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Chalkboard Destiny 4: Expelled

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Added to the Roswell Slash Archive September 9, 2002

Title : Expelled
Author : Mel
Summary : Story number 4 (and conclusion!) of my 'Chalkboard Destiny' series.   Something goes missing.  Isabel gets to the bottom of the sinister flashes.   And someone gets the boot.  Isabel/Liz
Rating : Hard R for language and other fun stuff.
Disclaimer : They're not mine, although I wouldn't mind getting my hands on Shiri Appleby for a couple hours J  All things Roswell belong to Melinda Metz and anyone else related to the series or the books.  Thank you for such awesome characters.  Please don't sue, I have nothing to offer you.
Archive : Absolutely.  Just let me know where it's going.
Feedback : Goes here
Author's Note : So it's taken six months for me to finally end the series and I think I did a pretty good job on this one.  I wanted to tie things up in a neat little package because I know how frustrating it is to have an open ended fic that never really concludes.  Forgive any continuity problems, though I tried to keep them at a minimum, and finally, enjoy.

        "Liz called again," Max said, sticking his head into Isabel's room to find her sitting on her bed leafing through a chemistry book.   "And she came by yesterday while you were at the library.   She waited for you for over an hour."

        "I know," Isabel replied detached, not looking up from her book.  "I saw her leave."

        "So do you want to tell me what's going on?" Max asked, stepping into the room and closing the door behind him.   "Liz said you haven't spoken to her since Maria's party and that was almost five days ago."

        "Listen, Max, I'm really busy here," she answered, barely glancing at him as she motioned to the homework splayed out in front of her.   She still couldn't quite bring herself to look at him.   Every time she did all she saw was Liz kissing him and it made her stomach turn.  "Maybe we can talk about this later," she offered, scribbling onto her notebook in a nondescript motion.

        "No," Max said, firmly.   "I think we can talk about it now."

        "Excuse me?" Isabel countered, angrily.   She shut her book heavily and stood up, finally coming face to face with her brother.  Isabel was surprised at the feeling of betrayal that sunk to the pit of her stomach and realized that she finally knew how Max felt when she first started seeing Liz.   She felt sick.

        "You're acting like a child, Isabel," Max said, looking her straight in the eyes.

        "Get the fuck out, Max," Isabel almost yelled and reached for the doorknob.

        "Everything is going great and then all of a sudden you stop talking to her," he continued, like he hadn't heard her and covered the doorknob with a strong hand before she could even reach past him.   "You're hurting her, Isabel.  And I don't like it," he added and pierced her eyes with his own.

        "Good for you, Max," Isabel said sarcastically, "that you don't like it.  But you have no idea what's going on in our relationship," she said and paused.   "Or maybe you do and that's why you're really here."

        "What are you talking about?" Max asked, confused.

        "You know exactly what I'm talking about," Isabel said through gritted teeth, tears threatening to sting her eyes.   All the frustration and ideas and feelings she had been keeping inside ever since she saw the flashes of Max and Liz together again were boiling over the surface now.

        "No, I don't," Max answered, brows furrowing further.

        "I think you do, Max.   Think really hard and I'm sure it'll come to you," she answered with a fake smile.

        They stood there staring at each other, each thinking that the other knew something that in all honesty they didn't.   Isabel was about to force Max to leave when the crashing noise sent them both flying out of her room and down the hall.   Entering his room, Max grabbed the bat near the bed and Isabel merely held her hand out and felt her power rising through her veins.   The shadowy figure near the window grunted as it pushed to its feet and Max raised the bat back and steadied his stance, ready to swing.   He was halfway around in his swing and Isabel could feel her fingertips tingling when it spoke.

        "Jesus Christ, Maxwell.   Not with the bat again," Michael said, finally standing but putting up a hand in defense.  As the light from the hallway flooded over his features, Isabel dropped her hand to her side and Max put the bat back near the bed.

        "Michael, why don't you ever use the front door?" Max asked, exhaling deeply.

        "Chill, Max," Michael answered.   "Why are you two always so paranoid?"

        "Could have something to do with the whole 'we're fucking aliens and the government is still hunting us down' thing," Isabel interjected.  

        "Are you guys fighting too?" Michael asked, eyes glancing from Isabel to Max and back again.

        "What do you mean 'too'?" Isabel asked.

        "I mean, Maria came by today pretty upset because Liz is so miserable," Michael answered.  "And she wanted me to tell you that whatever you did you better fix it or she doesn't care what superhuman powers you have because she'll kick your ass herself.  So what's going on?"

        "Why don't you tell your girlfriend to ask Liz," Isabel said, anger once again threatening to seize her body.

        "Isabel, Liz has no idea what's going on," Max interrupted.

        "Coming from you, that statement is almost laughable," she replied.

        "Meaning what?" Max asked turning to face her fully and clenching his fists at his side.

        "Man, the two of you have this down pat, huh Max?   It's almost like you really don't have any idea what this is all about."

        "That's because I don't."

        "Uh huh."

        "Isabel, what the hell is going on?" Max demanded.

        "Hey," Michael interrupted loudly, stepping in between them.  "We're going to have to feel the love later," he said with a serious face.   "I didn't come here at midnight to play Ultimate Fighting Championship."

        "What did you come here for then?" Isabel shot at him.

        "We've got big fucking problems," he slid back at her, pulling a folded newspaper from his pocket and handing it to Max.

        "Bright lights flood the Arizona skyline," Max read the headline.  "Possible UFO sighting?" he continued.  He looked at Michael with questioning eyes.

        "The light they describe in that article sounds exactly like what happened that time we used the communicators," he answered.

        "Maria taught you how to read?" Isabel joked.

        "Very funny," he countered, no hint of amusement in his voice.  "But what you might not find so funny is that someone broke into my apartment."

        "What?" Max said.

        "Yeah," Michael nodded.   "The communicators, the healing stones, the book, everything.   It's all gone."

        "And you didn't notice because?" Isabel asked.

        "I've been staying at Maria's for the past couple days," he explained.  "Her Mom's been out of town talking to investors about expanding the business.   I didn't notice anything until I went to take a shower and saw that the window screen was ripped clear off.  Then Maria came by with the paper and everything sort of added up.   I checked for the box and it was gone."

        "Dammit," Max said under his breath and turned to run a hand through his hair.

        "She cannot be that stupid," Isabel commented in disbelief, feeling almost nauseous.

