A fan fiction story by Melpomene based on the characters and backstory of "Roswell" and composed without permission. No copyright infringement is intended and no monies have been earned.
"Hey, Mom, I'm home!" Maria droped her backpack on the couch, looking around for a sign of whether her mother was home or not. Shrugging, she led Liz and Max into her kitchen. "I dunno," she said, "maybe she's upstairs."
"Maria? Did I just hear you come in?"
Maria raised her head just as her mother walked into the kitchen, her bare feet padding softly across the tile. She looked questioningly at the expression on her mother's face, something was definitely up.
"So, spill it. You don't have Sheriff Valenti hiding up in your bedroom waiting to sneak out when our backs are turned, do you?"
"Maria! Of course not. Hi, Liz. Max. Are we studying?" She turned her attention back to her daughter.
"That depends on whether or not the Valenti in question makes an appearance," Maria persisted.
"Jim isn't here," her mother insisted. "But we do have a guest."
"Who? I didn't see any cars out front. What did they do, park a block away and hike up?"
"Your cousin is changing clothes."
"Sean is so much not a guest; he's a parasite." Maria shuddered at the thought of her delinquent relative, cringing at the thought that she was still having to share her bathroom with him. "And besides that, I thought this was his temporary residence until he's crime free."
"He's working at staying out of trouble, Maria. But Sean isn't the cousin I was talking about."
Maria raised her eyebrows, smiling at her friends who'd sat down at the kitchen table. "Well, let's see now. It's not like I have all that many cousins to choose from here. Katie's too little to come on her own, Jared should still be in school, Emma's out of the country..."
"And what? I can't come back to visit every now and again?"
Maria spun around, a bright smile lighting up her eyes. "Emmy!"
"The one and only! That is unless you've been conducting cloning experiments for biology these days." A tall dark haired woman stepped out from behind the doorway she'd been using as a hiding place, wrapping her arms around Maria in a welcoming squeeze of affection. "How ya' doin', shorty?"
"Emma, wow, Maria said you were in Bosnia." Liz stood up from the chair she had claimed, edging around the table.
"Hey, Liz, what's this? You're too mature now to give me a hug?" Emma teased, curious at Liz's hesitancy.
Liz laughed and stepped into Emma's embrace. "I just didn't want to intrude on a family moment is all."
"And when did you become a non-family member?"
"Never," she admitted. It always surprised her how all-encompassing Emma's world-view was. Emma delineated terms by her own definitions, never caring to stop and consider what the rest of the world might think.
Maria swatted Emma's arm. "What happened to Bosnia?"
"It's still there as far as I know but I needed a bit of normalcy so I thought I come here and loose myself in something lifelessly dull. Which reminds me, you wanna have your portrait done?"
"Oh yeah, now that's a compliment. Me? Lifelessly dull? I think not, babe."
Emma laughed, ruffling Maria's hair, intentionally causing the wavy locks to fall in her eyes. "Really though, a person can only handle so much death and destruction before they go batty. I finished up the assignment early and hot footed it back to the states."
"Assignment?" Max asked.
"Oh, Emma, meet Max." Maria gestured to the third member of her study group. "Max, my cousin Emma. She's a photojournalist and gets to travel all over the world with the work she does. I swear, girl, if I didn't love you so much I'd hate you."
"It's nice to meet you." Max rose and extended his hand, caught off guard when she pulled him into an embrace instead.
"Sorry," she grinned, "Once I start hugging, I can't seem to stop. Oh, and Maria gives me way too much credit. I'm no photojournalist; I'm just an extremely lucky photographer. But I wasn't joking about the portraits. I thought I'd attack you and all your friends first and then just roam around Roswell, camera in hand."
"Emma's pictures are the best," Liz explained to a slightly bemused looking Max. "You know that awesome portrait of my grandmother in my living room?" She continued when she saw Max nod. "Emma took that."
Emma grinned. "You should be. I ran my tail off for two days chasing that old lady all over town in order to get that shot. My legs were sore for a week after."
"Right, oh ye goddess of the stair climber. I'd kill to have the definition you have in those legs." Maria wrapped an arm around Emma's waist, leading her to the table. "So what room do I have to avoid lest I loose life and limb?"
