[b]Title: I Am Not Felicity[/b]

[b]Author: Kath7[/b]

Rating: PG-13

Summary: From a challenge by Talena at Outer Haven. Max pulls a Felicity and follows Liz to school in New York. AU No shooting, no high school dreaminess in this fic. This will be from Max and Liz's POV's alternating.

Disclaimer: I own nothing that belongs to anyone else. Just borrowing with thanks.

[b]Prologue[/b]

[I]May 2002 - Roswell, New Mexico[/I]

[b]~Max~[/b]

"Max, you're late," my sister hisses as I slide into my seat next to her. "Mom and Dad are freaking!"

I glance over the crowd, picking out my parents fairly easily. My father is a little hard to miss, what with the giant camcorder attached to his face. My mother has her blonde head turned in his direction, as though she is giving him instructions, which she most likely is. This is how their relationship works after all. Mom tells Dad what to do and he does it. Not that Dad seems to mind.

Neither of them appears to be freaking at all either. Which means that Isabel is the one freaking. But I learned at an early age how to handle my neurotic sister. Always agree, no matter what. And if that doesn't work, keep your answers short. I could go into a long explanation, composed of many excuses - because really it [I]wasn't[/I] my fault - but what's the point?

A one word explanation will suffice in this case anyway.

"Sorry," I mutter. "Michael."

Isabel snorts. "I should have known." She looks past me in time to see my best friend Michael Guerin plunk himself down two people over. Missy Farley and Dan Funk separate the three of us, just as they have at every alphabetically ordered event since third grade. "Let me guess," Isabel whispers. "His hair gel didn't agree with his cap."

I snicker, amused, mainly because she's right. "Something like that."

"Well, you're just in time," Isabel tells me, obviously deciding to forgive me. "Liz is next."

I look at my sister sharply. She is staring back, her eyebrows raised, a half smile on her face. "What? Did you really think I didn't know, Max?"

"Know what?" I ask stupidly, my heart thundering in my chest. How could she possibly know? No one knows! No one has [I]ever[/I] known!

[I]Let's be realistic here, Max,[/I] I amend silently to myself. [I]Michael knows.[/I]

After all, he's the one whose been forced to accompany me on all those after-school visits to the Crashdown, Liz's parents' restaurant, where she works as a waitress every day after school. I couldn't have gone alone all those times. I mean, that would have raised Liz's suspicions.

But Isabel should not have any idea. No one else knows about my secret obsession with Liz Parker, my lab partner since freshman year. I have been completely circumspect.

Okay, well, maybe I do stare a little too often. But who can blame me? Liz is probably the most beautiful girl on the entire planet. She is so pretty, it's entirely possible she's the most beautiful girl on [I]any[/I] planet. One day I may find this out for sure, but for now I know her title on Earth is safe.

She has this long dark hair that looks so silky, it's taken all my strength over the past four years of sharing her lab table not to reach out and touch it - just for scientific purposes of course. To find out if it [I]feels[/I] as soft as it looks.

And her eyes.well, once I accidentally met her gaze, when she was serving me at the Crashdown, and let's just say I know what it means to be lost in someone's eyes. If Michael hadn't kicked me under the table that time, I don't know what would have happened. I may actually have done something about the way I feel about her.

Of course, that's a lie. The possibility of me ever doing anything about anything to do with Liz Parker is so insane, it actually makes me snort to myself.

Anyway, Liz has these amazing dark eyes. They are so intelligent and so kind. It's her eyes that make me think sometimes that, if she knew the truth about me, maybe she wouldn't be scared. That maybe she'd find me as fascinating as I find her.

This is all forgetting though that no one is supposed to know I find her fascinating. Which is why I am still staring at my sister with my mouth hanging open. "Isabel, what are you talking about?" I finally manage to say. I sound half strangled and Isabel certainly notices because her smirk widens.

"Liz Parker." Isabel shrugs innocently. "And how you're crazy in love with her."

Good Lord. Did she really just say that out loud? I look around frantically, to see if anyone's listening. I breathe a sigh of relief when it seems that no one has heard us. My sister really isn't talking that loudly. It just seems like she is because I am so shocked and mortified that she has somehow uncovered my deepest secret.

