Name: Katjen


Title: First Kisses

Rating: PG13/R

Season One Episode: Pre-Pilot

Note: Written for Roswell Underground's Season One DVD contest.

May, 1999

She squeezes his hand once with a smile, says, "It'll be fun, you'll see."

He doesn't say anything. He follows her inside and is immediately hit with the warm smell of sweat and beer. Body heat. It envelops him, making him squirm uncomfortably beneath his jacket. Isabel pulls it from his shoulders, drops it in a heap with hers beside the door. He immediately wants it back. Seeing it there with everyone else's means commitment to this place, this situation.

Isabel catches the look on his face and brings her mouth to his ear, shouting, "I know, I know, I owe you big for this."

Again he doesn't answer and she's too used to his moodiness to take his silent treatment personally. She squints at his neck, and suddenly reaches out to catch a loose thread on his collar. She twists it around her finger once and yanks it free. He glares at her and she grins patting his shoulder, mouthing, perfect.

She turns and squeals, "Kira, Hallie! Hiiiiiiiii!"

He hates this side of Isabel. The side that needs to be right at home with these girls who wear too much perfume, too much make up, too little clothing. Her voice gets higher, she flaps her hands. Her smiles seem strained to him, and it amazes him that no one notices. Kira and Hallie, her so-called "best friends" (not counting him and Max), see nothing false about her behavior, they like this Isabel.

"Omigod I loooove your shoes!"

"Omigod what the fuck am I doing here," he mutters and makes his way further into the house before Isabel can introduce him for the tenth time. They don't care who he is. He has nothing to say to them anyway.

He leans against the far wall where there aren't as many people and he watches her smile again, a perfect row of white teeth framed by pink lips that match her top exactly. She's not looking at her friends though. She's looking over Hallie's shoulder at him. The asshole she's here for. Kevin.

"You have to go with me Michael. I have to come with another guy so he'll, you know, be jealous."

"I have plans."

"Watching Comedy Central all night is not a plan. It's what sad people with no friends do on a Friday night when they're too bored to kill themselves. You're coming."

"What about Max?"

"I'm trying to make Kevin jealous not nauseous. Contrary to popular belief, incest is not sexy."

"I'm not gonna have to hold your hand oranything am I?"

"Miiiiiichael I want him to want me. Just act like you think I'm hot."

"Now I'm nauseous."

Kevin's arms are bigger than his head.

Michael watches him "raise the roof", a dance move favored by white boys with no rhythm the world over, and when he notices Isabel looking he pauses mid whoop-whoop to flex.

To flex for Chrissake.

Isabel giggles and looks away, pretending to be extremely interested in what Kira's going on about, pretending she has no idea she's got his attention now. She lazily piles her hair on top of her head and licks her lips, nodding at Hallie, obviously not listening to what either of them are saying.

Isabel only wants this guy, wants this world because it's "normal".

And he thinks the real reason she's insisted he come is that she wants him to be normal too. She's long since given up on the idea that they'll ever find a way home, and even though he hasn't mentioned it for awhile, she knows he's still clinging to it. She's trying to break him of it, trying to make him see that there is something worthwhile here.

Unfortunately horny teenagers and bad dance music isn't on his top ten list of earth perks.

He closes his eyes, smacking the back of his head against the wall in time with the boy band song thumping on the stereo. Speakers are spread out all over the room, surrounding him with music he hates while people who have nothing to say scream to be heard, and brush up against him on their way to the keg. He feels a little poisoned by it all. It makes him sick being here, pretending for Izzy's sake that he belongs here, that he wants to belong here.

He doesn't. He's got a "get out of jail free" card imbedded in his DNA and he's dying to use it.

He scans the crowd when his head starts to hurt, and recognizes a few people from school. He's never spoken to any of them. Doesn't know any of their names. If they know his it's only because of Isabel, of Max.

His eyes slide disinterestedly over their faces like the colored lights spinning from the revolving rainbow lamps and thinks when I get home this will all be a bad dream I hadEarth, high school, this fucking party

He pauses on a girl to his left, watches her for awhile. She has a white flower in her hair, a daisy, wilted slightly around the petals.

