"Liz! Liz, wait -"

I turned around to see who was calling me. A young woman was running out of the Babe Magnet, the door still closing behind her. She held something out to me.

"Here," She said, a little breathless. "Take it."

I looked at the tiny silver box in her palm. "What is it?"

"It - I don't know," She stammered, looking from me to Michael, who was drumming his fingers on his arm. She looked back at me. "Whiteotter just said you'd need it."

I reached out, taking the box in my hand. It was barely more than an inch wide. "So - what do I do with it?" I asked.

She shrugged, smiling. "I dunno," She said. "She said to open it when you needed it."

I opened my mouth and then closed it. "I didn't know we could - you know, take stuff back."

"Yeah," She said, smiling. "I'd never thought about it either."

I looked at her closer. She looked familiar. "Do we, uhm - do we know each other?" I said slowly.

"What? Oh, no," She said, grinning. Her hair was a faint shade of blue and a little spiky. "We haven't met yet. I'm Novi."

I stared at her blankly.

Michael moved behind me. "Novi?" He said, moving closer. "The burned thing on the wall - that's yours?"

She was beaming. "Yep," She said proudly. "That's mine. I sort of started the whole bring-in-something bit," She said confidentially, leaning in.

"Ohhh," I said. I didn't know what else to say.

"Could I -" She shifted her weight uncomfortably. "Can I ask a favor?"

"Uh -" I looked back at Michael. He was staring down the street. "Sure. What is it?"

"Could I have a picture?"

I blinked twice. "A - a picture?"

"Yeah," She said, pulling out a digital camera. "If you don't mind -"

"Uh -" I started laughing. "You want a picture of us?"

"If it's okay with you," She said quickly. "I mean, if you don't want to, that's fine -"

"No, no," I said quickly. "It's just that -"

I looked back at Michael. I didn't have any pictures of him. Of us. Maybe I never would -

"Sure," I said quickly, turning back to her. "Sure. That would be great -"

Michael was dragging me away before I could finish. "I didn't think we were coming out here for an Olan Mills shoot, Liz -"

"Michael, it's - it's just one picture," I said quickly. "Come on. Please?"

He looked at me, shaking his head, almost laughing. "I just want to make sure I'm clear on this," He said, leaning closer to me. "You'd rather we have our pictures taken than go back to. Your. Room."

I turned back to Novi.


"Yeah?" She said anxiously, camera in hand.

"We're gonna have to make this really quick."


"Okay, Michael, move a little to the left -"

"Peaches, can you put your arm around Jessamyn's shoulders? Great. That's great."

"Liz, can you scootch over just a - perfect. Great. Okay, cheese, everybody -"


I couldn't believe this.


"Oookay," Novi said, taking the disc out of the camera. "I think that's everybody."

"Thanks, Novi," Liz said, going over and giving her a hug. "That was great."

"You're welcome," She said, grinning. She caught a look of me over Liz's shoulder. "Whoops, okay, you gotta go," She said quickly, breaking the hug and backing up.

"Can I get a copy of those?" Liz asked.

"Liz," I muttered.

"Oh, sure! Sure, just come in, we'll have copies made -"


Liz turned toward me. "Alright," She said quickly. "Bye, Novi. It was great meeting you."

Novi grinned. "Thanks," She said, looking over at me and then back at Liz. "Have fun," She whispered, turning back to the bar.

Liz was walking toward me when Novi opened the doors and the music blared into the street.

"Wow," Liz said, turning around. "Big party?" She called out.

Novi grinned and cupped her hands around her mouth. "Dance night," She yelled. Little specks of light drifted slowly across her body. They'd turned the disco ball on.

Liz was looking at her, smiling, when the door closed and the music faded to a dull roar.

"Can we go now?" I muttered.

She looked up at me, smiling. "Yes, we can go now," She whispered, leaning up to kiss me.

Music blared again. "Hey, I almost forgot -"

I sighed and turned to the building. Novi stood in the doorway. "Oops," She said, grinning. "Sorry. Sorrysorry, I just wanted to tell you that Whiteotter said she was giving you a present."

"The box?" Liz called out.

Novi shook her head. "No," She said loudly. "Something else. She said you'd know what it was when you woke up."

