couch back I didn't even tease them about it. I did offer to help Kit with the carpentry stuff so they could have time alone together, though, and we ended up becoming pretty good friends. I'm not saying he was the brother I'd always wanted or anything cheesy like that, but I liked hanging out with someone closer to my own age.
Hell, I was just happy, period. There was a rightness about them being together that no one could miss, and my only regret was that it took so long to happen.
I couldn't believe I'd only had her in my life for a matter of weeks. It seemed like a lot longer, and I didn't want it to end.
Things got pretty exciting pretty soon after that. It was like everyone's lives had been on hold, and we were making up for it with a vengeance.
I was re-enrolled in West Roswell in time for my senior year. Mom and Dad had pulled me out so no one would notice if I had to leave suddenly, but there was no reason not to go anymore and I was kind of excited about it. By the time I got home to Roswell, a couple weeks before school started, Isabel was ready to deliver and Mom was asking me to tell her whether I was going to have a brother or a sister - "No, wait, don't tell me. Yes, tell me. No, don't." Dad knew, of course, but he got a kick out of Mom's giddiness. I played along on the condition that I got to be there when someone told her to expect both.
Serena was still based in Roswell, but she'd been joined by an old friend of hers to act as official protectors of the ex-patriot Royal Three and their families, and I knew there was something else going on there too.
Hell, even the grandparents seemed to get infected. Jim finally proposed to Amy, who said yes, and the Parkers renewed their vows a week before the Evans did. I was an usher in all three ceremonies, and Isabel made sure I looked good. Kennedy Markham thought so, anyway, and that was what mattered to me.
Hey, she's pretty hot. And smart. And funny. And did I mention hot? She's always had the most incredible eyes ...
Max stayed in Maine with Liz. I visited every couple months and then again for my spring break, this time to play usher for Kit and Angel, who wanted Liz and me in the party.
Slowly, Liz re-integrated into the group. It was awkward, and I heard Mom cry and scream sometimes in frustration, but it was important and I knew that eventually it would happen. Some things just take time, that's all.
Other than that, the year went by pretty fast. Mom and Dad were preoccupied with the twins, and I couldn't blame them. They were active little things, and I swear they crawled sooner and faster than any human baby I'd ever heard of. Isabel and Kyle's little boy was about the same, and when the three of them got together, it was like they had a language all their own. It was hilarious watching them gurgle and wave at each other.
Still, I joined a lot of extracurricular activities that year, partly to get as much out of a normal high school experience as possible, but also because it was the only legitimate way to get out of babysitting duty. It was all right, though, because the grandparents were only too thrilled to step in.
Things got pretty serious with Kenn, and by April she knew who my biological mother was. By May she was having flashes and knew what my biological parents were, and I thought I'd lose her for good. By June I knew I'd have her forever, and I finally understood what Uncle Max meant when he told me how he'd just 'known' with Liz.
And then I woke up one day in early July and I felt a pull to the East, and I smiled.
That's what the magazines called her. The tabloids still called her "Enigma" Parker in the latest spate of articles that had popped up in the wake of Kit's successful debut as a novelist.
Critics called his book the sequel Liz never wrote, and Kit took that as a compliment. He laughed when Liz got angry on his behalf, and told her that he had a whole career to prove himself to the critics. And he would, too, since there was no doubt he'd make enough money to support himself and a family as a writer. He was very careful not to talk about her in his many interviews, admitting only that she was a mentor and an inspiration to him.
It was actually my fault that the press got any new material at all, because I was visiting Kit and Angel when they came to Albuquerque as part of his book tour, and someone with a camera saw me and noticed my resemblance to her. I woke up the next morning to the sight of a hundred journalists camped outside our front door, and finally I gave a statement that I was, in fact, related to the author on my mother's side of the family. I got a little more attention for a while, and kids at school seemed impressed, but it died down pretty soon when the next "UFO" sighting spiced up the local economy. I still think Dad had something to do with that, by the way.
Some of the more industrious snoops speculated about whether Grandma Amy's mysterious ex-husband was linked to a brother of Jeff Parker's that had dropped out of the family picture years ago, and we all got a good laugh out of that. Amy and Jeff even teased each other about being the 'in-laws' they'd never had.
The important thing was, "they" still didn't know her at all.
And although I had an inside track to the people who had known her all her life, I didn't really know her either. Not yet, at least.
No one came out to greet us when I drove up.
