It’s a couple days later when Alex finds himself at the Crashdown, looking for Liz, hoping that maybe she can fill in the spaces left over by his conversation with Michael. There’s been a lot to process, a lot of information to sift through, and even though Alex feels like Michael told him a lot, it still feels like it was just the beginning. He’s not quite sure he’s ready for another discussion with Michael yet, and all the emotions their interactions tend to bring to the surface. But he still wants answers, still feels like there’s more to the truth behind the UFO crash that he’s just begun to scratch the surface of.
“Alex! What are you doing here?”
The restaurant is mostly empty - it’s closer to closing, a purposeful decision on Alex’s part. Liz nods to an empty booth, Alex following. It’s strange to be back in Roswell, reconnecting with the friends he used to have in high school, the people he once thought knew him best, and probably did back then. But Liz, after graduation, had seemingly cut ties with everyone except her father - even Maria had admitted to Alex that Liz had all but dropped off the face of the planet until her reappearance in Roswell for the 10th anniversary of Rosa’s death, and as it turned out, their high school reunion. These days it feels like they're all figuring out how to fit into each other's lives again. Alex had started with Maria, the bar making it easier to hang out and talk at first - and that's a conversation he knows he also needs to have with Liz.
“I need you to tell me what you know about the Evans twins,” Alex starts, still not sure how to ask the questions he needs answers to. He watches as Liz’s eyes go wide, and it’s not surprising - even Michael had acted like Liz had only found out because of the situation she’d been put in. Alex knows he should probably have included Michael in his inquiry, but there’s something tugging at him to keep Michael separate. Though given that closeness the three of them always seemed to have, it’s entirely possible whatever he asks about the Evans twins will end up including answers regarding Michael regardless.
“How did you-” Alex levels her with a look, eliciting a laugh out of her, reminding him very much of their rapport in high school.
“How long were you back in town before Max Evans was making those same sad eyes at you again?”
“It was ridiculous in high school, it’s ridiculous now,” Alex teases, because it feels good, this easy banter and camaraderie. To sit and laugh about something light and funny as guys they liked. He pushes away the obvious reminder of having never really come clean to her and Maria about Michael, only giving them hints about the boy that made him smile while the world around him fell apart. He’d kept Michael so close to his heart for so long, afraid that speaking them into existence would ruin it before they had a chance. These days, it feels like he keeps it close because he can’t bear the thought of anything happening to Michael again and it still being his fault.
“You know, speaking of boys, you never told me and Maria about your mystery guy.”
Alex shakes his head. He didn’t come here to discuss that, and frankly it’s going to be a miracle if they get through this entire discussion without bringing up Michael Guerin.
“Okay fine, keep your secret, Alex Manes. I’ll find out eventually,” Liz says with a smile, and Alex knows she’ll keep that promise. But right now, he knows she’s again respecting his privacy, that he isn’t ready to talk about it. “So, Max Evans.”
Alex raises an eyebrow at her, waiting.
“Remember the shooting here? The night I got back into town?” Alex nods, because he already knows the story, but he needs Liz to tell her side, needs to hear her side. He’s not mad about being kept in the dark, because how exactly do you tell your friends from high school that one of your classmates saved your life because he’s an alien? “I actually did get shot - Max saved me, healed me.” There was a kind of uncertainty in Liz’s voice, like it was something she still didn’t fully understand or comprehend herself. Alex can't really blame her, it's been days and he's still wrapping his head around this. “And of course, he tried to cover it up, but this handprint showed up-”
Liz nodded, and Alex frowned, because this was new information to him.
“When Max heals people, it leaves a handprint. It’s temporary, it faded after a week, but not before in my panic I went to the hospital and got Kyle involved-”
Now Alex is really curious. Nothing about Kyle’s visit to the cabin had seemed normal, but he’d been brushing it off as investigating Rosa’s death, and a desire to know what happened to the old hunting cabin. Given that it was the cabin belonging to his father, it wasn’t completely out of the realm of possibility for Kyle to show up wondering what happened to it after coming across that key to the locked trunk. Less than ten minutes at the Crashdown with Liz though, and there were more pieces to this ongoing puzzle than Alex had anticipated. Alex knew he should have put those pieces together, it didn’t make sense for Kyle to be looking into anything related to Rosa Ortecho on his own - and he had mentioned at the time that Liz had questions.
“You know, I’m a little hurt you went to Kyle before me,” Alex jokes, despite the nagging feeling he’s getting that he’s been left in the dark on purpose. But for whatever reason, Liz hasn't exactly been open, and seeking Alex and Maria out to check in on them, hang out, catch up. He thinks to a recent conversation with Maria, about Liz showing up at the bar looking for clues about Rosa, and leading Maria on a scavenger hunt around town - but that was weeks ago, and in the meantime it's just been the two of them, and Alex feels like maybe it's time to finally stop beating around the bush.
“I feel like I’m neck deep in a murder mystery now, and Kyle’s connections at the hospital helped get some answers.”