"Great," I said loudly. "Good. Thanks. Bye."

Liz looked up at me like I was being rude. "What?" I said, smiling a little, leaning in to kiss her. "I said thank you..."

She smiled back, leaning up to me -

There was a bright flash of light.

I turned my head slowly to the Babe Magnet.

The door was swinging shut. I looked back at Liz.

"We are leaving," I said. "Now."


I opened my eyes, my arms coming up to rub the sleep out of my eyes. Michael exhaled loudly beside me. "Finally," He muttered. "I thought we'd never get out of there."

I sat up on my bed, blinking and looking around. "Do you see it?"

"See what," He said, his voice thick.

"The gift," I said, pulling the covers back and turning to get out of the bed. "Whiteotter's gift -"

His hands were fast, pulling me back into bed, dragging my body close to him. "I think I have an idea what it is," He breathed, his mouth just over mine. My pulse sped up.

He kissed me quickly, his hands releasing their grip and sliding up my body slowly, warmth and light seeping into my skin as they slid up to my neck -

I gasped a little and pulled him closer to me. His hands were on the buttons of my shirt, moving quickly, almost frantic. I whispered his name and he leaned in, his mouth hot on the hollow of my neck, his fingers pushing the fabric off my shoulders and down my arms. His tongue moved lazily over my skin and I gasped, my eyes opening wide from the shock, the electricity coursing right under my skin -

My eyes settled on my clock.

"Michael," I whispered. He muttered something against my shoulder, his mouth drifting further south, ignoring me. "Michael -"

"What," He said, his hands on my neck, moving up to kiss me. "What -"

"The clock, Michael," I whispered. He blinked at me twice before twisting around to look at the end table.

The clocked flashed 11:30 p.m.

Michael hadn't even come to my house until 2 a.m.

"What the hell," He muttered, reaching for the clock. "That can't be right."

I reached for my watch on my desk. "Look," I said. It read 11:30.

"Time, Michael," I whispered. "She gave us time."

Michael stared from the clock to my watch and back again. He reached for the watch. "What the hell -"

I pulled my arm out of reach, setting the watch down on the table.

"Gimme that," He said. "Liz, come on, gimme the -"

"I don't think she wanted us to spend time worrying about it, Michael," I said, looking back at him.

He stared at me, pursing his lips, the clock still in his hands.

I moved my hand slowly, resting on his chest, feeling the warmth starting to radiate out from the palm of my hand, watching the light flicker and grow, outlining my hand. It took me a second to realize he was shaking.

I looked up at him. "Michael," I whispered. "What's wrong?"

He closed his mouth and shook his head slightly.

Don't leave. Promise me you won't leave -

"Come here," I whispered, moving closer to him, wrapping my arms around him. "Come here." I kissed his forehead, his cheek, his lips. I pulled back from him and looked in his eyes.

"I won't leave you," I whispered. "Why would I leave you?"

He bit down on his lip, his eyes flickering away before looking back up at me.

"I promise," I whispered.

He groaned and tackled me, fast, throwing me back on the bed, his mouth covering mine, his hands in my hair, on my neck, waves of warmth and light resounding through my body -

I love you, I thought fiercely, pulling him closer, wishing I could melt into him. I would never leave you.

I love you.


I stood out on the rooftop, hours later, staring up at the sky. It was going to be light soon.

"Don't go," She whispered against my shirt, her arms wrapped around my body, her hands locked together on top of my chest.

"Come here," I said, pulling her hands apart and pulling her into a hug.

She was wrapped in a blanket, naked underneath, and I pushed the bulky fabric away to wrap my arms around her waist, my lips nuzzling her neck. She smiled and pulled the blanket around both of us.

"Hey," She whispered, nudging my nose with hers.

"Hey," I mumbled back, moving closer to kiss her.

She was so warm. I always thought I remembered how warm she was, how warm her body was, her skin, her mouth, the inside of her, everything about her surrounding me, pulling me closer, telling me it's alright, everything's alright...

I was wrong. It always surprised me.

She broke the kiss and looked up at me, her face serious. "So you're sure you don't want to tell me about Em," She said slowly.

"Liz," I said, rolling my head. "Forget it. Okay? It's - nothing. She just -" I looked up at the sky.