"Wait for a minute?" I asked Kenn, and she nodded. She was a little nervous to be meeting Liz, I knew, but she was determined to get her blessing.
I think she also wanted to know something of what to expect, dating an alien, and she was never sure whether to believe Mom's crazy stories or not. But I figured that was only fair. I was just glad she was willing to try, because I didn't want to have to spend half my life feeling incomplete the way Max and Liz did.
I walked around the house, and as always, the sight of the ocean so close was a little overwhelming. I enjoyed the view for a few minutes before turning to where I knew she was sitting on the beach, a book open but forgotten at her side. And she was very carefully not looking in my direction.
I took a few careful steps towards her. Nothing. But I thought I sensed a lightening of the air around her, and I knew she knew I was there.
To anyone else she would probably seem pretty ordinary, just another pretty woman in her mid-thirties who might be vacationing on the coast for the summer. But to me, she seemed to be more there than everything else around her. She was wearing her faded shirt again, and it looked as bright as ever to me because she was wearing it.
She was even, I laughed to see, wearing a kerchief thing on her head, although I couldn't swear it was the same one.
But there was something else, something teasing the edge of our connection. Something about her silhouette seemed strangely familiar, and it wasn't just because I'd spent so much time with her over the past year. And now that I was here, I wasn't quite sure how to ask about it. I didn't want her to think I was intruding, and I never wanted to see the look on her face that Isabel had talked about once.
Finally I shucked off my shoes and walked the rest of the way over to her, only to stand there in awkward silence, not knowing what to say or do, painfully conscious that my fate was somehow tangled up with hers.
"You might as well sit down," she said suddenly, and my legs collapsed beneath me, even before I had a chance to process the words.
Had she ? Of course she had. I smirked a little at the thought.
She turned and looked at me, taking her time, studying my face, taking in my worn jeans and my bare feet and my plain but clean t-shirt. Her eyes kept flickering to my hair, as if intrigued.
"I guess Max went into town today?"
She nodded. "You cut your hair," she commented.
I struck a pose. "Looked better with the tux."
She grinned and turned back to the ocean. "Been getting a lot of wear out of that, I hear."
I nodded and reached into my pocket, where I had the expected packet of photographs for her, of all of the ceremonies except her parents'. She'd come in for that one. She took them and put them down next to her book. I knew she'd look at them later.
"I dreamed of you," I said, not wanting to draw this out.
I held my breath but she just nodded, interested but not particularly startled. "Good dreams?" There was a wry curl to her smile.
Mine probably matched. We were both thinking of how we'd first met, I knew, and I was glad this conversation was going to end differently.
"Well, I don't think some of them have happened yet. But yes."
She looked at me then, and the way her eyes shone took my breath away. "You know," she said, simply.
"I wasn't even sure," she continued, wonderingly. "I haven't said anything to Max yet."
I was a little surprised at that, but not much. "Is it all right that I came?" I asked. "If you would rather be alone right now - I mean, I didn't even call first."
She shook her head in mock exasperation and reached out to hug me to her. "Of course it's all right. Don't be silly."
I hugged her back. "Then you won't mind if I brought a guest?"
She froze and turned to study me. I knew she was thinking I'd brought one of the family, and I could tell by the look that came over her face that she wasn't ready for it. Not here, not where she let her guard down, not in her sanctuary from all the things in her life that had hurt her.
I smiled. "I want you to meet Kenn."
She relaxed immediately. "I can't wait to meet her," she said, and looked behind me, clearly expecting to see the girl who'd started showing up in so many of the pictures I'd been sending along.
"She's in the car."
She nodded and stood up, brushing herself off. I did the same, and we slipped on our shoes to walk the path to the front of the house.
"She's really important to you, isn't she?"
I nodded seriously. "I'm going to spend the rest of my life with her."
Liz stopped and looked at me, searchingly. "Parker, don't you think you're a little young "
I laughed. "Don't worry. We're not rushing things."
She didn't look convinced.
"Let me put it this way," I offered. "When we get married, I'd like my little - sister, is it?"
She nodded, patting her still-flat tummy proudly. "I think so."
"Well, I want her to be part of the ceremony. I want the whole family to be a part of the ceremony."
Liz grinned and pulled me down to kiss the top of my head and give me a quick hug. I knew, without even asking, that she was happy to be a part of that family.
"Sounds about right."
"Yeah," I agreed. I was pretty happy to have her as part of my family myself. "I think so too."