"The laundry room. I haven't set the stuff up yet though so I suggest you do a bunch of laundry tonight unless you want to end up at the laundromat later on in the week."
"Geez, girl, how long are you planning on staying? They have laws against squatters in this state, you know."
"Not sure yet. A week or two, maybe longer. It partly depends on how long your mom can deal with having me in the house. You know how it is with that generation... another mouth to feed, another conscience to worry over..."
"Another pair of hands to help with the house work... I think I'll survive," Amy said, walking to the refrigerator to see about dinner.
"Oh no you don't, Amy. Let's go out to eat tonight. My treat."
"Emma, I didn't know you were in town." Jeff Parker smiled at his daughter and the group who had walked into the Crashdown with her.
"Just got in today. I was telling everyone that I wanted to do portraits while I was here. Hope you've got room in your living room for another likeness of your beautiful daughter here."
Max smiled at the blush that Emma's comment had brought to Liz's cheeks. He couldn't believe how much at ease he felt around Maria's cousin, she was a virtual stranger after all, but he doubted she ever let anyone feel ill at ease in her presence. It would be interesting to see how she fared with Michael.
Emma watched with amused reserve as the telling looks flew across the crowded cafe between Maria and the bandana-ed cook. This holiday away from reality was promising to be even more entertaining than she had initially hoped. Now if she could just manage to avoid her annoying baby brother she'd be in heaven.
Sean chose that precise moment to walk through the door and smash her hopes of heaven into a thousand bloody shards. Casting a curious glance around the room, he had to do a double take of the woman seated next to Maria.
"Well, if it isn't my all-important big sister, Emma the upstanding socially conscious photographer," he exaggerated, pulling a chair up to the end of the booth and sitting down solidly in it. "So what major crisis brings you to Roswell, sis?"
Emma's expression chilled perceptibly as she turned her full attention to Sean. "I heard you were dead and thought I'd come to celebrate. Don't let me keep you from whatever crime it was you were going to commit. Run along now, little jail bird."
"And deprive you of my company?"
"Yes, precisely the point."
"Actually, I was just stopping by to tell Aunt Amy that I need to be in Albuquerque tomorrow morning for a court appointment. I'll be gone at least a day or two."
Amy smiled at the undisguised animosity that never ceased to flare up between the two siblings. Ever since Sean had learned how to string words together into sentences, they had spent all their time together in bitter arguments. "Give us a call when you get there, Sean. So we'll know that you made it safely."
"And wouldn't that be a huge shame, getting involved in an accident in the middle of nowhere..." Emma muttered to her soda.
"Will do. Bye." He approached the door, turning back to face his sister just before he reached for the handle. "No one else knows that you're back, do they? I talked to Mom two days ago and she said you were still in Belaruse."
Maria, Max, and Liz looked askance at one another, not due to Sean's revelation, but rather because they could almost see the emotional wall Emma threw up around herself. Something they couldn't quite pin down had changed in her eyes and the atmosphere around her had hardened into an almost palpable thickness.
Sean shook his finger at his sister in mocking reprimand before loping back out the way he had come in.
Later that night, after Max had pleaded exhaustion and left to return to his own home, laughing still as he walked out to the jeep, and once Amy had bid the threesome a good night, Emma sat on Maria's bedroom floor answering the two girl's questions.
"What's it like in Bosnia, really?" Liz asked, dragging a brush through Maria's hair in a bid to plait the thick waves.
"Unlike anything you could ever imagine, even in your worst nightmares."
Liz paused briefly, remembering Max's experience in the white room. "I wouldn't be so sure about that."
"I would." Emma's tone had turned hard and cold, a complete absence of her general gaiety that sent chills down both girl's spines.
Maria knew what Liz had been thinking but Emma's simple words had convinced her that perhaps her more worldly cousin was right about what she had said. Thinking to bring back her cousin's cheer, she decided to launch into a lighter topic of discussion. "What about the front lines of that amazing love life of yours, huh? Anything terribly exciting going on?"
They were both grateful to see Emma's smile return, even if it did seem a bit forced. "That is almost a 'no man's land', I'm afraid. With one shining exception."
"So spill, chika. We want all the gory details."
"Only after I get to hear about the broody chef in your life."