        "It's not stupidity," Max said, shaking his head.   "She wants us to know it was her.   She wants us to go after her."

        "No," Isabel corrected.   "She wants me to go after her."

        "Not everything is about you, Isabel," Max stated firmly.

        "It is this time," she answered.   "With her, it always will be."

        "We are talking about Tess, right?" Michael interjected, shoving his hands in his pockets.

        Isabel and Max just stared at him.


        About an hour later Isabel, Michael, and Max found themselves at the pod chamber waiting for the rest of the group to arrive.   Max had decided to call an impromptu meeting just so that everyone knew what was going on.  Tess had tried to kill one of them once and there was nothing to say that she wouldn't try it again.

        Isabel was kicking at the dirt with an already scuffed boot and hugging herself to ward off the biting chill that only made itself known in Roswell after the sun had long ago gone down.  She and Max were still not looking at each other or speaking and she was a little more than on edge about seeing Liz for the first time since the incident after Maria's party.  It didn't help that Michael was being his normal stoic self, leaving the only thing settling in the air between them a deafening silence that was only rivaled by the heavy beating of Isabel's nervous heart.

        Max pushed off the jagged rock he had been leaning against as the Jetta's headlights flooded up over the small hill and sent all three aliens raising their hands to shield their eyes.   Isabel turned and ran a hand through her hair, taking a deep breath and holding it for a few seconds before letting it out.

        "I still don't understand why they have to get involved in this too," Isabel said, finally turning to Max, but avoiding his eyes. "We could have handled this ourselves, Max, and you know it."

        "None of us know what Tess is capable of," he answered in a tone that was bordering on gentle.  "If she's baiting us or you for some reason, they at least deserve to know what's going on so they can protect themselves," he added as the lights dimmed quickly and four bodies emerged from the car.

        "Fine, whatever," Isabel murmured, turning her back once again to try and catch her breath.

        Maria walked to Michael with slow and sleepy steps, rubbing tired eyes along the way.  Alex was still dressed in his pajamas with a sweatshirt thrown on for good measure.  He and Kyle were joking and laughing about something.  Kyle nudged Alex with an elbow that sent him tripping over a medium sized rock.   Liz caught him before he could knock her over and helped to steady him.  The smile she displayed was weak and when Isabel finally met her eyes, it was like all the oxygen in the world wasn't enough to sustain either of them.

        Isabel quickly looked away, moving to lean her back on the grill of the jeep.  She kept her arms crossed over her chest and her eyes glued to the ground, only looking up as she saw Max blur past her with long, quick strides.   He met Liz about halfway and reached forward to touch her arm as she gave him a crooked smile and struggled to blink back tears.   Her eyes shifted in Isabel's direction, testing fate, and slowly stepped away from Max casting him the briefest of warning glances.   He stepped back, completely confused, and wandered back to where he was standing near Michael.  Isabel gritted her teeth so hard she was sure at least two of her bottom fillings had popped out of place.

        "So, Max.  Not that I don't like these mysterious midnight rendezvous', but why are we here?" Kyle asked, once everyone had formed a warped, oblong circle and were standing around mostly in silence.

        "Tess is back."

        "What?" Maria interrupted, suddenly wide awake.   Her eyes immediately slid over to Liz and she moved in her best friend's direction.

        "And we need to figure out what we're going to do," Max was able to finish.

        "What do you mean, Tess is back?" Liz asked, feeling Maria's arm come around her in support.

        "Does this have something to do with the break-in at your apartment?" Maria asked Michael.

        "Someone broke into you apartment?" Alex asked.   "That sucks."

        "You mean Tess was in Roswell ?" Kyle asked, surprise and confusion clouding his handsome features.  

        Suddenly the silence that had been surrounding them for eternity had broken into a handful of different uttering conversations that were all growing loud and out of control.   Isabel felt her head start to pound.   Max caught her out of the corner of his eye, and as much as he was angry with her for not opening up to him he knew that he had to do something.

        "Quiet!" he yelled, stepping forward and putting a hand up.  "Everyone calm down so we can talk about this," he commanded and ran a hand through his hair once all the voices had stopped.

        "How is this possible, Max?" Liz asked, crossing her arms over her chest and standing almost defensively.   She was clearly aggravated and a little on edge.   She turned to Isabel and kept her gaze level.   "I thought you said she wasn't coming back," she said, voice threatening to falter.  "What does she want now?   To finish off what she started?"

        "Liz..." Isabel finally said, stepping towards the shorter girl and momentarily forgetting everything that was going on when she was confronted with the incredible fear in Liz's voice.

        "Don't," Liz warned, holding a hand out in protest.   Isabel stopped and took a deep, ragged breath.

        "We don't really know what her agenda is this time," Max said sadly. 

        "Well what do you know?" Maria accused in anger.

        "Hey, you think we like this?" Michael shot back at her.   "Having to watch our asses all the time and constantly save yours too?!"

        "Excuse me?" Maria said with narrow eyes.   "We didn't ask to be sucked into your little alien conspiracy, Michael."

        "Without our little alien conspiracy, she'd be dead right now," he almost yelled as he pointed in Liz's direction.

        "Hey," Alex and Kyle said at the same time, daring to step in between them.

        "With your psycho sister Tess on the loose, there's a good possibility that could still happen," Maria countered.   "The danger hasn't gone anywhere," she began advancing on him further but was stopped by Alex's arms coming around her and holding her back.

        "Maria, stop," he said firmly, glancing over his shoulder to see Michael turn and kick at the rock face in frustration.

        Liz turned a chalky shade of white as she felt her insides turning over on themselves.  Not only were things with Isabel completely messed up for some unexplained and mysterious reason, but now the person that had once attempted to kill her was back and obviously not shy about letting her presence be known.   She started to feel light headed, the fighting not helping her feel any better about the situation and reached a hand out.

        "Maria," she managed, but it seemed no one heard her.   "Maria," she repeated and felt distinct pain pounding at the back of her head. 

        Seconds later she felt strong arms go around her, holding her up.  She clutched at the crisp jacket, the distinct smell of leather penetrating her foggy mind and sliding into the realm of her memory to a place that she had almost given up on.   Isabel tightened her arms around the smaller girl and held her close.   It woke up a feeling inside of her that she had been trying to push down for days.  And it suddenly occurred to her that there were always two sides to every story...and then there was the truth.  Perhaps that was something she hadn't searched for hard enough.