Okay, well, maybe it's not my deepest secret. But it is my most private one. The alien factor probably wins the most important to keep quiet prize.

Yes, you heard me right. I'm an alien. So's Isabel and so is Michael. We're pretty sure we were in the Crash of '47 but that's about all we know about our origins.

How do we know we're aliens? Well, I began to realize something was a little off when I started to be able to change anything I wanted into anything else. Like CD's into jewelry (for Isabel okay?) or regular paper into money. And then there was the time I was walking down my street and my neighbour's vicious dog came bounding towards me. It was kind of strange that, when I threw up my hands to protect myself, this green shield-like thing popped up.

Other than the fact that we can manipulate the molecular structure of anything, that Isabel can go visit people in their dreams, and Michael can blow up things with his hands, we're pretty normal. Izzy and I were found wandering in the desert by our parents, who adopted us really young, much to my everlasting gratitude. Michael hasn't been as lucky. His foster father Hank is kind of a dick, but Michael's coming to Albuquerque with me in the fall (To get a job, not to go to school - the fact that he graduated at all is a bit of a miracle. It's not that Michael's dumb. He's just kind of unmotivated. Isabel calls it lazy.), so it's not for much longer.

Anyway, you can see what I mean about the fact that I do have other secrets besides the one about Liz. Secrets that could result in me being dumped into a secret government facility to have horrible tests done on me.

And, yet, somehow, the Liz secret is more important to me. How I feel about her.I just really don't want it to become something that Isabel is going to tease me about. I'm tortured enough as it is. Like I need that stress on top of everything else.

"Isabel, I have no idea what you're talking about," I repeat firmly, glad that my voice sounds steady this time. "Liz and I are lab partners. I hardly know her. Not to mention, she's going out with Kyle Valenti."

And has been for 2 years, two hundred and sixty-five days now. Oh, and twelve hours. Can't forget those twelve hours.

I swear I'm not a stalker. Please don't think I am simply because I remember the exact day my lab partner started dating her captain of the football team boyfriend. It's just that one tends to remember the exact time and place when one's heart gets ripped in two. The time was two years, two hundred and sixty-five days ago. And twelve hours. The place was the student parking lot on the last day of school, freshman year. That was when saw I first saw Liz walk by with Kyle. They were holding hands and stopping ever few yards to kiss.

I didn't go to the Crashdown for three months. In fact, I didn't do much of anything. I spent most of that summer lying on my bed listening to the Counting Crows. At least I did until Isabel took all my CDs and ran over them with Mom's car.

It wasn't that I had ever expected that I would have a chance with Liz. I swear it wasn't. It was more the fact that Liz having a boyfriend made it completely clear to me, for the first time ever, that I was never going to be able to have a normal life. Because of who I was, I was going to be relegated to the shadows forever, completely alone. There was no one on this entire planet for me.

It's a slight problem when the only female alien of your acquaintance happens to be your sister after all.

Watching Liz embrace what it meant to grow up - seeing her with Kyle - it just about killed me. And so I had to stay away.

I thought I was over her after that summer. But when school rolled around and Ms. Hardy paired us for lab again, I knew it was never going to end. It wasn't better. In fact, it somehow got worse. Absence definitely made the heart grow fonder in this case. I was doomed - [I]am[/I] doomed - to pine for Liz forever. She represents everything normal that I'm never going to have. I really think that's where a lot of my desire for her comes from. From the fact that she is all I want and, yet, all I'll never have.

Or it could be the fact that she's beautiful and just kind of great. Sweet and nice and funny and friendly and, did I mention, beautiful?

And really, really smart. Which is why she is presently standing at the podium below us, her burgundy gown rippling around her as she prepares her notes to give the valedictory address. Because, yes, Isabel and I are presently sitting in the middle of our West Roswell High School convocation. Hold your applause. My parents will provide more than enough, I assure you.

Liz is going to Harvard. She told me that just last week when I managed to work up the nerve to speak to her. Normally my conversation consists of "I'll have a Will Smith burger, lots of hot peppers please," or "Can you pass that test tube?" But last week, mainly because we had just written our exam and there were no test tubes to be passed, I went out on a limb.