"Let's not go there, shall we? Michael is an entirely complex and all too annoying subject. You should have asked Max while he was still here, they're practically blood brothers."
Emma's eyes flashed mischievously, making a mental note of the information. "I'll have to remember that."
"I don't do portraits."
Maria suppressed a grin. "Well, Spaceboy, try telling that to the human camera out there." She gestured through the order window at Emma who sat perched on one of the chairs at the counter, cheerfully snapping pictures of anything that caught her fancy. From the looks of it, Michael had just become her favorite subject. "I gave up trying to get her to stop taking pictures of me a long time ago, and you know how persistent and loud I can be. I'm not exactly cheering over the thought of my uniform and antennae being commemorated for all time myself, but once Emma starts she's completely uncontrollable."
Emma sounded a lot like someone else he knew; someone he knew rather well. She was enjoying his decreased comfort level way too much, he decided as he watched Maria duck back out of the kitchen and sidle up to a new table of diners. He could hear it in her voice, and that wasn't all he could hear. Turning back to the neglected food on the grill, he tried to ignore the woman who had him trained in her camera's sights.
When Max and Isabel walked into the diner, Liz grinned and waved hello to them.
Taking a seat at the counter, Isabel noticed the woman who sat next to her, studiously watching the world around her through her camera's lens. A sudden spike of cold panic shot through her chest. Surely if the FBI were going to be doing surveillance, they wouldn't be so open about it.
Max noticed her suddenly rigid posture and leaned around her to determine the problem. What met his eye was a mop of wildly flying sandy-colored curls and two huge dark eyes. "Emma, it's nice to see you again."
Isabel stared at her brother, unsure if she should be relieved or irritated.
"Hey, Max. Don't tell me, this must be the lovely Isabel." Emma extended a hand to the young woman, pulling her in for an unexpected hug. "I've heard so much about you."
Answering Isabel's silent query, Max explained, "Is, this is Emma, Maria's cousin. She's a photographer. Um, she's in town visiting but she wanted to take some portraits."
Emma would have had to be blind to miss the change that came over Isabel once Max had explained her presence."Finally, someone who appreciates a photographer!" she cried in mock exuberance.
Isabel flashed a bright smile, her eyes lighting up with the joyful expectation of appreciation. "Max said you were Maria's cousin?"
Emma bobbed her head sending sandy corkscrew curls bouncing and raised her camera once again. "Uh huh, Amy's my mother's baby sister which means I have the great displeasure of claiming the walking crime scene as my brother."
Isabel cocked an eyebrow at Emma's statement. Who...
"Sean," Max supplied before her thoughts could complete the sentence.
"Oh," understanding dawned and Isabel's voice dripped unsheathed distaste, her mouth forming a perfect “O” as she drew out the syllable.
Peering over the camera at the pair of teens, Emma suggested, "How about this weekend, say... Saturday around two or so?"
Isabel quirked her brow again.
Noting the unspoken question, Emma supplied, "Pictures. I already got Maria and Lizzie to agree to Saturday morning. If you two would agree to that afternoon we could make a whole day of it. Oh, and bring the glowering cook with you, I promised Maria I'd get a decent shot of him for her."
Max opened his mouth to object to his own portrait when Emma stopped him. "I told you I wanted to get shots of everyone in town, you are part of everyone, are you not?" She chuckled at Max's faint blush. "Plus, I love sibling pairs." Emma grinned again. "You'd think I had a great relationship with my own sibling the way I snap shots of other sib groups, oh well. You never can tell, I guess. Two o'clock at the park near Amy and Maria's house."
Max watched Emma toss a couple of bills onto the counter before she rose and bid everyone farewell, disappearing through the door in a flurry of hugs and smiles. He turned back to his sister and noticed her attention still focused on the door. "What is it, Is?"
"I don't know," she said darkly, "but I'm going to find out." She lightened her expression before Max could ask for elaboration. "Order an Alien Blast for me, I've got to ask Maria something."
Max watched Isabel cross the restaurant, wondering at her sudden departure but distracted from his concern when Liz leaned across the counter with a smile in her eyes.
"Alright, I'll get that out to you in just a few minutes." Maria began to back away from the table while she was still writing down the order. When she spun around, she ran directly into an immobile Isabel. "Hey, Isabel, did you get a chance to meet my cousin, Emma? She's a photographer. I thought with your goals of being a fashion model..." Maria stopped short at Isabel's expression. "What is it?"