        "Hey, are you okay?" Isabel said softly into the dark hair falling around her.  "What is it?"

        "Isn't it obvious what it is?" Maria said, before the questions could even sink into Liz's conscious mind.   "You're making her life hell.  So why don't you back off?!" she added, pushing Isabel away from Liz and gathering the girl in her own arms tightly.

        "Maria, it's okay," Liz protested, looking into her friend's startled eyes.

        "No, it's not okay," Maria insisted.   "This is not okay and they have to understand that," she said, turning her penetrating eyes to Isabel and causing her to take at least a few steps back.

        "Listen," Liz said, taking Maria's face between shaking hands and staring her in the eyes.  "We don't even really know what's going on yet.   Just calm down, okay?" she said in a soothing voice, pulling Maria into a quick but firm hug and turning back to the group, still leaning in Maria for some support.

        "So what's the whole story?" Liz directed at Max.

        "Someone broke into Michael's apartment and took the communicators and everything else we were storing there," Max explained.

        "And that's all they took?" Kyle asked.

        "That's why we're pretty sure that Tess is responsible," Max nodded.  "That and there was an incident in Arizona last night..."

        "What kind of incident?" Liz asked, feeling her balance return and shifting her weight to stand on her own.

        "Sounds like someone tried using the communicators again," Max said.

        "But what for?" Liz asked in confusion.   "You think she's trying to get home?"

        "No," Isabel answered, shaking her head.   "She needs the granolith for that.   And she's not stupid enough to try and come back to Roswell.  I made it very clear that wouldn't be good for her health."

        "Then what?"

        "She wants me to come after her for some reason," Isabel said.  "I just don't know why yet."

        "Yet?" Liz asked, incredulously.   "What, you're going to walk right into her trap?" she said stepping towards the taller girl, hands on her hips.

        "We don't know it's a trap," Isabel said weakly.

        "She tried to kill me."

        "I know that."

        "And now she's sending you guys clues to where she's hiding and you think what, she just wants to have dinner.   Talk about old times?" Liz said, raising her voice.   "You can't go there.  That's crazy.  You have no idea what's waiting for you in Arizona, Isabel.   It's not safe."

        "It's never safe," Isabel shouted back.   "And it never will be as long as she's out there.   And now she's got everything we've ever been able to find that's even remotely related to our planet.  Who knows what she plans to do with all that power."

        "And who knows what she plans to do to you once you run out there without even thinking first," Liz yelled in response.   "I know you feel responsible for everything that's been happening to us," she continued in a softer tone.   "But getting yourself killed is not going to fix any of it."

        "She won't kill me."

        "How do you know that?" Liz pleaded, taking Isabel's hand and feeling more than relieved when she didn't pull away.

        Isabel looked away and swallowed hard.

        "That's what I thought," Liz said, dropping Isabel's hand and walking a few steps back.

        "Liz is right," Max said, facing his sister.   "She must be betting on the fact that we'll run right out to find her.  There's got to be a reason and I think we've all learned that it can't be anything good."

        "Max, we have the opportunity now to put all this to rest," Isabel replied.  "We need to get the communicators and the healing stones back.   And we need to make sure that Tess never comes after us again."

        "We can't kill her, Isabel," Max explained.

        "I know that."

        "Why the fuck not?" Maria interjected.

        "So, what are you suggesting?" Max asked, trying to ignore her.

        "I don't know yet," Isabel answered, only half-truthfully.   There was a plan forming itself in the back of her head, but she was keeping it close for the moment.

        "I don't like it," Max said.   "I don't think we should do anything yet.   Michael?"

        "I agree with Isabel," he started, "that we need to get rid of her for good.  What's she's doing right now is dangerous.  She's gonna get us all caught if she's not careful.   Fucking Feds are probably tracking her already.   But I also think we need to think about this before we do something stupid."

        Suddenly six sets of eyes were glued to him.  

        "What?" he said, furrowing his brow.   "I know I've never been the think before I act guy, but I don't want anyone else to get hurt either," he added, turning his eyes to Maria.

        "But you're right, Michael," Isabel said.   "If she keeps making scenes to get our attention we're fucked.   Are we supposed to sit back and wait while she leads our enemies straight to us?"

        "Then she'd be signing her own death certificate, too," Max said.  "She knows we got the message.   I doubt she'll do anything else."

        "She's got nothing else to lose, Max," Isabel said.   "You really think she gives a shit what happens to anyone anymore?   She'll never live a normal life."

        "Especially with my Dad on her ass," Kyle interrupted.   "He said if she ever comes back here, she's going straight to jail."

        "We're not going out there," Max stated, firmly.


        "Isabel, no," he shouted.   "It's done.  We're not going to play right into her hands.  We wait."

        "For what, Max?!" Isabel shouted back.   "For Tess to come back and try to kill someone else?"

        "No one is going to die," he protested.   "I think Michael and I should go to Arizona this weekend and figure out what she's doing without letting her know we're there."

        "Like surveillance?" Kyle asked.

        "Yeah," Max nodded.  "Then we'll know exactly what we're dealing with."

        "We could probably steal the box back," Michael suggested.   "Make her come to us."

        "Oh, that's really safe," Maria stated, crossing her arms.

        "If she comes back to Roswell now, all bets are off," he answered.  "Before she touches anyone, she'll be missing both her arms.   I think we're all sick of fucking around."

        "No way, Max," Isabel said.   "You're not leaving me out of this.   Especially when I'm the reason she's doing this."

        "Which is exactly why you're not going," he explained.   "I'm not going to let you get hurt, Is."

        "Fine," she said, defeated and turned away.

        "Fine?" Max asked, surprised.

        "Yeah, fine," she repeated.   "There's no use in arguing with you, Max.   So I won't.  Can we just get out of here now?"

        "Uh, yeah.  You guys just keep your eyes open until we have a chance to sort this out," he said, turning to the non-aliens.  "Call us immediately if anything even looks suspicious."

        "Check," Kyle answered, nodding.   "Let's go.  It's way past my bedtime," he added and took off towards Maria's car, Alex following close behind.

        "Actually, Michael why don't you and Max ride with us," Maria suggested, pushing Liz in Isabel's direction.

        "Wha..." Michael began in confusion, but was interrupted by Maria's sharp boot colliding with his shin.

        "I want to yell at you some more, okay?" she said and widened her eyes at him as she grabbed his jacket sleeve.