I wasn't surprised of course. What I had been surprised to hear was that Kyle wasn't going with her. Because, for some reason, Liz told me that too.

"He's going to UNM to play football," she said, frowning a bit. She was staring at me in a really weird way. I made me want to look down to see if I had somehow stupidly put my T-shirt on inside out that morning. I managed to refrain however.

"That sucks," I replied. I am, you see, a scintillating conversationalist. Although inside, I have to admit, my heart was doing somersaults of joy. I'm not really sure why, even now. It's not like it really made any difference. First of all, I'm going to UNM too and, second of all, I'm an alien. Oh and third of all I'm a big chicken.

Anyway, moving on. She told me this and I haven't been able to get it out of my head since. Because, why? [I]Why[/I] did she feel the need to tell me that she was breaking up with her boyfriend of two years, two hundred and sixty five days. And almost thirteen hours.

Also, it hasn't happened yet. I saw them making out in a back booth at the Crashdown just last night. Michael and I left early, needless to say.

"Isabel," I mutter now. "How long have you known about this?"

"Max, you're my brother and I'm not blind," Isabel tells me. I look at her. She actually sounds sympathetic. "I've known for a long time."

I can feel my ears burning. I know that my entire face is likely an unfortunate shade of scarlet at the moment. I turn to face the front again, unable to meet my sister's eyes. I'm not liking the implications here. If Isabel knows, how many other people know too? What if my parents know?

Good God. What if [I]Liz[/I] knows?

It's then, and only then, that the most horrifying realization of my entire eighteen years occurs. And, yes, I am including the day I realized I was an alien.

It is in this horrifying instant that I remember that D comes before E. Since Isabel and I are sitting on the end of our row, our last name being Evans, the Ds are right in front of us. And guess whose best friend has a last name that starts with a D?

You got it in one.

I stare at the back of Maria Deluca's blonde head, abruptly in full cardiac arrest.

She's sitting in that way that lets you know without a shadow of a doubt that she's been listening the whole time - all stiff and awkward - like she's trying to pretend she [I]hasn't[/I] been listening.

Well, my life is over. If Liz didn't know before, she's most certainly going to know now.

I'm never going to be able to face her again. She's going to think I'm a big creepy freak. I barely speak to her over the ten years I've known her and suddenly she's going to find out I've been in love with her all along.

At the thought of Liz, I raise my eyes and finally focus on her again. I might as well stare my fill now. I'm never going to be able to be in her presence again after all.

She is speaking down there, poised and confident as always, but I can't hear a word she's saying. I know I'm going to regret this later, not paying attention. But I feel like I'm sitting naked in the middle of my entire graduating class. It's a little hard to concentrate.

How the hell am I supposed to get up in a minute, go down there, accept my diploma as if nothing's wrong? [I]Everything[/I] is now wrong. She's going to [I]know[/I].

My sister seems to become aware of my frozen state because she nudges me. "What's wrong?"

I don't answer, simply lower my eyes and stare at the back of Maria's head again. I hear my sister gasp slightly to herself as she catches on. She doesn't get a chance to say anything though because suddenly Mr. Seligman is standing at the end of our row, urging us all to our feet so that they can start filing us across the stage.

Liz is done speaking, the crowd is clapping and I missed the entire thing. For the first time in years I am relieved that my father is surgically attached to his video camera. At least I'll be able to hear Liz's speech on it before I kill myself.

As Maria stands, she glances in my direction. My first instinct is to immediately look in the opposite direction, but for some reason I don't. Our eyes lock for one split second.

Now I don't know Maria very well.

Okay, that's a lie. I actually do know her pretty well, but not because we're anything more than acquaintances. With all the many hours I have spent staring at Liz over the past four years, it was pretty hard not to sort of get a handle on Maria Deluca at the same time. After all, they're almost always together. So, for example, I know that Maria has a strange obsession with crazy homeopathic remedies. I also know that she spends just about as much time staring at Michael as I do staring at Liz.

Which is maybe why she looks a little less accusatory than I might have expected at the moment.

But I'm getting totally off topic here.

