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by AnnieAdded to the Roswell Slash Archive November 13, 2000
ARCHIVE: CKOS, Guilty Pleasures
SERIES: First in the Genesis Series
SUMMARY/AUTHOR'S NOTES: What would happen if Max saved Kyle from that gunshot wound instead of Liz? This fic resembles canon in no way, so let me slap a big AU label on it now.
DISCLAIMER: I don't own any of these characters. I'm just playing with them for a while but I'll give them back as good as new.
FEEDBACK: Yes, please. Constructive if you can, but I'll lap up lavish praise too. Flames will be laughed at.
It's all he did now. Even he, Kyle Valenti -- sheriff's son, man's man jock, and all-around big man on campus extraordinaire -- wasn't immune to the disquieting feeling of being the outsider. Even the subject of his intense scrutiny, his girlfriend--
--okay, fair enough. Liz Parker, the childhood crush, the girl-next-door of his dreams for so many years, was merely deigning to date him until something--
better came along. So he watched her, weaving effortlessly among the crowded diner with a gentle smile on her face that made each customer feel she was smiling for *them*, and knew he'd always feel like that proverbial kid with his nose pressed to the window of the proverbial candy store when he watched her. He'd never be *inside*.
He wasn't the only one watching her. Max Evans tracked Liz's graceful moves with a quiet hunger in his eyes. Occasionally, when she thought no one was looking, Liz's eyes would slide towards Max restlessly, leaving Kyle seething in resentment. Liz had never looked at him with the same questioning curiosity and Max, well, the preternaturally quiet boy had a way of looking--
at anyone with a startling intensity that unsettled the outwardly unflappable Kyle. All three of them -- Max, his sister, Isabel, so boldly gorgeous it was almost difficult to look at her, and Michael Guerin, their trailer-trash, juvenile delinquent friend -- set off his internal alarms, but it was the penetrating gaze of Max that churned his envy and anger to a bitter frenzy.
So he watched Max watching Liz and watched Liz watching Max, and sat firmly on the outside of whatever impenetrable bubble that had formed around them. None of them saw the gun being pulled.
* * *
It all came down to timing. That was a lesson Kyle's father, the rigidly structured sheriff of Roswell, drilled into him from childhood. Everything was about timing. Playing catch with his dad in the backyard, he came to learn the words by heart: "Pay attention to their eyes, Kyle. You watch their eyes and that'll tell you when to make your move. That's what timing's all about. You watch their eyes and you'll *know*."
(--Yeah, must've been looking somewhere else than Mom's eyes when she up and left us, huh, Dad?--)
It was her eyes that triggered his finely honed sense of timing. Liz was the first to react, her widening eyes tipping off Kyle. He whirled on his stool and saw the angry man shouting at his companion, the dull blackness of the gun metal catching fleeting rays of the sun. He reacted without thinking, plunging from his seat to push Liz to the filthy floor, barely registering the harsh cough of the gun.
When Kyle was seven, he tripped over his dog's chewtoy and fell through a glass door. Four hours and twenty-nine stitches later, he lay under the chilled white sheets of his hospital bed and cried himself to sleep. He didn't think he'd ever be in that much pain again.
Nine years later, he was proven wrong. He felt the solid impact of the bullet tunnel into his back and throw him forward. His ears were ringing with the report, but he saw Liz's mouth open in a horrified scream, and then the white-hot agonies twisted through his body. He dove for unconsciousness, greedily seeking a relief from the pain.
It was two seconds -- maybe three -- when he came to. He didn't know how he knew this, except that the tableau hadn't changed. He still lay sprawled on the floor, dirt scratching his cheek and nothing but tiles and table legs in his line of view. He tried to move his head and yelped, flames of agony licking from the inferno in his spine.
