Author's Note: Lyrics by Remy Zero.

Epilogue

[b]Roswell, New Mexico - May 2019[/b]

"Is everything okay?" Max asked, taking his wife's hand as she sat down in her seat next to him. She had been mildly panicked when the usher had come to tell her that she had a phone call in the office - first worried that she was going to miss her son's name being called, next concerned that something was really wrong at home. Max had wanted to go with her but she had insisted that he stay where he was, unwilling for them both to miss Ben's big moment.

"Oh it's fine," Liz laughed, her relief now making her feel a little foolish over how she had practically freaked out a few minutes before. But it was the first time she had left the girls alone with their cousin and they could be holy terrors on occasion. The only person they ever behaved for was Ben. "Lexi couldn't find Cady's bottle and she was totally flipping out. Charlotte finally found it under the crib."

Isabel, who was sitting on Max's other side leaned over her brother and sighed. "I'm never going to hear the end of that. Lex was so worried that she wasn't going to do well at her first baby-sitting job."

"It wasn't her fault," Liz shrugged. "I should have warned her that our daughter has the potential to be a starting pitcher for the Boston Red Sox." She laughed again, turned to face the front. "Did I miss anything?"

She scanned the faces of the graduates sitting on the stage, felt her heart lighten as it found the one for which she was searching. He was talking quietly to the girl seated beside him, no indication of any nervousness on his face. Well, she was scared enough for the both of them.

She flashed back momentarily to her own graduation, so many years ago now. It had not been a happy occasion, mainly because the person sitting beside her had not been there. It had been during the time when she still had not accepted that Max was not coming back for a long time - if ever - and it had been even sadder because she had been reflecting on the fact that he was missing so much.

"No," Max was replying, rubbing his thumb across the back of her hand lightly, as though he knew exactly what she was thinking, as always, sending a shiver down her spine. Sometimes she swore he had no idea what he did to her when he did that, and others, such as now, when he was sending her a lazy half-grin, she was [I]sure[/I] he knew exactly. "Just the choir singing. He's up next."

That he had made her so happy over the past few years had been no surprise. It had taken them a long time to get to the point they were at now and nothing was going to darken this day - not even thoughts of how much pain there had been to reach it. She pushed her memories of her loneliness away, focused back on the stage, on her son.

He had first called her "Mom" when he was ten years old. He had entered a sullen stage then, Maria jokingly dubbing it [I]alien puberty[/I], as the Czechs had always developed physically before their human counterparts. But there had been something deeper troubling Ben, Liz knew now, although she hadn't then.

She and Max had been careful during those early months after moving in together, both sure that they wanted to be together, but not positive exactly how it was going to play out. They had moved into a house in Albuquerque so that Isabel could return to her teaching position and so that Liz could enroll at UNM in the College of Education to get her teaching license. Max had rapidly completely his GED and then had joined Liz there, taking liberal arts, still unsure what career path he wanted to take. She had never gone back to Harvard, had resigned her position there for personal reasons, the main one being that she hated it, and had looked forward to a bright future.

But then things had taken a difficult turn. Having Isabel and Lexi around for the first year or so had made it easier for Max and Liz to take things slowly, to go out on dates, to play at happy family - all five of them. Of course, Isabel had not been truly happy. That had only come after she had finally decided that she was ready to move back in with Jesse, everyone finally convinced by his patience and his ardent courting of his wife that Nicholas had really changed.

But, this had, of course, changed everything.

With Isabel gone, suddenly there was no buffer zone any longer. It was only the three of them in the house, Max, Liz and Ben and the tension had become palatable. Both Max and Liz had been so careful not to push the other to a step they weren't ready for, their relationship had reached a virtual stand-still. Ben had known that there was something wrong, as kids usually do, but couldn't figure out what. He knew his father and Liz loved each other, but he didn't understand why they weren't married like Michael and Maria or like Aunt Isabel and Uncle Jesse.

The day it had all come to a head, Liz had been on her way out to meet a friend from school for dinner. Max and Ben had been sitting at the table in the kitchen eating tomato soup with Tabasco. Liz still remembered it because when Ben had thrown his bowl across the kitchen, it had left a permanent stain on the wallpaper - at least until he had been willing to clean it up with his powers, which had been weeks later. Max and Liz had left it there as a reminder of what they had almost let slip away because they had let fear return to their relationship.

