Secret Lives, Chapter 12
Secret Lives Chapter 12 By: Jessi & Lori

Alex woke with a smile on his face. He'd dreamt he'd spent the whole night with Isabel in his arms.

He opened his eyes and did a double take when he realized he hadn't been dreaming. Isabel was sleeping peacefully next to him.

Isabel stirred slightly, cuddling closer to Alex and muttering in her sleep.

Alex looked at his alarm clock and saw that it was about seven-thirty. He reached back and picked up the phone. After dialing, he waited for an answer.

"Crashdown," Liz's alert voice said.

"Hey Lizzie. Watch the sun come up?"

"You know me entirely too well."

"Alex? Who is calling you at this horrible hour?"

Alex turned to smile at Isabel. "It's Liz."

"Alex? Is that Isabel? She stayed the night? You sly dog!" Liz laughed into the phone, imagining Alex's blush.

"And where is Max, huh, Liz?"

"Asleep, as are my brother and Maria."

"Are we meeting at Slayer Central later?"

"Yeah, but I have some news. Angel, Cordy, and Doyle took off for home last night. Cordy got a vision. They took the vampires with them."

"What about Tess?"

"Still in the basement as far as I know."

"Hmmm..." Alex said in a disapproving tone. "I guess we'll have to decide what to do with her ourselves, huh?"

"Yes, when we meet. C'mon, get crackin!" Liz said enthusiastically before hanging up on him.

"She is entirely too chipper for this early in the morning," Alex groaned as he hung his phone up before looking at Isabel. "And how did you sleep?"

Isabel smiled, her face glowing with happiness. "The best I have slept in a long time," she confessed softly to him.

"Good, because I have a feeling you're going to be doing a lot of work today." Alex smirked.

"Why?"

"Slayer Central is a mess and Cordy, Doyle, and Angel went home last night. Cordy got a vision."

"Figures Cordy would find a way out of cleaning," Isabel grumbled good-naturedly.

"Well, the Sunnydale crew will be going home too so we get to move some of our stuff into the house," Alex reminded her.

"Yeah, but Wes laid down the law already. You and I can't share a room, Max and Liz can't share a room, and Michael and Maria can't share a room."

Alex waggled his eyebrows at her. "He can't be everywhere at once!"

"True, but I still can't believe he's making you and Max share a room and he's making Michael and Liz share a room. You guys are gonna kill each other."

"Well, better to put me with Max than with Michael." Alex shrugged. "Though it still feels kind of odd about the Liz and Michael room sharing arrangement. Haven't quite gotten used to them being siblings just yet."

"Liz and Michael basically share a bedroom at home, so it made sense, to them at least, to share one at the house. I think Michael just wants to keep Max out of Liz's bed."

"He does have the protective older brother bit down, doesn't he?" Alex laughed.

"Well, he's done it for so long with me and he's been watching Max all our lives, so I think it's just second nature to him by now." Isabel smiled. "You're the same way with Maria."

Alex's mouth dropped open. "I am perfectly reasonable about Maria, as long as everyone goes along with the 'hands off policy'!"

"Uh-huh, and that is exactly why you didn't like Michael, especially after the Amy finding him in her bed one morning fiasco."

"Who, me? I have always liked Michael!" Alex said with a straight face.

"Liar." Isabel smiled as she kissed him lightly.

"Ok, fine, I admit it. I'm just practicing for when we have kids," Alex said nonchalantly as he walked out of the room.

Isabel just smiled as she leaned back on Alex's bed. She was a lucky girl.

"It's my life and it's now or never, I ain't gonna live forever..." Liz sang to herself as she and Maria helped Buffy and Willow put the destroyed library back together.

"This thing weighs a to," Max grunted.

"Well, Max, you can leave the big bed in the master bedroom and Michael and I can share that," Liz said.

"And I'm moving," Max said, lifting up his end again while Riley laughed as they backed down the hall towards the master bedroom.

"Hey guys! What do you need us to do?" Alex asked as he walked in the room hand in hand with Isabel.

"How were Giles and Wes making out with the kitchen?" Buffy asked.

Alex and Isabel gave identical grimaces. "For adults, they sure are childish! I wouldn't go in there if you paid me!" Isabel cried with a dramatic shudder.

"Will, didn't you say something about Anya needing some help packing up the weapons you guys brought?" Maria asked.

Willow nodded. "Yes, she was grumbling quite loudly the last time I saw her."