"Yeah," Maria responded. "Emma's my cousin. She just got in town from Bosnia. What about her."
Isabel glanced down, she wasn't entirely sure what it was about the other woman that had struck her as odd. "Maria, is there anything we ought to know about Emma?" she asked at last, following the girl to the kitchen to turn in the customers' food order.
Tossing the slip of paper at Michael with a sneer, Maria leaned back against the doorjamb. "What do you mean? Emma's just... she's just Emma."
Michael chose that moment to appear in the order window. "Is she the one with the camera?"
"Yes, you freak, go back to work. I want good tips today!" she called after him as he retreated back to the grill.
"I can't explain it," Isabel began, "But there's something weird about her. Something off center."
"Well, she did just get back from spending six months in Bosnia. That could be it. She said it was really bad, maybe she's just a little shell-shocked." Glaring at Michael as he set one of her orders in the window, Maria snagged it and returned to the dining area.
"Something up, Isabel?"
She looked up at Michael's question. "No, probably not. I'm getting to be as bad as you are, seeing enemies at every turn."
Michael's brow furrowed in bafflement as he watched Isabel return to the counter and reclaim her seat next to Max. He just didn't understand women, not any of them.
Emma sat on the living room floor of the DeLuca home, contact sheets spread out on the coffee table in front of her as she studied the pictures she had taken that morning. A week among family had done quite a bit toward restoring her belief in the basic goodness of humanity but there were still a lot of memories she needed to balance. At least she wasn't undergoing as much of a crisis of faith as she had been when she had first shown up on her aunt's doorstep, uninvited and unannounced.
She leaned back and rested against the front of the sofa, images dancing across her eyelids as she closed her eyes against the insurgence of thoughts and memories that flooded her brain. She had seen far too much, had experienced too many atrocities, to ever forget them.
The sound of footsteps across the kitchen floor jarred her from her reverie, bringing her head up from the sofa cushion in askance at the interloper. Watching the kitchen doorway, she waited for either Amy or Maria to appear and prayed fervently that her intruder wouldn't be Sean. She couldn't deal with Sean at the best of times, and especially not when her life was possibly at its lowest and most complex point to date.
At the first sound of the stream of consciousness monologue, Emma smiled. Maria. She waited for the teen to notice her presence, not wanting to disturb the flurry of thoughts that must have been flying in the girl’s head if her words were any indication.
It was then that she remembered Amy had gone to a convention that weekend in Albuquerque and Sean was somewhere doing something to do with his ex-convict status. She and Maria had the house to themselves for the weekend.
Maria rattled off a list of things to do that evening as she padded from the kitchen toward her bedroom, counting items off on her fingers as she went. She nearly stepped on Emma when she decided to cut between the sofa and table on her short journey. "Hey! Sheesh, chika, how long have you been out of our former laundry room? I thought I saw the "do not disturb" sign up back there."
Emma craned her neck although she couldn't see the laundry room door from her position on the floor. "Hmm. Guess I should fix that... eventually."
Maria chuckled and sat down on the sofa next to Emma's shoulder. "So, are those the shots from this morning?" She peered at the contact sheets her cousin held, trying to make out the images there without the help of Emma's magnifying glass.
"Yup, so go away so I can look at them," she teased, softening the harshness of the demand with a coy grin. "What are you up to this fine evening? Not a date with the gloom-n-doom cook, I suppose."
"No, I'm not going out with Michael, he'd have to actually ask me out for that to happen and since he's done that all of once, forever ago... no date for me."
"A night out with the girls?" Emma wouldn't let the topic of evening entertainment die regardless of Maria’s best efforts to the contrary.
"A night in my room with homework is more like it, Emsie."
“That’s no way to spend a Saturday night.” Emma thought for a moment before suggesting, "How about you and I go see a movie? Amy said she’d be gone until tomorrow night with that convention in Albuquerque. We could have a cousin’s night out. Maybe swing by the Crashdown for sundaes after…"
Maria arched her brows, a smile tugging at the corners of her mouth. "That would depend on the movie, I guess."
