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Swing Life Away

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It was the day before his seventh birthday, he remembers clearly sitting in the CrashDown legs swinging back and forth in the booth. Paper spread out before him as he drew an alien ufo, his name written in wobbly big letters at the bottom.

His mom had just taught it to him, it spelled Kyle. He didn’t know what the letters meant, besides the first, it stood for kitten. Like his flash cards.

He and Liz both had chocolate milkshakes, Arturo had brought them over because he was proud of Kyle’s letters. Liz held the green crayon in her fist, moving it back and forth over the page, coloring in her grass. She liked to fully color the page. While Kyle did outlines with small scribbles inside.

Rosa was next to him, colored pencils laid out across the table, she had told him crayons were for babies. But Kyle didn’t care, he wasn’t a baby. He was almost seven, basically the same age as Rosa.

He glances up at the older girl a toothy smile on his face, “what time is it?” He kept asking, because his mom had promised to pick him up at six fifteen, her shift was over then.

Rosa rolls her eyes, “six thirteen.”

Kyle thought it was cool she could read the hands on the clock, they had just started learning in his class. But he didn’t understand the funny symbols on the one at the diner.

He frowns as he processes her words, “but it was six twelve hours ago.” He can feel his lip pop out in a pout, the kind that would make his dad tousle his hair and call him magoo.

“No,” Rosa groans, “it was six twelve a minute ago.”

Arturo clucks his tongue as he comes over to check on them, “no worries Chico. Your mama will be here soon.” He leans over smiling at the picture Liz is drawing, it’s the four of them in a field. She always drew her family and friends. Another thing Kyle knew about her, that and she really liked mint and her favorite color was red. He didn’t know if she knew it was because it was Rosa’s yet, the little girls eyes always the size of saucers when her older sister was in the room.

“Look,” Liz smiles brightly motioning to the dog she had scribbled. “His name is scrappy.”

“Ah Mija,” Arturo smiles patting her head softly. “We are not getting a puppy.”

Liz pouts, crossing her arms in defeat. “Can we get Kyle one,” she says eyes twinkling, “for his birthday?”

Kyle perks up at that, “a puppy?”

Arturo’s eyes widen slightly, “that you have to ask his mama.”

Rosa had stopped coloring, watching the interactions between them. Her eyes glinting like she too wanted to beg for a puppy, which Kyle didn’t blame her for. He wanted a puppy now too.

Kyle looks back down at his drawing, the little green man in the ufo looked angry. So he picked up the black crayon, giving him a crooked smile and outlining an arm. So that he was waving.

The phone starts ringing as Kyle grabs the lime green crayon to fill in the arm. Liz smiling at him and leaning conspiratorially across the table, “I’m getting a puppy. I know it!”

Kyle grins up at her, “what will you name it?”

“Scrappy,” she says excitedly, “he’s gonna have brown spots and wag his tail all the time.”

Rosa goes still, her eyes on where her father is leaning over the phone talking in hushed tones. “Shh,” she motions for them to be quiet.

Kyle looks up, trying to make out the words. If Rosa was interested it meant something was going to happen, last time it had been a sleepover at Kyle’s. Something about their mom coming to check on the diner, and wanting them to have fun while they dealt with business.

Rosa and Liz had tears in their eyes all night, Kyle remembers trying to give them his favorite dinosaur plushie. It always made him feel better, but Liz had just grabbed him and pulled him onto the bed they were in. “Hermano,” she had sniffled crying into his shoulder.

Ever since then they had been inseparable at school, Wyatt teasing them about dating. Which Kyle had made a point of saying was gross, unless he wanted to date his sister. Kate had made a twisted face on the playground and tattled to a teacher.

Rosa scrunches up her eyebrows as she listens intently, only a few words drifting to Kyle’s ears. Mindy, desert, cruel. Nothing that Kyle could string together into a coherent meaning.

Arturo sighs heavily as he hangs the phone back on the hook, turning to give them all a sad smile before heading into the kitchen

“What’s happening?” Liz asks looking up at her older sister.

Rosa looks confused, “he said something about cruel people leaving children in the desert. That Mindy was coming to pick up Kyle.”

Kyle freezes, the green crayon leaving the line of the aliens arms, making it look like he was waving a green string. “No,” he says with a pout. “My mom is getting me. We are having hot chocolate and watching lion king.”

Rosa gives him a sad look, “I think something came up at work. It’s probably no big deal hermano. She will probably meet you at your house.”

“Yeah,” Liz chirps up. “And if Mindy’s there than you’ll probably have a sleepover with Alex!”

A smile breaks across Kyle’s face, “yeah. That sounds fun.”

 

 

The downside was that his mom didn’t show, not for hours. Movie after movie was played, Alex drifting asleep on the couch, while Kyle stared at the door. Eye lids heavy.

Mindy tried to convince him to go to bed, but he had insisted on waiting for his mom. He drifts off for only a second, snapping awake as Mindy is talking on the phone. Her voice barely hushed as she thinks he is sleeping.

“-horrific,” she says voice shaking. “To children. What has become of this world?”

He can almost hear the muffled voice on the other end, familiar enough to be his mom. So Kyle sits up slightly leaning towards the kitchen. Eyes intently watching as Mindy twirls the cord between her fingers, “yeah Michelle. But… seven years old? The tests are the worst part.”

Tears are running down the woman’s face, like something horrible had happened. Kyle felt something fearful catch in his chest, he was about to be seven, if tests came that made adults cry… well he wasn’t ready yet.

“Here? Yeah,” she nods, “he can sleep at our place. But he’ll want to see you, before we leave.”

Kyle frowned, leave. He didn’t want to leave, his mom was late. The clock by the tv was digital, it said it was twelve twenty-seven, meaning Kyle was seven and his mom was still at work.

“Fifteen minutes,” Mindy nods, “I’ll wake them up have them pack. Okay, bye.”

He was smart enough to lay back down, close his eyes and play pretend. He can hear Mindy sniffling as she wipes the tears from her eyes, whatever it was about being seven worse then Kyle had thought.

Alex’s mom shakes her son awake first, “Alex baby.” Her voice is soft.

Kyle can feel Alex stir, “mom?”

“Hey we are going to go back home,” she says softly. “Kyle is going to come with us alright?”