"I'll help her. I can identify most of the weapons by now. Where is she?"

"Basement," Buffy said.

"Okay," Isabel said before she headed back downstairs.

"Alex, the guys are moving furniture. I'm sure they could use an extra hand," Liz said.

"You sure you don't need some electronics help or something?" Alex said hopefully.

"Wuss," Maria teased.

"Actually, Wes wanted to make sure the computer setup still worked," Willow said.

"Yes!" Alex said, unable to resist a little jig at avoiding the heavy labor. He composed himself quickly. "I'll just go look into that now," he said, making a hasty exit before they could change their minds.

The girls giggled. "I think I'll go take mercy on the guys' backs," Liz said. "Buffy, wanna come with?"

"Sure, why not," Buffy said, happily dropping the mop she had been trying somewhat successfully to use.

The slayers made their way to the attic where Riley, Max, and Michael were arguing about what to take down next.

"Guys?" Liz said.

They didn't even notice her as they continued their argument.

"CAN IT!" Buffy yelled.

Silence prevailed as the boys looked at the girls.

"Well done." Liz nodded.

"Thank you."

"Now that we have your attention, we're here to help," Liz said.

"No, it's okay! We've got it!" Michael said.

"Really?" Liz said, poking Riley in the side. The older boy groaned in pain. "Anyone else wanna deny they need a little help?"

All three grumbled and nodded in defeat.

"Michael, which dresser is for our room?" Liz asked, looking around the cluttered attic.

"Giles and Wesley said we could have our pick," Michael replied. "I like this black one."

"Okay. Grab an end. Hey Buffy, grab that trunk. I want it for my room."

"Sure. Max? Give me a hand?"

Max walked slowly over to her. "Coming..."

"I'll give you a backrub later," Liz promised as she and Michael backed out of the room.

"Not without a chaperone," Michael added.

"And what do you think you are gonna do?" Liz said to him with a raised eyebrow. "Besides, I think Maria will have issues with playing chaperone with you."

"Fine." Michael rolled his eyes as the two disappeared down the stairs.

"Isabel said she liked that wicker chair last time she was up here. Which room is hers?"

"The one we use," Buffy said as she and Max followed Liz and Michael with the trunk.

"Guess I'll get it for her then," Riley muttered to himself as he picked it up.

"Okay, which bed do you want? The one near the window or the one near the door?" Alex asked Max as they arranged some of their belongings in the bedroom next to Wesley's.

Max thought for a moment. "I'll take the one by the door," he replied.

"Liz sneaks in here and I'll help Michael kill you," Alex said with a grin.

"Cute," Isabel said as she came in.

"Well, the same goes for if Isabel sneaks in... or you try to sneak out," Max retorted.

Liz knocked on the partially closed door. "You guys decent?"

"Yeah, it's all clear, Liz," Isabel called out to her.

Liz poked her head in. "Oh, hi, Is. House meeting down in the dining room, you guys, and then it's time to say good-bye to all our company."

"We're coming," Max said as he, Isabel, and Alex followed Liz downstairs and into the dining room. They all took seats. "So what's going on?"

"They want to take Tess back to Sunnydale," Michael said.

The others gasped with relief, worry, and disbelief. "Why would you want her?" Max said bitterly.

"Because we think we can help her," Giles said.

"Max, I don't like Tess any more then you do, but nobody can be all bad," Liz said. "Maybe they can help her, and if not, there's always the council."

"Are you sure you can handle her?" Isabel said worriedly. "You need to remember her powers. She can make you think something happened to you that didn't."

"Isabel, you were down there with her, did she look capable of doing anything?" Buffy asked.

She shrugged. "Not at the moment, but she'll heal quickly."

"And maybe by that time she'll have changed," Anya said in a rare moment of compassion. "I was a demon. If I can change, anyone can."

Xander gave her a small hug. Anya had come a long way in the last couple of years.

"Guys, what about Nasedo?" Maria asked, looking around. "What do we tell him if Tess splits? And do we tell him what Liz is?"

"No to the third one," Liz said. "Guys, I know he's your protector, but I do not want to become a government experiment, and that is what I will become if he decides that you helping me is keeping you from your mission."

Max nodded. "I agree on that one whole-heartedly. No one is taking Liz away from me again."

"Agreed," Michael said. "Giles, are you sure about taking Tess back with you?"

"Yes, quite," Giles said, rubbing his glasses with his handkerchief.