My point is, I've barely exchanged two words with Maria in the entire time I've known her. But when our eyes meet, I can tell that she wants to say something to me. Unfortunately, Mr. Seligman is starting to nudge her away and is already telling my sister to stand up.

Maria faces the front again, following Tommy Dean down the bleachers and towards the stage. The moment has passed.

"It's okay, Max," Isabel mutters over her shoulder. "This is all my fault. I'll deal with Deluca."

I scowl at my sister. "You've done just about enough, Isabel. Leave Maria alone." First of all, none of this is really Maria's fault. Second of all, I'm beginning to wonder if maybe she [I]won't[/I] tell Liz. She didn't looked particularly threatening a few moments ago. Actually, she looked kind of intrigued, which, I must admit, has intrigued me.

And third of all, I know what my sister's idea of 'dealing' with someone means. Maria does not deserve it, particularly for overhearing my sister bugging me about something that I am beginning to realize most everyone in this one horse town probably already knows.

If I let her though, my sister is entirely capable of turning Maria Deluca into a social pariah at her slightest whim.

Did I forget to mention that my sister is the queen of West Roswell High School? Well, she is. Cheerleader, prom queen, the whole nine yards.

Isabel's method of protecting our secret differs slightly from mine, as you may have guessed by now. While I believe in drawing as little attention to myself as possible, and Michael believes in just generally never speaking to a member of the human race, Isabel has gone completely in the opposite direction. She is determined to be as normal as possible - as all-around American as possible. As [I]visible[/I] as possible. Because who would ever believe that an alien could be homecoming queen? I mean, really. It's absurd.

She also believes in making every human of her acquaintance scared of her, which her extraordinary popularity has accomplished quite nicely. Which is also probably why Michael and I don't get much ribbing for being such weirdo loners. Because we really are kind of weird. And we're definitely loners. But Izzy's social status protects us.

"Max, it's okay," Isabel says firmly.

"Isabel, if you do anything to Maria, I'll tell Mom and Dad that you never even sent your acceptance in to Columbia."

My sister pauses a foot from the ground. "You wouldn't dare," she hisses.

"I'm not kidding. Don't test me. You've done enough. Seriously."

My sister whitens. "I did that for you, Max," she snaps. "I'm not going to leave you and Michael all alone here."

"I never asked you to, Isabel," I retort. "And it's ridiculous anyway. You could have gone. We both know why you aren't going."

She tosses her blonde head and turns away. I know she's not going to speak to me for the rest of the day, but she's also not going to bother Maria.

And I also know that I'm right and so does she. Isabel isn't going to Columbia because she's scared to leave Michael and me behind, not because she doesn't want to go. My dad, who went there, is going to be super- disappointed that she's not going. She hasn't worked up the nerve to tell our parents yet and I'm playing pretty dirty right now by threatening her this way.

So you can see how seriously I take how easily she can destroy Maria. And for what. For me? Because of my stupid crush? It is not worth it. Maria is a nice girl. But Isabel has never really been able to bond with humans, except our mom and dad.

In spite of her iron control over the student body of West Roswell, my sister's only real friends are me and Michael. The sheer irony of her existence is that she's pretty much as big a loner as Michael and I are, only in a larger crowd.

In the end, she cares as little about humans as Michael does, but for a different reason.

Michael thinks humans are worthless, pointless, a waste of time to get to know. Because obviously we're going home someday, so why bother?

Isabel, on the other hand, desperately wants to be like them. And because, finally, she never will be, she despises them.

I, as always, stand somewhere in the middle.

I have to admit, my entire viewpoint of humans centers on Liz Parker, because she is one of them. And since she is everything that is perfection in my eyes, the human race as a whole has to be pretty damn great too.

Liz is still sitting on the stage as I pass by several minutes later, after accepting my diploma from Principal Brown and allowing my mother to snap what is sure to be a horrible picture for posterity while I am doing so. I don't do well with photographs. This might have something to do with the fact that I absolutely hate being the center of attention - even my mother's - but I digress.

The point here is that Liz doesn't even notice me, as usual. She reached out and squeezed Maria's hand as she passed her, but now she is turned slightly in her seat speaking to Ms. Hardy. I can hear that our teacher is congratulating Liz on her speech, so it's not really Liz's fault and, yet, I can't help the pang of disappointment.