“Okay,” Alex mumbles sitting up.

“It’s his birthday so we are going to make him special pancakes tomorrow,” she says brightly. “Since his mama and papa can’t be there till later.”

Kyle feels his blood run cold, he didn’t understand what was going on. But it seemed big, just as big as when Rosa and Liz had stayed over. He hated how adults didn’t tell him things, only his mom ever being completely honest. She had told him about her and his dad’s fights, explained how when people love each other it’s hard to not scream sometimes.

Mindy shakes Kyle’s shoulder gently, “Kyle.”

He opens his eyes slowly, doing his best to pretend he was waking up. She gives him a smile, “can you go pack a bag? You’re going to spend the night at Alex’s.”

Kyle furrows his brows, “what about my mom?”

“She’ll be here,” Mindy smiles at him. “She’s going to explain everything.”

 

 

 

When the headlights flash in the windows, Mindy takes them outside. The backpack feeling heavy in Kyle’s grip. His dad’s police car stopping in the drive. His parents turning to say something addressed to the backseat.

Kyle frowns as his dad gets out opening the door and crouching down to talk to the kids. It’s weird, they look all alone. Three of them huddled together in the back, baggy white clothing hanging off their frames. Their cheekbones jut out at an unnatural level. Making Kyle shiver. Their faces are like stone.

The girl catches Kyle’s eyes, not like she sees him. Her blue eyes seeing right through him, a dark abyss seeming to thrash inside her. And Kyle feels sad. All his fears about being seven washing away as he looks at her.

His mom kneels down next to him, “Kyle honey.” Her voice is sweet, “hey.”

He looks away from the girl to look at his mom, eyes watering.

“Oh baby,” she says wrapping her warm arms around him. “It’s okay. Me and papa are going to pick you up first thing tomorrow.”

“Why?” Kyle asks voice scratchy.

“Do you see those kids?” She asks.

Kyle nods.

“They don’t have anywhere to sleep,” she says stroking a hand through his hair. “Are you okay letting them stay here.”

Kyle thinks about the girls eyes and nods. She looked like she needed to feel safe. And Kyle couldn’t think of a safer place than his home.

“Yes,” he says.

“His mom pulls away patting his cheek softly, “you are such a kind man.”

His chest puffs up at that, she called him a man not a boy. Seven wasn’t so bad after all.

“Happy birthday hijo,” she says placing a soft kiss to his cheek.

 

 

When they get to Alex’s house the other boy falls asleep immediately, Gregory waking up to frown at them and turn over. Seemingly at peace that his brother and Kyle showed up in the middle of the night.

He can’t sleep though, he keeps tossing and turning. That girls eyes seared into his mind. An idea strikes him, he gets up adrenaline coursing through his veins as he shakes Alex awake.

His friend grumbles as he wakes up, following Kyle groggily to the playroom. The light hurting their eyes as Kyle switches it on.

“What are we doing?” Alex asks.

“Making pictures,” Kyle says happily.

Alex blinks at him, fist coming up to rub at his left eye. “Why?”

“For those kids,” Kyle shrugs.

He pulls out all the paper he can, drawing his favorite things all over them. Cars, rainbows, and puppies filling up the pages. Alex falling asleep half into his picture, drool pooling out of his mouth.

 

 

When his mother shows to pick him up Kyle brandishes the pile of pictures he made. Eyes droopy as he does so, Mindy saying he hadn’t slept much.

He doesn’t understand the look on his mother’s face as he hands them to her. “They’re for the kids,” he smiles toothily. “They looked like they needed something to smile about. When do I get to meet them?”

He doesn’t understand adults sometimes, why Mindy bursts into tears. Or why his mother gasps hand over her mouth, tears glistening in her eyes as she takes the pictures. “They’re beautiful hijo.”

After a week, Kyle doesn’t think about the kid’s again. Except when he wakes up from dreams sometimes or when he draws a picture of a car. That’s when he remembers the blue eyes of the girl, the curls on the boys forehead as he clutched her side. And the small glimpse he got if the third, the one with the red line across his jaw.

Chapter Text

The front office is a blurr of motion, too many people moving in and out. Max only wanted his schedule, all their schedules. Iz and Michael were waiting outside in the hall, both glaring at all the students who bothered to pay them any mind. Having it set in their minds to not make any friends.

Not that any of them had any back in Seven Rivers, only a few acquaintances. As Isobel had put it the three of them was all they needed. Except for all the blips of her exclusively hanging out with her significant other’s and their friend groups. Because rules didn’t apply to Isobel.

He can feel his fingers twitching as he waits for the lady behind the desk to dig out their file. Waits for the moment her eyes will skim over their names, when they will widen at all the doctors excuses that are already in there. When she sees the therapy appointments, the medications they have to take at the office. All of it.

She groans when the door swings open, a bright smile on the girls face as she confidently strolls up to the counter. “Lou,” she greets.

“Liz,” the woman shakes her head. “Wait your turn.”

The girl turns to Max eyes wide, “oh sorry.” She says almost shyly, “are you new?” Something curious enters her eyes, analytical even.

Max gulps, “yeah.” It was the first thing he’d said to anyone in Roswell, breaking the vow of silence Iz had put them under. She had said two days of not talking would put them where they wanted to be on the social ladder or something.

“I’m Liz,” she says with a soft smile.

“Max,” he says throat scratchy, a blush creeping up his neck. He never knew how to talk with other people, tripping over himself or putting his foot in his mouth.

Liz grins at him.

“Evans?” the lady behind the desk, Lou apparently, asks.

Max nods, “yes ma’am. Max, Michael, and Isobel.”

She frowns at him, “your picking up their schedules?”

He nods, brows furrowed, wondering how abnormal it was for siblings to pick things up in the office. “Can I not?” He asks almost softly, afraid she will scold him for trespassing on some sort of unspoken rule.

“Of course you can,” Liz says rolling her eyes, before sending a glare to Lou. “They’re your friends right? She lets me get a copy of Kyle’s.”

Lou looks unamused, “Kyle signed a piece of paper giving you access to his grades. Because you are a little minx.”

Max chortles, ducking his head. The contextual evidence of the situation not fully applying, Liz seemed less brazen than anyone Max would apply the word to.

Lou glares at him, “is something funny young man?”

