Well, it's finally hit home. We've done it. We've left Roswell. We've been cut off from home, family and friends. All we have, now, is each other in the face of danger. There's no way any of us can turn back now.
I look at what I just wrote, and I realize that it could sound like I'm unhappy, or worried about this. But the opposite is really true. Oh, sure, I have regrets, but I'm just so relieved to be out of Roswell. We may be on the run or we may be in danger, but I'm happy that my life full of lies is over. My journal must have reached Mom and Dad by now, and Max's parents know the truth too. The lack of that great weight hanging over our heads makes me feel lightheaded, ready to dance.
And then there's my marriage. I look from my seat on the dirty old armchair in our room at Max, asleep under the sheets. His face is relaxed and at peace, without the usual strain of responsibility. It's hard to believe that he's finally, actually, my husband. Four days isn't really enough time to get used to the idea. Liz Evans. I can't believe it-I feel like happiness this deep shouldn't exist.
I know we'll face more problems like what happened yesterday and the day before, the same as always, but I can't help smiling as I watch the first rays of the morning sun crawl up my husband's back. I can't squelch this feeling of giddy freedom. I feel like we're all finally on the road to finding out who we all really are.
Liz reached across the intervening space and grabbed her husband's hand. She'd been reaching out to touch him every few minutes ever since they'd driven away from the motel with the sunrise a couple hours ago. She heard a sigh behind her, but ignored it, imagining Isabelle rolling her eyes from the back seat with a faint smile. Sure, it was a bit on the silly side, but Max was her husband, and she would be damned if she was going to restrain herself. It wasn't as if they had time for a honeymoon. She would make what she could of the time they did have.
Max, as usual, seemed to read her mind. He took his eyes off the road for a split second to shoot her an ironic, lopsided smile, and his fingers tightened slightly around hers. That quick little grin was enough to tell her of his love for her, his reciprocal desire to be close, his gratefulness for her forbearance in the face of Isabelle's annoying behavior, and his worry for his sister's broken heart and dashed dreams. She squeezed his hand back, then turned to look out her window.
They'd been driving slowly through Arizona for their second day now, on back roads through the country. She'd mailed her old journal back home in the little town where they'd married yesterday, after jotting down a quick note about the wedding, and now she was grateful. They hadn't seen a place to mail it since, or much of anything else. Liz's stomach had been rumbling quietly for half an hour now, and she'd been watching for anything promising along the road. As if her friend had read her mind, Liz heard Maria from the seat directly behind her.
"Well I don't know about the rest of you, but I think I might become violent if we don't stop for something to eat soon!"
"I can second that," Kyle drawled from the back seat. Liz turned around and looked behind her. Kyle and Isabelle both occupied the back seat, each on opposite ends. Isabelle was staring listlessly out the window again, her chin propped up in her hands. Kyle was sprawled comfortably on his side of the seat, his elbows hanging over the back of the seat as he looked forward hopefully. Maria and Michael sat next to each other on the middle seat. Michael was slouched low in the seat, his arm around Maria's shoulders as she leaned, ever so slightly, against him. Maria was looking forward, her arms crossed over her stomach. Michael seemed blissfully unaware of the world, his eyes closed. His head nodded in tandem with every bounce of the van as he dozed.
"If I remember the map correctly," Liz shivered as her husband's voice broke through her momentary reverie, "there should be a small town up here soon. I'm sure we can find something there."
Liz turned forward again. "Good. Actually, I'm getting really hungry too." She watched the road ahead for a sight of the promised town.
After a second of silence she heard some rustling, and then a sudden thud.
"Ow! Dammit!" Liz turned back again to see what was happening. Maria was holding Michael's shoulder with one hand and looking into his face with concern.
"Oh, Michael, I'm sorry! Are you okay?"
"Yeah," Michael replied with a slight hint of a sulk, "what's going on?"
"We're supposed to be getting close to a town soon, so I leaned over to look for my purse. I didn't have time to grab money from my account, so I wanted to see how much I have left."
Michael nodded and rubbed his forehead, wincing. "Oh. Okay. Come to think of it, I'm probably the only one who had time to clean out my stuff before we all left. Everyone must be getting pretty short, huh?" Isabelle took her eyes off the passing scenery outside to let loose another sigh and roll her eyes again.
"Haven't you leaned how not to be stupid, yet?" she grumbled, not very quietly.
"Iz!" Max's voice had some of the old command for a second as he shot her a look in the rear-view mirror.
"It's not like it's hard! I just need a couple of ones! I can change them into hundreds if we need them!" she shot back, exasperated. Max watched the road again, his lips pressed together. Liz reached out and stroked his arm once, and he shot her another quick look out of the corner of his eyes. Michael looked offended for a moment, but Maria whispered something in his ear and he turned to face forward again, muttering under his breath.
Kyle turned his head from Michael to Max to Isabelle, but maintained his relaxed position. "In times like this," Kyle began, "Buddha sa-"
Isabelle whipped her right hand around to face Kyle in the classic threatening alien pose. "One more Buddhist saying out of you and I'll give you flying lessons!" she snarled, not even turning to face him. Kyle turned his head and looked out the window without another word, bringing his arms down off the back of the seat and crossing them over his chest. Liz turned forward again, rubbing her hand up and down Max's forearm as she felt his muscles tighten.
"There it is!" Maria's voice suddenly broke the frigid silence in the van, making Liz jump. "Wilkieup! Hmm....not very big, is it?"
"I'm sure it's big enough to have a restaurant," Max said, slowing down. "Anybody have any preferences?"
"NO fast food!" Maria insisted, and leaned forward again to quest for her elusive purse. "Fast food breakfasts make me sick."
"Yeah, see if you can find a good ol' greasy spoon," Michael said. "I need a REAL breakfast, with plenty of grease and fat!"
"That looks promising," Kyle said, "over there on the left!" Liz looked and saw an old diner that fit the description ‘greasy spoon' perfectly. The dirt lot on one side was surprisingly full of cars and pickups. "Dad always says ‘Look for the restaurant the locals all go to. They'll have the best food.' That looks like all the cars in the surrounding county!"
Max pulled into the sandy lot, pulling into one of the larger spaces left for parking. He turned around to face the group after putting the van in park. "We're close to California now, but we should still be careful not to attract too much attention." Liz gently wrapped her right hand around his left. The corners of his mouth twitched up a bit as he continued. "Isabelle could have said it more kindly, but it was good she mentioned transforming bills. We should spend our money so we get as many bills as possible in change. That way we can keep our money supply from depleting until we can find some way earn it honestly again." Liz began playing with the simple gold wedding band on Max's finger. His hand jerked, and he wrapped his larger hand around her fingers.
Michael reached into the back pocket of his jeans and pulled out his wallet. "I've got a fifty to break. We probably shouldn't pay with anything higher than that, or we'll really attract attention."