This girl talks a little too much, laughs a little too hard. She dances, her eyes staring straight ahead as she speaks to someone he can't see. He follows her gaze to yet another jockstrap-meathead. The guy isn't looking at her and she stops dancing, bites her lip, pink and glossy. Plush.

She's that girl from the café.

Max has begun dragging him to the Crashdown at least once a week. The other one usually takes their table - the brunette with the slight speech impediment. Sometimes he watches the blonde while Max pretends not to look at the girl. Michael rarely looks at her face, mostly just her legs and the bright mint line of her skirt against the pale skin at the backs of her knees. Whenever she does wait on them she never looks him in the eye. It's like she knows better.

He glances back over at Isabel. She is now talking to Kevin while Kira and Hallie discreetly giggle amongst themselves two feet away.

He sighs and leans back against the wall again, tries to sink into it, to disappear completely.

He could just leave.

Isabel's got the guy's attention, it's only a matter of time before digits are exchanged. Not to mention saliva.

He doesn't really need to be here for that.

He peels himself off the wall and Isabel catches his eye, shakes her head the slightest bit, pleading with him to stay.

She mouths please, pushes her lower lip out in an exaggerated pout.

He stares at her and she rolls her eyes, flashes ten fingers at him when Kevin turns his back to grab two cups of warm beer.

Ten more minutes.

He sighs, he nods.

He looks the crowd over again, finds the guy the waitress chick is interested in. He is surrounded by a group of people, mostly girls. "Parents" and "late tomorrow night," carries over to where Michael stands apart from the crowd. He says this last bit pointedly to one girl in particular while his fingers play at the back of her neck with the strings of her halter-top.

Michael glances over at the blonde waitress still watching the guy out of the corner of her eye while she sways to the music, her movements becoming less and less enthusiastic as his fingers find their way into Halter-Top's hair.

She doesn't even try to hide her disappointment.

She moves and suddenly he sees the object of Max's obsession dancing beside her. Liz.

"Liz is so smart. I'm lucky to have her. For a lab partner. She's always really prepared and-"

"That's fascinating Max. You said you'd pay for my Will Smith right?"

He thinks of Max drooling over Liz, Isabel getting all fluttery over guys like Kevin and wonders what the hell they think they're doing, wanting things they can't really have.

He looks at the blonde again. She looks like she's going to cry.

Is it just a way to pass the time until something better comes along? Or do they do it because they think it's what they're supposed to do to fit in here? Or do they honestly think that what they can get with these stupid people who have no idea, no concept of anything bigger than this room, this town, is better than anything beyond it? Is he the only one of them who still watches the stars looking for secret messages, for clues, for a way back? Is he the only one of them that still needs it?

He looks at Isabel sliding a pen tip over Kevin's palm. He watches her coyly slip it into his pocket as they dance. She closes her eyes and she looks like she belongs there in his arms, with these people.

She looks happy.

Maybe he had thought her smiles were fake because he'd wanted them to be. Maybe this really is enough for her.

She looks happy.

He takes Hank's pack of Marlboros from his back pocket and slaps it against his palm like he has seen him do. He flips the pack open, shakes one out and takes it between his lips. He's never smoked before. He only stole the pack because Hank would miss it. He's been doing this a lot lately, taking Hank's things and putting them somewhere else. He always puts his shit pretty close to where it used to be, but just far enough away so he won't be blamed. It's extremely satisfying watching him lumber around the trailer, working himself up until his face is a radioactive red and his heart is on the verge of giving out before he finds what he's looking for less than a foot away. "I'm losin' my fuckin' mind Micky..."

The cigarettes will be going behind the toaster when he gets back to the trailer.

He brings a finger to the tip and catches Izzy looking at him again over Kevin's shoulder. Wide brown eyes boring into his, and don't you dare.

He tilts his head back and drops his hands at his sides smirking at her.

He takes a deep breath, and the smell of the cigarette, unlit, invades his mouth. He's not sure he likes it but he figures what the hell

He looks for someone with a light.

A girl from his American history class turns her head and meets his eyes. He doesn't look away. He does it more to freak her out than anything else, but the corner of her mouth tilts up in a half smile.

She slithers through the crowd towards him and he doesn't know what to do. He thinks about leaving, finding another wall, but suddenly she's right there, right beside him. Her skin glitters and when she brushes up against him a streak of stars is left behind on his forearm. She smiles, more straight teeth. Her eyes are artfully smudged, sleepy sexy, her lips are wet and they say something he cannot hear.