“Just,” Max’s eyes twinkle, “maybe more of a shrew.”

Liz’s smile widens, like she thought this was the greatest turn of events. Max being a nerd.

“And they are my siblings,” Max shrugs. “We’re triplets, I think maybe I could walk their schedules to them.” He tilts his head to the window, where they can be seen leaned against the wall. Michael playing with a ball of wire and Isobel filing her nails. Both trying to fall head first into their stereotypes apparently.

Lou opens the file, as if to confirm. Her eyes widening slightly, the inevitable realization that the kid in front of her is damaged crashing into the room. A thick layer of uncomfortable energy fills the air between breaths, and Liz darts her eyes between them.

“I’m sorry,” Lou says handing the papers over. “You are right they are your siblings.”

Max frowns, “how often do people come in here claiming to be related to other students?”

“Liz Ortecho every single day,” Lou glares at the girl.

“Mis hermanos son de úteros separados,” Liz grumbles.

Max tries to fight his smile, but it still breaks across his face, as he skims over the schedules. Heart plummeting, he didn’t share more than two classes with them. “Um,” he bites at his lip, “are the schedules set in stone, ma’am?”

“Unless there’s an academic reason yes,” Lou says. “What did you need Liz?”

“My reference letter from Mrs. Turner,” she says getting up on her tip tows to smile at the woman.

Max feels the heaviness in his feet as he leaves the office, hands nearly shaking when someone bumps his shoulder on the way in. His body freezing up for a moment, throat going dry.

“Sorry,” the guy says apologetically. He has dark hair and a septum piercing, hair spiked up.

Max gulps, ducking his head down. “Sorry,” he mumbles making his way out of the office as fast as he can. His chest constricting when he steps into the hall, students milling about. It feels like the hall is packed.

Isobel reaches out with her mind, a warm feeling embracing him, like she was wrapping him up in her arms. “Those the schedules?” She raises her eyebrow.

He nods, passing them out. “We all have seventh period study hall, you and Michael share second and third.”

Michael chuckles, “you memorized them already?”

“No,” Max narrows his eyes. “And we have shop fifth. I wanted to know the overlap.”

Isobel’s swats his shoulder, “it’ll be alright. That girl in there was cute, she might share classes with you.”

Max glares at her now, “shut up. Let’s just get today behind us.”

 

 

He can already feel everyone staring as he walks into his first class. History of some sort, he was late. The teacher gives him a sympathetic look, as the second late bell rings.

“You get lost?” She asks before just nodding towards the few empty seats.

It feels like he might explode as everyone watches him, a sandy haired kid grinning wickedly. His arms are splayed out around him, feet kicked up on the closest empty seat.

So Max just moves around him, eyes landing on where Liz is waving him over a girl vacating the seat by her. He feels his skin crawl that Liz had asked her to move, but is more grateful than anything.

“Wyatt is an ass,” she says when he takes the seat.

Max gulps, looking over at the sandy haired guy. “Well, there has to be one in every school,” Max says.

Liz smiles softly at him before clicking her pen, the lecture starting. Leaving Max to fish out his own notebook and writing utensil, since he was undoubtedly behind.

 

 

“What class do you have next?” Liz asks brightly after the bell rings.

“Art,” Max says weakly, slipping his stuff back into his messenger bag.

The way her smile grows is only slightly concerning, “that’s good. We can go together?” She looks overly excited, as she stands up bag slung over her shoulder.

“You also have second period art?” Max asks brow raised.

She nods, “me and my hermano.”

Max grins, “would this be your brother from another mother?”

Liz rolls her eyes, “in a small town like this we are all related, dating, or nemeses.”

“Alright then,” Max chuckles letting her lead the way out of the classroom.

Liz definitely had an energy about her, one that almost calmed his nerves. The anxiety building in his chest as they walked through the halls ebbing as he felt he had a place. Right behind Liz, as long as he stuck to her it calmed the feeling of sticking out. The cold crash that encompassed him when he looked up long enough to see the other people.

The art classroom is haphazard, like most, drawers and utensils everywhere. The room is set up with tables and chairs instead of desks, bins full of pencils and pens on each table.

“I’ll go get your sketchbook,” Liz says pointing to a table, “that’s where we sit.”

Max nods, not fully knowing what ‘we’ entailed. After he sits down, she is there almost immediately bag thrown on the table sketchbook plonked down in front of him. Max smirks slightly at her as she sits down pulling out her sketchbook. The edges are all frayed, the words we are not alone painted with a ufo. The word not scratched through and replaced with all.

“You’re late hermano,” Liz says without looking up as a guy slides into the seat next to Max.

Max looks at him through the corner of his eye, he has dark hair and eyes, a letterman jacket on. All in all the makings of the football captain and school bully.

“Mr. Whitman kept me after class,” he shrugs. “Anyways Mrs. Potter loves me.”

“So class,” the teachers says standing up. She’s holding a piece of paper in her hands, “as I’m sure you’re well aware the art show is next month. I’ll put this up in the main office so you can check guidelines.”

A few students groan, earning them a sharp glare from the teacher. “Also, we have a new student today. Would you like to say anything about yourself Max?”

His chest turns to ice, eyes darting down to look at his hands as he shakes his head. Heartbeat drowning out his thoughts, waiting for her to move on. For people’s eyes to move.

“Since it’s our first day back, I want everyone to draw something they like,” the teacher says clearly. After a couple moments Max can hear her sit back down, students starting to talk amongst themselves.

The guy next to him nudges their feet together, making Max gulp eyes flickering up to his face for a second. The guy gives him a soft smile, “she’s the only teacher that will do that.”

It’s not what he expected, the guy looking like everyone who had ever laughed at Max throughout his high school experience. Hot jocks weren’t inherently nice or considerate.

“What should I draw?” Liz asks the other guy.

“DeLuca,” he says waggling his eyebrows suggestively.

Liz glares at him, “stop Kyle.”

The name creates a funny pit in Max’s stomach, not that he had any proof this was that Kyle. The person who had made and signed countless pictures for him and his siblings. The first things they had owned. Not that owning a picture of a rainbow did much to help out a scared seven year old. Except, their was something about having two changes of clothes and a piece of art that had made Max feel more human.

“What are you going to draw Max?” Liz asks giving him a soft smile.