"Your choice," she relented but quickly amended, "just nothing too bloody. I've seen just about all the blood I can handle for a while."
Maria nodded in understanding although Emma's references of fighting and front line warfare were far from her ability to comprehend. Suddenly, she remembered something Emma had said earlier in the week. "Hey, you never told me about the mystery man in your life."
The comment caught Emma off guard and she stared at Maria a moment before answering, "He's just a friend really, a friend who needs help."
Maria watched Em's eyes, there was something foreign and unreadable there, something that frightened and confused her, almost making her doubt her character assessment of the woman. "What kind of help?"
Ducking her head, Emma began to stack up the contact sheets into a single pile. "The kind of help that'll keep him on the breathing side of alive."
“Oh.” She understood that kind of help, had offered it more times than she could count. But the comment gave Maria pause as she considered Emma's words. "Is he still there? In Bosnia, I mean?" Her voice was soft, unobtrusive.
"No," Emma murmured and shook her head. "He and I left together, with another friend.."
Almost as if the entire conversation had been staged, the cell phone that rested on the coffee table began to trill anxiously, causing Emma's hands to jerk and spill contact pages onto the floor. She snagged the device and quickly flipped it open with practiced but unsteady fingers as Maria watched on, curious at her odd reaction.
"Joseph? Oh, thank God. Where are you?”
Maria listened to the conversation, short though it was, and was intrigued by the change in Emma. She had gone from being incredibly tense and intentionally cheerful to being relaxed, obviously relieved. Maria watched as the anxiety and tenseness fell from her face and shoulders, almost as if she had been carrying the weight of the world and had finally been given the okay to set it down for a moment.
“Okay then. Let me know when you do.” Emma smiled in reply to something Maria couldn’t hear. “I know. Be careful.” She pulled the phone away from her ear, the smile lingering on her tranquil features.
Maria grinned. “Must have been good news,” she drawled.
“The best,” Emma replied. She reached down to pick up the pages she had dropped and set them on the table. “Now, let’s go see about that movie.”
“Oh, you’ve got to be kidding!” Emma laughed, “You just can’t beat Attack of the Killer Tomatoes when it comes to B grade horror flicks.” She strolled slowly along the sidewalk away from the aging movie house they’d sat in for two hours while she had forced Maria to endure possibly the worst film ever produced.
“I thought you said it was my choice tonight. I’m relatively certain I didn’t pick that movie,” Maria said confidently.
Emma continued to laugh. “Yeah, well every red-blooded American teenager needs to see it at least once. It’s a cult classic.” Emma’s step faltered at her own words.
Maria eyed her warily. “How did you know it was showing at the old Plaza Theater anyway? You’re not harboring any latent psychic abilities are you?”
“Latent?” Emma teased, “No, not any latent ones. Hey look, the Crashdown. Come on, I’ve got the biggest urge for something huge and decadent.”
Maria allowed herself to be tugged across the street and into the Parkers’ diner. Emma at least kept her occupied and entertained if nothing else. She plopped down at the counter next to her cousin and smiled at Liz as she came up behind them.
“What’s this? Girl’s night out?” Liz asked, playfully poking Maria in the ribs. “And why wasn’t I invited?”
“Oh I dunno, Parker. It could have something to do with the fact that you’re working tonight,” Maria answered, her eyes sparkling with amusement. “Besides, it was a last minute thing. Emma here doesn’t believe in the healthy aspect of brooding alone on a weekend night.”
“Glad to hear it,” Mr. Parker chimed in. “It's not a good idea to start doing that until you're at least, oh, at least twenty-five. So what’ll it be for the two of you?”
"Ice cream," Emma said, a grin spread across her face. "Something wonderfully evil with whipped cream and nuts."
Maria nodded in agreement with her cousin's assessment of their particular nutritional requirements while Mr. Parker smiled and disappeared to prepare their treat. She swiveled on the stool so that she was facing Emma more fully when the other woman’s attention was drawn to something outside, her face hardening into an unreadable mask. Curious, Maria turned to follow Emma’s gaze to the sidewalk in front of the café.
A man stood near the doors, his dark suit a stark contrast to the summer wardrobes of everyone else who was hurrying past along the storefront. His face was in deep shadows due to the backlighting from the nearby streetlamp and the fedora that was pulled down low on his brow, but it appeared that he was looking straight at them, or rather, straight at Emma.