She looks up at him expectantly and he doesn't move.

He doesn't know what he's supposed to do.

She wasn't supposed to come over here, she was supposed to look away.

She takes the unlit cigarette from his lips, her fingers lightly brushing against them. She puts it in her mouth and pulls a lighter from the waistband of her jeans. She flicks it. Spark, flare, inhalation. She tilts her head back, pushes the smoke out past her lips and he stares at the column of her throat, the body glitter glittering, the gold "S" resting in the hollow. She stares at him, the cigarette loose in her mouth.

He's not thinking about home right now. Max, Isabel.

He's not thinking about anything. Except maybe that she's very close and he doesn't really mind her arm brushing against his, leaving constellations on his skin. He knows suddenly without thinking that all he has to do is turn towards her, that something will happen if he does and it might be good. He feels himself starting to move without making the conscious decision to do so.

And maybe that's why Max and Isabel do it, pursue these people. Because their bodies tell them to, because there's a gravitational pull not just to the ground but to another girl, another guy. It's ultimately false and unfulfilling but it's something to concentrate on besides unreachable galaxies that make his eyes sting, his stomach hurt.

She smiles very softly and a different part of his body hurts now but it's almost a good kind of hurt, one he's unfamiliar with because every other kind has been bad, so bad

He looks down at the girl who stares back unflinchingly.

He's never stood this close to anybody before and not had them desperately searching for somewhere else to go

Fear suddenly puts a stranglehold on his thumping heart. His brain kicks back in and starts wondering what she wants, if it's a trick, her interest. Then it starts wondering what he wants.

He looks away from her.

He looks at Isabel, stepping away from Kevin with a little smile as he reaches for her, wanting another dance.

He looks at the guy finally noticing the blonde girl.

Blonde girl looks away, plays the game.

It's all a game.

Isabel looks at the girl beside him, raises her eyebrows with a grin.

He looks at the girl too.

He reaches out and takes the cigarette from her, careful not to touch.

If he plays and wins what does that mean?

Does it mean he can pass for human? Does it mean Isabel will stop worrying about him?

He brings the cigarette to his own mouth, turns his head to take a drag in case he does it wrong.

Her hand lands on his shoulder, saying, look at me.

He takes a deep pull and the smoke fills his mouth, his head, creeping into his nose and behind his eyes.


He desperately tries not to cough, his eyes stinging, his lungs burning. Her hand slides away as he turns and quickly works his way out of the crowded living room and into the kitchen. He tosses the cigarette into the sink, barely missing some guy's elbow, still trying not to hack his lungs out in front of everyone. He slips out into the hall, opens a door, a closet. He shuts it behind him and coughs and coughs and coughs until tears come to his eyes and his nose runs.

That's what you fucking get for trying to be normal.

He whips his fist at the door. It shakes on its hinges. His hand throbs and he stops himself from hitting it again.


It's quiet in the closet, the muffled sounds outside already melting together into a steady hum.

He doesn't want to go back out there yet. He feels stupid and his heart is still beating way too hard.

What the fuck had he been thinking?

He hadn't been.

And why had that been so attractive? Forgetting just for a moment who- what he was and allowing himself to let someone, a stranger, close enough to maybe see for herself that he didn't fit, that he was wrong. Even without the alien blood he was wrong. And just like when he was a kid, so afraid that they would know just by looking, his survival instincts had kicked in, this time in the form of respiratory arrest, and he had fled.

He's been running his entire life. Max and Izzy are standing still, looking around, touching things that shouldn't be touched. They're rooting themselves to the ground, shackling themselves to this earth and it scares him. What if they want to stay? What then?

He's afraid he won't be able to leave them behind when the time comes.

And it will come. It has to.

A high pitched shriek just outside the closet door interrupts his silence, a clack of high heels on the tile and a guy's voice saying baby.

"Baby come wi' me"

"Why were you even talking to her?"

"C'monshe's nuthinyou know I want you right?I want youcome wi' me an' I'll show you"

He steps away from the door. Sinks into the coats, smooth synthetics with plushy sleeves, slick leathers, butter soft. Fur brushes against his face, scratchy wool his arms, thin plastic raincoats like fruit rollups peel apart with a sucking sound as he feels his way to the back.