He shrugs, “I don’t know. I can’t draw people so…”

Kyle grins at him, “I annoy her every time. Because no matter the assignment I draw rainbows.”

Liz rolls her eyes, “but he makes it on theme enough she can’t really complain.”

Something expands in Max’s chest, maybe it was the same guy.

He grabs a red crayon from the bin, “and I only use crayons.”

“Why?” Max asks, finally making full eye contact with him.

Kyle grins, “someone once told me crayons were for babies and I’m a rebel.”

He watches as Kyle makes a giant arc on the page, thickening the line out. The wax from the crayon looking childish, and he can’t imagine migraine the teacher got every time he turned in an assignment.

So when Max grabs a green crayon and starts drawing a cartoon car, it has nothing to do with the way Kyle’s eyes light up. Or how he remembers the night he had been at the Valenti’s house. How Michelle had wrapped him up in a blanket, being sure not to touch his skin. As he had recoiled when she had. How she had softly read some story about a puppy to them until Max had fallen asleep head on Isobel’s stomach. His sister letting him know that Michelle’s mind was safe. That she was going to keep them safe.

Chapter Text

It takes her all of a few days to be genuinely annoyed with the entire student body. All of them pestering and groping for attention, something Isobel wasn’t overly inclined to give any of them. Her attention and opinion were reserved for those few people who mattered.

Which is why it was such a genuine annoyance that the Ap Bio teacher decided she would be partnered with Liz Ortecho. Not that the bubbly Latina was one of those annoying griping people, just that she wanted to be friends.

Apparently the girl was the top of the class and could therefore guide Isobel through any questions. Since the Evans had transferred half way through the school year.

Which, just made her blood boil. Because Isobel damn well didn’t need anyone’s help. Unless she asked for it. She didn’t beg, she knew how to pry and coax things from people. Even with out her powers.

So if she specifically arrives late to Biology on dissection day, a sway in her hips as she walks in. White leather skirt drawing all eyes in the room, and stops at Kyle and Wyatt’s table to praise their work. Well… Liz Ortecho could only seethe from where she did most of their work.

“So,” Isobel licks her pink lips, “which one of you is captain?” She lets a long finger trail down Kyle’s front, a blush spreading across his face.

Wyatt’s mouth falls open, “captain?”

“Football team,” Isobel rolls her eyes. They are obviously wearing their lettermen’s, and the two most popular males she has seen stroll through the halls.

“I am?” Kyle says brows furrowed.

A smirk spreads across her face, because that’s what she was counting on. Because her social status needed a boost and Wyatt was not attractive. Not to mention if Max’s theory was right, well she had a couple thank you’s for Kyle anyways.

“Evans,” Mrs. Turner says darkly. “Get off the table and go help your lab partner.”

Isobel rolls her eyes, letting her finger glide up Kyle’s chest her nail skidding under his jaw, before slipping off the table. “See me after class?” She says in a sultry tone, pleased with how nervous Kyle looks eyes darting to the ceiling.

Liz Ortecho gives her a sharp glare as she leans her hip against their table, a smirk on her lips. She has been baiting the girl for the last couple of days, only a slight jealousy built up from how easily Max had become friends with her.

This was some sort of payback for Max not spending lunch with her and Michael yesterday.

“You’re late,” Liz says sharply. “So I’m on notes, you get to cut open the brain.”

Isobel wrinkles her nose, “what?”

“The sheep’s brain,” Liz nods the metal slab with the grey gunk on it. “You missed the part of class where we selected who would take notes. So,” Liz holds up the sheet of paper where her name is under notes. Isobel’s scrawled darkly under scalpel, as if she had traced it over while waiting.

Isobel narrows her eyes, “I can’t do that. Phobia of scalpels.”

“Yeah,” Liz rolls her eyes, “from when the government tied you up and attempted to dissect you.”

Something cold catches in Isobel’s chest, her breath catching, mind racing for a moment. She takes a deep breath eyes drifting closed, her anxiety kicking in without reason again. Her mind reaching out to find the soft comforting presence only a few doors down the hall. Max’s energy washing over her, making her feel safe.

“No,” she smirks eyes opening to glare Liz down. “From the kidnapping.”

The girls dark eyes widen in fear for a moment, realization that she might have crossed a line washing over her.

Isobel rolls her eyes, “I just don’t like sharp edges.” She reaches out with her mind, caressing Liz’s consciousness. Just slightly, only enough for them to feel connected. For the other girl to feel like she and Isobel were more familiar.

She bites her lip, “fine.” Her voice is hostile as she passes Isobel the sheet, and the obnoxious pink pen. “But we are keeping the same ink.”

Isobel rolls her eyes, but nods. Better then having her hands all up in som sheep’s grey matter and frontal lobe. She liked the less hands on approach to minds.

“And,” Liz picks up the scalpel positioning it before staring straight into Isobel’s eyes. “Don’t hurt my hermano,” she keeps eye contact as she slices the brain in half, one quick flick of her wrist.

“Kyle?” Isobel arches her eyebrow, “I didn’t know he was an Ortecho.”

“Valenti,” Liz corrects inspecting the brain. “We aren’t fully related.”

Something warm expands in Isobel’s chest, while ice runs through her veins. Because it was the same little boy, the one who had given them his bed. That Michelle had told them all about, while reading his favorite books. Given up his home and parents for a night. All so Isobel and her brothers could have a warm meal and a bed to sleep in.

But fear gripped her heart. Max would drift further away. She could already see the glimmer in his eyes whenever he mentioned his name.

“I can do as I please,” Isobel smirks. “Boys were made to be toyed with.”

 

 

He hurries up to her side as soon as the bell rings, the smile on her face widening as Liz glares their way.

“You wanted to see me?” Kyle asks, obviously confused. Like he had never been propositioned in his life, which was bizarre considering his social status.

“You’re at the top of the food chain,” Isobel says with a quirk to her mouth.

Kyle’s brows furrow, “I guess? But not really.”

Isobel raises an eyebrow, “eat lunch with me and my siblings.”

He adjusts his backpack on his shoulder, “I guess. But Liz and Alex will have to come.”

She huffs rolling her eyes, “to a business deal?”

“What?” Kyle actually freezes. “Where are we going?”

