|Primary Characters:||Max, Kyle, Sean|
|Description:||Sean thinks there’s something odd about Max and Michael. When he ends up in trouble after going out with his old friends, he finds out what it is. He also finds a group of new friends.|
Sean was waiting for Liz’ shift to end. He knew that she was already going out with either Max or Kyle. At times, it wasn’t completely clear which guy she was into, but whoever it was, Sean knew she didn’t have the feelings for him he wished she did.
Still, tonight, he was hoping he might just have a chat with her. He didn’t have much hope he could change her mind, but in the past couple of weeks, he’d missed her. So he kept out of sight, while the other guests paid their bills, picked up their stuff and left.
Maria had some evening class, something Sean found hard to believe and for some reason, Kyle was absent as well. That left just him and Liz for once. No sign of Max, Michael or Isabel, and since Isabel wasn’t around, neither would Alex be. This was the first time in ages an opportunity like this came around. It would be a shame to miss it. Now that Liz had locked the front door, it was time he offered to help her finish up for the night.
He was about to get up, when he heard the back door open and slam shut again. With a sigh, Sean realized that whoever it was, this most likely ruined his chance for tonight. Running steps announced whoever was entering. Not one person. Two. And one of them was in pain, at least judging by the sounds he was making.
Liz dropped everything and came running to see who it was. Like this, with color on her cheeks, she was really pretty. Prettier than any girl Sean knew. Why didn’t she return his feelings? If only he’d met her before Max Evans.
He couldn’t see the newcomers, but he heard Liz draw in breath as if in shock. Bad news. Maybe he ought to step forward and offer his assistance – No one heard him, so he remained standing, still out of sight, but now he could watch the scene playing itself out in the changing room out back.
“It’s Michael. I think he’s broken his arm.”
“It’s nothing. Leave me alone. It’s probably just a sprain or something.”
“We were just closing up at the UFO center and one of the book shelves fell on him.”
“Don’t make a fuss. I’ll be fine.”
But Michael didn’t look fine, and Sean was wondering why Max didn’t simply call for an ambulance. The way that arm was looking, even Sean, who was far from an expert, guessed that it really was broken. Even if the position of the arm didn’t give the condition away, Michael’s face did. He was unnaturally pale and his eyes – if Sean didn’t know any better, he’d say that Michael was drugged. He’d seen that look before, and that guy really had broken something.
Max eased Michael down on a chair, then bent over the arm to examine it. Or at least Sean thought so.
“Hang on. I’ll just -“
Was it Sean’s imagination, or did Max’ hand suddenly begin to glow? No way. But it was odd the way Max merely held his hand over Michael’s arm, as if – As if he was one of those faith healers Sean had seen once on tv. That had to be a sham of some kind. Both so called healer and the person with the ailment being in league. But this? Was Max crazy or something? For that matter, was Michael?
After a while, Max appeared satisfied and pulled back a little. Sean could hardly believe his own eyes, but Michael really did look a lot better already. Not so pale, and the eyes were back to normal. So he couldn’t have had a fracture, or the pain wouldn’t have gone away just like that. Very odd, though.
Knowing he couldn’t leave the Crashdown, without being seen, Sean decided to reveal his presence.
It was funny, but all three people, including Liz, looked like he’d just caught them out somehow. They looked guilty, or at least really odd.
“Yes. I was just leaving. Thought I’d give Liz a hand closing up. But since she’s got company already, I might as well get going. Sorry to hear about your accident, Guerin.”
“Oh? Well, I told you it was nothing. Max was just making a fuss. He was the one who dropped the bookshelf on top of me, so I guess he was feeling a little guilty. Right?”
Again, Sean got the impression that Michael was trying to tell Max something with that last word, because he sounded really insistent. As if he was trying to make Max back him up. It really did seem as if Michael was lying. And probably Max too. That left the question why Liz didn’t seem to find the scene at all odd. Did she know something Sean didn’t? Also the two guys didn’t seem to object to her presence, so apparently as far as they were concerned, it was ok for her to be watching, but not Sean.
And Max’ reaction only seemed to confirm Sean’s suspicions.
“Yes. That’s true. I’m really sorry about that. Clumsy of me.”
Max was stumbling across the words, as if he couldn’t get them out fast enough.
“Oh, well. No harm done as you can see. It just hurts a little now, but it will be ok. Maria can take a look at it tonight, but I’m sure it will be fine. So, Max, would you drop me off at home? Maria’s got the jeep tonight so -“
“Sure. No problem. Liz?”