        "I'll see you at home," Max said, tossing his keys to Isabel and placing a hand on Liz's shoulder as he passed by her.

        After the Jetta's taillights had faded away into the distance, Isabel and Liz just stood there in the middle of the desert trying to look anywhere but at each other.  The tension that hung between them was so thick they could barely manage to keep breathing.  Isabel closed her hand tightly around the cold metal key ring threaded around her middle finger and squeezed so hard she could feel the keys making an outline on the palm of her hand.

        "So, are you going to tell me what's going on or should we just go home and you can keep avoiding me?" Liz asked, only half-joking.  

        She chewed on her bottom lip as she dared to look at her estranged girlfriend.  Isabel closed her eyes tight almost wincing as she kept seeing the flashes over and over again.  She pushed her free palm against her forehead hard and shook them off.

        "Isabel..." Liz said, noticing her pain.

        "No," Isabel said, holding a hand up to keep her away.   "I know about you and Max," she stated, burning her gaze into Liz's.

        "What?" Liz asked, looking at Isabel sideways in confusion.   "What are you talking about?"

        "God, I am so sick of the two of you lying to my face," Isabel said sharply, gesturing wildly with her hands.   "I fucking saw it, Liz.  I saw you two together and it's all I can think about."

        "You couldn't have seen anything, Isabel," Liz demanded, voice just as loud.  "Because there was nothing to see.  There is nothing to see.  Max and I are just friends.  You know that."

        "Do I?" Isabel shot back.   "Do I really know anything about anything?" she continued, tears stinging her eyes.  "I mean you left him for me.  What's to say you're not going to change your mind and do the same thing to me?"

        "Do you really think I would do that to you?" Liz asked, feeling like she had just been kicked in the stomach.

        "I don't know," Isabel replied, shaking her head.   "Everything I've believed to be the truth for the past few months has turned out to be the complete opposite from what I thought it was."

        "What has that got to do with me?"

        "Nothing," Isabel said, exhaling hard.   "Everything.  Fuck.   I don't know," she added pacing back and forth and kicking at loose dirt.

        "Can you at least tell me what it is that you thought you saw?" Liz asked, gently.

        "Flashes.  In your room," Isabel stammered.

        "Maria's party," Liz replied, nodding in understanding.   "That's why you...and you saw Max and me?"

        "Kissing," she answered, turning away from Liz.   "Other stuff."

        "Oh God, Isabel," Liz whispered, reaching over to place both hands on Isabel's tense shoulders.  "I'm so sorry you saw that...but you have to know that none of it is true.   None of it has happened since I've been with you."

        "How do I know that?" Isabel asked, quietly and turned to face the shorter girl.  Tears were slowly trailing down both their cheeks now.   "The flashes are so real...a direct connection to what's trying to hide inside of us.  How can I just forget what I saw...what I felt?"

        "Because you trust me," Liz said simply, throat getting tighter every second.  "Because you know in here," she placed a hand up underneath Isabel's jacket to rest softly over the area of her rapidly beating heart, "that I would never do that to you.  Ever."

        "I want to believe you," Isabel choked out through rough tears, one hand curling over Liz's as it rested against her chest.   "But..." she said, shaking her head slightly.

        "But what?" Liz managed through dry lips.

        "It just felt so real," she replied.   "So right."

        Liz let her head fall forward onto Isabel's chest, gripping either side of her jacket collar so tightly she felt the leather crumpling in her fingers.  She felt Isabel's arms fold around her, grabbing at the material of Liz's sweater just as tightly.   Liz struggled to catch her breath, to stop the tears, somehow knowing that things were falling further apart and they were trying in vain to hold it all together.  She shook her head against Isabel's chest and pushed off of her quickly, turning her back in the process.

        "Please take me home," she whispered, wiping at her eyes with the back of her hands.

        "Sure," Isabel answered, passing by Liz to the jeep and wiping at her own eyes.

        They rode the whole way back to town in silence, the only sound passing between them was the wind that flew in and out of the jeep in an almost deliberate motion.  After what had just happened, Isabel knew what she was going to do.   And she knew this time with Liz could very well be their last.   That thought kept repeating in her mind as they pulled up outside the Crashdown and she killed the headlights.

        "I guess I'll see ya," Liz said quietly as she quickly slid out of the jeep and headed towards the door.

        "Liz, wait," Isabel panicked and hopped out of the jeep, quickly making her way to the other side.

        Liz stopped, but wouldn't look at her.   Isabel wasted no time sliding one hand over Liz's smooth cheek and digging her fingers into thick hair, forcing Liz to look at her with startled eyes.  In seconds, Liz found Isabel's lips on her own kissing her with a fever and desperation that she hadn't felt in what seemed like forever.  She kissed the tall girl back with just as much passion, upgrading the kiss to something that was threatening to devour them both.   Isabel kept her eyes shut tight as the flashes flooded her mind like somehow she wouldn't be able to see them.   But she did and part of her just didn't care anymore.   Liz slid her hands around Isabel's waist and pulled her closer until there wasn't enough room to slide a piece of paper in between them.   She felt Isabel's hands threading through her dark hair roughly, her teeth dragging over Liz's lips and tongue emphasizing just how intense the situation was starting to become.  And then there was nothing.  There was only the sound of Isabel's heavy boots clicking on the solid pavement and the screeching of wheels as she sped away.


        By the time Max got to school the next morning, he was out of breath.  Sweat glistened around the edge of his hairline and shone through in spots where his t-shirt was stuck to his back.  He broke through the double doors still trying to catch his breath and stumbled over to where Michael was leaning against the lockers waiting for Maria and Liz to grab their books.  Michael pushed off the locker behind him and caught Max as he almost fell forward in fatigue.

        "Shit, Max, what's up?" Michael asked, as he grabbed Max around the waist and pulled him upright.

        "Max.  What the Hell, man?" Kyle barely breathed, rushing into the building directly behind him and stopping at the lockers with his hands on his knees, desperately searching for breath.  "I've been calling after you since you passed me back near the Crashdown."

        "Wait a sec," Liz interrupted, shutting her locker and turning tired eyes towards the boys.  "You guys ran all the way here?  Why?"

        "That's what I was just about to tell you," Max managed to get out, still taking deep and ragged breaths.   "Isabel is gone."

        "What?  When?"

        "I don't know," he answered.   "I must have fallen asleep waiting for her to come home last night.   I figured after a couple of hours, she was probably staying at your place," he directed at Liz.