This entire conversation feels like it’s getting away from Alex, and he doesn’t even know how to stop it, because clearly Liz has been dealing with a lot more than Alex even imagined. A murder mystery? Surrounding Rosa’s death? Never in the years he’d been away, or even the times he’d been back on leave between deployments, had he ever heard or read anything to suggest Rosa’s death was more than a DUI. That night in itself is seared into Alex’s memory forever, but to know what there might be more that happened that night he doesn’t know? There are so many questions that come floating to the surface as Alex sits there, processing what Liz is saying.
“What does all this have to do with Max Evans?” Alex asks, trying to bring the conversation back to a single focal point. “You think he’s involved in Rosa’s death?”
Liz’s gaze shifts to the only patrons left over in the Crashdown, a singular couple at the other end of the restaurant. Alex catches her meaning though - this is not going to be a discussion to be had out in public, which means he’s not getting those answers right now. Alex leans back a bit in the booth, and shakes his head at how much he doesn’t know about what’s been going on since he got back into town. And from the sound of it, Liz is the starting point, or at least a major focal point, so at least he knows he’s in the right place for the answers he wants.
“I’ll make you a milkshake, then we can talk some more.”
Alex nods, leaning forward in his seat and taking a deep, calming breath. There’s no way if Max Evans is potentially involved in Rosa’s death that Michael is in the dark about it. It’s been ten years though, and the details are fuzzy in Alex’s mind - he hasn’t read up on Rosa’s DUI since the weeks that followed before everyone scattered to go their own ways, but he does know that Michael was with him until at least sunset that night, and the accident was out by the turquoise mines - that would have been a hell of a drive for Michael to make with his hand like it had been at the time. Alex still hates thinking of that night, and his father practically dragging him out of the shed as he screamed for Michael, that Michael needed help, that they couldn’t just leave him there.
Or maybe it’s wishful thinking on Alex’s part, that he’s just letting his feelings for Michael get in the way of looking at this objectively. But looking at things like that, instead of taking into consideration his own feelings, and what he knew in his heart to be right, is what has gotten him into this problem with Michael in the first place, this repetitive back and forth, a cycle Alex desperately wants to break. He’d like to not have to see that hurt in Michael’s eyes ever again. On the grander scale, Alex knows that’s impossible, but he still wants to try.
Apparently while lost in his own thoughts, the last customers have left, and Liz is sliding a green milkshake, and a basket of fries in front of him, dropping the antennae her dad makes her wear as part of the uniform onto the table. He takes a sip, grimacing because yup, they still as gross as he remembered, but in a weird way still good.
“Tastes like mint and nostalgia,” Alex laughs, and Liz shakes her head.
Liz isn’t wasting any time, now that they’re alone. Alex glances around, and doesn’t miss Liz rolling her eyes.
“The doors are locked, my dad is upstairs, probably asleep. Come on, spill.”
Alex shakes his head. She’s really going to try and not let him leave without telling her. He wouldn’t be surprised if she ends up calling Maria before the night is over so they can both hear those details together before finally letting him leave.
“Ugh! Fine!” Liz laughs, and Alex takes another pull from the milkshake. “I got Kyle involved so that I could see Rosa’s autopsy report. Turns out there were two of them - a fake that’s kept on record, and a classified real one.”
“How did Kyle get his hands on a classified autopsy report?”
Liz shakes her head, “I didn’t ask. He said something about connections through his dad, I think.”
Alex ponders Liz’s words, can feel the frown forming on his face. A regular hospital wouldn’t have classified autopsy reports on file, and a county sheriff definitely wouldn’t have access, those would be on record with-
“Why was Rosa’s autopsy classified? I thought it was a DUI-”
“No, I know. That’s just it, she didn’t die in that car accident.”
Alex feels his blood run cold as he quickly runs through scenarios in his head, putting together the scraps of information he’s gotten from Jim Valenti’s journals, his talk with Michael, and now this discussion with Liz. He doesn’t like where it’s leading, though in a sense, Alex feels as though it’s inevitable that there’s one person involved in all this that he should have seen coming. Suddenly the years of talk of aliens, the UFO crash, and violent visitors, makes much more sense, because he’d known. Alex pushes the milkshake away, almost tipping it over on the table, startling Liz. He’s pretty sure the only reason he’s not losing the contents of his stomach is the last ten years where he’d learned how to control his emotions in high stress situations.
“What did the real autopsy show?” He asks, trying to push Liz forward. He doesn’t want to think about the logistics of Kyle ending up asking his father for help. Or just what exactly his father has been doing that involves the 1947 UFO crash, and potentially being able to hurt Michael again. Alex wanted to assume that everything had only gotten so out of hand over the past several weeks, but it was much more plausible that it’d been going on for years underneath everyone’s noses.
Liz pulls a folded up piece of paper out of her pocket, opening it up and sliding it across the table to Alex. It was Rosa, that much he could see - but there was a handprint, almost like an imprint, across her face.
“You said Max Evans healed you.”
“Max didn’t kill my sister,” there was steel in her voice, like she’d already been through this story once before. “But he did help cover it up.”