"Don't move." He recognized the eerily calm voice immediately and recoiled internally. Him. Goddamn Max Evans, now kneeling on the filth-encrusted floor, now stretching out to lay prone beside him. As he struggled for focus, he heard other voices. Liz, behind him, soothing him with her murmured prayers and soft strokes on the back of his neck, a touch that would wrack him with yearning shivers on any other occasion. Maria De Luca, snuffling quietly in loosely restrained panic, and another voice--
--telling her to shut up and get the customers outside before all hell broke loose. Kyle wanted to laugh, wanted to tell Michael that it was too late, that hell had already broken loose and he was lying on the floor, fucking *shot* in the fucking *back* and besides, it was next to impossible to shut Maria up once she got going. He just twitched and coughed, tasting the coppery bitterness of blood in his mouth, and stared mutely into Max's fathomless brown eyes, level with his own.
(--asshole's gonna get dirty too, keeps rubbing his face on the floor like that--)
He didn't think Max even noticed the scum covering the floor of the Crashdown, or that Kyle was trying desperately to avoid meeting that penetrating gaze. He knew what Max was going to tell him, knew what it meant to take a bullet in the back.
(--No more football for YOU, Kyle-o. You'll be spending the rest of your life getting your diapers changed by a nurse with the face of Medusa and the bedside manner of Lizzie Borden.--)
He closed his eyes and took a deep breath, bracing himself for both the effort of speaking and for the answer to the question he was about to ask. What came out was a sickly wet gurgle that told him spending the rest of his life in a wheelchair was a fantasy, that he'd be lucky to finish out the day on the cold floor of the town diner.
"Tell me, Evans, how bad is it?"
Max didn't humor him with false cheer or insult him with worthless sympathy. What he did was surprise the hell out of him.
"I can help you, Kyle. But you need to look at me. Look in my eyes."
"Wha--," he started, but Max slid closer to him, curled one hand around him to rest on his back in a twisted parody of a lover's embrace and gripped his chin in the other hand to focus his attention. His questions stopped cold, Kyle found himself lost in his rival's eyes, sinking into their dark depths with no more resistance.
"Look at me, Kyle."
He came back to himself a second time, but with one major difference: the pain was gone. Entirely, inexplicably gone. As he rose unsteadily to his feet, Liz watching him with equal measures of fear and confusion and relief on her face, he reached his hands behind him to feel warm stickiness on his back.
"It's ketchup," Liz offered, taking a hesitant step towards him, then reconsidering and stepping back. "He broke a bottle to, you know, cover up the blood."
He looked around, wrinkling his nose at the nauseating odor of blood and food lingering in the still air of the diner. "Where is he?"
Again, she took that halting half-step step towards him and pulled back. He couldn't blame her. He suspected he'd feel the same way if their situations were reversed. Something had happened to him, something had irrevocably changed in his life, in *their* lives, and neither knew how to react to each other. She looked around nervously, as if she were expecting a monster--
(--or MAX EVANS--)
--to leap out at her. She had that deer-caught-in-headlights look she got when watching horror movies with him, the same look that made him want to wrap her in his arms and protect her from the world. Now, he barely registered it. "He left. He had to go before your... before people get here and start asking questions."
Kyle nodded absently, knowing she meant to say "your father" before she caught herself. It didn't matter. He could already hear the sirens in the distance and knew he'd have to face some uncomfortable questions. He'd get it over with. It wasn't answering questions he was concerned about. It was *asking* some, asking Max Evans exactly what the hell he'd done to him, why he was dying from a gun shot wound in the back one minute and walking around with nothing worse than a disgustingly smelly shirt the next.
That could wait. "Come on, Liz. We've got to give our reports."
She finally took that halting step forward and took his hand in hers. He could feel her trembling slightly and knew that if he took her in his arms, her heart would be beating rapidly against his. "Kyle, are you ok? I mean, really?"
He smiled, not really feeling ok with *any*thing right now, but sensing her need to be reassured. He squeezed her hand lightly and planted a soft kiss on her forehead. "Yeah, I'm ok. Let's go."
"Dad, I told you everything. Really. Please, can we just move on?" Kyle leaned back into the comforting warmth of his favorite chair with a sigh. In the five hours since his father had arrived at the Crashdown, interrogated everyone there, and driven his son home, he'd answered the same probing questions repeatedly. He just wanted to escape, wanted to drive away from the walls closing in on him and his father's deceptively mild voice. That's how Sheriff Valenti got the bad guys, every single time. His voice. That silky drawl lulled suspects into thinking he was a stereotypical smalltown sheriff, barely able to write his own name let alone manipulate anyone into revealing the details of a crime. Kyle knew how they must've felt, those suspects, as he endured his father's onslaught of questions.