You see how ridiculous I am when it comes to this girl. She barely knows I exist and I still expect her to somehow acknowledge me on the biggest day of her life. Maybe it's because if she did, it would make this the biggest day of [I]my[/I] life, but since my entire life sucks, it shouldn't be surprising when it doesn't happen.

Obviously whatever I saw in Maria's face a few minutes before has completely fried my brain. I am losing it.

Things only continue to get worse. My mother and father meet me and Isabel right at the end of the stage and force us to start posing for more stupid pictures. One of me with Dad. One of me with Mom. One of me and Isabel with Mom. One with me and Isabel with Dad. You get the drift.

Most mortifying of all? After approximately the fourth roll of film, my mother starts looking around for someone to take a picture of all four of us together and who does she grab by the elbow?

None other than Maria Deluca. Of course. She just happens to be standing right next to my mother talking to Sheriff Valenti, Kyle's father, who is dating [I]her[/I] mother.

I feel Isabel tense up beside me immediately at the sight of the sheriff. Valenti terrifies her more than anyone else in town. Everyone knows that his dad, the previous sheriff, is in a loony bin, having lost his job because he was obsessed with proving the existence of extra-terrestrials. My sister would never admit her paranoid fear of Sheriff Valenti, but I know her well enough to have guessed why she is so scared of him. She thinks this sheriff might turn out to be just like his father someday.

The sheriff isn't exactly my favorite person either, being as he's a major hard-ass and has given me two speeding tickets in the last sixth months when I [I]know[/I] I wasn't speeding, but he's never seemed overly suspicious of the three of us. Not more so than he generally is of all teenagers I mean. He actually seems to try and be as by the book as possible in order to distance himself from his freaky dad.

He seems perfectly normal when he tilts his hat to my mom and says hello. He then turns away, not even acknowledging the rest of us. "I'll see you at dinner, Maria."

Meanwhile, Maria is complying to my mom's request readily enough. I force myself to smile, even though I am wondering what is going through that blonde head of hers. She lowers the camera and she is staring right at me, a half smile on her face.

She looks about ready to say something when my mother grabs Michael, who is just coming down off the stage. "Okay kids! Now one with Michael."

I am still looking at Maria, so I see her face flush slightly. I wonder if that's what I look like when Liz is around. Because if it is, I have been living in some weird delusion thinking that no one in Roswell knows about my secret longing for her.

I can see that Michael is totally oblivious to Maria though as my mother takes the camera from her again and starts snapping pictures of my sister, my best friend and I. This reassures me slightly. Even if everyone and their brother does happen to be on to me, maybe Liz isn't. Just maybe.

Of course, since Maria now knows the truth for sure, I still can't be certain that Liz won't find out sometime in the near future. My stomach clenches again and I glance towards the stage where Liz is finally descending, the last of the graduates having claimed their diplomas.

".to the Crashdown tonight?"

I blink, realize that Maria is addressing me. "Huh?" I glance at my sister for guidance, but she is no help. Isabel is glaring at Maria, turns her back abruptly and starts talking to my dad, as though what happened earlier was entirely Maria's fault for overhearing, not Isabel's for blabbing. I can tell that she's still listening with half an ear though.

"I was asking if you guys were coming to Liz's party at the Crashdown tonight?" Maria repeats patiently, still looking sympathetic. She seems undisturbed by Isabel's antipathy. "Everyone's going. You're totally welcome."

I frown slightly. "Well.We're going out with our parents. For dinner." I feel like my tongue weighs a million pounds, can hear myself stuttering. All I want to do is reach out and shake Maria and demand that she tell me what she intends to do with her inside information.

Yes, it is true. My love for Liz Parker has now officially driven me insane.

"Don't be silly, Max!" This is my mother of course, who has been eavesdropping. I stare at her when I notice that she has a huge smile on her face. I understand with horror that she thinks Maria is asking me out on a date. I almost burst out laughing at the absurdity of this situation. "We can go out for dinner any time. You should go be with your friends," Mom continues. I can see that she is trying to hide her glee. I have suspected for a while that my parents might think there is something wrong with me because I don't seem to show any interest in girls. Which again reassures me that maybe the whole world [I]doesn't[/I] know about Liz after all.

