Alex walked in the back door which lead into the kitchen. She stopped when she saw her parents, George and Barbara Mack, and her older sister Annie, sitting at the table. Alex knew they had undoubtedly been discussing her. They noticed Alex's eyes were red from crying, her face smeared and smudged from wiping away tears. Annie knew why Alex had been crying and rose from the table to comfort her younger sister.

Alex just stood there limply as Annie hugged her.

"It's over Annie. The powers, are gone ...." Alex sniffled, reaching around Annie's shoulder to wipe away yet another tear.

"It's ok Alex, its ok" Annie cooed.

George and Barbara looked at each other with a silent sigh of relief, then rose from their chairs and approached their youngest daughter. Annie let go to let her mother get to Alex. Barbara Mack engulfed her, running her hand through Alex's dirty blond hair. Alex began to cry again. Her father could only stand nearby with a pained expression, feeling guilty.

"Ssshh now!" Barbara Mack said softly. "You're home now, and everyone's here, and everything's going to be alright".

"Honey" Mrs. Mack said to Annie, "Get your sister a glass of water".

Annie nodded in compliance and turned towards the kitchen cabinets for a glass, nearly running into her father. As he stumbled out of her way, Annie could see his troubled expression. She placed her hand on his shoulder and pulled herself up to whisper in his ear.

"Don't worry dad. She'll be o.k. It's just going to take a little while for her to get to use to this. This is all for the best" Annie assured him quietly.

Alex pulled away from Mrs. Mack and looked at her father tentatively standing several feet away. Their eyes met. Just a few seconds felt like an eternity as father and daughter looked at each other. Her big green eyes looked hard at first, then softened.

Alex reached out her arm to him invitingly. "Daddy?" she called to him, her face red and flushed. As Mr. Mack walked over to hug his daughter, he too became teary-eyed. He was terrified that Alex would hate him for developing the antidote and convincing her to take it. Her gesture came as a huge relief.

Annie turned from the sink with a glass of water in her hand, and smiled at her little sister and parents.

Finally, four years of hiding Alex from Danielle Atron and dealing with her unpredictable GC-161 side-effects were now over.

Alex and Annie squealed in unison when Captain Henry swung the door open to reveal the monstrous Thing, who ducked just in time as the sinister alien took a vicious swing at the gallant Air Force officer. Alex hugged against her boyfriend Hunter Reeves at one end of the couch, and at the other end, Annie crushed a couch pillow and buried her face in it.

Alex's best friend, Ray Alvarado was sitting on the opposite loveseat with his girlfriend Rachael Waters, and he winced in pain as she dug her fingernails into his bicep at the alien's sneak-attack. Her other friends, Robyn Russo, Nicole Wilson, and Louis Driscoll, all sitting on the floor, cringed in surprise as Captain Henry slammed the thick on the monster's wrist. Louis' bowl of popcorn flew into the air.

"Louis!" Annie scolded half-heartedly. There were several giggles in the room, which had no light except for the illumination offered by the television screen. It was near ten o'clock that Friday night, four hours since Alex had made the decision to take her father's antidote and sacrifice her incredible powers. The group was watching a stack of movies which Mr. Mack had rented earlier that evening. The Thing From Outer Space was a 1951 science fiction classic about a group of Air Force officers and scientists at an Arctic base that discovered the pilot of a crashed flying saucer frozen in ice. The creature had been inadvertently thawed out of it's icy prison andbegan to prey on the humans there as a source for food.

Earlier in the evening after Alex's return home after taking the antidote, Annie suggested to their parents to call all of Alex's friends and have a late-night movie watching party to help cheer her up. Mr. Mack went to get the movies and Mrs. Mack and Annie called Alex's friends and told them of their plan. Later, Annie called Alex down from her room for dinner, and when she came down the stairs, all of her friends surprised her. Alex was elated. To her, the love of her friends was far more valuable than her super powers. The tears flowed again when she was surrounded by her friends, but they were happy ones. It didn't take long for the group to get settled in the den with bowls of popcorn, sodas, and a variety of rental movies. The first one they watched was Gung Ho, a comedy about an American auto manufacturer who was trying to please a group of new, demanding Japanese owners. The Thing From Outer Space was the second movie, and egardless of it's black and white venue, it had the teens on the edge of their seats since the beginning.

"Sorry about that" apologized Louis, as he set the bowl down and began scooping the popcorn up off the floor. "That thing scared the hell out of me!"

"LOUIS!" admonished all the girls simultaneously at his choice of words. They were all laughing and giggling again.

Alex's and Annie's parents offered to let the kids have the den to themselves for as long as they wanted tonight, and arranged to let the girls sleep over in Alex's room and the boys sleep in the den. They knew the best therapy for Alex was for her to be surrounded by her closest friends. As the teens watched The Thing in the den, the Mr. and Mrs. Mack were in the kitchen eating sandwiches at the table and watching a small thirteen inch color t.v. set on the counter. For about the umpteenth time tonight, te phone rang. It had been ringing so much that Alex's parents had disconnected the phone in the den so it would not disturb the kids.