"Why can't you have dinner with us Liz?" Ben was whining as he watched Liz whirl around the kitchen, pulling her coat on and trying to brush her hair at the same time.

"Because I have to meet Peter Honey," Liz had explained in a rush, glancing at Max, who was watching her, his eyes slightly narrowed. She knew that he wasn't happy that she had agreed to eat out again, but he was the one who had been studying late the past three nights. It wasn't [I]her[/I] fault that they never had any time together.

"Why?"

"For school."

And that's when the soup had gone flying across the room, barely missing Liz, and smashing against the wall with a resounding crash. She had gasped, stopped abruptly and stared at the little boy, who had never, in the entire time she had known him, thrown a temper tantrum. "BEN!" Both she and Max had yelled it at the same time, completely shocked. Her eyes had met Max's.

"You don't love my dad anymore!" He had screamed. "You're never here! And when you are, he isn't!" He turned and glared at Max. "Why aren't you married? Why?"

She had seen the strange expression that had crossed Max's face at that. She knew exactly what he was thinking. They were nowhere near marriage after all. They hadn't even made love yet. After those first heady days of reunion, they had slowed things down, had hoped to make it even more special by waiting. But with every passing day, rather than growing closer, they had been falling apart, too afraid to rush the other, but destroying things because of it. Even Ben had noticed, which had been the last thing they had wanted.

After all, they had been taking things slowly for him, wanting to be sure that it was going to work so that there would be no break-up later, no separation that would hurt him.

Ben was still yelling. "I want to call you Mom Liz. I want to, but I can't because you might leave. Just like my real mom did. Why can't you just get married so that I can call you that? Why?" He had started sobbing, literally breaking her heart.

Max had stood up, stared right at her. "Liz, I am a complete idiot. I am so sorry." He had his arm around his son. "We need to get this resolved once and for all."

She had smiled at him, looked at Ben. "It's not your fault Max, it was both of us. You're totally right Honey. We're so sorry."

Michael and Maria had come to stay with Ben for the month that she and Max had gone away together to get their relationship back on track. Their best friends had moved back to Los Angeles a few months after the wedding, but their schedules were such that where they lived wasn't really an issue. Ben had been thrilled by Michael's presence, but, in the end, even more happy that the two people he loved the most in the world were finally getting their acts together. Because as long as they were miserable, which both Max and Liz only began to realize they had been after Ben had thrown his fit, he was too.

They had made love for the first time under the desert sky near Albuquerque, all doubt finally gone after this last test. When they returned, they were already married and no one minded that they hadn't been invited. It seemed somehow fitting that Max and Liz had done it alone, in Las Vegas, almost ten years after they had been meant to, finally making things right.

They danced under the stars to [I]I Shall Believe[/I] and then returned to their son, who started calling Liz "Mom" the very next day.

And now he was graduating from high school - in fact from West Roswell High, where Liz had been teaching biology for the past five years. She almost couldn't believe how quickly the time had flown by. They had been happy years, full of laughter and love.

Their first baby had arrived on a spring day in 2013. They had named her Charlotte, for Alex.

It had pleased Ben, who was getting to know his Whitman grandparents and liked any reference to his dearly missed real father. Liz had taken him to meet them when he was ten and the resemblance to Alex could no longer be denied. They had been unable to accept him for the first couple of years, unbelieving that they could have known so little about what their son's life had become before his death. It had upset Liz that she had been unable to tell them more - to tell them that Alex had loved Leanna, even though she had really been Tess, that he had been happy, even if it had all been an illusion - to tell them the reality of how brave he had been and how much he had sacrificed to protect his friends. But when the Whitmans had finally agreed to meet Ben, they had fallen instantly in love. Their son was reflected in every gesture he made - in the fact that he had a wicked sense of humor and a love for music and a gangly awkwardness that only endeared him to those around him more. They were presently seated on the other side of Isabel, beaming proudly down at their grandson.