"Well then, Space Boy, you can pay for my meal, for once!" Maria leaned over, opened the side door of the van, and jumped out, pulling Michael along with her. "C'mon, I'm starving!" Kyle got up and followed them. Liz reluctantly let go of Max's hand, opened her door and jumped down to the ground. She closed her eyes and stretched, trying to get the kinks out of her legs. Two days mostly spent riding in the van provided plenty of kinks. She jumped and opened her eyes as she felt something circle her waist. She smiled as Max leaned down to kiss her.
"Mmmmm...that's wonderful," she murmured against his lips.
"I couldn't agree more." She heard the smile in his voice as she reached up to wrap her arms around him. At times like this she felt as if she could melt into him. As their kiss deepened her mind flashed with images from last night. Just as she felt like they were never going to be able to part, a rustling sound behind them broke the kiss. Isabelle. Liz felt Max pull back slightly and did the same. He looked down at her. "I'll meet you inside, okay?" Liz nodded and smiled. Max's hands released their hold on her body, but as she backed off to follow the others into the diner she grabbed his hand again and gave it a reassuring squeeze. Then, with a parting glimpse of his smile, she turned and walked toward the diner.
Isabelle watched Liz walk off with narrowed eyes. Max turned from his new wife to favor Isabelle with a look. She knew, in the back of her head, that she wasn't exactly being fair to those around her, but she felt like Liz and Max were going out of their way to rub their marital bliss in her face just as she had been forced, once again, to give up her love and life to their alien heritage. She saw from the stubborn set of Max's jaw that he was willing to wait for hours for her to emerge from the van. Great, just what she needed, another lecture. Her black mood darkened even further, but she wasn't inclined to dig her heels in too deep this time...she was hungry herself, and the smell of fresh bacon was tugging at her insistently. She got up with a sigh and made her way out of the van, bracing herself for a quarrel.
After she jumped down, Max took a step toward her and, to her surprise, enfolded her in a hug. "I'm sorry, Iz..." he said, "...this has been so unfair to you." His arms tightened their hold on her. She felt as if she was frozen with shock. "I haven't thanked you yet for helping out with our wedding. I'm sure it was painful for you, but yet you were there with me, and happy for me. It meant so much to me to have you there." Max took a step back, but still had a light grip on her arms. She stood, tears beginning to form in the corners of her eyes. She held her breath in an attempt to stifle them. "You always seem to pay the highest price for what we are and," he looked down and to the side for a moment, and his voice lowered. "and for my mistakes."
Isabelle wrapped her arms around her brother with a small sob and buried her face in his shoulder. There were times when he was an insufferable jerk, but this was not his fault. It wasn't fair he take the blame for this one. After a couple of sniffles she stood up straight again and wiped at her eyes with shaking hands. "It's not your fault, Max. If it's anyone's fault, it's mine. Or the world's." She shrugged, but her attempt at nonchalance was marred by her smeared eyeliner. "I'm just not dealing with it well, yet. I'll try not to be quite so bitchy toward everyone."
Max nodded with a faint smile. "That would definitely improve the atmosphere in the van a bit." He looked down at his feet, then glanced up at her face again. "Are you sure about Jesse? Are you sure you don't want him along? He seemed willing enough to follow you."
Isabelle felt some of her irritation rising again, but she limited her expression of it to a vexed sigh. "I just - I just don't think it's fair to him. He just got this great opportunity in Boston, and the thought of forcing him to give it all up for me, after I lied to him about everything for so long-" She wiped at her eyes some more, getting the last of her smeared makeup off her face. Max looked like he wanted to say something else, but he stopped and looked toward the diner.
"Ok. Let's go get something to eat." He took a step toward the diner.
"Wait." He turned and looked down at her hand, clutching the sleeve of his shirt. "Thanks, Max." He quirked a questioning eyebrow at her. "Thanks for being a brother, not a king, right now. I - I really needed that."
He smiled. "I'm glad I didn't screw it up then. C'mon, aren't you hungry? Let's go." Isabelle felt the beginning of an answering smile on her lips as she closed the van door behind her and followed him in.
"So, is it just the four of you?" the waitress asked, her pencil poised over a small pad. Liz was watching the door as Max and Isabelle came in. She smiled and waved across the room at them.
"No, there're six of us," Michael said, jerking his head back in Max's direction.
"Ok," the waitress looked a little surprised, then started handing out the four menus she'd brought over. "You guys need two more menus?"
"No," Maria smiled at the older woman, "we can share."
"Right. What do you all want to drink?" The waitress reached out to hand the last menu to Liz's outstretched hand. As Liz grasped the menu her hand touched the waitress's. Liz felt a familiar jolt run down her spine.
She suddenly saw the waitress lying on the floor, a bullet wound through her chest, and a pool of blood underneath her. A pair of feet stood at the woman's head. The scene whirled and twisted, and she saw three figures. The feet belonged to the figure closest to the wounded waitress, a tall man wearing a knit ski mask. He held a gun, and the muzzle was pointed toward the cash register, where a man was draped over the counter, bleeding. Behind him stood another man, a little stockier and shorter, also with a mask on. The third robber stood behind the register. She was a slight woman, with long blonde hair sticking out under her ski mask. Liz concentrated, trying to find out more, and just had time to notice that she could see the sun about to set out the front window, when she heard "Liz! Liz! Are you all right?" She blinked and shook her head. When her eyes opened again, she saw Max's face, a small crease of worry on his forehead. "Liz!"
She clutched his arm, noticing that she'd dropped the menu she'd been holding on the table. "Max! Oh god..." She shook for a moment as shivers ran up and down her spine. The waitress looked at her oddly.
"Uh, I can come back later..." she ventured.
"What do you want to drink, Liz?" Max prompted. Liz shook her head again, then looked up with a wan smile, her mind racing for a mild explanation of her strange behavior.
"Sorry. Must still be sleepy. I'll have some orange juice. Thanks."
The waitress nodded tentatively. "I'll be back with your drinks in a second then. I'll take the rest of your order when I come back with ‘em." She turned and left. Liz breathed a sigh of relief.
"What was it, Liz?" Max asked, putting his arm around her shoulders and hugging her close to him. Isabelle and Maria leaned forward across the table, watching her intently. Kyle turned from staring out the window to look at her too. Michael was leaning back in the seat, his arms crossed and his eyes half-closed again.
"I - I had another vision. Of the future," Liz stuttered a bit, then took a deep breath to gain control of herself . Max's arm tightened around her. "This place...it's going to the robbed. The waitress was lying on the floor, shot...maybe even dead." Liz swung her head around and looked at the cash register. "There was a man, also shot, draped over the counter there, next to the register." Everyone's eyes involuntarily followed Liz's to the register. "There were three robbers, two men, and a woman. They were all wearing ski masks, I can't say too much about them...except the woman. She had longish blonde hair." Michael had discarded his appearance of unconcern and was looking around at the other patrons with a piercing gaze. Maria had grabbed Liz's hand across the table.