"It was nothing. Alright? Can we just leave it alone?"

She frowned slightly and then nodded reluctantly. "Okay," She whispered, a determined smile on her face, her forehead resting against my cheek.

I stared up at the sky. It doesn't mean anything. It's just an interpretation. They're just cards -


I looked down and kissed her forehead. "Yeah?"

"Did you hear what Red said when we left?"

I shrugged. "What - goodbye?"

"No," Liz said, her eyes confused. "She said 'Don't forget about Tess'."

I frowned. "So?"

"So Ivy had just told us to watch out for Nasedo."

I sighed. "And, so -"

"So they were talking like they were two different people, Michael."


I blinked. "You're - they what?"

"I'm serious, Michael," She said, stepping back, clutching the blanket around herself. "They both warned us, but it sounded like - it sounded like they were two separate people."

I pursed my lips. "I don't remember that."

She rolled her eyes. "You were distracted."

"Oh, and you weren't?" I laughed. "Come on, Liz, that's ridiculous. There's not two aliens. There's one. Nasedo."

"But then why -"

"Maybe they didn't hear each other," I said. "Maybe they were drunk. Who knows."

She paused, thinking. "Maybe," She said doubtfully. "But still..."

"I'm sure it's fine," I said, pulling her close to me in a hug.

After a minute she looked up at me. "Michael?"

I pursed my lips at her and looked down. "What, Liz."

She bit her lip quickly before she told me.

"I think you should make your relationship with Maria official."


I blinked twice, my mouth open. "Wha - excuse me?"

"Michael, if Tess is dangerous, then I don't want her coming after you," She said quickly. "Maybe if you're with Maria, she won't -"

"Liz, Max was with you," I said, almost laughing. "Remember? That didn't stop her."

"I know," She said, shaking her head slowly. "But -"

She looked up at the sky. She looked worried. "Michael, we have to do something."

I looked at her. She was serious.

I sighed. "Maybe you're right," I muttered.

She looked back at me, a weak smile on her face.

"That should make me feel better," She whispered.

I cupped her face in my hands and kissed her softly.

"I better go," I whispered. Her hands circled my wrists and she sighed, leaning against me. Then she nodded.

It took us twenty minutes to say goodbye. The sky was fading to grey when I took the final jump from the fire escape to the ground.


Max had asked me to meet him in the computer lab. He wanted to do some research on the constellation in the sky. I punched some keys on the keyboard.

"There it is," I said. "Aries."

"Michael's been doing this all his life, you know," Max muttered. "Always thinking he knows better than us, but always just getting us into more trouble."

I licked my lips and stared at the screen for a second before turning to him.

"Families can be hard," I said.

"I don't even know if that's what we are," He said, looking up at me. "I mean, that's what we've pretended to be for so long, but... what if Nasedo tells us something different..."

He shook his head. "Does Michael even think about these things?"

"You are who you choose to be," I said slowly. "Just like..."

Have faith in each other. Follow your hearts -

"Just like you're with who you choose to be with," I said, my voice dropping low.

"I really want to believe that," Max whispered. I looked up at him. He was staring at me.

"Let's look it up," I said quickly, moving back to the computer. "Let's see...Aries, it's the first sign of the Zodiac, the key astronomical element in many ancient traditions involving, spring, the equinox, pagan ceremonies, and even Indian fertility rituals..." I frowned. "But it's not quite the same V shape you described."

"Try creating a constellation pattern for today's date," He suggested.

"Okay," I said, my fingers moving quickly over the keys. I looked over at him.

Don't forget about Tess -

"What was it like," I asked slowly.

He looked up, slightly confused.

"Uhm - you know," I said, my eyes flickering to the screen. "Kissing her."

He stared at me for a second.

"Upsetting," He said finally. "It made me feel things about myself I didn't like. Like there was this whole side of me that I -" He shook his head. "That I never even knew about..."

I remembered watching Michael and Isabel in the desert, biting down on my lip. The symbols all around them. The same symbols that were in the cave...

"The alien side," I whispered.

He glanced at me, his face dark. "Maybe," He said, his voice breaking a little.