What was that book? There was a book about a closet Max had loaned him once. He had never gotten to finish it. Hank had thrown it away with a stack of old newspapers.

"Readin' shit like that's fer faggots"

It was a book about a closet and there were these kids and when they went into the closet they came out somewhere else

He hadn't read far enough to see if it was any better than the world they had come from, but he remembered Max telling him there were a bunch of other books after it, and if it was such a sucky place to be, the author wouldn't have bothered to go back there again and again would he?

Click clack outside the door again.

Click clack then silence.

He can hear the closet's doorknob slowly turning and places his hands along the back wall.

He pushes, half hoping maybe...

The door opens and he turns his head, watches the sliver of light widen.

That girl must have followed him

Why the hell would she do that?

Because you didn't immediately shoot her down. Because you didn't just walk away. You let her touch you.

She doesn't say anything as she pulls the door shut behind her, and when his eyes readjust he can just make out the slight outline of her body, a more velvety black than the rest of the dark. He doesn't move when she reaches out her arms, gently pushes away the coats, and finds his shoulders.

She gasps when she makes contact, almost like she wasn't sure if he'd really be there. Her hands slip over his shoulders and he thinks about stopping her, pushing her aside and making a run for it but he's curious.

He may be an alien but he's also a guy and he likes the way her small hands cup his shoulders, the way she tentatively pulls herself closer to him until the top of her head is just under his nose and all he can smell is tangerines.

Her right hand slowly rises up to the side of his neck, her skin cool and smooth and making him shiver almost as her index finger lightly traces his earlobe before her fingers slide into his hair.

He closes his eyes then and his arms raise and a hand lands gently on her hip, the other cradling a shoulder blade. He doesn't know if he's doing this right, if he should be touching her at all, but then she holds his face in her hands, she tilts his head down the slightest bit and he can't think anymore because she's kissing him, the gentle pressure of her mouth on his stealing his breath. And when he parts his lips the slightest bit to take some back he feels the whisper of her tongue and his knees buckle until suddenly they fit. Face to face, chest to chest, his knee between hers, perfect.

His hand slides up from the small of her back to her side, daring a slight sweep against her left breast with his palm vaguely worried it's too soon for that and what if she stops? but she doesn't. She parts her own lips to accept him and his entire body is on fire and he knows he's a hypocrite but he can't stop kissing this girl, touching her. It's not him anyway. It's gravity. Blame it on the Earth. Blame it on this stupid body that fits hers, that wants hers.

It's not him.

And it's not her either. She's just a girl with a great mouth that's letting him touch her breast in a dark closet at some loser's party.

And what he's feeling what he's doing it's all so ridiculously human. Like that girl out there, looking like it was the end of the world just because that guy was interested in Halter-Top and not her

His open mouth finds its way to her collarbone and traces the shape of it as she makes a fist in his hair. He slides a hand under her shirt wanting to feel more of that skin that's hot now and her abdomen spasms as his fingers dance across it, inching the thin material of her top over it. They graze the underside of her breast and his brain barely has enough time to register that she's not wearing a bra before she's breaking away, stumbling back through the coats, and hitting the door with her back.

She stops there for a moment, breathing hard like he's breathing hard and he wonders if he's supposed to follow. He straightens and starts to move but gets caught on something that holds him back just long enough for her to open the door and slip out into the hall.

He can still feel her mouth, her hands and he wonders if he'll have body glitter smeared all over his skin.

Maria loves parties.

She loves being surrounded by people and music and pretty lights. She loves dancing and talking and laughing and singing.

She twirls hand in hand with Liz under a disco ball that sparkles magically over a crowd of people dressed for summer and a good time. These people are laughing, they're singing along to song after song, they're screaming into each other's ears their plans for the next three months.

She should be loving this. Instead, she's trying not to cry.

She's been here for over an hour and Doug has not looked at her once. She tells herself she's not pathetic for being upset. It wasn't all in her head, Doug had been nice to her all week. He had passed her notes during study hall, had walked with her on their way to class. And today after final bell as she was taking down all the magazine clippings and photos from her locker he came by and told her about a party.

This party.