"Could you see anything else? Does it happen soon?"
Liz rallied enough to smile at her friend and gesture with her free hand toward the large picture window in the west wall. "No, the sun was setting."
"Setting?!?" Maria was distressed. "How long do they make that poor woman work? We're talking nearly 16 straight hours, here!"
"Weren't you paying attention, Maria?" Michael had stopped his survey of the restaurant at Liz's assurance they had plenty of time. He looked toward the door, directing everyone else's gaze there too. A "Help Wanted" sign was propped up in the window there. "I think our observant friend here," he pointed at Kyle, "should have considered that sign as well as the number of cars outside before telling us how wonderful this place was gonna be." Kyle merely looked annoyed and shrugged, then went back to looking at his menu.
Isabelle glanced around quickly, then opened her own menu. "Look at your menus, guys, some people are beginning to stare. We shouldn't attract too much attention to ourselves." Michael reached over and grabbed the menu in front of Maria, while Max opened the one Liz had dropped. Isabelle pulled a face as she looked at the menu. "Is there anything here that won't give me a heart attack?" Michael leaned forward and looked at Isabelle with a slight grin.
"Not that I can see. No fruit plates. You can choose eggs or pancakes."
"Or both!" Kyle added, his eyes on the largest breakfast on the bottom of the page. Isabelle pretended to ignore them both.
Liz looked up as a large glass orange juice was placed in front of her. The waitress had already dismissed Liz's strange behavior, and looked over the six with an unconcerned eye. "You guys decided what you want to eat?"
Michael and Kyle both nodded and leaned forward. "I'll have the two eggs, pancakes, and sausage, please." Kyle said, pointing to the menu.
"How do you want your eggs?"
Liz tuned out the others as she tried to decide on what she was going to order. She'd settled on an egg and hash browns when she felt Max elbow her. She looked up and ordered. The waitress nodded as she jotted the order down, then sauntered off. "So, what are we going to do?"
Isabelle took a sip of her coffee. "Do about what?"
Isabelle looked down. "Do we have to do anything?"
"We'll be long gone by the time this happens," Michael added. "The last thing we need to do right now is play hero in some two-bit town."
"But Michael, we can't just let them die!" Maria seemed horrified.
Max nodded. "I couldn't let it happen to Liz when this all started. I can't let it happen here, either."
Michael snorted, ‘Yeah, and look how great that decision turned out to be!"
Maria looked at Kyle, who suddenly looked uncomfortable and squirmed in his seat. "What do you think, Kyle?"
"I'm not sure. It doesn't really seem right to just let it happen like Liz saw, but..." he paused, then plowed on ahead, "But it does seem like a stupid risk right now. We're only a couple of days out of Roswell. Dad's convinced them we're heading to Mexico. If they get a report of us here, we've just thrown away whatever advantage we have." As he mentioned his father, Kyle's shoulders slumped, and he looked down at his orange juice as if it'd somehow solve his problems.
"Exactly!" Michael agreed. "If we get involved, who knows what will happen. The way I see it, the least that will happen is we tip the FBI off to our location. At worst, we all end up dead too." He shook his head. "I'm not really sure if it's worth it."
"Michael, you can't really mean that!" Maria's voice rose a little, and Liz and Isabelle both made shushing motions. Maria lowered her tone, but spoke just as stridently as she continued. "We'll just have to be really careful about how we go about this."
Liz finally spoke up. "We have to try to stem this robbery off before it happens, so we aren't forced to perform any alien fireworks. But it would be wrong to allow this to happen, now that I know about it."
Isabelle looked around the table. "I agree that it's distasteful, but Liz, think this through. We can't stop every bad thing that happens to people. Look at how little we could control about our own lives. Every time you see someone robbed, or lost, or missing a puppy in the future, we can't just drop everything and help them." She closed her eyes and dropped her head a bit. "We're not superhuman. And we're in horrible danger right now ourselves. Is it worth all our lives to stop this?" Isabelle looked up into Liz's eyes.
Liz's jaw was firm and her eyes didn't waver. "Yes. I have a responsibility to do what I can." She sat up straight in the booth. "I know I can't fix the entire world. But I can't allow these innocent people to die because of my fear." She looked down at the table. "I understand if you don't want to help. But I have to. I couldn't live with myself if I didn't." Max's arm behind her suddenly pulled her tightly to him, and he kissed the top of her head.
"I understand what you mean," he whispered. She looked up into his brown eyes, grateful for his understanding. He smiled. "Remember that Christmas, when I let that man die? You were my moral compass then, Liz. It was dangerous, healing those children, but it was right. I would never take back that action." Liz nodded. He did understand exactly how she felt, she realized. His healing powers carried much the same burden of responsibility that her foresight did. "You helped me find my balance, Liz. Now we've just got to find yours."
Michael sighed and sat back. "Well, if we're going to go ahead and do this foolish thing, we'd better all be in it together, or we'll never pull it off."
Isabelle rested her chin in her hand and looked across the table at her brother and new sister-in-law. "I understand where you're coming from. Really, I do. But if we're gonna do this now, we've got to be really careful. And we can't do this every time Liz sees something bad happening. You do realize this." Liz nodded, still hugged tightly against Max. She felt Max turn his head, then release her from his grip.
"Here comes our food." Everyone sat back from the table as the waitress walked up.
"Eggs and pancakes?" Kyle and Michael both raised their hands a bit, and the waitress set their plates in front of them. An idea struck Liz, and she looked for the woman's nametag. "Veggie omelet?" Isabelle nodded, and as the waitress placed a plate in front of her, Liz spotted it. "Pancakes and bacon?" Maria smiled and the woman gave her her breakfast. "Here's your syrup and some butter, hon. I'll be right back with your food," the woman said to Liz and Max. Before she could turn away, Liz spoke up.
"Fran? What sort of help are you looking for here? Waitresses? Cooks?"
"Well, now, we could use just about anybody. We're the best restaurant in the area, and always busy." Fran smiled. "But don't you worry, honey, we have an excellent cook, your food won't be long." She walked away.
"What was that about?" Maria asked curiously.
Liz shrugged. "I was thinking, whatever we do, it'll be weird if we just hang out here until nightfall. But if I can get a job here waiting tables, I kill two birds with one stone. Not only do I keep Fran from getting shot, but we'll all have an excuse to hang around."
Max shifted in his seat. "I don't like the idea of you being here, Liz. Especially alone. The last thing we need is you getting shot again."