I felt terrible. I knew Michael hated the feeling that something was controlling him. Max probably felt the same way - and I'd just reminded him of it.

I turned back to the computer screen quickly. "Oh, wow," I said, looking at the new image. "It's Venus. When it's in the right place in the sky, it completes the V shape," I said quickly, trying to process all the information at once.

"It started moving into this formation after the last full moon -"

"About the time that Tess showed up," Max said, his voice tense. I looked up at him.

I didn't love him. But I wanted him to be okay. I didn't want him to be hurt -

I saw them in my peripheral vision. "Oh my God," I said.

"What is she doing with Kyle?"


{Michael. Michael-}

{- What's wrong?}

{It's Tess. She's with Kyle, Michael.}

I stopped in the hallway. {She's - what?}

{I'm looking at her, Michael, right now. They're sitting outside.}

I took a deep breath. {So - what, now she doesn't want Max?}

{Michael, I'm scared. She goes after Max, and now Kyle...}

I scowled. I knew what she was thinking.

{You think I'm next.}

{Michael... look, Isabel's one thing. I mean, I hate it. I hate it, but I trust her. I don't trust Tess, Michael.}

My teeth clenched against my lip. {Alright. I'll find Maria.}


"Hey," I muttered.

Maria looked up. "Hey right back at you," She said, smiling.

"I've been thinking."

"Oh, great," She said, rolling her eyes. "This usually involves me having to get my car towed."

"What? I'm -" I waved my hands. "I'm talking about us."

She stopped dead. "Us?"

"Yeah," I said, waving my hands. "Our, you know, relationship."

"Wait," She said, laughing. "Waitwaitwait. I've never heard you use that word in a sentence before."

"Can we get serious here?" I snapped.

"Whoa, are you okay?"

"I just..." I swallowed, my hands rubbing my eyes. "I didn't sleep much last night."

"Because you were thinking about our relationship?" She asked, not believing me.

"Look, I just -" I stopped, licking my lips. "I think that we should only see each other."

"Wait," She said. "As opposed to all the other relationships we're having with people?"

I opened my mouth and shut it again. "What -" I squinted at her, stepping closer. "What do you mean by that?"

"No...I mean that we already are only seeing each other. Right?"

I stared at her for a second and then nodded. "Yeah," I muttered. "Yeah."

"Right," She said.


"I mean, unless you've got someone on the side -"

I snapped. "No!"

She shrugged her shoulders. "Okay," She said, shaking her head and smiling.

"No. So. Well," I waved my hands. "If we're already doing it, let's make it official," I muttered.

"Official," She said, stopping and looking at me. "What, like going steady, or something?"

Fine. Whatever. "Going steady," I muttered.

"Okay," She said, shaking her head again.

You will be separated from her. It will cause her pain -

I thought about Liz, the way she moved against me, the scent of her skin, the warmth of her touch -

"I just don't want anyone to ever come between us," I whispered.

"Well, okay then."

I snapped out of it. "What?"

"I said okay," Maria said, laughing. "You should have more of these tortured sleepless nights."

I remembered the look on Liz's face when I came to her house last night. Crying because she could see Isabel and me in the dream.

Whatever Tess was trying to pull, it wasn't going to work.

"Let's not talk about last night anymore," I said, pulling Maria in and kissing her.


People were laughing. Maria and I were drawing the crowd.

"Michael -"

"Let's go in here," I muttered, heading for the eraser room. Good. Now I was with Maria, Liz was with Max. Maybe Tess would go for Kyle and we could all stop worrying about -

Isabel and Alex were standing in the eraser room.

"Alex and I are together now," Isabel said quickly, her hand coming up to her lips.

"Maria and I are going steady," I said evenly.

"Great," Isabel said, her eyes flickering to Maria, then back to me.

"Great," I repeated.

"Must be something in the water," Maria said drily.


{Mission accomplished.}

{Oh. Good.}

I snorted. {You don't sound happy about it.}

She didn't say anything.