"Good Lord, not again" groaned Mrs. Mack, as she reached for the portable phone which was setting on the table between them. Mr. Mack intercepted Barbara's hand from reaching it.

"No Barbara, I'll get it this time" he said, picking up the phone and pressing the 'talk' button. "Hello?" he asked hesitantly.

"No, she isn't available. No, she doesn't have anything to talk about right now. No .....sorry .....goodbye" Mr. Mack said into the phone with a controlled rage. His face was flushed as he clicked the 'off' button.

"Another reporter wanting to talk to Alex?" asked Mrs. Mack.

"Yes" her husband responded angrily, standing up and walking over to the phone's wall mount.

"What are you doing George?

"I'm letting Alex have some time to herself and friends" he said angrily as he grabbed the plastic phone line and snatched it out of the wall mount. Barbara winced. "She's been through enough already. We all have" he added. "You know that's not going to solve the problem George. After what's happened during the last twenty-four hours, it's going to be hard for any of us to have any privacy for a while, especially Alex. After Danielle was arrested for kidnapping us and nearly getting away with selling GC-161 to the public, the news hounds aren't just going to leave us alone" Barbara explained helplessly. Danielle Atron had almost accomplished putting the unstable chemical GC-161 on store shelves nationwide as a miracle weight-oss drug as well as eliminating the Macks in the process to hide her crime.

Alex and her friends managed to thwart Ms. Atron's plans, and the former CEO of Paradise Valley Chemical was presently in the custody of Federal Marshals for numerous counts of kidnapping, attempted murder, conspiracy, and a myriad of FDA violations. George and Barbara Mack knew that the resulting media explosion of the story would be in full force by morning, and worried about their youngest daughter.

"I realize they'll get to Alex sooner or later Barbara, but tonight, I'll be damned if they do" he argued.

Alex and her friends watched in awe as The Thing was reduced to a darkened cinder by an electrical trap set by the heroes, and in moments, the movie had ended, and Earth was safe once again.

"Great flick!" exclaimed Louis.

Alex had her feet pulled up on the couch, with her arms hugged around her legs. She was leaning affectionately against Hunter, who had his arm around her shoulders, hugging her against him. Alex cocked her head to face Hunter.

"Did you like it? I know my dad has some weird taste in movies sometimes" she asked, wondering if the movie had bored him.

"I thought it was terrific! I wouldn't mind seeing it again" he said honestly. Alex beamed a smile which nearly lit up the entire room, and sheepishly kissed Hunter on the cheek near his mouth.

"Good" she said, satisfied, nestling deeper under his arm. Sitting on the floor, Nicole silently nudged Robyn's arm, nodding towards Alex. They both smiled. The Mack's plan to cheer Alex up seemed to be working. Annie noticed too, and silently patted herself on the back. It seemed to her that Alex was adjusting rather well so far.

"You can have all the modern-day special effects you want, but a lot of these older movies are hard to beat" Nicole stated clearly for everyone to hear.

"Aw ... c'mon!" argued Louis, tossing several pieces of popcorn in Nicole's direction. "it was a good movie Nicole, but these old black and whites don't come close to comparing with today's flicks! Today's special effects blow these movies away!"

Alex and Hunter exchanged grins. Once again, Nicole and Louis were about to engage in yet another debate. Alex just sat back as she watched the two of them start in on the nuances of black and whites versus modern movies. Robyn began digging through the mound of movies Mr. Mack had rented, trying to choose what the next one would be.

"Everything is back to normal" Alex thought, picking up the remote setting on the couch beside her. She hit the rewind button, but it didn't work. She held the remote out at arm's length, aimed it at the t.v., and hit rewind again, but it still wouldn't obey.

"Hey, the remote won't work" Alex said, puzzled.

"The batteries are probably dead Alex" Annie replied casually. "We'll just have to use the buttons on the VCR until we can get some new ones". Annie got up to stretch her legs and looked at the bunch around her.

"O.k. guys, I'm going on a soda run to the kitchen. Who wants one?" Everyone raised their hands except Alex.

"But I put new batteries in the remote last week" Alex pondered to herself for a moment, and then dismissed it.

"I'll help you out Annie" Ray offered, slapping Rachael playfully on the knee as he got up. Before following Annie into the kitchen, Ray altered his course and crossed over to Alex and Hunter, positioning himself behind the couch directly behind his best friend Alex. Ray knelt behind her and reached his right arm around Alex's neck, gently cupping her chin in the crook of his elbow. His other arm reached over and took hold of Alex's left hand. he squeezed it tightly.

"How're you doing over here 'puddle girl'?" Ray asked, using the special nickname he contrived for Alex years ago. Before, he could have never used that name in front of the others, but since the last four years of "The Secret World of Alex Mack" had been recently exposed, he felt it appropriate.