Michael waved his fork in the air. "No, no, that might work," he said through a mouthful of pancakes. "I could apply to cook here too. Shoot, Maria can try too. Safety in numbers, and all."
"You guys, that has its own dangers." Isabelle stared at the ceiling, a piece of omelet forgotten on her upraised fork. "We can't just be hired...there're all sorts of concerns, like social security numbers. You can't use your own identities." She ate the omelet on her fork and grimaced. "I forgot to ask for Tabasco."
"Ah, that's easy!" Kyle jumped in. "Just do your alien thing," he waved his hand carelessly over the table, as if trying to transform it into something. "and ‘Shazzaam!', new ID. We already did that in Vegas, remember? It's got to be a heck of a lot easier than what Isabelle did, creating Liz's dress for the wedding!"
"Yeah, but I just changed our ages on those IDs," Michael said. "We're talking about whole new identities. That could be a problem."
Maria shook her head. "We're just talking about a temp job, right? One day? I'm sure we can talk the owner into hiring us for cash for one shift..."
Michael shrugged. "I suppose it's possible, especially for waiting tables. Still, the whole ID thing is something we should consider for the future."
"What shall the rest of us do while you're all trying to get shot?" Isabelle asked, evidently deciding that arguing against attempting to find work at the diner was hopeless. "Hang out in the van?"
Max opened his mouth to say something when Fran exited the kitchen with two more plates in tow. "Which of you wanted the two eggs over easy with a side of bacon?" Max nodded and she set down Liz and Max's breakfasts in front of them. "You need a head on that?" she asked Isabelle with a nod toward her coffee cup.
"Mine too, please."
"You have regular or decaff?" Fran asked Maria.
"I'll be back in a moment."
Liz looked at Max as Fran walked off. "What do you think?"
"I don't really like the idea of you working here during a robbery." Liz opened her mouth to protest. "BUT as long as someone else is working here with you, I think it's our best option." He speared a piece of bacon and began to lift it to his mouth. "But Isabelle had a good point. Where will the rest of us be?"
"If there's a motel in the area, you could rent a few rooms for the night," Maria suggested.
"I suppose, only it'll still attract attention when we decide to stay the whole day."
Isabelle leaned back with a sigh. "Well, first I suggest we all buy some clothes here. It's not like we left with much in the way of belongings." She looked outside and sniffed with disdain. "It won't be much, but even just jeans, a couple of shirts and underwear would be nice. We find a motel nearby with a coin laundry and we'll have plenty of exciting things to do."
Max nudged Liz with his elbow. "Here she comes."
Fran leaned over and filled Maria's and Isabelle's cups. "You kids need anything else?"
Liz leaned forward. "Fran, we were just talking and...well..." she smiled a little sheepishly, "We're a little short of money. We were wondering if some of us could be hired to waitress here for a little while."
"You mean you don't have enough cash to pay your bill?" There was an ominous darkening of their waitress's voice.
"No, no!" Michael made calming motions with his had. "We can pay you. We just realized we'll be short before the end of our trip, and since you need help anyway, we thought we could help each other out."
Maria nodded her head enthusiastically. "She and I have both been waitresses for a few years back home, and he," she pointed at Michael, "has been the cook for two years at our restaurant as well."
Fran only look partially mollified. "Well, it's not my place to say, but I'll ask Hal what he thinks. When would you be able to start?"
"We could start work tonight." Liz offered, trying not to appear too eager.
Fran shrugged, still keeping a wary eye on them all. "I'll see what he says."
Liz smiled as reassuringly as she could. "Thanks, I really appreciate it."
Isabelle stirred her coffee. "Well, that could've been handled better." She took a tentative sip from her mug, watching Fran as she walked back into the kitchen. "I think we all owe Fran a large tip, however this turns out...it should encourage her not to remember too much about us." The rest continued to eat their breakfast in silence, each considering the possible consequences of their actions over the next few hours. Liz was just finishing off the last bite of her hashbrowns as a man, wiping his hands on a towel, emerged from the kitchen. She gasped and nearly dropped her fork as she saw him. Max grabbed her hand under the table.
"Is he the man you saw, Liz?" he asked quietly. "The man who was shot?" She nodded silently and placed her fork down on her plate with exaggerated care as she struggled to compose herself. She didn't want to miss this chance to prevent her horrible vision from happening.
"I hear you kids are looking for work?" The man looked hot and tired. Liz couldn't help feeling sorry for him.
"Yes, sir. We're on a road trip across the country, and it looks like our funds will run out before we can settle down in L.A. We noticed your sign out front, and since three of us have done work like this before, we thought..." Maria's voice trailed off.
"How long are you gonna stick around?" the man asked, obviously looking them all over.
"We're not sure, sir." Michael interjected. "Probably a couple of days. Not more than a week."
The man nodded, not surprised. "I could use a cook and a waitress. I'll pay the cook six dollars and hour. The waitress gets three dollars an hour plus tips. Can you start this afternoon?"
Liz smiled and nodded. "Yes, sir. What time?"
Hal scratched the back of his head for a moment. "How about three. It's pretty dead about then, it'll give you a chance to settle in before the dinner rush. Don't show up late."
"I'll be there, sir." Liz held her smile.
"Me too," Michael added.
"All right." Hal nodded and walked back through the swinging doors too the kitchen.
"Well," Max said, still looking a little nervous. "I guess that's taken care of, then. We've got a few hours to find a place to stay and plan how you two are going to contact us when you need help."
Maria leaned forward. "I think we should just wait in the van during their shift. Otherwise we'd be too far away to be any help when something happens."
Liz looked outside. "The sun doesn't set until about seven thirty right now. There's no reason for you guys to hang out here all afternoon. I guess if you come in for dinner right after seven you'd have a good chance of being here."
"Sounds like a plan to me," Michael said, pulling out his fifty to pay Fran, who was making her way toward them. He handed her the fifty dollar bill. She took it with a suspicious look and walked back toward the cash register. "I'm happy to get out of doing laundry." Maria looked slightly miffed at his comment, and opened her mouth to say something. Fran came back, however, so she stifled her protest. Fran handed him his change with a nod, then turned toward the table next to them.
"No, Michael! Give her the five!" Kyle protested as Michael began counting out four ones.
"Why? I'm already giving her more than ten percent. Why another buck?"
"Weren't you listening? Each of those one dollar bills could one day be one hundred dollars! We want to conserve the number of bills, not our actual cash."
"Oh, yeah, right." Michael replaced the four dollar tip with a five.
"Let's go," Isabelle said, getting up. "I need something else to wear."
Everyone else got up and followed her out of the diner.