She got dressed up. She put a flower in her hair. She begged Liz and Kyle to come with her, even though they were supposed to be on their first "official" date, because Alex had ditched her for Europe.

Whenever she thinks of him on that plane with a book, an Orange Crush, and an airtight package of assorted nuts and pretzels, she is insanely jealous. She has never been anywhere. Her mom hates to fly and their car can barely make it ten miles before it needs a tune up.

She keeps telling herself someday, someday, someday

But today she's in Roswell and before this party that had, for once, been okay. Because before this party she had been able to convince herself that Doug liked her, that she was going to cap off a disappointing freshman year with something amazing.

A boyfriend.

An amazingly sweet, amazingly hot boyfriend.

Liz tells her she should just go over and say "hi", but she can't bring herself to do it. He's surrounded by girls. Prettier girls in far less clothing than she. She can't bear the idea of being ignored in front of them. They already think she's weird because of her mom - she doesn't need sad and pathetic added to that.

So she dances, she laughs, she talks to anyone who talks to her and tries to look like she's having an amazing time just in case he finally notices she's there.

"Hey, there's Isabel, Max's sister."

As if this party didn't suck enough.

Isabel Evans is possibly the most perfect girl in the entire world. She's tall, she's beautiful, she's got boobs Maria would kill for and everyone loves her. Well, the boys love her. Most of the girls Maria knows thinks she's a bitch. Maria's never spoken to her, and is in no hurry to rectify that. The last thing she wants to do is stand anywhere near Isabel Evans and have every flaw accentuated to an agonizing degree.

"Maybe we should say hi?" Liz takes a sip from the can of Pepsi Kyle has brought her. It took him twenty minutes but he managed to find something nonalcoholic. Maria thinks this is quite a feat considering she's seen the refrigerator and there's nothing but cheap beer and wine coolers in it. Liz refused to drink any of it because she's underage, and Maria refused because she knew her mom would know just by looking at her that she had had some. Kyle's dad never bugs him about anything so he's on his fifth cup of whatever's pumping out of that keg and is dancing a lot more than he ordinarily would. "Max is my lab partner now"

"You told me that like sixteen times."

"I'm just saying that, you know, I shouldgo over or something."

"I don't think Max's here though" Maria tears her gaze away from Doug long enough to scan the crowd at the front door and all she sees is Queen Isabel and that creepy guy they're always hanging around with.

Jeez dude, unclench.

And I thought I was having a bad time

A break between songs and she hears Doug laughing at something Sara Calvin has said. She looks at them, at his hand on Sara's shoulder.

It's so unfair.

She knows absolutely that if Doug would just turn his head the slightest bit her life will become what it's supposed to be. She won't be invisible anymore. She'll have someone, like Liz has someone. Her real life will begin.

Just look at me

He pulls Sara close as he whispers something in her ear and Maria laughs and laughs. Liz looks at her funny.


"You just said something hilarious."

"What? When?"

"Help me out here Liz."

Liz frowns and Maria sighs and some girl squeals and turns the stereo up a notch.

"It's tearin' up my heart when I'm with you

But when we are apart I feel it too

And no matter what I do I feel the pain

With or without you"

Her eyes start to sting.

"Baby I don't understand why we can't just be lovers

Things are getting out of hand

Trying too much, but baby we can't win"

Jesus Christ, when I'm starting to find deep personal meaning in an N'Sync song there's something seriously wrong with meMaybe that's why he's not talking to meMaybe I'm dancing too much? Maybe he thinks I like this crappy music and that's why

She stops. Bites her lip.

His hand is on the small of Sara's back. He's talking to everyone within earshot but he's touching her.

And it's so wrong. All of it.

What does Sara have that she doesn't?

Besides an incredibly slutty halter top that she looks like she's going to fall out of.

"Somebody's been raiding J. Lo's closet" Liz smirks.

Is that really what Doug wants? All that hair and makeup and

Just keep dancing. You're having a fabulous time. You don't really care anyway. You don't care you don't care you don't care

His fingers are tangled in the strings at her neck. All he has to do is pull andeasy access. The slut.

He slides his hand up into her hair and Sara closes her eyes with a smile.

Maria stops dancing.