“I have to close up here. Sean can help me, if he likes.”
“Ok. Bye. I’ll call you tomorrow.”
Max and Michael nodded to Sean as they were leaving, but Sean still felt they were staring at him in a kind of weird way. Of course it had to be just his imagination, but something about tonight’s incident didn’t seem quite right. He wondered if he might ask Liz about it, but decided against it. If something was up, and she was right in the middle of it, whatever ‘it’ could be, then there would be no point asking.
“What would you like me to do? Those chairs?”
“That would be great. Thanks. I’ll just wipe off the counter, and then we can turn out the lights and go. I didn’t realize you were still here. Sorry.”
“That’s ok. I was just waiting for everyone to leave.”
Liz looked at him in a way that almost made Sean blush.
“Oh? Was there anything you wanted to -“
“Nothing special. I just thought we could talk. If you’re not too tired -“
“No, that’s ok. We’ll just finish up here then we can -“
She nodded at the changing room out back and for a second, Sean had a vision of her in her underwear, pressed up against one of the lockers and –
He’d better get on with it, or she’d start to wonder. It was obvious that Liz had done this before, so many times that she was hardly thinking as she wiped off the counter and the tables, before putting away the cloth and whatever else she had behind the counter.
She turned out the lights as they moved on to the changing room. No matter how much he would have loved to stay and watch her change out of that waitress outfit, he knew he couldn’t do that, so he walked on ahead, leaving her some privacy.
“Alright. I’m done. We could sit here on the stairs if you like.”
“Yeah, that’s fine.”
Now that he finally had Liz where he wanted her, at least close and face to face, he didn’t know what to say. In his daydreams, he always skipped the talking and went straight to the action.
“So, how have you been, Sean? I guess we haven’t talked for quite a while.”
“No. I guess not. I’m doing ok. You seem to be doing great.”
“Yes, I’m fine.”
That seemed to be about it. This had been a mistake. Max wasn’t involved with Tess anymore, and Liz simply wasn’t interested in anyone but Max. Or maybe Kyle.
“Listen, it’s getting late. I think I’ll get going. Nice to see you again.”
“Yes. Nice to see you too, Sean.”
She appeared to be as awkward as he was. This was nothing new. He ought to have realized it a long time ago.
As he made his way back home, Sean had never felt this lonely. In the past, he’d always felt that he didn’t need anyone else. If you were strong enough, you didn’t need anyone. Only now, he realized that maybe he’d been wrong. He caught himself thinking that right now, he’d even settle for a friend.
Sean knew that it wasn’t a good idea, right from the start, but when he ran into Cal and Vince, he just didn’t care about the terms of his parole. Who would know? He’d just have a few beers with his old pals, and talk about old times. What was the harm in that? It wasn’t as if he’d be breaking into any businesses or homes tonight.
But the few beers turned into many, and Sean was beginning to realize that while he might have changed his ways, the guys hadn’t.
“This gas station out on the desert road – I happen to know the owner doesn’t have much of an alarm system. And out there, who’s going to notice until we’re miles away?”
“Yeah. But I was thinking about this house over on -“
“Hey, guys, I hope you’re not talking about breaking into any more houses.”
“So what if we are? You won’t mind, will you? We’ll split the take.”
“No. I’m not into that stuff anymore.”
Vince laughed as if he thought Sean was just joking. Why had he never noticed how dumb Vince was? A real moron. What was so funny about straightening out your act and trying to get a real job? If he got busted again, he’d be sent to a real prison, with real inmates, and though Sean had never told anyone, that scared him.
“Yeah, right. Anyway, this house – there’s this old weird guy living there. Like really old. And he’s totally deaf. I mean, that’s foolproof. You break into his place, take what he’s got, and then by the time he notices, we’ll be far gone. But here’s the real beauty of it, no one will believe him. ‘Cuz he’s like totally weird. Certifiable. Or senile or something.”
“Sounds good. How about it Sean?”
“No. I told you. I’m not interested.”
Cal was looking at him as if he’d just announced to his old pals that he was gay. Then that stunned look was replaced by one that told Sean that Cal was pissed off.
“Fine. Never mind. Let’s go.”
“Where are we going?”
“We aren’t going anywhere, but Vince and I thought we might go over to that biker’s place outside of town.”
That wasn’t a good idea either, and Sean was tempted to let his old friends go on without him. But somehow, that look on Cal’s face stung. He wasn’t a wimp. He could handle a few bikers. And why stick around, when he knew there was no point in going over to the Crashdown to stare at Liz, hoping, dreaming –
“Sounds good. I’ll go with you.”