Michael looked outside. The sun shone through the picture window in the front of the restaurant, right into his eyes. The first four hours of his shift here had passed more quickly than he thought possible. As he grabbed the next order he intercepted a significant look from Liz. He followed her gaze and saw his friends enter the restaurant. Of course. If the sun was low enough to shine in his eyes, it was setting. Liz's vision was about to happen. Max nodded at Michael before his eyes locked with Liz's and stayed there. Liz walked up to the table where they settled down with a smile. Michael's muscles tensed up as he began cooking again, and he looked out at the dining room every few seconds.
"What's gotten into you, Michael?" Hal was still here, but rather than cooking, he was sitting in a chair behind the register. "You're antsy all of a sudden."
"Sorry, Hal," Michael said as he tried to think of a harmless explanation. "I think I need a quick break." He shot a significant glance toward the bathrooms. Hal chuckled and nodded.
"That's fine. I'll hold the fort ‘til you get back."
"Thanks, Hal." Michael wiped his hands quickly and slipped out the back of the kitchen. He couldn't be so obvious about his nervousness! He resolved to tighten his control over his emotions.
Michael hurried in the bathroom, then took the grill back from Hal. "Thanks." Hal nodded and sat back down by the register. Michael could understand why Hal wouldn't trust them alone in his restaurant, but having the guy stand behind him all day was a bit annoying. At least he was a pleasant boss. And he hadn't even asked to look at any IDs. Michael was thinking over their ID problem, which would undoubtedly become a large issue for them when he was interrupted by a hiss from Liz.
"What?" he growled back, scooping a burger onto a waiting bun.
"Have you noticed the sun?"
"The sun...what?" Michael was confused for a second. "Oh! It's already set! Nothing happened!"
"Exactly! Maybe we changed it! Maybe just being here changed my vision!" Liz was so excited that Michael couldn't restrain a small smile.
"So, you've checked? Have you touched Hal to find out if the future's changed?"
Liz's happiness damped a bit. "No...no, I haven't. I'd better do that. I suppose this didn't have to happen today, after all." She walked away, and Michael felt a little bad that he'd punctured her balloon, but then he shrugged and went back to work. The rest of the evening seemed to fly by. As Liz finished up cleaning off the tables she bumped, as if by accident, into Hal. "Oh! I'm so sorry, Hal!" As she touched a hand to his arm, her face suddenly blanched white as bone. She snatched her hand away. "I'm sorry." She hurried back to the kitchen, clutching the large rectangular plastic bucket she held to her hip tightly with her other hand. Michael hurried with the last of the cleanup. Hal carefully counted out two piles of cash as they both waited by the back door.
"Will I see you tomorrow?" he asked as he handed one to Michael.
"Yes! Yes, we'll be here tomorrow! Same time?" Liz jumped in, still pale.
Hal shot her a weird look, but only nodded. "All right then, three tomorrow." Michael turned, pushing open the door. "And you guys?"
He turned back to look at Hal. "Yeah?"
Liz nodded and pulled Michael into the parking lot, practically dragging him to the waiting van. She shushed him when he opened his mouth to ask her what was going on. She flung open the front door of the van and crawled in. Michael noticed that she was shaking.
"Well? Why didn't anything happen?" Max asked as Liz began to fasten her seat belt. "Did our presence stop the robbers somehow?"
Liz shook her head, and Michael already knew what she was about to say. "No. No, it didn't. I touched Hal again, trying to find out what happens. This time I saw a newspaper in my vision, on the floor next to...next to me. The robbery still happens; it happens tomorrow...only...only I saw Michael and me dead, as well."
Max rolled over and reached for Liz. His eyes snapped open as his hand met cold sheets instead. He sat up, trying to get his bearings. The room was dark, and the bathroom too; she wasn't here. The clock on the bed stand read 4 a.m. He looked to the side of the bed and saw her pajamas lying on the ratty old armchair next to the bed. She must have gotten dressed. Max pulled himself out of bed, his worry a loud clamoring that he sternly pushed to the back of his mind. He noted, as he pulled on a pair of pants, that her shoes were also gone. He tried to comfort himself, saying that maybe she just went for a walk. There'd been a lot of uncomfortable silence when they'd arrived at the motel. Liz had been adamant in returning to work at the diner tomorrow, no matter what persuasion was attempted. Maybe she'd just gone for a walk to work things out in her head. He blindly grabbed a button up shirt and the second room key, then left the room.
Liz wasn't out front, and he wasn't able to see her up or down the road. He just finished pulling the shirt on as he rounded the corner of the motel. As he neared the back edge of the side wall he heard something. A dark figure was silhouetted in the moonlight. Max quietly walked up to the figure. Whoever it was was holding out their hand toward a precarious pile of rocks. When Max was only a few yards away, he heard the sound again-a muttered curse full of frustration-and he recognized Liz's voice.
She held up her hand again, palm open toward the rocks. Max silently walked up close behind her and asked, "What's going on, Liz?" She jumped and let loose a little yelp, and a green flash suddenly shot out of her hand, hitting the rocks with a sharp loud crack. They seemed to explode outward, and Max leapt forward and dragged Liz to the ground, shielding her from the pieces of stone flying all around them. "Liz? Liz! Are you all right?"
"Oh Max, you scared me to death!" Liz gasped. Max got up and held his hand out to her. She grabbed hold of it and he helped her regain her feet. "I didn't know you were there!"
"What were you doing?" he asked, concerned. Liz reached down and began to wipe the dirt off her jeans. He saw that her hands were shaking again, as they had been after her shift a few hours earlier.
"I-I've been worried about the vision. About seeing Michael and me dead. I thought that if I tried to practice my-" she made a face, "powers, I would be able to prevent it from happening." She looked at the shards of rock scattered about them. "I've only used them on purpose when I threw Tess across the room that one time. I've been trying to zap those rocks for about half an hour, and I couldn't get so much as a spark. But you startled me, and ‘ZAP!', I let loose." She looked irritated. "I can't seem to control it!"
Max enfolded her in a tight hug. "If you don't want to go tomorrow, Liz, you don't have to."
She turned in to the circle of his arms and pressed her cheek against his chest. "I do. I have to-I just know I do. But I'm frustrated." She hugged him back as hard as she could. "And scared."
Max's mind raced. He remembered similar feelings of his own over a year and a half ago. He'd been frightened too, but his conviction that healing those children was right had been stronger than the fear. He couldn't insist that she give up on these people, even though fear at losing her made his legs feel weak. He loved her strength, her ideals, and her convictions. He could never ask her to give those up. He had to keep her safe. "You know, now, that the attack is tomorr-well, later today, right? And you only saw you and Michel there?" Her hair rustled as she nodded. "We'll hang out at the diner like we did last night. We'll just get there an hour or two earlier. That way, whatever time this all happens, we'll be there. With all of us there, nothing can happen, right?"
Liz pushed back against him and looked up at his face. "I-I guess. I didn't see you there at all in my last vision. But Max, that still doesn't solve my problem with these powers." She waved one of her hands toward a particularly large piece of stone at their feet. "I don't have control of them. What am I going to do?"