{Sorry. That was -} I sighed, tossing some of the stuff off my couch, collapsing next to some sketchpads. My hands covered my face. {That was stupid.}

{It's okay, Michael. I think it's better if you're with someone.}

I rubbed my eyes. I was exhausted. {Yeah. I know.}

{She really cares for you, Michael.}

{Yeah, I know that too.}

There was a pause. {She didn't have much when she was a kid.}

I dropped my hands. {You mean her dad?}

{Yeah. She, um -} Liz paused for a second. {You remember asking me how she was when he left?}

I frowned. {Yeah...}

{A couple years back, we were talking about - guys. And she said that she wanted someone who'd stay with her no matter what.}

I pursed my lips, my fingers flipping a pencil back and forth. {Sounds reasonable.}

{She also told me once that she wondered if her dad left because he didn't love her enough.}

I blinked. The pencil stopped. {She said that?}

{Yeah. I think she thought that - you know, if she'd been different, or better or something, that he would have stayed.}

{That's crazy, Liz.}

{I know, but...} She sighed. {I mean, if your dad just leaves, maybe it's natural for someone to think it's their fault.}

I didn't say anything.


{It's alright, Liz.}

{Michael, I'm sorry. I didn't mean -}

{I said it's okay, Liz.} I took a deep breath. {Look, I'm gonna try looking at the symbols again. Are you alright?}

{...Yeah. Yeah, I'm - I'm alright.}

{You're sure.}

She smiled. {Yes. Thanks for asking, though.}

{Okay. If you need anything, you call me.}

I felt the connection ebb, fluctuating softly in the air and then disappating into nothingness.

I sighed, rolling my head back before standing up and going to my desk where my drawings were. The ones of the symbols.

"Alright," I muttered under my breath. "Let's try this again."


I tossed the pencil on the desk. I'd been at it for three hours and it still didn't make any sense. I couldn't figure them out.

"Where are you," I whispered, my hands on the desk. "Where the hell are you?"

You can do this, Guerin. Just think -

I heard a creak from the window. My head snapped up.

Tess was on my porch.

I felt my hands light up. I stared at her, not moving.

She moved closer to the window and opened her mouth, breathing once, the warm air fogging the window. Her hand floated up and tapped the window four times. I tried to breathe.

The same symbol I'd drawn on the painting. The same one Isabel said she saw when Tess came over -

I was tired of playing games. I crossed to the window and slammed it open. "What does that mean," I snapped. "Where is it?"

She smiled at me. My hands were red-hot. I'm not going to kiss her, I thought, I won't -

"You already know," Tess said simply, her voice a whisper. "You've been there before."


I was young, just a kid, naked, terrified, running through the woods, fast, thinking get help, you have to get help, running past the trees and out into the open, finally, racing into an open field -

I saw the sign.

Puhlman Ranch.

I opened my eyes and the vision cleared.

"What the hell," I whispered. "What is -"

She was gone.

I stared up at the sky. I was tired of waiting for answers.

Time to go find them, Guerin.

I grabbed my jacket and slammed the front door behind me.


I blinked, my eyes shutting instinctively from the sunlight. I kicked the covers down and stretched. No dreams of Michael and Isabel. Just some dreams about Tess -

I reached out to Michael and couldn't find him at first. He was further away than I expected, out of town, walking through some woods.

{Michael - what are you doing?}

{It's okay, Liz. I think I figured something out.}

{The symbols? Michael, where are -}

{I'll explain it when I get back.}

{When will that be?} I bit down on my lip. I hated sounded like this, like a nagging girlfriend. Of course, he could be in danger, I rationalized.

{...Tonight, I think. I won't be long.}

{You're okay?}

{Yes. I'm close, Liz. It's okay.}

He severed the connection and I felt it separate between the two of us, lifting and drifting into nothingness. I sighed and sat up.

There was a gentle knock at my door.

"Liz, honey?"

"I'm up, mom," I said, rubbing my eyes. "I'm up."

She opened the door and smiled at me.

"Mom. The privacy thing?"

"Ah," She said. "Sorry. I forget about that."

If she comes in when Michael's here -

"I know," I mumbled.

"Honey - have you thought at all about going down to Florida for the summer?"

I blinked. "What?"

"Well, we - we talked about it in the Spring," My mom said. "You haven't seen your godmother in a long time, and I know she'd love to see you -"

"Mom," I said quickly, standing up. "I can't go this summer. I can't."