She blinks, having forgotten. Everyone else went to the cafeteria, her and her siblings swinging by the nurses office first. So she could document them downing their pills. Ever since Max had been caught watching his fall down the drain, his eyes haunted. Well… their parents had arranged them to be essentially baby sat.

“Nurses office,” Isobel shrugs. “I have a headache.”

Kyle’s eyebrows knit together, “so… you can meet me at my table?”

She nods, giving him a flirtatious smile. “I look forward to our talk.” Her mind reaching out to caress his, a soft smile pulling at his lips.

“I’ll see you Isobel,” he says voice thick as honey.

She watches him leave, before releasing a heavy sigh. Her social climb would be stilted if anyone found out about the drugs, no one wanted the queen bee to need medication. Especially not for her winning smile.

“You shouldn’t do that,” Michael says dryly.

She turns to meet his gaze, “and?”

“Max likes him you know,” Michael tries again. “And ethically… there’s complications.”

“I barely made him do anything,” Isobel rolls her eyes. “More like made him forget I was coming to the nurses. And Max will be better off. You know his heart can’t take falling for a straight jock.”

Michael shakes his head, “you know this has nothing to do with his heart.”

“Don’t try and diagnose me,” Isobel rolls her eyes. Walking past her brother with a huff, she can all but feel him roll his eyes.

Max is leaned against the wall by the office, nose stuck in some book for his Russian literature class. Something he had been monumentally excited about.

“Hey nerd,” Michael greets, pulling Max out of whatever haze he had been in. Eyes blinking blearily for a moment, before he rejoins their reality.

“Michael,” he smiles, “Iz.”

He reaches out, their energies mixing. Throughout the years he’d learned how to project towards her if she wanted, their connection running weirdly deeper than hers and Michael’s. Their dna results hinted Max and her were more closely linked genetically. Isobel shivers, remembering the files their parents had let them see. They shared a father, three different mothers. Hers and Max’s were most likely sisters.

“You good?” Max asks her, jarring her back to the here and now.

“Yeah,” she rolls her eyes. Giving them both a bright smile, “let’s get this over with.”

The thick red pill was her least favorite. The one that numbed the physical pain. For their genetic disorder, whatever inconsistency laid in their dna being diagnosed by doctors. Some rare form of anemia, she thinks. Michael thinks the doctors are confused, that they have side effects like anemia because of their powers.

The pill is bitter going down, her throat feels like it’s ten times smaller than it actually is. Max’s hand shakes as he takes his, eyes glossing over. His anxiety medication had gone untouched in his messenger bag all week. Because Isobel had been coddling his mind Michael claimed. Maybe he thought he could handle it. Fight the anxiety enough to survive off her small coaxing. Let her powers dull the pain.

 

 

Her blood is still boiling as they exit the school building. All her flirting and hip swaying got her no where. Kyle had chuckled at her. Chuckled. Said they could get to know each other, but he wouldn’t date someone to elevate both their status’s.

Liz Ortecho had smiled ruefully, while the other guy nearly choked on his laughter. Alex, she thinks his name was. Some nerd Valenti had picked up along with Ortecho.

Her brothers are both following behind her, giving each other those anxious looks they share when they think she’s being childish. Trying to avoid setting her off more, knowing her powers could flare, her projecting her emotions on the surrounding environment.

“Hey, kids,” a deep voice snaps her out of her stomping and huffing.

She looks up to see a familiar face, the man who had visited them once a month for years. Until the visits became more and more sparse. Isobel looking forward to each nevertheless. The man who still followed leads on their mothers.

A smile breaks across her face, he was the closest thing to an uncle they had.

“Jim,” she says closing the couple feet until her arms are wrapped around his waist.

“Izzy,” he says running a hand across her head. “How is New Roswell High treatin’ ya?”

He smells like spicy and bourbon, oddly comforting.

“Ugghh,” she breathes out.

“Sheriff,” Michael says, “what brings you?”

Jim chuckles releasing Isobel, “picking my son up. His mom revoked his driving privileges.”

Isobel smirks, “what did he do?”

“That,” Jim shakes his head, “she hasn’t told me. Do you boys not do hugs anymore?”

Isobel turns to give them both a sharp glare, making them both roll their eyes.

“I’m joking,” he says reaching out to tousle both of their hair. “You are adults now.”

Michael groans, while Max ducks away a grin on his face.

“Dad?” Kyle’s eyes are bouncing between him and the triplets. Obvious confusion, fully cementing that he doesn’t remember. Or at least hasn’t connected the dots yet.

Isobel smirks at him, “thanks Jim.” She says getting on her tip toes to place a kiss on his cheek, “see you around?”

The older man gives her a small shake of his head, like he knows what she’s doing. Before she turns on her heels giving Kyle one last quirk of her eyebrows before heading to the jeep.

Max mumbles some sort of apology, before he and Michael follow after her.

“What’d you do that for?” Max grumbles as he climbs into the back seat.

Michael turning the key in the ignition, “she’s mad he wouldn’t date her.”

“No one lives to regret telling me no,” Isobel says pulling her phone from her purse. Already having gleaned a few numbers after her rejection at lunch.

Max sinks further into the back, a frown etched on his face. And Isobel’s heart aches.

Chapter Text

“What was that about?” Kyle grumbles, voice taut as he glares out the passenger window.

“I know their family,” Jim says stiffly.

Kyle hums, eyes trained out the window, his body angled almost painfully into the door. “Of course you do,” he practically spits, eyes locked on the road as they drive. “I need to go to the CrashDown.”

“Alright,” Jim manages. “Their dad is a lawyer.” He offers as an explanation, making Kyle grit his teeth even further together.

“That perfectly explains a seventeen year old putting her body all over you,” Kyle grits out.

Jim’s hands clutch the wheel tighter, the energy in the vehicle turning more and more hostile. “It’s not like that,” he says almost gently. It’s enough to make Kyle’s blood boil.

“That’s what you would say,” he mutters.

“Why did your mom take your keys?” Jim asks, voice taking a sharper edge.

Kyle feels his hackles raising, ready to fight. “I called Helena Ortecho a slut.”

It feels like the entire car turns into ice, Jim’s jaw setting and body going stiff. “Kyle,” he says exasperatedly. “That’s Liz’s mom your talking about.”