“Em?” Maria had lived for too long looking over her shoulder for any signs of discovery to brush off the odd man as merely eccentricity.
Emma’s eyes were glued to the scene outside the window. “What is it, Maria?”
“There’s something else you’re not telling me about. Isn’t there?”
Emma’s eyes returned to Maria’s face, her expression blank and unreadable. “There are a lot of things I’d like to tell you, but there’s a lot that I can’t.”
Maria watched Emma rise from the stool and flash a smile at Mr. Parker and their sundae’s. “I’ll be right back,” she called, “I just saw a familiar face.”
Maria watched Emma closely as she walked past the tables and out the door, not noticing when Liz sidled up next to her stool.
The gentle hand on her shoulder jolted the blonde out of her stupor and she nodded toward Emma who she could still see through the diner’s front window. “Look. What do you think that could be about?”
Liz redirected her gaze and took in an obviously nervous Emma and a person she could only identify as a man in black. She quickly discounted her mind’s foolish and instantaneous ramblings about the unknown man’s origin and possible profession until she was forced to remind herself that she had once believed aliens to be an impossibility as well. “You don’t think he’s really a … you know, a man in black, do you? Like that movie?”
Maria didn’t shift her gaze. “Sounds dumb but so did aliens a year or so ago.”
“But why would he be talking to Emma?” Liz asked, adding, “Unless we’re under suspicion again and they’re trying to get information through your cousin.”
Maria shifted on the stool. “They’d do better to go through Sean. Emma’s to protective to say anything even if she knew.”
The two girls watched Emma for what seemed like an hour to their nerves but was in reality only a few minutes, both of them breathing sighs of relief when Emma nodded to the man and moved to return to the café. Maria’s breath hitched in her throat when the stranger reached out and snagged Emma’s arm, pulling her close to him for a moment before finally releasing her again. He blended into the deep night as Emma slipped through the door and plastered a smile on her face for the benefit of anyone who was watching.
“Who was that?” Maria asked once she neared the counter.
“Like I said,” Emma said, “just someone I know.”
“I guess he wasn’t hungry?” Maria egged, wanting to know the secrets that coated Emma’s eyes and stole away the sparkle that had been there mere moments before.
Emma dipped her spoon into the sweet confection that sat melting in its glass bowl, raising it to her lips slowly and deliberately. She fought to still the tremors that threatened to send her hands into miniature convulsions. There was no need for Maria to be aware of the dangers that lurked on the horizon, at least not when they didn’t concern her.
Still unconvinced, Maria stared at Emma. Liz accepted the silence as her cue to return to waitressing.
“You’re hiding something, Emmy,” Maria insisted. “He wasn’t asking questions about, well… about me or my friends was he?”
Emma incredulous look answered Maria’s question before her response could. “Of course not, why would he? Just drop it, Maria. Believe me when I say that dropping the subject is what’s best right now.”
Twirling her own spoon through the whipped cream of her sundae, Maria considered the ramifications of saying anything else to Emma. “For now, chika. But I might surprise you if you decide you want to get it off your chest. In the meantime I’ve got these great aromatherapy candles at home from Mom’s shop that do wonders for anxiety.”
Emma chuckled a little. “Alright, I may just have to give those a try.”
The rest of the evening passed without further incident. Emma relaxed back into the plush of the couch in relief. One headache was enough for what was supposed to be a relaxing break from her whacked out version of a normal life. One headache per day was all she could handle and Joseph usually saw to it that she was constantly on edge anytime they were apart. Separation from him was always enough to warrant a refill on her migraine meds.
Snagging the remote control from the end table, she flipped on the television and quickly scanned through the channels, settling on a mindless science fiction program. She needed something to ease the constant worry running through her head.
Joseph had said he would be in Roswell soon. How soon was yet to be discovered since the man’s version of time was unlike anyone’s she had ever known. Even the Native Americans’ idea of “Indian time” was faster than Joseph’s incredible measure of minutes and hours.
Sighting the agent outside the Crashdown that evening had been a bit disturbing. She had expected them to take longer to get to New Mexico. If she could manage to get Joseph safely there, then she shouldn’t need to worry about the agents anymore.