She looked surprised. "But sweetie, your godmother's looking forward to it," She said, shaking her head. "I thought you were looking forward to the beach, and the sun, and... you know, maybe you'd meet someone nice," She said, reaching out and stroking my head.

"Oh," I said, nodding. "You don't want me to be with Max."

She sighed and dropped her hand. "Honey. I know you like him, but - ever since that night, I'm just not comfortable with -"

"I'm not seeing him, Mom. We're not together."

"Sweetie - you don't have to tell me what I want to hear -"

"Really, Mom. We're not together anymore. And that's okay with me. Alright?"

She frowned and smiled at the same time, folding her arms. "Well - maybe we can talk about it later. When did you stop seeing him?"

"It's a long story," I muttered.

"Can you tell me over pancakes?"

I grinned and rolled my eyes. "I can abridge it for that."


We had nothing on Tess. Zero. All we had was her schedule. Michael hadn't come back yet, and I was getting worried.

But Tess couldn't be doing anything to Michael, I thought. She was too busy with Kyle. They were going to the library. He'd told me that much before slamming the door on his way out of the crashdown, muttering something about preferring blondes.

As soon as I told Max they were going to the library, he insisted we had to follow them. He was convinced she was using Kyle as bait.

"It's the only thing that makes sense," Max whispered over a library book. "Look, if this is a trap, I want you to get Kyle and get out of here."

"But that's why I'm here," I insisted. He kept trying to push me out of this. I just wanted to protect Michael -

"If Tess tries any mind games, I'll be here to snap you out of it," I said.

Max's eyes went to the door. "It's them," He whispered. We both ducked behind a bookcase.

"Why Kyle?" I whispered.

"To make sure we'd notice," Max said under his breath.

I looked up at him. To make sure we'd notice? When had he started thinking like that?

"Okay," I whispered. "You go left, I'll go right."

"Wait -" He said quickly, trying to stop me. "Liz -"

"You're the one she's after, Max," I said, repeating his words back to him. "Remember?"

I moved quickly, stepping behind a bookcase to watch them. They were talking and then Tess was standing up on a ladder, reaching for something -

I couldn't see it. She was doing something, but I couldn't tell what...

She stepped off the ladder and said something to Kyle. Then they were leaving.


I moved back to Max. He looked scared.

"Max," I whispered, watching Tess and Kyle leaving the building. "What is it, Max?"

"Something about us," He whispered. "She wanted me to see it. That's why she brought us here."


{Liz - I'm back. Are you -}

{Michael, thank God. Tess and Kyle were at the library. She took some kind of book -}

{What - Liz, calm down. What are you talking about?}

{A book, Michael. Max said it's a book about you. About all four of you.}

My eyes flickered across Max's bedroom. He wasn't home. {He's dropping you off. Max.}

{Yeah. I should be home any second.}

{Liz, I want you to stay put tonight.}

{... Michael, I don't...}

{Don't Michael me. I mean it. Just stay put, Liz. I need to talk to Max.}


I looked down at the quilt.

Are the dreams over?

Just one more, honey...

I took a deep breath. He didn't want Isabel. He'd told me that. Over, and over, and -

Why was I so worried?

I laid back on my bed, pulling a pillow close to me, the one he'd slept on the last time he was here. It still smelled like him...

I stared at the ceiling for a few minutes until I remembered the box.

I sat up quickly, pushing the covers off, going into the bathroom and opening the medicine chest, pushing aspirin bottles to the side. It stood alone on the second shelf.

She said to open it when you needed it -

I looked up at the shelves. I'd put it in the medicine cabinet without even thinking about it.

I bit down on my lip and looked down at the box in my hands. My fingers moved to the lid and pulled gently.

A blue pill was nestled against the velvet lining. I picked it up and looked at it more closely.

You'll open it when you need it -

I closed the medicine cabinet, staring at the pill in my hands. I looked back up in the mirror.

I popped it in my mouth quickly, one hand reaching for the glass on the sink.


"Puhlman Ranch," I said.

Max stared at me, a frown spreading across his face. "What?"

"The four squared symbol on the map," I said. "That's where it is."

"I've never even heard of it," Max said slowly.

"That's because the government took it over in 1947," I said. "Three guesses why."

"Close to the crash site?"