“If it’s any consolation I’ve called you worse,” he says simply. Clutching tighter to his backpack, watching as the town passes by.

To his surprise his dad doesn’t say anything in response, just sits stewing in his emotions. Letting silence fall over them in a not comforting way. The small space is charged, everything in Kyle wanting to jump out the moving vehicle. But that was what he did to himself. Created this atmosphere with his father, nearly every time they were left alone together.

“Your mom wanted me to tell you that if you don’t pick a college by graduation. That she expects you to fill out the application for the force,” he murmurs. Attempting to tread carefully.

“I don’t know what I want yet,” Kyle sneers. In part because this had been all they talked about for the last two years, how Kyle should already know. But mostly because his mom wasn’t supposed to betray him. It was supposed to be them against Jim Valenti.

Jim sighs, “well you should figure out a college to go as undecided. UNM is a good school.”

“Yeah,” Kyle rolls his eyes, “one on your patrol.”

Jim narrows his eyes, “that’s not what it’s about. Don’t all your friends go there?”

“You mean my half-sister?” Kyle says voice sharp.

“I wish you wouldn’t be like this,” Jim sighs, letting his hand drag across his stubble almost aggressively.

Kyle just scoffs, turning even more into the car door, until he can’t see his father anymore. The tension slightly relaxing as they slow down in front of the diner.

He practically throws the door open as soon as the vehicle slows down, jumping out of the car. “I’ll stay at Alex’s tonight,” he says voice only slightly softer.

“You don’t have anything,” Jim says worriedly.

“I’ll manage,” Kyle says with a deep sigh. “Bye dad.”

He hates the way his stomach twists around the word, the way his chest aches. Almost as much as the glimmer of hope in Jim’s eyes, since he wasn’t calling him Jim. Even if they both know it’s all for town appearances.

“See you tomorrow,” Jim says.

“We’ll see,” Kyle says closing the car door. Shouldering his backpack as he heads into the diner. Hoping against hope that Liz or Alex will have something to distract him with.

The bell dings as he opens the door, a few people glancing up and throwing him smiles. They’re people his parents know, people who fall for the carefully orchestrated family they display to the public’s eyes. Kyle smiles back.

Alex and Liz are sat at their regular booth in the back corner, papers strewn across the entire tables surface when he arrives. Liz smiles brightly up at him, trying to gather up a bunch of her notes so there is room.

“Sorry,” she manages to clear a space, “we’re studying for our respective science tests.”

Alex groans, “Biology was made by an insane man.”

Kyle chuckles, feeling like a heavy blanket was ripped off him the moment he entered their presence. “I’ve got one in calc.”

“Math,” Alex nods, “math I could manage.”

“Hey,” Liz whines, “science is fun!”

“No you’re just a nerd, hermana,” Kyle teases. Sliding in the booth next to Alex before pulling his textbook out.

“Guess what,” Liz says excitedly, kicking at Kyle’s ankles.

He turns to Alex with a raised eyebrow, asking what she wants him to guess. Alex rolls his eyes in response, making Kyle’s brows knit together.

Because he’s not wearing his eyeliner or his septum ring, which had been nonstop since they finally got Jesse Manes fully out of their lives. Somewhere around when Alex was fifteen and the man realized Flint was standing two feet away from him arms aggressively crossed during every visit.

“What?” He asks Liz, starting to copy out a math problem into his notebook.

“Rosa is coming down this weekend,” she says really fast. “And so is Maria.”

“Mhmm,” Kyle hums. Liz’s one sided crush on Maria DeLuca had existed since middle school, and had even dictated what college she was planning on attending. “Sounds fun.”

Liz kicks him under the table, “what’s up with you?”

“Nothing,” Kyle smiles up at her brightly. “It’s just the first week back and all the teachers have tests set up for next week.”

“You’re telling me,” she huffs, “my lab partner isn’t even trying. And I need to graduate with a four point oh, or else.”

“You’ll do just fine,” Alex rolls his eyes. “Just give her sometime to adjust, they just moved, halfway through senior year.”

“Isobel?” Kyle asks, brows furrowed. Something about her itching at the back of his mind.

“Who else?” Liz rolls her eyes. “And just cause you’re both messing around with her brothers does not mean I have to cut her slack.”

“What?!” Kyle splutters.

Alex blushes darkly, “am not.”

Liz raises a brow, “than why did you take off your eyeliner the exact moment Michael said that you had pretty eyes.”

“The situations don’t correlate,” Alex says shuffling his notes around, “I just got something in my eye.”

“Max?” Kyle asks incredulously.

Liz rolls her eyes, “Alex has something in his eye, and you fail to notice Max following you around like a lost puppy.”

It takes his brain a moment trying to piece the ideas together. Because Max was shy, that was all. And Kyle was trying to be his friend, so obviously Liz was reading into it. Like she always did, like when she accused him of having a crush on Flint Hathle.

“You just sound like you’re grasping for straws,” Alex rolls his eyes. “You don’t need to drag us into your little war.”

 

 

It was easy enough to convince them to let him stay over, with Gregory on leave. The drive to Alex’s was natural, ever since middle school it had been a second home for Kyle. Well a third.

The diner, was his second. The small bed they had managed to cram into and the books they had all shared lining the walls, sometimes that small space felt more homely than the actual house he lived in. But that was the Ortecho magic.

“Kyle?” Mindy calls as soon as the door opens.

“Yes ma’am?” he asks, brows furrowed.

Alex just shrugs, hanging his keys up.

“Your dad dropped some clothes off, I put them in Alex’s room,” she smiles brightly as she comes out of the kitchen. Her dark hair is secured in a long braid down her back.

“Thanks,” Kyle says, doing his best to keep the ice out of his tone. Because both his parents hovered, which was only made worse by them being so close to all the people in his life. Even Alex had once tried defending Jim to him, before realizing it was Kyle’s battle to be fought.

“Oh,” she says pinching her eyebrows together, turning around from where she almost retreated back into the kitchen. “We’re going to the reservation this weekend. If you want to come.”

“Mom don’t hound him,” Alex nearly whines.

Kyle smiles, “I’d love to.”

“Good,” Mindy smiles, “and you should invite the new kids to your birthday Alex.”

“How did you even know there were new kids?” Alex asks running a hand exasperatedly down his face.