"Then I say we let him," Michael said, looking at his friends and Wesley.

"Okay," Max nodded. "Is, what do you say?"

"Be careful," Isabel said, giving her consent.

"Okay, then it's settled," Wesley said. "Tess will be headed for the Hellmouth."

"And speaking of that, we better get going. It's getting late," Buffy said as she got up. "Xand, is the car packed up?"

"Yep, it'll be a tight fit. Why is it you always have more stuff coming back than going?" he asked rhetorically, shaking his head.

Buffy giggled as she and Liz hugged. "Be careful out there. It may not be the Hellmouth but it's still dangerous."

"I will. I've got a lot of people watching my back." She smiled over Buffy's shoulder at Max and Michael.

"That you do." Buffy smiled. "You guys need to think of a name for yourselves!" she called to the others. "Like my Scooby gang."

"We'll work on it," Michael promised, hugging the blonde. "Take care."

"You too, Michael," Buffy replied, looking suspiciously like she had a tear in her eye. "I am very happy everything has turned out so well for you!"

"Two more weeks and it's official."

Maria saw Liz hide a smile and nudged her. "What?" she mouthed.

"Later," her friend mouthed back.

Maria gave her a close scrutiny before turning to Willow.

"Anya and I left some books for you on witchcraft and stuff. Be careful," Willow said.

"I'm always careful!" Maria replied indignantly, ignoring the sputtering of laughter that comment spawned.

"Now you'll always use the utmost discretion when you patrol because you know it's very dangerous-"

"I'll miss you too, Giles," Liz said with a smile as the British man stuttered.

"Right, well...." Giles said, blushing as he gave her a quick hug.

"I never met a slayer I didn't like," Xander said with a grin.

"Really?" Max said, giving him a look.

"Till now. Ew! Get away from me!" Xander made a cross sign and backed away from Liz.

"You better be planning on giving me a hug goodbye!" Liz said to him.

"As long as your boyfriend doesn't kill me," Xander said.

"Oh, he won't touch you. I can beat him up." Liz smiled.

"Well, alright then," Xander responded, eyeing Max warily as he hugged Liz.

"Bye, Xander," Liz said. "Take care, Will. Thanks for your help."

"Glad I could be of use!" Willow said with a small bashful smile. She turned to Buffy as she walked out the door. "I did good, didn't I?" she asked, unable to keep the pride out of her voice.

"You did real good," Buffy assured her as they got into the back of Xander's new van with Anya and Tess, while Xander and Giles got in front. The Roswell gang waved from the door as they drove away.

Liz felt Max's arms slip around her from behind and she smiled, leaning back against him. "We need to talk. All of us," she said.

"Alright, let's go sit down in the library again," Max agreed, gesturing for the others to follow them up.

They made themselves comfortable around the recently restored library.

"First thing is kinda personal. Max, Is, Maria, Alex, Wes, what are you guys doing for dinner tonight?" Liz asked

"Why don't you tell us?" Alex replied with an impish grin.

"I got a better idea." Liz took an envelope out of her bag. "Max, would you read this?" she asked, pointing to a piece of paper.

"Uh, okay," Max said. "Dear Liz and Michael, we had Bill push this through. It's official! Michael's a Parker. Celebrate with your friends and we'll do the family thing when we get home. Love, Mom and Dad. P.S.: Don't worry, Michael. You don't have to call us 'Mom' and 'Dad' right away."

Maria gave a high-pitched squeal and launched herself into Michael's arms. "You're a Parker!"

Michael hugged Maria back and then looked at Liz, who was sitting on one of the tables. "When did this come?"

"This morning. Remember the salesman? It was a courier."

"Why didn't you say anything?"

"I wanted to tell you with the people we love most in the world. You mad?"

Michael tried to look peeved, but gave it up quickly. He couldn't hold back his joyful grin. "I'm your brother now!" he said, his eyes wide with wonder.

"You already were, this just makes it legal. Now come here and give me a hug." Liz smiled and Michael obeyed, sweeping her into a bear hug and lifting her off the table.

Isabel wiped a tear from her eye.

"What's wrong, Iz?" Max asked her.

"I'm thrilled for Michael, but I've always thought of him as OUR brother, ya know?" Isabel replied with a sad smile.

"Isabel." Liz had heard her. "He's still your brother. This just makes his family circle a little bigger."

"Plus, someday Liz is gonna be your sister," Max said with a dreamy grin as he looked at Liz.