        "She didn't," Liz said softly, shaking her head and averting her eyes.

        "I went outside to start the jeep and it wasn't there," Max explained, now standing on his own and wiping the sweat from his brow.   "So I checked her room and her books were still lying there exactly where they were last night before we left."

        "Well, now we know why she didn't argue with you," Michael stated.

        "She had it planned all along," Liz surmised.   "That's why...dammit, I should have known."

        "We all should have," Max said, shaking his head.

        "So, she's going after Tess?" Kyle said, more of a statement than a question.

        "What do you think?" Michael said in frustration.

        "I think she's probably in more trouble than you think," Kyle shot back at him as he slid a backpack off his shoulders.

        "What are you talking about?" Max asked.

        "I think you might want this back," he answered, handing his backpack over to Max and earning a look of confusion.   "Don't open it here," he said quickly, holding out a hand to stop Max from looking inside.

        "What's going on Kyle?"

        "Tess didn't break into Michael's apartment," he explained.   "It was my Dad."

        "What?" Michael said in disbelief.

        "He got a tip from one of his friends in the Bureau that your apartment was destination numero uno for a new unit that specializes in 'strange phenomena'," Kyle said.  "He didn't want to freak you guys out so he just slipped in and grabbed the box.  He figured he'd have a couple days to figure out what the Feds had planned before you'd notice anything was missing."

        "What about the light show?" Michael asked.

        "Two kids were shooting off illegal fireworks in the desert," Kyle answered.

        "So how is she in danger if Tess isn't behind any of this?" Max asked.  " Tess won't even be in Arizona when Isabel gets there."


        "Actually what, Kyle?" Liz asked, her heart beginning to race.

        "My Dad hired a Private Investigator the day after Tess left town to try and find her."

        "Is he fucking nuts?" Michael said, a little too loudly.   He looked around and lowered his voice.   "If she finds out she's being tailed, that guy's good as dead."

        "Well, she didn't find out," Kyle explained.   "And he found her."


        "It's just way too coincidental, but," he said, running a hand through his hair.  "She's been staying at a dingy motel about twenty miles away from the where the fireworks were let off.  She is in Arizona."

        "Has she been in Roswell since the day she left?" Liz asked, the truth finally starting to sink in.

        "Actually, yeah," Kyle answered.   "Guy said he thought he saw her in town the night of Maria's party."

        "Dammit," Liz said under her breath and brought a hand up to her head.

        "What is it?" Max asked immediately.

        "Did she tell you why she's been avoiding me?"

        "No, she wouldn't tell me anything.   She kept telling me I knew what was going on."

        "After Maria's party, we were upstairs.   We were uh..." Liz started, running a nervous hand through her hair.   "She said she saw flashes of you and me together," she said, holding Max's startled eyes.

        "That's impossible," he stated.

        "I know.  I told her that, but she didn't believe me," Liz explained.   "If Tess was in Roswell..."

        "She probably did her whole mindwarp thing," Kyle said nodding.

        "And now Isabel is doing exactly what Tess wants," Liz said, feeling her breath catch in her throat.   "Why is Tess doing this, Max?"

        "It's just a game to her now," he answered.   "She probably feels like you took everything away from her so now she's trying to get some of it back."

        "You think all she wants is to get Isabel back?" Liz asked.  "I don't think so.   What's the one thing Tess wants more than anything else?"

        "To go home," Max answered.   "And maybe if she can pull Isabel over to her side, alienate her from the rest of us, she thinks she'll have a better chance."

        "Or she just wants to kill her," Kyle interrupted, shrugging.   "What?" he asked, after everyone shot him the death glare, especially Maria.  "She's got nothing left to lose now.  If she thinks she's never going home, why not take down everyone and everything that stood in her way?   And why not start with the person that was closest to her heart."

        "He's right," Liz said quietly.   "It doesn't matter why Tess wants Isabel to come after her.   It only matters that she is."

        "And that we have to get to her before anything happens," Max interjected, tossing the backpack to Kyle and walking towards the exit.   "Give this back to your Dad.  Tell him to get that PI away from Tess and make sure no one knows where we're going...including your Dad.  I don't want anyone following him.  Where's Alex?"

        "Band practice, I think," Maria answered.

        "You guys grab him, go to the Crashdown, and wait for us to call," Max instructed.  "Michael and I are going after Isabel."

        "No way, Max," Liz said, grabbing his arm and forcing him to stop.  "I'm not going to stay here and wait around for you to call and tell me Isabel is hurt...or dead.   I'm going with you."

        "So am I," Maria added, staring at Michael with a face that could only be read as 'don't fuck with me'.  

        "Fine," Max said in defeat.   "You can drive," he said to Maria.   "When we get there you're staying in the car," he stated firmly, glancing at Liz with a softness in his eyes that threatened to break her heart.

        "We have to find her, Max," she said quietly.   "I...I..."

        "I know," he answered.   "Let's go," he said, putting an arm around her shoulders and directing them into the parking lot.

        "I'll just stay here," Kyle said, shifting on his backpack and watching the car speed away.


        Arizona was hot.  It wasn't as hot as Roswell, but it was only off by a few degrees.   When Isabel reached the town of Cave Creek, about thirty miles north of Tempe , the sun had already fallen and night covered the sky like a blanket around her.  She followed the directions in the paper to the place where the lights were seen and found herself in the middle of an open expanse of desert.   Then she meticulously drove by every motel and hotel in the surrounding twenty or thirty miles until she spotted Tess' white 4Runner sticking out like a sore thumb amongst old, broken down Oldsmobiles and Chevrolets.   Killing the lights, Isabel pulled the jeep into the spot directly next to the Toyota.   Luckily there was only one motel room on the far side of the establishment and Tess had parked her car directly in front of the door.   It was a little too convenient, but Isabel figured Tess wanted to be found anyway.

        Isabel cut the engine and climbed out of the jeep, making her way quickly to the door of room eight.   Trying the handle, she noticed it was locked.   But in seconds after her hand closed around the knob it emitted a small glow and the sound of a lock popping was faint but there nonetheless.   Isabel glanced around to make sure no one was watching her before quickly swinging the door open, arm raised outstretched in front of her.

        The room that welcomed her was dark and seemingly empty.   Isabel shut the door behind her as she walked in further and noticed a bag full of clothes open sitting on the floor near the full sized bed.   Once glance at the red, lace bra hanging out the side told Isabel that she was in the right place...she was flooded with the memory of removing it from Tess' body using nothing but her teeth.  