"Just tell me what happened again, from the beginning," Valenti cajoled, a soothing smile creasing his weathered features.
Kyle sighed again, knowing his dad wouldn't give up until he was ready to give up and no whining or attitude would deter him.
(--Like a fucking dog with a BONE, man--)
"Fine. I was in the diner, having lunch and spending a little time with Liz, when these two guys start yelling at each other over money or something like that. One of 'em pulled a gun and I dove to protect Liz. We fell to the floor and must've knocked a shelf, which explains why my favorite shirt is now covered in ketchup. When I looked up, the guys were gone. You showed up and you know the rest."
Valenti pursed his lips, a sure sign to Kyle that he wasn't through with him yet. "Who else was there?"
"Who else? Well, let's see. Liz, Maria, and Agnes were working. The usual crowd was eating, with a few tourists. You already talked to that one couple--"
"Yes, the Smiths. They're the ones who noticed the missing bullet."
"Right," He deftly avoiding the implied question. "That's about it. Oh, and the Evans kids were there, and their friend Michael Guerin." He said this with as much nonchalance as he could muster, hoping fervently that his father wouldn't latch onto it.
No such luck. "Max and Isabel Evans, huh? And the Guerin boy. You didn't mention that before."
He shrugged. "Didn't see any reason to. They're just kids from school and the diner has school kids coming in and out all the time. Besides, they didn't fire the damn gun, Dad." He didn't mean to sound so snappish with his father, but he was tired. He waited for the patented Jim Valenti lecture.
"Son, don't talk back to me. When I ask you a question, I expect you to answer me completely and with respect. Is that understood?"
"Yes, sir. I'm sorry, sir."
(--Fuck off, SIR.--)
His father relented, seeing that Kyle was on the edge of exhaustion. "Very well. Go to bed. We'll talk about this more tomorrow."
(--Oh, I'm sure we will.--)
"Actually, Dad, I was going to take a drive. I need to unwind."
Valenti looked at his son in cold calculation, searching for any sign of deception. Finding none, he nodded. "All right. Don't be out late. You have school tomorrow."
"OK." He snatched his keys up and headed for the door before his father could change his mind.
(--Shit. So close.--)
"Yeah, Dad?" He turned to see his father watching him. For a long moment, Valenti didn't say anything and Kyle turned to leave again.
"I want you to stay away from the Evans kids. And Michael Guerin. There's something... off about them. Understood?"
He understood completely. Jim Valenti had made it pretty clear ever since the Evans had adopted Max and Isabel that he thought something was suspicious going on there. And Michael -- well, Michael just wasn't "our kind of people." The fact that he was friends with Max and Isabel only made Valenti even more mistrustful. Kyle had known from early childhood what his father suspected about the new kids in school, but hadn't put a fully formed thought to it until this afternoon. And now, now his father knew, in that sharp alertness circling him constantly, that his son was holding something back.
"I understand, Dad. I'll be back later." He yanked the door open, determined to escape this time.
(--Curses. Foiled again.--)
"What?" He barked, expecting another lecture but not caring anymore. His father, when he spoke, ignored the hint of disrespect and surprised his son.
"I'm glad you're ok. When I heard there was a shooting and you were there, I... I was worried about you. I was relieved to hear you weren't hurt."
He smiled warmly at his father, knowing how much the brief display of fatherly emotion cost him, then slipped out the door before he could be stopped again.
He heard the soft whisper of pebbles shifting across each other, but didn't turn. He figured it was Liz, coming to see how he was feeling after not finding him at home. She was the only one who knew about this place. Last summer, he had brought her here on a picnic lunch and grinned at her delighted gasps when he took his hands from her eyes. She had thrown her arms around his neck and kissed him fervently, leaving a giddy feeling swimming in his stomach that lasted the rest of the day and into the night. He had shared this place with her because he wanted more than anything to share his life with her. Now, she was an intrusion on his thoughts.
"I knew you'd come. But I'm fine."