Cal didn’t look as if he was impressed with Sean’s change of heart, but after a while, he shrugged as it didn’t have anything to do with him, whether his old friend wanted to tag along or not.
So they got into Vince’s beat up old pickup and drove off. Sean had a feeling the sheriff would love to shut that biker’s hangout down, though as far as serious crime, there wasn’t much that could be proven. A couple of fights and rumors of bootleg liquor from the old Eastern block, that was about it.
Still, there was no law against hanging out there, so Sean would go. It wasn’t as if he had anything better to do.
But they didn’t even get to the bar. It seemed Cal had other plans. Later, it occurred to Sean that they had lied to him all along. Maybe they didn’t feel they could trust him anymore. Either way, they stopped outside the gas station out on the main road out of Roswell.
“Why are we stopping here?”
“Just you wait and you’ll find out.”
“You’re not going to rob the place?”
“As if we’d tell you if we were. If you just shut up and wait you’ll find out. We’ll let you in on a little action, if you’re not too chicken these days.”
Less than three minutes later, another truck arrived, and a group of people spilled out outside the gas station, which was closed down at this time of night. Sean recognized the others. Whatever was going on, he had a feeling he was going to get into trouble one way or another. He swore under his breath. How could he have been such a fool? One more incident like this and he’d end up in jail again. Cal and Vince certainly weren’t worth getting busted for.
Watching the arrangements being made, Sean realized that this was going to be a drag racing event. Again, he questioned his idiotic idea of seeking out his old friends. Once he had enjoyed this kind of thing just as much as they did. Now – for whatever reason – he simply didn’t want to risk ending up in jail again. A real job, good friends, not just drinking buddies, and a place of his own suddenly seemed far more attractive.
After he appeared to be satisfied with the setup, Cal returned to Sean, fixing him with a far from friendly gaze.
“Are you in or out?”
“No. Just a simple yes or no will do. What’s it going to be?”
Sean felt trapped. He realized that if he said no, Cal wasn’t going to let him be on his way, to possibly alert the sheriff to what was going on. If he refused, he’d still be around to face the music afterwards. On the other hand, if he did say yes, he might still retain his old buddies’ respect. That didn’t really feel as appealing as it once had been, but it would have to do.
“Of course I’m in.”
Cal eyed him doubtfully, then appeared to come to a decision.
“Good. You’ll ride with me and Vince. Kelly will start us off. The others will be in Craig’s truck. Ok?”
Kelly – a girl Sean had never known personally, except as Craig’s longtime girlfriend – raised her arm, then pointed it towards the ground. Apparently that was it, their signal to begin. Simple, but effective.
At least Cal had always been an excellent driver. Unfortunately, so was Craig, and Sean knew that both guys were also reckless to say the least. Though the two guys tried to maintain a unified front around people like Kyle Valenti or Max Evans, Sean also knew that deep down, they were fierce competitors, and Cal would never give up his chance of winning.
The finish line would be right outside the gas station. Was Sean the only one who found that the least bit dangerous? What if one of the cars should overturn? Sean had seen and participated in a few of these races and he knew that was a possibility. If another car happened to drive by, the risk of collision was imminent. But if he told anyone about it, he knew it would only confirm Cal’s view of him.
For a while, things ran smoothly and it looked as if Cal was going to win. So far so good. As they were nearing the finish line, Craig began to catch up again, and he seemed as determined as Cal to get ahead. More or less on the finish line, Craig swerved closer, and somehow ended up pushing Cal’s truck to the side.
It overturned, and ended up on its side. Sean felt his head hit something and he began to fade out.
Outside, Kelly was screaming hysterically, and Craig yelled to her to get in.
When Sean came to, his head was resting against the side window, and he felt as if he was going to throw up. For a while, he couldn’t move or even think. At the back of his head, a little voice was whispering that there was something he needed to do.
After a while, Sean felt able to move his head slightly. Vince, who was sitting next to him, seemed to be out cold. Cal – Sean had to fight down a moment of nausea. There was blood all over the windscreen, and Cal’s head had crashed through it. Sean had a very bad feeling about the whole thing. He wanted to get out, to check on the damage to the truck, but for now, all he could do was move his head.
Max and Kyle kept staring at their watches. Why hadn’t they thought to bring the cell phones? Though they didn’t live with Liz, they knew she liked to keep in touch when they were gone until late. And though Kyle knew his dad was working most evenings, tonight he was at home and might – if Amy de Luca wasn’t there – worry a bit. Well, nothing to be done about it now.