        Stepping in further towards the middle of the room, Isabel heard the faint whirring sound of the air conditioner and the distinct sound of a shower turning off.  She finally saw the light coming from under what appeared to be the bathroom door.  There was a shuffling behind the door, the sound of wet feet slapping on linoleum, and the flooding of light as the door opened slowly.  Isabel raised a hand once again as Tess stepped out of the bathroom, a scarce white towel wrapped around her torso, another being used to dry the springy blonde curls on her head.  Her eyes went wide for a split second when she saw Isabel standing before her, but quickly shifted back to normal as a smile played on her lips.

        "Isabel," she said with a distinct glow in her eyes.   "How nice of you to drop by."

        "You called," Isabel answered, tilting her head to the side, watching the water droplets slide down Tess' neck and down underneath the top of the towel.  A heat began growing in her chest and it was something that Isabel wasn't expecting...but also wasn't trying to suppress.

        "Did I?" Tess asked, pulling on the ends of her hair one last time before tossing the towel on the floor near the door.   "You can put your arm down, Is.  I'm not going to hurt you."

        "I thought I told you to stay away from us," Isabel said icily, dropping her arm and advancing on the shorter girl stopping just short of colliding with her half naked body.

        "I don't take orders too well," Tess answered, holding Isabel's eyes and smiling seductively.

        "Maybe you should start," Isabel countered, grabbing Tess by the upper arms and pinning her against the wall just next to the door.

        "Careful, Izzy," Tess warned, letting her bottom lips roll between her tongue and teeth.  "This towel isn't quite fastened securely."

        Isabel responded by grabbing at the white cotton material with one hand and pulling it off the blonde's body in one swift motion, tossing it to the floor next to the bed.  Tess shuddered, feeling the cool air flooding the room around her naked body and the heat of Isabel's body pressed so close to her own.   With one arm now free, Tess reached up and curled one hand behind Isabel's neck.  The taller girl tried to pull away, but Tess held on tighter and forced her to stay still.

        "You're playing with fire," Isabel hissed, her face only inches from Tess'.

        "You're the one who came to me," was her response.

        "Only after you sent your message," Isabel answered, leaning forward still, feeling fire rushing throughout her whole body.

        "It did take you a little longer to figure out than I'd hoped," Tess replied, pulling Isabel towards her even more.   "Still, no use fretting over lost time.   You're here now..."

        Tess rose to her tiptoes and pulled Isabel's all too willing mouth down to her own, closing her eyes along the way.   Tess could feel Isabel's breath closing around her own, when she suddenly hesitated but didn't move away.

        "I don't love you," Isabel breathed, lips hovering above the blonde's.

        "I don't care," Tess answered, before closing the remaining space between them and sliding her tongue past Isabel's lips with ease.

        Their kissing immediately became fierce and primal, teeth banging and biting at lips with instinctual roughness.   Isabel's hand slid down quickly, grabbing at the flesh at Tess' hips leaving light welts...nails dragging over porcelain skin to leave rosy pink scrapes in their wake.  Isabel kissed Tess harder, pressing her body firmly against the shorter girl's, feeling taught nipples gliding against the thin material of her shirt as Tess squirmed underneath her hands.  She had Tess' bottom lip captured roughly between her teeth when the flashes all but knocked her over.  They were familiar and painful...Max and Liz in an intimate situation.   With her head pounding in confusion and desperation, Isabel lifted Tess up underneath both thighs and turned to drop them both down on the bed, never breaking contact.

        "Where's the box?" Isabel whispered, close to Tess' ear as she moved her kisses over warm skin at the side of her neck, and slid one hand down to rest just above her bellybutton.

        "What box?" Tess breathed, arching her body upward further into Isabel's.

        "The healing stones," she answered, dragging her teeth over Tess' earlobe.  "The communicators.  You know."

        "Someone's got the box?" Tess asked , becoming alert, trying to push down the tingly feeling she had when she thought about where Isabel's hands were headed.

        "You can stop pretending, Tess," Isabel said, drawing back to look down on her.  "I know you were in Roswell."

        "I was in Roswell, but I didn't steal the box Isabel," Tess said firmly.

        "Yes you did," Isabel insisted, passion and anger mixing in her blood.

        "No," Tess shook her head, and pulled Isabel back down to her, seizing her lips firmly, sliding her hands up over broad shoulders.

        Isabel pulled back almost immediately, staring her shocked eyes down into even more surprised ones.  She took Tess' arms from around her neck and pinned them down to the mattress, fingers closed tightly around small wrists.   Isabel shook her head and gritted her teeth as the rage filtered through her.

        "You gave me the flashes of Max and Liz," she finally realized.  "You fucking bitch.   Why would you do that?  You keep insisting that you love the fuck could you do that?"

        "I'm tired of waiting around for you to realize that she's doing nothing but holding you all back," Tess hissed, struggling against Isabel's restraints.  "You have no idea how great it was back on our planet.  You have no idea how much I loved you because you don't remember.   Well I do," she spat.  "There's obviously nothing left for me here, Isabel.   I've played all my cards.  I can't even trick you into coming back to me."

        "You can't keep fucking with our lives just because you fucked up your own," Isabel answered, letting up on her restraint slightly.

        "I know," Tess said quietly, feeling Isabel let go of her wrists.

        It happened so fast, Isabel didn't even have time to react.  Tess had pushed against her shoulders and reversed their positions so Isabel was struggling underneath her.  As small hands closed around her throat, Isabel reached up to try and hold Tess off but it was no use.   The girl was small, but had fine tuned her power until it was stronger than either of them had ever imagined possible.

        "You don't want me," Tess almost screamed.   "You don't want to help me get out of this Godforsaken place.   Fine.  I'll kill all of you.  Nothing matters anymore," she said and gripped Isabel's neck tighter, squeezing her thighs against the taller girl's waist for better leverage.

        Isabel felt the world starting to blur around the edges and in one last effort threw her right hand up against Tess' upper chest area.  She felt a surge of power shoot through her arm, starting above the elbow and flowing down fast through her forearm.  Before either of them knew what had happened, Tess was thrown clear across the room.   She banged her head against the far wall and slumped to the floor next to the tv, unconscious.   Isabel's hand flew up to her neck as she sat up struggling for air.   She had just gotten to her feet when the door flew open and Max and Michael entered the room.