His mother narrows her eyes at him, “Jim told me.”

“What’s Jim’s obsession with them?” Kyle asks with maybe too much spite in his tone.

Mindy kooks sad for a moment, before waving her hand dismissively. “You know, the normal parental concern for other people’s kids.”

Kyle scoffs, “yeah.”

“Well, we’re going to see Greg,” Alex says, shoving Kyle towards the game room. Which used to be a play room, but as all the boys grew up Mindy had formatted it into a video game station. So when they were in trouble all she did was lock the door and revoke access.

“What was that about?” Alex practically hisses once they reach the room.

Gregory raises an eyebrow at them casually, before going back to Call of Duty.

Kyle shrugs, “my dad has been all up in the triplets business since they showed in town.”

“We know adults don’t give you answers,” Alex rolls his eyes. “Remember all our hardworking?”

It’s a slap to the face, the reminder of their investigative group and rules. The very reason he and his dad didn’t get along right now.

“You mean the stupid elementary school pact we made?” Kyle rolls his eyes.

Gregory sighs, “what are you two on about?”

“The new kids in town,” Alex says simply.

The older man rolls his eyes, “please tell me Drew and the Hardy Boys aren’t back at it again.”

“We aren’t,” Kyle says lowly, pointed at Alex. “I just wanted to know what my dad’s deal was.”

Gregory shrugs, “probably just worried about them integrating.”

“Yeah,” Alex mutters. “That’s why mom invited them to my birthday.”

“You’ll survive,” Gregory says tousling Alex’s hair. “Anyways Liz says your smitten with Michael.”

“I don’t even know him,” Alex says, grabbing the remote out of his brother’s hand. “Now Halo or quit.”

“Halo is fine,” Gregory chuckles, “as long as Kyle doesn’t cheat.”

“I don’t cheat,” he says slumping down into one of the bean bags. Trying not to think about the name tag glistening on his lapel too much.

Manes. He was the only one of the kids who hadn’t changed to their mothers maiden name. Something about not wanting to forget where he came from, how it was a reminder to be better. To reclaim the name.

Gregory smiles brightly while settling back down into the bean bags, turning on a remote and passing it to Kyle. Of all the people in his life who had tried to convince him actions could be redeemed, Greg was the closest to proving it. The closest to making Kyle and Jim a workable family dynamic.

 

 

Liz huffs angrily as she sits down at the lunch table, “she’s at it again. Complete bitch mode activated.”

Kyle just sighs, attempting to open his yogurt, letting his eyes dart over to where Isobel just stormed to her own table. Both her brothers watching her angrily recount something.

“What did she do this time?” Alex asks nonchalantly.

“What didn’t she do?” Liz glares, turning around to make sure she can dig her dagger eyes into Isobel.

Kyle sighs, “have you tried asking her to play nice?”

Liz turns to him with something dark glinting in her eyes, “don’t patronize me.”

He raises his hands letting her know he’s giving up. “Look, she can’t keep it up forever,” Kyle tries, “she’ll get over it.”

“Mhmm,” Liz sounds skeptical.

He opens his mouth about to say something, when he sees Wyatt making his way to the triplets table. It takes him only a moment to zero in on him, mouth closed and jaw locked tight.

He can practically read Wyatt’s body language after all the years they’ve known each other. And he’s definitely geared up about something, ready to dig into them.

Isobel looks up at him, face going pale.

“What’s he doing?” Kyle grits out, Alex and Liz turning to see what he’s looking at.

Michael’s fists ball, and his face scrunches up into a look of disgust. Isobel shakes her head, and Wyatt leans against their table self importantly.

In the space of time it takes Kyle to blink Max has jumped up from the table and punched Wyatt in the jaw. Both their bodies falling to the ground as Wyatt tackles him by his middle. Max’s head making an almost sickening crack against the floor, while Wyatt pummels him in the chest and stomach.

He doesn’t think, just reacts. It feels like time slows down as he rushes over to the table. Michael and Isobel frozen in shock.

Kyle and James have them apart in mere moments, Kyle holding Wyatt by the back of his shirt, one arm pinned to his back. While James has Max’s arms, the guy fighting like a feral cat to get at Wyatt.

“Max,” Isobel says in panic. Michael’s face is pale, eyes wide.

“Say you’re sorry,” Max spits out.

“I won’t,” Wyatt struggles only slightly against Kyle. “Not for the truth.”

Max sneers, “you’re a fucking coward.”

“What did you say?” Kyle twists his arm, with maybe a little too much force. But Max’s lip is split, and he had seemed to only get in one good hit to Wyatt, so it was a balance.

Wyatt snarls, “so your taking their side? Cause of the blonde?”

“He called her a slut,” Max says, finally calming down and not trying to pull out of James grasp.

Kyle yanks at the back of Wyatt’s shirt, making sure it’s harsh, “apologize.” He can feel something dark and acrid twisting in his stomach.

“Or what? You’ll tell mommy?” Wyatt’s voice cracks at the end.

Kyle shakes his head, “be a man. Or you’ll be on the bench.”

Wyatt’s body relaxes slightly, “sorry.” It’s mostly spit in Isobel’s direction.

“Now go cool down,” Kyle says shoving Wyatt back towards his table.

He stands there for a moment glaring at Kyle. “You’re dead Evans.”

Kyle sighs, “don’t start. No one will be hurting Max.”

“Why cause you’re fucking his sister?” Wyatt nearly spits.

Kyle’s jaw sets, “no. Because if anyone said that about my sister I’d have done the same. Wouldn’t you? If someone called Kate one.”

Wyatt’s entire face twists up, “it’s not my fault she’s a whore.”

“Kate?” Kyle asks cruelly.

“No the damn blonde,” he says angrily, taking a step towards Kyle.

James had released Max, obviously getting ready to stop a fight between Kyle and Wyatt if it came down to it.

“Well I only know of one girl who sucked off the entire football team before playoffs,” he says coolly. “And practically begged to be taken home by most everyone.”

He ducks, prepared for Wyatt’s fist before it comes. Grabbing him and putting him in a headlock, “now walk away.” He practically growls in his ear.

“No,” Wyatt says. To his credit he seemed to want to finish what he started.

Kyle releases him enough to get a good grasp on his shirt, shoving him away from him again. “Back off Long,” he says lowly. “Go sit down.”