She can't do it anymore. She feels stupid. She leans back against the table and half-sits on the edge. Liz continues swaying for a bit as she watches Kyle on the far side of the room, sloshing beer all over the place as he attempts to keep dancing while refilling his cup at the keg.

Liz sits beside her shaking her head as he gets some down the front of his shirt and cracks up.

"That's my boyfriend," she says. "How the heck did that happen"

"You tell me." Maria mutters at her shoes, murderous high heels that hurt like hell but make her look tall and her feet look pretty. Her toenails sparkle and when she thinks of all the trouble she went to to look good tonight she is struck by how pathetic and sad that is.

Liz didn't have to jump through hoops to get Kyle. All she had to do was be herself. Maria thought she had been doing that. Tonight she'd been herself to the millionth degree and it still wasn't good enough.

"I'm getting a drink," she says.

Maria weaves her way through the crowd towards the keg and gets in line. She looks around her at all the people. She doesn't know too many of them even though most of them are sophomores now like her.

She should really try to be more social.

She smiles at a girl from her art class, Summer Louis, as she passes by but she doesn't notice. Summer's looking at someone else. Maria watches her approach Michael Guerin who is slouching against the wall, a cigarette hanging out of his mouth, looking every inch the badass he undoubtedly thinks he is.

Summer slinks up to him and takes the cigarette from his mouth, slipping it into hers and Maria can't believe that even Michael Guerin, the most antisocial guy in Roswell, possibly even the planet, has got someone interested in him.

What the freaking hell?

Sure he's kinda cute in a scruffy I-don't-care-how-I-look kind of way, and maybe his name's been scrawled on the wall in the girls' bathroom under the ten most fuckable freshmen list, but no one ever actually approaches the guy. The most she's ever said to him is "do you want an order of Saturn Rings with that?" and she barely got a yeah. What would a cheerleader like Summer want with a guy like that? What would anyone want with a guy like that? No future, no personality, no-

"Hey Ria! You want some?" Kyle grins at her holding out a shiny red plastic cup and after a moment longer of watching Michael watch Summer and lookinginterested to say the least, she takes it and downs it in one gulp. It tastes like ass. Kyle laughs and pats her on the back a little too hard and hands her another. She tilts it up to him in a mock "cheers" and makes her way back to Liz who is watching her with a hint of disapproval. She passes Doug and does not, for once, stare like a moron. She's not hoping for anything but a buzz now.

"You're mom's going to kill you." Liz says and Maria shrugs.

"It'd be an improvement."


"Jeez Liz it's just a beer-"



"He's looking!"

"Shut up!"

"No, he totally is – look!"

Maria glances up and sure enough Sara is nowhere in sight and Doug is looking right at her. She quickly looks away, looks down into her cup, at the disgusting frothy brown liquid.

Please come over please oh please oh pleasegonna go check on Kyle" Liz says with a smile in her voice and Maria knows then it's going to be okay. Doug's coming.

He leans against the table beside her and says "Hey."


"I didn' see you come in how long you been here?"

Like two hours.

She shrugs. "Not that long."

He nudges her with his shoulder and smiles. His eyes are so blue

"You shoulda come over an' said hi."

"You looked kinda busy" He blinks and looks at the spot he has vacated where a few stray girls are still loitering, waiting for him to come back. They glare at Maria and she feels fabulous.

"Oh you mean Shar-Sara? She's y'knowalways hangin' on me an' stuff, it's nuf-nuthin." Those blue eyes are unfocused, a little glazed over and Maria laughs.

"Doug are you drunk?" He pretends to think about it for a moment then nods.

"'Fraid so. How bout you?"

She motions to the cup and says, "I'm working on it."

He grins and nudges her again.

"I'm glad you came M'ria" He leans in a little closer and she knows he's going to kiss her. She's so happy she could cry.

She murmurs "Me too" and closes her eyes, breathlessly waiting.


Her eyes snap open and Doug is looking out at the crowd again at Kevin who's got one arm around Isabel Evans and is using the other to gesture wildly at the keg.

"You're out man!"

"I got another one in the kitchen."

"Well then get it asswipe!"

"Well then help me you fucker!" Doug gets up and Maria has to stop herself from screaming.

He takes three steps then turns back to her with a smile and says, "Wait here"

YESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

She not being abandoned for a beer keg!!!!