Claudia had been born the year they had taken over the Crashdown, in the fall of 2014. Liz's father passed away that winter, having grudgingly accepted Max into the family, mainly because he could see on his son-in- law's face how much he truly loved his daughter. He died too young, of a heart attack, but not before falling in love with his grandson (Liz had officially adopted Ben on his eleventh birthday) and his two granddaughters. Max had considered going on in school, medicine still of keen interest to him, but had decided to run the restaurant for his wife's family instead, his deep affection for it making it impossible to sell it or close it down after Jeff Parker's death. Liz had found a job at the high school and they had settled back in Roswell, their young family the center of their universe.

They had named Cady for the girl who had so loved Zan, she had given up her life for him. Both Max and Liz were still convinced that Kadiya's soul lived on in some form in Liz, but they wanted to do her some honor anyway. And it was this baby who had the most spirit. She was barely one, but she already demonstrated a stubborn streak that could only come from her Aunt Isabel - or so Max argued. Liz merely nodded in agreement, secretly smiling that Cady was suspiciously like her father on occasion too. The other two girls were quiet and generally well-behaved, their intelligence and thoughtfulness even at six and four evident in their shining dark eyes. Claudia's shy nature worried Liz on occasion, but her older sister was fiercely protective of her. They would all grow up happy and well-loved.

All three girls adored their older brother of course. Charlotte had almost thrown a temper tantrum that she wasn't going to be allowed to come listen to her older brother sing at his graduation, but when he had promised she and Claudy their own private concert that night, she had finally settled down and agreed to help her cousin Lexi look after her sisters.

The principal was moving to the microphone, clapping with the audience as the choir returned to their seats. He looked out across the assembled families of the graduates, waiting for quiet. "And now, just before the distribution of the diplomas, I would like to present valedictorian Benjamin Whitman Evans. He has chosen to sing a song instead of the traditional speech, which will be a treat for us all, I am sure."

Liz felt Max's hand tighten around hers. They were both nervous for him, but Liz knew that Ben wasn't the least bit concerned. He loved having an audience. His need to keep some of his more amazing abilities a secret had in no way dampened his outgoing nature, nor his pursuit of the more public of his talents. Liz knew that Max admired that about his son, wished that he could have been the same way in high school.

Liz felt tears filling her eyes now as the tall youth with shining golden hair moved to the front of the stage, a guitar over his shoulder. He spoke very briefly before he started to strum on his acoustic guitar. "My Aunt Isabel helped me to pick this song. It means much more than I can ever tell any of you, but I think you'll all find something from it to take with you as we close this chapter of our lives."

[I]Remember how they always seemed to know?

We had the forest for our eyes

But the earth was in our clothes

And they spilled out from under the stars

And these blankets and these robes of ours

And they thought we'd fall

Not at all.

So look back on those treasured days,

We were young in a world that was so tired.

Though it's not what we wanted before

Even the saints had to crawl from the floor.

Summers when the money was gone you'd sing

All your little songs that meant everything to me.

And I'll remember you

And the things that we used to do

And the things that we used to say

I'll remember you that way.

I remember how they tried to hold you down

And we climbed those towers and looked down upon our town

And everything we hoped would last

Just always becomes the past,

Summers when the money was gone you'd sing

All your little songs that meant everything to me.

But then this world slipped through my fingers

And even the sun seemed tired…

I still cared.

As I lowered you down my heart just jaded

In that moment the earth made no sound,

But you were there…

You helped me lift my pain into the air.

I'll remember you. I'll remember you…

And the things that we used to do.

And the things we used to say

If it don't hurt you it won't me

If it don't hurt me, it won't hurt you, I know.[/I]

The last gentle chords faded into the silence of the auditorium. Liz could see Ben looking up at she and Max. She met his bright eyes through her tears, clapped for him until her hands hurt.

She could hear Maria talking to her on her right. "I knew that kid had talent, but I'm getting him a recording contract Lizzie." But she could not tear her eyes off her son's shining face - the boy she and Max had sacrificed so much to save. And she knew in her heart that it had all been worth it.

And she just knew that, somewhere, Alex Whitman was smiling.