"Knock on wood," Alex said. "Very funny, Maria," he said to his friend as she rapped lightly on his head.

"I thought so. So Michael, where do you want to go to celebrate? If I'm right, that's why Liz asked us what we were doing tonight."

"That's exactly what I had in mind, Maria," Liz agreed. "And I don't know about you guys, but as much as I love the Crashdown, I am ready for a change."

"Senor Chow's?" Isabel suggested.

"No," Maria, Liz, Max, and Michael said at the same time.

"Okay. Uh, how about that Italian place near the old soap factory?"

"I could go for some pasta," Alex spoke up, licking his lips in anticipation.

"Sounds good to me. Michael? It's your party, what do you say?" Liz asked.

"Do they have Tabasco sauce?" he asked with a grin.

"We'll bring some." Liz grinned.

"Then I say it sounds good."

"Good. Now onto the not so happy aspects. I want to make something clear right now. At anytime, for any reason, if any of you want out just say the word. No questions asked and no hard feelings. Okay?" Liz stated, looking around the room.

"Not gonna happen," Max said seriously, and the others nodded with him in agreement.

"Okay. Just know that the offer is always there."

"Like I'm letting my sister go out and kill things that go bump in the night alone," Michael said stubbornly. Liz grinned. "Sister. I like the sound of that! Being an only child is over-rated."

"Tell me about it," Maria said.

"Hey! I thought I was your brother," Alex said.

Maria smiled. "Yeah, you are... and we don't even have to fight over the bathroom!"

"Tell me about it. Max spends more time in the bathroom than I do." Isabel rolled her eyes.

"Hey!" Max protested, tossing a nearby throw pillow at her.

"Well, Michael and I don't have to share a bathroom." Liz smiled smugly. "Course we basically share a room, which can be a problem when he sleeps on his back cause he snores."

"I do not!" Michael gasped in disbelief.

"Oh yes you do!" Maria said with a sly grin.

"I second that," Max said.

"Oh sure, gang up on me."

"Leave him alone, you guys, or his sisters might beat you up," Alex said

"Yeah!" Isabel and Liz chorused, looking at each other and giggling.

"C'mon, let's get going, I'm starving!" Maria cried, holding her hand to her head dramatically. "I'm wasting away as we speak!"

"Oh, just one more thing. I know you guys aren't going to tell Nasedo about me, but what exactly are you going to tell him?"

Michael, Isabel and Max looked at each other, then looked back at Liz. "Just that you're family," Michael replied.

"And Tess?"

"Tess got involved in the wrong crowd, and we were unable to save her from herself," Max replied.

"Okay then. I vote for food. Lots of it. You coming, Wes?" Liz asked her so far silent watcher. "Wes? You okay?"

"Yes, I am. I'm just now realizing how much a family you six are. I hope to be a part of it someday."

Liz smiled and walked over to him. "You already are," she murmured quietly before hugging him and giving him a quick peck on his cheek, which had grown suspiciously red at her display of affection.

"C'mon, you guys. I'm hungry," Max said, taking Liz's hand. "Wes, you're gonna have to take your own car and a couple of us. We're not gonna all fit in the Jeep."

Wes cleared his throat. "I'd be happy to."

"Good. C'mon, Alex. We'll ride with you, Wes," Isabel announced.

"Oh, I forgot my purse," Liz said as they reached the porch.

"And I forgot my jacket so I'll go with you," Michael said.

"Okay." The two headed back upstairs. Liz grabbed her purse and turned around to find Michael staring at her. "What?"

"Thank you."

"I should be thanking YOU, Michael," Liz replied with a teary smile. "You were instrumental in making us all a family again... and even better than before!"

"Well then, I guess we owe each other."

"Stay safe, make Maria happy, and keep calling me your kid sister, we'll call it even."

Michael pretended to think about it, and then gave her a teary grin of his own. "I think I can do that," he whispered as he pulled her into another heartfelt hug.

"I love you, big brother," Liz said softly.

"Love you too. Though I still say you're the older sibling in this relationship," he teased, making Liz laugh.

"Let me give you a little free advice, never try to add time to any woman's age," Liz said as she grabbed her purse and reached for Michael's jacket.

"I'll remember that," Michael said.

The Jeep's horn honked and Max's voice followed. "C'mon guys!"

"We better go." Liz said.

"Lead the way."

"So you coming out with me tonight?"

"Don't I always?"

~*~ The End ~*~

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