"We didn't learn control overnight either. Look at Michael, when you first met him, he was totally out of control. He's a lot better now, but he still loses it occasionally. And he had years with it. Just give yourself some time, Liz. You don't have to be perfect, and you don't have to do it all yourself. We're together in this."
Liz looked down. "You're right. I feel stupid for coming out here alone like this. And the others may not like me doing this, but they're all helping out. Especially Michael." She smiled up at him.
"Yeah, he did the same thing when I needed help with those kids." Max agreed, leading Liz back toward their room. "And he helped protect you guys when you were investigating Alex's death." Max sighed, thinking of his brother and best friend. "He puts on a show, but that's what it is, mostly. A show."
"It's too easy for me to forget that about Michael." Liz pulled her room key out of her pockets and unlocked their door with a yawn. "I couldn't sleep earlier, but now I'm exhausted." She closed the door behind them, then turned and kissed Max. "Thank you for talking a little sense into me," she whispered as their lips parted.
Max smiled. "Anytime..." he whispered back, then pulled her close and renewed the kiss.
The knock at the door echoed loudly. The room was foggy and indistinct, but the door stood out sharply in Isabelle's vision. She watched a man walk up to the door slowly, reach out, and turn the knob. A bright light was on the other side, and the silhouette of a figure. Isabelle squinted and shaded her eyes.
"Mr. Parker?" The dark figure reached up and pulled off its hat. "Jeff Parker?"
The man answering the door nodded and swallowed. Isabelle could see fear and worry etched on his face. "Yes. That's me, Sheriff."
"Mr. Parker, you reported your daughter missing three days ago? She was one of the students that disappeared after the incident at graduation?"
"Yes Sheriff. Have you found her?"
"Well, sir, as you know, the FBI is involved in the case. They've informed me that they've found your daughter. This Max character you were so worried about? Well, you were right. They robbed a bank together, and blew up a military base. We have video of them."
"They broke into a hospital and held some doctors hostage."
"I-I don't believe you!"
"She was shot during the police response to the incident." The silhouette's voice was dispassionate as it listed the increasingly disastrous, and unlikely, news. Mr. Parker grabbed hold of the doorjamb as his legs began to collapse under him.
"Liz! My little girl! How did this happen?!?"
Isabelle couldn't stand it anymore. She walked over and shook his shoulder. She could only hope he would remember something of the dream in the morning. "Mr. Parker?" He lifted a grief-ravaged face up to her. "Mr. Parker, he's wrong. Your daughter is fine."
"There was a disfiguring fire involved, Mr. Parker. Maybe you shouldn't bring your wife to identify the body," the "sheriff" continued, oblivious to Isabelle's presence. Isabelle whirled on the figure with an oath.
"Shut up!" She pulled Mr. Parker back and slammed the door. "Mr. Parker, Liz is okay. She's fine. I promise you."
"You-you're a friend of Liz's, aren't you?"
"I'm Max's sister, Mr. Parker. I left Roswell with them."
"Max? He stole my little girl."
Isabelle rolled her eyes. People were so annoying when they were dreaming. "No, Mr. Parker, Liz went with us willingly. She's okay. I promise. I just saw her a couple hours ago. She's fine."
"Where is she? Why'd she leave?"
Isabelle took a deep breath. "I can't tell you, Mr. Parker, but please, please remember this when you wake up. Your daughter is fine. She's happy. Okay? She's sent something to you in the mail. It will explain everything. Just hold on a little longer, Mr. Parker, and then you'll understand."
He nodded, still distraught, but a little calmer. Isabelle tried her best to smile at him, then broke the dreamwalk. She sat up in bed, gasping. She looked over at Maria, sleeping so peacefully in her bed, and was momentarily jealous. But she couldn't help looking back at Roswell, and at all those they'd left behind. Mr. Parker had been in the worst shape of all their parents, but Mrs. Parker and Mrs. Deluca hadn't been much better off. At least her parents knew what this was really all about, though they were worried for their children. She clenched the sheets. She had just one more person she should visit. An important person-so important she'd been unable to bring herself to try to dreamwalk him. Jesse. How betrayed...how angry he must feel. She just wasn't brave enough to see what he thought of her. The thought of what Jesse was going through was almost more than she could bear to imagine. Isabelle turned over in bed with a sigh and tried to calm her whirling thoughts and burgeoning guilt.
Would she ever be able to be happy?
Would she ever forgive herself?
"I'm sorry, Hal. We really appreciate everything you've done for us." Liz smiled as she saw Hal grin a little and shake his head.
"No, don't be sorry. You explained it was only a little while when you asked to work. I know Fran and Sue appreciated the time off they got." Sue, the other regular waitress at the diner, smiled and nodded.
"You bet! It's great to be going home this early, for once!" Sue waved and pushed open the back door. Liz smiled and waved back as the older woman left.
Hal smiled. "I'll handle the register again. Now," he clapped his hands," time to get to work!"
"Yessir," Michael nodded and turned to go back in the kitchen. Liz snagged an apron and began to tie it around her waist. As she was grabbing an pencil and pad for orders, the bell over the door jingled and a family walked in. They settled in a corner booth and Liz walked over to them.
"Can I get you something to drink first?" she asked, handing out menus. Each parent was sitting on the edge of the booth seat, with a little boy by the wall on each side. The boys were kicking each other under the table, and Liz stifled a grin as she realized the parents were trying to be buffer between their overactive little boys and the rest of the world. The mother shot a quelling look at her two sons and then turned to Liz with a smile.
"Milk for each of the boys, and water for me."
Her husband nodded. "I'll have some coffee."
"Regular or decaf?"
Liz nodded and turned to get their drinks. The place was surprisingly full for mid-afternoon. An older couple was at one small table. A young man and his girlfriend were a few booths away from the family that had just walked in. There were seven middle-aged men on the opposite side of the dining room at a couple of tables, holding a loud conversation about ranching or something. There was even a guy sitting at the bar near the cash register, talking to Hal. She might make a little extra money today. She filled the milk glasses for the boys, and got the ice water and coffee. She wondered briefly how the father could stand to drink coffee in heat like this. The family would probably not tip too much, but the young man might, if he wanted to impress his girlfriend. The older couple was harder to judge. Some were very generous, others were never happy with the service. This couple here looked like the perfect set of grandparents, and Liz couldn't help being a little hopeful. As she walked over to the family a young man came out of the bathroom and sauntered toward the young man and woman's booth. She set the tray down on the table and handed the water and coffee to the parents, then set the glasses of milk down in front of the two rambunctious boys. Before she could even withdraw her hand the boy on the right grabbed his glass. As his fingers brushed her hand, a shock ran through her. Her left hand slammed down on the table as she fought to keep her balance. In the back of her mind she noted a loud clatter as the tray which had been holding the drinks fell to the floor.