“You got any alcohol for this?” Alex half-jokes, because maybe having this conversation at the Crashdown instead of the Wild Pony was the wrong choice. He allows himself that small joke to gather his thoughts, because Alex knows, he knows what it means if Max Evans was involved in covering up Rosa Ortecho’s death, there’s just a part of him that doesn’t want to admit it to himself.
Then, staring down at the picture of Rosa Ortecho, Alex realizes it wasn’t Michael either - that’s a left handprint covering her face. He lets out a tiny sigh of relief, and hates himself for even thinking for a moment that Michael was ever capable of something like that. That leaves-
“Isobel Evans? Why would she-”
“I don’t know,” Liz concedes, sounding almost defeated. “From the sound of it, when Max told me, it sounds like some sort of Multiple Personality Disorder. I’ve been working at the hospital with Kyle and Michael-”
Liz nods before continuing, oblivious to the uptick in Alex’s heart rate. There’s also a sense of pride in Alex at the idea that Michael is finally doing something with that brilliant brain of his. He remembers Michael, the end of senior year, raving about the full ride he'd gotten to UNM, and Alex had been so happy, so proud of him. Michael had been on his way to changing the world, and perhaps getting his own chance to get away from all the shit of his childhood. It had been one of the reasons Alex had pushed him away - he didn't want to be the reason Michael stayed in Roswell. He couldn't be. No matter what he was feeling. No matter what he wanted. Michael had deserved more than Alex, deserved to go out into the world and finally show it what he was capable of after being pushed down for long.
It's been weeks. Alex feels like his heart shattered that day in the shed, and the pieces are just sitting, scattered in his chest with no way of being made whole again. It's not that he hasn't seen Michael, it's not that they haven't tried to spend time together, but there's something different about him. And Alex doesn't know what to do.
“I'm going to enlist.” Alex finally says one day, a couple weeks after graduation, when they're sitting together in the bed of Michael's truck, the silence deafening around them.
“Why would you do that?”
“Why wouldn't I? I'm a Manes, aren't I? All I keep hearing is that it's 'in my blood’ and 'the military will make a man out of you.’ Besides, what else am I going to do?” Alex wills himself not to cry, not to let his voice crack but he knows he's failing.
“That's bullshit.” Alex nods, because yeah, it is. He hates all those things his dad constantly throws around, about how weak Alex is, how he'll never measure up to his brothers, or the Manes legacy. But maybe if he does this, maybe it will keep Michael safe. And Alex would rather live with his broken heart than ever see someone hurt Michael like this again.
“You've got school, anyway. Go to college, be brilliant. Change the world.”
They're out in the open desert, and yet the air around Alex feels like it's suffocating him.
“-trying to find out what causes it. Apparently my sister was some sort of trigger.” As Alex sits there, processing everything, Liz pushes out of the booth and crosses the restaurant, digging behind the counter until she emerges with a bottle of tequila, holding it up for Alex to see. He smiles, because sure, this conversation definitely calls for liquor, and Alex gets the feeling it’s far from over. Though he really wonders when aliens and murders became his life, and he’s sure Liz has probably been asking herself the same question recently.
“But that means-” Alex realizes that if Max Evans helped cover up a murder, it also means Michael helped cover up a murder. All in order to protect Isobel. Now the bizarre codependency seemed to make a lot more sense. “Liz.”
The hurt, the betrayal, it's plastered all over Liz's face. But there's no breaking point, clearly Liz has already reached that and moved past, now she's on a search for answers. It makes sense, Liz has always tried to be more logical in her thinking - her slip up in dating Kyle in high school notwithstanding. It's why she's in the career field she's in, Alex knows. He watches as she pours two shots worth into the drinking glasses, and slides one toward Alex.
“I'm not running upstairs for actual shot glasses,” Liz says before downing the liquid. Alex follows, letting the burn settle in his throat before turning back to Liz. “You know, I'm the angriest at Max? Isobel's got this undiagnosed psychological disorder, and Michael - all I can think about is that rumor senior year that he was homeless and living out of his truck. But Max,” she says, stressing the name and instead of pouring herself another shot, takes a swig right from the bottle. Alex doesn't say anything, just lets Liz vent, because this sounds like she's still working through the anger of learning about Rosa's death. “Max. He knew all this, and he had the audacity to tell me, that he was sorry people were awful to us, because of Rosa, but that they were good to him.”
Alex doesn’t even want to continue this conversation anymore. Part of him wants to give Max Evans a piece of his mind for that nonsense. In their own way, the four of them - he, Maria, Liz, and Rosa - had made up their own ragtag team of misfits in high school. The gay kid, the weird girl who’s mom ran the local bar, and the daughters of undocumented immigrants. But Alex knows, he wouldn’t change it for the world.
“Does Maria know any of this?”
Liz shakes her head, but honestly Alex had expected it.
“I think maybe it's about time you did more than show up at the Wild Pony unannounced looking for murder clues.” He levels her with a look, and Liz stares back at him in shock, clearly not expecting the bluntness of his remark. “Maria is your friend - our friend - and I know you've probably been dealing with this, but maybe take a break for a while. The three of us can do something not related to UFO crashes, and magical healing, and aliens.”