The party suddenly rocks. She loves Britney Spears. Her shoes don't hurt her feet and damn this is good beer. She finishes her second cup and squeals at Liz as she appears beside her, taking her hands and jumping up and down.

"He said "wait here"! He's coming right back!"

Liz laughs and hugs her.

"See and you were all worried! Look thoughI'm gonna take Kyle home okay? I'll come back if you want though"

"No, that's okay Liz – go be with your boyfriend."

"Some first date – we barely spoke to each other and he's been hanging out with his friends by the beer all night"

"Maybe he was just nervous?"

"MaybeI'm just hoping he's not going to puke all over the car." Liz hugs her again tightly. "I'll see you tomorrow!"

"Okey dokey pokey!"

Man I'm giddy!

She looks around at the crowd again, loving everybody, even Sara who's off in a corner now talking to Summer. Michael's gone and she wonders briefly what happened but then decides she doesn't care. Summer looks pissed though. And so does Sara. They both look over at her and she quickly turns away to watch the two girls who have been left in charge of the music.

She watches them flip through a book of CDs and thinks, Whatever Sara - Doug's made his choice

She makes eye contact with Isabel Evans who's squirming out from under Kevin's arm as he points at one of the discs and says "That one's the shit! Pop it in! Fuckin' Dave Matthews baby, yes!"

Isabel rolls her eyes and Maria grins at her.

"Hey you're Maria right?"

Maria turns towards the voice and Summer stands before her smiling.

"Yeah," she says cautiously, wondering if this is an intervention for Sara. "You're Summer?"

"Yeah – I think we have that one class together? With Anderson?"

"Uh huh. Art, fourth period."

Summer smiles again and Maria honestly can't tell if it's real or fake.

"Anyway, look, I'm friends with Sara, but I'm also really good friends with Doug and he really likes youHe gave me a message for you and I thought about not giving it to you butlike I said he likes you and well Sara's being such a bitch tonight anyway and-"

"What's the message?"

"He said he's waiting for you in the closet out in the hall."

"The closet?"

Summer looks at her like she's an idiot.

"Well yeah. All the bedrooms are full." Maria blinks at her and Summer rolls her eyes.

"Oh my God. Don't tell me your not gonna go?" She snorts. "Whatever, I'll go find Sara - I'm sure she'd be more than willing to fill in-"

"No, I'm going." Maria sets down the cup and wipes her hands on her thighs, trying to look cool, calm. She starts to move past her then stops and says. "Thanks Summer, for telling me."

Summer shrugs and wanders over to the stereo where Kevin has muscled the two girls out of the way and is now filling up the player with God knows what. Isabel's already moved on to someone else.

Maria slowly swims through the crowd, unsure of what she's doing.

He doesn't expect her to have sex with him does he?

In a closet? That's just sotacky.

It doesn't cross her mind to not go. She's too afraid of blowing her chances with him to ignore the invitation. Summer wasn't kidding when she said Sara would be the first to volunteer in her place, and she knows if she does it'll all be over.

The kitchen isn't much quieter than the living room even though the music is slightly muffled, but as she walks through she imagines there's a hush in conversation, that they're all looking at her and knowing where she's going, what she's going to do

It's vaguely mortifying, and she falters when she gets to the hallway, when she actually sees the closet door closed and dark on the other side.

She wonders suddenly if he's even in there, if it's a trick, if Summer and Sara are just going to lock her in.

But what if he is there? Waiting all alone in the dark for her?

She still can't make herself move.

What am I? Afraid? I want to kiss Doug. God do I want to. This isn't a big dealI don't have to do anything I don't want to do. I've been waiting for this all nightI can't just go home...

She steps out into the empty hallway, determined now, her shoes clicking on the tiles. She reaches out, places her hand on the doorknob. She's about to turn it when she hears a muffled groan from the next room.

Well, Summer said all the bedrooms are full

She shakes her head and pushes open the door.

He doesn't say anything when she steps inside and closes it behind her, but she can feel him back there in the dark. She opens her mouth to say "hi" but her voice catches in her throat. She's a talker by nature, rarely shuts up really, but right now the quiet is actually kind of nice. She almost feels less embarrassed by the whole thing like this. It's almost romantic

In a creepy kind of way.