The repair shop over in Albuquerque hadn’t after all had the spare part Kyle was looking for, so they’d been forced to locate another one, which had taken a long time. Even though they’d left very early, by the time they’d finally found and bought the spare part, it was late in the afternoon, and with the long drive ahead of them, they knew they’d be home late.
That was when they discovered they’d left the cell phones at home. Even so, Max had used a public phone to call Liz and his mother to let them know he’d be late. Unfortunately, his mother hadn’t been in, and Liz – now Max remembered – would be working at the Crashdown. So he called there instead, but Maria had informed him that Liz was busy and couldn’t speak to him.
He’d left a message, giving an estimate of when he had assumed they’d be back, but now he was wondering if maybe it hadn’t been better to just say he’d be very late and leave it at that. Now it was – about an hour and a half later than the time he’d said he’d be back. But he’d done as much as he could. He’d just have to explain to Liz that their evening together would have to be postponed. It was a shame. This was an anniversary of a kind. But they had plenty of other dates to choose from, in their erratic relationship.
Finally, they turned onto their own road and continued west. They took turns driving, and there was really no risk that they’d fall asleep. Kyle had drunk as much coffee as he thought he could take, and Max had fixed the coke so it more closely resembled his own stay-awake drink. In fact, it felt as if they wouldn’t be sleeping for a week.
Now they were on the outskirts of Roswell, and it looked as if maybe they’d be able to catch Liz before she went to bed. Max was thinking about that, and wasn’t really paying attention to the road. Kyle was driving anyway, so it didn’t seem necessary.
“Look at that. What do you think?”
“About what? Oh.”
By now, they were so close they could both clearly see what Kyle had been referring to. A pickup truck, lying on its side, oozing smoke, looking as if it was about to blow at any second. No other cars around, and certainly no ambulance or police car. Kyle pulled to a stop and both guys got out, and began to run.
“Isn’t that Sean?”
Max took a closer look. Yes, it looked a whole lot like Sean, his old rival. Another guy was lying across the hood of the car, looking – well, dead. His head was an awful mess and the angle of the neck didn’t show much promise either. Just in case, Max steeled himself and put a hand on the guy’s neck. No. Nothing.
Now he’d spotted another guy sitting in between the driver and Sean. He too, seemed to be unconscious, but not as badly injured. Unfortunately, Max had also noticed something else. The engine was about to blow, and there was no way they could get both survivors out of the wreck before it was too late.
Max knew what he had to do, but he also realized the obvious problem. If Sean or the other guy came to, and noticed something odd – on the other hand, if two people died because of his hesitation he knew he wouldn’t be able to live with himself. That incident a few years ago had proven that to him. Never let another person die just to protect himself and his secret.
“I’ll hold it back, while you get them out.”
Kyle knew what he was getting at, saving Max the trouble of explaining something that might prove awkward if one of the guys later remembered.
Gingerly, Kyle opened the door, and had to catch Sean before he began to slide to the ground. Apparently, his weight had been leaning against the door. Kyle looked around. There was no really good place to drag Sean to, and besides, there was the other guy to get as well. On the other hand, if – when – the truck blew, he’d better not have left Sean lying too close to the explosion either.
“Can you hurry a bit? This is harder than it might look.”
Kyle was about to add that Sean really was heavier than he looked and that dragging an unconscious body to safety was hard work as well, but knew there was no time to grumble. Now he recognized the other guy. Vince. One of the stupidest guys in school. From what Kyle remembered, since Sean was a few years older, this had to be the gang his father had been keeping a close eye on when he was sheriff. So this was what Sean did when he wasn’t chasing other guys’ girlfriends around.
At least the skinny Vince was a lot less trouble to move. Soon Kyle had placed the two guys safely behind their own car.
“Ok. Come on.”
Max turned and ran, but it was only seconds until the truck’s engine blew up, and the shockwave carried Max forward. He fell just in front of the hood of his own car, and remained lying.
Despite the heat of the night, Kyle suddenly felt cold. What if – In the past couple of years, his feelings for Max Evans had changed quite drastically. Though he’d never felt the same antagonism towards Max as he had towards Michael Guerin, they’d never really gotten along, yet Kyle now knew he considered Max a close friend. Just like Alex. Just like Maria. Even like Michael these days.
If anything happened to Max, he wouldn’t be able to face Liz again, but even more, there would be an emptiness inside him that could only be filled by a guy who was as close to being a brother as anyone possibly could.