The little boy was kneeling on the floor, crying, his hands covered in blood. His father was lying on the ground next to him, still breathing, but with bullet holes in his shoulder and chest. Liz turned her head in her vision, and saw the same three masked criminals. The woman was again rummaging through the cash, and one of the men was saying something to her. Liz saw herself again, along with Michael and Hal, bleeding on the floor. The other robber was smiling right at the boy as he carefully took aim. "NO!" Liz screamed, just as the man pulled the trigger. Her scream ripped through the vision, and she was spared seeing the boy die as well. She gasped and jerked her hand away from the little boy, staring at him in horror.
"Miss? Um...are you all right?" The parents were looking at her oddly. She shakily summoned a weak smile.
"Sorry about that, folks." She quickly rallied enough to wink. "Looks like I could use some caffeine myself." She bent over, grabbed the drink tray off the floor, and hurried back toward the kitchen, not even asking them if they were ready to order yet.
It was only about three thirty! The robbery wasn't supposed to happen until sunset, right? Unless...unless their presence had somehow changed events from the sunset robbery she saw in her first vision. She concentrated on remembering her second vision, the first she saw where she and Michael were killed. She realized that there had been no indication to what time of day it had taken place. It had been light outside, but there hadn't been a sunset in the window. She scanned the restaurant again and blanched as she saw the group of three young people near the family's booth. The young man coming out of the bathroom made them three...two men and a young woman with longish blonde hair. Liz flew into the kitchen.
"Michael! We have a problem!"
Michael looked up at the panicked tone of her voice. "What? What's happened?"
"The robbery, Michael! It's going to happen soon! Before our current customers leave!"
Michael grabbed her by the shoulders. "First off, Liz, take a deep breath, and don't say that so loud!" She nodded and did so. "Good. Now, what's this? I thought the robbery wasn't supposed to happen until this evening."
Liz nodded again. "Me too. Only, I just go another vision, and saw a couple of our current customers. And Michael, there's a group of three people - two men and a woman with blonde hair - at a booth right now. It's them, Michael, I know it's them!"
"Shit. All right. You have the motel number?" Liz reached in her pocket and pulled out a card from the motel. She handed it to Michael. "Great. I'll call Max and get everyone over here. Do they look like they're ready to start anything right now?"
Liz shook her head. "They're still eating, I think. They didn't have masks out or anything, and they're wearing masks in all my visions. We have a few minutes, at least."
"Look, you see them do anything, you yell for me, okay? I'm gonna make this call right now. Try not to let them know anything's wrong, all right?"
Liz nodded and attempted another smile. "Yeah. Thanks, Michael." She squared her shoulders, turned, and walked back out to the dining room. First she scurried over to the young family's booth. "I'm so sorry about that, folks. Are you ready to order?"
Liz concentrated on acting as if nothing was wrong, although her heart was hammering so loudly in her chest she was surprised she was able to hear anything else. Every few seconds she found herself watching the booth with the three robbers surreptitiously. She couldn't stop herself from doing it, it was completely outside her control; she could only hope she wasn't being obvious. As she finished taking the young family's order she heard the kitchen door open behind her. She turned around and saw Michael nodding in her direction. Thank God, he'd been able to contact Max. She turned back and collected the menus from the father and mother's hands, then walked back to the kitchen, jotting down the last of the family's order. She saw the old couple looking at her, and swerved over toward them. "Yes? Can I get you anything?"
The old lady smiled at her. "We'd like our check please."
Liz nodded. "I'll be right back with it." She felt good. Maybe she could get some people out of here before anything happened. She dropped the order off at the counter for Michael, and went to the register to pick up the old couple's bill. She hurried back out to them, eager to rush them out of the diner. As she neared their table, her eyes again, of their own will, wandered toward the booth that held the future robbers, and her heart stopped. The booth was empty. She put the bill down on the old couple's table. "There you are. Did you by chance see where the people in that booth went?" Liz asked, trying to keep her voice light.
"Oh, don't worry, hon, they didn't skip out without paying. They all went into the bathroom," the old lady responded, and her husband nodded. Liz knew the time was upon them. "Get down on the ground!" she yelled, already running toward the kitchen. "Michael! MICHAEL!"
Michael ran out of the kitchen just as the door to the men's restroom opened. The two men stepped out, carrying handguns. Liz sprinted toward the young family, as they were nearest the criminals. "Get down!" she screamed, "Get under the table!" The mother shrieked something unintelligible as she saw the guns and wrapped herself around the son nearest her. Her husband moved as though to get up and stop the men.
One of the criminals swung his pistol toward Liz as he heard her scream, and the other was centering on Michael, who had raised his right hand, fingers spread wide. The door to the women's bathroom began to open, and there was a faint rumble and flash of light as Michael unleashed a huge wall of force against the two men. Liz saw the men fly backward into the wall just as the woman emerged from the women's restroom, the muzzle of her gun already pointed at Michael.
Without even thinking Liz threw herself at Michael. "NO!" She barreled into him, knocking them both off their feet as the woman shot a bullet through the spot where Michael's heart had been a split second earlier. Liz didn't even stop to think, she brought her hand up and willed the woman to fly backwards, just as she had when she'd first seen Tess return from Antar. The woman screamed and her head cracked with a dull thud against the wall behind her, then she slid down to the ground, unconscious. Liz felt a sudden lethargy overwhelm her, and it took most of her concentration just to keep her head up. She didn't see Michael moving, and worried that she'd somehow hurt him when she'd knocked him over. She looked back at the bodies of the robbers, and to her horror, saw one struggling up to his knees.
He reached out to his right, found his gun and grabbed it in shaking hands, his eyes as wide and shocked as Liz felt hers must be. She brought up her hand again, but knew she didn't have the strength to knock him out. She finally felt Michael begin to stir, but knew there was no way he'd be able to wake up in time; the man was already bringing up the gun. Time dilated as Liz and the criminal's eyes locked. She concentrated, with the rest of her waning strength, on the idea of a shield between the criminal and her and Michael. For the merest of moments she felt a faint stirring of hope as a slight greenish tinge seemed to hang in the air between her and the man, but it faded quickly as she realized she'd never have enough strength to create a field strong enough to stop a bullet. She saw the criminal's forefinger begin to pull the trigger, and she closed her eyes.