"It was the crash site, Maxwell. But it's not on any maps any more. It's like they erased any trace of it. But I can find it. The cave painting will lead us right to it."

Max stared at me evenly. "And you just figured this out all by yourself," He said.

I blinked and pursed my lips.

"Yeah," I lied. "I did."

"Michael, if Nasedo is doing anything to you, you can't -"

"Hey, I remembered it, okay?" I snapped. "I had a flash. You're not the only the only on who gets them."

His mouth shut. He stared at me closely.

"So," I said. "What happened at the library?"

He hesitated for just a second. "Nothing," He said, looking away from me.

At least I wasn't the only one lying. "What - she just took Kyle there for no reason?"

"I said nothing happened," Max snapped. "We'll talk to Isabel in the morning."

He grabbed the sleeping bag next to his bed and tossed it at me.

"You better spend the night here again," He said.

I tried to reach out to Liz, to tell her I was okay. She was sleeping. I pursed my lips and concentrated harder, trying to wake her up -

Nothing. She'd never slept this soundly before. She wasn't even dreaming.

I looked back at Max, letting the sleeping bag drop from my hands.

"Fine," I said. "Just for tonight."


Isabel was standing in the sunlight. Smiling. She was - happy. Unbelievably happy. She was holding a child -

My child.

I was next to her, holding the baby, a boy, a son, smiling, reaching for me, nuzzling the soft baby skin on his neck.

I was a husband. I was a father -

I had a family.

It was everything I wanted. It was perfect -

I'm perfect, Michael -

I looked at Isabel. She was smiling. "What is it, honey?" She asked.

I couldn't answer her.

Something's wrong, I thought, This isn't right -

"Honey?" She repeated, her forehead wrinkling. She took the baby. "Honey, are you alright?"

This isn't right -

"This is wonderful," Isabel sighed, leaning against me, our baby tucked into the hollow of her arm. "It's perfect."

Are you alright?

I'm perfect, Michael. I'm perfect.

I looked over at them.

My wife. My child. My son.

My family.

It's not Liz.


I woke up, the breath sharp and cold in my throat. I glanced over at Max. He was asleep. I reached out to Liz to make sure she was alright -

Nothing. She was still in a deep sleep. I couldn't even see her dreams, if she was having any.

I threw the blanket off me and went to find Isabel.


"You've seen them too," She whispered. "Haven't you?"

I walked toward her. "The dreams."

The alien side of you, Michael. It's waking up -

"The rock formation," She whispered, her voice cracking. "The symbol -"

"The two of us," I whispered.

You don't wind up with Isabel...

"The baby," She whispered, turning to look at me.

...That's up to you, of course...

I stared back at her.

My wife. My child. My family -

"I think it's all true, Michael," She whispered, her voice urgent, scared. "I think I'm pregnant with your child."

You'll get through it. All of it -

What if they were wrong?


"We'd better tell Max," Isabel said. Her eyes were red.

I nodded, reluctantly. "You alright?" I asked quietly.

She nodded.

I helped her up the stairs and into Max's room.

His bed was empty.


"Where is he," She whispered. She was getting frantic. "Michael, where is he -

" I stared out the open window. The jeep was still in the drive.

I looked at Isabel. "She's taken him," I said. "Tess."

"Oh my god, Michael -"

"Come on," I said, moving quickly. "Get a jacket."

"Michael, we don't know where -"

"Yes we do," I said. "She's taking him where she's been taking us. To the desert. The cliff."

Her eyes flickered up to me. "But we don't -"

"I know where it is," I said quickly, pulling my jacket close around me. "Let's go."


It was daylight when we found them, Max staring off into the distance, Tess standing in front of him, watching his face. I jumped out of the car before Isabel stopped, running over to them, grabbing Tess by her shoulders, shoving her back, trying to control the fire in my hands screaming to be set loose -

"What the hell did you do to him?" I yelled, my hands on her shoulders. "To all of us?"

"Michael," Max said quietly, pulling me back. "Stop it. She's not Nasedo."

I looked at him, then her. What did she -

"Then who is she, Max?" Isabel whispered.

He looked at Tess. She smiled at him.

What the hell -

"She's one of us," He whispered.


Chapter Index

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