He left Sean and Vince without a second glance and bent anxiously to check on his friend.
It seemed to take him forever to look up and face him with a glint of recognition in his eyes.
“Yes, I’m fine. It just – I told you it was tiring to maintain that shield for long.”
“And you were already tired from the drive. I see.”
To cover his relief, Kyle held out a hand to help Max to his feet. His friend looked a bit dishevelled but none the worse for wear.
“Shall we take a look at those two now?”
“But you can’t -”
“I hope I won’t have to. There’s a pay phone at the gas station, right?”
“Yes, but – it’s inside.”
“I can handle that.”
Of course, opening doors probably didn’t expend as much energy as healing or shielding.
In the meantime, Sean watched and listened to this exchange with a great deal of interest. This couldn’t be – He was probably unconscious still and having a weird dream. Though usually, his weird dreams would involve girls and they’d be wearing a lot less clothes than those two.
But – something inside Sean clicked – didn’t this somehow fit in with what he’d witnessed at the Crashdown the other night? Things he’d heard whispered about the Evans twins came back to him. Wouldn’t it be ironic if the famous aliens of Roswell had been right under his eyes the whole time? He’d gone to the same high school with them and everything.
No. Impossible. But on the other hand – what had those two been talking about? A shield? I’ll hold it back while you get them out. And there was that night at the Crashdown. Michael’s arm had looked odd, and suddenly it was alright. After Max had touched it.
Sean was beginning to remember other incidents that had seemed odd even at the time. That incident inside the UFO center. The way Alex had disappeared then miraculously returned again, after everyone had believed him dead. Sean had even attended his funeral. Now here he was living with Isabel as if nothing had happened. Tess – No one had been able to explain where she had gone off to either. All very strange, and everything occurring around the Evans twins and Michael Guerin. Now Kyle was right in the thick of it as well.
“What did you do?”
Max and Kyle stared in confusion at Sean.
He could tell he’d caught them off guard and that they were afraid to open their mouths to reply until they’d thought of something to say.
“The truck -”
The determined look on Max’ face told Sean that now he was about to be served some lie. Kyle’s face didn’t give anything away.
“It was lucky for you that we came by when we did. We only just had time to get you and your friend out. The other guy -”
Cal. Yes, Sean had known that it had been too late for Cal even before Max and Kyle had shown up.
“Yes. I think I remember that Cal was -”
“We didn’t have time to get his – I mean – him out of there before the truck blew.”
“Yeah, but you didn’t have time to get us out either. I heard you. The engine was already -”
For the first time since Sean had asked the awkward question, Kyle was going to have his say.
“You probably had some weird dream. When I got you out, you were passed out. There’s no way you could have heard anything.”
But Kyle didn’t look so sure of himself and Sean knew that if he kept pushing, he’d get an answer. The question was, should he do that? If Max really was an alien – thinking that made Sean realize just how absurd his idea was – it might be dangerous to push him into a corner. At this point, however, having faced death at close range, Sean didn’t feel particularly worried. He needed an answer. This would go on puzzling him for the rest of his life if he didn’t at least try.
“Yes. I heard you. And I was at the Crashdown the other night, when you did something to Michael Guerin’s arm.”
There. He’d said it. Defiantly, Sean stared into Max’ eyes, demanding a comment.
A shocked silence seemed to follow his outburst. No one could think of anything to say. It was as if Max knew that his lame excuses and attempts at explanations would only make things worse.
Sean held his breath, hoping that Max and Kyle wouldn’t just brush him off. He could see the other guys exchanging a look. So he had been right. He didn’t feel much triumph over this. But he had to know so he kept staring at Max as if his eyes could pry the explanation out of him.
“I should go and call the police. You’ll need medical attention and -”
“Yes, yes. I know. But you can’t just go without saying something. Didn’t you hear what I just said?”
Max suddenly looked so tired, Sean was afraid his savior would topple over and fall. Maybe his timing was off. Vince would need an ambulance and someone needed to tell Cal’s mom even though he knew that deep down she’d only be relieved. Sean knew she’d been afraid of her son.
“Yes, I heard you. Sean, please. Don’t ask any more questions. I’ll – I’ll talk to you later. For now we’ll just have to get an ambulance here and -”
Now Sean felt ashamed of himself. Whatever it was that was behind Max’ odd behavior, Max had saved his life. His and Vince’s.
“Of course. I’m sorry.”
Sorry? This guy was the one who was currently dating Liz and – But that didn’t have anything to do with this situation.