Liz heard the shot echo throughout the room, but nothing hit her. She opened her eyes again and saw the bullet floating in midair in a thick, greenish shield that hovered before her face. As she watched the shield dissolved, and the bullet dropped to the ground. An angry scream ripped through the air and the man slid across the floor and slammed into a wall, then slumped over, as unconscious as his comrades. Isabelle lowered her hand, panting with anger. Liz roused herself enough to look around the diner. Nearest to the carnage before her was the young family. The mother crouched under the table with her two sons, too busy shielding her children to pay see what had just happened. Her husband was standing with his mouth open, gaping at the spectacle he'd just witnessed. The old couple must have heeded her hurried warning, because they also were crouched under their table. The woman's face was hidden in her husband's shoulder, and the old man's head bowed down, his eyes tightly closed. Hal looked at Liz with something between confusion and awe on his face. Hal's friend looked baffled as he got up from his position below the counter. The group of men in the corner wore mostly confused expressions, as if they still weren't sure what was going on.
Max. Liz turned her head the other way, and a smile lit her face. The strange, dispassionate clarity that had fallen over her mind when she'd been sure she was about to die suddenly lifted, and she began to laugh and cry at the same time. "Max!" Michael, who had been standing as Liz looked around the room, pulled her to her feet, and without even a glance or word of thanks, she ran to her husband. "Max! You made it!" She threw herself into his arms. He hugged her so close she could barely breathe, resting his cheek on her head and closing his eyes.
"Oh God, I was so scared I was going to lose you," he whispered in a shaking voice. "The thought of seeing you be shot again..." He swallowed and couldn't continue. Liz squeezed him tightly for a moment, then turned around to look at the diner again. Michael had two guns in his hand, and was bending over to get the woman's. Maria was looking at Liz with concern. Liz summoned a trembling smile for her friend, and Maria smiled back, then her eyes moved toward Michael. He stood with the third gun in his hand, and their eyes locked for a second. He nodded sharply at her, and her full lips turned up in a small secret smile as she nodded back. Maria scanned the room, then zeroed in on Hal.
She walked over to him, summoning her friendliest smile. "I think everything's okay for the second, sir, but don't you think we should call the police?" Hal's eyes flicked in her direction, but then they locked on Michael. Maria slipped around behind the cash register and reached up toward a grease-splattered phone hanging on the wall. She placed it gently in Hal's hand. "Here. You should probably call 911."
Michael walked up to Hal. "Hey, I know we didn't work very long today, but I guess we're gonna leave now. Is it okay if we're paid for the first hour?" Hal just gaped at him, still holding the phone, which was now beeping angrily. Michael looked him over. "You okay? Hal?"
Maria shook her head sadly. "He seems to be in shock." She grabbed the phone and dialed 911. "Hello?!?" she gasped in a frantic tone of voice, "Hello? There's been a shooting! Yeah! The diner! No, everyone looks okay, but people are in shock, all right? Just send some policemen. Yes, the shooters are still here. C'mon, please hurry!" The operator was still squawking something into the phone, but Maria ignored her and placed the handset back in Hal's hand.
"I don't really wanna take the pay if he doesn't say yes..." Michael sounded both worried and annoyed. Maria rubbed his back a little and leaned her head against his shoulder for a second. He glanced at her, then back at Hal. "Um, Hal?" Hal finally jerked his head a little, then nodded. Michael evidently took that as a "yes" and opened the register, pulling out a bunch of ones. "Thanks, Hal."
Kyle was standing over one of the men. "What should we do with them? Do we have anything to tie them up with? I'd hate for them to get away..."
Max was looking around the room, assuring himself that nobody was hurt. Then he walked over to where Liz and Michael had fallen and picked up the bullet the criminal had fired at them, pocketing it. Liz raised an eyebrow. "Remember how we almost got in trouble over the bullet with no impact marks on it, back when the Vandarium were trying to infect the Earth?" Max whispered, and her eyes widened as she nodded. That was definitely not something they should allow the police to find. Another thought occurred to her.
"Max, what about my fingerprints?" she whispered. "They're bound to be in police records after my arrest!" Isabelle turned and smiled at her.
"I'll take care of that," she assured Liz, and she turned so her hand was hidden behind her body from the left and behind Max and Liz from the right. She waved it and a pale white glow suffused the dishes, menus, counter, and tables in the restaurant for a moment so short Liz almost convinced herself she hadn't seen it. "Can you think of anything else you've touched?"
"The cash register."
Isabelle nodded, and the register flashed white, then returned to normal.
"Leave the crooks," Michael said to Kyle, beginning to walk toward the front door. "The cops aren't too far, I'm sure, and there're enough people here to keep them from getting away. They only had these guns," he hefted the three he was holding, "I already checked. They can't do too much harm now."
Kyle shrugged and nodded, then followed him out of the diner. Max, Liz, Maria and Isabelle turned to leave too. Liz leaned in toward Max again. "What can we do about what they saw?" she asked Max, worried. He looked concerned too, but shrugged.
"I don't know. Nothing, really, unless we want to hurt them. I suppose, if Tess were around, we could mind warp them, but after seeing the effect it had on Alex, I'd be scared to consider power like that, even if they were available."
Liz nodded. She looked at the father of the young family. He was the only one who had seen everything, except for Hal, who was in shock, and might be ignored. Everything hinged on what he told police. She walked over to him. He looked scared. She was sure she did too. "Please, sir," she whispered, "don't-" She stopped. What could she say? The man simply looked at her, then shook his head and turned toward his family. Liz watched him kneel and hug his wife and children. Then he looked back at Liz with gratefulness in his eyes. Liz turned and went back to Max.
"I'm sorry," she whispered, quiet enough that only he heard her.
"For what?" he asked gently.
"For blowing our cover here. I'm sure they'll find out that we didn't head for Mexico."
"It's possible," Max agreed, "but don't apologize for that. It couldn't have been helped, we couldn't let those people die just because we were afraid." He smiled. "We'll just have to think of something if he tells, or if they believe Hal." They ran up to the van. Kyle was in the driver's seat already as Max and Liz crawled into the back. Isabelle turned to them from the passenger seat up front and frowned.
"Hurry up, you two, we have to be out of sight before the police get here. Close that door!" Kyle started the engine.
"What about this van?" Liz shouted over the roaring engine. "Everyone's going to be able to identify it now! What are we going to do?"
"Don't worry!" Isabelle yelled back as the van began to move forward. She rolled down the window and put her arm out, placing her palm flat against the outside of the passenger door. "I've got it taken care of!"
Liz gasped as the paint seemed to ripple, and the color melted into a hideous baby blue. Kyle grinned and shot a look at Isabelle as this happened, and she grinned slyly back as Kyle punched down on the accelerator. Liz turned back as they drove away, watching until the last speck of Wilkieup disappeared over the horizon.
We've made a lot of mistakes, and left a lot of near disasters in our wake, but I can't seem to stifle this upwelling of hope. With Max and my friends by my side, I feel we can accomplish anything and go anywhere. I have many hopes and dreams, but here, sitting in an old, rusty van, with my head resting on my husband's shoulder, the most important ones have already been fulfilled.