He spun at Max's voice. "How the hell did you find me?"
Max walked closer, not looking directly at him but staring into the darkness as he stood next to Kyle. "In the eighth grade, Mrs. Peterson asked the class to give an oral report on our favorite place to visit. You talked about this place, about how the desert drops off at the cliff and some nights the moon is so close you feel like you can touch it."
He grunted. "Oh. You remember that?"
Max shook his head. "No. I saw it. When I..."
Kyle understood. "When you healed me."
Kyle took a deep breath and walked closer to the edge of the precipice, looking down at the boulders and cactus below, the moonlight glinting off of them. He didn't like what he was feeling, these conflicting emotions of gratitude and bitterness roiling his insides. He wanted his solitude again, but he wanted answers more.
"What else did you see when you were poking around in my memories?"
Max didn't seem to take offense at his inflammatory tone. "Does it matter?"
He whirled, full of anger that had no direction. "Yes, it matters, Goddammit! You had *no* right to get in my head like that, Evans! First you're trying to steal my girl and now you want to take my memories. What the fuck is wrong with you?"
Max withstood the onslaught of rage, waiting patiently until it faded and Kyle stood there, breathing heavily. "I had to."
He snorted derisively. "Right. You had to. You had to save me so you could look like a hero for *her*." He sat down on the cold, rocky ground, dangling his legs over the edge, all of the energy of his outburst escaping into the night.
Max sat gingerly next to him, not getting too close, but Kyle could still hear his soft breathing in the still air. "You've got it backwards, Kyle. I was... I thought I was saving *her* for *you*."
"What are you talking about?" He snarled, his increasing confusion only making him angrier.
"I saw the gun come out and I thought she was going to get hit. I didn't think you would get in the way. But you did, and I couldn't let you die."
Kyle mulled that over in his mind for a few moments and decided he didn't want to examine it too closely, so he changed tacks. "So what *are* you, Evans?"
"I think you know," the other boy said quietly. Kyle nodded. He *did* know, had known since he was a small boy and his father began his obsessive spiral into watching the every move of Max and Isabel Evans and Michael Guerin. He'd just never considered that it could be *true*, that Jim Valenti wasn't just a modern day Ahab with a vengeful mission started when his own father died.
(--Yeah, us Valenti men sure do have our crusades down COLD--)
He tilted his head to look furtively at Max, who was gazing into the stars with a wistful longing on his face that tugged at Kyle. "Yeah, I know. Aliens, huh? Outer space and all that shit."
Max looked at him and smiled, his teeth gleaming whitely in the darkness. "Right. Little green men and all that shit."
Despite himself, Kyle grinned and chuckled. "So what're you doing here in Roswell, New Mexico?"
That sobered Max, who turned his attention back to the stars. "Long story, but it basically boils down to the fact that we got stuck here."
"So, your sister and Guerin...?"
"Same as me."
A coyote howled in the distance as the two boys sat in the darkness. Kyle was about to ask him more questions when Max spoke up.
"I need to know, Kyle, are you going to say anything about what happened today?" There was an edge of quiet fear to Max's question.
He shrugged. "I don't know, Evans. What's it worth to you to keep quiet?" He winced inwardly at his defensive challenge, but it would have been too tempting to give Max anything he asked for. Too tempting. He was dealing with enough revelations as it was. His inexplicable and troubling curiousity about Max Evans needed to be buried, and fast.
(--Bury it down deep, Kyle-o, before you have to start examining it and recognize it for what it just might be.--)
"It's worth everything. My life. Isabel and Michael's lives." Max had pulled further away from him in fear, and Kyle nearly relented, nearly promised him then and there that he would never tell his secrets, that he'd carry them to his grave if only Max would stop looking at him with that disappointed, hurt look on his face. But he pushed those feelings down even further and asked the one question that had been nagging him since this whole surreal conversation had begun.
"Why? Why'd you risk it, knowing you might be found out?"
"It was you."