Kyle stayed with him while Max wandered over to the gas station. Sean noticed that Kyle moved a bit so he’d be blocking Max from Sean’s view. So he wouldn’t see what he was doing to the door. Oh, well. Whatever it was, it wouldn’t be more sensational than holding back an explosion.
For some reason, Sean was now convinced that he’d been right. There was something different about Max. Something not quite of this world. For now, though, Sean was content to rest, and nurse his splitting headache. He wouldn’t be surprised if it turned out he’d suffered a concussion in that crash. Maybe Max could fix it for him, but right away, he felt guilty for thinking something like that. A concussion, or a bad headache was nothing compared to being dead, which was what he would have been right now if it hadn’t been for Max.
After closing his eyes for a moment, Sean woke up to find the paramedics already there. He let them see to his injuries, and take him away. Max and Kyle weren’t going anywhere. He knew where to find them. If only Max didn’t think of some clever evasion to explain away all this. But somehow he didn’t think so.
When the police came to take his statement, Sean was deliberately vague. He didn’t remember. He had been unconscious practically all the time. And – he did feel guilty about this – the reason Cal had swerved so violently had been a jackrabbit that had suddenly run out in front of the truck. As if Cal had ever bothered to spare the wildlife around him.
To his surprise, Kyle and Max came to see him the following morning. The concussion was mild and the doctor had assured him he could receive visitors. He had expected Amy de Luca, possibly even Maria, but never Max and Kyle.
For a second, he experienced a moment of doubt. What if – what if this alien and his human henchman had come to silence an awkward witness? He knew far too well that Max and Kyle had no reason to love him. The rivalry over Liz had been drawn out and bitter. But Max didn’t look at all threatening. He and Kyle looked as if they hadn’t had a minute’s sleep since last night.
Again, Sean felt a sting of guilt. If Max really was an alien, he couldn’t be the evil brain sucking kind. There was nothing to fear from him, Sean felt sure.
“Sean – how are you doing?”
“I’m ok. Nothing serious. Thanks to you.”
Max looked embarrassed. Apparently, this gratitude was making him feel uncomfortable. Or else he was thinking of where else this conversation might be leading.
“Oh. Well, I’m glad you’re feeling ok. Listen, Sean -”
“I’m sorry I confronted you like that, Max, but I’d seen and heard some pretty odd stuff around you, so I just felt -”
Here he was making excuses for himself. Now all that was needed was Max making up some lame excuse himself and this problem would go away. Except that it wouldn’t. After this, Sean knew that he’d always wonder. And in the end, knowing would be better. At least he hoped so.
“Yes. I see.”
Again, he was looking at Kyle as if to ask his advice. Incredible. Sean had never known these two were so close. That put rather a different slant on their relationship with Liz, but Sean put that thought out of his mind. Right now, he needed to focus on the mystery of Max’ odd behavior, not get right into the problem with Liz again.
“Alright. Sean, you have to realize that this is – If I tell you will you promise not to tell anyone else?”
Even more incredible. Max was actually pleading with him. But sure. Who would he tell anyway? Liz? She had to know already if she was – whatever. Maria? Since she was married to Michael Guerin, chances were she’d know too. And Isabel and Alex. Kyle’s dad? Maybe, but he wasn’t really Sean’s favorite person. Amy de Luca? Sean didn’t really think he’d stand to gain much by telling her. Guys like Cal and Vince? Sean felt a shiver go down his spine as he recalled what had happened to Cal. And Vince? He wouldn’t understand anyway.
“Ok. I promise. Honestly. I just have to know.”
“Ok. Well, you’re right. I did hold back the explosion while Kyle got you and that other guy out.”
“Vince? Oh. And I healed Michael’s arm the other night.”
Max was looking at his hands, as if they might somehow help him explain. This time, Sean didn’t even fear any attack. He could tell that Max wasn’t hostile, even if Michael might be. But so had most of the other guys been as Sean was growing up. So what else was new?
“It’s a long story.”
“Are you an alien?”
Sean could hear how his words came out. Ridiculous. Or was it? Not one of those little grey things from over at the UFO center, obviously, but maybe – Not until now did the irony of Max’ job occur to him. An alien working at the UFO center. Or was it so ridiculous? Maybe it was fitting in a way.
“It’s hard to explain, but I guess – yes. I suppose I am. I’m not sure anymore.”
Max seemed to realize what a vague statement he’d just made and he smiled as if at his own ineffectiveness in explaining.