Wyatt looks like he’s about to go back at him, but the entire student body starts whispering as the teachers hurry into the room. Word having finally reached them.

“You’re all dead,” Wyatt sneers.

Kyle’s brows furrow, his eyes snapping down to Wyatt’s shoelaces. Some sort of movement catching his eye, right as Wyatt trips falling straight onto his face.

He looks over to see Isobel has put a hand over her mouth, trying to hold in giggles. As Michael’s eyes sparkle like he knew something Kyle didn’t. All while the entire student body is laughing.

“My office,” Amy DeLuca says voice cold. “Now.”

Kyle sighs, following after her and Wyatt, Max not sure whether to come at first. But they are soon walking shoulder to shoulder.

“Thank you,” he mutters. A little begrudgingly like he didn’t need help protecting his sister.

Kyle nods, eyes catching with Liz’s. She is giving him a disappointed shake of her head, Alex looking at him slightly horrified. But the poison that had been rattling around inside Kyle all day had finally started to settle. Whether it was Max’s proximity or the fact he had harassed Wyatt he isn’t sure.

 

 

The principal is talking to Wyatt in her office, leaving Max and Kyle on the not so comfortable couch outside the door. Max is nearly curled up on himself, staring at his hands.

From this angle Kyle can make out a pinkish scar along his jaw, trailing from the corner down his throat to the other side. It’s jagged and a terrible placement. Something Kyle imagines warranted a hospital visit.

“You ever been in a fight before?” Kyle asks. Noticing how Max kept running his thumb over the grazes on his knuckles.

Max shakes his head, blushing slightly. Something he was apt to do.

“No,” he mutters. “I never quarreled with anyone in seven rivers. And Isobel kinda ruled the school.”

“Yeah,” Kyle nods. “You’ll want to put ice wherever he managed to get in hits.”

“I understand wound care,” Max says simply. Not in and angry defensive way, just in a matter of fact tone.

Kyle wants to ask how and why. But instead he turns to him, with a bright smile. “That’s an interesting scar,” he motions at his own neck. “Wyatt has a similar one from his four wheeler.”

Max releases a heavy breath, “it’s not from a four wheeler.”

He waits for Max to explain it, but he doesn’t. Just avoids eye contact.

“Sorry Wyatt’s an ass,” Kyle says bumping their shoulders together. Max wasn’t making this easy.

“You didn’t have to come to my rescue,” Max says instead.

“But I wanted to,” Kyle says. It wasn’t a lie, he had wanted to kick Wyatt’s butt. Had since the sixth grade.

Max blushes again, his jaw starting to purple where he got hit. More and more evidence the guy could have a crush on him, like Liz had claimed. Kyle moves his leg slightly so their thighs press together, watching as Max releases an inaudible gasp.

He finds he doesn’t hate the contact, Max’s body is warm though. Too warm.

“Are you running a fever?”

“No,” Max gulps. “My body temperature just runs high.”

“Why?” Kyle asks brows furrowed.

Max shrugs, “they don’t know. The anemia should make it the opposite.”

Kyle blinks, anemia, that would explain why he was so pale. But he should be cold, he knew that much from his science classes.

“Oh,” Kyle says stupidly. Reaching out slowly and placing his hand on Max’s thigh, eyes mesmerized as his fingers seem to drink in his body heat.

Max shivers, “Kyle.” It sounds like a prayer, enough to startle him and make him yank his hand back.

Just in time as Wyatt swings the door open angrily. Amy DeLuca following behind him, “I’ll be calling your father.”

“Fine,” Wyatt mutters. Glaring at Kyle before he Storms off towards class.

“Kyle,” MiMi crosses her arms, nodding towards her office.

He nods, “yes ma’am.”

 

 

By the time he’s been thoroughly scolded, Liz is waiting with Max. Both of them murmuring about something when Kyle walks out, his skin boiling. Because two things happened, his dad is going to know and he was given a get out of jail free card. Kyle never asked to be treated special because of his father, but people always did.

Liz crosses her arms standing up as soon as he walks out. “Hermano,” she says tone dark.

“Max,” MiMi calls.

Kyle gives him a reassuring smile as he heads into the office. Before turning to Liz, “which part am I being lectured on?”

“Kate,” Liz says simply. “What made you say such cruel things?”

“He wanted the truth,” Kyle shrugs. Trying to be nonchalant about the entire situation, knowing Liz would be breaking everything down to its smallest parts.

“And how do you know that?”

“I’m on the footballs team Liz,” he says darkly. Something heavy filling the room, he knows the look of disappointment on her face. Can read her like an open book. Had been able to since they were little.

Her face falls a little bit, “you’re not acting like yourself. You haven’t been for months.”

It feels like a slap to the face. Because she didn’t know. She couldn’t know. It would pull at the already delicate strings holding them all together, letting him be part of her life. The way he saw it it was his burden to carry.

Kyle sighs heavily, “I’m sorry. I’m just… going through some things alright?”

She nods, lips pursed. “But that doesn’t give you the right to make other people go through things.”

He nods, even if it was Wyatt fucking Long.

“So pull yourself together,” she says. “And I invited Max to the diner tomorrow after school. Be nice.”

Kyle shakes his head at her, like he had been anything but nice to Max. God, he’d practically caressed the guys thigh.

She leans over hugging him tightly, and it feels nice. She smells like vanilla and sunlight, wrapping him up in all the warmth he felt like his life was missing for the last stretch.

“I love you hermana,” he says hugging her back. “But you’re gonna ruin my street cred.”

Liz giggles pulling back, “yeah right. I’m scary and intimidating.”

“She says in a fluffy pink sweater,” Kyle smiles tightly.

 

 

He doesn’t know why he waits, but he does. Jumping up as soon as Max is let out. The other guys eyes light up, “Kyle.”

“You want to ditch?” he asks. “Get your jaw iced at my place? None of my parents are home.”

Max looks like he might just implode, eyes darting around, nervous energy rolling off him. He starts twisting his phone in his hands anxiously.

“We don’t have to,” Kyle shrugs easily. “It just might be nice to hang out. Get you taken care of.”

Max gulps, nodding. “Yeah,” his voice almost squeaks, “that would be nice.”

Kyle grins, “come with me.”