But that she thinks that Maria likes me.Still nuts.

"Well, maybe," I finally say, frowning still. "Thanks."

My mother turns away, satisfied, and starts talking to Amy Deluca, Maria's mom, exchanging all those cheesy pleasantries parents do at functions such as this when they hardly know each other. Of course, I'm sure my mother has a more nefarious purpose in mind. I have a feeling Mom is already planning my wedding to Maria and so has decided to get to know the in-laws as soon as possible.

I can see that Maria wants to say something more but just then Pam Troy, the class president, comes marching by, a pile of yearbooks in her arms. She practically tosses one at Maria, and hands me two. "One's for Isabel," she instructs over her shoulder. "Guerin didn't pay for one. Tell him he's shit out of luck."

Nice. I feel a flash of anger. Not only is Michael standing two feet from me, and so Pam can tell him this herself, she also knows damn well that Michael can't afford a yearbook. Everyone knows that Michael can barely afford to feed and clothe himself being as Hank spends most of his money on booze. Last year when Isabel tried to buy him one though, he nearly lost it on her, so nothing was said this year when they went on sale a few weeks ago. I know that Michael doesn't really care about yearbooks anyway, but it's the principle of the thing. I hate the way people treat my best friend.

It also annoys me because they way people treat him only reinforces Michael's hatred of humanity. Right now he is standing expressionless, but I can tell by the way his arms are folded that he is thinking "stupid pointless human traditions." What he [I]really[/I] means by thinking this is "stupid, pointless humans."

I am still stewing about Pam and so I'm as shocked as he is when Maria walks over to him and hands him her yearbook. "Here. You can have mine."

He stares at her, clearly at a loss for words. Isabel is paying attention now too, half-scowling, half curious. I think she is as concerned as I am by how Michael might react to this. The last thing we need here is a scene. I know that my reason for wanting to avoid it differs from Isabel's however.

I have a feeling that how Michael reacts right now might be the be all and end all of Maria's graduation day experience. And I know for a fact that he has no idea. Which is not a good thing. Not a good thing at all.

"Why?" He finally asks suspiciously.

"Because you'll regret not having it," Maria shrugs. "Everyone should have a yearbook from their graduating year."

"If you give me this, [I]you[/I] won't have one," Michael replies logically.

"There are extras," Maria grins. "I'm on the yearbook committee. I'll steal one."

Michael is still staring at her, although I think he's trying to hide he's impressed by this last statement. I grimace. Because the fact that he is thinking something positive about a human - any human - is going to dawn on him at any instant and then he's going to turn into an ass. Even if it is because she apparently has criminal tendencies.

Three. Two. One.

"I don't want it," he mutters, thrusting it back at her. I sigh, waiting for Maria to crumble. I am shocked when she doesn't. Instead, as Michael turns on his heel to stalk away, Maria grabs him by the arm and stops him.

"Well, at least sign it for me," she says. "I mean, it's the least you can do."

Michael is staring at her, like she's some sort of weird specimen under a laboratory microscope. This is the first time in his entire existence that being an ass hasn't made someone run screaming in the opposite direction. "Why the hell should I do that?" He demands, trying to sound mad, but sounding more curious than anything.

"Because I asked you to, Michael," Maria snaps. "We [I]have[/I] known each other since elementary school. We may never see each other again. Maybe I just want a reminder that once upon a time we knew each other."

I glance at my sister. She meets my gaze, shaking her head. I can see that she has no idea what the heck is occurring before us either. Michael is actually having something of a [I]moment[/I] with a human. It is the definition of strange.

I am probably as shocked as I'll ever be when Michael actually looks at Isabel and grunts, "Pen?"

Isabel fumbles with her purse and pulls out a pen. I think she just wants to see where this is headed now. Because it is surreal. There is no other word for it.

Isabel, Maria and I all watch Michael open the yearbook and sign his name with a flourish. He looks up and meets my eyes. I frown at him slightly. He sighs, returns the pen to the page and adds "Have a Nice Life."