        "What happened?" Max asked, noticing Tess on the floor naked.

        "She didn't take the box," Isabel managed, still rubbing her neck.  "She tried to kill me."

        "We know," Max answered, moving over to Tess and checking her pulse.  "She's out cold."

        "What are we gonna do?" Michael asked, helping Max move Tess to the bed.

        "Let's get her dressed," Isabel said, running a hand through her hair.  "I have an idea.   She wants to go home so bad, I say we help her."


        "Just do it, Max," she said swiftly.   "I'll explain on the way back to Roswell .  We better tie her up in case she wakes up," she added, grabbing the bag of clothes and handing it to Max.

        Isabel turned towards the door, which was still open, and the air escaped her body.  Liz was standing in the open doorway, eyes wide and brimming with tears, one hand stuck into her jeans pocket so hard it was threatening to pop right through the material.  Her eyes shot from Tess' naked body to Isabel's tousled appearance and she turned quickly and ran out of the room.

        "Liz, wait," Isabel called after her as she followed the dark haired girl out of the room and into the small parking lot.   "Wait," she pleaded, grabbing Liz's arm and forcing her to turn around.  "It's not what you think."

        "So Tess isn't naked in there?" Liz raised her voice and pointed towards the motel room.

        "She was in the shower," Isabel tried to explain.   "And I was trying to...she didn't...she was the one who gave me the flashes."

        "I know," Liz said.  "Too bad you couldn't trust me," she added sadly, a stray tear falling down her cheek that she wiped away immediately.

        "Liz, I'm so sorry," Isabel pleaded, not daring to touch her girlfriend.  "You were right.   She was just baiting me.  It was a trap.  She was trying to kill me."

        "Was that before or after you shoved your tongue down her throat?" Liz asked, tilting her head sideways and fixing her eyes on Isabel's swollen lips.

        "It wasn't like that..."

        "So you didn't kiss her?" Liz asked, incredulously.   "You didn't touch her at all?"

        "Liz, I didn't know what was going on..."

        "Forget it," Liz said, holding up a hand to get Isabel to stop.  She turned and then turned back again.  "No, you know what?   You may not have trusted me, but I did trust you.  I love you, Isabel.   How could you do this?"

        "I thought..."

        "You thought I was fucking Max so you'd just turn around and get me back for it?" Liz interrupted her again, voice so loud Maria finally stepped out of her car.

        "Liz," she said.

        "Stay out of this, Maria," Liz commanded, holding a hand up to keep her back.

        "I fucked up," Isabel said quietly, tears struggling to escape.  "I know."

        "So, what do you want from me, Isabel?   You want me to forgive you?" Liz asked pointedly.   "Since I've been involved with you, I've been shot at, tracked by the government, and almost killed in a car crash caused by your ex-girlfriend.   So what do you want me to forgive you for first?!?"

        Liz stood, piercing her eyes into Isabel's and feeling as much sadness as anger.  It would have just been easier to forget it all happened and push it out of her mind than stand there and berate and attack the person she loved so much, but in the deep recesses of her mind Liz knew that wouldn't help their deny everything that had happened.  Isabel opened her mouth to speak, but closed it again and averted her eyes.   She was about to try and speak again when commotion behind her made her stop.  Michael and Max were carrying Tess out of the room.

        "What the Hell happened to her?" Maria asked.

        "We need to get her out of here," Max said, as they moved towards the cars.  Noticing the tension and tears between Liz and Isabel he said, "Liz go with Maria.  Isabel, you drive the jeep.  Michael and I will sit in the back with her in case she wakes up."

        "What about Tess' car?" Maria asked.   "Won't they be able to track her from it once they realize it's abandoned?"

        Isabel walked towards the 4Runner and with one swipe of her hand changed both license plates and turned the SUV a deep midnight blue color.

        "Not anymore," she stated, simply.

        "Where are we going?" Maria asked, as they all began piling into their cars. 

        "Isabel?" Max asked, turning questioning eyes towards her. 

        "Pod chamber," she answered, daring to look at Liz and catch her weary and disappointed eyes.  "We're going to the granolith."


        Luckily Tess was still unconscious up until they were about twenty minutes away from the pod chamber.   One good right elbow to the head from Michael sent her back under before she could even figure out what was going on.   The thirteen hour ride was characterized largely by silence and the occasional wiping of tears by the girl behind the wheel.   Maria's headlights were still fixed on the rear of the jeep as they rounded the final corner into the vast desert.

        "Listen Max, I owe you an apology," Isabel said, glancing in the rearview mirror to catch his eyes.

        "It's okay," he answered, quickly.   "I know better than anyone what Tess' mindwarp can do to you.   But you know I would never do that to you, Isabel."

        "Why not?" she asked lightly.   "I did it to you."

        "We've been through this, Is ," he replied, shaking his head.  "Let's just leave it where it stands.  I respect what you and Liz have too much to ever get in the way of it."

        "So what exactly are we going to do with her?" Michael asked, motioning to the girl who was passed out on his shoulder.

        "Send her home," Isabel replied.

        "But how?   We don't even know how to use the granolith," Michael pointed out.

        "I'm pretty sure that once Tess is inside, she can tell us what to do," Isabel answered.

        "Then why hasn't she left before?"

        "Because she needs us there for some reason," Isabel said as she pulled up the dirt embankment and parked near the rock face.   "Maybe we all need to be there to activate it."

        Once Maria and Liz had exited the car and met up with the destined four, a blinding flash of light came up the hill and headed towards them.  They shielded their eyes and stood frozen, not knowing what to expect.   Killing the lights, Kyle and Alex emerged from the large truck and jogged over to meet them.

        "What are you guys doing here?" Max asked.

        "We called them," Maria answered.

        "Why?" Michael asked.

        "Because we're all involved in this," Liz said.   "It's all our decision what happens now."

        "You're wrong," Isabel stated.   "It's not your decision."

        "She tried to kill me," Liz said, stepping forward.   "She tried to kill you.  And now you're just going to send her away so she never has to pay for what she's done."

        "We have no idea what it's like back where we're from," Isabel explained.  "As far as we know she'll be in a worse position where we're sending her.   Besides, what other options do we have?"

        "Jail, maybe," Maria answered first, hands on her hips.

        "As long as she stays here, no one will ever be safe," Isabel said, shaking her head.  "You think there's any prison on this planet that will be able to hold her?"