Kyle had expected anything but this. He'd expected anything ranging from "It's my people's moral imperative" to "Liz would've been sad and I love her too much to do that to her." The one answer he had never forseen was that Max had saved his life for the wholly pure reason that he -- Kyle Valenti, stereotypical small-town jock and king of the assholes -- mattered to Max. The idea of it, and the implications it brought up, simultaneously terrified and exhilarated him. Max just watched him cautiously, his body language rigid, the only outward sign of the inward turmoil he must be feeling at making such a dangerous admission. Kyle looked down into the valley floor, knowing what he *should* respond--
(--Look, buddy, I'm no fag--)
--but not knowing what he *wanted* to say. So they sat in uneasy silence, listening to the insects and occasional coyote cry. Kyle cleared his throat and Max jumped, startled.
"Do you know the story of the good Samaritan, from the Bible?"
Max nodded, but Kyle went on anyway, needing to get to where he was headed in his own way. "Basically, there's this guy who's in trouble, and nobody stops to help him. But this Samaritan, who nobody likes or trusts, helps the guy. Not to get anything from him, but just because. And everyone else has to admit they were wrong about the Samaritans, that they're not untrustworthy."
He paused, and Max nodded again, signaling him to continue. "My dad knows. I mean, he doesn't *know*, but he's thought you guys were trouble for a long time. And ever since I was a kid, I thought the same thing about you. But I was wrong. You're not who I thought you were."
Max scooted closer, not crowding Kyle but getting near enough so that his senses were filled with the heady, reassuring warmth and solidity of the other boy. "Who am I?"
His gut in turmoil but unable and unwilling to tear away from the path he was heading down, Kyle whispered, "I don't know. Goddammit, Evans, I don't know who -- or *what* -- you are. I just know that you saved my life today and you risked *everything*. For me. That's... well, that's something." He closed his eyes and took the plunge, the step he never would have seen himself making, the one direction in his life that was a completely alien--
(--Now THAT'S fitting--)
--concept to him less than twelve hours ago. He leaned forward and pressed his suddenly dry mouth to Max's smooth forehead, then brushed down to meet his lips. It was a feather-touch, skin barely meeting skin, just the intoxicating *closeness* of the other boy raising the hairs on the back of his neck. He leaned closer, relieved beyond measure that Max was not pressuring him, was letting him do this on his own sweet--
(--Oh, God, SO sweet--)
--time, just responding to Kyle's unsure fluttering kisses with equal hesitancy. Soon, though, it wasn't enough for either boy and Kyle lifted a trembling hand to cup Max's neck. The motion freed the other boy from his stillness and he reached for Kyle almost at the same time, a tiny hum escaping from his throat. Kyle marveled at the astonishing softness of Max's lips, so much like a woman's--
--yet unmistakably different. A deep heat, centered in his belly, moved up his body, inflaming his face as Max gently probed his unresisting lips with his tongue. He invited the warmth into his mouth, craving the contact in a way that his chaste kisses with Liz had never awakened in him. He squirmed and moaned, moving closer to Max so the two boys were pressed chest to chest, clutching each other as they kissed under the autumn moon.
All of Kyle's resistance, all of his fears and bitterness and envy, faded in the comforting, unconditional acceptance of Max's embrace.
Max pulled away, nearly causing Kyle to whimper, but he choked it down as he gasped in the cool air. He shivered, not with cold, but with the reality of what had happened to him. He was almost afraid to look at Max, convinced that the boy would be gone and he'd have imagined the whole encounter, hell, the entire *day*. But he was still there, looking forlornly out at the skies. Kyle couldn't even begin to imagine how he must feel, what it must be like for him day in and day out.
"I'm not going to say anything."
Max just nodded, that eerie silence slipping over him once again.
"Tomorrow, we go back to the way things were before... before today. With my dad, it could never... We couldn't be friends. He'd find out."
"I know. It's the way things have to be."
Kyle wanted him to argue, wanted him to think of ways they could get to know each other without any danger coming to him or Isabel or Michael, but he knew that wasn't going to happen. Things would go back to the way they used to be when the sun rose on another stiflingly hot Roswell morning, and that's just the way things would have to be. He would go back to being the sheriff's son and rock-steady boyfriend of Liz Parker, and Max Evans would go back to being his quietly intelligent rival with the babe sister and white-trash best friend. Nothing would change.
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