She holds her hands out and feels her way past all the coats to the back and gasps, surprised when she actually finds his shoulders.

And still he doesn't say anything.

She waits for him to move, to touch her back feeling awkward.

Now that he's not mauling her outright like she half expected she's a little disappointed. Is she supposed to do all the work? She's not an expert by any means. She's never even kissed anyone before. This is kind of uncharted territory and she doesn't want to make a fool of herself.

She moves a little closer, trying to be encouraging.

Still nothing.

Okay then

She slowly slides her hand up to the side of his neck, cupping his jaw slightly before slipping her fingers into his hair that's softer than she expected, silkier.

She waits for him again, and this time he doesn't let her down.

He puts his hand on her hip and she likes the weight of it there. She smiles in the dark as the warmth from his other hand, now on her back, sinks through her thin T-shirt. She can feel the heat of his body a breath away from hers and suddenly she wants to feel it all. She's not nervous anymore, and she doesn't know what happened to take that nervousness away. Maybe it's his hands on her, sending little shocks through her body, chasing away all the fears, all doubts she might have

He still doesn't kiss her and she wonders if maybe, for all his flirting, his invitation, he's actually kind of shy. It makes her want him even more, and suddenly she doesn't mind being the one to go first, being the one to lead the way.

She holds his face in her hands, lightly tracing his cheekbones with the tips of her fingers, never noticing how pronounced they were before, and she brings him down to her.

His lips are soft and full and she loves how tentatively he kisses her back.

He opens his mouth slightly and she takes it as a sign to deepen the kiss. She doesn't give herself a chance to think about it, how to do it right, what the rules are, she just does it. She lightly touches the tip of her tongue to his for just a moment and an electric shock zips through her body, much stronger than the ones still coming from his hands and she melts against him feeling her knees shake and finally give out completely.

She never thought it could be like thisso warm and moist and perfect. Nothing she'd read, nothing she'd seen in the movies could prepare her for how it actually felt...

His hand slides up her side, brushes against her breast and she wants him to keep his hand there, to touch her where no one's ever touched her and when he slips his tongue into her mouth she presses against him harder feeling out of control and crazy and unraveling at the seams.

He kisses her neck, sucks gently at the skin along her collarbone and she curls a fist into his soft hair trying not to moan because that would just be too embarrassingeven though it feels so good

His hand is under her shirt now, hot against her skin, a good kind of burn and it suddenly occurs to her how her mother could have gotten pregnant so young. If her father had made her mother feel anything like thisno wonder she gave inno wonder they did itno wonder

His fingers go higher

No wonder

They brush against her breast

She freezes.

Her mother got pregnant at her age.

What the hell am I doing?

She pulls herself away more sharply than she intended, clumsily stumbling back against the closet door, her heart pounding in her chest.

If she stays she knows what'll happen

She knows what she wants to happen.

She also knows she doesn't want it to be here. Not now. Not in a closet. Not in the pitch black dark where she can't even see his face

Not at sixteen.

She thinks about explaining this, about apologizing, but again when she opens her mouth nothing happens and in the end she thinks that's probably for the best. She's not entirely sure that it's a "no" that's going to come out of it.

She turns and leaves because it's either that or going to him again and she doesn't think she'll be able to stop herself next time

The hallway feels like a different world. It's much too bright and the air is much too cold. She stands there for a moment, shivering, blinking, wondering if she just made it all up, what happened in there, because it's so unbelievable that she would do anything like thateven with someone as perfect and special as Doug

She starts as a door clicks open and for a second she thinks it's the closet, that Doug is coming out, and she wonders how it will be seeing him nowif it will be too embarrassing in the light, if what they just did will turn into one of those things that just happened and will never be talked about

But it's not the closet door. It's the bedroom door.

Sara stumbles out, giggling, holding onto someone's hand. Holding onto Doug's hand.

Maria stares uncomprehending at their intertwined fingers, and Doug blinks when he sees her, smiles drunkenly. "Heyyou still here?"

Her mouth opens, closes. Still no words.

Sara's eyes flicker over to the closet door and she explodes into another fit of giggles. She slaps a hand over her mouth and drags Doug with her back to the party while Maria stands there staring at the door wondering what the hell

Who the hell

The closet's doorknob turns and she doesn't wait and see.

She runs and doesn't look back.