With that, he hands Maria's yearbook back to her and this time succeeds in his escape, leaving me, Maria and Isabel standing there staring after him.

"Michael's not." I trail off. "He's not exactly known for his eloquence," I finally say, trying to make Maria feel better. Although she doesn't seem particularly upset. Instead, she is still following Michael's progress through the crowd, a slight smile on her face.

Definitely weird.

She finally looks at me and shrugs again. "It was more than I expected. I didn't think he even knew how to write." She giggles. I stare at her. She looks as though she's had an enormous weight lifted off her shoulders. "Whew. That was fun!" She exclaims, twirling so that her graduation gown floats around her, her blue and gold yearbook clutched to her chest.

"Are you on drugs?" Isabel demands. I glare at my sister, but I don't think she meant to sound mean. Instead, she seems truly perplexed.

Maria laughs again. "Only adrenaline," she admits. "I just made a little bet with myself this morning, that's all. It worked out better than I hoped."

"A bet?" Isabel asks, trying to hide her curiosity, but I can tell from her tone that it's as engaged as mine is.

Maria looks at her, seems to be weighing what to say, but finally shrugs. "Do you guys watch [I]Felicity[/I]?"

Isabel stares at her. "Yes. Of course. Who doesn't? I love that show. But what does that have to do with Michael?"

"I bet myself that I couldn't pull a Felicity today and ask some boy whose always secretly intrigued me to sign my yearbook," Maria tells her, not looking the least bit embarrassed. "I mean, why not? It was worth a try." She clutches her yearbook to her chest gleefully. "And it worked."

"Michael intrigues you?" My sister demands, wrinkling her nose in disdain.

"Sure," Maria grins. "He's hot. And sullen. He's a total bad boy. What's not intriguing?"

Isabel glances at me, obviously mildly revolted. She considers Michael to be her brother too and, so, the idea that anyone might find him attractive disturbs her.

Or at least that's why I think she's looking at me at first. Until I see the scheming expression that is crossing her face.

This can't be good. And when she finally speaks, I am proven right.

"Max watches [I]Felicity[/I]," my sister says, making my mouth fall open in astonishment.

I'm going to kill her. If I thought I was ready to murder her before, now I know for a fact that my sister is not going to survive to see the dawn of a new day.

Because, the horrible truth is, I [I]do[/I] watch [I]Felicity.[/I] Or at least I did until it went off the air only a couple of weeks ago.

Guys don't have much choice in these matters when their sisters insist on making them watch with them so that they can dissect every small detail after. Isabel was the one who made me watch it. I swear to God, that is the truth.

Okay, I'm totally lying. I'm addicted to the WB. Isabel has nothing to do with it. So sue me. When I'm not stalking Liz at the Crashdown, I spend a lot of nights at home. I have to do something to keep myself busy.

I know that my face is probably ten shades of scarlet at the moment. I can't even look at Maria. But when she speaks she doesn't sound amused.

"It's a good show," is all she says. "I've always related to Felicity. It took a lot of guts for her to do that thing with the yearbook. I've always admired that."

When I hear this, I raise my eyes and meet hers. She smiles at me.

It is then that I have a moment of perfect clarity. I know exactly what she wants me to do. And I know that I'm going to do it too.

Because I want to. I don't want to go through life never taking any chances, particularly for things I really care about.

Maria dared herself to make an attempt to speak to Michael today and she did it.

And now she's daring me to do the same. I can see it in every line of her face as she turns her head.

I follow her gaze to see Liz standing under a tree beside Kyle, Liz's parents taking a picture of the two of them, their supposed break-up clearly still not having happened.

And, yet, I feel my spine straighten as I look back at Maria, who has her eyebrows raised, the challenge she is offering clear.

I have no idea how this happened, but it has. Somehow Liz Parker's best friend has decided to take up my cause.

I guess I do know [I]why[/I] though. What she just braved with Michael showed me that this girl gets me.

In spite of the fact that we have barely had a conversation in the ten years I've known her, Maria Deluca and I now understand each other completely.

If she could to it, I can do it too.

I may never see Liz Parker again after today, but I am going to make sure that she has to acknowledge me at least one time before she leaves Roswell forever.