Alex hugged Ray's hand up to her cheek and smiled. Hunter only grinned at his girlfriend and Ray, respecting the brother/sister relationship they had.

"Ray, I couldn't be better" she said sincerely, half-giggling at Ray's nickname. "Good" he said with a laugh, retrieving his arms and rising to follow Annie into the kitchen. Louis, who had quickly been defeated by Nicole in their movie debate, stood, stepped over Robyn's sprawled form on the floor, and sat down beside Alex on the couch. he had heard the 'puddle girl' remark by Ray and just couldn't help himself.

"Puddle girl?" he asked sarcastically, smiling. Nicole rolled her eyes in disbelief at Louis' audacity. From one controversy to another in a matter of seconds.

"Yes" Alex said proudly. "Puddle girl".

"There's no way I would have given up those powers myself Alex" Louis stated matter of factly. Robyn shot up.

"Louis!" she wailed, her hands on her hips. Alex only laughed at how silly Robyn looked trying to look angry. Her red-haired friend actually didn't have a mean bone in her entire body.

Alex motioned for Robyn to chill. "It's ok Robyn, really". Alex looked at Louis with a grin. "It's about time somebody broke the ice. Since everyone got here, nobody has said anything about the powers, and why we really here. Louis, you may be abrupt, but I wouldn't have you any other way". Louis gave Alex a playful soft punch in the shoulder.

"You know me Mack. Right to the point" he admitted.

"Well, I have to admit, Louis is right this time" Nicole concurred. "We're all friends here, and we all came over to Alex support. Maybe it's time we did talk about what happened". Robyn placed one of her hands on the side of her face.

"Oh, I was afraid of this. Here comes the potential for irreversible psychological damage" she said fretfully. Alex looked at Hunter and both of them laughed.

"It's ok Robyn. I want to talk to you guys about it" Alex said as she lowered her legs off the couch and place d her feet on the carpeted floor. "But first, I want to stretch my legs and get some fresh air".

Alex stood and reached down and grabbed Hunter's hand, and led him down the hall towards the back yard porch. She went to turn on the back porch light, but then opted against it. She unlocked the sliding glass door and rolled it open, and then opened the sliding screen door beyond it. The two stepped out onto the porch protected by an overhang. The porch overlooked a small backyard illuminated by a low-wattage lamppost located near a three foot high brick wall near the back of the property. Atop the wall, as a three foot high iron fence fashioned into elegant 's' curves. Beyond the wall, was a frightful incline which descended about 60 feet down onto an adjacent neighborhood.

As soon as Hunter slid the glass door shut behind him to keep the air conditioning in, Alex grasped both of his hands and pulled him to her. Before Hunter could react, Alex kissed him, and he responded by placing his arms around her shoulders.

After a moment, Alex pulled away, her arms around Hunter's waist. "I'm glad you're here Hunter."

"Having you here right now means a lot to me" she said quietly. Alex turned, and still holding Hunter's hand, led him into the backyard towards the rear wall. "You couldn't keep me away Alex. I'm here for you, through thick and thin" he answered solemnly. They reached the back wall and looked out. Several sub-divisions laid sprawled out beneath them. Lights flickered throughout the valley.

"So, are you ..... ok?" Hunter asked, facing Alex. Alex's gaze remained on the horizon, but she smiled honestly in recognition. "I'm fine Hunter. Maybe a little melancholy, but I'm ok. It's just going to take a while to get used to not having the powers anymore. They had become so second nature much a part of me."

"So, are you ready to talk to the others?" he asked, referring to their friends inside.

Alex drew a deep breath and sighed. "I know they've avoided asking me anything about it so far because they're worried about upsetting me .....except for Louis of course. But after lying to them for four years, it's time to tell them everything".

"I noticed your phone has been ringing a lot tonight" Hunter added delicately. "Looks like you're quite the celebrity". Alex rolled her eyes in frustration, thinking about the media circus to come.

"Yeah" she sighed again, " ...and I'm not looking forward to it either. Danielle Atron arrested and the 'GC-161' kid finally exposed. Of course, if I still had the powers, I could morph and hide in a drainpipe somewhere until it all blew over" Alex joked half-heartedly. Hunter chuckled at the thought of trying to convince Alex 'the coast was clear' and to come out of a kitchen drain.

Alex leaned up and kissed Hunter on the lips, and then turned back towards the house. "Well, I guess there's no better time than the present. After four years, my friends deserve an explanation". She look at Hunter desperately. "I'm so nervous. Are you with me?"

He smiled that smile Alex loved so much. "I'm with you" he said. Alex and Hunter walked onto the back porch and went back in through the sliding glass door. As Hunter pulled the door closed, he and Alex failed to observe the bulb in the backyard lamppost began to flicker madly. With a pop, the bulb blew out and shattered.