“What I mean is, I’ve always known I had these abilities. I just didn’t know why. Then I had one explanation. Except it didn’t seem to make much sense. I guess being an alien is part of it. Not all alien though. Part human as well. Or – I think maybe I am a human, but I’ve been given other – memories – from an alien. And these abilities are part of being, I don’t know, genetically enhanced in some way.”
“Genetically what? Speak English, please.”
“I think I was engineered. Especially created to have these abilities. That’s all I can tell you. In some ways, I’m different from you or Kyle or Liz. Then again, in most ways, I’m the same. Does that answer your question?”
Sean didn’t know what to say. He was literally dumbstruck. So it was true. Max might not be one of those little grey or green creatures, but he was alien. Of extra-terrestrial origin. Or what had he actually said? Human but with a slightly different set of abilities. Whatever that meant. In any case, it was true.
It suddenly occurred to Sean how much Max had risked by using his powers to save his life. And he’d been thinking so badly of Max and Kyle, who had been risking his own life to save him as well. But they hadn’t hesitated. They’d just done what had to be done.
Sean realized that he owed them. From now on, there would be no more suspicion, no more petty remarks. In fact, Sean knew that if it hadn’t been for Liz, he might have wanted to be friends with these guys. Maybe it wasn’t too late.
Through Maria and Amy he was already involved anyway, though he’d tried hard to deny that to himself. Earlier, what had really stung had been the way that these guys had so obviously shunned his company. Briefly, during the Max-Tess affair, he’d been allowed inside their closely guarded circle. After that, he’d been an outsider again, as always. Though now that he knew their secret, maybe things would be different.
“Well, then I guess – If there’s anything else you’d like to know, maybe we can talk about it later? The nurse said we couldn’t stay long.”
“Oh. Yes, sure. I just want you to know I won’t tell anyone.”
Who would believe him anyway?
“Thanks. The last time someone found out -”
“What Max is trying to say is that the last time, he nearly got vivisected.”
Vivisected? Wasn’t that when you cut up living animals, for research or something? Kyle had to be joking. He did look kind of odd. Had Kyle been the one who had talked and was now feeling guilty?
“Uh – yes. Never mind. We’ll talk about this later, ok?”
“Ok. And Max – thanks.”
Max looked at Sean as if he wasn’t quite sure how to read him, then he smiled and with Kyle in tow, left the room.
As soon as Sean was allowed to leave the hospital, Amy de Luca showed up to pick him up. Now that Maria had taken over the house, Amy was more or less staying with Jim Valenti. However, for some reason, probably some feminist thing, Sean guessed, she also kept an apartment, and that was where she deposited Sean.
“Will you be alright here?”
“I’ll be fine. But I don’t see why I can’t go back to my own place.”
“That room is a disgrace. You need a more homelike environment. Besides, your room mate is a juvenile delinquent.”
Just like me, Sean wanted to say, but he decided against it. Paddy was ok. He was working and staying out of trouble. But if Amy wanted to play mom, he had no objection.
“There are pies and other meals in the freezer.”
Sean made a face, then decided that turning his nose up at what Amy was offering him, asking nothing in return, was hardly a nice way of behaving.
“Yes. If you don’t like it, maybe you can go down to the Crashdown.”
“I’m sure it will be fine. Thanks, Amy. You don’t have to be so nice to me.”
“If I don’t look after you, who will? We’re family. You mustn’t forget that, Sean.”
“Alright. I won’t.”
“Right. Well, I’m due back at work so I’ll just -”
“Alright. No problem. I’ll be fine.”
He did plan on going down to the Crashdown, though the food wasn’t really what was on his mind. He might not get to go out with Liz, but there was no reason why he shouldn’t talk to her or Maria, or any of his other – friends. Hanging out with the wrong crowd had nearly gotten him killed. From now on, he promised himself, he’d stick to people like Max Evans, Kyle, Alex and the girls.
From what he could tell, Liz wasn’t around, unless she was out back. Maria wasn’t working either. In fact, no one he knew seemed to be around. Then Kyle walked in, and incredibly, despite everything Sean had said to him over the years, Kyle actually smiled and walked over to join him.
“Hey. So they let you out?”
“For good behavior. Amy came to pick me up.”
“Oh. Well, anyway, you seem to be feeling better.”
“Yes, never better. I thought you’d be with Max and Liz.”
Was it his imagination or did Kyle blush just a little? Sean decided not to pursue that thought.
“They’re out. On a date, you might say. And you know what they say. Three’s a crowd.”
“Tell me about it.”