        "Isabel's right," Max deduced.   "This is the only choice we have left.   We need to make sure she never comes back."

        He turned and with a swipe of his hand revealed the glowing handprint next to the pod chamber door.   Placing his own hand on top of it for a split second, Max triggered the door and watched as the small square of rock slid open.   He was hauling Tess inside and had placed her on the floor when Michael's hand on his shoulder stopped him.

        "Maxwell, what if this is our one and only chance to use the granolith," he suggested.  "Like afterwards it blows up or disintegrates or something.   What if we don't go now...we miss our chance forever?"

        "We'll figure out another way," Isabel said quickly, turning to look at him.

        "Isabel, think about what you're saying," Max answered.   "What if Michael's right?"

        "There's only one thing I need to think about," she replied, turning her eyes to Liz and keeping them there unwavering.   "Let's do this."

        "Isabel," Liz said, voice uneven reaching out to take her hand.

        "I promised to keep you safe, to fix my mistakes," Isabel answered, half smiling.  "This is something I have to do."

        "So what if you go in there and start this thing and can't get back out?" Maria said quickly, stepping forward.  "You have no idea how this works."

        "It's something we have to do," Michael replied, stepping away from her and towards the opening.  "To finish this once and for all," he added, turning to look at her once more before disappearing into the rock face.

        "Michael, no," Maria yelled and raced forward only to have Alex grab her from behind and keep her back.

        Max turned to Liz with the slightest hint of tears in his eyes and smiled, shrugging.   He had both hands on the opening when Kyle's strong hands forced him back around and rough lips were thrust upon his own.   Kyle stepped back, smiling nervously and shoving his hands in his pockets.  Max stood still, surprise evident in his face.

        "I didn't want you to leave without ever having done that," Kyle explained, rocking back on his heels and noticing everyone looking at him.

        Max smiled and laughed nervously, nodding and turned back to the opening.  He jumped through the hole and helped Michael get Tess to her feet.

        "Isabel," he said, sticking his head out for a second.   Isabel took a step back, Liz still gripping her hand tightly.

        "Isabel," she whispered, stepping forward every time Isabel stepped back.

        "I have to," Isabel said and stopped retreating.

        Liz moved forward quickly, throwing her arms tightly around Isabel's waist.  Isabel closed her arms around Liz's shoulders firmly and buried her face in the crook of the smaller girl's neck.  Liz found it hard to breathe, her own heart keeping time with the rapid beating of the one she had her ear pressed against.  Isabel pulled back, taking Liz's face between her trembling hands and kissed her gently and desperately at the same time.

        "Isabel, I..." Liz breathed against her lips, in between kisses.  Isabel shook her head and kissed her again.

        "Tell me when I come back," she said, before kissing Liz once more and breaking away and into the pod chamber without looking back.

        Liz welcomed the arm Kyle slid over her shoulders and leaned into him as the door slid closed again.   Maria slumped against Alex, covering her face with her hands as she sobbed.  They stood there frozen until what seemed like a lifetime later, the rocks began to rumble sending debris trickling down the sides of the exterior.   Minutes later there was an explosion and the shooting of what looked like a meteor out of the far side of the chamber.   Kyle flung himself over Liz as they hit the ground and Alex did the same for Maria.  When the rumbling stopped, they all sat back and looked at the remnants of the chamber with complete and utter disbelief.


        Liz sat at the counter of the Crashdown drumming her pen on the table absentmindedly and sighed heavily.  She had been trying to do her chemistry homework since the doors had closed an hour earlier, but it was a worthless effort.   Her mind was somewhere else.   She took a slug of her chocolate shake and tried to focus on the words on the paper, but ended up drawing abstract swirly pictures instead.   A clanging in the back room caught her attention just as two bodies emerged laughing and fumbling over themselves.

        "Hey we'll see you tomorrow, babe," Maria said flushed, kissing Liz on the cheek quickly before passing by her.

        "Yeah, Junkyard Wars starts in like ten minutes," Michael added, grabbing his girlfriend's hand on the way out.   "Max and Kyle said they'd bring pizza."

        "Interesting," Liz commented with a small smile.

        "Yeah, that's what I said," Michael replied, raising his eyebrows.  "See ya."

        "Bye, guys," Liz said and almost turned back to her book until she saw Isabel pass the two on their way out.

        Isabel smiled and said something that made both Maria and Michael laugh before she entered the Crashdown carrying a rather large bouquet of daisies and tulips.  She wandered up to the counter with a nervous step and handed the flowers over to Liz offering her a small smile.

        "That's the third time this week," Liz said, accepting the flowers and smelling them before placing them on the counter.   "You can stop anytime now, Isabel," she added with a smile.

        "No, I can't," Isabel answered with uncharacteristic shyness.

        "Yes, you can," Liz said firmly, reaching out both hands to pull Isabel close to her.  "I overreacted.   You did some things, that while I don't like, I do understand.   And now you're trying to overcompensate.   When everything else falls away, the one thing that always remains is how much I love you.  And for now, that's all that matters."

        "And when something else happens to threaten we have?"

        "We'll deal with that when it comes," Liz replied, simply.   "And we'll do it together."

        "I should never have even gone her," Isabel breathed out slowly.  "Let alone ki..."

        She was silenced by Liz's familiar lips on her own in a warm exchange of love and forgiveness and the possibility that everything would one day be okay.  Isabel kissed her back tenderly, threading one hand through thick hair and the curling the other around Liz's waist.  They stopped only when they were both searching for air.

        "How about we don't mention her name or what you were doing with her ever again," Liz suggested, staring into Isabel's dark eyes and smiling.

        "Good idea," Isabel agreed and laughed faintly.   "Chemistry?" she asked, glancing at the counter and the books lying there.

        "Yeah," Liz replied, scrunching her nose.   "I just can't seem to concentrate."

        "I know a thing or two about chemistry," Isabel commented and raised an eyebrow.

        "I bet you do," Liz played back, grabbing at the front of Isabel's sweater with both hands.

        "Wanna go for a ride?" Isabel asked, grabbing Liz's hand and stepping away from the counter.

        "You read my mind," Liz said with a sweet smile as she hopped off the counter and followed behind her girlfriend.

        "Don't you need a jacket?" Isabel asked, turning around but not letting go of Liz's hand.  "It's kinda chilly out tonight."

        "That's what I have you for," Liz answered and leaned forward for a quick kiss.  "So where are we going?"

        "Wherever we want."



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