“I guess it’s no secret that I wanted to go out with Liz. For a long time. And for a while – Anyway, I guess it’s pretty obvious to anyone who’s around them that no one else stands a chance.”
“I know what you mean. You have to know I wanted to -”
Kyle looked at Sean’s glass, as if wondering what to order.
“Hey, I’ll get you something. It’s the least I can do. What will you have?”
“Oh, mineral water or orange juice.”
“Still into that bhuddist stuff?”
“Not bhuddism anymore. I just try to eat healthy. You have no idea how much it helps you to stay fit. Especially when you work out.”
“Oh. Right. Then I’ll have one of those as well. I really ought to work out more too. Of course, work helps me stay pretty fit.”
Yes. Working in a warehouse, lifting stuff really kept you in shape. But working out might be something to do besides watching tv and dreaming about Liz.
He returned, bringing the two glasses, and sat down again, facing Kyle. Discussing Liz might not be his first priority, but they had to start somewhere.
“You know, I understand what you’re saying about Liz. It’s time I moved on as well. I can’t spend the rest of my life hoping.”
“No. I guess not.”
Kyle didn’t look particularly enthusiastic. He really did have it bad. Then he made a visible effort to cheer up.
“Maybe this is the beginning of a wonderful friendship.”
Sean shook his head in mock despair.
“I knew there was something in those rumors about you, man.”
Kyle stared at him, as if in shock, then blushed violently. Clearly not the right thing to say. Sean felt guilty. Why did he have to keep baiting Kyle when the guy was so obviously trying to be friends? He had to make an effort to get back to the friendly atmosphere they had started out with this afternoon.
“I’m kidding. You really thought I thought – Sorry. I have seen the movie, you know, even if it probably isn’t the first thing you’d guess about me. You must have seen it too, and I’m guessing it was with the same girl. It was Liz, right?”
“We’ll just have to go out and look for other girls. There are others, you know. Maybe not as cute and smart as she is.”
“Yes, there are blondes too. But I kind of prefer brunettes. I guess you heard about me and Tess?”
“I saw you together. You seemed to be -”
“We were. She – She was one of – them. You know.”
Sean had guessed that already so he merely nodded. Maybe he was going to learn something more about what had happened to the blonde girl.
“Anyway, she -”
Kyle didn’t know what else to say. He didn’t want to even remember what Tess had done to him. Physically and otherwise.
Sean noticed Kyle’s reaction and decided to give up for the time being. Whatever Tess had done, apparently it had caused Kyle a lot of pain.
“I know how she treated Max. Forget her. Even if Max is ok, I do prefer ordinary human girls.”
“I don’t know. If you ask me, I’d tell you I feel the same way, but I don’t think it’s up to me. Somehow, I think it’s my destiny to end up with one of those – alien girls.”
Sean stared. Destiny? He was about to laugh it off, then remembered what they were really discussing. Maybe there really was a destiny where these people were concerned.
Kyle misread Sean’s look and decided to clarify.
“You’re lucky. You weren’t in that dream or vision. So I guess you can pick any girl you like. I’m sort of stuck.”
“What are you talking about? What dream?”
So Kyle had dreams about girls too. Interesting. Sean was hoping it wouldn’t involve Liz, but he knew that whatever it was, it had to be more serious than his own dreams.
Kyle explained, feeling like an idiot, but since Sean was irreversibly in, he might as well talk freely around him. Especially now that he knew that Max and Liz didn’t deserve to have him tagging along all the time. Everyone else was spoken for. He might as well make the best of things. In some ways, he and Sean did have a lot in common.
“Of course, it might have been Ava.”
“Ava? Oh, one of those New York girls?”
“Yes, the blonde one. The one who was so much like Tess.”
“Could be. If you really believe in visions. Maybe it was just a dream?”
Kyle wished it had been, but he knew it had been far too real. And the others, who had more experience when it came to dreams and visions, had taken it seriously. But how was he to explain that to Sean? He decided to shrug it off for the time being.
“Who knows? Let’s hope so. How about catching a movie tonight? Or shooting a few hoops?”
“Either would be fine.”
Yes. Hanging out with Kyle might actually be fun. It could help him stay out of trouble. Kyle too, was alone. Since everyone else was involved, he wouldn’t be bad company. A lot better than Alex anyway, though he was a sweet guy. Nothing wrong with him. Well, at least it now looked as if he was part of a group again. One that wasn’t as likely to end up in jail or dying in a car crash. Yes, he’d been right to move on. This really might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.